[Do] Letters to Heaven


This is an introduction to letters in Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple.

Whenever there is a problem that can't be solved, a worldly person can call in the Pilgrims of the Flying Temple to help. Each letter describes the situation on this world, any relevant characters and a bit of back story to give some context. Your Pilgrims visit this world and help solve the problem as they see fit, hoping not to cause trouble in the process.

Instead of a giant infodump, you can choose which parts of the setting you find important. You do this by choosing the letters that your Pilgrims will answer. You only respond to the letters you find interesting.

Letter-writers are unreliable narrators.
Each letter reflects the letter-writer's particular, sometimes skewed worldview. Some overestimate how much a Pilgrim can accomplish, thinking them to be angelic beings of divine omnipotence. Imagine their disappointment.

Pilgrims try to abide by local beliefs. If the letter-writer believes the universe is an inky void and Pilgrims are aliens, a Pilgrim will act the part if it makes her job easier. If she's on a world where people don't like the temple meddling, a Pilgrim won't mention it.

On a more personal scale, a letter-writer's description of her problem comes from her side of the story. When a Pilgrim arrives on this world, she knows she only has half the story and will keep an open mind to any other viewpoints. 

Still, there's a limit to every Pilgrim's pragmatism. Faced with prejudice or injustice, you get pilgrims teaching small town bigots a lesson through the judicious application of kung fu dinosaurs. Depending on the scope and mood of your stories, kung fu dinosaurs might cause more problems than they solve.

So, when in Rome, just put on a toga.

Letters are story seeds.
This chapter presents letters written by people from around the universe. (Actually, they're written by real people who were kind enough to contribute their creativity to this game.)

Each letter offers you a fruitful beginning for a fun adventure and plenty of opportunities for your Pilgrims to get into trouble. By picking a letter, you decide how a story will begin, but neither you nor the other players knows how the story will end. You will have a letter written by someone on a distant world asking for help, but that only sets the stage for your adventures there.

From that starting point, you and your friends will create your own story together. You could even play the same letter with different groups of players and it would result in a different story.

Letters have Goal Words.
Each letter has a list of words and phrases called Goal Words. As you play the game and tell the story of your pilgrims, you will use Goal Words in that story. Your goal is to use all the Goal Words in your story before a player gets eight stones. (You can see more about how to play in the basic rules.

There are eight kinds of trouble.
When you browse through the letters, you will see some symbols on each one. The symbols stand for a particular kinds of trouble your Pilgrim might find on this world. Use these symbols as rating system, so you can tell whether this subject matter is appropriate or fun for the group.

Book represents affairs of tradition, law and custom. These are troubles involving tradition and laws. There may be times when your Pilgrim acts against accepted norms, either by defying a cultural taboo or outright criminal intent. Expect encounters with local authorities. Arrest is the most common and immediate trouble.
Example: Fed up with the local governors, Pilgrim Anointed Tree declares herself new emperor of this world. Suddenly, Pilgrim Anointed Tree is whisked away to the "special jail" for "special criminals.

Flag troubles involve relationships and politics between nations, towns or whole worlds and empires. Worldly diplomacy impacts large groups of people, usually ruled by some kind of noble. Pilgrims’ meddlesome irreverence makes them quite infamous among the ruling elite. Pilgrims are only tolerated if their unorthodox methods work in the nobles’ favor. Well-intentioned Pilgrims may accidentally instigate border disputes, break treaties, and spread rumors.
Example: In dark of night, Pilgrim Electric Glass flies to the demilitarized zone between Cobar Province and Five-Peak City to parley between the generals. Unfortunately, both sides mistake her flashing static charge as a signal-flare for surrender.

Heart troubles in which your Pilgrim is in love or is involved in worldly love lives. Love is a delicious problem. Sometimes the “trouble” with love is that it is forbidden by some cultural taboo. More often, the trouble is the other emotions that might come with the romance, including jealousy, attachment, and vulnerability. Your Pilgrim may find herself falling in love with a worldly person, or vice versa, which is definitely a distraction from her duties.
Example: Struck by her thorough understanding of philosophical treatises, Pilgrim Sage Hook falls in love with Xieu. The only problem is that she’s already betrothed to the prince of this world.

Knot troubles are anything involving families and their peculiar manner of getting on each other's nerves. Family connects people across the universe, like invisible strings waiting to ensnare an errant Pilgrim. Tread around family affairs lightly. A cunning word can't erase years of bad blood between rival heirs. A swift kick can't sweep away tension between a stepparent and her new child. Pilgrims sometimes get personally involved in family troubles when they are mistaken for long-lost sons and daughters.
Example: Pilgrim Witty Pen cheers up a sick child by writing a funny poem about being raised by wolves. Rumor spreads that she is one of the long-lost wolf-people who left this world long ago, promising to return with new medicines.

Lotus troubles in which the Pilgrims interact with gods or their followers. The gods embody aspects of the human condition, yet are endowed with superhuman abilities. This is a volatile mixture of insecurity and power. Gods break promises, and then direct their flock’s rage against another god's people. They can cause wars, famine and demand devotion. Their moods are fickle and can be enraged at impropriety. Unfortunate pilgrims have been cursed, turned into toads and otherwise just been messed up.
Example: The arrogant Pilgrim Glorious Rose comfortably assumes the title and duties as figurehead of the local religion. Angry at the pilgrim’s insolence, Thaderelius, local god of vengeance and wine, floods the world in grape juice.

Pen troubles are generally academic or investigative. These troubles are a challenge to the mind, testing a Pilgrim's ability to deduce the root of a worldly problem. Your Pilgrim may find herself wrapped up in a labyrinthine mystery, uncovering dangerous secrets. A Pilgrim might also be forced to hide from scrutiny, trying to keep a secret. Pen troubles may also be distracting tests of mental agility, like puzzle rooms and riddles.
Example: Pilgrim Diving Banister discovers a conspiracy is afoot when she notices a false bookcase along the wall. The bookcase falls forward and a rush of wind sucks her into a room full of mathematical puzzles.

Sword troubles involve warfare, violence and weaponry. These troubles are the most straightforward, but carry the worst consequences. When punches are thrown, a Pilgrim failed to keep the peace. A Pilgrim should solve problems without violence, but all are trained to use their flying talents to defend themselves and escape danger if necessary. Still, sky ships, nets, weights or other contraptions may overcome the best flyers. Even the threat of violence may be troublesome enough.
Example: Pilgrim Limber Brush deftly strides into battle, acrobatically dodging the hundreds of spears lobbed at her. That is, until she realizes those spears actually formed a cage, leaving her trapped and unable to fly away.

Tree troubles have the environment itself challenging the Pilgrim. A Pilgrim could be caught in a dangerous storm, hunted by wild animals or disoriented after being puffed by a strange mushroom. These troubles also manifest as spirits, embodying aspects of the natural world. Using nature spirits in your story lets you turn the environment into a worldly character with whom your pilgrim can interact.
Example: Pilgrim Bookish Scrolls has a dozen different nature spirit languages in his supply of scrolls, so begins the negotiation with the river spirit. Unfortunately, this is technically a spirit of tributaries and is offended by the association with those degenerate river spirits.

Here are some letters that you might like to use in your game.
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.