Matt Kurowski
3 min readMar 25, 2016

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Roguelike Writing Experiment

Roguelike writing is inspired by the roguelike genre of computer games and apps. While the set of rules in a roguelike is fixed, the format of the game board (typically a dungeon or the like) changes with each play. Descriptions are contextual and brief usually, and highly evocative, with the onus on the player to use their imagination to fill out the 8-bit style animations guided by their own aesthetic proclivities.
There is typically an overarching goal for the game, and that goal is very commonly identified as an epic world-saving achievement. The format follows the heroes’ tale, where the central character starts of weak and ignorant and over time gains in power and awareness in order to save the world.
However, in roguelikes you only get one chance to complete the game. Death is permanent, and you need to start all over again.

So, the rules of roguelike writing are simple:

  1. Write and don’t edit. Use improvisation strategies to discover what comes next (I edit spelling only, and that’s because I would scratch myself to death if I didn't);
  2. Make sense of the story as it emerges on the page. The tale may even make sense in the end.
  3. The central character will not survive. For this first couple of writings I’m ignoring this rule to get the feel of the medium and the state of flow required. Rule 3 will be invoked on my third publication.

Roguelike Number One

It had been years since Larana had spent any time on Tora’an. The ocean world, as beautiful and isolated as the stars themselves, was a haven that resisted time, but time was far too precious to not be spent chasing her quarry.

Nevertheless, she was here. She was here on Tora’an because he was here. She could smell him curling through the pollen-laden breezes, curlicues of teasing scent paisleyed across the green air in wisps like green dust.

She could sense his passing in the gently roiling waves as they licked upon the gelatin beaches that wandered languidly across the endless waters.

She knew that he was in those waters. She knew it. He was aiming for the core, a hyper-dense liquid planetary core protected by the planet itself, a semi-sentient being called T’och. T’och and Tora’an were one and the same: Tora’an the Feeder and T’och the Eater. A primordial harmony of universal principles.

And into the mouth of T’och she knew he traveled.

T’och the Eater

He feared nothing. His body streamed out behind him and he reveled in the sensation of the water caressing his folds and surfaces. He quivered as the pressure of the water around him increased palpably, his speed great enough to cut through the water as if he was cutting through the emptiness of space. Such was his form. He experienced no friction. His job was to create it.

All around him the loud oceans churned and soned, and quickly it became dark. He approached the territories of T’och. And T’och, he knew, was hungry.

Heavy bubbles floated around him, unable to rise or fall. He sliced through them in a wakeless slipstream, leaving them to fizzle and gad like suspended mercury. Fathoms passed.

And then the noise. The meagre light refracted by the trapped bubbles shimmered as the bubbles themselves vibrated in place, their surfaces foaming with rock-shattering sound as deep as the core was black.

The call of T’och.

In his mind he understood the message. His guts churned as the sound and images in his mind burst into his body, his being shocked to shattering with the potency of the meaning.

Ver…Ver…She must be mine…

To be continued.

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Matt Kurowski

Senior consultant and advisor for sustainable organisational innovation (SMEs); industry fellow at RMIT School of Design. https://mattkurowski.carrd.co