The Buried: A Wretched & Alone Game
Before I get started I need to give credit to RPGsolo user Semicolon for inspiring this thread.

First of all, I’ve been aware of the game Wretched and the variations made using the Wretched & Alone SRD for over a year now, but it wasn’t until I read Semicolon’s playthroughs of Final Girl  that I realized the game’s potential. I already owned a few W&A games and knew there were several others free on . I began looking through some of the rules a little more closely and immediately became interested in playing. (Another reason I never looked into them too closely before was that they required a tumbling block tower, something I didn’t own nor thought would work well with my play style and game environment.)

If you are not familiar with Wretched & Alone games, they are journaling games, which means the point of the game is to write a journal of your (or your character’s) personal experiences within the story. To create the story, the player uses a six-sided die, a deck of regular playing cards, and a tumbling block tower (like Jenga). For each day/turn, the player rolls the die and draws that many cards. Each card corresponds with a writing prompt for the journal. Some cards require you to pull a block from the tower, representing something or some kind of stress that is deteriorating throughout the game. After each turn, you are supposed to use the prompt from the cards to write a journal entry that moves the story forward. You lose the game when you draw all four Kings or the tower falls. There is a win condition, but it is very difficult and nearly impossible to achieve. But winning isn't the point. Creating a story/experience is.

The specific title I am playing for this thread is called “The Buried.” In this scenario, your character is trapped underground after a cave-in and needs to find a way out. I chose this game specifically because it addresses one of my greatest fears: being buried alive. I’m not a claustrophobic person. I have no problem with large crowds (except for the fact that it is generally uncomfortable to be in one) and I can get on a full elevator with no problem. However, the thought of being trapped in a very tight space with no easy way out (i.e. coffin, small diameter storm pipe, etc.) scares the dickens out of me. I even react poorly when simply reading about it. For example, if you are a Song of Fire and Ice fan, there is a point in the books where Tyrion makes a ship voyage while encased in a wooden barrel. I could feel my anxiety rise just reading about that. So I thought playing a game that explores some of those themes might help to create a more emotional game experience. (In the end, it didn’t, probably because the setting was an open cave system and not a tight space. A large part of my anxiety is having extremely limited movement.

As I mentioned before I do not own a tumbling block tower. Also, I typically play a game over multiple settings, and those often not in the same location. Therefore, using a physical tower was out of the question. Officially, the games state use of a tower is optional, however, it is so much a part of the tension and failure cycle, not using that mechanic would be to cheat the player out of an integral part of the experience. Luckily, other players have come up with several alternatives (typically using dice) that statistically mimic the length of an average tumbling block game. The method I chose to use was what I call the 100-d6 method. You begin the game with 100 six-sided dice and each time you are required to pull from the tower you roll the dice instead. Any dice that come up with a “1” are removed from the pool. If at any time you run out of dice, the tower falls.

This leads me to mechanics and the second way in which RPGsolo user Semicolon inspired this thread. In another post, Semi had asked about using some type of computer mechanic to lay out playing cards on a computer screen in a particular pattern. One of the suggestions I offered was to use a spreadsheet program and type card designations (Like 2S for 2 of spades) in the cells to represent their position on a table. That sparked an idea in my own head about using a spreadsheet for all kinds of game mechanics, such as shuffling and revealing cards and rolling dice. If I could make this work, it would allow me to play a game like W&A using a spreadsheet to simulate all the mechanics, keep track of the game, and allow me to access it whenever and wherever I might be.

For “The Buried,” I created a virtual tabletop using Google Sheets. First, I listed every card in a single column, one card per cell. Next, I highlighted each cell in black, covering up the text. To “shuffle” the cards, I used Google Sheet’s randomize tool, which mixes up the contents of a selected range of cells (clicking it several times to give a good shuffle). Then, whenever I needed to reveal a card in the game, I simply selected the topmost unrevealed cell in the column and removed the highlighting.

For my dice tower, I drew a 10 cell x 10 cell border to designate an area of 100 cells. In each of those cells I placed a formula that randomly chose a number between 1 and 6. Whenever I had to pull from the tower I would force the spreadsheet to refresh and generate numbers in each of those cells. I selected all the “1s” and deleted the formula from those cells, leaving only the remaining “die.” I even jazzed it up a bit by programming the sheet to turn the cells that contained “1s” red so they were easier to spot. Additionally, I had another cell keep track of the number of squares/die remaining.

[Image: HKanfQTQfJRRzQwdNzKKEBUkG9xDrBszXJ4_Q5vi...24Hw=w2400]

In fact, the only tangible element I retained was rolling a physical die for the number of cards pulled each turn. I could have programmed that as well, but a player needs to roll at least some physical dice. Right?

In case anyone is interested in playing or has played “The Buried,” I want to address a couple of changes I made to the original material for narrative purposes. For starters, I changed most of the names used in the game. Early on I noticed several of the original names were uncommon and I wanted to make them more mainstream. I did keep the Foreman's name and I used a name generator for my character. Beyond that, I renamed all the characters using, in most cases, names that held some sort of significance in my life.

The second change is with the light mechanic. “The Buried” gives your player a limited light source which you need to conserve. For each card you draw, you need to determine beforehand if your light will be on or off. Some cards present consequences if you are in the dark. What I altered was what light source itself. The original game describes it as a battery-powered helmet lamp. I decided to use the flashlight on a cell phone instead.

Finally, I am NOT an actor, so please offer me a little grace as you enjoy this playthrough.


All sound effects used were found at the following sites. (See the full list of sounds here.)


Audio Log Intro

Audio Log 1


CARD 1: LIGHT ON - QUEEN OF SPADES - One granola bar does little good. But if you could use it to catch it even worth trying though? Roll a D6, and on a 4, 5, or 6 pull from the tower.  Roll: 5  Pull: Eleven 1s.  89 Dice remaining.

CARD 2: LIGHT OFF - 2 OF CLUBS - You find a set of bloody footprints. As you follow them, they grow wider and wider apart, first as though they are leaping...then impossibly far apart...until they just vanish.

CARD 3: LIGHT OFF - 7 OF DIAMONDS  There are footprints in the dust, so you follow. They vanish though, and try as you might you can not find them. Not even the ones you followed here. Are you losing it? Pull from the tower.  Pull: Nineteen 1s - 70 Die remaining.

(Note about "Darkness" - Obviously, following some of the prompts while in utter darkness is incongruous. For example, how can you follow footprints in a pitch-black cave? The way I handled that was by considering the light to be turned off for at least some period of time during the events described for the card, if not its entirety. Should that particular card have a "darkness" penalty, the misfortune would naturally occur during one of the periods that the flashlight is turned off.)

Audio Log 2

DRAW: 5 CARDS. Crap!

CARD 1: LIGHT ON - 6 OF DIAMONDS - You catch sight of Mark running around a corner. You chase after, but you quickly lose sight of him. Why was he running? Where did he go?

CARD 2: LIGHT ON - JACK OF CLUBS - It chitters, and skitters, and titters as it races towards you in the dark. It dances around the light, and when it's dark its claws touch you...sensuously. Darkness. Pull from the tower. (Does not apply as light is on.)

CARD 3: LIGHT OFF - 8 OF SPADES - You stumble upon some odd carvings. They make your eyes hurt to look at them, and they seem to glow. Do you try to read them? Roll a D6, and on a 4, 5, or 6 pull from the tower.  Roll: 1-No Pull

CARD 4: LIGHT OFF - 10 OF CLUBS - You see the spirit of all the dead members of your mining team. They watch you with dead, hollow eyes. Even though they are the dead ones, you feel that they look more sorry for you.

CARD 5: LIGHT ON - 8 OF CLUBS - You find a strange purple rock. You put it in your pocket. Later, you find an identical one, and pick it up too. Only when you reach into your pocket, there are now 4 stones. Later, they vanish.

Audio Log 3


CARD 1: LIGHT OFF - 4 OF DIAMONDS - You have found Jared, the poor soul seems to have been badly injured in the cave-in, and only made it this far to then die. You manage to find a battery pack with 3 charges.

CARD 2: LIGHT ON - 10 OF SPADES - The tunnel splits again. One way is as good as another, right? Probably not, but what choice do you have. Besides this one of course. Roll a D6, and on a 4, 5, or 6 pull from the tower.  Roll:1 - NO PULL

Audio Log 4


CARD 1: LIGHT ON - 5 OF DIAMONDS - You can’t tell who this is...because it looks like something has eaten their face. A foul stench, like burning tar fills the air. What happened to them? Pull from the tower.  Pull: Eight 1’s  - 62 Die remain.

CARD 2: LIGHT ON - 3 OF SPADES - You stumble upon a crevice. Do you try to jump across, or find a way to go around? Darkness. Roll a D6, and on a 4, 5, or 6 pull from the tower. I have the light on, no roll.

CARD 3: LIGHT OFF - 7 OF SPADES - You find some water, but it looks oily. Do you drink it? Did it hurt? If you make a darkness pull, you missed the rat carcass in it. Darkness. Roll a D6, and on a 4, 5, or 6 pull from the tower.  Roll: 3 - No Pull

To Be Continued . . . 
Way to go Teviko. Just listened to the intro. Smile

(Enjoying my content? Want to show your support? Consider joining my Patreon at Roll, Ponder, and Play!)

This is very cool. Though the games do encourage it, I've never even considered doing an actual recording for these games, so my hat is off to you for going that extra step.

Audio Log 5 

DRAW: 6 CARDS I’m really burning through these cards. But when I think about it, until I draw the Ace of Hearts it doesn't really matter how many cards I draw. There is no advantage or disadvantage to drawing more or less cards on a turn. You are going to draw the exact same cards regardless of whether they are one or two in turn or five or six in a turn. And finally, the number of cards in the deck below the Ace of Hearts does not change. (I'll explain the importance of that later.) So in the end, drawing 6 cards doesn't really hurt me.

CARD 1: LIGHT OFF - 10 OF DIAMONDS - You find a note, you think in Sam’s handwriting. All it says is ‘Watching You. Never Run.’

CARD 2: LIGHT OFF - JACK OF DIAMONDS - You find Matt when you round a corner. Bastard survived the collapse, but it looks like they aren’t long for this world. They beg you to put them out of their misery. Pull from the tower.   Pull: Sixteen 1’s.   46 dice remaining.

CARD 3: LIGHT ON - 8 OF DIAMONDS - You hear laughing in the distance. It's impossible to tell from which direction it came from, but after hearing how unhinged that laugh sounds, you are just glad it's not there with you.

CARD 4: LIGHT ON - KING OF DIAMONDS - SIMON comes looming out of the darkness, a bloody pick in his hand, and madness in his eyes. Pull from the tower. Do not discard this card. Set it to the side, and if all four Kings have been drawn, then your struggle with SIMON has failed, and you have died.   Pull: Six 1’s.   40 die remaining.

CARD 5: LIGHT OFF - ACE OF HEARTS - You are on the right path, you know it. The air seems just a little bit more fresh, and the tunnels seem to be trending upwards. Do not discard this card. Set it to the side, and place 10 tokens on it. Each day after writing in your diary roll a six-sided dice. On a roll of six, remove a token. If you remove all tokens, you have found the way out.

(Now the number of cards drawn each turn is important. Since each turn gives you another chance to remove a token, the greater number of turns, the more chances to remove tokens. To draw out the number of turns, now I want low card rolls.)

CARD 6: LIGHT OFF - 5 OF SPADES - The path forks...both ways look identical though. Which way do you go? Why? Did you choose right? Roll a D6, and on a 4, 5, or 6 pull from the tower.  Roll: 5   Pull: Five 1’s.    35 Die remaining.

Token Check Roll:  2  No Tokens are removed  Total Tokens: 10

Audio Log 6

Draw: 2 CARDS   That's better.

CARD 1: LIGHT OFF - 4 OF HEARTS - You have found a small stash of food. A couple of granola bars, a bottle of water, a battery pack with 1 charge. Why were they left here? Who left them?

CARD 2: LIGHT ON - 3 OF CLUBS - There is something in the dark. It will hover around the edge of your light, but in darkness, it comes close. Sniffing. Following. Muttering. Cackling. Touching Darkness. Pull from the tower. Light on - NO PULL  

So far I’ve been doing a decent job of timing these darkness pulls.

Token Check Roll: 4  No Tokens are Removed.  Total Tokens: 10

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