Ikigai - actual play of a whole life

Ikigai is a small feelgood one-shot game about the joys and sorrows of life, and how even the smallest of creatures can have a meaningful existence.

This is a summary record of a game I played. I'll focus on what was particularly significant in each Moment of the game, the main events and the players' actions and reactions surrounding them.

The game was born as a 200WordsChallange entry, but it has now been expanded, revised, playtested and fixed into a rulebook of 9 pages:
1 cover page
3 pages of actual game rules
5 pages containing this very actual play, plus some more examples

ikigai cover
Artist : Dou-Hong
In the game, players tell cooperatively the story of Iki.
Iki is the name of a person, a minuscule humanoid creature. This kind of creature is so small that their babies are the size of a bean. They are born, grow up, grow old and lead a full lifetime in the span of a single day.

Mechanically, just know that there is a speaking order. On their turn every player adds something to the current Moment, then grabs a die of a different color (black or white) depending on the spin they are giving to the events. When a total of 5 dice are collected (thus 5 different players have spoken) the whole pool is rolled and evaluated: it will either produce a Quality of Iki's personality or a remarkable Memory treasured by them.

In this game we were six players. This meant that during each moment only five of us would participate and grab a die, but because each contribution was small no one had to wait, get bored or feel excluded. Instead, this helped one player to “get” the game by giving him the opportunity to watch silently while a couple of moments were played; he then became a (very) active participant.

1) Childhood - at dawn - Iki plays in the river
We had no idea how to start, so we just went with the obvious beginning of the day (dawn) and added to it something vague suggested by the "situation questions" presented by the rules: Iki sees something... the... light of a new sun... reflected on the water of a river.
Slowly, four more details got added, portraying Iki trying the cold water, falling into it, learning to swim, and finally getting called home to be present at “the end” of their mother.

Memory : cold and bright river water

2) Adolescence - the sun is bright - Iki explores the forest
A young Iki explores the forest surrounding their home. When the meeting with a big spider turns unpleasant, Iki displays firefly-like wings and flies around the hostile arachnid.
Quality : courageous

3) Adolescence - early noon - Iki meets a soft lady
Iki is flying towards a gathering of their people, when their eyes fall on a gorgeous tiny-she... soft and round and double Iki’s size.
Iki gets closer and tries to impress her, getting bigger and bigger, like a pufferfish. She seems to appreciate and starts rubbing against Iki’s body, while another tiny humanoid gets close to them, puffs up, and rubs on both of them. Iki feels kind of awkward, but enjoys it.
Memory : getting big feels good

4) Adulthood - high noon - Iki becomes a parent
After the rubbing and a relaxed deflation, the soft lady (now smaller and less round) presents Iki with a small ball... or a round-ish bean... and with a smile goes away.
Iki takes his child (we finally settle for Iki to be male, as we notice how we all refer to him as a “dad” now) to the forest, hunts down a fly, uses a rose-thorn dagger to break the bean-shell of his child and feeds it the fly.
Quality : nurturing

5) Adulthood - the sun is still high and strong - Iki visits a burrow
The child is now out of the bean-shell and rests in Iki’s arms. Iki flies to a burrow hidden beneath the roots of a big tree. The walls are decorated with delicate multi colored drapes, that turn out to be the wings of his ancestors.
He leaves the child in this home, and goes back daylight yelling “Freedom! I’m a bachelor again!”
Memory : the Ancestral Home

6) Adulthood - clouds hide the sun - Iki faces the spider again
Already flying away Iki wonders if his parental duties have been properly fulfilled, so he turn back and finds the big spider threatening his ancestral home. Iki attacks the beast with his rose-thorn dagger and slays it, fashioning a spider-mask from its head.

The tiny people gather to celebrate his victory, and his child comes out the burrow to declare their pride. But another tiny person emerges from the crowd, clad in a mantis-mask, challenging Iki. They fight is lost, leaving Iki lame by a leg and a wing.
Memory : fighting to defend his home

7) Maturity - the sun is starting to go down - Iki explores the “river-desert”
Using a stalk of grass to fashion a crutch, Iki decides to embark in a new adventure, exploring the sandy riverside... err... the “river-desert” to go where no tiny person had gone before. His child joins the quest, along with other tiny people. The journey is long and hard and many travellers perish along the way. This is sad, but Iki forges on.
Quality : greatness

8) Maturity - the sky is red and orange - Iki tells stories around a bonfire
Sitting at a bonfire made of dry grass in a place shielded by the wind between three stones, Iki is re-telling the stories of his youth to the people in his nomadic tribe. His daughter (we finally gave an identity to Iki’s child) has bean in her arms. She steps forward to introduce Iki to a young man. Iki looks at them, and solemnly bestows his dagger to the young fellow. The Mantis-slayer is present, and approves. Then the whole community moves away from the fire, and Iki stays behind, melancholic but at peace, satisfied by a life’s work becoming mature and independent of him.
Memory : letting go of the new community he built

9) Decline - the night sky is full of stars - Iki sails back home
Iki reaches the river and uses a leaf to start his journey back towards his native forest. Before sailing he looks on the horizon and sees something incredible... a human pissing in the river... but he does not know that... to him, he just witnessed how the Gods give origin to the river!
He then sails, and as time passes he starts to dry up and, bit by bit, fall down to pieces. As the end nears he sees familiar trees dark against the moon, and feels the young members of his people coming flying to get his wings, to be added to the walls of his ancestral home.

He closes his eyes... darkness... then the sound of something breaking a bean-shell... then a bright light, and a smiling face pushing food in Iki’s newborn mouth.

Memory : waiting for the young ones to take his wings

After Iki's final moment, the game ends with an open chat guided by a few loaded questions posed by the rulebook. This chat led us to speculate on the nature of this tiny people. We never got around to give them a proper name, often referring to them as “Ikis”. Are they born knowing what to do? Is it instinct or teaching? Do they have a super-specialised society structure? But then how could Iki break out of it like he did in our story? Was he aberrant or exceptional or... what?
Surely people remember him for his courage as explorer, and as slayer of spiders. We even started referring to him as the “Ikinator” at some point of the game.
To us, Iki’s most fond memory was that first childish moment of bliss in the river water at dawn. But yeah, also the Ancestral Home full of wings. That image stayed with him (and with us) until the end!
Also, witnessing a God pee is quite remarkable in and of itself...
Iki was relevant. He literally broke new ground, he broadened the horizons of his people, he founded a new nomadic tribe, he touched a lot of lives.
And he left ample trace of his existence: his daughter, his grandchild, his legendary rose-thorn dagger, his wings.
At the end of it all, his 24h life was extraordinary. We were surprised and amazed at how full it had been, and how much we cared.

The whole game lasted no more than one hour.