Between Clouds is a colorful, biopunk, tabletop RPG about a family of misfits navigating the open skies atop their beloved flying beast. Life among the clouds revolves around the Kirin, oversized animals that possess volatile genetics and the gift of flight. Across the skies, floating vessels and cities are held aloft by the animated remains of hunted Kirin, whose beating hearts defy gravity itself. Commoners are wary of becoming abducted or eaten by these creatures, while propaganda and folklore only stoke their fears. With an uninhabitable surface below, humanity must learn to coexist with the flora and fauna of their airborne realm or perish.


Wild Kirin lead difficult lives. Their primary source of food, flying fish, are also used to keep human machines afloat, often forcing the creatures to flee from their hunting grounds. Habitats for nesting are in short supply. Abandoned towers and mountain caves are common lairs, but these spaces are sought after by humans that wish to build and expand. Despite their size, wild Kirin are often unable to defend against the hunters, pirates and whalers that target them. They must retreat, hide, or be protected by Symbiotes to survive.


In Between Clouds players assume the role of Symbiotes, rare outcasts who have formed unbreakable bonds with a Kirin. It is not an easy choice to join forces with such a reviled creature. Those who crave power and a comfortable life seek to hunt the Kirin, and the Symbiotes with them if necessary. Few are ever approached by the flying beasts, and fewer still head the call. Those who do lead nomadic lives. They travel across Empyrea atop their airborne companions, making allies and enemies along the way, all while striving to help those in need and protect the wild Kirin that they encounter.

The Saddle

To carry their family, bonded Kirin are equipped with a Saddle. This is a mobile home for Symbiotes to travel, eat, and rest atop their Kirin. No two saddles are alike, and each comes with its own Flaws and Upgrades that make it unique. Symbiotes must learn to share limited space in their saddle, a point of tension for many families. In game, the saddle is represented by a player-led map-drawing mechanic.

Many of Empyrea’s cities are still connected to the surface and endangered because of it. Mountain tops, known as Islands, are popular for their size and space, but horrors and disasters from below are never far away. Superscrapers from ancient cities known as Towers are more defensible, but their foundations are frail and prone to collapse. In some instances, natural life of immense proportions can provide a home among the clouds as well. Oversized forests and massive coral formations are common examples, although these too are prone to dangers from the surface.

Empyrea’s more fortunate citizens enjoy life in floating cities, known as Cradles, far above the surface. These airborne colonies are safer, but an endless supply of fuel is required to keep them aloft. Oil from flying fish allows Cradles and ships to stay afloat, but pales in comparison to the potent blood and beating hearts of hunted Kirin. Because of this, Cradle-dwellers are especially hostile towards Kirin and Symbiotes, more likely to turn them in for a bounty than give them directions. It is the desire to remain comfortable and isolated that drives people to hunt and kill wild Kirin.

The Rules

Between Clouds is made using a modified version of Free League’s Year Zero game engine. The Year Zero system uses pools of six-sided dice to determine the outcome of each action. Actions are successful whenever a 6 is rolled, otherwise the action fails and produces an unintended consequence for the player. Multiple 6’s allow the Symbiotes to buy Flourishes, bonus effects that can be applied to their actions. This simple pass/fail system has clear stakes and is easy for new players to pick up, but it is only the beginning what makes Between Clouds’ mechanics special.

Between Clouds features strong collaborative storytelling elements and procedures borrowed from Belonging Outside Belonging and Forged in the Dark games. Each borrowed rule was chosen to create mutual trust between the players and the storyteller, and to encourage collaboration (rather than competition) at every turn.

  • Progress and Pressure Plants are used to track the family’s progress towards specific goals and impending dangers.
  • A support mechanic (like Dream Askew/Dream Apart’s lures) incentivizes players to seek each other’s aid when solving problems, rewarding them with game-changing Unity Points for doing so.
  • Collaborative location-building allows players to become invested in each tower, cradle, and island that they visit. Players are encouraged to build and imagine the world of Empyrea along with their Storyteller.
  • Equipment Points encourage Symbiotes use their imagination when conjuring useful items from their saddle or pockets, rather than spending time with strict inventory tracking.
  • Random travel events that spark imagination and breathe life into every part of the players’ journey.
  • And many more features designed to inspire!

I have run many a session of Between Clouds with zero prep thanks to its strong procedures and content-heavy rulebook, and I am certain that any new or aspiring game master can do the same. Enjoy! 🙂