Between Clouds


Between Clouds is a colorful, biopunk, tabletop RPG about a family of misfits navigating the open skies atop their beloved flying beast


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.

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.

Symbiotes are forsaken by society. People fear them, shun them, or wish to use them for personal gain. Because of this, these stylish mutants are beholden to no laws or codes. They act on their own will and present themselves accordingly. Fashionable clothing, dazzling accessories, and vibrant hair are all ways that Symbiotes embody their unique personalities. Empyrea’s elite use these eccentricities to stoke moral panics about the lawlessness of roaming Symbiotes, although most people will find this to be little more than propaganda if they encounter one.

Linking with a Kirin transforms a person. Heightened senses, accelerated healing, and a more bestial gait are common side effects. Beyond this, characters gain biological gifts from their Kirin, Powers and Mutations. Powers are genetic abilities that Symbiotes activates; growing vines with the touch of a hand, putting others to sleep with moth-like powder, shooting lightning from one’s fingertips. Mutations are physical characteristics that provide a passive bonus; foxlike ears, discolored eyes, scales across the body.

A group of Symbiotes bound to a single Kirin is referred to as a Family, usually consisting of three to five members. In their former lives most Symbiotes were rejected by society for being too unusual, but with their found Family each person can find a sense of community and belonging that allows them to truly flourish. As a group the Symbiotes must protect each other, resolve interpersonal drama, and navigate the stigma associated with their lifestyle.

Kirin are larger-than-life creatures that defy gravity itself. They appear across all of Empyrea in every conceivable shape and size, each of them bearing a resemblance to one of their mammalian ancestors; cats, dogs, horses and so on. Along with the gift of flight, Kirin possess unusual qualities that make them worthy of their legendary status. Their genes are malleable, mutable in a way that allows them to store the genetic information of every living thing they encounter. By using this data, Kirin are able to edit the biology of other living things. On instinct alone, Kirin sustain Empyrea’s fragile ecosystems by transferring genes and mutations from one isolated biome to the next, using them to bolster flora and fauna against ever-changing conditions in a process akin to pollination.

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.

To carry their family, bonded Kirin are equipped with a Saddle. This massive harness is built of metal, leather, and other available materials, then affixed to a Kirin’s back with straps and belts. It is a mobile home that Symbiotes use to travel, eat, and rest. No two saddles are alike. Each one requires a great deal of resources and craftsmanship to make, neither of which are easy to find when saddle-makers are persecuted for aiding Symbiotes. As they travel, a family may purchase or build Upgrades for their saddle. A saddle’s components may become damaged as the family encounters harsh weather or aerial combat, requiring repairs and maintenance to remain functional.

Between Clouds takes place in the atmosphere of a dying planet, known as Empyrea. Centuries ago, ecological disaster and an otherworldly being destroyed the surface, rendering it entirely uninhabitable and ending countless lives. Now, the remaining people of Empyrea live in the open skies. Threats from beneath the clouds are more present than ever, and populations must put as much distance between themselves and the surface as possible.

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.

Between Clouds is made using Free League’s Year Zero game engine. I chose this system for its ease of use, especially with players that are new to the genre, as well as its focus on narrative storytelling. The Year Zero system uses pools of six-sided dice to determine the outcome of each action. Actions are successful when 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.

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Digital PDF, Softcover + PDF, Hardcover + PDF