The Fifth World

Roleplaying Game

Creating a Family

While most ritual phrases do not come into play until you get to an encounter, you can use “I don’t see it” at any time, even during family creation.

States, empires, and corporations died out centuries ago. In the Fifth World, the extended family forms the basic sovereign unit. Some families live as bands of hunter-gatherers, while others might live in small villages, but all conceive of themselves, first and foremost, as a family. In fact, they understand the whole world in terms of kinship. Nothing matters more than family and land, and with bonds of kinship tying the land to the family, the distinction between the two can become rather blurry.

In The Fifth World roleplaying game, you and your friends play members of a single family making a living together. Making a family can take some time, but they play a very important role in the game. We spend relatively little time coming up with individual characters who belong to the family.

You play the family that has claimed the area where you live as their territory four hundred years from now. They might descend from climate refugees who fled poleward, from your own stubborn descendants who refused to leave, or (usually) a little bit of both. Think of who would have the best chance of survival. That usually has little to do with weapons or bunkers, and much more to do with strong community bonds and a willingness to look out for one another. Those people most likely become the ancestors of your family in the Fifth World. We'll follow their history through four eras from the near future to the Fifth World.

Download Family Sheets


Four Eras

Each era poses a question. For example, the first era asks, “What did your ancestors do?” Below that question, it shows a spectrum with “Pioneer” on one side and “Survive” on the other. For each of these questions, no one ever truly lived by practicing one strategy to the exclusion of the other. The truth always lies somewhere in between. However, many leaned more heavily towards one or the other. In this case, some families descend from ancestors who had a very strong idea of the future they wanted to create, while others descend from ancestors who had very few plans besides making it through the day.

In the first era, you'll start by placing a marker in the middle of the spectrum. If you live in an urban area, push it one space to the left. If you live in a rural area, push it one space to the right. If you wouldn't describe the area where you live as either urban or rural, leave it in the middle space.

Now, each of you will take a turn pushing the marker one space to the left, one space to the right, or leaving it in its current place. Whichever you choose to do, you must provide a reason for it — and a different one than any of your friends.

For example, while considering the first era, you might talk about a transition town, militia group, hippie commune, ecovillage, separatist movement, or permaculture community in your area and push the marker to the right towards “Pioneer.” Or you might talk about the lack of local disaster preparedness as you push the marker to the left towards “Survive.” You might reinforce why the marker belongs right where it lies with another line of reasoning. Whichever one you choose, you must add a new reason.

When everyone has taken a turn, where do you end up? If you end in one of the three middle spaces, you landed between the two extremes. If you end in one of the two spaces on the left or one of the two spaces on the right, you land on that side of the spectrum. This will determine the prompts you'll answer to determine your family's customs.

Two Customs

Each side instructs you to describe a custom that your family adopted during this era. If your family chose one side over the other, you’ll come up with two customs that answer that side’s prompt. If you placed yourself somewhere in the middle, you’ll describe one custom for each side.

When you describe a custom, choose which value this custom reflects. Then provide a name for the family ancestor associated with that custom.

Discovering Place Names

When you have two customs from the era, pull a card from the place deck and discover its name. At the end of a game, the events of that game give you the information from which you must answer these questions, which might not suffice. Right now you can answer freely, establishing some of your family's history with the place, so you should have a good chance of discovering its name. If you find that you can't, draw again and use the new card. Once you've discovered its name, name an ancestor associated with that place.

The Next Era

You’ll then move on to the next era. Put the marker in the same space in the next era that you ended on in the previous era. For example, if you ended in the second-to-rightmost space in the first era, set the marker in the second-to-rightmost space in the second era.

You'll each take a turn to either move the marker one space or keep it where it lies, providing a new reason for your decision, as you did in the previous era.

Naming Your Family

Once you’ve followed your family’s history, give them a name. Most families have names like, “The People of…” with a description of their territory, like the People of the Hilltop, or the Beaver Valley People. A few have names that come from their unique customs, beliefs, or sense of mission, like the Gatekeepers or the Waterborn. Those families with very strong roots in their past might call themselves by the name of a community dear to their ancestors, like the name of a neighborhood, company, or other organization they all gathered around.