I’m very long overdue for an update about my goings on and doings. Last year was something of a whirlwind of stuff. And this year has been an even greater swirl of social change, upheaval, sickness and awakenings.
As I’ve been watching the ongoing reports of covid in America and my local circles of communities and how they’ve responded in this time where we need to pull together and support each other I’ve been alternately elated and severely disappointed.
Likewise, with the Black Lives Matter movement and the huge social and political change that is happening as a result, as I have supported my local protests and had big conversations with a lot of my communities I am still astounded in the huge variance of responses hope that people will eventually pull together and move us all to a new stage of enlightenment.
Beyond engaging on the streets, I do some of my share of support and making spaces for marginalized peoples also in the games I make. I want to make experiences that lead people to act from compassionate spaces instead of fearful ones. I often forget to post about it because I’m so deep in the doing and sorting the results. Many of my academic friends have bugged me about documenting things so here I am, beginning that process . Again. LOL!
So, let’s dive into it.
DePaul Originals Game Studio.
I’m still teaching at DePaul but have taken up a new endeavor withing the school. I started a game studio inside DePaul University alongside a colleague of mine, Will Meyers. It’s called DePaul Originals Game Studio and it has been a slow growing thing now for about a year and a half and has taken up the lion’s share of my time which meant I had to say no to a bunch of other cool projects that came my way. Trying to create and build games within an academic space and with students is a very different beast from doing it on my own or with a professional studio. Most notably the process is slower by an order of magnitude. Students have a million bad habits and aren’t even remotely confident in their skillsets so it takes a while to help them build confidence and get to a point where they can create at a steady pace.
With all that said I’m very proud of the work the students have been doing. I find it nourishing to watch people grow and go from “I can’t do that” to becoming skilled enough to run workshops where they teach other students and folks from the local game community how to do what they previously didn’t know how to do.
I’m hoping that, as time goes by, we’ll refine our processes enough to publish a beautiful, professional feeling game that also has some depth and opens conversations. The themes I normally try to address (belonging, kinship, erasure, depression, witnessing, community ecologies) are present in our first game which centers around a dog trying to find her way, after losing her people, in a world that has lost its sense of hope.
You can check out https://ogs.cdm.depaul.edu/ if you’re interested in our progress.
I’ve been very busy doing a lot of game writing for a lot of different spaces. I think the thing I’m proudest about here is my work on “When Rivers Were Trails” which is a beautiful educational game, designed by the always awesome Elizabeth LaPensée. The description of the game, as posted on the website is as follows:
“When Rivers Were Trails is a 2D point-and-click adventure game in which Oregon Trail meets Where the Water Tastes Like Wine. An Anishinaabeg in the 1890’s is displaced from their traditional territory in Minnesota and heads west to California due to the impact of allotment acts on Indigenous communities, facing Indian Agents, meeting people from different nations, and hunting, fishing, and canoeing along the way as they balance their wellbeing.”
It’s free and can be found at https://indianlandtenure.itch.io/when-rivers-were-trails and is a great thing for those of you engaging homeschooling in the COVID world and for any teachers who need some interesting teacher activities to give to students that will lead to some great learning and big conversations.
There is also a great breakdown of the game to be found at https://whenriversweretrails.gamepedia.com/When_Rivers_Were_Trails_Wiki, which can be used to enhanced the learning from the game.
In addition to “When Rivers Were Trails” I’ve also been relatively active on the TTRPG front helping to diversify and deepen some older properties. Notably the new Chicago by Night for Vampire 5E is out, as is Scion Second Edition, both of which I had a part in writing. Forthcoming is the Hunter the Vigil: Second Edition which includes an indigenous themed compact devoting to ecologically responsible monster hunting as well as an updating of all of the old compacts and conspiracies therein. I think the setting, as a whole, has become much more intriguing and engaging and makes room for a lot more perspectives and types of people to participate in protecting the world form the forces of darkness.
I ran a game for the setting on Twitch which can be found by searching Uptown Shadows at https://www.twitch.tv/theonyxpath the OnyxPathPublishing Twitch Channel.
As far as new games go, I also am a writer on Bastion, an afro-futurist fantasy setting using the Mythic D6 system from Khepera Publishing. The owner, Jerry D. Grayson is an awesome designer, and I was ecstatic to be invited by him to contribute to Bastion. You can check that out more about it at https://kheperapublishing.com/khepera-publishing-home/mythic-d6/bastion-afro-centric-sword-and-sorcery-fantasy/ .
My Own Stuff
As far as my own stuff goes, I haven’t forgotten Ehdrigohr. It has carried my far and we are still on interesting journeys. I was able to run it at a couple local cons when my time allowed and I’m gearing up (again) to start a live-play of it. There are tons of half written notes about the setting and I need to figure out how to tie up so loose ends and rev up for a new edition. The major focus there is that I’ve learned a ton over the years since I got Ehdrigohr out into the world. I’ve got a better grasp of language, culture, and where people struggle to connect with the game. I’ve been doing a lot of creating with cards in my summer youth programs which is leading me to see a version of the game where we use cards as a big part of the story telling process. These thoughts are coming from two other projects I’ve been working on.
The first is a boardgame called Dreamwalk. This was/is a project begun not long after Ehdrigohr was published with my colleague Dr. Doris Rusch who is a fantastic designer who focuses on “deep games” and has taught me a lot about way to frame things I was doing subconsciously. Dreamwalk is a something of a group therapy game/group storytelling game. It’s about examining the cycle of struggles that comes out of the constant interactions between people as they work to manage their virtues and flaws. I think we got pretty close to a finished game with Dreamwalk but have to rework numerous pieces that were getting in the way of the storytelling. If you’re at all interested in playtesting the game, please reach out and we’ll talk.
The second is a project that began life as the Arboretum Imaginarium, in collaboration with artist Stacey Taheny, which is a set of cards meant to be used for introspective explorations. I learned a lot form creating those cards and how people relate and respond to the images and the kind of sharing that happens in the spaces created in the rituals of play. I’m taking those ideas and expanding on them in a solo project with new deck called the Rebus Mysteria.
This deck is meant to serve a similar purpose but I chose to ground this one in ideas of indigenous kinship with the land. It is composed of images from mostly my own photography and revolves around getting people to connect with these nature spaces and finding what narratives they carry in association with those spaces and using those for creative writing and introspective journaling. I intend to do something similar with Ehdrigohr either as part of a new edition or as a supplementary tool for what is currently there. I find that the tactile nature of cards and the physical mechanisms inherent interacting with them go a long way towards helping people build a connection to the bigger narratives and keep track of their places within those narratives.
Finally there are more games forthcoming. I have a new TTRPG in the works which is a bit of modern action horror in a world where the gods are real and it turns out that they’re not good for humanity. It’s a divine conspiracy where players awakening to the truth must use the stuff of dream to battle a divine conspiracy that is threatening to come crumbling down and take all of humanity with it. More on this in a later post.
As far as systems go for this game I’m considering both Powered by The Apocalypse and the old D6 system that powered the old Star Wars game and currently manifests in the Mythic D6 stuff. I may end up with something that is an amalgam of the two. We shall see. Right now it’s all big broad strokes and I’ll be pulling together some folks to try playing some of the bits.
So that’s it for now. I’ll be expanding on some of the topics I touched on in this post in later posts along with some things i can’t talk about just yet.