In 2011 I moved from New Hampshire back to Oregon to start a doctoral program in clinical psychology. I drove the entire way with a good friend and we camped our way across the country, staying in a combination of a beautiful national/state parks and really cheap RV stops. We spent most of a week camping in the plains, mountains, badlands, by lakes and rivers. I noticed a sense of peace and beauty in my life that had faded during my time in school. Back then, I wrote novels as my main hobby, and I began to sketch some notes about a world where the nature I saw in these parks became the dominate force in the world, and cities became the oddity. (Wish fulfillment for my rural-loving heart).
Around the same time in my life, both of my grandmothers were struggling with dementia and one in particular was having a hard time adjusting, often getting angry, suspicious, confused. Her new condition stood in bitter contrast to my recent memories of sitting outside with her, talking about her time growing up in Oklahoma, stories about her parents and grandparents, jokes they shared, challenges they overcame. Before the dementia, she carried family memories stretching back before the Cherokee, her tribe, were even considered citizens in the United States.
These two experiences came together to spark the idea for a novel: a family that lived in the Wild needed to make the trek to the city, because their matriarch was developing Alzheimer's, so she was no longer protected from the Wild by her memories of their family land.
I started my doctorate program and never got further than a chapter with the novel, but the idea refused to leave me alone.
As I began working with TTRPG design, the idea returned to me: what if you regained hit points in a game by revealing something about your character and their backstory? What if the game combined the discovery of a classic hexcrawl, exploration-adventure game with opportunities for GMless narrative like the awesome Fall of Magic game?
With that idea, I began work on Rootless. The game is undeniably reflective of my experiences growing up camping in the Pacific Northwest and my training as a psychologist. Character stats are built by making choices about your character's personality. You can gain an edge on rolls by acting against your identity, but then you make yourself vulnerable to the Wild as you deny part of your nature. The game will be about balancing risks and rewards as you battle the Wild, deciding who suffers--you or your friends--and when the cost will be paid.
Or maybe you can embrace the granola-eating, Birkenstock-wearing ways of my home state, and unlock the secrets of how you relate to the Wild, rather than fight it.
This blog is where I "think aloud" about the games I'm designing, with occasional pieces analyzing other games or game mechanics. Currently, the focus is on talking through my own design process rather than presenting a polished piece on game design.
I'm known for going on tangents. The only consistent thing in my life is that I spend most of it creating things: novels, games, graphics. I love taking apart how art and games work, then reconstructing my own version from the pieces. I'm also enough of a layout perfectionist to adore eraser shields.