I recently wrote about starting the process of creating a game with an AI that I named named Dav. I have since continued with that project, though leaving Dav behind (sorry, robo-pal), having only utilized them during the initial concept phase while my brain was foggy from having covid.
Dav and I made a short, solo journaling game centered around mindfulness and pets that required only a deck of cards. Here's a quick snapshot of some of the bits that were coming together:
Picking things back up
Now that I'm feeling a lot better and my projects are all regaining momentum I wanted to revisit this.
- What was I actually trying to explore?
- When I was directing Dav, what was I directing them towards?
- Whatever it was, was it an idea worth exploring further?
Looking my spreadsheet, the transcript with Dav, and other materials over, I think, at the center of it, were a few themes starting to emerge:
- Our relationship with animal companions
- Shared growth
- Grief / loss
Those seem like totally valid things to explore to me but I don't think Dav and I were really getting to the meat of things if we wanted to pull on any heart strings. So I reworked things.
New project breakdown
(Likely riddled with typos)
The Wilds Within (actual title TBD, Wilds for short)
is a solo journaling game about legendary companions and the memorable quests they shared
As you doze on your bedroll, sore from the day's adventure, you can't help a cautious smile forming. A new friend cuddles into you and you wonder what the next day will bring...
Unlike other tabletop roleplaying games, much of the Wilds takes place in the spaces between the action when we have time to connect with our companions, bond, and lick our wounds (literally). You'll create a random companion from a large assortment of possibilities, being met with prompts for how you met, fleshing out their unique behaviours, skills, strengths, and weaknesses. Time progresses differently in the Wilds, jumping to moments of heightened emotion or relaxation, including eventual loss, addressing questions and themes like:
- Why does one of us feel a certain way and how do we help the other?
- How do we learn and practice patience and resilience?
- How do we challenge or embrace our weaknesses and make use of our strengths?
- How can we work together for the better of both?
- What can we do to support each other in times of need?
- How do we cope when we lose someone we've shared so much with?
Attached to your companion? Optionally take them with you at any time, easily adapting them to another game of your choosing.
What do you think? By all means, poke holes, give feedback, let me know what you think. If you're in a Discord with me, message me, or @ me on Twitter.
Questions to sort out
These are open questions I'm wondering about
- Who is the player talking to? Is it a literal journal? Are they recounting their story to someone else? Does it matter?
- Can I make it work in any setting (eg fantasy, sci-fi, horror)? Or is that getting too broad? Focus can be good.
- Is there anything else worth preserving from the original concept with Dav? I liked some of the more obscure notes, like "animal from a dream"
Thankfully my wife works for the Canadian Mental Health Association, so I am hopeful she will be able to hook me up with some materials on grief and other topics I can reference. I'd also like to dig into all sorts of obscure animals for some random generators. I know we all want cats, but who also doesn't want to occasionally end up with a lil caterpillar bud? In my initial google-about I searched for "what makes one animal unique from another" and found this NSFW and potentially traumatizing article (TW: Jordan Peterson nonsense) that was quite entertaining (don't say I didn't warn you). I'll definitely be digging into more interesting animal behaviours, abilities, things like that. I'll likely delve into beastiary realm as well, but will want to open some of those open questions about setting first. There may be some creative ways to leave it broad and up to the player's imagination.
The big question, of course, whenever any of us has an idea is build, buy, or adopt. Thankfully for us in the TTRPG space compared to my day job, most of the amazing tools like TTRPG SRDs are free to adopt as long as you provide attribution. The problem? I can't seem to find any that seem to suit the concept I've outlined above.
What I've looked at so far:
- Lost & Found
- This is the closest, concept wise. I love Lost & Found, but I feel like I'm trying too hard to push the concept this way and am starting to dislike it. It's too solitary, cold. I want it to be about the bond. I think this could be a good exercise for one of the smaller systems that will eventually make it into Bug & Claw proper, too. Bonds that push each other forward, encouraging inclusion, cooperation, collaboration.
- In fact, I may remove some of the changes I made that pushed it towards Lost & Found.
- I'm not totally abandoning this system, but maybe if I pursue it it's more of a remix than a straight adoption.
- Carta SRD
- I think Carta might be the easiest for me to extend and stretch my own imagination. In fact, I could mix in another SRD on top of it if I wanted/needed to.
- My thought here was that each card could be a stop on the timeline, a memory in your life with your companion, powered by the random prompts of the cards. At least then you know when your time is running out with them...
- Wretched & Alone SRD
- Maybe when I had covid I got a little too dark.
- I dunno, could still be some great concepts to use here. I should make some time to dig in more.
- Or just making my own thang. I'm a glutton for punishment.
I was already pursuing this idea and liking the theme of grief, but then this happened this morning and kind of drove things home for me:
Something tells me pursuing this project will be good therapy!
Grandma passed this morning. Infected by covid due to an uncle that thought it was all a hoax and brought it to her in the hospital where she was already being treated for respiratory and heart issues.— Bug & Claw (@bugandclaw) August 4, 2022
Not in a good place today.
Cute pet/animal photos appreciated #ttrpgfamily