It is wonderful that there are so many great role-playing games (RPG) available these days, an ever increasing collection of new ideas for settings and mechanics. Like many gamers I have too many games to play, crafting projects and models to paint, yet I was still thrilled when I came across the new Kickstarter https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/camdon/one-childs-heart/
“One Child’s Heart is a tabletop roleplaying game about empathy, hope, and human connection in the face of childhood crisis.”
Quite an intriguing and inspiring summary of the game’s goals, and having listened to several actual plays I think the idea really holds up. The setting has an interesting premise:
“There are pivotal moments in every child’s life that shape who they become. One Child’s Heart is a tabletop roleplaying game that invites players to take the role of child welfare professionals participating in a new mental health care memory exploration experiment. The Central Limbic Engagement Recovery System (CLERS – pronounced, “clears”) brings characters into the memories of these key moments to give support and guidance to a child who needs both.”
Whilst there are various media that have explored ideas of examining interacting with memories I think a quick mainstream reference to contrast with is this game is that it is not like Inception. The player characters are not invading a person’s mind to plant a memory seed. One Child’s Heart takes a professional and ethical approach to the concept of interacting with a child and their memories:
“You are playing child welfare professionals who are going into the memories of a traumatised child to try and teach that child resilience and make emotional connections with them.”
Camdon Wright, the creator, along with Kate Bullock, project manager, have assembled an impressive team for the game. Plus as multiple stretch goals have been unlocked even more people have joined the project, another reason to look at this games Kickstarter. After being hooked by the game’s premise, looking at the team members and stretch-goals sealed my interest. The Kickstarter has had regular updates, I have particularly appreciated reading about the people involved via the Meet the Team updates.
I’m sure most people would agree that memory is a fascinating and complex subject. For example memory is not a straightforward recording of events; each memory is heavily dependent on our moment to moment state of mind, as well as our beliefs, biases and emotions. Those are all dependent on a multitude of factors, and so on. Interestingly memory seems to be editable, when we recall something we might also alter it, we might not. How memories connect to each other are also important considerations. My own fiction and RPG writing is focused on mental health and memory. Besides studying psychology, I have some experience volunteering with assisting vulnerable youth, I’ve taught a variety of skills to people of all ages, and I used to work as an admin in social services and was studying to be a social worker before my health problems interrupted things. To make it clear I am not attempting an argument from authority, I am far from being an expert, I’m just trying to emphasis why I am so invested in this project and intrigued to see how it develops.
I appreciate that trauma and mental health are complex, diverse and sensitive topics, so anyone attempting this subject has an exceptionally difficult task in order to address things respectfully and with consideration. For example: the team has already taken on-board feedback regarding the game term “Permanent Damage Threshold”. I suspect this is a case of building upon the concept of health points, whilst this sort of tracking system is a classic game convention, the label does not quite fit this game’s intent. I do not know any of the designers, yet I still feel confident suggesting that I think the game’s explanation, as well clarifications, communicates the team’s sincerity. This can also been seen with this core game statement:
“This is not a game about trauma or an invitation to tragedy tourism. One Child’s Heart is intended to be an empathy-building experience with a message of hope and human connection. It’s a game where the characters’ only goal is to support and love an imaginary child who is struggling with their life circumstances.”
From a Rules Clarification post:
“At no time can the Professionals deliberately traumatize or harm the child.”
The artwork I’ve seen so far is beautiful. From the cover art, profession symbols, the section headers, to the dice and token examples, I love the aesthetic. Also a special mention for managing to make the heart symbol anatomical correct, but without making them seem shocking/nauseating.
Mechanics? I think they nicely follow the idea of minimising tests, I like this nonintrusive approach and think it helps convey the game’s goals. If you really need to know more, then please check out the Kickstarter page.
Even if you are currently sure you are unlikely to play this game in the next few years I think it is still worth investing in. I’m always a fan of expanding my #RPGMentalToolKit. In other blogs posts for various Kickstarters I’ve explained how I approach each project with consideration as to how integrate ideas/mechanics into existing games. Very handy if you have players that prefer to play long campaigns/story arcs, prefer a specific system, etc. Besides playing the game unmixed, I am pondering ideas about adding CLERS to many games, such as Cyberpunk or World of Darkness, in particular Mage the Ascension or Changeling the Dreaming (no Edgelord nonsense of course, Mage 20th nicely emphasised the horror of abusing Mind Magick).
Please check-out this project, I urge you to become a backer as well. I think this another great example of the many innovative creators in #IndieRPG scene doing something thought-provoking and exciting.
I’m going to attempt a Vlog about this now. My usual pain and lack of sleep, so should be fun 🙂