One Child’s Heart – RPG

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 About

“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.”

One Child's Heart The Team

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.

One Child's Heart Art by Serena Verde

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.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/camdon/one-childs-heart/

I’m going to attempt a Vlog about this now. My usual pain and lack of sleep, so should be fun 🙂

One Child's Heart Kickstarter

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#RPGaDay2018 Day31 Why Join In

Share why you take part in RPGaDAY

I went with a silly but heartfelt video for today’s question; I clearly need to practice puppet skills, or my dreams of a puppet RPG will never happen. I had pondered mentioning more things, but I decided to save them for a post-RPGaDay analysis, like I did last year.

I’m still a bit tempted to go a bit overboard and carry out a psychology content analysis, but too much TODO and I am trying to stick to Project Overlap 😉 At least taking part and looking at some many tweets, blogs and vlogs means I got a decent overview of answers, which whilst taking a lot of time was very informative and fun.

#RPGaDay2018 Day30 Lessons

Share something you learned about playing your character

When discussing role-playing I typically mention Intent, whether it is about something that is In Character (IC) or Out Of Character (OOC). This approach grew out of my early experiences of being in games with Adversarial stances, both players and person running the game. I like to have clarity of what a person is trying to achieve, not just IC but also OOC. I don’t obsessively ask the question, I let me players know they can clarify something at any time during a game, and just occasionally check with them if I feel I might be missing something. I find this approach has allowed me to empower not just the players but myself as the GM, and ideally the game as a whole.

I’ve learnt a lot more from particular characters and RPG in general. Empathy, culture, history, art, etc. But since we are keeping things short Intent is my main takeaway, which I also use in day-to-day life a lot.

The story of my first regular lunchtime High School gaming group: Role-play Meets Lord of the Flies.

RPG Lord of the Flies

#RPGaDay2018 Interview

I submitted a list of question suggestions for this year’s #RPGaDay event. In return I was sent a list of questions for an interview by Autocratik (David F. Chapman), the creator of #RPGaDay. Since the Garou that guards my games library is also called Dave, I thought it could serve as a good stand-in interviewer. Quirky what you think is funny when sleep deprived. Could be worse, I had considered doing the interview in one of several LARP characters 😉

https://autocratik.blogspot.com/2018/08/rpgaday2018-day-14-describe-failure.html

#RPGaDay2018 Day01 Love About RPGs

Now that I am making videos as well as blogging it is kind of funny deciding which should take priority. Overthinking things again, here is one then the other 😉

What Do You Love About RPGs?

Days ago I wrote a list of things I love about role-playing, but I could not figure out what aspect was my favourite. Even if I had to pick one, I would be stuck between the social or creative aspect. Unfortunately I had a big list so here is a handy pie-chart:

RPGaDay18-01graph

Today I settled on the following:

I love that RPGs provide a vast collection of connected virtual boxes, choosing which ones to open and which ones to close for different games/situations. Exploring the metaphysics of how everything affects everything else, including each other.

Extra: I’ve now thought of a better answer, classic. Guess I should make a post event list of extra thoughts.

RPG Sigmata + Politics Your Way

This follows on from Kickstarter Sigmata RPG and part 2.

At the time of writing there are just 12 hours to go till the Sigmata Kickstarter ends. It has reached an impressive level of backing, having now gone over $35,000. The stretch goals include several different settings for the game, a soundtrack and now a companion book, has been unlocked.

Whilst initially I had planned on doing an interview with Chad about his game and inspirations, he has provided lots of great answers in several interviews, well as a Reddit AMA. There are quite some diverse Q&A and I’d recommend checking them out.

Instead of more questions I decided that the focus of this blog would be about politics and choice in regards to RPGs. Part of my reasoning is that I’d read several comments querying the focus of the game, a few debates about political terms, ethics, history, plus even an accusation of cartoon evil. Given the nature of Sigmata’s focus: “ethical insurgency against a fascist regime”, it is no wonder that trying to condense such important debates in to a summary of a game, one that also needs to serve as a sales pitch, is difficult. I can appreciate why different people are focusing on particular points, and why given the serious nature of politics someone would have the audacity to gamify the subject.

Whilst I have spent many hours reading and writing about RPG theory, I appreciate that not every player has, nor wants to, as well as why some players think it is all irrelevant nonsense. Sigmata is being designed with mechanics to emphasis the game goals, which is great, but it is worth remembering that players that dismiss RPG theory do have a point, that players can still play however they want, with whatever emphasis they want. This is especially true for a group of friends who regularly play together. After all role-playing is very much what we make it, and my summary regarding this topic is:

Systems matter, I think players & implementation matter more.

I previously had a brief chat with Chad about how in any game players will play how they want, it is of course something he is well aware of. Much like with his Cryptomancer game, Chad is providing players with mechanics and a setting to help explore things in the best way possible: a game. The importance of play is something that gained a lot of credibility in science, whilst this was obvious to so many, unsurprisingly other people dismiss play as childish and an actually waste of time. Also the idea that adults cannot explore ideas to keep learning, or that play has no value, is strange to me; at least it seems that general consensus on play has shifted. So I am all for Chad’s approach to RPGs and gamification.

One thing that has stood out to me is Chad presenting a few game examples with different ways to handle things. Additionally Chad’s Cryptomancer game similarly had choice, but with an emphasis on caution/care, since considering repercussions in a game inspired by cybersecurity was paramount in helping players to think about real life security. I bring this up in regards to RPG choice, since although many role-players are all about choice, other players prefer to play the same narrowly focused violent style games, so it should be no surprise that some people have focused on the violent aspects of Sigmata’s game. Like most games I’ve played with many groups, all with varying degrees of focus, resulting in a plethora of differences, I am all for players playing how they want, as I wrote about in Your RPG is Yours, Not Mine. If you want to play in a game world with a cartoon evil government and hyper violent PCs then go right ahead, plus who knows where it could lead.

Another area of concern for some is Sigmata’s examples of player character factions. If this is an issue for you then feel free to change things, maybe take the the middle ground and make strange bedfellows more of an exception in your games. I appreciate that different words generate strong rationale and/or emotions in each of us. In a highly polarised world it can be easy to forget, or not even appreciate, that most people are not as different or divided as some say we are. I don’t wish to come across as naive, note I wrote ‘some’, I do appreciate that some people are invested in, and profit from, dividing people. Nor that it is just a matter of education, genuine psychopaths exist, people can develop mental disorders, temporary stress is usually a factor in peoples’ responses, etc. Back to role-playing, party conflict can be a great source for storytelling, think of the list of examples as a powerful source of inspiration and conflict.

If someone reads Sigmata’s overview and is worried about players arguing then I recommend they discuss ideas with their group before playing; I find problems can be minimised, or even avoided. For groups that don’t normally have a session 0, or email list to discuss things, then I’d recommend doing so in regards to Sigmata if only due to the divisive subject matter, particularly in comparison the vast majority of other RPGs.

I think Sigmata promises to offer something to all gamers, but particularly to anyone that has an interest in history, military tactics, psychology, or similar subjects. I recommend backing this game and giving it a try, if only to expand your RPG mental tool kit/belt.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2089483951/sigmata-this-signal-kills-fascists