A tragedy has befallen the sleepy mountain town of Tall Pines. One of its best and brightest – a young local with a promising future – has been killed. Murdered horribly in the prime of their youth. Together we will unravel the mystery of their death, discover what it means for our little town, and possibly even learn who done it…but we may learn more than we ever wanted to know.
Tall Pines is a card-based tabletop story game where you’ll discover, create, and explore a murder mystery in a small mountain town. With two to five friends you’ll play through a tale in three acts, using the game cards to prompt exciting and enigmatic scenes, establish a shared language of symbolism and metaphor, and reveal the secrets that the town and its people hide.
Tall Pines is inspired by the classic (and soon to be rebooted!) 1990s TV series Twin Peaks, though no knowledge of the show is needed to play. Like that show, the stories this game produces are surreal, disturbing, and enigmatic. As you play, the secrets of the town of Tall Pines will be revealed and the things you think you know about its people, the game’s characters – even those that you yourself have played – will be proven dangerously false.
Here's some video of Eric Vulgaris playing Tall Pines with me on his show Once Upon A Game.
Play in Tall Pines is driven by two decks of cards – the Scene Deck and the Symbol Deck. Through them, you’ll tell the story of a tragic murder in the small town of Tall Pines.
Cards from the Scene Deck are compelling prompts that players use to frame scenes in the game’s story. The scenes you start in this game have a way of getting away from you though, and ending up in unexpected places – this is thanks to your fellow players! During scenes, in addition to roleplaying characters, players may contribute Scene Cards from their hands to push the narrative in a (sometimes dramatically) different direction.
If there’s nothing sufficiently weird in your hand of Scene Cards, you can always grab a card from the Symbol Deck and define how it manifests in a scene. The Symbol Deck is comprised of 18 original images that form the metaphorical core of your story. As the Symbol Cards start making their way into scenes they’ll begin to recur and repeat in unsettling and intriguing ways, focusing the story while keeping things surreal and unreliable.
The scenes of your story will be centered around six Protagonists – important people in the town of Tall Pines, and in the life of the victim whose murder you’ll investigate. These are the characters that players will spend most of their time with. But even when you’ve played as the Local Sheriff for three scenes in a row, you never really know who he is, or what he’s capable of – because other players can play him too! The Protagonists' roles in the story – and, incidentally, their capacity for unconscionable, horrifying evil – remain in flux throughout each game, as no Protagonist is owned by any one player.
Your story will unfold in three acts, with the actions your Protagonists take and the emotional tones of the scenes you play building toward each act’s unpredictable resolution. More creeping drama infuses the game when players activate their Secret Cards. As you play through the acts and build your story scene by scene, Secret Cards will occasionally shift the narrative leading to a revelation about the murder victim.
By the end of the third act, you may not know exactly who committed the murder. But you will certainly know things you’ll wish you didn’t about the people of Tall Pines.
Backers at all levels get access to the digital print and play version of Tall Pines.
At $25 and up you get a physical copy of the game - 114 high-quality cards - plus any stretch goal content that is unlocked over the course of the campaign.
At $35 and up you get the physical game with stretch goals, plus a CD and digital downloads of the Tall Pines soundtrack album The Myna Bird by Seattle ambient artists Sol Dea. This 45 minute atmospheric composition is the perfect creepy accompaniment to a game of Tall Pines.
For $60 you'll receive a physical copy of the game with stretch goals, and I'll work with you to create a custom set of Tall Pines Protagonist cards. If you'd like to insert your family or friends into the town of Tall Pines (or, you know, the Scooby Gang) this is the level for you. If you've got a Twin Peaks supernerd in your life, backing at this level turns the game into a rad, personalized gift.
For $150 you'll receive a physical copy of the game with stretch goals, and I'll work with you to create a custom set of 30 Tall Pines cards - Protagonists, Scenes, Secrets, Act Closes, and Symbols - that alter the game to fit a new setting or genre. This is the level to back at if you'd like to be able to play Tall Pines in the style of American Horror Story, or Dresden Files, or The Golden Girls.
Please note: international backers are responsible for paying customs fees.
Once we clear the initial $6,500 goal for this campaign, additional support will translate into additional content - expansion packs of cards that take the surreal mystery of Tall Pines into different settings and genres.
At $7,000 we’ll unlock digital downloads of Sol Dea’s Tall Pines soundtrack album, The Myna Bird, for backers at ALL LEVELS. Plus, Sol Dea will autograph physical copies of the album for backers at the $35 level, and the CD will ship with a poster of the album's cover art.
At $7,500 we'll unlock Cyclopean Bluffs, a 30-card expansion that takes Tall Pines to Lovecraft Country. Fish people, cult leaders, ancient gods, and plenty of crumbling old New England architecture.
At $9,000 we'll unlock Deep Space Monitors, another 30-card expansion that makes Tall Pines all alien abduction-y, in the spirit of The X-Files and Fire in the Sky.
More fun awaits if we're able to push past $9,000. Tell your log! (and your other friends)
While Tall Pines is a complete and finished game, it's not quite as beautiful or splendid as I'd like it to be.
The funds from this Kickstarter campaign, in addition to allowing me to produce a small first print run of Tall Pines - which is where the bulk of the money will go - will pay for additional art for the game as well as professional editing and design.
At present, the images in the game are a combination of my own photos and attribution-free images from the internet. I would like to replace those photos with the work of talented freelance photographers. The design of the cards is what I could put together myself with an old version of InDesign with my limited knowledge. I'd like to replace that with the work of a professional designer, and also have an editor go over the game text.
Oh, and I'd like to give a few dollars to Sol Dea for their work on the fantastic game soundtrack!
Risks and challenges
This game has gone through years of playtesting and prototyping - it is a finished game, so there's no risk that it won't be completed.
I suppose there's the outside chance that the West Coast of the US could sink beneath the ocean, in which case shipping of games may be delayed.
Otherwise though, I'm certain you'll receive your game by the date noted on your reward level.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (35 days)