The world of Bleak Spirit is one of majesty and mystery, where the landscape looms vast and conceals manifold cryptic secrets. The twisted descendants of ancient civilisations live among the faded glories of their forebears, pursuing arcane agendas indecipherable to outsiders. And in primordial woods and swamps, fabled treasures and long-forgotten sorceries lie guarded by deadly monsters both fearsome and noble.
This world is gloomy, desolate, lonely -- but also beautiful. Long-abandoned fortress ruins still stand as awe-inspiring testament to the might and vision of their creators. Beside the hungry beasts that prowl the forests, flowers grow, picked out by rays of sunlight glancing through the leaves.
Into this world comes a wanderer, a lone traveller from somewhere else who bears a heavy destiny.
Bleak Spirit is their story.
Bleak Spirit is a tabletop roleplaying game inspired by the empty, haunted worlds of video games like Dark Souls, Hollow Knight, and Salt and Sanctuary. Using a rotating role system, two or more players collaborate to create the story of how a wanderer comes to a strange place, and leaves it forever changed in their wake.
In each scene one player takes the role of the world, one takes the role of the wanderer, and the rest form the chorus. The world describes the scene, bringing the faded grandeur of the setting to life, assisted in this role by the chorus. The wanderer explores the scene, defeats any enemies present, talks to any strange inhabitants, and discovers some piece of mysterious lore.
Then everyone secretly writes down what they think is going on based on the lore discovered so far, the roles rotate, and a new scene starts.
This basic structure is modified by the presence of special cards, which allow elements to bend or break the rules of the game. Everyone gets one, to be played -- or not -- when they see fit.
Over the course of the game everyone gets to contribute lore, and the final story -- what this place is, what happened here, what monster lurks here and why -- is truly constructed as a shared enterprise by the whole group.
With a teaching guide and several tables of inspiration included in the book, you could be telling your own strange, melancholy tales almost immediately that it's in your hands.
If you want to know how the game plays, there are a couple of places you can listen to it in motion:
- I've previously recorded a session on The League Presents... with Becky Annison and Josh Fox. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)
- Jeff Stormer was kind enough to record a session for the Party Of One podcast.
If you want to know what the game looks like, I've mocked up a sample of the layout and the cards. This may change as development continues.
I am Chris Longhurst (he/him) and I am the writer and designer of Bleak Spirit. My pen has previously brought you Pigsmoke, the roleplaying game of wizard academia; Gods and Monsters, a Fate World of Adventure; and Attorneys at Jaw, a nonsense game about sharks who are also lawyers.
Galen Pejeau (he/him, them/they) is behind the glorious illustration you can see in the Kickstarter header image, and which will also grace the cover of the book. He is a freelance illustrator and a sporadic game designer, squeezing projects like this in between also working as a distiller, brewer, and a wrangler of a dozen chickens and one 2 year old. His work may be found at @gpejeau on Twitter and https://assemblyrequisite.itch.io on itch.io.
James Mendez Hodes (he/him) has provided cultural consultation. Mendez is a martial artist, cultural consultant, professional game master, writer, editor, and poet whom you might know from role-playing games such as 7th Sea, Scion, and Thousand Arrows; or from essays like “Orcs, Britons, and the Martial Race Myth” and “May I play a character from another race?” He has an academic background in West African religion, Eastern classics, dance, and English literature. His interests include hip hop, weird invertebrates, and collecting stuffed animals. He lives in the greater New York metropolitan area on traditional Lenape land.
Rebecca Curran (she/her) has agreed to reprise her role as editor, having previously worked with me on making Pigsmoke easier to read and all-round more polished. Since then she's also worked on Legacy: Life Among The Ruins and Mysthea: Legends From the Borderlands.
And then there are the scenario authors...
A scenario is a pre-determined collection of setting elements and a pre-defined wanderer, meant to be used as a jumping-off point for your game when you just want to get started right away. Bleak Spirit will have five scenarios in the book when it's done:
Chris Longhurst (author of this game) brings us Caer Brys. Opal the sorcerer-assassin journeys through the sunken city of Caer Brys, where gods go to be buried.
Riley Rethal (she/her) takes us to Hades, although perhaps not as you know it. Everyone wants something from the land of the dead, and this wanderer is no exception.
Riley is a 20 year old biology student and game designer. She's currently spending her third summer working as the tabletop rpg specialist at a Jewish science and technology camp (yes, that does exist and it's amazing). Her most notable ttrpgs are: Dusk to Midnight, a #sadmechjam game about doomed mech pilots in a losing war (as played on Friends at the Table); The Riot Starts, a GMless game based on the musical Hadestown about revolution and community in literal capitalist hell; and איכה (ayekah), a two-player game about a Jewish relationship with God. You can find all her games at http://metagame.itch.io, and her twitter is @jaceaddax.
Takuma Okada (she/they) describes The Shattered Pipes, where salt-bitten sailor Narasa Umma Kushana explores a rusting world rich with fractured music.
Takuma is a Japanese trans game designer, writer, and musician. Their music can be found at http://soundcloud.com/noroadhome , and their games are available at http://noroadhome.itch.io. She is currently working on a fantasy tavern simulation tabletop game called Stewpot. Keep up with her work on Twitter (@takuma_okada_) or on Patreon at http://patreon.com/noroadhome, where you can find other upcoming games and podcast guest appearances.
Kienna Shaw (she/they) has created The Forgotten Garden, where Morgan the planetary settlement inspector finds herself in an isolated Martian bioshelter where things have taken a turn for the strange.
Kienna (@KiennaS) is a tabletop roleplaying game player and creator. Appearing on weekly TTRPG livestreams, she also does community work, aiming to make the TTRPG space more diverse, informed, and safe. While she mostly writes indie TTRPGs and collaborates on D&D modules, she is also the co-creator of the TTRPG Safety Toolkit and the academic behind "Dungeons & Dragons and Livestreaming: Audience as Narrative Collaborator".
Alastor Guzman (he/him) introduces Logos Myr, a ruined town of alchemy where the experiments rule now.
Alastor is a co-founder at Axo Stories. He likes cats, game mechanics and non-standard magic systems. Loves playing urban fantasy and surreal horror games but is not above playing a psion or a wizard for D&D style sessions. When not working on games he can be found ranting on many things on his Twitter (@Alastorgv) or admiring cute organisms with many legs or no legs at all.
I thought about having some stretch goals, but I liked not having any for Pigsmoke because it made the Kickstarter campaign a lot easier to organise and less stressful to fulfill.
Risks and challenges
The primary risk to this project is that I, the sole person organising it, will be struck down by some terrible act of God. But even if that happens, the full unedited text is available to all backers so you won't miss out on much.
A secondary risk is delays caused by unexpected injury to artists and/or spending a long time nailing down backer rewards. I've tried to mitigate this by giving myself a nice long deadline.
Thirdly, in order to get the cards to people efficiently I'm going to have to hire a third-party fulfilment group and I've never done that before. If all else fails then I can run fulfilment out of my tiny flat. I really, REALLY don't want to, but it can be done.
Finally... Brexit. There's a non-zero chance that at the end of October all kinds of terrible things will happen to the UK economy and you'll be able to hear my screams of frustration in low Earth orbit. Just in case this happens, I've set aside a nice pile of cash in more stable currencies, which should cover any additional shipping expenses.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)