I’m playing as a stag beetle in this scene, while another player is their human character Ruth. Stag beetle is Ruth’s favorite animal. “I just don’t know what to do," Ruth's player says. "I want Sam to be my friend, but he won’t! Can you help me?”
I think back to when someone else played the stag beetle earlier. They’d said stag beetles use strength to establish their hierarchy. “You’ve got to show him how tough you are,” I tell Ruth’s player. “If you show him your strength, he’ll see you’re worth being friends with. Maybe you should wrestle him.”
Ruth’s player nods, saying, “Huh, I guess that could work… yeah, okay. I’ll fight Sam!”
“What could possibly go wrong?” another player chimes in, and we all chuckle. Sam’s favorite animal is the turtle—we can't wait to see how he'll react when Ruth pounces on him.
Eden is a tabletop role-playing game about learning what it means to be human. You’ll collaborate to create the setting and then role-play scenes as talking animals and human characters, ultimately weaving a narrative of exploration, self-discovery, and personal growth.
Eden is for 3-5 players and is designed to be played in one session of 2-3 hours. There's no GM and no prep before play, so you can start creating fiction from the moment you open the book.
The tone of the game varies with the preferences of the players, from lighthearted and a bit silly, to dark, grim, and even violent. Your character learns their morals from the animals of the Garden, played by the other players, and difficult drama emerges as characters deal with the consequences of their actions. What the animals try to teach you and what you decide your character has learned can be very different, so the choice you make about those lessons—and how far your character is willing to take their ideas—is what sets the mood of the game.
Want to see what the game looks like in action? Here’s an example of play video. You can read more about the game in the video here: Hi, I'm a trout? ...I'm Trout.
"'Let's play a game about morality!' Tough sell, right? But the joy of Eden is that more often than not you're getting your lessons in ethics from a pack of wild raccoons. Those raccoons totally know right from wrong!" - Ben Robbins, creator of Microscope, Kingdom, and Follow
Read more on the Eden Google+ group.
The setting of the game is the Garden of Eden, a natural paradise, comprised of whatever habitats you want. All players work together to create a map of the Garden, which you'll then update as you tell your story. By the end of the game, your map will become a record of the changes your characters made to the landscape of Eden.
"Eden is wonderful because it places you in an environment that doesn't know Good and Evil, allowing you to explore the positive and negative aspects of different moralities in ways that are not possible in most games."- Adrienne Mueller, an Eden playtester
"My character's favorite animal is the elephant. What did it teach him? Um... how to bury the dead. What? Elephants totally do that!"
When you begin play, you'll choose a species of animal to be your character's favorite. The animals in Eden can talk, and the animal you choose to be your favorite will be your friend and companion, a ready source of advice and lessons for your character to access whenever they wish.
But the animals don't quite understand humans. They live and die by their instincts, and can only offer advice based on how they see the world. Sometimes these lessons are useful... but often they are not, and will lead your character to trouble if followed too closely.
During scenes, other players will take on the role of your favorite animal, speaking and acting as they feel the animal naturally would. Roleplaying as animals is one of my favorite parts of Eden. It's easy and fun to speak as an animal during a scene, and you get to do this over and over throughout the game.
"Eden has fundamentally changed the way I think about the relationships between animals and people. Now, every time I see a squirrel or an ant or something, I wonder: what would that animal teach me if it could speak? And how could I even begin to apologize on behalf of humanity?" - Caroline Hobbs, creator of Downfall
"Why do I have all these piles of stuff? The squirrels told me to keep everything! You never know when you might need it!"
Each player creates a human character who is innocent and naive. Their interactions with other humans are shaped by the lessons they've learned from their favorite animal.
Your character will explore the Garden, talking with its creatures and trying to figure out how to interact successfully with others. Sometimes this will be an easy task, but frequently, disagreements arise between the humans of Eden, and differences aren't always easy to resolve.
In fact, things frequently go too far. Making mistakes is how we learn, after all, and its up to you to decide what your character gets right... and where they fall short.
"What I most enjoyed about Eden was watching, and helping, my character lose their innocence. Each round is another opportunity to show how experience has changed you, and taken you further away from a simple understanding of the world." - Adrienne Mueller, an Eden playtester
"Listen, you can play this game, but you will never be as wise as my hydra. Quit while you're ahead." - Morgan Stinson, an Eden playtester
I started working on Eden back in 2011. Over the past five years, I've played the game dozens of times with all sorts of people, from gaming veterans to new players who'd never tried a tabletop RPG before. The game has been thoroughly playtested, and the rules are complete.
My goal now is to print the book in full-color softcover, and get it out into the world for everyone to play!
"One of the aspects of Eden that I appreciated the most was that even though the setting is biblically inspired, there is nothing in the gameplay that is specifically religious. You're free to learn ridiculous lessons from your favorite animal and there's nothing judging the quality of those lessons. In fact, the more imperfect the lesson, the more interesting and fun the outcome will be!"- Feiya Wang, an Eden playtester
Art - Caroline Hobbs and Kelly Baker
Kelly Baker, an artist, ecologist, and author (The Waters of Nyra) did the beautiful line work for the cover, which was then colored by Caroline Hobbs. Caroline also did the interior artwork: first she created a linocut of each animal, then used printing oil and watercolor paint to finish each piece on fine art paper. I hope you'll agree that the results are spectacular.
To see the rest of the art and read more about its creation, read: "You aren't an otter"
Risks and challenges
The remaining work on the book is mostly adding advice and examples, as well as polishing the rules text to a glowing shine. I've already started editing and layout, so I don’t anticipate any problems with that.
My wife and design partner Caroline Hobbs (creator of Downfall) has been instrumental in helping me prepare the book, and we plan to employ the same local (and very reliable) printer we used for Downfall. The two of us were able to successfully deliver everything for the Downfall Kickstarter, so we believe we’ll be able to do the same for Eden.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)