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.
Professionals help create connections and teach resilience to children who desperately need someone to care.
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.
I wrote this game as a love letter to the child I was, a message of hope for my own children, and a reminder of the power of empathy to everyone that plays it.
The heart of this game centers on the power of a conversation. People that have a willingness to reach out to another human being in need have the power to effect real change. In this game, as in life, connections start by being brave and having a conversation. That can begin by simply asking, “Are you OK?”
During the Memories, the Professionals interact with the child through conversation, finding ways to get the child to open up and hear the support the professionals are offering. The Professionals walk into the middle of a memory that they don't have any context for, especially in the beginning of the game. They need to move beyond the surface of what's happening to discover why the experience is so impactful to the Child find way to build trust and get them to open up before the memory ends.
One Child’s Heart is like many RPGs where players roll dice to determine success or failure. They're trying to meet or exceed a target number set by the game facilitator, the Advocate, at the beginning of the memory. The outcome shapes the Child's reaction to the connections the adults try to make.
With each success, the Professionals gain a Therapeutic Token. If they gain enough Tokens during the course of the Memories, they will have a lifelong impact on the child for the better. If they earn extra Tokens, that impact will ripple out, and the child will touch other lives in a meaningful, healing way the same way the Professionals helped them.
If they're not able collect enough Tokens by the end of the game for an optimal outcome that doesn't mean the Professionals have failed the child. During the epilogue portion of the game, where the players describe the Child's life after the experiment, there are additional struggles or unrealized dreams added to the story.
You don’t need to have experience with children, social services, or mental health care to play this game. It only takes talking, being vulnerable enough to reach out to an imaginary child, and a willingness to tell that child’s story with your friends. The game doesn’t ask you to be perfect, just to not give up even when things don’t work out how you hoped.
Because the Professionals are entering a memory and not traveling through time, it’s important to know they cannot change the circumstances of the child’s life. This game has been designed to help combat the idea of the savior complex. Regardless of the number of Tokens earned during the game you cannot save the child from realities of their life. You can help the child start to acquire the tools that they need to reframe the memories and make healthier decisions moving forward.
That’s powerful enough to change a life.
- Check out Camdon running One Child's Heart on the One Shot Podcast with Wen Reischl, Agatha Cheng, and James D'Amato! Part one is live! Part two is now up!
- She's A Super Geek with Kate Bullock as the Advocate and Camdon playing alongside Jen Adcock and Andi Fox. Part one and Part two.
- Camdon and Jeff Stormer playing one-on-one on the Party of One Podcast.
One Child’s Heart contains five playable Professionals. All Professionals have equal power in helping the child reframe their memories, and each is among the best in their field. They are people that work with children, have seen what life can do to them, and don’t have the luxury to look away from painful situations.
Book - One Child’s Heart will be printed in a beautiful 6” x 9” matte cover book. With stunning interior black and white art from a variety of talented artists and a gorgeous color cover by Jabari Weathers, the book will feature all you need to play the game, navigate play safely and inclusively, and advice on each Profession.
The book includes a thoughtful section on being the Advocate (GM), with guidance on creating your own Memories which are the scenes you play out, and advice on topics that marginalized children face every day like homelessness, what queer and trans children undergo, and the ways children of color experience the world. These topics are written by our brilliant team and include focused memories on these important issues.
Dice - Each time a Professional attempts to connect with a child, they roll the dice. We’ve worked closely with Chessex to create beautiful dice just for One Child’s Heart. Each die has a wonderfully rendered anatomical heart where the six would normally be. Our dice are in Chessex’s Vortex blue and gold with gold hearts and pips. The game requires you to use 3d6 during play, so each of our sets include three of these wonderful dice.
Tokens - During game play, the Professionals will be working to earn therapeutic tokens. These are handed out whenever a Professional succeeds at reaching the child. We’ve found a company that does beautiful tokens made from high quality plastic. These tokens will have our signature anatomical heart stamped on each side and will be printed in stunning red. A full game will require 20 tokens, so each of our sets comes with 20 lovely tokens.
Why An Anatomical Heart?
One Child’s Heart is a game about genuine connections. The Professionals go beyond comforting a child to impact the person inside in a real and profound way, to go deeper to the true heart of the matter.
All stretch goal memories and physical products will be finished and produced after the core book is complete. They will not ship with the main book.
10 additional memories for One Child's Heart! We are excited to announce two brand new writers to the team!
Agatha Cheng (she/her) is the co-author of Hearts of Wulin, a PbtA game of wuxia melodrama, as well as the co-host of Asians Represent is joining us to write three new memories! Agatha was featured on the upcoming One Shot Podcast actual play of One Child's Heart.
Laura Simpson (she/her) is the game designer of Companions' Tale and Driving to Reunion. She is half of the game imprint Sweet Potato Press. Laura is amazing and we're so excited to have her bring her voice to the project.
10 more memories from amazing writers! I am constantly amazed at the level of talent that we have on the team.
Cass Reyfield (she/they) is game designer, writer, and trauma therapist who focuses on making games that foster emotional connections between people. She is passionate about making games hospitable at the table and in their design, and also works as a sensitivity reader for media with Native American themes. She's the creator of Tides of Gold, a game of magical pirates becoming a found-family as they survive dangers on the sea.
Joyce Chng (she/her, they/their) lives in Singapore. Their fiction has appeared in The Apex Book of World SF II, We See A Different Frontier, Cranky Ladies of History, and Accessing The Future. Joyce also co-edited THE SEA IS OURS: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia with Jaymee Goh. Their recent space opera novels deal with wolf clans (Starfang: Rise of the Clan) and vineyards (Water into Wine)respectively. You can find them at http://awolfstale.wordpress.com and @jolantru on Twitter.
Lucian Kahn is the designer of games such as Visigoths vs. Mall Goths, Dead Friend: A Game of Necromancy, Grandma’s Drinking Song, and Same Bat Time, Same Bat Mitzvah. He is gay, trans, and Jewish. Follow him on twitter at @oh_theogony.
Art, Editing, and Layout
Risks and challenges
This is my first Kickstarter, so the largest risk is that I find myself unable to deliver physical products to you due to financial mismanagement. To mitigate this risk, I have been receiving help from friends and colleagues with extensive Kickstarter experience. We have carefully budgeted and set a realistic goal, and the game itself is fully playtested, complete, and in the editing process.
We are partnering with well-established and trusted companies like Chessex, BackerKit, DriveThruRPG, and Indie Press Revolution for manufacturing and fulfillment.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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