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A fine and fancy RPG and a love letter to The Wind in the Willows, The Decemberists, and Over the Garden Wall.
A fine and fancy RPG and a love letter to The Wind in the Willows, The Decemberists, and Over the Garden Wall.
796 backers pledged $29,664 to help bring this project to life.


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The Forest Hymn & Picnic



Hi, Hello, and Hooray! Dear Reader,

The Forest Hymn & Picnic is a forthcoming tabletop adventure game set across the backdrop of a very absurd, unending and often haunted forest. Players take up the lives of oddballs in The Forest Hymn—precocious Animal Folk, lost People, or costumed Ghosts—as they stumble upon trouble in the strange woods. Take on work in town and get to know the neighbors, investigate the supernatural, take a spot in the brass band, explore the ruins that litter the woods or even win a dance marathon at the county fair! This role playing game is best played in 2 to 4 hour sessions by folks ages 13 and up.

This RPG is heavily inspired by the following sweethearts:

  • The illustrations and literary works of Arnold Lobel: Frog & Toad, etcetera
  •  The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • The more outlandish bits of the 100 Acre Wood as told by A. A. Milne 
  •  Over The Garden Wall by Patrick McHale
  • A certain animated film from 1949 based on Washington Irving's The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow 
  •  The Skeleton Dance by Ub Iwerks—specifically the 1929 version in both black and white!
  • Stories allegedly told by the Greek fabulist Aesop 
  • The music of The Decemberists 

Click this fine picnicker to read about the types of Forest Dwellers and make your own adventurer!

Between its pages, The Forest Hymn & Picnic runs a heavily modified version of the very well loved, very brilliantly engineered system from Robert J. Schwalb's Shadow of the Demon Lord. It's a set of rules that champions ease of use, simple maths, and a progression system that gives players a near endless supply of options in creating unique characters through the course of play. The Forest Hymn & Picnic keeps all of that in its pocket while making the changes needed to fit this setting—simplified magic, abstract wealth, and new inventory rules are some of the biggest changes.

You don't need to have read or own SotDL to play in The Forest Hymn. This is a complete game all in a single book! Here are a few things you'll find:

  •  Unique adventurer personalities: players use personality tables to stack the building blocks of their odd adventurers before making them their own. Play a Frog who constantly loses his shoes and loves to gamble, a Person who was raised by wolves and wants to win a pie eating contest, or a Ghost who plays the trumpet and is full of hard candies!
  •  Episodic play with milestone leveling-up: at-the-table gameplay focuses on the adventure or story at hand but time passes in woods. After each session, adventurers level up and players make choices that tell the story of their forest dweller's life between adventures. Take up as a fortune teller's apprentice and learn a magic trick or two or even waste your days and pennies away as a rakehell, bothering people for the sheer fun of it. The Forest Hymn & Picnic plays well as one-shots or as a campaign of ten sessions.
  •  Simple dice mechanic: whenever the outcome of a player's action is murky and unknowable, roll a single twenty sided die, add a simple modifier and any d6 gifts or d6 gags you have from your good—or bad!—grades. The results help tell a story of the very good times or a very bad, no-good horrible day.
  •  Seasonal magic tricks: magic works in odd ways in The Forest Hymn and the time of year in the woods effects how magic works. Keeping track of an adventurer's tricks is as simple as knowing what season it is. A spell that lets an adventurer grow three times their size might work beautifully in the spring but in autumn it might shrink them to a third of their size!
  •  A menagerie of games to play: minigames pepper the game's rules, allowing narrators to quickly resolve broader actions such as telling spooky stories, fishing, sack races, dance marathons and much more. These minigames give players and narrators opportunities to pause their shenanigans in town and getting lost in the woods to try out something a little different.

Check out the character sheet, in both Fine Black & White and Fancy Printer Destroying versions! Here is an example sheet, filled out. I spelled sandwiches wrong because that's what my character would do. The blank spot on the back of the sheet provides ample room to jot down notes, doodle pictures, or record your backstory.

If you were to hop in a pedal-powered balloon for a lazy afternoon tour of The Forest Hymn, you'd look out and see nothing but trees from one edge of the horizon to the other. Occasionally a hill peppered with small hamlets and farms would rise above the greenery like a lump in a warm quilt. From your balloon you might spy the busy forest dwellers scurrying and getting their day's affairs in order. You might spot them spreading blankets on the ground and unpacking baskets of tea and sandwiches, haggling over the penny cost of some overlarge vegetable or even see them dancing around the maypole.

However, if you instead go for a walk in the woods rather than flying above it you'd see no end of absurdity, including:

  •  Wisps stalking the scene of a pie cooling in a window.
  • Forest dwellers searching by lantern for children lost in the woods.
  • Ruined places haunted by monsters and hiding rare treasures.
  • Witches zooming over the ever-dangerous Spookwood looking for rare flowers.
  • Skeleton bands practicing their funeral numbers in long abandoned cemeteries.
  • The Stork, drunk and trying to convince some forest dweller to take in an orphaned child.
  • Boarding homes teeming with adventurers, song, and dance.
  •  Candy shoppes, fairs, maypoles, corn mazes, haunted mansions, magic tricks, bad weather, good weather and more!

Click the spooky tree to read more about The Spookwood and make your own Monsters!

Dearest reader this brings us to the most important thing, the reason I've brought The Forest Hymn & Picnic to Kickstarter. This game needs a warm blanket to wrap itself in! Specifically it needs to be printed on 208 pages of thick, 70# uncoated paper in full color and tucked into a 6x9 cover of black pearl linen and stamped with white/silver foil. But that costs money, and so do the artists. So help me raise the funds for paying these very talented, young, good looking and fast running people to help me make the book!

For this book, I will be painting backgrounds and environments in mixed mediums and handing them off to Sam and Casey to decorate in their own styles to give the book an old cartoon feel. The process looks something like this:

No good fiction about forests comes without a song or two to hum when you're lost and Gabe Soria—a writer of many good fictions—has contributed a song to the beginning of each chapter. Some songs might even come with a score! For example, here is The Birthing Day song arranged for pots and pans and broken bottles.

By now you've probably had a gander at the backer levels offered at this project. Here is some import things to know about shipping:

  •  All backers at $15 USD or more will receive stretch goals! Yay!
  •  Digital goods, including any unlocked stretch goals will be delivered via DriveThruRPG. You'll get a survey at the end of the asking for the email address you would like to use for this.
  •  Shipping will be collected separately. You will receive an email that will take you to a store front where you can put in your address, and pay the appropriate shipping cost. Again, shipping costs for printed books is separate from your pledge level. Inside the United States you can expect shipping to cost anywhere from 3 to 6 US dollars for Media Mail. We'll make sure your book is snuggled up.
  •  International fulfillment will be handled by our friends at the Melsonian Arts Council. Daniel has an excellent track record when it comes to not only running successful Kickstarter campaigns, but shipping on time. CONE will eat the cost of freighting overseas books to Daniel in bulk. This should ease the cost usually associated with international shipping. Because of transit times, international backers will be receiving their books a bit later. Backers will get a choice to receive their books from Nashville, TN or London, UK.
  • In these trying times of galactic trade wars an uncertain port blockades, I only ask that international backers exercise patience.
  • This Kickstarter will pay for a very limited print run of 1500 books. There are exactly 1,000 books available through this campaign. I'll be holding on to the remaining books to account for transit damages, lost books and other disasters, contributor, press, and one for my mom copies. After the dust settles any remaining inventory will go up for sale.

The Forest Hymn & Picnic is written and decorated by me, Cecil Howe; artist, creator and co-designer of the Gold ENnie Award winning Hex Kit as well as the writer and illustrator of 2016's survival misery simulator Do Not Let Us Die In The Dark Night Of This Cold Winter. He'll be joined by fresh-faced artist Casey Cookson and industry veteran Sam Mameli, SotDL editor and proofreader Jay Spight with contributions from novel and graphic novel author, and all-around hero, Gabe Soria. In addition to those suckers, game design geniuses Robert J. Schwalb and Brad Murray will be or have already been forced to consult on this project.

This game couldn't happen without the love, support, occasional nay-saying, and advice of the RPG Talk family. Or the darlings that hang out in the Kill 6 Billion Demons Patreon discord.

A long form pitch, random sights in The Forest Hymn, and closer look at People, Animal Folk, and Ghosts can all be found at

Table Top Babble host James Introcaso was gracious enough to have me on Episode #90 of their great podcast, where I talk at length about The Forest Hymn & Picnic. You can find it here:

Many questions have been asked and answered in the FAQ section of this campaign, which can be found right here.

Alternatively, you can find me on Twitter and follow along there!


Cecil Howe, September 2018

In the event that this Kickstarter campaign raises an overabundance of funds I will begin to spend the cash lavishly on producing more The Forest Hymn & Picnic goodies.

  •  At 22,000 dollars raised Gabe Soria and I will work together to produce a supplemental book detailing a sea rumored to surround The Forest Hymn. It will contain new player options and spells for sailing the high sea! To be delivered as a PDF via DriveThruRPG.
  •  At 25,000 dollars raised I will illustrate a set of top-down style tiles unique to The Forest Hymn, compatible with the really cool mapping software Hex Kit. Delivered via DriveThruRPG. To be delivered as a PDF via DriveThruRPG.
  •  At 29,000 dollars raised Sam and Casey and I will work together to make a deck of 52 NPC cards for on-the-fly foolery at your table! *Important! If this goal is reached this deck of cards will be printed through DriveThruRPG. Backers will receive a coupon to get their cards at the cost of production and shipping. This is the safest way to make sure I do not bork this stretch goal.
  •  At 34,000 dollars raised I will produce a collection of 10 adventures for The Forest Hymn & Picnic! It will have many fun things and many fine decorations! To be delivered as a PDF via DriveThruRPG.
  •  At 40,000 dollars raised I will produce a two player, print & play tabletop skirmish game set in The Forest Hymn. Battle For The Bridge is a tale of two marching bands vying for the right to perform at the opening ceremony for a new covered bridge. Game play centers around preparing your band and racing your competitor to the bridge while using your instruments to thwart your enemy! To be delivered as a PDF via DriveThruRPG.

Risks and challenges

Life finds a way, a way to break as many things as possible. To soften whatever blow that might come up I've set my aims on an end'o'January release but hope to make this happen sooner than that. The game is written and is in the process of being fine tuned and made ready to go to the editor, nearly every chapter song is written, and the artists are simply waiting for me to prove I have the cash to pay them to get to work.

That being said, the biggest risk to this project is a breakdown in shipping. I tried to find a states-based printer willing to work with me on price and materials to get the book I want but in the end the printer I chose is located in Canada. They have an A+ track record, including printing several RPG books, and have kept the retail price of this book from crossing 60 USD. But the future of trade agreements is murky, and there might be hiccups at customs as a result. Rest assured I am watching carefully and leaving room to breathe.

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Questions about this project? Check out the FAQ


  1. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 1 or more About US$ 1.00

    The Whisper Level

    Back at this level to receive backer updates and notifications about the campaign.

    Estimated delivery
    19 backers
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    Pledge US$ 15 or more About US$ 15

    A Digital Book

    A PDF copy of the final book, plus digital copies of each stretch goal!

    Estimated delivery
    252 backers
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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 45 or more About US$ 45

    A Book Of Your Own

    Get physical and digital copies of the book, and digital copies of each stretch goal unlocked!

    Shipping for this is collected separately; read the "Fulfillment" section for more information.

    Estimated delivery
    Limited 482 backers
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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 100 or more About US$ 100

    Love Letter Backer!

    Back at this level because you're in love with the game want to help out a bit more and you'll get your name attached to a location on a map of The Forest Hymn, printed on the book's end sheets. You'll receive a physical copy of the book, a digital copy of it, as well as digital copies of each unlocked stretch goal!

    Shipping for this is collected separately; read the "Fulfillment" section for more information.

    Estimated delivery
    Limited 38 backers
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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 125 or more About US$ 125


    For verified U.S. based retail stores only! Get 5 books shipped to your store, but you will have to prove you are a store. At the end of the crowdfunding period we will be reaching out to confirm your storeness; you'll need to provide both a store phone number and address for us to check up on. No refunds will be made to retailers who cannot provide verification. Also, the pledge level includes shipping.

    Estimated delivery
    Limited 1 backer
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Funding period

- (20 days)