For just over two months in 1871, the Paris Commune tried to make an egalitarian, socialist state a reality despite disagreement within their walls and attacks from outside it. This is the story of a community caught up in a sudden revolution, their messy personal lives and their attempts to create a utopia in the face of impending death. How far would you go for what you believe in? Would you stand firm even if it meant your death?
Red Carnations on a Black Grave is a freeform roleplaying game for 4-6 players that brings to life the 72 tumultuous days of the Paris Commune. A game is playable in a single session of four hours or less. Each player portrays two characters during the two months of the Commune, one of whom must die during the French Army's all-out assault on Paris in the last week of May, 1871. Special cards guide your play, providing questions about how the characters are related to each other, historical incidents to serve as the basis of scenes in the game, and the ultimate fate of your surviving characters.
This game was made for people who love Paris, history, revolutions, and resistance, or tragic roleplaying games like Montsegur 1244 and Ten Candles. Help us spread the word of the revolution!
Each player selects two characters to play. The available characters include historical figures such as the schoolteacher and revolutionary Louise Michel or Joséphine Marchais, a washerwoman who was accused of arson during the chaotic attack by the Army. The characters are diverse and include Dominique Rousseau, an Afro-Carribean physician from Martinique and Tariq Tannoudji, an Algerian cavalryman who fought with the French army.
Brief passages read by each player and Inspiration cards (many of which were based on actual posters) bring the history of the Commune to life.
A game of Red Carnations consists of three rounds of scenes during which each player frames at least one scene. Each round has its own mood which helps focus play on the more and more desperate situation of the Paris Commune, until the third round--The Bloody Week--results in the death of one of each player's characters.
After the Bloody Week, each player must choose a possible fate for their surviving character--to Attempt Escape by fleeing in the confusion, to Cooperate with the authorities and hope for a lesser sentence, or to Remain Defiant and face their harshest punishment. No matter what is chosen there is no guarantee that fickle fate will give the character what they desire.
You can listen to an actual play with Catherine and the fine cast of One Shot podcast starting with this episode.
Catherine joined Senda, Andi, and River to play Red Carnations on a Black Grave on the She's a Super Geek podcast.
Catherine joined Alex Roberts to discuss the Paris Commune and Red Carnations on a Black Grave in this episode of Backstory.
Angel Garcia interviewed Catherine on this episode of Story Always on the Hijos del Rol Youtube channel.
This episode of the Gauntlet Podcast includes a segment about Red Carnations and some other great talk about games.
The Paris Commune (March 18-May 28, 1871) was the last great revolution of the nineteenth century. The Commune was a decentralized and radically democratic government controlled by the workers of the city. Among the reforms it pursued were the separation of church and state, free education to both boys and girls, abolition of the standing army, debt relief, the creation of workers' cooperatives, and attempts to reduce inequality in all aspects of life. Women had an unusually loud voice in all of the Commune's affairs, including fighting from the city's defenses.
The Commune united (sometimes uneasily) anarchist, socialist, and communist revolutionaries under its plain red flag. Emerging from the disastrous defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), it offered a new vision of true social revolution for all of Europe. The government of the nascent French Republic, from its temporary capital in Versailles, assembled an army and unleashed it on Paris. Between 10,000 and 30,000 citizens died at the hands of their own people during the last week of May, 1871; another 40,000 would be arrested and sent to prison or deported to the colonies.
The Commune's legacy continued to inspire revolutionaries in the decades to come, including Lenin and many of the revolutionaries during the era of decolonization.
This game emerged from my love of history and of the city of Paris, plus my own deep interest in revolutionary movements throughout time. The game itself was influenced and inspired by some of the great early Indie story games such as Montsegur 1244 and Witch: the Road to Lindisfarne. I was also inspired by Mary and Bryan Talbot's fine graphic novel The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia and Mike Duncan's superb Revolutions podcast (which has an excellent series on the Paris Commune). The works of the members of the Commune themselves also inspired me, especially Louise Michel's own autobiography and memoirs of the Commune.
Care is being taken to provide the best possible components for the game. This include a book that contains both the game's rules and historical background for the era and the Commune in particular; five decks of full color poker-sized cards with original art by Juan Ochoa and tarot-sized cards for each of the characters in the game. PDFs of the reference sheets will be available for free download.
- A copy of the rules in a 6" x 9" perfect bound book
- 12 Tarot-sized character cards
- 80 Poker-sized cards for the different decks used in the game
We anticipate $10 shipping to the United States and $15 shipping world wide.
We successfully funded! Thank you to everyone who has backed so far!
We've been able to hit some amazing stretch goals so far: six new optional historical characters, color art, and expanded history of the Commune to add more depth to your games.
Our final stretch goal is now up: a Live Action Roleplaying adaptation of Red Carnations on a Black Grave! Larpwright Susanne Vejdemo will be working with me on bringing the experience of the Commune to life in a short LARP! We had an initial brainstorming session about the adaptation this weekend and I am very excited about this project!
"A story game about the Paris Commune, inspired by Montsegur 1244! This is the most excited I've been to hear about a new game in development in a very long time."
Avery Alder, author of Monsterhearts, The Quiet Year, and Dream Askew
"I've played this game and it delivers on its premise. If you like sad history and dying alone, Red Carnations on a Black Grave will make you very happy and then destroy you."
Jason Morningstar, author of Fiasco, Grey Ranks, and Night Witches
"Red Carnations on a Black Grave is a game full of drama, tension, and heartbreak. It is an amazing look at a very small slice of history. The characters are flawed in wonderful ways that make them believable, human, and a joy to play. The overall story is one of tragedy, but you can't help but to be hopeful for them at the start and mourn their fate at the end."
Phil Vecchione, Misdirected Mark podcast and author of Hydro Hackers
"I played two of Catherine's games and that is all it took to fall in love with her design. Her games are amongst my favorites examples of gaming as journalism, anchoring their rules and lore in a specific time and place and making you feel this slice of our world. Be it the crossdressing subculture of the 90s or the Paris Commune. These well researched games combine a sense of history with an emotional truth, I would want from great TV series or articles about these slices of time. They are one-shots that make you feel like you want to spend more time with your characters and the world. But they drive towards the inevitable conclusion, that is out of your hands.
"Red Carnations on a Black Grave does not depict the glorious revolution or the fantasy of heroism that single handedly changes the world, but shows the real life heroism of revolutionaries in a doomed attempt to do so. It allows for genuine sadness and made me relate like few other games did."
Jasmin Neitzel, Community Manager for Ulisses Spiele, author for The Dark Eye and Itras By
"Red Carnations is a triumph of historically and emotionally intelligent design. I recommend this game to everyone who cares about marginalized communities and political resistance."
Lucian Kahn, designer of Visigoths vs. Mall Goths & Dead Friend: A Game of Necromancy
Catherine Ramen (Lead Designer) has been playing role-playing games for almost four decades. She is the designer of Midnight at the Oasis, a game of a 1990s queer subculture, Rovers, a customizable space-opera rpg about loveable anti-heroes, and edited the English edition of Nerves of Steel, a film noir story game. Elle vous prie d'excuser ses erreurs en français. You can find her on Twitter @AviatrixGames.
Jason Pitre (Layout and Graphic Design) Jason Pitre is a game designer and professional ecologist from the wilds of Canada. He has published a number of games for Genesis of Legend Publishing including the Spark Roleplaying Game, Sig: Manual of the Primes, and the forthcoming title, After the War. He has also done layout for a number of other projects including Noir World and Dreaming the Devil in addition to his own projects. When he isn’t designing games or working on the RPG Design PanelCast, he roasts ‘n brews a mean cup of coffee. You can find him on twitter @genesisoflegend.
Juan Ochoa (Art) is an artist from Colombia who has worked for Evil Hat, Magpie Games, and many other publishers. You can find his portfolio here, or find him on Twitter @JuanJuanchoa.
Susanne Vejdemo (LARP Adaptation) Susanne Vejdemo is a larpwright, linguist and internationalization expert whose larps, be they 360 degree realistic multiday productions or small theater larps for conventions, often deal with interpersonal drama and social conflicts. In the last few years she has (co)produced, among others, Suffragette!, Fight Like a Girl, Frizon, Great Grandma's Tiara, Shiny Heroes, So Mom I Made This Sex Tape (#Feminism), and Athena's Chosen.
Brand Robbins (Editing) is an experienced RPG writer, developer, and editor. He's worked on the War Birds Anthology, World of Darkness, Vampire, Tribe 8, Earthdawn, Mutants and Masterminds, and has the singular honor of being listed in Push: New Thinking About Roleplaying as eating puppies. He also brings extensive experience creating and editing freeforms, larps, and scenarios -- including the War Birds Anthology -- and will bring this experience to help Red Carnations on a Black Grave be all that it can be.
Ciel Sainte-Marie (Sensitivity Reader) Ciel Sainte-Marie creates works that are conversations between love and desire, personal mythology, community care, vulnerability, and emotional growth. She uses storytelling, immersive installation, game design, and film to weave together story worlds. Ciel has performed and exhibited work in Winnipeg, Vancouver and Toronto. You can find her on Twitter @cielsaintemarie
Mike Duncan (Introduction) Mike Duncan grew up outside of Seattle, WA and has a degree in Political Science from Western Washington University. He began podcasting with the History of Rome podcast, and currently hosts the acclaimed Revolutions podcast. He is the author of the New York Times Bestseller The Storm Before the Storm and is currently working on his next book, Citizen Lafayette. You can find him on Twitter @mikeduncan
Risks and challenges
The game text and cards are all completed and have been thoroughly playtested over the last two years. The text is in final edits and preliminary layout has already begun. Much of the art has been commissioned already and the final commissions will be locked in as funding allows.
The project has been budgeted carefully and we have plans to handle multiple funding levels. The project can be finished on a lower budget figure thanks to the donation of services by several creative people who believe strongly in the game and have been extremely generous with their time, effort, and encouragement. Most of the budget has been allocated to making sure that the creative people involved have been paid a living wage for their work, and for bringing the highest possible quality to the printing of the game components.
In any project such as this unexpected and unforeseen delays may occur during the printing process but backers will be kept up to date about any issues during any unforeseen delay. Although this is a first campaign for me, my team have multiple successful Kickstarter campaigns under their belt and will provide the necessary experience.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)