Playing Eden with a kid is rad

“…so to settle the argument, our characters have a footrace. But I cheat and get way ahead! You’re just sitting there crying, and then one of your wolf friends comes up and starts taunting you: ‘What? You’re gonna let her win? You’re just gonna quit?’ So you get up and start running harder, and you win the race!” – Mom 

“What I learned from this is to… channel my anger to get more power!” – Kid

Played such an awesome game of Eden last night at Story Games Olympia. Three new players, all pretty new to story games, all strangers to me, and one of them was a nine-year-old girl! We don’t get many kids at our local story games event, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect as we sat down to begin. But I wasn’t too worried, because when I’d pitched the game earlier, the girl’s eyes lit up at the mention of talking animals that are your friends.

All three players BROUGHT IT. Seriously, such a good game. I’ll skim a few of the highlights:

  • Having somehow deleted the PDF from my iPad accidentally, I had to run the game from memory… which was actually fine and really nice, because it helped me express the rules as plainly as possible.
  • The girl chose snow wolves as her animal. But they lived in “something between a jungle and the Olympic rainforest, kinda warm, but not hot” which was also on a mountain apparently? So not a lot of snow, but some snow? Doesn’t matter, awesome choice. Our other animals included horses (the girl’s mom), giant rabbits (our other player), and sharks (me).
  • Such juicy animal gossip! Miranda (the girl’s character) prided herself on running fast—that was her skill, gleaned from the wolves. But the rabbits said Miranda didn’t really run very fast at all, actually. Dang! Sick burn, rabbits!
  • In their first scene, Miranda and Quitsal (the mom’s character) encountered each other in the brushlands. What followed was the most economics-focused, wheeling-and-dealing round of play I’ve ever seen, as the pair began making offers and counter-offers for permission to cross the brushlands—“Okay, you’ll bring me barley once a month to this place on the edge of the land if I let you take six apples?” “No, I’ll bring you oats, and not monthly, and I want ten apples!”
  • Our fourth player had her character, Ren, leave Eden in his first scene. Straight up gave in to the siren song (literally; The Gate played music, which got louder as you opened it more) and walked out. This action caused huge ripples throughout Eden and set the tone for the rest of our game. Super cool choice.
  • When updating the map after Ren’s departure, the girl added a lush and perfectly-sculpted garden to the map. “The changes have to be related to the story,” I explained, “so how did this new garden get here?” “I dunno,” she said, “but it appeared when Ren left, so it has to do with The Gate opening.” Whoa. That’s some rad magical biz.
  • Near the end of the game, my character Chael had captured a secondary character, David. Miranda and the alpha wolf from her pack were waiting as I dragged him down to her. “What do you know about the earthquake?” Miranda demanded. David pleaded ignorance, saying he was just as confused as everyone else. They talked a bit longer, and then Miranda snapped, “I’ve heard enough. Take him away!” Chael gripped him harder. “Should I kill him?” she asked. “No,” Miranda replied, “let’s bring him back to the forest. I have more questions first.” Threat of violent interrogation? CHECK.

Our map

This game, aside from being great, also proved to me definitively what I’d only known in theory: Eden is a good game to play with kids! I never felt like our young player was holding us back, and her ideas (and enthusiasm for them) kept me engaged and excited throughout the entire game. So let me end with a shout-out to you, nine-year-old Eden player! You (and your mom, and our fourth player) rocked The Garden last night!

Posted by Marc

Hi, I’m a trout…? I’m trout.

Recently, my friends and I shot a video of us playing Eden. It was a ton of fun (and a ton of work) to edit it down to a reasonable length, and unfortunately, compressing a three-hour game into 11 minutes means a lot gets left out. So I thought I’d take a moment to fill in some gaps and talk about my favorite parts of that game.

“There’s bears peeking around every rock!”

The starting point for every game of Eden is the map, and ours was rad. We had a river, a swamp, some mountains, and a jungle. I mean, look at that frog on a lily pad. That’s a sweet lily pad.

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-12-43-17-pm

“The fire ants say you’re a dirty thief.”

A key part of setup is the animal gossip (which you see a clip of in the video), and in this game, the animals had a lot to say. Animal gossip was what got my character angry at Feiya’s character in the first place (the first scene you see in the video).

Each character in the story had their own arc, more or less. Fu Hao, played by Feiya, was best friends with the lone raccoon in Eden, who followed them everywhere. Feiya tried to mostly keep Fu Hao out of trouble, but trouble kept finding Fu Hao anyway! The grumbly yet playful raccoon taught Fu Hao to steal, which didn’t help their reputation around the Garden—but all Raccoon wanted was to have beautiful things! The only person Fu Hao really got along with was Pat’s character, Lamech, who spent most of his time with the single catfish who lived down in the marsh. Catfish was an easygoing bottom-feeder, and had taught Lamech to eat just about anything, so Lamech routinely snacked on butterflies in the meadow as well.

Butterfly 1: “Do you ever think that there’s something more than just pollen and nectar?” 

Butterfly 2: “… No.”

Meanwhile, Ben’s character Amina and her friends—the cute and lazy bears—were plotting to catch and eat catfish. Ben pushed this hard, recognizing quickly that the capture of catfish was not the exciting part of the story, but the lead-up and aftermath. Because the marsh where catfish lived was too hard to navigate, Amina and the bears planned to dam the river that fed it, slowly reducing the water level until the catfish had nowhere else to run. Ben knew it would be more fun to bring more people into the bears’ scheme, so he enlisted the help of another human in the Garden… my character Mahlon. Mahlon and her fire ants, obsessed with organization and perfection, were busy building a dome around their ant mounds when Amina managed to convince Mahlon to come work on the dam instead. So Mahlon did, and slowly but surely, the water drained away.

“This isn’t just any fish! Would you please introduce yourself?”

My absolute favorite part of the game came next. Lamech, desperate to stop the ecological destruction of his friend’s home, tried to convince the clueless bears that fish were sentient and therefore should not be eaten. Feiya’s portrayal of the trout was priceless—their anxiety about being eaten, coupled with the bears inability to conceive of trout having feelings, led to disaster, which Pat (as Lamech) and Ben and I (as bears) milked for all it was worth. Lamech knew the only way out was to try to carry catfish to the nearby hippo pond—hence the scene you can see in the video.

Overall, what I loved about this game is the same thing I love about every good game of Eden: the animals giving terrible advice, and/or the humans coming up with terrible lessons based on the advice. The players have to decide to misinterpret the animals (or not), and when they do, the results are sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignant.

The glorious gamers

Many thanks again to my players Ben, Pat, and Feiya, and of course the final player that you didn’t see (but can hear once or twice in the video if you listen real carefully!), Caroline! She filmed the entire thing. ON HER BIRTHDAY. She is a true hero, now and forever. Thanks everyone!

Eden is on Kickstarter until November 10th! 

-Marc

Curiosity killed the dog and other games: Downfall at PAX 2016

Posted by Caroline

One of my favorite things about story games is sharing them with strangers. It’s the main reason I look forward to playing Games on Demand at PAX. It’s amazing how creative and friendly people are during con play, and how quickly we go from feeling like strangers to feeling like co-conspirators, making something awesome together.

Oh and the added bonus was that Downfall was super popular–14 games played in total!

I ran three sessions of Downfall during the con, and had a fantastic time with each of them. Here’s a brief run-down of my games.

Continue reading Curiosity killed the dog and other games: Downfall at PAX 2016

A snake is a snake.

Played a great game of Eden at PAX West!

My character (Hosanna) had roadrunner as her favorite animal, and the other players chose armadillo (Seline) and snake (Sam). There was just one snake, but many armadillos and roadrunners. Each of us focused on something different during our game: for Hosanna, it was all about building paths throughout Eden. Sam wanted to understand why snake said spiders were evil, but other animals and humans didn’t feel the same way. Seline, after an encounter with a bald eagle in which the eagle said she was only good for food, wanted to figure out her purpose, and how to prove to the eagle that she wasn’t just prey. All of this resulted in Seline beating up Hosanna for trying to build a path through Seline’s oasis, and Hosanna leaving Eden without ever seeing the bridge Seline built as an apology for her violence. Very tragic.

What I found so great about this game were a few things: for one, we played fast scenes, which really moved the story along. Updating the map each round made it feel like Eden was changing with us, so that was great too. We also interacted with one another frequently, in both cooperative and combative ways. But my favorite element of the game was something of a revelation for me: I love seeing characters come to the realization that they are not their favorite animal. It’s kind of the whole point of the game, really! Your character either becomes more human, or becomes more like their favorite animal. This played out beautifully with Sam, who, in a last-ditch effort to gain insight, brought snake and a spider-loving human together and demanded they explain themselves. Both continued to exhibit all their worst traits, and finally, in a moment of insight, Sam dropped one of my favorite lines from any game of Eden so far.

“A snake is a snake. A spider is a spider. But I am not a snake or a spider. I… am Sam.”

-Marc

Are you part of the tribe?

Thursday, June 23 @ Story Games Seattle

Players: Marc, Alex, Evan, Tim

Our game began with the creation of a map of Eden. Tim chose chameleon as his animal, and placed them in a jungle. Evan selected termites and drew a devoured forest with termite mounts. Alex picked dragon as his favorite animal, and created a deadly swamp where the beast lived. I chose meerkat as my animal, and drew a dusty savannah for the meerkats to inhabit. We then added a few more creatures and details to our map: a river and lake with salmon, some elephants in the savannah, some leeches in the swamp, and a phoenix on some mountains near the forest. Next we added the wall, which was made of massive (like 50 ft diameter) steel beams. The Nod Gate was a corrugated steel door with a handprint scanner (not that our innocent characters knew what that was, but we did).

Next we made our characters. I played Iah, a young woman who knew how to watch for danger and believed that we should educate others for their own benefit. Tim was Sisera, a woman who knew how to hide in plain sight and thought that we shouldn’t let others see our weakness. Evan was Orpha, a man who knew how to build with wood and thought that we should rely on our friends, and Alex played Othniel, a young man who knew how to traverse the swamp and believed we should trust others to be strong for themselves.

The story got underway with Iah asking meerkat for help. Iah was upset because Sisera had kicked her out of a hiding place when they were being attacked by the dragon. The meerkats suggested that because Sisera had caused harm to a member of her “tribe”, she was no longer fit to be a member of the tribe, and had to be dealt with. This one conversation led to big changes in Eden. While Orpha, Othniel, and Sisera each tried to make amends for things they’d done wrong to one another, Iah began a recruitment campaign for “the tribe”, starting with Seth, Namah, and Kish (secondary characters). She managed to get most of the humans, the dragon, some meerkats, and the phoenix to join, which resulted in the dragon killing the non-tribe human, Namah. This outraged Orpha, who was her friend, and he attacked Iah, leading her to retaliate. Orpha – “We have to kill the dragon, because he killed my friend!” Iah – “She wasn’t in the tribe, so she wasn’t your friend!”

After all was said and done, Orpha had been thrown out of Eden, Othniel and the dragon spent more time together, Sisera had gone into hiding with the chameleons, and Iah ruled the tribe, with the heads of anyone who wasn’t a member on spikes around the fire pit.

A really solid session. I’d made a change to the rules that has players quickly jot down some secondary character names at the game’s outset for use later, and having those available was really handy. It allowed us to easily introduce (and remember to create) other humans besides our player characters, which is what I wanted it to do. A fantastic game all around.

-Marc