Some time ago, I talked about a project I started during last fall, called « Family Trip » (Une Virée en Famille, in french). This project was born due to my desire to get into the Utopiales scenario contest with a non-linear, non-literrary scenario. I wanted to get fully into emergence, a style of play that I like a lot (thanks to Brindlewood Bay, and before that to my Mysteries for the Road for Monster of Week).
Si I thought about such a scenario for the contest. At first, my idea was to write something for Brindlewood Bay or Public Access, but then the idea of a One-Shot using the same set of rules grew more and more. Jason Cordova had talked briefly about Cherry Ice Scream Smile, and I wanted to explore this format too.
Then, I needed a story to tell.
I don’t know how and why the story of « Family Trip » went to my mind, but it stuck. Here’s a glimpse of the C.A.T.S. (just the C & A, in fact) I wrote :
In « Family Trip », we tell the story of a family on a nature trip to the Rocky Mountains, in a wild, little-visited area, for a journey combining canoeing and hiking. The family is coping with the recent loss of a child, and sees the trip as an opportunity to strengthen ties and make a fresh start.
Unfortunately, they end up in the hunting area of Karnos, who will play with them, attack them and hunt them like game. To survive, they’ll have to find out more about who this Karnos is, and get rid of him.
The characters’ aim was to have a good time. This will change and become a need for survival, for answers. Survival will be literal against the elements, the environment and Karnos, but the survival of the family unit will also be at stake.
The players’ aim is to push these characters to the limit, to discover their weaknesses and strengths, and to ensure that they see another sunrise. Players will also be called upon to discover more about Karnos and what this mountain holds, as well as to explore the characters and their pasts.
Regarding tones and themes, the game will be hard, harsh and violent. Because the story is mainly a survival, inspired by stories like The Descent, Deliverance or Predator. But also because players won’t play heroes, but rather a hurt family, and one of the goal of the game is also to explore the cracks in this family, and to play to find out how they will come out of this, how they will survive to Karnos, who hunts them, but also how they will cope with life itself.
I must say those themes are not easy to work with. The intimate is generally not my cup of tea in designing games, because I might find myself not… fitted to tell them? But I want to take that risk, to provide a strong experience and not get cold feet with it. Will I succeed in it?
Regarding gameplay, I want emergent gameplay. So, Carved from Brindlewood. The game system will be similar to Public Access, with the same kind of character sheet. Five attributes, items defined by other players, keys launching flashbacks to to avoid a miss, and a special move for each character.
The mystery will have a threshold question. That first question, that will be resolved during the day phase, will define Karnos’ nature : human or not? The following question will depend on the first, and will resolve the story by getting rid of Karnos. This is emergent, so no answer is provided by the game. I still have noted down some ideas to help play Karnos depending on where you are in the game.
To help players answer those questions, a list of Clues is provided. Put them in place where you need them, change their context, their interpretation. Here’s a sneak peek of those Clues :
- A bone knife
- A solar torch
- A diary written in (a runic alphabet / a foreign language / an undecypherable writing / something else)
- A lone and sick tree in the middle of a clearing
- A gold nugget
In addition, I’ve also got some Locations and Side Characters.
But the general location is not mapped. Emergence is key. The goal is too stay flexible, to pivot to a location when the story needs it. Also, the players will provide color to the place with Paint the Scene questions. You already played Brindlewood Bay? You know what I mean.
The Side Characters are not here to take the spotlight from the main cast. Instead, they can be introduced as allies or antagonists, third parties that will deepen the story, and why not extra victims? Or maybe they’re in cahoots with Karnos? Your table. Your story.
The main cast
To tell the story I want, I can’t have an open character creation. So the game will play with a cast of pre-written characters. Four identified characters (but it will be possible to play with two or three), with an already established relation map. Four characters linked by a traumatic event. Four characters who we’ll discover step by step.
There is Sonia, the mother. Travis, her partner. Mark, the elder son of Sonia. And Anton, the young neighbour, boyfriend of Mark. A group of person linked by the accidental death of Nathan, the other son of Sonia, during a previous family trip. A group that starts to crack.
Game will start with a cinematographic montage, with vignettes that’ll show the characters during untroubled moments. Those vignettes will take place during the journey that will lead the group to the top of the mountain, before meeting Karnos.
For me, this first phase is primordial. Especially for a one-shot. It’s necessary for each player to quickly get ahold of their character, and my hope is for those vignettes to help in that aspect. The characters are loosely defined, with many non-described areas, in order for everyone to infuse them with their own ideas.
For example, one of these Vignettes will ask you to describe a moment during the car trip to Colorado, focusing on the music you chose to play in the car.
And, as I already said, the exploration of these characters will continue during the survival part of the story.
First are the Keys, who work like in Public Access (and like the Crowns in Brindlewood Bay). In order to avoid a miss, or to upgrade a success, players can turn a Key (name could change). They will then have to narrate a flashback (et each character has their own list). The flashback is often used in this kind of fiction, and it works really well in other CfB games.
Second is a dedicated move, currently named « Open your heart ». I designed it in a likewise aspect to the Cozy Move (Brindlewood Bay) and Nostalgic Move (Public Access). Two players will narrate an intimate moment between their characters. Time to open up, to lance the boil, to express one’s concerns, to reveal something. And mechanically, time to heal a Condition and create a Clue. A rare Move, that I hope intense, and that will make quiet spaces during a otherwise harsh night.
So, what’s the timeline?
Right now, I don’t have any timeline. The game exists on my space as raw text. No layout, not proofed.
First phase is playtest. In the next weeks if all goes well. It will allow me to adjust, revise and then add advices (Principles & Reactions). I see if I can put the game text in other hands too.
Then will come the time for layout and publishing. Maybe a publisher will be interested (if you’re in that case, tell me!). Looking for an illustrator or working with photos will be necessary too (and if you tell me LLM, I might say something offending in return). The game is currently written in french first, so translation will be required too.
So, as usual, I will not provide dates. Out when it’s ready! Anyway : you’re interested by this project, tell me here and there, and I’ll happily discuss about it! Hey : this will maybe the first game I run in english! (I’m french, just in case).
Hope to get back soon with more news!