[19:40] <+stephendewey> Hello everyone! My name is Stephen Dewey. I’m an indie game designer that uses the publishing imprint Cavalry Games. My “brand” if you were looking for one is generally games that are a bit strange, lighter on the rules, and are designed to leave an emotional impact with the players. Games that are by and large emotional, impactful, immersive, and evocative.
[19:41] <+stephendewey> My latest project is Gather: Children of the Evertree ((Link: https://tinyurl.com/yaena6um)https://tinyurl.com/yaena6um) which is on Kickstarter right now, in the second half of it’s funding month. I am most popular for my game Ten Candles however which was my first (and only other) Kickstarter project. Ten Candles was nominated for several awards, including four ENnies.
[19:42] <+stephendewey> I have also been recognized as a Game Chef finalist for my game Uncanny Valley, and have published a couple smaller games including To Serve Her Wintry Hunger and Annalers of the Skein.
[19:43] <+stephendewey> I’m here to talk about Gather though, which is a game completely contained in a deck of cards (no rulebook) that you can pick up and play with zero prep and no GM with 2-8 players. It pulls on themes of tabletop gaming, live action gaming, freeform games, and improvisation.
[19:44] <+stephendewey> The goal of the Kickstarter is to fund art, an editor, and print the game. Right now we’re also in our stretch goals which means bringing on some amazing other designers to contribute setting expansions. So far we’ve got Caroline Murphy, Hannah Shaffer, and Meguey Baker with Emily Care Boss coming up next and several others after her.
[19:45] <+stephendewey> We are currently at $13,464 pledged over our $10,000 goal!
[19:45] <+stephendewey> So, I’d be happy to answer any questions that you have about the game and about how it works. I guarantee it’s unlike anything you’ve played before, but it’s a LOT of fun.
[19:46] <~Dan> (Ready for questions?)
[19:47] <+stephendewey> Dan: Yup!
[19:47] <~Dan> Thanks, stephendewey! The floor is open to questions!
[19:47] <~Dan> First off, congrats on funding!
[19:47] <+stephendewey> Dan: Thanks!
[19:48] <~Dan> Can you tell us a bit about the game’s setting?
[19:49] <+stephendewey> Gather is a worldbuilding game, so a lot about the game’s setting you’ll be fleshing out as you play. As such, large swathes of it may change session to session. However, you are given some key pieces of the setting, and the game peppers you with additional prompts fleshing it out further as the game proceeds.
[19:50] <+stephendewey> The setting that you’re given is a fantastical world known as the Evertree. Think of it like a massive worldtree. You make your cities and homes in its branches, roots, and canopies. Far below the Umbral Roots dig into the unseen soil. Far about the Astral Canopy reaches towards the star. A great river runs down the Spiretrunk.
[19:50] <+stephendewey> But you’re not given much more than that to begin. You’re introduced to this fantastic world and the game is filling in all the rest of it through your discussion and play.
[19:52] <~Dan> Interesting. This is the second “world tree” setting we’ve had in here recently. 🙂
[19:52] <~Dan> (Howdy, Silverlion!)
[19:52] <+stephendewey> Trees are totally in right now, apparently.
[19:52] * ~Dan chuckles
[19:53] <~Dan> Here’s the other, for the record: (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/neotokyoproject/pentopia-rpg-art-book-and-campaign-setting)https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/neotokyoproject/pentopia-rpg-art-book-and-campaign-setting
[19:53] <+stephendewey> Nice!
[19:53] <~Dan> Yup!
[19:53] <&Silverlion> (Hi dan)
[19:54] <~Dan> So let’s see… Bear with me here a bit, as a lot of my usual questions don’t apply to indie games such as this.
[19:54] <~Dan> For example, are there character sheets? I’m guessing not.
[19:55] <+stephendewey> There are not. You’ve got the deck of cards, and each player has an index card where they can right down the name of their Kinship, along with three tokens. That comprises everything you’d need to play.
[19:56] <~Dan> I see… And what’s involved with Kinship?
[19:57] <+stephendewey> So, the conceit of the actual game session is that from the moment play begins until it ends that’s the “Gather”. The Gather is an annual meeting held to discuss the affairs of the year that has passed and the year to come, as well as to discuss the Evertree and the people who live within and upon it.
[20:01] <+stephendewey> Each player takes on the role of a Speaker. As a Speaker, you are the sole representative for your Kinship that has traveled the vastness of the Evertree to attend the Gather and speak on your Kinship’s behalf. What a “Kinship” is could be many things. It is commonly a city or community of some kind, but could be a guild, a family, a force of some kind, etc.
[20:02] <+stephendewey> The tradition of the Gather is decades if not centuries old. Gathers have always been held, and at them these Speakers come together and discuss (with peace and respect) the happenings of the Evertree and whatever else must be discussed.
[20:02] <+stephendewey> The “game” is that discussion. Start to finish. And the deck of cards teach you how the meeting must be conducted, and guides it.
[20:05] <~Dan> So this is what I’ve termed a “limited circumstance” RPG, if I’m understanding you.
[20:05] <~Dan> In the sense that it’s about players acting out a specific circumstance of events.
[20:06] <+stephendewey> Yeah, I would say that’s accurate. The game is the meeting, nothing beyond that. You don’t then launch into a campaign of adventuring on the Evertree. The game is the meeting, so that sounds accurate.
[20:07] * ~Dan nods
[20:07] <~Dan> So it’s an RPG in the same sense that The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is an RPG, in other words.
[20:08] <~Dan> (Assuming you’re familiar with that game.)
[20:08] <+stephendewey> The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is actually one of the inspirations for the game, along with Microscope by Ben Robbins and The Quiet Year by Avery Alder,
[20:08] <@Akyla> I was actually going to ask about Microscope.
[20:08] <+stephendewey> If you’re familiar with those games, either in mechanics or thematic impression, there are definitely some similarities there.
[20:09] <~Dan> I’ve heard of the former, not the latter.
[20:09] <+xyphoid> Quiet Year is such a classic
[20:09] <+stephendewey> To speak about the relation to those pieces of inspiration a little more…
[20:10] <+stephendewey> The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is mostly inspiration in mechanics. The game uses tokens which you can pass around to change how stories get told and you use them to vote at the end. There is some similarities in Gather to how that functions with the tokens, although the mechanics do work differently. However, the same idea of the game being this…
[20:11] <+stephendewey> … get together, and play kind of feeling like a LARP (but around a table with friends), all of that sort of carries over.
[20:11] * ~Dan nods
[20:12] <~Dan> Can you describe how gameplay proceeds?
[20:12] <+stephendewey> Microscope by Ben Robbins is kind of a world building game. You’re building a timeline of a world, specifically. While the scope of Gather is much smaller, it carries one main theme over which is that the mechanics are designed as such that the players build out the aspects of the world that are cool to them. You’ll never be fleshing out a part of the…
[20:13] <+stephendewey> … world unless it is cool to you. The Quiet Year is similar in that it’s also a worldbuilding game (kind of) with a big focus on nonverbal cues. The theme and feeling of The Quiet Year is very similar to the sort of feel you’ll have playing Gather.
[20:13] <+stephendewey> On gameplay…
[20:14] <+stephendewey> The game begins when you flip the top card and read it. There are, if you REALLY break them out, 6 stages to the deck that you work through.
[20:15] <+stephendewey> Stage 1: An introduction to the setting. You will begin reading cards around the table. I flip one, read it, and then the next person and so on. That’s the basic process. The first stage of cards are all setting material. They introduce you to the Gather and to the world. It’s all very ritual and immersive.
[20:15] <~Dan> (Howdy, TJRobbins!)
[20:15] <+TJRobbins> hello 🙂
[20:16] <+stephendewey> Stage 2: Rules Introduction. These cards will teach you how to play. It stays in-fiction so you’re never breaking game or character to refer to a rulebook. The cards basically teach you the process of how the Gather works, what the laws and rules are, and so on. The basics of which (as are introduced) is that the Gather is run by Questions.
[20:17] <+stephendewey> There are 20+ questions that will be asked and answered as part of the Gather. Those are the “topics for discussion” if you will. You are introduced to this in Stage 2 with a practice/example question which is “What is the name of your Kinship” essentially. At that point, everyone comes up with a name for their Kinship.
[20:18] <~Dan> Whoops!
[20:22] <~Dan> Still there, TJ?
[20:23] <~Dan> wb, stephendewey!
[20:23] <+stephendewey> Well that was startling!
[20:23] <+TJRobbins> yup, sorry, I am painting, so not really looking up 😦
[20:23] <+stephendewey> Where was I?
[20:23] <~Dan> That’s okay, TJRobbins! Just making sure you didn’t get booted as well.
[20:24] <~Dan> [20:17] <+stephendewey> There are 20+ questions that will be asked and answered as part of the Gather. Those are the “topics for discussion” if you will. You are introduced to this in Stage 2 with a practice/example question which is “What is the name of your Kinship” essentially. At that point, everyone comes up with a name for their Kinship.
[20:25] <+pruttm> hello all
[20:25] <+stephendewey> So how these questions are asked and answered, that’s the heart of the Gather, so we’ll get to that in a bit.
[20:25] <~Dan> (Howdy, pruttm! Meet stephendewey!)
[20:25] <+stephendewey> pruttm: Hi!
[20:25] <~Dan> ( stephendewey, meet pruttm, a recent Q&A guest. 🙂 )
[20:25] <+pruttm> stephen what is up>
[20:26] <+stephendewey> pruttm: Not much, a’ing some q’s about my game! 😀
[20:26] <+stephendewey> Stage 3: The First Questions. So, at this point the Gather begins in earnest with the first five questions. Thematically, these were the questions asked at the first Gather ever held and help to setup the Kinships further.
[20:27] <+stephendewey> They essentially amount to “What’s the population of your Kinship”, “How many were born/joined you last year”, “How many died/left you last year”, “What do you have a surplus of”, and “What do you have scarcity of”.
[20:28] <+stephendewey> Stage 4: The Returning Questions. Here you get 14 more questions, these chosen randomly from a bank of 50 that come with the game. Each of these were questions voted upon by previous Gathers to be of such import that they should be included at future Gathers.
[20:29] <+stephendewey> These questions can be all over the place thematically. I recommend checking out this recent KS update for some examples (just scroll down to the images) (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/shiftyginger/gather-children-of-the-evertree/posts/2218544)https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/shiftyginger/gather-children-of-the-evertree/posts/2218544
[20:30] <~Dan> Very evocative questions.
[20:30] <+stephendewey> Stage 5: New Questions: Every player can ask one question of their own design to the group. After these are asked and answered, players vote on one question to add to the Gather permanently. The game comes with blank cards so you can immortalize questions in this manner and use them in future sessions.
[20:31] <+stephendewey> And Stage 6: The Exit Ritual – More flowery ritual setting cards to bring you out of the Gather and end the game.
[20:31] <+stephendewey> That’s the basic structure of each game session, and the deck of cards guides you along it.
[20:32] <~Dan> What is the game aspect?
[20:33] <+stephendewey> So, the game comes in with the mechanical structure of how this meeting occurs. Specifically how the questions are answered.
[20:34] <+stephendewey> Each question follows several steps before it’s executed in full. So, let’s use an example.
[20:34] <+stephendewey> If it’s my turn to flip a card, I’d draw a card and read the question on it. Let’s say that question is: “Has the rot reached your borders this past year?”
[20:35] <+stephendewey> At this point, all of the players (myself included) are going to think about what we want our answer to that question to be for our Kinship. This is total improv, your answer can be whatever you want it to be.
[20:35] <+stephendewey> Once we all have an answer in mind, I will discard the card. At the time of that trigger we will *all* answer the question in unison.
[20:36] <+stephendewey> Because at the Gather you see, our voices are equal. And this is the method that was devised, through all the law and custom that weighs this meeting down, that that balance is expressed.
[20:36] <+stephendewey> But, not all is lost.
[20:37] <+stephendewey> Once this communal conflicting answer is given, we all have these tokens (3 per player to start) that we can hand to another player to allow them to speak more. So, maybe Dan I heard you say “We’ve welcomed it” or something similarly interesting. I might offer you a token.
[20:37] <+stephendewey> And we can all do this, maybe someone else offers me a token, maybe I offer a few people tokens. We go through and settle who got a token. You can accept offered tokens, or reject them (which is interesting in its own way).
[20:38] <+stephendewey> Finally, tokens are settled, and one of the folks who has a token begins by repeating their answer and elaborating on it. Maybe you signal to go first and say “We welcome the rot. It has been a close ally of ours. We would never turn it away.”
[20:39] <+stephendewey> Now, anyone can offer you *another* token, this one paired with a follow-up question.
[20:39] <+stephendewey> So maybe i offer you another token and ask “What lies have the rot been whispering to you?”
[20:39] <+stephendewey> You can accept that token, and answer my question. Or (what is sometimes more interesting) reject it and refuse to speak further.
[20:40] <~Dan> Hmm… Can I stop you there for a sec?
[20:40] <+stephendewey> Yup
[20:41] <~Dan> Do you literally mean that everyone talks at once by default?
[20:41] <+stephendewey> The answer to each initial question is given in overlapping unison, yup!
[20:42] <~Dan> Wow… That seems like it would be difficult. Speaking off the cuff is hard enough without having to deal with a cacophony. 🙂
[20:43] <+stephendewey> The questions are designed such that the answers are meant to be brief. Oftentimes a “yes”, “no” or single word answer would suffice. You also are given time to think of your answer before the answers are given (it’s not immediate). And, because everyone speaks at once you can actually sort of hide in that if you’re not as strong of an improv’r.
[20:44] <+stephendewey> I’ve described Gather as an improv game with a safety net. While you do make stuff up off the top of your head, it’s all based around question prompts from the deck or other players, and the answers are expected to be brief.
[20:45] <~Dan> I see… Hmm…
[20:45] <~Dan> You mentioned a vote?
[20:46] <+stephendewey> But yes, the design is intentionally strange. It throws you into a meeting that is very alien and uncomfortable in it’s execution right from the start.
[20:47] <+stephendewey> At the end of the game there is a round of questions that are player generated. Basically everyone gets one last change to ask a question of their own design. The group will then vote with their tokens on which of those questions is permanently added to the Gather.
[20:48] <~Dan> Oh, you mentioned that. Sorry.
[20:48] <~Dan> Just trying to wrap my head around all this. 🙂
[20:48] <+stephendewey> It’s a weird game to explain haha
[20:48] <~Dan> 🙂
[20:49] <+stephendewey> The basic idea is that each question spawns a bunch of answers, and then the group can sort of decide which of those threads they want to chase. And you can go as deep down a worldbuilding rabbit hole as you’d like before moving onto the next question.
[20:50] <~Dan> As long as the tokens hold out, though, right?
[20:50] <+stephendewey> The tokens constantly shift around the table, so if you get a bunch of tokens because people ask you a bunch of questions, now you have a bunch of tokens to give away and ask other people questions.
[20:51] <~Dan> Is there any limit to how much information you can give in any one answer?
[20:52] <+stephendewey> You’re given instructions early on that answers should be kept relatively brief and should answer the question that was asked without expanding on too unnecessarily. This prevents any one player from just filibustering.
[20:54] * ~Dan nods
[20:55] <~Dan> This really is an unusual game. 🙂
[20:55] <+stephendewey> It’s a deeply unique experience that will very much be unlike anything you’ve played
[20:56] <~Dan> I can see that.
[20:56] <+stephendewey> But it has this fantastic way of getting under your skin. It puts you in this role of a character (who is never even named) who is at this meeting fighting to be heard and to give a voice to their people
[20:56] <+stephendewey> The game naturally breeds things to come out of the meeting like alliances, enemies, threats that need to be dealt with, corruption, and other evocative topics like that
[20:57] <+stephendewey> And you wind up having this deep and meaningful discussion of the affairs of the world (that we as players are discovering as we play) all based on a handful of simple questions.
[20:58] <~Dan> Do you offer any suggestions as to how to handle contradictory responses?
[20:58] <~Dan> (Howdy, BPIJonathan!)
[20:59] <+BPIJonathan> (Hi Dan. Sorry I was late.)
[20:59] <+stephendewey> One of the rules of the game is that the Gather is a place for truth. As such, everything spoken is the truth. Now, you can still get contradictory responses and that’s TOTALLY OKAY. Maybe your Kinship has allied with the Rot and thinks it a friend. My Kinship may know the rot is evil. That’s all… like… our OPINIONS man. And that’s okay.
[20:59] <+stephendewey> We’re not always fleshing out #facts about the world. We are fleshing out the world through the eyes of our communities, and we may see that world differently.
[21:00] <+stephendewey> So it’s really up to the group to embrace that “I know you’re not lying. But we see it another way, and here’s why.” sort of discussion.
[21:02] <+stephendewey> It’s that level of worldbuilding that makes Gather really special, and stand out from other worldbuilding games. You’re not worldbuilding as players, or as some absent or abstract entity. The world already exists and your *character* already knows things about it. We as players are just sort of discovering those things through the discussions that happen.
[21:02] <+stephendewey> So we’re building the world through the impressions, understandings, and discussions of the people who live within it.
[21:04] <~Dan> So you’ve never had a problem with players, say, disagreeing on what Kryxx the Midnight Rat is? Like, one player says it’s a person and another says it’s a monstrous rat?
[21:05] <+stephendewey> So, a key part of the game is that Truth component. And you need buy-in from your players to follow these rules and get into it right, but if you have the truth component in place then you have to take what other people say as truth.
[21:06] <+stephendewey> So, if I say “Kryxx has visited our Kinship. He is a giant rat.”
[21:07] <+stephendewey> And you wanted Kryxx to be a human, that’s sort of scrapped now. Or, you could go along with what I’ve said being true and build off of it. “A human visited us claiming to be Kryxx, we thought him to be truthful. He knows many things.”
[21:07] <+stephendewey> As long as you don’t basically completely erase what another player established you’re fine.
[21:07] <~Dan> Gotcha.
[21:07] <+stephendewey> The idea being that we’re collaboratively working together to build this world. There’s a lot of “Yes, And”ing going on.
[21:08] * ~Dan nods
[21:08] <~Dan> Sounds like the game would require some unusual players.
[21:09] <+stephendewey> I’ve played it with a variety of folks, from OSR diehards to storygame folks, to theater buffs. I’ve seen a TON of different approaches to the game, but if you’re willing to buy in to what is essentially a roundtable LARP then you’re golden.
[21:10] <+stephendewey> If you don’t like games that are more freeform and have elements of improv storytelling then you probably won’t have a great time or won’t “get it” but then again I said that about Ten Candles and was *constantly* proven wrong by it bringing in people who thought they wouldn’t like it.
[21:10] * ~Dan nods 🙂
[21:10] <+stephendewey> And I say “won’t get it” not to be a pretentious ass, but because that’s usually the comment I’ll hear from folks “I just dont get games like these”
[21:11] <+stephendewey> But it’s one of those games that I think is worth a try if you have folks who are a bit adventurous and are open to story games or new ideas, it will be a really engaging experience and you can sort of toe the line of storygames/LARP without delving too deeply into either.
[21:12] * ~Dan nods
[21:12] <~Dan> I think you’d agree that this isn’t an RPG in the traditional sense?
[21:12] <+xyphoid> Yeah GMless games have this really great dynamic going on where the conversation around the table is rich because it’s multidirectional
[21:13] <+xyphoid> in a GMd game so much of the conversation that is play is between the GM and a player
[21:13] <+stephendewey> Exactly
[21:13] <+xyphoid> but in one like this you have the LARP advantages of being able to talk to everyone and have it be core play
[21:14] <+stephendewey> This is definitely a nontraditional RPG, but hey, I figure folks already have the traditional RPGs they love. They don’t need me spouting off another one. My goal is to make things that are new and engage the idea of roleplaying in experimental or intriguing new ways.
[21:14] * ~Dan nods
[21:14] <+xyphoid> look your game needs DETAILED GRAPPLE RULES
[21:15] <+stephendewey> 😀
[21:15] <+stephendewey> That’s one of the stretch goals, an expansion grapple deck.
[21:15] <+xyphoid> (I really need to try 10 Candles, heard really good things about it)
[21:16] <~Dan> I appreciate that attitude. I think some people tend to… I dunno… glom onto the term “RPG”, as though Gather is the same sort of activity as, say, a session of GURPS. I maintain that they are different (but related) activities.
[21:16] <~Dan> If that makes sense.
[21:17] <+stephendewey> I think RPG is a very big umbrella that can fit a lot of things under it. At it’s heart, I see Gather as a game, in which you play as a role. There’s the whole discussion of “what makes a game” and “what makes something an RPG” but I don’t know that I’d be the leading expert in having those sorts of discussions 🙂
[21:18] <+stephendewey> I think Gather does lean into the Live Action component a bit, which is why I call it a roundtable LARP in some instances, but it’s still an RPG at it’s core, albeit a freeform one.
[21:19] <~Dan> Well, let me rephrase: I see value in language that distinguishes the kind of RPG that Gather is from the kind of RPG that GURPS is. I’ve had some people argue that point with me.
[21:20] <+stephendewey> I agree. I don’t know if “RPG” is personally the place I’d draw that line, but I definitely think that additional language tacked onto that, or subheaders for sure help differentiate.
[21:20] <+stephendewey> Just because, as I said, RPG is a big umbrella term for me.
[21:21] <+stephendewey> I would absolutely call GURPS a traditional RPG, or OSR-style RPG, or even just Tabletop RPG.
[21:21] <~Dan> Oh, certainly. I’ve often said that “RPG” is like the term “rock music”. It covers a LOT of territory, to the point that things falling under the “rock” umbrella are very different things.
[21:21] <+stephendewey> Wheras Gather I might call a Live Action RPG or LARP, a Freeform RPG, or a Story RPG
[21:21] <+stephendewey> Exactly!
[21:21] <~Dan> Yeah, see, I’m good with that.
[21:22] <+stephendewey> But is Gather an RPG? Yeah. Is GURPS an RPG? Yeah.
[21:22] <+stephendewey> But there’s definitely differences, and for those that are interested, ta-da! We have language for that!
[21:22] <~Dan> For some reason, I’ve had some story RPG authors insist that there’s no difference there. I don’t think that approach does them any favors.
[21:23] <+stephendewey> I would say the point of contention, at least personally, would be if someone said “don’t call gather an RPG”
[21:23] * ~Dan nods
[21:24] <+stephendewey> Like, when someone draws the line and says that “You *have* to use those extra words. You *have* to call it a story RPG” That’s when it gets hairy.
[21:24] <~Dan> Yeah, I can see that.
[21:24] <+stephendewey> Because the umbrella term is an umbrella term for a reason. Just because it’s changed over time because new styles of RPGs have been created doesn’t mean it can’t be used to describe them too, ya know?
[21:24] <~Dan> So in the time remaining, is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to bring up?
[21:25] <~Dan> (And yes, I agree.)
[21:25] <+stephendewey> I think that’s mostly everything on my end. I apologize if Gather wasn’t quite the game you guys normally chat about here, and I would certainly hate to think I pulled wool over your eyes to let me pitch my weird game here 🙂
[21:25] <+stephendewey> But I appreciate the invite and the questions!
[21:26] <+stephendewey> Gather’s an RPG, but it’s a weird one! Just like Ten Candles, and I imagine like quite a few of the other ones I’m working on. 🙂
[21:27] <~Dan> Oh, no! I didn’t mean to imply that at all. My apologies if I gave that impression.
[21:27] <+stephendewey> Nah, no worries! I just wanted to double check haha! 🙂
[21:28] <~Dan> No, one thing you’ll find out about this place if you hang out here regularly — which I hope you’ll feel free to do — is that we have gamers from all over the spectrum here.
[21:28] <+stephendewey> Nice!
[21:29] <~Dan> Like, IIRC, xyphoid over there enjoys him some storygames. We have people who enjoy really gritty RPGs. We have people who enjoy everything in between. Nobody’s favorite game here “sucks”.
[21:29] <+xyphoid> quiet year, winterhorn, and fall of magic are like my 5 games ever
[21:29] <+xyphoid> er, in
[21:31] <~Dan> Thanks very much for joining us, stephendewey!
[21:31] <~Dan> Usual reminder: Gratuities are welcome at (Link: https://gmshoe.wordpress.com/the-gmshoes-tip-jar/)https://gmshoe.wordpress.com/the-gmshoes-tip-jar/ , if anyone is so inclined!
[21:32] <+stephendewey> xyphoid: you will probably love Gather then, you should check it out on Kickstarter
[21:32] <~Dan> Now, if you’ll give me just a minute, I’ll get the log posted and link you!