My husband Alexi and I have written our first game together! Back Again from the Broken Land is a Tolkien-inspired role-playing game about small adventures walking home from a big war. We launched the game on Kickstarter as part of ZineQuest.
In the game, you and the other members of your fellowship are making your way home, avoiding the Doomslord’s remaining Hunters, and reckoning with the Burdens you picked up along your Journey.
I wrote a post for the Gauntlet blog about some of my design choices for the game, including how you give depth to the people and places the characters encounter by making choices about their Wounds.
Back Again from the Broken Land interprets NPC pretty generously—as befits a land marked by magic. Our system of Wounds is meant to cover anyone from an innkeeper to a town to a river. You might run into a young man with the Wound, “struggling to fill his mother’s place for younger siblings” or the dirt of a battlefield with the Wound, “the earth misses the mud that was mixed with battle’s blood and cannot meld back into the whole.”
Like a Drive, a Wound is meant to flesh out an NPC by giving them something that they’re actively struggling with. An NPC’s appearance may be brief, or their Wound may lead the fellowship to delay their journey home, using the Gaze into the Distance move to ask, “How could I make peace here?”
Littleness is a major theme of Back Again from the Broken Land, and Wounds are part of how we hope to make the bigness of the world believable. It also colors the advice I give to GMs and players about responding to the Wounds of the people they meet:
“The PCs will not and cannot heal every Wound they encounter. They are small people and strangers in these lands. It may be enough to bear witness or lay an additional stone on a cairn. The unresolved Wound may become a named Burden. But sometimes, they can put something right, and there is a glimpse of hope. The companions can help begin a mending, but all Wounds will take sustained care to fully heal.”