"Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation"
Hi, everyone. It’s my distinct pleasure to announce Root, the next game from Leder Games which we will be launching on Kickstarter October 24th.
Root is a game of woodland might and right. Stalk the woods as the Vagabond, seize the initiative with the Eyrie birds of prey, rule over your subjects as the Marquise de Cat, or command the Woodland Alliance to create a new forest order. The stage is set of a contest that will decide the fate of the great woodland. It is up to the players to decide which regime will ultimately take root in this asymmetric game of adventure and war.
In future threads, I’ll be talking more about the design, but I thought I’d start off by telling everyone a little about the genesis of the project.
For a long time I had been thinking about making an accessible, interactive strategy game. I wanted something easy to set up, easy to teach, and easy to tear down, but also something that able to tell a compelling stories and to allow players to explore the world of asymmetric games. With two kids running around the house, I missed the days when I could tear into heavier titles like Andean Abyss without worrying too much about keeping to a strict bedtime schedule. In some ways Pax Pamir and An Infamous Traffic were attempts to work in that space. Though I was happy with how both projects turned out, I was still hoping to make something that would resonate with a wider audience.
Part of this trouble has to do with my own desire to make games on subjects that don’t usually get covered. It can be a hard thing to pull players to 1820s Afghanistan. Though, that was really only half the problem. Because, once I started thinking about 1820s Afghanistan, I needed to introduce all kinds of little rules to make sure I got the topic right. Things tended to get complicated--I’ll blame that on my years in graduate school.
So, here I wanted to make a big thematic game about adventure and war and statecraft and all the kinds of questions I usually like asking and thinking about in strategy games, but I was finding myself without a specific theme in mind, and I didn’t want to get pulled into odd historical setting. Months passed. The project sat and gathered dust.
Then, while making the drive back to from Texas to Indiana a couple years ago, my wife and I were listening to an audio book of T.H.’s amazing The Once and Future King. We had just gotten to the scene where Arthur and Merlin become fish and are swimming around the moat. This will be familiar territory to anyone who has seen the Disney adaptation of The Sword in the Stone, so we found ourselves only half-listening to the reading.
Then, we stumbled upon a moment I did not remember and one that was left out of the animated version. In the Disney film, the great Monarch of Moat is a brainless monster who speeds around the moat terrifying the smaller fish. However, T.H. White’s original creation is a far more interesting and well-spoken:
T.H. White wrote:
“There is nothing," said the monarch, "except the power which you pretend to seek: power to grind and power to digest, power to seek and power to find, power to await and power to claim, all power and pitilessness springing from the nape of the neck...
Love is a trick played on us by the forces of evolution. Pleasure is the bait laid down by the same. There is only power. Power is of the individual mind, but the mind's power is not enough. Power of the body decides everything in the end, and only Might is Right. Now I think it is time that you should go away, young master, for I find this conversation uninteresting and exhausting. I think you ought to go away really almost at once, in case my disillusioned mouth should suddenly determine to introduce you to my great gills, which have teeth in them also. Yes, I really think you might be wise to go away this moment. Indeed, I think you ought to put your back into it. And so, a long farewell to all my greatness."
The speech, which had been so softly read for the first several lines, quickly shifted in pace and volume. The slow, quiet roll of the words was replaced by almost a shout by the final lines. I nearly jumped out of my chair. Like Arthur in the story, I too had failed to notice that...
T.H. White wrote:
...the tight mouth was coming closer and closer to him. It came imperceptibly, as the lecture distracted his attention, and suddenly it was looming within an inch of his nose. On the last sentence it opened, horrible and vast, the skin stretching ravenously from bone to bone and tooth to tooth. Inside there seemed to be nothing but teeth, sharp teeth like thorns in rows and ridges everywhere, like the nails in labourers' boots, and it was only at the last second that he was able to regain his own will, to pull himself together, to recollect his instructions and to escape. All those teeth clashed behind him at the tip of his tail, as he gave the heartiest jackknife he had ever given.
At the chapter break, my wife and I turned off the audio book and began talking about the speech and how White thought about violence and government. That night, after we had arrived home, I found myself scribbling ideas for a new game that would work in the tradition of an animal parable. It would be a game about might and right, governments and insurgencies. And, it would be made for folks who wanted to explore those subjects but who didn’t have the time to dig into one of the more established systems.
For a long time the design stayed on the drawing board. Then, shortly after I began working at Leder Games, a production slot opened up and I pitched the project to Patrick who both liked the design and had precisely the right artist to bring the world to life.
And so, Root was born.