The Forest Hymn & Picnic is a forthcoming tabletop adventure game set across the backdrop of a very absurd, unending and often haunted forest. Players take up the lives of oddballs in The Forest Hymn—precocious animal folk, lost people, or costumed ghosts—as they stumble upon trouble in the strange woods, take on work in town and get to know their neighbors, investigate the supernatural, take their spot in the brass band, explore the ruins that litter the woods or even win a dance marathon at the county fair!
Our family tree has roots in the 'babes in the wood' genre of fiction and is a love letter to many influences and inspirations. Fables and folklore, fairy tales and ghost stories have all had their hand in shaping this game through a very thin lens reminiscent of North America in the late 1600s through early 1800s. If you are looking for a list of inspirations to prepare yourself for this game, have a gander at the things that have left kisses on its cheeks:
If you were to hop in a balloon for a lazy afternoon tour of The Forest Hymn, you'd look out and see nothing but trees from one edge of the horizon to the other. Occasionally a hill peppered with small hamlets and farms would rise above the greenery like a lump in a warm quilt. From your balloon you might spy the busy forest dwellers scurrying and getting their day's affairs in order—the precocious animal folk, the bold and lost people, the odd but welcoming ghost. You might spot them spreading blankets on the ground and unpacking baskets of tea and sandwiches, haggling over the penny cost of some overlarge vegetable or even see them dancing around the maypole.
However, if you looked closer, looked between the trees and away from those towns you'll find an old wood storied in mystery. You might see wisps stalking the scent of a pie cooling on a windowsill and as the sun sets you might even see the lanterns of forest dwellers searching for a lost child. You'll see ruined places made home to Monsters—terrible baddies that lurk in the darkest, deepest patches of The Forest Hymn. If you're lucky you might spy witches on broomsticks looking for mushrooms in a Spookwood bog and you might even catch a glimpse of skeletons practicing their funeral numbers in an abandoned cemetery!
These woods are an odd place and care should be taken to heed a mother's warning to stay on the road if you insist on going out. Watch out for those troublesome wisps and their incessant thievery, certainly don't take up conversations with the witches or speak to strangers and absolutely do not tell The Stork where you live. Don't go out at night and be sure to avoid patches of Spookwood because there's devilry that festers among the gnarled roots of those terrifying trees. Be sure to lock the candy shoppe each night and—Oh! Don't you get lost!
A fine, fancy cake worth its sugar starts with a good recipe, a recipe that's easy enough to understand and delicious on the lips of hungry merry makers. It has to smell very good as well! And it should be a hand-me-down recipe. A good table top game is like a cake in that way, it's only as good as its recipe and how sweet it smells. Here is a taste of what you'll find among the ingredients of this cake:
Iinterested in what the adventurer backgrounds are like? Using these fancy links below you can check out randomly generated adventurer personalities and check out the character sheet.
Between its pages The Forest Hymn & Picnic runs a modified version of the very well loved, very brilliantly engineered system from Robert J. Schwalb's Shadow of the Demon Lord. It's a set of rules that champions ease of use, simple maths, and a progression system that gives players a near endless supply of options in creating unique characters through the course of play. The Forest Hymn & Picnic keeps all of that in its pocket while building things anew at the same time, starting with the core dice mechanic.
When a player chooses to interact with the world in a way that not even the best fortune teller could predict, the dice are rolled. In-game this is referred to as a Question & Answer Roll. The question is the difficulty of the interaction, or the number the player must roll equal to or higher for success, and the answer is the result of the roll. Questions come in three flavors: trivial, middling, or difficult and each with static numbers to beat.
Answers are determined by the roll of a twenty-sided die, the addition of a modifier if needed, and with six-sided dice rolls called gifts and gags that might add or subtract from your result respectively. The number of gifts or gags included with a question & answer roll is determined by the grades an adventurer has in their subjects. Good grades add more gifts and bad grades add gags!
Subjects are applied at the whim of the adventurer, by the narrator's instruction, or when the entire group is in agreement. A particularly seaworthy forest dweller might choose to use their coxswain grade to help navigate a gambling boat down a rushing river. Someone with a bad grade in the funambulist subject would do well not to attempt any flipping or leverage any movement on a swinging chandelier.
Roll outcomes are not only pass or fail situations—the higher your answer is to the question the better success you'll find and if your answer is just a hair lower than the question you might not find yourself in the middle of an utter catastrophe. Other changes made to suit The Forest Hymn & Picnic are simplified magic rules, simplified inventory management, and a wealth system that keeps players from having to count or track each penny they find on the forest floor.
This game is written and decorated by Cecil Howe; artist, creator and co-designer of the Gold ENnie Award winning Hex Kit as well as the writer and illustrator of 2016's survival misery simulator Do Not Let Us Die In The Dark Night Of This Cold Winter. He'll be joined by artists Casey Cookson and Sam Mameli, editor and proofreader Jay Spight with contributions from novel, graphic novel author and all-around babe Gabe Soria with more to be announced sometime after they've been tricked into helping. The Forest Hymn & Picnic will be coming to Kickstarter some time in the middle to end of September—to get exactly one notification that the campaign has launched, click the link at the bottom of the page.