Monday, September 4, 2023

The Forest Takes Everything

Over at From the Sorcerer's Skull, Trey has an idea for a spooky season campaign setting that really intrigues me.
Trey wrote: "the world that the players' would know and explore is a sort of mythic forest, a dark fairytale sort of woodland with no apparent beginning or end." Rather than being heroes or conquerors, the "adventurers are wanderers in the wood, dealing with the things the forest brings them."

But the detail that stood out to me most was this - the forest-dwellers cannot remember the past. They don't know the history of the forest, they don't even necessarily remember the history of themselves. "Memory, like everything else, gets swallowed by the forest."
from Over the Garden Wall

Imagine you have a certain number of lines of backstory on your character sheet. Simple, declarative sentences.
Maybe they have a mechanical benefit, like you can invoke them for advantage or inspiration. They could represent skills or contacts, life history events that grant you abilities. Or maybe they just define who you are, who you were, before the forest.
And then, as you play, they start to vanish. Maybe at the start of each session one goes away? You wake up, as though from a dream, no clear memory of how you got here. Just a sense that you chose this, even if it was a mistake. Perhaps a sense that you'd like to leave, that you have unfinished business somewhere else, even though the forest is everywhere. Definitely whenever you're at some sort of low point, the forest steals from you while you're down. 
You could cross them out - your backstory, your memories. Or literally paste new strips of paper over them to cover them up.
You can add new memories as you play. Meet new people, learn new things, accomplish noteworthy deeds on your adventures. But those aren't safe either. Eventually, the forest takes everything. Everything. Unless you can find a way out...


  1. Another wrinkle for this might be that knowledge of the nature of the forest causes loss of other memories, the more secrets you uncover, the less you know of who you were before.

  2. Oh man, that's even spookier! I think if you lose your last human memory, you cease to be a player character and become an NPC.

    So maybe they should be color-coded...

    Probably you can make human memories in the forest, but it's much harder. Most of what you accomplish should make forest memories instead.

  3. Love it. Seems like it would be easy to implement in Trophy Gold, replacing the Skills with more verbose Memories

  4. I really should learn more about Trophy and Trophy Gold...

  5. It reminds the Forest of Forgetting from "Through the Looking Glass"
    But yes, as a mechanic it is rather very useful (for example, use it for Dark Souls-like Undead 'revivals. Thank you for the idea.

  6. I hope you find it useful, Kyana!

  7. I love this! I'm a big fan of memory mechanics and whatnot like the diaries in thousand year old vampire. This seems like an interesting FATE aspect thing almost. So cool

  8. Although the concept doesn't interest me as a game (I've moved towards the other "border of RPGs", like skirmish games, board games, and procedural solo adventure games), I find the presented aesthetics very pleasing. Maybe in the form of a visual novel or walking sim?

    Also, Over the Garden Wall is lovely! I should watch it again sometime.