Follow the Bones

If you like quest stories like Gawain and the Green Knight or the Grail cycle, then you may want to check out the new tool I've published on my itch page. Follow the Bones is a set of supplementary rules and tables for generating weird and surprising quests in a medieval fantasy forest. It's suitable for group play, but also useful as a way of generating unexpected encounters and scenes in a solo game.

Some design notes: I've been kicking a prototype of Follow the Bones around the NSR Discord server for a few months now, where I hacked it together as a setting builder for Yochai Gal's Cairn. The current version of Cairn has a very lightly implied setting, and I cooked up Follow the Bones as a procedure for rounding out those suggestions, without being too definite about the greater world of the game. That said, the NPCs and items mentioned in the prompts are statless, so there's no reason you couldn't also use it to supplement other fantasy games, like Trophy or Dungeon World.

The idea was simply to use randomly combined impressions, selected by rolling several four-sided dice, to evoke scenes and situations. As the imagery accumulates, the outline of a plot may begin to take shape. That's strung together along a journey narrative — you've set out to find a specific cairn in the Wood — which gives the succession of scenes a loose kind of coherence. If you're acquainted with the weird literature of medieval fairy tales and legend, the way that these incidents compound upon one another and reflect back onto the significance of your character's quest should feel familiar.

The Forests of Another Name jam seemed like a good occasion to give the whole thing a final polish. A few other entries have already been submitted, and I know of at least a half-dozen other designers and artists who are working on more, so if you enjoy Cairn, be sure to check that out.

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