Myth Making: Designing Camp Myth: The Role Playing Game, Part 1 – Canon Brawl

Hey everyone,

Thanks for stopping by. My name is Chris Lewis Carter: writer, gamer, and the author of Camp Myth, a new YA series that was successfully Kickstarted into existence a few months back. In fact – if you’ll indulge me for just a moment – let me give you the quick elevator pitch:

Welcome to Camp Myth, the only summer camp built exclusively for young mythological creatures. Forget canoe rides and knot tying lessons – these kids are more likely to fish for a Kraken, or discover the proper way to train a Chimera!

Felix is a rebellious Fae forced to attend camp as punishment for his obsession with humanity. He isn’t interested in being taught about the mythic community, but he’ll have to learn quickly if he plans on surviving the next six weeks. After all, Camp Myth can be a dangerous place, especially if you aren’t familiar with the myriad of beasts lurking around the grounds.

Along with his new friends, Argee, the first (and only) nerdy Cyclops, and Moxie, a Kitsune who would rather smart-mouth than shape-shift, these three outcasts decide to earn the “easy” merit badge for Phoenix Watching. But when their hike through the forest becomes a string of perilous encounters with various legendary birds, they’ll need to work together in order to make it back to camp alive!

Packed
with over fifteen pieces of amazing artwork, and an all-ages story based on mythologies from across the globe, Camp Myth is the perfect way to spend your summer vacation!”

Or, to put it another way, think Boy/Girl Scouts – meets – Every Mythical Creature, Ever.

Okay, I’ll try to stop acting like an infomercial from here on out. Promise.

Anyway, a few months ago, I wrote a guest post on this site discussing some ideas on how to add a dash of mythology to your current RPG campaign. Well, a lot has happened in the world of Camp Myth since then. Book one, Phoenix Watching, is now available on Amazon and Smashwords; Book two, Kraken Fishing, is coming together; and – perhaps the most exciting thing of all – the property has been signed to become an RPG!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working with Eloy Lasanta of Third Eye Games to transform the world of Camp Myth into a unique tabletop experience that will allow players to create their own mythical camper, and adventure inside the amazing (and often quite dangerous) camp grounds. You’ll attempt to earn merit badges, battle creatures from dozens of real-world mythologies, and take part in various camp-related activities, including not-so-ordinary scavenger hunts, and the ever-popular Golem Derby!

So, what am I doing here, you ask? Well, I’ve been dying to write more articles for Game Knight Reviews ever since Popular Myth-Conceptions went live, so Brian has been gracious enough to let me document the process of creating the RPG in a new weekly series that I’ve dubbed: Myth Making. It’s my hope that these articles will be interesting for anyone curious about the behind-the-scenes aspects of game design, but also serve as a sort of sounding board for anyone looking to provide feedback or suggestions about the various topics discussed. After all, the game is still in development, so I’d love to hear from the community about the direction things are going. I’ll even toss out a few reader polls along the way, and a contest or two for some neat Camp Myth prizes. Sound good? Awesome. Let’s get started.

In this first instalment, I’d like to discuss what I consider to be the most important part of converting any idea from one medium to another: Maintaining Canon.

To rewind things slightly, Eloy first contacted me about the possibility of a Camp Myth RPG during my Kickstarter campaign. I was thrilled for his interest, but at that time I was already up to my eyeballs in editing, art direction, and backer emails to give the attention a project like this would deserve. We got back in touch when the dust finally settled around the first book, and met over Skype to talk about what we’d both like to see out of a finished product.

Of course, there were the usual buzzwords you’d expect to associate with an RPG. Fun… Immersion… um… Dice. But I had one major request that would ultimately determine if I was interested in going forward: “It has to all be canon.”

Even though there’s currently only one book available, the world of Camp Myth has been extensively mapped out for a while now. Each future title is going to explore a different part of the grounds, and introduce a new merit badge for the main characters to earn (for example, book one has the Phoenix Watching badge, and spends a lot of time exploring the Forgotten Forest that borders the camp). Not only that, but several of the mythological races I’ve used have been tinkered with in some way or another to put fresh spins on their original concepts. (For example, Redcaps aren’t quite as prone to… what’s the word… Oh yeah, murder. Summer camps tend to frown on that type of behavior from their campers).

And so – at the risk of sounding a bit precious – it was beyond important to me that the Camp Myth presented in the RPG was identical to the Camp Myth in the novels. I didn’t want to create some slightly alternate universe (like Dexter or the Walking Dead) or risk making a certain creature completely different from one version to another. Ideally, in addition to it being a fun RPG, I wanted the rulebook to serve as a sort of “Style Guide” to the camp, so even people with no interest in tabletop games could pick it up and learn more about Camp Myth itself (then, hopefully, decide that playing a character in that world would be fun, too, and give the game a try).

Luckily, Eloy is a fantastic guy to work with, and agreed to my particular brand of crazy. Since then, we’ve managed to align all of the character abilities, locations, and merit badges with content that is 100% in-line with the main storyline. In fact, the RPG will even contain a bunch of allusions as to what might be in store for future Camp Myth titles.

RANDOM FUN DESIGN STORY #1: As it turns out, our quest to achieve cross-compatibility led to some interesting discussions. One that instantly springs to mind was during a brainstorming session for the Kitsune character class (Spoiler: there’s a Kitsune character class. Also, Fae and Cyclops. The three main character races from the series are  represented. Shocking, I know).

Anyway, Eloy suggested a special ability that read (basically) like this: Transformation – A Kitsune can transform into their fox form, or into another person for X amount of time.

Don’t get me wrong, I love shape-shifting as much as the next guy, but the thought of setting a precedent that any Kitsune in the main series was able to assume another form whenever they felt like it made my eyes bleed for about ten minutes. Imagine if every Ravenclaw in Harry Potter carried a bottle of Polyjuice Potion on them at all times, and you can see where the fiction could get messy.

Again, it’s an awesome idea, and it’s worth noting that it only failed to make the cut because it didn’t fit with a character archetype that I hadn’t fully explained yet. Eventually, though, the Kitsune kept their fox form (it’s kind of their thing) but they’ll be leaving shape-shifting to the professionals.

Racial parity aside, we also had to address the art situation. Everyone loves seeing their favourite concepts and characters brought to life through an awesome piece of artwork. In fact, Phoenix Watching itself contains over fifteen pieces of unique camper art based on character descriptions submitted by kickstarter backers – a concept that will carry forward in future books as well.

That’s why I’m thrilled to announce that Jay Camay will be reprising his illustration role for the Camp Myth RPG to provide some more fantastic drawings of the world and its creatures. And, who knows, maybe there will be an opportunity to have him draw your own character to be featured inside the RPG manual…

In addition to Jay, we’ll also be featuring some more amazing artists who’ll be adding their own unique styles to the world, so stay tuned for more details soon.

Okay, so we’ve managed to incorporate the world, characters, and art style of Camp Myth. You’d think that would be enough… BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE! (Gah, the infomercial-talk is coming back!) We’re going the extra mile to bridge the gap between reading and gaming. (Greading? Readming?)

Moving forward, all volumes of the Camp Myth series will include a supplement that will take the merit badge and plot featured in the book and convert it into a special one-shot adventure for the Camp Myth RPG. Making up your own campaigns is fantastic (and encouraged!) but if you just want to experience some of the key moments in the books with your own characters, that’s totally great, too. In fact, the Phoenix Watching adventure will be included with the RPG (along with other custom scenarios).

Well, that about does it for this week. I hope this has managed to whet your appetite for more tales from Camp Myth, and also give you a glimpse at how Third Eye Games and I are striving to make a game that will not just stay true to the source material, but enhance it in unique ways.

Have an idea for a topic you’d like me to discuss?  Any questions you’d like answered? Why not leave them in the comments, or drop me a line at chrislewiscarter@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Camping,

-Chris-

———————————————————————–

From high-school textbooks
to award-winning magazines and podcasts, Chris Lewis Carter has been featured in nearly two dozen publications – both online and print – including Nelson Literacy 8, Word Riot, 3AM Magazine, Murky Depths, Niteblade, and Pseudopod. He is a lead writer for Rival Threads: Last Class Heroes, a video game scheduled to be released for iOS, Windows, and Mac in 2012, and the creator of Camp Myth. Find out more at www.chrislewiscarter.com, www.campmyth.com, facebook.com/campmyth, and @campmyth on Twitter!

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