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Making Magic: Ritual and Self-Discovery in the Night Forest

Have you ever had an experience that felt inexplicably sacred, where space was being beautifully held, but you didn’t fully understand why? Recent articles like “Season of The Witch: Why Young Women are Flocking to the Ancient Craft, [1]” have been circulated, liked, and shared in high frequency, along with other internet and “IRL” spaces engaging in similar dialogues, and it’s all connected to a larger conversation surrounding access to ritual and self-care.

As huge shifts in the cultural dialogue of power and oppression are happening, the importance of solace and grounding deepens. People can look for this not only in connecting to their deeper selves and values, but also to personal and collective stories and experiences. The question is; how can the space be created that is necessary for these stories to be told?

The sensation is familiar, it’s the struggle to integrate an intuition or a ‘feeling’ with a practice. For many people, and particularly millennials, accessing these parts of ourselves can be confusing. It’s difficult to separate from that highly simulated, televised experience; a character casts a spell and you see something change before your eyes, to make room for a more nuanced perspective and understanding of what that looks like. Creating ritual and the actual practice of magic, while felt, can be unclear.

“I think many people have the experience of being in facilitated space, but may not know how to hold that space or how to facilitate ritual for themselves and others [3],” says Mo Golden, co-creator of the ritual game Night Forest. Night Forest was designed and produced by Mo Golden and Ross Cowman with a team of collaborators in Olympia, Washington, and it focuses on the practice of listening to and sharing memories.

“I think many people have the experience of being in facilitated space, but may not know how to hold that space or how to facilitate ritual for themselves and others.”

In Night Forest, described by the designers as “a ritual game of memory, embodiment and self-discovery [3],” people play a group of “memories.” At the start of the game, each player gets a candle, a book of matches and a card. At a chosen location; like the forest, a field, or an abandoned building, the group disperses. When you’re alone, you light your candle and look at your card. Each card is accompanied by an illustration and a word, which you use to recall or inspire a memory. “You let it appear, change and shape-shift a bit [3]” as you’re moving through space, until you come into contact with another player. At this point, each person stops and takes turns exchanging memories. After each player is finished, they trade cards and continue the journey. It’s a practice of deep listening, witness and communion.

In “Season of The Witch: Why Young Women are Flocking to the Ancient Craft,”  author Sady Doyle states; “There’s something deeply appealing in the notion of being put in touch with an inner source of power that can’t be taken away. Not that this power needs to be something nebulous and mystical.” She then quotes Tarot reader Suzy X from Rookie Magazine who argues, “it can be pretty damn pragmatic [1].”

Maenna Welti, a self-described “witch, astrologer, tarot reader, musician, writer and feminist [2],” speaks to this idea of pragmatism further. In her Healing Wheel Workbook, she suggests “magic is energy plus intention [4].” When we deconstruct it as such, magic and ritual become much more tangible and accessible. It’s a shift in the understanding of magic as something that exists outside of us to viewing it as a power that we already contain. The practice is how we harness it.

“While we have many tools such as Astrology or Tarot to connect us to ritual or divination, these practices are often solitary or focused on one individual. I think the challenge and necessity is how to create and hold that space with other people. Night Forest is very balanced, fluid, opening up the channels so we all have space to be seen… it’s a tool to cut through the social veil and cultivate intimacy [3].” Mo states. This type of engagement with one another becomes particularly important as we face a resurgence of cultural, political and personal tensions. Much of the work we are being called to do requires connection and community, and the dissolution of physical and metaphorical ‘walls’ is a necessary component of getting there.

” When we deconstruct it as such, magic and ritual become much more tangible and accessible. It’s a shift in the understanding of magic as something that exists outside of us to viewing it as a power that we already contain. The practice is how we harness it.”

“A question I keep asking myself is what has to happen in order for conversations surrounding justice to be productive? “ Mo states. Ross chimes in, reflecting; “I think culturally we have an empathy problem…  One thing I love about Night Forest is how it gives us permission to just be silent, witness each other, and be witnessed by one another. To know that you can say what’s on your mind, and nobody is going to be waiting to interrupt you… just knowing that I’m here for you, you’re here for me, and we’re going to share these stories with each other [3].”

The reality is, ritual and intention aren’t necessarily things that are natural facets of how our society operates. Creating human contact and bridging gaps isn’t a ‘given’ when it comes to moving through the world with others, and neither is taking care of ourselves. People have to create and facilitate these practices for them to flourish. Ultimately, each person is already powerful just as they are. The ability to access ritual and act with intention already exists within, from the materiality of who we are and what we intrinsically know and have to offer. Night Forest simply acts as a tool to facilitate that exchange and create the container for the collective experience.  

  1. Doyle, Sady. “Season of the witch: why young women are flocking to the ancient craft.” The Guardian . N.p., 24 Feb. 2015. Web. 5 Apr. 2017.
  2. Maeanna Welti: Tarot, Astrology, Magical Life Coaching. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.
  3. “Night Forest with Ross and Mo.” Personal interview. 6 Apr. 2017.

Welti, Maeanna . Healing Wheel: A Samhain to Samhain Workbook. Olympia: n.p., WA. Print.

For Roll20 Backers

Hello backers! So glad you’ve gotten to play Fall of Magic on Roll20.net, hope you’re enjoying it.

I’ve really enjoyed the stories, quotes, and screenshots some of you have shared so far. It’s so cool to see how different each game is and all the amazing possibilities people have come up with.

If you’re playing online, it would be awesome if you shared bits of your game with all of us. You can use the hashtag #fallofmagic on twitter, facebook, and instagram. And there’s a Google+ community you can join, if you haven’t already: Fall of Magic on G+ 

Feel free to share quotes from your game or a recap of what happened in your campaign!

Thanks for your continued support
~Ross

Homemade Fall of Magic

dumwytgi writes:

“Dear Ross Cowman,

I read a list of best RPGs of 2015 and saw Fall of Magic on it. The write-up intrigued me, so I checked it out, got excited, needed to own it, wanted the scroll, checked my finances, bought the electronic version instead because I didn’t have the $75 to spend.

I love the game, but wanted to play the game with the same evocative feel the scroll provides rather than printed out sheets of paper. So I made my own. Spent days staining wood, sketching on linen trying to recreate your work and Doug Keith’s art. Learning to sew to put that gray trim on to keep the cloth from unraveling. In the end, I’m pretty pleased with it. It isn’t as gorgeous as the version you produce, and it definitely doesn’t have those wonderful tokens, but I worked hard on it and I’m proud of it.

But as I got ready to share it, it occurred to me that I was treading on your copyrights. It’s one thing to print up a PDF, but it’s another to recreate it entirely by hand, especially when it involves attempting to recreate the very specialness that makes the special edition special. I’m proud of my copy, but I don’t want to necessarily encourage others to make their own because your version is amazing and I would hate to feel like I were taking money out of your pocket. I guess I wanted to check with you before I shared pictures of it just in case. I may have worked hard on the scroll, but you worked hard on the game, and without your hard work, I wouldn’t have done what I did. I wouldn’t feel right, legally or ethically, sharing without your consent.”

Dear Dumwytgi,

You are awesome.

Signed, Deernicorn

FOM-homemade fom2homeade

 

 

What’s Next From Heart of the Deernicorn

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Ross’s new game – Night Forest – is expected to launch on Kickstarter this Fall. It is a live action game, co-developed and beautifully illustrated by artist Mo Golden. To play, you find a few friends, candles, matches (careful now kids), and head for the woods (or a park, for those who don’t live in misty Olympia, where this game was first conceived). As you wander alone with your lit candle, you have an illustrated card with an evocative prompt that you use as inspiration to remember or invent a memory. As the memory comes to life through your movement, you encounter other walking memories in the darkness. You approach one another, share your memories, exchange cards, and venture off again into the darkness.

The game’s structure evokes deep introspection and compassion for other players, while also inviting players to explore their experience of being alone and in the company of others. The prompts offer players the possibility to truly take the game in whatever direction they want, and players are often surprised at what memories come alive for them as they walk, card in hand, through the candle-lit night forest.

Want to get notified once Night Forest is live on Kickstarter? Sign up here and you’ll get Heart of the Deernicorn game updates. Don’t get too excited though… the emails only go out about every 3 months.

Also, if you’re headed to BigBadCon, there’s a chance you could play a prototype version of Night Forest… maybe in a parking lot.

Fall of Magic Wins Awards!

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Since it’s release critics have been heaping praise onto Fall of Magic. And the excitement has spread into the awards season this year, as Heart of the Deernicorn’s notorious game on a scroll was nominated for – and won – a number of prestigious awards. Thanks to all the loyal supporters out there who have contributed to the game’s continued success.

Here’s the breakdown…

Fall of Magic was nominated for:

Diana Jones Award
IGDN – Inde Ground Breaker Award  – most innovative
Golden Geek – game of the year
Golden Geek – best art & production

Origins Award – Best RPG

Fall of Magic was awarded:

IGDN – Inde Ground Breaker Award – best art
Indie RPG Award – best production
Indie RPG Award – most innovative game

If you are one of the frustrated fans that has been trying to get your hands on Fall of Magic since the Kickstarter campaign ended in 2015, you might be afraid that this new success is gonna make the game even more rare and hard to come by. But I have some good news for you. Yes, this handmade, artisan game is labor intensive to create and there are way less of them in circulation than your average mass-produced game… but… Fall of Magic production is rockin’ and the game is no longer backordered. Yep, you read that right, Fall of Magic is available to order in all languages! 

The Art and Business of Game Design

workshop_facebook-bannerAnnouncing: The Art and Business of Game Design

A series of lectures and workshops hosted by Arbutus Folk School!

Register online at arbutusfolkschool.org

Lecture: $10 adv. / $15 door
6 Week Workshop: $175 (includes all three lectures)

 

LECTURES

 

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#1 The Experience of Play – 6/24 6-8pm
So you’ve got a game idea, but how can you make it work? In this talk we will learn how to translate that great idea into a clear set of design goals and how to use mechanics, procedure, context, and components to shape the experience of play.

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#2 Tools of Development – 7/15 6-8pm
Game development is the process of growing a design idea into a finished game. This talk focuses on the tools you’ll need to get there including prototyping, playtesting, iterative development, and most importantly, community.

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#3 The Business of Games – 7/29, 6-8pm
From crowdfunding, to manufacturing, to shipping, to publishing contracts, Ross Cowman discusses how to take your game from prototype to published.


WORKSHOP


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The Practice of Game Design
Tuesday nights 6-9pm
Jun 28th, Jul 5th,12th Aug 2nd,9th,16th

In this 6 part workshop series you will learn to create a game from idea to finished product in a community of other designers. Topics covered include, game ideas, journaling, game components, art and art direction, prototyping, playtesting, writing rules, and publishing. Registration for the workshop series includes admission to the lecture series.

Diversity Scholarship

Diversity Scholarships available for women, people of color, and LGBTQ. Apply via email to info@heartofthedeernicorn.com.


Facilitator Bio:


Ross Cowman is a game designer and owner of Heart of the Deernicorn, an international acclaimed game publisher. His most recent release, Fall of Magic, is the recipient of 2 Golden Geek nominations, and is in the running for the 2016 Origins “RPG of the Year” award. Ross has over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry and has crowdfunded over $120,000 for music, game, and charity projects. He has been a panelist at at PAX, Gamestorm, and Emerald City Comicon, and been an invited lecturer at The Evergreen State College. Find out more about his games at heartofthedeernicorn.com