This Haunted Land - Version 0.1

The Boy and the Heron, Studio Ghibli

Here is the playtest version of my game about where you play tiny imps, goblins, bugaboos, pixies, and sprites who venture out to wreak chaos upon mankind. Click on the image below to get the rules and character sheet.

You can read this post to get an idea of what this game is about. Basically, the game is focused on your inventory, like Mausritter or Knave. Your character is defined by the items they carry - if you want to be a thief, you would carry thieves tools. A wizard would carry spells, a fighter carries weapons and shields, etc. 

The twist is that your "Items" can be intangible objects like Fears, Dreams, Stolen Youth, Lost Beauty, or The Howl of a Wolf. You are fae creatures, so you can reach right into someone's head and steal their strength, their courage, their memories. Instead of carrying thieves tools, you might steal the memories of a Master Thief or a patch of the night sky to hide yourself with.

These items define what your character can do. And each one is a little sentient: They have their own goals and needs, and they can rebel and riot against you if they are mistreated. The game is about managing this chaotic hoard while having fae adventures as a little gremlin creature.

Ulla Thynell (Finnish, b. 1982) Untitled, 2021 Watercolor and alcohol ink on paper

This version is very much a work in progress, and after playtesting it there's a lot of things I want to change and update. Here's some of the improvements I'm planning for future versions:

  • Mortal forms: At the moment, you only get the basic Sprite Form. In future versions, each character will get a mortal form by default as well. This can be an animal, a small child, a plant, etc - but something that lets them blend in with mortal society and mess with humans.
  • Improved starting items: The current starting items are quite simple and D&Dish - you'll notice that everyone gets a weapon. I want to improve this and make your starting items much more baroque and fae-like. You might start with a deceptively deep puddle. A cat's curiosity. A shadow. A bag of bones. I also want to integrate this better so that there's less tables to roll on at the start.
  • Boosted Sentience: The intent is that all your items are alive. They have their own desires that they try to work through you. Even if you just have a mundane item like a sewing needle, it's a living sewing needle that can fly around and sew people's shoes together. I want to push this more and make it clearer in the text.
  • Strings attached: I'm planning to overhaul and improve the guidelines for how you steal things from other people. How you reach in and steal a soldier's courage, a mother's love, a sage's wisdom, etc. 
  • More stuff. This is a basic version of the rules, so you only have a basic list of items and one form. The full version would have a huge range of different factions, forms and items. You're all shapeshifters, so one of the core methods of advancement would be to find different forms and learning to take the shape of a vampire, a skeleton, a ghost, etc, each with different abilities and powers. You'd go out into the world and earn forms and items by doing quests for different factions, or stealing them from those factions.

I'd love any feedback or thoughts you have on the rules so far! Let me know in the comments.


  1. This all sounds really cool. I love the idea that the inventory can be full of abstract things, and that all of these things are alive and have a kind of consciousness to them. And the way you can pokemon-style collect them as well. I actually made something I think mechanically fairly different but conceptually somewhat similar a while back as well:

    Haven't read the doc yet, just going off the description here. At ~20pages I suspect this might be a bit crunchier than my personal preference, but I'll give it a look on its own terms and see if I have any thoughts.

    1. Thank you! I'll check out that post, it looks rad.

      The basic core of the rules is pretty simple, most of the pages are taken up with random tables. But I definitely want to streamline things as the rules develop.

    2. Reading through the document I see what you mean about most of the content being tables and such, the mechanics themselves don't seem too complicated. These are mostly written in real-time as I'm reading the doc, with some noted edits.

      I like the M-themed Stats. It might help to give that section a `Stats` header bc it was a little confusing at first if the relationship between the M's and the terms defined right above it.

      Mischief, Magic, Mystery, and Mayhem are great stats that implicitly tell you what this game is about. That said, I would worry if all the M's would be confusing to keep track of in play.

      I like that in addition to PCs, the players collectively make a community.

      Right after that it talks about PCs having faction associations, so it might help to clarify the relationship between the PCs' community and these factions they may be separately affiliated with.

      EDIT: I see later that you define Community and Faction more clearly later. I like what you've got for the Community generation. The Faction stuff I like the hooks, but it doesn't really explain the parameters. Ten Factions seems like a lot, but from the doc I don't know what a Faction is supposed to entail necessarily.

      I like that the Compulsions, Burdens, and Backgrounds, and Favoured Appearances are more than just stat boosts, but still all fairly straightforward, while also being interesting.

      I'm not sure I really understand what the differences between some of them are in practice though, like particularly Compulsions and Burdens or Appearances and Quirks seem fairly similar, but if they're just excuses to roll on these separate tables I think that's fine.

      The Gear packages seem reasonable, but could be a little more flavorful. I like the Hunter's Nose of a Bloodhound; some of the other packages could have some of the items reflavored to be a bit more exotic as well.

      The idea of horizontal rather than vertical progression makes a lot of thematic sense, but personally, I think it is a little unsatisfying to have progression-like mechanic that isn't actually progressive. Usually with horizontal scaling I think of it as not making you more powerful (vertical), but just having access to more options, so maybe there's a thematically appropriate way to do that? Like an expanded inventory capacity or something? Or maybe access to a powerful but one-time or limited use item?

      I like the Burdens Consequences mechanic, and it makes it somewhat more clear to me what Burdens are supposed to be.

      Having Memory in addition to the M-word stats, again I like it thematically, but I can imagine it getting a little confusing in lay. I do otherwise really like the idea.

      The Memories, Souls, Fears, Hearts seem to be the most unique element of this, and the one most important to the gameplay loop, so it should probably be referenced earlier or made more prominent.

      On the one hand, I like how you've distinguished these categories, but on the other hand, it might be easier to just treat them all the same way. I said at the beginning that I recognized that the game is not as crunchy as I was first expected, but this might be a case where it could be streamlined, but I can see the argument either way.

      Anyway these are my thoughts, I hope they're helpful, but anyway this seems really cool. Are you on my server? I sometimes forget who is who between blogs and discord lol. I've got a small discord server, no obligation but you're welcome to join. There are some people there who might also find this interesting.

    3. Thank you so much, that's great feedback!

      From the first playtest I did get that feedback that Appearance, Quirks, etc were similar and felt like too many different tables to roll on, so I'm planning to bundle pretty much everything together into one big table of traits. Each trait will also give you 1 starting item, so we can bundle that together too and get rid of the separate starting item table.

      For progression: It missed this version but the intent is that you will get extra inventory slots by levelling up, which will be the only true Vertical advancement. All other advancement would be about getting more options (more items, more forms you can shapeshift into, etc).

      I'm still working this out but the plan will be that you get exp for completing missions that fit your Community (For example, Tricksters would advance by turning the milk sour, spooking cows, turning dogs lame, replacing children with changelings, stealing household items, etc.) You'd also probably get some extra exp for being reckless, using up your items, etc. Still some work to do there.

      On the 4 categories of items, I agree that they may not be necessary, I'm planning to do some tweaking here.

      I don't think I'm on your discord but I kinda lose track of these things, I'd love to join! I am jackshandy on discord.

    4. Aah ok sounds like the feedback you're getting and intended direction are pretty similar to what I was thinking then!