House of Reeds is a map-drawing storygame about families, for 2-6 players. It’s my first role-playing game, and it’s quite small and simple. It’s available as a free PDF download here*.
It’s heavily influenced by Aaron Reed’s 18 Cadence (which I reviewed over on IFDB).** Like 18 Cadence, House follows families over years of change, drawing on the ‘crazy uncle’s house’ parser-IF tradition of uncovering family histories through exploration of long-inhabited spaces.
House can be set in almost any genre or period, wherever a family shares a home – whatever you decide either of those words mean. But it’s centred on themes that are important to me: the development of distinctive, detail-oriented, well-loved setting, and the heartache of moving away, of the absence of family and friends. I’ve lived on three different continents, for about a third of my life each; later this year I’ll be moving to a place that’s not on a continent at all. I have friends who have lived in the same city all their lives, and I can’t quite comprehend it. One of the things that’s most emotionally powerful about 18 Cadence is how abruptly it presents loss, how it avoids giving you straightforward closure. I tried to capture some of that in House.
Mechanically, it’s pretty minimalist: draw a prompt card, narrate something that interprets it, sketch something on the map. There is not-too-subtle influence here from Avery Mcdaldno’s excellent The Quiet Year; like that game, House works almost entirely through narration rather than in-character acting. (And if you’re interested in other, better-designed games about family history, I recommend Ben Robbins’ Union expansion to Microscope – I can’t count that as an influence, since I started working on House well before Union was in even private circulation, but it comes at similar themes in very different ways.)
* If you’d find it more useful in some other format, let me know. I sort of twitch at the PDF format, but it’s the standard in storygames, where the idea is usually to print things out for convenience at the table.
** The original title of House was Infinite Cadence, but that’s kind of a big opaque pile of game-naming cliché.