Chronicles of Skin is a game for storytellers, where players weave together epic tales of heroes and their legendary deeds, of tragic wars, and of mythical creatures. Together. players document the rise and fall of once great civilizations.
The game is played with a set of cards and a tattered looking map (flags), all of which can fit in a pocket. The cards affect characters and events, and the story of each tale is documented on the map symbols and minimal writing.
“Gaming stories very often stay locked up in the minds of the players,” said U.K.-based game designer Sebastian Hickey, via e-mail. He and art director Jason Hickey, are the two minds behind the game.
With Chronicles of Skin, players create an artifact—a hand-drawn flag that maps the stories of their civilizations and the heroes who lived out their histories.
“I wanted players to expose their creativity, share it, and be able to look back on it,” Hickey said, noting “I love seeing the results: solid, hand drawn artefacts that serve as chronicles of the experience. I hope that players will be proud of their creativity and share it with others, even with me!”
The game was recently funded through a highly successful campaign on IndieGoGo, and is now moving into production. Hickey believes this success can be attributed to people’s natural love for a good story.
“Whether you’re watching the football highlights on a Sunday evening, reading a book, playing Battlefield 3 or having a go at an indie roleplaying game, you’re always after the same thing. You’re looking for a story,” he said.
“Chronicles of Skin is a tool for people to experience a story with others. That’s unusual and exciting, something that all game designers are reaching for, whatever the platform,” he said.
The stories can be complex. Cards can determine everything from the beliefs, laws, and traits of a civilization, to the actions of individual characters. The map is created mainly with use of symbols, but with some text here and there.
Hickey said the use of symbols is important. “Humans recognise patterns,” he said. “It’s why we see shapes in the clouds and read prophecy in leaves of tea. We’re capable of seeing patterns in nearly anything, from a sequence of sounds, to a sequence of events.”
“With these patterns, we can make intelligent guesses about the world around us,” he said. “It’s super useful and totally, totally engaging. It’s a way for us to make sense of ourselves and our relationships with others.”
“So what’s that got to do with anything? Stories are patterns that you share with others.”
Inspiration comes from the best parts of some of his favorite games—The Hammer Falls, Hell 4 Leather, Sunshine, Best Friends, Sorcerer, and others.
The main inspirations, however, are his own hobbies and other artists in his family. He said most of all, he loves the idea of creating an artifact from a game.
He also wants to inspire people to draw. “Everything about the game is there to encourage you to doodle,” he said. “If I replaced the glyphs with words, and asked you to use them to make a flag, I would be asking too much from shy artists. The glyphs are there for people to copy, and to encourage doodling confidence.”
The game can be played by up to five people, but there are three core roles: the Artist who documents the story, the Other who creates characters and guides their fate, and the Scribe who invents locations and establishes worlds at war. Each story lasts around three hours.
Yet, collaborative writing can be complicated. People need to trust each other, and so Hickey had to create parts of the game to help reinforce this.
“If I’m telling a story with strangers, I don’t always trust them with my story. I don’t want my story meddled with, and I don’t trust them to take what I’ve invented and improve it,” he said.
“With a collaborative storytelling game, like Chronicles of Skin, the rules should help the players to trust each other, and to give players tools to voice their issues without upsetting the rest of the group,” he said. “In a sense, all players have to do is trust the game. If the designer has done his job, the rules will take care of the rest.”