30 September 2023
The newest RPG from the creator of Inspirisles, Cryptid Creeks, sees players stopping a terrible curse with the help of nature cryptids. With inspiration listed as being from Gravity Falls, Hilda, and The Goonies, it’s funded successfully on Kickstarter, and we spoke to Rich Oxenham, its creator, about what the game really is.
You may recognise Hatchings Games from its previous RPGs, where it became known originally for its groundbreaking child-friendly game that taught basic sign language (ASL/BSL) through Inspirisles, and its follow-up Overisles. It’s back once again with its newest game, Cryptid Creeks.
What is Cryptid Creeks?
The game runs the narrative that your home town has become cursed – but not for the first time. The curse has occurred many times throughout history, and whilst the nature of the curse is down to you, it will always source from an object sold by the peddler, an enigmatic demon with hidden motivations. You, alongside a concerned benevolent cryptid known as the Watcher, will need to investigate and stop the curse. It’ll involve investigating for clues, with each roleplay session taking place as episodes, creating a series, and single one-shots known as pilots.
“In our RPG you play river scouts setting out to find a cursed item with the help of chaotic nature spirits. It’s inspired by Gravity Falls, Hilda, The Goonies, Lumberjanes and Night in the Woods, but also by my childhood growing up on a boatyard.” Says Oxenham, founder of Hatchlings Games, creators of Cryptid Creeks.
Indeed, the characters you are able to play are all named after boating roles – Skipper, Shipwright, Lookout, Stowaway, etc. You’ll travel to Clawfoot Creek as part of your investigation, needing to name your boat along the way, which can play a part in your exploration if your Navigator (Game Master) adds in extra creeks, coves, or beaches.
What system is Cryptid Creeks Using?
“We’re designing the RPG as a gateway to the Powered by the Apocalypse engine, with a ruleset to suit beginners and veterans alike.” Oxenham tells us.
Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) at its simplest, is a two six-sided dice system. Roll both and achieve over ten to succeed, but anything over seven succeeds but with a consequence. It’s been praised as a streamlined simple system that prevents gamers from being bogged down in complexities, and as a result, prioritises the story.
“It’s built upon the Powered by the Apocalypse engine for its focus on character progression through playbooks and the idea that every action furthers the narrative.” Oxenham confirms, when we ask why. “Creeks is also 'Carved from Brindlewood', a term for RPGs based on Jason Cordova’s Brindlewood Bay. The way players determine how mysteries progress through their successes and failures really spoke to me. There’s something really appealing about emergent and collaborative storytelling”
Indeed, Brindlewood Bay also prioritises story, with investigations made through roleplay being successful not entirely because of an overarching plot they needed to discover, but linking evidence through theory that a dice roll dictates to be correct. It also has a team of murder mystery sleuthing grannies, though these are absent from Cryptid Creeks. It does maintain the clock however, ticking down to calamity.
Who is Cryptid Creeks for?
What remains similar to its predecessor is a wholesome and inclusive foundation. The Kickstarter describes robust safety tools being included, and unlike many RPGs, is aimed specifically at Young Adults.
“But based on our previous crowdfunding successes,” Oxenham comments on its direction, ”our audience is wide and diverse.”
And whilst not explicitly educational, he explains it “will explore themes of ecology and community.” These are only supported by further themes of things like friendship, and discovery, as well as teamwork, and PDF versions will also be available to scouting troops and summer camps for free.
Cryptid Creeks, along with all of Oxenham’s projects, take great steps to ensure inclusivity. The Kickstarter quotes as “Having worked for a Deaf charity for twelve years and raising a disabled child, making Cryptid Creeks accessible to everyone is really important to us.”. This led to the hiring of Chris Hopper as a consultant, and can be seen in everything from cultural consideration to screen readers, alt text, chapter hyperlinks, plain text and downloadables for the digital offerings, and colour-coded page edges for the physical.
Who's the Creative Team In Cryptid Creeks?
Of course, amidst those pages is also beautiful art, using the “usual” art team.
“Ashley ‘WillowsQuest’ and Lucille Nual have very complimentary styles, which really tap into those Saturday morning cartoon vibes and honour our inspirations,” Oxenham says of them. “I believe this will be the most visually appealing game we’ve produced to date.”
The team also included Scriv the Bard, whom working with Oxenham confirms was his favourite part of its development. “It’s been a pleasure to finally design a game together.” He said of it. “We even established a live creation stream on their Twitch channel.”.
What's next for Hatchlings Games?
“Funding has gone really well” Oxenham says, with over £45,000 being pledged of its £8,000 goal at the time of writing, and target having been hit in less than two hours. “With every crowdfund we're learning from our mistakes. These pitfalls help with Tattered Bear, our other business providing support for clients hoping to crowdfund and publish their own RPGs for all ages.”
Whilst it’s early days for Cryptid Creeks, that’s not cause to relax, as Oxenham has a full line up of games on the horizon:
“While producing Creeks, we’re also working on BOW, a solarpunk journaling game ready for Zine Month in February. Beyond that, we have two big projects for 2024. We're describing Argo0 as Hades meets Lancer... basically Greek mythology in space. If you’ve ever watched the 80s cartoon Ulysses 31, you’ll get the vibe. Then we have UNDERISLES, the final book in a trilogy of RPGs that teach British and American sign language”
You can find the Cryptid Creeks Kickstarter running until October 5th.