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Expo Recap 2022

I am SO excited and energized about how well the Vermont Sci-Fi and Fantasy Expo went!

Part of me wants to write a ton here about everything I got to talk about and the people I met and conversations I had, but I don't want this to erupt into a bloated messy journal entry. So, I'm going to try to keep my composure here talking about the premier experiences from the weekend.

Firstly, I need to thank Jack of Gamemeisters, LLC, who has been an invaluable resource throughout many of the projects RHG has embarked upon. As my sponsor for the Expo this year, I was proud to have a spot on the table for the first of three adventures in Jack's brilliant 7th Sea story arc: A Tale of Art, Love, and Fear. The first chapter of the arc is called The Painter and The Pirate, and all three are available on DriveThruRPG. If you've never played 7th Sea before, it's a wonderfully cinematic system with less number crunching than your most popular TTRPG out there. It has a feel like Pirates of the Caribbean, The Princess Bride, and/or Assassin's Creed. You can find the quickstart guide from Chaosium here.

Next up is Matthieu A.F. Fortier, of Cingdom Creations, my creative partner for the Expo and creator of the Cognia setting for 5e. The setting places you within the collective unconscious of our minds, where you can literally punch depression in the face, and fireball your fear. The setting is still in-development, but check out the CC website, or follow @CingdomCreation on Twitter to follow along with the development and updates.

Matt and I share a background in, and passion for using games for good, particularly within the mental health space, where we have read research and stories and bore witness to the positive effects of games firsthand.

What I did not expect, was the degree of interest and support that grew around our booth. It was honestly a little surprising to have people sit down and talk about games for mental health. I had a handful of people who sat down with me to playtest my boardgame prototypes which I want to recap here as well.

Come Out Of Your Shell (COOYS) is a semi-cooperative card game where two players take on the roles of turtles trying to emerge from their shells and make friends. It's designed for children likely ages 8+ who may be experiencing social anxiety, shyness, or introversion, and serves to offer and a fun and light way to broach talking about strategies we can use to help ourselves in those fearful moments, increase our bravery and courage, and ultimately, come out of our shells. There will be a free Print-and-Play version of COOYS along with a feedback form for playtesters available on a new page on the site later this week.

Untitled-Asymetric-Drafting-Game is a competitive card game where one player takes on the role of a human person with a mental health diagnosis, and the other player takes on the role of that diagnosis. In the example deck I have prototyped, the player battles against their depression. The human player attempts to gain more resilience than the depression player has intensity, and whoever wins three rounds of play out of five wins. However, the cards used in the game feature skills and factors that are researched and evidence-based such that throughout gameplay the narrative the players tell is a lesson they can take away about how to help deal with these largely common struggles.

I want to shout out one playtester (if you read this, you know who you are!) who by the second round had a network of good friends, extra coping skills granted through therapy, and indulged in good habits like spending time in nature, such that when depression (played by me) tried to make them feel melancholy, isolated, and even start self-harming, the player had a wealth of resources and a strong foundation to battle against depression. Ultimately, the player won, and the story we told is one I'm not soon going to forget.

This game is still early in development and does need additional work, however based on feedback from the above and other playtesters over the weekend, it may be more complete than I had thought.

Matt and I had planned to deliver a panel called Gaming & Mental Health both days. What we didn't plan for was being joined by the amazing Charleigh Brennan. I regretfully do not recall what her master's degree is in, but she has experience with games and mental health, and is a published author. She was a delight to have at the panel, which was small but successful both days, and now a wonderful friend and connection. You can find her on Facebook and Patreon!

Ultimately, it was awesome to be able to talk to people and be on the exhibitor side at an event. I'm almost certain I'm forgetting things, and I'm leaving out a lot of shorter but no less meaningful interactions to help keep this from getting too long.

I had someone join the Red Hoodie Games Discord server, I have a new Patron, I have new hopes and goals, and new ideas to develop in the future. It was a phenomenal weekend, and I only hope that I can carry a speck of the motivation it left me with for a good long while.

Thank you again to everyone who stopped by the booth at the Expo!

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