How Hayley and Vee (Storybrewers Roleplaying) Created RPGs Like None Other Before
Meet Hayley and Vee! Together, they make up Storybrewers Roleplaying. Since 2014, they've designed offbeat RPGs (Alas, Good Society, etc.) that push RPGs into new, yet to be explored realms for everybody to enjoy. Their Kickstarter campaigns have been extremely successful, earning 34x their pledge goals and their RPGs have had stellar reviews from the community. Here's how they got there:
Hi Hayley and Vee! Before we get into Good Society and the other RPGs you've designed, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves? How did you two meet and get into board games / RPG?
Hello! We are roleplaying game designers working together and publishing through Storybrewers Roleplaying. We were friends in high school, dated in university, and are now married. One of the things that drew us together as friends were our mutual love of board games, storytelling, and creative ventures.
Vee: I grew up in a family that valued games and playing competitive games together. We played many trick-taking card games, like trumps or hearts, abstract games, like Othello, chess or mancala, or board games, like Monopoly, Clue, or Scrabble.
Hayley: Vee and I got into Euro gaming together. We love heavy strategy games and optimization. We also got into roleplaying together.
All of your games thus far are RPGs, why did you two decide to create RPGs specifically?
Hayley: For me, board games and RPGs fulfill very different functions. I engage in boardgames as a strategy game, or optimization puzzle, where the driving force is to win. RPGs are all about collaboration and storytelling. I’m a fan of a good puzzle but I’m a storyteller at heart – I believe in the power of stories and I love the way they reflect the struggles and emotions we share.
When did you two transition from playing games to designing them? What was that process like? Were you confident, nervous, scared?
Hayley: It didn’t feel like a decision you made in a moment. It’s one that snowballed.
Vee: Hayley has always been a creative person. When I introduced her to RPGs, she took the approach of “see one, run one, make one”. It was a very natural progression, in a way.
Hayley: For me it was a gradual transition. At the time I was freelancing, so I was already working from home and that made the transition much easier.
Vee: Making the decision to quit a job to start your own business is always daunting. For me, I had to choose between renewing my law license and game designing full time. There are so many issues to consider, practical stuff like financial security, long-term planning, whether you can stay productive, how you manage your own time. The upside, of course, being you get to work hard to pursue your passion!
I'm definitely glad you both decided to go into game designing! Because of that decision, I and so many others get to enjoy such unique RPGs like Good Society. Can you give us a short overview of Good Society + the expansion? Why do you think so many people are interested in it?
Yes! Good Society is a collaborative roleplaying game that seeks to capture the heart, and the countenance, of Jane Austen’s work. In the game, you play regency gentry, control of influential connections, create rumor and scandal, and orchestrate balls, carriage accidents, and even marriages.
The expansions to the core game allow you to play fun, flavorful and alternate mashups. You can cast spells in Pride, Prejudice and Practical Magics, take on a masked identity to fight evil in Sense, Sensibility and Swordsmanship, explore servants’ stories in Downstairs at the Abbey, and advance your career and fortunes in Emma, Forget Me Not.
Vee: Though I do believe that the setting and premise of the game (collaborating with your friends to tell an Austen story) is very compelling, one of the things we’ve been able to achieve with the game system is to put forward a very collaborative style of play where consent is key. Based on feedback we’ve received; many people have really enjoyed this.
This is one of our core missions as Storybrewers Roleplaying, to deliver play experiences that are emotional, imaginative and collaborative.
In relation to this collaborative style, I saw on your website that your goal is "to make our games inclusive, safe and diverse. And to do what’s right by the environment.” How do you make sure these goals are achieved?
Vee: It helps that we're working on our own terms - you can just do it. We uphold the values you want to uphold. Something that’s important to me here is being introspective and spending time to educate myself about how we can be more inclusive. For example, this year I’m putting in a lot of work about how to implement accessibility publishing standards into our workflow and as a result, we’re working to release Good Society in an EPUB format. As much as these are goals something to achieve, they’re also something to continuously strive for and we’re very committed to that.
Hayley: You can also build safety into your game – for example in the collaboration phase of Good Society there’s a section to ask players if there’s anything they want to avoid during the game. As far as inclusivity and diversity it’s important to be explicit and upfront about it, both in the text of your game and the art you choose. You can’t leave it to chance!
For our environmental targets, we are offsetting our estimated carbon emissions on an annual basis and reducing our footprint wherever possible.
That's awesome! It also sounds like that necessitates a very complex process. What was the creation process like for your RPGs?
It’s not a typical 9 to 5 for us since we live together so the designing crops up at all hours! We tend to work seven days, but shorter hours since designing is very creative and demanding.
We work fairly consistently but there’s always a peak phase before you have to send a game to the printer that gets VERY busy.
What has been your inspiration for your RPGs?
Alas, Good Society, and really, any substantial game we create is inspired by two things, people and their stories. We are inspired in the games we create by questions like what do these people dream about? What are their hopes and fears? How do they navigate their world?
For Alas, myths, songs, and the environment itself formed a rich fabric for us to draw on. For Good Society, we obviously drew a lot from the works of Jane Austen themselves, but also movie adaptations and other related literature.
Is there something that you are most proud of in your game designing careers?
Vee: I’m just so proud that it’s out there!
Hayley: That people seem to have fun when they play.
What about the most memorable part?
Hayley: Playtesting. I love meeting people and connecting with them through a shared story and doing that in the context of playtesting is especially memorable.
Vee: All the people we’ve met. It's important for us to do the best by them. It brings a lot of joy to us!
It's great to hear all of the great things you've been able to accomplish and experience since creating Storybrewers Roleplaying. Before we go do you have any exciting, upcoming developments?
Yes! We are currently in development and playtesting for a Sports Anime RPG called Fight with Spirit. We really love the feeling we get from watching these types of animes so we're excited to bring it into the RPG world. It's set to launch on Kickstarter by March 2020.You can learn more about the upcoming game here.
Thanks Hayley and Vee for taking the time to talk and sharing with us what it takes to make such unique and intentional RPGs. I'm so excited for your upcoming game and to get some of my friends to play Good Society with me.You can check out more of Hayley and Vee's work here.