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Pocketmags Digital Magazines

Stuffed Fables

A young girl’s toys battle against her nightmares in the latest visionary creation from the designer of Mice & Mystics. Jerry Hawthorne reveals how he turned his love of storybooks and Pixar movies into an emotional adventure to remember

If literature has Roald Dahl, it could be that gaming has Jerry Hawthorne.

The designer’s Mice & Mystics was a dungeon crawler unlike any other, combining the adventuring and dice-throwing of Dungeons & Dragons and HeroQuest with the in-depth story of a children’s novel, contained in its tome of narrative directions that doubled as a kind of artificial paper game master. Players weren’t just characters; they were readers, both passively discovering and actively controlling the action and plot during each of the game’s scenarios, fittingly referred to as ‘chapters’.

Just as the work of Dahl, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett never shies away from addressing the darker side of life and fantasy, Hawthorne’s tale of staunch courtiers transformed, The Witches-style, into field mice was full of moments of tension and horror as the group encountered insects, rats and cockroaches now big enough to snuff them out. To say nothing of the game’s greatest threat: the prowling housecat, Brodie.

The result was an experience that was grown-up enough in its tone and roleplaying-lite gameplay to keep parents and other older players interested, while still having the simplicity and fairytale feel needed to give kids their first proper taste of gaming.

Hawthorne’s next big project stays true to his commitment to storytelling on the tabletop and all-ages approach to design. While Stufied Fables can in many ways be seen as a student of Mice & Mystics’ philosophies, though, the designer is resolute in pointing out its differences to his best-known work.

“I approached this as its own separate project,” he says. “It’s a whole new game system that I created so that I could tell stories like this. But the similarities it has with Mice & Mystics are a natural comparison because the game is also a story. I don’t know of any other games out there that really do as heavy storytelling as Mice & Mystics and now Stufied Fables. You really are playing inside of a storybook.”

On this last point, he’s being quite literal. Where Mice & Mystics’ structure felt like a book with chapterstyle scenarios and a connected storyline, Stufied Fables takes the comparison to its conclusion by combining rules and game board into a single tome that is laid out flat in the centre of the table. Players place their miniature adventurers directly onto the environment, while the opposite page might explain the story, narrative choices or any special rules needed for that particular mission.

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About Tabletop Gaming

January’s issue of Tabletop Gaming includes an exclusive preview of post-apocalyptic miniatures game Fallout: Wasteland Warfare, a chat with Mice & Mystics creator Jerry Hawthorne about his latest tale Stuffed Fables, a delve into the dark world of fake board games – including tips on how to spot a counterfeit in your collection – and much, much more. Reviews include Azul, Pulsar 2849, Civilization: A New Dawn, Dungeons & Dragons: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, Indian Summer, Clank! In! Space!, Queendomino, Raxxon, Hunt for the Ring, Photosynthesis, Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate and many more.