The first tabletop RPG publication brought to print with the help of the Chapbook Co-Op is now available. The Weaver’s Observatory is a two-player adventure about destiny and the hopeless attempt to alter its course.
Dicebreaker readers will remember the Chapbook Co-Op from a feature on alternative funding methods for TRPG designers, especially those in the independent space. This collection of four retailers - Loot The Room, ratti incantati, Monkey’s Paw Games and Spear Witch - endeavoured to provide the resources, skills and connections for smaller artists to bring their games to print without needing to rely on crowdfunding and the large companies that control those spaces.
Gem Room Games was ultimately selected as the first recipient of the co-op’s patronage. Designer Dan Phipps and artist Kali Lawrie’s creation, The Weaver’s Observatory, is a two-player RPG that uses Highland Paranormal Society’s Tunnel Goons system to spin a tragic yarn (sorry) about ascending Fate’s grand apparatus and asking for one simple change in the tapestry of destiny.
Chapbook Co-Op’s members guided the designer and artist pair through the process of preparing the game’s manuscript for print, locating printers that fit their specific needs and connecting them with distributors that would allow Gem Room Games to sell and fulfil internationally. While this all might be taken for granted among larger tabletop publishers (current global conditions aside), the same cannot be said for the majority of indie designers who can easily demolish a project’s revenue through shipping alone.
“An endorsement of what is our most personal work so far from this esteemed collection of game designers is such an achievement. Without the help of the Co-Op I’m not sure how The Weaver’s Observatory would have seen print, and it's with tremendous pride that we get to bring our work into the physical space alongside this accolade,” Phipps said in a press release.
Physically printing their adventure also allowed Gem Room Games to carry the thread and loom metaphor into the actual pages of the book. Lawrie is a fibers artist and often works with textiles, so she jumped at the opportunity to create something special for players to hold and enjoy. Custom tapestry work and brightly coloured embroidery contrasted against black and white photography create dreamlike, ephemeral snapshots of Fate’s realm that have an actual texture, thanks to the mixed media production.
“It’s a little funny - we set out to make a quick adventure, and have instead ended up making a deeply personal piece of art that’s also a functional adventure,” Lawrie said. “I learned how to weave during a rough time in my life and it was such a helpful balm to turn physical chaos into organized beauty through this labor-intensive, time-consuming process.”
The Weaver’s Observatory’s main narrative thrust concerns a confrontation with Fate, an impossible force of nature, and the heartbreaking urge to compel its acquiescence to what may be selfish ends. Players can arrive at eight different epilogues by travelling through the towers' myriad rooms and passageways, all with their own traps, NPCs and side-stories. It also comes with character creation tools to complement the Tunnel Goons system and guidance for slotting the adventure into a larger campaign.
Those interested in learning more about Gem Room Game’s newest title can check out its Itch.io page. All Chapbook Co-Op retailers have it listed in their respective webstores, which ship within the US, Canada and the UK, at least. More specific international shipping will vary by retailer. Gem Room Games said it plans on producing a hand-bound special edition sometime later in 2022.