At the centre of the forest lies its magical heart, protected by a group of spirits. At the edges of the forest gather humans, and they have begun felling trees in alarming numbers. Collaborative storytelling and map-making game A Wood Heart tells the story of their interactions and the dire consequences ina rules-light RPG experience.
Two to four players pick up the mantle of forest spirits charged with protecting the Wood Heart at the centre of an ancient forest, from which all life in the area springs. The game uses a deck of tarot cards to determine story prompts as the group watches the first humans discover the forest, build a settlement and then begin to expand. How much the humans take and what effect that has on the regional ecosystem is largely decided by the actions of the players.
“A Wood Heart is a game about trees. It is a game about the insects, the soil they call home and the rivers that cut through it,” designer James Chip writes on the game’s Itch.io page. “It is a game about humans and the impact that they have on these things. It is a game about the survival of nature. It is a warning.”
Players begin by deciding the shape and nature of their Wood Heart and then filling the trees, rivers, ponds and earth with different forms of life that call the forest home. Mapping the forest and its features is important because the humans will eventually claim portions for themselves, felling trees for homes and fire and hunting tools. Too many will hunt certain creatures to extinction or push them out through the destruction of their homes.
Drawn in pencil, the map will need to be erased to reflect the changes. Left alone, the humans might eventually find the Wood Heart without knowing its import. The player-controlled spirits may be able to reason with these new arrivals, but protection may require more than words and gestures.
A Wood Heart’s physical edition is printed as an A5 paperback zine and requires pencils, erasers, a tarot deck and one six-sided die to play. Chip previously released solo journalling game The Adventurer and Light, a game about a lighthouse keeper stretched too thin by time, tide and “extraordinary circumstances”.
Physical copies and digital PDFs of A Wood Heart can be found on James Chip’s Itch.io page and cost £10 ($14).