Thanksgiving has come and gone in the US, ushering in a period of winter holidays centered on families and big gatherings of relations. For many, this is not a happy time but a fraught - if not outright hostile - affair best skipped or forgotten. Others wade through obligation and tradition wearing a mask of a smile.
Regardless, reunions are complicated things where old ghosts are exhumed and older sins reanimated - something the card-based storytelling RPG For Our Family uses as the emotional core of its design. Currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter, the game adapts the structure of Alex Roberts’ For The Queen to tell stories steeped in the experiences of first-generation immigrants.
Like its spiritual predecessor, For Our Family is a collaborative RPG that can support groups of various sizes as everyone takes turns answering prompts from a deck of 102 questions that will outline the shape of their family, whether related by blood, circumstance or otherwise. Sessions last roughly two to three hours and will leave the players with as many vagaries as answers.
The players all take on roles as members of one generation of a family invited to a reunion in the homeland by their elders. Once gathered, the players learn that they have been chosen to inherit the family’s legacy - responsibility, mess and all - and must navigate how that passing of the mantle shakes out, both individually and as a group.
All of these terms - homeland, elders, obligation - are not clearly defined in For Our Family’s rules. Players will use the discussions prompted by each card to first sketch the outline of their specific world and then fill in the details as appropriate. Questions target the player who drew them but often explore the perceptions and biases of the rest of the family. For example, “What family traditions still bring you joy?” and “When did you realize your life was not your own?” tread very different roleplay paths.
Role cards labelled as “How They See Us” wrinkle the formula and offer an optional way to begin play by assigning players with one of seven roles - the Healer, F*ckup, Exalted, Lawful, Curse, Chosen One and Virtuoso. Each comes with a question the player must at least partially answer before play begins, which seeds the ground for deeper and more meaningful roleplay.
For Our Family is the creation of artist Anthony Nomo, who explains on the campaign page that they wanted as many people as possible to be able to engage with the game’s interrogation of first-generation lived experiences. Their own background as a Filipino American has likely been a catalyst for design, but the story prompts can be applied broadly, both in reality and fictional worlds.
Nomo’s team includes Christine Dela Rosa as editor, and the illustrations were provided by artist Gillian3g, Art of Yourgami and Maharhar. For Our Family’s Kickstarter campaign ends on November 30th, and backers can pick up a digital or physical copy for $35 (£26) or $50 (£38), respectively. The online version is planned to release in May of 2022, with the printed decks shipping in October of the same year.