It was announced today that Plaid Hat Games has separated from parent company Asmodee, making them an indie publisher again. However, they have had to leave behind several of their flagship titles, many of which are deeply personal to the incredible designer Jerry Hawthorne. See the announcement here.
The following originally appeared as a blog on BoardGameGeek, and is reprinted here with Jerry’s permission.
I don’t blog often. If I write, it is normally part of my world building exercises, most of which gets used in one form or another. However, there are some recent changes in my professional life that have cultivated a sense of loss in me, and I’m taking this space to work through that.
The changes I’m talking about involve the announcement that Plaid Hat Games, the studio I work for, has left it’s parent company Asmodee to, once again, be an indie studio. I started my career with Plaid Hat Games, and I’m excited and nervous about this new adventure!
I’m also…. grieving?
As part of the deal, Asmodee has kept several of my games. Mice & Mystics, Stuffed Fables, Aftermath, and Battlelands are all going to Zman Games. This means that the stories and characters I created fo those games, and the future of those product lines, are all out of my control. I will no longer have the pleasure of writing for those characters, many of which are based on people I love, and some who have even passed away.
On the bright side, I have good faith in Zman games. Steve Kimball and his team are top notch. In fact, I can’t think of a studio I would rather have working on my creations. My melancholy has solely to do with my selfish enjoyment of crafting stories for those characters that reflect my values and honor the people and ideas I care about.
Mice & Mystics
Many know the story of why I created Mice & Mystics, as I’ve told the story in so many interviews, but most people don’t really know who inspired the characters. When I was writing the story, I wanted to teach my daughter about heroic virtues, but having never written before, I wound up imagining that the characters were heroic real people I knew, but in mouse form. Nez was modeled after my best friend, and Tilda was modeled after his nurturing wife. Maginos was based on my grandfather, and Lilly and Collin are my kids. Nere’ from Heart of Glorm is my nature loving wife.
Imagining the characters this way really helped me make choices for them based upon how I imagined their real world counterparts would handle the situations. I don’t think I could have done it any other way.
When I set out to write Stuffed Fables, I wanted each character to represent a different aspect of the little girl’s personality, and I even color coded them. I chose stuffed animals as the heroes of the story because they are universally relatable. Everybody at some point in their life, has cuddled a stuffed animal.
But the stories in Stuffed Fables were drawn directly from my experiences becoming a new parent. At some point I realized that stuffed animals exist as surrogate parents. They are something we put in our child’s bed to help them sleep so that we can sneak away and reclaim a little time for ourselves. I imagined the Stuffies as sort of clocking in to work when the child falls asleep. To a Stuffy, taking care of the child is almost religion, and every shred of their existence is devoted to and dependent upon that child’s love. There are true parallels between being a parent and being a Stuffy.
Piggle is my favorite. She is an optimist, and she is all about the luck. Those two things sort of go hand-in-hand if you think about it. I aspire to be like that little pig.
I don’t know if it’s me, or if it’s that my kids are teenagers, but it just seems like the world nowadays has lost some measure of innocence. I see my kids and I worry about their future in ways I never expected. I’m suddenly sensitive to issues such as environmental custodianship, excessive consumerism, civic and humanitarian responsibility, emotional isolation. My understanding of heroism has shifted as well.
When I was a young man, I believed in the innate goodness of people. I’m no longer young, and I no longer believe in that goodness. In Aftermath, the players are teenage rodents thrown into the role of being providers. They inherit this responsibility that is so vastly different than that of their parents and elders. The world is dangerous, being kind is a liability, and being on the compassionate side of an issue doesn’t always mean winning.
So here we go, off into the great unknown. Thanks to all who have been on this journey with me. Goodbye to my imaginary friends both furry and stuffed. I will miss you. Hello to Plaid Hat Game’s new future and all the stories yet unwritten.
Collin smiled lovingly at them all and then nodded to the dark countryside that lay beyond the wall.
“It is time,” he said. “There is still work to be done.”
“Indeed,” agreed Maginos. “Our story has only just begun.