Updated: Mar 4
Aside from looking into folklore and how to infuse that in your D&D games, I wanted to use this space to explore and rave about other RPG/TTRPG games, especially those that are Indie. While browsing through potential candidates to get into, I came across a genre that IMMEDIATELY piqued my interest - the Solo Journalling RPG. And it was the concept of Apothecaria that really drew me to this type of RPG.
Created by Anna Blackwell, Apothecaria is described as follows:
"Apothecaria is a solo journalling RPG in which you take the role of a village witch creating potions for the unfortunate villagers, adventurers, and monsters that come to you for help. The potions you create and the stories that unfold come together to create a beautiful journal that is unique and personal to you. Fill pages with drawings of ingredients, stories of run-ins with thieving fairies and sleeping giants, and recipes for the potions you have created to keep you right in the future. With loads of unique ailments like Fairy Fever, Candlesick, and Yeti Chest, Apothecaria aims to capture the humour and feel of games like Theme Hospital and Stardew Valley with the cosiness and wonder of Studio Ghibli films."
And as someone who grew up on the game Theme Hospital, and adores both Stardew Valley and Studio Ghibli's films, this appealed to me in so many different ways. It sounded like a warm, cosy experience that spoke to my inner fantasy herbalist/green witch and would allow me to wind down in playing it, rather than feel stressed or unprepared. I bought myself a stunning deck of 'Green Man' themed Jocu Playing Cards (the quality of which are amazing, folklore lovers and card collectors should really check them out), dug out a beautiful journal I bought in Covent Garden a while back, and even purchased some brand new pens with pretty flowers inside. Once I had these components, I was ready and excited to play!
CONCEPT: The idea behind this game is a brilliant one and suits this genre very well, just like any single-player video game. You create your character - in this case, you give them a voice. How do they write/what are they like? Nervous? Stubborn? Grumpy? Excitable? You choose! And once you have, then you guide them through various adventures that are prompted by the multitude of options available within the book. These are chosen at random by the cards you draw but serve as a way of sparking ideas behind each journal entry. It's a beautiful, simple concept that can be very powerful too - whether you need a game that functions as a world-building tool, relaxes the mind after a stressful day, or you just enjoy writing and want to flex those skills, this game allows you to do so in as little or as much depth as you like!
SET-UP: This is an easy one - you literally need only a notebook, a pen (digital or physical), a deck of cards and the rulebook. That's it. I took some time to read through the rules and really get a feel for all the different elements to the game and what I liked about it was that there's a lot to explore, but everything can be done at the pace of the player. It didn't feel so simple that it was boring, nor did it feel so complicated that it was overwhelming. My character spent her first day in High Rannoc settling into her new home (she was very excited about the garden), finding a mysterious letter from the witch who had lived there previously and travelling out into the nearby woods to summon her familiar.
In order to do this I drew a 7♦️ which meant I picked a FELINE familiar (I chose a fluffy, wild cat) and then drew a Jack♣️ which meant their special ability was MAGIC EYE (allowing them to help me find magical reagents more easily). "For months now I've felt...a connection to the spirit world. I feel her. I see her. A flash of eyes, all manner of colours, in the bushes when she thinks I'm not looking. She's ready for my call, I know it..."
GAMEPLAY: As I've already mentioned, the style of game you want is entirely up to you. I found the structure provided very helpful as it allowed me to guide and focus my thoughts. If you follow this, then you begin on the 1st Day of the 1st Week of Spring (There are 13 Weeks per season and each ends with a special celebration). In short - you move into the village, and immediately begin treating the locals of whatever ailments they are suffering from. A 'round' begins with DIAGNOSIS, followed by FORAGING and then POTION PREPARATION. As you progress you can choose to acquire various tools and upgrades to aid you better.
I'll include an example round to demonstrate:
From the NOVICE AILMENTS list I drew 5♥️ which meant that a VILLAGER had come down with a case of YETI CHEST. I got to decide who the villager was. YETI CHEST requires two reagents that deal with HAIR and LUNGS symptoms of the sickness and so I must forage for these in one of four local areas that I have access to - the FOREST (Glimmerwood Grove), the LOCH (Meltwater Loch), the MOUNTAIN (Moonbreaker Mountain) and the DUNGEON (Hero's Hollow). I decided to look for Gas Weed and Wigfish, both in Meltwater Loch. As I foraged for each ingredient, I drew cards to provide prompts of events that happen in the area while I look for them. Completion of the potion netted me money. Some potions have ingredients that will decrease or increase the value dependant on if they are poisonous or sweet. Others must be completed within a set amount of time, or there will be consequences that can affect your REPUTATION.
And really, that's all there is to it! It's very easy to see how days and days of writing and drawing cards like this will achieve a very unique, personal journalling experience. And repeat experiences wouldn't even matter - they could be quite humorous in fact.
CONCLUSION: This game is superb, and truly does for me exactly what I wanted it to. It's relaxing, cosy, and best played with a nice cup of tea or hot chocolate and some biscuits. It perfectly balances structured rules with creative freedom and I can see a lot of aspiring writers really getting to hone their craft with something like this too.
If you're interested in purchasing Apothecaria, I recommend checking out Anna's website. She has created a number of other products, including DELVE (in which you create a unique Dwarven Fortress), UMBRA (in which you create a space station) and RISE (in which you create your villain's lair). Upcoming projects include The Dig, her first Scratch & Journal RPG and Apawthecaria which is a collaboration with Brian Tyrell (creator of Scurry!) to combine the concept of Apothecaria and anthropomorphic animals! The Kickstarter is currently active with a lot more information if you wanted to check it out!
Have you played? Let me know your experiences!