Updated: Mar 4
It's been a while since I've done a TTRPG review, and I knew exactly which one I wanted to look at next - Inspirisles! As soon as I joined this amazing community, it was a game that drew my attention because of the rich story concept, inclusion for the deaf community, and the gorgeous art. Just look at the front cover, designed by Mythic Comics Art!
Created by Hatchlings Games, Inspirisles is described as followed:
"Experiencing visions of a mythical land throughout childhood, you are guided to a kingdom ruled by the fae. Responsible for a pact made long ago by your ancestors, Arthur & Guinevere Pendragon, you must now earn Belief and the respect of their gods to secure your ticket back home.
Play as teens gifted extraordinary powers.
Meet famous characters and fearsome creatures from Celtic folklore.
Work together to heal an ailing land and restore a fractured kingdom.
Learn British and American sign language as you cast spells, solve puzzles and battle monsters.
Inspirisles is a completely original all ages Tabletop RPG promoting storytelling, empathy and Deaf awareness with an emphasis on cooperation."
This game design appealed to me for a number of reasons - firstly I just LOVE mythology (had you noticed?) and a whole game based around Arthurian legend and Celtic myth is really my jam. I think it really does a great job of re-inventing a lot of that lore but bringing in recognisable elements too. As well as that, I love the inclusion of ASL and BSL as a core mechanic in the game. Sign language is something I have always wanted to learn and I really think that it is important to try and include it in school curriculums or educate people on the basics! I love that this game comes ready to teach people something new that can be applied to real life situations, but in a super fun way! Thirdly...did I mention the art? I mean LOOK! It is so pretty and really evokes the spirit of the game itself. Excellent job!
CONCEPT: So let's take a deeper look at the plot of this game and see what it's all about! You start the game by choosing to either be the Grail Guide (GM) or a Pendragon (Player) and the primary objective is to find ways of collecting 'Belief', a powerful energy that the fae living in The Islands need in order to remove the curse placed upon the World Tree and keep it from dying. Players are playing the descendants of Arthur and Guinevere Pendragon and are honouring a pact made by Guinevere many years ago, after Arthur fell in battle. Much of this world is aligned with the four elements - fire, earth, water, and air - and so each player character will choose to represent one of these and gain unique abilities and skills based on their choice. The story has much to it, but is fun to follow and of course its ties with mythology were really awesome to see!
SET-UP: This game is played at its best with five players (one Grail Guide and four Pendragon players - one representing each element). There are rules that allow it to be played with a minimum of three players however if the need exists. The game runs using only d6s (six-sided dice) and set-up recommends three per participant. There are also provided Sign Language handouts as well as the need for pencils and erasers if you aren't playing digitally. Once you have everything needed accessible, the game begins.
The Grail Guide begins by planning QUESTING DAYS. These are split into various different archetypes and the rule book provides tools that allow easy creation of these challenges. The book also provides SAFETY TOOLS that allow players to list their triggers and phobias, skip scenarios that are making them uncomfortable, check-in at the end of each questing day, and leave the table if they need to. Players start by picking choices from a variety of options presented to build their character. I created a character first by picking the NAME (Clara Pendragon) and PRONOUNS (She/Her). Players are then encouraged to pick a FRIEND that is a member of the Fae, and they can do so by choosing a memory from the MEMORY LIST that they feel drawn to. I chose 'whirring cogs' and that led me to a 'Piskie' that lives in the 'Barrow' and so they became my FRIEND and HOME choices. I then chose the ELEMENT and PATRON I wanted to be associated with, which was 'Fire' and 'Kilna'. These choices are what give you your powers that can be used within the game! Lastly - I got to choose some other fun things such as HOBBIES, meaningful ITEMS and describe my SANCTUARY.
GAMEPLAY: What I loved about the rulebook was that it illustrated each chapter with very clear examples on what that may look like in action. Grail Guides guide the players through various challenge-based QUESTING DAYS by creating scenarios, combats, and tests. Their prime purpose is to narrate these events as if they were Arthur or Guinevere proudly narrating their ancestor's heroic deeds. Players must collect 'Belief', and in doing so they strengthen the skill and progression of their characters by becoming more advanced in their SHAPES. During these challenges they roll 3d6 and dependant on the score, they either fail, succeed or roll an 'unshakable' success with extra boons.
If a player is required to run away from something, then the archetypal test is SPEED. Clara rolled a 14 while doing so and managed to keep ahead of her pursuers, lighting the darkness with her bright fire. She then rolled a 17 while looking for a place to hide and spotted a small cubby hole to squeeze into, lit up by the flames. Unfortunately, while attempting to hide, the archetypal test became SURVIVAL and she rolled a 6. She squeezed into the hole but failed to put her bright flame out in time and was discovered.
At the end of the day, players can spend time roleplaying with their fellow Pendragons and answering questions to build their characters. It's a very simple system that contains plenty of opportunity for building relationships, character development and creative decision-making.
CONCLUSION: There is so much to rave about with this game! The system is very simple which means it can be picked up easily by children, teens, or adults; and it is educational and inclusive too! It's definitely a great game to play with family as well as friends and I really loved that about it. I also loved the lore-building surrounding the world in which it is set and the inhabitants of that world, the opportunity for deep or simple role-play, and the fact that it addressed player safety and mental health.
If you want to purchase a copy of Inspirisles then check out Hatchlings Games's website for more information! They are a company on a mission to spread empathy and awareness surrounding the Deaf community and the game promotes confidence and teamwork which is wonderful! They are also planning to release Overisles, the direct sequel to Inspirisles, and you can find their pre-launch Kickstarter page here. They are launching the campaign in February 2022, so make sure you sign up to be notified!
Have you ever played Inspirisles? Let me know!