After working on the one-page RPG Hold your Own all through May it's finally ready enough to release it to the world. I'm proud of how it has turned out and I've had a number of fun playtest sessions with friends. If you find some time to play, I'd love to hear to your feedback!
So, let's talk a little bit about how it all came together, shall we?
The start of Hold your Own felt a lot like I just stumbled over it instead of coming up with the idea. Earlier in the morning I had seen a video of Kate Tempest performing her poem Hold Your Own and it stuck with me. As I sat down to write my morning pages for the day ideas of community and belonging bubbled up and quickly congealed into the core concept:
At it's heart Hold your Own is a game about identity, community and sacrifice.
What it is about
I stumbled on the concept because there always has been a certain type of pathos in stories that rarely fails to give me goosebumps. It's people stepping up in a moment of crisis and defending their friends and their communities. Ready to sacrifice if they need to. There is power in these stories and I wanted to make a simple role-playing game that could tell these kinds of stories.
It has such impact on me because there is a deep seated need for community and belonging within me. It has always been very important part of who I am and has had (and continues to have) a profound influence on my actions. I have often found myself organizing game nights, regular meetups or online communities. Only subconsciously aware of that need for the first 30 years of my life.
To that end, Hold your Own asks questions about who you belong to and who belongs to you. Who are "your own?" And who isn't? And what are these people worth to you? What are you freely willing to give up to save them? And what wouldn't you give up? Your future? Your past? Your life?
The bonds that bind us
This idea is where the bonds mechanic in HYO comes from. The idea for ambition was there from the very first notes. It is a representation of your character's potential for growth and it just felt powerful to have that be a tangible thing in the mechanics. Something that you could sacrifice and that would leave you diminished.
That said, there is only so much space on one page. I had to cut out a lot of text to make it all fit. And making the narrative value of the bonds clear might have fallen a little short. The epilogue is where the sacrifice or preservation of these bonds really shows its head but people might not keep that in mind as they play. And that is the main reason why bonds can be activated. This gives players a mechanical incentive that helps to make the bonds tangible by adding characters and by naming these people.
And that's how the game came together on my end. Of course no man is an island. And as such this game grew out of the community of game developers and media creators. The obvious connection and inspiration is Kate Tempest's poem as the initial spark. And darkly mysterious coming-of-age stories like Steven King's It or Stand by Me or the Stranger Things series.
And as far as games are concerned, the wonderful Fiasco was the first rotating-GM game I played, and ideas for the epilogue were inspired by its outcome mechanics. And then there's beta version of Geiger Counter from Jonathan Walton, which I unfortunately never got to play but which stuck with me for a long time. It aims to model classic horror movies such as Alien, with dice slowly building up to a menace. Which is where the core idea for the menace mechanics in Hold your Own came from.
And I'm sure there's plenty of other inspiration in there that I'm not directly aware of.
So thank you to everyone for making games, a special thanks to all my playtesters and thank you for checking out Hold your Own!