Back in 2021, my friend Dan Sumption held a kickstarter for his book Mostly Harmless Meetings and I signed up, even though this wasn’t my usual sort of reading. The book contains a series of ‘encounters’ to be used in role-playing games. Dan describes the project as “a TTRPG zine containing tables for random countryside encounters with birds, beasts, trees, plants, and landscapes“.
I read Dan’s book book cover-to-cover last week, treating it like a strange piece of literature. It definitely works that way, becoming a sort of Borgesian/Oulippian take on British rural folklore, with a series of creatures and things you might meet. Dan’s encounters describe a place that is definitely England but a little.. wonky. An environment of woodland and hedges, with strange quests delivered by small creatures. It’s a place you could run into enchanted trees, rabbit funerals or talking spiders. The book is also beautifully illustrated with “art by dead artists”.
Mostly Harmless Meetings is an interesting example of Indie publishing. Dan joined a “zine jam” at the end of 2021, setting up a kickstarter for the zine, with a budget of £400 to print and post 50 magazines. The project boomed, receiving over 250 pledges. My favourite thing about the zine was the feeling of an ephemeral community building up around the project. It’s got me thinking about how Kickstarter seems to be its own genre.
The board games and role-playing communities are going through an incredibly exciting time, and Dan’s work through Peakrill Press is part of this. It’s a long way from the role-playing games that were around when I was a teenager, heavily in debt to heroic fantasy and epic sci-fi. Mostly Harmless Meetings is a glimpse into this wider world, and has me curious about what else is out there.
Dan is currently working on his next zine, Learning to Draw Trees, about a drawing experiment he tried in 2021 and what he learned from it – which also features a simple role-playing game by Côme Martin called You Are a Tree where you get to play a tree. I can’t wait to read that. There is a Peakrill Press mailing list, which you can subscribe to from their site.If you want to follow what I'm up to, sign up to my mailing list