Anarchist Creative Writing Class? Spell Casting Simulator? Why not Both?
Alex G. Friedman
FairyVerse is an eco-punk storytelling poetry game for small groups. I got to play a beta version last year while the game was in its revision stages, and it was a fresh, memorable, fun time. I found the game so intriguing that when I ran into author/illustrator/developer Kaleem Kheshgi recently while I was in my cups at a birthday party, I immediately shoved a twenty into his hands and ran off with his demo copy. The game retails at five dollars.
FairyVerse takes about 90 minutes to play, perhaps two hours if your players all want to read through the rules first. It is a fun game for people of all ages who like to write. In my experience, it works best if you can play it with a group of people who already do creative activities together, but it would probably work in the right afterschool library gaming group. It’s a great way to introduce more creativity to an established gaming table. An invested group of players will likely walk away from a game of FairyVerse with a few new inside jokes.
Kaleem and I caught up after the party over email, and he shared some of his thoughts about the game. (The following has been compiled and edited for clarity.)
AF: How did you come up with FairyVerse?
K: My initial inspiration came from an intersection of my lifelong love of cartoons and my lifelong love of song and songwriting. I have always loved the animated film FernGully, and I watch it every year or two and enjoy it so much. Robin Williams’ one-liners are amazing, and Tim Curry’s villain is great, but what jumped out to me in 2020 was that the fairies in FernGully had magic of two kinds: They had some passive magic, and they had powerful rhyming incantations for magic spells. In Fern Gully, the initial incident that shrinks Zak-the-human down to fairy size comes from Crista the fairy misspeaking her spell, “Bless your eyes with magic light, I give the gift of fairy size… oh, sight!” I thought I’d try to turn Crista’s magic spell – and the resulting magical mishaps – into a game.
AF: What can you tell us about the fairies and the lore in FairyVerse?
K: I left a lot of gaps and holes in the lore/worldbuilding space. I basically cut all of the lore that I wrote except for the bare minimum needed to support the procedures of play. I want it to be OK for players to play a FairyVerse game where ‘fairy’ is whatever each player wants it to be, and they can play and write together in the same game. I couldn’t decide if my fairies were birthed or hatched from acorns, if my fairies design and wear high fashion or grow their own leafy garments as part of their bodies, or if they walk and get muddy or float or fly and never touch the ground, and on and on. I decided to just omit my fairies and instead let players decide who they are, and to give them the opportunity to coexist in their games as they play. FernGully fairies with Tinkerbell, with Prince Cornelius and Titania from Thumbelina, with Darkwood Fairies from the Fable games, with someone who wants to be Midna from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, it’s all good! I feel like I may have left too blank of a canvas for players that want more structure, but I’m glad that I left the door open for players who want to stretch “fairy” to fit their fantasy.
AF: Are you planning to continue to develop the game post-release?
K: I’m not sure what’s next for FairyVerse, but I’m hoping to host something like picnic and play-alongs this year once the weather is nicer, and I’ll definitely consider hosting Zoom games if folks want to play remotely, I’ve done that before. I didn’t find out about itch.io’s annual Fae Jam until Fae Jam 2021 had ended, but I have two half-baked add-ons that I may be able to finish during the Jam if there is a Fae Jam 2022.
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The game can be purchased at https://kaleemk.itch.io/fairyverse.