When screenwriter and tabletop game designer Spenser Starke suddenly lost his mother in 2016, he immediately took on the emotional burden of his father, as well as that of his grandmother and maternal aunt. Squatting like that, he told Polygon in an interview, left no emotional oxygen for his own grief.
This came later, when Starke designed Alice has disappeared, a collaborative storytelling RPG set in an imaginary Pacific Northwest town where a group of friends search for their missing friend. The mystery, told through cards and set to a bespoke playlist of moody indie melodies, twists the familiar by limiting players to non-verbal, indirect communication: no words, no noises, no gestures bodily, only text on a cell phone.
Now Starke is preparing for crowdfunding Alice Has Disappeared: The Silent Falls, an additional collection of maps – clues, locations, suspects, etc. – which nearly doubles the original number and complicates Alice’s search. Players can add as many or as few of these cards to the base deck as they wish. Nothing is mandatory, and each addition has been designed to fit perfectly into the little box that became a surprise hit when it launched in 2020.
Many of these new ideas were thrown around from the beginning and were cut from the original production of Alice has disappeared to create what Starke called an MVP, or “the most viable product,” for Kickstarter.
“I’ve literally been tweaking the cards in the expansion since the game launched to give people the ability to tell new stories with the game and to provide an extra level of narrative challenge,” Starke said. “It was a game that I never thought people would play because it’s just weird and emotional and type 2 fun. But it’s coming from a very real place.
Alice has disappeared follows the disappearance of Alice Briarwood, a high school girl from Northern California with a group of friends – created and played by the players – determined to find out what happened. In a single approximately three-hour session, players discuss via one-on-one text chat what they think happened as more clues are revealed and probable culprits emerge. Guided by card prompts and a ticking timer, the group will discover how someone’s absence can tear a community apart, revealing uncomfortable truths along the way.
“[The game] was originally born out of this desire to make a game that captured the emotional landscape I was going through at that time, which is why you’re not going to figure it out on your own,” Starke said. unfold. You’re not going to Sherlock Holmes this thing. It’s intentional.
Starke said he’s always been drawn to “emotional, indie video games” such as life is strange, Without beef, and fire watchand Alice has disappeared consciously draws on “comfortable but also fucked up” vibes to build its atmosphere of familiar-turned-strange, a cracked mirror through which you might see your own past. Not so much a rug pull as a vulnerability mechanism, Alice has disappearedde’s tendency to evoke surprisingly strong reactions while sitting quietly in a darkened room has earned it quite a reputation within the table community.
The silent falls The expansion is designed for groups to tackle after a few basic play sessions. He disagrees with this comeback being called a director’s cut or a definitive edit. He usually does not like to touch his creative works again after they have been released into the world and into the hands of an audience. But this project looks different, Starke said. The timing seemed good.
Players will find three new suspects who may be tied to Alice’s disappearance, and each will throw a wrench into how veteran players understand the social fabric of Silent Falls. The first is Officer Prescott, the town sheriff, whose involvement means players are unlikely to turn to the police for help. Another, Alice’s estranged father, John Harwood, raises the specter of domestic problems and rotten family dynamics. The latest is a new student who quickly befriends Alice and inserts herself into the group, raising the vibes and forcing everyone to think about their own connection to the now missing girl.
Starke is obviously interested in interrogating power structures via the small-town simulacra of Silent Falls. What does it mean when people you ostensibly trust could use their authority to hide a heinous crime? How do traditional family roles freeze a relationship after long years of resentment? What do we assume of people close to us, and what are they afraid to reveal, lest we judge them?
Revisiting Silent Falls should hopefully feel like reigniting a fire among players, Starke said. Even after all the playtesting, feedback, and iterations, he admits to feeling more nervous than he ever did while designing the original experience. It is an electrical energy that he needs for the process of creation.
“The things that scare me are the things that excite me the most. If I’m not, then I haven’t done my job. I didn’t push myself,” Starke said. “It’s going to be really exciting for me to see people use the prompts I gave them to tell me stories. I love having this opportunity again.
Alice Has Disappeared: The Silent Falls launches on Starter from February 14 and will be hosted by the publisher hunter entertainmentthe company responsible for Children on bikes, Altered Carbon The Roleplaying Gameand Hatching: Undead.