During Zinequest 2021, I wrote a piece at Mere Orthodoxy about the design choices and theology behind Back Again from the Broken Land, a game I wrote together with my husband. The game is Tolkien-inspired—it’s about small adventures walking home from a big war.
Part of our goal was making it Tolkien-like in the action of grace, not just the physical setting. I wrote a little about how this shaped the character design for the Turncoat archetype in particular.
Like Cain, the Turncoat finds that their presence proclaims the fact of their betrayal. Whatever they do to make amends happens in the shadow of the evil they’ve done. But Back Again from the Broken Land isn’t a story of despair. My aim was to take sin seriously, in order to be able to treat grace with gravity.
Thus, the Turncoat’s options for their Gift are meant to be a salve for the ache of their guilt. Their Gear is something they can’t escape, but I wanted the Gift they received on their journey to also have this haunting quality. The Turncoat chooses from these options:
A cooling breeze you can’t leave behind
A snatch of song you can’t forget
A draught that you can’t drink dry
I wanted to write gifts that might feel unwelcome to someone who feels unworthy. I imagined a Turncoat who would throw away or abandon any material gift, just as we can choose to isolate ourselves and turn away help when we feel mired in our sins. Thus, each Gift is meant to suggest the Hound of Heaven.