Guest Article: Attention Span Games – Creating the World of Big Eyes, Small Brains

Building a World of Adventure: Creating the World of Big Eyes, Small Brains
By Samantha Ferreira

If you had told me, five years ago that I’d co-create an RPG with one of my best friends, I probably would have given you a side-eyed glance. While I’ve always enjoyed tabletop gaming, both as an adventurer and a dungeon master, the thought of actually crafting a world, of building an actual universe for other people to play in, felt like a distant dream.

So, when L.B. came to me in 2017, I was genuinely floored. What he pitched seemed straightforward at first: a simple, six-month project, where we flesh out a world and build against a bible that L.B. had written. At the time, it seemed straightforward, and our timetable seemed fair, to say lightly. However, like a crafty DM, the gods of fate are incredibly fond of plot twists.

And so am I.

Humble Origins

While tabletop role-playing games have been a fairly large part of my life, I didn’t have my first brush with with the medium until I was in my second year of high school. Up until then, my game of choice was Magic: The Gathering, funny enough.

A friend of mine invited me to join my first campaign during lunch one day. Dungeons and Dragons’ 3rd Edition had just come out, and we were rolling our characters for the first time. It was to be a quick adventure, down into the caverns of a mountain that were rumored to be a goblin hideout.

For two weeks, we explored the caverns, fighting, exploring, and looting, until our DM got bored, and unleashed a Green Dragon upon our party, leading to a total wipe. It was an anticlimactic end, but I’ll never forget just how fun that was.

From that day on, I was hooked, and always looking-for-group. I’d play tabletop RPGs off and on over the years, bouncing between games and rulesets as I sought to slake my thirst for adventure.

Some nights, I’d join my friend’s D&D group, and we’d journey through mysterious forests and ornate cities of elvish design as we sought fame and fortune.

Others, I’d host unrealistic anime-themed adventures in the GURPS system, as we mashed our favorite shows together in a chaotic mishmash of tropes and silliness.

And others, still, I’d join a few buddies for a few nights, as we blew off steam from our daily lives with adventures in the Pathfinder system.

Through it all, I was fortunate enough to have wonderful DMs to learn from, whose primary rules were “make it interesting, make it fun.” We approached our adventures with gusto and a sense of humor, and were rewarded with a few truly remarkable adventures that we’ll never forget.

By 2010, though, life had gotten in the way. I was graduating from university, and entering the workforce. At the same time, I was in the early stages of starting Anime Herald: a venture that would become a gigantic part of my life going forward.

Eventually, the time for adventures began to dwindle. The days became weeks, which became months, before slipping into years.

To be honest, I have to thank the opportunity given to me in Big Eyes, Small Brains, as it reignited my passion for tabletop gaming.

The Development Process

As I mentioned earlier, the initial pitch for Big Eyes, Small Brains was to be a six-month project… which was originally supposed to be a six-month solo project helmed by L.B. When I joined in at the six-month mark, we had a basic story treatment and a list of regions. The rest was a blank canvas, a playground upon which the two of us would build a new world of adventure.

The two of us were charged with building this new realm, this mysterious, anime-flavored place known only as “Abika.”

Over the next two years, L.B. and I got into a rhythm. Every night, L.B. and I would meet up on Discord or Google Messenger to swap notes. He’d write one segment, and pass it off. I’d read through, edit, and expand upon the skeleton, adding in my own ideas and flourishes, or creating landmarks and lore to really help the topic pop.

From the outset, the one rule L.B. and I had, no exceptions, was “we had to be having fun doing this.” After all: if we weren’t enjoying it, our players wouldn’t either. So, with that in mind, we set off to work.

It was always a back and forth where we’d try to one-up each other on who could make the other laugh the hardest, while balancing the hard question of “how do we make this world into one cohesive, incredible place that people would want to journey through?” We’d make each other laugh with joke characters, and debate how deep we wanted our anime cuts to go, or whether we were going too far with our jabs.

And, sometimes, we pondered to ourselves about what kinds of adventures would be going on, in this amazing, offbeat, astounding realm, where idols could take a tour in places where dragons fly, or sword-wielding heroes could strut their stuff in the big city. The countless people we hadn’t written out, the little stories that have yet to be told… it was exciting to just talk about this on some nights, and imagine players really building up Abika into their own special place.

Looking Ahead

The future is a funny, fickle thing. Nobody knows what awaits, or what adventures await for us as we grow older and wiser.

For now, though, all L.B. and I can do is hope, and pray that you enjoy your time exploring Abika. Let your hair down, crank some Eurobeat, and get ready for some fun, tongue-in-cheek fun with an anime flair. To say that the two of us are die-hard fans of anime is an understatement. For us, it’s a raison d’etre, a reason that we get up and out of bed each day. It’s our passion, and our lifeblood, and we owe it a debt for the countless memories we’ve enjoyed.

At the same time, tabletop gaming is an irreplaceable part of our lives, which neither of us would trade for the world. Big Eyes, Small Brains is the culmination of our many years in both worlds… and we both welcome you to take those first, brave steps, with our blessing on this wonderful world.

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