Ruta Smith

What’s an RPG? It’s simple: it’s you and a group of friends sitting around a table and yelling at each other all night. Kidding, of course (sort of).

RPGs, role-playing games, are fueled by imagination. It’s a game that you and your friends make together. At its core, RPGs are a way to tell stories with your friends and go on crazy adventures together, fighting the bad guys (or being the bad guys), finding treasure, overcoming obstacles, and solving puzzles or mysteries together.

Using the characters you’ve created, you and your friends make decisions together (which can result in lots of arguing) to advance the story and develop each others’ characters.

It’s possible to play an RPG from scratch, but if you need some inspiration, a book of ideas (often called an “Adventure”) is always beneficial.

Inspired by games like Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) and Pathfinder, Lowcountry Crawl is a historical fiction RPG adventure book, rooted in 19th century Southern United States history, created by David Schirduan and John Gregory. Both were born and raised in the South; they grew up tromping around the marshes and listening to local legends around Saint Helena.

Lowcountry Crawl is compatible with D&D-style games, but reflects old-school first edition D&D in tone. Standard D&D and RPG mechanics like the 20-sided die, armor class, HP, etc. are used.

Unfortunately, Lowcountry Crawl isn’t for first time RPG players; it’s meant to be content and inspiration for an existing D&D group.

For newbies, Schirduan published Bone Marshes in June 2018. It’s a complete RPG, recommended for first-time players, containing rules and an adventure for players to become familiar with RPG basics.

And shortly after publishing, Schirduan and Gregory met and with their shared interests in games and the South, made their own uniquely southern adventure.

“I was still in a ‘magical marshes’ kind of mood after publishing Bone Marshes,” Schirduan says. “Around mid-August I met John on an online forum and decided that his incredible work deserved to be in a nice-looking book, so I pitched him the idea of making a little zine.”

Instead of the high fantasy Tolkien-inspired or sci-fi Lovecraftian-style RPGs, Lowcountry Crawl revolves around Gullah legend and stories of the South.

“Growing up the Lowcountry, I found myself surrounded by nearly 300 years of history,” Gregory said. “It’s easy to get caught up in the ‘romance’ of the South, but the real history is far less rosy and far more complex.”

With the help of Akelah Adams of Salt and Sage Books, Lowcountry Crawl brings light to an under-explored piece of 19th century history, bringing life to some of its more outrageous elements and tales.

In the first issue of Lowcountry Crawl, players can explore over a dozen locations on four barrier islands, and encounter creatures with special Omens, ghost pirate ships, and a mad scientist. It also includes tools to create your own islands and environments for players to explore.

A standard session might start in St. Erasmus, where players will learn about the ghost hauntings in the Chapel of Ease, or speak with the mad scientist in the lighthouse on Folly Point, or check out the pirate cove of Blackwater Bay.

Lowcountry Crawl is a very free-form RPG adventure book, and players aren’t restricted to what’s confined in the zine. Anything can happen.

The zine is available online for $5 for a PDF, or $10 for both a PDF and print copy. Twenty percent of proceeds made from Lowcountry Crawl will go to the Penn Center, an African-American cultural and educational center on Saint Helena Island.

“We’re hoping that this zine attracts the attention of those who share a heritage with the residents of this period and place in history,” Schirduan says.

“RPGs are an opportunity to hang out with friends more frequently and a great way to share ideas and have fun. Hopefully more people will be open to play RPGs and enjoy them as much as I do.”

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