Artwork for Frosthaven showing a man fighting a frost giant

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Frosthaven Narrative Overhauled with Cultural Consultant

May 17, 2021

By: Tyler Chancey

 
 

In a recent update for the co-op fantasy board game Frosthaven, the lead designer has announced major parts of the narrative were being rewritten.

Lead Designer Isaac Childres started the post talking about how Frosthaven was coming along, the sequel to the massively successful Gloomhaven. The post continues to talk about the addition of team members adding to the production, including James Mendez Hodes as a cultural consultant for the game. It is here that Childres sums up the reason for the update. Thanks to Hodes' input, major narrative elements of Frosthaven are going to be rewritten, not just to give players more agency in the game, but to help lessen and eliminate negative derogatory cultural stereotypes.

 

The rest of the post goes on for several paragraphs where Childres covers his bases. He mentions the problem of just treating the world of Frosthaven as a pure fantasy world divorced from our reality and how cultural sensitivity shouldn't be a problem. "I am creating my own fantasy world completely divorced from reality, and so I can do whatever I want with the peoples in this world. There's no risk of harming anyone, because it's not real. This is a big problem, however, because nothing is created in a vacuum. Everything we do is stamped with our own biases and influences. And while the intent may be to not harm, our biases have a tendency to cause harm anyway."

Concept art from Gloomhaven depicting a marketplace
See if you can spot the harmful stereotypes. Trust me, there's a few.


Cultures, for better and for worse, influence creative works, and being mindful of the potentially damaging elements is a step towards amending them. Childres insists that all of these decisions will not affect the fundamental gameplay of Frosthaven. Much like its predecessor, it will still be a brutal experience full of hard choices, the only changes are purely narrative context. In fact, Childres even recognizes that elements of Gloomhaven fell short of this sensitivity, citing the controversial ending to narrative scenario 3 which involves the murder of children.

 
 

But above all, Childres makes it clear this is to make sure that Frosthaven is a better experience that welcomes more players to the table. That fewer people are turned off by potentially tone-deaf cliches or feel like they have no say in the subject matter the material discusses. For those who feel harmed or offended by this shift in tone, Childres has offered refunds. However, if there were elements of Gloomhaven that felt off or wrong, this is a sign that the people involved recognize mistakes that were made and are trying to be better.