I had the opportunity to chat with Rich about Hatchling and Inspirisles. I am excited to share this experience with you and cannot wait to play Inspirisles!
Hatchlings, an entertainment company with Rich Oxenham at the helm, is designed to promote deaf awareness and teach sign language through role-play experiences. The recently funded Kickstarted project Inspirisles is a fun TTRPG that is part RPG and part educational tool. It aims to teach British or American Sign Language to its players.
Berry (she/her): Can you tell me a little bit about Hatchling Games?
Rich (he/him): I moved house with my family just after my wife gave birth to our second daughter. At the same time, I was craving a new venture since finishing a Master’s degree. Around the corner from our new place was an outreach charity called Community at 67. They were running all manner of evening classes, so I proposed a Dungeons & Dragons TTRPG group for local teens. After advertising on Facebook, the interest was unexpectedly high, to the point where I had to turn away a number of families. After DMing for a regular group of 8-12 teens for around 6 months and realizing how beneficial the classes were, I decided to give the group a name. Hatchlings was born and alongside a growing Twitter community, I began to take A passion for roleplaying more seriously.
Berry: What was the inspiration behind what would eventually become Inspirisles?
Rich: The Hatchlings were the main influence behind Inspirisles. We were playing through the 5e adventure Waterdeep Dragon Heist and though the kids were being typically inventive and pushing my improv skills, I kept thinking ‘what if we crafted and playtested a world together? Did I have the time and energy to build something from scratch that incorporated my passions and was more teen-friendly.’ After talking to mutuals on Twitter and researching this creative process, I felt it was possible. The idea of incorporating sign language came much later. Having worked for a deaf charity for over a decade and being passionate about deaf awareness and culture, I hoped to combine the two elements.
Berry: A cool aspect about this game is the way in which spell casting teaches players sign language. In what other ways does Hatchling Games strive to promote inclusion within the TTRPG space?
Rich: Inclusivity was our focus from the very start. As well as the sign language, we are making the content dyslexia friendly through its fonts, colouring and layout. We are also striving to make the game accessible to teens as young as 13. This can only be achieved through clarity of language and mechanics. The imagery throughout also acknowledges diversity, with the teens at the heart of the game representing different races, genders and even body types.
Berry: How would you describe your experience with crowdfunding and marketing Inspirisles?
Rich: It was a mixed experience. As we are a small family of creatives and were only expecting to raise £1k, when it exceeded thirty thousand, it was clear the project had grown far beyond our initial vision. Obviously this will result in a beautiful product, especially when pouring every penny into production, but I was suddenly thrust into a project manager role, dealing with 6 professional artists, contracts and deadlines. But we’re pragmatic now. The next Kickstarter will be far simpler and manageable.
Berry: What do you see on the horizon for Hatchling Games?
Rich: Well we’re now a limited company which is exciting and terrifying. As well as delivering Inspirisles to the best of our ability, we want to localise in various countries to represent the many variants of sign language abroad. Beyond this we have the next Kickstarter launching towards the end of the summer and a few exciting collaborations. We also want to take Inspirisles into school settings, which was the intention before COVID struck and remains at the heart of our TTRPG.
Berry: For those who are inspired to join you on your journey, what are some additional resources, charities, or causes they could look into?
Rich: As soon as Inspirisles is published, we intend to work in conjunction with the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS). We really hope our game inspires players to pursue sign language beyond our fun introduction.
*Photo Credit: Hatchlings Games
Artists @mythiccomicsart, @luseals, @agirish11
Writer & Voice Actor @Kessa_Brae
System Designer @LiamHocking1
Rich’s Contact Information