Millennium Bugs logo by Hazel Dixon and Erin Marsh

Millennium Bugs was an online urban fantasy larp by Bobbit Worm Games about characters with low-level superpowers ('glitches') building community, resisting capitalism, and making art together. 

I was part of a small design team who worked remotely over Zoom and Discord. We were given an initial pitch by the creative leads at Bobbit Worm and used that as a jumping-off point to create the game's setting. We had a lot of creative freedom and worked on worldbuilding, mechanical design and early narrative ideation in groups that ran parallel to each other. Like many designers on the team I moved fluidly between groups during this early stage, such that my mechanical design was informed by knowledge of the game world and intended narrative themes (and vice versa).

Writing & Design Samples

Once we'd established these overarching aspects of the game, we moved on to planning specific events. We split into independent groups for each event, with each group focused on a different plot thread. I collaborated with other designers and writers to design plot and NPCs and write briefing documents to communicate desired plot beats, character motivations, and logistical considerations to the rest of the team. I also wrote and copyedited in-game documents, and acted as a sensitivity and accessibility consultant. 

A screenshot of a comment from the Millennium Bugs in-character Discord, made by "NPC: DRAGON". The comment reads" WOW. We #love #glitch what #smashing piece! Try and get it if you can! ALL UNIQUE NFT, buy today!" Attached to the comment is a screenshot of a player character's comment from elsewhere in the Discord, overlaid with a blue watermark featuring a white picture of a dragon and the word "DRAGON". The watermarked screenshot reads: "People would LOVE to have a glitch at their doors. No love, you can get a smashing if you try"
Dragon, a sentient AI NPC,  stealing a PC's comment to sell as an NFT. I directed Cara Packwood who played them during the event to take slang used by the PCs and reuse it in entirely the wrong context. In this case, they took 'get a smashing' and turned it into inappropriately cheery marketing copy! (User profile pictures censored to protect their privacy). 
Image description: a screenshot from a Google Doc that reads "Tone: cheerful, sometimes excessively so! Almost normal human interaction, but like, a little to the left. Accumulating wealth is the most important thing in the world; humans who don't understand this should be reminded of how convenient your services are, in case they are forgetful or confused, which are the two most common states for humans. End image description
Image description: a screenshot of a Google Doc that reads: 51. Hackers. Pro - you can hack into any network without any issues, no matter what security is used. Con - you only get two minutes before your brain overloads and yanks you out, and you can only do this once per network. End image description
Above: An excerpt from the NPC briefing doc for Dragon (designed and written collaboratively with Jon Fry, Laurence Owen and Gilraen Pendragon). Below: One of many superpowers ('glitches') players could be randomly assigned for this campaign (written by myself). We wanted players to focus on the social and identity implications of their glitches rather than the powers themselves, so every glitch was designed to be interesting but limited in use.
The second testimonial, from Sandy Williams, reads: "Knoll-over-Dale is a gorgeous facility situated in a beautiful environment, with a high standard of cleanliness. My brother and I wanted only the best for our father, and we've been very happy with the results. It's a lovely place for us to visit, and for him to stay of course!" The third testimonial box has been vandalised and reads, with multiple spelling and punctuation mistakes, "these are fake quotes I'm the only fucker here! Come to the staff entrance! It isn't safe for me out here." The box also contains an encoded message; a short string of letters. There are other messages strewn across the page that seem out of place, which read: "what month did Caesar die? Then, turn me, that many times," "From the Source", as well as a repeat of the encoded string from the third testimonial box.
An in-universe website that formed the basis for an ARG-like puzzle. This outwardly innocuous healthcare facility was hiding some sinister secrets, and an NPC who had been kept there had hijacked the website in an attempt to seek help. I used the copy for these testimonials express a veneer of good intentions with an ableist outlook underneath, to add to the sense that something was wrong underneath the company's polished façade. (Web design by Laurence Owen; puzzle design by Laurence Owen and Jon Fry).

“Rowan was... an incredibly valuable member of the team. Their content was complex, interesting and extremely well-received by players. ...they were consistently prompt and vocal in team meetings, reliably delivering great content to deadlines whilst working remotely, and an excellent team player at all times. Their writing is very engaging and is able to pull on different facets of the medium to create brilliant content. ...Would highly recommend for writing, designing and sensitivity consultation work.” – Hazel Dixon and Erin Marsh, Creative Leads for Millennium Bugs at Bobbit Worm Games

During the events themselves I played NPCs and directed crew, via text and video chat in our Discord server. The game ran for two events in 2021 each with 20-30 players and I contributed to both, as well as designing plot for a cancelled third event that may be published in some form in the future.