My name is Rob Martin and I love tabletop gaming. When I was 13, my cousin gave me his old Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books and it was all over from there! For over 30 years, I’ve played D&D and other fantasy games and frankly have grown bored with the tired old European-based settings. We get it: you read Tolkien. Over those decades, I’ve seen gamers and nerds become a more and more diverse community, and yet the settings in which they’re playing are still filled with straight, pale shining knights worshipping approximations of Celtic gods. Other cultures, genders, and worldviews are beginning to get representation here and there, but we have so much more work to do and I want to help.
Humanity has such beautiful diversity that is just begging for adventures. I decided that I wanted to make a fantasy setting in which my European ancestors’ cultures were moved aside to make room for other people’s stories. I don’t want to appropriate anyone’s cultures or experiences, so I knew I couldn’t, shouldn’t, and wouldn’t do this alone so I started Secret Garden Games. I am a botanist by trade and the company is named for the book that began my love of plants. As a gardener, it is my job to make a space that brings together a diverse array of beauty and provide them all of the things they need to grow and thrive. That’s the goal of Secret Garden Games.
So our first project will be a 5th Edition-compatible setting inspired by non-European cultures and mythologies. I have utterly fallen in love with the dizzying diversity and rich history of the Philippines, so it is there that we begin our adventure. In the real world, the Philippine archipelago has historically been a crossroads for so many cultures in Asia and is home to a bewildering array of people, languages, islands, and spirits. We have joined forces to collaborate with Filipino and Indonesian writers, artists, and mythologists to begin forming the islands of Bukana. Meaning “gateway,” this prosperous, magical archipelago is the commercial hub of our blossoming world where a visitor can see travelers inspired by cultures throughout Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and even Meso- and South America. We plan on launching a Kickstarter for the initial books in 2021.