Spirit Island: Nature Incarnate

Spirit Island: Nature Incarnate

Spirit Reveal: Towering Roots of the Jungle
3 months ago
by Greater Than Games
Welcome welcome to all 8955 of you! Thank you all for both backing and joining in on the fun! We’re climbing higher and higher on those numbers and achievements, which is fitting given the very botanical nature of this Incarna spirit! R. Eric Reuss, creator, and Emilia Katari, developer, write once again on this long-standing spirit that can be difficult to move. (Hey, it is rooted down.) Please take it away Eric and Emilia before any more puns are attempted.

Story

When the First Reckoning between the Dahan and the Spirits concluded, the Spirits wanted to keep track of the Dahan and what they were doing…

(…an important digression: I say “the Spirits” as if they were some sort of monolithic, united block.That’s completely untrue: they were (and are) an ecosystem, both figuratively and literally. There were plenty of disagreements among them, plenty of Spirits who took unilateral action according to their natures, plenty of other Spirits who acted to check those Spirits according to their natures, and so on. Many local Spirits never got involved in the first place, not even counting the vast numbers of Spirits who weren’t even close enough to be involved, as initial settlement by the ancestors of the Dahan was mostly confined to one part of the island. Much of this was behind the scenes and not super-evident to the humans involved, and time + the nature of stories have altered the tale enough that most such details wouldn’t have survived anyway.)

With that simplification understood - the Spirits had a variety of desires: to keep track of the Dahan and what they were doing, to understand them better, to support them living on the island, to enforce the terms of the First Reckoning, and more. A number of Spirits got involved in this, and one of the more obvious and prominent ones was Towering Roots of the Jungle.


Towering Roots of the Jungle was, at the time, simply the Spirit of a particularly immense tree. “Sheltering” was somewhat in its nature, as it shaded plants and animals beneath it from the full force of the tropical sun; it agreed to be a place where the Dahan could settle as they adapted to the demands of the island. It helped protect the land from damage the Dahan didn’t realize they were doing, helped protect the Dahan from dangerous Spirits and animals, and generally kept watch on things… when it had the attention to spare, which it often didn’t, in those early days.

As has been discussed before, Spirits may change for many reasons, some of which are related to the Dahan: being influenced by their existence on the island, bargains with them or oaths sworn to them, living among them, or reaching for change in order to better understand or interact with them in some way. It was not inevitable that Towering Roots of the Jungle would change due to these factors, but neither is it surprising that it did, particularly given that it was already a bit tangled by nature.

So it grew greater, taller, broader, more complex, and better able to do those things that it focused on: shelter, guard, protect. Until the start of the current conflict, it was not at all clear to the Dahan - perhaps even to most Spirits - that it was an Incarna: it existed entirely as a single (immense) tree already, with no real Presence elsewhere. As it extends itself to fight the Invaders, however, it becomes clear that there is a qualitative difference between its primary area of focus and its other offshoots.

Design

This qualitative difference - Towering Roots of the Jungle having special dominion over a particular area - is represented by what its Incarna can do:


First and foremost, humans and beasts cannot be hurt at its Incarna: it is a Spirit of sanctuary and protection, and does not allow harm to come to those under its branches.

(At the same time, it is a Spirit of and with authority, capable of casting Invaders out of its sanctuary. When it does so, those Invaders generally leave the island altogether, as it has been made viscerally clear to them - in a way they cannot rationally explain, they just know - that they are no longer safe here. This is represented by its right Innate Power, Revoke Sanctuary and Cast Out.)

It gets +1 Range when targeting from its Incarna - it is rooted and spread so strongly in the land with its Incarna that it can more readily affect nearby lands.

Its second Growth option lets it add a Vitality token at its Incarna. Vitality tokens are one-shot “cancel 1 Blight that would be added”, but only work if the land isn’t already Blighted. They’re one of a few Spirit-specific tokens in Nature Incarnate, though they’re also found on the thematic playmat (in lands 1, 5, and 6 of the Northwest board).

Finally, if Towering Roots is able to Empower its Incarna, it can suppress all Build actions where it is.

Towering Roots of the Jungle has the least mobile Incarna of all: it’s a very rooted Spirit, and changing where its Incarna is takes effort. Unlike most Spirits with Incarna, it doesn’t roam across the land; instead, it outright Replaces one of its existing Presence with its Incarna: the tree-system of its Presence in the chosen land grows even vaster and more tall as the locus of Tower Roots’ power twines its way over. Where its Incarna previously stood is still a vast tree, but it loses the almost supernatural dominion it had over that land - and possibly its connection to that land altogether, if it didn’t have other Presence there!

While Towering Roots is somewhat geographically constrained, it’s more generally very good at growing and changing (due to long practice, and being a growing, Plant-oriented tree-Spirit): it gains a new Power Card every turn except when Reclaiming. At the same time, it’s steadfast and constant - like many Earth and Sun-oriented Spirits, it can place Presence even when Reclaiming.

Dev Notes, by Emilia Katari

Towering Roots started out as one of the potential spirits for Horizons of Spirit Island, with a Gathering innate power, and a Heart-Tree that wasn’t an Incarna, but instead could be “placed” at one of your Sacred Sites each turn. There was nothing wrong with it, but we thought that it would work well thematically with an Incarna, and that it might benefit from a little more complexity than was ideal for the Horizons spirits. Also, we were really happy with all the Spirits that ended up in Horizons right out the gate, so it ended up being moved to Nature Incarnate for a little extra dev time, and access to having an Incarna, which would contribute to the massive, stationary feel of the Tree. 

The Incarna has gone through a lot of changes over the course of time. At one point, it prevented all damage and Blight where it was, and at one point it doubled all Invader removal and Gathering at its location. These effects ended up being somewhat overcentralizingly powerful, so it changed to its current form, where it’s always useful to extend the range of powers, but also doesn’t totally lock down the land it’s in. In compensation, moving the Tree is a little easier than it used to be - some versions even had it trade off against placing Presence!

The other notable change to Roots is the introduction to Vitality tokens. We’ve been trying to get Vitality to work as a mechanic for a while, given that it’s printed on the thematic board, but in Jagged Earth the mechanics hadn’t solidified enough that it could be reasonably costed in Minor Powers, and at this point, adding extra Minor Powers while preserving the density of various effects, maintaining the elemental balance, and still allowing the deck to be easily shuffled is very difficult. However, while we were working on Towering Roots, we thought we needed something to allow the Spirit to feel like it was making forward progress on the board, even if it was thematically a very defensive Spirit, and the physicality of adding tokens on the board fit the bill, alongside Vitality being very thematically appropriate for Towering Roots. So we introduced Vitality as a Towering Roots-specific token, both to help with its play feel, and to finally answer the question of what those funny-looking tokens on the thematic map are. 

Fear Card: Distracted by Local Troubles

Today’s bonus card is a defensive Fear Card with a twist! 


Distracted By Local Troubles rewards players for having damaged Invaders around, making it a particular favorite of Shroud of Silent Mist!

Thank you both once again for your wonderful insight on this protective spirit. Definitely one of my favorites both thematically and in terms of gameplay. Let us know below what your favorite is so far! 

We’ll see you all again next week with yet another spirit reveal! See you soon!
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