The crown jewel of the surprise package was the boxed game that came in a cardboard box tied up with a blue ribbon. Inside was the game booklet, a pack of 12 tea lights- each unnamed but labeled with a numbered sticker, a nice set of glossed cards with prompts on them and lastly a bag of coffee from Found Familiar. As a side note, this fox was thrilled that all of the packaging was either reusable (such as the ribbon) or recyclable.
The game itself is a 13 page booklet with a card stock cover. It is titled “tales by Candlelight: Session Zero.” The cover states that it is for 1-3 players with a “casting time” of 45+ minutes. I absolutely love how the play time is described as “Casting time” and that all the “spell components” are all provided in the box with the manual.
Unlike most tabletop games this one is not an adventure but rather an experience to help the players do world building, character creation and story development in a relaxed “session zero” style setting. The GM in this scenario acts as a guide to build deeper meaning to the thoughts, feelings and pieces that are created in this session. The scented candles, cards and coffee are used collectively to build greatness from the player's instinctive responses. There are reading prompts provided within the guidebook that can be read aloud by the Guide as well.
It is recommended by the creators, and I too agree with this, to read through the entire experience and all of the booklet before starting and especially if you are planning on doing this for other people.
The game is broken into a few parts: Prologue (to help get everyone into the right mindset and set the mood), Part One: World Development & Environment where the players build the world and globe in which they explore, Part Two with character creation and exposition where the players build the protagonists and Part Three: Adventure & Narrative where the “game play” occurs. All three parts can take as much time as you need to go into as much detail as you like. In part 2 not only do you build your character, this section also helps flesh out the other people of the world as well touching on civilizations, beliefs and the cultures surrounding the inhabitants of your created world.
Part three is where you use your improvisation and creativity to challenge the protagonist to overcome obstacles and work through opportunities. This is where you also use the glossy cards that came in the box in addition to smells to work through story ideas and weave your tale timing all of your work together.
In each of the main sections you will need to use between 2- 5 of the provided tea lights to correlate a scent with what you are building.