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Home » Recovery is victory: Akron is center of fantasy role-playing game based on 12-step culture – Akron Beacon Journal

Recovery is victory: Akron is center of fantasy role-playing game based on 12-step culture – Akron Beacon Journal

Akron is the center of the universe in a fantasy role-playing game based on 12-step culture and recovery. 
Circle & Triangle: An Adventure Game for Friends of Bill and Bob catapults players to another dimension to explore strange lands, overcome personal afflictions and help those in need. It’s like Dungeons & Dragons, but the protagonists are fallible recovery heroes.
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“I wanted to design a fantasy world based on 12-step culture,” said Travis Henry, 46, co-founder of Twelvefold Works Publishing in New York. “And since the path of recovery first began in Akron, I decided to design a fictional universe where Akron is literally the center of the world.”
In June 1935, New York stockbroker Bill Wilson randomly called St. Paul’s Episcopal Church while trying to fight the urge to drink on a business trip to Akron. The Rev. Walter Tunks, rector of the church, put Wilson in contact with Henrietta Seiberling, who introduced him to Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith, a local physician, at the gatehouse at Stan Hywet. In Akron, “Bill W.” and “Dr. Bob” co-founded A.A., an organization that has nearly 2 million members today.
From those principles, dozens of offshoots emerged, including Al-Anon, Alateen, Narcotics Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous.
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Circle & Triangle is touted as “the world’s first recovery-themed role-playing game.” It’s based on the A.A. Big Book of 1939 and other 12-step literature, but it also draws inspiration from Dungeons & Dragons. The abbreviation C&T is a nod to D&D.
Henry, who lives in Austerlitz, New York, near the Massachusetts line, has been playing D&D since 1983 when at age 9 he received the classic Red Box for Christmas. He served as Dungeon Master for his brothers and friends through junior high and high school, and played later editions as an adult.
In drawing the map for Circle & Triangle, Henry incorporated geographic-sounding phrases from the Big Book such as “The New Land,” “The Morass of Self Pity,” “The Mire of Politics,” “The Bridge of Reason,” “The Broad Highway” and “The Path That Really Goes Somewhere.”
Dr. Bob’s Home, which in real life is a National Historic Landmark at 855 Ardmore Ave. in Akron, is located at the center of a fictional version of Akron known as Middletown (aka Middleton), the generic name used in 12-step literature to describe any community.
Middletown is the center of the New Land, a planet in a recovery-themed cosmos known as the Twelve Dimensions.
The first adventure is a Scooby-Doo-style mystery that takes place in a fictional version of Dr. Bob’s Home, Henry said.
In the tabletop game, players simulate a fictional 12-step meeting. The game master, called the Trusted Servant, guides them through adventures with 12-sided dice in a 12-step world called the New Land.
“The game starts as they’re pretending they’re in a 12-step meeting, and then during the meeting, there’s like a flash of light, and the game master describes how the players see a gateway open to another world and the players imagine that they find themselves in this New Land,” Henry said. “And so they go on adventure, which is facilitated by the Trusted Servant, who’s sort of like the referee of the story or the narrator.
“Then they go on this sort of choose-your-own-adventure-style story. And then they find their way back home at the end of the adventure. On the way, they encounter various Bogeymen, various afflictions and addictions represented as monsters.”
The Big Book refers to pride and fear as bogeymen. In creating the game, Henry scoured 12-step literature and took any sort of reference to emotional states as being like monsters. Circle & Triangle features dozens of Bogeymen, including Bacchus, The Grim Jester, Chaos, The Four Horsemen, The Seven Deadly Sins, Imperious Urges, Shivering Denizens and Skeletons in the Closet.
So in the game, players can have a scuffle with John Barleycorn or King Alcohol.
Circle & Triangle generally runs about two hours, but it can be shorter if desired.
“If someone wanted to run a single scuffle with a single Bogeyman and then bring the characters back home, the game is made for that, too, which takes 30 minutes,” Henry said.
Circle & Triangle is not only the name of the game, it’s also the symbol of the fictional fellowship. Anyone who wishes “to recover from glumness” by playing the game is considered to be a member, Henry said.
In real life, a circled triangle was the symbol of Alcoholics Anonymous from 1955 to 1993. As Bill W. explained in 1955: “The circle stands for the whole world of A.A. and the triangle stands for A.A.’s Three Legacies of Recovery, Unity and Service. Within our wonderful new world, we have found freedom from our fatal obsession.”
Although A.A. discontinued official use of the logo, it is often still associated with 12-step recovery.
Henry had never been to Akron until a 12-day visit in August. The New York man visited such places at the Mayflower Hotel, the Rev. Tunks’ Episcopal Rectory, Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, the Seiberling Gatehouse, Portage Country Club, King School, St. Thomas Hospital, Akron City Hospital, Dr. Bob’s office and Dr. Bob’s grave.
He spent two days doing research at the A.A. Akron Intergroup Archives.
And while he was here, he couldn’t resist going to the Malted Meeple in Hudson to play some (sober) Dungeons & Dragons.
“I’ve found Akron to be a human-scaled city,” Henry said.
The Circle & Triangle game book, posters and accessories are available for purchase at drivethrurpg.com. The PDF costs $12.12, the black-and-white softcover book is $24.24 and the color hardcover book is $48.48. If you haven’t noticed, they all are multiples of 12. There also are deluxe models listed, and Henry plans to publish follow-up expansions.
A deluxe world map is available for $24.24 at the TwelvefoldWorks shop on Etsy at etsy.com/shop/twelvefoldworks/.
Henry has been in contact with representatives from Dr. Bob’s Home and hopes that the game will someday be sold in the gift shop at the center of the universe.
Circle & Triangle offers gamers a role-playing experience in 12-step recovery. In a fictional version of Akron, the time has come to protect the New Land from the Bogeyman and Shivering Denizens of the Mad Realm.
“We hope you enjoy your adventures in the Fellowship of Circle & Triangle as you trudge the inter-dimensional Road of Happy Destiny,” Henry tells gamers. “May the Higher Power of the New Land bless you and keep you — until then.”
Mark J. Price can be reached at [email protected]

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