I didn’t get to The Weirdstone of Brisingamen until my thirties, and only then because I started going out with a girl who grew up in Alderley Edge, which is the setting for that and most of Alan Garner’s stories. She had in fact lived in the house he identified as the home of the Morrigan.
“What did you think?”
“Those kids are going to suffer from PTSD. It’s traumatic enough just reading it.”
The trauma wasn't caused by Garner’s prose. That’s beautiful. It was the descriptions of narrowing lightless tunnels and wobbling planks propped across sheer drops; that’s what I thought would scar those characters for life.
Alan Garner wrote a sequel, The Moon of Gomrath, but left it nearly fifty years before completing the trilogy. If only other fantasy authors showed such restraint. What I loved about Boneland was what many fans hated. Garner didn’t give us jolly japes with elves and ginger pop, he returned to the main character to find him broken, his twin sister missing if she ever even existed at all. If you’ve played any Dragon Warriors you’ll understand why that was the sort of conclusion to the story that would really appeal to me.
How about a role-playing game that digs under the surface of a children’s cosy fantasy epic to see what crawls out? It turns out Becky Annison has done exactly that with her game When the Dark is Gone. She discusses it in this episode of Fictoplasm with Ralph Lovegrove and explains the design principles here.
In brief: the players are adult survivors of such an adventure, uncovering their repressed memories with nudging by a therapist character who’s the nearest the game gets to a referee. Minimal set-up, raw character interaction, no dice, emergent stories… What are you waiting for?