Game art for Hollyhock

A published tabletop role-playing game (TTRPG) conceived by a talented team of Champlain students and alumni distinguished itself in the indie gaming community by being shortlisted for IndieCade’s prestigious Tabletop Design Spotlight Award. In the rapidly evolving landscape of game design and digital media, Hollyhock is just another example of how Champlain’s Game Studio Experience successfully fosters a culture of innovation and groundbreaking creativity.

IndieCade celebrates the most innovative independent games globally and focuses on games that push creative boundaries, introduce novel concepts, or deliver uniquely captivating experiences across all forms of interactive media, including tabletop games. Hollyhock— developed by Creative Media student Daniela Vega ʼ24, Creative Media student Alanah Tuohey ʼ25, Game Design student Milo Duclayan ʼ25, and Game Art alumni Kat Townsend ʼ23—is a narrative-driven, inclusive, and gamemaster-less experience—one that stands out from popular TTRPGs such as Dungeons and Dragons for its approachable and intimidating game design.

“TTRPGs are something we really love and want to grow as a genre and industry. We want more people to play them and love them and to see the variety and possibility in what TTRPGs can be!” Touhey shared.

Making the World of Fae

Set in the whimsical world of the Fae, Hollyhock is “about being part of the Fae…it’s about the politics of Fae courts and being the best prankster,” explained Kel Bachus, program director of the new Interactive Narrative for Games & Digital Media major at Champlain College, launching Fall 2025. The game emerged from a project in Bachus’ INN 300: Interactive Narrative II class, where students including Vega, Tuohey, Duclayan, and Townsend were challenged to hone their player-facing writing skills to write professional-quality dialogue and text, and complete real-world assignments on time and to specifications.

In writing Hollyhock, one of the team’s main focuses was creating a game that reflected their commitment to diversity and inclusivity. “Many of the playbooks we designed for the game reflect the ways we engage with the world, as people are very different from the traditional cis-white-male game design space,” explained Duclayan. When it comes to the kind of collaborative, hands-on education that Champlain delivers, diversity of ideas and identities can be one of a team’s biggest strengths.

“The program was built in a way that brought the four of us together, and gave us the space and support to let our passions grow into something beautiful,” said Milo Duclayan, a key member of the Hollyhock team. “Without [Professor Jessie Gagnon] and Kel’s support and Champlain funding our [IndieCade] submission, we never would’ve gotten Hollyhock out into the world in that way,” he reflected, acknowledging the crucial role of the college and its staff in bringing their ideas to fruition.

“Personally, I learned that if you find a group of people who you really value the ideas, perspectives, and skills of, and who you work well with, you really want to hold onto that connection, because it’s a great experience to be able to make a creative project with people you enjoy working with,” Tuohey said.

In her opinion, the support and enthusiasm from professors, peers, and industry professionals were crucial for the project’s success. “I don’t know if we would have gotten as far as we did if our professors, peers, and professionals we interacted with hadn’t been so supportive and excited for us!” she said.

Game art for Hollyhock
Hollyhock was written, edited, and designed by: Alanah Tuohey, Daniela Vega, Katherine Townsend, and Milo Duclayan Layout design by: Daniela Vega Art by: Alanah Tuohey and Katherine Townsend

The Next Frontier in Storytelling

While Hollyhock’s creators represent multiple majors within the Division of Communication & Creative Media (CCM), the new Interactive Narrative for Games & Digital Media major reflects the space where they all converge. The new program will incorporate courses from the Game Studio and Creative Studio at CCM, and aims to prepare students for diverse roles in game writing, narrative design, UX/UI design, and virtual reality storytelling.

“I really encourage students to do projects not just within the context of the classroom, but also projects on their own,” said Bachus, highlighting the importance of students embarking on practical, self-driven endeavors. This approach of fostering autonomous learning and creativity is integral to the success stories emerging from Champlain College, with Hollyhock being a prime example.

Reflecting on the program’s educational approach, “I guess one thing I teach students is here’s how you do a thing, but really what I’m creating in the classroom is an opportunity for them to learn,” Bachus said. And in the case of Hollyhock, “they took this experience they had and they just galloped off with it.”

As Champlain College prepares to welcome the first cohort for its innovative BS in Integrative Narrative for Games & Digital Media in Fall 2025, the college continues to cement its reputation as a launching pad for creative graduates who are poised to make it in entertainment, education, and beyond. Just look at Hollyhock co-creator Kat Townsend, for example, who currently works at Jam City and had a hand in developing Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery.

But everyone has to start somewhere. Bachus’ best piece of advice to aspiring creators is clear: “Just start creating. You don’t have to learn something to create, right? It’s fine. Just make stuff, see what people think of it.”

To learn more about the Interactive Narrative for Games & Digital Media program, contact Kel Bachus at

Hanna Blankenship '24
Law & Marketing

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