The History and Future of Bones Deep

The History and Future of Bones Deep

My wife, Lauren, has been a part of all the books we’ve made; reviewing content, giving advice, and teasing me about how badly I use semi-colons. But Bones Deep is the most she’s been involved in one of our books. That’s why it’s so good!

Join us for a deep dive into the origins of Bones Deep, some funky trivia, and plans for the future.

Coral Skeleton Brainworms

Several years ago, while working on Bone Marshes, Lauren did some brilliant sketches of coral-covered and barnacle-infested skeletons.

And a few months later during a vacation in the mountains she drew a radioactive mermaid and a barrel-eye lady:

Despite our excitement over the concept, it just wasn’t a great fit for Bone Marshes (which had a more sci-fi/pre-historic vibe). So we put a pin in the idea and moved on to other things. But the concept of underwater skeletons remained in our brains, lurking…waiting…

Our Local Awesomeness

For those who don’t know, our home town of Charleston has a fantastic aquarium. One of my co-workers at the time was married to a surgeon who worked on sea turtles at the aquarium and gave us a tour of their facility.


The South Carolina Acquarium is not only a cool place to take your family, but they do tons of neat environmental work all over the lowcountry.

By this point Bone Marshes was already HEAVILY influenced by my experience growing up in the marshlands of South Carolina, but my brain was just starting to realize how rich and inspiring our local community and history would be.

After Bone Marshes funded and shipped, I met Johnny (@Odd_Johnisms) and he wrote Lowcountry Crawl. Later Steven Bramlett joined the team and we partnered with the Lowcountry Action Comittee to update the zine with even more local legends.

We were so excited to be involved in our community and sharing its riches with folks via RPGs. It was a truly magical experience…but it also burned me out. I needed a change of pace, something a little more rediculous and silly…

Enter Bones Deep, a game about silly underwater skeletons with NO basis in reality…at first.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Nature

Lauren and I were writing Bones Deep as a short little adventure zine. Maybe 20ish pages. Underwater wizards, talking fish, and spooky skeletons. We were excited about it and shared it with some friends in our gaming circle.

One of our friends, Andrew Harrison, is a local boat captain and diver. He joined and amplified our own excitement, and offered to do some writing for the adventure.


“Sure, Andrew! Feel free to add a page or two of ideas. That would be fun!”

A few days later Andrew sent me a 30 page document PACKED with underwater environments, creatures, trivia, weirdness, and more. Being an experienced gamer himself, he had already given everything stats and details.

Lauren and I were blown away. We couldn’t just ignore this stuff. “This is gonna be a bigger project than we expected”, I told her. “Works for me!” she responded.

As we started to add in all the content Andrew wrote, we had some mild arguments and conflicts over how to portray the creatures in Bones Deep.

Andrew: “You can’t put the Arapaima in the coral reefs! It’s a freshwater fish.”
David: “What? Who cares? This Arapaima can break open ships and has crystalline armor. It’s totally unrealistic. Why does it matter where the made-up fish goes?”
Andrew: “Actually that’s just what Arapaima do. Look it up.”

So I did look it up, and I realized that for me, Bones Deep was a just another silly adventure with made-up monsters. For Andrew, Bones Deep reflected his passion for marine biology and fascination with the underwater world. He wanted it to inspire curiosity in readers and encourage them to learn more about our wonderful oceans.

After all, it worked on me. I learned a lot about the Arapaima that day. We began to rebuild Bones Deep not just for RPGs but as something based on real-world ocean life.

Of course that didn’t stop us from wildly exaggerting certain facts and making up weird nonsense. But the vast majority of Bones Deep is more real than you’d imagine.

Bones Deep Grew 3 Sizes that Day

Thanks to Andrew’s writing and content we had a strong enough base to launch our book. I already decided to try funding the book through Itch instead of Kickstarter (read about that here), but there just a few things missing…

  • ART! Laura Ketcham has done artwork for a bunch of my projects in the past, and her “Pack of Horrors” projects mixed the fantasy and reality in such neat ways. She was a great fit for Bones Deep, riding that line between cute and creepy exactly how we wanted.
  • Weird Old Art from Johannes Jonstonus (1603-1675) also nailed that sweet spot between fantasy and reality.
  • Detailed Map of the Sunken Barge by Lucas Rolim (@rolimllucas). We worked together on the Altar of Shredded Memories and I fell in love with his evocative line art and perspective maps.
  • The Sunken Barge dungeon was fleshed out by Scott Stolarski, a good friend and lover of sci-fi weirdness.
  • Jacob Wood helped with some accessibility features and contributed to how the Skeletons might experience the ocean.
  • A Skeleton Generator from Johnny that will inspire players and GMs alike.
  • Creature Miens from Evey Lockhart. I really struggled to make the most of Troika’s Mien concept, so I relied on Evey (a Troika master) to fill in the gaps here.
  • Extra Locations by Mary Elizabeth MacDonald, a local fish friend. She had a similar reaction to Captain Harrison, eager to add her own passion for the sea to the book.

WHEW! What a list. Bones Deep ended up being just as large (if not larger) than any project I’ve worked on. And we still aren’t done yet!

Thank you from Technical Grimoire

This has been an amazing journey for us, and it wouldn’t have been possible without you.

A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to visit the aquarium again and enjoy the holiday light displays. It reminded us what a wonderful opportunity we have to make Bones Deep special for everyone involved, and how much passion has been poured into this little book (not as little as it used to be!).

/images/posts/bonesHistory_squid.jpg/images/posts/bonesHistory_tank.jpg/images/posts/bonesHistory_crab.jpgI’ve been accepted into the Crab Cabal!

We hope you are all staying safe and playing as many cool RPGs as you can. And we hope you enjoy Bones Deep.

The future of Bones Deep

As of this blog post, Bones Deep has met all of our funding goals EXCEPT for the print run. While I’m eager to get this book printed, I’m also thankful for the time that Itchfunding gave us to expand and add to the book.

It’s grown from a small 20-30pg zine to a 120+ page hardcover book!

The best place to stay updated about Bones Deep is to join the newsletter or follow us on Itch.

However here’s a brief overview of our plans for Bones Deep:

  • End of January: Release the complete PDF: expanded, edited, and polished.
  • February 1st: Increase the price of the PDF to $15.
  • Future??: Start looking into printing solutions. If we haven’t reached our funding goal by March or April, we might see alternative funding solutions (kickstarter, game found, etc). Any printing solution will receive a fresh new layout as well.

Someday we’d love to partner with the South Carolina Aquarium. Even if we just get the book in their gift shop, that would be a cool way to support the awesome work they’re doing.

Other than that, Bones Deep is nearing completion! Thanks for joining us on this weird and wonderful journey.

Be sure to grab a copy before we increase the price in February and spread the word so we can make a beautiful hardcover edition!