M Tayao (2022)


Morianum is a fictional continent intended for use as a setting for collaborative storytelling and tabletop roleplaying games (TRPGs). The project is centered around the historical and topographical formation of eight distinct yet interdependent regions, a constructed language anchored in the tenets of a deep ecological and polytheistic mythology, and several playable character archetypes. 


The team behind Morianum aimed to cultivate a world where the historical groundings of TRPGS in wargaming and territory acquisition could be critically interrogated, while remaining in a fundamentally playful and imaginative playspace. The decolonial and placemaking thematic anchors in Morianum provide fertile ground for more experimental, just, and equitable forms of play.


“There’s a huge disconnect between the actual origins of TRPGs and the way they’re playing out in popular culture today. Dungeons & Dragons has this reputation of being built for that … archetypal fantasy of masculinity, with the ideas of conquest and heroism and acquisition of wealth. But now there’s a growing body of work in TTRPGs that’s being written and played by queer people, people of color, anticapitalists and environmentalists … indie games are bringing a more radical and experimental type of roleplay to the table. I wanted to try to reconcile that intertwined and complicated history and maybe reframe it.


We were really inspired by gamemakers like Avery Alders, Everest [Pipkin] … Professor [Jonathan] Walton actually said it like this: when we sit down and play a game like D&D or Apocalypse with my friends, what we’re actually doing is making an agreement to construct a shared imaginary space. In this space, we can do things that for whatever reason, aren’t possible in the real world. That real-world limit can come from a lot of things; restrictive social norms, or strands of curiosity that feel risky to actually enact, or the laws of physics. In the shared imaginary space, we can transcend those things.


With Morianum, we wanted to try to build a place where that process of collaborative construction, and the safer space it creates to do strange and exploratory things, is made as explicit as possible for the players. And we wanted to situate players in a world that questions many of the fundamental assumptions we have about how the genres fantasy and science fiction are supposed to operate.” 


The complete Morianum system reference document, or SRD, was printed into a zine format for community playtesting. A digitized version of the SRD was also created for free and public use, alongside an interactive 3D model of the continent. 




CONCEPTION & ART DIRECTION: M. Tayao (BHA Art & Global Studies, Spring 2023)

MAPPING & ARCHITECTURE: Rebecca Cunningham (B.Arch Spring 2024)

LANGUAGE CONSTRUCTION: Eliana Fleischer (BA Linguistics Spring 2023)

MODELLING: Shiva Peri (BCSA Computer Science & Art Winter 2022)


Special thanks to John Carson, Paul Greenway, Jonathan Walton, and our classmates and playtesters in the Fall 2022 Indie TTRPGs class.

This project was made possible with support from the Frank-Ratchye Further Fund Microgrant #2022-035.