Fort spaces have iterated and improved each year, but have always revolved around one core idea: subdivision. Spaces-within-spaces are found in every biome, as a conceptual rule.

The fort isn’t just exploration and production value, it’s about facilitating connection. Every biome is composed of smaller nooks, each of which is designed to hold 3-5 people. Larger conversation pits tend to be dominated by only a few voices; keeping converation pools small makes them more intimate, as even docile speakers will find the room to share themselves.

The Ocean Room is split into three such zones. Guests enter by investigating a yellow hatch on the outside of the fort, which swings open to reveal the interior of a Submarine. Whalesong and sonar pings are played through water speakers; an animated sonar screen, and childlike painted dials and pressure guages, line the wall under the windows; peering through them, there’s already a group under wave lights on the Sea Floor. There are also voices coming from elsewhere, someplace slightly uncanny; checking the periscope, or emerging through the back of the sub, guests see that the voices were coming from above! While the Submarine itself can be warm, the air in the Sea Floor is cooled by a dedicated AC unit; the contrast in temperature creates an immersive environmental transition, further transporting our explorers into the deep sea. The Submarine, the Sea Floor, and Topside are all distinct conversational spaces in the Ocean Room.

The Submarine is the most separated, but has the most traffic, as all entry and egress passes through it. From there, it’s common to run into friends you had lost track of an hour ago, or catch snippits of chatter on the Sea Floor that bring one deeper into the space. The Sea Floor is the most open of the three, and tends to collect explorers into one of the largest conversation pods of the fort.

Topside has the most premium mattress in the fort, and people will often wait on the Sea Floor for it to open up. Its distance from the biome’s entry, the comfort of its vibes——and the perfect perspective to witness the joy on other explorers’ faces when they emerge from the submarine for the first time——make it a savored achievement to occupy.

The Main Hall has changed the most over the years; it used to a warm Great Hall theme of exotic silks and fabrics from around the world (with a darkened Theatre space in the back) that we would use for announcements, performances, and experimental screenings of Visual Music. Our forest biome had grown so strong that we retired the Great Hall, and expanded the forest to fill this larger space. We used this transition to motivate that year’s quest, and integrated signs of the hostile takeover in the space itself, contributing to the ongoing lore that the fort itself is alive on some level.

Each nook in a space should offer a unique vibe or experience. Here under the great tree, The S’more Pit encourages play with the felted firepit and s’more set, while crickets chirp in the background. The Cave nearby is a secluded and mostly enclosed space for two, with a sleeping bag and a hanging lantern. Elsewhere in the forest room is The Bean, a comically oversized earth-tone beanbag under a stormy sky, and the Hanging Gardens, a long couch hidden among trellises of falling flowers and vines.

The Cyberpunk Tea Room is the newest addition to the Fort, making its home where the forest room used to be. This room was designed with a particularly compelling experience in mind, detailed on the next page (Storyboards).

This space offers three main zones of interaction; the Ramen Bar is where The Proprietor and up to two guests can have an ongoing tea and ramen-serving experience; above them is the Arcade, where guests can play retro games on original and virtual consoles; behind them is the Dining Area, where guests can sit and nosh cup-noodles around a low table while gazing out the window into a backlit diorama of a futuristic cityscape.

A transparant holographic screen with carefully curated and stitched cyberpunk animation from dozens of sources plays on a 90-minute loop in the corner, entertaining anyone waiting for a spot at the Arcade. While they’re waiting, perhaps this last year they may have noticed the coiled cables and conduit leading into the dark corner, and the slow wisps of smoke escaping from a loose flap in the wall. If they investigated, they would have found one of the most delightful surprises in the fort: the Wry Cupboard, a special bar that fits a single patron and serves a single highly performative cocktail.

But it won’t be there next year. The proprietor got wise to the theft of power and magic.

Tired of traveling the underworld, Owen Turner boards The Sheol Express, a fantastical train that ferries souls to their final resting place at the End of the Line.

Once aboard, Owen must choose where to disembark: at the End of the Line or at the second-to-last stop near the alleged paradise of Araboth.

Dir. by Michael Koehler and Ryan Patch