You may be aware that I am working as a Game Designer in Games&Tales Ltd, a cross-media company (also available on Facebook!). I’ve been working in several projects, and finally I know how much I can say about them. So, as a first post whose subject is related to my work, I’ll be writing about a roleplaying game I’ve designed to the setting that our writer and CEO have created: Dreamland Initiative.
About 1500 years into the future, Mankind has expanded into space. As time went by, humanity evolved into three distinctive major physio-sociological groups. Dreamland Initiative focuses on one of these groups; The Archaists, who voluntarily decided to stop advancing technology and genetics beyond a certain point. In the midst of an interstellar war between the human factions, a small Archaist research team makes a strange discovery: With a certain extract, a strong-willed individual can experience something called a Dream Projection: Seeing other people, beings and parts of the galaxy in their dream, and maybe even affect them. Of course, sensing a way to boost their obsolete and relatively weak army and fleet, the Archaist Military takes control of the project and starts using it to scout for resources and alien contacts in the galaxy. They create an operation called Dreamland Initiative.
In the game, players are strong-willed individuals from the Archaist colonies who have been chosen as volunteers for the Initiative. These individuals, called Agents, are packed in small science corvettes, where they are given dream therapy, taught to have lucid dreams, and given memory-boosting drugs. After the Agents are deemed ready, they are injected with a large dose of the Dream Extract and their mind is hopefully sent to somewhere where they can scout for useful resources or alien contacts. Focus on the word “hopefully”. After the session, the Agents are debriefed extensively before the next session.
So this is the premise of the game. I have GM’d about half a dozen sessions of DI now, and every one has been a blast. Since pretty much the whole game takes place in a dream, everything is possible. In the sessions, players have taken part in interstellar reality cooking shows, been the chief caretakers of a medieval castle and nobles and gladiators in ancient Rome. The juxtaposition of a haphazard military operation and a subconscious interpretation of events happening in other parts of reality is a large part of the fun, along with the rapid degeneration of coherency of the dream. Dreamland Initiative is one of those games that is extremely difficult to explain, but I’ll try.’
Each character has three attributes that define how the character solves problems. These are the base dice pools for any rolls in the game. In addition, every character has Willpower, which is a pool of tokens the player can spend to miscellaneous effects. Then, every character has at least three Identity Feature/Trauma pairs. Each Identity Feature is a single object or attribute that is integral to the character. An avid teacher might have Laser Pointer, an artist a sketchbook, or a soldier a weapon. These Identity Features appear to the character in the dream, and they are potent tools with which to safely affect the dream world. Each Identity Feature is paired with a Trauma. This is a phobia, a traumatic event or some other important negative thing in the character’s past. Spiders, spaceship crash or loneliness are examples of Traumas.
The game has a Coherency Tracker at the middle of the table, where everyone can see the coherency of the dream. At the start, the dream is very life-like and ordered. As players interact with the game world, the dream starts to become more chaotic and dream-like. Objects start to randomly appear. Doors lead to other places. Suddenly the players find themselves in a completely different place. Mechanically, every time the players attempt something non-trivial in the game world, the player who leads will roll dice. If he can use his or any assisting players’ Identity Features, he gets one more die for every feature. On a success, the player succeeds and nothing happens. On a failure, the Coherency Tracker goes down one step, and every Trauma from the used Identity Features trigger in the dream world. The thing is, the player who failed must explain how they happen. If the explanation does not make sense within the current dream context, the Coherency Tracker goes down further.
This is one of the games I’ve been designing nowadays. It is still being playtested, and the background might change drastically. But I would love to know what you think about Dreamland Initiative so far, so comments would be appreciated!
EDIT: Added a link to Games&Tales website. Check it out!