The Shared Dream Playtesting

The Shared Dream Playtesting

After coming at The Shared Dream from multiple angles through multiple playtests, we’re happy to announce that a modified Print and Play version of The Shared Dream is coming soon! There are a couple of small number tweaks we’re still working on in our local play tests, but once those are ironed out, you’ll be able to take your first look at The Shared Dream!

I say modified because by its very nature, The Shared Dream is an art and content heavy game. All 5 Shared Dreams have a multitude of scenario specific cards which we think would make printing the entire project a daunting task. So, the Print and Play version of The Shared Dream will include only one of the Shared Dream scenarios, Beast at the Door. The print and play version will also include tokens in lieu of certain miniatures to further help condense the time and effort setting up a Print and Play game of The Shared Dream will require. We will also be including two sets of files for this Print and Play edition – one with full artwork and one where the artwork is stripped down to alleviate printing costs. The theme, mood, and artwork is a huge part  of The Shared Dream experience, but for those of you who are more interesting in mechanics, intend on re-printing any updates we may release, or just don’t want/have access to a large amount of color printing, the stripped down version will still be entirely playable.

While these numbers may change between now and the actual Print and Play release, here’s a list of the components we intend to include:

  1. 8 Player Character Cards (1 Anima and 1 Animus card for 4 different characters) [approx. 6″ by 4.5″]
  2. 8 Player Tokens
  3. 25 Location Cards [approx. 4″ x 4″]
  4. Beast at the Door Shared Dream Card [8″x4″]
  5. The Beast Combat Card [approx 6″ x 4.5″]
  6. 38 Personal Reflection Cards [tarot sized]
  7. 10 “The Beast Strikes” Cards [mini sized]
  8. 7 “Clues & Artifacts” Cards [mini sized]
  9. 9 Reaver Cards [tarot sized]
  10. 9 Reaver Tokens
  11. 10 Shadow Tokens
  12. 24 Technique Cards [mini sized]
  13. 14 Echo Cards [mini sized]
  14. 10 Artifact Cards [mini sized]
  15.  Multiple Conviction, Nightmare, Doubt, Health, and Corruption Tokens [.75″]

While some of the art is subject to change, this collection will be a great representation of the final edition of The Shared Dream. The rules will also be included in a simple text document that will not contain much of the flair, design, and backstory of the final product.

If you are interesting in participating in this Print and Play experience and learning more about The Shared Dream, I  recommend signing up for our newsletter! We won’t spam you, and you’ll get Print and Play update notes sent straight to your inbox, along with goodies such as new player characters to test and previews of additional Shared Dream cards!

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Location, Location, Location!

Location, Location, Location!

One of the earliest design challenges we’ve faced, and one I come back to time and time again, is that of player agency within The Shared Dream. In fact, it was probably the first big hurdle I presented to the rest of the team when putting together the core mechanics of the game. How could we ensure that the players aren’t victim to randomness, or even worse, only have one viable pathway through the game? I didn’t want the gameplay to consist of “chase the tokens until you have enough of them to advance to midgame,” simply because that’s been done before and it always felt like setting such an obvious goal for the players that the only real option would be to chase them until you have enough.

In the previous blog post, I detailed the idea of Side Stories as a supplement to the traditional Dream Fragment/Location Event paradigm. Well, after our first playtest using the Side Story mechanic, it was obvious what we should do. Side Stories wouldn’t supplement that paradigm, it would supplant it. While I’ll be going into more depth about Side Stories (including their new name and showing off the full mechanic for them), today I’m going to address one of the other changes this has necessitated.

With the actual progression of the game now being handled in its own specific mechanic, the Locations were in a strange place (see what I did there?) If they weren’t helping to further the progression, what was the point of the location events? A lot of the theme that was cooked into them was now being offloaded into the “side stories,” and it seemed odd now to have character progression be tied into random events.

When I first presented the game design to the team, one of the things I STRONGLY stated was “I don’t want Locations to have their own static events that the player can choose to have happen when they go there, since that is almost always how that location is going to be used.”

Locations now have their own static events that players can choose to have happen when they go there. While I understand my first instinct and rationale, I think that with all of the other developments, this was the right move to make. Since the locations are now a means to an end rather than a progression mechanic, something needed to be in place to differentiate the Boxing Gym from the High School, or else the locations may as well have just been a series of numbers and letters.

Location Concept Art
Location Concept Art

At past conventions, most people who were heavily into board games would end up asking me “So is this going to be a board or a tile laying game?” I think that even though we had a demo board, so much of the stated design goals matched up with tile laying that it was a natural question. So, in a case of the outside feedback influencing design (even if it’s slightly indirectly,) The Shared Dream has gone boardless. But we’re also tileless.

One of the first steps of playing The Shared Dream will be building the city the characters are experiencing for that session. In the board implementation, this was simply done by filling each location spot with a different card. We’ve taken out the board and included “connector” cards into the Location deck, and city building is now done by shuffling together the locations and connectors and dealing them out into a grid. This allows the relationship between locations to be different between each game and immediately sets the stage for another layer of challenge and replayability. We’ve already had multiple sessions where the entire game would have been different had the Warehouse been closer to the Library as it had in other configurations.

Our play sessions have also told us other things about the Location cards specifically, which I will detail in the next post.

 

 

Side Stories

Side Stories

One of the more interesting aspects of converting an RPG to a board game is the natural condensing of the material that has to happen. Some of this condensing is straightforward and easy to decide on – RPG-style combat mechanics that could take a while to resolve obviously won’t fit in a 90-minute board game format. But what about something less concrete, like storytelling?

The heart of ODAM’s RPGs is the ability to use the material given to tell a great story. So how much story does The Shared Dream require to be a faithful adaptation?

This question has lead to quite the curveball in development. Fortunately, none of the play-tested elements are affected by this change, but it could potentially alter the flow of the game [I’m just glad it came up before widespread testing (starting soon!)]

At the moment, players travel to different locations within the city mainly in search of Dream Fragments, which have many purposes within the game. Dream Fragments serve as specific objective points within certain Shared Dreams or can be used to help empower individual players. At the moment, in the course of collecting these fragments,  players encounter events at the locations they end a phase on. While many of the events have either dialogue or flavor text, they are by necessity small, individual snippets of scenes that could potentially be taking place within the city.

We are currently toying with the idea of either replacing or supplementing this mechanic with something I’m currently referring to as Side Stories. Every game of The Shared Dream starts with an individual Shared Dream card. This card sets the stage for the entirety of the game: what is the objective for this play through?  What special rules apply? How does the game progress?

Artwork not final

Now, if the only aspect of the game that the players are interacting with is the Shared Dream, each play through could become too simple. In the case above, all players would have nothing to do but continually rush Dream Fragments to find the 4 clues required to summon The Beast. While the Shadows, Reavers, and Beast Strikes cards would all serve as obstacles, the path would always be clear. Even individual location events become more of a momentary diversion rather than an addition to the game.

Enter the Side Stories. Under this concept, each playthrough would start with not only the Shared Dream, but with at least one Side Story. These Side Stories would guide players through the city, allowing them to make choices on how to proceed at each stage. Should they travel to the local bar to try to find more clues, or head directly to the Docks where they know they’ll find rampant criminality and have a fight on their hands?  Each choice will lead to the players needing to take different kinds of tests and offer different rewards. Each step also allows the story to be told slightly different, allowing for replayability.

While the concept behind the Side Stories is sound and the implementation is simple (each side story would have its own deck of cards, each with its own unique letter/number combination telling the players which card to play next depending on the choices they made), there remains a design question. Why do the players interact with the Side Stories?

There are two obvious paths to go down, here. The first is to simply make them a requirement – alter the objectives or win conditions of the Shared Dreams to require completing a certain amount of Side Stories. By altering the number of Side Stories required, the difficulty and length of each individual Shared Dream becomes even more controllable and scalable.

The second is to offer rewards (or penalties) tied directly to completing each Side Story. This allows the Side Stories to remain optional, but has the pitfalls of requiring the rewards to be compelling enough to have players be willing to not just blitz through the Shared Dream and ignore the Side Stories completely.

What do you think? How compelling or rewarding do you think a sidequest should be in order to be worth your attention? How do you usually engage in “optional” content in games?

 

Origins Game Fair 2016

Origins Game Fair 2016

We’ve been a little quiet at The Shared Dream, but for good reason. Our second RPG, Dreamscape: Laruna, has officially been released in digital format (and can be found at www.odampublishing.com), and we’ve been preparing for our trip to Origins Game Fair.

I will always remember checking into my hotel room last year (when I was Origins as a guest,) and hearing a strange buzzing in the hotel lobby. I looked around and realized that buzzing was all of the people playing games on the second floor of the hotel lobby – and this was at 2am! It was an inspiring sight/sound, and I’m very proud that one year later, I’m an exhibitor rather than a guest, offering up two RPGs and a preview of our first board game.

If you’ll be at Origins this week, I hope you’ll stop by ODAM Publishing at Booth # 946. If you do you’ll be among the first to see a lot of the components of The Shared Dream. And of course, if you weren’t able to make it to Origins, I’ll be documenting what we brought and our experiences right here at The Shared Dream Blog.

And with that, I’m off to join the strange buzzing!

Mechanical Representation of Theme

Mechanical Representation of Theme

A somewhat dry blog title, perhaps, but it’s a subject I find both interesting and very important. ODAM Publishing’s work relies heavily upon using unique settings to set a specific mood and theme, and The Shared Dream is no exception. In an RPG, theme has lots of different ways to be delivered. Our RPG books have short stories, backgrounds and histories of unique people, and of course we can use art and layout to communicate the theme. The players themselves have even more options when it comes to communicating theme; since they are actively telling stories, they can choose exactly how our theme is utilized in their stories.

Board games, obviously, are a different animal. While some of the same tools still apply (properly thematic artwork, extra written material in the rulebook and cards,) unlike an RPG, theme cannot be injected into a board game where there is none. While in any good game, micro stories will develop, and some groups will expand upon that, for most players, theme is either there or it’s not.

Which of course, brings me to the topic of today’s blog: communicating theme through mechanics in The Shared Dream.

If you’re not familiar with Of Dreams and Magic, the core theme is that of belief versus doubt. This is personified by the main antagonist of the story being a literal, malignant personification of doubt and disbelief simply known as The Doubt. (You can find out more about The Doubt on our sister site here!)

Since The Shared Dream is an adaptation of ODAM, The Doubt remains as the primary antagonist. The players share a common goal (reliving their shared dream experience in the real world) and a common enemy in The Doubt.

The Doubt is represented in The Shared Dream in three primary ways.

The first is through the Conviction/Nightmare system that closely mirrors ODAM. In ODAM and TSD, characters must spend Conviction to fuel their magical powers. When these points are spent, they are directly added to a Nightmare pool. This Nightmare pool is then used to spawn Shadows and Reavers. This mechanic represents the reactionary methods that The Doubt uses – the more an Anima uses magic, the harder The Doubt works to destroy them. It also requires using magic to be a process that includes risk vs reward assessment – spending Conviction now may solve your current problem, but it will always lead to further issues by increasing your Nightmare. Finally, this mechanic furthers the theme that using magic is a dangerous risk and that Anima are under constant pressure from The Doubt.

spending conviction
Artwork not final.

The second is through Shadows and Reavers, the literal manifestations of The Doubt. It is through Shadows and Reavers that The Doubt is able to directly strike against Anima. These enemies serve as the active antagonist in a game of TSD and are the most direct loss condition – when an Anima suffers enough Doubt points from direct conflict with Shadows and Reavers, they are no longer able to dream, and are effectively removed from the game.

The final way is through Taint. Every location in TSD becomes more and more tainted the longer an Anima stays in that location. This Taint is used to direct Shadow and Reaver movement, and makes enemies stronger when in those locations. This mechanic adds a feeling of urgency to the game – players cannot hide from The Doubt, but instead must rush to fulfill their objectives before The Doubt becomes too overwhelming.

 

Growing Pains

Growing Pains

Welcome to The Shared Dream’s new home! Just as the game will be expanding and growing, so too will this website. Keep an eye out on the front page for new sections and new content in the coming weeks.

The Shared Dream

The Shared Dream

A Modern Fantasy Board Game Based on the Tabletop RPG Of Dreams and Magic.

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Welcome to the Dream

Welcome to the Dream

Hi! My name is Matt, and I’m one of the co-founders of ODAM Publishing, the makers of the fine tabletop RPGs Of Dreams and Magic and Dreamscape: Laruna.  This blog is going to follow the production of our very first board game project (tentatively titled The Shared Dream), from more-or-less inception to the final product. We’re launching what we consider to be an exciting experiment with this site, and hope you decide to follow along with us. In order to tell the story of this site, first you’ll need some background.

I’m glad to say that ODAM Publishing has been involved in two successful Kickstarter campaigns for our RPG products, Of Dreams and Magic and Dreamscape: Laruna. I’m even more glad to say that ODAM Publishing has a very specific ethic about how to handle our Kickstarter campaigns. We don’t make promises we can’t keep, we don’t flood our campaigns with non-game addons, and most importantly, we deliver what we say we will, when we will. I’m not telling you all this so we can pat ourselves on the back; this is a pretty simple set of standards that we think everyone should be following. I’m mentioning this because holding ourselves to this standard requires us to do things in specific ways, and one of those ways is to not launch a Kickstarter until deep into development.  We said nothing about Of Dreams and Magic throughout most of its development and launched our Kickstarter with the majority of the writing completed and with a rules sample already available. Dreamscape: Laruna had even more assets completed, with full sections written and edited and a large amount of writing complete.

There are a lot of great things about running a Kickstarter but the part I’ve enjoyed the most is the people. We’ve met a lot of great people both online and in person. I’ll never forget the late night talks we shared at our GenCon hotel lobby – from hearing the unique ways people thought to use our system (a group of players turning into white blood cells to cure a sick friend), to the personal conversations that had nothing to do with gaming (I hope you know who you are!) The brightest spot of the Dreamscape: Laruna Kickstarter was opening up a Google Hangout and getting to answer really insightful questions about our product and our thoughts on gaming in general.

And now, to the point (I have been very charitably been called ‘verbose’). When it comes to a Kickstarter, all of these conversations are happening at the END. We’ve already launched our Kickstarter page, we’re already collecting money, and a lot of things are already set in stone. We’re having conversations about what we’ve already done.

This time, I want to have conversations about what we’re going to do. This blog will be an avenue for us to start a conversation about The Shared Dream, that will let us lay out more of the process than we usually do. Art assets, design ideas, play-testing – we’ll be documenting a lot of the process here. We’re also going to do something that’s been requested of us a lot – more video content!

Keep Dreaming!

-Matt