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.

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!


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