Dreams of Development

A lot of the point of this blog is to provide myself with a personal space to play with development and created works for Dungeons and Dragons. I know I’m not at a professional level, but I’d like to be one day. Having this blog helps me practice. It’s been a lot of fun so far! It’s also opened my eyes a bit to the difficulty and amount of work that has to go into something like a complete adventure or even a set of optional rules. My last adventure, for instance, definitely fell short of my plans and I had to cut a lot out of it, mostly because the amount of work involved would have stalled the blog far too much for my liking. It was a tall order, especially after coming down off of Nanowrimo.

So what I’m probably going to do is write adventures on the side instead of serializing them, and then releasing it as one thing around once a year. This gives me the luxury to take my time and make sure they’re both deep and wide, instead of smattering of events strung together by some box text. I could then do posts every once in awhile about the adventure I’m working on. Does that sound interesting?

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The Dreamgate

Anyway, what I really wanted to talk about in this entry was something that I’d love to work on, if I had the time/money resources to do so. While Dungeons and Dragons is what I talk about the most on this blog, I do love many different RPGs, and my biggest dream is to develop one of my own

One such RPG idea that I’ve sort of been throwing around in my head for awhile now is one targeting younger people, like kids and young teens or maybe young adults. I believe there is a bit of a barrier into games like Dungeons and Dragons or World of Darkness in that you really need someone experienced to run the game and teach others how to play. The development ideal would be a game a group of young friends could pick up and learn by themselves.

What I had in mind is something that right now I am calling The Dreamgate Cycle/Chronicle (not sure which). The PCs in the game are representations of the players themselves, transported through the Dreamgate to a fantastical world, and guided by each by a guardian spirit that sort of gives them their “class”. I’ll list a bit about the game and world, though take note that these are just simple ideas scratched on notebook paper at the moment, and not at all a very developed game or even idea.

The World: The world is nameless, and the immediate region around the Dreamgate is a mixture of foggy forests and moorland with many ruins, abandoned castles, and small villages dotting the landscape. (I’d like to pull inspiration from Welsh and Irish folklore for both setting and story.) There are non-humans living in the villages (races yet to be made), who live simple rustic lives farming, mining, or cutting lumber. They avoid a lot of the dark abandoned places, knowing that less than peaceful things live there.

There are many clues among these ruins of a lost kingdom and people, and even the myths of the villagers are filled with stories of champions, kings, and enchanters of great power that for some inexplicable reason have disappeared. The foremost of these are mention of the King of Dawn and Queen of Dusk, which in some legends are adversaries, yet still in others they are lovers.

As the game goes on enemies and great adversaries are introduced, and the scope of the game will widen from simple exploration and mystery-solving to true heroics from the dreamers.

I also imagine that expansions would be added to the game, opening up new exotic territory to explore, and new mysteries and adversaries to overcome.

The PCs: The characters start out as fictional versions of themselves, and the players are encouraged to stat out their own strengths and weaknesses on the character sheet. The beginning of the story involves the characters having a strange dream while they sleep, of being pulled through the ethereal void towards some unknown place. They are then contacted (on an individual basis) by some sort of mythic image or symbol. These are the ‘Guardians’, spirit guardians that represents their class. These are beings that were ancient heroes and mythic figures in this world long ago. This Guardian would form a symbiotic relationship with them, with the attachment happening as they pass through the Dreamgate. This Guardian could compliment the character’s natural talents, or provide boosts for weaknesses.

These Guardians can’t communicate directly with the characters, but their power does grow as the PCs spend time and do things in the dreamworld. The Guardians I imagine being archetypes of fun things that I imagine younger people would like to play. The Berserker, The Sky Knight, The Woods Witch, The Hermit, that sort of thing. A bit more narrow in focus than a class from DnD, and it makes the PC more powerful in the common trope of RPG classes and experience.

As the PCs adventure and explore the ancient places of the world, they’ll get to learn more about their guardian, and learn about the past of the world and what has happened here. They would also learn about relationships the guardians had with each other before they became guardians, perhaps putting the characters in an awkward position if their guardian was an adversary to another in the group.

The Rules: This is what I have developed the least. I know I want the game to be easy to pick up and play, and easy for a kid or young teen to learn and play with peers. I’d like for the world and encounters to be really fleshed out from the get go, to put less burden on the game master, and to make the game feel more like a sandbox. I’d also like to put a heavy emphasis on non-combat play, and besides their natural talents and what they gain from their spirit guardian, I’d like for the characters to be able to learn crafts and trades. I’d want these talents to be more than a simple number to add to dice, and would love if I could flesh these out as much as combat moves and spells. Making something like that fun? Yeah I have no idea.

Example: One example adventure or encounter in the game, that I’ve written as a short story, involves the Prince of Sky Castle. The Sky Castle is a mysterious castle that appears over the sea to the east of the region, floating forebodingly with no apparent way to get there. The villagers will tell the PCs that in ancient times a prince was cursed by certain entities (I imagine angelic figures that will appear from time to time in old tales) for ignoring his people. The curse was that he would spend eternity, brooding in his castle.

If the PCs attempt to reach the castle by boat, they’ll get caught in a storm, and their boat will capsize. They will then awaken, of course, in the castle, and there find a place full of mystery and some horror. They’ll learn the real and complex story of the Sky Prince. Will they have to face the Sky Prince? Can they do so without having to resort to violence? Can the Sky Prince be redeemed? And who is this spectral female figure they see from a high parapet? (cue DUN DUN DUN)

I imagine adventures being written like that, with a sort of fairy tale quality to them, with esoteric mysteriousness on the side. I’d love for an RPG to reflect the sort of children’s fantasy that I grew up on like CS Lewis, Ursula k Leguin, Lloyd Alexander, George MacDonald and such. A bit more whimsical than the sword and sorcery Dungeons and Dragons fare. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

This is sort of a weird post, because it’s me thinking out loud, but this is a thing I’d love to develop. Finding the time and resources to even get started seems a very tall barrier, however. Though in the age of self-publishing, maybe it’s not so big?

Anyway, I  wanted to ask you about things that YOU would like to develop. What are your development passions and ideals? Also any feedback or especially advice and wisdom pertaining to my little idea would be incredibly appreciated.

4 thoughts on “Dreams of Development

  1. Sounds like a great idea to me. I like that you are going for a more story driven Lewis/MacDonaldesque sort of flavor, as this seems more appropriate to younger ages. Plus, if they are playing themselves in this game, you don’t want their characters to end up dying, who knows what ill psychological effects that could have on a budding imagination.

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    • That’s definitely true! Something to think about.

      My wife brought up a good point when I was talking to her about it. She wondered how the game would be played by a child with disabilites, and what would be an appropriate way to handle that.

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      • Not really sure. I guess it would depend what type of disability and how severe. Some kids with severe cognitive disabilities might not even be capable of playing the game. Other kids may wish to play themselves, only without the disability (e.g. a child who is paralyzed from the waist down might wish to play in a world where they can run and jump). In other cases it might be best to assume the character is exactly the same as the child and just let the child learn how to confront obstacles (in an imaginary context) given their limitations.

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