The Dreaming Crucible: Roles

Hello, everyone. I’m continuing to post the text of my storytelling game The Dreaming Crucible online as part of its Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license. The main body of the gamewill be posted to the blog, then compiled in a wiki.

The Crucible is a game in which a young person beset with fear, confusion and pain goes into a magical land, where Light Faerie denizens offer aid, comfort and friendship and Dark Faerie forces make every attempt to crush her spirit. it’s time to talk about those player roles:

Heroine

The Heroine player portrays a young girl (or boy) having difficulty coping with some pain or trauma, who journeys to a Land of Faerie where she must obtain something, unravel a mystery, or merely escape—facing expressions of her worst fears or heartache in the process. Heroine must decide how to face the Perils that beset her. The Heroine also describes her exploration of the Land of Faerie, and her reaction to its many beautiful and terrible aspects.

Light Faerie

The Light Faerie player portrays characters who are kind, helpful or pleasant to the Heroine, most specially a Faerie companion who journeys with her and aids her. The Light Faerie intervenes at times to face a Peril in the Heroine’s stead. The Light Faerie also collaborates with the Dark Faerie to describe the Land of Faerie itself, focusing on its delightful and enthralling elements.

Dark Faerie

The Dark Faerie player portrays characters who are hostile, menacing or cruel to the Heroine, most specially a Faerie nemesis who traps or entices the Heroine into Faerie, and the Powers he arrays against her to destroy, consume or seduce her. The Dark Faerie introduces specific Perils that the Heroine must face to continue her journey. The Dark Faerie also collaborates with the Light Faerie to describe the Land of Faerie itself, focusing on its sinister and unnerving elements.

Continue reading The Dreaming Crucible: Roles

The Dreaming Crucible: I Will Not Abandon You.

Its time for another installment of The Dreaming Crucible online edition! The Crucible is my storytelling game about young people working through their pain in a deadly Faerie quest. It’s available on Etsy.com or the Indie RPGS Un-store as a handmade book (see the above link), but the text itself is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license. And so I’m releasing it in sections, first here on my blog, and soon to be compiled into a Wiki.

Last time I talked about the game’s narrative Principles of Play, but today I’m going to delve into an even more basic principle that embodies the Crucible’s underlying philosophy.

The Dreaming Crucible is a game about teenagers and children coping with trauma and heartache. This can take a relatively mild form, or it can delve into the darkest corners of alienation and abuse. Furthermore, a happy ending is possible but not assured. Are you willing to risk that? How far are you willing to go in depicting a child suffering? How young a protagonist are you comfortable with portraying in such excruciating circumstances? These are important questions to answer as a group.

The Dreaming Crucible is not safe. My hope is that you will enter into a relationship with the game and with your fellow players, such that you will go to the dangerous places together in mutual bravery and trust. Game designer Meguey Baker has coined this distinction as Nobody Gets Hurt vs. I Will Not Abandon You.

She says, “I as a player expect to get my buttons pushed, and I will not abandon you, my fellow players, when that happens. I will remain present and engaged and play through the issue. I as a player expect to push buttons, and I will not abandon you, my fellow players, when you react. I will remain present and engaged as you play through the issue.”

I Will Not Abandon You is the default mode of Dreaming Crucible play.

Continue reading The Dreaming Crucible: I Will Not Abandon You.

The Dreaming Crucible: Principles of Play

My storytelling game The Dreaming Crucible is published under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license, which means that while I do sell it as a handmade book, you’re free to make any use you like of the game’s text, commercial or otherwise, so long as you credit me and allow others to use your work under the same conditions.

That being the case, it’s high time I started releasing the Crucible’s text on the internet. Before too long the whole game will be available in wiki form; in the meantime I’m going to showcase the more significant portions in a series of blog posts. I’ll start with the Principles of Play, which are a set of guiding precepts that function as a baseline approach to playing the game, on which particular rules and specific narrative and collaborative techniques can be built.

Have a look: Continue reading The Dreaming Crucible: Principles of Play

This is what Indie Publishing looks like.

About a month ago I attended the Penny Arcade Expo with the final edition of my storytelling game The Dreaming Crucible.

Well, that’s not exactly true. It would be more accurate to say that I attended PAX while designing the Crucible, and spent the first day of the con finishing the game in my Seattle lodgings in time to release it in Friday evening at the The Dreaming Comics and Games booth.

In most if not all professional publishing models, this would have been impossible. If I didn’t have the game finished weeks ahead of the convention date, there’s no way in hell I could arrive on the scene with books in hand. Thank God I don’t follow a professional model.

I personally handled every step of The Dreaming Crucible‘s writing, design and production process. The only exception was the artwork of the talented Erin Kelso, the usage rights to which I secured via email. But I wrote the game myself, laid it out myself in Adobe InDesign, printed it at home on an inkjet printer, and assembled it myself using embroidery thread, a portable papercutter and scrapbooker’s glue.  I did not employ a printing service or subcontract any design or proofreading duties. I did receive the generous help of friends who coached me on layout and art direction, proofread portions of the text, and consulted on game design aspects. Those I thanked heartily, credited in the book, and gave a complimentary copy of the finished product. But as much as possible, the Crucible was a one-man operation on a shoestring budget.

Continue reading This is what Indie Publishing looks like.

PAX Dreaming

I just wanted to let my readers know that I’ll be at the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle this weekend, playing and selling my brand-new, revised edition of The Dreaming Crucible, my game of grueling and transformative Faerie journeys, with gorgeous art by Erin Kelso. At right is a taste of the artwork that’ll be gracing the cover, with more works in the interior.

If you’ll be at the show, come see me! You can stop by The Dreaming Comics (no relation!) dealer booth and demo space to check out the book and play the game with me. I’d be delighted to tell stories with you.

And that’s all the time I have right now; so much to do! I’ll be back in the blogosphere when this whirlwind has subsided.

Peace,

—Joel

Lifting Up

I played a session of my game The Dreaming Crucible with my friends Jake and Nick and Neil who was visiting from the UK. It was a happy and robust play session, with creative cylinders fully firing from all the participants. Not only did I enjoy playing with them, but I learned a lot about how the game works, namely:

We excel when we lift one another up.

The game was fun because we all built on each other’s contributions at each moment in play. We could easily have been four individual creators, each plotting our own brilliant artistic statement with our own story material. Each individual statement could maybe have been artful and satisfying, even brilliant. We might have even been courteous and generous in allowing each other space to build our little artistic towers, not crowding each other and jostling each other for the spotlight. We might have all created something we could look back on and say, yes, it was good.

But none of that compares to the glory that bursts forth when we lift one another other up. Continue reading Lifting Up

Weave richly the dream…

A couple of experiences from Go Play NW last weekend: first, I played my game The Dreaming Crucible with Joe McDaldno and Jackson Tegu. Jackson has a little Crucible experience, so for once I was able to turn the role of Dark Faerie over to another and just play the Hero. This meant that the other players were in charge of bringing the world of Faerie to life. And we had the most descriptively rich game of The Dreaming Crucible that I’ve every played.

A Well-Dressed Man who commanded the inanimate whisked young Aaron on a flying carpet to a vast clockwork plain and commanded him to repair it. A Stickboy borne on a raven persuaded the boy to flee the place, and secured a dog for him to ride through a forest pulsing with life. Aaron met an apple tree who was delighted for company but sad to think he might rob her of her apples. Then he lost his companions and the forest path turned to tile and walls rose up to hem him in and he almost spent forever in a bare room with a vanity and a chair. He came to a cottage where an old witch became an alluring girl and traded him the lives of his companions for passage to the Well Dressed Man’s black spire. The girl skinned the dog and Aaron wore him, still living, as a cloak as he and the Stickboy climbed the spire to confront his suave enslaver. Continue reading Weave richly the dream…

They buy why you do it

Simon Sinek gave a fascinating TED talk in September 2009 called “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” I wasn’t drawn to it for principles of “leadership” in the typical sense, but Sinek said some wonderful and thought-provoking things about purpose and vision, which really moves me in light of my recent drive to grab hold of my dreams.

Sinek’s repeated refrain is, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” If you simply talk about what you do in rational terms, it might be useful to people, but still fail to draw them in. But if you lay bare your purpose, the reason you make your product, offer your service, you’ll connect with people who are attracted to that purpose. Sinek says, “The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with the people who believe what you believe.”

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Continue reading They buy why you do it

Would you like to buy a dream?

Recently I made a declaration of sorts on Facebook. My frustrated creative urge was reaching critical mass and I realized something: I have no reason to be timid or apologetic about making, sharing and even selling art. I had a big ball of angst in my belly about asking friends for money, even for something dear to me that I’ve lavished with hard work and care.

So, SbtT now has a publishing arm, Story by the Throat! Press. This consists of me, Joel P. Shempert, making games and selling them and playing them. Right now, I’ve got a PDF of my first game, Spectre of the Beast, on sale at RPGNow, and I can sell print copies of both Spectre and my new game, The Dreaming Crucible, in person or by mail order. Click on the link under the site banner for more details! In the meantime, think of this as a combination manifesto and press release:

All right folks, I’m going to be frank. I got dreams, big ones. But right now it’s difficult to take even small steps. Work sucks away the premium of my energy, fatherhood drinks up on the rest, and marriage subsists on the fumes. Dreams? Well, dreams suffocate, living on as lingering whispers of despair at their passing.

Well, NO MORE! Continue reading Would you like to buy a dream?