In the last post I talked about the core mechanic of Dreamland: gathering Words by making flowery speeches and spending them to perform (or get bonuses on performing) actions. But although Words are the substance of Dreamland, a dreamer who uses too many Words risks suffering for their hubris. (For what are Dreamland stories, even Labyrinth and the book version of The Neverending Story, about if not the excitement and peril of hubris?) In game terms, this is called “breaking the world”, or breaking the pillars of Dreamland.
For Words, like all the great powers of Dreamland, are classified by their emotional content. Human emotions, desires, and feelings make up the Five Pillars of Dreamland: Wonder, Mystery, Loathing, Exoticism and Passion. In game terms, some Words are “Neutral” (mostly generic fantasy words such as “road”, “city”, “king/queen”, etc.), while other Words fit easily into one or two of these categories. The Pillar to which each Word belongs is represented on its Word Card.
Whenever you spend Pillar Words in Dreamland, you must roll a 1d10. If you roll less than or equal to the number of Pillar Words you spent in the challenge, you break one (or more) of the Pillars of Dreamland. Importantly, breaking the Pillars doesn’t mean you lose the challenge; instead, you incur negative consequences, which harm you and your friends (and create new story hooks) whether you succeed or fail.
Thus, in every challenge that’s important enough to spend Words on, players must make a choice: how many Pillar Words do they want to risk using? In Dreamland, every important challenge is a gamble.
Of course, Pillar Words are not merely disadvantageous. Different character types and actions in Dreamland receive bonuses for using particular types of Pillar Words, so they may be too useful to resist. As for exactly what happens when you break the Pillars, that depends on the type of Words you used. I’ll write about the Five Pillars of Dreamland—the core forces of the Dreamland universe—in the next post.