This “example of play” is loosely based on events that happened during a game of the first playtest adventure, “The Paradise of the Unchanging.” Unfortunately the color formatting which differentiated the different Pillar Words from one another was lost when transferring it from MSWord to WordPress, but hopefully the gist still comes across. Ideally I’ll draw this into a comic strip eventually…
Princess Zyal, Mulloth the Swineherd, and Ulth the Squire set out on a journey to save the eternal city of Olathöe from an approaching army of abhumans. After acquiring horses and supplies, they stand outside the gates of their home city Olathöe, looking at a map of their surroundings.
Because there are three dreamers, the Dream Master fills the Communal Pool with 15 Words. The first set of randomly drawn Words are: gate, tower, ship/galleon, snake(s), moon, jewel/jeweled, astonishing, doom, onyx, forsaken, horror/horrible, worship, wine, joy and horn(s). The dream has just begun; the Night Clock is at 0.
Princess: Which way should we go? The four closest cities are Azasheh, Shurash, Paral and Ghalandiz. Do we know anything about them?
DM: Folk from other lands rarely visit Olathöe, and Olathöeans never go abroad. You can use Wisdom (map locations) to know about the other cities, or to remember things that you had forgotten you knew.
Princess: (confers with the others) None of us have that skill…
DM: Then you can spend Words on it. You can gamble 2, 4, 6 or 8 Words on any location.
Swineherd: I’ll start. (The Swineherd takes the moon and tower Words from the Communal Pool and narrates) If we follow the rising moon we’ll come to the city of Azasheh. The wild pigs talk about its tall towers.
DM: (The DM draws two replacement Words and adds them to the Communal Pool: idle and dream(s).) They are indeed beautiful, jeweled towers like something from a dream. You’ve also heard that the people of Azasheh are the happiest in the world.
DM: You can spend more Words if you want to remember more.
Princess: We’re not going there on vacation, we’re looking for help. (The Princess takes the gate and snake(s) Words from the Communal Pool and narrates) We can’t return through this gate until we have something to save our city. A wizard who can summon an army of snakes, or powerful fighters who can assist us. What about Shurash?
DM: (The DM draws two replacement Words and adds them to the Communal Pool: weary and bronze.) Shurash is a wealthy port city. It’s said the people of Shurash appreciate life more than anyone in the world.
Swineherd: How is that different from Azasheh?
Squire: (The Squire takes the ship/galleon and wine Words from the Communal Pool and narrates) My lady, we all would love to drink wine and a take a pleasure cruise on a ship. But we can do that after we save our city. Perhaps something can help us in Ghalandiz?
DM: (The DM draws two replacement Words and adds them to the Communal Pool: sword and poem/poet.) Yes. It’s said the folk of Ghalandiz are the strongest in the world. No one dares to face them in battle.
Squire: That’s perfect! Princess, we must go to Ghalandiz! (the other dreamers agree)
DM: You spent a Pillar Word, so you have to roll to see if you break the Pillars. You only spent 1, so your target number is 2 or higher.
Squire: (rolls a 1d10) 4.
DM: You’re fine.
Princess: Let’s be off then. I make sure to ride upwind from the swineherd.
DM: The road winds up through black onyx mountains. Soon you are far away from your home, and when you look back Olathöe is just a jewel on the horizon, and then it is gone. You travel for a week through forsaken wilderness. This will be a Wilderness challenge of (DM rolls 1D6+2) 6, or something bad will happen on the road.
Swineherd: I have Wilderness. (rolls 1D6) I got a 4!
DM: You can accept your fate, or make up the difference with Words.
Swineherd: (The Swineherd takes the weary and sword Words from the Communal Pool and narrates) I’m used to long, weary journeys with my pigs. I have a walking stick made from an old sword that I lean on as I lead us through the mountains. I know how to find water and food.
DM: You did it! (The DM draws two replacement Words and adds them to the Communal Pool: distant and an Exotic Word.) Mulloth guides you through the mountain passes, and in a week you see a green valley in the distance. As you come closer you can see great green trees and grassy meadows and a little lake. This is the crossroads on the way to Ghalandiz.
Princess: We stop our horses by the lake and let them drink.
Squire: I bring my lady some water, start a fire to heat a bath, and offer to wash her clothes.
DM: Beside the lake is a strange tree with bronze wood and golden apples. They’re huge, the size of dinner plates, and shine like actual gold. Your eyes are drawn to the astonishing sight.
Swineherd: Perfect for my pigs! I immediately take one.
Princess and Squire: (simultaneously) No!
DM: As you touch the tree, you hear a roar from the forest. Slithering out from between the trees comes an enormous dragon, with a snakelike head and horns and fangs as long as your arms. It rushes towards you all hungrily.
Squire: I draw my sword and put myself between it and my princess! “Get back, my lady! And you too, swineherd!”
DM: You’re going to fight the dragon singlehanded?
Squire: Yes! I have 1D6 Fighting!
DM: Okay, the dragon’s Fighting strength is 1D6+14. Furthermore, this will be a risky challenge, so you’ll have to spend Words before we roll.
Squire: Um…I can do it! (The Squire takes the joy, idle, horns, distant, horror/horrible, forsaken, doom and poem/poet Words from the Communal Pool and narrates) Protecting you is my joy, my lady! No squire sits idle while his mistress is in danger! I swing my sword and slice under the horns of this horrible creature! In distant lands poets will sing of this battle! Your dragon god has forsaken you, for I, Ulth of Olathöe, am your doom!…that’s 8 Words, the most I can spend. Passion Words give me x2 for Fighting, so it’s actually 12.
DM: Okay, let’s roll! (The DM rolls 4 and the Squire rolls 4.)The dragon got 18 to your 16. Also, roll to see if you break the Pillars.
Squire: Agggggh! (rolls 1d10)I rolled a 5. I broke the Pillars too!
DM: Very well. (Since the Squire spent both Passion and Loathing Words, the DM decides that the Squire broke the Pillar of Passion. The DM advances the Night Clock from 0 to 1.)You rush valiantly in, but the dragon’s scales and horns deflect your sword. It knocks you to the ground and swallow you up in several bites. As you die your last thoughts are your need to protect your Princess. You gain the Obsessed Impairment: protecting Princess Zyal.
Squire: That’s fine. It suits me anyway.
DM: Also, you’re dead, at least for now. You lose two half-Memories of your choice and then you wake up. Make a Waking roll, your target number is 8.
Squire: (rolls 1d10)I rolled a 6.
DM: The pain shocks you awake and you wake up screaming. (The DM draws eight replacement Words and adds them to the Communal Pool: diviner, quest, grass, might(y), red, painted, beyond and famine/famished). Let’s leave you for a second and stay with the Princess and the Swineherd. Zyal and Mulloth, you watch the dragon consume your friend, and then it turns towards you, froth and blood dripping from its jaws.
Princess: That poor man. Dragon, stop! We mean you no harm. I am a princess, we have no need of your golden apples. Stay your jaws!
DM: The dragon roars, “I am famished, I’ll swallow you up and drink your red blood!”
Princess: It can speak! I’m going to use Persuasion on it.
DM: Okay, you can try. The dragon’s Stubbornness is 1D6+4, and this is a risky challenge too.
Princess: (The Princess takes various Words from the Communal Pool and narrates) Dragon, I know you are famished, but do not eat us with your mighty fangs. We are travelers from the bronze city of Olathöe, on a quest to save our city from monsters. Your power is astonishing, beyond belief. Help us and we will reward you with jewels and a throne of onyx.
Swineherd: Can I say something too?
DM: Yes. If you collaborate you can use as many as 15 Words.
Swineherd: (The Swineherd takes various Words from the Communal Pool and narrates) Ahh, the diviner told me there’d be days like this…Dragon! Don’t paint the grass with our blood. By the swine god Gygarum (the Swineherd uses a made-up Exotic Word), whom I worship, we taste terrible. If we work together, you can eat my delicious pigs!
Princess: That’s 13 Words, including 6 Wonder Words from me. Wonder Words give me x2 on Persuasion, so our total is 19…plus my 1D6 Persuasion of course.
DM: (laughs) Let’s roll! (The DM rolls a 2 and the Princess rolls a 6.) Okay, you got 25 and the dragon got 6. The dragon’s attitude changes completely. Its eyes widen, it stops its attack and grapefruit-sized tears start to pour down its cheeks.
DM: (as dragon) No one has ever spoken to me so kindly! I…I’m sorry I ate your friend! I’m very lonely here, and so hungry, and there is nothing to eat but squirrels…!
Princess: I pat the dragon’s face and give it my handkerchief. There, there! It’s all right!
DM: Now roll to see if you break the Pillars. You spent 10 Pillar Words, but you still succeed on a 10.
Swineherd: I’ll roll for us. (rolls 1d10) 8!
DM: (Since the two of them spent Exotic, Loathing and Wonder Words, the DM decides that they broke the Pillar of Wonder. The DM advances the Night Clock from 1 to 2.) Far away, in another dimension, a clock tolls at night and two sleepers stir. Here in Dreamland, as you see this enormous dragon weeping like a child, the wonder of it is so overpowering that you lose some of your memories of your other life. You each lose half of a Memory; choose which one.
Princess: I lose half of Exotic Memory of “New York”.
Swineherd: I lose half of my Loathing Memory of my stepfather yelling at me. Compared to the dragon, he’s nothing.
DM: Very well. The dragon cries self-pityingly, I’m just so hungry, so hungry…!
Swineherd: (The Swineherd takes the red and dreams Words from the Communal Pool and narrates) I can spend 2 Words to create a pig. Coincidentally, I have a delicious pig right here. I snap my fingers and the pig is so well-trained it instantly dies of joy and backflips onto a red platter. My dragon friend, this is the meal of your dreams! (The Swineherd rolls to see if she breaks the Pillars, and rolls a 3, not breaking them.)
DM: (as dragon) This pork is so good…! You two are my only friends…! You said you were on a quest, didn’t you? I’ll help you however I can!
Princess: Splendid! It’s just a shame my Squire was eaten …
DM: Speaking of the Squire…Ulth, you wake up in another world. You failed your Waking roll so it’s not a easy transition. You tell us, where are you? What do you see?
Squire: Um…I wake up in a bunkbed, screaming. I’m in a barracks and there are soldiers all around. I make so much noise that everyone who’s there turns around and looks at me.
DM: What else is in the room? What year is it? What are the uniforms like?
Squire: They’re U.S. Army uniforms. One soldier is cleaning his assault rifle. It’s hot and muggy; we’re in Vietnam. There’s a Grateful Dead poster on the wall.
DM: What does your body look like? Is it the same as your dream self? Who are you?
Squire: I’m a strung out 18-year-old draftee. Barely finished high school. I’ve got an eagle tattoo on my arm.
DM: Since you failed your Waking roll, you take a Dream Shock Impairment. Roll another 1d10. You want to roll high.
Squire: (rolls 1d10) 8.
DM: Subtract 2 because you lost two half-Memories, so 6…you gain Dream Visions.
Squire: Is that bad?
DM: It’s not good; if you get two more Dream Shock Impairments you die. (The DM thinks for a moment about how to describe the Dream Visions) Now that you’re back in Vietnam, your memories of Dreamland fade and your waking memories return, but you start seeing things. When you go to the bathroom to splash water in your face you look in the mirror and see the Squire. When you look outside the tent you see the road from Olathöe stretching through the mountains. When a helicopter flies into camp you see the dragon roaring through the sky. And also, you see one more horrible thing: a vision of an enormous monster, half eagle and half lizard, flying through the sky. Fire burns in its eyes and it shrieks like a bomber jet as it swings a giant mace wreathed in flames. It’s even bigger than the dragon. The visions come and go, but they always return.
Squire: Okay…I think I’m going to check in to the medic…maybe I can get sent home if I’m declared insane…
DM: Think about what might happens, but for now let’s get back to Dreamland. Eventually you fall asleep. (The DM refills the Communal Pool to its maximum of 15 Words: sin(ful), night, gold(en), huge, lion(s), storm, cloak, desert/fields, heaven, strange, twilight, mirth, bell(s) and two Exotic Words.) After the dragon eats the pigs, the Princess and the Swineherd are sitting around talking to it when suddenly the dragon coughs and the Squire, whom you both saw dismembered, flies intact out of the dragon’s mouth.
Princess: Ulth! You’re alive!
DM: Squire, you’re disoriented and covered in slime, but you’re basically uninjured. The dragon looks surprised.
Swineherd: How much time has passed?
DM: For Ulth’s waking self, it’s been a day, but for everyone else, it’s been less than an hour. Ulth, you return to your dream persona, and your memories of Vietnam quickly fade back to your usual three Memories.
Squire: I rush to the Princess’s side. Princess Zyal! I’m sorry I failed you!
Princess: It’s all right, my squire. The dragon is our friend now, and we don’t even need to go to Ghalandiz, because he will fight the abhumans for us. Dragon, can you fly us back to Olathöe?
DM: (as the dragon) I would be honored, but my back is very slippery. It might be hard for you to hang on for the entire flight.
Princess: Don’t worry, my dear dragon. (to the DM) I spend half a Mystery half-Memory and create a crafted item. I open my saddlebags and pull out a dragon harness with seats and seatbelts for three people. I think we’ll find this fits you perfectly, by sheer coincidence, of course.
Swineherd: Awesome! Let’s fly!
DM: Very well. Leaving your horses in the meadow, you tie the harness to the dragon and all of you climb aboard. The dragon takes a running start and then jumps up, soaring into the sky. Soon you are flying high over the mountains. As you head south towards Olathöe, however, soon you see ahead of you a huge black stormcloud.
Squire: I don’t like the look of this…
Princess: Onward! Our dragon is a match for anything.
DM: You fly onward underneath the cloud. As you get closer, you start to hear a strange shrieking. Out of the storm comes a huge shadow that seems to blot out the heavens. It looks like a cross between an eagle and a lizard, and it carries a gigantic fiery mace in two hands. It’s bigger than the dragon, and roars like a lion as it descends upon you…
(We leave this story to be continued in another dream…) *