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MoonHunter Sayeth 20180507


Game Guru-Thread Shepherd
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Techniques: Dream Sequence

.....This is what brings us together today
..... a blessed arrangement of story
.... That Dream within the Dream..

Oh wait that is Mawwiage. Well it counts for dream sequences too (*1).

We have all seen it in television of various genres and subgenres. (They do it occasionally in books and movies.) It happens while a character is unconscious or in a coma. It could be a day dream or a fever dream. The Cause does not matter, really. It is a chance for the writer and the characters to go in new directions. There can be a moment for a symbolic adventure. It could be a writers chance to try out a new genre or setting or a new set up for the characters. There are a number of story telling possibilities:

  • Character explorations This is main reason to do a dream sequence. If you see a character in a different setting or situation, you will see sides of them that are different.
  • To work out a problem the character is having in game life in another situation. This could be in a realistic situation or in a different world.
  • To dream about the past (see time slip below), think of it as the most epic of cut scenes.
  • Alternate Setting Exploration: What if episodes. Some decision/ roll was different and the game world would be "this way". Related to the I Wish or Magical Moments.
  • Magical moments, where something odd or mystical happens. Can you say "A Christmas Carol"? Have you played much Changeling by the way?
  • I wish moments: Like I was never born, someone never moved to Sunnydale, like I never came to The Castle. Find out if you have a wonderful life.
  • To explore other settings/ genres/ situations with "the same" characters. One of the oddest ones was the DS9 epidode. Soap operas have done half seasons in other times and places. Fall asleep reading a noir novel/ watching a movie and you get a private eye episode. It makes for a great change of pace session.
  • I fell asleep watching/ reading.... Like exploring another genre/ setting, except it is a specific episode/series. I fell asleep watching Star Trek, now I am captain of the Enterprise. I fell asleep watching Walking Dead, now I am a zombie killer. You see how this goes. It makes for a great change of pace session.

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This technique is not just for television/movie writers. (Nor is it just for dreams sequences either, but more on that later). Gamers can use dream sequences.

For a television writer, it just takes a little credit with the producer. Book and Movie writers just need to find the right time and place. They write up the script as they want.

For GMs it gets a bit harder. This is a short (very short) chronicle with a specific purpose (usually). There is a bit of planning and prep to do this. Nothing terrible, but it requires a bit of thought and some help you might want to set up ahead of time with the other players. There are two ways to handle these.

Now if it is a very short or very directed piece, it can be handled much like Stages and Casting. This is a fast and loose way to play this out. You quickly assign characters, give some direction, then set up the scene. This process works really well and if the sequence is short, it works better than anything else.

Remember, there will always be a lot of technique borrowed from Flashbacks. It is a more focused session of scenes.

If the dream sequence is going to be longer, has multiple resolutions, or is more open in the way things could go, it should be treated as a very short chronicle. Most of the MoonHunter process that would be shared will with players, will fall into the GM. The other players might contribute "one bit".

What about the rest of the Troupe?
A Dream Sequence is is basically a single character centric process. To make the situation work, it needs to be a surprise to the dreaming character. So they have to be out of the loop and any work needs to be done with the rest of the troupe.

No matter how you are doing things (Stages or Chronicle), the other players have to be playing along. (They can help too, not only during play... but in set up as well.)

In the conventions of most of these stories, The Characters are usually "the same". Or close to the same, given the changes in the setting. (The Happy Character might not be happy because their life will be different if X didn't happen.) If the setting or genre is different, think of the characters in the chronicle as "actors" to be cast as new characters (usually their old characters with bits of chrome.) in the Dream Sequence. These is usually fairly easy to work out with the troupe ahead of time.

Character sheets can be created for the new character, or they can be short handed (as if you are doing a Stage/ Orbit character).

Note: The Dreamer is usually semi-aware, if not completely aware, that this is different. It is their advantage. The GM can provide them a character sheet and a little bit of background material... if appropriate. Most of the time the players go along with it (most will if you nudge them that the only way out is to solve the new problems.)

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This GM technique might be a "bit too artistic" for some GMs. It does take a good bit of work and some coordination and logistics. It is not beyond what most GMs could do, if their troupe is willing.

The focus is the Key. There is normally a reason to do this (unless this is specifically a fun change of pace session). The GM needs to keep things "on track" to have the events of the dream sequence (1*) fulfill its purpose. If the GM (and the rest of The Troupe) work on making this happen, these sessions could really advance the main chronicle.

Win loose or draw, the dream sequence sessions will be memorable and things your troupe will talk about for years to come.

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*1) Technically this is a bubble story, because the tiniest prick and it pops and goes away. Thus it is a story inside the story, a dream within a dream.

The technique has an official name of a bubble story, but nobody knows that except some writing geeks :))). The bubble story is most often used for the Dream Sequences. Bubble Stories can be used in more ways that the "common" Dream Sequence.

Time slips, where a person goes some place and finds themselves in another time and place. These could be magic, going into "The Cave", or a good old fashion trip fall and head bash. These are resolved with ... the same mechanics as a Dream Sequence. This is great for genre changes or dropping clues. ("Well I lived 6 months in the wild west, and that property was deeded to.... or Oh, I know where the flux capacitor is. How? Well I buried it over by the mine to keep the radiation from killing anyone in 1880." Right).

Wish Changes, where someone wishes something and then the world is different. Buffy the Vampire Slayer did a great episode or two this way. Technically this is now "the real world", but we hope that the bubble will burst some how and the chronicle will return to normal.

The Shower Scene, where an entire sequence of sessions were retconned with the reappearance of a character (out of the shower). It was explained away as a long dream by one of the characters. Sort of a reverse of these things.

(Now Time Slips and Wish Changes can be "dream sequences" in terms of the story continuity... so YMMV and the naming might change.)
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