Game: Dreamwalker d20: Modern Day Roleplaying in the Land of Dreams
Review Dated: 25th, September 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10 [ Really good ]
Total Score: 8
Average Score: 8.00
Humanity is under attack. This is another RPG that’s been converted to the d20 system. Soulless and hive-minded…
Oh wait. I’m muddling up my introductions.
“Humanity is under attack. The enemy is an alien species that assails us in our most vulnerable state – while we sleep.”
That’s the rather catchy introduction for Dreamwalker d20. My introduction to the review was to simply point out that this is the d20 conversion of the game. There’s been two before it, the original Dreamwalker and the diceless Dreamwalker in the Active Exploits series by Politically Incorrect Games. This issue is by the original company, a small RPG publisher I’ve always just called Dreamwalker but who appear to be Lucid Entertainment I’ll wait until they get an Internet domain of their own and then I’ll decide what to call them.
I’m glad there’s a d20 Dreamwalker. It’s a great game. It really is. If the d20 brand lures some gamers over to it or makes it easier to play for people then this is a good thing. You’re good to go with either d20 Modern or the core d20 rules with this book and that’s a telltale clue as to just how flexible the game is.
Is REM sleep the time when we dream or not? What does REM stand for again? These are questions any Dreamwalker GM will need to answer. Thankfully Dreamwalker gets going with a concise, intelligent and entertaining summary of sleep science and Jungian theory. So intelligent is this significant opening section that game rightly stresses that it is only a game. It’s not a medical treatise. If you’ve had the same reoccurring nightmare where you become your neighbour’s dog and eat your pet rabbit every day since last Halloween then go get help, don’t play Dreamwalker.
“The Taenia Spiritus are a race of soulless, hive-minded creatures that invade our dreams in order to foster and feed off the negative vibes and emotions caused by their presence. You are a Dreamwalker. Whether through the use of drugs, prayer, meditation or natural ability, you are able to leave your own dreams and travel into the Dreamworlds of others. Once there you can manipulate the dream’s spiritual energy, or mana, to produce wondrous effects.”
Yup; another lengthy quote from the PDF itself. Well. It does summarise the game better than I could. And it saves me time. This is the third time I’ve reviewed the game you know.
There’s heaps of mystery around the Taenia. What are they? Where did they come from? There are larvae, drones and the queen to deal with in any dream infestation. If the Dreamwalkers are especially unlucky then they’ll encounter a Brood King. The official advice, in the Brood King scenario, is to run. Run fast.
It’s a fairly secret organisation that is responsible for the official advice. That they explore dreams and battle against Taenia is more of a secret. This is the default setting for Dreamwalker and its here you might find your more traditional d20 modern game. Agents, agencies and all things espionage, these are the things that little d20 modern games are made of. Monsters, magic and puppy dog tails, these are the things that little d20 fantasy games are made of. The monsters and magic have the chance to steal the show in the Dreamlands.
There’s a nice geography to the Dreamlands too. It’s surreal enough to be dreamy and yet real enough to become a stable feature of the game. I still picture the Dreamlands as bubble like doorways only barely below the waters of the Periphery. Then there is the Underpsyche to consider. Mana, the stuff of magic (or dream energy if you want) doesn’t grow on trees (not even in your dreams) and has to be carefully tended.
It’s entirely up to the gaming group as to how much focus there is on the “real” world or the dream worlds. I think, to begin with, it might be tempting to run a series of adventures in the dreamworlds. A careful GM could even smuggle in the first apparently unconnected events of a story arc too. As the dream experience begins to be less novel for the players there should then be enough links between the characters and plot hooks in the modern world to provide some interesting spin offs. Since I seem to be sliding towards a TV show analogy I might as well continue. Once the gaming group has sampled both flavours of game the third series of scenarios can be expertly tuned by the GM to have just the right mix of fantasy and modern.
This “fantasy by episode” model is far more attractive to me than the default model of Urban Arcana and other games where monsters and magic are real all the time just that no one notices.
The download is thorough. As noted already it begins with a roleplaying suitable explanation of some facts about dreams and sleep. The rest of the RPG is divided into two books, the first for players and the second for GMs. It’s a common approach but it works.
The PDF is rather plain. There are illustrations but they’re few and far between. There are neither sidebars nor fancy formatting. The download unzips into two parts, a screen version and a print version. I opened the screen version and then had to check, I honestly thought I’d clicked on the print version by mistake. After a while the eye gets used to the white space and the single column approach. The print version is exactly the same except there are gaping holes where the illustrations should be. Lucid Entertainment has a great game here but need some more practise on their PDF production.
Dreamwalker is something different and yet the game takes little effort to pick up and master. This RPG can be anything you want it to be. A campaign could feature a series of dreams in space and have a sci-fi flavour. It could be a horror, fantasy or romance. You could mix them all around. A GM might run a dream with too many chainsaws and blood one night and one with friendly dancing teddy bears in the next. (And one with lacy teddies in the other. Heck. Why not?) You can print off a mock Psychological Evaluation Sheet at the end of the PDF.
At US $5.00 this game is excellent value for money.