Example of Play

Three friends have gathered to play Dreampunk: Ellery, playing Elif; Melinda, playing Meghan; and Gili, playing the Guide.

After introducing their characters, to kick off the Chapter, they go around and each play the top card of the deck to establish something about the scene.

A racoon winning at a slot machine in a forest
Jackpot, by Obaseun “godofiron” Ogunkeye

First, Gili turns up a card showing a raccoon gambling in a forest. They say, “You find the two of you in a brightly-lit, labyrinthine casino, surrounded by strange figures at slot machines and card tables.”

Ellery turns over a card showing approaching wolves. They say, “Two wolves in elegantly-tailored suits are circling us, their eyes seeming to say ‘If you’re not here to gamble, you must be here to cause trouble.’”

Melinda turns over a card showing an elephant emerging from a watermelon. She contributes, “An elephant sits nearby at a poker table. He seems to be losing, down to only a few chips. Which, I should clarify, are clearly potato chips.”

Gili, as the Guide, then says, “The wolves continue to watch, evaluating you. What do you do?”

Ellery and Melinda look at each other, then Ellery speaks. “Elif, eying the wolves, says in their general direction, ‘No need for concern, we’re just here to patronize your,’ vague gesture, ‘lovely establishment.’ They pat their pockets, which initially seem to be empty, but then they pull out a bag overflowing with... let’s say actual poker chips.” They play a card showing a tornado of coins, using the Manifest move.

Children dancing around a well with a tornado of coins coming out of it
Well and Coins, by Jhenne Tyler

Gili nods. “The wolves seem convinced that if you’re trouble, at least you’re profitable trouble, and back off, though they still seem generally vigilant over the casino floor.”

Melinda says, “I grab some of Elif’s chips and grab a chair next to the elephant, nodding for the dealer to deal me in. To the elephant, I say, ‘Having an off day?’”

“‘You could say that,’ he grumbles. ‘If I don’t pay off my debt to the Boss by the thirteenth hour, he’ll have my ears.’ And he jerks his head towards a fancy balcony, where someone’s watching the casino floor. Elif, he looks familiar.”

Ellery starts a little. “Oh, is it Dervin?”

Each playbook has a connected denizen of the Dream. Elif is a Bound, and thus is connected to a Contrarian who pronounces odd rules. During character creation Ellery has established that their Contrarian is named Dervin and believes lies are virtuous.

Gili nods. “Yup. Any idea what Dervin looks like?”

“I’m going to say he’s, like... a demonic turtle? With an opera cloak?”

“Great. Anyways, that’s totally what the Boss looks like. And the elephant continues, ‘Ever since he banned paying debts in metal, I’ve been in a very tough position. I thought it was a sound investment, but now he only takes organic.’”

Melinda says, “Meghan makes a face at her plastic poker chips and then shrugs. She’s going to try to be a poker shark and win some organic chips that way.”

Gili asks, “Does she actually know how to play poker?”

“I’m going to say, yes? I mean, she is a college student and all."

“But she’s not using a Tether or anything, right? I’m going to Resolve Doubt, then. These folks are good at poker, but not, like, evilly good.”

An armored knight below a distant lighthouse
Watchful, by Nathaniel Santore

Gili turns over the top card of the deck, revealing a card with a knight and a distant lighthouse. The card makes Gili think about a long journey, and they interpret that as Meghan making progress but being far from her goal.

“You’re holding your own, here, but you’re not quite a shark. You might be able to play your cards carefully and come out ahead, but it’ll take you quite a while to amass enough to pay off any sort of significant debt.”

Ellery interjects, “Meanwhile I’m going to try to investigate Dervin more, see what he’s up to.”

Gili responds, “He’s not doing a whole lot, seems to just be enjoying overlooking the gambling crowd. He’s going to notice you approach, though, unless you’re doing something special to hide.”

“Nah, that’s fine.”

“Then let’s say you end up going up a flight of spiral stairs and he beckons you over. ‘Isn’t it glorious? My little den of virtue.’ He sweeps his arm under the cloak and gives you a weird turtle smile. ‘Your friend’s not going to get ahead playing like that, though. Now, if you were to help her cheat...’

Ellery considers. “Hmm, would helping cheat at cards count as wrestling with ‘Always tell the truth?’”

The Bound’s Needs are Laws, rules that limit them. One of Elif’s is “Always tell the truth”. If they overcome an obstacle while wrestling with a Law, they can mark it for progression.

Gili says, “I think so.”

A bird devouring color from the art of a street vendor
Vendor, by Kindred Styles

“Well, too bad, I won’t give him the satisfaction. ‘The nerve! That’s no way to run a gambling establishment! I’ll have no part of it.’ That’s me declaring a practical action unacceptable for a principled reason, by the way.” Ellery draws a card for using one of their Twist Moves.

Gili chuckles. “Fair enough. Devin gives you a patronizing look. ‘I see you’re still too stubborn to learn from my council.’” Then Gili turns to Melinda. “Meghan, you doing anything to increase your winnings?”

“Uh, sure. Here, I’ve got this card with a colorful bird. I’m going to use my Rotate Perspective move. I can have someone reveal a helpful side of their personality, yeah? So now the dealer’s easily distracted by shiny things, like my rainbow pendant, and that lets me get the upper hand on him.”

Gili says, “Sure, cool. Let’s say he’s been a magpie in a vest all along. You start accumulating a notable pile of barbecue potato chips. And also, you get a card for using your Tether.”

Once a chapter per Tether, you can draw a card when you bring it into play with the Recenter move.

Play continues from there.

Later, a Conflict

In a later session, Elif and Meghan have ended up confronting the Queen of Shadow, who’s stolen the ocean and kept it locked away in a dungeon.

A cat in front of a vending machine selling various fairy-tale items
Vending, by Kindred Styles

They’re in her stronghold, so Gili thinks it makes sense to let her lead off with a powerful play. They use the Wield move and play the top card of the deck. They reveal a card with a black cat and vending machine of wondrous items. “The Queen cackles, and a flock of shadowy cats emerges from behind her throne, growing to enormous size and attacking both of you!”

Melinda laughs and plays a card showing flames and the moon. “‘We’re here for the tides, and your shadows will fall before us!’ I was already metaphorically a warrior of light, so I’ll Exaggerate that and become a literal magical warrior wreathed in fire that can destroy the shadow cats.”

Gili says, “Can’t argue with that! After your transformation sequence, you make short work of the shadow cats.” Then they look to Ellery to see if they want to do something.

Ellery does want to do something, but they’re not sure what would be cool. “Remember you can chain off something in play, too,” Melinda says. Glancing at the table, they notice the axe in the Queen’s card. Shrugging, they say, “Sure, I’ll just make a big axe and attack the Queen with it.” They discard a card to chain off of something in play.

This is another instance of the Manifest move.
Someone in a silver dress with lightning and a city skyline behind them
Under the Static Sky, by Sarah Morrison

Gili nods. “Your axe dwarfs the Queen, but she’s not going to go down easy. She’s going to Resist. Hmm, let’s give her three cards.” Gili sets aside a stack of three face-down cards for the Queen’s Integrity cards, and then turns the first once face up. It shows someone surrounded by lightning. “‘I’m not all shadows, you know,’ the Queen says as she brandishes her scepter, and a bolt of lightning streams forth and into your axe, forcing you to cast it aside.”

The Queen’s not defeated yet, but she’s down to two Integrity cards. When she runs out, the Dreamers will be able to defeat her and presumably rescue the ocean.