Now that you have a character, it's finally time to play the game! I will assume at this point that you are already aware of what role-playing is, how it is generally done, and the meanings of terms such as “GM”, “PC” and “NPC”. If that's not the case there are many websites that will give you the information you need, and the vast majority of role-playing game books also have a section that explains role-playing and the terms used.
The Feel of the Game
The rules of the Dreaming Awake RPG have been kept deliberately simple, so that the emphasis is on roleplaying and character interaction rather than on rolling dice. Description also plays an important part in the proceedings. Players are encouraged to be as descriptive as possible when their characters act, and the quality of these descriptions can have an in-game effect.
How important this is is up to the GM and the players. When used well, it can add greatly to the game experience as players strive to colour the game world for themselves and their fellow players. There are some problems, however. It has been my experience that some people just do not have “visual minds” – they find it hard to imagine what is going on as an image in their head – while others are extremely good at picturing a scene. With players at various points along this scale, using descriptive talent as a game mechanic may end up being unfair.
Problems can also occur because the player and her character do not necessarily share the same kind of skills. Whilst a character may be adept at swordfighting, for example, the player may have no idea what an impressive swordfight would look like and thus wouldn't be able to describe it well.
Because of these problems, I recommend that although players should be encouraged to be descriptive in every action, it should only have an in-game effect when doing Shiny things (see the later section on Shininess).
Simple Actions and Social Interaction
Things that seem trivial and things that don't really involve any challenge can be done just through roleplaying, they don't need to be done with reference to stats or by rolling dice. The number-crunching is something that should be done only when really necessary.
However, as with the problem of descriptiveness mentioned above, there is also a problem here. While merely talking to someone is of course a simple action, not worthy of looking up a character's stats, a problem arises when a socialite character is played by a player who lacks some of the social skills that the character would have. Hopefully, with a little encouragement from the GM and other players, the player can find the right words to put into their character's mouth to make them sound suitably charismatic. Sometimes, though, it may be too much to ask. For this reason, it may well be advisable for such a character to have a Life Skill something like “Socialise” which they can fall back on when words fail them.
When trying to perform an action that is non-trivial, the general rule is to add up the relevant stats, up to one per section (where the sections are Attributes, Life Skills, and Item Skills). If the character has no relevant skills, they may have to rely on their Attribute alone!
A dice roll is then added to this number, representing the effects of chance on the situation. A six-sided die (“d6”) is recommended, although other dice can be used – creating more or less randomly-decided actions depending on the number of sides.
Finally, the total is compared against a target number for the action. If the character has achieved a score equal to or higher than the target, then she passes – if not, she fails.
“Contested actions” are actions that are actively resisted by someone else. In this case, both parties add up their relevant stats and add d6, and whichever total is higher decides the victor. If the two are equal, then the situation is a draw.
* Tsuki wishes to make a pancake. He has a Dexterity of 5, a Cooking skill of 2, and a Kitchen Utensil usage skill of 2. He rolls 2 on a d6, giving him a total of 11. Not bad! A pancake's easy, with a difficulty of only 6, so that's an easy pass.
* Rachel wants to sing a song. She chooses Ego as the attribute (it's real from-the-heart stuff) of which she has 7, but she has no skill that covers singing. Since there's no items that relate to singing, nothing is added from the Item Skills section. She rolls a 1, giving a total of 8. Unfortunately it's a tricky song full of key changes, and it has a difficulty of 12. Her audience are unimpressed, but with better luck next time – or some musical training – she might just succeed.
* Sophiel is arm-wrestling Xican. Sophiel has a Strength of 5, and no relevant skills. She rolls a 6 – good luck, but will her 11 total be good enough? Xican has Strength 8, also no relevant skills, and rolls a 3 on his d6 – 11 as well! It looks like an even match, but Sophiel will have to keep being lucky to avoid defeat.
Armed (or unarmed) combat is decided in a similar way to the contested actions mentioned above. Each aggressive combat action is divided into two steps – trying to hit (or trying not to get hit), followed by trying to damage your opponent (or trying not to get hurt yourself).
When trying to hit, you add up your relevant attribute (Dexterity), and the most relevant Life Skill and Item Skill if you have any appropriate ones. You add d6 as before. For example:
* Sierra attempts to attack Harkel. Her Dexterity is 6, but she has hardly any fighting experience – she has Swordfighting 1 and Sword 1. Rolling a 4 on her d6, this makes 12.
When trying to avoid being hit, you have two choices – parry (intercept the attack) or dodge. The calculation is similar to ordinary actions, with the added disadvantage here that the weight of your weapon (when parrying) or armour (when dodging) counts against you. The appropriate attribute here is usually Agility. For example:
* Harkel tries to dodge Sierra's attack. For such a big man in armour, it might not have been the best choice… His Agility is 4, he has no relevant Life Skills, his Plate Armour skill is 3, and the weight of his armour is 4. He rolls a 6 – lucky, but not lucky enough. His total is 9 compared to Sierra's 12, so Sierra scores a good hit on the part of the body she was aiming for. If the difference had been only 0 or 1, she would have only just hit, and her blow might have landed somewhere unintended.
Next, it is time to work out if damage is done. Here, the relevant attribute is Strength. Just as Weight counted against you when trying to parry or dodge, the weapon's Power now counts in your favour. For example:
* Having hit Harkel, Sierra tries to do damage with her strike. She has Strength 4, Swordfighting 1, Sword 1, a sword of Power 4, and rolls 3 on her d6. That's 13 in total.
The final part of a combat round is attempting to soak the damage. This is done with Toughness plus the relevant skills, and it is here that your armour's Power comes into play to help you. For example:
* Sierra had a good try at damaging, but Harkel has Toughness 7, no useful Life Skills, Plate Armour 3, and his armour has a Power of 7. He rolls 1 on his d6, giving him 18. Clang! A dent in the armour, but little else. It looks like Sierra's not going to do anything meaningful against Harkel unless she trains harder, asks for a friend's help, or maybe… if she does something shiny…
Modifications – Ranged Weapons
Parrying or dodging a ranged attack, such as an arrow from a bow or a bullet from a gun is tricky. Although it is up to the discretion of the GM and is exceedingly fudge-able, it is probably sensible to require wilful use of Shininess in order to dodge or parry such a shot.
Modifications – Crossbows and Guns
Ranged weapons such as bows and throwing knives require strength to use, so they work fine with the rules that have already been stated. Crossbows, guns and the like, however, do not – the damage they do is entirely independant of the strength of their user. For this reason, when using such a weapon, do not add your Strength attribute to your damage calculation. This is compensated for by such weapons being more inherently damaging than melee weapons – i.e. they have a higher Power. For example:
* Having fired her musket and successfully hit her target, we now must see how much damage Serin will do. Her strength is irrelevant, she has no useful Life Skills, has a Musket Item Skill of 1, and rolls 2 on her d6. However, all is not lost – for her musket's inherent power is 15. Ouch!
Modifications – Dual Weapons
It is of course possible to hold a weapon in each hand (depending on the weapons, of course). Since you can use each independantly, this gives you quite the advantage! To balance this out, the Dual Weapon Fighting Life Skill is a bit special – it acts as a limiter on the use of your other relevant skills when you try to hit. For example:
* A character wielding two swords with Dual Weapons 3, Swordfighting 1, Sword 1 could use his Life Skill (Swordfighting) and Item Skill (Sword) to their full effect on each attack. However…
* A character wielding two swords with Dual Weapons 3, Swordfighting 2, Sword 2 could use his Life Skill (Swordfighting) and Item Skill (Sword) for each attack, but their sum would not be 4 – instead, their Dual Weapons Skill would limit the total to 3.
Modifications – Shields
Shields act like weapons with which you cannot attack. Their advantage over holding a weapon in that hand (apart from there not being a Dual Weapons limiter) is that a shield is much easier to parry with. As a shield is usually set in a good blocking position, the shield's Weight does not count against you when using it to parry.
Next to each weapon and armour slot on the character sheet, along with the three stats already discussed (Shiny, Weight and Power) there are a few more to help speed up combat. These are quick reference values based on your relevant attributes, skills and so on. With these filled in, you need only remember to add d6 to them when you need to use that value in combat. The values are as follows:
* Hit (Weapons Only) = Dexterity + Life Skill + Item Skill (unless limited by Dual Weapons)
* Parry (Weapons) = Agility + Life Skill + Item Skill – Weapon Weight
* Parry (Shields) = Agility + Life Skill + Item Skill
* Damage (Strength Weapons) = Strength + Life Skill + Item Skill + Weapon Power
* Damage (Non-Strength Weapons) = Life Skill + Item Skill + Weapon Power
* Dodge (Armour) = Agility + Life Skill + Item Skill – Armour Weight
* Soak (Armour) = Toughness + Life Skill + Item Skill + Armour Power
Magic is, at least in some societies, widely believed in. Because of this strength of belief, it is often possible for magic to be done by mundane means. Mundane magic is done by means of a magical item that inherently has some Shiny – for example a talisman, a spellbook, some wizardly robes, or an alchemical potion. Like a normal action, your result is the sum of your most relevant Attribute, along with (optionally) a Life Skill and Item Skill and a d6 roll. This is generally against some fixed target number, although opposed magic tests are quite possible. For example:
* Dremia attempts to create magical light using a spell from her book. She has an Intelligence of 5, an Arcane Magic skill of 1, and a Spellbook skill of 2. Rolling 5 on her die, this makes a total of 13 – since creating light is fairly easy (for magic) at difficulty 10, she succeeds.
* Serin attempts to fortell the future using a deck of Tarot cards. She has a Faith of 6, a Cartomancy skill of 3, a Tarot Deck skill of 3, and rolls a 1 on a d6. A total of 13 again – sufficient to obtain some information, but if she tried again she would probably be luckier and receive more.
Magic in Combat
It is possible to use magic – even mundane magic – in combat, for example the height of spellcasting predictability, the “fireball”. This is done simply by using the mental equivalents of the physical stats mentioned above where applicable. The following are the equivalences:
* Ego is equivalent to Strength
* Faith is equivalent to Toughness
* Intelligence is equivalent to Dexterity
* Perception is equivalent to Agility
Which of these equivalences it is appropriate to use depends on the style of magic. For example, a slow-moving physical magic like a fireball could happily be dodged with Agility rather than Perception, and soaked with Toughness rather than Faith.
Now for the fun bit. The mundane rules are just that – a bit dull. Simple, boring, not very fun. But Avalon, the world of Dreaming Awake, is not static and boring – it's active, ever-changing, it reacts to the will of those who inhabit it. Like a lucid dream, once you know how, you can begin to twist the “reality” of the world with your willpower alone.
The important thing is belief. If you don't believe you can, then you can't. If you are surrounded by those who believe you can't, then you can't. The world is shaped by the wills of people other than yourself, so the weight of others' disbelief can often be a great hinderance. When you are on your own, however, or surrounded by those who really do believe in your abilities, then you can really let your imagination run wild.
The Shiny system is Dreaming Awake's way of implementing this phenomenon. By accumulating fame, by making sure that more and more people know what they are capable of, a person gains Shiny. By being recorded in stories or in bards' songs, people and even items can become imbued with this power of belief. Shiny represents a person or a thing's influence over the world, and over the very fabric of reality itself.
The vast majority of people and items are mundane – not Shiny at all. They have no power except what is normally expected of them.
Mundane people will be occasionally referred to as “mooks”. They are side-characters, people of no importance to the twists and turns of the world's stories. In terms of game mechanics, they have a Shiny of zero. And yes, if you remember the character creation rules well, you'll recall that your character starts off like this too. You start in positions of unimportance, and it is up to you to obtain the power to carve your own name in the world's legends.
Shiny vs Mundane
Shiny is the most important factor in any aspect of the system. It is an attribute that can quite easily surpass the base concerns of things like Agility or Weight. As such, Shiny things in opposition to mundane things just isn't fair. Try and block a legendary sword with your generic shop-quality longsword, and you'll be lucky to be left with your blade intact. As a Shiny character, land a hit on a mook in combat and he's down and out for good (assuming you want him to be).
Shiny vs Shiny
Although clearly the odds are stacked in the favour of something more famous, more powerful, more Shiny over something less so, the situation can be wildly unpredictable when two equally Shiny entities clash. As the most basic example, if the two choose to try and cancel each other out, it becomes no different to an entirely mundane affair. In a Shiny vs Shiny arm-wrestle, for example, each contestant would have just as much chance of winning as they would if the situation was mundane.
However, there's no need to be quite so boring. You might be well-known not for your strength, but for your underhand tactics. Suddenly, although it seemed to be a fair wrestle when you started, a pointed pin somehow appears in your palm and causes your opponent considerable pain! All his famously Shiny strength is going to do for him is make the pin hurt more, and it looks like the contest is yours!
As the example shows, even between equally matched opponents, unusual tactics can swing it one way or the other.
Wilful Use of Shiny
Up until now we have dealt only with incidental effects, the things that just happen around you because of your subconscious manipulation of reality. Now, we'll consider what happens when you really concentrate and try to change something.
Your personal Shiny value represents the degree of influence you have over reality, and this also limits the willed effects you can cause. You can “spend” Shiny on an action, up to the value of your Shiny per action. (Actually, in desperate circumstances, using more than this value on an action may be possible…) For example, a character with Shiny 1 can only use Shiny 1 effects. A character with Shiny 3 can use Shiny 1 effects, Shiny 2 and Shiny 3 effects as well. Although this is referred to as “spending” Shiny, don't worry – you don't actually lose any of your hard-earned Shiny points. The drain, if there is any, is on your Mental Health. The more you mess around with reality, the more you are messing around with yourself…
When using Shiny to perform an action, there are no limits to what you can do, save for the amount of Shiny you have available. Abilities, Skills and dice rolls are all irrelevant here. All there is is the effect you wish to produce and its difficulty. By describing the effect well, and by creating an effect that corresponds to your Resonances, this difficulty may decrease. If the difficulty comes to less than your Shiny, you can do it. If it comes to more, you might still be able to do it – but the consequences could be severe.
Shiny Power Level
To give you an idea of the kind of power wilfully spending Shiny achieves, there is a table below listing some possible uses for certain Shiny points spent. Don't forget, these are just a few examples – feel free to be much more creative than these suggestions! (Entries marked as “?????” are example abilities that will spoil the meta-plot if read. A version of this table with the missing entries filled in is printed in the GM section of the rules – to get the most enjoyment out of the game, it is recommended that players do not read the full table.)
* One Shiny – Minor physical alterations – jump twice your height, run with a cantering horse, appear a few inches taller, change your eye colour, change the colour of your clothes, sharpen a blunt weapon, light a fire, set an arrow on fire, incidental combat stunts (hit multiple opponents, hit weak spots).
* Two Shiny – Sleight of hand trick (ace up your sleeve?), jump from tree to tree, change your hair colour, make your clothes look prettier, minor combat stunts (multiple arrows, three or more melee targets), minor probability manipulation (better poker hands, superb archery), minor combat magic (small fire bolts…), minor healing (healing scratches, grazes, cuts), “Feng Shui”-type stunts.
* Three Shiny – Jump between speeding vehicles, run faster than a galloping horse, substanital change of appearance, suddenly gain mundane knowledge, lucid dream, mediocre combat stunts (arrow barrage, whirlwind-like melee attacks, attack auras, hitting beyond normal weapon range), mediocre probability manipulation (friendly NPCs appearing just in time, enemy trips over pebble, William Tell-level archery), mediocre combat magic (fireballs, lightning strikes, small earthquakes) mediocre healing (healing open wounds).
* Five Shiny – Acrobatic stunts in motorway traffic, basic mind-reading, minor summonning (faeries, creatures), projecting emotions, major probability manipulation (tree falls on opponent, wind guides your arrows for you, hand-to-hand attacks hit fatal pressure points), major combat magic (words of power, dragonfire, asteroid impact), major healing (fuse broken bones, mend internal organs), “Exalted”-type stunts.
* Ten Shiny – Acrobatics between aircraft in flight, mind-reading, mind-control, mediocre summonning (angels, demons), create doppelgangers, overpowered probability manipulation (enemy dies from sudden heart attack, pick winning lottery numbers), overpowered combat magic (meteor shower, “Ultima”), overpowered combat stunts (ridiculous weapon range, unending barrage of hits, weapons that reform according to the hit the wielder wants to make), overpowered healing (heal serious trauma, regenerate lost tissue).
* Twenty Shiny – Interplanetary travel, supersonic movement, re-writing physical laws of mundane reality, time dilation (bullet-time), ?????, ?????, ridiculous combat stunts and combat magic (physical and magical now inseperable), ridiculous healing (cure hereditary diseases, revive comatose patient).
* Thirty Shiny – Time travel, FTL travel, space-folding, overpowered summoning (deity aspects, giant spaceships), major rewriting of physical laws, rewrite NPC resonances, ?????, ?????, ?????, legendary combat abilities (ultimate attacks, city-levelling magic, mountain-disintegrating strikes), legendary healing (resurrection).
* Fifty Shiny – ?????, ?????, ?????, mass rewriting of NPC resonances, rewrite character resonances, rewrite personalities, immunity to paradox.
* One Hundred Shiny – ?????.
A person's Resonances, as explained when you filled in that section of your character sheet, are supernatural concepts that particularly appeal to them. A Shiny character can use their Shiny abilities more effectively if they try to do something that corresponds well to their Resonances, while trying to do something you do not really “get on with” may be more difficult. For example, a character who believes strongly in spirits may find calling up spirits to do their bidding much easier than trying to cast a spell from a spellbook.
Other people's Resonances can be important, too. It was mentioned earlier that the world is not just defined by your will, but everyone's. Therefore, other peoples' Resonances also have an effect on the difficulty of your Shiny abilities. While taking on the appearance of a god might be quite possible amongst a religious community, in a society that has no concept of gods it would be much more difficult.
“Your reputation precedes you!”
“It's just a myth… Isn't it?”
These kinds of phrases are ones that ought to draw your attention when you hear them. The power of song, of story, of myth and legend is a very potent one in a world defined by belief. The right words at the right time can spread like wildfire from person to person, instilling the same idea into many minds very quickly. A person in Avalon is given real, tangible power by those who believe in him. The legends of ancient times really did talk to gods and slay mighty dragons, because people believe they did. It's as if cause and effect run in reverse.
Urban myths, talk of revolution – things like this spread quickly, and powerfully. They can be used to your advantage, and others'. For example, if you wanted to stage a revolution in a city, you could turn up, call the townsfolk to arms and march on the palace. Well, best of luck to you. On the other hand, you could disguise yourself and sneak into the city a few days before, and start spreading the rumour that a good and kind exiled prince had returned to defeat the cruel King and regain the throne that was rightfully his. When you ride into town a few days later, every single man, woman and child will really believe you're a prince. Even if the King was a nice man, there'll be people who doubt it now. Even the King himself might be panicked into searching for records of a lost prince from two decades ago. If these people really believe that you will be victorious, you will. There's no stopping the power of belief.
That's it – you now know all you need to know to play Dreaming Awake. Remember, these rules aren't set in stone – the only real rule is that the rules shouldn't get in the way of the game. The GM should feel free to ignore rules, change them or make up new ones to ensure that the game flows well.