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I'm interested in developing a RPG based on Inception. The team would have a mission similar to the movie, invade several layers of dreams to plant or retrieve information from a target. For the sake of the same, all PCs can enter the next layer of the dream. No one has to stay behind to monitor the dream. Each layer is more f'ed up than the last.

One thing about dreams is you can do things you can't in real life. I want to represent this in the player's skill set. The good little lady might suddenly be an expert thief, but only for the course of the dream.

Are there any existing systems that has mechanics for dreams and reality and how they mesh?

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As this is a system-recommendation question, please adhere to both the FAQ and the rules for subjective questions as outlined in Good Subjective, Bad Subjective and on our Meta. In particular, all responses should be based on actual experience and contain references and examples whenever possible. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Dec 12 '12 at 4:23
    
Bear in mind that whatever system replicates the kick might not replicate how it worked in the movie, because how it worked in the movie made no sense. "Here comes the kick, which was proven countless times to flawlessly wake us up no matter what." "Oh, we missed it." (think about that for a second) –  Jonathan Hobbs Dec 12 '12 at 8:44
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Not that relevant to the question, but when they said they "missed the kick", they meant the kick didn't happen when it was supposed to (on the musical cue), not that it didn't work. The top level kick didn't wake them because they were more than one level down. –  Jeff Burka Dec 12 '12 at 10:36
    
Oddly enough, among the "related" questions stackexchange is missing this one which I posted months ago, and may be of some help –  p.marino Dec 12 '12 at 11:27
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This is not an exact duplicate. This question is asking for games with dream mechanics for design research, not for a game to use to play Inception. Note that most of the answers to the other question do not answer this one's core request for dream mechanics. –  SevenSidedDie Dec 12 '12 at 15:55
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As this is a game-recommendation question, please adhere to the FAQ, the rules for subjective questions as outlined in Good Subjective, Bad Subjective and our rules for game recommendations. All responses must cite actual experience or reference others' experiences!

8 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Lacuna Part 1: The Creation of the Mystery and the Girl from Blue City (second attempt) handles navigating dreamscapes and bizarre dream logic. Characters play agents that enter the shared dream of humanity to remove anomalous elements and cure people of mental illnesses. It's very Inception-like, but I don't recall it doing anything explicit about dreams within dreams.

Lucid is a Dread hack that specifically tries to recreate an Inception scenario. Characters play archetypes like the Chemist and the Point Man and have different rules to manipulate the Jenga tower. As the tower gets more unstable, the dream gets more unstable and projections get more hostile. You can have a dream within a dream by having the Architect add layers back to the tower. A total collapse of the tower means failure, a return to reality, and the Mark realizing he was being manipulated.

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And now I want to rewatch Inception. –  okeefe Dec 12 '12 at 5:43
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+1 for Lacuna. It also has this whole "heartbeat mechanic" which relates quite well. –  Scrollmaster Dec 12 '12 at 6:12
    
Another +1 for Lacuna - I'd recommend that anyone wanting to do dream-sequence stuff as a serious part of their game check it out. –  Gaxx Dec 13 '12 at 10:44
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I storytelled a World of Darkness chronicle about people who entered other people dreams, people trapped in their dreams that could not wake up by their own. I made up some homebrew rules about it. They were very simple but maybe too open for interpretation. This is how dreamsurfing worked.

  • The spell should be done in the presence of the dreamer. Only the intruder mind was introduced in the dream. Meanwhile, the intruder seems to be sleeping. Physical intrusion could be done with very powerful spells, but no one reached that. This rules asume that the intrusion is only mental.
  • The dreamer mind rules the dream, often against himself. This also include the intruders, who appear somewhat integrated into the dreams. For instance, if the dream happens in a hospital, the intruders could appear as doctors, nurses or patients.
  • The dream is less material and logic as more far are the characters of the dreamer.
  • The intruders, being lucid, have a limited control over the dream. Spending a willpower point, the character can make a specifica change. Examples include: make a door where there was no exit, find a weapon, change himself (greater changes can require more willpower points), heal himself. The character cannot affect other sentient beings (real or imaginary) nor create other.
  • Some nightmarish/traumatic experiences can cause the characters to lose willpower points, only on extreme cases.
  • If an intruder dies in the dream, he must restore himself with willpower points, or otherwise stay dreaming that he is dead.
  • If an intruder loses all willpower points, he stops being lucid. That means that the player no longer controls the character, as that character is now part of the dream, and thus, controlled by the dreamer, with some echo of the intruders subconscious.
  • A intruder cannot awake until the dreamer does.
  • Once awaken, the intruders' willpower points slowly replenish in a few hours.

Maybe these mechanics are too broad for some purposes. But if the players and the storyteller are not very obsessed with tight mechanics, it does work well, as it offers a lot of freedom, which suits well the dream theme. Since when dreaming has hard rules?

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Well, does include dreams into the storytelling (dream lore). But I'm not sure if the mechanics are quite what you're looking for.

The whole horror-themed motif sure helps, but the specific rules seem to me that are left up to the storyteller to decide. Which is great if your players just like to get immersed in the story, IMO.

For example, difficulties are established for entering someone's dream realm or creating a temple in your own dream realm. But there's not much variety in difficulties about just what can you modify within dreams (lots of EGO rolls, I'd guess).

Just keep in mind that Dream Lore is considered magic; so you'd probably have to change that to match your needs, because if you follow the concepts presented in Inception you should be talking science and not magic.

And for the record, there's also a difficulty guideline for bringing objects from a dream into the real world.

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The German fantasy RPG "The Dark Eye" ("Das Schwarze Auge") has several pages of rules for dreams, dreamscapes and manipulating them. The main rules for the current (fourth) edition are in "Wege der Zauberei", pages 69-72; for the previous edition, they can be found in "Compendium Salamandris", pages 14-18.

Caveat: It's in German only. Also, it's geared toward magical dream manipulation, suiting the fantasy theme of the game.

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I know a game called Onírica (Onyrics) about people that enter into the dreams of other people to find what is preventing them to wake up. The mechanics are quite strange, but there are a fine number of dreams offered as examples. The problem is that it is written in Spanish, but I don't know if you can understand it. You can find the game here: http://rolgratis.com/ver.php?id_juego=39

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The Immortal RPG (Core rulebooks are even available free now here) has large portions of the setting based on the idea of dreams and a dreamscape. Might be worth looking at.

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If you can find it, an RPG from 1994 called Shattered Dreams dealt primarily with acts of dream travel, although the primary mode of play was entering dreams to fight nightmarish monsters.

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There is an upcoming RPG called "Dreamland Initiative" that deals exactly with how to game in dreams. It has mechanics of dreams breaking down etc. I participated in a demo game last summer but sadly there has been no development news since then.

Check out it here: http://gamesandtales.com/games/dreamland-initiative/

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