Dream Theatres

Dream Theatres: An Introduction

Dream Theatres
The Sea of Chaos is a great unbound realm where the subconscious thoughts and dreams of humanity congeal into a morass of raw potential. Much of the Sea is formless, or any forms it does take are wild, warped and soon vanish. However, powerful personalities and mighty entities can enforce their will on such a place, turning it into their own personal domain. These domains are known as Dream Theatres. Dream Theatres are most commonly shaped by Archetype Shadows. As powerful beings of raw personality, Archetypes turn their Dream Theatres into extensions of themselves, reflecting their perception of the world. These frequently result in Dream Theatres being extremely dangerous. In the Sea of Chaos, Dream Theatres stand out as 'lighthouses' of concentrated thought in an otherwise disorderly ocean. Because of this, Dream Theatres can be easily found if one knows what to look for. Unfortunately, it also means that Dream Theatres attract large numbers of weaker Shadows that feel an affinity for the foundational emotions of the Dream Theatre. These Shadows are quickly subjugated by the will of the lord of the Theatre, who draws strength from the Theatre itself. Because of this, Dream Theatres only grow more dangerous and powerful with time.

Evokers often, for various reasons, find themselves facing down the prospect of fighting an Archetype Shadow on their home turf. They must traverse a lethal, labyrinthine psycho-scape where successful navigation often relies on understanding the feelings underpinning the Dream Theatre. After that, they must face down the Archetype itself in the Theatre's "Centre Stage", engorged on miasma and swollen to inhuman power.

Navigating Dream Theatres
Evokers navigate Dream Theatres through a mix of combat (defeating Shadows), information (learning secrets and understanding the nature of the Theatre) and investigation, especially when it comes to roadblocks, challenges and puzzles. In a way, most of the systems in the game are used in Dream Theatres.

In Katashiba, where the barrier between the Sea and the Waking World are thin, special events, altercations or incidents can suddenly draw broad community attention onto one person, or more specifically, onto a few facets of that person. When that facet is something the person is trying to repress, it can lead to that person developing a Shadow in the sea. Most of these Shadows are more powerful than usual but not powerful enough to create a Dream Theatre. Sometimes, however, people's perception of the incident is shaped through a specific lens, such as a one minute camera footage, leaked images, or published diary passages. The public focus on the incident ends up giving the 'lens' powerful weight in the Sea of Chaos, as the lens suddenly has the power to shape the psychic awareness of swathes of people. This creates something called a 'Heed': a psychic representation of that item that keeps the attention of others on the individual's dark side. A Shadow is empowered massively by that Heed, and by using it, becomes an Archetype Shadow. When an Archetype powered by a Heed creates a Dream Theatre, the Heed forms the core of the Theatre.

Defeating an Archetype permanently is hard. Overwhelming force can shatter one for a month or so, and the Shadow's original owner can end up reconciling with it peacefully in come circumstances. In most cases, however, defeating the Archetype requires seizing the Heed. That sounds easy, but it isn't. Heeds take on a kind of life of their own, and will 'disguise' themselves into the fabric of the Dream Theatre itself. Revealing a Heed requires having firm understanding of the nature of the Theatre and the Archetype, then revealing that understanding to the Heed's audience in the Waking World. This gives you a 'privileged' position to the Heed, which will reveal itself to you, allowing you to seize it and thus drain the power from the Archetype. But Heeds are more than just a power core. People give Heeds their attention, energy straight from their heads, and the connection goes both ways. Seizing a Heed allows one power of a kind over the Archetype, power to reform the Shadow or even change a person's personality. But it also allows you to influence the Heed's audience, spreading ideas to them or changing their memories. In the end, most Heeds are destroyed, and in doing so, the Heed, and much of the inciting incident, end up becoming foggy and poorly-remembered by the audience.

In summary:

  • Heeds empower Archetypes.
  • Archetypes create Dream Theatres.
  • Evokers work to understand the Archetype and the Dream Theatre.
  • They find a way to reveal this understanding to the Heed's 'audience'. The Heed recognises this and privileges the Evokers.
  • The Evokers take the Heed. This weakens the Archetype, hopefully reform is implanted in the Archetype's heart.
  • The Heed is dissolved and the memory of it and the incident vanish in the minds of the audience.

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Step One: Finding Dream Theatres and Themes

Archetype Shadows are beings made of raw concentrated emotion, personality and thought. This bleeds heavily into their Dream Theatre. Furthermore, a natural impulse of the human mind is to organise things into stories and sets. In the Sea of Chaos, this tendency runs rampant, resulting in Dream Theatres being extremely influenced by specific stories, genres and events, ones familiar to other human beings. These act as both a cipher for the Archetype but also as a simplification, breaking down something personal and intimate into the simplest, more shared cultural blocks humanity has. This is helpful, because whilst Dream Theatres shine brightly in the Sea, you still need to know what you're looking for when locating the Dream Theatre. Specifically, you have to find out the Theme.

Every Dream Theatre has a Theme. What is a Theme? It's the narrative/genre trapping the Dream Theatre wears, which the creator has applied to their current present circumstances. Themes are almost always something familiar to society. They can be genres ('A Dream Theatre taking on a mafia crime movie Theme'), or something specific ('A Dream Theatre wearing the trappings of Alice in Wonderland'). There is almost always a connection between the Theme and the interests of the creator, and investigating the creator's life and background typically provides clues as to the Theme. Once an individual and Theme has been identified, the Evokers then need the item the Heed originated from (for example: if a diary passage became the Heed, then the diary, or at least the original passage/page contianing the passage is needed). If the item is not available, then a convincing copy can work, but might produce some difficulty early on in exploration. With all three of these things gathered, the Library of Alexandria can find the Dream Theatre and create a passageway to it.

In Summary:

  • Dream Theatres copy the trappings of a a narrative, genre or other storytelling fundamental. This is a 'Theme'.
  • Identifying the Theme can be done by investigating the person whose Shadow made the Theatre.
  • Give the person's identity, Theatre Theme, and the item the Heed is based on to the Library, and it will find the Theatre for you.

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Step Two: Exploring the Dream Theatre

Once you have access to the Dream Theatre, you must then navigate it. Dream Theatres are inevitably large, sprawling and chaotic places, and most of it is not structured. Instead, much of the navigation is done through investigations and skill checks. At the start of the Dream Theatre, you are given a basic outline of the Theatre's layout. Every Theatre will have between one to three special areas of interests, which we will call Spotlights. Spotlights are little sub-divisions of the Theatre that grant insights, resources and information that you can use to locate Centre Stage. Each Spotlight reflects part of the theme of the Theatre, and has its own unique challenges and opportunities. Depending on the nature of the Spotlight, even getting there could be greatly difficult, whilst for others, getting there is easy, but actually resolving the Spotlight is highly challenging.

At the heart of each Spotlight is a Conductor Shadow, a powerful Shadow that embodies one of the Arcanas of the Archetype. Indeed the Archetype and the Conductor are deeply linked, and the abilities of the Conductor reflect the abilities and weaknesses of one of the Archetype's Facets. Conductors can have complicated relationships to the Theatre, to other Spotlights and the Archetype, and whilst many Conductors can be defeated with violence, some may be amenable to non-violent resolution. The benefits a Conductor provides can change based on how you resolve them. A Spotlight is considered resolved once the Conductor is dealt with, either by being destroyed or being subdued or aligned with. As noted, resolving a Spotlight can provide you with resources or benefits, not the least of which is resources to make other Spotlights easier to resolve. Resolving a Spotlight can give you information on how to locate Centre Stage. Indeed, you might find yourself able to go straight from a Spotlight to Centre Stage without bothering with the other Spotlights. This works well if you're in a rush. However, unresolved Spotlights empower the Archetype- you will face a more powerful Archetype, with less information and resources at your disposal.

You can do Spotlights in any order you wish.
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Conventions are the mechanical extremes of Theme. Every story, genre, etc. has conventions that shape how the Dream Theatre acts, but capital-c Conventions are where those things become so strong as to have a major mechanical effect. Simply put: Conventions are rules that shape behaviour in the Dream Theatre by rewarding or punishing certain actions and approaches. There are a maximum of three Conventions, and each Convention is tied to a Conductor Shadow. Understanding Conventions allows the Evokers to be more aware of threats, but can also take advantage of Conventions to empower themselves or punish others. Subduing a Conductor will disable that Convention.

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The final mechanic related to Theme is known as Subversion. Subversion is the act of taking a Convention and permanently changing it by subverting it into something else. This radically alters the mechanical effects of the Theme, and can even change the makeup of the Theatre itself.

Changing a Convention requires three things: an audience, a challenge, and the subversion.

  • Audience. Subversions need people to see and witness it in order for it to take effect. Thus, if a Subversion is to work, it needs a sizeable audience of observers. These can be Shadows, the Archetype themselves, or even drawing attention of the Waking world's audience to what you're about to do. In essence, you need the audience to have some power behind it.
  • Challenge. Subversions have the greatest effect when done in a momentous way. Beating up a random Shadow means nothing, but if you can somehow show off your subversion when overcoming a great challenge, such as beating a Conductor, then that's great. Whatever you do, it has to be memorable. Essentially, you need to put on a show.
  • Subversion. This is what you want the Convention to turn into. The Subversion should be related to the Convention, and also make sense within the setting. If it's too out-there, the audience will reject it as nonsense, but if it makes sense, then your hooks are in!

Many Archetypes take advantage of Conventions to make themselves powerful. Subversions let you change the name of the game and take away their home ground advantage!
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Step Three: Revealing Centre Stage

Once you have enough information, you can attempt to reveal Centre Stage. This requires you to address the Heed's audience-, using the information you have gained to create a coherent narrative behind the Archetype's creator and how they became the sort of person who would end up creating a Dream Theatre. Their origins, reasons, repressions and other life events can all be used to inform this announcement, and it need not be limited to information found in the Dream Theatre.

Once you have revealed Centre Stage, you can then engage with it, finally facing the Archetype at their full power. Here, you can resolve the struggle in a few ways, the main ones being subduing the Archetype through sheer force, or by seizing the Heed, which requires you to find the Heed in the Dream Theatre and beat the Archetype at an Opposed Willpower or Realisation/Repression check. Centre Stages are hostile environments that tend to keep their Heeds very safe, however, so this can be difficult.
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Step Three-A: The Puer Aeterna

Within each Dream Theatre is the Puer Aeterna, an 'inner child'. This is an idealised representation of the creator's self- think of it as who they thought they'd grow up to be when they were children. Ultimately, the Puer Aeterna is forgotten by people as they grow up, but reconnecting with it can be hugely powerful and beneficial. Finding the Puer Aeterna requires a degree of Waking investigation. Simply put, you must find some fact or physical object that would remind the creator of their inner child, then expose it to the Dream Theatre. The Puer Aeterna will then emerge after certain challenges have been overcome.

The Puer Aeterna can have certain benefits, but the most notable is that it has a degree of power over the Dream Theatre and can mitigate certain risks. And, of course, one can use the Puer Aeterna as a kind of psychological 'backup', reforming an individual to a healthy personality that they themselves invisioned, rather than reforming haphazardly.
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Step Four: The Aftermath

Once you have seized the Heed, either by stealing it or by taking it after defeating the Archetype, you become the arbiter of the Dream Theatre, and can decide what to do with it. The first and most obvious question is what to do with the Archetype. There are four common answers to this question:

  • Reform the Shadow. The Archetype is linked directly to the individual, and the Heed gives you power over them. You can use that to reform their dark sides, overwriting parts of their personality and making them a better person. It won't erase the things they've done, but it'll improve their mentality and actions.
  • Destroy the Shadow. You can destroy the Shadow completely. This will cause permanent damage to the Archetype's creator, often resulting in death or near-death.
  • Expose the Shadow to the Puer Aeterna. Within each Dream Theatre is a 'Puer Aeterna', an inner child, a representation of an inner, abandoned self that belongs to the creator. This inner child is much like the Archetype, except instead of being an amalgam of resentful repression, the Puer Aeterna is an idealised version of the creator's personality, especially one that they used to have but have since buried. The Puer is more true to who they are or who they wish to be, and can be healthier than a brute reformation.
  • Reconcile Shadow and Creator. If the creator has somehow found themselves within their own Dream Theatre, then they will face themselves, Shadow and creator face to face. In this moment, if the creator can find the strength to accept the horrific embodiment of all they've repressed, then the Shadow will be subsumed into the creator's identity, and take the form of a Persona.

After the Archetype is dealt with, there remains the question of what to do with the Heed. The Heed will quickly run out of energy once the Archetype is neutralised, but in that time the wielder of the Heed has the power to influence the minds and perceptions of the audience. This can implant new ideas into them, or change their memories, or myriad other things.
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The Reaper Timer

Although the Reaper was destroyed thirty years ago, it nonetheless left a 'hole' in the Sea of Chaos- the underlying role of the Reaper still existed, but left empty. Mysterious, powerful Shadows can use this as a backdoor to enter a Dream Theatre and attack the Evoker or the Archetype. As the Reaper was originally designed to repel Evokers, it is most sensitive to Evoker action. However, these 'fake' Reapers are not able to master the role, and cannot stay in form for long. Nonetheless they can lock down areas or push the Evokers into dangerous situations.

Every Dream Theatre has a 'Reaper Timer'. This starts whenever Evokers enter a Theatre. This starts at 15, and then drops by an amount equal to the tens digit on the waking world' s miasma scale. So 30 miasma = a timer of 12. Furthermore, the timer also drops by 1 for every Evoker currently in the Theatre. Apart from that, the Timer only drops down in the following circumstances:

  • 1 for every hour an Evoker is in the Theatre
  • 1 should an Evoker perform a critical mistake in a severe situation, or expend a great deal of power doing so

This timer resets at the end of the week.

Once a Reaper has manifested, the Reaper will be able to sustain its form for a number of hours equal to the tens column of the waking world's miasma scale. However, this is a 'low power' state, and combat rapidly burns through its cohesiveness. For every round of combat, the Reaper loses an hours' worth of time. Once a Reaper hits zero, it vanishes at the end of its next turn. This resets the timer to maximum, although the reduction from miasma and evoker count still applies.
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Example of a Dream Theatre: Arthur and his Court

Let's do an example Dream Theatre.

In this example, a student named Arthur was helping his girlfriend Maiko with a presentation. However, he kept trying to 'help' her in ways that came off as hijacking the presentation. After a few minutes of this, Maiko snapped and criticised him. He snapped back, and before long the two were arguing fiercely. The dissolution of their relationship was caught entirely on camera by a third student with a smartphone, who uploaded the video to the student intranet, where it quickly went viral.

The attention on Arthur's controlling side was enough to generate a Shadow, but the smartphone video quickly turns into a Heed and empowers his Shadow. Before long, it's a full Archetype with a Dream Theatre, and it's taking over Arthur's mind, making him truly obnoxious and meddlesome, especially towards the girls at the school.

One Evoker, Erik, breaks into Arthur's dorm room and finds a big set of old knightly romance stories on a bookshelf, with one half-read. Meanwhile, another Evoker, Lei, has found the original recorder of the video and managed to persuade him to hand over his smartphone. Erik suggests the theme of 'Knights and shit', which is refined to 'Chivalric Romance', especially as people are questioning Arthur's honour and intentions. With smartphone in hand, the Library finds a match, and the Evokers arrive at Arthur's Theatre to find a vibrant medieval realm of rolling green hills and white-stone castles. Manly knight-Shadows spend their days jousting with other knight-Shadows, whilst peasant Shadows applaud and fine lady-Shadows watch approvingly from the sidelines.

In all of this, Arthur's Archetype takes the form of a noble and proud king who rules over a perfect, orderly realm where everyone knows their place. As the Evokers explore, they learn that the Dream Theatre reflects a deeply internalised outlook whereby men should stand up and protect others… Taken to an extreme where women are there to be coddled and protected and weaker people should do nothing but cheer the strong on. Deeper into the Theatre, they come to understand that it also reflects Arthur's insecurities regarding his role in his strongly traditional family, where he is afraid he won't measure up to everyone's standards.
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Arthur's Court Examples
The Evokers have grown pretty tired of Arthur's gender essentialist full-plate fantasy, and set out to change it.

Convention one: Lady's Disfavour. Erik approaches a Knight-Shadow but, before anything can happen, challenges the Shadow to a one-on-one duel. In a week. He tells the Knight-Shadow that he'll defeat him in full view of his Lady as well as many of the other Shadows (winning his audience). The Knight accepts the duel, and the group leave and come back in a week. Erik meets the Knight in one-on-one combat (an impressive challenge!), but before the fight starts, Erik begins talking about the Knight and his Lady. He says that the Lady is in love with another Knight, and gave the Knight her favour hoping that he'd die trying to impress her! Doubt starts creeping into the Knight's thoughts, and when Erik wins, the Subversion is complete. Suddenly no Knight trusts their Lady's favour anymore, and those wearing it are too mired by doubt to fight well. This changes the nature of the Theatre- suddenly there's intrigue and politicking in the previously squeaky-clean world, and Arthur is incensed.
Convention two: Coward's Weapons. Timber is pretty mad that he's being weakened here, so he hits the books on medieval warfare. He comes back and finds a Knight, and proceeds to explain the effects of the English longbow on mounted knights. The knight mocks him. So Timber tells the Knight that if he's so confident in his skills, fighting a shooter won't be a problem, right? He tells the Knight to get his mates and fight him at a certain part of the Theatre at a certain time- see, Timber has used the Sense Weather knack to learn that this part of the Theatre is prone to raining. When the time comes, he sets up on a hill. The Knights charge, their peasant squires watching. With a cry of 'Agincourt, bitch!', Timber starts shooting the Knights as they struggle to cross the muddy, wet ground. Soon after, ranged weaponry becomes more powerful and common in the Theatre, even though the Knights don't try using it… Essentially, Timber has introduced an element of forced realism into the fantasy, and suddenly the timeless Court isn't so timeless anymore as Peasant Shadows start doing more damage.
Convention three: Knight and Witch. Evelyn resents leaving the close combat to Erik. She knows that a certain part of the Theatre periodically has jousting contests. She alters her outfit a little, wearing a fully-enclosing helmet that hides her sex. She enters the tournament and wins it! At the very end, the King- Arthur- bids the 'manly' winner to unmask themselves. When Evelyn does, the whole Theatre realises that a woman has become a Knight… And suddenly the ladies of the Theatre are not so passive anymore, least of all Evelyn, who is now fighting at full power!
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