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.

Persona-users 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.

Heeds
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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Basic Structure

Dream Theatres are divided into two very basic building blocks: Rooms and Routes.

  • Rooms are large areas where characters move, fight, act, solve puzzles, etc. Despite being called 'Rooms', they can be open areas, fields, etc. Basically, the term is used to refer to any area where the characters are expected to act, especially in Structured Time.
  • Routes connect Rooms to each other and represent corridors, mazes, long stretches of nothing etc. Routes take a certain number of turns to traverse, at the end of which you come to your destination. However, Routes are not always straightforward. Routes are sometimes one-way. Sometimes Routes are uphill and take longer to go one way than another. Some routes are mazes, and unless you pass a skill check, will dump you back at your starting destination.
    • You can choose to run a Route, which halves the time it takes (rounded down, minimum 1 turn) to traverse, but inflicts 1 level of fatigue. Characters whose base movement is 6+ reduce a Route's travel time by 1 turn; if their base movement is 8+ then it's reduced by 2 turns.
    • You can choose to move a Route stealthily, which (without special abilities) adds +2 turns to the travel time, but allows you to scout the opening of the room before entering it, giving you a chance to double-back without being seen. It also allows you to move from the Route and into the room without being detected with Stealth skill tests and appropriate cover.

These two things form the basis of almost everything within the Dream Theatre.
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Advanced Structure

This step explores more advanced principles related to Dream Theatre navigation. The principles below do not change the basic Room/Route structure, and each principle below fits right into that structure normally.

Centre Stage

  • Centre Stage is the term used to refer to the heart of a Theatre, where the Archetype is at their most powerful. It is also where the Heed resides. Centre Stages are special because certain explorative abilities might not work in them, and furthermore, it is far harder (though not impossible) to sneak into a Centre Stage. The Centre Stage is the ultimate goal of exploration.

Lounges

  • Lounges are special Rooms where the Archetype's control is weaker, and a connection to the Library of Alexandria can be established. Lounges are safe havens, where characters can rest and meditate. They also act as checkpoints: characters can leave a Theatre via a Lounge, and return to that Lounge later. Shadows cannot see the Lounge at all, and so will not stake it out or set ambushes in front of it.
    • Every Evoker is represented in the Lounge by a unique, custom chair/sofa/etc. Think of what your unique seat might look like!

Locked Routes

  • Sometimes, a Route will be locked, and unable to be traversed unless unlocked. Unlocking a Route might require a key, or overcoming a certain obstacle (especially if the Route is 'locked' by something besides a door). Or sometimes they just need plenty of raw force.

Random Routes

  • Sometimes, a Route will lead to multiple rooms. Each time a person travels down a Random Route, their destination is, naturally, randomised by rolling a die.

Secret Routes

  • Some Routes are secret, and can be detected through special searching, through hints, or interrogating defeated Shadows in the appropriate circumstances.

Traps

  • Traps are nasty things that await an Evoker. They often deal damage, cause an alarm or otherwise make life harder for the Evoker. Evokers always have a chance to evade a trap, but this chance is improved vastly if they are aware of the trap in advance, such as through investigation or tipoffs.

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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. 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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Example: 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'. 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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Conventions

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 at least two Conventions, and no more than five, and all of them start hidden from the Evokers and must be discovered through experimentation and clues.

Understanding Conventions allows the Evokers to be more aware of threats, but can also take advantage of Conventions to empower themselves or punish others.

Arthur's Court Examples
After some nasty combats and experimentation, the Evokers realise that Arthur's Court has three powerful Conventions at play.

Convention one: Lady's Favour. In this Theatre, knights show off their martial skills in the name of a chosen Lady, who visibly marks her champion (with a handkerchief, or ribbon, for example). The Evokers quickly realise that those who fight for a Lady's favour deal more damage in melee combat and are stronger on the charge. They also learn that women cannot benefit from this favour, only dish it out. Erik quickly persuades an unimpressed Lei to tie a ribbon around his bicep, which somehow gives him the power to suplex a horse.

Convention two: Coward's Weapons. The Evokers notice that the Knights wield nothing but melee weapons. The reason why is soon revealed when Timber, another Evoker, tries firing his gun at a Knight. Although its damage is fine, a wave of fear suddenly floods Timber, and when the Knight charges him, the usually courageous Evoker breaks and runs. As it turns out, in this Theatre, ranged weapons are coward's weapons, and so anyone who wields such a weapon must be a coward.

Convention three: Knight and Witch. Evelyn, a fourth Evoker, is right at home dishing out dirt in hand to hand combat, but is finding fighting the Knights to be tough work. Lei, however, finds her magic to be much stronger than usual, and her Persona makes short work of some of them. As the Evokers learn, in Arthur's Court, men ought to be knights (and knights ought to be men), whilst women should be witches and sorceresses.
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Subversion

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 fighting a big boss, 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!

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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