Praedormitium – An Interview with Joie Martin of Drowning Moon Studios

On Facebook, one of my friends shared a link to Praedormitium, an RPG about lucid dreaming by Joie Martin. The RPG is in the form of a zine. And it’s available now. It is everything I wished I completed already with POWERED by the DREAMR (and will complete sooner than later). Anyways, I thought I’d interview Joie in the hope that everything-I-wish-I-had-completed-that-she-has would rub off! ūüėČ
EGG EMBRY (EGG): What’s the pitch for Praedormitium?  
JOIE MARTIN (JM): Named for the transition of wakefulness to sleep, Praedormitium is a tabletop roleplaying game inspired by the experience of lucid dreaming. Players portray Hypnopomps, characters born with the natural ability to manipulate dreams, while adventuring in the Realms of Dream. It uses a deck of tarot cards as the basis of its resolution system, cooperative play, and collaborative storytelling to build a cohesive narrative experience.
 
EGG: Why a zine edition instead of a full release?
JM: Honestly, because a lot of the spirit of the game is rooted in the changeable nature of dreams, and I felt adding dozens upon dozens of pages of lore went against that core concept. The more you define it, the less dynamic it becomes, and the less players and DMs–they’re called Dream Masters in Praedormitium–have the ability to shape the game into something uniquely their own. If you do something like make a map of the Realms of Dream, and say, “Okay, here’s the castle where the Prince of Nightmares lives,” or “This type of Phantasma only exists in the dreams of people experiencing chronic illness,” many people who play games have a tendency to accept that as verbatim, which doesn’t allow for the type of whole-cloth flexibility the game requires. The way Praedormitium is designed, players can do literally _anything_ in the Realms of Dream, the results of their actions are just colored by the tarot deck the game uses as a resolution system.
 
EGG: Will you do a full release?
JM: I’d like to do a nicer version with better artwork, a character sheet and some examples of gameplay, so possibly. I’d also like to release several stand alone modules created by other writers, so players can get an idea of the types of ¬†adventures that can be run in the Realms of Dream, but both of those things will largely depend on funding.
 
EGG: Tell us about the system for this game?  
JM: Praedormitium uses a tarot deck as the basis for its resolution system. The deck is divided into its individual suits: wands, coins, cups and swords, as well as the major arcana. The players and DM draw from one of the suits when they’re attempting to accomplish a mundane physical, mental, or social action, and the major arcana when they’re attempting to manipulate the Realms of Dream. The card they draw determines their level of success and, particularly for the major arcana, influences how they succeed or fail.
 
EGG: How does the game address nightmares as opposed to happier dreams?
JM: There are a few different ways nightmares come up in Praedormitium. The first is tied directly into character creation, where each character has a particular nightmare effect that will manifest if they make too many unsuccessful attempts to manipulate the Realms of Dream during a scene. Another, more common one is that capital-N Nightmares are a type of Phantasma, which is a naturally-occurring denizen of the Realms of Dream. They’re part of dream-ecology, in that they’re predators in the dream ecosystem, and are often primary antagonists for players in adventures. Beyond that, it’s pretty loosely defined, because players and DMs are able to incorporate them into their games in whatever way they want.
 
EGG: What inspired you to use Tarot for this?
JM: I started with the major arcana, because the meaning of the cards could vary depending upon who was doing the reading. I thought that was an interesting thing to incorporate into a resolution system and it seemed to fit well with the idea of trying to do something in a dream, and then something you didn’t quite expect happens instead of, or maybe because of what you tried to do.
 
EGG: Since this is a game about dreams, was there a specific dream that you wanted to be able to recreate in your game?
JM: Not one specific dream, but I wanted to try to recreate the experience of lucid dreaming, at least from my perspective, as best I could. I’ve been able to control my dreams for almost as long as I can remember (and was really surprised to discover other people couldn’t!), but the way I’ve always done it is oddly cinematic. It’s like watching a movie. If I don’t like how something is playing out, I can pause, rewind, and play it again. I can just leave a dream if I’m bored with it. Or change things like I’m directing people on a set. If I’m in danger of being hurt by something, I can just say “nope” and they can no longer hurt me. But it only works about 80% of the time. So, I guess I was trying to recreate the experience of how I, personally, dream, with the understanding that it definitely doesn’t work that way for everyone else.

EGG: What other projects have you worked on?  
JM: Prior to this I wrote mostly LARPs. A lot of my older work has been non-credited for campaign games, but I published my first independent system, Covenant, back in 2000. Most recently, I’ve been writing freeform LARPs, which require less overhead to run and minimal mechanics, thus have a lower barrier to entry. I wrote one a month in 2018, and released a collection of ten short freeform LARPs called Mixtape in July of that year. Putting out that much content in twelve months left me feeling a bit burnt out, so I decided to take it a little slower this year and switch my focus to tabletop games.
EGG:  What upcoming projects do you have planned?
JM: I’m currently playtesting two games. One, called Follow Me Down, is a Powered by the Apocalypse hack for two players, based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice as they travel through the underworld. It’s GMless, so the thing I’m currently concentrating on is making sure the game is accessible and easy to understand. I want someone who has never played a tabletop game before to be able to pick up the book and be able to play it straight through without any confusion. It’s pretty close to completion, so most likely that will be the next one I publish, though it’s definitely too big to be a zine.
I also have another game called Wayfaring Strange which is about hidden highways, urban legends, strange magic, and traveling through liminal America. It’s an original diceless system and I got a chance to test it at Gen Con a few months ago. That one’s not quite as far along as Follow Me Down, but I think it will definitely be ready for publication in 2020.
EGG: Where can fans learn more about you and your project?  
JM: I intermittently keep a blog on the Drowning Moon Studios website (https://www.drowningmoonstudios.com/blog), so that’s the best place if you want specific information about the games and their development. I tend to rattle on more frequently on Twitter at https://twitter.com/smallglassworld
 
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