Themed Thursday – Dreamscape

This week’s Themed Thursday is a submission brought to you by Benson! We’re going to try something new next week. Mark of QMSM suggested the idea of picking a particular theme/mechanic that we could all give a shot at for the following week. He has started us off with a painting. There are no rules concerning the theme or mechanic you use. It just has to have a painting in the idea. Anyone who wants to join us should feel free to do so. If you have no platform to express your idea, feel free to shoot me an email and I’ll just post it here.

We’ve all had dreams before and wondered what they meant. Sometimes we even know how they affect our daily lives – having a dream of falling and waking up on the floor, or have a dream of a cold environment and waking up to find that you’ve kicked off the sheets. My idea is to use this as a theme –a central hub that represents the “real world”, with separate rooms as “dream worlds” which when interacted with, will change things in the “real world” as if the dreamer was sleepwalking / performing tasks in their sleep. As a disclaimer, I haven’t been to any of the Inception themed rooms, and have also been made aware that there is a similar theme at a place in Australia (enigmaroom, I believe). So any similarity as noted below would be strictly coincidence and unintentional.

The setting would be that you are a detective who has agreed to undergo a new revolutionary technique called a ‘mind-dive’, to enter into the mind of a comatose patient in order to determine what has happened to them. But after the dive completes, you find yourself in an exact replica of the patient’s apartment, except everything seems to be stuck / bolted down (eg. doors / cabinets / windows won’t open, chairs are stuck to the ground) and by noticing the presence of a skeleton within the room, that this particular coma had been forcefully induced to leave this patient stuck within his own head /dreams (and it worked). The patient’s own mind has kept them trapped the entire time, and will threaten to do the same unless the detective beats the subsconscious locks. (While morbid, the theme can be slightly altered to be more child-friendly, but I like the reason of an induced coma as a means of explaining the puzzles / lockdown).

Each “dream world” (accessed through the central lockdown room) will have puzzles which change the nature of the “real world” room which in turn will either allow access to more dreams, or hints which help solve puzzles within that particular dream, as to allow for a two-way street for real world affecting dreams and vice versa.

For example, let’s say you enter the fantasy dream, complete with a giant candy house, and a dragon standing over a treasure chest. The dragon bemoans that in its old age, it has forgotten the combination to its treasure and had begun burning it into the ground but had run out of fire. On the ground, you can see partial fragments of numbers, but not enough to guess. To find the missing pieces, clues would point to heading back into the real world and doing something fire related (setting the oven to a certain temp, or toasting a piece of bread and having the remaining partials being ‘imprinted’ onto the toast – the bread would only be provided within the fantasy world to avoid red herrings / premature toasting), which would then in turn open the treasure chest. The resulting treasure chest filled with icicles would tell you that the fridge / freezer has now been unlocked, giving access to a gingerbread house, which upon having its door moved will unlocked the candy house within the room.

Other dream worlds could include an aquatic dream related to the aquarium, or a space dream related to the glow in the dark stars on a bedroom ceiling or a telescope which changes views / constellation patterns once something has been completed, or a shrinking related dream which will allow access intothe cabinets from the dream and to unlock them as a miniature from the inside.

Now, logistically, it would be a nightmare, haha, to get players to realize when something has changed and when to move back to the other world, or what has changed, but I would chalk the latter up to observation and the former through foghorns or some audio clue explained at the beginning. While an easier solution would be to have one team navigating the dream world and another in the real world in a similar “split group communication based room”, thematically I would like it if the group moves between dreams together (like Inception!), although I can’t think of a way to enforce that. But hey, Themed Thursday is just for the themes, and I just wanted to dream up a room with a dragon in it =P

First of all, the premise of entering a mind is a great idea! I’ve toyed around with the idea myself before. It has the advantage (that Benson is using here) that it allows you to tell a different kind of narrative that still makes sense. There’s an inherent degree of suspension of disbelief we hold to dreams. Entering the mind is not a new idea. We had The Cell in 2000, with Jennifer Lopez entering the mind of a comatose serial killer to find his latest victim. Being John Malkovich in 1999, which involved a surreal door that allowed access into an actor’s mind. More recent examples would be Inception, which involved entering and implanting an idea in someone’s mind, or even something more stylistic like the Hannibal TV series, where the main character Will Graham sees delusion-like images in his waking life.

So the idea’s great, and I think the overall structure is one that could work. In terms of execution, I would try to tie it all together with a narrative. In my opinion, the greatest ‘danger’ of a dream theme would be that it could potentially feel too random. Throwing together a fantasy dragon with an underwater world, and a space theme feels forced – as if you wanted all these things and tried to find a theme that could fit all of it.

If I were to take a crack at it, I would try to simplify the game. I would have each ‘dream world’ unlock a piece of narrative and nothing else. If my story were about finding out what had happened to a man who had lost his memory, solving each dream might unlock a portion of a video of what had happened to him. Maybe the story could be as simple as him having a fight with his wife, going to a bar, drinking and driving, and then getting into an accident. Each world could unlock parts of these scenes, with a larger meta puzzle that involved piecing the scenes together in the correct order to figure out happened (Think this episode of House).

If there were any element a designer were particularly in love with, it could still make sense to focus around it. For example, this dragon setup seems like it would fit in well with a child’s fantasy. Instead of having multiple vastly different worlds, I would try and execute a purely fantasy theme with a central realistic element. Maybe the story would be of a boy who was having trouble at school (this could not be more G-rated). I would have the core of dream room represent a different aspect of this. The dragon could be representative of a bully he has issues with, and solving that dragon puzzle would have a parallel ‘real’ world scene unlock.

Anyhow, cool idea, and thanks for the submission Benson! It was fun to think about. If anyone has any ideas they want to submit, feel free to reach out to me at The theme for next week is a painting.


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