The Dreaming Crucible: Principles of Play

My storytelling game The Dreaming Crucible is published under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license, which means that while I do sell it as a handmade book, you’re free to make any use you like of the game’s text, commercial or otherwise, so long as you credit me and allow others to use your work under the same conditions.

That being the case, it’s high time I started releasing the Crucible’s text on the internet. Before too long the whole game will be available in wiki form; in the meantime I’m going to showcase the more significant portions in a series of blog posts. I’ll start with the Principles of Play, which are a set of guiding precepts that function as a baseline approach to playing the game, on which particular rules and specific narrative and collaborative techniques can be built.

Have a look:

Say What You See

Treat the Dream as a reality with its own life and integrity, worthy of your respect. When about to describe a character, location or event, allow it to reveal itself to to you, rather than trying to force it into a particular shape. Say the first, most obvious thing that springs to mind, rather than trying to be clever, artistic or brilliant. Trust that what you see in that moment will be the perfect and fitting thing, and that brilliance will happen on its own.

Live in the Moment

Be present in each moment of play, savor its richness, and celebrate that time of creation with your friends. Don’t look forward, planning a particular outcome, or look backward in judgment of what you’ve already done. Just Say What You See, and let each moment flow to the next. Don’t sweat the rules or the learning curve–the text is organized so as to only require reference when it’s time for a new step. Learn through doing. Relax and enjoy!

Lift One Another Up

Listen to your fellow players, and lift them up. Celebrate their ideas, not just through hearing them and making space for them, but also building joyfully on them. When others describe things, offer further detail, have bold and startling reactions, spin dramatic new events out of them, or reincorporate them at a later Moment. The story will develop a satisfying connectedness, and you will honor one another’s Seeing.

These Principles took shape during my playtesting process, as I began to see the shape of the play experience I was after. The last principle, “Lift One Another Up”, was the first one I articulated, following a wonderful Crucible game that I blogged about this summer. The others fell into place as I reflected on half a year of play. I’m indebted to Willem Larsen for first introducing me to the concept of “seeing” what is, rather than “creating” what you want. Thanks as well to Graham Walmsley for the improvised storytelling techniques in his book Play Unsafe, to Matthijs Holter for the ritual phrases in his game Archipelago II, and to Vincent Baker for the list of guiding principles in his game Apocalypse World.

So there you have it! I’ll be sharing other bits of the text in the near future, and will move toward posting the whole thing up in a wiki for a complete play reference. The physical book is available as a lovingly crafted artifact, and I’ll be delighted if you choose to celebrate it by purchasing a copy. But I also want to celebrate play, by making the meat of the game freely available.



9 Responses to “The Dreaming Crucible: Principles of Play”

  1. 1 Hans Chung-Otterson
    December 13, 2010 at 12:34 am

    I’m glad this is going up on the web, Joel.

    I just bought a copy for my secret santa person at work. I think she’ll be into it.

    Here’s to play!

  2. December 13, 2010 at 4:39 am

    Hey Joel,

    Thanks for releasing your game under an open licence. I’ve created a page for it on the Year of Living Free, a wiki for gratis and libre games.




  3. 3 Joel
    December 13, 2010 at 6:29 am

    Oh, excellent. Thanks, Chris!

  4. December 13, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Joel, you’re wonderful.

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