Matthijs Holter

Archive for March, 2010|Monthly archive page

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

In Inspiration and vibes on March 11, 2010 at 1:13 pm

This old 1920 classic can provide some inspiration. Characters like the mountebank and the somnambulist; strangely surreal townscapes; travelling circuses; “spirits everywhere”… You might want to turn down the music while listening.

Design sources and inspirations

In Design notes on March 10, 2010 at 5:44 pm

[Note: Links have been added.]

The game itself is a conglomerate of techniques and ideas from several gaming cultures and traditions. It has gone through many versions. It is possible it will always be in a state of flux and mutability, hard to pinpoint. However, one way to start is to try to remember the many sources of the design. These are in pretty random order!

Clyde Rhoer’s Silence Keeps Me A Victim (the game isn’t available anymore, I believe, but there’s an interview with the author here.) I have yet to play this evocative game; but I’ve used Rhoer’s dream technique as a central piece of the Dream scenes in Society of Dreamers.

My own Archipelago. The basic group attitudes of trust and responsibility and the focus on group processes is central.

Jonathan Walton’s Mwaantaangaand is probably where I first picked up the idea of having scenes represented physically on a board. I’ve later used it in different ways in other games; here it inspired the Ouija board mechanism.

Ritual ideas from Nordic larps such as those designed by Erlend Eidsem Hansen and Eirik Fatland.

Phil Hine’s Condensed Chaos – even though I don’t usually practise magic (?), the idea of using rituals from all sorts of traditions and sources reflects how I make games these days.

Ole Peder Giæver and Martin Bull Gudmundsens Itras By – the prime game of European surrealist fantasy.

Ben Lehman’s Polaris was the first game I played which really deconstructed the GM role and distributed it among the players.

Willem Larsens blog College of Mythic Cartography.

The situationist international and their psychogeography.

The ideas of dream researcher Jim Ashtrottle.

I’ve discussed the game extensively at and in real life, and it’s hard to remember what suggestions I ended up incorporating. I know it was Anders Nygaard (designer of the New Middle Ages) who inspired me to let the players create/explore the mnemosite as part of play, and Ole Peder Giæver (designer of Itras By) who said the mnemosite could be undefined to begin with. And, of course, the basic idea was a challenge from Øivind Stengrundet (designer of Wanderer).

I’m sure there are many, many more. But this will give you an idea of what sort of concepts the game is built of.

Who were the members of the Society?

In Inspiration and vibes on March 10, 2010 at 4:49 pm

No archives of the Society have been unearthed, and it is possible that they kept no written record of meetings or membership. Speculation has been rife; few 19th-century scientists and occultists have escaped the scrutiny of historical bloodhounds trying to ascertain exactly who the Society consisted of. Since, as mentioned, there may have been several Societies of Dreamers operating over a period of time, there are many persons of note to speculate about. Here are some of the more prominent ones.

Helena Blavatsky

Founder of the Theosophical Society. Blavatsky seems to have viewed the mnemosites as spirits of the dead, or possibly the unborn.

Marie Curie

Physicist pioneering the field of radioactivity. It is highly doubtful that such a rational scientist should be part of the Society of Dreamers; still, rumors persist.

Carl Jung

Strangely, Jung is said to have joined the Society at the age of six. Perhaps this influenced his later choices in life, and even his psychoanalytical research. Or, as always, his membership may simply be a pseudo-historical fabrication.

Nikola Tesla

The many strange experiments of Tesla caused his contemporaries to call him – sometimes jokingly, sometimes in awe – a magician. If anyone could have attempted to construct an apparatus capable of transferring dream images between living brains, it would have been him. Evidence is, however, scarce.