In the beginning the One People lived upon the world and in the upper air. And as they moved upon the world and in brightness their lives were as a great sound or tumult in deep places.
The noise of life and living angered the shadow in the dreaming waters.
“These creatures born upon this world,
and living there,
are unpleasantness to me.”
. . . but let’s pause there for a moment, and talk about this game.
Dreaming Waters was a setting for the Filial Piety Action System. It had as its premise a notion that our world is clouded, made confusing and dim in comparison to its natural state, by the dreaming waters and the shadow that lives within them.
That the natural state of humanity was closer to flow or peak experience; that, were it not for that water, people really ought have had wings.
… but it was possible to rise above these waters.
This would be a metaphysical act. Sometimes Dreaming Waters described it as if the waters and the world above were completely separate places—alternate dimensions. Sometimes it talked more as if the waters were the Matrix, a perceptual filter creating an artificial world. Sometimes it talked as if the two worlds were side by side, elements of the same experience, two parts of a greater system or whole.
That’s because all of those things were true.
The dreaming waters were a world all their own. A perceptual filter. Part of the real world, side by side with it, two participants in a larger reality.
They were everything that our world is; it’s just that the actual world was something larger, vaster, and more wild.
It was possible to rise above these waters and reclaim that world.
There one would find the cities of the angels.
They called themselves the people of wine and fire—when they did not call themselves the One People, in which they would include humanity.
They were more healthy, more long-lived, more clean in their movements; and, they were winged.
They loved more easily—not better, not deeper, but more easily, and with fewer stresses and hang-ups—than humanity.
It filled their lives.
To them we who lived in the dreaming waters were creatures of priceless beauty and matchless valor. This is because they could not bear to live within these waters as we do. Their hearts would die.
They would despair and fall to darkness and be lost.
The Filial Piety Action System
The system for Dreaming Waters paired the Attributes/attitudes Attentive, Fierce, Helpful, Insightful, and Reliable with Subjects like “to your Family,” “to your Teachers,” “to the Deserving,” and “to the Wicked” to build a dice pool. (This was relatively innovative at the time, but it was also kind of crude; I think Smallville’s implementation of a similar idea, not long after, was both an independent development and substantially cleaner.)
It had combat built around abstract ranges and a weapon system focused on fast rolls and frequent + interesting critical and failure results.
The system was unfinished when the project went on hiatus in 2009, with most of the key parts finished but a core motivating force still absent. This happened to several of my projects of that era; I’d have to carefully review to determine whether this was a quality of my mindset or of my game design at the time.
“His name is Wrath: a wicked beast.
He dwelleth in his tower.
It does not serve you in the least
To go into his bower.”
The setting featured:
- “wing-boards,” gliders that humans could use to fly relatively comfortably in the upper air.
- lamiae, children of humans and angels born in the dreaming waters, who wound up forming reality-shaping dominions around themselves.
- some really fun magical weapons.
- the sibling-storms, various cosmic entities I still have a fondness for, each ruling a realm and most giving rise to demonic entities:
- the Animus of Fire, who was the sun and the genesis of the angels;
- Aylantine Seek, the hunter;
- Grain Waker, the principle of fertility;
- Lightning, a shattering power;
- Luna, an ever-changing glory of the sky;
- Nameless, of the clean dominion;
- Prince and Princess Laughter, who are heroes to the world;
- Scerascaling Leetha, mother of monsters;
- (the) Shadow in the Dreaming Waters, who was despair;
- Starholm, both a city and a sibling-storm;
- Stillness Vale, in its timeless waiting, and
- Wrath, an impetus to evil things.
Sometimes I think about redoing this in the CMWGE system.
I may make the draft release available again at some point. It’s only unavailable right now because I had to take down my old site.