GTM #216 - Of Dreams & Shadows: The Monster Within
by Gordon Alford

~ Where the story left off... ~

I planted the seed for the Of Dreams & Shadows expansion, The Monster Within, with the backstory of one of the Champions — Nora. The expansion is a thematic sequel to defeating The Dragon from the core game, and is mainly a story about vengeance. A season has passed since the Champions saved the realm; winter has come, blanketing the land in snow and ice. The kingdoms are rebuilding, but tensions rise as food becomes scarce. The Werefolk are in decline and there are rumors of some... thing exterminating their kind. In fact, new disappearances are occurring across the realm. Those who’ve gone missing are often found possessed by a malevolent spirit, turning them into ravenous cannibals. The surviving Champions learn that these monsters have been created for some greater purpose.

While the setting of the core game is influenced by ancient Celtic mythology, the expansion focuses more on Native American folklore. It draws inspiration from different tales and interpretations of ‘Wendigo’. I enjoy the portrayal of Wendigo as an evil spirit that corrupts and possesses people, turning them into cannibalistic monsters. Since there’s a single villain in the expansion, all of the different types of scenarios can focus on the story with Wendigo. This means I can now create a direct story link between specific world scenarios and quest scenarios.

I had also planned for several choices made in the core game to carry over into The Monster Within and lead players down different story paths. Players who completed certain scenarios (there’ll be a list) will receive one of two specific expansion scenario cards, depending on which choice was made.

Besides the story aspect, I received a lot of great feedback on the core game from many players. They gave me a lot of great ideas to work with such as: having experienced versions of each Champion, providing new spells that give more versatility to Spirit-Touched Champions, and scaling the game’s difficulty by number of players. I’ve included many of these features in the expansion.

~ Enhancing the Core Game ~

Players who completed certain scenarios in the core game will now begin the expansion with scenario cards that reflect the choices they made. There are new game play rules on how scenarios are initiated and how completing a world scenario will link with a quest scenario. Players can now also fully participate in someone else’s scenario, which gives a major reason for Champions that are strong in different traits to team up. When it comes to scaling the difficulty of the game, the number of actions per Turn and the size of the Resource deck (that is now customizable) will scale with the number of players in the game.

~ Revisiting Of Dreams & Shadows ~

Going back to the game design for Of Dreams & Shadows was like picking up a book that I had finished, and reading it with a fresh perspective. For the game mechanics, there were some tweaks to make and more abilities that I wanted to introduce. Expanding the types of spells was a key priority for me. When it came to the story, it was similar to writing a sequel. I had to dwell on the Champions and what their lives would be like after some time has passed. I also wanted to go a bit deeper into the history of conflict between humanity and the Werefolk, while introducing a new threat — The Skin-walker’s role in this conflict will come to light as the game progresses.

Continuing the story and developing the different story paths was my favorite part. I’ve always enjoyed creating a choose-your-own adventure and the expansion delves into the consequences of several choices made in the core game. It will add a more personal touch for the players when they continue where they left off.

I originally wanted to add more scenarios for the core game as well. Writing scenarios is by far the longest part of game development and it came down to either focusing on the expansion story or going back and adding more content for the villains in the core game. In addition, I thought about revamping the rules to a mechanic that doesn’t involve rolling dice. However, I couldn’t make such a major change to the game system in an expansion.

I hope that the players will enjoy where the story takes them as they continue their journey back to the world Of Dreams & Shadows.

Gordon Alford is the original designer for Of Dreams & Shadows, a fully self-funded project. He launched the game at Spiel Essen in 2016, where he met the folks of Greenbrier Games.