The Dream Thieves

By Diogo Nogueira
Old Skull Publishing

The Amaranthine Sorcerers, rulers of their self-named city, are servants of an entity that demands dreams as payment for their gifts of sorcerous powers. But the sorcerers themselves grew fond of these dreams, or perhaps the magic they received from this entity imparted them with this obsession with the oneiric. Now they hoard dreams. They collect them as kings collect treasures from the realms they conquer. They covet the dearest dreams of others. They steal dreams from one another, in a strange rivalry, as great as any mortal foe. But they are never satisfied. Others also covet those dreams, especially those that lost them to this greedy cabal. They seek brave adventurers to venture into the sorcerers’ inner citadel and recover them. For a great reward, of course. But are these rewards worth the great risk of challenging sorcerers that can manipulate both your dreams and your worst nightmares?

This sixty page adventure marks the end of my engagement with Troika. Errr, I mean, it has six wizards towers, each with a dream theme, and some tenuous “make shit up as you go along” mechanics. Some rooms have an interesting description, but, ultimately, I hope I die before I wake. 

I continue to work my way through my review requests. And I continue to hate the people who suggest I review things.

Ohs Nos! Them wizards are stealing dreams and someone hired you to do a “heist” to get them back! And in the context of this adventure, “heist” means … I don’t know … the usual dungeon thing?I mean, get to the tower, go inside, and wander around the six rooms until you find the dream you are looking for and leave again? That’s a heist? This whole thing reeks of an unfocused design.

There are six towers, each themed to a different dream wizard. All in a compound in the center of the city. Why six? I don’t know. WOuld it have been better to say six and then fully stat one instead of doing all six? Maybe, but then that would require some hard design work, I suspect. WIll you use all six? Probably not. 

To get to the towers, in the center of the city, have you have to get in to the central compound. During the day the gate is guarded with three soldiers and one apprentice wizard. The apprentice takes bribes. At night there are three apprentices and one soldier. The soldier takes bribes. There’s your evocative heist moment. 

Then you get to make a wisdom test to navigate the maze of streets to get to the towers. Again, suerdy superdy evocative there, with that description and mechanic. Can’t wait to game it. 

Then you get to the towers. Once inside … you might get confronted by a dream or nightmare! Ohs Nos! “The Living Nightmare sensing the presence of free dreamers ambush you in one of the passages. You were paralyzed by fear but made a sacrifice to get away. What did you sacrifice?” Yeah, it’s full of indi game narration. I can groove a little on this mechanic, but not like this. And it’s just all garbage tack on shit. There’s nothing going on here except what appears in that text. Pffft.

Ok, then you’ve got the rooms proper. They are themed to the towers. Shadows, Dreams, Skulls, etc. There’s little bit of an artsy feel to them, and I don’t exactly mind that. “A large, circular, dark room with six small displays of light that project shadows on the ceiling. Each of them shows an ever changing silhouette of a warrior in fighting positions; a tree growing and withering; a bird flying; a human being born, growing, getting older, and dying; a city growing and being ruined; an egg hatching and growing into a serpent that lays an egg. There’s a bigger lantern in the middle with sheets of paper hanging above it.” Yeah, ok, a little pedantic in the beginning, but it’s got decent energy. Of course, it ends with “everyone in the room has a gut feeling that they need to make a shape for the shadow the light projects.” Fuck that shit. You don’t tell people what to do. They get to figure the fucking shit out. Make a stealth test! Make a wisdom test! All to nothing. 

The mem is that the indi scene has no meat to it. All flash and no game. Just make rolls with no consequences, and narrate your own blah blah blah. And this “adventure” certainly lives up to that. And that’s all you’re getting from me on this. I’m not reviewing Troika shit anymore unless someone verifies and smrears to fucking god with a cherry on top that its a real adventure.

This is $8 at DriveThru. The preview is thirteen pages and shows you nothing of the towers, although the last page shows you that “evocative’ entrance to the city center, with the guards. Pfftt. And a big ol Fuck You to whoever suggested I review this.

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31 Responses to The Dream Thieves

  1. Bucaramanga says:

    Great idea, bad execution. At least it’s not another Orcs In A Hole for levels 1-3.

  2. Anonymous says:

    “You were paralyzed by fear but made a sacrifice to get away. What did you sacrifice?”

    Holy Shit this is a bad game mechanic. It both forces the player to do extra narration awkwardly (Indie style) and also railroads them (because they don’t get to choose to NOT make a sacrifice and accept the consequences)

    “I’m railroading you, tell me how”

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is an Ennies award winner we’re talking about, lol. Who would have thought.

  4. Reason says:

    So this adventure tells you the solution to every puzzle? But indie gamers lap it up because they get to narrate “how” they enact the solution the text just jammed down their throat?

    Challenge free! More colloborative! No real choices! Yay.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This guy did vampire which you liked how could they have made this? Who did they hatted risk off to ix an yeah hang b issues HHC ditto do dunes dutch Odisha justify Jessi HDDs touchdown is trackside kiddos beside Krystal outdoors Fordham

  6. Jax7778 says:

    The system itself is not bad, but I think Troika has a bit of the Mork Borg problem, people really lay into the aesthetics, and the content suffers.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Two mork Borg’s are best!

    0 for troika

  8. 3llense'g says:

    Actually, a module about an Inception-style dream theft sounds awesome. Or maybe something like Dreamscape.

  9. Anonymous says:

    How could a best author make a hell module for Bryce?


    Ditto ditch six docs for the temporary fix it was a great day I love you too reliant on the wallpaper iphone to tv with HDMI to USB adapter for you to come over and watch the dev log in and see if you can get the sandboxing argument but I like the first one best for you to come over and watch the dev log in and see if you can afford to get the sandboxing argument but I like the first one best for you to come over and watch the dev log in and see if you can afford to get the sandboxing argument but I like the first one best for you to come over and watch the dev log in and see if you can afford to get the sandboxing argument but I like the first one best for you to come over and watch the dev log in and see if you can afford to get the sandboxing argument but I like the first one best for you to come over and watch the dev log in and see if you can afford to get the sandboxing argument but I like the first one best resources and watch TV or will I have the money I don’t think I will have a browser right after you left it in a bag of that beyond self hosted the first day is the apocalypse now or later if you’re interested I’ll let the dogs this week and dragons and see how you were to use for you on Monday the 12th is not good because it’s not same as last week 9 I know the fingerprinting implications for a few weeks then I have the same way about it and watch TV or something like the next day is good for the temporary fix the first one best resources for reasonable glamour shot the first one best for you to come over and watch the dev log in and see if you can afford to get the sandboxing argument but I like the first one best for you to come over and watch the

  10. Hey Bryce, It’s Diogo here. The author of this adventure.

    First of all, I would like to say I agree with you.

    This is a shitty OSR / D&Desque adventure. If you would try playing it with Old-School Essentials for exemple, that wouldn’t go very well.

    However, The Dream Thieves is not a OSR / D&Desque adventure. It’s an AZAG adventure, a modern and narrative take on classic British fantasy games. It focuses on different styles of gameplay than your typical OSRish game.

    I am sorry if you are already familiar with this, but in Game Design theory there’s this concept called the MDA Framework ( It examines games through Mechanics, Design, and Aesthetic, and how they mutually inform the game experience. It’s a worthwhile read for anyone interested in Game Design.

    AZAG is a game that focus a lot on some Aesthetics of Fun that your typical OSR game does not. In this particular case Narrative, Fellowship, and Expression. On the other hand, OSR games shine with Challenge, Discovery and Submission.

    As a professional game designer I have the obligation to create my work around the experience the game I am designing for focuses on. If I don’t do that, I am a bad game designer. That’s The Dream Thieves for AZAG. The Dream Thieves for OSE, for example, would be something else.

    If I was hired to make a 1st person shooting videogame and came back with Mortal Kombat, no matter how good Mortal Kombat is, a person who is only interested in 1st person shooting games would not like it at all.

    Anyway, thank you for taking the time to review my adventure. Again, I agree with you. It’s a shitty OSRish adventure. It’s a pretty cool AZAG adventure though. 🙂

    • Anonymous says:

      Again an author absolutely dismantles their negative review. Bryce when will you learn???

      • Reason says:

        Bryce reviews adventures for the OSR, it’s there at the top of the screen and info pages… they both agree it’s shitty as an OSR adventure… isn’t that more agreement than dismantling?

        Someone requests Bryce review a Troika module, he does. Bryce doesn’t like it, it fails at doing OSR things…

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s a whole lotta words.
      Too bad I ain’t readin em.

      • The Middle Finger Of Vecna says:

        Troll gonna troll

      • Anonymous says:

        Why are the commenters on the blog such assholes nowadays Bryce? When did it switch?

        • Anonymous says:

          I am only an asshole to writers who come here to argue with Bryce over his review of their work. The fact we actually have impartial and incisive critics in our tiny scene of fragile geeks is wonderful and precious. I will throw myself in front of that swinging “professional game designer” dick and take the meaty slap on the chin!

          I love you bryce (and prince and melan) keep it real and keep going!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Things Bryce pointed out have nothing to do with things you point out. Bad adventure is bad, regardless of system. Unless you are claiming that good AZAG adventures dictate what should characters do, instead of giving them agency?

    • Anonymous says:

      Hiding obvious general incompetence behind impenetrable pseudo-GNS jargon.

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