The immediate and visceral reaction to the two words placed together and joined via hashtag was euphoric. I had no idea what it was, what it meant, whether or not it was something I could attain, but I knew that I loved #SwordDream.
So what is SwordDream? Well, as a matter of function, it is a hashtag that sprang forth in response to a desire to describe a community of creators making table top role playing games with old school aesthetic and design. Specifically, the hashtag was made manifest by creators who were uncomfortable gathering under the banner of the OSR. To these creators, myself included, the work being done was aesthetically similar to, or philosophically inspired by, the games and systems traditionally labeled OSR, but always with a caveat… not *THAT* OSR.
There was an obvious problem with the identity of the OSR community. There was a need to separate the DIY aesthetics, the rules-light modular design approach, and the emergent narrative structure from a community beset by gatekeepers, bigots, trolls, and abusers. The goal of SwordDream, as far as I could tell, was to prune out the disease in order to allow a more healthy community of creators to grow.
A set of core principles were fashioned and refined by members of the movement. The Principles are set forth below in the version most current as of this blog post.
Of note, the SwordDream may not be a SwordDream to everyone (others may have a FireDream, a SpaceDream, a SnailDream, or an EggDream), thus the “splat” character is often utilized as a placeholder in these discussions & *DREAM is the term utilized in the guiding principles of the community.
THE NINE PRINCIPLES OF *DREAM
1. *DREAM stands against hate & prejudice in all forms. We seek to actively oppose bigotry & harassment in gaming communities. We create kind spaces.
2. *DREAM works to be radically inclusive. We seek support and encourage creators, GMs, Players, and organizers from marginalized groups. And we seek to get better at this all the time.
3. *DREAM encourages the use of sensible tools for communication and consent.
4. *DREAM opposes harassment and strives for non-toxic discourse. We value best intentions, we call in before calling out, and we start discussions before we make accusations. We seek to empower everyone to curate their spaces.
5. *DREAM values creators & their work. We support equitable pay for professional creators and fair treatment for hobbyists.
6. *DREAM values a DIY approach to creation. We question gatekeeping, we take alternative approaches when traditional publishing models fail, and we believe anyone can make great games.
7. *DREAM values experimentation in game design & world-building.
8. *DREAM isn’t defined by, but is interested in: anti-canons, emergent story, generative worlds, kitbashing, non-violent play options, and more. And it is fine if some of these things contradict each other.
9. There is no one *DREAM. Anyone who commits to these principles is *DREAMing.
SwordDream is exciting. The energy it brings with it is one of hope. It is an energy of creation. It is an energy of acceptance and of love and of support. It allows for disagreement. It allows for variation. It allows for experimentation and failure and success and the entire big, messy, unknowable process of creation. It facilitates kindness, empathy, imagination, and wonder.
The SwordDream is real. It has energized a group of creators and a community is beginning to emerge. Games are being created. The DreamJam is on the horizon (over on itch.io). I cannot wait to see where this Dream takes us all!