Just finished my second oneshot and even thinking about it again leaves me close to tears. I have a character sheet torn apart with my mouth laying on my bed that I need to tape up and tweak a tiny bit because they came back, sort of.
The combination of ritual, of exceptional writing, and of how quickly you get a sense of the bonds between characters means this game gets emotional and intense quick, and the GMless nature means it plays into my favourite part of roleplaying games - bouncing ideas off your friends and watching them spiral and blossom into something far beyond either of your reaches.
Buy this game, and then go check out everything else Jay Dragon and Possum Creek Games have done, I promise you will not regret it. Even if the sky turns to sand tomorrow, the tyranny of organisation grants you no respite, and you only ever get to read them, that will be enough - scrolling through this pdf left me weeping and feeling seen in a way few other experiences have, and playing it broke beyond the chains of my expectations into something new and impossible
A downloadable game
Sleepaway gives us long hazy days, chilled summer nights, kids screaming and chasing fireflies, crackling campfires, and a gaunt, cruel monstrosity forever hiding just out of sight, always asking, “What do you do next?”
In Sleepaway, you play as a camp counselor at a not-so-ordinary summer camp besieged by a Strange and ominous cryptid. In the outside world, people grow increasingly alienated from their own identities, trapped in a miasma of advertising and corporate branding. Isolated from civilization, this summer camp is a beacon of safety, a refuge for misfit kids defined by their marginalization. As time pushes past and the world grows older, this camp also shelters the survivors of the Lindworm.
The Lindworm is a shapeshifter, or so the stories go; a creature that flays the skin of humans and hides within. As counselors of this summer camp, you’ve each been traumatized by the Lindworm, in your own ways.
You remember little of that time.
Just that you don’t want anyone else to experience it either, and you’ll keep this camp safe no matter what.
Sleepaway is a breathtaking piece of design. At its core it is the straightforward give-and-take economy of Avery Alder's Belonging Outside Belonging system. Around that core, Jay has built an elegant and unsettling scaffold of poetic prompts, relatable archetypes, and bogey-monster horror that facilitate a truly terrifying experience.
— Eric Mersmann
Sleepaway uses the Belonging Outside Belonging system, popularized by games like Dream Askew by Avery Alder and Dream Apart by Benjamin Rosenbaum. It is a diceless game where tokens are received for making Weak Moves (actions that make your life harder), and these tokens are spent on Strong Moves (actions that passionately succeed). In Belonging Outside Belonging games, everyone shares the role of facilitator, and each person can pick up Setting Elements to bounce off of and provide narrative impetus for the other players. In Sleepaway, Setting Elements also contain Rituals, in which gameplay becomes more abstracted, to highlight unique moments of play by combining them with real-world actions and activities. Rituals might invite you to draw, to gesticulate, to play music, or even to destroy elements of the game itself in very unique ways.
The story continues on this way, with characters interacting and setting elements providing a world to interact within, until it is time for the Lindworm to act. While everyone has their eyes closed, one player responsible for channeling the Lindworm during play draws from a deck of cards and causes an unsettling event to occur. These can range from a new scar in a place you didn't remember having one, to a brutally dismembered animal appearing at your cabin door, or potentially even the death or dismemberment of player characters as the game continue.
Characters, scenes, locations, items, and the Lindworm's cards are all kept track of on a conspiracy-style corkboard, which slowly becomes more entangled and more mechanically relevant over time.
The game is divided into three acts, each one with unique rules that subtly change the game by adding new setting elements, permanently changing setting elements and character sheets, and introducing new ways to play.
Sleepaway was a simultaneous nostalgia trip and horrifying art project. From designing our land (inevitably just like land we’d all been to) to interacting with fellow staff and campers, the whole experience deeply evoked my days at camp and the feeling of magic that came with them. These memories were like a canvas; on top of them we painted an atmospheric set of horrors, weaving scenes together out of remembrances and collective narrative understanding. At each point there was a sense that we all knew where the story should go - it was just a matter of following it there, of letting the Lindworm manifest it. It was satisfying and unique to layer dread on nostalgia, and I highly recommend it for anyone who remembers the magic of summer camp!
— Maya Ziv
The Sleepaway book is 130 pages long, and features gorgeous black and white illustrations by our talented team of artists and graphic designers, based on the natural flora and fauna of the Hudson Valley, where the author grew up and where the summer camp Sleepaway is based on is located.
The book has ten unique character sheets, a dozen setting elements for multiple stages of play, rules for both oneshots and campaign play, an enormous pile of rituals, and so much more! Follow the link down below to purchase a physical copy of the Sleepaway book.
We each have fallen in love with the characters we build so fast, they feel like lovely little facets of ourselves; and the emphasis on struggle, of working through things, of making yourself vulnerable in order to be strong, has been so much fun and surprisingly healing.
With Sleepaway, Dragon takes the social mechanics of setting elements from Belonging outside Belonging games, and eases them deftly into the setting - and into the ald itself. It's a syncretic wedding between the natural world, the people who tend it, and the supernatural forces that inhabit it.
A beautiful PDF that's possibly the best game in the Belonging Outside Belonging system. It does exactly what it says it does, excellently. Protect the campers. Cause drama. Get flayed by the Lindworm.
ENnies 2020 Judge's Spotlight Award.
Nominated for the Indie Groundbreaker Awards in two categories: Most Innovative Game and Game of the Year.
Beau and John Sheldon on Thoughty — Rusted Sword and Nice Boys: Gender in Sleepaway
Beau Sheldon on Thoughty — Five Or So Questions on Sleepaway
Andrew Girwood on GeekNative — Beware The Monstrous Lindworm: Sleepaway RPG on Kickstarter
Seamus Conneely on Cannibal Halfling Gaming - Bundle For Racial Equality And Justice - Spotlight 2
The Gauntlet AP Podcast streamed Sleepaway. Session one can be found here.
Chromatic Chimera streamed Sleepaway in Adventure At Camp Hideaway to raise funds for the Trevor Project. It can be watched here.
Offseason is a supplement for Sleepaway with rules for online play. It also features a new Strangeness setting element (the Paper-Skin Hares), two new rituals, and a new thematic respite.
Uncanny is an expansion for Sleepaway that explores the more mystical and magical elements of summer camp. New strangenesses, playbooks, rituals and more fill the pages of this PDF that's almost as long as the base game itself.
Sleepaway was launched on Kickstarter in June 2019, and raised more than 400% of its original goal and obliterated every single stretch goal.
In order to download this game you must purchase it at or above the minimum price of $20 USD. You will get access to the following files:
Support this game at or above a special price point to receive something exclusive.
Sleepaway is now also available at Indie Press Revolutions! To grab a physical copy and support the book there, follow the link here.
Buy this option in order to purchase a physical copy of the book. There's only a limited number of these reservations to start, but I'll create more if there's interest.
Please tip an additional $5 if you live outside the US for shipping.
Log in with itch.io to leave a comment.
Just finished my second oneshot and even thinking about it again leaves me close to tears. I have a character sheet torn apart with my mouth laying on my bed that I need to tape up and tweak a tiny bit because they came back, sort of.
This game looks absolutely incredible, I can’t wait to play it! Just a question— I'm a bit stumped on HOW to. I'm new to GM-less games and the BOB system, and couldn't find the rules text for Dream Askew/Dream Apart. I'm just not quite sure how the settings elements and the rituals function, and the purpose of the corkboard and how/when you make minor characters (do you start with them? Or only make them when instructed?). Sorry if I'm being dense, I just really want to play this game the way you intended, because I'm already in love with it!
No worries at all! I'm gonna try to answer stuff to the best of my ability:
- Setting Elements are picked up by anyone and are like .... little fragments of the GM? Like imagine if you could put on the GM hat but only for one part of the setting.
- Rituals can be done whenever, and basically change the rules of the game for the duration they're going on. It's like shifting to a montage or something, and you go around and each person does one of the ritual moves, until you want the ritual to end.
- The corkboard is a big map of what's going on in the game. It connects people and places together. At the start it doesn't matter much but towards the end of the game (if you're playing a 3 act game) it comes up.
- Setting elements can make them whenever they want.
If you have any more questions about what it's like to play Sleepaway, check out this amazing podcast featuring Brennan Lee Mulligan, Molly Ostertag, and Noelle Stevenson (among others): Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.
VERY interested in checking this out for my actual play stream, but I generally do full campaigns of 10 episodes. Would that work for Sleepaway or is this made for one-shots?
Hi, Sleepaway was written for shorter campaigns and tends to last around 10 hours total, however 10 episodes of one hour each would be enough to cover all three acts of the game, I think!
Question: do aces count as face cards for the purposes of removing/adding to the deck in different acts?
So excited to finally run this game with friends, we were thinking of modifying the flavour to run a Percy Jackson themed game. Do you think the game would still work the same if someone started as a strangeness character?
I think so. Remember that your characters can be weird and magical even without the strangeness playbooks! The athlete, the crafter, and the ropeskeeper all are very explicit in that. But also Luke Castellan is absolutely some kind of Found-Again I think
This game looks very cool! I have a question, and I hope it's not silly or clearly stated somewhere: I'm going through the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality and categorizing all the TTRPGs based on various criteria, and I was wondering if this game has a suggested number of players (e.g., 2-5, 5-8, etc.) Apologies again if that's been answered elsewhere!
No worries, I'd say 3-6! Also hell yeah I'm glad you're doing the hard work
Just a note: you spelled "Indigenous" wrong in a couple of different ways (on pages 15 and 16), and it really ought to be capitalized throughout. Otherwise I'm really enjoying reading so far!
Yes, that's our mistake! We fixed that in the most recent printing but for some reason it slipped through in this PDF copy. I'll make sure the PDF copy is updated ASAP.
Thank you for this game! I found it overall satisfying and as a non-gender-conforming queer person I loved the queer touch. Here is some feedback from my group's recent game of Sleepaway (played over six sessions, three hours per session). I hope this is taken in a constructive way, because I truly enjoyed the game and I think it is an incredibly strong concept that could become a huge hit.
- Having a GM would have made pacing better (lots of lulls in gameplay)--although on the flipside, having no GM made it more possible for individual players to declare what was in the game world. Overall, some help with pacing would be welcome.
- The randomly-chosen Lindworm channeler could have more responsibility to settle details and push things along
- Moves should be less vague; item card creation and movement between scenes should be better-defined and connected to moves
- scene elements and strangeness elements should be one deck, not two separate ones; there should be clearer rules for how you pick one of those cards (rather than "whenever you feel like it"). Overall there were too many modular moving parts for new players to keep track of: scene elements, strangeness elements, character moves, Lindworm cards, corkboard, map, item cards, character cards, rituals, three-act structure...
- there should be a clearer mechanic for how NPCs respond to the characters, e.g. in dialogue (similar to camper "sparks" or Lindworm cards)
- Character traits (fears, etc.) do not connect with the game mechanics; for example "fear of bugs in ears" never became relevant or seemed like it could become relevant
- one player who does not identify as queer felt like it was voyeuristic for them specifically to role-play as a queer youth, with experiences and hardships that they did not experience personally
- Some mechanics of the game were never described in the rulebook: for example, "motifs." (How are they generated--just from the Murder of Crows move? How do motifs come into play during the "moving along the strings" portion before the Lindworm showdown: are they treated in the same way as items and scenes?)
- Once we got into the groove, free-form role play felt liberating
- the ending mechanic for facing down the Lindworm made things feel cohesive and complete
- strong/normal/weak moves were intuitive
- a large map was easy to use for online play (maybe simplify the rulebook's suggestions about having both a corkboard and a map?)
- for me, the queer outsider setting clicked in a way that few other games do
I'm the facilitator of the tabletop group that went ham on AO3, and we just finished up our campaign yesterday. All the writing in the game is so evocative--we wound up using two Strangenesses as well as both Lindworm Elements, and choosing motivations and aesthetic elements for those, especially, wound up setting the tone and helping the less visual players (me) figure out how to describe scenes. Deciding highlights at the start of the game was also SO helpful in helping us figure out what kind of story we wanted to tell. (As it turned out, we told a story about cyclical time and liminal spaces and memory and identity horror.) There were also so many tasty hooks in the playbooks for us to dig into as well (we had a Fresh Blood who was scared of transforming into a wolf and an Athlete who was scared of their family being tortured by wolves, which led to some EXCELLENT sequences). Thank you for writing this gorgeous game, which fully seized all our creative output for like five months!
Wow. Just wow. This game is a work of art. The mix of wonder, melancholy, and horror was unexpected, but it's absolutely perfect! I simply cannot recommend this game enough! Can't wait to add a physical copy to my shelf!
Hey, I'm quite confused. I believe I have access to this through the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality, but I can't seem to download it on this page without paying again. Why is that?
Thanks for any help you can provide me with.
Update: Sorry, I apologise. I'm not used to itch.io's site still. I figured it out :)
Good afternoon, Jay would like to know if you would have an email for me to send you a proposal for licensing your games for translation into Portuguese?
if at the beginning of a session the lindworm makes itself known and expresses a desire to play is the lindworm also prohibited from roleplaying the lindworm
If the Lindworm makes itself known and wants to play I recommend you stop playing Sleepaway and instead run. If you choose to continue playing Sleepaway, the Lindworm is not forbidden because it wouldn't be roleplaying. Thank you for asking this question I've been waiting forever for it 💕
Kickstarted this and didn't regret it. After only a few sessions my table formed profound bonds between our characters and the campers they protected, and felt genuine fear with each reveal. The book itself is beautiful and well presented.
I've only played online, but crave the in person experience it offers.
This sounds awesome. I want to play this online with my friends soon, too. May I ask how you folks managed to do the secret card-rearranging and card-shuffling involved in the game? Did you use Roll20, or some other online playing card service?
I use Roll20, although anything that can simulate a deck of cards will work well. The Offseason supplement has a ton of tips for that.
We used Roll20, and it was fairly clumsy, but mostly because half the table wasn't really computer savvy and the interface confused them. We had to rebuild the deck more than once after we saw some duplicates pop up, but eventually we got the hang of it and it worked out pretty well. (I mean, as well as any game where you're being hunted by a horrible creature doing horrible things to children.)
Is there a way to keep in touch or communicate interest for a reprint on a soft copy? Looking to see if there's anything coming down the pipeline, though @Jay you're probably busy with the current Kickstarter. Congrats on the success! :)
Aww, thank you much! Indie Press Revolutions is handling distribution right now and I just sent them another 100 copies - I'll tweet about it once they're back in stock!
This has to be the most wholesome roleplaying game out there, reading the characters creation made my day, it’s just so heart warming. Love your game!
the link for the chromatic chimera stream is dead, it shows an unavailable page.
I never attended a summer camp as a kid, but reading through this game I feel like I did. It’s evocative and inspiring and I can’t wait to play it!
Is it still possible to buy a physical copy of Sleepaway? I have the pdf, but I'd really love to have a book I can take with me and show people.
Yes! Physical copies are for sale at Indie Press Revolutions by following the link above!
Have I become entirely untethered from reality??
Where is this link?
Okay NO nevermind I found it linked in that image BUT it says it's out of stock! Are you ever planning on printing more?
Is there any character sheet template you'd recommend using for playing Sleepaway on Roll20?
I've been putting together a google spreadsheet for a run I'm facilitating in July if you're interested. It has the disadvantage of requiring a second tab be open besides Roll20, but I've entered all the playbook and setting element info in so that you don't need to jump between it and the pdf
Hey, I'm trying to get a game going with some friends. Would you mind sharing the google spreadsheet with me?
Here, just choose to make a copy to your google drive. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1wWpqFL-9xPNsDuSNLgVXtz_lUHhRTwglJVTC6F5u...
i'm sorry, how the hell do you play this game????? i'm so confused. never done a tabletop game before, so that might be the issue, but i've read through everything and i have no fucking clue how to start this.
Hi! You're gonna want a group of friends (in person or online) to start, and then you want to make characters and pretend to be them for a few hours, following the instructions as they're laid out in Part 1 of the book. Please let me know if you have any more specific questions and I'd be happy to help.
Hi! I would like to run some sessions of Sleepaway with friends this summer. We are new to Belonging Outside Belonging games, and we mostly play with the Fate Core System.
I’ve read the book but can’t exactly figure how to play (probably because I always played with more hierarchized systems). Do you have ressources to help learning how to play? Also, what advices would you give to help us learn smoothly this system and this RPG in particular?
Hi! If the Sleepaway rules text is a particular challenge, I also recommend the rules text for Dream Askew/Dream Apart, which is built for people new to GMless games and approaches the entire topic really compassionately and helps guide you through. Because BOB is so new, it can often be hard to find guides floating around online. If you have any more specific questions I'd be happy to help!
I'm going to be facilitating this over on the gauntlet in July and I wanted to check about a quick rules question. When the Lindwurm acts, are the cards that are not picked by the player channeling the Lindwurm placed back on top of the deck, discarded, or something else entirely?
Inventive, deeply unsettling GMless horror TTRPG about trying to survive a summer camp stalked by a nightmarish monster. The prompts strike an impressive balance between strong characterisation, poetic worldbuilding, eerie rituals and terrifying incidents. It also has a fun approach to describing gender, and a real commitment to using safety tools to maximise enjoyment of the game. 5/5 stars - outstanding.
I'm continually amazed and in awe reading this book. I had read BoB games before but none captured such a grasp of the genre like this. It's an amazing game in every way a game can be, emulating counseullor playbooks both in the realistic versions of them and how they would apply to a fantasy world.
I cannot wait to play this awesome game!
hello! i downloaded this and the offseason pdf today, and am very eager to dig into it with some friends soon - no complaints there! i did, however, have a question regarding some strange playbooks that were mentioned, specifically the moth maiden and cataract squire ones that were suggested to bring back a dead player character. they're not part of either pdf, so where can i find these, if anywhere?
its not an urgent issue since we will most likely play a oneshot first. thank you in advance either way!!
Hi! The Moth Maiden and the Cataract Squire were in the limited-edition version (in hindsight I shouldnt've mentioned them in the main text) but I plan to release them (and the other supplemental content) in the next couple of months as part of an expansion!
Hey Jay, I don’t have twitter so didn’t know how else to get in touch. Quick question on Sleepaway. I was looking to pick up a physical copy but not in a hurry as I likely won’t get it to the table for a while anyway. I’m really interested in the mechanics of the game and wondered if the physical copy’s came with a PDF I could start reading.
This looks great, Jay. How easy have you found playing this online?
Hi Steve, the original playtests of this game, and the vast majority of the times it's been played by myself, were online! I strongly recommend using Roll20 for that - it's easy to set up a deck of cards and a map on there.
Brilliant. It looks really good. I'm looking forward to it!
Oh this is great stuff. When you play online, how do you handle these two situations:
1. Selecting a player to act for the Lindworm for the session
2. Drawing and distributing a card when the players invite the Lindworm to act.
Hi, so! Here's how I handled both of those:
1. Give everyone a facedown card from the roll20 deck. Everyone adds theirs to their hand, looks at their own personally, and then puts it back in the deck.
2. Everyone closes their eyes in REAL LIFE, someone moves the card around, then taps on their mic to indicate they're done.
I'm gonna try to write up an online guide soon!
Jay is a game design luminary who expertly layers emotional insight, real occult ritual, human nature, dreamy mythology, and traumatic existential horror into a play experience that somehow manages to be both more ethereal and more tactical than any other tabletop game out there.
It's also, y'know, literally haunted by its own monster, so there's that, too.
Unlike most indie story games, this is a chonky book with a lot to digest, with a gorgeous, easy-to-read layout, and evocative art that matches the lonely, tortured tone of the game. It's easy enough to jump into for a one shot without much prep other than gathering materials, but I think it really shines in the format of a short campaign of 1-3 sessions.
Hi! This looks incredibly cool and is blowing me away, but there's a couple questions I have about some mechanics/procedures. Is this the best place to ask them?
Sure, absolutely! You can also privately message me on Twitter at @jdragsky.
Hey! Sorry for the wait - I found a way to schedule a game of Sleepaway with some friends so I thought I'd try it first! Btw, we had a blast and I'm in love with the game. A couple questions:
- When rituals ask you to destroy a Minor Character card, we assumed that the character dies in the process. Is this correct, or could poor Maximilian have survived?
- On that note, the progession of NPC deaths (animals > adults > campers)only applied to the lindworm's cards, right? or must it be respected in all other circumstances as well? For example, in our Crossing the Waves ritual it made sense for one of the campers to be a stowaway on our boat, so his was the card we sacrificed. No animals or adult npc had been killed so far. Was this correct?
- During the rituals, we kept roleplaying as normal, but we were only using the ritual's available moves, and we were driving play towards those. Is this the correct way to play them? (I initially thought they may play a bit more turn-based, like a minigame in The King Is Dead, but we found a more natural flow)
Other questions I had became clearer in play.
I also spotted a couple typos/oversights, would it be helpful to flag them?
Also, there's a handout/ref sheet that we prepared on the fly (with pen and paper) that would be useful to play the game - would a suggestion on that be welcome?
Hi, that's so great to hear! Thank you for your patience from my reply. In order:
- It's entirely your call as to whether the minor character lived or died. I've performed rituals where it meant death, but I've also performed rituals where it meant that the individual in question was disconnected from the camp spirit, or in one case it turned out they were the vessel of the Lindworm!
- Yeah, that was correct. When in doubt, trust your own gut over the book.
- Yeah, that's sick! I've played it both ways. Whatever feels more natural for your group.
And you're welcome to send me typos/oversights (preferably in private messages) and I'll see what can be done, but I'm actively working on distributing physical copies, so they might not get corrected. I'd love to see what sheet you made.
Hi Jay! Sorry for the long wait for a reply. Thanks for the answers, all very useful. Re:typos, I see the game is getting printed already, but if you think you may, for example, want to update the pdf I can send you a list of what i found via DM.
Re: the play aids we made, it was a sheet helping us remember the available rituals. It gave us the ritual's name, what is it meant to do/feel/convey, and the starting ritual phrase. Given this was a oneshot, it helped us remember that rituals were a part of the game, and remember what specific rituals may serve the scene and how to start them - otherwise we feared we may forget.
In hindsight, I think having the exact same thing for the Setting Elements (maybe 4 columns with name, themes, "pick up when" and "put down when) would have been very useful, too.
Ours was a sheet scribbled in pencil, nothing nice I'm afraid - but I'd definitely say it helped us play and made the game more approachable/accessible.
Genuinely brilliant, and a game no one else could have made. Horrific and heartwarming and deeply weird, it's like all the best parts of Stephen King's "IT" and none of the chaff. A highlight of Big Bad Con 2019.