Sleepaway is a role-playing game about a group of summer camp counselors, guarding their wards from the nightmarish Lindworm. It's a story of hot summer days and cool summer nights, kids screaming and chasing the fireflies, crackling campfires, and a gaunt and cruel monstrosity forever hiding just out of sight, always asking, “What do you do next?”
Based on Avery Alder and Benjamin Rosenbaum's Belonging Outside Belonging system, Sleepaway takes the base - community-building, shared narrative authority and worldbuilding, no dice, no masters - and transforms it into a horror game about generations of trauma, adventure, fear, and emotional exploration. Players will create characters, which are both traditional camp staff jobs and emotional archetypes, and have them explore a uniquely magical and grim setting while playing off the callous and capricious actions of the Lindworm, the ghostly monster that hangs over the game itself.
My name is Jay Dragon, and I'm a queer game designer and camp counselor from the Hudson Valley in Upstate New York, on illegally colonized Esopus Munsee land. In addition to more than a decade of experience running games for The Wayfinder Experience, other published games of mine include Games For Lost People, a set of personal meditations on mental illness and growth, and The Rake, a horror game about teenagers messing with powers beyond their understanding.
Why A Kickstarter?
While Sleepaway has been previously available as an online PDF for playtesting, it's gained enough quick momentum and gotten enough positive reception that I believe it would hugely benefit from a physical edition. A Kickstarter is the best way to raise awareness and excitement for the game, while also helping ensure the game and the people working on it are properly compensated for their time and effort. I chose Kickstarter specifically because it is the most accessible way to ensure I can easily print and distribute the physical copies of the books to all of you, while also having a platform that can help get the word out to other folks.
Here is the breakdown for costs:
- 800$ for printing and shipping. This is a conservative estimate for physical books, and is designed to scale based on consumer needs.
- 700$ for illustration work.
- 900$ for graphic design and game design.
- 750$ for an editor, at an industry standard rate.
- 350$ for fees.
Because we've hit our main goal, additional stretch goals will be implemented as follows:
- 150-250$ (25 cents a word) for the guest designer.
- 150-200$ for myself, to help make this project economically feasible.
- 100$ for fulfilling backer rewards and maintaining additional income.
After the stretch goals have been completed, every dollar will go towards improving the final product even further through additional art, additional economies of scale, and editor resources.
The Game & System
Sleepaway uses the Belonging Outside Belonging system, popularized by games like Dream Askew by Avery Alder, Dream Apart by Benjamin Rosenbaum, and Exodus by Erika Shepherd. 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.
The Book & Art
The softcover edition of Sleepaway will be around 100 6x9" pages, with a softcover illustration done by Worsey and interior art by Cam Cherry. It will be printed by Mixam, who provide a more competitive price range than my other options, with greater quality.
There will also be a hardcover edition of Sleepaway, with a cover illustration by Sadia Bies.
The interior of the book will be designed by both myself and Ruby Lavin.
“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 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
At 4000$, Abe Mendes will contribute two character sheets to the game - the Songleader, who elevates others' voices and tenderly brings camp together with music, and the Guide, who bridges the gap between camp and the outside world. There will also be additional art commissioned for the game. We did it!
At 4500$, we will be able to include even more art and graphic design work, making both books really visually come to life. We did it!
At 5000$, Jeeyon Shim will contribute new material to the game based around her own experiences with land skills. There will also be additional art commissioned for the game. We did it!
At 5500$, Eric Mersmann will contribute new material to the game based around his own experiences at summer camp when he was younger. We did it!
At 6000$, Kazumi Chin will contribute new material to the game based around their scholarly and game design work in collective experiences and confrontations of social crisis. We did it!
After 6000$, any future resources will go into additional art assets, graphic design work, and editor feedback.
Risks and challenges
This is my first Kickstarter, and while I have plenty of experience with game design, promotion, and production (along with a community of people with a ton of experience), I'm certain there will some number of mistakes along the way. The game text is fully complete and has been playtested extensively, which means that even if this Kickstarter isn't funded, I have plans to distribute the game through alternate means.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)