Prose Roleplaying: No Need For Dream Sequences

When writing a prose RP, in email or a forum, wherever, that runs for a significant amount of time, there may come a time when a player’s character is rendered unconcious. This is most commonly either sleep (voluntary or not) or being knocked out by force. Blackouts are pretty much the same thing as the latter. But no matter how the character is incapacitated, or how appropriate to the RP’s events their change in consciousness is, it always has one rather major consequence: the person playing is momentarily out of the action as well.

This is absurd, when you think about it. The way that I have always seen people deal with it is by writing dream sequences, invariably to exposit the character’s tragic backstory. There’s really no need for this at all, an it can be pretty irritating to the other players, especially if the character in question has been harping on “tantalising hints” constantly.

It’s really lazy, and the failure to think of anything else just baffles me. There are tonnes of things that you could do instead, especially if you’re writing in third person. Write about how your PC feels about something relevant to the story. Talk about backstory in an upfront way, using a part of their backstory that isn’t meant to be a shocking reveal later. Take a step out of the character’s head and reflect, about anything.


Curled up in a corner of the big bed, Jamie slept on. Nathan had been missing since the second attack. If he had still been around, she would not have been able to rest so easily. Her companions were noble people, if a little strange, but they didn’t understand what he was capable of. She rolled over; her arm flopped up to cover her eyes.

No dream. And not necessarily backstory-dumping, if the business with Nathan is plot-relevant.

If you’re writing more than one character, it’s even easier. Just don’t write in Blank’s POV while he’s asleep. Use someone else’s.

In first person and only one PC in your hand, I can see why you’d think you have to do this. You still don’t and it’s still lazy and boring. You can write the character thinking in retrospect.


[After being knocked unconsious] I had never been good at this stuff. Fighting. I couldn’t even win a heated argument. Whatever had made me think I could go up against a guy with fists the size of Chrismas hams? A question that would go unanswered. If I was lucky.

Many people will tell you not to write dream sequences at all, ever. Myself included. They are clumsy, generally unwelcome to readers, and pointlessly lazy. But in roleplaying, no one seems to know that there is a different tactic. There is. I just talked about some.


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