Like many people, I saw Inception over the weekend.  Also like many people, the film made me oooh! and aaah! and then stop and think about it.  Before I continue, let me say that I was a fanboy from the moment I saw the first trailer and so I had great expectations.  They were fulfilled.

As soon as the credits rolled I wanted to start talking about the movie, but I also sat and listened to the glorious score and watched the credits respectfully.  Not only is it good manners, it is a convenient time to process a film in silence.  In the lobby afterwards, my friends and I began to talk about the movie.  Few were as enthralled as I, but most were impressed.  Two of my friends, philosophy majors, were disappointed in the philosophical basis and said that The Matrix had lived up to its potential better.  The potential of what, I wondered.

As soon as we began to get longer trailers I was intrigued by the idea of the dream world and its malleability.  In fantasy roleplaying games there has traditionally been a multi-layered universe with planes, and the player characters typically exist in the material plane.  Eberron introduced the plane of dreams (Dal Quor), though similar concepts have been explored frequently.  The planes and dreams are not something I had previously introduced into my gaming, however, and I was excited by the possibility.

A few weeks ago, during our weekly Pathfinder session, the characters stumbled upon the Market of Dreams, a sort of flea market that may travel or may simply have entrances and exits on every conceivable world at random intervals.  During their subsequent exploration, the characters were offered a job in which they were to read a scroll (which would deliver them to a destination unknown) and retrieve an object for their employer.

On arrival, the characters found themselves in a world much like our own, but devoid of life and detail.  They quickly discovered that the world did not operate on the same rules they were used to.  In game terms, I let them use Will saves to attempt to manipulate the environment around them.  They enjoyed the possibilities this presented, especially once battle with a group of derro commenced.

Of course, what they did not figure out was that the realm they had entered was somewhere between a mind and a dream.  By retrieving their goal item, they have left a man bereft of sanity and reason.  They were, of course, given opportunities to deduce such an effect, but it is an illustrative example of unintended consequences that (I hope) will make the game world seem more vibrant and autonomous.

So, to come back to Inception, there was more in the film than simply action-packed dreams.  I was particularly interested by Mr. Nolan’s method of storytelling.  Without giving anything away, the chaos of the first minutes of the movie left me feeling as if I barely knew the characters, and yet by the end I felt as if they were real enough to be sitting next to me in the theater.  Of course, this sort of storytelling makes all the sense in the world, especially as a meta-commentary on film and storytelling.

Inception had little to no exposition.  The characters spoke to one another as if they were speaking naturalistically (that is, each knows what the other is talking about and doesn’t provide unnecessary explanation) and there were no narrated sequences that established the world or the characters’ history together.  This is, in fact, how the real world functions.

We learn about one another through the actions we observe others taking and the stories they choose to tell us about themselves.  Inception accomplished something similar in film, which I appreciated a very great deal.  Roleplaying games function essentially the same way, an insight that I intend to exploit in tonight’s session of Pathfinder.

One final note on Inception: I loved it, and you probably will, too.  I recommend seeing it twice, just to work out the complexities, and consider the soundtrack.

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