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!
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.
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:
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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.