Doan Trang's cover art for Raphael Falk's "Lucid: Sea of Dreams" roleplaying game
Doan Trang's cover art for Raphael Falk's "Lucid: Sea of Dreams" roleplaying game

Enter a ‘sea of dreams’ in Jewish-themed role-playing game

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Imagine you are investigating a mystery, but rather than only looking for clues in the real world, you can also slip into a mystical world of shared dreams to pursue the answer. It’s a fantastical place of inspiration — oh, and you might have to battle a Jewish demon there, too.

Those are the things that can happen in a new tabletop role-playing game by East Bay native Raphael Falk, one he created while living in Korea. He made Lucid: Sea of Dreams partly as a way to keep in touch with his Jewish roots while so far from home, and now he’s raising money to launch it via a Kickstarter campaign.

“I’ve been looking at Jewish folklore, drawing inspiration and doing some reinterpretation,” he said. “Thinking, with these elements, what can I do to make something that’s reflective of the folklore, something that draws its roots from my Jewish side but also is accessible to people from various backgrounds?”

Korea has been home to Falk, 29, for the past seven years. He has lived in the capital of Seoul and now is in the countryside teaching English in a rural school. He also studies Korean and Vietnamese on his own. For much of that time, he’s been the only Jewish person many Koreans have encountered.

“For a lot of the people I work with or meet here, I’m the first and probably last Jew they’ll ever meet,” he said.

In creating “Lucid,” he’s made a whimsical game that combines folklore, fantasy and mystery.

“The setting is that there’s the waking world where we live and breathe and work and do all those things,” he said. “And then when we sleep, our dreams go and live in the sea of dreams.”

A tabletop role-playing game like Falk’s allows players to inhabit characters of their own creation and build a story together as they navigate a fictional world, in this case one that straddles dreams and reality and allows for a big dose of whimsy.

“You create a character, or use tools to generate a character, and then you perform the role of that character in a story that you create together with the other players,” he explained.

Dungeons & Dragons is the most famous game in the role-playing genre, and Lucid can actually be played in conjunction with that game (players can use the D&D system when their characters are awake and Lucid when they are asleep). Like D&D, Lucid has a rulebook and uses a 10-sided die to add an element of chance. Falk recommends that one to six people play together along with a facilitator, known as a game master. There is one premade adventure that players can follow as a way to get into the world, and Falk said he will be releasing more.

Falk’s creativity has flourished in the making of the Lucid world. He was inspired by certain demons and tales from Jewish folklore, like the shamir, a worm that could tunnel through stone and helped build the Temple in Jerusalem.

“I’m like, oh, that sounds really cool, a little worm that can bite through anything. But what if I made a big worm that bites through people’s dreams and releases all their ideas into the shared unconsciousness?” he said.

He also included Jewish spirits called shadim, here depicted as humanoid with crows’ feet, and demons called mazzikim, although in the dream world they are creatures that are attracted to emotions like bees are to flowers.

“Some of those emotions could seem positive but could still have an element that could be destructive,” he said. “So there’s a lot of emotional themes, psychological themes.”

Falk grew up in Oakland and Berkeley and attended Kehilla Community Synagogue. He started playing games when he was a child. This is the first role-playing game he’s designed under the alias Game Gardener (“I loved the idea of growing games like nurturing a garden”). He never expected to end up in Korea, and said it happened almost by chance when a friend asked if he wanted to join a program to teach English. Without much hesitation, Falk said yes.

“One thing led to another, and I’m here,” he said, though he’s moving back to the Bay Area in the spring to be closer to family.

While he is raising money for the game, Falk said Lucid is available to download here. Any funds he raises through Kickstarter will go to printing instruction booklets and paying the artist he commissioned to illustrate them.

He admitted that for newbies, role-playing games “can feel a bit like reading a car manual interspersed with poetry,” but he’s happy to be in touch via email for anyone who needs help. He stressed that, as a teacher, he wanted to make the game easy and enjoyable for those new to role-playing games. It’s all about feelings, and everyone has those.

“I tried to create a game that will allow people to talk about emotions, and think about emotions in a fun way,” he said.

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.