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 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.