Inhabiting Characters

From Gestalt

"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."[1]


In The Realm, you are in a new body, but your psyche comes with you. There are no ethical alignments, no psychological aspects like charisma or intelligence. You do however have an phantasm--the psyche of your body's former inhabitant, their characterization and role in the overall story. Your phantasm may assert itself at points within the story in the manner of a dissociative identity, so be prepared to roleplay it at a moment's notice.

The Realm Aesthetic

The Realm is a 1980s film written by a punk rock Ojibwe and adapted by a middle-aged Anglo-Saxon who meant well but also slowly went mad. Its world is dystopian and intricately constructed by two contradictory minds, leaving behind paradoxes. A "cursed" film production led all forms of the story to be banished to production hell, where it has been both evolving and devolving ever since. Though time is frozen in the two hour loop of the movie's runtime, each loop is slightly different from the last and so a different kind of time is passing. The characters in The Realm are hybrids of standard fantasy characters, New Romanticism, cyberpunk, and post-apocalyptic science fiction. Characters are more likely to be covered in magical tattoos, pierced with fetishes, or wear mohawks than they are to have a simple long hairdo and beard. Storylines can involve elements of noir, horror, and taboo, but through a fantasy lens.

Character discovery

The first step in playing is character discovery, in other words, conceptualizing and creation of the body you'll be inhabiting, according to the rules of Punklore' and realities of The Realm. Depending on your mode of play, this is done either by the Director, by you and your Director together, or by you alone.

Hanging a lantern

Remember to incorporate who creates the character and their background into the story. If you know everything about your character, is it because you're an avid fan of the subculture, or because you're remembering having been the character before? Whatever the answer, it should agree with the answers of the rest of your squad. In genre work, this is called hanging a lantern on a problem--believability is not sacrificed if the characters notice the problem as the audience does. Referencing other media (such as Lord of the Rings or Dungeons & Dragons) is good if it's hanging a lantern: pointing out something you would point out in the situation. It is hackneyed when it's done as a crutch, where characters namedrop other science fiction and fantasy to benefit from our memories and distract us from the lack of real content. Likewise, working in meta-referential material even if it isn't referencing other media, such as characters realizing plot inconsistencies, is only good where it is in support of the suspension of disbelief. Acknowledging you all know too much about your characters removes a barrier between you and the story. Knowing things like numerical values for your strength and the difficulty level of a feat adds a layer of ironic distance. Detachment is anathema to story. Avoid it at all costs.


The character you inhabit is composed of facets. A character's facets are the physical features, accumulated experience in a muscle memory or discipline, advantages of their identity and relationships, possessed narrative conceits, or viable lucid will available to leverage and reveal the Sum of Player Efforts. Dice representing adversity to these facets are rolled; the dice total is the threshold pool. Punklore defines facets in circuits: progressive cycles of mastery or honing of an ability. On a Call sheet, circuits are signified by notches next to the appropriate facet.

  1. Features
  2. Muscle memories
  3. Scenes
  4. Gigs
  5. Tropes
  6. Phantasms
  7. Lucidity
  8. Discover boons (Scene-dependent) or mystiques (Breed-dependent)
  9. Choose crafts
  10. Choose equipment
  11. Fill in your relationship and friend roles

Being yourself in an alternate reality

When in The Realm, you are not adopting a fictional personality or backstory, but bringing in your own. As such, it can be tempting to dive in unprepared--you already know who you are, right? However, your experience will be enriched by taking inventory of yourself and the context of the specific group with which you find yourself transported. It's good to answer a few questions about yourself and your squad, for yourself and your performance in game, before beginning.

Friend roles

Many friends will be more than one of these, sometimes all the time, and some people switch between them depending on the group assembled. In a large enough group, try to pick the person who best or most fills the friend role described in this specific party from your perspective. Other players are highly likely to have different picks, although some people are consistently a particular role and revel in it, and so will be listed that way by everyone. Don't worry about others' picks, this list is for your private reference. Think of yourself and your fellow players as characters in the story of you being transported to a fantasy world, where your entire life before now is prologue. Blights will direct your behavior or motivations using these roles.

  • The Socialite (created friend group, decides gatherings, decides new connections)
  • The Princess Bride
  • The Drama Queen
  • The Daredevil (no fear, do anything)
  • The Stoic (opposite of the daredevil, has to be dragged into anything new)
  • The Gentleman
  • The Athlete
  • The Joker
  • The Mother Hen
  • The Hedonist
  • The Space Cadet
  • The Floater (chill, no complaints)


Once again, don't worry about who you are to them, only who they are to you. You are under no obligation to inform any of these people of how you see them; this is for your personal notes. Blights will direct you using these concepts. Some pairs are mutually exclusive, i.e. a Stranger cannot be your Opposite because you by definition know enough about your Opposite to place them there, but there are no hard and fast rules about overlap. Two people in the group could potentially manifest all eight of these relationships to you.

  • Your Best Friend (simple: the person you are closest with from your perspective, regardless of whether you think they would place you similarly)
  • Your Stranger (the person you feel you know the least about)
  • Your Mirror Opposite (the squad member least like you in whatever way you find most important, not necessarily an enemy)
  • Your Rival (a rival is competing for the same group roles, potential partners, etc. This does not mean they are your nemesis; they may be your Best Friend)
  • Your Safe Space (the person that makes you feel at home, safe, secure, or otherwise the opposite of anxious)
  • Your Ideal Self (the person that you envy, wish you were, or aspire to be)
  • Your Leader (the person who exerts the most influence over your decisions)
  • Your Sidekick (the person who seems most influenced by your decisions)


You may encounter corrupting or corrosive influences in The Realm--accursed objects or beings that either put strange, paranoid delusions in your mind, like Krono gold, items that influence your behavior directly, items that remove your agency and give it to an NPC like Lotus seeds, or items that slowly corrode your personality until your phantasm asserts. Blight does not change who you are, but your motivations, and thus calls for roleplay of yet a third type--what if you cease to trust your friends, or begin to believe in the world of the movie more than home?


You will be called upon to roleplay your character at a moment's notice. This information should not affect your decisions unless your phantasm asserts itself. During those rounds, whether your character was a Soldier or an Assassin will become quite relevant and possibly more than a little inconvenient.

Gigs & squad roles

Choose a role your phantasy character should be in your squad. On your call sheet, choose the phantasmtypes you and your other Player Characters fulfill in your player group.

Gigs break down into basic subgroups, and further into more specific lifepaths or vocations.

Inside the hegemonic hierarchy of Hel, a different set of gigs is available and have different cultural assumptions. If you are working within Hel's cultural structure, you will be one or more of these.


  1. Knower
  2. Ambassador


  1. Wardancer
  2. Knight


  1. Fetcher
  2. Slaver


  1. Witchblood
  2. Priest


  1. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Mother Night