The Dreamscape, Part 1 – Background and Entrances

Introduction

Many mythologies, people and stories place importance on dreams and so they occasionally crop up in DnD. However, as a plane or location for adventuring, dreams seem under-utilised. Dreams are weird and cool and often don’t follow normal logic or causality so there is an opportunity beyond ‘material plane with a twist’ adventuring. There are a few games and resources out there dealing with dream but most felt a bit off or lacking in the kind of detail/vibe I want. Lovecraft had something similar to a plane of dreams in his Dreamlands so that’s an obvious point of inspiration. Things like the Manual of the Planes also mention dream planes briefly. I also wanted to go back to mythology and link it to my campaign world. Interestingly, it is a little hard to find good information on dreams in mythology and cultures. There is a lot of new-agey or cod-Jungian stuff swamping it out. Some of that stuff is still useful but it depends on what you are after. I did manage to find some good texts on dreams, which I have added to Personal Appendix N.

The materials provided below are my first take on what my plane of dreams might be like. Some elements are described in relation my campaign world and its cosmology but hopefully it provides broader inspiration. I have broken it up into several posts to keep it from becoming unwieldy. Once the other parts are done I will link them here.


Max Ernst Рépiphanie (dream landscape), 1940

Background

Most dreams are contained wholly in the mind of the one who slumbers. Complicated images intertwine with lived experience, unconscious thoughts and the imagination. However, some dreams are magical, some divine and yet more are linked to the Plane of Dreams and its strange energies. The plane of dreams is known by many names to many different peoples: Dreamscape, The Figmentary Plane, Ulla-Machok, Wandersight, Tsinbisa, Hulmalusavar, The Seeing, Schalefeben, Liminalia. It is a place from whence dreams come but also where they go. While creatures sleep, they contribute to the swirling energies of the figmentary plane, help to manifest its rolling landscapes and feed its inhabitants. In return, the dreamscape feeds imagination and visions of those who slumber. Vivid dreams in particular edge closer to the dreamscape’s planar borders. However, few sleeping creatures pull back the veil and glimpse the hallucinatory landforms of the true dreamscape.

Travellers and Inhabitants – Travelling to the dreamscape, physically or through dreams, is always a disorienting and beguiling experience. Some who go there too often end up beguiled by it. They spend more and more time there until they eventually become wanderlost, refusing to ever depart. Some creatures and spirits also have counterparts in the dreamscape, second-selves and dream-twins. Such counterparts are often able to remain in the dreamscape even if their ‘original’ body is destroyed. Powerful entities may even be able to reform their material bodies as long as their Secondself remains. The dreamscape is populated with many unusual creatures, some are travellers who have overstayed whilst others are born and raised there. Native dreamlands creatures range from the singular, powerful and terrifying Archeptons to the ubiquitous Kanvupalka or ‘dreamscape kobolds’. Over millennia, various creatures from the material realm have formed colonies or spread out across the lands. However, most have have been warped by the energies of the plane over the intervening generations. Several inhabitants of the Dreamscape are discussed in Part 5.

Locations – The dreamscape is much more malleable than the material plane, more akin to the fae realms, which are physically shaped by the whims of the archfey. However, the dreamscape is more perfidious. A dream traveler returning to a location previously explored may find it changed beyond recognition a night later. It is a rolling infinite landscape, ever changing but containing islands of permanence. There are locations in the dreamscape that have endured for millennia in material time and countless more in dreamtime. Few wholly forget experiences such as their first view of the wild waves of the Sea of Emotion, a horrifying excursion to the Dead Cities of Valnoth, smoking turmeress with the Bandren of the Plains of Wold or trying to the navigate the endless corridors of the Great Vaults of Den-Klenask Gor-Ven-Turask. Unfortunately, such journeys can easily unmoor travellers and if not forgotten, may unmoor their waking lives too. Locations in the dreamscape will be further elaborated in Part 4.

“The eldest sometimes speak of the Fulldawn. A time when fae and figments were one. The great sea did not separate us and we did not risk being wanderlost when we tread its waters. They say Fulldawn was before the Shadowside, before mortals made the things they call gods. They say when the Dream King wakes there will be a new dawn.”

The Kelp Queen, bearer of the Finned Sceptre and master of the Court of Waves

Cosmology – Cosmologically speaking, the plane forms a bridge between the Material, Astral and Fae Realms. Some scholars believe that these four planes were once united, until a cosmological tragedy caused them to separate at the dawn of time. Whilst the gods closely guard their border with the dreamscape, the fae and creatures of the material are often found within its boundaries. The Dreamscape is also associated with the corridor between the earth and the Fae Moon. Many moonlight loving creatures and myths connected to moon and night also resonate with the dreamscape. Its proximity to the material can cause strange bleeds into that realm, as well as through sleep itself. It’s adjacency to the astral plane allows the gods some access to its energies but only an indirect influence on the dreamscape itself.

“Dreams brought in the visioning can bring insight into your self. They can bring glimpses of the future or they can bring to you great danger.”

Dobhlain, High Notary of the Temple of the Scribe

Dream Sight – Since time immemorial, the plane of dreams been associated with prophecy and revelation. Divination, augury and omens often result from contact with the dreamscape through sleep, magic or its leaking into the material. A brief touch with the dreamscape can provide glimpses of the future, past and present or insights into the workings of the world and cosmos. Dream cults intentionally provoke such contact, some with dangerous methods such as the ingestion of Mesta. However, caution is advised. Many sages come to rue their visions, when their god’s desires instead turn out to be the work of a malign achepton or misery-maw. Despite this, cultures such as the Golvor place great eminence on knowledge found in dreams. Whole Golvor clans have been known to slumber for hundreds of years awaiting a revelation.

Dreamweave – Dreamweave is the substance of the dreamscape, the fundamental material of the dreamscape. It can be transformed into solid matter akin to that of the material plane and indeed most of the dreamscape is composed of it. The elemental energies touch the dreamscape like the dreamscape touches the material, the memory and concepts of earth and water for instance exist in the dreamscape. However, dream versions of these materials are more fluid and malleable and may behave differently than there material counterparts. Similarly, objects from the dreamscape may not behave as expected when transported in to the material and vice versa. There are some who can harness and manipulate this dreamweave producing mythic garments, weapons and other items from its raw energies. Dreamweave clothing and armour is particularly prized for its protective and unusual properties. Examples of Dreamweave items are given in Part 6.


Plot Hooks

“Look, the only reason we went in there five years ago was because the wizard promised us a house sized mound of gold…each. Five of us went in and I was the only one who came out. I lost my friends but I got their shares. So I’m rich but miserable. If you are asking me to hunt what I think you are, you are going to have to offer me something better than gold this time. Oh…I see…well that is interesting…Ok I’m in…but I pick the team.”

Yngris, Alfrurdr adventurer and famed huntress. Last seen entering the Hundbank High Offices in Stok.
Igor Leontjev – Castle (1995)

Simple Hooks

Provided below are a collection of simple hooks that facilitate engagement with the dreamscape:

d12Hook
1A wizard/alchemist/hunter employs the party to travel to the dreamscape to slay or capture a beast and bring it back.
2Someone important is wanderlost and must be returned to the material plane, by force if necessary.
3A powerful magical item resides in one of the dreamscape’s permanent locations. It is obtainable by subterfuge, trade or violence. Alternatively, an item the PCs possess can only be activated in a specific location or by an NPC in the dreamscape.
4Part of the villain’s plan can be uncovered by exploring an area of the dreamscape warped by his mind’s influence.
5A friendly NPC is plagued by nightmares caused by a physic link to a Kabuselb. The PCs must travel to the dreamscape and sever the mind thread that links them before its too late.
6The solution to a puzzle, a piece of historical lore or a dark secret is inscribed on black tablets buried deep beneath the sands in the Desert of the Dreamless.
7The PCs must retrieve one of Woshoshoh‘s buried memories from the dreamscape. This memory holds the key to destroy a dangerous item. The memory has manifested as a sentient creature.
8The PCs are drugged or magically charmed and shunted from their dreams into the dreamscape. They must find a dream passage and leave or they may never wake up.
9The party must survive a dreamquest ordeal in order to win the trust of an NPC. As a bonus they may reunite the NPC with a dreamguide from their childhood.
10A pocket of the dreamscape has overlaid the material. The PCs must get to its heart and shatter the dreamshard that binds it to the material in order to return it to its rightful realm.
11Nastar Thousand-Feather, a power hungry and corrupt druid, has imprisoned the spirit of the forest. Its essence is trapped in the Soft Estate in the dreamscape. The PCs must venture there, find the spirit and discern the means to free it before Nastar corrupts the forest further.
12A local guild of Oneiromancers wants the PCs to investigate the disturbing deaths of several of its members.

Plot Threads

Provided below are a collection of more involved plot threads that feature the Dreamscape:

Steal the Dragon

Rumours of a slumbering dragon have reached Woshoshoh. The Spore Sovereign plans to find the dragon and infect it with spores in order to create a fearsome asset for their warmongering. The PCs must try and locate the dragon first and prevent this.

  • Woshoshoh’s operatives are raiding various libraries and ancient sites seeking information. Simultaneously, they convince the local lord that another group are responsible.
  • A den of iniquity is supplied dangerous sleep drugs in the hope that the addicts can dream the location of the dragon in the material or the dreamscape.
  • The PCs may enter the dreamscape, find the sleeping dragon’s realm and kill it there in order to wake it in the material. This may have dangerous consequences.
  • They can try and get the dragon’s permission to move its sleeping body into the dreamscape for protection.
  • They can bind the dragon to the dreamscape and destroy its sleeping body.
  • If they are too late, Woshoshoh will control the dragon and let it loose on his foes.
  • Woshoshoh will send operatives to stop them in the material and the dreamscape
  • The Dragon’s presence in the dreamscape will undoubtably have shifted power dynamics there too. Dreamscape Kobolds may worship it, got to war for it, protect it and/or fear it.

The Dream King Must Slumber

Tremors begin to rack the material, fae realm and the dreamscape. Phantom images of mountains slide into the sea, ephemeral tidal waves wrack the coast, illusory sinkholes appear in towns and cities. The PCs receive a vision of the Dream King who seems to be awakening or having a nightmare.

  • They must travel to a local mystic to interpret their dream. The King awakening may be catastrophic for the dreamscape and even other planes.
  • A mysterious creature approaches the party first through dreams then in person. The creature requests that the PCs bring somnulos petals to the Dream King to keep him slumbering. The somnulos petals must be retrieved from an ornery wizard who requires something in return
  • The portal to the dreamscape is located in a haunted fort and the key to it is sealed inside a PCs memory
  • PCs must befriend a tribe of Dreamscape Kobolds who know the way to the Dream King. They must travel to the Glass Temple to obtain the poem that will open the gates.
  • When they arrive at the Dream King’s Demesne, they find a surreal dungeon with strange geometry. The Dream King himself is guarded by horrific nightmares.

Noble Dreams

Allosu Anzwembe, a young noble, has fled their familial obligations and tyrannical father. The noble family’s house kobold told them of the dreamscape and of a means to get there. One of Allosu’s friends is worried about them and employs the PCs.

  • The PCs must investigate Allosu’s disappearance, interview suspects and locate the portal to the dreamscape in a family tomb.
  • Allosu’s father dies in suspicious circumstances, their friend implores the PCs to retrieve him before the kingdom falls to chaos.
  • When they find Allosu, she does not want to leave the dreamscape and has built a life near Vanikarukam. The party must help her protect the town from raiders and fae pirates before she will agree to leave.
  • Meanwhile one of Allosu’s relatives usurps the throne.

Moon Shift

A Celestial conjunction brings the Fae moon closer to earth. As a result, the Dreamscape compresses and bleeds into the material plane. Several dreamscape locations and creatures have manifested in the material where the boundaries have grown thin.

  • Strange Uktoma trade caravans arrive bearing materials from the dreamscape, a local warlord seeks to gain a monopoly
  • End-time cults arise proclaiming that the world will be swallowed, a new charismatic leader utilises them for their own ends
  • A wizard uses the conjunction to enhance their power and dominate the mind and dreams of a local lord
  • Wild unfettered emotions wrack a local polity causing societal chaos
  • In the background, a minor villain seeks to resurrect a major villain whose consciousness was trapped in the dreamscape following their defeat

Pustulant Nightmares

Frantiscu Coralus, priest of the Divordail, gods of disease, has let loose a cancerous nightmare that has infected the dreamscape. The corrupted sections are bleeding into people’s dreams and causing a dream plague. Those afflicted wake up screaming, covered by horrific boils that leak dreamweave. When enough are afflicted, shadow and rot Demons use the suffering as corrupted dreamways to enter the material plane.

  • The PCs uncover a cult masquerading as healers of the plague but really collecting dreamweaver from the afflicted
  • In order to find a cure that can slow the progress of events they must treat with the Spore Sovereign Woshoshoh
  • Followers of the goddess Siohya know the location of a dream portal. It is in the lowest lair of a ruined shrine.
  • A local faction decides it is better to join the Shadow Demons than oppose them
  • PCs must travel to a Zhozhin outpost in the dreamscape and help them to weave netting to ‘patch’ the afflicted areas of the dreamscape.

Entrances

Nightraxx – A Gate to another Universe (2022), Nightcafe AI art

The many ways to enter the dreamscape are primarily divided into two categories: physical passages and dream passages. The latter are more common and used by mystics, oneironauts and the attuned to project mental images of themselves into the dreamscape. The former are less common and facilitate true physical transit between planes. Before a dreamscape adventure, the DM should decide whether the PCs will enter the dreamscape through their dreams or with their physical bodies. This will impact not just the entrance method but also the PCs’ experience of the dreamscape.

Elves and the Dreamscape – Elves do not generally dream as other creatures do. As a result, they are unable to project themselves to the dreamscape via a dream passage. Nor are they capable of manifesting permanent realms in the dreamscape. However, they can enter the dreamscape physically. Whilst there, they may suffer from discomfort and a creeping sense of being watched by unseen, hungry eyes.

Other creatures who do not sleep – Creatures incapable of sleep, such as constructs or the undead, may only enter the dreamscape physically. Powerfully magic undead, such as liches, or those with strong sentience may be able to bend these restrictions or shield themselves from the plane’s deleterious effect on their undead forms.

Physical Passage

Physical Passages allow a traveller’s physical body, rather than their dreamself, to enter the dreamscape. The advantages of physical transit are two fold. First, tangibility is increased allowing for agency over the dreamscape, its inhabitants and contents, including removing them from the dreamscape. Secondly, the traveller experiences the ‘true’ dreamscape, that which is permanent and timeless about the plane. The disadvantages however are considerable. A physical body in the dreamscape can truly die and there is a heightened danger of becoming wanderlost due to direct contact with alluring fabric of the plane.

“Some who walk or die in the dreamscape walk or lie there forever.”

Klax Orkolrodak, Five Ring Oneiromancer of the Hidden Moon

The most common form of physical portal is a closed blue door or stone arch with pulsing light emanating from its edges. However, portals often appear differently to each beholder, manifesting from their unconscious and memory. Temporary portals or rifts may be caused by violence in the dreamscape, magical warfare or dream plagues. Even permanent portals may only temporarily reside in one location. As the moon changes phase, a portal might move between the deep earth, the tops of mountains and the old forests of the world. To open a portal, travellers must often spend great magical energies or utilise the correct ‘key’. However, dream portal keys are rarely as mundane as keys from the material plane. A key may be something dreamt by a PC, which may not be an object but rather a command phrase or an experience that must be replicated to allow passage. Examples are provided below.

Example Portal Keys:

d8Dreamscape Portal Keys
1A knife used to fend off attackers in a nightmare. It may be mundane or magical, a butter knife owned by a local merchant or Lord’s Bain, used to slay the King of Uine Tiroeth a millennia ago.
2The name of a childhood friend screamed silently with hands bound with thorns
3Re-enactment of a terrifying nightmare: Being covered in spiders, magically induced fear, being stabbed by a loved one
4Seven hairs collected from sleeping people on seven different days
5An ancient dream diary of a famed poet or bard
6The remnants of candle wax burned down during sleep under a New Moon
7A child’s swaddling cloth soaked in tears
8A pillow slept on by an ancient, dead queen

As well as portals, there are many other means to physically travel to the dreamscape:

  • Magical transit – Powerful magic, such as the Plane Shift and Gate spells, can be used to physically enter the dreamscape. However once there, there is no guarantee that the same magic will work as intended to return the caster to their original plane. If the DM requests it, a PC must make an Arcana check DC 10+ the number of days spent in the Dreamscape. On a success, the spell works as intended but on a failure the spell slot is used and the spell fizzles with no effect.
  • Dreamways and Dreamsongs – Dreamways are intangible passages to the dreamscape opened by strange, undulating hymns known as Dreamsongs. Dreamsongs are rare and closely guarded, often by mystics and shamans. Many dream songs are personal and only transport their owner, losing their magic if taught to another. However, powerful or ancient dreamsongs, are able to be passed on to others. The transmission of a dreamsong is always oral and the dreamsong will be broken if inscribed or written down. Some Dreamways do not have fixed entrances and exits although they are often anchored to a slumbering individual or general location. Others can connect multiple places on each plane winding like roads with many important stops. Such Dreamways require powerful or multiple dreamsongs to awaken.
  • The Whispering Caravan – This ephemeral caravan travels into and out of the dreamlands plying its curious arts and wares. Sometimes alone and sometimes a group of wagons, quiet songs echo from their shuttered windows. Haunting melodies and merry tunes gently turn and reshape reality, trailing a wake of unusual occurrences behind them. Despite outside appearance, each wagon hides a vast interior akin to a small town. Residing within are countless troupes of travellers, hangers on, passengers and artists from all planes of existence.
  • The Dream Stalker – This ancient galleon glides between the material and the Dreamscape on silken clouds, winds and seas. It occasionally appears along the coast or to sailors far out to sea. Sometimes it seeks trade, sometimes it seeks crew, sometimes it sails for plunder. When glimpsed on the far horizon, it is viewed as an omen but interpretations often vary. The captain of the Dreamstalker is rumoured to be a lycanthrope or in some tellings one of the few reaming children of Blaith. Its crew are a motley assortment of sailors from the ports of many planes. Bartering for passage is never cheap.
  • Where Consciousness is Thin – There are parts of the dreamlands that touch directly on the world painting it with dream-resonances and subordinating the mortal plane to its whims. Such areas are inherently unstable, warped landscapes that manifest the unconscious whims of nearby creatures. These areas are not portals per se but given the thin separation between material and dreamscape transition between can be easier. Those foolhardy enough to slumber in them may find paths to the dreamscape itself.

Dreamself Passage

When entering the figmentary plane through a dream, a traveller arrives as their dreamself, a form of mental projection. The advatages are twofold. Firstly, a strong willed, well trained or gifted traveller can manipulate the latent energies of dreamscape, bending them to their will. Secondly, the death a dreamself generally only results in the traveller returning to their body, shaken, perhaps drained but most likely alive. There are many ways that one can ‘incubate’ a transitory dream: dreaming in specific locations such as shrines or where important memories were formed, magic items or rituals, or even the use of mind altering substances. Regardless, journeys generally start with a regular dream and then through experience, guidance or magic a transitory gateway is reached. Those with strong control, or previous travels to the dreamscape, may arrive where they mean to, others will appear in parts of the dreamscape unknown to them.

Magical passage – Most contact with the dreamscape comes through a form of lucid dreaming akin to the use of the Astral Projection spell. That spell may also be used to enter the dreamscape by those who know how to alter its formula. The Dream spell may be used to enter the mind of a powerful dreamer in order to travel with them to the Dreamscape. A powerful dreamer will not be fooled by the other effects of the spell and once present in the dreamscape the ‘messenger’ can no longer manipulate the dream.

Several classic manifestations of transitory gateways are outlined below, some of which may manifest as physical portals as well as in dreams:

  • The Winding Stairs – Appearing out of mists or spiralling into the earth, an endless set of stairs appears before the dreamer. The steps are made from rough hewn stone, chipped and worn by the passing of many feet. Each stair is carved with esoteric runes in languages long forgotten. Occasionally, the Winding Stairs well appear as a ladder cast from glistening bronze but its termination is always the same. At the end lies a vermilion door, lacquered and shining, it brass handle tarnished and worn. On the other side lies the dreamscape.
  • The Maddening Leap – A gaping chasm, the precipice of an unearthly mountain, an edge to nothingness. The deeps below echo with whispers, the muddled thoughts of thousands of dreamers. The bold must jump, give themselves to fate, awakening in the real or tumbling into the dreamscape. Only the strong of mind will pass without residual damage from the velocity and force of their transit.
  • Cloak of Moths – The dreamer must tempt and persuade a swarm of glistening moths to cloak them. When the moths recede form the swaddled dreamer, the dreamscape’s vistas will lie ahead.
  • The Great Blue Door – An ornate, lacquered door with brass latch and knocker. The door is a swirling pastel blue and difficult to look at directly. From around its edge a stunning pulsing light exudes. The knocker must be used to beat a slow steady rhythm. When the door opens, travellers are blinded by the light. Upon return of their sight they will find themselves in the dreamscape.
  • The Prismatic Fish – A winding stream contains luminous carp mottled with a vivid colours. The gateway fish must be caught and thanked before the fisherman plunges themselves into the stream. When they break the surface of the water they will surface in a body of water in the dreamscape.
  • The Golden Veil – Behind a corner, inside a wardrobe or at the mouth of a cave the Golden Veil is drawn to. Behind it lies the true Dreamscape but to pull it aside requires mental strength and the admission of a repressed desire or secret.
  • Dream Guides – With use of the appropriate rituals, a dreamer may summon a guide to help them transition to the dreamscape. Such rituals are not without danger. If the wrong creature is summoned they may guide the dreamer to a dangerous place or perhaps even into torment or to their own ends.

Conclusion

So that’s it for the first part of our forays into the dreamscape. I hope it gives you a taste for more. The next parts should hopefully come out a week or two a part or more likely when I scavenge time to finish them up. I am interested to know what people think and if you find these inspirational for putting dreamscape journeys into your games. I have some plans for incorporating it more in future games. As always, feel free to drop a comment and let me know your thoughts.

Part 2 will feature some rules and suggestions for adventuring in the dreamscape. It will be linked here, when it is done…



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