Welcome to our second foray into the Dreamscape. The first covered background and cosmology and introduced the plane. This part covers the effects and experience of adventuring there. What follows is my take on previous sources’ attempts to mechanise the strange behaviour of the dreamscape mixed with my own ideas. All are experimental and I recommend altering them in play where you see fit. Some Dream-based sources suggest using Wisdom or Intelligence as a guide to ability within the Plane of Dreams. Where possible I have avoided this. For one, it disadvantages characters with low scores in those statistics. Two, I’m not sure there is an obvious connection between intelligence or wisdom and the strength of dreams or the ability to manipulate them. Intelligent dreamers can still experience uncontrollable nightmares or strange unruly dreams. A variety of texts on dreams served as inspiration for parts of these posts, which I have added to Personal Appendix N.
The other parts of the articles relating to the dreamscape are listed below and will be linked when they are complete:
- Part 1 – Background and Entrances
- Part 2 – Adventuring
- Part 3 – Journeys, Environs and Hazards
- Part 4 – Map and Regions
- Part 5 – Key Locations: A-D, E-J, K-S, T-Z
- Part 6 – Inhabitants
- Part 7 – Items and Objects
- Part 8 – Appendix of useful tables
- Adventuring in the Dreamscape
- Effects of the Plane
- The Dream Habitat
Adventuring in the Dreamscape
The Dreamscape is not just unusual locations, creatures and people. The very environment itself can be an unnerving or transcendent experience for adventurers. Outlined below are rules, suggestions and guidance on making adventuring in the dreamscape feel unique. Players should be left with an impression of a unique, strange and wondrous world. However, they should not feel like everything was beyond their control. Player agency is of vital importance, so if the rules interfere with that feel free to change them.
Dreamself vs Physical adventuring.
PCs may use Dream Passage to enter the Dreamscape, appearing there as a tangible but phantom projection of themselves. Alternatively, they may arrive physically via a portal on the material plane or through magical transit. Each of these methods of transit can be found in Part 1. In some of the following sections, a distinction is drawn between the two forms of entrance. Rules may apply to one, the other or both and some behave differently depending on how a traveller accesses the Dreamscape. Regardless of how a PC enters the plane they retain all abilities, items and their current HP etc. If entering through sleep they do not gain the benefits of a long rest before entering the dreamscape, nor when they return. Cautious travellers would be advised to fully rest before attempting to transit through the passages of sleep.
Effects of the Plane
The dreamscape is perfidious, its ground rules and logic twist and shift under its inhabitants feet. Whilst permanent locations maintain some semblance of continuity, other areas are unpredictable and wild. As such, you may wish to implement changes to rules, mechanics or abilities in order to make the dreamscape different or out of step with ‘normal’ play. Before an adventure, decide on two to three such effects, suggestions can be found below. When the PCs arrive, or beforehand through augury etc., you should ‘hint’ as to what these changes are. When the PCs return to the dreamscape, or after significant time spent there, you may change one effect. Note: Do not change all the effects at once or too regularly. This will create too much randomness and prevent the PCs strategising appropriately. Willpool may be expended to ignore or revert any of these changes for one round.
|Damage Swap: Two damage types are swapped. An effect that causes one now causes the other.
|Alacrity/Lethargy: Movement is slowed down or sped up. All creatures movement is increased or decreased by 10 feet.
|Ill-being/ Well-being: The dice size of healing abilities, spells, items etc. is reduced or increased by 1 size e.g. a d8 becomes a d6 or a d4 becomes a d6.
|Glide: All inhabitants of the dreamscape hover a few inches off the ground during their movement. At the end of their turn they must be above solid ground as they will return to rest periodically.
|Deep Haze. The world is obscured by a deep fog and shimmering distortions. Sight distance is halved in enclosed areas and severely limited to the immediate surroundings in open spaces. Things beyond sight range are heavily obscured.
|Passionate Sentiment: Emotions are heightened and somewhat uncontrollable. Charisma, Intelligence and Wisdom saves are made with a -2 penalty or with disadvantage for a simpler, stronger effect.
|Garbled Speech: Communication is difficult, words are muddled. Attempts at influence and persuasion are made with disadvantage.
|Where did I put that?: Items have a habit of not being there when you need them. When a PC seeks to use an item not currently in their hands, there is a 1/10 chance it is not there. The item reappears in one round if in combat or one hour if not in combat.
|Fragility: All creatures HP maximums are reduced by 10 to a minimum of 1 HP.
|Forgettable: Any ability checks that rely on memory are made with disadvantage.
|Herculean: Any ability checks that rely on physical prowess are made with advantage.
|All consuming darkness: nightvision ceases to function. In addition, or instead, creatures not in an area of at least dim light take 1 HP of damage at the end of their turn.
“You are aware that the rite is unpredictable. You may wander long and become lost during your search for the faint texts of the future. However, you must take this risk. Findings are too important and we have means to soothe your mind upon your return. Our cures are generally successful…but you should make your peace regardless.”Dobhlain, High Notary of the Temple of the Scribe
Injury and Death
“When we dream of death, we awake to do deeds like our ancestors. When we die in a dream we are forbidden from meeting them.”Controversial translation of Analect 6.3.27 from Rune Songs and Sayings of Talask-Mul
Death of an adventurer’s dreamself usually results in awakening unharmed, much like that of a regular dream. However, some injuries can be carried into the waking world. Psychic Damage and the abilities of some creatures can affect a dreamer’s physical body. In addition, the DM may decide that death of a dreamself is more traumatic than death in a regular dream. If so, they should choose one of the following consequences:
- The PC loses half their current HP and does not receive the benefits of a long rest
- The PC suffers a Permanent Effect of the Dreamscape
- The PC gains a point of exhaustion and does not benefit from a long rest
When physically travelling in the dreamscape, death there is very real and permanent. Resurrection magic does not work as it does on the material plane, the soul being partially absorbed into the dreamweave and redistributed through the plane. Those who wish to recapture and resurrect such a dispersed soul will have to travel to many lands and endure many trials and tribulations. Alternatively, the DM may rule that if a PC is resurrected in the Dreamscape, they suffer from wanderlost or, if not using those rules, an indefinite madness (DMG p.260).
Magic in the Dreamscape
“So what? We been round the field a few times… that’s why you sought us out in the first place. Right, well if you must know, it was a dreamscape job. Our witch over there…don’t point! She don’t like that. Anyway, she done her swirly hands before monsters explode in flames thing…except in that place that ain’t what happened…yadda yadda yadda explosion of flowers and perfume, she has three arms and I only has one. It’s the same number total, you want us for the job or what? “Overheard conversation in The Taught String Pub, Stok.
Magic generally functions as intended in the Dreamscape, however the raw materials of the plane can produce unusual effects. Divine casters experience a slight estrangement from their gods whilst those attuned to nature experience vertiginous communes with the land, flora and fauna. DMs and Players should free to describe unusual visual changes to spells in keeping with the dreamscape’s somewhat surreal nature. If you wish, you may implement the more impactful changes suggested below:
- Sleep – If targeting a dreamself, you may forgo the spell’s normal effects. If you do, this spell instead causes psychic damage spread evenly between creatures in its area of effect equal to the HP rolled.
- Dream – Whilst on the plane of dreams, this spell allows for communication with the Material plane. The spell functions similarly but may target a creature on the material plane.
- Etherealness, and other spells that interact with the ethereal plane, do not work on the dreamscape. The plane is not in close enough proximity to the ethereal plane.
- Spells that target the dead, such as Speak With Dead, or interact with, prevent or undo death are unreliable in the Dreamscape. Their caster must make an Intelligence (Arcana) check DC 15 or the spell slot is consumed and the spell has no effect.
- Once per day, casting Divination or Transmutation magic has a chance of one of the following effects:
- Returning a lower level spell
- Providing a point of Inspiration
- Removing the penalty from multiple casts of divination spells
- Illusion magic may be much less or much more effective, most creatures in the Dreamscape experience strange effects regularly.
- Magic and spells are wont to go awry. When casting requires a saving throw or hit roll, a natural 1 creates an unusual side-effect in addition to the spell’s normal effect. The caster, or DM, should roll on a Wild Magic Table, such as that found in the Player’s Handbook (p.103).
- Before the result is announced, a PC may expend Willpool to control the surge and prevent it from taking effect. You may wish to hint at the effects before they decide.
- Due to the altered appearances of spells they may be harder to identify with Arcana Checks
The Dream Habitat
Weather in the dreamscape does not follow the regular seasonal logic of the material plane. It is just as likely for extreme heat to follow snow as for gentle rain to precede clear skies. Experienced dreamscape travellers learn to predict the weather through tell-tale signs of change in the dreamweave. Provided below are some examples of gentler, cosmetic, dreamscape weather. More dangerous hazards, such as melt rain, are outlined in the hazards section of Part 3- Journeys, Environs and Hazards. Try not to use strange weather too often or it will lose its impact.
|Rain: Falls into the sky rather than out of it
|Rain: Paint pigments fall from multicoloured clouds. As they dry, they leave no stains.
|Rain: The rain is literally sideways, falling parallel to the ground
|Rain: Huge globs of rain the size of fists batter down from the heavens
|Rain: The rain is comprised of tiny objects: coins, tiny feathers, buttons, leaves etc.
|Rain: The rain falls in perfectly circular areas 15 feet across that move out of the way when moved towards
|Wind: The wind draws strange geometric patterns in the dust and grass
|Wind: The wind blow simultaneously in many directions
|Snow: Purely visual, effectively an illusion but blocks vision
|Snow: The snow is actually comprised of perfect crystals that reflect the light in prismatic beams
|Snow: As the snow is moved through it disconcertingly squeaks in pain or giggles every so often
|Temperature: Objects appear to freeze or burst into flames, the effect is purely cosmetic
|Humidity: The density of the air is palpable, pushing through it leaves faint trails of colour and visual echoes
|Fog: A haze of purple fog clusters around the ground like a thin blanket of amethyst dust
|Fog: The fog hovers ten feet into the air obscuring vision of the sky. It collects inside buildings and twinkles with ruby light
|Hail: Tiny, multicolour crystalline shards drop from the sky. They shatter into harmless sprays of glistening rainbow dust.
|Rainbow: The sky is covered in arcing rainbows of singular colours. Black and white arcs cut through them at periodic intervals.
|Storm: A ravenous storm arises in the blink of an eye. It soaks everything, rattles the earth with wind and dissipates just as quickly.
|Thunder and Lightning: Flashes of darkness rather than light, thunder swallows sound briefly creating absolute silence
|Thunder and Lightning: The sound of drums rolls in the sky, flashes of spiralling thunder curves in beautiful arcs
Clouds on the dreamscape are shaped and carved but the unconscious thoughts of material beings. Alongside the regular plethora of shapes, travellers often encounter portentous or unusual ones:
|The sky is saturated in a deep blanket of formless cloud. Occasionally, the clouds ripple in unnerving oscillatory patterns.
|A fleet of cloud ships sails gracefully overhead leaving a wake of fluctus cloud formations like rolling waves in the sky.
|A slow scene of animals hunting plays out in the heavens: Wolves stalk sheep, a spider catches a fly, a spearman brings down a wildebeest.
|The clouds streak across the sky as if propelled by super sonic winds, all below is still and calm.
|Inverted pyramids of cloud point down from the sky in clusters of various sizes. They rotate gently like spinning tops.
|The clouds drift together, forming letters and words that gently dissolve before their meaning can be construed.
|The clouds take the shape of a monster previously fought by the party. It slowly stalks them, following their path.
|Structures, buildings and geological formations from the PC’s past or home form and then slowly decay to ruin.
|A gigantic front of rolling clouds moves slowly towards the party. Always coming closer but never reaching them.
|The clouds form strange intertwining spirals and geometric patterns that constantly mutate.
Bright Moon, Black Sun
No true sun warms the dreamscape. Occasionally, hues of red poke through the ephemeral skies, the faint gaze of Lonrualain heaven light deflected by strange cosmology. Instead, the Bright Moon shines at day and at night the Black Sun bathes the land in darkness. Understanding of these faux-celestial bodies is fragmentary but most scholars agree that they represent different aspects of the Moon. When the Bright Moon is full, the Fae realm is in closest conjunction with the dreamscape and encircled by a faint green corona. When the Black Sun, the moon’s ill-lit reverse, shines strongest, the power of shadow and nightmare grows strongest. The wax, wane cycle of these bodies is irregular and tempestuous, despite their impact on the material and connection to its fae moon.
“It is true that I look young, not unlike a tadling with new and glistening limbs. Yet there are ancient Ngoka, grown superlative in size and horn, that cannot match the aeons I have lived in dream. The wisest of elders pay me respect, you would do well to do likewise.”Yorunta ‘Closed Eye’ Dwenchalla, Chief Seer of The Wideglade
Time is irregular and somewhat elastic in the Dreamscape. A day may last a few minutes or a few weeks and not all areas of the dreamscape experience the ‘same’ time. Furthermore, time passed in the dreamscape may not be mirrored in the material plane. Weeks might pass adventuring in the dreamscape only for returning adventurers to find that material time has stood still or centuries have drifted by.
Irregular time can add to the surreal nature of the dreamscape, however do not make time arbitrary. Adding time pressure is good, having the PCs miss the action or lose control of their plans is bad. Generally, time should pass slower in the material and the PCs should return not long after they left. Alternatively, decide how much time will pass during the PCs’ absence and allow them to take as long as they need in the dreamscape. This makes it easier to plan what, if anything, has happened in their absence.
The following table can be used to determine the relationship between time on the material and time in the dreamscape. Only roll once for each excursion into the dreamscape. Note: rolling a higher die increases the potential for more extreme results:
|Dreamscape vs Material time
|1 – 2
|Time is equivalent between both planes
|Times is closely matched but unequal between both planes
|3 to 1, 1 day to 8 hours
|6 to 1, 2 days to 8 hours
|12 to 1, 4 days to 8 hours
|8 hours is a week
|8 hours is a month
|Weeks pass in a night
|Months pass in a night
|Many years pass over the course of one night
|Entire Aeons may pass before the new sun rises and the cockerel crows its ascent
“I once watched the Bandren track and lure Hlandrells onto the great Plains of Kermesan. I was sure they would lose their speedy prey to the infinite flatness of those parts. Even the mean pace of the Bandren’s Chetrach packs could not match the Hlandrells’ multi-limbed gait. I imagined that the hunt was lost but instead it was a trap. As the Hlandrells scattered, several hit pockets of glistening air I had not noted before. Time within that air seemed slowed, their speedy flight reduced to a sluggish pace. They became easy pickings for the quick bows of Bandren and the sharp teeth of their Chetrach cats.”Tor Dentih, chronicler of the Maidstone Court
Below are some suggested time anomalies that can add character in areas of the dreamscape where time flows unusually. Time distortions do not have to affect all PCs, Creatures, objects etc. evenly.
- The duration of spells, abilities are halved or doubled outside of combat.
- Hair and nails grow faster, food spoils quicker and thirst, hunger and exhaustion occur more rapidly.
- Arrows take longer to fly, making aiming difficult. Dropped objects fall slowly, reaction times are improved.
- Speech is laborious and low pitched as if being played back from a tape machine too slowly.
- Time speeds up during travel leaving only a montage of memories. Brief blurry snapshots of events and places.
- Wounds heal faster or slower.
- Clothing and hairstyles change, scars appear without inciting incidents and supplies vanish.
- Pockets of terrain 40feet wide are affected as if by the Slow or Haste spells. This effect cannot be removed by Dispel Magic or other abilities.
There we go, some rules and advice for making adventuring in the dreamscape more flavourful. I think there is more to be mined here and some playtesting needed to improve the ideas in practice but for now its good. I may never get the time to revise all this stuff so it will have to be. I would be very interested to know what people think or if they have suggestions for improving on this outline. In particular will pool and wanderlost that I think are key mechanics that could probably be implemented differently.
Next up we will be looking at Journeys, Environs and Hazards in the Dreamscape. Considering how long each part seems to be taking I imagine it will be at least two weeks before that part is complete. Hopefully, you have enough to chew on for now. See yaz.