Monday, August 5, 2013

Fantasy Version of the Dreamscape

Dreams mix metaphor with reality yet what at first appears
strange soon feels more real.
(The Witcher)
Generally dreams in fantasy worlds revolve around omens and fortune telling but I think there are more applications out there for people.  If you want to include some very Alice In Wonderland segments than exploring a land in dreams can provide a chance for some highly fantastic situations, which can be fantastic if you choose to play  Fianyarr as a more gritty Skyrim, Dragon Age or Witcher-style setting.  Anything can happen dreams and often the associations people have can lead into each other.

One thing to consider here is that the Dreamscape is highly reactive.  Even a fortress constructed of dreamstuff within the mind of a powerful sorcerer will be prone to shifting and reacting to the subconscious whims of intruders.  And yes, such robust fortresses can most assuredly be made in the world of dreams.  At the Storyteller's discretion, PCs can make them as well through pledges though obviously they only have access to them while they are sleeping and they need to share them with at least one other person.

Also bear in mind that willpower points stand in as health levels and that death (unless otherwise specified) is not the end.  Those who die will return to the dreamscape in approximately the same place 1d4 real world minutes or 1d6 dream hours later.  They will, alas, suffer from a temporary mild derangement that lasts for a day.  If they die again, that derangement will last a week.  The third death will either provide another mild derangement for a day on top of the weeklong one or simply upgrade the mild derangement to a severe one that lasts for a day - and so on and so forth.

Those within the world of dreams also have statistics like a spirit in that their highest top stat (Strength, Intelligence, or Presence) becomes their Power, their middle stat (Dexterity, Wits, or Manipulation) becomes their Finesse, and their bottommost stat (Stamina, Resolve or Composure) becomes their Resistance.  Adjust all Initiative and Defence rolls accordingly.  Leave willpower the same as before.

Finally characters can get bonuses to their rolls through using fantastic descriptions.  They can gain a +1 bonus for coming up with cool or evocative descriptions that match the location or mood (i.e. darting across a gap in the shadow of a giant clock's arm), +2 bonus for coming up with an awesomely evocative description (i.e. setting fire to their sword before attempting to hack the creature of shadow), and a +3 bonus for anything that wows the Storyteller or floors the other players with its ingenuity.

So what would you do with the Dreamscape?

Think about all of the fantasy uses for dreams. People might be attacked by living nightmares that tear their flesh even as they devour the victim's mind. Myths and omens might become apparent in dreams. Dreams might reveal a character's hidden hopes and dreams - helping them realise who they love and what they fear. People might even become trapped in dreams, requiring others to venture inside to help them escape. An enemy's secrets might be learned in their dreams by those who are willing to brave the Dreamway that weaves between each dreamer's mind.

People tend to be less protective of their dreams, after all, feeling safe within them.

Of course when using dreams one needs to decide whether the people of Fianyarr will all be Lucid Dreamers or not. My advice would be to make it a simple merit - perhaps even only a single dot. That way it is easy enough for those who wish to bend their hand to oneiromancy to do so without ensuring that every visit to another person's dream leaves the dreamer immediately aware and defensive.

So how do you create a dream?

Think in symbols. Change the reality with sudden changes or drifts in thought. Ensure that players who wish to change the dream need to be quite aware of the risks inherent in doing so. The dreamer's associations are paramount here so introducing a clown into the dream of someone who is terrified of clowns will create quite a different experience to introducing a clown to the dream of someone who loves them. Since emotions are king here it's also a good idea to pay attention to both the invaders' and the dreamers' emotions. Sadness can be infectious, wiggling its way into the hearts of all present, and a sudden change of heart can cause a dramatic shift in the dream - even ending it abruptly as the dream cycle begins anew.

Also remember that a dream cycle doesn't actually take very long in the real world so what feels like hours within a dream might be mere minutes in the real world. This is important to remember, of course, if a person needs to be present by the person's bedside before getting into the target's dream.

There are certain psychic merits that allow dream travel but that shouldn't stop you from introducing potions, dream pledges, special rings, or rituals unique to a particular dreamer that allow others entrance. The rules must be subservient to the story, after all.

So how might you use dreams in your games?

1 comment:

  1. While very setting-specific, the River of Dream in Tribe 8 is a great place to look for ideas. It's a completely separate reality from the physical realm, and pretty much any character can interact with it. Under the right circumstances it's possible to physically enter the River although that's a very dangerous proposition.