Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Dreams, and d50 Magic Ones

Antonio de Pereda - El sueño del caballero

Dreams are largely absent from D&D despite being such a huge staple of fantasy and speculative fiction

it was inspired by. This is probably for good reason—there’s no real niche they could fill that’s relevant
to the game. But I aim to fix that.

In my mind dreams shouldn’t be interactive. Players already have enough stuff to do when their characters
are awake, and for the most part don’t want to break from that and do something completely different when
they are resting. 

Appearing in a heady dreamworld dungeon might be cool, but in most cases that would
ruin the flow of the game—characters go to sleep to recover hp and stave off fatigue penalties. Players
just want to move on to the next day of adventuring. So with that in mind, here’s how magic fantasy dreams
ought to be implemented in your game: treat them as treasure. 

Yoshitaka Amano

First things first: what is a dream? Scholars will tell you that when we sleep our spirits are freed from the

boundaries of consciousness and travel to the nebulous mercurial dreamworld which is theorized to be where
they originated. This is only partially correct.

In reality, there’s no singular “dreamworld.” When we sleep, our subconscious minds spread out over the
Planes of Thought like water poured on a pane of glass. Our subconscious runs up against the limits of these
planes and mixes with the residue of whatever lies beyond. These fringes are monitored by entities known
as Oneirions, who see it as their duty to keep spirits of dreamers insulated from the mind-breaking terrors
that reside beyond the Planes of Thought. They do this by guiding our subconsciouses through numberless
channels that skirt the edges of planes like grooves on a vinyl record, safely avoiding the horror from outside.
These channels are what we perceive as dreams. 

The multitudinous edges of Planes of Thought are where great powers collide and intersect—there’s a lot
more going on there than just dreaming. This means that some channels run through these meeting points
or extend far into unknown territories in order to get around them. Occasionally, certain esoteric entities or
events can grant a mortal’s subconscious access to these higher channels of power. When this happens,
the Oneirians will guide them to such a channel instead of a mundane one. What results from traveling down
these unique channels can manifest in countless different ways, but they all collectively fall under the
loose umbrella term of “Magic Dream.”
Steve Ditko had the right idea

A PC saves a group of nymphs from an angry water weird? They might have a Magic Dream that night.
The party helps a mysterious old lady find her missing comb? Well she doesn’t have the money to pay you
back but she’ll put in a good word or two the Oneirion she’s buddies with. The Magic-User gazes into the
smoke-filled crystal ball and witnesses the wonders within? Well as long as they pass their saving throw
they might find something special waiting for them after they knock out for the night. 

Here are the basics of Magic Dreams: if a character does something that merits a Magic Dream, there is
a 1-in-3 chance every time they sleep that they will experience the Magic Dream. They dream as normal
until that happens. 

If the whole party does something that merits a dream, each one has a 1-in-3 chance of receiving the same
dream on each of the following nights. As soon as at least one character gets the dream, the dream has
been granted and there will no longer be a roll every night to see who gets in. 

Here is a d50 list of dreams.
Salvador Dali - Ship with Butterfly Sails

  1. Abyss dream. A lurking sense of danger within your subconscious makes itself known to you. The DM will warn you next time you are entering a situation where there is a clear imminent threat to your life that you otherwise would not have been aware of.
  2. Acorn dream. You see yourself planting a large, wondrous acorn. Gain an additional 10% xp until the next time you level up.
  3. Acrobat dream. You feel yourself tumbling through the sky, walking a long tightrope, and leaping agilely over great distances. You wake up more grounded and with an enhanced kinesthetic sense, gain +1 Dexterity.
  4. Acting dream. You find yourself portraying one of your party members on a great stage in front of a massive audience, laughing and cheering. You have developed a deeper understanding of that PC, and now whenever you are together you get +2 to saves against mind-altering effects.
  5. Aid dream. You assist a celestial thought-entity in finding an emotion they had lost. It turns out they were feeling it the entire time! The next time you would be killed, circumstances change such that you miraculously survive with 1 hp.
  6. Aging dream. You dream of yourself in an entirely different lifetime in an entirely foreign land. At the end of your life, just as you’re about to die surrounded by your loved ones, you wake up. Most of your memories disappear, but the compounded experiences of a lifetime grant you +1 Wisdom.
  7. Balance dream. You see different versions of yourself balanced on massive golden scales. Regardless of your encumbrance level, you move as though you are unencumbered the next day.
  8. Birth dream. Your dream takes you back to where it all began, before you set out on your course through life. The moment you die, you will be reincarnated somewhere else in the world identical to your previous self, but with no memory of your past life. There is no mechanical benefit to this.
  9. Boat dream. You are sailing on a beautiful ship pointed toward the golden horizon. The next time you transition from dungeon to wilderness or wilderness to dungeon, gain 300 xp.
  10. Bottle dream. You are holding a large transparent vessel overflowing with fire and light. The next time you are in dire circumstances, you can tap into an inner reserve of power to perform a deed of mighty athleticism—leap a great distance, sprint extraordinarily rapidly, attack twice in quick succession, or the like.
  11. Cabbage dream. You are in a field of colossal cabbages. You are climbing through the leaves of one such cabbage plant, making your way to the center. You’re holding a cabbage in your hands, eating it like an apple. It is delicious. You are sustained and do not need rations for the next 1d4 days.
  12. Candle dream. In a dark room, in a dark castle, you are staring transfixed into a candle's burning flame. Gain +1 to saves vs. spells and wands.
  13. Clairvoyance dream. You dream of some future event with perfect clarity. You are allowed one free “retcon” of up to 1 minute, which you can declare after the events of the retconned period occur. For instance, a PC pulls a lever that leads to a trap being sprung. The player declares that they will retcon that action, undoing up to the point where the PC approaches the lever. The PC has foreseen the consequences of such an action in their dream.
  14. Climbing dream. You are scaling a tall white tower. Each handhold you find brings you a deeper sense of fulfillment and purpose. You wake up with an awareness of every notable feature within a day’s travel on foot, or by whatever other means of travel you have easiest access to.
  15. Conversation dream. You hear countless different voices speaking in countless varieties of incoherent gibberish. When you wake up, you find that you have learned a new random language.
  16. Crown dream. You are taking part in an elaborate ceremony that culminates in your close friends and allies placing a beautiful crown atop your head. Your retainers and hirelings’ morale rolls get a +1 bonus.
  17. Darkness dream. You are traveling in utter darkness, guided by a single light far in the distance. Any time you and your party get lost in the wilderness, you are allowed an extra roll to see if you find your way.
  18. Death dream. Slowly but surely, you feel yourself die. When you awaken, you get a number of one-time uses of Speak with Dead equal to your level.
  19. Dog dream. A mysterious canine companion guides you through a wondrous dreamscape. When you wake up, you notice the dog is waiting patiently beside you. You have a new companion! The dog is statted as a mundane dog with above-average intelligence and 12 morale, and will obey simple commands you make to the best of its ability. The dog does not need to sleep and can keep watch during the night.
  20. Door dream. You pass through a series of huge doors, each more elaborate than the last. Passing through the last one leads right into you waking up. For the next day, all locks will fall open at your touch and stuck doors will open without a sound.
  21. Dragon dream. You are courageously fighting against a monstrous dragon. When you slay it, you feel you have overcome a negative aspect of yourself. Reroll your lowest attribute using 4d6, dropping the lowest dice.
  22. Exile dream. You are surrounded by people, but they rapidly disappear until you are alone in a vast desert. The next time you are acting on your own away from the rest of the party, you receive a +4 bonus to ability tests, attack roles, and saving throws until you regroup or the day ends.
  23. Egg dream. You witness a large golden egg crack open and release a flock of soaring white birds. New ability has formed within you, and you get a +1 bonus when doing a skill-based activity of your choosing that requires a 1d6 role (listening at doors, searching a 10x10 area, etc.).
  24. Eyes dream. You look up at a night sky filled with luminous nebulae and swirling galaxies and see great cosmic eyes unfold out of the stars and stare right back down at you. Within them, you witness a fraction of the unspeakable truths of the universe. You forget most of what you saw when you wake up, but enough of it is echoing around your skull to give you +1 Intelligence.
  25. Faces dream. You are surrounded by a sea of smiling faces, all of them laughing and cheering in good humor. For the next 1d6 days, you are aware of the result of all reaction roles made by the NPCs and creatures you encounter.
  26. Feast dream. You are either tiny or in the house of a giant, but either way you find yourself on a massive table with plates piled high with food. You eat your fill and more. Wake up with +1 Constitution.
  27. Gambling dream. You have been invited to a great mystical gambling hall hidden somewhere between the Planes of Thought. You can wager anything, in just about any game of chance you can think of.
  28. Ghost dream. The ghost of someone important to you visits you in your sleep. It has certain esoteric knowledge from beyond the veil, and wants to converse with you. They will tell you anything they wished they would have said before they died and will answer some questions about the afterlife. There’s a 50% chance that the spirit has some unfinished business that it would like you to take care of.
  29. Hunting dream. You are a hunter in a primordial jungle. You track your prey until you find it resting in a clearing. Your quarry is a random creature that has at least 5 HD more than you. Unfortunately, you wake up before you have a chance to throw your spear. If you manage to track down that creature and kill it, the amount of xp you get from defeating it is multiplied by 10.
  30. Idol dream. You appear in the dream of a plucky young adventurer. You appear to them as a paragon to aspire to. After 1d20 months they will seek you out in-person and pledge their allegiance to you. They become an NPC retainer with a random class and 2 fewer levels than you.
  31. Incantation dream. Alien priests in hooded robes stand around you in a circle chanting a strange incantation. One of them taps you on the forehead and says in a language that you don’t understand that you are their chosen one. You wake up with +1 in every saving throw.
  32. Jester dream. You are a magnificent harlequin, the center of attention wherever you go. All your social inhibitions melt away and people love you for it. You wake up with a sense of longing for something you can’t quite remember, but otherwise pretty good. Gain +1 Charisma.
  33. Lightning dream. In the midst of a terrible storm, a lightning bolt hits you right between your eyes and transfers its energy into your mind. You get 1d4 lightning bolts contained in your brain that you can shoot out of your forehead at a range of 120’. They deal 4d6 damage to anything in their path, save vs. breath weapon for half.
  34. Machinery dream. You are embedded in a strange, complex machine. The DM will answer one yes-or-no question about a dungeon-specific challenge, trap, or puzzle you encounter in future.
  35. Mandala dream. You perceive your location on the web of fate. Every saving throw gets a one-time +2 bonus.
  36. Meadow dream. You bask in a tranquil Edenic clearing. Wake up with 1d4 additional hp on top of what was healed during the rest. Any non-magical affliction or ailment is cured.
  37. Monster dream. You feel yourself slowly turn into a grotesque monstrosity. You wake up, covered in sweat, with your heart racing. Something about your body feels strange, but not in an entirely bad way. Gain +1 Strength.
  38. Moon dream. You find yourself bouncing around on the pristine crystalline surface of the moon, with a beautiful view of the world. You can forego sleep for the next 1d6 nights.
  39. Needle dream. You are mending one of your old frayed garments with a gleaming golden needle. A relevant NPC from your past will appear at some time in the future to aid you.
  40. Offering dream. You are atop a large ziggurat in a barren alien landscape. A strange priest hands you a black knife and gestures toward a some sort of animal bound to a stone altar. If you sacrifice the creature, you get +1 to all ability scores when you wake up, and powerful demon takes an interest in you.
  41. Sanctuary dream. You dream you are in a secluded temple, safe and isolated from the unknown turmoil outside. For the next day, random encounters are half as likely to occur (i.e. if random encounter chance is 1-in-6 it becomes 1-in-12).
  42. Searching dream. You are looking desperately for something, first in a vast desert, then in an old cluttered castle, and finally in your childhood home. As soon as you feel you find it, you wake up. In your hand is a valuable item or gemstone worth 1d10x100 gp. There is a 1-in-6 chance the item is a random magic item, and a 2-in-6 chance that it belongs to someone important nearby.
  43. Sentient weapon dream. You dream not as yourself but as a sentient magic weapon, trapped somewhere in a perilous, far off location. You become inextricably linked to this weapon and feel powerfully drawn to it.
  44. Stranger dream. Next reaction roll you make for a non-hostile npc gets a +3 bonus. You feel like you’ve met them before.
  45. Tree dream. Your legs are roots that reach far into the earth. Your arms are branches that spread high and wide. Every part of you feels vivid and alive. You wake up and notice your scars have mostly faded, any lost limbs are recovered, and you gain one HD of hit points.
  46. Wizard dream. A wizard pops into your dreams and looks around confusedly. He meant to appear in someone else’s dream and apologizes for interrupting your sleep. He mutters something about about a gift to make up for the trouble then draws a glowing circle in the air and disappears. You learn a random 1st level Magic User spell. If you are not a Magic User you can cast it once as though you are a 1st level MU, otherwise you can add it to your spell book.
  47. Zoo dream. You find yourself in a wondrous, fantastical menagerie. You get 3 points to distribute as you see fit between your ability scores and saving throws. You can distribute no more than one point to each score.
  48. Astral traveler. You’re not dreaming, you’re astral projecting. Works the same way as the spell.
  49. Cry for help. Somebody important is imprisoned in a dungeon or similarly precarious environment and has called out to you to aid them. You gain a rough understanding of who they are, where they are located, and how to get there.
  50. Bureaucratic error. You find yourself in the cluttered office of a busy Oneirion overwhelmed with work. It looks like no one got around to assigning you a proper channel, so the Oneirion gifts you a novelty dream token and apologizes for the error. The token is good for 3 free Magic Dreams—just put it under your pillow when you go to sleep.

A note on ability score improvements: if you run the sort of game where ability scores are mostly fixed and unchanging then feel free to rule that the dreams that influence ability scores (or saves, etc.) only last for a week. Otherwise, the dream effects are permanent unless otherwise specified.

1 comment:

  1. I love how surreal these are; they feel vivid to read and would lend the game a sense of whimsy. Will steal this for use somewhere in my next campaign!