The dream world is the "place" that everyone goes to when they dream. Whether a pleasant sojourn into the fields of youth, a confusing trek through outer space, or a horrifying nightmare, they all exist within the dream world. It is not a physical place and it is not possible to visit it physically. It is a realm of the psyche, and while one will perceive others and oneself as physical entities while visiting, this is little more than a trick of the mind to describe its conceptual surroundings.
This document will attempt to describe the nature of the dream world in some detail, and will also elaborate on how it interacts with the casual visitor. By casual visitor, we mean not a dreamer but someone who, through mystical means, has entered the dream world in a fully conscious state and who is not bound by its limitations to the same extent as the dreamer is.
The document is divided into two sections; the first is a prose section, which uses plain English to describe how the dream world works. This section is system independent. The second section goes into more detail and also describes how to integrate the dream world into the Rolemaster Standard System (RMSS) and so contains a lot of system mechanics.
We observe some language conventions that the reader should be aware of.
First, we refer to a location within the dream world as a "place". It must be understood that this is a rather unsatisfactory term as it brings associations of a three dimensional reality like our own in which one can locate this "place". The dream world is not like that. We use the word "place" in a much more abstract sense.
Second, everything that is within the dream world is a dream. Everything within a specific dream is a fragment of that dream, or a dream fragment. When a dream fragment is somehow transported outside of dreams, such as into the real world, we sometimes refer to the fragment simply as a "dream" when the proper term would be "dream fragment".
The entire existence of the dream world is based upon those who dream. At any one time, the dream world is the sum total of all currently occurring dreams. It is no larger and no smaller than this. If one could imagine one instant in which noone in the entire world was asleep, then in this instant, the dream world would not exist and one could not visit it. At least, not until someone fell asleep and added their own dream to it, thereby causing it to exist again.
It follows that there is no "place" in the dream world that is not inside some dream. A place that is not a dream is, by definition, not a part of the dream world and so in the dream world, such a place cannot exist. This concept is important to grasp. Some alternative conjectured dream worlds have constant real estate which, while it is often malleable to some extent, will always exist regardless of whether or not anyone is dreaming about it at any given time. The dream world described in this document is not like that.
There is a strange duality between dreamers and their dreams. The dreamers create their dreams from their own subconscious, their own joys and fears, their own problems and relations. On the other hand, once the dream has been created, it lives a life of its own. It can wrest control of itself out of the hands of the dreamer and take him on a rollercoaster ride that he may or may not find enjoyable. Yet it is still subject to the subconscious expectations of the dreamer. The wildness of a dream is to a large part determined by the dreamer himself. If he is very anxious, frightened, worried, mentally unbalanced, etc., he is more likely to lose control. People who are at peace with themselves are much more in control, and will rarely find that the nature of their dreams works against them. No dreamer, however, is in complete control of his dreams. Only by mystical means can a person receive complete control of his dreams, and only powerful magic can achieve this.
The practical upshot of this is that a dreamer will rarely if ever be able to make his dream harm a visitor. The closest he will normally be able to get is by attacking the visitor himself, using whatever tools are available to him in the dream. It is also relatively easy for a visitor to evade detection by a dreamer as they are not the most observant or coherent of people. In most cases, the visitor will have a lot more freedom of action in someone's dream than the dreamer has himself.
Some people and some creatures have discovered mystical means of gaining access to the dream world even when they are awake. At this time, the visitors do not themselves generate any dreams as they are not asleep. They will, however, be capable of visiting the dreams of others. Visitors will be able to use their various skills to full potential while visiting dreams, much unlike dreamers who will tend to have artificial-seeming limitations put upon them by the dream of their own creation. Visitors can, however, be thwarted by the peculiar nature of many dreams. Dreams can twist and turn, they can change nature, and they can sport a perceived physical reality that is completely at odds with what the visitor is used to. In such dreams, the visitor may be at a general penalty to achieving anything at all.
Each dream within the dream world is a self-contained environment (or, more correctly, it is a self-contained concept). When exploring a specific dream, one can find the "end" of the dream. This is what appears to be a physical barrier through which a visitor cannot pass. The barrier is irrelevant to the dreamer, since, once the dreamer approaches the barrier, it will tend to be pushed away from him as his subconscious fills that part of the dream with something or other. How big, exactly, the dream is before a visitor will find physical barriers will depend wholly on how large an area the dreamer considers to be the natural habitat of the dream. If he is having a haunted house dream, it is likely to end at the wrought-iron fence surrounding the mansion since everything outside of this perimeter is of no consequence to the concept of the dream. Only if the dream took the dreamer close to this area would the outside of the fence become of interest. If, on the other hand, the concept of the dream encompasses the world - perhaps the dreamer imagines himself an eagle soaring high above, able to go anywhere - then the visitor may be hard pressed to reach the "end". Now, the world would only be as detailed as the dreamer knows it and if he has wrong ideas about some things (highly likely) it's not likely to be a very accurate representation of the real world.
The apparant reality within a specific dream can vary a lot. It wholly depends upon the dreamer that created it. Most people will dream of places that are more or less consistent with how they experience the real world. Mermen will often dream of underwater locations, humans will dream of locations on the ground and birdmen will dream of soaring the skies or of life on the high peaks. Depending on how familiar a visitor is with the environment of a specific dream, he may experience disorientation, confusion, even panic, when trying to move around or even perceive within the dream. If the dreamer is wholly alien, a visitor may simply not find any sensible points of reference and will be able to make neither head nor tails out of the whole experience. Note, however, that since to reach this dream you must first align your own state of mind with it, you are highly unlikely to ever reach a dream the reality of which is beyond your imagination.
When a visitor enters the dream world, he will tend to find as his initial location a dream that is mostly consistent with his own mental condition at the time. In general, he will appear inside a dream that is very similiar to the dream he would have had himself had he gone to sleep at the time. An experienced visitor will be able to manipulate the kind of dream that he will start in, largely by applying some sort of meditative techniques to put himself in a suitable state of mind before diving in.
Often, the visitor will want to transit to some other dream. This can not be done by trying to physically navigate his current dream. This will achieve little more than to explore that specific dream, and possibly to find its physical (seeming) boundaries. Rather, the dreamer must traverse to other dreams by gradually altering his own state of mind. As he pries his mind away from the concepts of his current dream, he will find that he shifts to another one, one that is consistent with his new mental state. While this is not too hard to do in a random manner, it can be very difficult to do it in the controlled, calculated manner that will lead you to the exact type of dream that you seek.
Often, a visitor will have some specific goal rather than just wanting to go sightseeing random dreams. Assuming that the visitor is capable of manipulating his own mind sufficiently to traverse dreams with some degree of predictability, the next hurdle is to decide which frame of mind is the most appropriate for the target dream. It must be understood that a dream can only be reached if its general nature can reflected by the visitor's frame of mind. Therefore, the visitor needs to both have some idea what kind of dream he is seeking and he needs to be able to twist his psyche to fit it. It is specifically not possible to find a dream based upon who its dreamer is - you must rather find out what that dreamer is likely to dream about and attack the problem from that side.
Often, all the visitor needs is a general type of dream. For instance, "I need a dream where creatures are battling eachother" or "I need a dream which has deceit and corruption". This isn't too difficult and once the visitor has achieved the correct frame of mind, it's a success. However, some times very specific dreams are required. For instance "I want to enter Fred's dream" or "I need a dream that sports a 5'10" female barbarian mercenary wielding a flail". For these sort of requests, the general feel of the dream is not enough to find one that fits. For the former example, you might have some idea what Fred is going to dream about but you can bet there's a million people dreaming about the same general thing so chances of getting to Fred's dream the first time around is next to nil. In the latter example, you might guess that there will be fighting and pain involved but how many dreams have that in them? In such cases, once the correct frame of mind is achieved, the visitor will need to make slight variations around the concept in order to investigate a multitude of dreams, one after the other, and manually check each and every one of them to determine if they fit his criteria. Needless to say, this can be rather challenging and it can take quite some time.
There are a number of ways of entering the dream world as a visitor. Most involve the use of magic. The specific magic used will determine much about the link to the realm of dreams. Some spells only allow the most tenuous and unfocused view into dreams, while others provide full immersion with all senses attached. In general, the spells will provide penalties to one's attempt to operate within any one specific dream. They will not, however, provide penalties to navigating between dreams.
Some visitors have decided to make the dream world their permanent (or semi-permanent) home. Most of these are purely mental beings who have no body to leave behind that would require maintenance. Their nature varies wildly, from curious sightseers to malevolent demons. They will often seek out dreams in which they can play a part, each for their own reasons. Some are happy just to see the dreams play out while others try to take control of the dreams and, ultimately, perhaps even the dreamers themselves.
Encounters in the dream world are of three different varieties; dreamers, dream fragments, and other visitors. Each is treated in a different manner.
The reactions of dreamers to encountering a visitor vary, but most dreamers will simply consider the visitor to be another part of the dream and will think no more of it. If they perceive the visitor to be dangerous or threatening in any way, they may move to "physically" assault him.
It is conceivable that a visitor could communicate with a dreamer and even be able to obtain information out of him. Most dreamers will be in a dazed state in their dreams, however, and getting anything coherent from them can be difficult.
Dreamers are distinguished from non-dreamers by the virtue of being the center of their own dream. It is rarely difficult to figure out who the dreamer is simply by taking note of the goings on and who or what they appear to center around.
A dream fragment can be such things as a bunny in a child's dream, or perhaps a tree, or a werewolf in a nightmare. All dream fragments will at all times behave in the manner that the dreamer believes consistent with its nature and the nature of the dream. In a pleasant dream, a tree will rustle gently in the wind and do little else because trees don't do much else. In a nightmare, the same tree could be swaying its branches to attack anyone coming near it and its roots could shoot out of the ground to attack from beneath. In a particularly horrid nightmare, ironically, the tree could totally ignore anyone but the dreamer, so visitors could be perfectly safe from dream fragments that are of the utmost "danger" to the dreamer.
Similiar goes for more passive dangers, such as pitfalls or caltrop fields. They pose a risk to the extent that the dreamer finds it fitting that they should. It must be noted that these are not conscious choices made by the dreamer, and he is not able to affect this while dreaming. They are created by his subconscious, over which he has no control for the duration of the dream.
Dream fragments are mostly noticed as such by their slavish devotion to the dream itself. No dream fragment will act out of unison with the rest of the dream. They are like an army of actors all doing their utmost to make the dream fit its concept. They appear much like automatons who react to interaction either by completely ignoring it or else in a manner that is always wholly consistent with the theme of the current dream. It must be noted that if the visitor has a wrong idea about the theme of the dream, he may have some difficulty realising what, exactly, its theme is and how dream fragments should be behaving. The visitor is helped a lot, however, by the fact that the dream is a good fit to his own mental state, and so it doesn't take a lot of skill to work these things out. Nevertheless, very complicated dreams can hold surprises for even the most accomplished visitor.
Visitors will behave according to their own nature, not according to the nature of any dreamers. Their behaviour is therefore as varied as that of beings in general. A sightseer might stop for a chat with you, someone looking for a particular dream might ignore you and hurry on along their route, and a soul slayer demon might consider you an interesting target.
Visitors can be difficult to differentiate from dream fragments. Only by studying their behaviour can one eventually conclude that they do not seem to play an inherent part of the dream and therefore that they are visitors. The difficulty of this exercise will, of course, vary with the behaviour of the visitor. If he is taking great pains to be a part of the dream (not uncommon - many consider it great sport to play part of someone else's dream without them noticing it), it can be very difficult. If he is ignoring the events in the dream or even acting in a manner wholly contrary to the theme of the dream, spotting him can be trivial. It follows that the best way to hide in a dream could be to start acting out its theme, rather than to find a nice shadowy corner to hide in.
It is possible to get embroiled in battle within the realm of dreams. Dreamers, visitors and dream fragments can all sustain damage. Damage generally comes in two forms; physical and mental.
Physical damage sustained in dreams is ultimately inconsequential. However, if anyone or anything in a dream takes enough damage that the dreamer would have considered whatever is being damaged to be "dead" or "destroyed", then that part of the dream is instantly expelled from the dream. Physically attacking something in the dream can therefore be a good way of removing it from the dream. The different parts of a dream will react differently to being expelled;
Mental damage is more insidious. Visitors (and only visitors) are capable of using any type "m" (mental) spells at their disposal. When casting them, they are considered to not be using arms or voice and they are considered to be wearing whatever their unconscious-seeming physical body in the real world is wearing. It follows that the realm of Mentalism is the one best suited for the casting of spells in dreams. These spells can be used to affect dream fragments, but the most interesting use is against dreamers and other visitors. Any spells with mental effects (insanity, for instance, or possession) will have very real effects as the minds of those you are targeting are actually present within the dream and so can be affected. Needless to say, there are some demons you really don't want to run across even in your dreams.
While the foundations of the dream world do not appear to allow for persistent realms to exist within it, this is only a half truth. If you can imagine a dreamer that never awakens and who never changes his dream, then you will see that within the dream world, this dream can become a permanent fixture. This is not normally a natural state of things. Living beings should not be dreaming all of the time. However, there are a number of ways in which this situation can come to pass. The most important ones will be enumerated here.
Some people suffer from a malady that means they rarely, or even never, wake up. There can be a myriad of causes, from a mundane disease up to a curse placed upon the sleeper. The more malevolent residents of the dream world will tend to seek for a place (a dream) to call home, and they have been known to ensure that the dreamer of their chosen dream never wakes up by putting curses upon him and the dream to enable themselves to mold it to their liking.
It is possible, with a lot of effort and devotion, to organise a group of people so that they all dream the same dream. It must be understood that two dreamers will never share a dream, so we are talking a multitude of very similiar, or even identical, dreams here. If the sleep cycles of these people are organised so that at any one time, at least one of them will be asleep, then the dream they have all been trained to dream will always be present within the dream world.
Such a dream can be made a permanent home, but there is the added impracticality of having to switch dreams whenever one shift wakes up and the next shift goes to work (well, to sleep). It doesn't take much training to make this happen more or less subconsciously though, given that the dreams are so similiar. Basically, when a dream ends and you are expelled, you will be predisposed to entering the next most similiar dream anyway so chances of getting the correct dream is quite high even without training.
This is an approach that is often used by the more benevolent residents of the dream world when they decide to make themselves a permanent home. They may start by travelling dreams to find themselves a likely group of people to use. This can take quite some time, given how difficult it is to deduce how the outside world is from within a dream. However, once a group of people has been found that the resident thinks well suited, he may start conditioning (aka brain washing) them from within their dreams. He could use mundane means such as psyhology or he could employ mind-affecting spells, or, of course, he could combine the two. After much work, he may end up with one of two situations. Either, the dreamers are not consciously aware of what they are doing but have been conditioned to organise their sleep patterns as desired (this is often the least desired situation as there are many things that can go wrong). Or, the resident has elevated himself to god-like status in the minds of the dreamers and they will start a cult-like gathering to carefully organise their sleep and dreams as desired by their new lord.
It is conceivable that there could exist races of beings that are never awake. If so, they will always be present within the dream world. If, in addition, their dreams are very stable and/or long lasting, any one dream could become a permanent fixture within the dream world. There are definately some beings that are very close to this already, the great drakes being one notable example.
A dream has some central theme (or some times several) that it attempts to play out. The foundations of these themes are based upon "dream concepts". A dream concept is simply some emotional (or other) concept that has a degree of impact upon the dream. Any one dream typically consists of anywhere from one up to a couple of dozen concepts. Each concept has a "size", which determines the degree of impact that particular concept has upon the dream. If a dream contains many big concepts, then this will work to severely limit the dreamer's freedom of action within the dream. If the dream's concepts are weak or few, then the dreamer will have more freedom to do as he likes.
Concept sizes are rated from 1-10. Note that there is a theoretical "0" size as well - this would be a concept that isn't present in the dream at all. Rather than call this a size zero concept, however, we simply do not consider it to be present. A size 1 concept has only a tiny impact upon the dream and unless it is one of only a few concepts within it, it is very difficult to notice. A size 10 concept completely dominates the dream and is almost impossible not to notice.
It is not possible for two opposing concepts to be part of the same dream. Before an opposing concept can be introduced into the dream, its opposition will need to have been removed.
The total number of possible dream concepts is too large for us to be able to enumerate them. We will therefore provide some examples and brief descriptions on what kind of impact they may have on a dream. The most obvious concepts would be basic emotions, we will not go into those but rather describe some that may be less straightforward.
In order to enter the dream world as a visitor, one must have magical means of doing so. No mundane means are known to exist. In general, one uses a "Visit Dreams" or "Enter Dreams" spell. The main difference between the two is that the former has a finite duration while the latter requires concentration to be maintained for so long as one wishes to remain in the dream world. Maintaining concentration is obviously going to limit what else one can do while in the dreams. The casting and maintaining of these spells adhere to normal Spell Law rules.
Once within the dream world, one must generally find a dream that suits one's purpose. This is the most challenging, complex and time consuming part of the procedure. Different ways of resolving this are presented, to cater to different campaign styles. First, however, the basic steps that must be taken by a character are outlined.
The simple resolution has the advantage of being fast. This is useful if dreams aren't the main focus of the campaign, or if the number of dream travel capable characters in the party is small. In the latter case, a time-consuming resolution process would have a majority of the players waiting around while the dream travel characters finished their "thing". Not entirely unlike Decker characters in Shadow Run.
A character may roll a "Dream Lore" (Lore*Magical) skill check in order to find dream concepts usable for a general purpose. Penalties are given based upon how obscure this "general purpose" is. As an example, "I need a dream that has armed conflict in it" is Routine. "I need a dream with a cloud in the shape of a rabbit in it" might be Extremely Hard. Some more examples follow.
|Type of dream sought||Difficulty|
|Dream must have some weapon or other in it||Routine|
|Dream must contain some specific common item||Light|
|Dream must have oak trees in it||Medium|
|Dream must contain a person of a given uncommon race||Hard||Dream must have a 3-inch silver dagger in it||Very Hard|
A character may roll a "Psychology" skill check in order to find dream concepts usable to locate a specific person's dream. In order to be allowed to do this, some knowledge of the person is required. Whether from acquaintance, background research, or random guesses, the quality and quantity of such knowledge will affect the difficulty of the psychology check.
|Familiarity with target||Difficulty|
|Has by some means acquired detailed information on target's current dream||Routine|
|Has successfully interviewed target just before current sleep cycle||Routine|
|Has been target's psyhiatrist for last 5 years||Easy|
|Has detailed knowledge of recurring dream of target||Easy|
|Has recently interviewed the target||Medium|
|Good and longstanding friend of target||Hard|
|Sketchy but accurate knowledge from general rumour||Extremely Hard|
|Sketchy and inaccurate knowledge||Sheer Folly|
Only one skill check is permitted to determine whether or not suitable concepts were found. The character will not realise whether he's failed until the time comes to try it out in practice.
Example: Niarath the dreamlord is worried for his friend Palrath, who has told him of this troubled dreams. Niarath gets to interview his friend about his dreams just before Palrath goes to sleep. Niarath rolls a Routine Psychology check. His skill bonus is 45 and he rolls 10. Adding +30 for Routine, the end result is 85, a Partial Success with +10 subsequent maneuver bonus which we will use in a later example. While Niarath would be almost certain to get a better result if he tried again, he is not permitted to do so. He believes he has done the best he can.
The visitor needs to accumulate 100 points of "concept change" on average to reach his target mindset. If the GM determines that the visitor's starting mindset is particularly distant or particularly close to the target mindset, he may modify this number up or down, respectively. To achieve the target mindset he rolls a "Meditation" skill check on the Absurd coloumn of the moving/maneuver table. "Fail to act" or worse results are treated as "1". 100 (or the number decided by the GM) is divided by the number achieved in the roll, and the result is the number of minutes required.
Example: Niarath is sitting in the rather serene surroundings of his family orchards. He is going to try and reach the dream of his friend, which he has already determined to be feverish and violent. The GM determines that this is very far off from Niarath's starting mindset and rules that he will need to accumulate 300 points before reaching it. Niarath has a Meditation bonus of 80 and rolls 25, for a total of 105. 105 on the Absurd coloumn of the moving/maneuver table yields 10. 300 divided by 10 is 30, so it takes him 30 minutes to reach the desired state of mind.
In order to find the specific dream the visitor is looking for, he will need to vary around the theme of his mindset. Since there are in effect infinitely many dreams that roughly fit any one mindset, this requires a lot of skill and intuition. The visitor rolls an Absurd "Dream Navigation" (Lore*Obscure) modified by three times the subsequent action bonus originally gained from step 1 "determining target concepts" above. The visitor needs to achieve 100%, and each attempt takes ten minutes.
Example: Niarath has ended up in a rather upleasant dream, as could be expected, but it is the wrong unpleasant dream. He sets out to find his friend's dream. His skill bonus in "Dream Navigation" is 120 - he is a dreamlord after all. He rolls a measly 6, resulting in 120 + 6 - 70 for difficulty + 30 for three times subsequent maneuver bonus from a previous example = 86. A Partial Success, after 10 minutes he is 25% there. The next roll is 26, resulting in 120 + 26 - 70 + 30 = 106. This is a Near Success, adding another 75% towards the target. Since the total is 100%, Niarath has now found the dream he was looking for after 20 minutes of searching.