Also called Dreamtime, the Dreaming, or the Plane of Dreams, the Dreamscape is a unification of memory and creation, fueled by the Collective Conscious of the multiverse. It is a distinct plane of existence with a fully malleable nature. When a creature dreams or exerts its will upon the plane, a space within the plane takes on form and substance. When this form becomes a near mirror to a space within another plane of existence, the planes overlap.
When a creature dreams, a part of its spirit is mirrored within the Dreamscape where it subconsciously taps into memories and experiences within the Collective Conscious that it witnesses as dreams. When a creature ceases dreaming, its mirror self simply melts back into the fabric of the Dreamscape.
Nature of Dreams
Dreams are fabrications of unreality. While these fabrications aren’t real in a conventional sense, they are the underlying current that creates perceptive reality. The Dreamscape is massive beyond understanding and malleable to an unsurpassable extreme. It contains all that was, is, and will be, and the myriad of possibilities in between, but these elements are only brought into being when a conscious mind taps into the Collective Conscious and creates the dream through imagination.
When a dream is formed, the substance of the Dreamscape shapes itself to create a space which accommodates the dream. This shaping creates logic and rules, fabricates objects and structures, and provides the theme of the dream.
A dream is fungible, its nature subject to evolving based on the needs of the theme and the turmoil of the dreamer. Some beings are able to directly alter the fabric of a dream, change facets, introduce new elements or remove existing ones, and even alter the theme.
As the realm of unreality, anything is possible within the context of the dream, but confines are introduced by the limits of the collective minds of the dreamers. In order for something to exist within the Dreamscape it must not only be within the realm of imagination, it must also be plausible within the confine of the dreamer’s mind or those of intruding minds. When imagination exceeds plausibility, the Dreamscape creates the best possible version it can, but while this may be visually imaginative, it is functionally mundane.
For instance, while a medieval citizen might be able to envision a wand that shoots light beams, the effect of said light beams will be constrained to what that citizen’s mind is capable of logically processing, such that it may take the form of a sunbeam or shoot functional arrows in the form of light. Should a citizen of a space age future intrude upon the medieval citizen’s dream, however, it will contribute the knowledge of lasers to the dream’s construction, enabling the wand construct to function as a laser gun as the intruder understands it.
The DM decides the confines of a given dream in the context of the campaign and the needs for the adventure.
A dream is the constructed environment of a dreamer. It is a contained location with features based on the theme and appearance of the dream. An appearance can be a pure fabrication, a copy of a real location, or often something in between.
The edge of a dream’s boundary is a distorted barrier. A dreamer is unable to penetrate the edge, and it can’t even perceive that there is a boundary to its dream. When a dreamer encounters a boundary, it will unerringly find its way back into its dream.
The Dreamscape is comprised of infinite dreams that give shape to the nebulous nature of the plane by the imagination of dreamers and the annals of the Collective Conscious. Each dream has a theme which determines how creatures interact with it, the rules of its unreality, and how logic can be applied to it.
When building a dream unreality, you need to determine its theme. The theme can be a simple mirror of reality or a complete abstract or metaphor. Normally, a dream is somewhere in between. Often dreams are formed because of stress or uncertainty that the dreamer is subconsciously attempting to process. This leads to the dream having some symbolic meaning to the underlying issue.
Creating a dream’s theme is not dissimilar from creating other content for the campaign. The dream occupies a space, the size of which you determine based on the needs of the dream. It can appear vast while being quite small. Some dreams are enormous with a myriad of paths, and others are only a few feet in diameter surrounding a dreamer, changing appearance as the dreamer moves within it. A dream can included terrain, structures, objects, and creatures.
When you create the dream, consider the dreamer and its state of mind. Decide if the dream is of a memory or a creation of fancy. If the dream is metaphoric, think about the ways to depict the metaphor. Is it grounded within the mundane or is it a fantastical display written in allegory and whim?
You’ll want to also consider the type of dream and its appearance. The type of dream heavily influences the level of trauma or threat, as well as what kind of dilemmas may be present. The appearance is where you can be creative in blending the ordinary with the extraordinary and symbolic. Don’t be afraid to completely embrace imagery beyond reason, such as flying clocks or disjointed floors connected by colored pools. Nearly anything is possible in the context of a dream. At the end of this section will be a selection of sample dream themes.
Once you construct the dream theme, you’ll want to incorporate the rules for dream logic. For instance, if black colored tiles on a floor act like acid, you’ll want to create environmental effects to support that, maybe even expanding the concept that the color black is acidic, including the gray-scale vision of a creature with darkvision.
The dream type is important to determine the nature of the dream. A dream has one type. The dream type might not be readily apparent, possibly misleading, and it will evolve to reveal its true state in time or through action.
Inspirational Dream. Sometimes a dreamer will have a dream that inspires its passion and ambition. An inspirational dream can be a heroic story, a memory of someone or something important to the dreamer, or even just an idea of invention or solution to a problem. When a dreamer exits its inspirational dream, it gains a bonus usage of Inspiration that it can use within the next 4d6 hours. The details of the dream remain for the same duration, but are often hazy and imprecise.
Nightmare. A nightmare is a type of dream that is usually disturbing to the dreamer, leaving it feeling lost or powerless to face the challenges ahead. A dreamer is rarely vacant in a nightmare (see “Dreamer”). A nightmare isn’t always threatening; it can be embarrassing or it may bring to mind insecurities the dreamer has. When the dreamer of the nightmare exits its dream, it can’t benefit from a long rest and must succeed on a DC15 Wisdom saving throw or be unsettled for 1d4 hours. A dreamer either quickly forgets its nightmare (80% 2d6 − 2 minutes) or the nightmare lingers (20% 3d6 hours).
Prophetic Dream. The rarest type of dream is the prophetic dream. Most common are enactments of scenes yet to come, but sometimes the dream will reveal some great truth or foretell more general events, often through allegory. Enactment scenes often lead to a sense of déjà vu, while revelations often spur the dreamer to action regarding what was revealed. Prophetic dreams are buried within the subconscious until such time as the event comes to pass. When that happens, if the dreamer succeeds on a DC15 Intelligence or Wisdom (whichever is higher) check it understands what will transpire for the next 3d4 rounds. During this time, the dreamer has advantage on any d20 roll it makes and automatically passes any Intelligence check pertaining to the event. The dreamer is also never surprised by the arrival of the event.
Restless Dream. This dream type takes a toll on its dreamer. Often a restless dream is repetitive, such as a task repeating over and over again. It may have some variation, but the mundanity of the task remains constant. A vacant dreamer is most common in this type of dream, as a dream avatar might interrupt the repetitiveness. When the dreamer of a restless dream exits its dream, the dreamer gains one level of exhaustion and can’t benefit from a long rest. The details of a restless dream are forgotten by a dreamer within 1d10 minutes, but the sensation of the mundane activity can linger for weeks.
Serene Dream. The most common type of dream is the serene dream. A serene dream can be a faithful or unfaithful accounting of a memory, an imagining of possible events or encounters, or just a scene as if it is from a story brought to life. A serene dream can take many forms from literal to complete fantasy, and its appearance is most likely to change as the dream unfolds. A dreamer receives no benefit or detriment when it exits a serene dream. A serene dream is ephemeral, forgotten as the dreamer wakes up.
The appearance of the dream is how the dream is perceived. It is the locations, structures, objects, and features of a world created within the dream. A dream almost always has a visual component of its appearance, and many also include sound. Smell and taste sensations are usually absent in a dream, but there are exceptions. Tactile sensation is also not always present, but imposes no detriment to its dreamer. A dream actor or architect (described below under “The Dream Avatar”) is able to simulate tactile sensation within its mind while in a dream that lacks it.
A dream frequently adapts features and scenes of real locations within the multiverse. In some cases it will be a direct imagining of the location, but in others it will be jumbled. Design the appearance of a dream just like you would any other location within the campaign.
A dream’s appearance does have some discrepancies from reality. When close to the border of a dream space, the appearance will distort as the dream starts to give way to the emptiness of the Dreamscape beyond or the edge of another dream presses against the one the dreamer currently occupies. Certain parts of the dream also start to become jumbled or lack cohesion when scrutinized. Writing frequently displays this quality. For a dreamer, these seams in the dream fabric are dismissed by dream logic, but to a dream actor or architect, these seams betray the nature of the dream.
The appearance of the dream isn’t stable. As a dreamer continues to dream, the dream can take on a new shape. Such changes happen gradually over the course of several rounds or minutes, or suddenly through some form or transition, such as walking through a tunnel or after a flash of blinding light.
Each dream has a set of rules that it abides. These rules often mirror or duplicate the normal rules of the campaign setting, but the rules aren’t bound by convention. When you create a dream, you need to decide where the rules change and in what ways. These changes can be simple, such as every creature being able to breathe underwater or to survive in the vacuum of space. They can also be complex, such as an uttered word becoming a deafening scream or doorways that only open when a certain phrase is spoken.
These rules are the core of dream logic. Dream logic is intrinsically understood by the dreamer and considered normal. To a dream actor or architect, dream logic is how to persist the dream. Defying dream logic can cause the fabric of the dream to tear which can result in the dreamer exiting the dream and any intruder being tossed into the Gray Void of the Dreamscape. A creature which preys on dreamers, such as the dreamstalker, uses dream logic to render its victims vulnerable and entrapped.
The nature of the dream and its theme can also alter a dreamer. Typically this entails re-outfitting the creature or changing its form or even rendering it a vacant dreamer. The DM decides what changes the dream imposes on a dreamer. If a dreamer becomes aware as a dream actor, it can take action to restore itself.
Dream logic allows those within a dream to surpass its mortal limits. Dream logic can allow a dreamer to leap hundreds of feet or to reach across the cosmos. When crafting a dream, you want to spend the most time on defining the dream logic for the dream so that it is consistent and you can properly facilitate it. Often this can be done by giving dreamers and constructs traits or amending their statistics. You can also leverage mechanics like lair actions, spiritfonts, or surface effects.
The theme of a dream can be altered, but it is a long process, as rapid changes can break dream logic and end the dream. Usually, only one facet of the theme is changed at a time, such as removing one rule of dream logic or changing the appearance of an object or limited space within the dream. Certain creatures can change the dream type, such as night hags.