“Hark! Dear scribe, should you find this letter, I have likely been lost to The Dream. A dream, you ask? Preposterous! But, not at all! The Demiplanes of Dream and Nightmare are more than true. To find them, one must traverse into the depths of the fair folk dominions, already a deadly task. In truth, the dream creatures are primordial entities, predating even the sylvan folk. They’re something raw, primal, coalescing into parallel creatures far more detached from logic. Tread carefully, friend. Even within the confines of this letter, its eldritch energies stir. Do not try to look for me, lest you become stuck too.” – A letter from Ramon DeLeon, planar traveler and bard.
The Dream, an essence of energy so wild we can never truly ponder it. It’s far more morphic than even Limbo! This energy is neither chaos nor law, but something perhaps beyond it. Scholars speculate its relation to a distant void known as “Far Realm”. Currently, the forces of darkness are on the warpath to completely control all that is light within the Dream. Should this happen, no one shall sleep soundly again. Already, the Dream is a strange place full of the impossible, with logic far beyond anything akin to reality. However, shaping dreams comes with its own dangers. Particularly powerful minds are sought out… and not necessarily by forces for good.
Author’s Note: A mashup of faerie mythology and H.P. Lovecraft Mythos! Would you expect anything less than me? Plus, I figure this is a way to drag things into my yearly horror theme while revisiting my Planescape Fey lore by request! (Also, no more robots for a while! I promise!)
EDIT: 5e-related crunch is removed.
The powers of magic allow me to transcribe letters from the Dream itself. Fascinating, no!? I, Ramon, shall communicate onto paper through my own dimensional prowess! Read on to learn more wonders and terrors of the dream!
The Dream operates on a surreal logic, matter is shaped through incredible psychic energy. As mentioned, it functions like the unstable soup of Limbo. However, each realm operates on a different ideas. In a sense, the Dream is composed of domains controlled by powerful sleeping minds. Each Dominion follows certain patterns based on how a dreamer operates. Some are normally serene, while others are dreadful hellscapes. This isn’t to say that each domain can’t changed depending on the dreamer’s mental state. In fact, a dreary and dismal domain could be the dreamer’s paradise for all one knows.
One thing remains true though. An ethereal-like broth tethers all of these pockets together, with strange creatures roaming the “No Man’s Land” in between each realm. Some are arbiters of goodness, while others are the most horrible monstrosities ever conceived by thought. It is said that this place is an accidental creation of a distant Far Realm called “The Dreamlands”; a surreal dimension all its own. Perhaps it was built as a playground for the strange masters of such dimension. And it was from this realm where the Land of Dream used by the Seelie Court got its own name. In fact, it’s rumored that the Seelie have used this very realm for their own ends. Forces of the Lord of Nightmares will refute this.
But in truth, those aren’t the masters of this expansive demiplane. The true overseers are two siblings doomed to clash with each other for all eternity. They are akin to Archfey, but might be something else entirely. Princess Antumbra is a force for good and pleasant sleep, while Prince Penumbra is a force for evil and nightmare. They are respectively called The Lady of Dream and the Lord of Nightmare. Both balance each other out and allow for regular dreams. Should the former be too strong, blissful utopian dreams risk ensnaring all life, keeping them from returning to reality. Should the latter become too strong, victims are psychically tortured until their bodies and minds give out from sheer terror. However, both sides have a habit of forgetting to maintain that balance, thus feuds break out every couple of centuries. The end result has its way of influencing the Prime Material in on way or another… Too much tampering could warp the fabric of space itself. Shifts in the walls, creating non-euclidean rifts; oblong void pockets form which allow dream-things to traverse our very realities.
Speaking of which, where is The Dream? Why, my friends, it is in the deepest of deep within the Deep Ethereal! When I mentioned the sylvan folk, I meant it. Deep within the Good Kingdom lies one of the few gates into The Dream itself. Others likely exist, but they have not been discovered or accessed by mortals. It’s for the best that these dreams exist far within the Ethereal. Much like the proposed Far Realm, The Dream is a truly alien realm that isn’t so much controlled by minds so much as it tampers with them in subtle ways. Few minds can handle this coterminous dimension in full.
But, those who can are capable of forging the incredible just through the powers of thought and belief. In theory, your party of heroic adventurers could forge their own incredible stories through a strong connection to the dream. In fact, a group could in theory unite their dreams into a single consolidated one. That isn’t to say that it’s recommended. Should the dream go to terrible places, the damage done to the minds of the victims would be untold. And, this isn’t to say that a dreamer has total control. After all, they’re not gods, they’re mortal minds. They can steer the direction of their pocket world or gradually alter things though, as well as do a variety of other feats. Reader, should you dare consider this, let me give you a few instructions first! To start, one must use their preferred techniques for entering a lucid dream state. Should this succeed, they need to become aware of the demiplane itself, focusing on its incredible energies. After a while, the dreamer will begin to rework a simple dream into a pocket within the plane. While most of these pockets are temporary, enough concentration and focus can add much longevity to said creation.
What we experience is just a glimpse of the realm as it tickles our drifting minds in slumber. The true essence of the plane would easily destroy even the most conscious of minds. This isn’t to say that the plane is evil or driven by unspeakable chaos. It’s just distant, powerful and raw. None the less, many fascinating creatures call the realm home. And even stranger, some primers have managed to carve safe pockets for those as barmy as themselves! Their own dreams very much become demiplanes of their own design, with them as a makeshift god of their own dominion. However, those who stay too long or think too hard find themselves stuck in the Dream. Most cases see their bodies wither and die, while their shaken minds run free in deranged bedlam. Some fall to hysteria from this revelation, while others embrace their new identity. However, killing a dreamer within their own realm can either destroy them or send them back to their body. Should the body be dead, the dreamer simply fades away.
Known Dream Dominions
Many dream pocket dimensions exist within the greater demiplane of sleep. However, some have been charted by others in some capacity, while some are spoken in hushed whispers by unhinged lunatics and devotees to The Dream.
Dream of the Red Wizard
True to the somewhat decadent styles of a lavish Thayan life, this dream bubble surrounds a palace dedicated to one man; a conjuration focused Red Wizard named Zelakeil. This Red Wizard created an experiment, in which he transported all of himself into The Dream with the intent of creating a domain as a whole person, not just a sleeping mind. Effectively, he has made himself immortal for as long as he remains in the Dream. As Dominion Master, he ensure his palace continues to pamper him as he sees fit, while dealing with the occasional “pest” that happens to enter.
Ornate rugs and tapestries depicting Thayan history and culture line the halls that sprawl throughout this gorgeous complex, while a plethora of servants tend to his whims. However, his paradise is interrupted by his fear and paranoia. In truth, he backstabbed one peer too many, gaining ire of the Zulkir himself! While he hides in idyllic isolation from his nation, he knows that his time is limited. However, his dream has an innate defense that suppresses all magic that’s not his own. Should that not be enough, he has a menagerie of aberrant horrors under his control, with the ability to lift suppress on them as well. However, useful outsiders may find themselves becoming pawns in schemes connected to the outside world.
The Order of the Mind Sensor
This dominion was forged by some of the mightiest psychics of a world called Athas. Normally, this world is cut off from the planes at large, even the phlogiston of wildspace! However, through The Dream, connections can be achieved. To most onlookers, this place is a truly alien and bleak realm. However, for the minds of the Order, it’s a reflection of home. Here, there are plain, white buildings lining a sandy wasteland. The sun hovers at mid-day at all times, but the heat isn’t unbearable for a native. Chalky colored pillars support the strange buildings, allowing a breeze of air to travel through the mostly open pavilions.
The purpose of this dream, as well as the order, is for the rebuilding and liberation of Athas. The Order is far from fearful of the outside multiverse. Some members actively consult visitors for whatever they might know of realms beyond their own. To them, this could be useful in the eventually freeing of the masses from the tyrannies of Sorcerer Kings and their Defiling Magic. Most visitors will likely be oblivious to what they’re talking about. However, they are happy to trade knowledge with anyone who proves to be of good nature. While many domains are truly horrific for one reason or another, this one is a bastion against the many horrors of the plane. Services are even allowed to trusted visitors, such as meditation and teaching.
Beyond the Rainbow Mirror of Sleep
A psychedelic realm that bends itself to memories of whoever enters. The actual dreamer is a collective mixture of conscious thoughts given life through energy. This reflects on the surreal nature of this realm. Every memory that is sampled within the Mirror of Sleep is distorted in a colorful and animated manner. One such example of a twisted memory is the vision of a kingdom becoming completely purple, with the denizens in heavily exaggerated garb; a sense of fashion usually seen in caricature art.
Pinning down what this domain is would be challenging, as it is morphic by nature. It has never been determined what the dreamer looks like exactly either, if it has a physical form. Likewise, its methods and motivations are equally shrouded in mystery. All that is known is that it likes to create mirrored versions of reality through the lens of the bizarre.
The Unreachable Library
This library is converted from the seemingly endless thoughts of a planes wandering genius. In the end, she grew bored of constant travel and decided to dedicate the rest of her existence to cataloguing all information within a dream dominion. However, this doesn’t stop her trapped mind from projecting onto other realms and still gathering research. As for the library itself, it’s seemingly endless. The mere thought of a section will teleport you to it. And, as one would imagine, one could find almost any subject there is. If the dreamer were more open to sharing, this treasure trove of knowledge could change the multiverse.
However, this place is well safeguarded. The dreamer herself was heavily paranoid and frightened of others stealing her life’s work. This crazed witch does whatever she can to undermine and hamper anyone who dare visits her dream. Some books will actually be disguised delayed spells readied to attack the interloper. In some cases, the layout of the library will shift into a maze, as powers of teleportation will stop working… or worse, the power will be intentionally sabotaged, causing the victim to keep taking damage at they interact with solid surfaces.
Despite the setup of the domain being made to kill outsiders, it’s not impossible to win this mad mage over. Even in isolation, she’s not against forging some level of allegiance to those she can use for her own ends. If travelers can supply a piece of information that she doesn’t already have, she’ll allow brief and heavily regulated access to her library. However, her patience is thin and she might ask for far more to be collected to prevent the situation from turning violent.
A meta-dream of sorts. Its soul purpose is to attack and consume other dreams, but especially the minds of the dreamer. This pocket manifests as a Nautiloid Spelljammer. Its creator is a particularly crafty Illithid who has been studying workarounds and loopholes within this dimension. For the Mind Flayer captain, Yur’gliqsh, this dimension is a prime means of harvesting mental energies and so much more. Seeing as the spelljammer has similar properties to a normal Dream dominion, fights between the two forces are often evenly matched.
Yur’gliqsh is a truly nasty sort, a truly malicious pirate warlord, completely focused on exploiting all that this plane has to offer. Any who should encounter his nautiloid are usually met with their doom. Besides the arms and armaments of the ship, his crew are naturally psionic abominations easily capable of rending victims into a comatose state. After all, the captain needs his brain harvests fresh. Curiously, this dreamer can drag his entire body into the plane at-will.
The Courts of Dream and Nightmare
Ancient sylvan courts predating the Courts of Seasons, perhaps even the Seelie and Unseelie divide! Long ago, there were primordial beings built from the power of dreams themselves. It was here that this plane began to emerge. Wondrous creatures of pure energy and whim would later become the Fey. As long as life could connect to the vast space of The Dream, these creatures of dream would continue to emerge and grow. In time, two entities rose up as the most powerful. In a sense, they were proto-archfey. While not really deities in their own right, they rivaled them in other ways. Antumbra, the Lady of Light Dreams, harnessed the powers of pleasant dreams. Penumbra, Lord of Dark Dreams, brought balance through nightmares. The two worked to maintain a neutral state within the realm. However, other beings enticed the Penumbra with more power. Over time, he attempted to split his own court from his sister’s. The two also became equally distant from each other. Concern arose, especially as fungaloids, dread things and various corruptions of the fae began to materialize around Penumbra’s realm. By the time this sundering occurred, the Fey of the Outer Planes had already gotten their bearings. Titania and Mab themselves at witnessed this split, wondering if it was an ill omen for themselves too. Years passed and feuds between Antumbra and Penumbra grew, as the two sides became more diametrically opposed. The rest of the plane tried to distance itself from the two, attempting to keep the neutrality of the Court’s original mission. Eventually, both the Lady of Dream and the Lord of Nightmare were isolated into their own Dreaming domains.
The Court of Antumbra is an uncannily ideal realm. Everything is continuously tranquil and beautiful. The Court itself tends to shape things around visitor desires, so long as they don’t enact evil or violence. A hazy cloud motif tends to hang over everything, with the glow of a morning sun illuminating seemingly everything in the court grounds. All buildings carry a regal and ancient look to them, similar in style to many olden empires predating the current typical styles of the Prime Material (assumed Medieval / Renaissance). A bountiful spring connects all corners of the domain, seemingly trailing off into some stretch of land. The supreme ruler herself is often found either fretting over conflict with her brother or distracting herself with the countless pleasures of the land. Engaging her is ill-advised, as she’ll try to banish you immediately or try to recruit you for her needs. Beyond the leader, the plane itself has a surprising danger. Its alluring nature has a habit of trapping people, much like the Great Wheel plane of the Blessed Fields of Elysium. However, entrapment in this domain means that the mind is forever severed from their body. Not even force can remove them. The only means around this is pleading to Lady Antumbra.
The darker opposite is of course The Court of Penumbra. This is a realm of untold horrors. The lands of Nightmare are composed of almost every ill thought and fear imaginable. The purpose of this court is to concoct the most horrible things imaginable. From there, any mind unfortunate enough to make contact will be worn down or corrupted. The downfall of dreamers only gives Penumbra more power, plus he already relishes in the pain and madness of others. The land itself also carries a cloud-like aesthetic, but as a raging storm brought through dark clouds as whirlwind gusts sometimes make their way through the bleak wastes. A grim and gothic style is brought to the architecture, furthering the sense of foreboding brought to the domain. And upon a spiked throne sits Penumbra. Encounters with him are far more dangerous than with his sister. He’s liable to turn you into his little torture puppet or outright kill you just from sensing your presence. Likewise, if the plane itself doesn’t kill you, its fell forces could very well corrupt the mind or render it insane.
Antumbra, Princess of Dreams
The powerful primordial archfey of the good dream. Her relaxed and pleasant demeanor proves to be refreshing amidst an otherwise surreal and horrifying domain. However, the massive sylvan being is not without her own dark side. She desires to keep all nice things within her realm, barring them from leaving out into the “dangerous beyond”. Some see this as salvation, others as imprisonment.
But to many, she is not only a protector of good dreams and sleep, but of good health as a whole. For aeons, many traversed the strange lands of dream for her legendary healing talents. Illnesses of body, mind and soul; all of which posed little issue to her. Granted, her neutrality towards material plane politics and faiths caused almost as many to turn away from her, as she had little interest in spurring on conflict. Some travelers simply sought out advice in hopes of living out their greatest dreams. As a master of dreams, she came to understand the aspirations of many sleepers. This has lead to many cults and covenants dedicated to her strange fey power. However, she feared the extra attention might bring the ire and jealousy of her unhinged brother. In an effort to prevent this, she did all she could to protect him and ensure his wellness.
Antumbra’s Lair of Dreams.
This realm is the personal throne of Antumbra. Here, the Princess of Dream ponders how to defend herself against her brother, as well as helping to spread her own message of what the dream should be… in her eyes. While within this domain, Antumbra is even more powerful. Those who trespass without purpose shall know that even the princess herself can enact wrath.
Penumbra, Prince of Nightmares
The fearsome primordial archfey of nightmare. His anger and hatred also carries a mad zeal to it. He wants conquest above all, to transform all of the dream into his eternal dimension of nightmare. He’s a ruthless warlord who takes no greater pleasure than seeing minds crumble before him.
While his own court is overwhelming with madness, it’s far more orderly than anything seen within the dominions. His tyrannical grasp on all he can take is strong, but his own mania acts as a hindering factor. He is obsessed with undermining his sister at every turn. His eventual goal is to recruit her or destroy her, he’s not sure yet.
Penumbra’s Lair of Nightmare.
Once a dimension of dreaming incarnate, now it is the ultimate realm of nightmares. It is here where Penumbra plots to strike next and it is here where all means of unspeakable horror occur. This domain elevates him to near deific status, as it’s a demiplane at the mercy of his cruel sculpting hands. This demiplane is his to mess with, resulting in all sorts of horrifying effects on those who trespass.
Other denizens of The Dream
Countless other creatures float within the vastness of the Dream itself. Some are exemplars of Antumbra’s strange justice, while others are malefactors seeking to spread Penumbra’s gloom. The rest are just wonderful and horrible entities caught in the middle, often with their own agendas. Some theorize that there are indeed other realms of dream, which these drifters hail from.
- Dream Thief
- Mi-Go & Nightgaunt
- Nightmare Entity
- Hound of Tindalos
IMAGE SOURCE: Michael Whelan – Lovecraft’s Nightmare; Murat Turan – Secret Dream; Zdzisław Beksiński – Dog; Wizards of the Coast Staff – Archmage; John R. Dilworth – The Sandman Sleeps; puimun – Queen of Wands; Hungerartist – Vampire Lord