The Dreamlands

Map of the Dreamlands, by Jason Thompson

This morning, I spent some time browsing the first issue of Ben Laurence's zine Through Ultan's Door. Naturally, it is fantastic. Ben is a talented writer, with a delectably vivid imagination. I always love his stuff.

You can purchase copies of the zine (print and/or PDF) here.

Reading Ben's description of the entrance to Zyan (the city that floats above the Dreamlands) that appeared unbidden beneath the stairs of a printmaker, I found myself catapulted back into the fantastic realm of dreams. Like Ben, the Dreamlands are a campaign setting (genre?) that has long captivated my imagination, and that I have also spent time exploring in games.

This brought my mind back to some material that I was writing for what was intended to be the second issue of my (thus far) one-shot zine Wizardzine. (Issue 1 available here.) The theme of the second issue was to be the magic of dreams, including guidelines to planar travel in the Dreamlands. (Ben and I even discussed collaborating on the material.)

I have lots of half-finished projects, but this Dreamlands material is one of the projects that I most yearn to complete and publish. Maybe once my work on the Dolmenwood Campaign Book is over, I'll have time to return to it.

For now, though, I thought it'd be fun to share a couple of extracts.

The Levels of Dream

Those who concern themselves with the study and classification of the world of dreams delineate several levels or realms to which a dreamer may gain access. These intersect variously with the dreamer's own psyche, with the real world, and with an independent reality known as the Dreamlands. The most commonly discussed levels are as follows:

  1. The hyperreal realm: Only accessible by powerful magic, dreams within the hyperreal realm have the power to change the real world.
  2. The hypnagogic realm: Existing at an intersection between the mind of the dreamer and the astral plane, dreams in the hypnagogic realm begin to overlap with reality. Prescient dreams and dream scrying are possible from this realm.
  3. The upper levels of dream: Where everyday dreams and nightmares take place. This realm is tied to the psyche of the individual dreamer and has no overlap with other worlds.
  4. The deeper levels of dream: Wherein the subconscious depths of the psyche become manifest and may be explored.
  5. The Dreamlands: An independent plane of existence which can be entered by magical means. Some mortals also have the natural ability to enter the Dreamlands via special gateways discovered in dreams.

Some Spells of Dream


Level: 2nd
Duration: 1 turn per level
Range: Sight
Schools: Charms, Dreams

Cast upon a sleeping subject, this spell allows the magic-user to insinuate his will into the subject's dreams and exercise control of their body. If a save versus spells is failed, the subject is caused to rise and walk under the caster's control. Two means of command are possible:
  1. Direct marionette-like control, as long as the subject remains within view. This requires concentration on the part of the caster.
  2. A series of instructions to be carried out. Once given, the instructions are followed mindlessly. A somnambulist has no capacity for independent decision making.
Initially, the caster's control of the subject is limited to direction to walk a certain route or to a specific location, but as the caster advances in level, more complex commands are possible:
  • From 5th level, the subject may be instructed to manipulate large objects such as opening doors, moving furniture, or carrying a pack.
  • From 7th level, the control extends to the manipulation of fine objects, including writing. The subject may also be caused to speak.
  • From 10th level, the subject may be commanded to fight, attacking using the caster's to-hit probability.
While under the spell's effect, the subject moves in a sluggish, drowsy manner -- it is usually clear to onlookers that the subject is sleepwalking. Loud noises do not awaken the subject, but a physical shock such as being slapped or shaken does.

When the spell expires, the subject lies down and continues sleeping, wherever he or she may be. No memory of the somnambulistic activities remains, but a vague feeling of having dreamed of a malevolent presence pervades. One time in ten, the subject has a clear memory of the controlling magic-user's face.

Note that the spell's range includes subjects who are viewed by magical means such as scrying.

Hyperreal Awakening

Level: 5th
Duration: Instant
Range: Self
Schools: Dimensions, Dreams, Translocation

Among those who study the lore and metaphysics of dreams, it is well known that the real world (indeed, the whole multiverse) is but another level of dream, and that it is possible to awake from this dream into another world, about which nothing is known. This infamous spell provides the means of awakening. One who casts it vanishes immediately and permanently from reality, waking up in a dimension whose nature cannot be speculated. If a player character casts this spell, the referee may choose to play out the character’s adventures in this other reality, which may be radically different in nature to that of the world in which the character originates.

The awakening into higher reality which this spell brings about is absolutely permanent -- not even wish has any power to reverse it. Legends speak of one arch-mage who, by means of intervention by the god of dreams, returned from the higher reality; his mind was void and utterly insane.


  1. Cool. I have three supplements and one Dragon issue that have some element of dream travel and I like almost none of it. I got so frustrated that I ended up writing off travel into dreams and replacing it with illusionists that use elements of dream instead of shadow (so Dream Magic and Dream Monsters instead of Shadow Magic and Shadow Monsters).

    Now it looks like I will be able to use both ideas when Wizardine 2 come out.

    1. We'll see what comes of it. And when ;) But I think dream magic has a lot of very fun potential!