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I have started working on a world that is set in a dream realm. I am using it to create one-off gaming sessions that I can do in a single day and pull in any characters that are currently being used. It will have an overriding storyline and ties into the world that the DM has created but is not dependent on it.

I am looking for any materials that are set in a dream world. So far my list is starting with the Sandman graphic novels. Does anyone have any other suggestions.

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Hi, Amy. You might find some of the advice given as answers to this question helpful. rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/3203/… –  Jadasc Apr 5 '11 at 15:30
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7 Answers

Amy, try Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures In Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. It's a classic Victorian nightmarish dreamworld, simultaneously comic and horrific. The sense of powerlessness is particularly strong.

Also, H.P. Lovecraft's Dream stories, such as The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. This time, it's simultaneously beautiful and horrific. The descriptions, in particular, are lingering and easy to steal for your game.

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Oh, the Dream-Quest. Yes. –  SevenSidedDie Apr 5 '11 at 19:12
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Sweet Dreams an indie RPG is based around this concept of a dream world. It's one of my favourite RPGs, so it's worth looking into how it's already been done in game format.

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The main two that come to mind that have RPG implementations are H.P. Lovecraft's Dreamlands, for which Call of Cthulhu has various editions of a Dreamlands supplement, and Don't Rest Your Head, which is somewhat like Dark City. There's an old RPG called Morpheus that is set in dream.

If you just want source material, then depending on tone you want there's a near infinite amount of inspiration from the Matrix to the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. Or more recently, Inception... Or Nightmare on Elm Street. Any kind of virtual world/multilayered reality thing can be repurposed for dream.

In a five year AD&D 2e campaign I ran, I did this and had the players visit a Lovecraft/Dunsany inspired Dreamlands from time to time. It was quite successful.

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I have had the feeling since this question was asked that an Inception style campaign would work well. If you are looking for one off session kind of things, what better than inserting yourself into a dream to achieve a specific quest(inception, extraction or some other stated goal). You have until the dream breaks down (coincidentally approximately the time allotted for the session). If you character dies he returns to the real world or limbo. Characters in Limbo face certain challenges, or perhaps accrue madness points or something. –  wax eagle Apr 6 '11 at 12:52
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Good answers given already. The indie game Lacuna may also be worth a look. It's not explicitly and unambiguously about dreams, but certainly has that atmosphere.

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I'm also in the process of making a dreamworld (horror) RPG system and campaign, so here's a list of a few more things that haven't been mentioned so far:

  • Lucidity is a game about dreaming. In the world of Lucidity, for reasons unknown, what people dreamed started to become real. But, for the most part, people didn’t realize that it was happening. The characters are lucid dreamers in a world made out of dreams. I quite like this because it introduces the concept of dream lucidity, i.e. whether someone has free will or is part of the dream's narrative.
  • House of Leaves is a horror novel; it contains a lot of things that I'd consider appropriate for a dreamscape. Note particularly the pliability of the environment: how small details change subtly but not abruptly when the characters aren't looking. Also note how things that we normally don't take notice in the waking world become the focus of attention.
  • Nightmares of Mine is a GM-advice book for running horror campaigns. It considers "dreamworlds" as a type of campaign and tailors some of its advice to the strengths and constraints of the dreaming.
  • Waking Life is a rotoscoped film that takes place inside a series of dreams. It's particularly interesting not for its philosophical content but for how well it captures the pacing of dreams and the quality of looseness in how events in dreams and the dreams themselves connect with each other.
  • Jorge Luis Borges was a great writer, essayist and poet; dreams were one of his recurring themes.

In conclusion, allow me to post a small excerpt from Nightmares of Mine:

Dreamworlds needn't shift capriciously, of course. Either the GM or her source material can lay down the "laws of dream" or simply state that the archetypal subconscious doesn't shift much. H.P. Lovecraft's Dreamlands, for instance, don't alter radically, and it is the quality of the imagery and the picaresque elements of the narrative that give them their dreamlike feeling.

The horror GM running a lot of adventures in dreamworlds will have to walk a fine line between conveying the uncanny and surreal atmosphere of a dream while giving the characters enough to "hold on to" that they can advance the action at all. Players, as well, need to be given some reason to involve themselves in an environment that, almost by definition, doesn't play fair or make a lot of sense.

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OK - some of these I have listed more because they play about with the kind of themes you might want to look at in a dream based campaign, so forgive me if they appear slightly tangential.

RPG related resources:

  • Changeling: the Dreaming sourcebooks - this game focuses heavily on dream realms and may contain useful pointers (may also apply to Changeling: The Lost, but I have no experience of that)
  • Little Fears: a game based around childhood terrors that may also provide some inspiration

Novels:

  • Ubik by Philip K. Dick
  • Eye in the Sky by Philip K. Dick
  • The Marianne Trilogy by Sherri S. Tepper
    • Marianne, the Magus, and the Manticore
    • Marianne, the Madame, and the Momentary Gods
    • Marianne, the Matchbox, and the Malachite Mouse
  • Waking Dream by Rhiannon Lassiter
  • Someplace to be Flying by Charles de Lint (unusual in that it deals with native American dream mythology)
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  • Weaveworld by Clive Barker
  • The Land of Laughs by Jonathan Carroll

Short Story:

  • Overdrawn at the Memory Bank by John Varley (not exactly a dream, but a self-created reality, do not confuse this with the execrable film)

Films:

  • Labyrinth
  • Mirrormask
  • Stardust
  • Pretty much any Alice in Wonderland film
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Might I suggest an addition of "Neverwhere" by Neil Gaiman? I'd say that some of the things in the novel fit rather nicely with this theme. –  Cthos Apr 26 '11 at 22:53
    
Yes, an excellent suggestion. –  Christi Apr 29 '11 at 12:30
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True20 has a campaign setting that takes place in the 'unstable world of dreams' - Nevermore.

http://true20.wikidot.com/nevermore

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