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Reading the stories of H. P. Lovecraft always felt like glimpsing a dark realm in which mankind is insignificant. The greater powers (mythos creatures) at work are so powerful and alien to us that the investigators regularly try to flee and connect the dots afterwards in the "crime scenes".

Now I tried with some friends to play a short one shot in the dreamlands.

The reaction was kind of devastating for me. They liked it, kind of a lot, but they never had the real fear for their "sleeping" investigators at any time. Thus, I find it hard to combine the fantasy-esque dreamlands with the mind-numbing horrors of reality.

Any pointers for how to change the roleplaying theme, to achieve that oh so loved thrill-to-investigate-but-let's-come-back-later-when-those-unnerving-scratching-sounds-disappear?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe be more specific here? You want them to be scared for their dream self, or their real self while they're dreaming? Why does SAN loss etc. as usual not pose a threat? \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Jun 29 '16 at 3:43
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Yes, they are compatible.

In terms of system compatibility, Chaosium publishes Dreamlands as a full setting/splat book. I haven't tried (or even read) that specifically, but have read and successfully run Chaosium's abbreviated rules from Horror On The Orient Express. It works fine.

In terms of thematic compatibility, you're in control. If you run a game based on Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath, that's not going to have a lot of horror in it. But either of the dream sequences from Horror On The Orient Express are fine examples of standard Cthulhu horror, and are right in one of Chaosium's flagship products.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1, having read the dreamlands book, I can confirm its a good adaptation of the dreamlands novels to the rpg setting. And possibly one of the best CoC books for inspiration to make your campaigns even weirder. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Oct 24 '18 at 11:53
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If you are going by the stories, there are a number of risks:

There is a chance that when you wake up, you will forget the experiences you had from the evening sleep. You might want to introduce some method or artifact or spell that lessens the chance of losing what you have learned.

Another, as presented in The White Ship, is that the characters die in the Dream Land and they can no longer use the 'normal' way of dreaming themselves in. Their only recourse is to physically enter (or somehow 'reset' themselves like Randolph Carter).

There are some creatures that can physically enter and exit the Dreamlands, such as ghouls. We don't know about other creatures though. An enemy that exits the Dreamlands someplace near the sleeping investigators could do something horrible (like they wake up in his mad torture dungeon).

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