Inner Universe: Characters and Dreamscapes

During yesterday’s riff on dreams, I mentioned the idea of a character’s dreamscape—a semi-constant world created by the typical dream-patterns of a single character. It’s one part alternate world, one part character exercise, and plenty of fun in its own right.

The first thing to consider is the dreamscape terrain; what’s a world if there’s nothing to stand on? For some dreamers, the terrain is a reflection of their history; you might see landmarks from their youth or places they might want to visit, and the landscape itself might resemble one they’re used to. Others can be based on personality; a character with a generally standoffish personality and a lot of emotional control may have a downright wintry dreamscape, while one who grew up on stories may have something downright fanciful.

Then there’s the question of what populates it. Sure, you can have normal people and creatures, but why stop there? The limit is in what the dreamer can imagine—do bits and pieces of the dreamer’s personality run around wearing her shape? Are there large numbers of creatures that seem as much like scenery as anything, like faceless ghosts or flocks of butterflies with leaves for wings? Some dreamscapes have their own guardians. These might be people or mythical creatures; they might draw from people the dreamer admires or fears, from legends, from the dreamer’s ideal self, from combinations of the above.

In some dreamscapes, even the laws of physics might vary with the dreamer’s personality. Imagine one where there is no gravity, or gravity is variable depending on where you are. What about a place where people’s physical abilities don’t matter, and it’s mental flexibility and force of personality that help you in a fight, because that’s what the dreamer values? Does it take a longer or shorter time to get from point A to point B? Might people be replaced by their shadows? Does conversation come out as music? In a sufficiently trippy dreamworld, who knows what might be possible? For a lesser version, people with more rigid minds might have harder dreamscapes to shape, and the more compassionate may have more habitable dreamscapes.

I had occasion to play with instant dreamscape creation last week, when my players were trying to learn how to function in my take on the dreamworld. I needed someone to let them practice in the mind of in a quick montage, and the logical choice seemed to be my hyper deathdealer, Ruby.

Somehow, the training ends up being in her mind. It seemed like a good idea at the time, since she was known not to have any Dark Secrets, Confidential Information or particularly disturbing bits of history that might crop up in there. On the other hand, attempting to practice fighting when surrounded by small fluffy things with melting eyes and six-inch fangs and occasionally in the distance seeing an enormous flaming squid frolicking in a tranquil sea, not to mention the almost blindingly bright color scheme, the perpetual clouds of butterflies, and the near-diabetic sweetness of a lot of it, was a bit… jarring.

Says a certain amount about Ruby herself, doesn’t it? That’s half the fun of a dreamscape; along with being an excuse to describe wonders that wouldn’t occur in the waking world, you can also sneak a little character exposition into your design. Have you given it a shot?


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  1. Dream Exposition | Exchange of Realities
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