Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Dream Codex of the Oneiromancer

In the crumbling surface ruins of Harrow Home Manor is the statue of a forlorn angel, shielding a heavy stone book behind her folded wings.  After viewing the statue, characters skilled in magic will suffer a visitation from the dreaming angel the next time they sleep.  Flipping to a random page of the book, a fragment of incantation and formula is highlighted to the dreamer in unnatural clarity.  Upon waking, the dreamer can transcribe the magical symbols into a nearby spell book, the fragments representing a small piece of a great master spell, glimpsed only as wisps of dream.

Other magic users have tried to collect all the dream fragments into one whole and recreate the spell.  The lich-like Petrus Magnus, who lost the ability to dream when he crossed into death's kingdom, has created a scriptorium populated with enslaved dreamers to whom he subjects visitations by the dreaming angel.  His human agents purchase rare opiates from the exotic near East in order to keep his thralls in enchanted slumber, scribbling their disparate pieces of the spell if they receive a somnambulant gift from the muse.  Magnus became obsessed with completion of the incantation after a rival, the sorcerer Absalom, solved the formula and escaped to Deimos Oneiroi, the land of dream.  Petrus no longer dreams or sleeps, engendering a homicidal obsession with completing his own version of the dream spell.  He murders rivals who are compiling their own codices, absorbing their fragments into his growing translation.

Players may learn about the lich while encountering members of the thieves' guild, who might be selling kidnapped victims to join the lich's "Scriptorium of Sighs", or smuggling the rare opiates up from the coast that keep the dreamers in their deep slumbers.  Player magic users that begin to keep their own dream journal become targets of the lich if he learns of their efforts; Magnus brooks no competition.

Eventually, a player learns the title of the dream codex, the Oneirocon, and begins to understand the true nature of the dream spell - an incantation to grant the caster's every wish, to reshape the world, to become "the lathe of heaven".

Unfortunately, the dreaming angel is both persistent and insidious.  Once a magical character views the angel, there's a 10% chance each evening of a dream visit where a page fragment is revealed.  The character must make a Save vs Spells upon waking to avoid spending the next day obsessively writing out the dream-glimpsed formulae, representing 1-6% of the completed spell.  Each time a character adds to his dream codex, the completion percent is the chance the character duplicates a previous night's effort - so if a character has 9% of the dream codex transcribed, and they roll 8% , then their dream has duplicated existing pages; anything over 9% adds 1-6% more to the compilation as they see a new page in their dreams.  In this way, the Oneirocon becomes more and more difficult to complete because they have to roll above the current compilation percent.  Other characters within the dungeons of Harrow Home have taken up the quest to complete the  Oneirocon in centuries past, so dream fragments jotted in spell books can be found from time to time as treasure.  The percentage factors can be used to determine if someone else's dream book covers new material or the same transcriptions already possessed by the character.

A Remove Curse spell causes the visits from the dreaming angel to cease, forever.

(Harrow Home Manor is a gothic-themed megadungeon in something akin to the Yorkshire Moors; I was dusting off the notebook where I was keeping the Harrow Home ideas as I start up more creative work, and pulled this one out for sharing).