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Author Topic: Dreams and Visions  (Read 454 times)

rytrasmi

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Dreams and Visions
« on: January 24, 2023, 01:04:09 PM »
Do you use dreams or visions in your campaign? I don't mean only specific spells, but situational things like when the pre-written adventure says "Whoever sleeps in the magma filled haunted tomb of total soul annihilation will have nightmares" or when a character eats some bad rations or when you just think it might be a fun idea.

On the one hand, they could be a useful tool for the referee to directly channel information to the players. The PCs camp in a labyrinth and one of them dreams of a minotaur. Or a cleric is visited by his deity's messenger with important information. It could be unsettling. It could be a clue. It could inform their strategy. At the very least, it could help set the mood. I have used dreams/visions like this in the past.

On the other hand, a dream or vision is a purely narrative tool. Perhaps players don't like listening to the referee drone on and on about some crazy imagery. Perhaps keeping it short is good.

On the third hand, perhaps a dream or vision could allow for interaction or even full autonomy, like a lucid dream. I have tried this once in recent memory. One "lucky" character had a brief vision during a near death experience and was asked to make a choice (in terms of the metaphor of the vision) by the ominous figures in the vision. The player chose, but the choice ended up not mattering because the things went a totally different direction. So, unfortunately, the feedback loop was never completed and we never found out if the vision amounted to anything.

What do you think? I'd be interested in hearing your opinion or hearing about your experiences as player or referee/GM. Did a dream or vision work well or not? Did it have a lasting effect on the campaign or was it quickly forgotten?
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Jam The MF

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Re: Dreams and Visions
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2023, 01:27:49 PM »
I prefer the use of dreams, to either foreshadow future events; or else to provide some glimpse of past events, to the PCs.  I prefer to say dreams, rather than visions; because dreams are spontaneous random events, whereas saying they have visions may cause the PCs to believe that they possess the gift of foresight.  I don't want to grant the PCs some new power, too quickly.
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Steven Mitchell

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Re: Dreams and Visions
« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2023, 01:31:07 PM »
Rarely.  It's the kind of thing that has the most punch when used sparingly.  An exception might be a campaign built around visions as a main conceit, that was part of the pitch when it started.

jeff37923

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Re: Dreams and Visions
« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2023, 02:14:41 PM »
Yes, in all of my games and not just those with magic or psionics in them. Using a dream to pass on a hint of information that players or player characters may have accidentally missed. It keeps them guessing.

The only problem being that too many players are so terrified of something taking advantage of them while asleep - that they don't let their characters sleep.
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Zachary The First

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Re: Dreams and Visions
« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2023, 03:10:05 PM »
Rarely.  It's the kind of thing that has the most punch when used sparingly.  An exception might be a campaign built around visions as a main conceit, that was part of the pitch when it started.

We ran a RQ6 game where there were certain visions given to each character at the start of the campaign, but we varied them based on their religious affiliation and nation. The players were pretty paranoid, so it really set up for one of them to get a very different view from the rest of the party about this quest they were on (to recover the shield, armor, and sword of a legendary hero). He ended up interpreting the dreams as saying the relics were dangerous (they were, but not in the way he construed it), and it ended up with some wild conflict—with this fellow, a true believer, really trying to stand in their way and stop the last relic from being united.
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Ratman_tf

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Re: Dreams and Visions
« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2023, 03:16:41 PM »
Rarely.  It's the kind of thing that has the most punch when used sparingly.  An exception might be a campaign built around visions as a main conceit, that was part of the pitch when it started.

I had an idear of a dungeon that told it's history through visions that appeared at key points. Like ghost images of what happened in the past. Never got a chance to use the idea yet.
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Fheredin

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Re: Dreams and Visions
« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2023, 09:03:45 PM »
Oh, absolutely.

Dreams are the harder of the two, but by and large the players should know in metagame that they are in a dream even if their player character doesn't, and there should be several surealisms which reinforce the idea that this is a dream and not real life. Ideally, the dream should also reflect the character's backstory and the player's intended future for the character; consult a book on dream interpretation for ideas for images. For example, traffic on a highway can be a good metaphorical image for peer pressure in a character's backstory or that the character disagrees with the other PCs and needs to speak up.

Visions are a bit more interesting, especially if you're going more sci-fi.

I actually have a psionic rule in my homebrew system based on Full Metal Alchemist's Equivalent Exchange; there's no psychic ability which acts as a one-way street. If you gain something, you also lose something. In practice this means that if you get into a psychic connection with an enemy, the GM gives the PCs a clue and the antagonist learns something from the PCs.

But I suppose you're after Remote Viewing, which is a pretty common psychic ability. You might be able to eavesdrop on NPCs who have no clue about psychic abilities, but even then people will sense something is wrong. Spying on someone who knows about remote viewing? Forget it. They will immediately get a clear and almost painful sense that they're being watched and can make a fair guess about what's going on, and someone with psychic abilities who happens to be close to what you're looking at will have their psychic circuit resonate with the viewer; they will literally see what you are looking at like a spotlight shining through walls.

Inspired by the eye of Sauron? Yes. But most people undersell vivid descriptions, especially when it comes to psychological effects.

Opaopajr

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Re: Dreams and Visions
« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2023, 07:02:54 AM »
Depends on the RPG type and Campaign type. For example, Changeling the Dreaming (or Lost) would be an rpg type choc-a-bloc with dreams and visions. Similarly a campaign type like CoC dealing with the Dreamlands, or some other campaign where the antagonist/event is dream and portent heavy, would pull in a similar direction.

As for best practices?... a little goes a long way. Part of that is the nature of how players have autonomy. Further, if your campaign structure is more sandbox, less mission-based, there can be more confusion of player expectations than perceiving it as a play opportunity. It really depends, though it is a fun element to try out at tables. Doesn't always go as planned, but the atmosphere it projects can be worth it.
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ForgottenF

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Re: Dreams and Visions
« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2023, 09:35:04 AM »
I think it's something most DMs use eventually. Particularly I've noticed that it's almost the standard way warlock patrons communicate in 5e. Nothing wrong with it; I mean, its a literary and mythological trope for a reason, but personally I try to stay away from dreams and visions, at least as a means of conveying important information.

Mostly this is because I think players are always going to read it as the DM just handing them important information for free. Realistically, that's something DMs do all the time, by a whole host of different means, but I find the delivery method makes a big difference. I think it's because you can do anything in a dream without it having to be very logical, but for whatever, reason dreams are more likely to be read by players as a meta-statement by the DM: the equivalent of saying "you need to know this for the story, so I'm just telling you". I try to avoid that where I can.

The other reason I don't like it is based on a problem which has cropped up repeatedly in one of campaigns I play in. The DM in that campaign pretty frequently gives players very thorough, detailed dreams/visions that include plot-critical information (this is a "save the world" type campaign), and then the players have a hard time re-conveying those details to the other players. That leads to a lot of confusion and people having to go back to re-check their notes to figure out how to progress the quest.

Short version: I think dreams etc. are fine, even good, for flavor (i.e., you have "horrible nightmares after touching the eye of so-and-so"), or for information that you specifically want only one player to receive, but inadvisable if you want to use them to get information to the party at large.

BoxCrayonTales

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Re: Dreams and Visions
« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2023, 09:42:57 AM »
Depends on the RPG type and Campaign type. For example, Changeling the Dreaming (or Lost) would be an rpg type choc-a-bloc with dreams and visions. Similarly a campaign type like CoC dealing with the Dreamlands, or some other campaign where the antagonist/event is dream and portent heavy, would pull in a similar direction.

As for best practices?... a little goes a long way. Part of that is the nature of how players have autonomy. Further, if your campaign structure is more sandbox, less mission-based, there can be more confusion of player expectations than perceiving it as a play opportunity. It really depends, though it is a fun element to try out at tables. Doesn't always go as planned, but the atmosphere it projects can be worth it.
There's a big difference between traveling the dream world and using signs and portents. I don't think these two things are comparable.

Signs and portents are basically divination, but the mythic/folkloric divination where key details are missing. Myths use signs and portents in ways that either make someone look clever by exploiting loopholes (e.g. Eowyn slaying the Witch-King, that Vedic story where an immortal guy was killed in a nexus of liminal spaces) or emphasize inevitable tragedy (e.g. every time someone tries to avert a prophecy only to cause it to happen by doing exactly that). In rpgs, divinations are generally far more concrete and part of this is because, barring railroading, the outcomes of adventures aren't fixed like they are in conventional stories. You can't exploit or fulfill a prophecy if your actions are equally likely to falsify it by accident. The best the GM can do is just drop info that the PCs wouldn't otherwise be able to learn in order to keep the adventures from stalling.

rytrasmi

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Re: Dreams and Visions
« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2023, 10:52:44 AM »
Interesting replies! Thank you.

Yeah, I agree dreams/visions should be used sparingly to have full effect. Except is that's the core of the adventure. A dream/vision-based adventure is a cool idea. There would have to be dream/vision specific rules to keep it a game.

I had an idear of a dungeon that told it's history through visions that appeared at key points. Like ghost images of what happened in the past. Never got a chance to use the idea yet.
This is a neat idea! It achieves the same thing as having artworks, books, unique fixtures, etc. in a dungeon for the PCs to learn about the history, but it's a totally different mechanism. Sure it's delivered straight to the player, but you could require some effort or choice, such as visiting key locations or taking certain actions. Mechanically it could be no different from examining a scene depicted on a tapestry, but it could really set the mood.

Anyway, your replies have helped me cook up a lucid dream for one of my players next session. The PC will "wake up" and it will be obvious it's a dream. He will hear/see something to investigate and will encounter a figure who speaks a riddle, the answer to which will be a clue to the understanding recent events. Mechanically, it's the same thing as finding an inscription or whatever. A two-minute dream just to unnerve the players as a reward for sleeping in this dungeon.
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Opaopajr

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Re: Dreams and Visions
« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2023, 06:14:29 AM »
The Seventh Sign rpg, with strong Christian theming, is based on Angelic Visions so screwing up the PCs' lives that they find themselves as "Spiritual Delta Green Prepper Hobos" against demonic forces in society. So sessions usually start with your PCs recovering from 'psychotic break' level visions and being compelled to gather at some mystery spot and do detective work about what evil they must stop this time.  ;) A rather traumatizing in media res mission brief, but I thought it was hilariously creative and possible for a good time.

It also has one of the most entertaining reasons for God, nor the angels, getting involved directly -- "If the Fallen so believe that humans are not worthy, what better vessel of chastisement against them?"  ;D Hence LSD+ spiritual visions to guide humanity.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2023, 06:16:20 AM by Opaopajr »
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Reckall

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Re: Dreams and Visions
« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2023, 06:22:40 AM »
I never used dreams or visions in my RPG games. Having said that, Call of Cthulhu has them in the very tale that gives his name to the game - and of course there are the Dreamlands.
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hedgehobbit

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Re: Dreams and Visions
« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2023, 09:40:50 AM »
Do you use dreams or visions in your campaign?

While I haven't used dreams much as a foreshadowing mechanism, I have used dreams as a sort of separate adventure location with the party entering the dream of a woman trapped in a dreamscape. I mainly did this to create an adventure that was in a completely different setting than the one the party was normally used to. For example, the first adventure had the party shrunk down to 3 inches tall and having to deal with natural creatures (like bugs and rats) that were suddenly a huge threat.

As the players experienced more dream environments, they would increase their DreamWalking skill which would allow them to break the dream reality (more 1984's DreamScape than Inception).

Ratman_tf

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Re: Dreams and Visions
« Reply #14 on: January 26, 2023, 10:16:59 AM »
Interesting replies! Thank you.

Yeah, I agree dreams/visions should be used sparingly to have full effect. Except is that's the core of the adventure. A dream/vision-based adventure is a cool idea. There would have to be dream/vision specific rules to keep it a game.

I had an idear of a dungeon that told it's history through visions that appeared at key points. Like ghost images of what happened in the past. Never got a chance to use the idea yet.
This is a neat idea! It achieves the same thing as having artworks, books, unique fixtures, etc. in a dungeon for the PCs to learn about the history, but it's a totally different mechanism. Sure it's delivered straight to the player, but you could require some effort or choice, such as visiting key locations or taking certain actions. Mechanically it could be no different from examining a scene depicted on a tapestry, but it could really set the mood.

Anyway, your replies have helped me cook up a lucid dream for one of my players next session. The PC will "wake up" and it will be obvious it's a dream. He will hear/see something to investigate and will encounter a figure who speaks a riddle, the answer to which will be a clue to the understanding recent events. Mechanically, it's the same thing as finding an inscription or whatever. A two-minute dream just to unnerve the players as a reward for sleeping in this dungeon.

Oooh. A dungeon that causes disturbing dreams in those who choose to rest there. >:D
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