Welcome once again to the weekly Nerdarchy Newsletter. This newsletter was super late. My apologies, fellow Nerdarchists. It’s been a bit tough readjusting to the new Nerdarchy schedule. We’ve front loaded most of what we do here Monday-Wednesday. We’ll do our best to get on track so you fine nerds will know when to expect the newsletter. You can always find these newsletters here on the website every Sunday too. This week’s topic is nightmares.
For my part on nightmares, I’ve decided to create a location inspired by them.
The Sleepless Inn
This is a horror-themed tavern and inn. It is renowned for the spooky ambiance, unique drinks, and macabre entertainment. It’s run by an Umbral elf by the name Nitheil Gloomstar, originally from the Realm of Shadow.
Tall for an elf at 6’1 and exceptionally gaunt. His skin is a dusty grey. In his sharp-featured face is a set of sunken eyes as dark as the abyss. Nitheil’s face perpetually sports a crooked smirk like he knows something you don’t. He’s always dressed as if attending a formal affair. His finery is most often made of black and silver silk, usually with a crimson or azure accent somewhere upon his person. Often you’ll spot his tall top hat above the crowd. No matter how much he works the tavern his appearance is always immaculate.
Nightmare (wine).Dark shapes can be seen swimming through this red wine. These forms and shapes take on the appearance of demons and ghosts.
Night Terror (brandy). When you imbibe this brandy you must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or experience mild hallucinations. These always take the form of spectral monsters. This is in addition to the normal effects of intoxication.
Bad Dream (spirits). Looking into a glass of this liquid reveals your worst dreams. You must succeed on a DC 10 Wisdom saving throw to drink these spirits. No refunds.
Restless Sleep (ale). This ale is known for making you jittery and can keeping you from sleeping. You must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw to shake off its effect, which lasts an hour. Each tankard of ale requires a save. This ale doesn’t alleviate the need for rest. Extended use will cause exhaustion.
Cold Sweats (ale).This drought is aptly named for its effects on you as you imbibe it. You must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw after drinking a tankard of this frothy drink or begin sweating profusely in addition to intoxication.
Many travel to the Sleepless Inn to test their mettle against the drinks available on its unique menu.
Spectral Choir. Every night from dusk to dawn the Spectral Choir appears and begins appearing. Some claim they are real ghosts. Others claim it’s a hoax and merely intricate illusions.
Rolling Bones. The house game of the Sleepless Inn is Rolling Bones. The upper half of a skeleton sits at the table and rolls against those that would play.
Rules — The dealer rolls 5 dice: 2d10 and 3d6. Each player starting to the left of the skeleton then takes a turn rolling.Highest total wins.
The Eyes — A one on each of the d10s. Beats everything but a grin or a skull.
The Grin — A six on each of the d6s. Beats everything but a skull.
The Skull — A one on each of the d10s and a six on each of the d6s. Nothing beats the skull.
Ties with the eyes — Highest tally on the d6s wins.
Ties with a grin — Lowest tally on the d10s wins.
Ties with the skull — The pot goes to the graveyard. Everyone who took part in a double skull round is locked into the next round. Their bets from the last round are forfeit to the graveyard. The graveyard goes to the winner of the next round.
From Ted’s Head
Nightmares are terrible things. You can have all kinds of things that represent this horrible occurrence. But what if a creature was interested in bringing this pain to others for his enjoyment? In a previous Patreon reward, we made Jarease the Lord of Dead Dreams. You can pick up this and other supplements we have made in the store here on the website.
But what if this oni had a sibling that was about bringing on terror? What if he enjoyed using his shapeshifting ability to get into places and use his powers to frighten and terrify individuals that he has come across? Introduce Meloktok. He is an ogre magi with terrible power.
Magic Weapons. Meloktok ’s weapon attacks are magical.
Regeneration. Meloktok regains 10 hit points at the start of his turn if he has at least 1 hit point.
Bonded Weapon. His glaive can be dismissed or called back to his hand as easily as drawing a weapon or dropping it. After all, carrying around a weapon when you are trying to be unobtrusive would give it away.
Multiattack. Meloktok makes two attacks, either with his claws or his glaive.
Claw (Oni Form Only). Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d8 + 4) slashing damage.
Glaive.Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 15 (2d10 +4) slashing damage, or 9 (1d10+4) slashing damage in Small or Medium form.
Change Shape. Meloktok magically polymorphs into a Small or Medium humanoid, into a Large giant, or back into his true form. The only equipment that is transformed is his glaive, which shrinks so that it can be wielded in humanoid form. If Meloktok dies, he reverts to his true form, and his glaive reverts to his normal size.
Meloktok enjoys going to small towns, typically as a small child, claiming to have lost his parents in some raid or a made up story. He brings fear, pain, and torment. He does not rest until people have fled, perished or succumbed to his will and then moves on to find more targets for his cruelty.
He is deceitful and pretty good at it, but he is very good at reading others and scaring them. He prefers to never show his true form — that of the ogre mage with sickly green skin. His hair is long and black but thin and limp lacking the full body that other ogre magi typically has. Being a shapeshifter however, he can look like whoever he wishes.
Using Meloktok in your game can easily be a prolonged story that is drawn out over several sessions. First, the characters could encounter a small, mostly abandoned village. Those remaining have had their minds affected and are terrified of everything, including the characters. They should be malnourished as they might be afraid to eat.
Another encounter could be used to find a more recent victim and able to give more detail as to what is going on. The spell calm emotions can be very useful in dealing with the victims of this oni. Eventually, the players find themselves at a fresh town where Meloktok has just set up shop. When the characters hear of things that sound similar to what has happened before then the investigation can begin. Enjoy!
From the Nerditor’s Desk
One of the most delicious ways to mess with D&D characters! Say what you will about fantasy physics and suspension of disbelief when it comes to Dungeons & Dragons, but the waking world generally at least has some consistency and continuity.
When the party goes to rest for the night, that’s when a whole other world comes out to play and a Dungeon Master can have a lot of fun — and create opportunities for character growth and development as well as pathways to adventure.
Look at how dramatic and ominous Fjord’s dreams are in Critical Role Campaign 2. His warlock Otherworldly Patron invades Fjord’s sleep on the reg, pushing the character in different directions as Travis plays his character as a person wildly unsure about his situation. (Or is he? I suspect Fjord keeps many secrets…) Matt makes masterful use of nightmares to propel Fjord’s character development. And like a real nightmare, part of what makes these sequences frightening is their unknowable nature. If it’s just a bad dream, how are they affecting Fjord in the waking world?!
Another example, straight from the source, is the night hag. Their Nightmare Haunting ability is some pretty scary stuff. While a creature is sleeping, a night hag can touch them and cause dreadful visions that prevent rest and reduce their maximum hit points. And it does this FROM THE ETHEREAL PLANE! Talk about the kind of villain with a built-in slow burn. Night hags are degenerate fiends and this torturous process can bring about a character’s death without a single die roll. There are ways to prevent this, and many adventures could result from a party first trying to figure out what is going on and then do something about it. As a bonus, a night hag causes the death of an evil humanoid with their Nightmare Haunting, their soul gets snatched up and put into the hag’s Soul Bag. If you really want to make nightmares a prominent feature in your campaign, a night hag is a perfect fit for a truly despicable villain.
But monsters and otherworldly entities aren’t the only sources of nightmares in D&D — players can dabble in dreamscaping themselves with the 5th level Illusion spell dream. One of the uses for this spell is causing a nightmare much like the night hag that prevents rest and causes psychic damage. Just watch out for Tommy Ray. Or maybe your character is inspired by Dennis Quaid’s nemesis from the classic classic 1984 film! I suddenly find myself wanting to play a fiend pact warlock with a night hag patron…
Like a lot of the D&D ideas we discuss in these newsletters, nightmares (and dreams) are excellent tools to keep in your DM kit. Nightmares can portend what lies ahead, offer insights and clues, aid in character development, introduce plots and villains and so much more.
You could guide characters through entire adventures in the dreaming world — and they might not even know it! The film Inception would be a great place to start for a thought heist adventure. If you do, I suggest giving characters a chance to manifest things in or engage with the Dreaming World by making Charisma checks and saving throws.