When we revamped the Nerdarchy Patreon in early 2018, one of the biggest changes we implemented was our Patreon rewards structure. Previously there were individual support levels giving access to more of our monthly rewards. We had Mage Forge, Monster Menagerie, Friend or Foe, Terrible Terrain and Lost Lore rewards. These digital packages included new magic items, monsters, NPCs, encounters and player options like spells, backgrounds, races and subclass options respectively. We took a big step and combined everything into a single product, giving supporters at the $2 level and above early access to our new Fifth Edition products before they get added to Nerdarchy the Store. We launched this new initiative with Empusia, Curator of Souls. And in celebration of International Tabletop Day we put it in the store for free. (It’s still there!) We’ve continued to create full color digital products every month since. And while our design skills have improved since then — both in terms of game design and layout — one of my favorites remains the Lord of Dead Dreams. This was our followup to the free launch title. Since it’s been about a year and a half since creating it I thought it would be fun to look back and see what new ideas come to mind.
Dreams and nightmares in 5E D&D
The idea of a dream world or dreamscape in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons captivates me. I’ve dabbled in dreams here and there in games like the Ingest Quest Spelljammer campaign over on Nerdarchy the YouTube channel, during my D&D in a Castle campaign and in my home games quite a bit. I take a lot of inspiration from the Sandman comic book by Neil Gaiman, and in my campaign setting the Material Plane is the Waking World. Realms like the Feywild are the Dreaming World and its counterpart the Shadowfell is the Nightmare World. Anytime I see the words “dream” or “nightmare” in the context of D&D I take notice, so things like the Dreaming Dark from Eberron capture my attention too.
Out of curiosity I searched for dreams and nightmares through D&D Beyond to see what comes up, and I’m very happy to report there’s 70 results between the two, evenly split with 35 results for dream and 35 for nightmare. There’s some overlap and redundancies for sure, but there’s definitely plenty to draw inspiration from to create your own dream and nightmare scenarios for characters in a 5E D&D campaign. Let’s explore some of these and see how they can expand on the content from our Lord of Dead Dreams book. When we’re done we’ll create some new content for players looking to add a dreamy element to their characters.
- Dream spell. A 5th level illusion that lasts 8 hours. This spell screams Inception to me and I can imagine a party spending time devising a plan for the same sort of dream heist the crew pulls off in that film. This spell would be clutch in adventures involving our Lord of Dead Dreams.
- Dream pastries. Curse of Strahd is one of the best adventures in D&D history, and these mystical mincemeat pies feature in Barovian culture significantly. The first time I ran the adventure, players and characters alike were shocked to find out more about them. The Lord of Dead Dreams is a peddler in narcotic dream essences and these would make a wonderful addition to their offerings.
- Lulu’s Dream Quest. Straight out of Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, this quest involves a night hag and an adventure into a dreamscape with really fun and cool mechanics. Substitute the goals from the published adventure for goals in your own campaign and drop the whole scenario right into your game.
- Into the Gray Dream. Another chunk of content from a published 5E D&D adventure, this time from Out of the Abyss. Like Lulu’s Dream Quest, this chunk of content details an adventure within the mind of another creature. Myconid spores carry adventurers’ astral bodies to the dreaming mind of an enormous fungus occupying a large area of the Underdark.
- Gold dragons. Did you know one of a gold dragon’s Lair Actions is banishing creatures to a dream plane? I just noticed this while poking around DDB for dream stuff. A gold dragon would make a powerful ally against the Lord of Dead Dreams. Perhaps the adventurers must utilize a gold dragon lair to thwart their enemy, and the gold dragon requires their help in return. Extra adventure hooks!
- Creatures who cast dream. Dusk hag, nagpa, couatl, gloom weaver, hashalaq quori, kalaraq quori, Sul Khatesh and Fraz-Urb’luu all have dream on their spell lists. With Challenge Ratings from 4-28 there’s a decent selection of creatures to include in a campaign centered on the Lord of Dead Dreams.
- Kalashtar and Inspired. Eberron: Rising from the Last War brings one of my favorite things about this campaign setting to 5E D&D. Kalashtar are humans bound with quori spirits from the plane of dreams. Inspired allow the quori to possess and work through them. And the Dreaming Dark seek control of reality from the dream dimension. There is a ton of material in this book to drop right into a Lord of Dead Dreams adventure.
- Circle of Dreams. These druids fill the world with dreamy wonder, protect people while they sleep and walk in dreams. Does it get any more thematic? Honorable mention for the Twilight Domain cleric. Both get access to the dream spell and incorporate elements of guardianship over those who sleep.
- Dream nullifier. Beholders are dreamed into existence by other beholders, and in Waterdeep: Dragon Heist this device prevents the Xanathar from accidentally creating another of its kind. There’s not a whole lot to this, but it’s a cool concept and gives you an excuse to include beholders in your Lord of Dead Dreams adventures.
- D&D Ideas — Nightmares. In one of our newsletters, Nerdarchist Ted expands on the Lord of Dead Dreams with a sibling of the titular antagonist. He created a new creature along with adventure hooks and roleplaying tips. You can find that here.
- Warlock Gangsta Up in the Fey Haunt. This is the video from Nerdarchy the YouTube channel where the Lord of Dead Dreams got its start. Nerdarchists Dave and Ted come up with the idea for a fey drug dealer who peddles in nightmares. You can check out the video below.
- Nightmare. A classic D&D monster that doesn’t have any connection to terrifying visions experienced while a creature sleeps. But if you’re going to create adventures with dreamscapes and nightmarescapes, you could do a lot worse than this malevolent fiend. Maybe the heroes even need to ride them into the nightmare world, relying on their Ethereal Stride to get there — and get back. The enemy of my enemy… Of course first they’d have to acquire Infernal Tack. Another adventure!
- Creatures related to nightmares. Yuan-ti nightmare speaker, dusk hag, Lazav, night hag, hashalaq inspired, kalaraq inspired, tsucora inspired, narzugon and tsucora quori are have ties to nightmares whether the creature, a special ability or simply because they are the stuff of it.
- Figurine of Wondrous Power. The obsidian steed figurine of wondrous power transforms into a nightmare. If this is the only way for adventurers to reach the Nightmare World, they’ll have to set out on a quest to find one.
- Dal Quor. Touched on above, the Dreaming Dark is an alliance of nightmare spirits from the plane of Dal Quor, fiends that feed on mortal fear and manipulate through dreams. Stories say they can possess people through dreams and have psychic agents hidden across Khorvaire.
New feat for 5E D&D
If a party of adventurers plans to go up against the Lord of Dead Dreams, they’re going to be fighting on two fronts. While they work to thwart the despicable peddler of narcotic dreams in the Waking World, they’ll need to combat the threat in the Dreaming and Nightmare worlds too. Here is a feat characters can take to bolster their defenses against threats from these sleeping dimensions.
Your consciousness is strengthened whenever you sleep, and you gain the following benefits:
- Increase your Charisma score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
- You have advantage on Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma saving throws while you are asleep, in a trance or whatever process you undergo while resting, or while unconscious.
- When you take psychic damage, you can use your reaction to roll a d12. Add your Charisma modifier to the number rolled, and reduce the damage by that total. After you use this trait, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.