I’ve been dwelling on dreams these last few days (as opposed to dwelling in dreams, which is another tale to tell). The height of summer always places me in a melancholy frame of mind as I begin to long for the crisp nights, fading hues, and misted-haunted days of autumn. Such melancholies naturally attract thoughts of the ephemeral nature of our nightly sojourns. Or perhaps it’s solely that I’ve not gotten enough sleep this past week.
In some respects, this most recent of my mental bugaboos is unwelcome. As the gleaming light that is the Stonehell compilation’s end of the tunnel begins to grow, I was looking forward to respite from working on the creativity loom and at the Keyboard That Knows No Mercy. But Calliope is a wanton and I have difficulty saying “No” to a beautiful woman. (I’m assuming it is Calliope. The ancient Greeks didn’t have a specific Muse for role-playing games as far as I’m aware.)
I am not a gifted sleeping dreamer, although I do well as an awake one. I bear a great jealousy of those who dream deeply and have the talent for retrieving artifacts from their nocturnal journeys and bringing them back to the waking world. Like a great many people, all I manage to return with are gossamer fragments that quickly dissolve under the rays of the sun. What few relics I do manage to salvage from beyond the walls of sleep I treasure greatly. The opportunity to revel in dreams (even carefully crafted artificial ones) at the gaming table holds great appeal to me.
The idea that I’m turning over in my head bears little resemblance to the ones that have been keeping my company over the last year and a half. It has little in the way of dismal dungeon corridors, vicious traps, and animated decorations dooming adventurers to grisly demises. It draws from a much purer well of creative waters that burble up from assorted mental catch basins. The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, Leiber’s Lankhmar, King’s The Dark Tower, the sword and planet genre, and the desire to play with scores of random tables and fiddly bits have all leaked into that well. I want to use the B/X rule set as the bucket from which to draw from that cistern, seeing what leaks out and what remains once I pull it up.
Like many of my ideas, I’m uncertain if this one will grow to stand on legs of its own or die a crib death. Fittingly, the germ of this concept came to me in the night hours, but I’ve found that a great many grand schemes birthed during that time seem to lose their luster once the sun rises. I intend to husband this idea and protect it as best I can at first, waiting to see if it can stand the blast of the reality winds. If it begins to germinate, I may show little glimpses of it here once I deem them suitable. In all honesty, however, this is a vanity project – one that touches more on what I find interesting than what I think other might enjoy. I’ll understand if it’s not to everyone’s liking – a possible sober reality that could also impact getting people to join me as players in my little oasis of dreams.
As a beginning point, I’ve been thumbing through my copy of H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands. While there is not a lot in that book that I predict will ultimately be suitable from my little side project, there is very little else in my personal role-playing collection that could serve as creative fodder. I predict much of what is to come is going to be liberated from less game-centric sources or fashioned from my own not-quite-lucid dreams. I’m lacking a definitive name for the project at the moment (hardly surprising for me) so, for lack of better term, I’ll refer to it as “Insomnity.” Future posts regarding this project, should it begin to bloom, will bear that tag.
Although I could maintain that my primary motivation in spinning this idea on my creative potter’s wheel is to fabricate my own distinct contribution to the hobby in general and the OSR in specific, one that supports the argument that role-playing games can be much more than indulgent displays of wanton violence and the looting of the dead, this would not be the whole truth. Part of me really just wants to explore a world where an octopus could make a living as a bazaar merchant or a place where mystic-minded yetis are the central cabal behind a mummy smuggling ring. Encounter Critical comes close to the place I seek, but we diverge at certain places along the path. My trail wanders through some much darker thickets. You’re free to take my hand and come along on that walk, if you’re so inclined.
Until next, pleasant dreams.