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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Last-Minute GM: Random Dreams

Over on the Dungeons and Digressions blog, there's a post about communications from a deity. Specifically, about communication through dreams, and how difficult it is to use them in a role-playing game. When do you use them? Since in general, GMs don't mention "your character had a dream last night," any such mention is bound to be interpreted as important; if it isn't interpreted as some kind of divine communication, it will be interpreted as a psychic attack, a prophetic vision, or who knows what. If on the other hand the GM tries to mix it up, the problem becomes "how often do the characters dream, and how often are dreams truly important?"

My answer, as you could probably guess, is to make it all random, including dream content, and decide on importance later.

My first and I think best instinct is just to have a 1 in 6 chance to remember a dream after every sleep period during an adventure. I believe the way I would handle it is: call for all players of sleeping characters to roll a d6 when the PCs wake up. Roll a d6; any player who rolls a match had a dream. For each, roll 2d20 on the six-attribute dice map; the location of the low roll indicates a general setting of the dream, while the location of the high roll indicates the general action of the dream:
  • Strength: locations and actions associated with fighters, like battlefields and duels
  • Dexterity: locations and actions associated with thieves, like alleyways and hiding or climbing
  • Intelligence: locations and actions associated with magic-users, like libraries and rituals
  • Wisdom: locations and actions associated with clerics, like temples and chanting, prayer, or sacrifice
  • Constitution: locations and actions associated with bodily needs (inns and taverns, outhouses)
  • Charisma: locations and actions associated with social behavior (courts, parties, festivals)
Look up the d20 rolls on the d20 Quickie Tables to find the elements of the dream. Interpret dice that land in physical attributes (Str/Dex/Con) as objects or animals/monsters, dice that land in mental attributes (Int/Wis/Cha) as descriptors or modifiers. Dice that land in the hub are interpreted as geographic locations or events. Weave all these results into vague recollections of a dream.

If players say they try to remember more of the dream, it takes 1 turn of mulling it over. Roll a number of d20s equal to Int/6 on the dicemap to add more information from the dream. This can only be done once. If a player attempts to use magic in a clever way to recall even more details, roll 1d20 per spell level on the table. Other methods to forcibly remember more details have to be judged on a case-by-case basis.

If any dream element matches something in the current adventure or dungeon, the GM rolls a d6: on a 1, the dream is relevant and not just fantasy. If a player comes up with an interesting interpretation of the dream, the GM rolls a d6 with the same odds to see if the player's interpretation is true or becomes true. Let it all develop in play!

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