The Wake

“The Wake” is the name of a dreamlike fantasy world I’m creating for Fate.

You can read some short fiction here: What’s Your Story?

Table of Contents

The Spirit of the Game

What are we playing?

  • A game for having fun and exciting adventures
  • A world set on the frontier between reason and imagination
  • A world where beauty isn’t safe, and wonders aren’t banal
  • “We live in a world where anything is possible”: make that both sexy and scary

How do we play?

  • The Rose: make the world beautiful and enticing
  • The Thorns: make the world dangerous
  • The Fang: make survival a day-to-day activity
  • The Fur: remind the players of the strength and independence they have
  • The Feet: Be willing to see where an idea takes you
  • The Eye: Give a glimpse of every NPC’s life
  • The Hand: remember past moments and characters, and bring them back from time to time
  • The Mind: Remember that mysteries can be explored without being explained.
  • The Heart: Make dream magic as personal and intimate as possible

Dreams are the juxtaposition of the mundane and the magical. We eat, we breathe, we talk. There is sky, sea, and stone. Houses, furniture, utensils. All the things that are close to us, or familiar, can become new and alien. Making the world of the Wake come alive requires you to make the ordinary strange and special, and vice versa.

The World

We have a saying. “Tell me your story.” It’s an invitation to share yourself with strangers. Your dreams, your hopes, your journey. Dreams are powerful things to us. I’ll tell you my story, if you tell me yours.

Our mythology says that the world changed when the Wake came. Or did it? The nature of the Wake makes it impossible for us to ever know.

The stories don’t agree on specifics. Our world was bigger or smaller, very old or very young, depending on who you listen to. The world was alive, a sentient thing, or it was a dead ball of rock. The Wake slew the gods, or the Wake created the gods, or there was only one god and the Wake split it into dozens.

There are things we think have always been true. The world is still full of forests, lakes, and rivers; of deserts and fertile fields; of cities, settlements, and remote hamlets. We tend crops, raise children, engage in our trades, gamble, gossip, and fight. We wage war and talk of peace. The old tales have names for all these things, and tell of heroes whose lives are as familiar to us as our own.

There are exceptions. For example, there’s a brilliant white flame in the sky, which we call the sun. It’s surrounded by rings of mystic symbols. Lines of light emanate from the inner rings, connecting them to outer rings and to isolated groups of other symbols. These things lie above and beyond the highest clouds and most distant birds. At night, the stars dance and twirl like fireflies, while three moons watch in silent amusement. Was it always so? The stories describe the skies very differently.

The Wake

What is the Wake? It’s hard to describe something so basic to our experience. The Wake is like breathing: we don’t remember when we began, and it’s been with us all our lives.

We scholars say that the Wake is a collision of realities: a material cosmos, and an ephemeral realm of dreams and nightmares. The common folk think of the Wake like a particularly dangerous borderland: valuable for what can be harvested from it, but terrifying to approach too closely. Warriors and rulers are grateful for the tools the Wake offers them, such as dream drops, but know the risks that come with them.

The Wake is the source of many mysteries. Species of magical animals - “monsters” to common folk, Abstracts to scholars - roam our wilderness and threaten travelers. Floating castles hover over sleepy villages, but nobody can remember who lived there or who built them. There are wellsprings whose water will restore youth, or force one to always tell the truth. Elsewhere, walls of ever-growing and impassable thorns block travel to a cursed kingdom or forgotten fortress. The Wake also concentrates or diffuses itself in different places or times. A man may enter a Wake concentration and emerge as a woman, or a monster, thanks to an errant thought or whimsy. Explorers map out such discoveries, scholars study them, and adventurers seek to gain advantage from them.

The Wake tries to draw us into itself. Its pull is patient, but relentless. Exposure to the weird and wonderful, the act of communicating, even laying down to sleep, all give the Wake power over you. Without protection, a human being eventually becomes a Waking One. Such wretches grow fey and restless, then begin walking in trances or saying strange things. Their bodies grow lighter, then take on a soft inner radiance. One night, they are pulled abruptly into the sky, never to be seen again - at least, in the sunlit world. Certain dreamers have reported meeting Waking Ones after their ascension. All who’ve done so agree that there are fates worse than death.

Our ancestors developed a defense: the ritual of familiar fusion.

Familiar Fusions

“The first news I had of the War was the gallop of hooves coming from the village gate, and a shout of warning. I recognized the voice of Jaromir, the scout, and the gait of his horse familiar Karel. I saw the wiry little man mounted bareback. As he leaped from Karel’s back and landed on the ground, Karel reared behind him. In a flash, the flesh of the pair flowed together.”

“Saying those words makes it sound awful, but I am no poet. The process of fusion is always beautiful. Shall I instead say that Jaromir attained the strongest qualities of Karel, and Karel took on the most humanlike traits of Jaromir, until the two were indistinguishable and hence identical? The eye does not track the motion well. One is left with after-images if one stares at a fusion in progress. It is the intrusion of a dream into our placid waking reality, so some disorientation is to be expected.”

“Their fused form stands a foot taller than Jaromir, with a fierce and uncontrollable tumble of hair in contrast to Jaromir’s short-cropped stubble. The muscles are lean, a runner’s body, with powerful legs capable of devastating kicks. Jaromir’s compact face takes on a longer cast in fusion, and his nostrils flare when he speaks. It is neither horse nor man, but a powerful bipedal creature partaking of the best of both. In this form, the fusion calls himself Jarel. Jaromir’s father hails from the Eastern Tribes, where human and animal are equal partners in fusion and such naming conventions are common. In our village, it’s not the custom, but we understand that his ways are not ours. The Tribes do not think the animals intelligent - that would be foolish - but merely do them honor, a sentiment I respect.”

“Jarel had ridden for the better part of the day to warn us. I saw horse sweat sparkle on the fusion’s skin. His barrel chest rose and fell with each greedy breath. Jarel shared the exhaustion of mount and the fear of the rider, but he did his duty. The mayor emerged from his house to take the report, and Jarel showed him a map drawn on the dirt.”

From childhood, we learn a simple ritual. In meditation, we reach out with our hearts. An animal, imbued by the Wake with a strange potential, answers. Such “familiar” animals become our bonded partners, until one of the pair dies. We can acquire a new familiar, but the process grows more and more traumatic the more partners we’ve already had.

The familiar can be almost anything. Wolves, spiders, dolphins, eagles, bats, and more serve as familiars. Whole colonies of smaller creatures can do the same. Occasionally people have bonded with plants as familiars, such as the Seneschals of the Floral Fortresses.

Our familiars combine with us, both physically and spiritually. Walk down the streets of our city and you will see hybrid beast-people, human and familiar in a fused state. The familiar’s influence on our human bodies might be minor (ears and tails), nearly complete (we walk on all fours), or a mixture of the two (a humanoid but clearly animalistic form). With practice, we can shift the degree of hybridization, looking more or less human and gaining or losing the animal’s strengths in the process.

When our familiar detaches from us, it can operate independently, like any other animal. We see through each other’s senses, feel each other’s moods, and know each other’s location. Prolonged separation is painful, but useful and necessary in some cases. When fused, our familiar heals rapidly. The longer-lived partner also lends their longevity to the other. This is why, for example, the Seneschals can live for hundreds of years, sleeping in their trees, while a short-lived spider can be partners for decades with a mortal woman.

The bond with a familiar keeps us grounded. While the bond persists, we can resist the call of the Wake. A stronger bond - not merely a stronger animal - improves our resistance as well. Partners that are fully attuned with each other can easily use several dream drops in a row, or enter areas of intense Wake, at little risk.

Dream Drops

Dream drops are small ovals of crystallized dream. They take effect when swallowed. There’s a brief beam of light that connects the eater to a distant point in the sky, any time of the day or night. At that moment, the truth of the dream trapped inside the drop becomes real. Dreams of flying allow the eater to fly. Dreams of speed or grace or power grant the same effect. It never lasts long, for dreams never do, and some details are always forgotten afterward.

Dream drops don’t just grow on trees. They’re created from the dreams of the living, then expertly crafted and refined by professionals called dropsmiths. They’re sold in the markets, with a price commensurate to their utility. A sedate dream of farming is worth little, while a potent dream drop that turns you into a demigod of war is a priceless commodity. It’s possible to create your own dream drop, but an expert dropsmith is vital to make useful ones.

The most useful stones are made from the most potent dreams. The best dreams are produced by the most wild and fantastical dreamers - young children, the innocent, the mad, or the otherwise useless. Such people are most at risk of being drawn in by the Wake. A skilled dreamer can become wealthy merely by selling their own dreams, but they need something to keep themselves grounded. Professional dropsmiths are more than artisans; they are confessors and advisors to their clients.

Aside from the utility of the drops themselves, extracting dreams can be beneficial for the dreamer. Someone in the process of becoming a Waking One can have their excess Wake energy siphoned off by the process. Recurring nightmares or traumatic dreams can be removed, allowing psychological healing.

Not all dream drops have overt magical effects. A diluted drop can be created that simply conveys the experience of the dream to somebody else, for example. Other forms of drops can be created by skilled dropsmiths. Abstracts An Abstract is a creature, entity, phenomenon, or less describable thing brought into the world by the Wake. Abstracts are often ill-formed and curiously incomplete. An abstract human being might have no pulse or breathing, but be able to carry on a conversation. Abstract animals look “off” somehow. Abstract monsters are as varied and as dangerous as anything the imagination can conjure.

Abstracts have their own motivations and behaviors. Some are predictable, others are entirely random. Most abstracts are dangerous, if not for their power, then for the risk they pose to people near them.

Spikers

If the Wake can bring dreams into the world, then are these beings simply a nightmare? Or are they something worse?

We gave the Spikers that name due to the enormous stone spikes they use as transportation. The spikes can burst out of the ground almost anywhere, even inside buildings. They look like obsidian stalagmites with crude doors carved into them.

They come at night, or when few people are around. Their usual objective is to destroy dream drops or kidnap proficient dreamers. Sometimes they will simply launch a bloodthirsty all-out attack. They have been known to undertake strange, even nonsensical, goals from time to time.

Spikers wear full-coverage leather suits with masks. They protect their eyes with lenses of glass or gemstone. They wear bulky coverings where a nose and mouth would be, with hoses leading from these to tanks or other apparatus fastened to their suits. They are humanoid, but it is unknown if they are actually human. No Spiker has ever been observed to have a familiar. It is believed they protect themselves from the Wake some other way.

Spikers react violently if their suits are damaged in any way. They will immediately try to return to their spikes, or escort their compromised fellows to safety. If enough of them are harmed, they will withdraw en masse - the spikes retract into the ground, strangely leaving things just as they were before. No Spiker will leave another behind if they can help it.

Supposedly a few people have spoken with Spikers, who only sometimes speak our languages. When asked about their motives, the Spikers apparently said: “we’re trying to save you.”

Our Daily Lives

Towns, villages, and hamlets dot the landscape. Wherever opportunity or danger rear their head, people will band together and settle. Trade routes, resource-rich forests or mountains, tillable fields, and Wake-spawned mysteries can all attract a settlement. Walled fortifications stand guard over rivers, roads, and mountain passes where human travel takes place. Even the loneliest fur trader or most hard-bitten miner must bring their goods to somebody to exchange for the necessities of life. And of course, there is more than just cold mercantile interest. People have feelings and wish for company, no matter who we are.

A new visitor to a settlement will be invited to speak at the local tavern or other social hub. The locals are interested in not only the stories the visitor brings, but their potential to produce dream drops the community might find valuable. A good storyteller with a vivid imagination is likely to produce better dreams. Locals also like to take turns telling the tales of the community, both to brag and to inform.

If a visitor seems like a potential source of dream drops, they are referred to the local dropsmith, and an arrangement can be made. Otherwise, they are expected to have some business in the settlement. Trade goods, money, or marketable skills are all acceptable. A visitor with nothing to offer is quietly asked, then gradually told, to move on.

Cities

Cities act as trade hubs, markets, and headquarters. Power is typically not in the hands of individual people, but of factions or groups. For example, the balance of power in a large city might be split between the legal administration, two influential trading houses, and a criminal underworld.

Rare and potent dream drops, large quantities of steel or other industrial metals, specialized services (assassinations, academics, or adventurers for hire), and so forth are only found in cities. Each city has its own unique character, from tightly-guarded Adigel in the frozen northern wastes, to the flamboyant and colorful Uren in the Tyrian desert. Permanent residents of cities are merchants, guards, entertainers, and the numerous other occupations that keep commerce alive.

Travel to and from cities is normally done in caravan - groups of wagons pulled by beasts of burden. Teamsters learn a special variant of the familiar summons ritual to lightly bond with half a dozen animals at once, while guardsmen bonded with powerful predatory animals keep the rest of the caravan safe from attack.

Technology

We build and hunt with the fruits of Nature. We make weapons and tools of steel and copper, apparel out of cloth and leather. We boil water to destroy the motes of hostile life within, and clean our teeth with a certain chalk paste, thanks to the wisdom of our ancestors. We understand the turning of the seasons and the principles of the harvest.

Many of our needs are addressed thanks to familiar fusion. Even the simplest child of a village can hunt game, or forage for edible roots and berries, thanks to their familiar. We are as hardy as our animal brethren in the cold and rain, though we still build houses for comfort and security. Some scholars believe that the fusion weakens us as a people, because we might develop better tools if we were smaller and weaker. Others argue that we did develop a better tool already - familiar fusion.

Certain discoveries conjured from the Wake - floating castles, caches of mysterious artifacts - sometimes hint at makers with a superior understanding of natural law. Others, of course, cease to work if removed from their Wake-tainted area of origin. Like much else, we scholars will continue to debate the finer points and significance this holds.

Religion and the Theonic Guilds

Dreamers walk through a collective unconsciousness of archetypes and universal stories. Gods speak to their questors and adherents, granting them powerful dreams in exchange for loyal service. For us, this is no mere poetry or flight of fancy.

It was discovered that when two people dream of the same thing, it really is the same thing - at least in the dream-world. Wake scholars were quick to exploit this property, through the founding of the Theonic Guilds. A Guild is an imagined building or other location, imagined out of whole cloth and intricately detailed. When two or more people project their sleeping minds into the same Guild at the same time, they can meet and interact in a shared dream space. It’s not even necessary to fall asleep; training, and several minutes of uninterrupted meditation, can put someone into a light trance, allowing them access to the Guild. The experience of a particular Guild can be extracted by a dropsmith and given to somebody else, thus “inviting” them into the Guild.

Guilds exist for many purposes. Traders use them for long-distance communication and the sharing of market information. Warlords and generals use them to coordinate strategy with their subordinates, or to collect reconnaissance from scouts in the field. Secret societies use them as undetectable meeting places. Guilds are not absolutely secure, of course. It’s not easy to make someone simply forget the experience of the Guild, and that’s all that’s necessary to enter one. But Guilds remain a tremendous advantage to those who use them.

Worshipers or followers of a well-known god are all interacting with the same god, in a manner similar to a Guild. Whether the gods have an independent reality, or are simply a figment of everybody’s collective imagination, is a topic that’s hotly debated by Wake scholars. But the fact remains that gods can have a powerful influence. The altered mental state of religious ecstasy produces highly potent raw material for dream drops.

Game Rules

Several rules refer to Fate Core skills. Use the appropriate Approaches when playing FAE.

Character Creation

Create a Fate Core or Fate Accelerated character as usual. One of your character aspects should describe the animal familiar that you’re bonded with.

New Stunts

Beastmaster: You have a mental-only fusion with several animals.

Dropsmith: You are proficient at the art of creating dream drops, and may use the appropriate rules.

Fusion Specialist: You roll at +2 when using any advanced fusion technique.

Guildmaster: You are experienced at entering the meditative trance to reach a Theonic Guild or other oneiric stronghold. You spend 5 minutes under ideal conditions to meditate, and you roll Overcome at +2 to reach a Guild while under stress.

Common Activities

Simple Fusion

Fusion is a a ritual undertaken by children at a young age. The ritual can be repeated if a character’s fusion dies. The celebrant calls out for a companion and partner. Some living thing, imbued with the Wake, will respond. Either it will come toward the celebrant, or they must go to it. Animals are the most common types of familiar. Some familiars are plants, such as the home-trees of the Floral Fortresses. Swarms or packs of tiny animals can function as a single familiar. Abstracts (chimerae or mythological creatures) could conceivably become familiars but this should be unique.

Characters with an aspect granting them a familiar receive the following narrative permission:

  • Familiars physically merge with their human companions. The resulting hybrid creature is a blend of both human and familiar. The human partner’s intellect and the animal’s instincts serve each other. The hybrid may favor their human traits (e.g. only showing ears and tail) or their familiar’s traits (e.g. moving on all fours). While fused, the shorter-lived partner benefits from the longer-lived one’s longevity.
  • The familiar can separate into human and animal once again, and each can act independently. Humans lose any animal traits they acquired while fused.
  • Human and familiar remain in mental contact across any distance, and one can experience life through the other’s senses.
  • Familiar fusions can withstand the call of the Wake indefinitely. Outside of a fusion, a human will slowly be called into the Wake. Without a living familiar, a human will be drawn more quickly into the Wake.

Fusing with your familiar, or separating, requires no roll. If you are engaged in a Conflict, fusing or separating consumes the movement part of your action.

Fusing or separating can change the skill involved in an action. For example, a character with a horse familiar rolls Athletics to move swiftly while fused, but Drive to ride their horse as a mount.

Advanced Fusion Techniques

Characters can change the balance of their hybrid appearance, becoming more human-like or more animal-like in their appearance. This takes a minute, but no roll.

A character can roll a Great (+4) Overcome on Physique to turn themselves entirely into an animal while fused, or a Great (+4) Overcome on Will to turn themselves entirely human, again spending a minute of time to do so. Characters will pass as fully human or fully animal while so altered. This change in state lasts until the character separates or rebalances their hybrid appearance.

Characters can perform an advanced ritual, a partial fusion that grants them the mental link but not the physical combination. Such a link can be made with up to half a dozen animals. This requires the Beastmaster stunt.

Visiting Theonic Guilds

You must be familiar with the guildhall already. If you are relaxed and can spend 15 minutes meditating, you can enter automatically. If you are stressed, or must work faster, roll an Overcome action with Will against a difficulty set by the GM. This takes five minutes, or three on success with style. Failure means the character is unable to achieve the required trance state, but it can also mean that they can’t stay long, or they forget most of the experience on waking up. On a tie, they might forget some minor but relevant detail of the experience.

Creating Dream Drops

You must have the Dropsmith stunt to attempt this action.

A trained dropsmith can extract a dream drop from a sleeping individual. This usually requires the individual’s cooperation, though certain drugs, hypnotic techniques, or other methods can substitute. The dropsmith supplies the dreamer with an herbal drug, then waits. As the dreamer experiences their dream, their sweat, saliva, and tears will contain traces of Wake energy. The dropsmith then precipitates the result chemically.

The dropsmith may roll a Create Advantage action on Empathy to study their subject’s emotional state beforehand, discovering a character aspect.

Another several hours are necessary for the dropsmith to “process” the raw dream drop, removing traces of the original dreamer’s personality and other irrelevant details from the experience. They do this by holding the precipitate in their mouths, then re-experiencing the dream again and again and driving elements out by force of will.

At the end of the process, the character rolls an Overcome action with Crafts. The GM determines the potency or complexity of the dream drop as a rating on the Fate ladder (e.g. Average, Superb), and uses this as the difficulty. Success yields a viable dream drop. On average, a dropsmith can produce one new dream drop per day using this method. If the dropsmith succeeded on their Empathy check earlier, they may invoke the discovered character aspect as a bonus on this action.

Skilled dropsmiths can enhance the end result in other ways.

  • Diluting a dream drop to only convey the experience of the dream, not to have any magical effects. Roll at +1 difficulty. Keys to Theonic Guilds are created in this way.
  • Using other dream drops (or unprocessed precipitate from another dream drop creation attempt) to raise the potency of a new drop. Roll at the intended target difficulty +1.

Consuming a Dream Drop

If the character has been established as carrying around a particular dream drop, roll to Create an Advantage describing its effects. Use whatever skill is most logically connected to the effect of the drop, or Will if there is no obvious choice. The difficulty is the dream drop’s potency, as described earlier. The resulting aspect provides narrative justification for whatever effect the dream drop would then have. Failure can mean a complication as part of using the drop: memory loss, or being drawn too deeply into the false narrative of the dream, are the two most common side effects.

If the character has an unknown dream drop, they can “sample” it without fully consuming it to get a vague sense of what it does. This requires a similar Create an Advantage action, but the aspect is only created if the character goes through with consumption. Otherwise, they’ve spent their action positively identifying the dream drop, and can choose to activate it later. The GM describes the effects and potency of any unknown dream drops.

Use of a dream drop is noticeable for miles when outside on a clear day or at night. The beam will harmlessly pass through any intervening obstacle between the character and the sky, such as a roof or cave ceiling. Almost everyone is familiar enough with the concept to recognize the shaft of light from ground to sky. Seeing the beam only tells the observer that a dream drop user is at that spot, not who they are or what sort of drop they used. If the weather is bad (fog, clouds, heavy rain, and so on), or if line of sight to the sky is blocked by something, an Overcome action with Notice is necessary to notice it.

Legends, Equipment and Antagonists

Sample Abstracts

The Cloud Dragon

There is a cloud that drifts through the sky, but it is an intelligent creature. Its body is evaporated water, just as any other cloud, and it can reshape itself. It has magical powers and great wisdom. It can speak, but will only do so with people near it - in the sky, or anywhere else close to the clouds.

Eclipse Shield

An ephemeral small shield or buckler, worn on the arm rather than held. When in light, the shield is solid, and grows in size without becoming a hindrance. When in darkness, the shield is transparent and intangible, offering no protection but being almost undetectable.

Horsegoats

A herd of horse-like animals with sharp talons rather than flat hooves. They’re able to gallop if properly shod, but their talons can also be used as climbing aids or vicious weapons. Horsegoats are stubborn and very difficult to tame.

Teddy Bear

A child’s stuffed bear developed a rip in its seams, out of which the stuffing started to peek. Mother went to mend the toy with shears and needle, but the child didn’t understand what was happening. The Wake brought this moment to life.

The Bear is an enormous teddy-bear, with a strength that no stuffed animal ought to have. It will tower over the tallest adventurer, and its size can fluctuate. Its seams strain when it flexes its muscles. It will attack anyone or anything wielding anything sharp or needle-like (swords, spears, arrows…). If cut, the stuffing will pour out like a sentient flood, trying to crush or suffocate the attacker. Anyone with a sharp weapon can improvise its use as needle or scissors, either unmaking the bear by its seams, or sewing up a gap to stop the unending flow of stuffing. The bear can be driven away in fear, defeated by tying it down, or killed by somehow removing all of its stuffing.

Aspects:

  • Rampaging Giant Teddy Bear
  • Don’t Cut Me!
  • Overflowing Stuffing.

Skills:

  • Smash Bad People! +2
  • Reason and Observation -2

Health:

  • 3 stress boxes (1, 2, 3)
  • 3 condition slots (2, 4, 6).

Sample Dream Drops

Dream drops are broadly catalogued according to purpose. Each one is unique, so only examples are provided.

Arms and Armor

Arms and Armor dream drops equip the user with some kind of combat equipment, usually weapons or protection. Such dream drops commonly sell for a very high price, putting them only in the range of professional warriors and a noble’s bodyguards.

  • Claws: animal claws or talons, sharper and scarier than anything the user’s familiar fusion might already have. The reflection of a dreamer’s fear that they are becoming more animal than human.
  • Knight’s Suit: a stylish, ornamental suit of armor from the storybooks, sparkling with its own inner light. The dreamer’s memory of chivalry, grand quests, and similar themes turns the drop user into a paladin out of myth.
  • Legendary Sword: the famed sword of the ancient stories come to life. While it might look gold-plated and jewel-encrusted, the sword is an entirely functional weapon and can cut through nearly anything.
  • Teeth: dreams of teeth are tied to confidence, and losing teeth can represent a loss of power or self-esteem. This drop gives the user strong, sharp fangs and reinforces the jaw, allowing a powerful and self-affirming bite attack.
  • Vine Whip: plants grow out of the ground, providing a thorny whip the user can wield to scourge their enemies. The weapon of choice for a plant fusion, or anyone who really likes nature.

Guardian

Guardian-type dream drops summon a living or otherwise animated thing to help the user. They are surprisingly cheap, given how many dreams center around someone the dreamer knows giving them aid and comfort.

  • Bug Swarm: biting insects, spiders, or anything else the user’s enemies are most afraid of. The swarm will not obey the drop user’s commands, but will attack anyone who comes near the user. This sort of dream drop is rare, not only because it’s hard for dropsmiths to make safe for the user, but because it’s really weird.
  • Dad: the dream-conjured archetype of one’s protective and loving parent, as powerful as any child would hope. No matter how tall the user is, Dad will always seem taller.
  • Horse: not a fast mount, but a hardy one. A riding animal that will obey the rider’s commands and can last for several hours.
  • Maniac: an insane slasher, berserker, or other kind of raving lunatic that haunts the nightmares of the young. Usually armed with some kind of short but very sharp cutting weapon, and can be covered in blood or viscera. If you can see its face at all - and if it has one - its mouth is often contorted into a rictus of dark delight.
  • Nymph: born from dreams whose content is better left to the imagination. A beautiful, feminine fairy or enticingly masculine spirit being. While they can sometimes wield control over nature, they can also function as social companions.
  • Pet: a friendly puppy, cute kitty, or something weirder and furrier. Fond memories of childhood don’t always produce a useful guardian, but they have their uses. Pets are usually intelligent enough to obey commands and will have a strong emotional bond with the user.
  • Rock Golem: natural rock brought to unnatural life. A shambling, heavy mass of stone that can punch really hard.
  • Umbral Presence: shadow people - patches of shadows in a humanoid shape - are sometimes seen in dreams, or on the edge of consciousness. The drop user can summon one to conceal themselves, or to haunt somebody else.

Wonders

Wonders are any extra-normal ability granted to the user.

  • Blackness: a nightmare come to life, a swelling zone of darkness that seems to expand and pulsate on its own. Nobody inside the zone can see anything, and sounds are distorted or muffled. This drop would be more useful if the user didn’t begin at the center of the effect…
  • Campfire: a controlled fire, complete with enough fuel to last several hours. Fire is a very typical dream, so dropsmiths use this sort of dream as a test of skill or artistic accomplishment: how elaborate and useful can they make the dream for a user?
  • Dwelling: a small hut, hamlet shack or crudely-built lean-to typical of woodcutters. The dreamer’s memory of their modest childhood home come to life, hopefully with stew bubbling on the fire, comfortable chairs, and enough firewood and pipe-weed to pass a night in comfort. Powerful dreamers or skilled dropsmiths can bring out all the comforts of home; the less skilled can at least put a roof over your head for a few hours.
  • Flight: a surprisingly common type of dream drop, allowing the user to fly through the air like a bird without wings. The flight effect is often tinged with the dreamer’s own excitement (or fear of falling), if the dropsmith wasn’t skilled enough to remove such traces.
  • Hair: the user’s hair becomes extraordinarily long, sometimes continuously growing. While the hair can be used to make rope or other such things, cutting it for such uses often leads to unaccountable feelings of fear, impotence, or depression.
  • Invisibility: numerous types of this dream drop have been identified. All of them make the user harder to see (and often to otherwise detect), but come with a variety of drawbacks or catches (such as being unable to touch things).
  • Meal: a dream drop can conjure nutritious, edible food. If eaten immediately, it’s as healthy for the user as any real food. If allowed to sit for awhile, it won’t go bad - it’ll just disappear, optionally leaving you starving if it vanishes between consumption and digestion. Often used as a last resort, since some dream-foods may be inedible or actively toxic.
  • Naked: dreams of being without clothing or equipment are embarrassing, but some enterprising users found a new use for this type of dream drop: hiding important documents, weapons, or other secrets by wearing them while using the drop, and waiting for them to reappear when the drop’s effects fade.
  • Oubliette: a hole opens in the ground, revealing a deep and ink-black pit. Anything thrown in won’t be seen again, at least in the waking world. While some people might want to throw an enemy in, the size of the hole is variable, and you risk joining your enemy if your footing isn’t sure enough.
  • Song: the user is surrounded by music - an ancient, if familiar-seeming, melody. The song itself has no particular magical effect, but is calming and pleasing to hear.

Sample Places

Sensail

Sensail is a sea-port city. Its most notable feature is a growth of crystal, hundreds of feet tall at its highest. The crystal seems to have struck the earth at some point in the past, leaving a gigantic impact crater. The crater has been filled in with fresh-water. A series of locks is used to bring ships into and out of the harbor from the sea.

Sensail as a city is built up as a network of rock and wood structures, lashed together by rope or locked together by cement. Buildings anchor themselves into the quartz crystals’ imperfections. The lowest levels of the city actually reach under the water. Huge transparent sections of quartz have been carefully hammered off of the main structure, and now serve as windows to the underwater half of the harbor.

Sensail is served by two major roads: the Grunway and Killian’s Road. These form the backbone of the regional trading network and keep Sensail alive by bringing in fresh foodstuffs and money.

Sensail is ruled by two professional associations: the Crystal-carvers and the Harborkeepers. Crystal-carvers are responsible for extracting usable sections of quartz from the central mass. The material’s extreme durability calls for specialized tools, which the Carvers keep as a trade secret. The Harborkeepers offer protection and refit services for sea-going ships, in exchange for a percentage of their cargo. Their squads of bravoes are armed with crystal swords and empowered to enforce the law throughout Sensail.