I had a wild dream about D&D last night. One of those all-consuming dreams that rocks my world. My dream life has been quiescent for several years, but it has come roaring back just in the last few months. Much of the dream is fragments now, but I thought I’d write down what I remembered. Maybe I’ll remember more as I write.
I had a longstanding gaming group for much of my adulthood; over twenty years we gamed together. But some how over the last several years we just … stopped. This dream was about that.
The dream was about a huge, epic D campaign that my old group played. A campaign that consumed our whole lives, that we ordered our lives around. Like the campaigns we played when we were young.
When I first woke up, I was sure this was a campaign we had actually played, but as I tried to remember, I realized, no, this was unique to the dream. A whole world in my dream. God, I wish I could remember it all!
The dream proceeded in stages, moving outward like the layers of an onion.
The first layer, we actually were the characters, living the adventure. We visited a lord’s halls and were feasting. We were there visiting as his guests, but we had come because we suspected something hinky was going on in his domain, and we were trying to find out what it was. We were pretending to be honored guests, but were actually there to spy on him. We attended a banquet where we bragged about our martial accomplishments and flattered the lord obsequiously to make him friendly to us. We were already at this point high-level characters and had fought many battles together, had many war stories and knew each other well.
Then the dream stepped out one level, and we were us, ourselves, my old core D&D group — myself, my husband, my bother, his roommate, our friends Charlie & Bill, etc. — playing that module. We snooped around the lord’s domain. His manor house was large and opulent, containing many rooms that were broken out on a kind of holographic map – the library, the women’s quarters. You would touch a room on the map and it would rise up as a holographic projection. Super-cool. There was, of course, some kind of monster in the dungeons. More kind of Lovecraftian than standard D hack and slash. Shapeless, tentacles, malevolent. Yes, I am remembering things. Intense fighting and magic.
Then the dream stepped out again, and we were hanging and decompressing after the session, going over it as we used to do. It was good to see and play with our old friend Jonny again, who we lost touch with years ago. He was our Dungeon Master through all those years. Strangely enough, we were still in the manor house, but it was us, the real people, hanging in a drawing room and processing.
Then the dream stepped out again, and it was us, now, our present-day selves, reminiscing about this campaign that had been so epic and transformative for us. I was specifically trying to recapture the magic at this point, looking over the campaign book. The campaign was contained in a thick hardback book, like the Ptolus campaign, with all the modules, maps, a bestiary and prestige classes, everything. And it was like a living book — it had printed pages, but then other pages came to life , showed animations or came off the page as holographic moving pictures. It was amazing. And we were saying to each other, “Remember when we did this, remember when we did that? Yeah, that was cool, that was great, we had so much fun.”
And I turned to my dear old friend Bill and I said, “Bill, how did we do this? How could we let this happen? How did we let this fall out of our lives? We had such a good time. It was such a big part of our lives, how could we let it slip away?”
It felt like a message from the deepest part of myself. It had that epic, mythic quality. Numinous quality. I feel, this morning now, like, fuck writing. Fuck crafting. Fuck my job. I want to have a D&D campaign.
I wish I could remember more. Just fragments. There was a module called the Tomb of Ra. The milieu was sort of a desert milieu. But not a cheesy, Arabian Nights sort of milieu, even less Western. More like Dune, maybe? But D&D-level technology, with magic. More sort of Bronze Age. Not a howling desert, like the Empty Quarter, more arid scrubland, like Palestine maybe? People had tattoos, which were used in magic somehow. And there were magical dogs, wise and powerful dogs that people kept as familiars and used in magic somehow. But the dogs were alignment-neutral, the good guys and the bad guys both had them.
In the lord’s domain, the leaders in the town had parasites that were controlling their brains, that made them act according to some sinister plan. Lovecraftian, as I said.
The campaign had a quality like the Dragonlance campaign, as I understand it, which my friends played before I joined; it starts with a rather quotidian module in a village, and then moves out and gets bigger and bigger until you’re in a war for the entire realm. A showdown between good and evil, very LOTR feel. Tents — many of the races and peoples were nomadic, and that brought a very different flavor to it from standard European medieval tropes. Gnolls, the default humanoid race seemed to be gnolls. Towering mountains to the north, that we adventured in for a while, looking for a vital artifact.
My brother Peter’s character was a kind of halfing, more like a kender. He was young and naive, who had been sent from a little country village to travel with a band of adventurers, to learn to fight, to overcome a monster or evil wizard that had threatened and dominated the village for generations. So he was very naive and clueless, first level, but he was a fighter after all, and he was a little scrapper — he was in the front rank and gave as good as he got every time. He earned tattoos that were warrior marks of distinction.
It’s a continual torture to me that I have this creative power in my dream state — I can create whole words, whole lived lifetimes, years of time, without even trying. Which power I can barely access when I’m awake. Everyone does! Even if they don’t remember it upon waking. Maddening!
But I really do have to ask myself that, what I cried out to Bill. How did we let this go? Dungeons & Dragons. It was the best part of us in some ways. The most magical part. And what to do about it now?