Sunday, July 22, 2012

Dream Session

Last night's 4e game was a dream session for two reasons.  One, it was probably the most challenging and fun session I have ever run; a dream session.  Two, one of the PCs (Tilia the albino minotaur) spent the entire session in a dream state navigating a dream landscape.

As explained here, the party is currently split up with Hammer the warforged barbarian and Beautiful Bob the half-elf/half-gibbering mouther in the upper levels of a temple looting a chamber of its sacrificial trappings and sacred treasures while Tilia is having fun with a bunch of dreaming liches down below.

Dreaming Lich

There were many challenging aspects to running this session.  The awake PCs were dealing with a ticking clock.  In 2 1/2 minutes the re-animated skeletons of the old temple priests and faithful would finish the trek up from the catacombs, and in 5 minutes the temple would finish being completely sealed away from the 4e dimension and the portal to the bati-bati world would be fully opened.  Tilia's body, sleeping, was in a chamber at the end of a long tunnel that would take almost 2 minutes to run down.

And then there was the dreaming PC.  Running an effective dream sequence in D&D is hard.  As a DM you don't want to just narrate what is happening, but you don't want to allow the player to have as much of a feeling of control as normal.  I want to write a whole post about just the dream sequence because it was probably the single coolest role-playing moment I have been a part of.  For now I am going to content myself with a few of the highlights from the entire session, dreaming and awake.

Hammer opened his portal coin to the hovercraft and charged around the treasure chamber scooping loot into the portal with his axe.  I made the Super Mario coin sound effect.

An unseen vampire sitting in a control room elsewhere in the temple dominated Hammer.  Beautiful Bob used his telepathic link with Hammer to force the barbarian into a rage, using his nightly d30 roll to do so... and rolled a 30.  Not only did Hammer's rage break the domination, the dominating vampire also flew into a rage and lost the ability to use the ritual throne to project his domination attack for 1d6 rounds.  I rolled a six.

Tilia managed to latch onto a talisman during a falling episode in her dream journey, her father's great axe.  I told her player to use the ax like a wild card, a dream symbol that could be conjured into another dream scene later.

Bob and Hammer moved the party into the dark crystal chamber near the treasure room, a chamber designed specifically to broadcast rituals out onto remote targets.  Bob offered up a sacrifice of his own blood and called upon the storm he had summoned earlier in the evening a few miles downriver before the party abruptly left the river cultists in the wake of an attack by slavers.  Bob painted a map of the temple in his own blood on the floor of the crystal chamber, centering it on the chamber that contained the raging vampire.  Hammer has a lightning hekura (spirit demon creature) living inside his dark crystal heart and has gained a powerful lightning strike ax attack.  Bob's dark ritual allowed Hammer to strike the map and a powerful twin strike of lightning shot from the storm and into the vampire's chamber.  The vampire was holding a steel scepter with a crazy power that opens a portal to the inside of a star and causes a column of star fusion to exist in this world for a few rounds, and a series of unlucky rolls made me decide the scepter's power went off in the strike and incinerated the vampire.

Tilia nearly was washed away into the sea of dreams while fighting alongside her father in a battle dream of her youth.  Tilia used the ax talisman to call the axe to her in the dream and sink it into the ground to prevent being washed away.  The sea of dreams is contiguous to all points in dream but it is easiest to return to the shore just left.  I gave her a +4 bonus to the check for the use of the talisman at a very appropriate time, and she just made her check to avoid slipping away from the liches' dream land.

The temple troll, unleashed several rounds earlier by the vampire, finally made it to Hammer and Bob and I lunged in with an encounter power that would have badly hurt Hammer and slowed him for the encounter.  I roll a 1.

Bob ends up opening a small portal to the raging inferno of star fire that is still going off in the vampire's chamber (the party's hovercraft Curious George was providing an attentive eye in the sky view of the temple's exterior and had been very much enjoying the fire show) and blasting the troll with it, keeping his regeneration from working for just long enough for Hammer to bash it into enough submission that Bob was able to dominate it.  Bob felt sorry for the troll after realizing that its living heart had been plucked from its body and kept magically sealed away under the floor of the treasure chamber, and its claws had been replaced with shadowy portals to necromantic realities that oozed necrotic poison.  Bob took several precious rounds to restore its heart, remove the enchantments on its claws and heal as much of the psychic damage it had suffered through years of domination at the hands of the temple priesthood as possible.  Bob then nervously released his domination of the troll.

I gave it a very slim chance of attacking the PCs and a much greater chance of running down after the oncoming skeletal priests who presided over all the denigrating rituals the troll had been forced to perform in.  The troll booked it down the twisting tunnel to the catacombs, buying the party more time as the skeletons were only about five rounds away at this point.

Tilia entered a grove in her dream of twisted trees that she recognized as being the work of her first master in the shadow arts, Old Man Gootie.  She also soon noticed that she was pregnant.  This elicited groans of horror from Bob and Hammer's players, who of course knew that Old Man Gootie was famous for his ability to procreate with anything and birth new incarnations of himself instead of creating true offspring.

Tilia has always harbored a deep guilt for unintentionally trapping Old Man Gootie in deep shadow and forcing him to lose his sanity over eons of journeying to return to this reality.  She used the dream as an opportunity to be glad that she had his child, but she tried to use her influence over the dream (at this point she had just become lucid for the first time in the dream, for reasons I won't get into now) to make her baby a normal offspring of the two and not the usual Gootie-abomination that kills its mother and takes none of her genetic makeup.

Tilia soon birthed a little curly haired satyr looking baby boy that I told her player would be visiting her dreams again in the future.

Tilia eventually ended up riding the god-jellyfish Kariki-Kalos into the sea of dreams and straight into the Dreamer's Castle.

I want to do a whole post on the dream journey because it was almost miraculous how well it worked.  I am also going to invite Tilia's player to share thoughts on the dream sequence.

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