Sunday, June 13, 2010

Malice in Slumberland


All humans (and human-like beings) dream. Like "thought balloons" in a comic strip, clouds of dreamstuff float "upward" from the dreamer into the Astral Plane. There they form bubbles in the Astral substance, tethered to the dreamer until waking. These bubbles are permeable with, and ultimately dissolve into, the Dream Realm--more commonly called Slumberland or Dreamland, or sometimes the "Land of Nod" (but not this one, or this one ;) ). Given their nature, dreams represent the easiest portal for humans to cross the transitive plane of the Astral and move into the Outer Planes.

Slumberland is ruled--or perhaps merely managed--by a being known by many names, but often called the Dream Lord, or Dream King. He appears as a robed humanoid figure wearing a bronze, mirrored mask. He doesn't create dreams--these come from mortal (and perhaps immortal) minds, themselves--but monitors and maintains them. His castle, with its strangely-angled, dream-logic, expressionistic architecture, sits on the border between the material and immaterial worlds, existing both in Slumberland and on the dark side of the Moon. From there, he maintains the oneironic devices, and monitors the content of the flow of dreamstuff. He strives to ensure virulent nightmares don't readily infect other dreams, and that idle fantasies don't spoil and bloat to become perverse obsessions.

It's a big job, and the Dream Lord doesn't do it without help. Gnome-like creatures called "Sandmen" serve him. They carry pouches of silvery, glinting powder made from dessicated and alcehmically treated dreamstuff. They use this oneiric dust to induce sleep in a mortals, or cause waking dreams, or even to cause multiple beings to share the same dream. This is their primary tool for observing or even entering dreams--supposedly for the purposes of monitoring and testing.

"Supposedly" because there is some evidence for the existence rogue Sandmen, or at least breakdowns within their system. Regrettably common are the condensed nightmares called bugbears, or sometimes "bogies" or "bogeymen." These creatures emerge from dark, foreboding places--like "haunted" houses, abandoned subway tunnels, ancient ruins, or even children's closets! They're variable in size, but usually appear slightly larger than humans. Their bodies are described as "bear-like" or "ape-like", but their heads are something like deep-sea diving helmets, albeit with blank face-plates, and strange antennae. Bugbears, as nightmares given flesh, torment humans to feed off their fear. They then employ electronic devices or machinery--with an appearance both nonsensical and menacing--to siphon oneiric potential from the minds of their victims to incubate bugbear pups.


Bugbears aren't the only evidence of corruption in Slumberland. There are persist rumors of Sandmen on the take, selling blue dreams to Hell Syndicate incubi and succubi to slip to unsuspecting marks. There are also rumors of black-market Tijuana bibles produced from the concentrated salacious dreamings of certain celebrities being peddled on the streets of the City, and possibly elsewhere.

Thanks  to G. Benedicto at Eiglophian Press for suggesting a link between bugbears and nightmares.

14 comments:

Daddy Grognard said...

Did you see the new Dr Who episode "Amy's Choice" yet? Most intriguing and chimes well with this post, I thought.

Trey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Trey said...

I did--it was a good episode. I think it suggested the name for the Dream Lord, as most of the primary inspirations simply use the name "Sandman" for that sort of character, and I wanted to split the two.

Matthew Slepin said...

Man, that was good. The Robot Monster and the Tijuana Bibles are particularly inspired.

Trey said...

Thanks! Glad you liked it. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to find the perfect Robot Monster pic on the internet.

Risus Monkey said...

That is six kinds of awesome. I'm a huge fan of dreamland adventures and have been even before I got hooked on Sandman. I had a long running Gurps near-future fantasy game where one of the PCs travelled between worlds by finding his way through the dream realms. Halfway through the campaign, he set up shop is a Dreamlands manifestation of Lankhmar.

I love description of the nature of dreams and the bugbears bit was particularly inspired.

Trey said...

Thanks!

That sounds like a really cool GURPs campaign, by the way.

ancientvaults said...

Excellent post! I hope that you make a product out of The City.

Trey said...

Thanks. I've been thinking about making a product out of it but I've got to sit down and figure out some of the mechanical aspects, I guess.

Booberry said...

You had me at Robot Monster.

I love the Tijuana Bible bit. This is my first visit to The City. Looks like the perfect place for that astral detective agency I've been meaning to open.

Trey said...

I'm sure there's office space available at reasonable prices. ;)

Unknown said...

Don't know if you'll see this, but I just discovered your blog the other day and I've been reading the Strange Trails download. Anyway, I wanted to say that your description of the Dream King ("robed humanoid figure wearing a bronze, mirrored mask") gave me an awesome idea for a possible origin of Planescape's Lady of Pain (another addition to the long list of rumors about her):

She's the Queen of Nightmares, ousted from the Dream Realm by the Dream King.

On a completely unrelated note, I have to ask: have you ever seen "Twice Upon a Time" or "Mirrormask"?

- Wyvern

Trey said...

Cool! I hope you're enjoying Strange Trails. I like that idea for the Lady of Pain. It opens up a lot of possibilities.

I have seen Mirrormask, though not Twice Upon a Time.

Unknown said...

You can watch Twice Upon a Time in its entirety here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chsYvlsqQtM (it gets off to a slow start, but give it a chance; once it gets going, it's *really* funny). I thought of it because one of the characters in it bears a strong resemblance to that Robot Monster. Also, it's all about dreams and nightmares.

If you watch it, see if you recognize the voice of Ralph.

- Wyvern