Dreams Physical / Metaphysical Law in Istralar | World Anvil


If dreams are real, in their own way, then what about what happens in them? Is all of that real, too?
— a curious apprentice
  Dreams are, to most people, mental imaginings that occur during periods of slumber. They may feature images, ideas, emotions, and even sensations, sometimes so significantly that an individual may involuntarily respond to their dream in the waking world. Negative dreams are known as nightmares - these are dreams that take a dark turn, often instilling fear, horror, or other negative emotions into the dreamer.   This is the simple explanation of dreaming. The truth is somewhat more complex.   Dreams are, as is best understood, psychic constructs blooming as individual demiplanes within the Dimension of Dreams. These transient demiplanes are generally known as dreamscapes, and connect directly with the mental mindscape any sufficiently powerful mage can attempt to establish.   It is perhaps easiest to imagine the Dimension of Dreams as a large pool, and each dreamscape as a bubble within. As dreams change, the nature of their dreamscape shifts with them, to eventually disappear back into the plane's silverine magic upon the dreamer's awakening.  

Symbolism of the Dreaming

It is not being enough to see what is there. You must be seeing the rest too, yes?
  The Dimension of Dreams and indeed, dreams themselves, have always inspired great amounts of thought and consideration from mortal and immortal philosophers alike. Doubtless due to this, a number of deities exist with dreams tied into their portfolios in some manner: the true goddess Desna claims domain over all dreams, and many of the Great Old Ones similarly dwell in nightmare.  
Dreamlike Whispers by Hanhula (via Midjourney)
In recent memory, too, the Way of Runeblessed Dreams has established itself firmly across Istralar to make claims on dream-linked magic and their mythical Pathways. These, it would seem, hold links to the Dimension of Dreams itself.   However, not all signs of magic in dreams need to be so powerful. Dreams are understood to be powerful vessels of prophecy and symbolism, even on a mundane level.   Utterly mundane mortal individuals will often see symbols in their dreams, reflected there from aspects of their life that they might have otherwise not considered; as dreams are a direct window to the mind, they often conjure what is most present in said mind, even unseen.   Some particularly skilled at interpreting these symbols for others find their living as dream interpretors, tarot magicians, and general fortune-tellers for those who would seek to understand what their own minds whisper to them.
  Care must always be taken when magic and dreams mix. Any mortal touched more significantly by some form of magic - for instance, adventurers, apprentices, mages, and holy warriors - must take great care when seeking out interpretation for their dreams, or when considering them themselves.   These folk often draw the eye of greater beings, and though directly interfering with mortals is expressly forbidden by the laws of deific interaction, no such limitation is placed on their dreams. Too many times, dreams have been used as a gateway to seduce unaware mortals to paths they would otherwise not follow - for good or evil.  

Dream Travel

For each and every dream, a new thought, a new fear - can you imagine seeing them all? Losing yourself, dream to dream?
— wistful dreamer
  Many mundane scholars are stunned to hear that others may travel to their dreams, with or without their permission, and indeed that others may wander the realm of dreams itself with enough patience and skill. Dream travel is an unusual talent and one generally unique to psychic casters, though others may be gifted the ability by more powerful entities - such as deific patrons or powerful dream entities.  
Travelling into another's dream is dangerous. The dreamer will often be swept up in their dream's own narrative, with interference often being explained away by the dream itself and only sharp intervention breaking through.   Even should a dreamer be brought to awareness of the other entities in their mind - to lucidity, as it is usually referred - they may not respond in expected or pleasant ways - as dreamers control their own dreams, unexpected interlopers may find the dream itself attacking them, with very little room to escape. In most cases, influencing another's dream is near impossible.   Still, it is often worth the risk to those strong enough - and indeed, brave enough - to manage the risk.   Remember - dreams are an easy method of communicating with others, and to touch someone else's dream is to glimpse a part of their inner self, unseen by others. It is to enter a mindscape of their own making, influenced fully by the ideas and emotions felt at that time.
Path of Dreams by Hanhula (via Midjourney)
  Willing travel to a lucid dreamer's mind is a fantastic way to continue scenarios that may be impossible in reality - the possibility has spun a number of novels exist on forbidden romances that dwell wholly in the Dreamlands, even.   One must simply be aware of the risks inherent in allowing others access to their dreams.  

Manipulating Dreams

Each and every night, the same echo, reflected in a thousand unknown faces. Each and every night, a new plea. I hear the whispers in my waking hours now, those clinging, grasping things. Oh, to forget them! To lose my dreams, and escape this spell!
— victim
  The art of dream manipulation is a rare one, likely as it stems from magic often unique to witches or psychics. Few spells have escaped these traditions to more general use, but 'few' is not 'none'.  
Slumbering Cities by Hanhula (via Midjourney)
Most common to all mages, whether divine, arcane, or psychic, is the ability to simply send dream messengers to another individual via the spells Dream or Dream Council. This is considered relatively common among powerful spellcasters, and the manifestation is clearly identifiable as such a messenger.   Similarly, some powerful spellcasters may attempt to read dreams via spells like Dream Scan, and even weaker casters can protect themselves with a Dream Shield spell. The other common dream-related spellcasting is to impart nightmares on a creature with the aptly-named spell Nightmare, derived most powerfully from the darker corners of illusion magic.   However, these are mere trifles compared to what a properly-trained psychic mage can accomplish. Not only do these terrifying individuals have the ability to shape dreams like a child at a beach, but they may also travel into the Dimension of Dreams itself.
  Within a dreamscape, psychic mages may torment a particular dreamer or even allow themselves to be summoned to the dreamer's waking location - allowing for terrifyingly precise manipulation and transport under conditions that would otherwise be impossible.  

Curses and Nightmares

When the dark falls, I see nothing but the nightmare that awaits me. I go to her willingly now. She has won.
— victim of a nightmare
  The need to shield one's dreams is brought into sharp relief by the realisation of what many entities - especially those dwelling in realms of nightmare, or specialising in illusion and enchantment - may weave into slumber. Subtle influence is rarely feared, as many assume they will be able to detect minor intrusions and see influence for what it is, and yet it is the most subtle of influence that can steadily shape a mind. Devils, demons, and especially hags favour these sorts of influence - often subtly, but sometimes with a more blatant hand to show their power.  
Yet there are many creatures who are not content with merely twisting minds through slumber. Ominous beings that drink dream and thought like a vampire might sup on blood linger both on the Material Plane and in the depths of the Dimension of Dreams, and their grasp can become infectious. One dreaming individual kept awake with unspeakable horrors may spread the word in their waking life, unknowingly spreading oneiric horrors through the minds of entire towns and cities.   Some curses are more simple than these. Occasionally, one may simply not awaken, trapped in one's own dreams or in dreams crafted by another. Occasionally, one's dreams may repeat, endlessly showing the same tattered fragments of a scene.   Occasionally, one may lose the ability to have dreams entirely - plunged wholly into nightmare, or cradled in blank nothingness. Whether these curses can be overcome is entirely down to the power involved, and the victim's own will: shattered minds cannot escape even the weakest of illusory traps.
Those Who Watch by Hanhula (via Midjourney)

Dream Entities

They come to me in the moments I do not remember, I am sure of it. I awaken with such strange symbols upon me, and the faint sensation of loss.
— dreamstalked
  Discussion of curses and creatures cannot be complete without at least a cursory glance at entities that may exist within or adjacent to dreams. Whilst night hags and dream dragons are well-known, especially in magical circles, for their power over dreams, there are some stranger creatures that nonetheless must be considered when studying dreams as a concept or for true psychic understanding.  
Encroaching Nightmares by Hanhula (via Midjourney)
Perhaps most confusing among dreamlike entities is the simple fact that dreams themselves may gain sentience.   Known as animate dreams, these are slivers of particularly impactful dreams that manifest upon the Ethereal Plane as their dreamer awakens from the Dimension of Dreams back unto the Material Plane. Inherently malevolent in their search for mortal dreams, they stalk across the land spreading sleep and claiming minds as they go.   Most dangerous among the unknown are the eldritch horrors from beyond. Often shapeless and intangible, they dwell in dark corners of the Dimension of Dreams and find their way into mortal dreamscapes through particularly unwise mortal choices.   Fragments of them may leak into the Material Plane, manifesting as night terrors and incomprehensible paralysing figures that vanish with the first rays of light, often visible to and remembered by only the poor soul afflicted with their touch.
  Other beings yet linger, often beyond the glimmer of mortal's understanding. They loom in slumber and draw back from attention, never quite visible enough to be understood. Rarely, those brave enough to venture into the Dimension of Dreams itself will uncover more of these beings - or will fall afoul of dark plots beyond comprehension, serving as dinner and entertainment for the most nightmarish beings. The tales these strange entities would tell cannot be scribed here, for even Sothime's Qualic Scriptorium holds little record of their existence.   So dream on - and discover what lies there, if you dare. Distinguish, if you can, what is real, and what wonders or horrors are created by your own imagine. Sweet dreams, dear reader.
Imagination's Domain by Hanhula (via Midjourney)
Metaphysical, Psychic
Related Magic
Psychic Magic
Related Locations
Dimension of Dreams

Deities and Dreams

  As outsiders are able to sleep, so too do they dream. Indeed, outsider dreams are a significant barrier to dream travel between planes, as their dreams are often foreign to mortals and may be quite dangerous.   Most dangerous, then, are the dreams of deities. Demigods hold less of a risk - their dreams are more akin to those of mortals, though are commonly used to communicate to mortal followers or immortal armies. Demigods are rarely inactive in their dreams, ever on guard for intrusion and ever exploring the bounds of their power.   The slumber of a true god is one to avoid. Incomprehensibly powerful, true gods blur the lines between sleeping and waking. Actions taken in slumber manifest as if done in reality, and with as much control.   Some deities are assumed to always be locked in slumber, ever acting through free, wandering minds instead of with waking hands and bodies - indeed, there are even some mortals who believe the entire universe to be merely a construct in a sleeping god's mind.   Intrusion of any level of deific dream should be avoided at all cost. Even visiting the Dimension of Time would be less dangerous.
Dimension of Dreams by Hanhula (via Midjourney)

Avatars and Dreams

  It is not deities alone that hold dominance in slumber. Avatars hold a unique ability in dreams, tied innately into the leyline magic running through each and every planet and plane: any dreamed manifestation of an avatar is a manifestation of that avatar.   Whilst this is rarely used for the specific entities in manifested shape, as most avatars do not prefer to be witnessed in near-mortal form, it does nonetheless mean that any dream of a physical place maintains some level of connection with that place, to be witnessed by that avatar.   Perhaps concerningly to some, this also means risks to dreams - curses, corruptions, and the like - may have genuine impact on an avatar's true being.   This is generally not something that can occur, however, outside of the influence of deities or deity-like beings - who are largely still required to respect the contracts enacted by the First and Second Divine Wars. With that said, influence spread by the Shards remains an ever-present concern.
Nonsensical Wanderings by Hanhula (via Midjourney)
What does it mean, that we forget each dream as soon as it is created? What happens to these lost creations, left adrift in the dreaming? We know some animate, yes, but what of the rest? It seems implausible that they should fade back into the ether, lost forever. Perhaps they become part of the dreaming again, to build anew?
— scholar
Myth and Mystery by Hanhula (via Midjourney)
How strange, to see facets of worlds long-imagined and never realised. Do the gods see dreams as they see all else, or are our dreams shielded from them as theirs are from us?
— pondering cleric
Don't forget to wake up.

Cover image: Dreams cover by Hanhula (via Midjourney)


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Dec 20, 2023 17:03 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

This article was oddly terrifying, but also really fascinating. :D

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
Jan 7, 2024 15:04

That was a delight to read, but now I am going to prepare myself again for sleep. As one with more nightmares than good dreams I am going to need my tools again. Great job!

You wanna see what we did for the last events? Go, click here: Eddies Major Events
Jan 9, 2024 09:07 by Han

Awh! It's okay, the party just made a potion of good dreams in my last session - I'll nick a dose for you.

welcome to my signature! check out istralar!
Jan 9, 2024 10:12

Awr, thank you!

You wanna see what we did for the last events? Go, click here: Eddies Major Events
Jan 9, 2024 12:18 by E. Christopher Clark

The dream-like quality of Midjourney art seems particularly well-suited to this article, but my favorite part here was actually the use of the sidebar to relate tangential but important information. I particularly enjoyed the sidebar on "deities and dreaming" and you've got me thinking about how I can better utilize my own sidebars in the future.

Now it's time for the awkward wave.
Jan 9, 2024 13:07 by Han

It's something I really enjoy doing! Some things just don't fit in the main article, but they work perfectly as an adjoinder to the main. Instead of splitting out tiny bits of info/flavour into their own, I love putting them in the sidebar - especially when it's usually otherwise so empty.

welcome to my signature! check out istralar!
Jan 10, 2024 16:14 by Ezra Aldrich

This is beautifully written and has a pleasing layout. Even with the scarier bits, this was a delight to read. It feels well thought out and connected to bits of the world. I love the concept of dreams animating and causing havoc elsewhere.

Jan 14, 2024 09:49 by Han

Thank you! Yeah, animate dreams are a bit of a horror, aren't they?

welcome to my signature! check out istralar!
Jan 17, 2024 18:32 by Lilliana Casper

Wow, this article was amazing! The dream dimension and all associated aspects sound both beautiful and terrifying. I love how everything was structured and formatted. The pictures add so much to the information and the whole concept of dreamworlds is so cool.

Lilliana Casper   I don't comment much, but I love reading your articles! Please check out my worlds, Jerde and Tread of Darkness.
Jan 18, 2024 08:59 by Han

Thank you! Glad the dichotomy of dreams and nightmare carried across well haha - dreams are terrifying if you imagine living in them! And yeah, one of the few benefits of AI-gen'd imagery is that it suits weird nonsensical imagery pretty well x)

welcome to my signature! check out istralar!
Jan 23, 2024 23:18 by Owen Davies

I love that this has changed my way to look at dreams in my own world let alone real life. Amazing article!

"The world is only as big as one makes it. So make it bigger by expanding your mind."   Consider voting for me in the Worldbuilding Awards
Feb 4, 2024 06:24 by Han

Oh god don't let it break your real life dreams too much x) Thank you!

welcome to my signature! check out istralar!
Jan 25, 2024 09:19 by Annie Stein


Creator of Solaris -— Come Explore!
Feb 4, 2024 06:24 by Han


welcome to my signature! check out istralar!