Building Bhakashal - The Prophetic Dream Engine
Image by Rowena Morrill
One of the aspects of Bhakashal that makes it somewhat unique is that the city is built over the body of a sleeping god named Iallus, god of plants, animals and the moon. This leads to odd things in the setting, from the way healing magic works to the proliferation of plants and animals in and around the city.
In addition, some people in the setting have prophetic dreams. I created a table for this, to generate prophetic dreams for PCs and NPCs that can either add flavor or drive adventures
Prophetic Dream Engine
The presence of a sleeping god beneath the city leads to some of its inhabitants having prophetic dreams. The DM can roll percentage dice on the Prophetic Dream Engine once per month to determine if a PC has had a prophetic dream.
Any score of 00 indicates success.
To have a prophetic dream a dreamer must have a score of 15 in one of the three ability scores, INT, WIS, or CHA. For each 1 point of intelligence above 16 add 2% to the dice roll, for each 1 point of wisdom above 16 add 1% to the dice roll, and for each 1 point of charisma above 16 add ½% to the dice roll (drop all fractions).
Those who have psionics roll twice a month with the same odds.
Prophetic Dream Engine
Subject of Dream (d12)
1. Person known to dreamer
2. Thing or object known to dreamer
3. Monster known to dreamer
4. Person unknown to dreamer
5. Thing or object unknown to the dreamer
6. Monster unknown to the dreamer
7. Event near the dreamer
8. Place near the dreamer
9. Event far from dreamer
10. Place far from dreamer
12. Confusing Prophecy: reroll Subject of Dream then roll d8:
1. Dream is fragmented
2. Dream is completely abstract
3. Dream is out of sequence
4. Dream is forgotten quickly
5. Dream leads to inability sleep
6. Dream leads to obsession
7. Dream is incorrect or distorted
8. Dream is lacking visual components
A. There is a base 50% + 5% per level chance that the dream is "about" the dreamer, e.g. that it is connected to them in some significant way. For example the dreamer could dream about a dog barking in a meadow (result 6. Monster unknown to dreamer) then a few weeks later they are in a meadow and a dog barks right before they are attacked by a poisonous snake, ruining the snake's chance for a surprise strike.
Some dreams will not involve the dreamer, but they hold valuable information about others that can be parlayed into advantages.
B. For the confusing prophecies, the end result for all is that the dream must be interpreted as the meaning will be unclear or there will be components missing.
Obviously it is easier to leave the contents of a prophetic dream as open to interpretation as they may not come true. For example, say the PC has a prophetic dream that his fellow party member, a fighter, will die at the hands of an umber hulk. The DM can wait until whenever they want to manifest that umber hulk, and when they do one of two things will happen. Either the umber hulk kills the fighter and the dream came true, or the fighter is not killed and the prophecy was false.
This also leaves the timing of the event entirely up to the DM. It's not hard to dream up a reason for an umber hulk to pop up.
The results have to be interpreted for the individual campaign. You could design a generator to give you all the elements of a dream (e.g. setting, environment, number of entities encountered, length of Dream, number of relevant prophecies, etc) but this seems to me too cumbersome.
Instead, think of this as an opportunity for the DM to plant a clue or set a misdirection. It can be literal or metaphorical ("you have a vision of getting on a boat for a journey, you appear to be wearing the same clothing you have on now" versus "you have a vision of an oar on a dock, suggesting you will be traveling soon"). It can be detailed or vague.
Person known to dreamer
- target dreams of another party member's demise at the hands of a monster while in a dungeon
Thing or object known to dreamer
- target dreams of his scroll case burning up in a fireball while he survives
Monster known to dreamer
- target dreams of a monster they thought they defeated being healed by someone and surviving
Person unknown to dreamer
- target dreams of a peasant woman washing clothing in a stream near a distinctive landmark. He sees her gather berries he can't identify and she drains off the ichor from a large insect. She then heads towards a castle. In this case he has just seen a dream as a metaphor for an assassin posing as a washer woman from the castle who is going to assassinate the prince with poison.
Place far from dreamer
- target dreams of being in a crystal city on a huge ice floe somewhere that the light is thin. The target in the dream appears visibly older.
- prophetic dreams can predict the future by pointing you to a clue in the past. So for example the target could have a dream memory of an important event but in the dream she notices something she missed the first time that has implications for the future.
Prophetic dreams can lead to great power, wealth or folly, they can also be used to gain leverage, vie for influence and impact house politics. As a result all reports of prophetic dreams will be validated by magic (eg detect lie, ESP) where possible.
In session you can set up a dream sequence to execute as is, or metaphorically, e.g. you dream about your horse being slain and the horse is slain, or you dream about your horse being slain and your journey is delayed as the ship you are set to travel on has to be repaired.
No matter how you choose to execute this, there are a few important rules to remember:
1. Each prophetic dream should have a number of components:
A setting where the dream takes place, a castle, a road, a forest, a table, a lake, etc.
A main character - the dream should be “about” someone or something, a festival, a sailor, a horse, a member of the party, the dreamer, whatever, but the “action” should focus on them
An event or a scene, “there is a dog biting a soldier”, “two ships pass by each other, one red, one black, both without sailors or captain”, “a large red dragon is smashing houses with its tail”, “a red flower blooms and butterflies emerge as it swings around”, “you see yourself walking through an underwater environment, the fish seemingly oblivious to your presence”, etc. It should not be something like “there is an apple, a banana and a pear on a table”, or “you see two wolves”, instead something should happen to the fruit, or the wolves should do something.
Potential signifiers should be part of the dream, e.g. say the dream is about a party member falling into a sinkhole, then there could be a particular kind of distinctive bird in the dream, and then when the event of the dream is soon to come to fruition the PCs see that distinctive bird flying by.
2. Prophetic dreams will always be about significant PCs/NPCs/Monsters, places or things
3. Prophetic dreams should always intersect with the PCs experience in some way. At some point the dream should be “cashed out”, whatever was seen in the dream should be shown in the game. If the party doesn’t recognize something that was metaphorical in the dream (e.g. you don’t have a horse, but you dream of riding on one that is slain and it is connected to your ship being repaired) as connected to an event, you can choose to either just tell the players it was meant this way, or have it revealed to them in game through an NPC or event.
4. Prophetic Dreams should only rarely be wrong, the occasional red herring is just fine, but for the most part prophetic dreams should come true. As the referee you have many tools to make this happen, so use them.
Normally I don’t recommend messing with things, let them happen, let the dice fall and all that, but as this will come up VERY rarely in your game, having it be a false prophecy is kind of a waste of an immersive, exciting game moment. So my advice is to run this such that the prophecies come true. But feel free to do this in a way that respects the dice.
So for example, say the PC has a prophetic dream of a NPC they know dying by being shot with a crossbow bolt through the eye. They find that NPC in battle with a necromancer. The party magic-user shoots a lightning bolt and accidentally fries the friendly NPC, dead as a doornail. So the prophecy was false! Or, the corpse of the fried, friendly NPC animates as the necromancer brings him back, and one of the necromancer’s flunkies accidentally nails him with a crossbow bolt finishing him off. Or an NPC illusionist takes on the appearance of the slain NPC and is slain with a crossbow bolt through the eye.
Prophetic dreams can be a vehicle for dropping plot hooks, giving out lore or clues, or foreshadowing important campaign events. My best advice is to use them sparingly, and the prophetic dream engine should ensure that you get them occasionally, but not too often.