In the modern era, less than 1 in 10 million people can enter Dreamland. If there were ever societies or religions built around Dreamland’s existence, they have long ago been forgotten and their teachings obscured. Only a few rare people are still capable of experiencing the other reality.
Some dreamers are modern-day or 20th-century people who are alienated from waking life, such as:
• a young writer in Boston in the 1920s, searching for a beautiful sunset city he thinks he has seen only in his dreams
• an alienated teenage girl in the 1980s, resentful of her little brother, fascinated with fairytales
• a paraplegic stuntman in the 1910s, escaping his hospital bed into a fantasy world he tells as stories to a young girl
• a drug-addicted British aristocrat in the 1900s, dreaming of faraway lands
• a videogame-addicted Japanese woman in the 2010s, imagining herself reincarnated in a strange body in an isekai fantasy world
But dreamers come in many more types than these, nor are all from backgrounds of relative privilege. Roughly speaking, true dreamers can be divided into 6 types: artists, mystics, travellers, passionate dreamers, tormented dreamers and unexpected dreamers.
Artists are people with creative talent, or simply an appreciation of beauty. They have a rich imaginary life and respond to the sheer wonder and glory of Dreamland. Of the Five Pillars of Dreamland, they are linked to the pillar of Wonder.
EXAMPLE: Margot Herriman (b. 1992, current age 27) is a Black tattooist and illustrator living in Seattle. Born to a middle-class family in Brooklyn, she intended to study engineering but moved west to live with her friend Kate, got tattoos and discovered a well of artist talent. She now works in Lucky Jim’s Tattoos, under Jim, who apprenticed her but who she has surpassed in skill. Her flowing, snakelike tattoos, and frequent hikes in the wilderness, lead her into the Dreamlands.
Mystics discovered Dreamland through spiritualism or occult experiments. Since science and magic ultimately lead to the same revelations, scientists can discover Dreamland too. Mystics are linked to the pillar of Mystery.
EXAMPLE: Salvaza Carghelutti (b. 1560, current age 22) is a Friulian (a minority in northern Italy) farmer and herb merchant. Born with a birth-caul marking her as different, an old woman trained her as a “benendanti”, a ‘good walker’ who communes with animals and fights evil witches in dreams to ensure good harvests.
Travellers are people who are always restless, always on the move, or yearning to be someplace they cannot be. This yearning, or the very act of constant travel, opens the gateway to the endless roads of Dreamland. Travellers are linked to the pillar of Exoticism.
EXAMPLE: Sherwood Hope (b. 1866, current age 32) is an American travelling salesman in the railway era. Born in an Indiana farm town, he left as a teen. Sells mostly packaged food and drugs, from distributors in Chicago, to stores from California to Philadelphia. Lives out of his trunk/display-case in railroad cars, smoky hotel lobbies, main streets. Secretly gay. His preacher father thinks salesmen are immoral. His 14-year-old brother back on the farm admires his free travelling life.
Passionate dreamers may go to Dreamland in search of love or new sensual experiences. They may also be driven by the desire to change the world or be more connected to their fellow humans; they feel strongly about others, for good or ill. They are linked to the pillar of Passion.
EXAMPLE: Asad Algarmi (b. 1958, current age 28) is a world-famous Yemeni-American singer and songwriter. Born in Detroit, immigrant family, two sisters, distant from parents. Artistic and musical since childhood, impressed a producer and debuted (as “Emir”) at 17. Moody workaholic, experiments in psychedelia, funk, glam. Genderqueer, pansexual, changes identities, colorful clothes and makeup. Ethnically ambiguous to 1980s audiences. Driven to shatter sexual and gender taboos, to push the bounds of art.
Tormented dreamers deal with misfortune, perhaps even horror, in their waking lives. They may be marginalized, impoverished or imprisoned and long to escape in their dreams. They may also be twisted or evil people who make others suffer as much as they do themselves. Tormented dreamers are linked to the pillar of Loathing.
EXAMPLE: Mary Goodman (b. 1828, current age 18) is an Irish fisherwoman in Skibberreen during the Great Famine. Born Mary Kellegher, youngest daughter of peasant tenant farmers. Married Percy Goodman, fisherman. When the potato blight began, Percy was arrested for stealing oats (intended for export) from a rich farmer, and sent to Cook County Jail, where he died of cholera. She now slowly starves in a hovel with her two elderly parents, flashing in and out of strange dreams.
Unexpected dreamers are people who don’t fit into any of the other categories. They may seem to be ordinary suburban temp workers, startup employees, serfs or politicians who somehow have the ability to enter Dreamland. Perhaps their dreaming power was awakened by some mystic artifact, an ancestral curse or blessing, or the intervention of magical beasts. Unexpected dreamers aren’t linked to any particular Pillar.
EXAMPLE: Parwin Biswas (b. 1998, current age 21) is a Bangladeshi domestic servant employed in Saudi Arabia. Born in a small village in Manikganj, poor family, one of 8 children. Good at Arabic in school, took a job as a maid in Riyadh to save money for veterinary school and for her siblings. Unobservant Muslim now forced to wear niqab and take care of the 4 spoiled children of the rich Nowairah family. Has a long distance Facebook boyfriend in Dhaka.
In rules terms, the six types of dreamers aren’t strictly defined categories with rules traits; instead, they’re flexible guidelines, based on how many Wonder, Mystery, Loathing, Exoticism and Passion Memories a dreamer brings from their waking life into Dreamland. These Memories form a dreamer’s lifeline to the waking world, while also giving them certain magic powers.
As astute readers may have noticed, dreamers may come from different historical times; in all times and places people have discovered Dreamland. And in fact, since Dreamland is outside of time, dreamers from different waking-world eras may exist simultaneously, and even adventure together, in Dreamland. Dreamland RPG players may make their own characters, or roll from over 100 pregenerated waking-world characters included in the game.
In the next post, I’ll write about the other aspect of every dreamer: their dream self, and their Role in Dreamland.