What Do I Know About First Impressions? Dreams of the World Beyond (Fables: Citadel of the Unseen Sun Episode Two; 5e OGL)
It’s February, and love is in the air. What better time to explore a world of dreams where the souls of the dead are trapped in their own memories until their souls are eaten by a lich. It’s time for romance . . . necromance!
Last month we looked at the first installment of Ghostfire Gaming’s monthly adventure series. The first six adventures are set in the company’s Grim Hollow setting and are part of the Citadel of the Unseen Sun campaign.
There are going to be some spoilers for what happens in this adventure, so if you are likely to be a player, you may want to hop off this train now. Or not. If you love someone, set them free, and I love my readers.
I am not working from a review copy, and these adventures come from my own personal subscription. I have not had the opportunity to run any of the adventures, but I’ve been playing and running D&D 5e since it was released, and I’m familiar with running published adventures.
This Month’s Volume
This month’s adventure is a 94-page adventure, about a third more pages than the previous adventure in this series. This includes a title page, a credits page, a table of contents, and a single-page OGL statement. This PDF is in full color, with a two-column layout comparable to the standard WotC formatting for D&D products. In addition to the adventure, there are digital assets included. There are digital maps for the encounter locations in the adventure, and a file of tokens, all of which can be used for VTT gaming.
There are nine pages of new monsters in this book, most of which have full-color illustrations included.
The adventure is organized into the following sections:
- Welcome to Fables!
- The Town that Never Wakes
- The Nightmare of Dawn
- Heist on the Graffendam
- The Ballad of Ser Tristram
- Escape from Dream-Town
- New Monsters
Most of the welcome section is the same as the previous volume, except for the prelude and character advancement sections, which are specific to this volume. As with the previous adventure, there is a level cap to the adventure, this time 5th level, as well as conditions under which the characters gain levels.
This chapter describes the geography of Dream-Town, the residents, and how they interact with one another. The chapter gives the history of the location and some of its residents, up to the point where it was drawn into the earth as part of the false afterlife created by Kasimir Sundrinker.
This may just be my way of thinking, but it was a little confusing to introduce the town, the people, services, and interactions between NPCs, before introducing how the player characters enter into Dream-Town.
When the PCs first find the location, it is deserted, as the souls can only be seen when they pass through Kasimir’s Gate, a monument at the center of town. At this point, their souls separate from their bodies, and their souls interact with Dream-Town.
The NPC that hired the player character in the first adventure appears in a different form in this adventure. Initially I thought the NPC would appear to explain Kasimir’s Gate, but as written, it seems like the PCs are intended to wander into Kasimir’s Gate by themselves, with the NPC showing up briefly as they arrive.
Given that the party will all be separated from their bodies when they wander through the gate, I would rather have the NPC explain the gate and what will happen when they traverse it. I also think it might have been worthwhile to use the NPCs that the PCs interacted with in the last adventure trapped in Dream-Town, giving them more of a reason to enter.
The PCs will eventually encounter Octavian Dreamwalker, the caretaker of the town. He is worried that three residents of the town are particularly restless, and that is causing disruptions in Dream-Town. He will give them a mask allowing them to enter the dreams of the dreamers.
All three of these residents are too distraught to sleep without the PCs helping them accomplish something that allows them to relax. Once the PCs complete each of these side quests, they can enter the dreams of the NPCs that they have helped to calm.
The Dream Chapters
The three dream chapters are discreet adventures. The dreams all hold a secret from the dreamer’s past, which the PCs need to help resolve. One dreamer is a member of an order of vampire hunters. Another dreamer is a scoundrel attempting to steal special supernatural water from the wealthy district of town. The final dreamer is a knight sworn to protect the wilderness.
All three of these people met tragic ends. The vampire hunter needs to come to terms with having been turned to a vampire and killing a fellow member of the order. The scoundrel needs to know that what she stole was safely delivered and made a difference. The knight needs to confront the entity that corrupted and controlled them to kill innocents in the woods.
There are decision points in the adventures where each of the characters may resolve their story in a manner that either lets them come to terms with what happens or allows them to deny what happened. For example, the vampire hunter tries to convince the PCs to let him escape, the scoundrel may give up on trying to change things and abandon her ideals, and the wilderness knight may lean on the PCs to fight their battle for them.
Each of these chapters could also be run without directly connecting them to Dream-Town, as long as the GM can create a framing mechanism to get the PCs into the proper location. Once you have a reason for the PCs to be involved, the individual scenarios can unfold as a self-contained adventure.
I like the variety of these adventures, and the different approaches the PCs must take to resolve them. In one instance, they are effectively solving a murder mystery, in another, they are helping pull off a crime while also keeping the morale of their companion high, and in the last, they are enduring the surreal breakdown of the woods as it shifts from its idyllic state to the blighted region it becomes.
While Octavian watches over Dream-Town for Kasimir, if the PCs “pacify” the restless dreamers, Octavian will return them to their bodies and let them continue on their way, manifesting near the river of souls that they can use to travel to the next stage of their journey. On the other hand, if they talk with enough Dream-Town residents and help the dreamers realize the path they should have taken, they may want to overturn Octavian’s control of Dream-Town.
While the False Afterlife is keeping souls for Kasimir to devour, before the soul is devoured, Octavian, a dream parasite, is also feeding on the dreaming souls. If the PCs make enough of the dreamers lucid, they can break Octavian’s hold on Dream-Town. If the PCs go the route of opposing Octavian, their bodies will be destroyed, but they still have another opportunity to escape Dream-Town alive.
Symone, the Dream-Town resident necromancer, informs the PCs that she can restore them, as well as create bodies for everyone left in Dream-Town, but they must have lots of diamonds for the ritual before Dream-Town implodes. Diamonds are rare in Dream-Town, as resurrecting the dead was considered blasphemous, but the PCs can enter the dreams of various townsfolk and attempt to bring diamonds out of those dreams.
If Symone reconstitutes the player characters’ bodies, they may end up with some of the memories of the residents as part of their souls. This means that players can pick up additional ideals, bonds, flaws, or dreams from the locals, in addition to their own.
Deeper Into the Dream
There are several other quirks in the adventure based on the location’s dream qualities. For example, vendors may sometimes mistake common, everyday items for precious coins.
Octavian sells soul items, but in addition to the items that Octavian has available, Symone can cast spells for a price, and can enchant items found in dreams so that they can be taken out of the dream.
Griselda, the form that the PCs employer has taken in this adventure, can be found in a specific location. She can nudge them in a direction or explain options they may not realize they have. I really appreciate NPCs like this, but I wish Griselda/The Nightseer Sage’s guidance were made a little more prominent.
The following new monsters are detailed in this adventure:
- Lesser Dream Parasite (CR1)
- Octavian Dreamwalker (Greater Dream Parasite) (CR 4)
- Living Dream (CR2)
- Living Nightmare (CR4)
- Katoche (CR8)
- Somnabulating Mound (CR5)
- Vetra (CR5)
- Walking Hedge (CR2)
The lesser dream parasites can serve as a clue to Octavian’s true nature, while living dreams and living nightmares are manifestations that appear in various dreams. The Somnabulating Mound and the Walking Hedge are impediments to the dream heist, and Vetra is the ooze that corrupted the wilderness knight and used their body as a puppet to harm others.
I really like the individual dream investigations. I love the idea of unraveling the circumstances of the various characters’ deaths, as well as making the decision to help them become lucid or to help pacify them. I also continue to enjoy the idea of the lich’s false afterlife as a soul trap.
I wish the Nightseer Sage was utilized a bit more in the setup of these adventures. I don’t like the idea of the PCs accidentally finding out what the gate does, especially after the previous adventure started off with killing all of the player characters. I would rather they made the informed decision to enter the gate and leave their physical bodies behind.
Speaking of things the Nightseer Sage might have guided the PCs to do, I would almost rather the seed were planted earlier for the PCs to be on the lookout for dream diamonds, to weave that search in and out of the existing adventures, instead of scrambling through quickly sketched scenes at the end of the adventure.
I continue to be interested in seeing where this adventure goes. I like the broad strokes of the campaign and the stakes that have been established. The core of both adventures feel like very solid, enjoyable scenarios. I just hope that going forward, there is a little less “hard framing” required to set up the current adventure.
The PCs should already be invested in opposing Kasimir, and they already have a patron invested in pointing them in the right direction, so they should only need a nudge, not necessarily killed or stripped of their bodies.