Sunday, October 9, 2016

An Oneiric Fantasy

Art by Florence Magnin

Last month, I mentioned Rêve de Dragon, a game that merits some attention.  Originally published in 1985, I feel it qualifies as “old school.”  Of course, lacking any affinity for the French language, I must rely upon the English translation, Rêve: the Dream Ouroboros, which is based on a later edition.  (This translation is available at Lulu.)  Still, the setting remains the same and the setting is the subject of today's post.

The “reality” of the player characters is a gestalt of the dreams of Dragons (thus capitalized).  The rules employ the analogy of “collective unconscious” in describing the concept.  Each entity within the dream is an avatar of a Dragon.  “When a creature dies,” the rules state, “its Dragon (the one who dreams that creature specifically) has just awoken.”  The rules continue:  “Nevertheless, as this creature also exists in the dreams of all Dragons, the awakening of one dreamer has no other effect.”  Most entities are unaware that they exist as part of a dream.  Incidentally, in Rêve, the official title of the game master is “Dream Keeper.”

With regard to the Dragons, chapter 15 claims:
The Dragons are infinite...And if the Dragons dream the world – that is, the world from which the players' characters hail – they also dream an infinite number of others, like so many parallel worlds.
In game terminology, the word 'dream'...
...carries a double meaning.  On the one hand it means what is normally meant by the word dream, on the other it also means 'world', 'imaginary time or place', or 'adventure' or 'scenario'.  Thus by changing scenarios one changes dreams.
A 'world' might only consist of a region with anything beyond that region being part of a separate dream.  Thus, “the geographical continuity of...journeys [of player characters] are a mere minor concern.”

The history of the Rêve setting spans three ages.  In the First Age, the Dragons dreamed of themselves and also, “they dreamed a race of beings especially destined to serve them:  humanoids.”  These humanoids were usually either humans or gnomes, “but some more eccentric Dragons also created other avatars...”  Gnomes eventually discovered magical dream stonesthe tears of Dragons.  As a result, humanoids began to employ magic.  The Dragons did not take kindly to this development:
In order to rid themselves of this new nightmare, they awakened en masse.  The world suffered terrible cataclysms, and nine-tenths of all creatures died.  And thus ended the First Age.
When the Dragons returned to sleep, the Second Age began.  Magic became widespread:  “one in ten humans was a magician.”  Abuse of powerful magic caused rifts in the dreams.  Eventually, this led “to a crescendo of upheavals and raging cataclysms.”  The Dragons awoke again, ending the Second Age.  We are told that...
in the Great Awakening not all the Dragons opened their eyes at the same moment, some just waking up as others were falling back asleep.  There is some continuity therefore from Age to Age in spite of upheavals and ruins.  This is why, in the collective memory of humanoids, the 'Other Age' is still remembered.
Activity in Rêve is intended to take place about one thousand years after the onset of the Third Age.  “Between a few pockets of more or less autonomous civilization lie vast wildernesses filled with ruins and mystery,” the Third Age is described.

1 comment:

  1. I have the original first edition of this game in French language (that I can slightly understand), and the French version contains some of the most stunning fantasy images and paintings i've ever seen.