D&D 5E Dreamscapes and Re-invigorating the Ethereal Plane


Running with this.

The Ethereal has additional directions. In the border Ethereal, the other directions are known as Eminence. Low Eminence means you are close to the plane you are bordering, higher Eminence means you are further away.

Eminence is not a scalar value, but a vector; but near any Border Ethereal, the absolute value is what matters.

The washed-out nature of what you see in the attached plane in the Border Ethereal is because of the Eminence distance between you and the plane.

Moving in the Eminence direction(s) is non-trivial for most creatures, especially those not native to the Ethereal plane. When someone dreams, they push their mind into the Ethereal plane, which causes Eminence-direction waves to shake the local Border Ethereal; this is experienced as color appearing and washing out.

The Ethereal plane's topology -- shape -- in the Eminence directions is complex. Dreamers push out into it, and often end up colliding with a different part of the Border Ethereal. Their dreams form a bubble floating over that part of the Border Ethereal, and the contents of their dreams leak into the Border Ethereal there, as they are close in the Eminence direction.

In order to push off in the Eminence direction, you need something to push off of. Ways deeper into the Eminence of the Ethereal exist, they are like ramps on a floor, allowing ants to crawl up the z axis. You can also seek to hitch hike on a dreamer, slowing their rise in the Eminence but also giving you a way out of the Border. You'll often get caught up in their dream-bubble, and have to work out a way to escape.

These dreamscapes form a frothy layer between the Border Ethereal and the Deep Ethereal. Getting into the Deep Ethereal may require hopping from dream to dream, aiming to move further away from the Border (one way to figure out if you are going in the right "direction" when dream-hopping is to look into how much things correspond to reality; things closer to the Border of a reality correspond more).

The Kingdom of Dreams would be an area built in that froth. Dreams where the dreamer died while dreaming, dreams that outlived the dreamer, dream smiths that manipulate mortal dreams to ensure a constant living supply of a specific kind of dream.

The Dreamheart and the Tower of Nightmares are two relatively permanent structures in the Kingdom of Dreams whose foundations are in the Dreamscapes of the middle kingdom, and whose heights border the Feywilde.

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Urriak Uruk

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I like the idea of the Dream Realm being in the Ethereal; in would work in the Astral as well, but considering how most stuff is in the Astral, it seems indeed better to give the Ethereal this thing instead.

This is by the way the best write-up on the Ethereal Plane I've ever read, that makes it way more interesting;

One section I like; describing the Omniad, matriarch of phase spiders.

One of the creatures that have used the Ethereal Plane for their own end are the phase spiders, here they have produced massive colonies and massive webs that slowly float through the Deep Ethereal. If a traveler is suddenly swept up by a massive web, dozens of phase spiders can envelop them as the sticky web restricts the traveler’s movement. The greatest of these webs is controlled by the phase spider matriarch, Ommiad. This massive web slowly spins through the Deep Ethereal and has hundreds of phase spiders that live on it, always searching for food. Ommiad is said to be massive in size and wears many powerful magic items, and recently many have claimed that Ommiad has put in a policy that merchants are to be traded with, not eaten.



In 2e Planescape there was A Guide to the Ethereal Plane enough material to fill a 96 page book on the subject of the Ethereal Plane, it had Demiplanes, Dreamscapes, Protomatter, anything incorporeal and a bunch of mysterious locations. But in 3e demiplanes where made to be connected to any plane but mostly the Astral Plane, the demiplane of Shadow became a full-fledged plane, Astral Plane got the Protomatter in the form of the controversial Psionic Ectoplasm, and Dreamscapes became part of the optional Region of Dreams (though established in the Eberron cosmology as Dal Quor). Overall in 3e, the Ethereal Plane didn't have too much going for it beyond a few monsters like Ethergaunts, or the planetouched variety Shyfts which were as boring as the Ethereal Plane became in 3e. 4e didn't even have an Ethereal Plane as more of it's aspects got pulled into Feywild which was the optional Plane of Faerie or the Plane of Shadow which became Shadowfell.

In 5e the Ethereal Plane is back, but after everything it lost in 3e and the established niches of Shadowfell and Feywild, there isn't much left of interest for the Ethereal Plane beyond you go from the Shore (Border Ethereal) to the Ocean (Deep Ethereal) and to another Shore (Border Ethereal) of another plane. With Demiplanes once the Ethereal's biggest feature scattered to different planes, mostly what's left is Dreamscapes if one ignores having the optional Region of Dreams (which hasn't been brought up in 5e yet).

I think the Ethereal Plane should take back dreams, Dreamscapes should be emphasized to give the (Deep) Ethereal something of a distinctive niche now that Shadowfell and Feywild have theirs. It's sort of there already as Night Hags still need to be in the Ethereal Plane to use their Nightmare ability.

There's the small temporary dreamscapes that are created when most creatures dream, dreamscapes that only last for the few hours that such a creature dreams. And then there would be the permanent Dreamscapes made from rare dreams that rupture into the Ethereal Plane, like Anavaree a little girl's storybook like realm created by an adult space colonist named Ana who's actually still in a stasis pod of a crashed colony ship (yes this particular example first appeared in 2e).

Some of the sources on Planar Dreamscapes are 3e's Manual of Planes where it's an optional plane, and Dragon 287 where it could be a transitive plane, an inner plane with a tempest dream energy or an outer plane where there's Gods which rule over dreams (taking a bunch of inspiration from The Dreaming in Sandman). My idea is to take elements from all of them.

Dreamscapes had this mechanic where you use mental ability scores to replace a bunch of physical ones. I think that design choice goes against some of the philosophy of 5e design in trying to keep it simple. So none of that should happen, but allow some characters to use something like Intelligence or Charisma for attack rolls and damage if they want to. Dying in a dream usually means one is ejected from a dream, but in permanent ruptured dreamscapes, death is more permanent. Let's just say that somethings that were really powerful in temporary dreamscapes, become diluted and weakened in permanent ones.

Dreamscapes could be regions one wants to go to if they need to do influence someone like in the movie Inception, or uncover a secret from the subconscious.

The Dreamheart and Kingdoms of Dreams
At the heart of the Deep Ethereal is the Dreamheart (or Dreamhearts if one wants multiples), and around the Dreamheart there will be Dreaming kingdoms much like the ones mentioned in Dragon 287. The Dreaming Monarchs would be planar powers akin to the Dark Powers of Shadowfell or the Archfey of Feywild, in that they are God-like but not necessary Divine Entities themselves. Each Dreaming Monarch claims dominion over a certain type of dream, like nightmares born of doubts, dreams of alternate possibilities or revelatory dreams. Some of the Dreaming Kingdoms might have links to other planes, usually Feywild or Shadowfell or one of the Outer Planes, in the form of influences.

Raw protomatter exists throughout the Deep Ethereal Plane, but it is formless and mostly inert unless shaped. Dreams are the most common method of shaping protomatter, think of it where protomatter becomes refined, and the Dreaming Monarchs have servants who shift through and monitor dreams of interest to scavenge. Occasionally something of interest is taken from a dream, and the Dreaming Kingdoms are built with dream forged materials.

The Dreamheart is a maelstrom of protomatter and dream material, it may in fact be the source of Ether Cyclones and other such phenomena. It's dangerous for most beings, but it's where protomatter becomes dream material forming a small bubble in the reality of elsewhere inthe Ethereal Plane. Beings of dream energy come and go from the Dreamheart, and it's thought that what was in the Dreamheart was something the ancient Khen-Zai (now known as Ethergaunts) sought.
Just wanted you to know that I was pursuing a similar idea, and your work here was fantastic and helpful.



I have posted this before, but DC comics has essentially the same cosmology as DnD. It is just explained a lot better.

Where you have the Speed Force replace it with either the Ethereal, or Astral.
Limbo is essentially the Far Realm, where the eldritch horrors reside.

DC cosmology also allows for all the gods to exist in every plane, as they are shards of the original.


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