Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These) is a homebrew mini-campaign I’m running for five level 4-6 characters. I anticipate it will take 8 – 12 sessions to complete. This Sweet Dreams series chronicles each session with highlights and lessons learned, while the mystery of the sleepwalking curse unfolds throughout! We’re playing Dungeons and Dragons 5e (D&D 5e)
The Sleepy Owlbear Tavern
The session begins in Somnium, at the Sleepy Owlbear — a well-maintained, dimly-lit tavern with a bar and hot food. The party of five adventurers recently arrived, finding a table reserved for their benefactor, Vargik Tomedelver — but no Vargik, yet. The most interesting feature of the taproom is its proprietor, a narcoleptic awakened owlbear named Godfrey dozing off behind the bar. The patrons don’t seem alarmed by this. Mercifully, the players took my lackluster intro of “you’re in a tavern, maybe you’ve already met each other or not or something,” and ran with it. A rocky start, but I hadn’t DM’d (and they hadn’t played) in months.
Introductions and ale
The party mingles, introducing their characters and quirks through roleplay:
- Annika is a half-elf ranger with a strong, willful personality. She’s definitely not shy and can be a bit wily with the men when it suits her motives. She enjoys a stiff drink and a quality smoke.
- Somna is a fittingly sleepy tiefling warlock on a mission from her “boss” to investigate the source of sleepwalking. She’s always ready for a nap but is surprisingly perceptive and cunning despite her tired nature.
- ‘Tanya is a straightforward fire genasi fighter with a taste for good liquor and a fondness for her home country. As a guard from a nearby town, she’s invested in preventing the spread of sleepwalking, but not so interested in being surrounded by books and nerds.
- Zaheer is a human monk with an affinity for wind, an interest in painting, and a hunger for enlightenment. He’s proven to be both a skilled tactician in combat and a capable babysitter for Zorn in the field.
- Zorn is a human wizard and a bit of a handful. He is prone to rambling, getting lost in thought, and power walking everywhere. Gifted in Abjuration and elemental magics he has demonstrated his arcane mastery.
Meeting the benefactor
With the cast of characters established Vargik arrives fashionably late to explain the quest and his investment in it.
The party learns the following from Vargik:
- His research into the benefits of a good night’s sleep led him to discover a strange sleepwalking phenomenon in the Alucinor region.
- The sleepwalking curse began roughly six months ago. It has worsened in the past two months.
- He believes its source, known as the Dream Eater, is locked away within the labyrinthine complex of the Grand Archives.
- The Grand Archives started revoking and limiting new access to the secure areas of the library about a year ago.
- To get into the secure sections an access pass is required. Vargik is able to provide the party with four Level 2 access passes.
Dreamwards! Get your dreamwards!
After the meeting, Zorn checks to see if there are any children hanging around. “Yeah, actually. You see a young boy in a hat peddling little trinkets to anyone who will listen.”
Each trinket, known colloquially as a dreamward, is a length of hand-carved wood with a small red gem set in the center. Zorn purchases one trinket. The boy explains that “Mister ‘lightenman”, from the “non-demon nation church” gives the youth group a new batch of dreamwards to sell every so often.
I had intended to introduce a kid selling trinkets at some point but hadn’t planned when or where. This is an example of an opportunity and at this moment, without skipping a beat, I pulled that opportunity into the scene. Not only that, but Zorn’s player had also taken the initiative to invent an opportunity. The payoff of the opportunity is new information in the form of a lead to pursue and it introduces dreamwards, a key item in Sweet Dreams.
A nap gone amiss
After a while, both Annika and ‘Tanya, with keen perception, hear a high-pitched sound from somewhere within the tavern. Godfrey (the narcoleptic awakened owlbear, in case you forgot), snoozing behind the bar, startles awake and goes berserk. The party intervenes just as the ruffled owlbear is poised to attack his patrons! “Roll initiative.”
Zorn | Attempts to non-violently distract Godfrey by causing a scene and using his light spell.
Somna | Casts the SuggestionYou suggest a course of activity (limited to a sentence or two) and magically influence a creature you can see within range that can hear and understand you. Creatures that can’t be charmed are immune to this effect. The suggestion must be worded in such a manner as to make the course of action sound reasonable. Asking the creature to stab itself, throw itself onto a spear, immolate itself, or do some other obviously harmful act ends the spell.
The target must make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, it pursues the course of action you described to the best of its ability. The suggested course of action can continue for the entire duration. If the suggested activity can be completed in a shorter time, the spell ends when the subject finishes what it was asked to do. spell. “You just take, say, oh 300 laps around the tavern until you calm down.”
Spell DC: 15
Godfrey fails the saving throw.
Godfrey, compelled to walk laps around the outside the tavern, irritably crashes through the nearest tavern window and sets about his task. What a beautifully executed “combat” encounter! I’m so proud. Quick note. Instead of assuming she meant outside the tavern I made sure to clarify if she intended inside or outside. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you’re unsure!
Gathering Intel and Asking Questions
Having bought themselves some time, the party decides to gather information. ‘Tanya remains at the tavern to watch over Godfrey while the others look for the “non-demon-nation church” their young informant, well, informed them of.
The non-demon nation church
After asking around they arrive at Pantheon House, the non-denominational church that celebrates all gods. They meet an elderly tiefling man named Enlightenment who operates and lives in the church. Carefully, the party probes for information by asking about the dreamwards.
The party learns the following from Enlightenment:
- The dreamwards come unassembled from the Grand Archives semi-regularly.
- He assembles them himself and allows his temple youth to sell them for renovation money.
- About a year ago The Pantheon House began receiving generous donations from the Grand Archives, allowing Enlightenment to renovate his church.
- The dreamwards are meant to ward off the sleepwalking curse and protect the owners — although he personally doesn’t believe they work.
Return to Sleepy Owlbear tavern
Satisfied with their new information, the party returns to the Sleepy Owlbear tavern to theorize over some drinks. Godfrey has broken free of his sleepwalking fit and retires to rest, vaguely remembering the bizarre stories ‘Tanya had shared with him in his stupor. Annika, recalling the strange sound she heard earlier, locates a dreamward hanging over a tavern window. The gem it possesses is cracked. She tinkers with the dreamwards they have collected, using borrowed pliers from Somna’s Thieves’ Tools to extract the gems from both.
Zorn and ‘Tanya get drunk on expensive liquor and the party departs to find lodging for the night.
Attempting to Retire for the Day
It’s rarely that easy…
There are rats in this attic (not really)
Settling on a so-so establishment the party makes their way to the Rat Attic Inn. By the way, “Rat Attic” is the kind of name you get when the Dungeon Master (DM) has to come up with a name on the fly toward the end of a session. On their way to the Rat Attic, the party encounters their first proper combat. A group of sleepwalking civilians emerge from the Rat Attic and nearby guard barracks, converging in the street to damage property and attack each other in a fit of blind violence. Naturally, the party swoops in! “Roll for initiative.”
One of the sleepwalkers transforms into a strange, shadow-smoke monstrosity. Using non-lethal techniques our heroes manage to incapacitate everyone, including the monster, with Zorn nearly setting a tree on fire in the process. Defeated, the monster reverts into a humanoid, now marked with gray scars. Some sort of lingering effect? A curse? The victims are taken to the infirmary to recover.
This combat, like many I put together, was a bit too easy. That’s because I had the humanoid transform into a monster (with a more threatening statblock) at the end of their turn instead of the start. Therefore, I missed my chance to really do some damage and create a sense of danger before the party dispatched it.
Lesson Learned: Be tough! Don’t gimp your enemies. Go in swinging!
Suspicious, the party searches the Rat Attic accommodations and, with a combination of perception, communication, and thoroughness, they remove hidden dreamwards from multiple rooms. They find some hidden in the lights and others wedged behind headboards or secured under a desk.
The party learns the following from the owner of the Rat Attic:
- A week ago a woman had to switch rooms multiple times due to minor issues with each room.
- She wore strange robes and was affiliated with “some weird church” from another town.
- He wasn’t aware the dreamwards were there and doesn’t know for sure where they came from.
After a long evening of information gathering, wrangling an owlbear, socializing, and fighting sleepwalkers the party finally turns in for the night.
Annika is certain that the dreamwards are somehow triggering the sleepwalking outbursts.
The party believes that separating the gem from the wooden carving will prevent the dreamwards from working.
Their plans for next session
- Prevent Enlightenment from passing out more dreamwards.
- Take a morning carriage from Somnium to the Grand Archives — a 5 – 6 hour ride.
- Gain access to the secure sections of the Grand Archives.
Dungeon Master Notes
Overall, an incredible session and a warm welcome back to running Dungeons and Dragons 5e. Everyone was in character, engaged, asking questions, and theorizing. The party dynamic was solid. They spent a lot of time inhabiting their characters and getting a feel for personalities through roleplay and downtime, giving me a chance to get acquainted with running the game again. I was competent throughout and equipped to handle whatever the players wanted to do.
Some of that success is attributed to a set of simple notes. I understood going into the session what was happening behind the scenes: character motivations, facts, and secrets. A fact sheet I wrote up ahead of time kept me organized and prepared. Because this information was readily available, the session was a breeze.
Follow Their Journey!
Reconvening at the Sleepy Owlbear Tavern the party enjoys a hearty breakfast while discussing their plans.
Annika, remembering their visit with Enlightenment, slips away to have another chat with the old priest at the Pantheon House. With logical reasoning and a so-so persuasion roll she convinces him to stop passing out dreamwards around town.
Meanwhile, the party expresses their concerns about dreamwards spreading amongst the townsfolk of Somnium. Zorn, ever efficient and hardheaded, strides through the crowded tavern to loudly declare that dreamwards are dangerous. Most patrons heed him no mind. Sleepily yet determined, Somna joins Zorn’s efforts to raise awareness with thaumaturgy amplifying her voice. Together, they gather the attention of the breakfast goers.
The prominent dwarven scholar Vargik Tomedelver has commissioned capable individuals to carry out work he cannot: the infiltration of the Grand Archives! Why would a renowned and trusted scholar require such skullduggery? The advent of the sleepwalkers (and a strong need to maintain one’s reputation in academia) of course!