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While Mankind tends to think of the Dreamlands as an unformed, nebulous, constantly-changing environment, in fact it is subject to its own natural laws. Mankind is merely incapable of comprehending these laws.
What they are, in human terms, is an n-dimensional space with enclosed realities floating within it. Each of these independent realities is like a bubble. Our own universe is said to be curved, and we hardly notice (I don't think I've ever noticed, actually… near-sighted, I guess). Each of these bubble realities, then, is a self-contained universe, subject to its own natural laws, and could have more (or fewer?) dimensions than our own.
In many cases, bubbles may be connected to each other by "tunnels," which may be relatively stable (like the tunnels linking ghoul graveyard access routes to the DLs) or transitory (access in a dream, or via drugs). Not all DLs are connected to all other, or even to any other DL. Some may be accessible only through one particular point or one particular dream, or perhaps not accessible at all, with their inhabitants totally isolated from the DLs (if they were human, what would that mean?).
When one bubble reality impacts another, it could result in both popping, or both combining into a larger one (soap bubble action). I suppose it could also end with the two bubbles still independent, but sharing one planar surface, also like soap bubbles. Bubbles have no real size to human perceptions, and can change in size in response to a number of factors. Chaosium, after all, casually expanded the size of Dreamlands any number of times with new supplements, as did Brian Lumley.
What defines the size of a soap bubble is the volume of air inside, basically, and what defines the size of a reality bubble (=size of reality inside) is the strength of the field creating it (=POW). Amaterasu has created a reality bubble (Japan DL) with herself at the core, and has guided Japanese civilization to constantly energize herself, providing a gradual (but slowing) increase in DL power. She has already absorbed at least one other bubble, the Ainu culture (have to check on dates; probably Meiji), and everything went nicely, so she's ready for the next assault: to absorb Wakeworld into her reality. Screw the rest of Dreamlands.
The Japanese Dreamlands
There is a "concentric structure" to the Japanese Dreamlands, but it's not visible except from the center… or if you aim for the core, where Amaterasu sits.
Your average Dreamer can pop up in any different sector, or even experience a mix of a few of them, depending on whatever factor you prefer. As long as he moves at random, or on a quest of his own, he can perceive the shift - be it subtle or dramatic, and in any sequence (from cyberpunk to Tokugawa with no intermediate pasages, for example). But as soon as the Dreamer's purposes get directed, as soon as he has an aim and starts moving purposefully towards Amaterasu's Cave, the structure folds protectively and he has to roam the different realms, in sequence, facing uncounted dangers and disorientation. Which might mean that the swiftest way to get to Amaterasu's Cave is by going there without a purpose.
If you do not know where you are going it's easier to get there. Very Zen, but it requires some practice. As a second accessory thought, of course Dreamlanders do not experience the shift - even if it means a total change of attire and accessories and quite likely a drastic shift in personality (it's a long jump from sailor-suited schoolgirl to black-toothed, porcelain-faced princess). This only increases the disorientation.
One way of understanding the structure of the Japanese DLs is shown here. Each of the following layers is fairly independent of the others, and extend indefinitely outward from the central core, which is Amaterasu's consciousness. The center of each layer is a huge volcano, which may be dormant or erupting depending on her mood at the time, and is called the "Kamimine" or "god mountain" by the inhabitants. There are also connections between random spots on different layers, gateways, if you will. Remember that this is a conceptual diagram, and in fact each layer is perceived as an independent world, unable to (usually) perceive any of the others.
Moving in from the outer to inner "layers" of the Japanese DLs, there are several relatively clear-cut areas (there are any number of mixtures and peculiarities, as with Chaosium DLs):
- The modern-day Japanese DL: this would be formed by the dreams of today's inhabitants of Nippon*. Being a clueless American whose knowledge of Japan comes from movies and books, I'd say that this domain would be heavily identified with manga/anime. The endless metropolitan sprawl of NeoTokyo, where all the technology is both beautiful, luxurious, oppressive, and run-down, all at the same time. Lots of "Ghost in the Shell"-style merging of the organic and mechanized, bodies with wires and chip sprouting from them being commonplace. Girls in school uniforms with unnaturally enormous breasts, and hentai sex/rape on every corner. It would also be shaped by the grey dreams of office drones, who, if they are anything like I was during that short dark period of my life when I was literally killing myself with work, then their dreams are filled with panic attacks, repititive mindless tasks, and an obsession with time. If a Tokyo Police SWAT team member (and secret Kurotokage agent) were to enter the Japanese DL at this domain, his Kevlar vest would turn into some kind cyberknight mecha and his assault rifle would become a rail gun built into his flesh.
- The Greater Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere DL: to quote myself, the dream of Mitsuru Toyama still alive. A place that seems absolutely like traditional pre-Meiji Japan, but is all plastic in Disneyland sort of way - manufactured historical myth. We can also throw in alternative-1946 "If Japan Had Won the War" elements - Mitsubishi Zero flying disks and pulp-era Imperial Japanese soldiers with jet-packs. And lots of faceless (literally) small people wheeling the cogs of this fascist machine world with their blood. Here, our SWAT/Kurotokage agent watches as his armor fades into the alternate-1946 version of an NBC suit and his mecha gun becomes a chemical-gas weapon invented in a DL Mukden out of the darker dreams of Unit 731.
- The Steampunk Meiji Era DL (as per Davide's suggestions): kind of crossroads between the 1946 DL and the next, with all the alternative-1946 mecha becoming steam-powered. It might look a lot like a Japanese Carcosa, with Asians walking around dressed in Victorian/Edwardian clothes around trashheaps filled with the relics of their feudal past. Somewhere there should be a Valhalla-like battlefield where feudal samurai can banzai-charge machine guns all day and then get reborn the next day to banzai-charge again. The SWAT/Kurotokage agent sees the NBC suit morph into steam-powered mecha suit, and his gas-gun becomes an overly-complicated blackpowder Gatling-Gun-style rifle.
- The Sengoku Era DL: feudal Japan out of a Kurosawa film. I don't know how much of this would reflect the dreams of those that lived during the Sengoku era or the modern-day dreamers that harken back to it in the way Americans see the Old West. Back to our SWAT/Kurotokage man, and his courtier clothes becomes the grungy robes and cobbled-together armor of a ronin, and his musket becomes a huge tachi.
- The Heian Era DL: the dreams of the Golden Age of Japan, full of ritual and pomp. The inhabitants would be more like actors in a play than free beings, carrying out the myriad of ceremonial tasks they set for themselves. Life as an endless tea ceremony. Think of the Tale of Genji, and people moving langorously through erotic, perfumed realities infused with the taint of the King in Yellow. Here our SWAT/Kurotokage agent would find himself in the stylized, uncomfortable clothes of a courtier.
- The mythic DL: similar to the Sengoku Era DL, but here the monsters start to appear: tengu and oni and the like. This would be the Mononoke Hime-style DL, a Japan moving into its feudal prime yet still a part of an older primeval world. As one moves further through this domain, the dreams become even more primal and less human, till the dreamlands of Mu is reached. I can only imagine what lloigor may dream of. As for our SWAT/Kurotokage man, he has lost his ronin clothes and wears the simple primitive dress of an Ainu, and his tachi becomes a straight-edge Chinese-style bronze sword.
- Amaterasu's Cave: I leave this up to you. The SWAT/Kurotokage man finds his clothes an incongrous blend of all the domains he has passed through: the animal-skin cloak of an Ainu, the cobbled armor of the ronin, the stylized dress of the courtier, the steam-powered engine strapped to his back, the helmet of the alternate-1946 Imperial Japanese soldier, the wires and chips protruding from his flesh of the mecha, and the web gear of his SWAT uniform.
Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2001 01:36:40 -0000 From: "Charles Ripper" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This reminds me of an old comic book series called Grimjack, from First Comics, written by John Ostrander. It was set in a city called Cynosure where different dimensions met. Some were permanent, but some moved in and out of phase. One of the key moments in the main character's development was when Hell came into phase witht he city. The tag line for the description was that "Guns worked in some places, magic in others, but swords worked everywhere."
Nostalgia aside, my question is, how do Dreamers get into a different 'bubble'? If you go to sleep in Japan, are you automatically in the Japan DL? Or will gaijin still dream about the Mythos DL, but as they grow accustomed to the vibe of the new area, they slowly gain access to the new DL.
If we go with the latter, the access could take the for of going into caves that you 'hear about,' or maybe find when following a white rabbit. For the dreamer, he regards the new bubble as 'underground,' because he accessed it through caves, but each of the dreamlands can be the 'underground' for almost any other. Some restrictions apply.
Taking this image, if you started dream spelunkering, you might end up in the Mayan DL if you fall asleep on the Yucatan. You don't automatically, but that potential is there.
Subject: Re: [Kurotokage] Re: Dreamland Japan Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2001 21:12:54 EST From: USFORREC1@aol.com Reply-To: Kurotokage@yahoogroups.com
Well, a few ideas that kicked up in my head with the recent discussions that I'll throw out. Might be a gem or two amongst the heap.
What if the DL as laid out in the DL book is the natural DL. That is how it is supposed to be: the extremes of man's (subconscious?)dreams, desires, imagination and fears expressed in a fantastic land. It has set rules and a slow, natural evolution that reflect a core subconsciousness that takes hundreds of years to affect. I would postulate the existenceof an Asian DL also existing here, following the same rules but separated fromthe Western one (as well as an African and Australian one). Now, as the Endtimes approach and massive upheavals have occurred around the world, changes to the belief structures have happened rapidly, affecting subconscious beliefs. This has caused the "bubbles" to appear in the DL. These are more modern areas that have appeared quickly in the DL. There is little rhyme or reason to where they appear. Some might be in an isolated area, while others have rippled up right in some already established one. They might be a building, small group of travelers or whatever, that have appeared. The main concept is that they are breaking the rules of the DL. This breakdown is a major sign of the Endtimes, as the two "realities" are being merged into one.
Now, what if Ashi was an early devotee of Hastur. She gained her powers by study at the Library of Celaeno and learned to command the Byakhee. With these powers,she led her tribe to power. Also, she awakened powers that allowed her access to the DL. She created the DL Japan and through her it was linked much more directly with the RW Japan than any other land was. Ashi continued to spread the worship of Hastur until she ran afoul of the Mi-Go in Japan (maybe doing multi-dimensional mining in Mount Fuji). She led her warriors against them and while victorious, she was killed in the RW.
Her DL form continued to exist, however, ruling the DL Japan. Her tribe kept her beliefs alive, forming the proto-BOYS and seeking a way to bring their priestess backin the RW (with the prevalent method being the inhabitation of the Imperial Line and the occasional manipulation of events from the DL). Her tribe also spread worship of her as her DL persona that with the twisting of tales grew into the tale of Amaterasu. While this eventually grew into a form of sun worship, it was initially a metaphor for her "enlightenment" through Hastur.
Through the years, the Kuromaku have served their Goddess. They seek a world dominated by Japan and led by a reborn Ashi. WW2 was to be the culmination of these schemes but things didn't work out that way. Prepared to fight to the end, the Kuromaku was shocked into a different course of action by the dropping of the A-Bombs. That their enemies could harness a mythos force (not distinguishing between the bomb and Azathoth himself) made them quickly formulate another plan. With alliances made through Ashi with a ghoul faction, the Kuromaku managed to open several direct openings to the DL. They moved a number of their membership, some Imperial troops and equipment to DL Japan. The rest went underground to rebuild here.
Over the years, troops and equipment have been quietly moved into DL Japan, creating a strange mix of the traditional DL with technology from the recent years. They have been quietly making alliances with some of the mythos races and establishing a network through the DL. Their plan is to take control of the DL as a precursor to world control. Hastur is giving his support to the endeavor because by again linking the two realities through Ashi, his influence can spread and a further veil of reality is stripped away. Finally, from the shadows, Nyarlathotep is lending a very quiet hand to all of this because he realizes the ultimate truth: if the DL can be subverted in such a manner by a mythos force, the effects on humanity's subconscious would be devastating. The corrupting influence will spread through billions, making them the Great Old Ones and heralding the Endtimes. The DL won't be a last refuge for mankind but the signaler of our doom.
For campaigning, Kurotokage can be engaged in a desperate battle to save the DL that is fought in both the RW and DL. They can face the BOYS, Ghouls, cultists, Mi-Go seeking revenge, Yakuza, Japan, Inc., etc. Kuromaku can be using the DL to travel around the RW quickly to appear almost anywhere. DL magic and artifacts might be making their way here as tech is going the other way. Maybe Kuromaku is working on a VR system, hidden amongst other high tech products, as a way to finally break down the walls separating the Dreamlands.
Add to this Dave K's idea of a Co-Prosperity Sphere, but instead of using WW2 weapons, have it fought using traditional weapons, magic, and intrigue. And the geography does not have to match our world's—DLNippon could be taking over any nation of the DLs, or new ones we come up with. Imagine imperial samurai laying siege to Dylath-Leen.
Mark mentioned the Leiberian "bubble" idea — could the "Sphere" in Co-Prosperity Sphere be literal? The Nippon bubble trying to absorb another bubble to make a bigger sphere? Or Ed's tinker-toy structure — could DLs mages try to make new doorways into other Realms in order to invade?
Also is Nippon even united in the DLs? I'm thinking Mononoke Hime, with armies from the central government constantly trying to bring the outlying, stubborn-individualist provinces under control. The Ryukyus could still be independent, at least.