Table Utility of Dream Magic

I'm workshopping a few character ideas for a saga, and reading through the various supplements as I mull over those character ideas. One of the ideas concerns using dream magic, but in reading the chapter in Mysteries, I can't make heads or tails of what the virtues are meant to do in a saga.

The minor dream magic virtue provides a means to have stories about traveling into dreams, but what I'm not clear on is what would motivate a player to do this, aside from "cool" at a very high pricetag. It seems like a lot of investment in terms of both initiating and having some measure of specialty in the related magic as the base guidelines start at Level 15.

The kicker though is spending "on screen" time to do something that the chapter explicitly says you cannot gain experience from, you cannot learn any new information from your own dream, cannot do anything with lasting benefit, and so on.

Traveling in dream seems very interesting and enjoyable to write (and read) as an event in the arc of a particular character, which is why I'm looking closely at it... admittedly for the first time in ten years. A defined place that your character can engage with the storyguide to recontextualize their own arc via lucid dreaming is neat! However, it strikes me that pausing a live game so that everyone can hear about a character's dream adventure they're having is not a good use of everyone's time. It's famously rather boring to listen to someone explain their dreams, and having someone else explain a dream their character is having seems like a great time for everyone else to get up for a snack break and wander back once that arc is finished. Yes, other character can in theory join in a dream, but the impact is limited entirely to understanding the contents of the dreamer's dream, whoever that is.

That hints at the one piece of solid utility to the table I could figure out for minor dream magic, entering someone else's dream to retrieve some piece of information they intend to withhold, or are otherwise unable to communicate, like the movie Inception style. This seems like a cool trick to pull a handful of times, but is of such limited interest that spending significant permanent player resources on it instead of presenting it as a one-off plot device via a non-hermetic effect of a regione or artifact feels like a substantial mistake.

The Greater Grimoire, particularly with its note about how real objects may be hidden or retrieved from dreams, and with no mention of said objects re-appearing when the dreamer awakes has some real storytelling utility at a table, I believe. It's a varied enough power to lean into as a player, with a lot of interesting implications, especially as the text indicates that many elements of dream logic do not apply to physical travelers and objects - so you COULD potentially learn in a dream, could potentially create a physical lab and transport it into dreaming, could impact the rest of the "real game world" in ways not related purely to knowledge. Is it really just the case that you have to take a rather bum virtue, which while 'minor' still theoretically requires an initiation to attain, to get to anything useful? That seems... undesirable, a BIG hump to get not that great of a reward, seeing as the effects are still prohibitively expensive and difficult to utilize.

Seems to me that either the two virtues should be combined and/or a lot more refinement could be done in terms of the limited scope of the overall magical technique. Like a lot of the other Mysteries, Dream Magic seems like a neat concept, but the text needs workshopping to actually perform as described or drive a cult as intended.

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Don't get me started on Dream magic. I created a Bjornaer of house Maruhs so I could learn dream magic, and just as the saga gets to a point I can initiate this mystery....the saga stopped.

The lesser one won't show up much at the table unless you are trying to get information out of people's dreams on a regular basis. The Greater Grimoire, with the power to open portals and take others into dream, allows you to have whole party adventures.

If you want dream magic to appear regularly in a saga, then either you need companions who have something compatible, or a way to get people into dream, or enemies who attack in dreams.

As sahirs with travel magic (Cradle & the Crescent) can open portals into dream, there is one possible route. The Hyperborean Hymn of Eloure (Ancient Magic) has dream within its domain, so there's a possibility for an item that transports people into or out of dreams or for companions who can do the same. Magical and Faerie creatures can have powers which use non-hermetic guidelines and you can include lots of requisites when defining the power, so a magical cat whose 23 hours of sleep a day are exciting dream adventures is entirely possible. Divination by Dream Interpretation is done by some Hermetic Magi and also by Jewish Holy characters.

Hopefully between some of these you could find enough to get other people involved.


I spent some time setting up a group of magi using Dream magic, but then that saga collapsed. :frowning:

I'm still hoping to re-use them though, so no details will be provided here :wink:

Darkwing is right, you basically have to build a saga around Dream Magic for it to even get close to being worth it. And the dream guidelines seem to assume you'd have a magical focus in dreams.

Much like Shadowrun's matrix and/or astral rules, it revolves around splitting up the party unless the party is built to come along as well. Ars Magica already has enough of magi going off doing stuff by themselves (and the companion/grog rules help with this, most players want to play magi) without adding in scooting off to the dream realm on a regular basis.


Yeah that's what I figured.

I'm going to write a little sidebar about "Apt living through better dreams", with some guidelines on abstracting out dream adventures if needed, potential living condition bonuses for having long term "aligned dreams" (a dream mage going in and integrating your dreams periodically), and labyrinth meditation-like bonuses to an ability after having a guided dream for adventure play. Plus having to specialize in both mentem and imaginem to really use dream magic is... dumb.

I think those will help ground dream magic in the rest of the game and provide some value to the virtues. The dream mage can improve the health of the covenant by using dreams to gently balance everyone's humors, use it to assist in adventures by "sleeping on it" and improving an ability for the next day's portion of the adventure, and just say "I go into their dreams at night and try to accomplish X" with some guidelines for how to adjudicate that without needing to split the party.

Like all of the Mysteries, it's a neat idea that doesn't really work with the rest of the game, which is too bad!

Bear in mind that, to gain a health bonus from sweet dreams, that would probably need to be used throughout the year, in which case arguably the covenant would also get warping.

What I meant by that wasn't "The magus casts a year long ritual over the covenant to prevent bad dreams", but more that if someone came to them with troubling dreams they have a means to resolve them by entering the dream and helping manage it. This would not add warping and wouldn't require entire days of effort (and therefore shouldn't interrupt the magi's seasonal activities), but would improve the wellbeing of anyone needing this service.

There's not any reason this should add warping.

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Lesser Dream Magics can be used for communication between member of a mystery cult/conspiracy. But given the spell levels involved, there are easier ways to do this.

Similarly, Greater Dream Magic can be used for traveling (exiting via someone else's Portal), but again there are easier ways to achieve this.