H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands 5th Edition

H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands 5th Edition

From:  Chaosium, Inc.

Reviewed by:  Ron McClung

H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands 5th Edition is a new Role Playing Game Sourcebook from Chaosium, Inc.

Dreamlands 5th Edition is a sourcebook for the Call of Cthulhu (CoC) Role Playing Game.  It can be used as a stand-alone world to adventure in or an additional world for CoC investigators to journey in while investigating in the Waking World.  It can be an enhancement to the horror of the real world CoC or a fantasy world to explore by itself.

Chaosium is well known for its reprints of many of its resources and I have always wondered if they actually put enough in them to warrant a new edition.  With both 4th Edition (Expanded and Revised) Dreamlands and 5th Edition Dreamlands sitting in front of me, I set out to find out.  There was 7 years between the 4th Edition book and the 5th, so it’s understandable to put a new edition out now.  However, as with many of the Chaosium books, I am not sure I am convinced there is enough change in the system to warrant it.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Call of Cthulhu in all its incarnations.  I have every edition of the Call of Cthulhu Core rulebook since 2nd edition including the $80 leather bound anniversary edition.  However, I’ve never seen the allure of Dreamlands.  Don’t get me wrong though – I see the value of dreams in general in CoC, but Dreamlands never attracted me like core CoC.  I decided to take this opportunity to try and see the value in Dreamlands.

From the front cover “ Roleplaying beyond the Wall of Sleep”

Initial Overview:  First impressions are good.  It’s a hard bound book versus the 4th edition soft bound.  There are more pages which means there has to be more stuff in it.  They expanded the same 4th edition cover art to the whole cover and used more art in the inside cover.  Both are dazzling epic renditions of Dreamlands by Raymond Bayless and Mark Roland.  It’s a sharp looking book, no matter how you look at it, so it had that going for it.

Both have Dreamlands maps, but the 5th edition is larger and in more than three colors. However, it is simply a more colorized version of the 4th edition map.

From what I can tell initially by the table of contents, some things have been rearranged but the primary thing they added is more adventures.  Of course, that is what a GM needs, especially in a specialized universe such as this, so I did not see that as a bad thing.

What surprised me upon opening the book was they left the 4th edition introduction in the 5th edition book.  The letters written by Chris Williams and Sandy Petersen talk of a 4th Edition book when I wanted to know why they put together a 5th edition book.  That explanation is later found within a short side bar in the first few pages called Clear Credits.  There, it says that this edition was primarily the work of Mr. Williams who expanded the book to include more of the Dreamlands material written by other authors. Thus I find the justification of a 5th edition – add more stuff.  Acceptable, but only marginally to me.

Part 1 – Background:  What is Dreamlands?  Some who may not know its relation to other Lovecraftian tales may ask that or may be confused by the initial perceived concept.  Even after I read the pages, I am still not sure how I would fit it into my usually brooding and dark Cthulhu horror adventuring.  There are many approaches to Dreamlands, as best illustrated by the number of authors that write stories in the setting.

Included in these pages are sections on Entering the Dreamlands (through dreaming or through physical means), time, sanity and death in the dream, the atmosphere in the dream, and a long essay on the Dreamquest of Randolph Carter (from The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath).  This information really gets you into the Dreamlands and the philosophy behind the stories based in them.  It is quite extensive, especially the essay.

After the essay is the gazetteer of the Dreamlands, taking you to every bizarre location the lands of dreams has.  Very little of this has changed from the 4th Edition.  It includes the major locations on the surface world, the underworld, on the Moon, and beyond.  The locations resemble a bizarre fantasy realm with people and creatures like no other world. It is a world of fantasy and horror, with kingdoms and enchanted forests, horrid creatures and endless oceans.  It is a totally different world  than your traditional H.P. Lovecraft horror adventure and even more different from your traditional fantasy.

From the back cover: “ We all dream. For some, dreams can become reality.”

The next two sections in Part 1 cover NPCs and creatures of the Dreamlands.  Of course a land so vast as Dreamlands has many people and creatures.  For me, this is where the value comes from this book.  I can always use more creatures in my game. Some creatures are the same as in the CoC core book, so you’ll need that for those stats.  There are over 80 creatures listed. Unless there is a difference in what creatures they included between 4th and 5th, both editions seem to have the same amount of creatures. And from what I can tell, they also list the same number of Gods in the following section.

Part 1 ends with the magic section, including Magic items, spells and tomes.  After all, what would a H.P. Lovecraft universe be without magic and ancient tomes?  Listed are 4 magic items, 9 tomes, and over 60 spells.  Of course, you need CoC Core rulebook for the magic system.

Part 2 – Adventures: This is probably the most expanded section between 4th and 5th edition.  There are a total of six adventures.  The first adventure, To Sleep, Perchance to Dream, is a good introductory adventure to Dreamlands.  It is a short two page adventure that gives the GM a way to introduce real-world investigators to the Dreamlands in a CoC-style way.  The second is also a Waking World to Dreamlands adventure where they characters start out captured by a cultist and the only way out is by defeating their leader in the Dreamlands.  Both introduce unique ways to use the Dreamlands in a CoC adventure.  Each successive adventure gets more and more involved with the Dreamlands until the last adventure takes place entirely in the Dreamlands.

In these adventures, I found the value of Dreamlands and can see how it is used.  I may not be one to use it in an entire adventure, but I can definitely see uses for it along side a standard adventure.

Part 3 – Appendices: There are three basic sections to this part of the book:  Creating a Dreamlands Adventurer, a Bibliography and a Chronology. The Adventurer section is a supplemental to the CoC character generation system, allowing players to create characters native to the Dreamlands.  The Bibliography is simply a resource of stories written by various authors based in or linked to the Dreamlands.  The chronology is simply a list of those stories in the order that they occurred.   Nothing outstanding in this section that I can comment on.

In conclusion, although I see the value of Dreamlands in an H.P. Lovecraft adventure, I am not certain that this is a must-have book.  It is a nice-looking book.  If you don’t have the 4th edition but like Dreamlands, I would say this is a must-have, but beyond that, it’s simply a re-print with a couple of things added on.  The adventures are good, if you are looking for ways to use the Dreamlands, but most have been printed in other material.  If you like a much sturdier book than the soft-back 4th Edition, this would be a good book for you.  Overall, however, it’s not a book I would rush out to the store to get, but that may be just me.

For more details on Chaosium, Inc. and their new Role Playing Game Sourcebook “H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands 5th Edition” check them out at their website http://www.chaosium.com and at all of your local game stores.

H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands 5th Edition
From: Chaosium, Inc.
Type of Game: Role Playing Game Sourcebook
Written by: Chris Williams & Sandy Petersen
Contributing Authors: Shannon Appel, Kerie Campbell, Jacqueline Clegg, Scott Clegg, Phil Frances, Keith Herber, Susan Hutchinson, Lynn Willis.
Game Design by: Sandy Petersen
Cover Art by: Raymond Bayless
Additional Art by: Mark Roland, Paul Carrick, Jason Eckhardt, Steve Gallacci, Earl Geier, Andy Hopp, Kevin Ramos, Mark Roland, Carolyn Schultz-Savoy
Number of Pages: 254
Game Components Included: Hard back book
Game Components Not Included: Call of Cthulhu Core rulebook
Retail Price: $ 34.95 (US)
Item Number: 2394
ISBN: 1-56882-157-3
Website: www.chaosium.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung