5e: Races of Osse — The Ekidan

My current Fifth Edition campaign is called Adventures in Osse, a rather unimaginative but to the point title. As I’ve mentioned before the campaigns of my tabletop group take place in a version of Toril (the world of the Forgotten Realms) that has been altered by the events and consequences of multiple past campaigns.

Now, this world has a history older than my membership in the group. So when I offered to run the next game, I was looking at a world with a lot of existing lore which was a fairly intimidating prospect. There was also the fact that I like building my own worlds. I appreciate the benefits of a shared world with an evolving history, but I didn’t want to feel too beholden to what had come before. My solution was to look outside of the Forgotten Realms. In the end I settled on Osse, a continent to the South-West, clearly intended to parallel Australia, which had essentially no established lore either officially or in the group’s own canon. This gave me a place to start fresh with my own ideas and not concern myself too much with what had happened in past games, most of which I’d not even been part of.

To go along with the new continent I’ve established a few new races, and I thought I’d share them with you.

But first I should explain the Dreamtime, because this transitive plane is intrinsically tied to the continent of Osse and its natives. I introduced this plane to the game because the Aboriginal concept of the Dreamtime was simply too interesting not to include in a fantasy setting that takes a large part of its inspiration from Australia, its myths, and its cryptids. Additionally, the Forgotten Realms doesn’t have an adequate home for dreams. The only thing I could find was that Dendar the Night Serpent, a primordial concerned with the domain of dreams and nightmares, canonically lives on the Fugue Plane (the place mortal go to be judged when they die). Associating dreams with death in this way doesn’t do it for me, so I knew I wanted the Dreamtime to be its own place. I determined it should be a transitive plane that connects all dreamers from all places and all times (it would therefore theoretically be possible to use the Dreamtime to travel between planes, at least, or maybe even between realities/settings). It is a plane that hasn’t really been discovered or explored by the people of Faerûn, but it is well known in Osse. Why would that be? I decided that Osse had a particularly strong connection to the plane of Dreams because the continent had formed around the corpse of a primordial connected to dreams who was slain by the god Auppenser during the Dawn War. There’s a little bit more to that story, but I’d better not share it since some of my players may be reading this post.

Anyway, a description of the Dreamtime follows. After that, our first Ossian race: the Ekidan!

The Dreamtime

The Dreamtime, also known as the Dreaming or the Plane of Dreams, is the place where every creature’s mind goes when they dream. It is a purely metaphysical space and linear time has no meaning there. Indeed, no rules apply in the Dreamtime except the ones the minds within it impose. It touches on all minds in all places, so is near-infinite. In theory, if you could enter it with your physical body it could be used to travel between planes or even dimensions, but more likely the traveller would just get lost and never return. The Dreamtime is described in relation to the “waking world” below, a term of convenience to describe all other planes.

The Dreamtime borders the waking world, and in some respects these strange shores are its mirror—visitors to the Dreamtime who are conscious of their visit often discover that the place where they enter bears a resemblance to the physical location where they fell asleep. In truth, this is merely because the mortal mind seeks the familiar, and grounds itself in the known. An entrant could just as easily emerge in a scene from a memory, or even a future hope. The mirror world phenomenon is particularly common when multiple people enter into the Dreamtime as a group via magic, or guided via a shaman. The echo of reality is something all their minds can cope with and seek out. Yet even when the Dreamtime’s shallows resemble a world which a person knows, the mirror is an imperfect one in which dimensions, perspectives, and the passing of time are not to be trusted. If you enter the Dreamtime while on a mountainside you may still be on a mountainside when you “wake” in the Dreamtime, but the mountain may be impossibly tall, so that you are unable even to see the ground. If you enter it while in a small grove of trees, you might enter the Dreamtime in an enormous, alien forest. Consequently, little of what you see in the Dreamtime can be trusted to indicate a true state of affairs in the waking world.

Some locations in the waking world leave particularly strong impressions on the Dreamtime. These are places where many have slept and dreamed, places and times that have oft been the subject of dreams, and often a combination of both. Great cities, ruins of ancient empires, and the sites of legendary battles are examples of places which might warp the fabric of the Dreatime. A dreamer in such a place might find their dreams drawn into the dreams and nightmares of others who live or dreamed of this place, whether they be from the past, present or future. A conscious visitor may even be able to learn something about the location’s past, future, or even secrets of its present through the imprints powerful or common recurring dreams can leave as echoes on the landscape.

The Dreamtime has its own native inhabitants – the archetypal beings that are the subject of Osse’s animistic tradition, as well as other creatures known to live in (or feed off of) dreams. Furthermore, other creatures from the waking world may be met in the Dreamtime, if they too are sleeping. When they are not sleeping, it might be possible to meet a past or future version of themselves who is. Any of these creatures can harm a visitor. Typically, someone merely dreaming will wake up before anything fatal happens—an instinctual reaction to actual danger. However, anyone visiting the Dreamtime by artificial means is vulnerable and can actually die. Sometimes, a regular sleeper’s body will not recognise the danger, and they may also die in the Dreamtime. To people in the waking world, these unfortunates appear to have died in their sleep.

It is possible to visit the Dreamtime while remaining conscious of one’s visit there. The most common method used by shamans in Osse is to alter their state of consciousness before sleeping, making them simultaneously more aware of their dream surroundings and more receptive to the signs and portents in the dream world in which they find themselves. To achieve such a receptive state, shamans brew a herbal tea that can induce temporary sleep and force entry into the Dreamtime. They also manufacture a rare magic item, Dreamdust, which allows a visitor access to the Dreamtime for 24 hours. That’s 24 hours in the waking world, not in the Dreamtime – time is fluid in the Dreamtime, who knows how much or how little can happen there during this period. The visitor’s body is vulnerable in the waking world, where they appear to be in a very deep sleep.

The Dreamtime can also be visited when in a near-death state. Shamans without the knowledge of safer methods may practice self induced asphyxiation or similar methods to gain entry to the Dreamtime. It goes without saying this is very dangerous. They would usually do it while an apprentice is around to care for their body.

The visitor to the Dreamtime can, if they learn how, exhibit control over the mutable realm, just as they might control a conscious dream. They could fly, for instance, travelling further and far faster than they ever could on foot. However they must always be wary, for it is easy to lose one’s way and never return home. There are also many dangers. If the visitor finds themselves in another creature’s dream, that creature’s subconscious is a much more powerful force in the dream than the visitor. Some creatures also remain conscious of their dreams and can manipulate them at will, and will gladly prey on a hapless interloper. Finally, there are the Dreamtime’s natives, the so-called Dream Spirits, and other powerful creatures of dream and nightmare such as the primordial Dendar. No matter how powerful the shaman, they should not attempt to challenge such a creature in the realm over which they have dominion.

When visited by a conscious mind the Dreamtime can be split into two parts—the Shallows, and the Deep Dream. Neither are literal places. The Shallows simply refers to the point of entry, whatever dreamscape the entrant discovers themselves in. From there, a visitor may choose to seek out other places and dreams, but doing so is extremely difficult and dangerous. The Dreamtime is an infinite place of infinite dreams, and does not necessarily obey any known rules of geography or geometry. A shaman might enter the Dreamtime while sleeping next to a loved one, and yet still have difficulty in finding their partner’s dream, because their dreams are not nearby. Nearby is a concept with no meaning. It is somewhat easier to find a person or a place that is well known to the seeker, but by no means a guarantee. Venturing out from the Shallows into the infinite fugue and kaleidoscopic dreamscapes of the Deep Dream is a dangerous prospect, from which many wanderers never return. It is especially dangerous if the visitor’s body has been left behind in the waking world, for the traveller in dream’s mind may never find its way back to where their body awaits.

Visitors to the Dreamtime can communicate more easily than they might in the waking world – talking here transcends language barriers. Their will to make the other party understand, and the other party’s willingness to understand, makes meaning more readily understood. Despite the potential dangers the experienced shamans of Osse’s disparate tribes often visit the Dreamtime for meets and negotiations.

According to the animistic belief of Osse’s natives, the Dreamtime is actually the most real of realities, and everything in the waking world is a pale echo, one of the dreams created there. Everything about the waking world has come about as a result of the past, present and future actions of the archetypal beings, otherwise known as Dream Spirits, who reside in the Dreamtime. Their actions are continuously creating the waking world as we know it. The archetypal beings often resemble amalgamations of animals found in nature—yet they are the true forms, and the animals of the waking world are imperfect echoes of the original archetypal form.

The Ekidan

The ekidan are humanoids who organise themselves into tribes and have adapted to most areas of the continent – tending to dwell in underground burrow complexes, rather than constructing homes above ground. Their villages can be found anywhere from bushland and woodlands, mountains, sandy plains, heath, grasslands, semi-arid barrens and desert.

The ekidan consider themselves native to Osse. This may or may not be true, for the aearee-quor claim they created or at least artificially evolved the ekidan race. If the aearee did create the ekidan, they have lost interest in them, and rarely interfere with the ekidan tribes. It is possible that they are simply watching them as part of some grand experiment.

Ekidan are very spiritual and believe in a form of animism, telling stories of a place beyond time and space in which the past, present, and future exist wholly as one. In this world view, every event leaves a record in the land. Everything in the natural world is a result of the past, present and future actions of the archetypal beings, who reside in the Dreamtime and whose actions are continuously creating the world.

In their dreams, in an altered state, or at their death, the ekidan claim to visit this dream plane, and even to commune with its inhabitants.

An ekidan is covered in coarse fur, and has a snout-like nose. In some tribes this snout is quite long and pronounced, appearing beaklike, while in others it is far shorter. From their head down to between their shoulder blades the ekidan is grows spines rather than hair. These grow very long and are supple, curving down behind the ekidan’s back rather than sticking upright. Traditionally, these spines are often tied together by dyed cords.

While they have much in common with mammalian humanoids, they curiously reproduce by laying eggs, like a bird.

Ekidan Traits

Ability score increases. Your Constitution score increases by 2, and your Wisdom score increases by 1.
Age. Ekidan live for about 70 years, reaching adulthood at around 12 years old.
Alignment. Ekidan believe in the natural order and strictly abide by the rules and rituals of their belief system, which provides both their Lore and their law, so they are often Lawful Neutral.
Size. Ekidan range from under 5 to just under 6 feet in height, and tend to have stocky builds. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Darkvision. Ekidan dwell in underground burrows. They therefore have superior vision in dark or dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as it it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern colour in darkness, only shades of grey.
One with the land. You have proficiency in the Survival skill.
Dreamer. The strange realities of the Dreaming are an ever-present truth in your life, and you therefore are used to the odd and eerie. You gain advantage on saving throws against being frightened.
Ekidan’s endurance. Ekidan are hardy folk who are able to dwell in all manner of harsh environments. You gain advantage on saving throws against exhaustion.
Burrower. Ekidan have clawed hands which they use to dig through earth to make their burrows. You have a burrowing speed of 5 feet, which you can use to move through sand, earth, mud, or ice.
Claws. Your unarmed attacks deal 1d4 damage. You are proficient with unarmed attacks.
Languages. Common and Ekidan.