Forgotten Lore: The Stuff of Nightmares

No enemy is as bad as that creature that lurks within our dreams and fuels our nightmares. Like Freddy Kruger of Nightmare on Elm Street, it’s not a monster you can hunt down in any conventional way. And, no matter how powerful you are, it’s hard to escape the fear buried deep inside your mind; dark things in your past that the beast can use against you.

D&D has its fair share of nightmares. Some creatures are nightmare fuel in their own right, but there’s a special category of monsters that, not only appear in your reoccurring nightmares, but invade them and manipulate them. These are worthy adversaries that reach deep down in our hopes and dreams and turns them all against us. Not only that, but they can tap into that thing that scares us and amplify it. You may be good with a sword, but how are you against a creature that is as ethereal as your elusive dreams? How do you fight something that attacks you from the inside and uses your dreams against you?

Before we get into the ‘big bads’ of any campaign against a monumental invasion of the dreams, let’s begin with some of the smaller yet not harmless dream beings.


Swimming in the dreamy sea of the Ethereal Plane, formless creatures of malevolence, the Dream Wraiths, are in a constant search for a ‘dreaming mind’ in which it can take shape and gain power.

These dangerous creatures can appear as anything and are usually created by the restless or violent urges, fears or desires of a former dreaming mortal. Their goal is to simply torture mortals and will do so until they are ‘killed’ in the dream. This will return them to the Ethereal Plane where they will start their search anew.

If the Dream Wraith gets powerful enough within a mortal’s dreams, they may even gain enough strength to take over the dreamer’s body. This gives the creature access to the mortal realm where it can make those urges, fears and desires reality. These only exist in legend, but there are many tales of mortals who became possessed by a malevolent ‘spirit’ and committed atrocious acts of murder and mayhem. Just sayin…

The trick to the Dream Wraith’s power if convincing the dreamer that it is real and that the damage it inflicts is real. Now, although the dreamers who die due to illusionary damage thought real will awake once the dream is over, who’s to say that the power of the Wraith can’t keep the dream going indefinitely.

They also have the ability to, ‘AT WILL’, us their Visage of Despair. This will give disadvantage to checks and attacks (translated into 5E). There would also be a Wisdom Save against the creatures spell DC which the 3.5 writeup doesn’t allow for.

3.5 stats found in TOWERS OF HIGH SORCERY p145-146

Check out one attempt at bringing the Dream Wraith into 5e


What’s worst than one spirit that plagues your dreams? How about a collection of mortal fears made real?

The Fihyr were mistakenly connected to Beholders by scholars, although could you image the fearful race of giant eyeballs giving birth to aberrations though their nightmares much like they give birth to other Beholders through their dreams!?!

This isn’t simply the spawn of one mortal dream. It takes an immense emotional outpouring of a large group of people. They come into existence where the populace of a place share a joint fear of nightmarish creatures and apocalyptic scenarios. Cities terrorized by monstrous beings or under siege by an enemy force are just some of the possible birth places of such a creature.

What these fears create are a writhing mass of tentacles and pulsating ‘gray matter’. Like floating brains with many eyes and mouths, their appearance just feeds the power of their nightmare visage. The only good news is that they rarely outlive the night of their birth. Unless the stress the people are in continues for a great length of time, the onslaught will be short. But, if they grow into what is known as Great Fihyrs, they will have to hunted down and killed. If not, they may travel for multitudes of miles, feeding on the many fears and nightmares of the people in their wake.

Lesser Fihyr are vulnerable to sunlight and carry the Frightful Presence ability. The Greater Fihyr can manipulate emotions like CALM EMOTIONS, but just the opposite causing emotions like despair, fear or hate. They can also do this while totally invisible. You will either have to find them or push them to make a melee attack which makes them visible.

Find the FIHYR and GREAT FIHYR in Monster Manual 2 from 3rd Edition

The DREAM VISAGE from the LIBRIS MORTIS sourcebook also has a similar vibe and possibly combining the two can create a ‘fleshed out’ nightmare creature. This creature leaned hard into its negative energy build; corrupting everything with its DESECRATING AURA and feeds not on dreams, but on the bodies of the dreamer.


Also called Bastellus, Dream Stalkers are actually undead creatures that feed on dream energies. With access to potent sleep spells that even effect those of elven lineage (although they still could not feed on Elven dreams), they have no problem getting the sleeper into dreams. As with most monsters found in the pages of a Ravenloft book, they are dark denizens of those Darkest of Domains. When feeding on a dreamer, the Bastellus seems to be having a reaction akin to a drug induced euphoria.

Being attracted to mortals with the most vivid dreams, they sometimes use their sleep spell to incapacitate their companions as to feed in peace. If the dreamer is drained of life force while the Bastellus feeds, it will seem that the victim died of a heart attack. If left to its natural end, the former dreamer will rise as a new Bastellus in several days. Also simply ‘killing’ a Bastellus only means they will return with a vendetta against those that killed it. This could develop an ongoing rivalry with this creature. Imagine, after killing it, having it return days, or even months later to plague them once again?

Some parties hunt these undead creatures for their ‘dream essence’. Many necromancers value it for spell components and magical items. Because of their connection to dreams, it is also of great value to illusionists since its power can make any illusion very lifelike.

These creatures were showcased in Ravenloft: Denizens of Darkness back in 2002 but debuted in Monstrous Compendium – Ravenloft Appendices I & II back in 1996.


If you want to do more than a ‘one off’ monster or a reoccurring nuisance, you will want something more powerful though. And, thankfully, there are several options for epic monsters and godlike beings who invade your dreams or feed on your parties nightmares and could totally be the big boss sending these nightmare creatures looking for fresh dreaming minds ready to eat.


Might as well start at the top. Dendar is one of the powerful entities that has existed since mortals slept and suffered terrifying nightmares. A Primordial of vast power, Dendar resided on Toril as far back as THE BLUE AGE when the world was one vast ocean. It was around this time that the DAWN WAR erupted between the ancient Primordials and the upstart gods. In the climax of this great war, it is said that Dendar swallowed the sun driving most life to extinction.

Ubtao, the Primordial of Chult renown, betrayed all the other Primordials by siding with the gods and forcing her (Dendar) to release the sun. Unfortunately, it is said that this moment will repeat itself at the end of time.

Legends persist that when the mortals had their first nightmares, Dendar was there. It was more than a fascination for her. She searched them out to devour them. During the passing of time, Dendar has become the ‘physical embodiment of the most terrifying nightmares she has swallowed’. Her fangs ‘dripping with the ‘vicious essence of lost dreams’, she hunts for the most potent of nightmares. Some even say she looks for particularly those fears incarnate of kings and gods.

But Dendar’s end game is, well, the end. It is said that when she has filled with the proper amount of nightmares, she will unleash them to bring about the end of the world. But is that really what she’s about?

Other legends say that she devours ‘the unremembered nightmares of Faerun’ (although it is said many times that she is a multiplanar creature); the ‘uncountable hoard of horrible dreams’ that she’s been collecting since the beginning. She devours them in ‘excruciating’ detail and experts say that, if she didn’t devour the nightmares, that mortals would remember the vile details of them; revisiting the fears and darkness over and over again. Weirdly, it seems that Dendar is doing mortal souls a service.

But at the conclusion of this act of feeding on nightmares, Dendar brings about the end of the world. OR so the legends say. Could she be saving them to battle something coming? Will she shock all reality and save the world in the end? Only time and your DM can tell!

Dendar has been with us for a while. It darkened the skies of Toril as early as 1993 in the novel, PRINCE OF LIES, but game info can be found in a Polyhedron #118 back in 1996, Pantheon and Powers (1997) and Champions of Ruin (2005)


There’s not much worse in any campaign than a hag. And worse than that is a NIGHT HAG!

So much different than a simple hag (as I said which is bad enough), the Night Hags are actually fiends and not fey. These repulsive creatures can appear as anyone or thing and can discern alignments and sniff out magic items better than most. You can contract DEMON FEVER with but a bite from the Night Hags monstrous jaws. Like most high level threats, only magic items or silvered weapons can harm them. Also ‘cold iron’ is dangerous to them.

But the ability that puts them on this list is their uncanny ability called DREAM HAUNTING!

Dream Haunting is a special ability where the Hag can infest ones dreams in a spectral state. Once they have their clutches on you, they will inflict your dreams continually; wearing down the physical and mental abilities to exhaustion. Robbing them of much needed rest, the player character will take exhaustion points leading to death. If the party doesn’t intervene by then, the Night Hag will pull her ‘Soul Bag’ out and capture the beings ‘soul larvae’ and take them to Hades for barter and trade. The Soul Larvae trade between fiends is where it’s at for fiends and Night Hags are all about that trade. It’s worse than slavery; it’s soul slavery.

It would be easier to talk about what monster manuals the Night Hag isn’t in than flesh the whole bibliography out. As far as I can tell, they debuted back in 1977 in Gary Gygax’ first edition Monster Manual and has been a staple of bad dreams ever since.


Probably the best sort of nightmare fuel in D&D comes from Eberon. The Quori are denizens of Dal Quor, the Region of Dreams. They as much as punched a hole (H.P. LOVECRAFT STYLE) between worlds and almost overran Eberon. As you can see above, there various types of aberrations that escape into PC’s nightmares nightly.

Some ‘vessels’ are primed to be occupied by quori hosts. Known as THE INSPIRED, they never tire of attempting to reopen the portals between our world and theirs. This gives you plenty of fuel for a full campaign either on Eberron or transplanted into a Forgotten Realms Campaign. The Dreaming Dark becomes your Lovecraftian cult that consists of mortal devotees and the Inspired. The whole mind control aspect allows your campaign ‘big bad’ to sink its teeth into many an unwary interloper; using them to complete their dark, evil plans.

Although not as old as Dendar and Night Hags, the Quori, that debuted in the original Eberron campaign setting back in 2004, have been haunting the dreams of its denizens ever since.

There you go. That should be enough for you to get started and decide upon, not only some encounters, but also your massive big bad. Let us know if we missed anyone in the messages below or on our Facebook page.

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