This article originally appeared in Pyramid #7
My name is Nigel Saint-Denys. Please don't try to give the family name a French pronunciation; my ancestors anglicized it many generations back.
Et In Arcadia Ego
Nightmares from Inside and Out in an Adventure for Kulttm.
By James Estes
I am dying of AIDS.
It used to bother me -- the prospect of dying from a crippling disease has never been attractive to people, and AIDS is particularly terrifying -- but now? I like to think that I'm rather prepared for it.
Of course, upon reflection (I do a lot of that now), it seems as though my entire life has been spent in preparation for my death. Macabre, maybe, but true. The esteemed Saint-Denys wealth? It makes sure that my deathbed is a veritable lap of luxury, and it pays for the best medical care. My education, one of the best available? My background and studies in the liberal arts are invaluable as I spend time rereading and exploring the "Classics of Western Civilization." I was never impressed by contemporary deconstructionist/reconstructionist/feminist/Marxist literary critics who snidely call the Great Authors "dead white men." Pretty soon I'll be a dead white man as well.
Yes, I will die soon, but I no longer care; I've learned the secret of immortality. And the funny thing is -- it is no secret. We do it every night. We dream.
"Et in Arcadia Ego" is about the dreams and nightmares of Nigel Saint-Denys, a scholar (and retired professor) dying of AIDS. The player characters are past associates of Nigel, and are visiting him for one last get-together at his family estate near Charlottesville, Virginia.
Nigel is a skilled Dreamer on the verge of becoming a Dream Wanderer, intent on permanently entering the dreamworlds before he is overcome by AIDS. He intends to draw his friends into his dreams, reliving pleasent episodes of the past. Sadly, Nigel's mental condition is deteriorating, as a direct result of AIDS, and he is about to lose control of his Art of dreaming: his dreams, intended to be sweet remembrances, are about to become mutated into a twisted nightmare. Furthermore, Nigel's uncontrolled Art is constructing a vinculum between the "real world" and the dream worlds, affecting the very nature of reality around his family estate. The player characters, drawn unwittingly into Nigel's dream, must confront the chimera of death and their own nightmares before they can escape.
Gamemasters are encouraged to change the adventure in whatever manner they see best.
The player characters are all associates of Nigel Saint-Denys, and are among the few people that still keep in touch with their dying friend. They may be family members, former students, school-mates, colleagues, or friends, who have received invitations to visit Nigel at the Saint-Denys manor. It presupposes that the characters are likely to continue relationships with a man suffering from AIDS.
This adventure is ideal for getting a new group of characters together, as it can draw together a variety of people with little in common. If the characters already know each other, or there is no reason that a character might have ever befriended Saint-Denys, then the Gamemaster or players should be able to create some other explanation for their invitation.
This adventure is designed for a small group, two to four characters. Neither skills in Magic nor Dreaming will be necessary; in fact, it is recommended that characters be relatively ignorant in these matters.
The characters have all received invitations from Nigel to visit him for a "winter holiday" over the Martin Luther King three-day weekend, and they have all arranged to take an extra day, giving them four days with him. It is readily apparent to everyone involved that the real reason for the invitation is that Nigel wishes to see his few remaining friends one last time. Most of Nigel's friends will know that he is suffering from full-blown AIDS, and few expect him to live much longer.
No one will know that he expects to depart his dying body to enter the dream worlds. He plans to do it either during this weekend, or soon after his guests leave -- before his dreams become totally twisted by dementia.
The visitors will arrive by Thursday evening, to find that it has started to snow. It is cold out, and the new snow that is blanketing the land is not a friendly holiday snow, but harsh and bitter.
Upon arrival, a servant will take the guest's bags to his or her room, announcing that Nigel has dined already and he has instructed them to prepare whatever food the guests require: "Mr. Saint-Denys is napping now and expects to greet all his guests within a few hours." He is giving them the chance to eat, relax, and clean up (as well as wait for other guests to arrive, if necessary).Your room is large and spacious; an enormous canopied four-poster bed perched in the center of the room. The elegant wood furniture, probably antique, appears to have been waxed and polished recently, the surface reflecting a warm glow. A fireplace appears ready for use, logs piled beside it, and a glance out the window confirms that the snow is falling harder. The adjoining room is a bathroom, and the temperature drops considerably in this room. The porcelain and brass also appear recently cleaned and shined, with large terry bath towels hanging behind the door. The large claw-footed bathtub looks inviting, and the entire bathroom recalls a long-lost age of elegance.The servants will tend to most of the guests' needs. Laundry will be cleaned, towels replaced, etc. Though the house is rather cold, it is not drafty, and the water runs hot.
A Warm Welcome
When the guests have all arrived and are ready, they should eventually gather in the drawing room. While reading, talking, or otherwise engaged, Nigel will arrive:You are distracted by the sound of an electric hum as your friend enters in an electric wheelchair.Nigel will thank his guests for arriving, and will answer any questions they might have regarding the weekend itinerary, the history of the house, etc. He will be curious to hear the details of the trip to the house, inquiring if the weather was an impediment. If the characters do not already know each other, he will arrange formal introductions for them. He will be rather evasive about his health condition or prognosis.
When you last saw Nigel Saint-Denys, he was a healthy-looking man; more bookish than athletic, he'd had a slight paunch, but one which he wore well. His hair was a thick brown mop, casually styled.
This could hardly be the same man; his face is taut, with a few dark skin lesions spotting it; a dark houserobe hangs from bony shoulders, draping a gaunt figure. His dark hair is cropped short, and seems to be thinning as well. His eyes are buried in dark hollows.
Then he smiles, and his eyes somehow manage a sparkle. "Good evening," he says, warmly, and you are engaged by the same Saint-Denys charm that you had remembered.
Nigel will let them know that he will spend as much time with them as possible, but he tends to retire early. He tires easily, and his various medications also have a sedative effect. He announces that the plans for the weekend are simple: relax and enjoy each other's company. "For the first time in a long time," he will say, "I feel alive." The entire house is at their disposal.
After a short visit with his guests, he will indicate that he feels a headache coming on, and he should probably retire. Leaving the room, he'll call out, somewhat jovially, "sleep well!" to his friends.
The PCs are free to do as they choose for the rest of the evening, although it will soon become apparent that as Nigel Saint-Denys retires, the whole house tends to shut down. Glances outside will show that the snowfall has not abated.
Each character should have a dream their first evening. Nigel is dreaming of his first encounter with each guest, when he was (most likely) younger and healthier. He is intentionally summoning characters into his dreams, but towards the end of the dream, he loses control. It should be a dream of one of their earliest encounters with Nigel: in a classroom, at a smoke-filled bar, at an academic seminar, a family social, etc.
Do not say, "You have a dream." Instead, go back to the character's first meeting with Nigel; elaborate on the scenario, and engage in as much role-playing as possible. Encourage the players to participate as much as possible in this process: not only does it help further the story, but it should ideally help develop more personal ties with Nigel's character. As you and the character are roleplaying the encounter, indicate that Nigel seems, impossibly, to start aging, becoming thinner and weaker; he will look at his withering hands, starting to spot with skin lesions, in horror.
While the player will most likely realize that this is a dream sequence, the character will not fully realize it it; such is the nature of dreams. However, as Nigel ages suddenly and quickly, tell the player that their character is suddenly aware that this is a dream. The character will then immediately awaken, in a cold sweat, imagining that they heard Nigel cry out "No!"
This will probably be the character's first experience in lucid dreaming, the phenomenon of being aware, while in a dream, that one is dreaming. Unless the character is a New Ager, a psychologist, or someone with a stated interest (and skills in parapsychology or psychology) in such topics, then the concept will most likely be unknown to them.
As stated, Nigel has intentionally dreamt of his first encounter with each of his guests, and has drawn in their dream forms. Although his recent neurological difficulties have caused some unusual occurrences in his dreams, this is the first time that he has actually lost control of his dream body.
Friday should be essentially unremarkable, but a few incidents should occur. Ask each character what they might do throughout the day, and roleplay whatever incidents appear important for character development -- especially in regard to the characters' relationship with Nigel.
Unless the characters awaken before Nigel (who is up at dawn), they will most likely find him in the library, reading. For the most part, they can spend the day as they please: reading in the library, enjoying the sauna, or even exploring the snow-covered estate grounds. Nigel will eat little of the food on his plate during mealtime. He will try to encourage as much conversation as possible, and invite the characters to join him in the library for coffee and some light reading in midday.
The snowfall from the day before, although sparse, has not abated. The snow blankets the countryside, affording the characters a wonderful view of the the Albemarle countryside and the Blueridge mountains. By the end of the day, the guests are fully snowbound, and calls to county officials will not provide definite answers as to when roads might be clear. Nigel will be slightly upset, confessing that he had hoped his father would visit but the inclement weather will obviously not permit this. Otherwise, the house is fully stocked, so his company should be suffering nothing more than mild cabin fever.
If the characters discuss their bizarre dreams with Nigel, he will take the role of the academe, interested in what they have to say and asking if the dream has any meaning to them. He will not answer any questions about his own dreams, claiming that they were "typically boring." Throughout the day, Nigel's discussions will be thanatocentric: "what do you think happens when you die?", "The common lore is that if you die in your dream, you die in real life. But what about the opposite - what happens to you in your dream if you die in your sleep?", etc.
If pressed further on the issue of bizarre dreams, he will quote Plato's Theaetetus: "How can you determine whether at this moment we are sleeping, and all our thoughts are a dream; or whether we are awake, and talking to one another in the waking state?" Nigel is disturbed over his deteriorating control over what should have been a simple dream, but he will not confess anything to the characters.
Regardless what happens, pepper the day with bizarre occurrences. Nigel's loss of control over his incredible skill in Dreaming has inadvertantly opened an oneiric nexus at Saint-Denys manor, and the real world will start to take on the rather peculiar nature of dreams.
For example, at the start of the day, ask each character one or more of the following: what color socks did you put on? what is in your pockets? what jewelry are you wearing? did you forget to pack anything?
Then, later on in the day, indicate somehow that the details are different: socks might be a different color than remembered; more (or fewer) rings might be worn; a pocket might suddenly be filled with loose change; a missing item might reappear in the character's room or on their person.
Other such events could occur: a cup of coffee, apparently empty, may suddenly be filled again (or vice versa); the headline on a newspaper, or the title of a book, may be subtly different than had been read, in either its appearance or the text itself.
Generally, limit these to two or three "dreamlets" per character, and try to arrange it so that they are noticed only by individual characters and not verifiable by others.
The characters each have another dream on Friday night.
Replay an incident from during the day -- one of the occasions in which a character is speaking alone with Nigel; while his nurse or servants may be present, the other characters should not be in the dream. Although the dream will be a replay of an event earlier in the day, Nigel will be young and healthy. Ask each player to make a successful roll of Ego/5; if successful, the characters will realize that they are in a dream; at this point, don't simply narrate the event, but allow the player to participate somewhat as well.
At some point in the dream conversation, the following occurs:
A shadow passes across the room, and heavy footsteps sound in the hall outside. Nigel whirls towards the door, obviously surprised. Once again, he starts aging, his body becoming more ill and frail. The door starts thudding, as if being kicked or slammed inward, and Nigel starts to back away from it, trembling, screaming, "No! Not now! Not yet!" He crumples in the corner of the room, wailing in utter terror.
The door splinters inward as a cold shadow floods the room.
This is the character's first experience with a Nachtschreck, which is described in detail later. The appearance of the Nachtschreck should be individually tailored to each character, reflecting some deep fear.
If the players are getting restless, then use this opportunity for combat; but don't make it too deadly. Allow the character to awaken upon receiving their first Light Wound. The wound will be gone when they awaken; however, whichever part of their body was injured will throb painfully for the rest of the day.
Regardless of whether there is combat, the characters will awaken, drenched in sweat. When the characters first awaken, they will be unable to move, their bodies paralyzed. Indicate that the character is almost certain that they are awake.Attempting to move, you find yourself paralyzed, a heavy weight crushing down on you, gripping you by the shoulders. You realize then that you are not alone in the room: a dark presence is nearby, evil, suffocating, smothering.
Any actions the character attempt will be unsuccessful. For a few minutes, nothing will happen; then both the imagined presence and the paralysis will fade as the body returns to normal. However, one character (your choice) should later discover bruises on their shoulders and neck.
A character with either the skills of psychology or parapsychology, upon a successful skill throw, should realize that this is a simple case of sleep paralysis, when the brain, in deep sleep, "freezes" the body to prevent it from thrashing around. Occasionally, a sleeper wakes up with their body still frozen; the brain, still partially in REM state, begins to hallucinate, often creating evil, threatening presences to match the feeling of paralysis. Unfortunately, in the case of the guest with the bruises, the oneiric nexus actually gave form to this evil presence, and no one without the Art of Dreaming will be able to explain the true source of the bruises.
The dream will occur simultaneously for each character, and each will awaken at 4 a.m. Should they check on Nigel, he will be sleeping, and will not awaken easily because of his medication. If the characters manage to awaken him, he will be groggy and unable to answer any questions. The nurse, from across the hall, will rescue him from any such insensitive characters, and he will return to his slumber.
Both Nigel's physical and mental condition have deteriorated further. His private fear of dying a hideous death from AIDS, alone and unwanted, has attracted a Nachtschreck, a creature from the world of dreams, that is drawn to nightmares and fears.
Saturday morning will find the entire countryside shrouded in a thick snow.
Nigel will be sleeping later than normal, a fact the servants comment upon as unusual. His nurse can be found either in his room or in the kitchen. She will appear concerned, and if pressed for information,will relate Nigel's current medical status, including the doctor's concern over his prognosis.
Nigel will awaken by lunch time; though he will join his guests at lunch, he will not eat. Even his rather pleasant manner will fade, and he will drift into bouts of irritability; concentration will be even more difficult for him.
Saturday should be handled much as Friday was, but Nigel will be apparently more ill and moody than the day before. Alternate bouts of depression with happier moments; have Nigel thank each guest at least once for their friendship and their support. Also make the nurse's presence more noticable, emphasizing his condition.
He will retire soon after dinner, asking his guests' indulgence.
More Strange Events
If possible, make the events on Saturday even stranger than the day before; try to make them more bizarre, and also try to involve more than one character at one time. For example, characters may find that their watches have been exchanged; if two characters were solving a crossword puzzle, they might find words missing that they remember solving, etc.
If Nigel is asked about these events, he will become even more silent and withdrawn. While he is aware of that their local reality is becoming "dreamlike", he will not be willing to explain why. He will claim total ignorance of the situation.
Neither the servants nor the nurse will note any bizarre phenomena; strangely enough, it seems to concentrate on Nigel's company.
Saturday's DreamThe characters all share a common dream:You are in a cemetery, gathered together around an open grave. A number of men and women, all dressed in black, surround you -- they do not look sad, but cold and unpleasant. A coffin is suspended by cables above the grave, and a priest is reading a funeral service from the breviary in his hands. A snowfall covers the ground, in vivid contrast with the black of the mourners' garb and the freshly dug grave.
You all look at each other and share a common thought: This must be a dream.
As the coffin begins its descent into the grave, the priest's voice begins to rise: "O Lord, cast this sinner into eternal damnation for his degenerate behavior. He has sinned, O Lord, and is most deserving of thy just punishment." Hate and disgust fill his voice.
One older man, slightly resembling Nigel, steps forward. "At least he didn't tell his mother he was queer before she died," he says, clasping to his chest a black & white photograph of a woman. "The good woman adored her son." He turns his back and starts to walk away, the other observers leaving as well. "What a waste of a life", you hear someone say. "You know how he became ill, what he must've done. I've heard that they . . ." Voices fade into a gossipy murmur as the mourners leave.
The coffin hits the ground with a thud, and you hear Nigel's voice, barely penetrating the wood and metal of the coffin: "I'm not dead, please don't leave me here . . ."
You awaken, still hearing Nigel's forlorn cry.
Any action the characters may attempt in this dream is essentially futile; although they will be able to interact with each other, the rest of the dream will not acknowledge their presence. Their actions will not register upon mourners in the dream, and if a character tries to touch someone other than another dreamer, their hand will merely pass through. Some characters may be aware that the man with the photo is Nigel's father.
The truth is that the characters do not awaken. Their dream-selves are still trapped in Nigel's dream, and his dream has only changed its quality to one closer to reality; the characters are dreaming that they are awake, and the rest of the adventure occurs in this dream. Even if a character suspects that they are in a dream and attempt to wake up, they will remain as they are, firmly trapped in Nigel's nightmare.
If they go to Nigel's room, they will find the nurse already there, taking his pulse. He will have an IV hooked up to him, and he will be paler and more frail looking. The nurse will indicate that she has tried to call the hospital, but the snow must have recently downed a phone line. She will suggest that they go to sleep again, and if his situation changes dramatically, she will have them awakened. (If any characters have cellular phones, they will find them strangely inoperative.)
If the characters are able to go to sleep (or rather, dream that they are going to sleep), nothing unusual will happen. Regardless of what they do, by dawn, the nurse will announce that his condition is the same, the phone lines are still down, and they are still snowed in.
The day should be more somber. The staff will be quieter, and the chill and isolation of the house should feel more pronounced. Emphasize this to the players -- make them feel alone. Where before the staff was almost ubiquitous, now they are absent; make people look for them. They might find food waiting for them in the dining room, but it will be cold and unpalatable.
This day's event should prove the most unsettling. Have some, or all of the following occur:
At some point, when someone enters the library, it will be covered with dust, as though it hadn't been used in years. Books will crumble to the touch.
Someone looking outside a window will see Nigel standing outside, looking sadly in. He will not respond to them, and if they turn away, he will be gone.
The phones will occasionally ring. They will not be answered by staff, and they will keep ringing until one of the characters picks up a phone. All that will be heard on the other end is the sound of a man weeping. This will happen twice; the second time, they will actually hear Nigel's voice, plaintive: "Please, help me . . . I'm trapped . . ." The voice will address the character by name.
Similar events can be added.
EveningSunday evening will mark the final encounters in Nigel's dream. At some point, have the characters realize that neither the servants nor the nurse have been seen within the past hour. An examination of the house will confirm that the characters are alone; it is as though the servants were never there. Each room they check, even if it had been used previously, will appear long vacant and unused, covered in a shroud of dust. The only exceptions are their bedrooms, which will be deathly cold but will appear otherwise normal.
Dark Secrets & Disadvantages
If the characters end up separated at some point in the day, either because they are searching through the house for the house-staff, or for any other reason, manage a confrontation between the characters and one of their disadvantages, dark secrets, etc. For example, a character with a dread fear of snakes, upon opening a room, could find the room filled with snakes. Only when they re-enter the room or someone else enters will the room appear normal.
Essentially, this is the sort of encounter that is best crafted by a Gamemaster for each player; only guidelines can be provided here. Any such incidents should emphasize the nightmarish quality of the day.
It does not matter at this point whether or not they realize that they are trapped in Nigel's dream. No matter what they do, they will not be able to leave until they see it through to the end.
The climax should take place soon after the characters realize that they are alone, and probably in a dream. By now, the dream has taken on the quality of Nigel's worst anguish over his disease: the feelings of abandonment, of being swallowed by a disease that no one seems to care about.
If only one character goes to examine Nigel in his room, they will find the door locked. It cannot be picked, unlocked, or even broken down unless all characters are present; then it will simply open for them.
The room within will not be as it was before: It will be a large, sterile hospital room filled with a variety of machines and row after row of empty sick-beds. Nigel will be lying on one in the center of the room. Flickering fluorescent lights cast a grim blue sheen over everything, while hypodermics, bloody gauze, and empty plasma bags litter the floor.
Dozens of IV tubes will be affixed to various parts of Nigel's body, the tubes pulsing and writhing. The bags at the end of the tubes will be filling up with blood, bile and other liquids, as Nigel's body is seemingly drained of its life-fluids. The room will be silent but for the steady drip of these bags being filled.
His eyes will be open, and darting from side to side, but he will be too weak to move. If any characters approach him, he will whisper, weakly: "help me . . . before it comes."
After the characters have stood around a while, or if anyone starts removing the multitude of IVs attached to Nigel, the sound of slow, steady foosteps will echo down the hall.
The room darkens, and the temperature drops even further. You hear a snapping sound, and leather straps appear on Nigel's wrists and ankles, clamping down so tightly that they draw blood. A soft moan of anguish escapes his cracked lips.
The shadow of a tall, gaunt figure fills the doorway, and you instinctively recoil. Although the room is dark, the figure is unmistakeable: it looks like Nigel, more ill and wasted than you have ever seen him, reeking of death and harsh chemicals. Dark, piercing eyes, quite unlike Nigel's eyes, glare coldly at you. "He is mine. He will die. You cannot stop this."
The figure advances toward Nigel.
If the characters allow it to continue its advance, Nigel will start to struggle on the table, crying out in terror, but otherwise unable to move as he is strapped to the table.
Nigel is a strong enough Dreamer that he might ordinarily be able to defeat the Nachtschreck. However, he is trapped, helpless, by other fears: that his death would be in a cold, sterile environment, with no one to mourn for him.
Attempts at conversation will be unsucessful. The Nachtschreck cannot be persuaded by rhetoric or debate of any sort. If the characters ask who or what it is, it will answer, "Terror."
The characters may try any of three actions: allowing the creature to take Nigel, attempting to stop the creature, or attempting to free Nigel.
Allowing the Creature to Take Nigel
If the characters allow the Nachtschreck to approach Nigel, it will climb atop him, then slowly start to merge with his struggling form. Nigel's sickened body will start to wither and writhe in agony; with one last wheeze, Nigel's dream-self will succumb to the disease, and die. Do not make the death instantaneous -- give the characters a chance to react.
If Nigel dies, the characters will waken; go to "After the Dream."
Fighting the Nachtschreck
If the characters try to attack the creature, they will probably have limited success. As each character tries to fight the Nachtschreck, it will change in form so that it no longer resembles Nigel's personal Terror; it will, instead, mirror the character's own fear. Each character will thus see a different Terror. Call for a Terror Throw by each character before beginning any combat.
Unless the characters happen to regularly move about armed (which is possible), or have stopped to acquire some weapon in the house before entering the room, there will be few weapons in the room. An IV stand may act as improvised staff or polearm, and a rusted scalpel or two may be found on the floor. Of course, someone with a skill in the Art of Dreaming may try to dream a weapon into existence, or otherwise change some other detail of the dream to their benefit. Any damage the characters' dream-selves receives in this encounter will also appear on their physical body as well. Ultimately, after enough wounds, they could die.
If the characters simply try to interpose themselves between Nigel and the creature, conflict is bound to ensue as it attempts to fling them aside.
Nigel is a strong enough dreamer that, if he fights alongside the characters, the Nachtschreck can be defeated. However, his fears of dying alone and unwanted have become twisted by his dementia, taking on a physical form and binding him to the dream sickbed.
If the characters manage to rip free all the IVs and unstrap the leather bindings from Nigel, then he will be able to assist the characters in their struggle against the Nachtschreck. It should take a total of 10 actions (not rounds), whether accomplished by one or more characters, to release Nigel from the IVs and the leather straps. The minute a character tries to release Nigel, the Nachtschreck will target that individual for a personal attack.
Upon being released, Nigel's body will start to reform into that of a much younger, healthier man -- more fit and vigorous than Nigel had ever been in his waking life. His sickrobe will reform into a chlamys, and he will dream a gladius into existence, which he will use to help dispatch the Nachtschreck.
The Terror Defeated
Once the creature dies, it will fall to the ground in a smoky mist. Nigel will look around, and say "this simply will not do." With a lazy wave of his hand, the setting should change: Nigel and the characters will all be in Nigel's "true" bedroom, not the hospital sickroom. It will be his bedroom in the manor, sans medical equipment (e.g, IVs, wheelchair, etc.).
Nigel will be willing to answer any questions the characters may have. He will indicate that they are still in his dream, but one which he has now managed to cleanse of his nightmares.
Nigel will confess that he had invited the characters to be with him so that he would not die alone; he intended to draw them into his dreams, but he had planned to make them pleasant remembrances of times past. He will express extreme regret that the dreams became so nightmarish, blaming it on his drugs and neurological condition. He will hazard a guess that his skill, tampered with by drugs and dementia, constructed a dream nexus at the estate; it should be closed now that he is in full control of his senses.
Towards the end of the conversation, Nigel will say that he has now transferred himself entirely into the dream worlds, and that his waking body will die soon. The dream worlds are his new home. While it would normally have taken a few days longer, the dream nexus made it possible for him to transfer himself entirely over to the dream worlds. Now that he is totally freed from his physical body, his dementia and medications will no longer affect his dreaming.
He will thank the characters again, indicating that this is not the last they will see of him.
Opening the door to his room, you see not the manor hallway beyond, but dark gleaming spires and fluttering black pennants. Turning to you, he says, "It's another world out there, and I have friends waiting for me. Thank you again." With that, he steps through the door.
You are each in your beds. The sun shines through the windows.
After the Dream
When the characters awaken, on the real Sunday morning, the following will occur.
Any wounds will be healed. If Nigel was taken by the Nachtschreck, then the characters will learn that he died in his sleep overnight.
If they have rescued Nigel from the Nachtschreck, they will learn that Nigel slipped into a coma overnight.
For either option: although the phone lines were down for an hour, they have since been repaired, and both the paramedics and Mr. William Saint-Denys, Nigel's father, have been called. The nurse has no idea when anyone may arrive, as the manor is still snowbound, but reports are that the roads are being cleared and the snow is melting.
The roads will be clear by midafternoon, allowing both the paramedics and Mr. Saint-Denys to arrive.
Mr. Saint-Denys, recognizable from Nigel's dream, will ask the guests (politely, but rather matter-of-factly) if they need transportation. The characters may get the idea that they are not welcome. William will be shaking, on the verge of emotional collapse. If they show concern for Nigel, William will relax a little, and may actually seem grateful for their company. Paramedics will take Nigel to the University of Virginia Medical Center. If Nigel was alive and in a coma, the doctors will not be able to predict how much longer he has.
Eventually, the guests all depart, with guarantees from William that they will be informed of any change in Nigel's condition. He will collect their names, addresses and phone numbers, with promises to keep in touch.
Nigel will die over a week later; or rather, his physical body will finally expire.
I am writing to thank you for the support you offered my son during his last days. I know from my phone conversation with him, while you were visiting, that he was more grateful for your company than you could imagine. I am genuinely sorry that I was not there with him.
I wish I weren't such a stubborn old man who let his prejudices rule his relationship with his only son. But this is something I'll have to live with, and maybe one day manage to forgive myself.
The funny thing is, I had a dream of Nigel last night. He was young and healthy, and he told me he loved me and forgave me. If only dreams were real.
I have enclosed something for your interest. I hope to hear from you soon.
Enclosed with the letter is a photocopy of Nigel's obituary from the Washington Blade, a Washington, DC-based gay and lesbian newspaper:
Nigel Saint-DenysNigel Charles Saint-Denys, 43, of Albemarle County, Virginia, died Wednesday, February 2, 1994, of complications associated with AIDS, according to his father, William Saint-Denys.
Saint-Denys was born October 20, 1949 in Charlottesville, Va. He graduated in 1971 from the University of Virginia, with a B.A. in English literature. He earned a doctorate in Greek & Latin from Yale University in 1978.
Saint-Denys lived in Washington from 1979-1992, teaching Classics at Catholic University.
Saint-Denys' remains were cremated. Friends are invited by his father to the blessing of his remains, which will be held Sunday, March 14, 1994, at St Mark's Episcopal Church in Charlottesville.
Contributions in his name may be made to the Whitman-Walker food bank, 1407 S St., NW, Washington, DC 20009, or to the AIDS charity foundation of one's choice.
If they parted on somewhat good terms with William, then they will have a moderatly useful legal ally. He will help them with minor details as necessary, but will not do anything illegal or dangerous for them.
Regardless of the conclusion, the characters all now have a new skill in the Art of Dreaming, equal to their Ego/5 (or possibly higher, at the Gamemaster's discretion).
The manor is 126 years old, situated on a large estate some 250 acres across; along with the manor are a large five-car garage, stables, a pool and cabana, and a now-unused guest house. At its height, a dozen family members, in addition to a large staff of servants, lived here. The house has been empty (except for the occasional caretaker) since the late 1970s, when Nigel's mother, Elizabeth, died of cancer. The children had grown up, so his father decided to relocate to Washington and join a prestigious law firm that had been courting him over the years.
The manor is large, quite befitting the wealth of the Saint-Denys family. Since Nigel has moved in, a few more rooms have been opened; with the arrival of the visitors, extra bedrooms will be prepared. Only rooms of importance will be mentioned:
SAINT-DENYS MANORThe first floor is shaded grey. The Gamemaster should assume that the kitchen and the servants' quarters are located under the upper floor suites.
2. Dining Room
This is one of the smaller dining rooms, reserved for more intimate occasions; still, 10 people can sit comfortably at the mammoth dark-wood table. Dinner is served here, with one or two servants attending.
3. Drawing Room
Nigel has opened this room for his guests' use. They are comfortably furnished, with a fully-stocked wet bar on one side, and a stereo system, VCR (with a nice video-tape library) and a large screen television hooked up to a satellite dish on the other.
(Not Shown) Kitchen
The kitchen is enormous and prepared for almost any culinary need. A large plain table and chairs are here, intended for the servants' use or late night snacks.
This room is in constant use, and is Nigel's preferred room. It is warmed by a large fireplace, and a number of leather wing-chairs are placed comfortably about the room. Two large tables are littered with books and papers. A glance will display some of Nigel's current reading interests: The Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and a number of works on Dreams and Dreaming. Enormous French doors open out to a porch.
(Not Shown) Servants' Quarters/Utility rooms
These are in the back of the building. The servants share rooms and have their own common room and small kitchenette. Laundry facilities are also placed here.
Each character has a private room and bath. Each room has a pull-cord that will summon a servant within a few minutes (longer if late at night), but no telephone or television. The bathrooms have laundry hampers.
In spite of a number of habitable rooms, the house is still almost a ghost-house. Any other rooms that the guests may venture into (e.g., other bedrooms, parlors, studies, et al.) will have the furniture draped with a light cloth and coated with a thick layer of dust. Because of the old house's age and design, the oil heating is inefficient, and most rooms have to rely on fireplaces. Nigel's room will have portable heaters, and the servants will prepare hot water bottles for the guests' beds if required. It will be a step back into another era, and the snow that is gathering outside will only heighten the cold and the sense of isolation.
The manor is equipped with a cage-style elevator, which Nigel must use now that he is confined to a wheelchair.
Nigel Saint-Denys The Arcadian
Nigel Saint-Denys (or, The Arcadian as he is known in the dream worlds) is the "black sheep" of a wealthy Virginia family. His interests are in academics, not money; he is gay, in a rather repressed, conservative family; he is dying of AIDS.
Nigel was raised in the lap of luxury, at the Saint Denys estate in Albemarle County, Virginia. Despite his father's protestations, he received advanced degrees in Classical Languages and Literature. Soon after graduating, he received his first post, teaching in the Classics Department at Catholic University, in Washington, D.C. His favorable teaching record and promising scholarly career earned him a quick tenure. Unfortunately, after being diagnosed with AIDS, he was forced to retire from teaching and return to his now-abandoned family estate in Albemarle County, Virginia. As the physical symptoms of AIDS worsened and his health failed, he found himself increasingly alone; fewer family members or colleagues maintained any relationships with him.
As Nigel's health waned, his interest in metaphysics increased. No longer able to trust his body as he had once been able, he turned inward. He had always had a strong "dream life" -- rich, imaginative, and often quite lucid -- and, becoming more and more introspective, he began to intuitively master the Art of Dreaming. It was not long before he determined that he would abandon his dying shell to a new life in the world of dreams. He now spends his waking time in his library or room, reading, dreaming, and preparing for his final journey to the dream worlds. While asleep, he visits unknown worlds, or an idyllic recreation of his house as he grew up in it.
Unfortunately, Nigel began to suffer from a host of neurological disorders (see "Nigel's Current Health"). As his mind began to slip, his mastery of the Art of Dreaming became twisted; the Dream became a Nightmare. The fears which plague many AIDS victims -- societally imposed guilt, the sense of loneliness and abandonment, et al. -- slowly were given physical form in his dreams. Eventually, a nexus between the world of Dreams and the "real" world began to develop, centered around the Saint-Denys estate, Nigel's boyhood home.
Nigel's Current Health:
He is suffering from a number of opportunistic infections and serious conditions, the most serious being Non-Hodgkin's Lymphomas (NHL); these are increasingly common among AIDS patients, and often strike the central nervous system (CNS). Standard NHL symptoms include fevers, weight loss, and night sweats. Symptoms of CNS Lymphoma include confusion, lethargy, headaches, and memory loss. Chemotherapy is often provided for HIV-infected people with NHL; side effects often include fever, loss of appetite, and further neurological symptoms. Nigel is also affected by the preliminary stages of AIDS Dementia Complex (ADC), an organic mental disorder that may be caused by HIV infection of the brain. Symptoms of ADC include difficulties with concentraton and memory.
Personality: Pleasant, and calm. Nigel is occasionally pedantic, and never likes to give simple answers to anything. He encourages others to use their intellect as fully as possible. He genuinely enjoys the company of others.
Gamemastering Hints: Because of Nigel's ADC and CNS lymphoma, he has a number of neurological conditions to deal with, including lack of concentration. He will forget what he was saying, or repeat things said earlier. He will withdraw occasionally, and act depressed, even irritable. This should not be done to excess or for humor. In Nigel's dreams, he will be more confident and secure -- particularly in his final dream.
Nigel's ability scores are given below; they represent his ailing form, both while awake and while caught in his nightmare. The ability and skill scores in brackets are available only to Nigel in his final dream form and as a Dream Wanderer.
AGL 6  EGO 5 
STR 5  CHA 12 
CON 5  PER 15 
COM 9  EDU 17 
Movement: 3 
Actions: 2 
Initiative bonus: -2 [+15]
Damage bonus: -1 [+6]
3  scratches = 1 light wound
2  light wounds = 1 serious wound
2  serious wounds = 1 fatal wound
Endurance: 55 
Dark Secret: Supernatural Experience (Nigel is a skilled Dreamer).
Skills: Art of Dreaming 30, Humanities Scholarship 18, Information retrieval 18, Humanities scholarship (specialization: Literature) 16, Languages: Classical Greek 15, Languages: Latin 11, Languages: French 10, Rhetoric 13, Written Report 12, Net of contacts: scholars 10, Riding 10, Cooking 10, Drive 10 [Projectile Weapons: Bow 25, Seduction 30, Melee weapon: sword 30]
Damage: As per weapon.
William Saint-Denys had urged his son to follow a career in law, always discouraging Nigel's interest in the liberal arts and humanities. William was crushed when his son chose Yale's graduate program in Greek and Latin. Worse, a staunch conservative, a supporter and friend of two recent presidents, he never approved of his son's homosexuality; he all too easily imagined his son engaged in nightly acts of debauchery at some sleazy bar or nightclub. Nigel did, of course, have friends and a sex life, but it was hardly what his father imagined.
When Nigel's illness became obvious, William suddenly became the concerned father. When Nigel was diagnosed as HIV+, his father withdrew further than before, unable to cope with the disease that had become a part of his family. While he has made sure that his son's medical needs were well taken care of, he could not offer any emotional support.
William now lives in a Capital Hill brownstone. His appearance in Nigel's dream is an exaggeration of how Nigel saw his father. The real William has considerably mellowed, and though he is not tolerant of homosexuality, he has come close to accepting his son's sexual orientation. However, he is terribly frightened of the disease and its implications, and for these reasons, does not have the courage to visit his son as often as he would like.
Gamemastering Hints: He is gruff and forbidding, but not overtly rude. William is still a gentleman of fine stock, after all. He will warm up to the characters after a while, but if any are openly gay, he will appear uncomfortable around them.
The house is staffed with a number of servants: Dwayne Elwood, the driver/handyman, who lives in an apartment above the garage; Eliza Weiss, Amy Jones, and Letitia Gates, the house servants, who live in the servants' quarters, and Jennifer Collins, the middle-aged nurse who occupies a room across the hall from Nigel. More house servants can be added to accomodate the size of Nigel's company.
The Nachtschreck, or Night Terror, is an entity that exists solely in dreams. It is drawn to the unconscious fears and terrors of a person, to their phobias and insecurities, forcing a terrible and violent confrontation with these fears. Even very experienced Dreamers will avoid confrontations with one of the Nachtschreck.
Nachtschrecks tend to travel aimlessly through the dream worlds, terrorizing dreamers. Sometimes they will be drawn to powerful dreamers; other times they will simply visit random dreams with no apparent reason, frequently taking on a macabre and frightul appearance simply to torment dreamers.
No one knows what the true form of a Nachtshcreck is: it always appears to the dreamer in a form that represents their deepest fears.
AGL 3d10 (16) EGO 1d5 (3)
STR 3d10 (16) PER 2d10 (11)
CON 3d10 (16)
Terror throw modification: -5
Senses: can sense a dreamer from several dream worlds away
Movement: 8 m/combat round
Initiative bonus: +4
Damage bonus: +3
5 scratches = 1 light wound
4 light wounds = 1 serious wound
3 serious wounds = fatal wound
Natural armor: 2
Skills: Art of Dreaming 45, Unarmed combat 16, Melee Weapons 16, Hide 16, Sneak 16
Attack modes: according to weapon or unarmed attack, which may vary wildly based upon current guise.
Home: the dream worlds
"Et in Arcadia Ego" is translated as "And in Arcadia I." More elegaically, it is understood as "Even in Arcadia, I (Death) am there;" Death will come to even the most pleasant and happy lands.
For more information on AIDS, consult The Essential HIV Treatment Fact Book, by Laura Pinsky and Paul Harding Douglas (New York: Pocket Books, 1992). More information on sleep, dreams and lucid dreaming can be found in Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming, by Stephan LaBerge, Ph.D., and Howard Rheingold (New York: Ballantine Books, 1990).
The author would like to thank Lori L. Barr, M.D. for basic information on HIV infection. Thanks are also due to Terry Amthor, Maimun Khan, and Thomas Walker for their input and contributions.
Kult is a game. AIDS is real.
Article publication date: June 1, 1994
Copyright © 1994 by Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved. Pyramid subscribers are permitted to read this article online, or download it and print out a single hardcopy for personal use. Copying this text to any other online system or BBS, or making more than one hardcopy, is strictly prohibited. So please don't. And if you encounter copies of this article elsewhere on the web, please report it to firstname.lastname@example.org.