Dennis Detwiller

The Sense of the Sleight of Hand Man

In Art, Gaming, Writing on March 24, 2012 at 8:25 am

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Beauty is momentary in the mind, the fitful tracing of a Portal/But in flesh it is immortal.

—WALLACE STEVENS, PETER QUINCE AT THE CLAVIER

I’ve received a wave of emails about my long dormant Dreamlands campaign The Sense of the Sleight of Hand Man. It didn’t do too well in the poll last week (which is a shame, because I love it) but the amount of email inquiry I’ve received indicates there might be life in the old beast after all. I’m considering putting it up as a Kickstarter Ransom as well. If you want it, or know someone who would, post here!

Here is a link to a portion of the campaign, laid out with final art.

Here’s a lot more in plain text format.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, here is the premise:

It is said New York City is a city of vices. The year is 1925 and it is the height of Prohibition, but the flow of drugs and liquor continues unhindered, through darker corridors, in darker hands. For the few who can afford it, opium is the drug of choice.

Very few can for very long.

The characters have fallen behind on their payments to their supplier of opiates, Mr. Lao. He has shown his displeasure with polite threats and demonstrations of what his men, the Tongs, will do if he does not receive his money. These demonstrations involved swords.

Dragged towards what each character is sure will be their turn under the swords of the Tongs, they instead find themselves face to face with each other and Mr. Lao. Lao offers them a last smoke; of a type of opium he calls Bywandine before his men will complete their task.

The drug is smoked, and as they pass into the haze, prepared now for the knives and blood and death on a wave of opium, the characters realize they are somewhere else…

That they are someone else…

In truth, Mr. Lao is a trader of much more than drugs in the empty world of Earth, he trades in Kadath, in Celephais, in Leng. He trades souls.

Mr. Lao is a rarity; it is unusual to know oneself in both the waking and sleeping world. But Lao was born in Leng, conterminous on both Earth and the Dreamlands. He has used this talent to his advantage, teaching skills to his dream twin and vice versa. They have known each other in dreams for many years, Mr. Lao and Sa’n Seith, his Dreamlands counterpart, and have talked often with one another. They have also struck bargains.

When Mr. Lao discovers a person of powerful spirit who has also aroused his displeasure, he sends them to Sa’n Seith, using the mixture of herbs called Bywandine. This exceedingly intricate mixture of rare plants, some of which grow on the plains near Leng, takes many months to prepare. He has still to perfect the process. Mixed properly, it causes the imbiber to shift physically from one realm to another. Either from Earth to the Dreamlands, or vice versa. A fresh Human is of great value in the Dreamlands.

Sa’n Seith is a man from Leng, a hunched pockmarked Satyr who serves the faceless monstrosities from the dark side of the moon, the Moonbeasts. Long ago, the powerful Moonbeasts subjugated the Men from Leng, and their race lives now only to serve them. Seith provides fresh Humans of powerful soul, and in exchange as they have done for eons, the faceless ones produce the rare Blood Gems. It is unknown where they come from; even the Men from Leng have no idea. These gems are sought after prizes in the realms of the Dreamlands. Their value is immense.

In truth, the Moonbeasts do not mine the Gems from secret places on the moon, they torture them from the Humans provided by the Men from Leng. The gems are the souls of these victims, ripped free by magics just short of death. Souls traded with and bought and sold every day.

Mr. Lao is to send the characters over to the Dreamland city of Sarkomand, where they will be transported to the dark side of the moon, and the cities of the Moonbeasts by Sa’n Seith. In the past, his mix of the Bywandine has taken many days to work, slowly erasing the imbiber from the Earth, and re-coalescing them in physical form in the Dreamlands. But the last of Lao’s Bywandine was imperfectly mixed. Instead of a gradual physical shift, the Bywandine causes only the character’s mind to be flung over to the Dreamlands, their soul instantly disappearing from Earth, disintegrating their earthly physical forms with it. Their spirit inhabits the first and nearest form in the Dreamlands found without consciousness, the discarded bodies of soulless prisoners, their essence squeezed free into the Blood Gems.

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  1. I’d gladly kick in money. I think the Dreamlands is woefully underused.

  2. I’d certainly be interested in this, either via Kickstarter or otherwise: sounds wonderful!

  3. I’d certainly be interested in this, either via Kickstarter or otherwise. It sounds wonderful!

  4. I am very interested in seeing this come to fruition. Absolutely loved the first chapter.

  5. I would surely like to check it out. I admit dreamlands was never too much my thing but, if done by Detwiller, I would definately like to read such campaign

  6. This sounds extremely intriguing. I’d support it – alas, I’m not wealthy enough to SOLELY support it. I love the Dreamlands and the scarcity of materials for it’s play is sad, but somehow ripe for opportunities…

  7. Go for it.

  8. Yes! Please, pretty please, try to ransom SSHM on Kickstarter! I’ll surely contribute.

  9. Yes, I would absolutely support this.

  10. I’d love to see your take on the Dreamlands.

  11. Really glad to see this as a new Kickstarter project. The first chapter was amazing and I can’t wait to see the rest of it (especially in print). It was a no-brainer to contribute to such a worthy cause (and not just because the migo have my brain in a separate metal container).

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