Chewing over that question is what has got me stuck on Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts at the moment.
You see, I am working from the premise that what humans dream is actually an objective reality and that when humans sleep they astrally project into another universe. (Well, one of nine different alternate realms, each with their own physical laws and inhabitants and culture and so on.)
The inhabitants of the Realms of Nightmare are collectively called oneiroi, with each realm having its own people (“norns” for Messidor, “morauxe” for Nivose, and so on.)
The technology of the oneiroi is based on harvesting ectoplasm from the human souls, which is a physical manifestation of emotional energy. So many of the oneiroi work as harvesters, making the dreams of humans vivid and powerful, with a strong emotional component (the exact emotion that they strive to induce is dependant upon the realm–different sorts of oneiroi harvest different emotional states.)
So far so good. But what about the oneiroi life outside of humans? To be compelling and realistic, I need to be able to understand the “backstage” of oneiroi cities and daily life. Some would be involved in manufacturing, I suppose–refining the emotional ectoplasm and using it as both a material resource and a power supply.
But it’s what they do outside of their work that is giving me problems. Particularly because it won’t be the same for all realms. So far most of my “rules” for oneiroi in general are negative in nature. I know that none of them sleep, and I know that they don’t raise children (oneiroi reproduce collectively–there are places in each realm where the young essentially grow wild–they begin as plantlike sessile creatures and then metamorphose into animals, gradually becoming self-aware as they grow).
They do eat, although they can’t starve to death. If they can’t get food they shrink and revert back into animals and eventually root again.
I suppose that they would have their own arts, which also would be realm-dependant (the blind djinn of lightless Brumaire, for example, could hardly be painters).
So. Norns, then. Norns feed on human despair and resignation, particularly on the dreams of those who are near death. (This concept comes from a line from the band Shreikback’s song “Nemesis”: “We drink elixirs that we refine from the juices of the dying.”)
And then there is trade with the Midworld. The realms of Nightmare are also the basis of the magic system in the human world.
Plus, of course, the internal politics. Oneiroi would have their position in society, their own concepts of wealth and status (gak–I’m going to need nine economic systems, too!) Each realm has a ruler who is the next best thing to a god in that particular realm, so there would be competition for status within the ruler’s court.
Okay, I think I have a better idea of what I need to do. Often just writing things down helps me to clarify my own thoughts.
Thanks for listening.