I have a confession to make – I am subject to gruesome nightmares, and have been for most of my life. Sometimes, a nightmare is unique, whole unto itself. But I also experience certain themes, that crop up again and again. (Unfortunately for me, one of my most common repeating dreams features excessively large, but highly anatomically correct spiders. Alas.)

Now, while a nightmare is in progress, I do not enjoy it in the slightest. I am terrified, caught up in the horror. But, the next morning, when I think back over my experience (or when my wife wakes me up because I am crying out in my sleep), I consider the nightmares. I have learned to turn these creepy experiences of mine into a useful game design tool.

Many of the most effective levels I constructed for Doom  and Quake were based on such nightmares. And for that matter, several of the spells as well as some of the creature designs in Cthulhu Wars are also derived from my nightmares. I guess I am a good example of turning a potential weakness into a strength.

For example, there is a reason that Yellow Sign’s undead are not zombies. I never dream about zombies. One of my common repeating horrors are undead, but they are never zombies – in my nightmares, undead are withered thin brown nasty things, often bandaged or diseased. Occasionally the dream lets me know a particular horror’s origins (not usually though). When this happens, they are typically the animated malignant remains of a wicked occultist or other terrible person. And they are never mindless (more’s the pity – they’d probably be easier to handle for dream-Sandy). So anyway my Yellow Sign undead aren’t zombies, either.

Tsathoggua is pulling himself out of the ground, because another nightmare of mine focuses on the Unknown and Unseen. I picture the Tsathoggua you see in my figure as being a mere tip of the iceberg – with much much more of him still under the ground. I am not sure if the rest of him is an immensely long centipede-like form, or a huge bloated sac, like an unnatural stomach. But for better or worse, that is how my brain envisions this creature.

There are many other examples but these two should suffice to show how my mind generates a lot of its ideas. I have plenty that surge around in my consciousness that have not yet been brought to light. Someday no doubt. Here’s one I haven’t used yet. In this dream. I was somehow exploring, or invading, or perhaps trapped in a large hospital-like structure. While hiding from some of the people working there, I came across some files. I pulled one out and read it. It said, “Subject treatment unsuccessful. Recapitate as Abigail Becker G47”. I have NO idea where my brain came up with the word “recapitate” but wow I want to use it in a game now!

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