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Chameleon Men: From Normal to Nightmare

by Andrew Theisen

Excerpt from the book "From Normal to Nightmare: Bridging the Gap" by Professor Cthon of Malebolge University in Blackheart:

"... While the Normal and Nightmare dimensions are kept quite separate both by their inherent natures and, perhaps, necessity, there nevertheless exist certain creatures who are able to move between the dimensions freely. The Immortals, it is surmised, naturally possess such abilities, as do many so-called 'exalted' beings. Demons would fall into this category (a trait often cited as evidence in the endless debates over whether they are true Immortals or not), as would the Spectral Hounds, those enigmatic trackers of the cosmos.

"There is some speculation that the ability to dimension-shift may be an inherent ability of dragonkind, as well, dating back eons ago to when the dragons and draeden roamed the multiverse. To date, though, no such display has been documented by any Mystaran historian.

"The closest 'evidence' that can be cited is that of the so-called 'chameleon man'- a species of humanoid that is believed to be related to dragonkind. These primitives may be found across the globe, but mostly seem to congregate in the region known as Wallara, west of the Savage Baronies, on the continent of Brun. The chameleon men are born with a limited ability to create a dimensional shift. This ability does not become active until adolescence, but it enables them to momentarily displace themselves from Normal to Nightmare. While there, the chameleon man quickly moves to another location, so that upon his return to Normal space, he will be in a different position. The effect is similar to that of a Dimension Door spell, but has a more limited range(1). The chameleon man uses this ability instinctively, usually to remove himself from a dangerous situation.

"Some elders of the chameleon man race have demonstrated the capacity to tap into the dreamworld for certain magical abilities, regardless of whether they are normally able to manipulate magic(2). As you recall from the literature on the dreamland, it has been speculated that that realm- known to us as the fourth dimension- is the source of magical might. The origins of this ability have also been credited to the Immortals as well as the spirit world, so this may or may not be evidence of a connection to the Nightmare dimension.

"As an aside, I should note that practitioners of the art of Dreaming are far more common among chameleon men than any other race known to us as yet(3). They can be convinced to teach the art to others, though usually only after a requiring the aspiring pupil to undergo a series of tests, that they may determine their worthiness and sense of responsibility(4).

"Chameleon men occasionally are overtaken with an urge to go on a long journey, called by them a 'walkabout', wherein they abandon the Normal dimension entirely, and wander for a time in the realms of Nightmare. On such occasions, they simply dimension shift into Nightmare right on the spot, leaving anything they were doing behind without a word. Other chameleon men are unfazed by such a disappearing act, but it has been known to create confusion and panic among outsiders or companions of the chameleon man, for he will leave no word of warning to them. Days, months, sometimes years may go by before the chameleon man decides to return to Normal space, usually returning to the same spot he left from, and resuming whatever he happened to be doing at the time(5).

"The chameleon men have an innate sense of direction, and an uncanny ability to always locate their homes(6). It is this ability that allows them to shift safely through the Nightmare dimension, thus avoiding the hazards of a dimension door spell- it wouldn't do much good to shift away from an opponent only to end up stuck in a tree, after all. This ability also seemingly allows the chameleon men to sense instabilities between the dimensional barriers(7).

"There is strong evidence to suggest that the chameleon men were, at one time, far more culturally advanced than they are today. The reasons behind their downfall aren't fully known- though it is suggested that the wizards of Herath were somehow involved. Regardless, if such were the case, doubtless there are troves of information on the Nightmare Dimension to be found in the Wallaran city of Risilvar and the ruins of the surrounding highlands. Such information would be invaluable in further understanding the nature of the dimensions, and the unknown histories of Nightmare and Normal peoples, as well as the multiverse itself."


1- As noted in Dragon #186 and in the Orc's Head Peninsula supplement, the chameleon man can dimension door up to 120' away at will. This ability takes one full action to achieve, as well as a successful Intelligence check.

2- The Dreaming ability comes naturally to all chameleon men (OD&D) or only to Mendoo medicine men (AD&D). The specifics of its effects are noted in both of the two sources cited in footnote 1, above.

3- Chameleon men suffer only a -2 penalty to their intelligence check for dreaming if not a wizard. They also gain the +1 bonus for being magical creatures, which is cumulative with other adjustments. Thus, a chameleon man warrior would suffer only a -1 to the dreaming check, while a chameleon man wizard would have a +2 bonus to the check. Many chameleon men (and all medicine men) are practitioners of the art of dreaming.

4- The chameleon men will not entrust the art of dreaming to just anyone. They will put those who wish to learn (both other chameleon men and non-chameleon men) through several tests to determine the student's mettle. The tests vary, but all invariably will test a student's moral code, their dedication, and their endurance.

5- It is not known why chameleon men decide to go on walkabouts, but it is believed that it is an instinct born of suppressed racial memories of an ancient time when the chameleon men walked side by side with the Immortals, wandering the mysteries of the multiverse. At certain points in their adult lives, the chameleon men simply feel an urge to roam, and will shift themselves into the Nightmare dimension. There, they will wander and live much as they would in the Normal dimension, carrying on as if nothing had changed. This will go on until they feel an urge to return to Normal space, whereupon the cycle starts over again.

In any case, because this is an actual dimensional shift, the chameleon man's physiology is altered so that the Nightmare dimension is not poisonous to him. He is still vulnerable to creatures and objects of those realms, just as he would be in Normal space, but his ability to dimensionally shift, as well as all other racial and class abilities, remain intact.

6- The chameleon man's abilities to track and locate their home camps are noted in the Orc's Head Peninsula set. They should also be granted the Direction Sense proficiency as a bonus at first level.

7- Such instabilities will always be felt by the chameleon man whenever using his vanish ability. The degree to which they are felt varies according to the distance to the instability- the dimensional instabilities located around the Five Shires would barely register with a chameleon man in Wallara, for instance, though his cousin in Sind would be keenly aware of it every time he shifted. Regardless of the intensity of the feeling, the chameleon man will always have a general sense of what direction the instability is located in.