An idea I have been playing around with recently is the possibility that magic is synonymous with consciousness. That is to say the very act of thinking produces a magical effect. The effect is in proportion to the imaginative capacity of the individual and so usually very, very small. But a skilled dreamer can produce vast and impressive magics. For example, an old woman skilled in "the old ways" who suddenly cannot recall whether she did the washing-up (but really dreads doing it) enters the kitchen to find it all tidy and clean. On the other hand, a powerful mage sits cross-legged before the gates of a citadel and dreams of a bull, a giant bull, rearing its head before lowering it and charging. It leaps over him, its haunches thick as trees, and batters the gates down to the cheers of the army behind him.
Imagination and dreams are not limited to the individual. Large-scale hysteria can produce similarly impressive effects. A horde of a hundred thousand crazed goblins, fearing the very worst, look up into the sky which darkens above them. As they begin to scream, the darkness descends from the clouds and opens its hideous mouth to douse them in flame.
I suppose I am considering a world in which matter and thought are intimately linked, and the way one thinks about things affects how they are. In short, a world carved by dreams.
Now my question is this. In such a world there will be very powerful mages who have studied themselves and their dreams and become exceptionally skilled at warping reality. Such people are often unstable. When they finally go mad or die, it is likely that a small area of the world around them will implode and go crazy. What kind of results would follow? One might think of these results as curious areas of "wild magic", suitable for building into a dungeon for a ``what the…?!?!’’ effect.
Additional Ideas (3)
To sail through the remains of Rivallo the Scribe is a most unusual experience. The unlikely cave system is often attributed to Rivallo's habit of studying late into the night with only a candle for company. A beautiful but flickering system of caverns carved from wax by man-sized wicks, whose silent flames lick the high-arched roofs, is all that is left of Rivallo's fertile imagination. Boats proceed slowly through the hot, thick wax, which drips in a slowly descending series of rivulets down the intricate labyrinth.
Horgathnak the Black was an evil master of dreams. He bent them to his will and his enemies crumbled. All except Fassd. Fassd knew of Horgathnak's single morbid fear: a dire revulsion at the idea of being buried alive. He drugged Horgathnak and incarcerated him deep, deep in the earthy dungeons below his castle, in a low cell with only an inch of soil above his nose. When he awoke, Horgathnak's mad imaginings boiled over and his screams were terrible. When Fassd eventually dared venture down to his deepest cells he found nothing but a knotted system of roots, almost impenetrable and crawling with snakes and huge spiders, extending throughout the whole dungeon. Maybe somewhere in there still is Horgathnak, whimpering, terrified, his fears creating more and more of the disgusting creatures that crawl over him.
These disturbing tunnels are the remains of the chiurgeon Morag Vaniswel, one of the greatest doctors and scholars of the living body known; using his powerful mind to conjure up ways of peering at ever-smaller fragments of the body, few had as deep an understanding of things organic as he did. Thus, when he was struck with sudden madness, his feverish delusions twisted and burrowed deep beneath the ground, forming a strange complex of living matter. Passages of ropy muscles and sinew wind around impossibly vast bones, threaded with dense ropes of nerve tissue that sparkle and sizzle with electrical currents. Veins and other tubes run through the walls and floors, none of which approach being level as they wind and twist chaotically through the mass. Doors are strange membranes that open and close on their own, according to some unknown will, and all manner of freak creatures, most resembling massive forms of the tiny creatures Morag found dwelling at sizes too small for the naked eye to witness, slither and tumble through the corridors on unknowable missions.
Perhaps more disturbingly is the utter lack of any trace of Morag's body; some whisper that the twisting tunnels are his remains, still alive and trapped in some horrible state by his fevered, tormented mind. Others of a more sensitive nature have often complained of a noise in their thoughts when too close to the warrens, a kind of whispering sound too vast to be understood. Perhaps the tunnels really are the mad doctor, having trapped himself somewhere between life and death...