D&D General How Weird Do You Like Your D&D

Reynard

Legend
"Fantasy" is a very broad genre, even when "constrained" by the tropes and assumptions of D&D. It can be grounded and realistic after a fashion,or wild and weird. So, how weird do you like your D&D adventures, worlds and characters.

In answering you can define "weird" however you like, but I'm specifically thing of things that don't fit in a sane world, that defy expectations and/or lean toward horrific absurdity. The Tower of the Elephant is weird, and so is Adventure Time.

On a scale of 1 to 10 I like a constant 4 or 5, where the world is weird but not absurd, but then specific places or entities get really weird. I especially like making dungeons specifically the high weirdness points in a campaign: the dungeon that is itself a giant mimic, the dungeon that is a pocket realm of faerie, the dungeon that is the dreaming of a mad God.

How weird do you like your D&D?
 

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Fanaelialae

Legend
I too like weird, with areas that are especially weird, though I would rate it at around a 7, personally. (To me a 4 or 5 would be standard D&D weirdness.)

In my last session, the PCs (a flumph soul knife, a candy dragon barbarian, a vampiric far realm sorcerer, a tentacle horror monk, a cat spirit ranger, and a human druid) went through a magical portal and ended up inside a giant-plant-worm-thing. There were other entities living inside of the worm and they had to variously fight and negotiate their way through the innards to reach the portal at the other end. (It's a weapon being grown by the cultists of a far realm god that is trying to infest reality.) The insides of this creature were one of the weirder areas of my campaign, and the portal returned them to the clockwork forest from whence they had come (one of the more standard levels of weirdness).
 

aco175

Legend
I like most things grounded so everyone knows the baseline. If gravity does not work right in one place, that is cool, but everywhere- then I need to explain base things most people assume are about Earthlike. Most of my games are similar to the LotR movies with PHB races as player races, limited god interference, limited 15+level pcs/NPCs. I guess I'm rather vanilla.
 


I like it to change from time to time - ie the Spelljammer game I'm in is cranking the weird up and that's fun, but I wouldn't want to only play that. On the other hand, never doing that would be just as boring.

So I want it to vary from game to game, rather than always being a 6 or whatever... though I'm not a huge fan of "realistic" settings and look upon low-magic with skepticism.
 


Oofta

Legend
I like fairly grounded campaigns, with my base assumption being reality + minor magic. So yes, there are magical creatures like dragons and small magic makes people's lives a little better but someone from our world probably wouldn't realize it right away. I do that so when people do encounter the truly fantastical or weird, it stands out as something special and unique.

To paraphrase Syndrome, if everything is weird then nothing is weird. Or at least it feels less weird.
 


Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
If I wanted a consistently weird experience, I'd go for Ultraviolet Grasslands, but I absolutely want individual places that hit that level of weird. In my homebrew world, one of the principles I fell in love with is that magic begets magic, so the places that have the most weird stuff going on slowly get weirder over time.
 

I'd kind of separate creepy-weird from cutesy weird, though obviously some stuff like Adventure Time manages to happily combine the two.

For creepy-weird, I'd say it's about a 7/10 for me. Like a bank-vault that leads into a dying future dimension where the sun is nearly dead as an ideal storage place.

For cutesy weird I definitely have some tolerance, but more like a 4/10. Like Flumphs and so on.

I can go higher on both, too, as long as creepy remains ahead of cutesy - I run Spire which is easily like 8/10 weird, maybe higher, and I'd like to run Heart, which is like 9/10.
 

In the short term, I'm fine with just about anything.

My personal experience is that most GMs ability to maintain high weirdness such that it is interesting is limited. So, I'm fine with things getting really weird, but maybe don't try to force it to be there for too long.
Yeah I think is generally good advice, and it's not just about DMs, it's that things normalize in the minds of players and they do so pretty rapidly, so if they're reliant on being weird for their impact, you gotta limit exposure or you've gotta have something so extreme it can't really normalize (and that latter does rely on DM skill, especially in stuff like description and maintaining tone - like if you're going through fleshy tunnels in the belly of the beast, and the DM just starts treating them like any old tunnels, that's not going to work).

My favourite use of weirdness from myself is still describing the fort in the Hill Giant part of Against the Giants so well the Thief player exploring it (with a ring of invisibility) actually started to freak out and had to leave because it was too weird.
 


Fanaelialae

Legend
Yeah I think is generally good advice, and it's not just about DMs, it's that things normalize in the minds of players and they do so pretty rapidly, so if they're reliant on being weird for their impact, you gotta limit exposure or you've gotta have something so extreme it can't really normalize (and that latter does rely on DM skill, especially in stuff like description and maintaining tone - like if you're going through fleshy tunnels in the belly of the beast, and the DM just starts treating them like any old tunnels, that's not going to work).
I don't think the only two options are to either limit exposure or do something extreme. IMO, the best option for a high weirdness scenario is to maintain the weirdness. Obviously, there will be variance in the level of weirdness. I'm just saying your options aren't simply rare weirdness or shock value weirdness.

To use your fleshy tunnel example.

You (and I mean you in the general sense, not you specifically) might have an eye suddenly open and stare at them (the eye doesn't have to do anything, though they won't necessarily know that). You could have a pustule that slowly emits gas (smelly but harmless). Heck, even something like describing a stone room ahead (when everything else has been flesh) can really weird them out. Obviously, these rainbow herrings should be intermixed with actual encounters as well.

Plus, you need to periodically reemphasize the fleshiness of the tunnels, because if the DM gets lazy and just describes it in technical language like it's any old dungeon tunnel (it's 50' long and 10' wide and T's off at the end) then it will certainly lose its impact in no time.

Maintaining weirdness does admittedly come with certain challenges, but if you can describe a dungeon vibrantly then you have the skills to handle it, IME.
 

For D&D 5e, I'd say I like it at about a 3-4 on the Weird-o-Meter. However, for something like DCC RPG, I dial it up to an 8. Give me wizard vans, ancient technological relics, and (literal) two-faced wizards. That game is designed to dive back into the weird parts of Appendix N.
 

Mad_Jack

Hero
I guess I'm about standard D&D weirdness for most of the world, although there are definitely places where things get strange. Mostly, though, it's strange-but-within-the-bounds-of-the-general-tone-of-the-world, rather than truly absurd stuff... The little weird vs. the big Weird.
For example, I liked Expedition To The Barrier Peaks, and there's an old Role Aids module called Swordthrust where you find out that the ice-cave dungeon you're in is actually inside the head of a sleeping ice titan buried under a mountain range, and most of the creatures inside it are his memories.
But I prefer to have things on a relatively normal vibe most of the time so that when the weirdness shows up you really notice it. Individual places, individuals or adventures may veer off into horror or sometimes comedy territory but generally you don't see flumph bards strolling the streets of hard-bitten port cities founded by pirates. It's a lot like how the ancient Celts viewed the spirit world - there are barriers between the normal world and the weirdness, and in some places they're thin (it's always just under the surface or around the next corner), but most of the time they don't interact so that when they do it becomes a tale to be told.*


I don't generally go for the really weird stuff, but that's because I tend to like to go big with it when it happens...

I once ran an adventure for a party that started off fairly normally, with the party hired to protect a village from an evil wizard by a red-headed man wearing a strange amulet on his chest that let him cast Antipathy/Sympathy several times a day.

But then it takes a turn into the strange...

When they get to the village, they discover that everyone in the village is wearing similar amulets that let them cast a particular spell. And everyone is a werebear. And the evil wizard wants to steal all of magic their amulets to build an infernal machine.

And then a turn to the comedic.

The party quickly realizes the adventure is full of '80's pop-culture references - the were-Care Bears are being threatened by a wizard who looks like the Purple Pieman from Strawberry Shortcake, and he needs their amulets to build a machine that will suck all the joy out of the world. To get to the wizard's castle, they have to travel through an enchanted Candyland forest, where the trees are made out of chocolate licorice with wintergreen leaves, with caramel Squirrels running through the trees, following a blue-raspberry flavored stream. They encounter a friendly blueberry marshmallow ghost who guides them to the castle, where they fight gummi orcs and chocolate-covered-giant ants.

And then the adventure turns on a dime into the horrific.

The blueberry marshmallow ghost suddenly bleeds blueberry blood from its hollow eye sockets and lets out a banshee's wail. When the party fireballs the giant chocolate-covered ants, they melt into an ankle-deep pool of goop that smells of burnt chocolate, which the party must slog through to fight the gummi orcs. When a character hits the gummi orcs with a weapon, it becomes stuck in them with a horrific glorping sound and requires a strength roll to pull out. When one of the yellow gummi orcs loses an arm, a red gummi orc picks it up and attaches it to its own stump of an arm, where it quickly melds together into an orange scar...

And even worse, when the party makes its way to the wizard's tower, they discover he's actually a necromancer who's building a machine to suck the joy (positive energy) out of the world in order to turn the world's children into his personal mind-controlled army - whereupon the party is forced to fight a horde of zombie children before taking on the wizard.

Yeah... :p

Afterward, the players told me that it was the greatest adventure I'd ever run for them, and that they'd kill me if I ever did it again, lol.
 

I would define the scale as follows.

0: More aggressively "normal" than actual people's lives. This is the zone of things like the weird obsession with enforcing racism, sexism, religious oppression, and other IRL stuff that, yes, it really did exist but is really not fun and unnecessary in a fantasy setting.
1: Actually like most ordinary lives, the "quiet desperation" angle. Very few people want to play at this level mostly because very little of consequence happens to the vast majority of people here.
2-3: Special extensions beyond ordinary drudgery stuff. The people who live in a border town that sees a lot of comings and goings, or who work in a noble's mansion and thus hear all sorts of scandalous things. That kind of stuff--beyond mundane, but only just.
4-5: Actually fantastical, but at a distance removed. You know the local priest can do some magical stuff, your great-grandmother left the family that "cookbook" and her husband's (now dusty and ill-maintained) sword she claimed was magical. That kind of thing.
6-7: The fantastical is blended into the everyday. This means there is still an everyday to blend into, but it's hard to sharply separate the everyday stuff from the fantastical stuff. On the lower end, this resembles 2-3 but with supernatural things in addition to merely mundane-but-outlier things. On the high end, it's the home of many standard YA fantasy novels (e.g. the Old Kingdom books by Garth Nix), or Eberron.
8-9: The fantastical has largely supplanted the everyday. "Weird" things are a regular occurrence, magic is almost everywhere. Harry Potter is probably on the low end of this, while arguably Lovecraftian horror tends toward the high end, where reality itself is a thin fictional coat of paint over the madness-inducing truth of reality.
10: There is only the fantastical, and it strains hard against the boundaries of what is even remotely conceivable, let alone plausible.
11: You have gone beyond the impossible and made even "fantastical" inadequate to describe the kind of experiences or events that occur. Congratulations for breaking the system.

My preference is around 7. Pretty much the absolute bare minimum I'd accept is around 5, 5.5, where the magic and fantasy are there but they must be "brought into" the world, as it were, rather than being "already there" to interact with. Around 8.5-9 is where my tolerances start to break down, I can still deal with it but it becomes harder for me to relate unless I'm really, really on board with the premise/concept/etc.

So you could say my preference is somewhere between "great-grandma was totally a witch, look at all the diagrams she drew in her 'private' cookbook!!" and "the whole world is festooning with the fantastical, from flimsy flinders to formal foundations," while I find the real blockbuster hits are just about midway between, where magic and mundane are still two poles, but the boundary between them has completely fuzzed out into a smooth gradient. The Old Kingdom books are an almost perfect distillation of the kinds of "secret lore," magic-is-everywhere yet mundane-is-important stuff, so I'll basically always mention them. The Abhorsen has tricksy bells and magic books that hide their contents in your own memory until you really need it and all sorts of other things...and must also be an actual fencer who wears a scale hauberk and, ideally, is fully trained in music, literature, and history in order to make the fullest use of their powers.

I like my D&D fantastical, but not Super Weird; I like it to recognize the mundane, without enforcing it; I like it to embrace the possibility of transcending mortal/physical limits without using magic; I like it to give magic value and purpose without making it clearly superior to either so-called "mundane" martial skill or non-magic forms of supernatural power.
 

I like the weird, absurd, and the horrific. Not constantly, otherwise it loses its impact and becomes none of those things. Just like magic.

Edit: on a scale from 1-10, I'd say I like it at a 3 or 4.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
I don't think a scale is how I even think about it.

I like non-standard Fatansty, non-medieval stuff, A gorilla with a pair of punt guns grafted to its shoulders is my kind of weird.

Literally anything from the Far Realms, trying her to use tentacles and slimy to be creepy while just being nonsensical (things exploding into horse-sized ticks) is not.
 

We fought giant rubber chickens once.

Two of them would pick up their comrades and fling them at us. The damage of a giant-sized rubber chicken was large. It was hilarious and fun. But it was in a pocket dimension that had lots of weird stuff so it kind of made sense in a weird way and made for a great side-quest.

I wouldn't be able to tolerate that kind of silliness with any regularity in a campaign. I'm probably happy with a 4-6
 

Literally anything from the Far Realms, trying her to use tentacles and slimy to be creepy while just being nonsensical (things exploding into horse-sized ticks) is not.
Yeah this kind of tryhard but also quite trope-y "weirdness" can get very old very fast if it's not handled well, and "exploding into horse-size ticks" is pretty much never handling it well.
 

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