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


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Sincerity is, I think, the key to making D&D work, especially the weirder it gets. There's a world of difference between running an adventure about rescuing the King of the Marshmallow People when everyone approaches it with sincerity and without it, where people just don't buy into it. And I don't mean not laughing at it - funny stuff should be laughed at. But having that investment makes a world of difference in how it lands and the success of the game.

Venture Brothers. Wacky but sincere.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
For me, my preference is "everything on this scale all at once". The range of 0 to 5 is the mundane world the PCs inhabit and were a part of before they started adventuring, and still forms the foundation on which everything else is built; the range of 6 to 8 is what the PCs often stumble into while adventuring; 9 is possible and is occasionally encountered, while 10-11 takes some finding but it's out there somewhere (Elemental Plane of Chaos, anyone?).

There's also distinctions between horror-weird (Lovecraft), acid-trip-weird (Alice in Wonderland), comedy-weird (Toon), and practical-weird (Harry Potter). All four have their place but all can get wearying if overdone.

Edit - typo
 
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Fanaelialae

Legend
For me, my preference is "everything on this scale all at once". The range of 0 to 5 is the mundane world the PCs inhabit and were a part of before they started adventuring, and still forms the foundation on which everything else is built; the range of 6 to 8 is what the PCs often stumble into while adventuring; 9 is possible and is occasionally encountered, while 10-11 takes some finding but it's out there somewhere (Elemental Plane of Chaos, anyone?).

There's also distinctions between horror-weird (Lovecraft), acid-trip-weird (Alice in Wonderland), comedy-weird (Toon), and practical-wierd (Harry Potter). All four have their place but all can get wearying if overdone.
That's actually why I prefer weird over, say, something like horror. Horror tends to be pretty consistently "bad weird". Whereas weird has a lot more variety to offer. "Good weird", "bad weird", and (IMO especially) "just plain weird".

Weird is a tone, kind of like horror. In horror, you ideally want moments of levity and such, else the players can get desensitized to the horror. IME, the nice thing about weird is that you can "palate cleanse" weird not just with normalcy, but also with different flavors of weirdness.

This thread got me thinking about why I like weird campaigns so much, and I think it has to do with evoking a similar sense of wonder that I felt when I started playing D&D (30ish years ago). It's not that I dislike more traditional games, but that I've seen owlbears (and whatnot) dozens of times over the years. They no longer evoke that sense of wonder that they did all those decades ago. But throw me up against something spun whole cloth from the depths of the DM's imagination and that wonder reignites once more. It can be silly or terrifying or something else entirely, but it's weird and wondrous to me.
 

GuyBoy

Hero
I tend to sit in the 3-5 range, where your grandmother fought in the border wars and her old sword, which she used to slay the Wraith of Scarhold, lies in the old family chest.
Occasionally dipping into a bit of Elric-esque psychedelic fantasy on the seas of fate.
 


Stormonu

Legend
Most of my D&D games sit at about 3-4, but there have been times the weirdness factor gets up to 7 or more.

Also, Old Man Katan and His Mushroom Band is a hoot of an adventure.
 


Clint_L

Legend
Thinking about it, I don't think "weird" is the right word for the title, because that makes me think of Weird Tales and stuff like that. This is really about how fantastical we like our D&D. I like medium-hot fantastical. Like my salsa.
 

I like weird elements, but I don't like weird worlds. Sticking to recognizable tropes is highly underrated (and gonzo creativity is overrated) in a game where players are dependent on the DM's powers of description for their sensory perception, and where they can attempt to do anything but will be unable to attempt anything if they don't understand the unspoken rules of the setting. Keeping the basic surroundings familiar ones with familiar rules makes for better gameplay.

But having players meet a character, thing, or (on a limited scale) setting that is completely out of left field makes for some of the most memorable gaming moments.
 

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