• The VOIDRUNNER'S CODEX is coming! Explore new worlds, fight oppressive empires, fend off fearsome aliens, and wield deadly psionics with this comprehensive boxed set expansion for 5E and A5E!

D&D 5E What Genre of Fantasy would fit an Adventure in the Abyss?


I realize this is a subjective question, but I'm very curious about your insights and opinions.

Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus featured a deep dive into the first layer of the Nine Hells. In the marketing it was described as Mad Max in Hell, and the designers cited wanting to bring the feel of Mad Max: Fury Road to D&D (the "Apocalyptic Road Warrior" genre?).

If you were pitching an adventure heavily featuring the Abyss, what sub-genre of fantasy would you aim for?
Another way to phrase the question: if you described it as "_____" meets D&D, or "_____" meets "_____", how would you fill in those blanks?

As part of the question, if you're game to play, I'm trying to keep in mind what existing official 5e D&D adventures have already done, and focus on new approaches. For instance, Storm King's Thunder could be described as "Shakespeare's King Lear meets giants", Rime of the Frostmaiden was an adventure of "modern horror a la The Thing in an arctic setting", and Wild Beyond the Witchlight could be described "Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes meets D&D."


EDIT: This is cross-posted from the r/DMAcademy subreddit. Azzagrat, specifically, is what I'm thinking about. But I didn't want to limit anyone's contributions if they were unfamiliar, and wanted to let you cast as wide a net with your imaginations as possible.
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad


Elder Thing
For my money, dark comedy is the way to go with the Abyss, so I vote "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Meets D&D."

That approach keeps the game moving, keeps people engaged, and isn't TOO dark unless you examine it closely. At which point you realize Willy Wonka has more on common with Jigsaw or a Bond villain than any of us should really feel comfortable with.


If you could get the feat part right, but that is hard to DM to the players to get to the PCs.



Great Old One
In our previous campaigns visiting the Abyss, the most important feeling was that of ununending Chaos. Yes, some layers can be along specific genres (and Azzagrat, that I've used before, is a really good example, for something based on debauchery and vice), but the variety of chaos is infinite, especially when not bounded by good, and that should be felt as well. So go wild and random and just inject whatever evil you want to have.


This is an interesting question. It would definitely be a horror game but what kind of horror? I'd go with Lovecraftian except that the niche of Chaos and Evil that it traditionally fulfills puts it squarely on the human moral axis which isn't really a Lovecraftian feel.

To a degree, the Abyss is kind of the ultimate dungeon. Each layer it's own level, descending into potentially infinite layers. So maybe survivalist horror? Trying to survive in a hostile environment with everything trying to kill you and only small respite every once in a while? Except with more demons.

So I guess "D&D meets Evil Dead 2"?

So part of my view of what the abyss would be like is informed by the urban fantasy/horror web serial, Pact. For mortals unfortunate enough to find themselves stuck there, the abyss is about breaking you down and changing you into something else. The degree of change and the end result depend on the nature of the mortal, luck, and - should they hold out long enough - the interference of the malevolent beings that dwell there.

Being in the abyss means struggling to maintain not only your life, but also your sense of self, as survival brings its own challenges in the form of attention from some of the greater beings that dwell there. There is little commonality in the form that nature will take from being to being. Some will seek to destroy, others to corrupt in various ways. It's not even unheard of for a demon to genuinely help the lost souls of the abyss from time to time. The only real guarantee is that whatever action a demon takes, it is in furtherance of their own personal goals.

The nature of a given adventure in the Abyss could vary greatly depending on the demons involved, but if I had to use a shorthand, I'd call this take "Aliens meets Something Wicked This Way Comes." Other possible influences could include Event Horizon, Nightmare on Elm Street, and especially the aforementioned Pact for any who have read that.

Blue Orange

Gone to Texas
All good suggestions.

The one thing I'm thinking is that the Abyss is fundamentally chaotic as opposed to lawful (that's the Nine Hells!). Stuff should happen for no reason at all. So Mad Max is actually a good choice, as a good example of the post-apocalyptic genre that deals with the aftermath of the breakdown of society. Evil Dead, as an example of survivalist horror as suggested, similarly has lots of zombies that don't really have human goals. The only thing I'd add is that you can make a pretty good case for some aspects of Lovecraftian or cosmic horror--after all, the Elder Gods don't really have goals we can understand. Who's to say some Cthulhu-like creature can't suddenly rise from the stinking sea of some Abyssal layer?

One I haven't heard yet--magical realism (think Garcia Marquez or Isabel Allende; Jorge Luis Borges has a whole bunch of short stories that can be binge-read and give you all kinds of weird ideas), though darker of course as we are in the Abyss. Weird or magical things may sometimes happen for no reason at all. But forget a woman suddenly rising up into the sky or a slave turning into an animal--your best friend (NPC of course) might suddenly turn into a demon, or the ground suddenly be replaced by the maw of a giant monster. The Abyss doesn't make sense.

Then, there's always surrealism--think Dali or Magritte (or anything by Grant Morrison), though in the Abyss the melting clocks are melting mouths that want to eat you, and the legions of men with apples for faces want to turn you into one of them. Oh and that cup and spoon covered in fur on the ground? They'll turn you into a lycanthrope if you pick them up.

Remove ads