The Best D&D Story Genre Is Mix-And-Match

I’ve begun introducing some elements of horror into one of my D&D campaigns. One of the BBEGs of the whole homebrew world is essentially nothingness that is something. The Void, since I can’t help but enjoy an allusion to a common phrase. Because when you stare into The Void in this homebrew D&D world, it literally stares back into you. It provides a great tool to mechanism ennui, doubt, and questions about the purpose of it all in a D&D game where some of the players are interested in asking those questions.

I don’t know about other people, but the thought of losing my perioperception, my sense of where the parts of my body are in relation to the other parts of my body, is absolutely terrifying. Almost as terrifying as teeth and eye stuff. The idea of some huge being with eyes and teeth that constantly break and cut and crush and pierce is just as terrifying as being truly deprived of all of your senses. The idea of being a mind completely cut off from everything but itself is terrifying to me, and since that’s an element I introduced into the background of one of my D&D campaigns and tied to The Void, this campaign has always had horror themes, it just took the players a little while to pick up on it.

Now, though, they’re more overt. The players and their characters finally asked themselves what was up with that barrel that had infinite space inside, removed all your senses when you went inside it, and had a weird viscosity to the entrance that prevented anything from going through it unless you intentionally put it in the barrel. Turns out it was a portal, which is what the text on the item said except no one ever read it. They just accepted “Infinite Barrel of Holding” at face value and the player tracking the item never mentioned that it was labeled a portal and not an “extradimensional space” like every other magic stuff-holding item.

I set all this up really early in the campaign, way back in the summer of 2020. In our eighth or ninth session, they did a favor for “Thomas the Artificer” who had a weird basement that didn’t follow Euclidean laws of geometry and got their choice of a few magic items from this “space wizard.” They chose the infinite barrel that I explained to them as a solution to the “will it fit” discussions that accompanied most Bags of Holding. The barbarian took the item, realized he couldn’t do all of the odd, game-breaking stuff with it that he wanted to do, and then made the note “always open” on it and used it for stuff like storing entire trees.

Since he managed the barrel and everyone else just carried their own stuff on them, especially so after they discovered that going fully into the barrel can cause temporary madness, no one else really thought about it. It wenty most unaddresed as it spent over a year open. Then things started going missing. Mundane things, mostly, things they didn’t use regularly, but they still went missing. None of my players noticed. Once a pre-established threshold was met, more powerful things started going missing. Never anything the player characters would keep on their person or close at hand, but anything kept in a bag or a pocket and largely ignored was fair game.

Eventually, one of the players noticed his magic pipe was missing. When he brought it up, all the other players realized they were missing things. Stuff it sometimes took them a while to realize was missing, even when it was pointed out that they were probably all missing stuff. Which just so happened to coincide with one of them having a powerful magic item stolen and returned to them once the mages who stole it had examined it and learned its secrets. So they spent a bunch of time trying to figure out what happened, came up empty, and decided to keep watch. The end result of which was one of their allies getting snatched before their eyes as shadows flickered in and out of view. Suddenly, they knew that everything that had gone missing had disappeared into the barrel.

What they don’t know is that I rolled a d100 for every day that passed with the barrel sitting open. The entity imprisoned inside it had a 1% chance of noticing the open portal if it was opened for over 24 hours. It took over a year for it to notice, but it eventually did. I rolled 365 d100s for the one-year time skip we did and it didn’t notice until play had resumed. Which worked out pretty well for me, since things would have gone very different if they weren’t all together when the entity noticed. Gotta love when the dice rolls support a good story.

But now they’ve gone inside it, except for one character who chose to stay outside it for good reasons. Their player made a replacemenr character on the fly with a few bits of input from me and now they’re all in this strange world with it’s strange memory problems and ALL the weird shit I’ve been reading about and thinking about and preparing idly for about a year just in case it ever came up. And all of this could have been avoided if they just put the lid on the barrel when they weren’t using it.

I’m excited, they’re excited, and this is going to be some fun, horror-adjacent D&D. I can’t wait to get deeper into it!

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