I have of late been reading a lot of RPG’s and RPG supplements that suggest that making things weird is the way to go. I realise that most of the adventures that I have been making have been pretty staid in their approach and stories and it is time to take some of that advice. The reasoning behind it all is that it will make a much more memorable experience for my players.
While I was running 5E DnD for my regular group I did up the ante and made one of the plain dungeon bashes that I had put together appear to be inside some large creature. The walls were fleshy with veins pulsating through them. Doors were portals that looked like vein openings with handles fashioned of bone and some of the traps were seemingly the body fluids of the much larger creature. While in every other aspects it was nothing more remarkable than a dungeon crawl adventure fighting cultists and the like I think the setting had an impact on the players. There was a good deal of discussion about cutting their way out of the beast which never culminated in anything. Honestly, I did not decide to do this until the night we started playing it as I had designed it as a bricks and mortar adventure. You can find the same adventure here for free.
I have also been reading Dungeon Crawl Classics recently which is a big proponent of the weird, I have been reading Silent Legions which is all about horror of a Cthulhu style and I am currently reading the Dungeon Alphabet by Michael Curtis. All of these products promote the weird and the wonderful. I have played a lot of Pathfinder in my time and while they cater to the weird, most of what I read is standard fantasy fare. I want to start making adventures for all kinds of systems, including Pathfinder, that stretch the weird out for the players to interact with.
Reading the Dungeon Alphabet, that I picked up from Noble Knight Games, has really inspired me. It is a book that looks at helping you design dungeons and bring the fantasy to it regardless of the system you use as a base. There is a preface in it that talks about the difference of a young gamer to an older gamer and how they view things. I scoffed at those comments but while reading the alphabet (the book goes from A – Z with dungeon elements and has a bunch of random tables for inspiration) I recognised that they were right! There are totally things, suggestions in this book that were staples when I was young and had practically forgotten about now as an older player. Statues that help rather than just animate and attack, magical pools with weird and wonderful effects. I am literally so inspired with weirdness now that my players are in for a roller-coaster ride in the near future.
Take a chance and weird it up with me. Start twisting the smaller elements and build on that weirdness with more weirdness. Make them find potions that are like jelly (jello)! Have them pull a lever that changes the colour of their hair, make the come across a room that is two dimensional when they walk into it – there are just so many ideas that are on offer and so give it a try! You and your players will not regret it!