“Visit either you like: they’re both mad.”
“But I don’t want to go among mad people”
“Oh, you can’t help that. We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?”
“You must be. Or else why would you be here?”
Welcome to the underdark! For this new campaign, I’m going to be
running fucking up Out of the Abyss.
This is going to be survival-horror, D&D style. Don’t expect to go off adventuring and then hang out in the local inn afterwards. Finding food, shelter and just travelling safely is part of the challenge of this campaign, and the monsters aren’t half as bad as the people who live down here. Not everything can be defeated, sometimes running away (or grovelling for mercy) is the right choice. Trust no-one.
But try to have fun! This is an endless waking nightmare for your characters. As players, just try to go with it, embrace the spirit of it, and enjoy it. It’s meant to be a challenge, but not a grind. While there might be a few things that will kill you all (ho boy, are there!), I’m not as the DM going to throw you into impossible situations that you can’t get out of. Of course, you poke a beholder in its eye, that’s on you.
It’s going to be much the same as the last one: most things are permitted, but don’t take the piss.
- Standard 27-point stats, or standard array (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8)
- Any standard race you like. Check with me if you want to be one of the monstrous ones.
- I’d prefer you don’t pick an ‘underdark’ race (e.g. Drow, Deep Gnome, etc), just because it’s no fun if you’re immediately right at home in the Underdark.
- Any published class. Plus some ‘homebrew’:
- The Magus: a half-fighter half-wizard
- The Pugilist: you remember Overkill.
- Sorcerer Revisited: a small change to the sorcerer to make it not suck.
- The Hunter: a sort-of Ranger that fixes a few issues with the normal class.
- If you’re a Warlock, you can have your patron be The DM. But you have to pick madness #20 below.
- Free feat at first level. Don’t. Take. The. Piss.
- The UA Skill Feats are allowed.
I’d also like each of your characters to suffer from one form of insanity/madness. This shouldn’t be a really disruptive “I enjoy murdering my companions in their sleep” sort of madness, just a little roleplaying quirk to add some flavour to the campaign. It can be difficult to get this right, so I’ve done a table of suggestions – feel free to roll, choose one, or make up something yourself.
Time for a disclaimer: a lot of this campaign deals with insanity. In no way is this meant to belittle or make fun of mental health problems. If anyone is offended or upset with anything anyone is doing, speak up and we’ll change it.
I want to stick to madness in a pulpy, non-specific way, as often used in films and books (see top of the page). For example: in Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore suffers from depression, Tigger ADHD and Piglet anxiety (and Christopher Robin is clearly delusional). But they’re still a kick-ass adventuring party!
- “Everyone is out to get me. I can’t trust anyone.”
- “When it’s quiet I sometimes hear grandma’s voice. She tells me secrets. And gives me orders.”
- “I don’t believe in magic. It’s all just smoke and mirrors or something, and everyone plays along because they think it’s funny.”
- “I have immense magical powers: I can grant wishes.”
- “During a full moon I shed all my clothes and bite people.”
- “I’m actually the god [name]. Due to some trickery I’ve been forced into this weakened state. I must regain my power and reclaim my domain.”
- “My closest friend is a pumpkin called Wilson.”
- “Did you know healing magic causes autism? I would never willingly let anyone cast a healing spell on me.”
- “I am a vampire who must drink blood to survive. I also like to count! Ha ha!”
- “What’s the point? We’re all doomed.”
- “I’m scared of the dark. I must always have a light source or I’ll panic.”
- “The world will end in precisely [pick a number] days! I plan to do all my living before then. Carpe Diem!”
- “I have triskaidekaphobia.”
- “I find the most inappropriate things funny. The more serious, horrifying or sad the situation, the more I laugh.”
- “I have no inner monologue. Wait, did I say that out loud?”
- “Fire! Fire solves all problems! And creates some. Which are then solved with more fire!”
- “As a living construct, I don’t know how you meatbags cope with all your fluids. Doesn’t the constant sloshing sound drive you mad?”
- “My memories start just last week. I can’t remember any of my life before that.”
- “There’s 2 people in my head. Sometimes I’m in charge, sometimes it’s the other guy.”
- “This is all just a game. We’re all just characters controlled by idiots, our every action decided by dice rolls.”
As with my last campaign, you’re going to be thrown into an adventure together, so you can put as much or as little work into a backstory as you like. You’re going to begin the adventure as patients in Rutledge
Asylum Hospital, in the Dessarin Valley. There’s a nice article in Dragon magazine that describes the surrounding area – maybe you’re from around here? Equally you might have no memory of your life before the hospital. You might have been there a while and got to know your fellow patients, or maybe finding yourself in a hospital might be a total shock to you. Whatever the case: obviously there’s been a mistake, and you don’t belong there.
If you have anything in mind for your character’s backstory, let me know. It’s great to include stuff you’ve created where I can.
“Have I gone mad?”
“I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”