Nothing says “I love my D&D group” more than introducing Phobias and Fascinations to your campaign. Okay, several things would say “I love my D&D group” more than that, but making them suffer in hilarious ways is the job of any nurturing Dungeon Master, right? Onward!
How To Implement Phobias and Fascinations
Simple! These conditions are meant to plug and play right into your campaign at character creation or during a campaign. When the situation calls for it, or even if it doesn’t and you’re just feeling salty, they’re ready for use.
There are times during a session when a character experiences something truly frightening, insanely weird, or otherwise troubling. Maybe they were trapped in a dark room filled with snakes for an hour, or they witnessed a terrible murder. Such things can leave lasting effects on a character.
How to Use Phobias
Phobias are best given to a player after they’ve survived or witnessed a terrible/crazy/weird thing. As such, the phobia is typically related to the terrible/crazy/weird thing they just endured, but not always. Sometimes a Warlock might just get hit with a blast of crazy from a Great Old One, or an unknown artifact slaps everyone in the party with a phobia they won’t find out about until later. In those cases, feel free to roll for a random phobia on the table below.
Pick a Phobia from the table below or roll a D20 for a random one; or create your own!
|1||Being Touched||You don’t like being touched or people getting too close.|
|2||Darkness||You fear of the dark or what lurks in darkness.|
|3||Illness||Illness in general or specific illnesses (plague, coughs, fevers etc.).|
|4||Dead Things||Anything dead (people, animals, plants, etc.).|
|5||Insects||Creepy, crawly bugs and spiders with lots of legs and stingers.|
|6||Ghosts||The very idea of apparitions or haunts.|
|7||Heights||Being up high and the fear of falling.|
|8||Small Spaces||Tiny, enclosed spaces make you feel trapped.|
|9||Fish||It’s the slimy scales and those eyes, the terrible black eyes!|
|10||Animals||Animals in general or specific animals (cats, dire wolves, giant bats, etc.)|
|11||Open Spaces||All of the space makes you feel so small.|
|12||Sunlight||You fear being seen for who you really are.|
|13||Sleep||Whether it’s nightmares or never waking up, it’s terrifying.|
|14||Loud Noises||Loud noises make you jumpy and anxious.|
|15||Bodies of Water||You could sink, just like that, and the abyss is scary.|
|16||Your Reflection||You fear seeing what you’ve become.|
|17||Monster||Monsters in general or specific monsters (orcs, kobolds, goblins, etc.)|
|18||Crowds||It’s suffocating when there are so many people, so many eyes.|
|19||Magic||Magic in general or specific magic (curses, divination, fireballs, etc.)|
|20||Insanity||The idea of losing one’s mind is horrifying.|
True Fascinations are beyond a simple crush on a handsome lad or the love of a particular cuisine. They are obsessions with something wherein a character is often absorbed with thoughts of the thing, the inability to control themselves around the thing, or even the willingness to act out of character to have the thing.
How to Use Fascinations
Some characters may begin their adventuring career with a fascination or develop one over time. They might be due to a particular event like meeting someone your attracted to, a witch’s curse, a love potion, extreme stress or anxiety, or even as a spell’s side effect.
Pick a Fascination from the table below or roll a D20 for a random one; or create your own!
|1||Bald People||Something about their shiny, hairless heads, it’s amazing.|
|2||Cheese||Cheese in general or specific cheeses (goat, cubed, etc.).|
|3||Specific Person||Someone specifically (love interest, hated enemy, etc.)|
|4||Soft Textures||You can’t stop touching soft, smooth textures.|
|5||Counting Things||Everything can be counted!|
|6||Disease||Disease is fascinating! All diseases or specific ones.|
|7||Death||You’re infatuated by death, but it’s finality, by its mystery.|
|8||Caves||Let’s explore all the caves!|
|9||Treasure||People call you greedy, but those people are probably poor.|
|10||Animals||Animals in general or specific animals (asps, dire finches, etc.)|
|11||Cuisine||A specific type of cuisine (human, orcish, elven, etc.)|
|12||Toys||You can’t get enough toys! Toys are life.|
|13||Magic||Magic in general or specific magic (healing, enchantment, etc.)|
|14||Darkness||This is where you belong. The darkness knows you.|
|15||Vocation||A specific vocation (Sailor, Soldier, Wizard, Spy, etc.)|
|16||Shiny Objects||Look, so shiny! Even more shinies! I want everything shiny!|
|17||Monster Culture||A specific monster culture (Kobolds, Beholders, etc.)|
|18||Hair||The way it smells and feels, omg! Hair is life.|
|19||Silence||In silence is pureness and calm.|
|20||Poetry||You can’t get enough poetry. Poets are practically divine.|
A good D&D campaign usually makes way for character growth in levels and in other ways. It is possible for a player to have their character overcome their Phobia or Fascination (with the help and permission of the DM of course). Overcoming a Phobia likely means facing it and choosing to no longer irrationally fear it, even if you’re still afraid of it in a very rational way. Overcoming a Fascination usually means being content without that thing or perhaps seeing an ugly side to it. Of course, magic and brain-wiping can also rid you of a Phobia or Fascination. Be warned, just because a character dies doesn’t meant hey won’t still have their Phobia or Fascination as a ghost! See? It’s all encompassing.
Bryan Fischer is a game designer and writer who creates content for RPGs and shares great new games. Follow him on Instagram @bryanbfischer for more content.