Phobias and Fascinations | New Rules for Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition

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.

Phobias

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!

RollPhobiaDetails
1Being TouchedYou don’t like being touched or people getting too close.
2DarknessYou fear of the dark or what lurks in darkness.
3IllnessIllness in general or specific illnesses (plague, coughs, fevers etc.).
4Dead ThingsAnything dead (people, animals, plants, etc.).
5InsectsCreepy, crawly bugs and spiders with lots of legs and stingers.
6GhostsThe very idea of apparitions or haunts.
7HeightsBeing up high and the fear of falling.
8Small SpacesTiny, enclosed spaces make you feel trapped.
9FishIt’s the slimy scales and those eyes, the terrible black eyes!
10AnimalsAnimals in general or specific animals (cats, dire wolves, giant bats, etc.)
11Open SpacesAll of the space makes you feel so small.
12SunlightYou fear being seen for who you really are.
13SleepWhether it’s nightmares or never waking up, it’s terrifying.
14Loud NoisesLoud noises make you jumpy and anxious.
15Bodies of WaterYou could sink, just like that, and the abyss is scary.
16Your ReflectionYou fear seeing what you’ve become.
17MonsterMonsters in general or specific monsters (orcs, kobolds, goblins, etc.)
18CrowdsIt’s suffocating when there are so many people, so many eyes.
19MagicMagic in general or specific magic (curses, divination, fireballs, etc.)
20InsanityThe idea of losing one’s mind is horrifying.

 

Fascinations

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!

RollFascinationDetails
1Bald PeopleSomething about their shiny, hairless heads, it’s amazing.
2CheeseCheese in general or specific cheeses (goat, cubed, etc.).
3Specific PersonSomeone specifically (love interest, hated enemy, etc.)
4Soft TexturesYou can’t stop touching soft, smooth textures.
5Counting ThingsEverything can be counted!
6DiseaseDisease is fascinating! All diseases or specific ones.
7DeathYou’re infatuated by death, but it’s finality, by its mystery.
8CavesLet’s explore all the caves!
9TreasurePeople call you greedy, but those people are probably poor.
10AnimalsAnimals in general or specific animals (asps, dire finches, etc.)
11CuisineA specific type of cuisine (human, orcish, elven, etc.)
12ToysYou can’t get enough toys! Toys are life.
13MagicMagic in general or specific magic (healing, enchantment, etc.)
14DarknessThis is where you belong. The darkness knows you.
15VocationA specific vocation (Sailor, Soldier, Wizard, Spy, etc.)
16Shiny ObjectsLook, so shiny! Even more shinies! I want everything shiny!
17Monster CultureA specific monster culture (Kobolds, Beholders, etc.)
18HairThe way it smells and feels, omg! Hair is life.
19SilenceIn silence is pureness and calm.
20PoetryYou can’t get enough poetry. Poets are practically divine.

 

Overcoming

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.

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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.


Artwork by Dangercook

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