Dungeons and Dragons are, unfortunately, going through some controversy thanks to the OGL 1.1 update. These new policies make it harder for third-party creators to create content for the beloved tabletop franchise. As this situation develops, it’s clear that this also affects even the average player.
For players wanting to build a creepy character, third-party content has always been a great resource for homebrew. Still, there needs to be a foundation, and that’s exactly what these subclasses provide. A spooky foundation for the unorthodox player.
Gloom Stalker Ranger
Rangers exist to protect the boundaries of the realm from threats. These threats can come from anywhere, even from the darkest of places. Rangers who choose to fight the creatures that dwell in those dark dens become quite grim themselves. “He Who Slays Monsters”, as the old saying goes.
Dread Ambusher and Stalker’s Flurry ensures the Gloom Stalker always strikes first. Umbral Sight ensures nothing escapes their sight in the dark. Iron Mind makes them resistant to the wiles of their enemies. Shadowy Dodge taps into the Ranger’s familiarity with their enemy’s tactics. A darker incarnation of Batman is a perfect fit for Gloom Stalker.
Understandably, most people look at Beast Barbarian as an archetypal werewolf. Quite a lot of fantasy fans think that’s cool and for good reason. However, that’s just what most people flavor Beast Barbarian as. When one looks only at the pure mechanics of Beast Barbarians, it’s a gallery of body horror.
The official description even mentions “mandibles” as an option for Bite. Claws could easily be malformed nails instead of doglike paws. Tail could very well be the Barbarian’s extended spine. Bestial Soul grants them unnatural physical gifts, specifically mimicking the beasts’ abilities. Perhaps most unsettling is their bestial rage can affect others, a sort of super rabies. The Wolfman is a classic werewolf horror icon that fits this subclass.
One of the hardest powers to make morally upright in the media is mind control. There’s a very good reason why a lot of villains have mind control as part of their schemes. The ability to dominate a person’s will, and make them do things they wouldn’t normally do. That’s incredibly villainous.
Enchantment Wizards are exactly that. With their hypnotic gaze, they can turn any creature into a drooling thrall. Even in combat, people find themselves unnaturally affected by their gaze, forcing them to attack other targets instead. Scariest of all, they can make it so that the target never knew they were mind controlled in the first place. Think of The Purple Man in Jessica Jones for this subclass.
Some horrors are more tangible and obvious, and Spores Druid is proof of that. Humans may love nature, but few can be said to like the look of decay. The slow desiccation of life is not exactly a romantic portrayal of nature. Even if the druid themselves are kind, they’ll come off as odd.
Not helping their case is the fact that they’re surrounded by invisible death spores. Instead of Wild Shape, the Spores Druid can choose to simply animate the spores around them, turning into a mushroom monster. The Spores Druid would be a living Clicker from The Last of Us, though admittedly much less of a people eater.
Born with the magic of Shadowfell dwelling in their soul, Shadow Sorcerers lend themselves pretty well to being living ghosts. Their quirks all reflect how corpselike a Shadow Sorcerer may end up being. Slow heartbeats and icy cold skin. Of course, the real show-stealers are the shadows under their command.
Strength of the Grave makes them incredibly hard to kill. It’s not due to inherent toughness. It’s more the “zombie of darkness” aspect. Hounds of Ill Omen summon death hounds that terrorize the living. Shadow Walk lets sorcerers appear behind enemies like a ghost. Umbral Form simply turns them into the horror they were within. Most possessed people in horror look like Shadow Sorcerers.
Aberrant Mind Sorcerer
A sorcerer’s power is inherent to them. However, they can sometimes take away parts of themselves in exchange for power. Aberrant Mind Sorcerers are unstable, even among the already unstable Sorcerers. The more they use their powers, the more their minds are opened to the psionic realm.
Their mind can reach out to others with invisible, psionic tentacles. The laws of gravity need not apply to them, as their telekinetic powers wreak havoc. Their most outwardly horrific class feature is Revelation in the Flesh. The aberrant truth within them literally changes their physiology to something truly alien. The powers of the Scarlet Witch in Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness is a good showcase of this subclass.
Great Old One Warlock
The Lovecraftian mythos has subtly crept into a lot of media. People don’t realize how much they fear the unknown. Even as it’s staring them in the face, they can’t comprehend its majesty. They only understand one thing. Fear. Warlocks who worship these unknowable entities start becoming horrors unto themselves.
Their awakened minds bypass the mortal limitations of language and speech. Psychic attacks tend to backfire against them. Fate itself bows to their whim. Most terrifyingly, these Warlocks can infect the minds of the incapacitated. The truth will make thralls out of these poor souls.
Rogues are already a shifty bunch, but Phantom takes that to its limit. Rogues spend so much time in the darkness, that they’ve become molded in its image. Dead things and silence become their closest friends. Phantom Rogues are wary that they don’t join their strange bedfellows in the grave.
Whispers of the Dead grants the Rogue their skills in life. Wails from the Grave emit horrific screams to send shivers down the enemy’s spines. Tokens of the Departed snatch a sliver of a dying creature’s soul, using it for their nefarious ends. Finally, Ghost Walk transforms the Rogue into a liminal horror between life and death.
Most popular religions are based on tenets of kindness, nature, and general pleasantries like that. What most people fear confronting is the other side of that coin. The negative forces that make life a life. Death Clerics worship the gods that cause death and murder, reveling in the fatalistic pleasures of their domain.
Touch of Death destroys a creature from the inside, dealing severe necrotic damage. Reaper allows them to target multiple creatures with their necromantic spells. Inescapable Destruction and Divine Strikes make their necrotic powers even more hurtful. Death Clerics don’t worship death itself. They worship those that cause it.
Bards are typically seen as the life of the party. Quite literally, they provide healing and buffs. They also have a penchant for being comic relief. They’re beloved at best, and a minor annoyance at worst. This reputation is exactly what Whispers Bards want. Their innocent exteriors hide sinister motives.
Words of Terror and Shadow lore infuse innocent sentences with dark meanings. People will think that the Bard knows their deepest secret. Perhaps their most invasive feature is the Mantle of Whispers. They capture the guise of a dying humanoid, stealing their memories as well. Whispers Bards are, in essence, political skinwalkers.