In a world where mad wizards have taken owls and bears and united them into one hilariously deadly beast, which adventurer expects the world to follow any rules? Dungeons & Dragons has had many decades, many editions, and many spin-offs like Pathfinder to accrue all manner of loveable quirks. Loveable, exploitable quirks.
Players and DMs everywhere have added to this mix with homebrewed content often as unstable as an alchemist's workshop. And as explosively entertaining.
The point of a dice-based system like D&D is that it abstracts the world to make the job of the players and the DM more manageable. Sometimes, though, that results in a trade off between narratively interesting or fun and logically coherent. Fireball certainly roasts the enemy pirates, but it all depends on the style of your group whether that means the ship goes up in smoke too.
From the ecosystems of dungeons to the speed of a swallow carrying a coconut, the strangest details can become points of contention between players and DMs, players and players, or everyone and the rules as written.
Because we love the game, we love its flaws that allow us to do the crazy stuff that keeps us back and rolling, even when we crit fail or rocks fall and everyone dies.
So here are 20 memes to make you laugh at the insanity that is D&D.
20 WITH A GOOD STEALTH ROLL ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE
While many of the high CR, campaign big bad enemies are gigantic, highly advanced beings like dragons or colossal giants or demon lords. Those guys are hard to sneak up on and take down, but when you've got a smaller, more humanoid target then it's a different story.
A good stealth roll on a well-optimized rogue has been the end of many a villainous NPC before they can even get through their monologue. It almost makes you wonder how villains survive being mid-tier baddies long enough to get their plans in motion. Especially in 5e, with the critical hits allowed by the assassinate Rogue ability. The truth is that sneak attack is the rogue's express purpose in the group apart from dealing with traps and locked doors. But the insane first-round damage they can output really can leave the rest of the party feeling a bit like extras.
Luckily, this one isn't an insurmountable problem for a well-prepared villain. This actually explains the paranoid dungeon-homes of most villains - they're trying to tire the rogue out before the final showdown! In seriousness, a well-prepared villain must have considered that in every four-person party there's some sneaky assassin whose daggers have their name on them.
19 EVIL JELLO
Dungeons and Dragons has inspired some of the great monsters of pop-culture. Some are quite silly to the ear, like the owlbear, while still being a great foe for a low level party. The biggest foes, like the demonic entity Demogorgon, have been included in shows like Stranger Things.
It makes sense - a dungeon is only as fantastic as the creatures that fill it. We all love roleplay, and we love the puzzles and traps, but so often it is the great moments that come from confrontations with dangerous monsters that become stories of tabletop legends.
Now if there's one monster that is both a classic, a story-spinner, and an entity that makes no sense, it's the gelatinous cube.
It is a sentient ooze in the shape of a jiggly cube that engulfs and eats whatever living things it can.A giant jello cube that just globs around dungeons disolving organic matter (except for the wood and leather left behind inside it) raises many questions. Why does it stay in the shape of a cube? Is it because dungeon corridors tend to be built at right angles? Does that mean there may be gelatinous parallelograms out there? Where do they come from?
18 CHARACTERS ARE GENRE BLIND
You raid the dungeon and get back out with all that sweet loot. Gold and XP and magic items all round. We all know what comes next: trying to figure out what all the magic items are. More specifically, whether any of them are evil or cursed, since that's exactly the kind of thing a villain would keep on them at all times.
The party's casters aren't always going to have identify on their spell lists, so arcana rolls or dumb luck are often what reveal the nature of magic items. Nobody wants to risk dumb luck, which means a lot hinges on those rolls to identify a magic item. Dungeon Masters are well aware of this, and there is a wonderful sense of satisfaction in telling the group that they know there is "some" magic aura around an object they already suspected was magic. Bonus if the item's description just screams "cursed object".
It's a double bind that we can't really experience. But in a world where curses and evil magic, or chaotic, wild and unpredictable magic is commonplace, you'd think the characters in the game could share some of the players' scepticism. Perhaps magic item effects are to D&D PCs as User Licence Agreements are to us: we know they're important but nobody really understands them and pays them any attention.
17 THE DM IS A FALLIBLE GOD
The Dungeon Master's role is like a mix between an all-knowing narrator and an all-powerful God. They set the tone for the game, control the NPCs, balance the encounters, and scheme ways to almost kill the party on a regular basis. Their word is usually law, even though rules-lawyer players will always try their luck. For every DM out there, the job is a mix of intricate planning and excellent improvisation.
Every so often, though, the illusion of being an omniscient god breaks and the DM gets it wrong. Whether it be a slip of the tongue, or of the mind, crucial mistakes can turn the world on its head. These mistakes sometimes can be simple miscalculation of how the players will use their loot, giving the players a bottle of infinite water and a bag of infinite holding allowing them to recreate a biblical flood for example. Other times it can be forgetting those crucial little details like special resistances for monsters.
It happens even to the best of DMs. It happens to players too, who seem to always forget their bonuses and exactly how their spells work, or conveniently exactly what actions it takes to swap weapons in combat. We all make mistakes. But only one person around the table has the potential for a mistake to turn the world upside down.
16 BARDIC PERFORMANCE
The great 300 fight scenes just wouldn't be the same without the awesome heavy guitar soundtrack from Tyler Bates. It would be great to have a friend around to supply the perfect soundtrack to your best moments. That's why they made bards, isn't it? Now fifth edition has bards working a little differently from their classic counterparts. Back in the day, the party bard would keep up a performance to buff the party's skills. A lute solo to boost attack rolls, or a flute trill to support that bluff check. It was what made bards useful to the whole party all at once.
That raises an interesting question about stealth. Bards can make a noise to improve the party's ability to keep quiet, as long as they keep playing the whole time?
Well, best hope the bard has practised some rare whisper singing techniques at bardic college. It doesn't make a lot of sense that the dramatic music supplied by your buddies can give you that much of an edge, nevermind undermine the enemy to such a degree. Then again, of all the things the other classes get to just do (punching like your hands are magic or turning into a bear), we'll let this slide.
15 ALL THAT PLANNING, GONE
This is one of those things that is impossible to explain to someone who doesn't play tabletop RPGs and even some players who never DM can struggle to appreciate it. Being a DM takes a lot of hard work and planning. You need to create a rich and engaging world, with colorful and memorable NPCs, and plenty of tantalizing plothooks. Then you have your villains and monsters, and traps to challenge your players.
All the planning in the world can come crashing down with the roll of some dice. From a player's lucky critical hit bringing the villain down in a single attack to the players endlessly failing crucial checks, to the DM's worst nightmare. Nothing is worse than creating a terrifying villain or impressive ally, building up their reputation among the players, and then finally breaking them out in combat only to have them whiff every attack they make.
Which circles back to the point that this is something which makes no sense to someone who isn't invested in the madcap fun of a D&D game. It can be difficult to explain how the chaos the dice can cause is what turns it from an interactive novel into a truly wonderful game.
14 SO MANY CHARACTER IDEAS, SO FEW GAMES
The first time a new player opens the Player's Handbook, they're met with an utter wealth of choices. From Fifth Edition's built-in choices within the classes, to the endless customization of Pathfinder's archetypes, just choosing a class can be tough. Then add in choosing your race, stats, skills, and feats. It really is possible to build an infinite set of characters, but a long campaign means committing to a single character for a long time.
Then add in the chance to see other character classes and races in action, it's easy to start preplanning characters for your next campaign well in advance. Thus begins the slippery slope of coming up with endless character ideas, rolling them up and writing out backstories only to abandon them for the next fresh concept.
If you are the DM, this can be even worse. While you can trot out all your best ideas as NPCs to aid your characters, it isn't quite the same as playing them as the main characters of their own campaigns. It really makes no sense how addictive the character creation process can become, especially as it is very time consuming and numbers heavy. Especially when we all know these characters will never see the light of day.
13 THE WIZARD CURVE
A wizard at level one is a squishy little bookworm that can't even memorize more than a handful of spells. In Fifth Edition they can only cast a few spells and then if they catch their breath, they can cast a few more. They might have quite a long list of spells to choose from, they can still only start with six written in their spellbooks.
Then, as if taking their cue from Neville Longbottom, they hit their stride and go from useless to flashy firebrands with all the skills they need. From flinging the two magic missiles they can in a single fight, wizards become the characters who stop the game and require everyone to help out with the math.
Not only that, but they are often as big a threat to the party as the enemies, since the radii of many spells can be utterly massive. We're looking at you wizards who only prepare and cast fireball.
All classes, if built properly, have the potential to do some broken things, but even the villain-killing rogues tend to specialize in killing only one thing at a time. Some sessions it feels like the rest of the party are closer to Skyrim followers, just there to help the wizard carry the loot back home.
12 METAGAMING & MATH
Every player knows that their should be a space between what they know, guess, and can work out from the mechanics, and what their character could possibly know. Breaking this barrier is what angry DMs and players call Metagaming. To metagame turns your bard-fighter multiclass into Deadpool himself, with full awareness that he's in a game of Dungeons & Dragons and should be guessing the AC of his enemies. It's the reason why the DM hides all their information behind a screen. Well, that and so they can fudge dice rolls to save their villains.
That said, it's impossible not to start working out exactly what you ought to roll to hit an enemy, or what their HP might be, or their attack bonus. It just requires a bit of mathematical speed.
If a player can work out the probability, shouldn't the character be able to guess just how tough the enemy's defenses are?
This is just another example of how the way D&D has to simplify things down can lead to player shenanigans. This is especially true if you have a player who is both good at mental math and is a min-maxing munchkin who knows just how to argue for that extra bonus or two to up their attack roll.
11 COMPLEX INTERACTION, SIMPLE MECHANICS
One of the best things about playing Dungeons and Dragons is the chance to take the reigns of global politics along with slaying dragons and demonic entities. Not every campaign will have political intrigue and machinations - some groups do just want to loot dungeons and acquire vast amounts of treasure. For those that do want a political game, there can often be quite an amusing challenge.
In real life, lying and political half-truth spinning are a web of tricky challenges, reading tiny bits of body language and cracks in poker faces. It isn't always about a lie and the scrutiny of the listener. But in D&D, all of this can be squeezed down into two little dice rolls, with deception, or in older editions Bluff, and Insight or Pathfinder's on the nose Sense Motive skills. Sometimes that can lead to a few tense moments, especially when two party members are bluffing and sensing one another's motives. Other times, it can lead to utter hilarity as a bald-faced lie gets swallowed by the usually suspicious party paladin.
Of course, one of the problems with rolling low on your insight check is that it can be very difficult not to metagame. The little suspicion that merely rolling creates, especially if you know it was a bad one, can hang over all the rest of the interactions with that character. Dramatic irony is half the fun and, in the hands of the right roleplayer, these situations can be hilarious.
10 MONSTROUS MYSTERIES THE DUNGEONS
A six foot tall man spider (or should that be Man-Spider?) is a weird enough concept for a monster. A six foot tall man spider that can readily speak to the players is beyond insane. D&D 3.5 edition gave the spider-keeping, web-spinning ettercap the ability to converse like any other humanoid creature. Granted, in the latest edition of D&D they are unable to speak, leaving DMs everywhere wishing for eloquent man spider beasts.
Ettercaps aren't the only creatures to have some strange abilities or lore in their Monster Manual entries. Take the flail snail, which is a giant snail with morningstars as its eye stalks. Or the monodrone, the Mr. Meeseeks of Dungeons and Dragons, which is a lawful neutral creature created with a single purpose which it will infinitely carry out. Or the intellect devourer, which is a brain with legs but no visible way to keep that brain from being damaged or drying out. Or 3.5 edition's duckbunny, which is exactly what it sounds like.
Some of D&D's monsters are so bizarre, or have such bizarre traits, that it inspired a programmer to let a neural network have a bash making weird monsters. It produced spectral slugs, wolfworms, and the legendary Walfablang. I don't know which makes less sense, the names or the fact they might actually be in the next monster manual.
9 BARDS ARE UNDERPOWERED EXCEPT WHEN THEY'RE OP
The stereotypical adventuring party has a fighter to soak up damage, a rogue to sneak attack the boss, a wizard to control the crowds of enemies, and a cleric to keep everyone from dying. That kind of covers what a party needs. And then there's the bard. The loveable, singing, sometimes utterly useless bard. Especially in some of the earlier editions, where the bard had to maintain their performance for the duration of a battle just to give the party a small bump to skills and attack rolls. Add to the fact that bards are often a bit theatrical and prone to seduce anything that moves, and the class is an easy target as the butt of any joke.
It does beg the question, though, if everyone has the encounter on lockdown, why are they all going down?
If the fighter was doing their job, the bard wouldn't have to change their bardic performance into a dirge all the time.
Fifth edition bards, though, have become quite the opposite. With vicious mockery as a cantrip that allows you to kill enemies with an insult, who's laughing now? Bardic inspiration can be popped onto a turn after moving and attacking or spell-casting, keeping them relevant in combat. This has turned them into a great class with high versatility.
8 HIT POINTS LET YOU KEEP ON COMING
A mark of useful design is that it goes unnoticed. If any part of the table top RPG has become ubiquitous, even in video games, it's the hit point. From tracking a character's descent into oblivion with pens and paper, to the red orbs and bars that are video game staples, hit points are everywhere.
As with a lot of ideas that become true standards, if you look a little closer HP is a very strange notion. It isn't clear if it is a measure of how healthy your character is, or how well they avoid a lethal blow, or some mixture of the two. As you level up, they increase too, which suggest they can't be a physical quality. But describing how every blow delivered by a character is "a near miss" or "a graze" would get old, quickly. And as long as you have even one, you're still in the fight. How many barbarians and fighters have gone rushing in and received a brutal crunching, but thanks to some quick healing, just get up and keep going.
To be fair, this is one of those necessary abstractions. Games that do more specific kinds of damage tracking can get bogged down in rolling on more damage tables than are ever going to be necessary. Maybe it's best to stick with HP shenanigans.
7 OVERTHINKING EVERYTHING
Players of tabletop games, and video games for that matter, are very good at reading the signs that a boss fight is coming. Every party has a strategist who can come up with the daring plans that will finish off a boss in a handful of rounds (or fail spectacularly and result in an epic story). Some players endlessly work on their combination of abilities, feats, and magic items to give them the edge in combat. Teamwork tactics grow as the party finds its rhythm together.
And then there's the out of combat challenge problem. Locked doors when the rogue isn't around or the most mundane of traps can suddenly grind the game to a halt. This is even more common if the party has already triggered one trap in a dungeon. Then every door, chest, strange statue, or empty room will be meticulously checked for traps. If a trap is discovered, then the party is liable to stand around arguing for ages about the best possible solution that doesn't involve throwing the halfling down the hallway to see what happens.
On the other hand, an optimized rogue can so often just disarm any trap with the right roll that the party forgets all about it. That is, until the rogue isn't there for a session and the DM rolls out a bunch of new deathtraps.
6 "IT LOOKS FINE" IS SCARIER THAN A DEMILICH
The introduction of every big bad for a dungeon is definitely a scary moment. A good DM can craft a scary monologue to fill the players with dread. An ominous magic item, especially if it is key to finishing the quest, can drop jaws around the table. Nothing, though, will come close to the panic players will experience when the DM gives just a little too much detail about something otherwise ordinary.
A plain old statue can send a party into a tailspin of perception checks, insight checks, and paladins detecting evil on it.
They're liable to poke it with a ten foot pole if they're brave enough. Sometimes its worse finding out that the "seemingly empty" room really is just that. All the players really want is the relief of actually finding the thing that could kill them, instead of imagining the traps and beasts that they didn't see.
In fact, this is part of design philosophy the king of the meat-grinder dungeon, Gary Gygax himself. An empty chamber in a dangerous environment doesn't provide the break a DM might expect it would. Just because you know the room is safe doesn't mean the same for the players. The uncertain "it seems fine" or "it looks like an ordinary storeroom", followed by a bit of description is a great way to keep the players freaking out throughout the entire dungeon crawl.
5 LEVEL ONE JUST MAKES NO SENSE
Spare a thought to the hapless newbie adventurers in your campaign. After a few years of adventuring, they'll be going toe-to-toe with Gods. Now, though, they have one hit die and probably a rusty heirloom sword and 10 gold to their name. A party of four level one characters should be able to tussle with a brown bear. On their own, though, they're pretty vulnerable even to enemies as weird as a swarm of centipedes or a giant goat.
To fill the space between the low level adventurers and the more powerful and iconic enemies from the Monster Manual, GMs have to get creative to do more than have the PCs killing giant rats, skeletons, goblins, and wolves. Some examples are fey boggles, which live under the bed and ooze oil, or giant animals on the loose, or the mushy-bodied lemure devil for a bold party.
A lot of low level enemies in D&D Fifth Edition can deal out a d6 of damage, which is the same as a wizard's hit die. Combat can swing quite dangerously as a result and DMs who aren't keen on killing off their party can provide some humorous or strange quests to toughen the party up before the orcish invasion comes by.
4 ALIGNMENT CHARTS
Alignment is a strange concept. On a mechanics level, it is weird that a paladin can just look at someone or something and deduce that it is evil. It begs the question how rookie villainous entities get by. It's also a strange idea that certain monsters and races are just inherently one alignment. An example is the Drow race, which canonically is evil but since Drizzt popularised the tortured good drow character the race has become a staple of adventure groups. Certain classes have had specific alignment restrictions in certain editions, causing endless debates about where a character's actions should fit.
On the other hand, alignment also seems to apply so well to the strangest situations. The endless alignment chart memes stand as testaments to this fact. Alignment can be placed over superhero teams, over Game of Thrones characters, even over SpongeBob. And this meme shows that it also applies to how you put bread back into the bag.
This meme could lead you to a long look in the mirror, considering your bread alignment.
It also does show how loosely the alignment system can be applied to almost anything. That's a sign that it is both quite intuitive and almost anything can be shoehorned into fitting across the spectrum of good-evil and lawful-chaotic.
3 CLASSIC DUNGEON DENIZENS ARE INSANE
Dungeons and Dragons has some famous monsters that have pervaded pop culture and whose appearance can terrify players. But thinking a little about their shapes and homes raises a lot of questions about how they came to be and how dungeon ecosystems don't collapse under the endless weight of a purple worm's appetite.
A lot of these, like the bulette ("rock noms") and the mimic are handwaved in-universe as the result of mad wizards. That's the D&D go-to explanation for anything weird. 'A wizard did it' can account for almost anything a DM doesn't have a ready explanation for. The fey, or nasty fairies, provide an explanation for anything not covered by "a wizard did it", like displacer beasts.
What this shows is just how insane the underdark is. The underdark has to be a place that is weird to people who consider throwing fireballs and seeing giants to be everyday events. As a result, the underdark and the dungeons it is connected to are filled with things not even a ranger with a pet giant badger and flaming bow would be willing to believe on any other day. If that means a brain with a beak, then so be it.
2 THE TRUTH ABOUT DM-ING
The players and the DM are supposed to be working together to create a shared fiction, an engaging world, and a satisfying story. More often than not though, the PCs are liable to drop everything and go completely against what the DM has planned for. What the DM thought was a tantalizing quest will be dropped in favour of arbitrarily stealing from the local populace or causing a revolution in the city. Sometimes it feels like there's no point in planning. They do say a key DM skill is improvisation.
We can't only lay blame at the feet of the players, though. The paranoid ramblings of the party often give the DM some excellent ideas to tweak their story on the fly. The result can be a chaotic mess or a story that the players will think the DM has been masterfully planning the entire time. They need never know that the DM made it up on the spot since they were supposed to go and do something entirely different for the session.
It is just unbelievable how often the players can derail the game and still have the game turn out to be entertaining. And sometimes the diversions can turn into the brilliant moments to be shared again and again, or built into the bigger story by a quick-thinking DM.
1 GETTING ATTACHED TO THE BAD GUYS
Bob Ross would definitely produce the happiest little treants in the dungeon, but this meme also tells us a little about the planning process. Designing a dungeon isn't just about writing the story or filling the space for the players to explore. It's a genuine craft that can draw you into it in a way that makes no sense to anyone else. DMs can spend hours shading in the details of their maps, only for the party to blaze through, taking out everything, or skipping some of the DM's favorite content.
It is so easy to become attached to a particular dungeon and its denizens. Some magic happens that turns the ogre and the goblin into friends that guard the entrance of the dragon's lair. Take a look at texts from kobold to see how a faceless mook can turn into a little character in the mind of a Dungeon Master.
This approach might be a little heartbreaking for a DM if the players don't decide to investigate every room, or spot the little clues to the secret life of the dungeon denizens. However, it makes for coherent and engaging dungeons that can really feel like an immersive place for the players to traverse.
Which of these memes made you laugh most? Let us know in the comments!