clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Dungeons & Dragons has its own version of the Slender Man now

Beware the Bagman

If you buy something from a Polygon link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

A blurry picture of a faceless man in a black suit and tie, the Slenderman
Artwork of the Slender Man from HBO’s 2017 documentary Beware the Slenderman.
Image: HBO
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, the latest book for the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons, arrives on May 18. This reboot of the classic role-playing universe is a home run, packed with new material and good guidance for players. Inside you’ll find an elaborate anthology of horror-themed adventures, plus dozens of new monsters. And there, lurking just outside your peripheral vision, is something truly bizarre — D&D’s version of the Slender Man.

[Warning: This post contains mild spoilers for Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft.]

The Slender Man is a piece of internet creepypasta that has developed a life of its own, a gangly terror that lurks in the dark waiting to snatch people away. The modern folk tale has spawned movies, video games, documentary films, and dozens of memes. Wizards of the Coast senior designer Wesley Schneider knew he needed something like the terrifying figure for Van Richten’s Guide.

Five images. The first shows limbs emerging from a bag of holding. The second shows arms clawing out from a bag. The third, a giant, long-limbed creature fully emerges, laying a hand on a sleeping adventurer. The remaining two are variations on that theme as well.
Early concept art for the Bagman.
Image: Shawn Wood/Wizards of the Coast

“D&D Concept Illustrator Shawn Wood and I were looking for [...] a terror that has always been there — always been right in the background — but that you never noticed,” Schneider said in Dragon Plus Magazine. “A being close to home for D&D adventurers, and one who once they know about it, they can’t un-know about it. The genie’s out of the bottle. The threat’s always there.”

The solution was a creature known only as the Bagman, and he comes with a legend all his own.

According to Van Richten’s Guide, the Bagman is an urban legend within the fiction of Ravenloft. The story goes that an adventurer on the run abandoned his party and crawled inside a bag of holding, a portable pocket of extradimensional space that parties commonly tote around to hold their loot. Once inside, this hapless hero was unable to find his way out again.

Final art shows the Bagman’s long, willowy arm reaching up our of a tiny bag of holding. Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon
The Bagman, its hair long and rank, stands over a sleeping adventurer in a final version of the art. Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

“Over time,” reads a passage from Van Richten’s Guide, “the strange forces of this magical in-between place transformed the adventurer into a monstrous creature. Now, every night, the Bagman slips out from a random bag of holding. If he doesn’t find his home, he drags someone back into the bag with him.”

The only clue that the Bagman has been there? A missing person, and a strange trinket “from his hidden kingdom of lost junk.”

Much like all the major villains in Van Richten’s Guide, the Bagman doesn’t get a stat block. The implication is that players, if they did manage to stumble across him, would be powerless to defend against him. That might seem unfair to groups used to overwhelming swarms of goblins with ease, but that makes the Bagman a powerful storytelling device — something for characters to fear, and for their players to eagerly seek out.

Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft is available at your friendly local game store, online at retailers like Amazon, and through digital tools like D&D Beyond, Fantasy Grounds, and Roll20.