• Justin Handlin

How to Create Organizations in Dungeons and Dragons


Factions of Forgotten Realms
Art: Compliments of Wizards of the Coast

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Creating Organizations in Dungeons & Dragons like any other detail in your world needs to be more than a simple idea in your head. It can consist of short sentences, bullet points, or large chunks of scribbled paragraphs. When you document the details of an organization it helps ensure that as the Dungeon Master your NPCs and Monsters in that organization take appropriate actions for that organization. Below are some elements that will help you outline everything you need to fully flesh out your world’s organizations.


Dungeons and Dragons Faction/Organization Guide

Name of Faction/Organization

The name should be reflective of the core group. An assassins guild name Bollin’s Biscuits probably isn’t going to inspire any sort of fear.


Stated Goal

A stated goal is what the common public believes the organization to be. For example, it's common for a thieves guild to run an Inn or Tavern and to most, that is all it is. But to the right people, it's a gambling ring too.


True Goal

Many factions and organizations often have a public goal and a more hidden agenda. A common example is cultists. To the public, they may just worship a particular deity. Growing their following to support their deity.


Alignment

Assigning an alignment to a group can make it easier as the DM to make on-the-fly decisions that would fall in line with the faction and its overall alignment. A bank run by a big crime boss is likely to handle a banker skimming off the top differently if they are chaotic evil vs neutral. One may remove ahead, the other, send the thieving banker to prison. Both are out to exploit citizens, one is just more likely to take the law into their own hands.


Philosophy

Why do they act as they do? This is a powerful tool for building complex organizations. Philosophy can change the manner and approach that an organization might take. For instance, a temple of paladins who are planning to remove evil from the world may have a loose definition of evil. What may start off as good intentions could lead to more aggressive tactics against those who do lesser wrongs but be punished just as severely as a more serious crime. The paladins may believe that wickedness needs to be dealt with swiftly, even in its infancy.


History

How did they come to be? Factions and Organizations are all started for a reason. Defining this reason can help us build lore and the faction's place in the world. Was it forged out of necessity, pleasure, or pain? Each of these will attract different types of members.


Leadership

Who are the key members that run the organization? This helps us identify the critical players in the stories and their motivations.


 
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Membership Requirements

How does one join the faction? This is a great thing to have planned out should the characters take interest in joining. For example, joining a simple faction like a Merchant's Guild might require having a certain amount of wealth to start. Once they have enough wealth, they then need to pay regular fees. These fees may open up access to special services and renown.


Structure

How are they organized to function? Hierarchy is important. Having a decent idea of how the organization is formatted allows you to kinda set levels of importance NPCs. This is perfect for military organizations such as the Queen's Guard. Knowing the structure means we can rank soldiers' skills and powers based on where they lay within the organization. Having unique identifiable sigils or badges also helps the players know the importance of a person within an organization at just a glance. A character showing up with a high rank on their vest can make the players think twice about doing anything too aggressive. This can also be used strongly in political intrigue and espionage play.


Activities

What are the faction’s current actions to advance its agenda? This question is important as it helps us know what is happening within the organization with, or without the characters. More importantly, it also can be used to clue the players into the odd behavior of an organization.


Enemies

Are there others who are openly or violently in conflict with the organization? This is great as it creates new opportunities and can help make the world feel alive by having organizations rise and fall in power. This is also a great tool when the characters need to gather information on a particular organization. For the right price, their enemy is happy to offer assistance. The enemy of my enemy is my ally.


Rivals

Who are some of their political opponents that they engage with peaceful intrigue? This is wonderful because it is often two groups that fall along the same side but have a difference of opinion on the best approach. You see this along among Merchants and Traders. They all are competitive in a variety of ways. But in the end, they are all looking to be successful.

Related Article: Player-Driven D&D Campaigns

Factions/Clans

What are some notable factions or clans within the organization? Just like kingdoms, organizations have their own group members that are split amongst themselves with their own personal agendas. Much like rivals, they tend to have similar goals, but believe the path to achieving that goal is different.


This is not an all-encompassing tool, but we hope it will provide a little bit of an outline to help you bring your stories and campaigns to life. Are there any tools or concepts you use that we missed? Email them to us at critacademy@gmail.com. We love seeing the different techniques others use to bring their worlds to life.

Dungeons and Dragons Unearthed Tips and Tricks

for DMs and Players


Ratfolk warrior with large axe.

Monster: Ratani

Origin: Cult Fanatic

Lost Features: Dark Devotion, Spellcasting, Dagger (Swap Dex and Strength scores)


New Features

Aggressive. As a bonus action, the ratani can move up to its speed toward a hostile creature that it can see.


Rampage. When the ratani reduces a creature to 0 hit points with a melee attack on its turn, the ratani can take a bonus action to move up to half its speed and make a greataxe attack.


Pact Tactics. The ratani has advantage on an attack roll against a creature if at least one of the ratani's allies is within 5 feet of the creature and the ally isn't incapacitated.


Greataxe. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (1d12 +2) slashing damage.

Handaxe. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +4 to hit reach 5 ft. or 20/60 ft., one creature. Hit 5 (1d6 +2) slashing damage.


REACTIONS

Retaliation. When the ratani takes damage from a creature that is within 5 feet of it, it can use its reaction to make a melee weapon attack against that creature.


Encounter: Rumble in the Rocks

During their travels, the characters pass through an area heavily populated by sinkholes and an unusual amount of dust devils. The characters pass near the entrance to the lair of Akhom as an earth elemental bursts through the walls and attacks. When the characters enter the lair, they can seek out the cause for the attack. During their investigation through the lair, they learn it belongs to a young blue dragon named Akhom. He is planning on opening a permanent portal that connects his land to the elemental plane of earth. The portal is to be sustained by an earth monolith as a focal point for the connection. While inside they discover a follower of Akhom named Divoni (f,cultist), who decided to desert their liege. Fearing the free passage of stone monsters into our realm and offers to reveal any and all they know for assistance escaping the lair.


The Divoni shares with them information on the earth monolith and the danger it presents for the nearby region (Blue Dragon Region Effects). The deserter suggests they search Akhom’s lair to find clues to destroying the massive monolith. While exploring deeper into the complex lair, the characters stumble across a multitude of dust devils, earth elementals and stone cultists. If the characters interrogate enemies or search thoroughly, they can find a captive dwarf named Gilthur Deepdelver a mage who has been imprisoned and holds the secret to the earth monolith’s destruction, for it was his work that made Akhom’s work possible.


The characters must battle with Akhom and his minions while protecting the dwarf while he dismantles the complex weave and stone ritual that is forming a permanent connection to the elemental plane of earth.


Magic Item: Ring of the Mirror Blade

Ring, rare (requires attunement)


This ring was created by a powerful arcane trickster nicknamed the Mirror Blade. While wearing this ring your spell save DC increases by 1 and you can cast the misty step spell from it as a bonus action. You cannot use this feature again until you finish a short or long rest. In addition, the first time you take damage that reduces you to less than half your maximum hit points, you can use your reaction to cast the mirror image spell. Once this feature is used, it can't be used again until next dawn.


Dungeon Master Tip: Customizing NPCs and Monsters

There is a multitude of ways to customize your NPCs and Monsters. Below are some simple ways to make your NPCs and Monsters feel completely different and best fit your needs as a Dungeon Master.


Racial Traits. You can add racial traits to an NPC. For example, a halfling guard might have a speed of 25 and the Lucky trait. Adding racial traits to a monster or NPC doesn’t alter its challenge rating.


Spell Swaps. One of the best ways to customize an NPC/Monster spellcaster is to replace one or more of its spells. You can substitute any spell on their list with a different spell of the same level and it doesn’t alter its challenge rating.


Armor and Weapon Swaps. Simply upgrading and downgrading weapons is a great way to feel an impact and add variation to your game. The berserker for instance has a greataxe, you can easily substitute this with two short swords. This will allow for two attacks for the CR instead of one, without really increasing its damage output, though it is likely to hit more often with two attacks than one. Especially when combined with its reckless feature. Adjustments to AC and damage can change the NPC or monster's CR rating.


Magic Items. More powerful NPCs and Monsters are likely to be in possession of one or more magic items. A mage for instance may have a wand of magic missiles or a few spell scrolls. Giving a monster or NPC a potent damage-dealing magic time could alter its challenge rating.


These simple tricks can make even the same stat block seem different and varied. A powerful tool for varied combat, and even better for creating a diversified world.


Player Tip: Background Origin | The Black Shroud

You fled when you learned the hidden purpose behind the Black Shroud, the secret society to which you belonged. Black Shroud swore to bring down tyranny and place rulership justly in the hands of the people. But the leader, a warlock named Sin, secretly runs another criminal organization, the Black Blades, to bring about the downfall of civilization so that it can be taken over by her patron. She will not let you escape because you know too much, and now you must be reclaimed or silenced. In cities, she hunts you with assassins and thugs; in wilderness, she sends demons and devils of her patron.


Skill Proficiencies: Deception, Stealth

Tool Proficiency: Disguise kit

Language: One of your choice

Equipment: A set of rugged traveler’s clothes, a disguise kit, (insert trinket), a poorly drawn map of your patrons lair, a hidden patch sigil of your service to the Black Shroud, and a pouch containing 10 gp.


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