This is going to be a shorter article I think. Humans in Dungeons and Dragons and fantasy in general are going to be a little bit more basic because they can be anything and there isn’t some defining trait. They don’t love an extremely long […]
Alright, I said I was going to talk about town building, but I am going to wrap that into what I would then do to plan session one. I think that a fair amount of my work is already taken care of when it comes to the hook, but depending on how you wanted to go, that might just be a little bit of game play for everyone to introduce their characters at the end of session 0.
But I tend to split up character creation and some of the planning that goes into a campaign that the group can do together into a session 0, and then in session 1 is when the game play actually starts.
So what was our hook again?
Our Fighter, Cleric, and Wizard who all know the Paladin were helping defend the temple after the powerful Wizard in the town demanded that everyone gives him all their gems in order to prevent some unknown future disaster. The temple has several gems of great value, and now there is a mob outside the door that is fighting, some trying to break in and get the gems, and some trying to stop the other side from stealing things.
Okay, so what do I need to set-up for session 1 with the hook?
You might think about picking my monsters who will play the mob, and giving them hit points and weapons. But for me, I don’t think that’s extremely important. I tend to think that the mob will have a few key players and whatever side the players decide to go with, they will face off against the other sides keys. So I might go through and quickly grab a couple of bad guys, but that’s less important than other things to me.
What does the temple look like and where are the gems, that’s more important. The gems are likely kept in a back room, probably attached to some ancient relic. If the players want to protect it, they are going to have to go outside of the temple or deal with the people as they come crashing through the door. The main area of the temple has some chandeliers and some pews as well as an altar in the front.
Outside of the temple is the town square where there are a couple of other temples in other parts of the square. There are also some of the nicer and fancier shops, the best blacksmith in town, or the one who advertises himself as that. There’s also a “the best” woodworker and other such businesses. In the middle of what is generally a fairly open square there’s a stand where the local noble will give speeches.
You can start to see how the town is coming together for what the players need to know. The temples, while frequented by most of the people in the town are also in the nicer section or more expensive section of the town. In fact, it’s probably a mob of more commoners up against the city watch at this point, with some people who are worried about their businesses also with the watch.
The mob is going to be coming from off in the direction of the city bazaar where most of the common people shop to get their wares as compared to the town center. The mob will definitely have picked up some looters as well with the group who are going to be causing the city watch to have to split their attention which is why they aren’t driving back the common folk.
If the players want, they can probably turn the mob aside to a jewelry merchant, which might seem like a better place to go, but the jewelry shop is better secured, and the common people know more about the temple than they do about that shop.
At this point in time, I don’t know that I would flesh out too much more about the town or for session one. If things go quickly as they fight against the mob and try and get it turned, which it won’t because the players will spend some time planning, then I would have to move onto the next part of the story.
That would be skipping ahead a day and either having the Wizard or Grima Wormtongue character coming and thanking the players if they helped the jewels get stolen, or the noble for helping turn the tide of the mob, or the noble complaining about them not turning the tide of the mob. But whatever it would be, it would be some role playing for the players to do.
That’s a bit more free form and requires less planning. Just know what stat block you’re planning on using for the noble, wizard, and Wormtongue, just in case the players decide to attack. And if they do that, have the person do non-lethal damage to the characters. Unless you decide to have the players all play the B-Team.
And what’s how I’d create my first session and start building out the town. You can see that I left a lot of the town building blank. I’d start asking the players, if they start wondering, for shop ideas that the rich would want in the town center. The players can help you fill out the town and even come up with some of the physical characteristics of what the city watch might look like, what the noble or wizard could even look like as well. It means that you have to be ready to improvise and work with it on the fly, but it will give the players even more buy-in to the world and story.
What do you think of that session 1? Would you have planned out more of it in your game, or maybe less of it? How much input do the players have in world building?
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So one thing when playing a D&D game or any RPG where religion is involved is figuring out the pantheon that you want to use in the game. This can be as simple as grabbing one from the rule books or using the Greek or Norse mythological pantheons. But a lot of the time, people want to have their own deities, they don’t want it to be the same god’s as the Forgotten Realms, or they don’t want it to be like the real worlds pantheons. So how do you go about creating your own pantheon of deities?
This can be a daunting task to figure out all the deities that you might need. Do the Elves, Humans, Dwarves, Halflings, Tieflings, Orcs, etc. all worship their own god’s? If so, now you got to create not just a pantheon, but several of them.
I would go that they don’t all need their full pantheons, you can overlap some of them. If you think about it, a deity of nature might go by different names if they races are separate enough, but why would you have to have a Elven deity of nature who takes care of the forest and makes it grow and the human deity of farming that makes the crops grow be very different? That’s mainly just a lot more work for yourself. Along with that, do you need to know much about the Elven deity of the forest if they aren’t going to be part of the story? Figure out which ones you need at the start of your story and create the information on them, then if you need more, you can always add them in later as they come up.
Let me list out the pieces of advice I’ve already said and what I’m going to be talking about still, so it’s easy to understand the information:
1. Overlap Pantheons to reduce number you have to create.
2. Don’t come up with all of them, just as many as you need right now.
3. Let your players help you come up with them as needed.
4. Combine the areas that a deity might rule over.
5. Put most effort into the ones who are going to talk to your players, however that might be.
So, I’ve generally covered the first two on the list. Both of those are going to help you focus down on the number that you have to come up with, but let’s unpack them a little more.
Overlap Pantheons to reduce the number of deities you have to create.
Now, you might be thinking that your Elves, Dwarves, Humans, etc. are going to be very separate. So they are all going to have their own set of gods to work with, and that seems like a lot of work. You really want to keep them separate, because the Elves, Humans, and Dwarves don’t get along and if they worship the game gods you’re going to have to make them get along. I would still give them a lot of overlap and maybe a unique one or two deities for each race. The way you can have them overlap, though, so that they still won’t be worshiping the same gods is let them have different names for each race. So Etheilien the Elves goddess of the sun, Manakal the Dwarven goddess of light, and Sepheria the Human goddess of the sun can all be the same deity, but all of the races can still deny that they are the same goddess. Or maybe it’s only the Elves who simply refuse to believe that the deity is the same for all three of them because they are Elves and they are special damn it. But this is going to keep your pantheons a whole lot more condensed and easy to work with.
You don’t need to know your full Pantheons at the start.
Unless your player characters are supposed to be demi-gods who interact with the pantheon all the time, you probably don’t need to know them all. If your party is a Dwarven cleric, Human ranger, and a Halfling rogue, you can probably cut down on everything you need to know. In this case, let’s say that all of them are tied in with a deity, and that’s kind of the focus of your game, the Dwarf would need to know about their deity that the cleric follows, probably a god of the forge, the Human who has a farming background would probably know the god and goddess of nature and fertility, and the Halfling rogue would probably follow some trickster god or maybe even a dark god of assassins. But start with the ones that are plot critical and work out from there as you need more.
Let your Players help come up with them.
This can even by tied in to the one above, but you don’t need to come up with everything on your own. Maybe you know that you have a few deities who you are going to focus on who need to be in the story. So spend your time creating those, however, you also know that you want your PC’s (player characters) to be connected to deities as well, just lesser ones. When you are having session 0, let your players know that, and work with them then and help them create their own deities that you can slot into the pantheon. So, maybe the Dwarven cleric still is going to follow the god of the forge, and the rogue follows the goddess of assassins and those are normal. But then you get the Human Ranger who follows the spirit of the great toad in the sky. Now you’ve got a toad in the sky as part of your pantheon, and that’s something that will probably be unique forever to your world, but you didn’t have to come up with any of them yourself, and your players are really able to tailor the deities to their characters backstories.
Give your deities a broad domain to rule over.
The extreme example of this would be to have a goddess of crops who then has lesser gods and goddesses under them for wheat, corn, flax, barley, etc. That’s too much effort, especially if it isn’t critical to the story. Now, if the story is that these lesser gods and goddess are fighting which is destroying crops and sending the lands into a famine, that could be interesting, but normally, you aren’t going to need that. In fact, you probably won’t even need the goddess of the crops, just make her the goddess of life. Now her domain stretches from plants, to fertility and birth, and where ever else makes sense. You’ve probably just saved yourself from having to come up with four or five other deities for the pantheon. So keep the areas broad and that will make your work easier.
Put Your Effort into the ones who are active in the world.
It’s very possible that you will need some elder gods who haven’t been involved with your world in a long time. Maybe they are still worshiped but they are less active. With those, don’t spend as much time on them. You’re going to create some lore for them, I’m sure, but if you also have some newer gods and goddesses who are active in the world, focus on those, because those are the ones that you’re players are going to interact with, not the elder gods in the background. Just focus on the ones who are important for the plot of the story you’re telling and the ones the PC’s are going to be interacting with.
Hopefully this has made what could be a very daunting task less daunting. I would really recommend just stealing from an existing mythological pantheon. If you don’t want it to be as obvious, change up a few abilities and rename them, you could keep everything else the same, and you’ve made it yours enough that your players aren’t going recognize it easily, and even if they do, that doesn’t really matter.
Have you run an epic game about the gods and goddesses of a realm. What tips do you have for creating a pantheon?
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