The Major Powers in Your D&D Setting
Thus far in the worldbuilding process, we’ve formed core tenets, established a great pantheon, and drawn a basic map. All of these have been broad strokes. Before we start adding depth to our world, we’re going to slide the brush across our entire canvas one more time. In this installment of the Worldforge, we’ll be creating the major powers of our Dungeons & Dragons setting; these will be the movers and shakers of our world, the cultures that are most widespread. Let’s make some powerful cultures!
So, what is interesting to you? Look at your world and what it’s about. What kind of cultures do you want to fill it with? Most D&D worlds are rich with diversity: orcs and elves, halflings and tieflings, humans and dwarves. My general rule is to give every common race a single major power. The orcs control an enormous stronghold that once was held by dwarves. Dragonborn rule an entire empire that threatens every civilization that exists. That’s the first step to defining a power: you need to think about what that power is and who controls it. Here are a few examples:
- Nation of gnolls in the desert.
- Theocracy of halflings.
- Nomadic tribe of goliaths in the mountains.
- City-state of halflings in the jungle.
- Cabal of genasi.
- Magocracy of sorcerers half in the Material Plane, half in the Inner Planes.
- Country of warmongering humans.
- Empire of peaceful, idealistic gnomes.
When creating powers, I’ve found the following strategy incredibly useful, engaging, and fun. Take one or two cultures you know about, splice them together, and add a fantastical twist! This makes for interesting powers in your setting without too much work on your part and can give you a baseline to further develop after you’ve created a few of them. Read about ancient Egyptian culture and their devotion to the pyramids and monumental statues, combine that with the Mongol’s mastery of cavalry, and give your city-state of halflings in the jungle pterodactyls to ride. Voila — you have an interesting power; you can build on it later. Make some more!
Example PowersStuck trying to create a power or two? Take a gander at this short list for ideas:
- Empire of thri-kreen that look to the stars and constellations for guidance, construct enormous planetariums, and seek the destruction of all deities.
- Guild of warforged who live in the sewers of a major city and manipulate the politics of it from the tunnels below. They construct odd, “warforged” animals like rats and birds to spy on their enemies — and allies.
- Country of elves and dwarves who live together in a forested mountain chain and share a common history. Everyone speaks Elvish, the most common weapon is a battleaxe, and the professions of mining and artistry go hand-in-hand.
- Human jungle nation that relies on a chained devil for energy and magic.
In SummaryThe last, large stroke across our world is the creation of a few major powers. Remember the following points:
- A major power is an culture or faction that will play a substantial role in your setting.
- Think about the what and who of a culture before you do anything else. Is it a diverse country? A city of gnomes? A guild of half orcs?
- To develop provocative powers, take two cultures you know about, splice them together, and add a fantastical twist! The possibilities are endless.
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Until then, farewell!
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