I can’t tell you how many times our discussions about fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons around Nerdarchy HQ include talk of organizations. Character build guides, adventure hooks, character stories, Dungeon Master or player tips and a whole lot more often raise a point about creating some kind of group. There’s a multitude of benefits to coming up with this kind of content, not the least of which is providing context in a campaign setting. Organized groups of people tell players something about the world their characters exist within. Whatever cause or goal brings an organization together illustrates something important, at least to the members. Organizations represent a useful resource in a DM’s toolbox whether it’s one a player came up with as part of their character’s backstory or one already established in a campaign setting. In my 5E D&D games there’s an organization all players become familiar with from the start. New characters begin their careers as new recruits of Adventurers of Adventure, and they’re always looking for more.
Adventuring Guilds in 5E D&D
During the lead up to the release of the core books when the playtest material was called D&D Next, Wizards of the Coast put a heavy emphasis on the Factions in the game. A lot of the marketing focused on Harpers, Lord’s Alliance, Emerald Enclave, Order of the Gauntlet and Zhentarim. I liked what I was seeing! Factions were one of the many cool new character elements in 5E D&D.
Mechanically, Factions were all about Renown. Back then I played Adventurers League games a lot and everyone was keen to earn more of it, which was also very cool because Adventurers League adventures usually included special side quests for Faction members. This brings us to the first step in creating an adventuring guild — the 5E D&D Dungeon Masters Guide. Right there in Chapter 1 there’s a section called (you guessed it) Factions and Organizations. And the first step of this step sounds eerily familiar to the introduction of this very post.
“Factions and organizations that you create for your campaign should grow out of the stories that are important to the world. Create organizations that your players will want to interact with, whether as allies, members, or enemies.”
I mentioned how organizations provide context in a campaign setting, and this starting step to creating a guild is where you develop an idea for what this context means. An open, legitimate assassin’s guild tells you something about a society. They accept and condone murder for hire. In our own world something like Rotary International tells you providing humanitarian service, goodwill and peace is valued.
In my games a guild called Adventurers of Adventure tells you quite clearly adventuring is a thing people do. In my campaign setting adventuring is a vocation, and regardless of any character’s particulars they chose to follow their strong feelings and pursue the adventurer lifestyle.
In crunchy terms, the 5E D&D DMG presents Renown. This numerical value goes up and down and represents an adventurer’s standing within a particular faction or organization. Benefits of gaining Renown include rank within the organization, improved attitudes of members, perks and special downtime activities.
If you’re looking to check boxes for this step, here’s a checklist for you along with Adventurers of Adventure details.
Step 1. Creating a 5E D&D adventuring guild
- Name. Adventurers of Adventure
- Role. Provide adventure opportunities
- Goals. Profit
- Founder. Unknown (I know, but players in my games read these posts!)
- Members. Independent operators seeking adventure
- Demographics. Members are from anywhere in the multiverse and their only shared trait is an interest in adventuring
- Symbol. Stylized backpack with lit torch above and crossed bones beneath
- Motto. AoA is a guild, and there are adventures who are members. And you get a cool enamel membership pin. [NERDITOR’S NOTE: They did not leave much in the marketing budget for copywriting.]
- First Contact for Characters. Off camera — characters begin as members
In my setting Adventurers of Adventure are a fly by night sort of organization. They’re not well funded. New characters are recruited during session zero and shipped off across the sea to the only town without a chartered adventuring guild presence. It was the only place they could afford to contract. But room and board on the ship are covered, as well as three nights’ stay at the Current’s Call in town. Plus members receive a cool enamel pin with the guild’s symbol. The pin pulsates when adventure opportunities arise. According to the Member Handbook these pins acquire additional powers for members who rise in rank. Members are expected to discover adventuring opportunities and pursue them to successful completion.
Other guild members are other adventurers, who come and go. The adventures of one group become stories for another, and all of them expand the setting a little bit at a time through their exploits and explorations. In our Nerdarchy team game, one of the party’s first adventure log entries is discovering the fate of a previous group of Adventurers of Adventure.
Renown is an optional score each character accumulates. Organizations have their own standards for gaining renown based on advancing their interests. I’ve tried tracking renown both ways, starting off tracking it myself for all the characters. I thought it might be fun to keep it mysterious, but it’s more engaging to have the players do it themselves. I want players to enjoy the minigame created by the adventuring guild and when they can check their scores whenever they want, they’re more likely to participate. Adventurers League does this and everyone I knew went out of their way to look for faction renown. A lot of groups looked to fill faction roles before any class or archetype spots. Those side quests though!
Your status in the AoA is measured by your renown score. As you increase that score, you gain the opportunity to advance in the ranks of the guild. There are lots of ways to gain renown. Moving into a new adventuring tier and recruiting new members are surefire ways to gain recognition. AoA appreciates any and all efforts to expand the guild membership as well as increase profits. More accomplished members bring more notoriety and gold to the guild and they like that scenario.
I enjoy a bit of fourth wall breakage and a degree of silliness in my games, so the perks of gaining renown and rank with AoA could be anything. If I’m honest, to date only one character ever gained a rank beyond newb. They worked hard to promote the guild and grow as an adventurer and become a Contributor. Their cool enamel pin got an upgrade, allowing them to cast sending once per long rest. Players in our Nerdarchy team game are the first AoA members to meet another member outside their own party, and since they’re all newbs this NPC showed indifference towards them. But high rolls on social skills and a batch of shortbread cookies forged some inroads.
Renown Score and Rank Title
- 1. Newb
- 3. Contributor
- 10. Opportunist
- 25. Adventurer
- 50. Hero
Downtime activities was another area the intrepid Contributor participated in any time between adventures. Whenever I asked players what their characters did during the days or weeks that passed, they’d always make a point to mention they helped around town and talked up the guild. That’s the kind of adventurer they’re looking for at AoA. Promoting a guild during downtime is a great way to spend off hours and earn renown. If you don’t use downtime very much in your games, consider making a note whenever a character goes out of their way to promote or advocate the adventuring guild and every five times award 1 renown.
Losing renown with an adventuring guild takes some serious infraction. Characters would have to blunder severely to lose status or rank. The cookie loving NPC is guilty. On one of his group’s earliest adventures he ditched them in the Dreaming World when he cut a deal to get back to the Waking World. The deal set off a chain of events the Nerdarchy team put themselves in the middle of so we’ll see how it turns out in a couple of weeks.
And that’s it for the 5E D&D DMG portion of creating an adventuring guild. If you stopped right here you’d have a solid organization for your games. Characters could earn renown with several organizations, gaining access to lots of different perks. A party of adventurers could diversify their efforts and each join different organizations, bringing a variety of benefits to the group.
But there’s so much more! In Step 2 we’ll delve into the next great resource for creating and developing your own 5E D&D adventuring guild — Guildmasters Guide to Ravnica. AoA gets a huge bump from the ideas and concepts in the book and so far players seem to love the new changes.