Bounty Hunting like The Mandalorian in 5E D&D
If you’re like me and what I suspect are tens of thousands of other nerds, you fired up Disney+ today and watched episode one of The Mandalorian. And since you’re here I’m going to assume you’re also a fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons player. Taking those two things into account, it can’t be far from the truth that a lot of us were not only blown away by the premiere of this new streaming show and our first thought was “this would make an awesome bounty hunter 5E D&D campaign!” And I just got a copy of Ultimate NPCs: Skulduggery from Nord Games so I’m going to use this Game Master’s Toolbox book to help. If this sounds cool to you, I’ll give you a promo code for 20% off the book and everything else in your cart from Nord Games when we’re done. So let’s get into it. (And don’t worry — no spoilers!)
Bounty hunting like The Mandalorian in 5E D&D
There’s only one episode of The Mandalorian available to watch at the moment but what an episode! I’m hooked and can’t wait until episode 2. But since we’ve only got the premiere episode to work with for developing our 5E D&D bounty hunter campaign, let’s unpack and see what we’ve got to work with.
- A bounty hunter guild
- Rare material to collect
- Assembling a group
I think we’ve got everything we need to create compelling circumstances for the first session of a 5E D&D bounty hunter campaign. And with Ultimate NPCs: Skulduggery in hand we can start populating our world of scum and villainy with dangerous personalities like colleagues in the bounty hunting profession, employers, adversaries and quarries for the fresh team of contractors coming together at the start of the campaign.
“A tool for Games Masters and Players alike, Ultimate NPCs: Skulduggery is a collection of fully fleshed-out characters to populate your game world. Occupying the seedy tap-houses and criminal underbelly of civilization, you’ll find a variety of thieves, assassins and mercenaries within, each with the backstory and statistics necessary to run as an NPC or player character.” — from Ultimate NPCs: Skulduggery
Your pitch to players for the 5E D&D bounty hunter campaign needs needs to include a few key components, so make sure everyone is on board. Each of the characters ought to be pursuing a career as a bounty hunter. As such they’ve all joined a guild where they’ll receive contacts for the bounties they’ll be hunting. I would look to something like Guildmasters Guide to Ravnica to develop this guild as an organization. The player characters aren’t the only bounty hunters around, but to make things special I’d design the bounty hunter guild as an exclusive club. Run-of-the-mill bounty hunters are a silver piece a dozen, and the PCs are special.
In addition to the support structure this organization provides for the characters and the bounty hunter campaign itself, we’ll give the characters an extra reason to do what they do. Their guild includes a master metalsmith capable of working a rare metal into powerful armor and weapons. In The Mandalorian, the title character brings an ingot of Beskar steel to the armorer, who deems the bounty hunter worthy of a pauldron that she proceeds to forge for him. You could substitute any substance for this Beskar steel like adamantine, mithril or something new you come up with. The point is, whatever bounty hunting the group engages in, each individual can also keep an eye out for this special material.
At this point we’ve got characters, an organization for them to belong to for contacts and contracts, plus a special ongoing quest for everyone to participate in. But bounty hunters often work alone, and for a 5E D&D campaign this won’t do. Thankfully The Mandalorian gives us a great idea for a dynamic and dramatic way to assemble the party.
Each of the characters takes a lucrative job before the campaign begins. The parameters are risky, even more risky than a typical contact bringing in an embezzler, thief or whatever. And here’s the catch — each member of the party arrives at the destination for the job at the same time, but none of them know each other. This might be a little awkward and meta, since the players would be aware of the situation, probably assume they’re all bounty hunters and meant to work together. But I bet there’d be some interesting roleplaying between the players right off the bat, and create some party dynamics.
They won’t have too long to puff up their chests with each other though, because of course the job goes south immediately. The guardians of their quarry attack and if the group doesn’t work together, none of them will get out alive to collect the bounty.
Enter Ultimate NPCs: Skulduggery
This 230-page book will become your bounty hunter campaign bible. In the back of the book is a fantastic resource of Generic NPCs to populate the seedy underworld our bounty hunter characters navigate. Brigands, ruffians, thieves, swindlers, assassins and their bosses fill up a hefty page count, and there’s a lot more going on than just a collection of stat blocks.
Scaling from CR 1/4 to 9 the individual NPC types grow in skill and power from the lowliest basic brigand to the advanced bandit boss. There’s also customized encounter tables for groups of these ne’er-do-wells. As a Dungeon Master you’ll never be at a loss for a run-in with a group of adversaries in the perilous bounty hunter campaign world. I really dig how Nord Games created these generic NPCs because on the surface, sure they’re kind of simple creatures but looking closer there’s enough subtle differences to make encounters with them exciting, and I bet you’ll start mixing and matching them for even more unique scenarios. I particularly like the swindlers because there’s neat extras like a table to roll for their preferred con and a whole section on more complex cons including some specific ones.
The back of the book also includes new items perfect for characters operating in the gritty bounty hunter campaign world, and new spells!
But the real wealth we’re getting from Ultimate NPCs: Skulduggery for our 5E D&D bounty hunter campaign is the bulk of the book — the individual characters themselves. Most of the book describes good, neutral and evil-aligned guilds and NPCs, and the really cool thing is Nord Games created scaled versions for each of them just like the generic ones. Now, you’ve got 30 unique NPCs, with motivations and hooks. You could use some as rival guild members, targets for bounties, employers with contracts or powerful foes standing between the party and their quarry.
Ready to run a bounty hunter campaign?
I don’t know about you but I’m just as excited to run a 5E D&D campaign inspired by The Mandalorian as I am eagely awaiting episode 2 of the Disney+ show. Any time a campaign has built-in structure like this works for me. It’s very useful for a DM and players to have this sort of framework. It helps give a solid reason for characters to work together, an easy way to introduce new adventures and hooks, and gives the players something else to work towards — finding the special material and rising in the ranks of the organization.
If you want to check out Ultimate NPCs: Skulduggery by Nord Games, visit their store here. And while you’re there you can use our exclusive promo code NORDARCHY20 to get a huge 20% off everything in your cart! Nord Games creates rock solid products and accessories to help you create amazing experiences for your games. They’ve produced some really terrific books, plus they’ve got dice and my favorite sort of RPG accessory — decks of cards! The holidays are coming up too, so you can really make the most of that promo code with gifts for the nerds in your life.
What do you think? Did you watch The Mandalorian and come away thirsting for more? Are you excited to create a 5E D&D bounty hunter campaign? I know I am. Let me know what you thought of the show or the campaign idea and as always, stay nerdy!