D&D alliances

D&D Ideas — Alliances

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Welcome once again to the weekly newsletter. This week’s topic is alliances, and we’ve got a promo code to go along with this week’s Product Spotlight from Nerdarchy the Store, plus an update on our end of the year mega giveaway and changes coming to our 2020 schedule. You can get the Nerdarchy Newsletter delivered to your inbox each week, along with updates and info on how to game with Nerdarchy, by signing up here. Speaking of alliances the image below is from our wildly successful Out of the Box: Encounters for 5th Edition Kickstarter. In Dinner Party, alliances between adventurers themselves get put to the test. The Out of the Box Pledge Manager reamins open for late pledges. You can get your hands on the book and all the add-ons including presale badges for Nerdarchy the Convention, or upgrade your badge to Legendary or Artifact level. There’s also a FREE encounter Seizing the Means you can download for a sneak peek at the sort of content you’ll find in the book. Check it out here.

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Delving Dave’s Dungeon

Alliances in D&D are a great opportunity to take all those organizations and factions you’ve created or have available to you if you are using a prewritten campaign and put them to use. They are like a double-edged sword, cutting both ways.

One gaming session players might run around a city, kingdom, world or multiverse gathering allies for a coming threat. Another session one of those same alliances might need to call on the adventurers for help. It’s even better if you can build relationships within those alliances that become personal to the characters. It makes them vested in the world and the game share together.

It’s so much better when players want to help the NPCs not for gold or power, but because they like them and want to help them. That’s when you know your game is moving to another level. One of the things I find helps with this is having in-game or mechanical reasons for characters to interact with NPCs from a particular faction or organization.

Maybe Hugthia is the only member of the Arcanist’s Guild with answers to a problem the characters are encountering. First off you can make this individual difficult to get to and require an appointment. You might further set up expectations for Hugthia through gatekeepers to them, like an assistant that sets up all of Hugthia’s appointments. You might need to impress that individual just to get the initial meeting.

By making Hugthia less approachable you’ve probably made your players more vested in reaching them. If Hugthia ends up helping with information or solving problems characters are dealing with they will become valuable to the party. Every time they encounter Hugthia always require at least little roleplaying. Have them get personal with the characters and build up those connections.

Your NPCs go from not just being allies to the player character, but friends. Once you begin achieving these kinds of relationships within the game it’ll be easy for your NPCs to suck your players into adventure after adventure.

Or alliances can make things real interesting for the players. What if two factions the players are allied with are about to go to war? Can they stop it? Do they choose a side in the upcoming conflict? What if a third party is behind the whole thing? Can the players prove it in time to stop the bloodshed?

From Ted’s Head

Alliances are powerful things in Dungeons & Dragons, roleplaying games or just about anything. Anytime there is something individuals are not strong enough to deal along an alliance can be formed to defeat or put down a large foe. I am sure while reading this you see the corollary between this definition and an adventuring party.

How do we use alliances in our games to have a greater effect. I am going to give three examples of how you can use alliances in different ways depending on the type of game being run and how you want to prep for your gaming sessions.

In this first example let’s say you are running a game focusing on the social pillar of the game. Combat can happen but it is not the norm at your table. In this game those with Charisma slay with words in political gathering chambers. Because generally threats are not dealt with in combat, the real combat is a narration. So the fight that needs to happen at the end of this story is a gathered army more massive than any seen before or a foe beyond scope. An army must be put together from those who will band together and save this world. It is up to our characters to gather the kings and convince them. Or visit each king and implore they join the newly created alliance. For this we can look to the original Lord of the Rings movies for inspiration. Not only do they have groups not inclined to work together, but they have a greater threat as well. But there they are only talking about the ring. The fight comes later and we do not get to see those conversations.

Next I want to look at a game focusing more on the combat pillar. Here the players expect to face foes regularly and multiple per session. If this is the case than perhaps there are multiple threats to deal with. In this case sometimes evil might need to fight evil to accomplish its designs. When designing the sequence of events how fun would it be if the party sees a fight happening? If they observe from stealth maybe they gain information about the different parties involved. Both evil groups want the important thingamajig.
When designing these two forces you can have one clearly more powerful and maybe your end campaign villain while the other is a collective of smaller powers. This collective can be the alliance. These unified forces potentially have different agendas and plans that if uncovered could be a weakness heroes can exploit. But the other weakness is they will not always be together and though like a bar stool where the legs all work together, if attacked individually, remove one leg and the alliance can crumble.

Lastly if we look at a game where exploration is a major component of the game, it could be likely the characters are venturing into unknown territory. Look at Star Trek where they are looking for new life and new civilizations. Are your characters doing this? If so this type of game is going to encounter new friendlies and new enemies. Alliances are going to be a necessity for survival. Whether it be joining new people together or just making alliances with their home city. Perhaps the enemy cities will see what is going on and form an alliance of their own. You can do a lot here by having them join and unite however you so choose.

So however you choose to use alliances just remember it is a very useful tool in your worldbuilding and campaign building that should be considered.

D&D alliances
In Dinner Party, part of Out of the Box Encounters, alliances between adventurers themselves get put to the test. [Art by Kim Van Deun]

From the Nerditor’s desk

Alliances in D&D take many forms. Nerdarchists Dave and Ted share ways to incorporate opportunities to form alliances during game play from a Dungeon Master’s perspective. Facilitating situations for characters to engage with organizations and entities is a great way to foster alliances the players will feel invested in developing.

From a player perspective there’s several ways of contributing to worldbuilding and creating alliances too. Player choices during character creation offer a great resource for the building blocks of future alliances in D&D.

Races

A scan of chapter 2: Races in the Player’s Handbook turns up this tidbit under half-orcs:
“Whether united under the leadership of a mighty warlock or having fought to a standstill after years of conflict, orc and human tribes sometimes form alliances, joining forces into a larger horde to the terror of civilized lands nearby. When these alliances are sealed by marriages, half-orcs are born.”
Other races with mentions of alliances are the Dragonmarked races from Eberron: Rising from the Last War. Any of these options assume your character maintains some kind of alliance with a Dragonmarked House. Consider your character’s race and the sort of alliances your community might share with other races. This can play out during adventures when your character encounters these other races and even between fellow party members of those races.

Backgrounds

Noble stands out as an option with built-in alliance opportunity. It’s right there in one of the bonds:
“My house’s alliance with another noble family must be sustained at all costs.”
Knights and Faction Agents suggest similar alliances with various organizations. For narrative purposes any background choice could include some kind of alliance. Talk with your DM about developing this part of your character and it can be rewarding for the both of you, and everyone else in your group too.

Classes

Circle of Dreams druids calls out to an alliance as part of this Druid Circle.
“The druids’ guardianship of the natural world makes for a natural alliance between them and good-aligned fey.”
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything includes a ton of ideas to help create more details for your characters based on their class and you can imagine lots of different alliances these might suggest. Connections with other participants of your class or beliefs could become potential alliances down the road.

The Adventuring Party

On a smaller scale, adventurers form alliances among each other during play. One of the great parts of a game like Dungeon World are the bonds formed during character creation, and this can work terrifically in your D&D games too, or any roleplaying game. Developing unique connections between characters in the party informs roleplaying choices and character perspectives, so don’t discount the special alliances that emerge between player characters.

ICYMI

The Out of the Box Pledge Manager reamins open for late pledges. You can get your hands on the book and all the add-ons including presale badges for Nerdarchy the Convention, or upgrade your badge to Legendary or Artifact level. There’s also a FREE encounter Seizing the Means you can download for a sneak peek at the sort of content you’ll find in the book. Check it out here.

Centaur D&D Character Build: Templar of Azorius

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