Welcome once again to the weekly newsletter. This week’s topic is myth and mythology, which we discussed in our exclusive Patreon live chat. We hangout every Monday evening at 8 p.m. EST with Patreon supporters and talk about D&D, RPGs, gaming, life and whatever nerdy stuff comes up. 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. Characters can become part of an ancient myth themselves in Standing Warning, one of the 55 encounters from Out of the Box, our wildly successful first Kickstarter. We kept the Pledge Manager open as long as we could so people who missed backing the live project had an opportunity to get the book and all the add ons at presale prices. But the book goes to the printer soon and that means the Pledge Manager is closing! March 23 will be the final day of the live Pledge Manager, so there’s still a few hours to take a look and discover the best things for you and your players including custom Nerdarchy dice, Game Master screen and resource decks, the book itself and the ArcKnight pack and more. Check out the Out of the Box Pledge Manager before it closes March 23 here.
Delving Dave’s Dungeon
Myth and mythology are essentially what Dungeons & Dragons is based on. Beyond that they are powerful tools in a Dungeon Master’s toolbox. I’ve included rumor tables in my games in the past, but you could use myth and mythology in very much the same way.
When characters discover a new place or region in your world it might have its own myths attached to it that differ from what the characters are used to from. These can be their own adventure hooks. Maybe they have similarities to the myths and mythology your players or their characters would be used to.
Your players inevitably ask to make History or Religion checks. If it’s a completely new region where they wouldn’t know let them check anyway. Perhaps instead of giving them the specific information you can point out how it’s similar to something they would know about. Sometimes this information might be useful and other times not so much. Similar doesn’t have to be the same.
Outside of the game myth and mythology are still great tools for you as DM. When worldbuilding consider researching lesser known or more obscure cultures and mythologies. You can import these wholecloth into your campaign world. In AD&D the book Deities & Demigods was just a bunch of real world pantheons statted out plus some D&D specific pantheons.
Alternatively instead of grabbing myths and mythology wholecloth you can pick and choose or Frankenstein them together. Restaurants create fusions with different kinds of cuisine — why not do the same with our mythology? Or you can just use these myths for inspiration when creating your own.
From Ted’s Head
Having myths and mythology along with related legends in your world and games making the world to seem more real to your players and the characters they portray. But it goes much further. If you have myths in your world as a Dungon Master it gives a foundation for your word you can either build upon or shatter later.
If you are looking for things you can build from, myths and mythology give you those tools. Myths are the foundations for stories and heroes. Imagine a dwarven warrior who has looked up to a mythological figure in their culture their entire life and then they find an item straight from the myth or get to go to places where the mythology formed. These myths and mythology can come from books and journals found as treasure or bard songs played at the local tavern for ready made material that can be used at a drop of the hat.
Myths give rise to the monsters that exist out in the world too. This means characters who would have or could have read these stories might know more information about the unique monsters in your world. Whether you are looking to dance around with fey or hunt monsters in the wild myths very much have the building blocks to inspire characters chasing adventures for their entire career.
If you are looking to have myths shatter the minds of your players, you can do this as well. Let’s take that same dwarf from above, but instead of walking in their footsteps they learn a hard truth. What if the dwarven hero of mythology was not at all the myth the stories make them out to be. What if the stories are fabricated? What if the character never existed at all? Was the myth actually about a drunk and the deeds done by a talented subordinate? Any number of things can destroy a hero in the eyes of one who might practically worship them.
Along the same lines when you are looking at monsters, what if the stories got it all wrong? Was something listed as a monster and it is not a monstrous danger at all? Maybe a weakness was just a ploy by an intelligent adversary to make the humans think they made it run away.
Myths and mythology are powerful tools. It is just up to you as to how you want to employ them.
From the Nerditor’s desk
Nerdarchist Dave mentions exploring different cultures in our own world for inspiration to create your own myth and mythology for your fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons setting and that’s exactly what I did when developing the campaign world where my 5E D&D adventures take place.
My cultural heritage is Slovenian, and I began researching a lot about Slovenia to shape the small portion of the world where adventurers begin their careers. And I’ve got to tell you this was some of the most rewarding worldbuilding I’ve ever experienced.
One of the most fascinating myths I came across is the mythology of Goldhorn, a legendary white ibex whose realm is in the heights of Mount Triglav. Goldhorn’s golden horns are the key to a treasure hidden in the mountains around Triglav. It’s a great tale, if you’re interested here’s a link to the Wikipedia page.
The mythology of Goldhorn impacted my 5E D&D campaign tremendously! During the first session of a new campaign the characters heard the myth of Goldhorn at the tavern. It was fun to have a local story ready to go when the party was just becoming acquainted with their new home town. What I hadn’t anticipated was the players immediately avid interest and desire to set off on a quest to find Goldhorn.
I thought it was just a fun story to give the local area some flavor!
Since then the myth and mythology of Goldhorn expanded and became an important part of the setting. The party never did pursue their quest and instead wound up in the Dreaming World (Feywild). In the course of helping a fey princess put together a fancy soiree they heard one of the most esteemed guests there would be a fellow named Zlatorog, which turned out to be Goldhorn! The party learned more about the myth and the meaning behind the story.
I won’t spoil anything here (players in my games — including Nerdarchists Dave and Ted — read these!) but as it relates to myth and mythology the story of Goldhorn and a few other bits of Slovenian folklore helped me develop what I hope is a special and memorable setting for 5E D&D players. Learning more about the myths from my own cultural heritage provided its own reward though, and I encourage you to do the same for yourself, the players around your table and your games.