Fantasy World Building can take years to develop into lands filled with rich history and landscape. Cities and town loaded with exciting and interesting non player characters (NPC`s) waiting for their chance to encounter the players for the first time and sell them goods or send them off on dangerous adventures into the unknown world that awaits.
As a dungeon master your world or the world you have chosen to use will become your own. Over time the players can shape the structure of their realm and tip the balance of good and evil. Political influences will be shaped by the actions of a group of those brave heroes who put it all on the line.
You are the Dungeon Master, and this world is your domain, completely under your control. In this world of fantasy that you breathe life into once or twice week you are a god. Truthfully you represent the Pantheon of your D&D world.
There is a section in the 5E player’s handbook beginning on page 270 that details the Multiverses of the D&D worlds along with a fantastic selection of common pantheons from Norse, Greek and Egyptian mythologies. You need to really read this section.
I`ve spent a good portion of the last two weeks watching other DM`s either on Youtube or TwitchTV run their games and how the players interact with each other and the world they are immersed in. I want to note, that there is a huge amount of talent out there. I`ve watched the younger groups and the veterans like myself play, and have come to the conclusion that there is a lot we can learn from each other. The art of storytelling is out there and stronger than ever.
Let us talk about the gods. The one thing I noticed watching the numerous games in play was the lack of reference to those divine beings that control the very world we adventure in. I first started to pay attention after a cleric character simply stated that he would cast this or that spell. You are not just casting a spell, but calling to your deity of choice, and praying to them to grant you the powers to smite the evil thing and heal your companions in battle. This cleric shall go un-named to avoid any harsh treatment from our community.
I use The Forgotten Realms for most of my games. I have found it exceedingly well done and full of events and never suffers from a dull moment. There is a wealth of literature out there and information is very abundant. Like most fantasy world the Gods play huge roles. The heroes which often pulled in direction not of their own making. They are puppets, either nudged in certain directions by the gods or a fellow player who is being covertly steered into the path of danger by the Gods.
Gods play games and are in a constant contest for position, more so from the darker realms. Evil lurks everywhere and the deities of the lower realms compete for domination of the material plane while the gods from the upper realms position their champions, the player characters, to defeat whatever onslaught of terror the really bad god wishes to deliver on the material plane this time.
This maybe a matter of opinion, but there are times where I like to see my players as puppets. They are the chosen of the gods.
Having your fantasy world pantheon become a larger part of your campaign gives you, as the DM a ton of new tools. You now have instance adventure hooks. “Your dreams are invaded by the thoughts of Grog, the God of Ale. He is telling you to visit the Tankard Inn of Despair”. No player is going to refuse the will of a god, hence they find themselves without those super handy healing spells they rely on so much.
For those times where you really don’t want your players to perish in a flaming globe of fire you could have a god intervene to save or lessen the damage in a relevant fantasy way that god do things. The players are their champions so it’s in their best interest to have them survive to fulfill whatever destiny a god has in mind for that devoted follower. How far do you think Perseus would have gotten without a really that shiny nice sword, shield and helm? All of these gifts from gods. Personally, as a player I would not be looking forward to attacking a Kraken with the same rusty short sword my latest goblin foe happened to have on it.
Let the Gods of your world become immersed in the player’s lives. Allow for the greater roleplay of those characters whose every existence is owed to the entities that are constantly micromanaging the ground they walk on.
On the opposite end of the players, you have cults and numerous menacing creatures that are there to tip the scale while trying to thwart the players to no end. Remember that super bad Orc King you killed while you were level 2? Well …. His god thought he might give him a second chance to finish what he started.
There is no end to the possibilities when the gods decide that they need to get involved. I’ve used the rolling of a critical fail of the dreaded 1 or a miracle roll of success the 20 as direct godly acts. “The feeling of evil lurks under your feet as you fall to the ground” or “Your axe gains a slight glimmer as it falls onto the Ogres head”. These little things can help you play the role of your divine beings.
Foreshadowing events and to a certain degree guiding the blind to that epic final battle before we need to get back to our families.
Enrich your world with culture from fantasy religions of legends. Spend some time reading up on the mythology of individuals like Perseus or even Hercules and see how much the gods of those stories played into the lives of these would be heroes.
The rewards are endless for yourself as you guide your players on the road of adventure and for the players as they develop those pieces of paper into a molded character they shall never forget.