Jordan's Page of Useless Babble

Step 15: Creating Organizations
One of the best ways to get a character interested in the world at large, is to make them a part of something bigger than they are. Organizations, whether they are guilds, secret societies, social clubs, orders, or anything else, are great tools for both fleshing out your campaign setting, and getting your players to take an interest in things beyond the next dungeon.

When you're creating organizations for your setting, think about making just the basics. Major organizations should be all you're dealing with to start. When you are later running a campaign, you can add in any other organizations that you need, and you can also allow your characters to establish their own.

Organizations can also function as assistance, such as religious order who provides the characters with access to their ancient sealed catacombs, or as adversaries, like a guild of assassins who chooses to target a member of royalty or even a player themselves.

At the very basic, you can outline an organization without the need for any rules. If you wish to delve further, you can use the information provided in the Dungeon Master's Guide II to help you with making an organization that utilizes variant rules. Try out these sample ideas for organizations in your campaign:

Professional Guilds: Professional guilds are organizations that allow people of a chosen profession to network with one another. As a united front, they can look out for their fellows both professionally and socially. Most guilds are established for tradesmen like carpenters or blacksmiths or for laborers like sailors and dock workers. There are also guilds that can be attractive for players like mages or thieves. Guilds should primarily be oriented around monetary gain.

Secret Societies: These are the kinds of organizations who have secret handshakes and use code words. Secret societies are at their strongest when they are slightly sinister and of course very mysterious. Not all need to be devoted to evil. For every group working to plunge a kingdom into chaos, there is another that strives to free lands from tyranny. The Harpers from the Forgotten Realms is an excellent example of a beneficial secret society.

Social Clubs: Social clubs are mostly used for adventure fodder. The idea of a group of individuals who gather with one another with no other reason than to talk and share stories doesn't often appeal to players. Such groups can be used to create social contacts with powerful individuals, gather information, or even get a lead on new adventures.

Religious Orders: Usually filled with priests, religious orders are groups of pious individuals who worship the same, or like-minded deities or ideals. Not every member of a religious order needs to be a cleric or monk though. NPC classes tend to make up the majority of the membership.

Knightly Orders: Knightly orders cover a large group of different kinds of organizations. Samurai, knights, paladins and other lawfully-based warrior groups can make up a knightly order. These organizations are almost always lawful in alignment, and they are often pledged to royalty, a deity or an ideal as a way to bind them together.

Merchant Families: Not every member of a merchant family is related. Some may be low-level workers, servants or even friends or allies of the family itself. Merchant families work more like tight-knit and often backstabbing professional guilds, but the head of the family is almost always chosen through a succession of heirs.

Mercenary Armies: Mercenary armies are groups of people who join together for the purpose of being paid to go to war. Many are immoral, but some might be more like a knightly order pledged to a deity of war or wealth. Even former mercenaries can find assistance from their allies, or at the very least, a warm welcome.

Adventuring Companies: Most players form their own adventuring company, even if they don't realize it. After all, a group of adventurers, working together to achieve common goal is the perfect example of an organization. Adventuring companies other than the players' can be rivals, either friendly or not, or even allies in a tight situation. Companies may also form an adventurer's guild to help future heroes find a place.

There are many other kinds of organizations that you can create. These are just some examples that you can use to help you create the ones that will fill your setting.

Back in Part 3 we had a small aside about prestige classes. This is the time when you should be thinking more about your prestige class ideas. Organizations are custom made for creating prestige classes around. Think about what the organization exemplifies and make your plans around that. We will come back to prestige classes later.

Step 16: Creating Villains
A good villain is the cherry on the top of the sundae that is an excellent gaming experience. Villains can fill all walks of life, from low-level thugs to brooding megalomaniacal geniuses who cackle madly whilst in their mountain-side lairs. While you don't have to write any villains to start, it can be helpful to flesh out a few either for later use, or even to be used as foils for the heroes.

Try reading Exemplars of Evil for some ideas on how to create a villain. What you'll be doing is much the same as making an NPC. You really need only flesh out the flavor. You only need to create statistics for your villain if the players will be confronting them. Motivations, activities and other generalities are best as they help set the stage for what your villain is capable of and how they would act.

Always remember that your villains are optional. It will be a huge help for you to have a couple stashed, if even to initially act as a far-away threat, not to the players, but to their way of life.

Step 17: Creating Monsters
Now we get to the interesting part. If your campaign contains a common monster that is unique to the setting, now is a good time to start creating those creatures. It may be as simple and common as an animal or as complex as a high-level abberation or new variety of dragon.

Most monsters you'll be creating will come later, as you're crafting the campaign. Try to stick to monsters or animals that will have some meaning for the players, such as a new kind of familiar, animal companion, mount, or perhaps something that can be summoned through magic.


  1. Create the major organizations that have a strong influence on your campaign setting (see Step 15). Try only to add important organizations.
  2. Create at least one villain for your campaign (see Step 16). They should be one who holds a large amount of influence in the place they live, such as a evil despot or a powerful, but insane archmage.
  3. If your campaign will be using any special monsters (see Step 17), create them. Your focus should be on low-level monsters that the players can utilize in some way.


  1. Here are three organizations from the world of Penumbra:

    The Brotherhood of Ember: The Brotherhood is a group of warriors who are sworn to fight against darkness. At the top-level, this means fighting back the shadows that consume the world. Deeper though, they also fight against the decline of civilization, work to free slaves, protect lost knowledge and seek a way of reversing the disaster that destroys the world. Most members are worshippers of Ruril, Luneth and Shaado or occasionally Liaque. They're led by Eleba Honner, a priestess of Luneth who sought an alliance with other religious groups to help achieve broad goals that her church pursued before their membership declined drastically.

    The Vendo Family: The Vendo family is a group of halflings who live in a small community named Vendoton, which lies on the edge of a massive dig site that they, their servants and followers excavate constantly. Most of the Vendos are halflings, with the occasional human, githspawn, shadow genasi or half-elf thrown in for good measure. The family oversees the 'protection' of their interests over the entire crater and are known to deal brutally with outsiders who don't pay their respects, or their bills. Perregrin Vendo is the patriarch of the Vendo family, but he's growing old and prefers to spend most of his days tinkering with the new machines that come out of the dig site. He prefers to leave much of the day-to-day work to his son Harican.

    The Daggered Moon: Masters of assassination, the Daggered Moon, are feared as much for their skill with blades as they are for their powers over the shadows. Few would suspect that they aren't mere killers for hire, but really a front for worshippers of Seebok. The umbral gnome masters of the Daggered Moon mete out harsh punishment to those who cross them while making sure that each victim felled to their blades or shadow magic are sacrificed properly to their dark deity. The Daggered Moon is led by a group of five shadowcasters known as the pentiarch. Each of the elders go masked and are unknown to each other as they are to the world at large. This unusual working situation ensures that if one part of the pentiarch is captured, they can't be coerced into revealing the identities of the rest.

  2. Here are two examples of villains from Penumbra:

    Tiger-Grin is the scarred master gladiator of the pits in Fangveil. The unusually-named orc is the son of a druid of Ur'uk. Early in his life, Tiger-Grin rejected the ways of his father and fled to gladiatorial competitions of Fangveil. Now, well into his forties, heavily scarred and lacking any compassion for his opponents, he has become a deadly and dangerous warrior despite his relatively advanced age. Tiger-Grin has become so successful in fact that he is kept in reserve for only the most deserving of gladiators and commands both a large salary and a huge number of connections both within the gladiatorial stables and the elite of the city.

    Master Crescent, as he is known, is a powerful shadowcaster, and one of the elder masters of Daggered Moon. The name is an alias. Crescent, a shadow genasi, spent years honing his dark skills on unwitting victims. He is secretly a worshipper of The Dark, who seeks to overthrow the Seebokan worshippers who run the assassin's guild and turn its sacrifice to his own shadowy deity.

  3. Penumbra doesn't make extensive use of monsters exclusive to the setting. It does however use monsters found in the Shadow Magic section of Tome of Magic, such as the dark creature template.

Did you like this article? Then try:

Bookmark and Share