A Basis for Local Organizations in D&D

After writing the blog post on the weird fantasy capitalist economy suggested by Dungeons & Dragons, I had been thinking about ways to apply that sort of thinking to something practical at the table. I didn’t suppose when writing it that anyone would actually want to establish a firm in their D&D campaign, much less would anyone have the mental energy to deal with the month-by-month math of running a business on paper and pencil.

I figured that maybe instead it would be fun to establish a sort of organization as part of high-level play. It’s not quite domain play as much as it is conspiracy play. What makes low-level play interesting is that you as a player are constantly striving for something. Domain play in theory can become managing a state of affairs rather than working towards anything at all, becoming something more like a traditional war game compared to D&D’s game of upward strife. This isn’t to say that domain play can’t have the same degree of progression as lower levels of play, but it’s worth considering player activities that raise stakes without settling down into passive management. Organizations with specific goals are a good candidate for this.

Having mechanisms for organizations, or a basis for what organizations exist and why, also has interesting implications for both higher level and lower level play since they are entities that exert influence on the game-world which players can contend with or even exploit.

So, below are some possible guidelines for organizations or factions and how to ground them in the happenings of the game-world. I avoid giving any long-winded mathematical explanations of why things add up the way they do because I don’t want to give anyone an eerie sense of deja vu from feeling like they’ve read the same made-up mathy nonsense twice. Hopefully this is actually useful!

Spark Tables

Use the spark tables below to come up with a random secret society in a settlement. There is probably one secret society for every one thousand people in a settlement or, if the settlement has less than one thousand people, there is a p‰ chance that the settlement has a society at all (e.g. for a settlement with 400 people, there is a 4-in-10 chance of there being a society).

Suppose that the keep from B2 has a population of 2,000 people, loosely extrapolating from its military force of ~400. There are thus likely to be two secret societies in the keep.

d6 Composition
1     Antiquarians or Artisans
2     Clergy or Entertainers
3     Entrepreneurs or Explorers
4     Magicians or Merchants
5     Nobles or Peasants
6     Thieves or Workers

Roll below for a motivation that drives the secret society to action. You can roll twice on the table to combine results and make them more interesting.

d6 Motivation/Conflict
1     Ambition or Corruption
2     Covertness or Discovery
3     Fear or Folly
4     Infighting or Rivalry
5     Scandal or Sex
6     Theft or Treachery

Power in Money

A society has a level from 1-6, representing its abstract social power in terms of annual funding and past investment. We can assume it costs 1,000 gp to have done something significant.

Level     Years of Existence     # Members     Past Funds     Funds/Year
1     2     10     200     100
2     4     20     500     200
3     6     30     1,000     300
4     8     40     2,000     400
5     10     50     3,000     500
6     12     60     4,000     600

Power in Numbers

Societies of different class backgrounds will require more or less members to reach higher levels of social influence. A society of members with a comfortable lifestyle is taken as the basis for membership levels above, but modifications according to different lifestyles are given below.

Poor     Modest     Comfortable     Wealthy     Aristocratic
50     20     10     5     2
100     40     20     10     4
150     60     30     15     6
200     80     40     20     8
250     100     50     25     10
300     120     60     30     12

Society membership informs how much power of force the society has were things to turn violent. Suppose one out of five members is willing to put up a fight. Societies wage battle by betting a certain number of participants per round, rolling one die for each. The loser of the round loses all hit dice, and corresponding members, bet on the round. It costs 10 gp to employ a fighter for a month. Upgrading equipment from d6 to d8 to d10 to d12 costs 10 gp per step, or hiring a fighter who possesses the equipment costs 10 gp plus 5 gp per step.

Growing Numbers

It takes a downtime turn for a player to attract potential members into their society. First, a member must have the minimum lifestyle necessary to pay dues in the organization. Individuals of different social standings will be found in different areas, from tent cities to taverns to townhouses to temples.

  • Poor: 1 gp/month
  • Modest: 5 gp/month
  • Comfortable: 10 gp/month
  • Wealthy: 20 gp/month
  • Aristocratic: 100 gp/month

Sum two dice and add +1 for tangible benefits or immediate goals that you offer. Failing to meet these things by the next turn or some other stated time will result in another check to retain membership, without the benefit of that promise. On 10+, the individual joins or maintains their membership. On 7-9, the individual will demand something immediate or else you will succeed at acquiring another member the next time you try to recruit. Otherwise, the individual does not join or cancels their membership.

Every ten members in the organization can be sent each downtime turn to grow numbers from 1-6, but they will require society guidance to promote a specific programme. Otherwise there is a 2-in-6 chance that the party makes promises in their conversations that the society cannot keep.

A local society cannot grow past 100 people but it can reorganize into two or more branches with an administrative body.

I think I'll return to this with more interesting material for faction actions and long-scale procedures for this level of play, or just to simulate the factions participating in the world, but I just wanted to get this out there while it was fresh on my mind.


  1. This is good stuff. I myself have become fond of giving options for random table results (as you do in the composition and motivation tables). I'm not familiar with the p‰ notation, and Google isn't being any help with it. Can you clarify that for me?

    1. thank you, and ah yes sorry about that! p was just my shorthand for population that i didn't specify, and the ‰ symbol means "per mille" which is like a percent except it's with respect to 1,000 instead of 100!

      so that's why a village of 400 has a 4-in-10 chance of having a society; it's 400/1,000 :)


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