Player Character Choices for the Setting: Catastrophes and Pilgrimages

I’m making changes to the default race/class choices to create a more consistent feel to the world, and each has an entry in my Player's Guide to ground them in the setting, Bright Sun, Dark Forest.


Also to really give the players something to integrate them into chaos and disasters of the setting, each character will choose a Catastrophe with random effects. The setting is an amped-up version of the Dark Ages, with some actual historical background as well as exaggerated myth of those lost years.

My list of catastrophes is:

  1. Battle Survivor
  2. Cursed
  3. Famine Survivor
  4. Follower of Failed Apocalyptic Vision
  5. Heretic
  6. Hunted Pagan
  7. Monster Carnage Survivor
  8. Plague Survivor
  9. Raided Village Survivor

I'm considering adding one other: Unhoused, specifically for those with the Noble background in 5th Edition D&D.

The aim is to add more setting detail so that the world will feel like it is reeling from a series of disasters. The catastrophes should also provide a reason that the characters are choosing to be adventurers. They have been ruined by the world, rootless with little to lose.

Catastrophe results should also be quirky and unique, to provide the players with un-envisioned and hopefully darkly comic problems. They are not intended to be completely crippling, but difficulties that can be worked around or accommodated.

Negative catastrophes also can be removed through achievements, most commonly a pilgrimage to a holy site; the most frequent are those of the Church of the Almighty Sun. The worst handicaps will provide a sliding scale of XP (either a set number or a level dependent amount of XP)when their effects are removed. I still have to determine what amount that will be.

Each catastrophe table should have a chance of both bad and good extremes. There should be an incentive for taking the risk, like any good dungeon or adventure. Players may roll more than once on their catastrophe table. Rolls of the same result will not be counted, but otherwise any roll taken must be kept. Catastrophe rolls must be made at the gaming table.


Trips of penance to holy sites of at least 1 week’s travel can relieve many incidents of suffering. Player characters benefit from pilgrimages but for NPCs, a pilgrimage is a matter of faith that may not be fulfilled. However, only 1 player-character may benefit from a pilgrimage in a trip or play session. A PC can only benefit from a specific pilgrimage or holy site once. Beyond the catastrophes, an injured or otherwise harmed character may attempt a pilgrimage to relieve an injury, per DM negotiation. Sometimes additional penance is required.

Tomorrow:  the Follower of Failed Apocalyptic Vision.

Popular posts from this blog

Megadungeon MacGuffins