Secret Societies and Hidden Powers. Black Magic and Forbidden Lore. Greetings again, Outlander, for Part 3 of my series on D&D 5e Plot Hooks from the Western Esoteric and Occult traditions, how they shaped Dungeons & Dragons (particularly D&D 5e) over time, and how Dungeon Masters, worldbuilders, and D&D players can incorporate Occult themes. This week I’ve updated the format to add thoughts on WHY and HOW to involve each tradition in your game. Let’s finish the Renaissance and enter into Modernity. Let’s learn about Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, Ceremonial Magick, Luciferianism, and Anthroposophy!
Reminder: don’t forget to click on the “+” sign to expand the Plot Hooks sections.
Tip: monsters and lore from the 5e Monster Manual bear a “1”, from Volo’s Guide to Monsters bear a “2”, and from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes bear a “3”.
PART ONE: Therianthropy, the Old Norse Magickal Tradition, Apotropaic Magick, Hermeticism, Alchemy.
PART TWO: Gnosticism, Thaumaturgy, Kabbalah, Cunning Folk, Theosophy.
PART THREE: Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, Ceremonial Magick, Luciferianism, Anthroposophy.
PART FOUR: Thelema, Reconstructionist Neo-Paganism, Wicca, New Age Spirituality, Chaos Magick.
Let’s get to it!
#1: ROSICRUCIANISM: SECRETIVE SCIENCE
PERIOD: Renaissance; Modern Period.
SOURCES: The Fame of the Brotherhood of RC; The Confession of the Brotherhood of RC; Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz; Pacacelsus’ Prognostications.
REAL-WORLD ABOUT: “Rosicrucianism” refers to “the Order of the Rosy Cross“, a purported secret brotherhood of alchemists and sages promising spiritual transformation and the advancement of medical science. Shrouded in mystery, its name references the legendary figure of Christian Rosenkreutz. Rosicrucianism discusses the relation between microcosm and macrocosm, and an interplay of vital energy and vibrational healing. It also concerns itself with clinics and laboratories.
Other influences include Hermeticism and Kabbalah, Alchemy and Gnosticism. Rosicrucianism purports to draw upon the “Wisdom of the Ancients” and herald a “universal reformation“, fusing science and religion. Historically, it advocated for peeling back the veil on Christian spirituality and healing practices not yet popularly realized, no matter how fringe or unorthodox.
HOW IT IMPACTED D&D: Paladin’s Lay on Hands; magical healing in D&D.
WHY ADD IT TO YOUR CAMPAIGN: You as a DM could easily incorporate vague declarations from loosely-explained magical-medical organizations. But, go beyond just dry exposition: I recommend putting in the work to emphasize the mysterious origin figure and alchemical artifacts, things that PC’s can concretely grapple with more directly in game, like in an Occult Detective or other Mystery setting. Offer both the revolutionary and the quack aspects of mystical medicine. Focus on aesthetic aspects that easily extend themselves to good old dnd spellcraft, notions like “vital energy“, or the therapeutic properties of light, color, and sound. These have a lot of juice for building player intrigue, players will want to figure out if it works, how it works, and how they can use it.
Also, characters espousing the Rosicrucian theme of “sudden, secretive change” will likely get themselves into trouble, which offers a great vehicle for dramatic tension with things like Rescue and Escort adventures on the one hand, or Organizational Confrontation on the other. You can even have rival sects, differently aligned sub-groups of the secret order with conflicting beliefs and methods; players can tease out the internal contradictions and take sides.
1. Handbill-Guy Helper. Handbills posted around town declare the “Proclamation of the New Faith Collective”, a secretive sect whose rejuvenation methods inspire one part suspicion and one part inspiration amongst the local townfolk. As the party finishes reading the notice they see a robed Loxodon dart into an alley – posters in hand – and a stern Dwarven Paladin follow, truncheon at the ready. Will they intercede?
2. Grave Matter. The party has stumbled upon the legendary tomb of the Half-Orc Healer Rostikrutz, the Life Domain Cleric rumored to have invented the first Healing Potion. The epitaph proves unreadable, covered in scrawled warnings of Deathlock Wights3 that haunt the tomb, defiling it as their crypt. Perhaps if the party can sanitize it, the secrets of Physic shall reveal themselves? At the door: a scratching sound…
3. Snake Oil. The party has heard whisper of a Yuan-Ti1 vendor from the North come to sell the “Lapis Lazuli Vital Vibrational Crystal Curative Essence Elixir”, a supposed Panacea. Arriving at the market and toward the merchant, the party spots several Humans raising accusations of con artistry, and raising swords too. Will the party settle the dispute…or join in?
4. Thief’s Vinegar. The Gnomish Chirurgeon Norasti has devised a novel means of sterilization that helps alleviate the infections which frequently follow surgeries in the Republic. But this heretical hygiene uses refined alcohol, attracting the fury of both the Dwarven Brewers’ Association and the Elven Temperance Order. Fearing for their life, Norasti has continued research underground. Occasionally, coded pamphlets circulate, including a new citation: “herbal vinegar“, meant to thwart Sewer Plague. But it seems supplies have run out: tonight, the party has discovered Norasti prying into the noble’s cellar. No doubt to seize medicinal ingredients, but a crime nonetheless. What decision shall they make?
5. Ram & Rod. At the Firbolg Commune, the party hears thumping steps approach the treeside temple. Eladan the Druid, teary, warns that secrecy and seclusion only last so long. A dull crashing thud booms as the Ogre Battering Ram3 hammers the gate, shouting demands for the Rose Quartz Physician’s Staff. Luckily for the party, the ancestral artifact’s preservation aspects go beyond just medicine…
#2: FREEMASONRY: LABOR & LODGE
REAL-WORLD ABOUT: “Freemasonry” refers to an originally secretive brotherhood of stonemasons, marked by complex ceremonialism as well as symbolism using manual tools as symbols for moral lessons. Initiation progresses from Apprentice to Fellow to Master. At first Freemasonry functioned as more of a trade association than a belief system, modeled on medieval craft guilds, but it grew as a fraternity, with a focus on fun and fellowship. Influenced by Rosicrucianism, its minimalist ideology emphasizes fraternity, charity, and truthseeking, and it requires a belief in the mason’s choice of “Supreme Being”.
More than anything, Freemasonry emphasizes aesthetics and performance. Its associated fraternal society, Shriners International, engages in parades and charity. The Shriners’ characteristic pomp and pageantry originated in parodying Middle Eastern ritual and costume, and drifted toward comically miniaturized vehicles. Nevertheless, Freemasonry’s secrecy and exclusivity, its restrictive membership and initiation through grips, phrases, and signs, arouses much suspicion and conspiracy theory.
HOW IT IMPACTED D&D: Dwarven stonemasonry?
WHY ADD IT TO YOUR CAMPAIGN: Depending on who you talk to, Freemasons are either the Secret Powers Behind It All, or just the Brotherhood of Funny Hats. That holds a ton of breadth for plot purposes. Brokers. Victims. Conspirators. Clowns. You as a DM can have Freemason-like groups in your campaign work as any of the permutation. Powerful and infamous. Harmless but infamous. Powerful but ignored. Harmless and ignored. You can also use general Fraternity tropes: maybe your fantasy locale has a Prohibition theme and the Masonic Order just acts as a cover for working-class stiffs with a secret drinking club, using the ritual front as misdirection.
Also, I would definitely play up the Shriner pageantry – you as a DM can use parades and parody as incitement. Maybe an attack happens on a comical procession? Maybe those being caricatured come to confront those making them out as a farce? You could have one group be a joke Occult group, and the REAL Occult adherents attack them over it. But you can also sprinkle things sparingly too. Some NPC group’s out doing charity for the poor? Boom, Freemasons. That hospital? Now it’s a Shriner Hospital. You can just weave subtle strands of intrigue for players to work with or pass up. Now, for a player, a trade association like a Dwarven stonemason guild would easily fit as a character background, and with D&D’s magical worlds, the ritualism would automatically fit. Different cultures use different manual tools so the moral metaphors they may draw from them would vary, allowing for robust symbolism in-game.
1. Cobblestone Conflict. For years, in the Human kingdom of Thradish, rumors have simmered of a sinister side lurking beneath the surface of the Dwarven masons’ ceremonial cobblestone craft. This week, the King broke his hip after tripping on a cobblestone. The royal court has now decreed the disbanding of the local Dwarven Stonemasons’ Guild, and banned possession of all Mason’s Tools in the city. The party spots the masons approaching the Keep to plead their case, but the Royal Guard appears to have begun wheeling out a guillotine in their direction. Will the party advocate for their clemency, or let them perish?
2. Digging Deeper. The Fraternal Order of Hobgoblin Diggers has founded its first lodge in the metropolis, but nearby residents still harbor resentment from the warring ways of yesteryear. Rumors circulate that the highly exclusive diggers’ group secretly functions as a dark academy for Hobgoblin Devastator2 evokers and Iron Shadow2 assassins, and that their strange handshakes and passwords hint at this. The Order has reassured that the shovel symbol signifies hidden depths achievable through honest work, but the alternative connotation of gravedigging has caused much unease. One overcast night the party sees out of the corner of their eyes a robed goblinoid figure launch what looks like a Lightning Bolt toward the clouds overhead. Is a covert intent afoot?
3. Manual Mischief. Rival sects of the Bricklayers’ Brotherhood have come into conflict. One faction emphasizes the metaphor of the planer as a tool of leveling inequality, while the other emphasizes the metaphor of the chisel as a tool of building differences of status. The schism has grown bitter to the point of a feud, with most of the city’s Centaurs, Goliaths, Half-Orcs, and Tortles in the former, and most of its Bugbears, Dragonborn, Dwarves, and Minotaurs in the latter. The party stumbles upon a massive courtyard brawl between these factions, hand tools swinging violently. Can peace return, or will the party tip the scale in one side’s favor?
4. Butcher Brotherhood. The party’s contact briskly enters the alleyway where they agreed to meet. She looks over her shoulder quickly before spilling the beans. The conspiracy theory was true, all of it. Infiltration took so long, and only the Masters knew how deep the rabbit hole really went. The Flaysons’ Butcher Brotherhood used the Illithid aesthetic as a misdirection, just another performance. In reality, they’ve excavated a vast subterranean catacomb beneath the city and funneled meatmarket goods to a Lich’s1 laboratory. This explains the disappearances, the missing money, the timid politicians, everything. Right as the contact starts to describe the secret entrance, a dart protrudes from her neck. Nets fall upon the party as the Drow Shadowblade3 descends upon them…
5. Float & Flame. The annual Elven Pointy Hat Parade has commenced and the floats this year prove just as wacky and whimsical as ever, with the flagship float parodying the Occult Sun Sigil of Ordo Solaris Infinitum. The party watches as the Elves gyrate and gesture ludicrously, their oversized wands waving about. Suddenly, a Fire Genasi acolyte named Vanta emerges from the crowd, grimacing as the guttural Primordial words leave her lips. The fiery form of a Fire Elemental Myrmidon3 appears atop the float and sets it ablaze while hacking away at the Elven mockery. Hysteria and horror befall the crowd…how will the party respond?
#3: CEREMONIAL MAGICK: GRIMOIRE & GOETIA
PERIOD: Renaissance; Modern Period.
SOURCES: Book of Enoch; The Book of Black Magic and of Pacts; The Lesser Key of Solomon; Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy; Crowley’s The Book of the Goetia of Solomon the King; The Book of Abramelin; The Grand Grimoire; Grimoire Verum; Weyer’s On the Illusions of the Demons and on Spells and Poisons.
REAL-WORLD ABOUT: “Ceremonial Magick” bears long, complex rituals and has connotations of secrecy, initiation, and “Black Magic“, or “Goetia“, as I explained in Part 1. Popularized by British Freemasons who founded the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn”, it draws on such Esoteric and Occult tendencies as Hermetic Qabalah and Enochian Magick (“angelic magick”), as well as demonological grimoires, spellbooks of demon conjuration. As a syncretic tradition, Ceremonial Magick draws on Christian, Jewish, Hellenistic, and Egyptian myth and symbolism, drawing itself toward the dark and dangerous details, the forbidden and forsaken features that the orthodox would not see fit to practice. And it does not settle for simplicity in that regard.
Whereas the Theurgy of Enochian Magick implies “angelic magick“, Goetia mostly implies pacts with demons, chronicled in such grimoires as King Solomon’s seventy-two demon seals. No mere cautionary tale, Occultists have long used these grimoires to attempt to summon fiendish entities. But their practice can also include conjuring aerial spirits in Goetic Theurgy. And Ceremonial Magick actually has a fantastic twist too.
A contrasting strain of Ceremonial Magic in Abramelin the Mage emphasized conjuring demons and devils for purification, channeling the Holy Guardian Angel to bind and banish the Great Kings of Hell (Lucifer, Leviathan, Satan, and Belial) using magic puzzle word squares. Confining devils under oath to achieve “True and Sacred Wisdom” would purportedly reunite the Magus with God.
HOW IT IMPACTED D&D: the Conjuration, Enchantment, and Necromancy Schools of Magic; Warlock Pacts; summoning magics; Cleric Turn Undead; Create Undead; Banishment; 5e’s Demon Prince & Archdevil cosmology; Elementals; Magic Circle.
WHY ADD IT TO YOUR CAMPAIGN: Ceremonial Magick deals extensively with real-world mythology that shapes D&D cosmology: not just Elementals, but specific Angels, Demons, and Devils. Themes to invoke in your campaign include pacts and portals, summonings and spellbooks and services. Warlock Pacts with otherworldly entities prove a staple option, using both PC’s and NPC’s. Bury those ancient tomes and arcane treatises. Spin up the tension, temptation, and trickery associated with taking the shortcut to power. Invoke secret societies, have the players bargain with Gods, Devils, even Eldritch Abominations. summoning rituals make an excellent Framing Device for an adventure, and work as a Cautionary Tale. If you want to start simple, even sprinkling the phrase “Black Magic” alone hints players toward Occult themes at work.
1. Gnollish Goetia. The party hears shrill chants, high-pitched squeals, and demonic laughter. They stumble upon a cult of Gnoll1 Warlocks with Yeenoghu’s Demonic Boons3 conducting a summoning ritual. Led by a Fang of Yeenoghu1 and Gnoll Flesh Gnawer3, the vile hyenas will conjure a troop of Barlgura1 if the party doesn’t disrupt the Blood Circle in time.
2. Bloodfang & Bael. From the windows of the Bloodfang Temple the party hears the blistering yet seductive voice of the Bronze General Bael3, Duke of Hell, offering redemption to the guilty priest. If the party seeks to intervene against the final words of the Archdevil’s Pact and its warped Wish spell, they will have to smash through the squad of Minotaur Skeletons1 blocking the entrance. Or, through guile, perhaps the party can raise the stakes by offering a rival bid…
3. Service of Slaughter. The Ceremonial Death Priest’s sermon instills an itching discomfort among the party, as the braziers burn and the hideous humanoid hides of her skin sewn shawl flap manically. She invokes, “Glory unto the Dread Lord Orcus3, Demon Prince of Undeath, may his vision of death release this worthless world from the endless cycle of pain. The Legion of Decay’s avatar shall now take its Offering!” The abhorrent Boneclaw3 beside her steps down from pulpit to pew, cackling while it severs the heads of the deranged and willing cultists. As the party looks down from the rafters, they notice the oil barrel beside the braziers. Perhaps they can bring a cleansing flame to this sickening sanctum…
4. Enochian Exorcism. The trumpets sound and the High Theurge of Bahamut bellows forth, “Hear ye this, you Devil Kings! The Holy Guardian Angel commands thee to rise, be ravaged and restrained! You fell Lords of the Nine Hells3, who are named Asmodeus and Levistus, Dispater and Zariel, Baalzebul and Belial, Moloch and Mammon and Mephistopheles! By the breath of Providence I excoriate you, I exorcise you from this realm, forevermore! Hasten to the Gate of Judgment, you fiends!” If the party can push the Balor1 back through the portal, deliverance has come.
5. Apocalyptic Accident. The Demonologist’s ritual had accidentally spawned a Hellmouth. The Abyssal Portal spews inchoate infection upon the blasted battlescape. Marshalled there are the Armies of the Seven Heavens, and the Armies of Nine Hells; side by side they stand in uncomfortable union against the Demon Prince Demogorgon’s3 invasion. For their part, the party must slay the wretched Sibriex3 fiend, lest its contaminating chaos bring about armageddon.
#4: LUCIFERIANISM: ICONOCLASTIC ILLUMINATION
PERIOD: Early Modern; Modern. Classical Antiquity for Lilith.
SOURCES: Blavatsky’s Lucifier; Levi’s Dogma and Ritual of High Magic; Treatise on the Left Emanation.
REAL-WORLD ABOUT: “Luciferianism” refers to a few doctrines inspired largely by the Biblical figure Lucifer, and sometimes Satan, or related figures like Baphomet or Lilith. I should first mention incorrect accusations: “Satanism” and “Devil Worship” more commonly came as allegations than self-identities, charges used to suppress rivals, “heretics”, and “witches”. Most who identify as “Satanists” believe in atheistic LaVeyan Satanism, who do not believe in Satan as such, but rather see him as a defiant symbol of individualism against orthodoxy. Similarly, some critics accuse Yazidis of “Devil Worship” for their “Peacock Angel” resembling Lucifer, though in their account the angel both fell and found redemption.
Nevertheless, some actual Esoteric reverence does exist. First appeared the Gnostic Luciferianism of Ophite Cultus Sathanas, which drew upon Theosophy and espoused the idea of the Fallen Angel Lucifer as the True God and Jehovah as the Demiurge. Luciferians emphasize what they see as the positive Enlightenment virtues of Lucifer, the rebellious Lightbringer angel. And as well the Serpent of Eden, whom they perceive as liberating knowledge, in a role comparable to that of Prometheus. Next appeared those who revere Levi’s figure of Baphomet, an intersex humanoid “Sabbatic Goat“. Allegedly worshiped by the Knights Templar, Baphomet reflects a “Union of Opposites” and principles of Astral Light and Spiritualist Magnetism moving toward a utopian world. In D&D lore, Baphomet corresponds to the Demon Prince of Beasts.
Another related figure, Lilith, who abandoned Eden to avoid submission to Adam and so became cursed as a child-consuming demoness, symbolizes feminine rebellion. A fearsome figure, Jewish occult incantation bowls invoked Lilith to protect families from her. The later Treatise on the Left Emanation discusses Lilith as the wife of the Fallen Angel Samael (Satan), and relates to myths around Leviathan. In negative depictions, some identify Lilith as the tempting Serpent of Eden, while Kabbalah’s Tree of Life identifies her as a seductress demon associated with lamia, night hag, and succubi lore. But some modern Pagans revere Lilith as chief of the witches or Queen of the Underworld, and some theistic Satanists invoke Lilith as a goddess of independence, a mother figure, or wife of Lucifer. Lilith lore often fuses with that of the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar.
HOW IT IMPACTED D&D: AD&D’s Lilith as consort of Baalzebul; 5e’s Glasya, Baphomet, and Zariel, plus Night Hag, Succubus.
WHY ADD IT TO YOUR CAMPAIGN: Rumors of “Satanism” dealing with animal mutilations and child kidnappings can incite plot but have little basis in Luciferianism and many see these tropes as overused. Actual Luciferianism offers many opportunities to develop for your DM’ing and worldbuilding purposes though. You can use the standard D&D cosmology of these figures as ancient menaces, or as ambiguous messengers instead. You can invoke themes of Fallen Angels or False Gods, the Temptation or the Torchbearer. As a DM you can use Baphomet as defender or destroyer, Lucifer as iconoclast or infidel, Lilith as harbinger or horror. Maybe even make it complex, have elements of both: Lawful Good versus Chaotic Good, Lawful Evil versus Chaotic Evil.
A Devil’s Advocate approach works wonders. Rather than using stock Satanry, I recommend your Luciferian NPC’s possess legitimate-sounding thoughts and criticism: these entities have high Charisma regardless of their morals so have them employ Gnostic arguments, give good rationale for dismissing authority or divinity. Uncertainty and unorthodoxy build mysteries for the party to unravel. You can even get a bit Postmodern with it and give the party the role of the Morningstar, see where they take the responsibility of bearing the light of knowledge in a dark and ignorant world.
1. Hell’s Angel. An incarnation of the Fallen Angel Zariel appears before the party, her blazing corona a contrast of heavenly and hellacious. She rebukes the divinities of Mount Celestia as False Gods and swindlers who make mortals slavishly worship them while keeping the Realm of Light for their elite only. She spits, “And they have the gall to criticize my Legion for actually bearing the courage to descend to the Nine Hells and hold back the demonic tide. Join me in the wastelands of Avernus, battling the demon horde from my citadel’s basalt battlegrounds, instead of standing by while the portals proliferate.” She roars that the party belong to the special few with the Spark that can bring about salvation, returning all souls to the Realm of Light. Will the party accept her offer?
2. Sleuthing the Serpent. At the entrance to the temple rests the Serpent Warden, her marvelous form a wonder to behold. She offers the party a branch, “Eat of this Divine Fruit and ye shall bear Truesight and Detect Evil and Good for the rest of your days. Waste not the chance at Knowledge.” But the party has a quandary, they cannot tell…is the Serpent Warden a truly benevolent Guardian Naga1, or rather, a corrupt and vengeful Spirit Naga1 sent to mislead them?
3. Leviathan v. Lucifer. The Kuo-Toa’s1 collective insanity has spawned a final vengeance to exterminate the domineering Mind Flayers that come from above where the light hits the sea. The legendary Beast of the Deep awakens, its Kraken1 or Leviathan3 avatar ascending to annihilate the nautical searchlights, to obliterate the Illithid oppressors, to extinguish the Heavens that forsake them. The Beast shall plunge all land into a sea of darkness unless the party can descend to redeem the Cause of Light, can convince the Kuo-Toa that they bring a Radiant Rebellion that unites with them against the Radiant Repression too. If the party can convince them of this new gospel, and that they are not agents of deception, perhaps all is not lost…
4. Maddening Maze. The party awakens in a maddening maze, its labyrinthine corridors snaking wildly around them. Therein they behold the iconography of Baphomet3, Demon Prince of Beasts, laying waste to all civilization. Will the party confront their Minotaur1 and Nalfeshnee1 and Goristro1 pursuers, or instead join the Horned King’s cause of bestial slaughter?
5. Illuminator or Deceiver. With a golden flash, a breathtaking Solar1 angel materializes before the party, instantly bringing them to their knees. The glorious celestial Lusitan weeps as the revelation thunders forth: the Gods are secretly Aboleths1 whose psychological slavery has gripped the world so powerfully that their evil illusions instill blind faith. Treachery without parallel, worse even than the depraved Devil Lords. Lusitan claims to have seen the truth first among all. To have risen in righteous rebellion. To have come bearing the torch of liberation. The celestial intones: “I shall not lead you, but rather, give the choice. You must choose your own fate: the chain or the key.” A Divine Gateway opens, window to a world where angels fall like comets from the skies, striking massive Eldritch Abominations on the horizon. Will the party regard Lusitan as the Illuminator, or as the Deceiver?
#5: ANTHROPOSOPHY: SUPERSENSORY SOMAGRAPHY
PERIOD: Modern Era.
SOURCES: Steiner’s The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World-Conception, The Philosophy of Freedom, A Brief Outline of an Approach to Anthroposophy.
REAL-WORLD ABOUT: “Anthroposophy” refers to the syncretic philosophy of Rudolf Steiner. Influenced by Theosophy, but emphasizing Christianity and natural science more than Hindu spirituality, this philosophy believes in an objective spiritual realm knowable to humans through inner development and imagination, inspiration and intuition. It tries to integrate spiritualism and science, emphasizing “soul-life“, spiritual experiences, and “supersensory consciousness“. Anthroposophists use as a basis for their spirituality the analogy of mathematics as inner experience versus the observable world as outer experience. Anthroposophy holds that each step of spiritual development requires three steps in moral development, and it advocates reform toward goals of Freedom, Equality, and Fraternity.
Other Anthroposophist beliefs include “somagraphy“, the notion that a person has a physical body from an inorganic world, a life or etheric body, an astral or sentient body, and an ego or self-aware body. They also believe in karma and cyclical world evolution, non-dualism, and Akashic Records. Interestingly, Anthroposophists believe that the figures of Lucifer (light) and Ahriman (dark) both have positive and negative aspects, with Lucifer motivating creativity and cockiness, and Ahriman motivating intellect and industry. They advocate a balance between these extremes, guided by a “Representative of Humanity“, such as Christ. Steiner’s philosophy emphasizes moral development in spiritual exercises, and the role of the individual. This personal wellness focus manifests in Waldorf Schools, Biodynamic Agriculture, and “Anthroposophical Medicine“, as well as Eurythmy, a therapeutic art of movement.
HOW IT IMPACTED D&D: Astral & Ethereal Planes.
WHY ADD IT TO YOUR CAMPAIGN: For you as a DM, Anthoposophy’s emphasis on balance proves extremely unique and useful considering how much of the other D&D content focuses on objective Good and Evil, Law and Chaos. D&D often lacks a truly well-defined Neutral that still possesses both a “moral” and “spiritual” priority the way this Esoteric tendency does. Anthroposophical worldbuilding has a lot of flexibility because of the diverse features of its conception of Lucifer and Ahriman. You can have an Age of Excess in the negative aspects of either the Light or the Dark, of prideful spirituality or cold rationality. You could also have a tenuous balance threatened by some other tertiary force.
Aesthetically, much of the personal development and educational components complement Monk monasteries, Wizard schools, and Druid groves or farms. The “Etheric World” corresponds somewhat to the Elemental Chaos, also ripe for exploration. The supersensory and somagraphy practices lend themselves to all sorts of mysticism, perhaps even psionics. Astral Entities seem a natural fit.
1. Goblin Geomancers. Those crazy Goblin Geomancers have really struck a bonanza with the latest “compost ceremony” on their Spirit Farm. Crushed up blossoms and flint, stuffed in the horn of a rhinocerous, buried deep beneath the soil on the Full Moon. This chatter of “Cosmic Correspondence” these last few months has finally bore its fruit. The Shambling Mounds1 have sprung to life. Maybe the party can reason with them? Nothing’s out of question these days…
2. Mammoth Monastery. The party receives an invitation to Mammoth Monastery where the local Loxodon Monks meditate. They claim one of their sages has developed supersensory perception allowing her to construct an Aethervane, an artifact sensor that detects active Astral Portals. The Monks offer to share the schematics with the party if they can prove themselves with ethical deeds in the Three Trials…
3. Messianic Mess. Recently a Gith mystic appeared from a glimmering haze and declared himself a Representative of Balance who has come to bring peace and harmony to the realm. There’s just one problem…both the Rogue elements of the city’s Thieves’ Guild and the City Guard Paladins have taken offense to his beliefs, each relying on the other and their conflict for justifying their jobs. The party rounds a corner in the street and bump into an unseemly fellow exchanging money with a guard, startling both of them. On the ground rests a poster of the mystic and his supposed address. The two draw blades and aim them at the party…
4. Holier Than Thou. An Aarokocra Cleric has traveled down from the secluded hilltop settlement to denounce “the Age of Wagons” and the “increasingly disharmonic materialism” of the valley people below. The residents, still rebuilding from the wounds of the war a mere generation ago, grow irate and begin throwing stones at the winged guru denouncing their way of life. Will the party attempt to make peace, take a side, or let things fall where they may?
5. School Suppression. The “Talldwarf Akashemy”, beloved Barding School famous for its eccentric ballads, arts, and dances, has proven itself a staple of the rural alternative culture and spirituality. But vicious soldiers from the Void Star Empire have come to suppress its heretical habits. The party witnesses one of the Mage Knights let loose a Fireball upon the straw rooftop of their children’s classroom. The kids inside shriek, and the conflagration threatens only to grow. Will the party make a stand against the enforcement of their edict, or side with the authorities?
Well folks, that’s parts one, two, and three of four sets of Western Esoteric & Occult traditions down, I hope it got your DM and worldbuilding and player juices flowing. Go ahead and share the article if you liked it, and let me know your thoughts in the comments. Stay tuned for the final part next Tuesday, which will cover Thelema, Reconstructionist Neo-Paganism, Wicca, New Age Spirituality, and Chaos Magick. In the meantime, I post original D&D memes and writing updates daily over on my site’s Facebook Page. Also, if you’d like to stay up-to-date on all my posts, look down at the bottom for my newsletter sign-up. And thank you very much to my Patron on Patreon helping keep this project alive: Rudy. Thanks for your support, Rudy!