Inspiration for World Building in Dungeons and Dragons - Forest Edition

One of the single greatest challenges facing any Dungeon Master is just how to immerse those brave souls in their party - who have embarked upon the Hero's Journey - into a world that is vibrant, detailed, and engaging. Moving such elaborate realms of fantasy from conception through to existence however, requires a storytelling skill that draws upon many different sources.

The most captivating domains of fantasy succeed in painting vivid pictures: Scenery that really encourages players to explore and participate in the dynamics of a world that the DM has put so much thought and time into creating. Through the power of words (and if you're blessed with artistic prowess then perhaps a few pretty doodles as well), master storytellers weave impressive webs of geography by skillfully defining the following facets of imagination within their environments: Sensory imagery, geopolitics, and the underlying possibility of magic/danger.

Within countless variations of stories and lore - spread across all mediums of entertainment - there has always been one mystic locale which consistently promises peril, mystery, and those terrified shivers that slowly creep up one's spine when they find themselves alone in its depths: The forest. Here is where the individual forfeits their power unintentionally, and surrenders to the primal. This is the place where even the gods may be too afraid to venture for fear of losing their way; for fear of losing themselves.

To a DM crafting a world of fabled intrigue for those around their tabletop, the forest serves as a rich backdrop through which to unleash all that dwells in the shadows. These are but a few fantasy forests that check all of the above boxes particularly well:

The Forbidden Forest – Harry Potter

There's a good reason why first year students at Hogwarts are told to stay out of the Forbidden Forest before they are told anything else: As the series progresses, and the Forbidden Forest is naturally entered many, many times, we are exposed to the complicated array of monsters that lurk within - many put there to be kept hidden from the outside world. The underlying tension is just sizzling every time Harry and his crew set foot inside the tree line, as the possibility of encountering threats is always winning odds.

Oh S**t

From a weakened Voldemort feasting on the blood of a slain unicorn as fog permeates the surroundings, to thousands of Aragog's Acromantula offspring slowly descending from the heights of the trees to feast upon Ron and Harry, to a furious tribe of centaurs - their honour irrevocably damaged - carrying off Dolores Umbridge (how did she survive that?), the danger embodied by the Forbidden Forest is all too real. It serves as the perfect location for Harry to eventually face himself, Lord Voldemort, and their collective fate during the Battle of Hogwarts.

The Forests of Middle Earth – The Lord of the Rings

Leave it to the godfather of modern fantasy to craft a world brimming with forests that are equal parts magic, equal parts political. Tolkein masterfully presents mythical realms that play host to factions, creatures, and characters that could only exist deep within the woods. The Ents in Fangorn Forest are a brilliant creation: Sage examples of nature's calm resolve – and deadly fury. As guardians of all forest life, it is very interesting that they must meet for hours to discuss marching on Isengard, especially when the threat posed by Saruman is both immediate and serious. Who would've thought tree people could be so layered.

Lothlorien is an enigma that serves as great inspiration for what a forest realm could contain: With spiralling tree houses decorating the elven enclave, the secrets that Galadriel keeps are equally enthralling. The woodland valley offers visitors a space out of time - where they gain immortality within its borders as symbols of elven preservation. Whether the elves let them leave again however, may be left up to fate. Oh the things one encounters when they wander through the forest, but as Tom Bombadil would tell you, not all those who wander are lost...

The Lost Woods – The Legend of Zelda

In the game series I can truly credit with shaping the scope of my imagination, the hidden woodlands of Hyrule offer a brilliant mythos that is as nuanced as it is deadly. The Lost Woods epitomizes the cadence of the forest depths in its purest form: Where strange masked children teach mysterious songs for fun – or rob you blind, where those who become too lost slowly decay into a skeletal entity free from the burden of thought, where bloodthirsty beasts stand guard over hidden clearings, preventing wary travellers from finding their way through the maze, and where spirits can be seen moving freely through the air, carrying wisdom that predates time itself. This place shows you the pinnacle of what you'd find when you become lost in the forest.

Even Ocarina of Time's significantly less threatening Kokiri Forest demonstrates superbly integrated fantasy elements: A giant tree deity that grants and manages life for all the forest's inhabitants (and houses a multi-levelled dungeon infested with savage giant spiders), children who never age but who can also never leave the safety of their realm, and the presence of individual fairy guardians - the magic of which can not be overstated. It is in this forest where some of the greatest mysteries of the land unfold.

To be a great Dungeon Master requires a commitment to drawing inspiration from the most brilliant sources in fiction - and in the real world as well. With so much exhilarating content shaping so many incredible worlds, the choices for said inspiration could never be better. For your next campaign, consider incorporating a forest into the fray. Bring your players face to face with the magic - and the fears - they thought they could hide from.

Written by: Jeff Clive

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Inspiration for World Building in Dungeons and Dragons - Forest Edition Inspiration for World Building in Dungeons and Dragons - Forest Edition Reviewed by JADE Gaming on 4/15/2019 10:42:00 am Rating: 5

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