Uprising & Rebellion in a Magic Setting

Oppressive governments are a staple of genre fiction. From Robin Hood to the Vlad Taltos series, from Thay to any place ruled by a Sorcerer-King in Athas – the tales of tyranny that must be overcome are common.

An uprising is nearly impossible against these powers though. They have access to magics and personnel that make hiding difficult. Identifying who is in rebellion within a society that has the fantastic equivalent of an NSA, CIA, KGB, etc at the surface level seems easy. Yet, in our modern world with facial recognition and AI-infused communication monitoring there are still those who rise up against injustice.

The following are how you make certain that a rebellion that starts like this

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doesn’t end up like this?

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Baseline D&D

There are some tools to help the Dungeons & Dragons themed revolt within the standard rules.

Illusion Spells

Everything starts here, really. From something as simple as Disguise Self to the potent Seeming and Mislead the usages are obvious. They must still be stated and reviewed, lest we overlook the obvious.

Enchantment Spells

These go hand-in-hand with Illusion. Getting past the guard who recognizes you is key. Having a huge crowd be under Sympathy can turn the entire tide of the movement.

Rogues and Bards

These two classes are natural fits for revolution. A College of Whispers Bard can sneak into a castle or manor and learn the secrets of the realm. A College of Glamour will work the nobles The College of Lore will know the History of the peoples, helping define and refine the message of the group, as can Eloquence. The Colleges of Swords and Valor fight among a crowd quite well.

Every Rogue fits. Every. They’re probably the baseline for your rebellion. Assassins, Tricksters, Masterminds, Inquisitives, Thieves, Swashbucklers, Scouts – the list of rogues involved in uprising reads like a casting call for Hunger Games or Divergent.

All Classes Can Fit

  • Artificers can build the defenses needed.
  • Barbarians are those enraged by injustice.
  • Clerics are more than the needed healers, but the ministers pushing for the rights of their flock.
  • Fighters can be the thug guarding a raid, or the armored noble who joins the cause.
  • Monks need not be confined to the outsider from another land, but the brethren who know the ancient ways of the nation.
  • Paladins who take their oath to the betterment of the commoner over the ruling class join your uprising.
  • Sorcerers exist in uprising literature often as the targets of a realm that do not like those born to authority.
  • Warlocks may join their pact to gain powers to help their peoples.
  • Wizards are masters of the spells most important to helping the revolution.
  • Druids and Rangers probably take the most work to have them fit the story, but difficulties are not impossibilities.
by Hartwig HKD (CC BY-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/aDwaAx

Filling in Gaps via Homebrew

There are gaps within the common D&D classes, and these won’t be filled by Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. The literature and other fictions around resistance feature some tropes that are currently difficult to build in the base rules.

Each of the following subclasses is a work in progress. Some are more finished than others.

Society of Veil and Shadow: Rogue v. 1

The Society of Veil and Shadows are a group of rogues dedicated to obscuring and protecting their guild from spies — both arcane and mundane. While able to contribute to the uprising’s success via sneak attacks and other clandestine abilities their true power is their ability to cast a few spells, most of which help keep the rebellion secret.

Society of Veil and Shadow

Version two may be out within a week.

Way of the Frayed Knot: Monk

The Way of the Frayed Knot is a Monk subclass that attempts to feature some Western fantasy tropes. The most common of these is Friar Tuck from Robin Hood, but there are other studious, religious types that fought alongside rogues and pirates.

Way of the Frayed Knot

The Way of Mercy in Tasha’s may be close enough that my own version gets retired.

Conscript: Fighter

An old-timer who retreated from the life of adventure and war, but who for some reason gets called back into it. They’ve done their best to avoid violence. Instead violence seeks them out. The Fighter: Conscript (final name TBD) has seen things. Things no one else should see.

When they get the call to return to their former life they are no longer concerned with having the best weapon and the best armor. Their wits and experience taught them that any tool can be used for any job.

Conscript

Propagandist: Rogue

You rose from the underbelly of empire to demand a better life for all. Your pamphlets and speeches can inspire hope, or fear. Whether from the soapbox or via pamphlet your proclamations turn the tides of rebellion.

Propagandist

Liberator: Rogue

You do everything in your power to free the kept. These rogues operate outside of the rules of society and follow their own path to freedom for themselves and others. They combine the artful skills of a thief with the directed violence of a blade. As the Liberator gains power they are able to sense who needs their help. You are able to aid in their defense, grant them freedom from captivating and punish the captors.

Liberator

This one needs a massive rewrite as it was my first attempt at a homebrew subclass. It may reappear as a Paladin: Oath of Freedom.

Still to Come – Circle of Sewers: Druid

They come from the urchins and gangs, getting to know the vermin of civilization. Simultaneously they serve the people and the animals that run the streets of a city. Able to help feed and heal those in need, the Sewers Druid is equally at home within a gang of thieves as they are a swarm of rats.

How would you run a D&D campaign that focuses on rebelling against a power much mightier than the player-characters? What tools would you use to rise against The White Witch, or The Union, or the Burgue?

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