Whether they’re looking to change the world, do their lord’s dark bidding, or figure out how to stab a god, cults in D&D are never not fun times in game.
Sometimes your party will find a cult who is formidable and terrifying, a well structured organization dedicated to a common goal. Other times you’ll encounter a cult whose backstory and goals make your characters squint a little and your players say, “Hah. Nice.” Today we’ll be looking at some of my favorites of the latter category.
Living Axe is a dwarven group appearing in 1990’s Dwarves Deep who dedicate their lives to the worship of sentient weapons. The most notable of these weapons was a double bladed axe for whom the cult was named, resulting in followers carrying around multiple axes. In reality, many of the weapons the Living Axe took all of their orders from weren’t divine or holy as much as houses and prisons for malevolent spirits who suddenly had a little too much authority. I can’t help thinking this is hilarious and the equivalent of worshiping a haunted toaster or an old phone with a one very convincing voicemail still on it.
Order of Blue Flame
A truly and sometimes seemingly inept group, the Order of Blue Flame were a group who believed the Spellplague disaster which lead to the Wailing Years and created the unpredictable and surreal Plaguewrought Lands were a good thing and should be expanded. Many of the members of this order acted in a manner almost polar opposite to this end, however, oftentimes spearheading charity and mission projects aimed to help those infected by Spellplauge. This outward kindness resulted in members of the order being welcomed into new cities and towns.
I’d like to say that this successful gambit of pretending to be nice in order to push forward their real goals is smart, but I’m not sure if that’s the case or if the group was just a little disorganized and disjointed as some members seemed more interested in learning more about the Spellplague than actually expanding it. That, and their most noteworthy gathering, the Festival of Blue Fire, resulted in the deaths of many of their own members.
Cult of Jathiman
This cult is a little different than the others, not interested in appeasing a specific god or continuing any divine work. Instead the Cult of Jathiman hated the very notion of gods and thought they could kill the gods themselves through the power of magic, belief, and good old fashion self-sacrifice. It didn’t work out the way they planned and Jergal, Lord of the End of Everything destroyed the entire group in a truly horrible fashion. But they get bonus points in my book for creativity and a real commitment to nihilism.
Cult of the Dragon
Perhaps the group in this list I could most get behind – but also probably not because that would be madness – the Cult of the Dargon was a group that worshiped undead dragons and dragonliches. Believing that dead dragons shall rule the world,” they revered dragons and brought them treasures and offerings in hopes that they could eventually be convinced to become dragonliches. This eventually turned into an intelligence gathering ring for the evil dragons of Faerun, and while some dragons opted to become undead, others probably saw this as an opportunity to have worshipers bring them wealth and information. Win/Win.
This cult turned criminal organization originated as a religious Drow organization dedicated to evil goddesses Shar and Lolth. Unfortunatly, the cult fell out of favor of the goddesses, and rather than attempt to win back their favor, disband, or even find new deities, the group re-branded to become a crime ring. This sudden change makes me think that perhaps this cult was more interested in being a social group than a religious one.
What’s your favorite cult in D&D lore? What were their goals? Has a DM ever homebrewed one for your game? Let us know in the comments!