While the phrase probably conjures up images of an all-warlock party bickering and vying for the attention of a demon or archfey, you don’t have to sell your soul to get the benefits of a group patron.
First introduced to Dungeons & Dragons 5e as part of Eberron: Rising from the Last War and then later expanded as part of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, group patrons are a great way to tie an adventuring party together, send them on quests, hand out powerful rewards, and generally set the tone for a campaign.
From powerful guilds, military units, and retired adventurers to monsters or even gods, there are a ton of possibilities when it comes to finding a group patron for your party, and there are a ton of things that the right patron can do to help make for a fun, memorable campaign.
In this guide, we’re going to break down what group patrons are, how you can get one, what you’ll be expected to do for them, and what they can do for you.
What Is a Group Patron?
A group patron can be either an individual or faction that watches over, employs, and sends the player characters on quests. Adventurers are not only given new assignments but are typically granted special perks, which could range from a home base to increased social standing, by their group patron.
I think that the Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything rules for group patrons solidifies a phenomenon that’s existed throughout D&D since the beginning of the game.
Powerful NPCs – wizards who could identify your magic items, priests who could give you healing potions, nobles who provided an eventual advancement track into ruling your own domain – were a huge part of old-school play.
While modern D&D has always lent itself more toward lone groups of heroes running around putting out fires as they appear, the presence of a patron faction or individual crops up all the time in both published adventures and homebrewed games.
The Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica, for example, both place heavy emphasis on faction play and how to handle making your players part of a particular powerful group.
I am glad, however, that TCoE has finally solidified the advice for running group patrons, as presenting the expectations and benefits of such a relationship does a better job of selling this aspect of a campaign to players than the DM waggling their hands and saying stuff like, “Who wants to join a guiiild??!”
What Kinds of Group Patrons Are There?
Theoretically, anyone (or any group) who’s powerful enough could be a group patron, from a powerful goblin warlord to an inscrutable arcane device buried deep beneath the earth.
Largely, I imagine, most group patrons will fall into one of the categories presented in TCoE.
You find yourselves working for some institution of learning in the pursuit of knowledge. Whether that means you’re tied to a particular place (a campaign where the party is a bunch of janitors and groundskeepers at a magical university sounds absolutely fantastic) or sent on far-ranging missions to recover rare books and artifacts, as operatives for an academy, you seek to unravel the secrets of existence and the deeper riddles beyond.
Some possible Academy-related quests could include:
Of course, the sort of things you end up doing for your group patron depend on the type of Academy you serve.
There’s much more to this patron archetype than just own-brand-Hogwarts (New and improved with even more child endangerment!).
Some of the Academies you could end up working for include:
* Basically the first season of the Adventure Zone.
Perks of working for an Academy could include access to research, facilities, financial compensation, training in mystical and ancient arts, or even just bragging rights in other academic circles.
One of the most important things to learn about being an ageless entity of unfathomable power is how to delegate.
The Ancient Being group patron sees your party placed into the employ of some immensely powerful person, thing, or deity that wants you to act as agents of its inscrutable will.
You might serve as the creature’s eyes and ears in the world, carrying information back to it. Or perhaps you work as its direct agents, enacting its will as it matches wits with some equally terrifying opponent.
Some possible quests an Ancient Being might send you on could range from sabotaging the Ancient Being’s rivals to conducting some sort of interdimensional heist across the Astral Sea.
The exact nature of the missions you get sent on, not to mention the rewards you receive in return – which could range from powerful magic items, access to more potent abilities through supernatural gifts, political clout, a safe place to hide out between missions, or hidden knowledge – depends on the identity of the Ancient Being you serve.
Some possible options include:
Honestly, this is probably the highest risk-reward ratio group patron and probably the closest option to having everyone multiclass into either warlock or cleric.
Done right, however, it could be the focal point of a really compelling campaign.
Whether you’re legitimate employees or the clandestine ne’er-do-wells hired to do their dirty work, a member of the nobility has brought you into their service.
Whether you’re out escorting young gentlemen to the annual ball or burning down the headquarters of a business rival, an Aristocrat provides loads of scope for a politically sophisticated game.
Or maybe you’re all just stuck babysitting Little Lord Fontleroy who’s read too many stories about brave adventurers and has got it into his head that he’s going to be the next person to slay a dragon.
If you die in the process, he’s willing to accept this.
Working for an Aristocrat could involve everything from making them breakfast in bed just the way they like it to assassinating their political rivals.
In exchange for loyalty and discretion, however, your patron is a powerful ally whose favor bestows far more than gold. From influence to land and titles, being on the good side of a powerful figure is a good place to be.
Well, if you’re going to fall in with a bad crowd, might as well really fall in with one.
Even though ending up with a criminal syndicate as a group patron need not always be voluntary (owing money to the mob is as good a justification as any that I’ve heard for poking around in goblin-infested dungeons), the Criminal Syndicate as a group patron can make for a great, heist-filled, Tarantino/Scorsese-esque campaign.
But there are so many more varieties of criminal syndicate than the average thieves’ guild. A few options include:
Depending on how long you last working for this particular patron, your rewards could range from fabulous power and wealth to just managing to get out and into witness protection with your kneecaps intact.
Probably the most obvious choice for an organization looking to hire a band of adventurers, Guilds are a classic archetype for a group patron.
Their functions can range from the utterly mundane to the seriously weird, and the missions you might get sent on are just as diverse.
Some example types of guild include:
Some examples of guild patron missions your party might be sent on could see the party acting as debt collectors, enforcers, or merchant emissaries to a far-off land (a la Marco Polo).
If you’re running the kind of campaign where warfare is a central theme, then having your players sign up (or be drafted Dirty Dozen-style) into a military organization is a great way to get the action rolling.
You could be a band of mercenaries, a daring commando unit, or just some regular grunts in over their heads. You could end up on the front lines fighting the nation’s enemies or waging a desperate, secret war in the shadows.
Some possibilities include:
Military Force Types
You could end up going on all manner of missions, from waging pitched battles or laying siege to enemy fortresses to conducting daring commando raids in the dead of night.
Churches and temples need more than clerics and paladins on the payroll.
While perhaps the party is a gods-fearing team of devotees carrying forth the light of their faith, maybe they’re just a bunch of cynics taking a wealthy congregation for all they’re worth.
Depending on the nature of the religious order your players end up working for and the things their deity stands for, the nature of the tasks they’re sent on could vary dramatically.
Religious Order Types
If you’re successful in your endeavors, a religious order can offer up some tempting earthy rewards (in addition to the whole “eternal salvation” thing most of them seem to peddle), from free healing, divine gear, and even resurrection in a pinch – after all, it’s way more expensive to hire a new employee than to retain an existing one.
Lastly, if you’re a big enough deal, why not go work for the biggest deal in town?
Working directly for a sovereign (whether that means a King or Queen or just the town elder) ensures that you’ll pretty much always be sent to deal with the biggest problem facing the local area.
Serving a sovereign comes with some excellent perks, from elite access to immunity from the laws of the land. There’s definitely scope for accomplishing your own ends under the wing of a powerful ruler.
The quests you get sent on are also among the broadest and most open-ended with perhaps the most dire consequences for failure – whether that means high-stakes international espionage like stealing vital intelligence or super weapons from rival kingdoms or just cleaning up the Sovereign’s political messes at home.
So, whether you want to throw in your lot with a bunch of pirates, swear fealty to an elven queen, or just do a summer internship with your local arch lich, group patrons are a great way that DMs can bind an adventuring party together, provide them with plot hooks and, if they’re successful, some juicy and unique rewards.
Until next time, folks, happy adventuring.