What do organized sports teams, military units and street gangs have in common? They all self identify with a shared logo, emblem or colour scheme. In D&D, the PCs are often part of an adventuring party. So if a PC spends all of his time living, traveling and fighting with these comrades, it makes sense that they would see themselves as part of an exclusive group. Do they have team colours? Do they display a common symbol, share a similar piece of jewelry, have matching tattoos or something else that makes them feel like part of the team? If the answer is no, then my question is, “Why not?”
In the Lord of the Rings, each member of the Fellowship wore an identical pendant. It’s small and subtle, but they all recognize it and wear it proudly. Many members of the military get tattoos of their unit designation, the flag of their country or some other equally important and meaningful symbol.
In professional sports, players will often forego a larger salary in order to play on a team with a strong and proud history. Wearing that particular team’s colours and symbol is considered an honour and the athlete wants to carry on the tradition those who wore it before him created.
In D&D it may be more difficult to find a common symbol. Characters tied to the divine will usually wear their holy symbol proudly, but that doesn’t mean that all party members share in the Cleric’s faith. The Rogue may in fact detest the Cleric’s deity, but he tolerates the Cleric’s presence in the party because he understands his importance to the entire group’s well-being. If your party decides to create a symbol to represent them, it needs to be accepted by all members and not discriminate based on religion, race or nationality.
Don’t overlook the importance of a name. As important as the symbol is, the name of your adventuring party will complete the image you’re trying to establish. Your symbol may depict crossed swords dripping with blood, but if you’re called the Merry Blade Men it’s unlikely to strike fear in the hearts of your enemies. So be mindful of the company name when choosing a symbol to represent it. In the case of the Merry Blade Men, a smiling mask may be a better choice than the crossed blades.
The symbol’s design, colour and prominence should be directly connected to the party’s reputation. The symbol is only as meaningful and important as those who wear them. Reputation can be a powerful tool in D&D. The impact of a positive reputation or negative reputation can have a strong bearing on the party’s social interactions.
Every party or company should have a name and a unique symbol. The members of your party should be proud to share an affiliation. If you’re doing things right, you will find you have imitators and admirers. It won’t take long until others want to join your party. Never underestimate the power a simple symbol can carry.
At 7 feet tall, Dank the Half-Orc Barbarian stood taller than everyone else in the busy tavern. He didn’t even see the slender Elf carrying the tray of drinks before he bumped into her. The drinks fell to the floor with a crash, soaking Dank in the process. The bar fell silent and all eyes turned to Dank, expecting him to lose his cool with the poor Elf. Just as Dank was about to verbally tear off the Elf’s head for being so clumsy, he noticed the gold and ruby pendent clasping her cloak around her neck.
“Pardon me for being so clumsy. Allow me to buy you and your friends another round to make up for this accident.” The Elf nodded with approval and returned to her table.
The crowd was dumbfounded, Dank NEVER apologized for anything. “What the hell just happened?” Redfoot quietly asked Dank. “She wears the emblem of the Crimson Diamonds.” He replied referring to the pendent. “Even I don’t want to mess with them.”