Thursday, April 8, 2010

DnD: The Monomyth as a DM Tool - Intro

Newbiedm made a blog post about a book titled The 36 Dramatic Situations by Georges Polti as a source of inspiration for DM's in need of adventure ideas. Looking over this excellent resource got me thinking about another writing resource that might provide some creative direction for DM's - the concept of the monomyth, as described by Joseph Cambell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Basically the monomyth structure begins with the hero - or heroes, as is more appropriate in a RPG context - living a normal life in what they recognize as the ordinary world, when they receive a call to enter the unknown, face trials and challenges, and then return with something they've gained along the way, using it to improve the world they left behind upon their return.

Campbell defined 17 stages of the journey, but it is important to note that not every journey has all 17 steps. In fact, some popular myths are only concerned with one or two of the stages while others deal with them in a different order.

What a DM needs to take from this is that the monomyth is a flexible concept - it can and should be altered as needed, rather than being treated as a rigid framework for creating campaigns and/or adventures.

Here is a short list of the 17 stages that comprise the Hero's Journey:

  • Departure
    • The Call
    • Refusing the Call
    • Supernatural Aid
    • Crossing the Threshold
    • Belly of the Whale
  • Initiation
    • Road of Trials
    • Meeting the Goddess
    • The Temptress
    • Atonement w/Father
    • Apotheosis
    • The Ultimate Boon
  • Return
    • Refusing to Return
    • Magic Flight
    • Rescue from Without
    • Crossing the Threshold
    • Master of Two Worlds
    • Freedom to Live
Over the next several posts, we will be looking at the three sections in more detail, and how each the 17 stages of the journey might contribute to the creation of a compelling role-playing experience it the scope of an adventure or campaign.


  1. Very cool.

    Joseph Campbell was one of the main inspirations for Star Wars as well, so maybe you may want to do it with a SW RPG campaign in mind? Maybe simulating the "campaign" presented in the original trilogy... Just a suggestion. :)

  2. Very interested in seeing these. This looks to be an amazing guide.

  3. NewbieDM: Get outta my head! ;-)

    Master Darksol: *looks at plans to half-@$$ it* Well . . . crap. Ok, no pressure!

  4. Keep it coming king, this Monomyth series has been great.