The fantasy realm of Hyrule from The Legend of Zelda series can be used as a setting for an epic long-running Dungeons & Dragons campaign.
The Legend of Zelda is one of the most popular video game franchises of all time, partially because its fantastical realm of Hyrule changes and improves with each new entry, becoming more immersive and engrossing. This magical land would make for a perfect Dungeons & Dragons setting, and it can easily be adapted to D&D‘s tabletop rules.
The timeline of the Zelda series branches off into several different directions. This means D&D DMs have a number of different versions of Hyrule to choose from. The Skyward Sword era has floating islands, bird mounts, and a world below that gradually unlocks over time. Ocarina of Time has the possible the most recognizable Zelda setting. It spawns three separate timelines: The Hero is Defeated timeline (A Link to the Past, the original Legend of Zelda, Link’s Awakening, and the Oracle games) has a devastated Hyrule overrun with monsters that need slaying. The Hero is Triumphant – Child timeline has the bizarre land of Termina from Majora’s Mask, as well as the Shadow Realm of Twilight Princess. The Hero is Triumphant – Adult timeline has the Great Sea from Wind Waker, as well as the steam trains of Spirit Tracks. All branches of The Legend of Zelda’s timeline lead to the world of Breath of the Wild, where Hyrule is mostly abandoned and enemies lurk around every corner. Any one of these versions of Zelda‘s world is ripe for adapting to a D&D setting, with enough scope left to tailor it to the DM’s liking.
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It’s also possible to create entirely new versions of Hyrule for D&D. Simply break the world down into sections in the same way the games do. Link usually needs to acquire a number of items necessary for reaching the final boss. These are spread around the world and contained within distinct sections, which often have their own inhabitants that need saving. Determine what it is the players need to find first, and create the world around the journey for each of them. If they need to find four gems, break Hyrule into five sections – for example, the starting and ending area of “Hyrule Town,” a forest area, an ice or water area, a fire or lava area, and a sky area – and sort its residents and quests into the themes of each area.
Adapting Zelda Concepts To D&D
The Zelda franchise has introduced a number of races for players to choose from in a D&D campaign, and it’s easy to use established D&D races as stand-ins for their stats and abilities. Hylians can be humans, elves, or half-elves; Goron can be goliaths; D&D’s own version of Fairies were recently introduced in the Unearthed Arcana; Gerudo can be half-orcs; Zora can be sea elves, and Rito can be Aarakocra. The classes of the Player’s Handbook can also be adapted to Zelda archetypes:
- Barbarians could be warriors trained to fight by the Goron.
- Clerics could worship one of the three goddesses, who each has their own associated Domain (Din is War, Naryu is Life, Farore is Light).
- Druids could be granted power via a link to the Great Deku Tree.
- Monks could have trained in one of the many secret Shrines hidden around Hyrule.
- Paladins could be the sworn protectors of the Hyrule royal family.
- Sorcerers could belong to the bloodline of one of the ancient Sages.
- Wizards could have studied under one of the witches that resides in Hyrule.
- Warlocks could have made a pact with an ancient evil, like Demise, in exchange for power.
- Fighters, Rangers, and Rogues could come from anywhere, as could Bards (but also, Bards could just be Tingle).
Using Iconic Zelda Characters In D&D
There’s a good chance players will want to use iconic characters from The Legend of Zelda as part of their party. There were plans to use a party mechanic in older Zelda games, but they never came to fruition. Luckily, it’s easy to adapt these characters to D&D rules and have them operate as any other party member. Link can be a human, half-elf, or elf that takes on the Champion Fighter or Hunter Ranger subclass. Princess Zelda can use the same races as Link, while being a Knowledge, Life, or Light Domain Cleric or Abjurer. Link generally doesn’t have a personality in The Legend of Zelda games, so players a chance to add their own spin on the character. On the other hand, there has already been a version of Princess Zelda filled with dreams and doubts in Breath of the Wild, so a D&D game could give the same level of depth to Link.
How Zelda Dungeons Could Work In D&D
Some of the biggest attractions of the Zelda series are its iconic dungeons. The usual Zelda dungeon design involves finding keys, defeating a minor boss, finding an important item that allows progression, fighting the boss (which usually involves that important item), and finding an item needed to continue the story. One thing that is important to remember when creating these types of dungeons in D&D is that players have access to a lot more abilities than a video game character, which means they might find ways to overcome puzzles that the DM never expected. In these instances, it’s often better to go with the flow than to railroad them. If an item is necessary for fighting the boss, though, it might be best to drop some not-so-subtle hints that the party is about to be slaughtered if they don’t find the right tool for the job.
Zelda’s Ganondorf As A D&D Villain
A Legend of Zelda D&D campaign has a built-in plot: Ganondorf has returned and is seeking the Triforce. The party, which may or may not include Link and Princess Zelda, needs to find several magical MacGuffins, gaining allies, experience, and magic items on the way. They travel the entirety of Hyrule before returning for a final confrontation with the villain.
It bears mentioning that not all Legend of Zelda games use Ganon as a villain, but he’s easily the most iconic foe in the series. When adapting The Legend of Zelda into a D&D campaign, the DM will be faced with the Star Wars issue; the Star Wars movies have an entire galaxy of stories to tell, but they keep returning to familiar concepts – Jedi, smugglers, bounty hunters – because that’s the identity of the franchise. A D&D version of Hyrule should have a story that feels familiar to fans, while still offering more chances for character interactions and storytelling. If the game is just a regular Dungeons & Dragons campaign with a The Legend of Zelda skin, there isn’t much point in adapting it in the first place.
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