One of my favourite things to do in Dungeons and Dragons is to imbue my homebrew world with real-world parallels. For example, the backstory to my continent of Illiam is that it was invaded by humans a long-time ago who basically colonised the continent. Hundreds of years later, the other races got sick and tired of this and pushed back the humans for the majority back to where they landed, which was Ericsa. After a while, all the races had to set aside their differences to face an even greater threat, a Shadow Dragon casting their dominion on the continent.
Allegorically speaking, this is a representation of colonisation and decolonisation practices. The uniting force, which is the Shadow Dragon, is meant to representation of acknowledging the past and working together with the resource that the city states now have.
But in terms of actual player experience, my home-game players have fought against a radical who attempted to change the foundation of the main religion in the biggest city. The main religion, was all about Progress and progress in the radical’s eyes came from tradition. One of the players had recently converted to this religion and became a cleric. The players had also met so many people already who identified as following the main religion. This is representative of what’s happening currently in our society.
Even if I don’t attempt to interweave themes seamlessly, it will always be a product and result of DnD as it is a living and breathing world. It is a story and stories have meaning. Themes and commentary in an RPG give that ‘oooohhh yeahhh’ moment where players can pinpoint and be like “oh boy that’s capitalism summed up” or “wait I know alot of tieflings, they aren’t all bad”. In my experience, integrating themes adds another layer of problem solving and enjoyment at the table.
DnD, like all stories, have some kind of underlying message. Giving thought to what themes you put in your world some thought may enhance the narrative experience as they go through the DnD story. Or like some great writers, winging it and developing it as it goes also works.
Just don’t J.K Rowling it please.
FYI: You can catch up on what my homegame players get up to at https://boullinismilfmoneysquad.obsidianportal.com/.
I also run DnD Weekly for Game Traders Blacktown! Check it out at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1786577751573911/