How to Design a Village in 5 Easy Steps - Page 2
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  1. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Hand of Evil View Post
    I would add; Reason for Being. Why is the village there? What is the chief means of income for the village? This can be things like the only river crossing, logging, mining, support for a fort, cross road, farming, live stock, shrine, location of an event, etc.
    Agreed, even if the reason is pretty mundane like "there is (good?) farmland here".

  2. #12
    @Johnny3D3D : Ha ha, looks great! I know adventure ideas can be a bit tricky to come up with, especially when writing up villages. I think a few vague ideas is just what you're looking for.

    @delericho : I think that's a fine idea. I guess, dealing with fantasy, I tend to come up with names first and purpose afterwards, but that's not really how it is in the real world. I guess it's just a liberty I take 'because I can'. I'm sure your way would make more sense.

    @Hand of Evil : Excellent idea. I think it would be a good idea for anyone to add this step when designing a village. It would definitely add a ton of realism to what you're creating and give you even more ideas to go with. I'd also point out that this could be something really crazy or imaginative from fantasy like: "Because all single women over 22 were cursed to live here in the 12th age" etc.

    Thanks for the link, too.

    @Morrus : Yes, thanks. I really enjoy creating name generators myself (for various things) but I guess I was always too greedy/lazy to share them. I still have a dozen or so sitting around my hard drives and papers somewhere. Thanks for sharing!

    @Jhaelen : Yes. What can I say, when I'm wrong, I'm wrong.

    @Dwimmerlied : Thanks. You're most welcome.

    @haakon1 : Very cool. Thanks. Kind of makes me wish I lived in England.

    @Derren : Yep.


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  3. #13
    Superhero (Lvl 15)

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    Feb 2002
    When I create a village I think of who created it. In my game, villages are settlements of (usually) overland constructions [broadly meaning: dungeons] created by creatures of a certain level of intelligence or higher.

    The founders of a village typically created it for one or more reasons, based upon their alignment, if even only as a resting spot before further expected travel.
    ---Who and what were these founders?
    ---What were their reasons for settling?
    ---When did this event occur?

    A village is roughly a collection of people in a place the size of which is determined demographically for the term. Take away the people or the place and there is no village. Items come into play too, but all could be lost and you'd still have a village IMO. Also, remember village is only a size category for a settlement. It could be a piece of an abandoned city or a boom town that sped right threw Thorp size.
    ---Based on who and what the settlers were, what did they need to create a long term settlement like a village to support themselves? This might include natural materials, crafted items, plants, animals, fortifications, and activities.
    ---Other goals for the creation of this settlement include their reasons for doing so beyond simple survival.
    ---Generated forward the creation of this village from its founding to the campaign starting time taking into account all of the above not mention the rest of the campaign world you are starting with.
    ---Generate your map of the village as it grows and changes over time. Include people and principle locations as they are born and are destroyed.
    ---Track this history so Players may explore it also. This encompasses the resulting (and previous) key locations as mentioned in the article above as well as Named NPCs, other monsters (like farmers ), treasure, NPC knowledge, monster goals and learned proficiencies. (These latter two projected forward into adventure scenarios will make up most of your adventure hooks and timeline.)
    ---Name everything on the map in your key and include the map on your larger starting campaign/world map.

    Lastly, if the village doesn't need to last until the campaign starting time (all the people are gone for whatever reason), it then becomes a ruin possibly inhabited by monsters who will repurpose whatever is left behind depending upon those monsters. Unless the construction materials degrade very quickly it almost assuredly will still be relevant to your campaign world as a more traditional dungeon or a reclaimed city by other city builders.

    And, of course, outside populations, new people, environmental catastrophes, disease, and so on over time will usually shift and change the behavior and design of a village, so be sure that when you are generating it you are doing along with the rest of the starting campaign world.

  4. #14
    @howandwhy99 : Holy cow, that's awesome. Kind of makes me want to try out your campaign sometime. The creation of a new campaign for me is usually something along the lines of: "Okay guys, this world is called Korg, try not to powergame too much".

    I really like the depth you get into when thinking about the founders of the village. I'm sure that would give a new GM plenty of material to work with and a ton of food for thought. Also, I arbitrarily chose 'village' for the name of the article. Really, you can use the information for cities, towns, or whichever.

    I just like the word 'village' because it brings to mind the bulk of the locations in the campaigns from my early days as a gamer. It always seemed like there was another clone 'village' over the next hill and finding (or creating) a unique one is pretty cool.

    Thanks for the great strategies. I use some already, but trying the others out would be pretty neat.

  5. #15
    Superhero (Lvl 15)

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    Feb 2002
    In OD&D the literal Keep found in the Borderlands is the Lawful dungeon. You could run Chaos PCs through it starting them at the Caves of Chaos as their home base (lair). The game is balanced in part because the two opposing forces are balanced at campaign start. There are equal forces on the map, though both are outsized by the neutrals. Think of the caves as a collection levels in a 1st-4th level dungeon. Then travel through the wilderness map to the civilized areas and find 1st-4th level "dungeon levels" of Thorps, Villages, and the Keep.

    For me, the majority of the game is the players engaging with the game board behind the screen. The maps and tracked items are there so the players can game the situation. If I was improvising everything, this wouldn't be possible. Most people still do track position, conditions, and other stuff for combat, but it's limited Encounters. Consequences tend not to carry over except by GM fiat. So Players track their equipment and take notes about their adventures just as I track everything behind the screen. Of course, I begin with the whole map (which grows throughout the campaign), so it's not difficult as it appears during running the game.

    All of the stuff I wrote previously is just as valid for creating a standard monster dungeon too. It's simply Chaos aligned creatures aren't builders. They prefer to steal, pillage, use up, or just flat out destroy. So you typically find them in natural caves, abandoned ruins, conquered cities, and similar kinds of places. You don't need a lot of NPC classes for them IOW

  6. #16
    Ha ha, I've played that adventure a few times and never realized that. You learn something new every day. :P

    I guess I always had it in the back of my mind that the lawful stats were there in case the players went completely AWOL, but I never considered that you could actually run it as a balanced fight with the PCs starting off in the Caves of Chaos.

    That said, most of my players over the years have played good characters by alignment and whatever the heck they wanted by action. Several times I've had 'good' characters attacking lawful villages and castles for strange reasons.

    I really like your way of keeping track of everything on a map 'behind the screen'. I think this would actually make for a far different style of game than I usually run and it'd definitely be worth trying out. I know a few GMs who use a similar system, but I don't know if any are quite as organized or proficient at it as you.

    Also, I've made a few attempts over the years to get the players to keep track of their equipment, but they tend to just conveniently forget things like encumbrance or the usage of expendable items like potions or arrows. I don't think they're trying to be nasty, it's just not a priority. :P

    Chaos aligned creatures aren't builders? Ah well, so much for all those evil castles and floating citadels I had planned. Seriously though, that's a good point. How most Chaotic creatures are laid out it would make sense that they take over abandoned areas (or live in dungeons) rather than building their own structures. Otherwise you would have all these Kobold villages and Orc cities lying around.

    Ha ha, yeah, I would probably work great for building dungeons, too. Thanks.

    I know I'm not in the majority, but I tend to improvise a lot of my games nowadays. I used to keep really good track of maps, NPCs, equipment, spells, campaign notes, and sometimes positions of miniatures.

    Nowadays I tend to bring a blank piece of paper to the table and say, "You guys ready for adventure?" and then whip up some kind of quest on the spot. Also, when I get on a good roll I can tend to memorize everyone's conditions and so forth between encounters and adventures.

    As for consequences, there are so many of them in some adventures I've run...ditto on the GM Fiat, although not necessarily at the same time. :P

    I've probably set new records with GM Fiat by wholly creating my own RPG system and then running a game of it with no prep-work resulting in a totally Fiat-ed experience. Heck, I've even broken rules in my own game system on occasion. I'm worse as a player, of course. I either totally abuse the rules of the system (I had a game-breaking 4e character, a game-breaking 3e character, etc.), or I ignore all the rules and do whatever I want which tends to annoy the GM.

  7. #17
    Lama (Lvl 13)

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    City of Angels
    Very nice article. A step I would add is "who visits?" Is it just the occasional peddler and bard? Does the main road to a mine go through town? Do produce wagons or river barges pass? How about troops? This will say a lot about hwom the PCs might encounter and what kind of activities go on.

    If you want an adventure-village, there are a couple of formal methods that are worth swiping. Dogs in the Vineyard is one, and Dread character generation could be modified to work as well.

  8. #18
    Superhero (Lvl 15)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Challenger RPG View Post
    Also, I've made a few attempts over the years to get the players to keep track of their equipment, but they tend to just conveniently forget things like encumbrance or the usage of expendable items like potions or arrows. I don't think they're trying to be nasty, it's just not a priority. :P
    You want to keep it simple. It used to be that was all the players need to track on their sheets as well as knowing a handful of stats. Now there are dozens (hundreds?) of game powers that get the focus and make everything else seem like a bother instead of the point.

    As a DM you would track that stuff even though the players do too. They don't have to. Not doing so is a game strategy for them, though a poor one if they have hopes of accomplishing many goals. (Imagine not bothering to know how many HP you have). As DM, it would be your list which needs to be as accurate as possible, not the players'. But they should tell you if they traded items with each other when your attention was elsewhere.

    In the end, running the game shouldn't be that hard. It should start small and slowly and incrementally get bigger through each session. It may look like a lot of work after 100 sessions, but break up by 100 and running a whole campaign setting is vastly more feasible.

    I know I'm not in the majority, but I tend to improvise a lot of my games nowadays. I used to keep really good track of maps, NPCs, equipment, spells, campaign notes, and sometimes positions of miniatures.
    I would say improvising everything and tracking nothing is pretty much where the majority is headed now. Most people I talk to don't have any idea why people tracked things early in the game ...or why players actually wanted to do so too.

    As for consequences, there are so many of them in some adventures I've run...ditto on the GM Fiat, although not necessarily at the same time. :P
    Yeah, and that's really why I prepare the maps and lists of items, NPCs, and everything as a scenario beforehand. I'd get completely lost tracking that stuff with nothing behind the screen. But I feel I'm enabling players to engage in game play, as how poker players play when calculating the odds, or Bridge players, or eurogame boardgamers, or Magic the Gathering fanatics, and so on. It's to enable strategy. The massively interconnected web of experiences is a happy accident.

    Plus, there is nothing wrong with GM fiat. But you probably want a game where the rules specifically state that is what will go on. Or, you could simply tell the players as a kind of house rule that's what you are doing. I've had players totally stunned that I tracked their characters (and everything else) behind the screen. Without being able to see the maps or what I'm tracking exactly it's kind of mind blowing for them. ...but in a totally awesome way. Of course, I've seen people totally turned off by early D&D too saying "it's not a role playing game" and had nothing to do with acting. But I've had other players who went red hot like they'd never been in a game before where everything they did had traction under their feet.

  9. #19
    Super KY
    Myrmidon (Lvl 10)

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    Sep 2011
    I prefer this method for throwing together a village.

    I use kanji instead of roman letters, because they have nuanced meanings and are therefore great idea generators.

    I also use my iPad to do all the heavy lifting, so the raw output looks a little like this. This town was made using the sunshine kanji (陽) as an inspiration for road layout, and, after it is cleaned up, will be a village built up around an old temple to Pelor.

    Name:  IMG_0910.PNG
Views: 112
Size:  1.97 MB

  10. #20
    @Mishihari Lord : Thanks. I think that's a good idea. If brigands constantly wander through the town it's a lot different that soldiers marching through all the time. Also, it would give some indication of what modes of transport are available (boats, carriages, etc.).

    @howandwhy99 : Ha ha, yes, that's probably true. Breaking things up is definitely doable. I've also seen some GMs who waste a lot of time with minor details when they could be interacting with the players. Use correctly, I know what you mean, and it could be really effective for a great game.

    If the GM was keeping track, I'm sure it would be highly effective in getting players to start keeping track of basic supplies like torches and arrows. I might just have to try that out sometime. Usually I just ask "Did you bring torches?" and the players all look kind of miffed and say, "No." It's pretty funny, actually.

    I guess I should say that "I do" run games where I plan almost everything out beforehand. All of my best adventures I tend to do a heck of a lot of prep work. Maps, NPCs, strategies, locations, treasures, room descriptions, etc. It's a style of game I really enjoy and the players like the challenge of going up against something static and well-planned.

    I've even been known to write down all the characters names and vital statistics on occasion.

    Other times, I just wing everything and have fun anyway. I think it's just part of my life getting more busy. For big games, I still tend to do a lot of planning and prep work. I think I just intrinsically sense that it makes the game that much better and more polished. If you put more work and thought in, the game tends to run that much smoother.

    I haven't truly tracked my players all that well for a while. I used to do it a lot more, but nowadays I'm just as liable to say something like, "You want all basic equipment, okay, you've got it, mark off 20 gold."

    For the record, some of the absolute best adventures I've ever played were original D&D. I still think it's classic and awesome. The simplicity and power are great. I even think a few of the elements in the rules work better than the modern RPGs out there.

    While I've powergamed a number of 'newer' characters, I don't recall ever having a truly game-breaking 1e character. I think it probably had to do with the fact that I spent most of my time 1st level and never got anywhere near high level enough to be truly powerful.

    Your character also tended to be a lot weaker so you had to play that much better as a player. Even Fighters couldn't be kill-maniacs if they intended to live that long. One chance sword blow could kill just about any 1st level character.

    Even as far as 3rd and 4th edition, I was still running basic D&D games, and one of them is still one of my favorites. There must have been about ten characters and only 1 survived the adventure and he lost an arm. That adventure was so fun, everyone still recalls it fondly. That sort of thing just doesn't seem to happen that much anymore. Not saying I'm over-fond of wiping out parties, but how it happened, everyone thought it was pretty hilarious and the one guy who survived was tickled pink.

    @dd.stevenson : Cool, thanks for sharing the links! That's pretty neat. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like that before.

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