|Little town, full of little people...|
Most of the time, you can roll with quite a bit of shenanigans from the players. However, sometimes the players demand a bit more than expected. The classic example: the players decide to walk away from the dungeon and find a village to stay in for the night.
Could you develop an entire village on the fly? Honestly, I think I would just create a roadside inn or tavern, use a few throwaway NPCs, and call it a night. But that doesn't really help build the world. And it's definitely a problem if the PCs decide to return.
Another situation where creative abilities can be strained is if you assume you need to prep everything: Can you make detailed layouts and plots for dozens of villages?
Well, now you can. And do it on the fly if needed.
In my readings, I came across this blog post about a system for developing a city that constantly changed. But there's no reason that it couldn't be used to simply develop lots of little villages.
Let's get into it! I'm going to try to incorporate some information from DMG pages 16-17, and information from other places about medieval villages.
Instant Settlement: Villages
|Some players see a welcome rest, others see burnable houses and stealable loot|
Each die represents a feature of the village. Don't worry about keeping the dice in a tight formation. Space between dice can be taken up by residencies. However, you will want to note the centermost feature and the outermost feature. These will determine the nature of the village square, and the nature of the area immediately around the village.
Start with the d4 and work your way upwards. If any number is repeated, replace the number on the higher die with the lowest available number. So if you roll a 3 on the d6 AND the d20 (and 1 is already on the d4) the d20 would become a 2. The highest die becomes the highest number, so if you roll a 1 on the d4, d6, and d10, they would become 1, 2, and 3 respectively.
A few notes on village structure: All NPCs are Commoners, unless noted. Anywhere from 70-95% of the village's population lives in the surrounding farmland and uses the village only for its features. And any villager that doesn't already have a role will be involved in farming, or something that assists farmers (such as a wagon builder, butcher, or seamstress) in order to make goods to trade.
To help, I've put together an example roll.
Here's an easier view. I've circled the innermost and outermost die as well.
- Major Road
- Minor Road
- Reeve's Home
- Guard Post
- Local Guild
- Traveling Merchant - Adventuring Gear
- Traveling Merchant - Trade Goods
- Traveling Merchant - Tools, Kits, and/or Instruments
- Traveling Merchant - Weapons
- Traveling Merchant - Armor
- Traveling Merchant - Scrolls and Spells
- Traveling Merchant - Wondrous Items
- Stronghold - Wooden Fort
- Stronghold - Stone Fort
1. Major Road
A major road acts as a lifeline for a village. Trade is common along the road, and any visitors to the village usually come in from this path. Having a Major Road in a village increases the population by 300.
If the Major Road is absent, the villagers are more reclusive, and are likely to be of a less-common race (a village of half-orcs, tieflings, etc).
The type of die determines where the major road leads.
- 1d4 - The road is part of a trade route between major settlements surrounding the village.
- 1d6 - The road is part of a trade route between a major settlement and a small settlement, such as a town.
- 1d8 - The road connects the village and a major settlement, such as a city.
- 1d10 - The road connects the village and a small settlement, such as a town.
- 1d20 - The road seems to lead directly into the heart of the wilderness nearby. The townsfolk don't like to talk about it, but most of their trade comes with the barbarous tribes of the deep wild.
- If the die is the centermost die, the road leads directly through the village square, and the village is organized along the road.
- If the die is the outermost die, the village is a short ways off the Major Road, with clearly marked signs leading travelers to it.
- If the die is anywhere else, the largest path in the village leads to the major road.
2. Minor Road
A minor road is used primarily by the villagers, to get to other small settlements or to their work. Having a Minor Road in a village increases the population by 100.
If the Minor Road is absent, there is no effect on the village.
The type of die determines where the major road leads.
- 1d4 - The road leads to the location of the village's livelihood, such as a quarry, mine, or farmlands.
- 1d6 - The road is part of a trade route between small settlements, such as towns, surrounding the village.
- 1d8 - The road is part of a trade route between a small settlement and another village further along the road.
- 1d10 - The road connects the village to a sister village nearby.
- 1d20 - The road stops just outside of town at a gnarled tree. The tree acts as a portal to the Feywild or the Shadowfell, depending on the nature of the village.
- If the die is the centermost die, the road intersects with the major road, forming the village square.
- If the die is the outermost die, the road starts a little ways outside the town, and only villagers may be aware of its existence.
- If the die is anywhere else, a path in the village leads to the minor road.
3. Reeve's Home
|One part of fantasy that is actually historic|
If the Reeve's Home is absent, the village has a maximum population of 200, and is small enough to govern itself. Remove the d10 and d20 from the village.
The type of die determines the type of leader the Reeve is.
- 1d4 - The Reeve is a friend of the commoners, and is trusted to be amicable towards local and visitor alike. (Use Noble Statistics, MM pg. 348)
- 1d6 - The Reeve has strong religious connections and rules according to those doctrines. If the village has a temple, the Reeve belongs to that faith. (Use Priest Statistics, MM pg. 348)
- 1d8 - The Reeve is the latest idiot sent by the local ruling noble, and nobody likes them or really listens to them, except at tax time. (Use Guard Statistics, MM pg. 347)
- 1d10 - The Reeve takes more than is required at tax time, and is hated and feared. The Reeve has a small contingent of bodyguards. (Use Noble Statistics, MM pg. 348)
- 1d20 - The Reeve's home is currently empty until the local ruling noble appoints a new Reeve. The villagers are abound with gossip, speculation, and tension.
- If the die is the centermost die, the Reeve's home and yard form the village square, and a statue of the local ruling noble adorns the center.
- If the die is the outermost die, the Reeve's home sits outside the village, atop a small hill where it oversees the area.
- If the die is anywhere else, the Reeve's home is located among the residencies of the village.
An Inn supports travelers and traders, and can act as a place to eat and drink if there is no tavern. Additionally, an Inn provides common services for the villagers such as stables and a communal well. The presence of an Inn increases the population by 100.
If an Inn is absent, the Reeve's home and/or the Temple are built to accommodate the occasional traveling trader, merchant, or adventuring party. However, the guests will be beholden to the Reeve or Priest they stay with.
The type of die determines the quality of the Inn.
- 1d4 - A small, single-story Inn. The rooms are cheap, drafty, and without hearths. The food is cheap and awful. There are 2 beds available.
- 1d6 - A small, two-story Inn. The rooms are quite nice, and available at standard prices. The owner serves breakfast, but no other meals. There are 4 beds available.
- 1d8 - A medium-sized, single-story Inn. The rooms are decent, and available at standard prices. The Inn serves food all day. There are 4 beds available.
- 1d10 - A medium-sized, two-story Inn. The rooms are quite good, but expensive. The Inn serves food all day, including specials from a locally well-known chef. There are 8 beds available.
- 1d20 - A small shack with a crooked, hand-painted sign hanging on it. Run by a Wizard (use Abjurer statistics, VGtM pg. 209) who can cast Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion. Charges exorbitant rates.
- If the die is the centermost die, the Inn was the first building built in the village, and the area in front of it forms the village square. The innkeeper tells stories of their distant ancestor, who founded the village.
- If the die is the outermost die, the Inn is a short ways away from town, and the villagers avoid it. Locals say it's haunted, but that doesn't stop travelers and traders from staying there. The innkeeper loves to hear and tell scary stories.
- If the die is anywhere else, the inn is located among the residencies of the village.
A Marketplace serves as trading grounds for the village. Used by villagers and travelers alike, it also allows the village to hold festivals in the open area. The presence of a Marketplace increases the population by 100.
If a Marketplace is absent, the villagers will set up a makeshift market once a week, usually in the village center or along the largest road in the village.
The type of die determines the size of the Marketplace and how often it is used.
- 1d6 - A small area that is used once a week, with villagers pulling wagons into the area to sell their wares.
- 1d8 - A medium-sized area that is used three times a week, with small stalls set up for selling. Children play on them when they aren't in use.
- 1d10 - A medium-sized area that is used once a week, with villagers pulling wagons into the area to sell their wares. Additionally, the villagers hold monthly festivals here in the open space.
- 1d20 - A small area organized around a set of stalls. The most successful villager (use Noble statistics, MM pg. 348) can be found here at all times, selling their wares. The other villagers join in three times a week, pulling their wagons into the area.
- If the die is the centermost die, the Marketplace is the hub of the village and forms its central square. The village is famous for certain products sold here.
- If the die is the outermost die, the Marketplace is a short ways away from town, along a road leading to a larger settlement. The villagers don't like traders coming too much closer than the markets.
- If the die is anywhere else, the Marketplace is formed in a small clearing between the residencies of the village.
A Temple serves as a gathering place for the village, as well as officiating marriages and funerals and offering church services and baptisms. The presence of a Temple increases the population by 100.
If a Temple is absent, the villagers are of many different faiths, and no one holds sway. Each residency will have a small shrine or offering table in a corner.
The type of die determines the type of Temple and who it serves.
- 1d6 - A small stone building which contains several shrines. Though focused mostly on Gods of nature and harvest, the temple honors a variety of Gods. An Acolyte (MM pg. 342) oversees the temple, with minimal spellcasting ability.
- 1d8 - A medium-sized wooden church house. The temple honors the God of the Harvest, and is usually empty unless services are being held. A Priest (use Druid statistics, MM pg. 346) oversees the temple, with spells focused on nature and weather.
- 1d10 - A large stone structure dedicated to the God which the local ruling noble worships. The temple is large enough to serve as a meeting place for the villagers, and is often in use. A Priest (MM pg. 348) with average spellcasting ability oversees the temple.
- 1d20 - A small, wooden structure that appears to be a normal residency. The temple secretly worships a fiendish God that offers bountiful crops in exchange for the soul of a virgin each midwinter's eve. The villagers know this, and size up travelers to determine if they could be kidnapped and sacrificed. All Commoners in the village gain the statistics of Cultists (MM pg. 345).
- If the die is the centermost die, the Temple was the first building built in the village, and the area in front of it forms the village square. The Temple keeper believes the building is situated on holy ground, and indeed, the temple is under the effect of a Hallow spell.
- If the die is the outermost die, the Temple is a short ways away from town, and the path leading to it is well-worn by the villagers. The Temple keeper is a solitary person who keeps to themselves, and the villagers respect their privacy.
- If the die is anywhere else, the Temple is located among the residencies of the village.
Most villagers don't have time for excess drinking and debauchery, but such a structure attracts travelers and traders alike to the settlement. The presence of a Tavern increases the population by 200.
If a Tavern is absent, the villagers are generally dour, and value hard work above carousing.
The type of die determines the size and offerings of the Tavern.
- 1d8 - A medium-sized wooden building offering travelers a place to get cheap ale and food. The quality isn't great, and it's not that crowded. The Tavernkeep can offer a couple spare beds in a pinch.
- 1d10 - A large stone structure with a fair selection of ales and a fine array of meals at standard prices. The locals have made the place their own, and it shows. The Tavernkeep has 2 beds available at high prices for travelers.
- 1d20 - A large stone structure that you've heard rumors about. They sell a high-quality liquor that has the effect of a Potion (of the DM's choice) from the DMG. The place is crowded with adventurers and merchants, and everything is expensive but delicious. The Tavernkeep has 8 beds available.
- If the die is the centermost die, the Tavern was the first building built in the village, and the area in front of it forms the village square. The Tavernkeep respects the village's peace and quiet, and is quick to toss out the rowdy.
- If the die is the outermost die, the Tavern is a short ways away from town, with a path running between it and the rest of the residencies. The Tavern is often loud and wild through the night, since it is far enough from the village that the locals don't complain.
- If the die is anywhere else, the Tavern is located among the residencies of the village.
8. Guard Post
Sometimes, a Reeve comes with a small contingent of guards to protect their village. Though not always respected, these guards always make a village safer. The presence of a Guard Post increases the population by 100.
If a Guard Post is absent, the villagers can be rallied into a torch-and-pitchfork mob by the Reeve or another prominent citizen within 1d4 hours.
The type of die determines the size and staff of the Guard Post.
- 1d8 - A small wooden shack which houses 5 Guards (MM pg. 347). They do regular patrols and gamble or drink when off-duty.
- 1d10 - A medium-sized stone structure which houses 10 Guards (MM pg. 347) and 5 Scouts (MM pg. 349). The Guards patrol the village, while the scouts keep an eye on the surrounding countryside. They are well-disciplined and train while not on-duty.
- 1d20 - A group of 3 Veterans (MM pg. 350) sitting on chairs playing cards. The villagers know to raise an alarm if any trouble happens, and the Veterans arrive in 1d4 rounds to any combat in the village.
- If the die is the centermost die, the Guard Post is located in the Village Center, which consists of any Major or Minor roads crossing through the village.
- If the die is the outermost die, the Guard Post is located next to the entrance of the village, whether that is a Major or Minor road or simply a path.
- If the die is anywhere else, the Guard Post is located among the residencies of the village.
Though most villagers prefer to store their own goods, a local warehouse with a guard can lead to better trading. The presence of a Warehouse increases the population by 100.
If a Warehouse is absent, the villagers will have sheds that contain their crops and livestock.
The type of die determines the size and staff of the Warehouse.
- 1d10 - A medium-sized wooden structure with 2 Guards (MM pg. 347). They are locals who volunteered to perform this work.
- 1d20 - An underground structure formed from an old ruin, an abandoned mine, or other subterranean building. A single Guard (MM pg. 347), a volunteer, watches the nondescript entrance.
- If the die is the centermost die, the Warehouse is located in the Village Center, which consists of any Major or Minor roads crossing through the village.
- If the die is the outermost die, the Warehouse is located near the border of the village, as far from the village's main path as is feasible.
- If the die is anywhere else, the Warehouse is located among the residencies of the village.
10. Local Guild
These guild outposts are a very small splinter of a larger faction. These trade or social organizations often act as the largest social presence in the community. The presence of a Local Guild increases the population by 100.
If a Local Guild is absent, the villagers may or may not belong to a guild, but no more than two villagers will belong to the same guild.
The type of die determines the function of the Guild.
- 1d10 - This trade guild serves as a place to train young adults in the main profession of the town. It is connected to a guild in a larger settlement, and its rules are derived from there. The building is a large structure outfitted with the necessary equipment to apprentice young craftsfolk, and membership is restricted to members of the guild's profession.
- 1d20 - Though it looks like a standard residency, this building houses a social order that is common for villagers to join. Membership may be restricted by gender, age, or race, but villagers of all professions are able to join this community. They have rules and rituals that are not well-known to outsiders.
- If the die is the centermost die, the Local Guild is located in the Village Center, and dominates the social scene of the village. There are as few restrictions as possible on membership, and nearly every villager counts themselves among the guild.
- If the die is the outermost die, the Local Guild is on the outskirts of the village. Membership is very limited, and even others in the village aren't sure what goes on there.
- If the die is anywhere else, the Local Guild is located among the residencies of the village.
11-17. Traveling Merchant
A Traveling Merchant happens to be in the village at the same time as the party. If the party returns, roll 1d8. Treat a 1-7 as 11-17 to determine merchant type, and treat 8 as no merchant.
Additionally, note the position of the die.
- If the die is the centermost die, the Merchant can be found in the village center.
- If the die is the outermost die, the Merchant can be found at the village outskirts, not allowed further into the village for some reason.
- If the die is anywhere else, the Merchant is wandering the streets, peddling their wares.
The village has a stronghold that allows the villagers to take cover in case of an attack. Check the position of the die.
- If the die is the centermost die, the Stronghold lies in the center of the village. It is just large enough to allow the village's population to take shelter there, but it doesn't have much more room. If possible, it surrounds the Reeve's home, the Inn, or the Guard Post.
- If the die is the outermost die or anywhere else, the entire village is contained within the stronghold walls. The villagers may need to open a gate before travelers can enter.
The village contains a body of water. Check the position of the die.
- If the die is the centermost die, the village center has a large fountain. It lies along a major or minor road if possible.
- If the die is the outermost die, the village is surrounded by a moat. There is a bridge leading over any major or minor road.
- If the die is anywhere else, there is a small pond among the residencies.
Whew! So, with all that, we can finally write up a detailed description of this little village:
The village's Marketplace is the hub of the village and forms its central square. The village is famous for certain products sold here. It is a medium-sized area that is used three times a week, with small stalls set up for selling. Children play on them when they aren't in use. Finally, outside the village, a travelling merchant selling tools, kits, and instruments has set up a small cart. For some reason, the villagers don't want the merchant using their marketplace, and thus he remains on the outskirts of town near the minor road. Houses in the village and surrounding farmland support a population of around 600 people.
All that, with a single roll and a bit of charting! I can already see some plots developing around that traveling merchant - perhaps the village is famous for selling the same wares as the merchant, and they don't want the merchant to encroach on their business. Maybe the merchant is a half-orc or tiefling, trying to work their way into the confidence of the villagers. The village has a friendly Reeve and comfortable Inn, so it's even more suspicious that this merchant would be denied entrance. Maybe there's some cultural or religious differences?
|Works for any race - just change "Reeve" to "Elflord"|
I hope this was interesting, or helpful at least to understand how to make realistic villages. Since this is going to turn into a series, we'll have a normal wednesday article next week, but after that I want to do a town generator. Ironically, doing things on a larger scale should be slightly easier!
Thanks for reading!