Pillage the Village
And now for something completely different . . .
In between the Sumerian sandbox setting I thought I might work on some other bits and pieces, this is the intro for one of them . . .
A village is a village is a village. Villages are boring. So boring. Small petty places where nothing ever happens and everybody knows everybody. Boring. I should know I grew up in one. Boring. There is nothing interesting about villages and really at this stage does any GM really need a supplement on villages? I mean how many variations on peasants, hovels, mill, temple or shrine, tavern and blacksmith do you need? None I would imagine. Surely any decent referee can come up with a village, and all it’s denizens on the fly. And if you really need or want all that faux-medieval agricultural detail and realism I know for a fact that Judges Guild and Harn have you covered. No, if you’re in the market for an OSR or DIY D&D supplement on villages I’m guessing you’re looking for something different, maybe something weird, or gonzo, or gritty, and no offence to corporate D&D but maybe something that feels more like a village in a fantasy world than a frontier town in the old west (I’m looking at you, Red Larch).
So what makes a village interesting in an RPG? Or should the question be what do we use a village for in an RPG? Rest and recuperation, shopping maybe? Well, you could but what does that give you beyond “Yes you can rest and regain HP’s in “Sandalford” yes you can buy rations, yes you can buy some rope. No, they don’t have Halfling size Plate armour the blacksmith of Sandalford doesn’t really have much call for it. He can make you a trowel though. Also, you can buy as many pairs of sandals as you can carry. It’s kind of what Sandalford is known for. That and crossing the river without a bridge or boat. Sandalford. Now you don’t need a Village supplement to cover resting and shopping in villages. What else then? Adventures? You can certainly use villages as a setting for adventures, I’ll probably even write one or two for this supplement, but I would guess a village setting would be limited in scope for type for adventures you could write or run and after five or so would get repetitive. Of course, nearly all adventures that start in a village end up in a hidden dungeon under the village anyway. So that’s just a dungeon with a village tacked on. So what then? Well for me it always comes down to this with OSR play: Exploration of a fantasy world.
I’m not talking literally I don’t expect the players to want to explore a village, torches held aloft walking in marching order, in the same way, that they might explore a wilderness or dungeon. No, rather it’s the interaction with NPC’s I’d expect a group to want to explore in a village. Especially in a randomly encountered procedurally generated village, they happen upon. Earlier I said that villages and village life were dull. That’s not strictly true. On the face of it they are, but it’s the people who create interest. Go to any village and you’ll find under the quiet respectable neighbourly facade a broiling mass of suppressed emotion, affairs, lies, family infighting, feuds, theft, betrayal and sometimes murder. The darkest of secrets can lie hidden beneath that smiling front of the docile peasantry and that’s just in the bog-standard faux-medieval renaissance fare type of fantasy village.
So to make villages in an OSR milieu more than just a place to grab supplies or stick a dungeon under you need to flesh out the people, the inhabitants and give them motivations, needs and wants, dark desires and forbidden dreams. However, is an RPG play aid not a novel, so the villagers should probably have things they want from the Player Characters, and possibly things the players might need from them. Mostly, when the Player Characters roll into the village any villager with an agenda is going to see them as a tool to further that agenda. That or see them as a threat. Therein lie the exploration and adventure. That said let's get straight to creating all the boring mundane parts of a village in Chapter 1: Boring Shit You Still Probably Need for Your RPG Villages.