Welcome back to my series about Homebrewing for tabletop role playing games! As promised I’m going to talk about creating a world from scratch. In this post I’ll be using the techniques to build a world that I discussed in the first post. Since my first post wasn’t a step by step instructional, I’ll be skipping around in the instructions while I make this town. This sample village is free to use! All I ask is that you let me know you’ve taken it and tell me about how it went in your story!
First step in this strategy was to find a map of a small, village, rural setting, outpost for fortress. Something large enough to give you a decent pool of NPCs but not too large that you’ve got loads of work to do. I’ve picked a small fishing village and will use the map I generated for the first post. I’ve taken it into photoshop and quickly colorized it, but you absolutely don’t have to! The gray scale version is just fine as it is! The second step is to determine the name and the type of people that make this place home. I’ve picked halflings as the people of this village. So, that means that the majority of the places in the area will follow halfling naming tropes.
Please allow me to introduce you all to the village of Zannan. A quaint fishing village halfway to nowhere, tucked away in the shadow of rolling hills and a small bay along the coastline. Outside of the village proper are numerous farms, dairy farms, cow pastures, and orchards. Between the village and outlying farms there are approximately fifty people. This gives you plenty of NPCs to use for providing quests. A step I didn’t cover in the last post is detailing your map out a bit. I’ve done that in the map below, this helps the players with immersing themselves into the world.
I want to think a little bit about what major locations would be surrounding the village. Something that gives a good plot hook is a ruin a days ride by horse to the north. As a ruin is always an excellent place to adventure! I’m going to say that the ruin is so old that the knowledge about the people who built it has been long forgotten. The villagers give it a wide berth as it is said to be haunted. Its true name is lost, but they call it Duskhollow, as it always feels a bit darker there.
There is also a family known as Ashbrook that own a great deal of land in the area. Their orchard and vineyard produce wines that are well known. The matriarch of that family is called Merru Ashbrook. They own quite a few farms that they lease out to other families to manage for them. Lastly a day and a half by horse to the southwest is the edge of a huge and dense forest known as the Winterroot. There is an old trade route that passes through the heart of that forest. The road isn’t used often these days, there’s something dark and scary that’s made the Winterroot its home. The rest of the surrounding area is just farms, pastures, and orchards.
The last thing I want to do before I get into creating my two NPC lists is to consider the type of political structure where this town exists. The village of Zannan sits in one of the far corners of the Kingdom of First Light. However, Zannan has very little to do with the kingdom, they’ve been there longer than the kingdom has been in existence. The people of Zannan put stock in the leadership of their elders much more so than the King.
Now comes the hardest part, at least for me, creating enough NPCs that you have a good pool to use when your players totally surprise you and go where you are so not prepared to go! I normally have about ten fleshed out NPCs. These will have a one or two sentence back story, along with a name, job, and personality quirk. These are the NPCs I expect my players to interact with the most. Within these ten fleshed out NPCs I’ll insert one or two exotic people, in this case at least two who aren’t halflings. I use an excel document with four columns. This makes them pretty easy to find while you are running your game.
The plus of putting more detailed locations into your map is that you already know what jobs you need! On the map we’ve got twenty jobs already. So by putting locations on the map you have done a lot of your NPC work ahead of time. Now, which of these jobs do you think your players will interact with the most? If your players are anything like my players they will go to the pubs, inn and tavern. They’ll probably also want to go to the blacksmith, armorer, tanner, Fletcher, apothecary, and general store owner. I feel pretty confident this will give me enough to work with.
|Quiny Seaskipper||Seaskipper Inn Keeper||Makes up random lies about unimportant things for no reason.||Inherited the Inn only after her father died and passed it to her brother who in turn ran away with his boyfriend.|
|Riclan Wisegrain||Wisegrain Pub Owner||Will challenge anyone to arm wrestling no matter their size.||Is desperately in love with Malne of the Suncrest Tavern, but their families have been at war for several generations so all he can do is pine for her.|
|Malne Suncrest||Suncrest Tavern Keeper||Constantly murmurs religious incantations.||Knows Riclan is in love with her and is just waiting for him to grow a pair and court her. But won’t wait forever.|
|Norzor Frogriver||Frogriver Pub Owner||Gets physically angry when people mispronounce his name.||Has run the pub for the last hundred years. He has fifteen children with the same woman, Loli, but they’re not married.|
|Thomorn Beestinger||Blacksmith||Fond of headbutting anyone he gets in an argument with.||The Beestinger clan has lived here for so many years they are believed to have built the town, he makes sure everyone knows.|
|Fryn Beestinger||Armorer||Rules her home and the forge with an iron fist.||Married Thomorn in their early years and because of her shrewd business sense they’ve made a great deal of money. She makes sure everyone knows.|
|Dom Brisbane||Tanner||Is always trying to recruit people to his or her religious/philosophical beliefs.||Is a human who came to the village many years ago in his youth. He befriended the fletcher and was gifted the business last year.|
|Carstine Tallcrippler||Fletcher||Germaphobe.||When she was a very young halfling she nearly died of an illness. Since then she’s terrified of being sick again.|
|Stonys||Apothecary||Talks faster than her mouth and brain can keep up with.||A Half-Orc who was literally fished from the waters some years ago. She quickly shows her worth with herbs and salves and opens up shop in the old fruit sellers building.|
|Adoven Homeforger||General Store Owner||Wears an excessive amount of gaudy jewelry.||She recently moved to Zannan from the capital city of the kingdom, but she won’t talk about why.|
With the NPC quick list you’ll only give them a name, job, and a quirk. As with anything that your players interact with things could change that you weren’t prepared for. So you can always add a simple back story to any of the NPCs on the quick list as you need it. I will usually have between fifteen and twenty NPCs ready for a place that I plan to have my players in for awhile. That way I only have to work on NPCs once. Of course your players will without a doubt ask you to have someone to talk to that you weren’t ready for. But they can be added to your list on the fly.
|Merru Ashbrook||Owns Askbrook Orchard||She is shrewd and ruthless.|
|Tirurrius Springtide||Mayor||She is an overly honest person, always telling the truth even to his or her own detriment.|
|Vund Flintguard||Constable||He can only see out of one eye and hear out of the opposite ear.|
|Aliora Heroesblood||Fishmonger||Dwarf. She loves the sea unlike many dwarves.|
|Jelarorn Coldcreek||Lighterman||Ferries goods from big ships to the dock. He is terribly shy.|
|Ruzal Lightbrow||Weirkeeper||Makes fish traps. She flirts mercilessly with anything.|
|Yala Heartroot||Cobbler||She is very short tempered.|
|Samgindi Rumblesword||Grocer||He wears too many rings and always asks if you have any for sale.|
|Wilorin Shieldheart||Baker||Half-Elf. He acts like a prince but dresses like a pauper.|
|Denoth Graygaze||Tailor||Is sure he can read your mind.|
|Rahrih Dreambough||Mercantile Owner||Calls everyone they meet Bobin because she can’t remember names.|
|Mamror Cinderdew||Butcher||Will close his eyes while cutting meat to freak out customers, thinks its funny.|
|Rungoth Frostsurge||Barkeep at Seaskipper||He uses big words incorrectly.|
|Irieuvial Graveltoes||Waitress at Wisegrain||Gnome. Is sure she’s met you before.|
|Dafiyah Trueguard||Cook at Suncrest||She always has a toothpick in her mouth.|
|Pak Keenbend||Waiter at Frogriver||Believes everything he’s told.|
|Sanenthu Caskvalor||Professional Drunk||She wears a different wig everuday.|
|Dasgokan Flintcloud||Beggar||He is narcoleptic.|
The last two things I’m going to do for this setting is to determine what I want the village to look like and have one urban legend. Figuring our a general feel for all the buildings helps to yet again give your players a way to immerse themselves in the story. Zannan is going to have a lot of stone and cobble roadways. The houses are made of plaster and thick dark wooden beams. They are very fond of gaudy signage outside of their businesses too. However, they never build taller than two stories, they don’t like being that high off the ground.
There is a legend that is whispered among school aged children that says there is a man who came into Zannan in search of a vast and amazing treasure. He searched everywhere, even hiring someone to take him out into the bay and swam for hours in search of it. Finally after days of looking he was exhausted and ready to give up. That night when he fell into his bed after many ales he had a vision. The man saw himself wading through piles of treasure surrounded by old and gnarled trees. Immediately he woke up and raced into the Winterroot Forest. It was months before the man was seen again, and when he was he’d changed. He wandered out of the woods blabbering and acted as if he’d lost his mind. When the mayor tried to help him he ran from her screaming that he’d sworn to it that he’d die. That was the last anyone ever saw of the man.
With that you have an entirely fleshed out small village, surrounding area, and NPCs that your players can interact with. A few locations outside of the village that can offer easy quest tropes to you. Also, each NPC can be tasked with missions that the players can take, much like a newbie island concept in a MMORPG. In order to start here you’d just need to have a story. However, this little corner of the world is ready to use! Please let me know if you use the village, I’d be really interested to know if it worked for you!
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Upcoming Homebrew Articles:
Adding more details to the simple village, creating plot hooks, and expanding the area
World Building starting with a country history
World Building starting with a continent map