The first step in creating a home base settlement for a new adventuring party is figuring out what the geography is, how many people live there, and what kinds of places there are. I cover this in Villages and Towns World-building - Part 1.
Once the basic outline is complete, one can begin with the details and the plot hooks for the adventurers to follow. This also gives us the chance to revise our settlement and to make it more what we want it to be.
Not everything in the settlement needs to be detailed and often it is better if it is not. That way if you realize that something needs to change or you want to give a new connection or hook you can add it in at any time.
We're going to cover the essential buildings that the players will likely spend time around and create some basic information that can be used for answering player questions and figuring out options.
The buildings will be given a basic layout and some ideas of how they operate. The main NPC's will be given names and some basic character traits.
There will be an adventure hook or two included with each building. It will all be fairly basic for now, just to get the ideas in place. Then we can begin expanding on these in Part 3.
We'll begin with the place where the adventurers will likely spend most of their time: the inn and tavern. This is where they will likely be living in between adventures, eating their meals, and searching for rumors.
Even if much of the characters' time here is done away from the table, i.e. not role-played, it'll still need a good amount of detail.
The Inn and Tavern combo will be a large building, two stories, with a large central common room taking the center of the ground floor.
The door to the stairs up and a door to a good-sized private dining room will be on one side of the common room while the bar will take up much of the other side. Behind the bar will be the main food and drink prep area with large fireplaces against the back wall for making stew and/or skewers of food.
An enclosed area only accessible through a door behind the bar will be the office for the business. In the semi-enclosed space behind the bar opposite the office door will be a pantry and stairs down to the root and ale cellar.
Creative Process - Sources
Creating ideas for gaming requires very little expense. A good library will have books about medieval castles and communities, dark age archaeological information, and myths and legends, ghost stories and fables.
For instance, many books of medieval life will often have plates showing engravings of the interior of many types of buildings. But even then a little thought and even some time in a modern tavern can give a good idea of what to expect.
A large central common room, perhaps a private dining room or two, an open kitchen behind the bar so all the good smells of cooking food can whet appetites, and a few closed off storage rooms or offices.
Stairs to the upper floor if there are rooms to rent and stairs to the cellar unless the place near a ocean, swamp, or other place with a higher water table and frequent flooding.
Upstairs will be a centrally situated hall that runs the length of the building. There will be a maid's closet across from the top of the stairs, but otherwise the upper floor will just be taken up with eight rooms to rent, four on each side of the hall, and each room with two single beds and two footlockers.
An attic space can be reached through a trapdoor in the ceiling at the back of the maid's closet. The attic is mostly empty though it could contain things left behind by previous lodgers or patrons of the tavern below.
The semi-attached stable will have half a dozen stalls for horses and mules and a paddock for exercise and overflow. It has a hayloft above the stalls where occasionally the stablekeeper will let poor travelers sleep for a few coppers.
The major NPCs will be the owner and the barkeep. Shondra Kartin once was a mercenary sell-sword who retired and bought the Inn. One of her most trusted companions and fellow retired sell-sword, Kian Barnabus, helps her run the place along with members of both of their families.
They are matter-of fact and businesslike but willing to chat. Shondra's brother-in-law Dale runs the inn's stable. Dale is naive to the point of foolishness at times, but he's good-hearted enough to listen to a sad story and possibly make a loan out of the few coins his wife lets him keep.
The Inn and Tavern combo will be a clearing house of information, and while some of the rumors may just be rumors, some might lead to adventure.
Rumors/adventure hooks: The town drunk claims to have seen a dragon flying over the northern woods. Some farmers are having troubles with giant bugs in their crops.
The owners decide to auction off abandoned items that have been left at the inn. To get an idea where your dragon might be from, you can make up it's lair, and of course its name with my Dragon Name Generator
The next likely place for the adventurers to spend time and money is the general store and trading post. The general store is a two-story building.
There is a small sales room inside the front door from the market square where some basic household items can be found on display. A counter at the back of the sales room is where purchases are made and where special orders can be placed.
The small room on the far side of the counter has a door leading into the large warehouse where goods are stored. Most of the ground floor of the warehouse is open with the exception of three very secure offices along the back wall.
There are even a large pair of very secure barn-style doors facing the main road for easier loading and unloading of carts and wagons.
The stairs to the upstairs area are centrally located and the upstairs is a series of halls with locking storage rooms off of them. These are where harder to get and more valuable items are kept, and where storage can be rented by travelers, merchants, and adventurers for reasonable rates.
Creative Process - Shops
For trading posts the environment might be very different from the superstores we see today: a smaller display room where some common (and generally cheap quality and/or inexpensive) items can be displayed and a counter with a larger storage area behind it.
Unlike a shopping superstore there are only a few employees at a trading post and no loss prevention experts. Most everything of value will be displayed out of reach or be kept securely in the storage room to be brought out by another employee when asked for.
No weapons, shields, or suits of armor will be where they can be easily grabbed by shoppers and either stolen or used to attack the staff.
This leads to another difference between modern life and medieval life, even in a fantasy RPG.
With usually only one person and at most three or possibly four people actually engaged in helping customers there’s going to be more of an effort put onto keeping many things well out of reach.
Players should also know that they get something only after they have paid for it in full. There are no test drives of horses or wagons, no practice with new swords or shots with bows. Buy it, take it, then test it somewhere else altogether.
Especially in a place where ‘thief’ is an approved and available lifelong career, the seller makes sure that they get their money, every time. Even to the point that a charmed merchant will get a new saving throw with a much easier success chance if they are being asked to give discounts or to let someone ‘borrow’ some equipment.
Survival is driven by sales and there is zero insurance for the merchant who loses their stock.
Since the general store mainly deals in basic merchandise that is needed in town they will not have much of interest for adventurers beyond basic equipment, plus some good quality arrows and spears made by the blacksmith and the woodworker together. However, there is a chance that some standard non-magical equipment of value to adventurers may be in stock.
The chances for one of any item are equal to 50% minus 1% for every gold piece the item costs on the equipment list, with a minimum of 5% chance. Each additional item of that type is 10% less likely to be in stock, and the first failure means no more rolls are made. Thus a long sword (15 g.p. sale value in 1st edition AD&D) would have a 35% chance for one to be available, a 25% chance for two, a 15% chance for three, and so on. If an item has only a 5% chance to be in stock, there will not be any more of that item available.
A standard rule can be that every two weeks or so the chances reset due to trades with merchants and or other adventurers. But due to the scarcity of these items anything with a % chance to be found will cost at least double the list price in the book! The store will also buy or trade for many items from adventurers, though they will value the item at half its standard list price.
The shop has been owned by the Emersyn family for generations. Wilhemine Emersyn is the ruling matriarch of the family. Though her children now have grandchildren she is still a sharp businesswoman and despot.
Her oldest son, named Abner as all first sons are after the original founder, handles most of the day to day business with his mother's insight and advice when she wants to be involved. Abner's son Abner acts as the main barter agent, taking one of the business wagons around the outskirts to see what the locals have to sell or barter and to take goods to exchange.
That Abner's son, also named Abner, rides along with his dad to get a feel for the business for the future. The middle Abner's wife Glydia is the person that customers will deal with in the store.
She is astute and intelligent and can quickly value goods and determine fair prices, though she will charmingly defer to the front manager, her husband's younger brother Bors, for purchases of adventuring gear.
She will leave the adventurers to chat with one of her assistants while she goes and finds Bors, tells him what the stuff is worth and tells him how much to offer. Bors, a huge bear of a man, will come up and do as instructed to complete the deal.
Adventure hooks/rumors: A caravan has not arrived and the Emersyns need scouts to discover what has happened to it. And, much like the Inn above, perhaps there is an auction of unclaimed items from the storage rooms that can lead to adventure, such as an old book with a hidden map inside.
Next is the government building. It is a sturdy stone building with a bulletin board on the front wall in between the main door and a secondary door. The main door leads into the clerks' office and the secondary door leads to the peacekeepers' office.
The clerks' office is one large room with benches on either side of the front door, and a counter dividing the seating area from the two clerk's desks behind it facing the benches and front door. There'll be a stool or two behind the counter for the clerk's assistants to use and a standing desk against the side wall where the assistants do paperwork.
Next to this will be a storage cabinet for paperwork and other office items. A door in the right wall in front of the counter will lead to the peacekeepers' office. A door in the back wall will lead to the justice of the peace's office.
The justice of the peace's office will be large, since it will also hold storage cabinets for paperwork. There will be a very sturdy locked door in the right hand wall of the justice of the peace's office that leads to the strongroom.
The strongroom itself will be thick-walled and have a couple of storage cabinets and several strongboxes, plus shelves for anything of value you want placed there. The peacekeepers' office will be a single large room with a few storage cabinets and desks.
A locked door will lead to the clerks' area, one across from it will lead to the cells, and a third will lead out front. There will be four cells, two on each side of the short cell hallway, with solid walls and thick iron-bound doors with small windows in them for checking on the prisoners.
Create Process - AdventuresThe information from the previous sidebars, and that gained through the library and the internet, can provide the GM not only with a fountain for creativity but also some seeds for adventures.
Starting from the previous sidebar, if someone steals the merchant’s goods they will be desperate to get it back and/or exact revenge on the thieves. If the adventurers were the thieves then they can be hunted and pursued by both agents of the law or vigilantes intent on recovering the goods and earning a reward.
Killing agents of the law will only darken their reputations and increase the number and strength of the hunters.
But what if they’ve been set up? Someone could have used a disguise, a spell, or a magical item to appear to be one of the characters when they committed a crime.
A town cleric’s detect lie spell might (or might not) exonerate the character, but they will likely want to chase down and capture the fake and return the stolen goods to restore their reputation.
And even if the characters were in no way part of the theft they could be drawn in by offers of reward to become vigilantes and track down the thief themselves.
And there are even more possibilities from there.
What if the merchant is the thief and is blaming innocents? What if the person “seen” stealing is an innocent and a doppleganger is responsible? From that one concept a myriad of options comes to mind.
We'll start the NPC's with the justice of the peace. Telfor Ballard was appointed to this post by the overall rulers of the region after a long career as a soldier and small unit commander, so he probably has at least two levels as a fighter.
He's very law-abiding, fair and impartial, and wants to do good for his adopted community. The clerks are Ruben Klement and Bronwyn Maitane. Ruben will usually be in charge of the merchant and taxation paperwork while Bronwyn will handle paperwork for the peacekeepers and for the villagers' transactions.
Sergeant William Tannen is the chief peacekeeper. The Sergeant likely is at least a first level fighter as is his second-in-command, Corporal Rosie Krantz. The other three are well-trained militiamen who might be first level fighters but might just be sturdy boys and/or girls who know how to swing a club.
The Sergeant is in command during the days and the Corporal at night with two peacekeepers on during the day and one at night.
Adventure hooks/rumors: The Sergeant wants specialists to handle some calls that are beyond what his people can handle. This could include hooks mentioned elsewhere: a missing caravan, giant bugs destroying crops, or some sort of dragon that needs investigation.
There also could be other hooks: rumors of bandits on the southern road, orcs in the northern mountains, goblins to the west, ogres to the east, anything like that.
The smithy might see some business for weapon and armor repairs, iron spikes, or other such items. It is an open-fronted stone building where the red glow of the forge can be easily seen in the shadows of the building at all times of the day.
There is a small enclosed room off in the corner beside the open section just big enough for a desk where the smith's wife keeps the books in her own odd shorthand. The open front of the building is actually just a large window as a waist-high counter keeps people from wandering into the dangerous areas of the forge.
With the exception of the small office, the rest of the smithy is one room. There are lockers under the front counter where goods for sale are stored. A pair of locked doors lead out of the back of the smithy, and a grill of iron bars is lowered to cover the business window at night.
The NPC's here will be Olgin Dwarf-friend, the smith, Olgin's wife Klara who takes the orders, sells the goods, and carefully hides the coins in their savings, and Choncey is the apprentice smith.
Adventure hooks/rumors: A simple story one could be learning why Olgin is called “dwarf-friend”. There are also the opportunities to connect to previously mentioned hooks. Perhaps the missing caravan had a wagon bringing Olgin the iron ore he needs for his business.
Last on the places of interest to the adventurers will be the church. The small temple to the god of merchants will be easy enough since it has the least requirements. It can be a simple and small one-room building next to the government offices. To make it even easier, we'll say that Ruben next door is a first level cleric and maintains the temple.
The church to the goddess of agriculture will be a larger building on the outskirts. The church itself will be made of wood with either carvings or paintings and murals of scenes of crops and growing things both inside and out.
The church itself will be a large building with one large room and two smaller ones behind it. The large room is the church proper while the smaller two are robing rooms and storage.
Behind the church will be a hillside amphitheater for when the crowds are too large and the weather too hot to crowd indoors, and next to the church will be the parsonage where the clerics live. Guen Highmeadow will be the high priestess of the church.
She'll also be a fifth level cleric in case the adventurers need any curing spells. Her second in command will be Marcel Ravenwing, a second level cleric, and the remaining three will be first level initiates.
I will also include a small group of 'old faith' nature worshipers centered around a small druid's glade past the far fringes of the outskirts. This group of druidic followers will not be at odds with the church of agriculture, but not quite aligned either.
They each consider the other just another way of venerating the gifts of nature. Their leader will be a druid named Kinley Cade who is fifth level and who is mentoring a pair of first level druids. Most of the druidic faithful work as hunters and gatherers for the village.
Adventuring hooks/rumors: For the small temple they are the same as for the government building since a clerk is the temple cleric and caretaker. For the church on the outskirts the farmer's troubles with giant bugs would be learned here too.
For the druids there could be a hook about a hunter seeing a large winged shape overhead when he was in the woods one day, giving credence to the town drunk's story perhaps? There could also be missing hunters and gatherers that need to be found.
Now we have added depth and character to our burgeoning village of Alberton and provided people for the characters to interact with and ways to get them involved with the town as something more than just a spot on the map.