Monday, 27 July 2015

On-the-Fly Village Generation

Ah yes, the humble generic D&D village. The well, the washerwomen, the loosely described homes, and who can forget the remarkably large tavern?
This is all especially true since the nearest adventure locale is a few miles away and so you haven't really thought about this place. You can just sit back and say "uh yea uh sure" to most requests the players will make about local village services, so it isn't a big deal.

But! What if it could be ever so slightly more interesting? Here's a way to do that.

Some notes:
- This is meant to spice up a generic village, not create a proper adventure locale like Scenic Dunnsmouth. If you want a proper adventure locale, Logan at Last Gasp has got you covered.
- This is for creating a village quickly at the table when your players stop in. If they hang around, definitely bulk up the descriptions in the place between sessions.
- This is for making a small village of a few hundred people, most of whom the PCs won't meet immediately.


  • Throw a bunch of stuff onto the table. These are the buildings in the village centre.
    • I use a handful of the ever-useful Jenga blocks due to their excitingly chunky shapes.
    • You could also use dice, cards, or possibly snacks.
    • Don't worry too much about how many, 10-20 is about right. You can always add more later.
    • Every village will have a watersource, a church, and an alehouse. Place these wherever.
      • The Watersource depends on the area. Mostly this will be a well in the largest open space in town.
      • If you've got a range of socially acceptable gods, feel free to roll for which one the Church is devoted to. Otherwise it's the prevailing religion of the region.
      • An Alehouse (or Public House from where we get the term Pub) was the current house in the village where someone's wife (an Alewife) had finished brewing up a whole lot of ale. This was important because the water all stank like shit.
        In medieval times this could be any woman who wanted to make a living, but in the Early Modern era it was married women working alongside their husbands in an increasingly male-dominated industry.
        If the village is on a thoroughfare the alehouse will likely be the classic country pub where the proprietors live upstairs. In a backwater this is definitely just someone's house.
    • Every village will have three interesting tradespeople amongst the Generic Townfolk who are probably farmers or something. Place these wherever.
      • Three tradespeople probably isn't that realistic, but it's enough choice without being overwhelming.
      • I drop some dice on the Vornheim buildings chart to generate these tradespeople, but you could roll on my failed medieval careers table and re-roll anything that's dumb. Or not! It's up to you!
    You're done! You just tossed some stuff on the table, added a few key buildings, and added some random tradespersons. That's enough to get going with and only took a minute or two.

    In the example below, there was a house way out to the side so I made it the Church. The standing block totally represents the steeple.
    The blue gem is the location of a well in the village green.
    I usually make the Alehouse one of the blocks that lands on-edge (marked with coin in picture) but if you're using dice pick one of the 6's.
    Rolling for tradesmen I got Mason, Fortuneteller and Furrier, so I marked them with the coloured disks.


    Now the PCs can enter the village and start deciding what to do. When you've got a chance, you can quickly establish some relationships between people in the town. I use whichever people the PCs have interacted with so far, which usually ties the Alewife and a few of the Tradespeople into a little web of intrigue.
    Vornheim, again, has a Connections Between NPCs Diagram which is very helpful in this regard.
    Alternatively Logan has a list of relationships in the post I linked to before.

    Make sure to add some sort of small-town intrigue in case the party ever comes back. It doesn't always have to be secret cults and mutant children chained in basements, just a bit of simmering jealousy brought to the boil by the sexy Fighter when he passed through or maybe a kid who wants to learn from the Magic User in spite of his apprenticeship to his father's trade.


    1. I like it! I would probably snag a partial jenga set at a garage sale and then draw out some simple huts/ruins/etc on the pieces' faces. Done right, that would make it easier to remember a village with just a quick photo.

      1. That's a great idea! Mine do double duty as Drinking Jenga so they're tragically unable to be marred by a few pictures of rooftops.

      2. I was wondering what was written on those tiles...