Tuesday, 24 May 2016

So I Ran Castle Gargantua... Poorly

After Kabuki Kaiser gave me a copy of this thing to review moooonths ago, my players finally decided to check it out.
And, basically, I fucked up. And not even in a good way.
If you want to know how to run something into the ground and waste a lot of wonderful potential, read on.

How not to run Castle Gargantua:


Assume the random generation gimmick means you don't need prep

First off, running this thing was sprung on me by the players at short notice.
I already had a big fuckoff tower on the map that nobody had ever gone near. Since nobody had ever gone near I'd never bothered stocking it beyond a vague "yea this is a big Skaven tower" idea. When Kabuki gave me a copy of his megadungeon I looked it over and thought "sick, randomly generated thing. I can slap this down here for now and look at it properly when the players start to get close".

Long story short, the players got their hands on the giant eagle from Deep Carbon Observatory due a lucky Halfling mind control roll. It being said Halfling's last session before she moved back to Portugal possibly forever, the party decided they should use this brief power of flight to explore somewhere they'd never been.
"How about this giant tower?" said one person, pointing at a potentially interesting giant tower on the map.
Ha ha yea ok let me load this thing up ha ha yea give me a sec.

Reskin it on the fly
The best time to reskin something is when you've only ever glanced over the contents once, and also when the thing you're reskinning is intended to be a megadungeon that could be the tentpole of a campaign.
And also when you're trying to reskin a grandiose gothic gigastructure filled with stone and bone and blood and lust into... a strange tower inhabited by ratmen.
Just waste all the goodness of the strangeness and replace it with fucking rats.

Pictured: Imagination!

Don't print out the helpful stuff at the back
Hey you know how there's some helpful stuff at the back to help you run the thing? No? Well there is, and it would have been veeery useful in terms of both keeping track of the place as it increased in size and complexity and maintaining a consistent Castle Gargantua between sessions.
Anyway, don't see that. Don't even look at that. Don't go anywhere near the back when you're running it. Great policy.
And you know how there's a list of one-word room and chamber descriptions per area? Different types of room to sell the theme of the zone? Keywords for you to use as general descriptions when people enter a room and cross off as they're used? Don't use those either. Just a giant version of a generic stone walls stone flagstone dungeon. Nothing of note other than bare stone walls. Fun.

Don't tell the players you're rolling as you go
Rather than letting the players know that this is a special dungeon with an interesting roll-as-you-go gimmick, try and hide it. Give them the impression that this is all written down somewhere and it's just like a normal dungeon.
They won't be able to tell, certainly not. The process of divining the dungeon from the dice, rather than being an enjoyable experience, should become a race against time to roll and find results and put them together in your head while you scroll to the descriptions of anything out of the ordinary.
The clatter of a handful of dice behind your hand or screen? Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. Your players won't pick up on the clatter of countless dice at all. Your players sensing your discomfort and trying to help by asking about dungeon details to expand the shared perception of the environment? That's just more stress on top of the rest of it. Breathe fast.
Oh and remember how I said don't print anything out? Yea, just keep scrolling back and forth between the list of results and the descriptions. While trying to pretend everything's written down in a regular room description. Do that.



So is it good?


The worst thing about running it wrong was that I could see hints of how I should have done it. Dungeon generation via dice is a cool thing which I'd quite like to try out properly. But as with anything if you're bad you can mess it up, as I found to my eternal shame.
The other thing is I tend to review things only after I've run them, which I think is an ok gimmick in a world where you're reviewing something that only really becomes real when it's used in play, but if I have a bad experience is it the fault of the product or the fault of ME?!

Like, the book is good. The ideas in the book are good. The art is good. The monsters and treasure and weird things are good. The shape of the thing is good.
So much potential goodness foolishly wasted.

So hell, you now know how and why I messed it up. Let's try something new.


Why I think Castle Gargantua should have been good and unique and interesting as an experience but wasn't because I messed it up and all.


The Sheer Size
Gargantuan castle with huge ceilings, enormous rooms, and a scale of 60' per square? Unheard of. That scale means that the party's torches don't even reach the edges of the tile.
I've got a few megadungeons in my collection because I have a problem, but they're all in the rooms-separated-by-10'-wide-corridors vein. A dungeon at a scale this huge is craaaazy.

Thematic Differences
Speaking of megadungeons, I've spread them around my map and each has a distinct feel.
Stonehell is classical dungeon crawling, easily reskinned and primed for ease of use. This is what I imagined Castle Gargantua to be before I dived into running it.
Dwimmermount is full of history, history about itself and a history of the world which I felt compelled to massage into my own campaign. Dwimmermount is about discovering knowledge.
Barrowmaze is a relentless delve into a world owned by the undead, with the interesting distinction of spreading outwards instead of downwards.
The Castle of the Mad Archmage is the a-wizard-did-it dungeon of deadly whimsy in the Gygaxian style, with wacky traps and strange rooms and an intrinsic unpredictability. It doesn't have to make sense.
And then there's Castle Gargantua which SHOULD have been a baroque and intense megadungeon where the very walls of the echoing halls and cavernous corridors foreshadow the strange sights to be found within. It SHOULD have been a dungeon where each themed section had its own life. Walls bleeding wine as grape-faced guards step carefully through drug-fuelled orgies, blood-soaked barbarians battling in their own private Valhalla, cyclopean statues hewn from the walls of vast and echoing halls. Enter a Lust area and you can tell, from the furnishings, that this is a place where you should be careful of temptations and too-good-to-be-trues. Themes that allow players to predict dangers despite the weirdness, strong themes that set the dungeon apart from others like it.
Instead, swiftly reskinned mole rat people. Great.

The Main Gimmick
I might not have actually said this yet and just sort of implied it under the assumption that you know already, but the main gimmick of Castle Gargantua is that it's set up as a series of themed zones.
Most of these zones don't have traditional maps, and are instead randomised by throwing a handful of dice as the party leaves a given room.
The zones are Stone, Lust, Blood and Wine, each with appropriately themed set dressing and challenges, while special Gold zones feature actual keyed maps and actual keyed room descriptions.
Finally, travel between the zones is in the form of a snakes and ladders setup. After travelling through an arbitrary and DM-decided number of rooms (the default is four), you roll a d6 and the party travels that many zones on the game board.
Now I already love Snakes and Ladders as a game gimmick, but this sounds especially interesting due to its effects on how the game plays out. It takes one kind of map agency from the players ("We should avoid the northwest corner because spiders, but I don't thing we tried east yet") and replaces it with another ("That's two rooms we've been through, do we want to go through another two or head out?").
I'd be inclined, after my experience of trying to hide the gimmick from players, to just let the players in on it completely. Give them a printout of the Snakes and Ladders board and tell them how it's going to work.
How does this pan out in play? No idea! But I'd really like to find out for myself.

Interesting Impacts Yet Unknown
Just like having Snakes and Ladders instead of a traditional map alters gameplay and player agency in a way I'd be interested in discovering, there are a few other unknown effects of rules that I can see maybe happening.
For instance, monsters being bigger (and thus, more powerful) based on average party level. It initially sounds like the sort of challenge-rating balanced combat hokum that I wilfully fled from when I stopped running 4th ed and embraced the loose imbalance of the OSR.
BUT my assumption is that, like the rest of the castle seems to be, once it's been generated it stays that way. This would seem to imply that as the characters explore the castle and level up, the enemies get (literally) bigger and nastier. And THAT means that you maintain the classic megadungeon how-deep-in-do-we-go gameplay, while also having the interesting implication that once a party levels up enough they'll never generate smaller "normal sized" enemies when they enter a new area. They're only going to find the bigger ones.
Unless, that is, the players roll up some lower level woobies and go in to explore.
Which is weird but maybe fits if you play up the fairy tale aesthetic? I want to find out the implications of these things, man! I want to see how it plays properly!


Final Thoughts

I didn't run it good. It looks like it could be very good.
I'll probably do a second review after the players go back, except this time I'm going to use the aesthetic as intended and not try to reskin it.
Really the main advantage of trying to run it was seeing the horrific amounts of squandered potential at play here. I SHALL RETURN.
I am going to solve my problems by placing pouches of magic beans and/or scrolls of Engorge Beanstalk and Anchor Cloud Castle in treasure keys until the party finds one and uses it.

Should you buy it? Yea man.
But learn from my mistakes and run this thing right.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The Beast in the Core of the Earth is the World

We are star spawn.

There is one true life form. There is no other. It is disparate and separate. It spreads itself through the vast gulfs of space.

It feeds on planets.

We were not here when it began to feed on ours. It is why we are here.
When the organic matter of its preplasmic mass first impacted our cooling lithosphere it was the catalyst for the long series of reactions and accidents that led to cellular life.
This happens sometimes.





It sustains itself on the nickel-iron warmth and rich silicates inside our planet, growing and growing to the slow heartbeat of geological time.
And smeared upon the planet's thin crust we grew from the organic detritus it left behind, oozing out of the oceans beneath the eerie light of the moon thrown free by its impact.

It has been growing for a very very long time.

The time of planetary lysis draws near.






It's dead easy to Lovecraftify something by just slapping some tentacles on it, describing it as "squamous" and tacking on some sanity mechanics. Now it's Lovecraft!
Well, not really.
It's not horrific because it's scary looking and will kill you, it's horrific because you've found out that the lives and works of everyone and everything you know are meaningless against the impersonal march of time, that everything to which you ascribe meaning is truly inconsequential. Our existence changes nothing.
Arnold's already talked about this here so I won't harp on further.

This is my ultimate truth of the world. I called it Shub-Niggurath in my notes but to my players it won't have a name. It's not something that has one name, if it has a name at all. It just is.
Shub-Niggurath is a great lifeform. It has the intelligence of an amoeba. When it is ready to reproduce it induces the destruction of the host planet, riding the ruptured rock outwards such that some few of the protoplasmic pieces of itself will impact suitable planets and continue the process.
It is an intergalactic disease, destroying solar systems on timescales that are meaningless to us.

Panspermia is an uncommon side effect of its life cycle. Sometimes the timing and conditions are right to catalyse life on a host planet. Very rarely this life survives to thrive and evolve as we have done. We are elevated pond scum clinging to the crust as it grows below us, uncaring and unheeding and incapable of either.

One day soon it will crack the world open and begin the next stage of its life cycle. It will destroy us forever without knowing that it did so.
Indeed, it has not the capacity to care.

Monday, 30 November 2015

The Mould Junkies of Rutland

Mould just feels good. It amps you up, makes you feel happy and connected to everyone around you. Gives you a sense of what everyone else on it is feeling, brings you up to their level.
It's just a great fucking time for as long as it lasts and it lasts a good few hours at least.

The comedown is savage though. Not just the nausea and the sweating, but the inability to feel empathy for others. If you can't keep the high going you'll come out of it feeling pretty dismal until you can get another hit. Other addicts are going to know what you're going through because they're feeling it too, but you'll seem super weird to any non-addicts because you're constantly misjudging intentions and overcompensating for your inability to read emotions.
This is an issue because the only way you can get high is by being present when the infestation speads to another person, and it's hard to persuade someone to try it out when you're a twitchy scuzzbag with a spreading skin infection.

That's an issue, actually. It'll start growing out over your skin if you don't get a regular fix. That's not such a bad thing though, the comedown's less brutal and the pheromones floating out of your body let your fellow addicts feel what you feel. They want to hang out with you because it's the only way to actually know how someone else feels when you're off the mould, and they want to make you happy because that physically makes them happy too.
It makes you feel connected.

If you go longer without taking a hit the mold gets thicker, bulks up more, fleshy fruiting bodies spreading out in spiraling curlicues across your skin and encrusted clothes. It fills your throat with soft rich loam, softens your movements and motions. You haven't had to eat for a long time and now all you really want to do is find somewhere dark and safe and soft and comfortable, coccooned in a cushion of mould.
It feels nice, really nice, and even nicer amongst others of your own kind. You just want to crawl into a little lump with them, be warm and safe and cozy together. You'd tell your other friends how happy you are but you can't speak through the fungal mass filling your mouth.
They can feel it, anyway, and you can feel them. You can feel the moods and emotions of all the addicts around you.

It's very nice and safe and soft, until a gang of three to eight malevolent psychopaths come in and kill everyone's buzz.
You can feel the anger and pain of all your friends as it spreads through the whole network, as they come into your soft warm place and discuss their dead and share their grief. Their sadness is yours and your sadness is theirs. The interlopers must be stopped, so you can go back to the soft warm happiness you're scared you've lost forever.



Mould junkies seem harmless at first, just the DM doing an impression of a sketchy dealer or Otto off the Simpsons. But they'll do anything to get a fix.
They have unbreakable morale until they manage to infest someone, then just collapse and tell the others to sit back and enjoy it, maybe get some music going. If threatened they'll run off and escape together, nobody wants negativity while they're tripping.

After a while, if an addict can't get a daily high, they'll start to become a Mould Vessel. These guys have 2 hit dice and are surrounded by a cloud of empathogenic pheromones that transmit their emotions to other addicts. This is usually fine, but if they get angry or sad they transmit that to others and suddenly your mob of feel-good junkies are getting vicious.
If threatened a Mould Vessel can excrete a thick cloud of spores rich with pheromones, acting like a smokescreen that also creates a powerful emotional punch in their buddies.

The final stage is the Filled Man, very rarely seen outside in the day since they prefer moist, damp spaces in the company of others of their kind. They clump up into big mounds of mould unless there's something to rouse them.
They're completely silent in their footsteps and their breathing. They have five hit dice and the mass of mould upon them gives them armour as chain. Even in death they continue the cycle, if slain they explode into a cloud of infestation-spreading spores that float on the breeze.
Left undisturbed they will form cysts with others and eventually die in their comfortable embrace, ready to be discovered in years to come and begin another cycle of addiction. 

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Funerals for the Fallen.

Something I put in my house rule doc but never actually made a post about:
Funerals.



In essence:
Take a dead character's remains to a safe place with a church (or cultural equivalent) and you can buy their experience points on a 1:1 silver-for-exp basis.

This represents money spent on funeral rites and memorials and bar tabs and other things purchased in their memory. The player spending the money does, of course, say what they're spending it on.
It basically pans out as a limited but consequence-free version of Carousing.
Bear in mind I'm on the silver standard here, if you use the gold standard you'll want to make that gold-for-exp.

After some testing it's been a remarkably good little rule!

It encourages the retrieval of your buddy's corpse from whatever horrific death consumed them, accomplishing my favourite little trick of merging the intentions of player and character together.
"We've got to go back for Larry's body! We've been through too much together to let him rot in this hellhole!" and "We've got to go back for Larry's body! He's a big sack of easy exp!" end up resulting in very similar behaviours.
You get the same sort of thing with Level Drain. "Holy shit, A GHOST!" and "Holy shit, LEVEL DRAIN!" both induce the same mixture of fight and flight. The trick is to make sure the player knows the mechanics at the time.



Some other impacts:

It's much more worthwhile to take higher level characters' corpses with you.
Nobody really cares about Jimmy Newguy the Level 1 Thief, so leaving his corpse to be eaten by Carrion Crawlers isn't a big deal.

But Big Bill Ballswinger the level 5 Fighter? He's been with the party for a year! He's seen more newbies get eaten than I've had hot rations and saved my life on fifteen separate occasions! He needs a proper burial with a parade and a statue and everything!

On that note, higher level characters "deserve" more lavish send-offs than their lower level brethren. Nobody's going to do much for a level 2 Thief, but that seventh level Cleric is getting a whole damn church raised in his honour.

Getting a corpse back out of the dungeon is interesting logistically, especially if you didn't manage to kill the thing that killed them. I had players venture, against their better judgement, into a spider lair to retrieve a corpse. A corpse! Usually I only see rescue missions to retrieve still-living hostages!

It acts as a way to let long-running players start their next character at a higher level.
In my game, you can put money in the bank. This is for safe keeping and a wild 2% p.a. interest rate, but mainly because you can pass the money (less a 10% death tax) on to your successor.
This means a new character can swagger in, burn all his money on buying up his long lost twin brother's exp, and be back on his feet minus a huge chunk of his inherited fortune.
And getting rid of that fortune is, perhaps, the real point.

Monday, 31 August 2015

I'm Writing a LotFP Thing!

So hey, this is exciting. Not only have I got a magic item and a monster into the Referee book, as a result James Raggi himself asked me if I want to make a thing.
I SURE DO!


So the general outline so far is like:

The Royal Forest of Rutland once existed across a vast swathe of south-east England. In the 13th century, most of the laws protecting the royal forests were removed.

In time the Forest of Rutland would be deforested.
It should not have been.

Deep inside, protected for centuries by the Verderers and the Forest Law, a great wen of rotting mould and organic matter swells and pulses.
It does not hunger, for hunger implies sentience.
It does not wish to infest all mankind, for wishes imply will.

That it consumes us, fills us, causes us to spread it across the land and reduce our civilisation to dust. That is not its will.
It is simply what the mould has evolved to do.



PLANNED TO CONTAIN:

  • A sandbox on a similar scale to Better Than Any Man
  • A slow (but random!) spread of infestation across the countryside
  • Less "fungal zombie plague" and more "gin riots". A cheap drug-analog causing societal fuckery and breakdown of the status quo
  • A focus on relationship maps and human-scale issues over dungeons
  • Still some dungeons though, let's be real
  • LotFP-grade world fuckery possible
  • Ergot poisoning for good or ill
  • Witchhunters
  • Opportunists
  • Addicts and madness
  • Prophets and loss

TITLE AS YET UNKNOWN
But The Doom That Came to Rutland amuses me. 
Rutland Water drowned a whole lot of villages when it was formed which means I can say THIS IS WHY, and the tiny county's motto means Much in Little which would surely be easy to twist into ominousness.

Monday, 10 August 2015

So I Ran a crappy free dungeon but it's ok I made it better.

I've been incredibly lucky with the modules I own.
One Page Dungeons, LotFP offerings, Last Gasp, various megadungeons, everything.

I did not realise this until now.
Behold The Tomb of Rakoss the Undying. A free thing that I picked up because it was free and billed as an adventure for levels 4-6, which is a bit of a hole in my collection now that my players have leveled up a bit without dying.

My players entered the dungeon by surprise so it is really my own fault for placing it without reading it properly. I was blinded by the radness of the cover.

It contains such wonders as:
- Giant fucking explanatory text bit about an evil army general.
- Giant fucking monologue from a quest-giver guy that runs for 500 words or so.
- Giant gaping wasteland of an overland map that takes two weeks to go from Generic Fantasy City to the dungeon. There is nothing of note in between except some legitimate quantum ogres who attack automatically when the party is sleeping within a day's march of the dungeon.
- Top tips like "Randomly roll dice at key moments behind the screen to give the illusion that they are in a dangerous area".
- Tons of awful boxed text.
- Arbitrary "these spells don't work here" effect on the dungeon because god forbid somebody use Teleport in a 10 room dungeon. "This curse is a plot device and cannot be overcome by spells or abilities of characters of this level".
- Just random stock monsters everywhere in the actual dungeon that just kind of hang around until you trigger the encounter.
- Every single monster appears and attacks, no question.
- +1 weapons and armour like it's going out of style.
- Spellbook that contains every spell up until 5th level. So unique. That's going to be real fun to list out to the player.
- The radical lich dude looming over the dungeon in the cover isn't even in here.

I now see how far the OSR has come in game design and playability, rather than simply aping the worst of the past. This dungeon could have been designed by any number of random dungeon generators.
But it was written two years ago, maybe it's taken that long for things to percolate.




Let's fix it

New background

I'd placed this dungeon behind a statue in a mausoleum in a large, ancient graveyard for rich families. There's a smallish village next to it that is built around maintaining the graves.
The biggest mausoleum is for a family of career soldiers (the Jingois), and the dungeon itself is accessed from inside it as a sort of combination bunker/war room/temple.
The family have deep ties to a family of smiths (the Smiths, naturally) who also have a mausoleum in the graveyard.

Jingois is pronounced "Jin-go-iss" unless you are pretentious like Alex (below) who pronounces it Frenchily like "Jing-wah".

The main wrinkle is that Alex Jingois, dweeby descendant of the soldier family, has styled himself Ave Myxylyx and turned to Necromancy while his parents are away fighting in the wars.
He's got the keys to the dungeon so he's been experimenting with the dead and trashing the place and stealing his corpse-based material components from the graves.
He's incompetent and level 1 but has the vicious streak of the cowardly. If he finds out people have been going into the dungeon he'll try to trap them in there so he has someone to blame for the mess when his hero parents return.
Everyone in the town thinks he's an alright guy who keeps himself to himself, if a bit of a black sheep of his family. He hasn't been showing up at the alehouse lately though, so people are starting to wonder if he's getting depressed without his parents around.

I usually avoid magical weapons as loot, but this is a dungeon belonging to a long line of warriors.

The Mausoleum
The Jingois Mausoleum contains a bunch of valuable grave goods, the most chief of which is the Red Rapier. It's clutched in the hands of a shrivelled body in a stone coffin with a glass lid. The lid can't actually be removed, so must be smashed in order to get the sword.
The Red Rapier gets more powerful the more blood it consumes, but eventually turns its bearer mad with bloodlust.
The Red Rapier has turned the tide of many famous battles. Ensuring it is only used in times of dire need is the charge of both families.
Alex thinks he's doing a good thing by meddling with Necromancy, the Red Rapier feeds on blood and skeletons have no blood, so they're the perfect way to stop the Rapier's wielder if they go out of control. He thinks his parents wouldn't understand.

Also here:
- Two sets of good quality leather armour. One's chest is painted with a surprisingly christmassy reindeer leaping in front of a fir tree. This is the Jingois family crest. The other is painted with an acorn in front of a crown sitting on top of an anvil. This is the Smith family crest.
- 4 silver-tipped mahogany spears.
(These things courtesy of Abulafia)

At the back of the mausoleum is a statue of an armoured warrior holding a big black axe. In the light of a torch it seems to move menacingly, although it does not. The base hinges down (and has been used often and recently), revealing a crawlspace that heads into the dungeon proper. Someone in heavy armour can just about fit if they've got people helping them through.

The map is alright though.

The Dungeon in General

The walls, floors and ceilings are absolutely covered with carvings of famous battles. They're all painted in a variety of colours like gaudy greek statues.
The one thing they all have in common is a man with a red sword at the forefront of every battle, always striking the killing blow.

Notes on the famous battles are on the room key.
Considering my campaign world backstory is a mixture of Dwimmermount, Hammers of the God, and a sort of mangled real world alt-history, you might want to change the details.

Alex heads down to the dungeon every night when it's getting dark (7ish), changes into his necromancer costume, and experiments with spells. He's not evil, just fascinated and a bit obsessive like that kid who tried to build a nuclear reactor in his shed.
If he finds evidence that people have been down there: (ie. basically any normal dungeoneering activity) he'll try to set things up to repel them. Next time people enter the dungeon, he'll turn up an hour later with five recently-animated zombies, along with any surviving skeletons he can find.
If he wanders down after the party enters the dungeon: he'll drag some coffins to block the the crawlspace and run home and dither, coming back in an hour with the zombies.
If he's in the dungeon when the PCs enter: He'll be in Room 7 behind the secret door. Unless the party is super quiet, he'll hear them and run out of the dungeon as soon as he thinks they've gone into another room. Then he'll do the above.

"Ave Myxylyx" is a level 1 Necromancer with Darkness 15' Radius prepped. He wears a shirt with the leaping reindeer-against-fir of the Jingois family stitched on in fine thread (until he changes into his necromancer duds). He carries a mahogany spear tipped with silver and a crossbow with a full quiver. He's got keys to all the doors and both mausoleums and knows where the secret doors are.
His shirt is worth 600sp, spear 200sp.
In his spellbook, Eyes of the Dead, Repair Skeleton, Darkness 15' Radius, Subjugate Undead.
Has 2 scrolls of Animate Dead left.

Room Key

I use Excel for room keys usually, makes it easier to take notes and change stuff.
So you can find the room key here.

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.



Procedure

  • 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.

    Example!

    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.