GURPS · Worked Example

An Example of Village Creation

Today I’m taking my Fantasy Settlement Creation System for a spin, just to show how it works.

This time, I’ll be creating a small hamlet.   I’ve got no idea what’s going to happen next – we’ll see!

Step 1: Theme

First, I roll for a Theme.

(Rolling…) 2,4: “Haunted”.

Interesting.  “Haunted Hamlet”, here we come!  (Maybe it’s the ghost of the Hamlet’s father?  Just a thought…)

Step 2: Memorable Feature

Now for Memorable Feature for the whole hamlet.

(Rolling…) 2, 4 again!  Is something wrong with these dice?

In any case, 2,4 here means “Historic Change.”  The flavor text reads

This settlement is notable for having been redefined by an important event at some point in its past. Whether this event was centuries ago, or just last week, its effects are still very evident.  It might have been a dramatic change of rulers, a natural disaster, a religious vision, the discovery of easy riches, a devastating war, an exodus of peoples, the arrival of new cultural groups…   Maybe the whole town burned down in the great fire of 1073, or was destroyed by the cataclysm that ended the Phoenix age, and had to be rebuilt.  Maybe it used to be much bigger than it now is, and now the streets feel empty.  Or maybe recent wars have led to a huge influx of refugees, and the place feels overcrowded.  Or perhaps… 

Ok, so we have “Haunted” and “Historic Change”.  There’s also a very obvious way to put these together – clearly, the hauntings were originally caused by the historic event.     Was there a battle or massacre, after which the ghosts of the slain kept haunting the village?  Or maybe the historic event was the arrival of some sort of necromancer, spirit-worker, or similar, who started to raise the ghosts?

I lean towards the first idea.  So, for the moment, let’s say that this hamlet was the site of a terrible battle, centuries ago – and on certain nights of the year the spirits of the dead warriors get restless.

But maybe this will change, depending on what comes up next…

Step 3: Determining the Layout of the Settlement

Let’s keep this simple by rolling for a Basic Town Plan, with no coastlines, rivers, or confluences.

(Rolling…) 1, 5.

Ok, so our little haunted hamlet is laid out like this:

example-of-village-creation

That’s a pretty interesting town plan – what explains that odd protrusion on the left, I wonder?  Let’s find out…

Step 4: Creating Districts

Since I’m creating a small hamlet, it’s worth recalling that “District” is a bit misleading: each “District” here is probably just a building or two.  But that’s ok.

Let’s start with the left-most hex, since that’s so interesting.

(Rolling…) 5,1: “Governing” – which means I get to choose between a “Ruling,” “Religious,” “Law and Order” and “Military.”

What to choose?  Well, real medieval villages tended to be built around a church, so let’s call this the village church (i.e a “Religious” district).

Now for the hex immediately to the right of the church.

(Rolling…) 1,4 : “Culture” – a tavern, theater, opera house, arena, or similar.

This is a tiny hamlet, so it’s not likely to have a real theater, let alone an opera house or arena.  I’m tempted to call this a small tavern – but that seems a bit odd, right next to the church.  Hmmm…

Ah, I know! Maybe this is just a simple stage, set up right next to the church, that gets used for religious performances – morality plays, religious pageants, fantasy versions of “nativity” scenes, or what have you.

In any case, I don’t have to decide right now, and later developments may change my mind – so I’ll note down that it’s a “Culture” hex, and move on.

Now for the bulk of the hamlet.  I’ll do this all at once, to keep things moving, starting with the hex at the top, and then working my way down.

(Rolling, rolling…)  My results: Historic, Poor, Money,  Plaza, and then we’ve only got one hex left and we don’t have any hexes appropriate to the “Haunted” theme, so this one automatically becomes either a “Graveyard” or “Hazardous” hex.  Let’s call it a Graveyard.

Right!  Our town plan now looks like this:

example-of-village-creation

Looks good.  Now let’s add some Memorable Features to each district, and start working out exactly what this all means.

Step 5: Memorable Features for Districts

Now I’ll give each of these Districts its own Memorable Feature.

(Rolling, rolling…)

Ok, here are my results, district by district:

The “Religious” District: 4, 5: “Local Cuisine”. Ha!  What kind of “local cuisine” is made in the village church!??  Hmmm…  Ah, I know: let’s declare that the Pastor is an old monk, who used to belong to one of those old beer-brewing monasteries.  He’s left the monastery now and become a local church pastor, but he has no intention of giving up the brewing!  His beer has a good reputation in the local area.

The “Culture” District: 1, 5: “Idiosyncratic Government”. This is the “stage” area for performing church pageants, morality plays, etc.   How can a stage possibly have an “Idiosyncratic Government”?   Well, let’s see…  I guess one would expect a stage of this kind to be controlled by the Church – so let’s mess with this expectation.  I hereby declare that, by local custom, the people of this hamlet are the ones who get to decide what gets performed here – and sometimes the performances they stage aren’t to the Pastor’s liking.

The “Historic” District: 3, 1: “Internal Conflict”.  This area is “Historic,” so let’s call it an old, crumbling, mostly tumbled-down tower – a fortification from a bygone age.  And let’s say that the “Internal Conflict” is over ownership: there are are a few people in the hamlet who claim to be able to trace their ancestry all the way back to the original owners of the tower –  and so sometimes arguments break out over who really owns it.  Not that it matters – no-one in the town has the means (or the motive) to restore it, anyway.  But for some people in the hamlet, it’s a question of pride of ancestry.

The “Poor” District: 2, 5: “Idiosyncratic Government” again.  Ahah!  That actually works really well in combination with the “stage” area.   Let’s say that this is a small, muddy collection of dilapidated hovels and lean-tos, where the poorest folk live.  And the”Idiosyncratic Government” connects us up with the Church Stage area, earlier – the poor folk who live in these hovels, right in the heart of the hamlet, are the very people who, by ancient custom, get to decide what gets performed on the church stage.  Which is nice for them, because the stage is right next door.

The “Money” District: 1, 5: “Idiosyncratic Government”.  Again with the “Idiosyncratic Government”!  Surely the odds of that coming up three times are pretty low?  Well, as it happens, we can totally work this in.  Let’s say that this “Money” area has a few more hovels, one of which is the home of the local pawnbroker and moneylender.  And because we just got a third “Idiosyncratic government” result, let’s say it’s the pawnbroker who really calls the shots here, and in the poor district, and thus effectively controls the church stage, too.  So we have a nice potential conflict here between our beer-brewing pastor, who feels he ought to be in control of the town, and the pawnbroker, who really controls the town by controlling pretty much everyone’s purse-strings.  And the church stage, which might seem irrelevant, is actually an important site at which this power struggle is carried out.

The “Plaza” District: 2, 3: “Famous Person or Group.”  Ahah!  This is obviously a little village square dominated by a very old statue – a monument to the lord who commanded one of the armies that fought in the bloody battle here, all those years ago.  And let’s tie this into one of our earlier results – this is the lord who used to own the tower – and so this is the lord that a number of people in the town claim to be descended from.

The “Graveyard” District: 4, 6: “Special Event.”  Ah, perfect!  Let’s say that every year, on the anniversary of the battle, everyone in the hamlet stays inside and locks their doors.  Why?  Because that’s when the spirits of fallen warriors rise from their graves, march out into the town square, kneel before the statue of their Lord to renew their ancient vows of fealty, and then begin to re-enact their ancient battle in the village streets!

Now our town plan is starting to take shape.  Take a look:

Example of Village Creation.jpg

Now we need to come up with a name for our haunted hamlet.  I could just invent one, but perhaps I’ll head over to my Fantasy Location Name Tables for some inspiration.

First I’ll roll for a few Medieval English-style Town Names, and then I’ll roll for a few “Haunted” modifiers.  Once I’ve assembled those ingredients, I’ll see what kind of name I can cook up.

First, some medieval English-style town names.  (Rolling, rolling…)  Culthorpe, Culchester, Garthmore, Balwych.  Interesting.

Now for some Haunted modifiers. (Rolling…)  Alabaster, Grim, Shade, Wraith.

Ok – let’s now mix them together.  Garthshade?   Culgrim?  Wraithmore?  I quite like the last one as a name for a haunted hamlet, but perhaps it’s a bit too obvious, even for me!  What about Grimwych?  That’s still pretty obvious.  But I like it.  Grimwych it is.

Welcome to the haunted hamlet of Grimwych (pronounced “Grimmich”).

And We’re Done!  (Maybe?)

Now, at this point we have a pretty good picture of this little haunted hamlet.  I’d probably stop here if I were were really running a game – particularly a collaborative or solo game, where things need to be left open, so as to generate surprises later.

But I think it might be fun to continue to explore Grimwych – so look out for another post on this score soon!

EDIT: ….aaaaaannnd here’s that post, as promised: Fleshing Out Grimwych

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9 thoughts on “An Example of Village Creation

  1. Nice walkthrough of the system Joe, I’ve had a go myself and found it straightforward and logical to use with lots of variety to the results. I’ve created a large town called ‘Rathpele’ (by reversing the name that originally got generated) with a town plan based around a river. I chose between the different town plan types with a d4 to keep it fully random. I love the way each area gets its own memorable feature which provides real life to each new location. Very nice addition to your site!

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  2. Rathpele’s overall theme is ‘Cultured’ and it holds a ‘Special Event’ which I figure will be an annual Carnival. It has a Governing district with the feature of ‘Strange Magic’ which fits right in with my Discworld campaign; an impressive structure in the Military district, which will be an ancient castle; there is also a Hazardous district at the southern end of town which suffers from internal conflict! So it has a load of great narrative possibilities already. I’m going to draw it up properly on some hex sheets and plug it into my campaign!

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