But since I’m enjoying this exercise, today I thought I’d color in my sketch of Grimwych a little, so as to work it up into a fuller adventure location.
To understand anything I’m talking about in this post, you’ll probably want to go back and read the post in which I first created Grimwych, if you haven’t already. See you back here soon!
What’s Going On in the Haunted Hamlet?
So far, the town creation system has generated two main clusters of interesting stuff going on Grimwych.
The first is the obvious: the hamlet is haunted. Following this thread leads us into a surprisingly complex web of relationships in town. Here are the main elements of this firstvcluster:
The graveyard contains the bodies of warriors who died in a battle here centuries ago – let’s call it The Battle of Grimwych. In Grimwych, the anniversary of the battle is called the Night of Wraiths. Every year, on that night, the spirits of the dead warriors rise from their graves and charge through the streets of the town, refighting the battle in which they fell. Any living person left in the street on the Night of Wraiths is in serious trouble.
- Right outside the graveyard, Grimwych’s tiny village square is dominated by a statue of the Last Lord Grimwych. The Last Lord Grimwych was the very man who led the warriors to their deaths in the Battle of Grimwych, all those centuries ago. But after the battle, Lord Grimwych was dead, and the once-proud town was so decimated that it could no longer support a Lordship in any case. Thus the lands came into the control of the church.
- When the spirits of the dead warriors rise, they march out to the town square and kneel in front of the statue to renew their vows of fealty, before re-enacting the battle itself in the streets of the town.
The Last Lord Grimwych was also the master of the ruined tower that molders on the North edge of town. The tower was once a serious fortification, but it was destroyed in the same conflict that included the Battle of Grimwych.
- There is more than one person in Grimwych who claims descent from the Last Lord – a claim which is also a claim to ownership of the ruined tower. But none of these claims can be proved one way or the other. Since no-one has the money or the motive to rebuild the tower anyway, it’s mostly just a question of pride.
That’s a pretty interesting cluster of adventure hooks.
The second cluster of adventure hooks relates to the question of who really controls the town today. Here are the main elements of that second cluster:
- Since Grimwych belongs to the church, the pastor of the village church is nominally in charge. He used to be a monk in one of those beer-brewing monasteries, and he still brews his own beer. The beer is pretty good, and is quite beloved in the neighborhood.
- But the pastor doesn’t really have much power. In fact the real power in Grimwych belongs to the local pawnbroker, who controls the purse strings of most of the poorer residents.
- This conflict between the pastor and the pawnbroker (or, if you like, between the spiritual and the secular) plays itself out in a conflict over control of the church stage. In principle, the stage ought to be used for staging morality plays, religious pageants, whatever passes for a nativity scene in this fantasy religion, or what have you. But according to ancient local custom, the people of the poorest district in the hamlet have the right to determine what gets performed on the stage – and they often choose to stage things that the pastor doesn’t approve of. Since the pawnbroker effectively controls the poor folk of the town, in many ways the stage is really under the pawnbroker’s control.
This second cluster is a very odd one. One part of it is promising – “Conflict Over Who Really Controls The Community” is classic material for dramatic narrative. But another part of it seems to me less promising: “Conflict Over Who Really Controls The Stage Near The Local Church”?!? That doesn’t really seem the stuff of high adventure.
But I can still see it working, as long as it’s dealt with in a reasonable way.
I see two reasonable ways to deal with it.
Firstly, even if you were dropping Grimwych into an over-the-top and slightly tongue-in-cheek Dungeon Fantasy campaign, I still think this second cluster could provide some fun background material – probably by way of comic relief, even farce. If the villagers of Grimwych are always obsessing about the church pageant, then this gives you a quick way to characterize them, and it renders them suitably silly, compared to your dashing heroes. If you contrast the villagers’ concern with the minutiae of the church pageant with your own heroes’ concern with the real dangers of the ghostly warriors who haunt the hamlet, then maybe your heroes start to look even more heroic by comparison. Obviously whether or not this is a good road to go down depends on the tone of your campaign.
But there’s also a second, more promising way to use the conflict over control of the church stage. You have to just make it very clear that it’s not the performance itself that matters (the play is not the thing…) – what matters is the deeper power struggle it represents. I can easily imagine running a nice scene in which the PCs are in the audience when the local people stage something really outrageous or offensive to the pastor – the key to making this interesting would be to make sure that they, like everyone else in the audience, are capable of reading the subtext, which tells them who really has power in the town. You could even punctuate a whole adventure with multiple performances on the Grimwych stage – the PCs’ first arrival in the town might be during a certain kind of performance, but then, as the town changes during the course of the adventure, the performances begin to differ in kind. The stage could serve as a really convenient narrative shorthand with which to dramatize the fact that the power relations in the town are shifting – possibly as a result of the PCs’ actions. (And if you could possibly do all this via a series of Hamlet references, so much the better … 🙂 )
Bringing the Two Clusters Together
So we have two different clusters of adventure hooks – call them the “Hauntings” plot and the “Power” plot. Could we – should we – bring them together?
The obvious way to lay them on top of one another would be to declare that the Pastor and the Pawnbroker are the two people who claim descent from the Last Lord of Grimwych, and thus ownership of the tower. That would conflate the two plots pretty effectively.
But I think perhaps it’s better to keep them more separate than this, to preserve the richness of the play environment. (This is particularly important if you’re running a sandbox, I think, but even in a more narratively focused campaign, it’s nice to play against a rich and varied backdrop).
So my instinct would be to tie them together, but a little more loosely – probably by declaring that at least one of the people who claim descent from the Last Lord of Grimwych is deeply in debt to the pawnbroker. This gives us an obvious thread that the PCs could follow to move from one plot cluster to the other.
Fleshing Things Out
Let’s now flesh out both of these clusters a little by creating names and personalities for the key players. Who? Well, let’s see… We need:
- The Last Lord of Grimwych
- The beer-brewing pastor
- The pawnbroker
- At least two people who claim to be descended from the Last Lord of Grimwych – at least one of whom is also heavily in debt to the pawnbroker.
That should be plenty for now. Let’s take them one by one, using the People system on this site.
- The Last Lord Grimwych
Name: Godfrey Grimwych (in his lifetime, usually addressed simply as “Lord Grimwych”)
Appearance: He died three centuries ago, so no-one really knows what he looked like, but the statue makes him broad-shouldered and long-limbed. (But maybe that’s the sculptor’s flattery?)
- The Beer-Brewing Pastor
Name: Jon Grosvenor (more usually known as “Pastor Jon”)
Appearance: Big-boned, wears a large holy symbol on an ornate bronze chain in an very conspicuous fashion.
Memorable Mannerism: he’s almost always wearing a broad, beaming smile.
Interesting Fact: he’s surprisingly open-minded about all sorts of things -particularly pleasurable vices.
Hopes and Fears: Despite his position as pastor, those who know him really well may realize that his deepest fear is that his gods don’t consider him worthy.
What He’s Doing When You Meet Him: He’s probably playing a game of Quoggam (see below!)
Background: Pastor Jon used to be a monk in a monastery that brewed fine beer. When he became the pastor of the little church in Grimwych, he gave up his position in the monastery – but he saw no reason to give up the brewing, which he enjoyed greatly. His beer is well-regarded in the local area.
Pastor Jon is a very keen player of a “Quoggam” – a board-and-pieces game something like checkers, though significantly more random (if you must know, randomization is achieved through the use of a spinning top). Though Pastor Jon strongly disapproves of gambling in theory, he’s not always been so strict – as a younger man, he was an avid gambler, always willing to bet his shirt on his next Quaggom spin.
Pastor Jon doesn’t feel as strongly about stopping the hauntings as you might expect. His religion is no friend to the restless dead, and from a certain point of view, it’s his job to get rid of them – but honestly, that’s a job he’d rather not take on, since he can’t see himself succeeding at it. He’s aware that many ministers of religion have tired and failed before him – these warrior-spirits have been haunting the town for the last three hundred years, for heaven’s sake.
- The Pawnbroker
Name: William Broker (Often just called “Broker”)
Appearance: William is blessed with a very welcoming face. He’s also a very graceful mover.
Memorable Mannerism: He tends to stare at you for a long time without blinking. It’s a bit disconcerting.
Interesting Fact: He’s in the habit of weighing things carefully before making a decision.
Hopes and Fears: Normally William is a very confident fellow, but he’s easily intimidated by anyone who is both physically attractive and sexually confident.
What He’s Doing When You Meet Him: Probably getting drunk.
Background: William is a pawnbroker and moneylender. He’s not a bad guy, but it’s fair to say that his main interest in life is making a profit. Many of the poor people of Grimwych are seriously in his debt, and though he doesn’t lean on them too heavily – he’s no loan shark – he certainly expects to be repaid with interest. Accordingly, there are many people around Grimwych who are eager to keep him happy. Given the situation, things in town tend to go his way.
William has an odd fondness for the ghosts that haunt the town. Though he would deny this (even to himself) if pressed, a rather discreditable part of feels that they’re good for business, since their presence keeps the town from prospering, and he profits when people are down on their luck. This fondness has its limits, of course – when the anniversary of the Battle of Grimwych comes around, and the spirits walk the streets, he hides behind locked doors like everyone else.
- A Possible Descendant of The Last Lord Grimwych
Name: Rohesia. She styles herself Rohesia Grimwych.
Role in Society: (I rolled twice here and got “Nobility” and “Underworld”, which is fun.) Rohesia is an accomplice to The Greenhills Six, a group of bandits who prey on passing travelers in the surrounding region. She helps to arrange supplies for them, acts as their eyes and ears in the hamlet, and occasionally fences a small selection of their stolen goods. She also claims to be the direct descendant of Godfrey, the Last Lord of Grimwych, and often puts on airs in the village. So far, no-one has either proved or disproved her claim.
Appearance: Rohesia is old enough to have pure white hair – though she still has a full head of it. Despite her age, she’s blessed with beautiful, unblemished skin. She’s not particularly vain about it, either.
Memorable Mannerisms: She has a very stiff neck (probably simply due to her age), and she turns her head very slowly in conversation.
Interesting Fact: She has a history of making terrible and self-destructive life decisions. (Her decision to get involved with the Greenhills Six is a good example of this).
Hopes and Fears: Over the years Roheisa has run away from so many things, and hurt so many people, that one of her daily fears is that someone from her past will turn up and cause her problems.
What She’s Doing When You Meet Her: She may well be hastily trying to conceal the presence of Hugh Ratter, one of the Greenhills Six who she’s taken as a lover.
Background: Like many people in the town, Rohesia is basically resigned to the hauntings – she figures that if she doesn’t bother the spirits, they won’t have any reason to bother her. Giving up a single night of the year by staying indoors isn’t a big deal to her. She still has a healthy respect for the lethality of the spirits when they do arrive, though – her lover Hugh keeps trying to convince her to help bring stolen goods into town on the Night of Wraiths, using the fact that everyone is locked indoors as cover – but she dismisses that plan for the foolishness that it is. No-one sensible goes outside while the spirits are walking. Of course, she does have a history of making poor decisions…
- Another Possible Descendant of the Last Lord Grimwych
Name: Kennis “Moonbearer” (“Moonbearer” is a nickname: Kennis is well-liked in the village since she’s local, kind-spirited, and a good listener, but others do tease her for being naive; calling her “Moonbearer” implies that she’s got her head in the clouds.)
Role in Society: Kennis works in the church as assistant to Pastor Jon.
Appearance: Tender skin, hesitant of speech.
Memorable Mannerisms: She keeps a comb in her hair, but she has a habit of taking it out, fiddling with it, and then putting it back in again, repeatedly.
Interesting Fact: Kennis seems to know everyone in Grimwych. Partly this is because the hamlet is full of her relatives, but partly it’s because she’s a highly social person. She’s not much of a talker, but she’s a very good listener, and she loves to hear about other people’s lives.
Hopes and Fears: Kennis genuinely hopes to do good things for other people. She’s nice that way.
What She’s Doing When You Meet Her: Whatever she’s doing, she’s probably in a hopeful mood.
Background: Kennis is a Grimwychite, born and bred – as is her whole family. In fact, once you count her aunts, uncles, and cousins, you’ve counted a goodly proportion of the hamlet’s population. Her family has a traditional claims to be the descendants of the Godfrey, the Last Lord Grimwych – and Kennis is from the most direct line. She has no siblings, and her parents are long since dead, which, in the view of many people in the family, makes her the sole heir. Of course, there’s nothing to be inherited nowadays, unless you count that old ruin of a tower…
Kennis lives in the heart of the hamlet, in considerable poverty. Like many in Grimych – including most of her extended family- she’s deeply in debt to William Broker. To be honest, though, that doesn’t worry her much – everyone she knows is in debt to William, and nothing thing terribly bad ever seems to come of it….
Kennis is terrified of the spirits – her elder brother was killed by them when they were both children. She would very much like them to be put to rest in some way.
Well, that gives us a pretty detailed little hamlet, just waiting for some PCs to come and mess it up. It would only take a bit more work to make it a complete adventure location. Most of that work would be coming up with stats and playtesting.
Here is the annotated map of the village, as it now stands:
Thoughts and comments very welcome!