Sunday, November 15, 2020

Ten Starting Towns

There is a classic dungeoneering set-up that is "dungeon-forward." In such games, the party doesn't spend too much time outside of the dungeon that the players have come together to play. They rest up, maybe buy some supplies, and return to their delve. I find it to be a waste, not least of which because I suspect injecting character into the surrounding society near the dungeon can add a lot to the experience while taking up very little time or effort. 

To facilitate this, I will sketch out ten simple themes to throw over the town outside the dungeon. They will all change things slightly, but shall be deliberately vague and without obvious hooks to distract the party.

1. Bullywug Village
A marshy collection of stilted wooden hovels, kept dry and clean by the ingenuity of the frogfolk who live here. Only the first floor of the tavern is built to accommodate human-sized guests, and a premium is placed on dry goods. A fermented paste from lightning bugs (or will-o-the-wisps) are the standard local light source, preferred to tempermental lanterns and unshielded torches.

2. Skeleton Settlement
The normal, generic town, just without any flesh. Inhabitants are cheerful if sometimes cruel, and leery of holy symbols. The visionary director will interrogate survivors whenever a member of the party dies, and the following week will arrange a musical performance based on the event.

3. Fort on the Borderlands
Everyone's problematic fave? Suspicious folk overcoming an environment they are poorly adapted to through militarism and frequent reinforcement. Will pay through the nose for reliable maps and guides. Has a very different feel depending on whether the party belongs to the same culture group as the fort's captains or the people they are fortified against.

4. Refuge of Refugees
A once-prosperous town that has emptied its treasury to aid displaced populations fleeing dark lords, elemental catastrophes, or The Wizard. Frequent shortages on common goods, but willing buyers for useful treasures abound. Mercy and desperation is on open display.

5. Foreign Port
A coastal, cosmopolitan city that serves as a point of entry for all who would visit the country from afar. Tolerance born from constant and baffling difference. Jeweled and cursed artifacts available to anyone who flashes enough coin. Everything overseen by the domestic guards who make more with every blood-red cent poured in from abroad.

6. Benighted Hamlet
A small thorp with tall walls. The people are afraid, but the danger is not coming from outside. The baroness is eating all the young girls who might become more beautiful than her, or the duke's son is a werewolf and anyone who says so is thrown in prison, or a gang of mirror merchants replace anyone who challenges them. The party may want to stop this, but right now injustice is the status quo, and there's no good lever to change that. Maybe there's the glimmer of a hope at the end of the nearest dungeon.

7. Chivalric Chapterhouse
ha-HA! This "town" is little more than the attendant organs to an order of knights, allegedly just and full-fare. Expect jousting drills, calls for ale, and frequent challenges from giants and other weirdos.

8. Court of Idyll
The sprawling and fertile grounds of a faerie court, with its gremlin, half-elf, and beggar retainers. Abstract currencies, like songs and memories. Addictive fruit. Chivalry that would make King Arthur say enough is enough. Parties of adventurers are advised to stay on the margins or get ready for strange demands.

9. Industrial Waystation
Everyone is coughing and the weather's always bad. Few people come through here, save the caravans carrying raw materials and the deliveries of advanced materiel. Neglected but necessary to some nation-spanning machine. Is it any wonder that these people must turn to strangers to solve their problems? 

10. Plains Meeting Point
A semi-permanently inhabited city, which all nations visit every few years to trade, marry, and learn from each other. Despite disparate tongues, all can make themselves clear in a sign language using their hands, mouth, and feet. There is even less standardization of lengths, weights, and makes than in your usual fantasy world, so everyone makes sure to test things for their fit before they commit to buying them.


  1. These are all excellent! Another ten, perhaps?

  2. I love this! I can only second the right honourable Spwack, this is a great format, and I'd love more towns as well as more 'ten things'. Lovely stuff.