Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Check out most any fantasy map and you will see big dots representing cities, small dots towns, squares are castles and hollowed out dots are towers. Then there are the triangles or some sort of symbol to indicate where the dungeons or lairs are hidden. Then there are those spaces in between. The long dark lines that indicate a road or a dashed line telling the viewer that a path winds through that place. Alongside of these roads are small unnamed dots. These hamlets or villages should not be ignored because of their size. They can become intimate places of peace for your players to recover between adventures or a place to blast out their frustrations.

Name It
With all those dots on the map you're not going to want to detail every village down to the 'goober' the village dog. Use a random name generator or just crank out some names for the village. I often use the surrounding geography to determine the name or I'll name it something like, Garwin's End. I have no idea what it means, but that dot now has my attention and I want to know what's going on there.

The Lord
Someone is going to be responsible for the village, to collect the taxes and defend it from all those critters that always seem to pester humble farmers. The lord should live in a nearby town or tower, some sort of fortified area with a half-day walk from the village. If you've fleshed out the other areas on your map the lord should be apparent. The village's condition will reflect the lord's attitude.

Since my campaigns are set in the typical feudal medieval style, my villages have reeves that are in charge of the village. I use the reeves as the spokesmen of the village. They don't command anyone, but they have their Lord's ear and will report troublemakers if needed. They also are the main person the players will be dealing with when it comes to village matters. I won't go into all those other positions within the village because it won't matter much during the game.

There may or may not be a church in the village. There might be a central location, but if there is a church in the village it's critical to get a brief write up on the priest.

The Wildcard
There shouldn't be a wildcard in every village, but every ten or so there should be a person with some sort of talent or unusual place. In one of my villages there is a 12' stone sword thrust into the ground. I thought it was a cool image, but haven't figured out why it's there yet. When the players get more involved in that area I will make sure there are rumors floating around about it.

So it will only take four, possibly five sentences to give your village a skeleton description so when the players be-bop over hill and dale and come across the village of Garwin's End they can say, "Cool, look at that big stone sword." as Walter the reeve walks out with Gurdy the young priest and greets the players in the name of Lord Bundle Britches. These descriptions provide the dots and your imagination can fill in the rest.

1 comment:

  1. Great advice for the Sandbox GM to flesh out the countryside.