Making a Settlement

Welcome to the table!

So you’re just about to kick off a campaign that would make Tolkein pack his pipe and nod approvingly. But the party needs a village to start in, or maybe you’re ticking along and the party needs some supplies that you just can’t get off goblin corpses. There’s a time and a place for rusty chainmail in child sizes, but sometimes you want actual healing potions rather than murky cave water with glowing moss flecks in it.

But the prospect of building an entire settlement can be daunting. Or at least, I find it daunting as all heck. So many possibilities for layout, so many things that can happen or go into it.

So lets start with the basics. Any settlement needs a source of water, and a source of food. Well, any settlement for living creatures, anyway. So you need those. Water needs to be where everyone can access it, food will be where there is space for it. This tends to be away from the centre of the settlement as fertiliser offends the noses of the delicately constitutioned(is that a possible hazard for an encounter? It is now!).

From here you will probably want a shop of some sort. Obviously the type of shop you have will depend on what sort of settlement you are in, and what your party has need of. This could include travelling merchants,  a frontier-esque general store, or a specialised shop front for specific goods. Don’t be afraid to limit the stock of the shop, no shop is going to have an infinite amount of storage space, and no shopkeep will be able to keep an infinite inventory list in their heads. Just because the players want something doesn’t mean the shop should have it. Make them work for it a bit, they’ll appreciate getting it all the more.

Outside of these basics, you’ll want to have some houses. These don’t need to be super fleshed out, unless your players are especially light fingered. If they are, might be a good time to remind them that actions have consequences, and nobody likes being stolen from.

This framework is also applicable for larger areas, like big metropolitan cities. All yyou need to do is replace settlement with neighborhood or suburb, and stick a bunch of them together. Some slight tweaks around what goods are available, and how expensive things are, and you’ve now got a workable format for a city. If you haven’t worked out all the details for all of the neighbourhoods, fear not! There’s an easy fix. The players can only access THIS neighborhood because the one next door has been quarantined because of a plague. Or people are barred from entering because of a public insurrection. Or any other reason a part of the city might be locked off. Maybe the locals don’t like strangers, but recognise the necessity of some limited contact. These also neatly serve as potential plot hooks for the party to explore.

Ultimately, the joy of creating a settlement doesn’t need to get bogged down in the minutiae. Have some fun coming up with something cool about this settlement, and let the players find what they need in it.

I’ll see you next time at the table,

Jay Are

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