Today I want to share some thoughts about playing with PCs in a single location. Most fantasy adventures and campaigns are designed as a never-ending journey & quest pursuit. There are only a few RPGs (that I know) which are designed as more less stationary (Birthright, Home of the Blooded, Ars Magica…).
Why? Well in my opinion a medieval/fantasy village can be a wonderful setting to play in. I know… Crops, woods, cows, chickens… But wait, I will explain. The whole point is to give your PCs quests that are balanced with their abilities. Emotions stay the same, whether a 30th level mage fights some demons or a 1st level fighter joins the brawl at the inn.
What is interesting in playing with villagers? Well, peasants are the silent heroes of every fantasy RPG. (I understood this while writing some short stories). They are also extremely vital to the whole fantasy world (simple things like food, skins, clothes, food, and more food…). They are like small ants who work for their queen – a single ant means nothing, but without an army of workers, the queen would die.
What about roles in the village? The roles are very diversified, since every village tends to be self-sufficient. So, we have a village chief (or council of elders/notable personalities). We have a blacksmith, healer (herbalist), a midwife, simple strong peasants, maybe an innkeeper, butcher, etc. Every person in the village has their own vital role in the community. It worth noticing that in medieval times, villages often had a responsibility to send a few capable men in time of war to be soldiers (so the PCs may be experienced in fighting). There can be local woodsmen, hunters etc. Pretty much EVERY class you can find in a fantasy world has its counterpart in a peasant community (maybe at a low level, but always there!).
What about events in the village? Peasants live very close to nature, so they know all about natural and seasonal cycles. There are times when hard work is required, such as seasonal harvests. There are times of boredom like winter. There are times of feast (after a harvest) and famine (during and after winter).
Sometimes unusual events take place such as visits by wandering artists or soldiers seeking shelter in a time of war (not always a good thing). Sometimes outlaws can cause trouble. Sometimes merchants (caravans) come to trade and bring news.
And what about adventure ideas? Most of the villages have nearby towns, monasteries or castles. So you could easily tangle adventure ideas using village neighbors. Lustful nobleman? Greedy bishop? Outlaws from town? Why not? All of them can be a good start for an adventure.
Maybe there is an old sacred place in the nearby woods ? Maybe there are legends of monsters or ghosts in nearby marshes? Maybe there villagers who are members of an ancient forbidden cult? Maybe there is a legend about long forgotten treasure near the village? Maybe there is a plague in the neighborhood? Maybe the outlaws want to kidnap a local girl? Maybe there is… Well, I can spend forever coming up with adventure hooks based in the village. Of course most of them can be played with an ordinary party of PCs who just VISIT the village. But with a little twist you can turn your PCs into village folk, who are part of the setting and the adventure.
Tell me what you think! Stay cheerful!
[Editor’s Notes: I love this idea and have considered going with zero-level characters in more than one campaign over the years. And the village concept would work beautifully in just about any medieval-based setting. Think of the many adventures of Robin Hood with his Merry Men as they try to free the people from the cruelty of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Though Robin himself is a noble, consider the local band of thieves without any noble ties. They were there before Robin came to join them (in some versions of the story, anyway.
Imagine a village on the shore of a sea or lake with Viking-like raiders on the other side who use hit-and-run tactics to raid the local villages for food, supplies, and women or children to keep their numbers high. It’s regular village folk who would fight to keep what’s theirs. Even the new version of Conan the Barbarian uses that as a basis – a peaceful village raided because of something hidden there long ago. Those villagers didn’t go down without a fight either (though the movie itself wasn’t the best at times), but Conan wasn’t the only hero – just the only one to survive!
There’s plenty of inspiration to be had in history and fiction, so see what you can come up with! –Fitz]
- Ancient Scroll’s Secret Room: The Dwarf, The Elf, and The Onion (gameknightreviews.com)
- Basic Paths: Fangs from the Past from
G*M*S Magazine (gmsmagazine.com)
- Howling Tower: Respect the Lowly Dungeon from Kobold Quarterly (koboldquarterly.com)
- Sant Marti d’Empuries (begurinfo.wordpress.com)
- Role of the village antagonist? (ask.metafilter.com)
- Cuandixia Historic Village (hereisbeijing.com)
- A Few Guilt Trips for PC’s (rolang.com)