Jan 212019
 
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While there are smaller permanent settlements, like a hamlet, world builders don’t typically need anything less than a village. There should be a reason the village exists there, such as good farmland or natural resources, or even just being the halfway point between two other locations that can’t be traversed in less than a day, requiring somewhere to stay. If there’s a water source there, what starts as a known resting/camping place can become a village when inhabitants or passers-through begin adding buildings. If this is the case, an inn or two is quite likely and might be the focal point of town. Naturally, such a place is likely welcoming of strangers.

By contrast, a village that a group formed in an out-of-the-way location might be there to retreat from others, especially if the founders share a vision, such as a religious creed. We don’t need to state why our village exists, but a detail like this can make it easier to characterize the place. It also creates reputation, which one of our visiting characters might know. Or they might find out the hard way. Villages tend to have a population with a limited number of religious and political views, which our characters can run afoul of if wearing a talisman of a despised god, for example.

A village is unlikely to have a dedicated, official protector like a sheriff, but the most skilled warrior living there will probably take it upon himself to protect others and resources as needed, with help from the able-bodied. These individuals may not be formally paid, as it’s not a full-time job, but receive perks like a free meal or two for an act of bravery. They could also be trouble instead of a protector, intimidating others.

A village usually lacks a surrounding wall or has a wooden one at best, and less durable materials like wood are likely to be used for buildings. The quality of craftsmanship might be poorer due to fewer trained carpenters or blacksmiths, but if such individuals are present, they may be prominent. If our visiting characters have skills a village needs, they may be able to barter their work for food and lodging. For example, the town’s blacksmith died recently—just don’t make his death yesterday (that’s too convenient). If this was months ago, not only is this more believable, but it means more work is needed as a village falls into disrepair. This sort of thing works with wizards or healers, too, or mechanics and scientists in SF.

For map making, we seldom draw villages unless doing a close-in view of where the story takes place. A continent or regional map would have so many villages as to become unwieldy. This means we can often invent a village on the fly for our needs. We’re less likely to care about its symbol, colors, slogan, or anything else, and can skimp on much of this until needing it. Unless the village is famous for something, we’re unlikely to ever mention its existence unless characters are arriving there or originated from it. Villages seldom have zoning and are more likely to have buildings that are a combination of a store on the ground floor and a home above it. And everyone knows everyone else, for better or worse.

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