Songs of Erui: Designing Dorsen

Dorsen is the "homebase" for my Songs of Erui campaign. Its a farming community with strong spiritual ties, since I wanted to emphasize the influence and importance of spirits in the campaign early on. Dorsen surrounded by a ring of menhirs that have been carved with crude depictions of various animal gods, and they have been integrated into a wooden wall for defense. The wall contains a particularly powerful spirit named Corann that can defend the folk of Dorsen. The wall and menhirs give the village a circular shape, and I kind of divided it into "tracks": farmland is on the outside (closest to the wall), while houses are closer to the center.

In the middle I dropped a hundred-foot deep pit for some reason that I figured I'd expand upon later (and I eventually did). Currently no one is aware who/what made the menhirs or pit, or what purpose they serve. At the time I just wanted some interesting features that might see usage later in the campaign, and to add some mystery since Erui existed long before humans and other mortal races showed up. The village also incorporates a lot of natural flora, providing a stronger link to the spirits. I didnt draw in all the trees, but they are basically located between all the housing (you can kinda see where they were gonna go).

I dont didnt really intend for any major adventures to occur in Dorsen, but I like to have village maps because it helps players get a sense of scale and location. Plus, its a great visual reminder when it comes to maintaining consistency. As with any good starting village, it provides the party with basic necessities for adventuring/plot-advancement: they can buy equipment, set up kip if they need to, and give various NPCs a shot at making skill checks that they botched. This is really an easy list of requirements to meet, you just make a list of shit that the party might need to do, then make one or more NPCs that can meet the need.
  • Buy weapons
  • Buy armor
  • Buy adventuring gear that isnt weapons or armor
  • Buy magical variants of the aforementioned (optional)
  • Tavern/Inn
Weapons: For weapons, I just tossed out a male human named Koun for a start. He gets his metal from dwarf caravans that make the rounds out of the Red Hills. While his specialty is making metal farming tools, he can also turn out functional Simple and Military weapons. Superior weapons need to come straight out of Cindervault or Carbost. If looks matter, its about an even mix of human, dwarf, and eladrin make.

Armor: Armor...well, yeah. Most armor falls into the light category, with heavier stuff necessitating an order from Cindervault or Carbost. As such, I didnt actually put anyone in the village that specializes in that: most anyone knows how to make/mend leatherworks. Just costs money to get the supplies and do it yourself if need be. Thus, virtually all metal armor in Dorsen is decidedly dwarfy in style when it can be found at all.

Mundane Gear: Adventuring gear isnt sold out of any one store, but brought in from merchants or traded with the locals who might have what the players are looking for. Merchants set up shop in the Bear Market, which is an open bazarre reserved for transients. For ease of play, players can pick up anything for the list price out of Player's Handbook.

Magic Loots: Magical gear is a lot harder to get your mitts on, obviously. Aside from low-level potions and a handful of rituals, its almost impossible to find anything magical in Dorsen that anyone would reasonably want to part with. Frankly, most characters end up finding their own magic loot anyway so its a pretty moot point. Really I just need for them to be able to pawn the shit they dont want, and thats easy enough in the Bear Market or perhaps via "sage" NPCs.

Tavern: There's only one tavern/inn-type place in Dorsen, the Red Hall. Its also the only stone building, constructed by Dorsen's dwarven neighbors a decade ago after a particularly devastating spat with gnolls that decided to stop by. Its a sturdy, defensible structure with an extensive underground section for folk to hole up that doubles as an inn for dwarf visitors. As such, it only serves dwarf spirits and food.

[Note: I decided to work gnolls into Erui after a player decided to make a gnoll artificer. Gnolls seem like a good fit for a primal campaign, and this bit of bad history made for some interesting roleplaying opportunities after the party went back to Dorsen to gather information and do some shopping (even though her character didnt participate in the carnage: it was another tribe of gnolls). This was one of many examples where player input shaped the campaign, in a good way methinks.]

Simple so far, but that only covers gear. Sometimes the party fucks up an important skill check, or just cant piece together a puzzle. When that happens I like to be able to have a good narrative method for helping them solve a problem and not get hung up. For example, if the party needs to consult someone about an item, a glyph they found, or research a topic. Sooo lets expand the list for skills!
  • Arcana
  • History
  • Nature
  • Religion
Now, I'm not a fan of having the players just defer to NPCs to solve their problems, but it certainly helps to have them around if they get stuck on something. If anything, they're kind of like party-life lines. I'm using these skills as a check list, as its possible that a NPC might specialize in two or more skills (such as a sage being really fucking good at Arcana and History). Since the players will be interacting on a more personal level with these guys, its important to have more details about a name, personality, and other details.

Talibah: She's the spiritual leader of Dorsen. She can see and communicate with spirits, and the village runs to her when they need advice on handling spirits. She also knows a lot of songs, and can potentially teach players some of them if they need them. So, her specialties would be Nature and Perception (since she is a dreamsight shifter and is surrounded by ass-tons of spirits). At the start of the campaign she played the role of herald, gathering the party up and sending them on their merry to go butcher goblins and dig up secrets.

Karad: To try and mix things up, the sage-figure in Dorsen is actually a dwarf who emphasizes the use of runes, so he makes sense thematically. If the party cant make heads or tails of magic stuff, they can let him give it a shot. He also sometimes has magic items and rituals for sale, or is at least willing to take them off the party's hands. He's a bit scatterbrained and unorganized after too many awry magical experiments, and relies on eladrin assistant to keep his stuff in order (of which years of work has made him versed in History for purposes of locating relevant information).

Belanus: A priest that maintains shrines to Melora and Bahamut (whom is depicted as a green dragon in Erui), he's also pretty good at Nature shit. I guess you could say he focuses more on natural critters and plants, while Talibah is more spiritual. Anyway, who the players go to is personal preference: I play this guy as very serious, stern motherfucker who doesnt talk much except when giving sermons. He's got a lot of scars and wields a fullblade.

That takes care of the skills that I think will need the most handling in the game. I would drop in a NPC with Streetwise if it was more urban in nature, but since its not and I dont expect that to be used ever, I'm not going to bother. The main thing I could see Streetwise being used for is locating rare items, but since merchants stick to a small location I'd rather just let them know on a case-by-case basis.

Now obviously settlements can have a lot more going on than just this, but I prefer to only generate content that I'm going to use. I have a list of male/female names in case I need to pull a NPC out of my ass, but I'm not going to write up a bunch of extraneous information that has no purpose. I think that by keeping it simple its easier to adapt to unexpected events or circumstances, anyway, but that might just be my style.

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