Friday, July 17, 2009

Shadebyrne: Lords, Inns, and Boardwalks

With the broad details of the settlement in place, it was time to flesh out who was in charge, where you could grab a pint and swap tall tales, and what the overall look of the town was. Deciding to start from the top and work my way down, I resolved to let the LBBs and the Cook/Marsh Expert rulebook guide the way.

After arbitrarily deciding that the local authority figure would be a “name level” fighter, I turned to p. 15 of The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures book to determine the composition of the Lord’s guard, retainers, and other special followers. The dice determined that 60 troops serve under the lord, likely as stronghold guards and outriders to keep the surrounding lands safe. A second roll indicated that a 5th level magic-user also occupies the local stronghold. Sensing the possibilities for adventure seeds that clashing personalities would create, I decided that the Lord and his resident MU don’t always see eye to eye. Whether this is because of personal agendas or alignment, I haven’t yet decided, but I make a note to come back to this idea later. The final roll determines that the Lord has a single giant at his beck and call. Seeing the Lord as Lawful, I fill this role with a Stone Giant who owes the Lord for some past boon or service.

The giant’s presence gets me thinking about the wooden palisade around Shadebyrne. I decide that, with the giant’s help, the Lord is embarking on a series of community projects to better protect the town. At the moment, the giant and a group of hired workers are turning the lord’s stronghold from a wooden fort into a stone redoubt. After this is completed, the wooden palisade around the settlement is due for an upgrade. Such improvements seem indicate a change in regime from the former corrupt administration. Therefore, the new lord is a recent appointee to Shadebyrne, I decide. He seeks to remove the legacy of the former administrators’ corruption and make the settlement a better place. Whether his initial optimism will survive contact with harsh frontier life remains to be seen. An online random name generator gives me the name Rindper Cryt, and Lord Warden Cryt becomes the local authority figure.

With government out of the way, the town inn is our next stop. Luckily, I’ve got Fight On! # 2 in my library which features James Raggi’s excellent “Random Inn Generator” article. With that article’s help, I learn that the inn is run by a retired 3rd level Fighter, his wife, and their 13 year old son. The random name generator informs me these are Trato Sane, his wife, Dianarra, and their boy, Akry. Rolling on the random inn name generator from the article result in “The Dizzy Strumpet Inn.” Although I liked that, I decided to give a nod to the Dungeon Masters Guide and changed it to “The Brazen Strumpet Inn.”

That change got me thinking. No self-respecting goodwife is going to let her husband run an establishment named after some wanton harlot! Since Shadebyrne was once a garrison town on the kingdom’s border, not to mention a regular watering hole for the soldiers who kept an eye over Stonehell, it occurred to me to give the inn a more martial-sounding name: The Brass Trumpet. One night, however, some unknown vandal defaced the sign that hangs above the inn’s entrance; a splash of red paint turning the Brass Trumpet into the Brazen Strumpet. Although initially angered by this vandalism, old Trato noticed that business picked up in the inn almost immediately afterwards. Even his copper piece-pinching wife couldn’t argue that the name change was good for business. The vandalized sign still hangs out front, unchanged.

All that was left to do now was to make a rough map of the town and give it a little personality to distinguish it from other settlements. Since my concept of the home base is that of the last spot of civilization on the edge of the frontier, my natural inclination was to visit some Western themes. The wooden palisade already calls to mind the log forts common on the western frontier during America’s youth. It would be fitting therefore to steal another common feature from the Wild West for Shadebyrne: the raised, wooden boardwalks that front most businesses.

Not only did this make sense to serve as a barrier between the mud, muck, and manure that would accumulate on the earthen streets, but since the settlement is close to the river, seasonal flooding would be an issue. To compensate for these periodic deluges, I decided that the buildings in town are erected on 6’ tall berms of stone and earth. In turn, these berms are surrounded by a 3’ tall boardwalk with short sets of stairs that lead up to the front door of the buildings and down to ground level as well. These boardwalks will help establish the town’s identity, give thieves and other riff-raff a place to spring from ambush, and provide a place for the local halfling to hide beneath when the outlaws whip the sheriff to death in the middle of the street.

Using the map from Castle Book I as a guide, I break out some graph paper, my geometric shape stencils (perhaps the cheapest, yet most useful mapping tool I ever bought), and start drawing. In short order, I can see that the raised walkway is going to add a cool level of detail to the town; one that I hope will stick out in the minds of the players. Once the rough map’s finished, I scan it so as to have a central template that I can use again and again as the town grows and/or changes, and I’m ready to start placing businesses and other features.

Overall, I’m happy with the settlement. It’s certainly not as grandiose as Greyhawk and even smaller than Blackmoor, but it will serve its purpose for now. I can fill in the required details as they’re needed once the adventurers come to visit or when the urge strikes me.


Mike D. said...

Great write-up, and I love the map of the town. Excellent idea of using the wooden walkways too.

Telecanter said...

I'm having to flesh out my own little town on the edge of civilization. I'd also thought of a western type fort and told my players the town had a log palisade. But I didn't think to add the raised wooden walks. Great idea!

The_Myth said...

This is awesome!

Great use of your own ideas coupled with inspiration from random generators.

That's how it needs to be done!

E.G.Palmer said...

You know, those wooden side walks were often used in medieval russian areas, in places where the severe cold would heave stone pavement. So it's medievally correct as well.