Random "Village with a Cult" Generator Inspired by Scenic Dunnsmouth (Part 1)
The Fear of a Black Dragon podcast made an episode talking about the module Scenic Dunnsmouth, and unsurprisingly, their discussion turned to how much replayability the module actually has and whether it could be used as a basis for random generation of more villages. I think they undersold the former (it would take a little creative reinterpretation of the time cube to justify, perhaps, but nothing terribly daunting, and having the characters/players encounter a completely reformed version of the village can be quite fun as their past experiences will add tension and paranoia), but I would agree with them that the module as written is too specific to be used as a generic engine. Of course, that just makes it an interesting challenge for someone to overcome, does it not? Before I get to that, though, I have to say that one of my main complaints about Scenic Dunnsmouth is ending up with a mostly-useless map. It has a role to play in detailing the village, and I can see some benefits to determining which areas are close together or far apart, but I found it pretty useless as an actual map because there's no sense of scale. The module includes a translation of paper inches to travel time, but the chosen conversion is at odds with the normal movements rates in Lamentations of the Flame Princess (where long-range travel is defined in miles per day, works on a different set of assumptions from small-scale/dungeon movement speeds, and is a function of encumbrance) and isn't clear on whether it's based on taking clear paths or slogging through the swamp. Maybe I'm missing something, but I was befuddled by it despite being someone who works with unit/scale/reference frame conversions on a regular basis. On top of that, I find maps for small settlements can often be ignored completely without any significant loss of gameplay. What's in the village is important, but where it is isn't, generally speaking, because you're dealing with a set of locations that are all within viewing distance and that are inhabited by people who the players can communicate with. In other words, asking for and following directions are trivial tasks. Furthermore, if you want to have some villagers be duplicitous, having them give false directions doesn't work so well when the players have clear map in front of them. Thus, rather than trying to make a map beforehand, I prefer to look at who/what is in the village, come up with a rough idea of where those places are based on what makes sense in my head (relative locations being more important than actual locations), and leave working out the fine cartography as something the players can do if they so choose. Putting that all together, I have no intentions of including map generation in this village generator. The aim of this is to come up with people, places, and a secret agenda that ties some of them together. Further efforts are left up to the user. One more quick note before getting into the meat of things: I'm using a cult because it's familiar and evocative, but the village's secret need not be religious. Feel free to swap that out for any other sort of hidden organization (a band of smugglers, for instance; turn them into slavers or serial killers if you want a less morally ambiguous option). I'd encourage also reading this post from Joseph Manola, along with the comments, for more thoughts on making cults feel less like lazy shortcuts. Dice needed if you want to roll everything at once: 1d4, 6d6 (or more/less, as desired), 1d8, 3d10, 3d12 d4: Cult Details and Infiltration Level
1 - It's a new cult! They're lead by an iconoclast in the village.
2 - Carrying on the will of others is a form of immortality! The cult is dedicated to an ancestor of the cult's leader.
3 - Change comes from beyond! The cult is newly formed, and the newest members don't realize they serve a malevolent Outsider (demon, god, fey, etc.).
4 - We are but motes in eternity! This ancient cult hopes appeasing a powerful but indifferent Outsider can do some good for them.
In all cases, the cult's leader is the first notable villager identified as a cultist.
Make sure to note the value of the d4 as the cult's Infiltration Level. d6: Notable Villagers These will be detailed in part 2 of this series, since this post will be plenty long without an additional 54 NPC ideas (full deck of standard playing cards, including jokers). Comparing the die's value with the Infiltration Level (from the d4) will tell if they're cultists, based on the result of the d8. I'd recommend using 6d6, since that'll keep the size of the village manageable by Delta's Rule of 7+/-2, bearing in mind that there are chances for an additional one to three notable villagers from the d12s. d8: Determinant and Inn Details If the d8's result is EVEN, villagers with a d6 value GREATER THAN OR EQUAL to the Infiltration Level are cultists. If the d8's result is ODD, villagers with a d6 value LESS THAN OR EQUAL to the Infiltration Level are cultists. The d8's value also sets what the inn is like, as below:
1 or 8 - Hostel, with a common room and some simple meals/drinks (soup, stew, sweetened vegetable broth "juice", etc.)
2 or 7 - Tavern, with a common room and decent meals/drinks (i.e. stuff that's more than just raw stuff boiled until it's edible)
3 or 6 - Inn, with private rooms and decent meals/drinks
4 or 5 - Inn, with private rooms, decent meals/drinks, and a secret unrelated to the cult (cannibal cook, voyeur proprietor with a means of spying on the private rooms, etc.)
If the cult has infiltrated the inn (using the same rules as for notable villagers but with the inn's d8 value), the kitchen will have a cupboard with ingredients to incapacitate visitors (toxic herbs and mushrooms, harvested animal venom, etc.). d10/d12: Potential Special People and Places Roll the d10 to see which list to read from, then roll the d12 to get the result, with three sets of rolls in total (rolling three matched pairs at once can make this faster). Results of 1-6 are treated the same as a d6 Notable Villager (i.e. draw a card for the NPC's details and use the d4/d8 results to see if they're a cultist). Higher results lead the following special locations: d10 Results 1-5 (if the d8 result is even, this site is linked to the cult)
7 - Church
8 - Mason
9 - Mill
10 - Smithy
11 - Tannery
12 - Carpenter
d10 Results 6-8 (if the d8 result is odd, this site is linked to the cult)
7 - Mausoleum
8 - Well
9 - Witch's Hut
10 - Brewery/Winery/Still
11 - Additional Inn (use the d10's value to determine the type of inn)
12 - Quarry
d10 Results 9-10 (if the d8 result is 3 or 7, this site is linked to the cult)
7 - Sinkhole
8 - Singing Stones
9 - Ancient Henge
10 - Faerie Circle Field
11 - Natural Obelisk
12 - Toroidal Stream
I think the names are explanatory enough to not need further details.
Next time, I'll put up a table for the NPC details. That'll take a while to write up nicely since there are going to be so many entries, but I'll see if I can get it posted before the end of the weekend.