Random "Village with a Cult" Generator Inspired by Scenic Dunnsmouth (Part 3)
Alright, tables and talking are all well and good, but let’s put this thing to the test with some examples, shall we? Take my word for it that I’m running through the examples by actually working through the previous posts, so nothing is contrived to show off or hide certain aspects.
As an aside, I didn’t mention it previously, but anyone who looks over the tables and thinks for a moment will probably realize there’s a chance for the village to end up without any cult. To me, this is fine. Sometimes an odd village is just an odd village, and there are a few NPC entries that can provide conflicts without needing to involve a cult. Should you have a different perspective, though, I’d suggest just bumping the Infiltration Level (the d4 result) to whatever you need to get some hot cult action.
Also, I’ll be using the tables from the first pages of the scenario packs included in Beyond the Wall’s Across the Veil and Hearths and Homes supplements for naming the village and NPCs. I think those tables are great for getting sets of names that have a cohesive feel, which increases verisimilitude and makes deviations from the norm more noticeable (also, using real names as a basis reducing the chances of ending up with unpronounceable tongue twisters).
d4 = 4
d8 = 8
d6s = 4, 2, 1, 3, 2, 5
d10s/d12s = 4/9, 7/9, 3/10
Cards drawn: 10 of spades, 7 of clubs, 10 of hearts, 8 of hearts, ace of diamonds, queen of diamonds, king of spades, 4 of clubs, 3 of spades
The village of Mosbach is home to a hidden ancient cult dedicated to a powerful but indifferent Outsider. There’s a nice inn, though someone involved in it has a sinister secret and it’s linked to the cult. Other notable structures are the mill, witch’s hut, and smithy.
Thorben (cult leader) – Bounty hunter who’s often rougher than necessary to subdue their quarry but otherwise acts with professional efficiency. Mistakes one of the PCs for a wanted target. Makes dissidents disappear on behalf of the cult.
Adele – The best cook in the village, and not afraid to be vocal about it.
Dana – Short-tempered hunter who’s grown cynical and jaded with humanity’s capacity for cruelty. Smell like nature, in a bad way. Brutal combatant if provoked.
Saskia – Aloof and dry tax collector, in service to a distant noble. Mostly reviled by other villagers, but she’s a skilled hand with a sword, and stone buildings don’t burn easily.
Eckhart – Taxidermist whose behavior would be bland and normal if it wasn’t for a constant almost-smile that comes off as rather creepy.
Erik (cultist) – Just about the nicest person ever. Won’t turn down any but the most audacious requests. Very organized and proper. The cult’s chief record-keeper.
Ingrid (cultist) – Former assassin who joined the village a decade ago as a simple potato farmer before taking over the mill. Very private. The allure from her air of mystery is a constant source of drama. Sees devotion to the cult as a chance to make amends for her former life.
Adalbert – Self-appointed guardian of the village, using strange magics to protect the other villagers. Actually a sadistic deadbeat mooching off of his family’s weaving business who enjoys harassing transients.
Marthe (cultist) – Pompous smith and glassblower with no sense of humor. Gets angry when Adalbert calls her “bauble-blower”. Her furnace is used to destroy any unseemly evidence that can burn.
This seems like an interesting mix of characters to me. Thorben, Dana, and Saskia are all likely to be regarded with suspicion by non-cultist villagers, though only one of them is actually a cultist. Since it’s an ancient cult devoted to some Lovecraftian being, there's likely been some strange happenings around Mosbach (perhaps a plague of mice got into Ingrid’s mill, and Thorben let slip to her that joining the cult could protect her from future “misfortunes” which seem beyond Adalbert’s ability to ward off), and Adalbert being the village witch is either seen as a necessary evil to keep others safe or seen as a source of suspicion that he might be the source of the problems.
Marthe’s job and location went together quite well with each other and with her “IF CULTIST” secret. While Thorben is the real enforcer (possibly having picked up some tricks from Ingrid, if the latter was a willing member of the cult), Marthe’s smithy is the dumping ground, and it works together with Erik’s residence as a possible location for clues.
In fact, since the inn is linked to the cult, that’s probably their main base in town. Erik owns it, and Thorben hangs out there. Not everyone there is a cultist, though; Adele is the inn’s cook, and her reputation is known to bring in travelers from around the region. Unfortunately, aside from Erik and Thorben (who keep her secret in return for sharing access to her toxins on a “don’t ask, don’t tell”-basis), nobody realizes that anyone who catches her eye ends up with a powerful sedative in their food. Once it’s taken effect, she takes them into the woods, robs them, and strangles them, leaving any remains for scavengers to clean up.
Dana and Adalbert could be possible allies, if the PCs can convince them to lend their aid. Saskia could also be an ally, especially if she can be convinced to appeal to her noble employer for further help.
Eckhart ends up being mostly flavor of little direct consequence, although I’m sure clever players could find a way to use the honest taxidermist to their advantage. Mosbach is getting pretty crowded for me to keep in my head, though, so he’s someone I probably wouldn’t make any effort to feature unless the PCs bring him into play.
d4 = 3
d8 = 4
d6s = 3, 3, 2, 6, 4, 3
d10s/d12s = 10/10, 9/8, 2/5
Cards drawn: 2 of hearts, king of diamonds, 10 of diamonds, 6 of spades, jack of hearts, 7 of hearts, 3 of diamonds
The village of Carrizo has been almost entirely consumed by a new cult, though the members don’t all realize they’re serving a malevolent Outsider. There’s a nice inn, though someone involved in it has a sinister secret and it’s linked to the cult. Carrizo is known as a center for oddities, as it has a field of faerie circles and some singing stones.
David (cult leader) – Reclusive sculptor, responsible for the grand esoteric statue in the middle of Carrizo. Communicates through notes slipped under his front door. The cult’s patron can see/hear through the grand statue.
Angela (cultist) – Talented leatherworker who’s always doing two favors for every paid job she takes, despite her life partner’s complaints. The cult’s leather items are of the highest quality, courtesy of her hand.
Horatio – Well-groomed smooth-talker who never misses a chance to get someone indebted to him. Habitual liar, but mostly harmless and folds quickly if his ruses are discovered.
Dolores (cultist) – Estranged child of Horatio. Quick to posture and project dominance, but actually a coward. Hopes desperately that the cult will lead her to real power.
Barbara (cultist) – So condescendingly self-righteous that the rod up her butt has a rod up its butt. Gives opinions on everything, but has a deathly fear of taking any responsibility. Obsessed with doing everything strictly according to scripture.
Manuel (cultist) – Very demure and conservative, but will complain about his life partner’s flaws to any sympathetic ear. Always looking for a lucky break to strike off on his own. Sees the cult as a chance to finally get his break.
Rodolfo (cultist) – Incorrigible gossip who puts on a friendly face in public and spreads vicious rumors in private. Tries to tease out enemies of the cult to marshal others against them.
Here’s a totally different village. While Mosbach’s cult was an old order that was a minority leveraging control of some key assets, Carrizo’s cult is a new devotion that has subverted nearly everyone and is likely worshipped openly, albeit without identifying its true patron, giving it more of a Warhammer feel in my mind. Perhaps a Slanneshi angle would play well here: David stumbled into its gaze accidentally while searching for inspiration, and his feverish working to create the perfect sculpture is why he’s become so reclusive.
I’m thinking Horatio runs the inn, where he’s a serial womanizer targeting guests, which explains why Dolores is one of his bastard children. Since there happens to be a talented leatherworker in Carrizo, he might be into bondage, although using that as a shortcut for being a bad person feels lazy. Maybe it’d be more interesting for Dolores to have that characteristic, which would match up with her desire to be powerful. She’s not a bad person, either, which makes me feel better about the set-up since it becomes a detail of her character instead of turning her into a caricature.
Manuel and Angela are a couple who are reaching a point where they can barely stand each other anymore, so one or the other probably hangs around the inn to get plastered when they aren’t working. Barbara nags both of them about their failings when she isn’t doing that with anyone else.
Rodolfo could be a regular face there, too, but it’s feeling like too much of the action is focused on the inn. Instead, he can be a sort of tour guide, offering to take visitors to the weird marvels around Carrizo while he probes them to find out how receptive they’d be to the cult’s teachings.
The faerie circles and singing stones would probably best be combined into a single location of exceptional singularity. It’d definitely have a weird atmosphere, but in the end, it’d be a curiosity that’s not linked to the cult aside from Rodolfo using it for tours.
There are fewer obvious allies for the PCs this time (Horatio seems like enough of a scumbag that most players wouldn’t want to ally with him in the first place), but I think it could be fun to see how they’d try working the divisions within the cult. Dolores and Manuel could both be swayed to help the PCs through promises of power and/or wealth. Barbara could be an unwitting ally with her criticisms of the other cultists for doing things in the wrong ways. Rodolfo’s role would tend to leave him isolated and vulnerable, and I’m sure he’s got some superstitious misgivings about the singing faerie circles that could be used to coerce him.
David’s residence would be an obvious choice for a culminating dungeon. Whether he’s a desperate slave cognizant of his role or he’s been reduced to a possessed meat puppet would be up to how long it takes the PCs to go after him.
I’m pretty happy with how those turned out. If anyone gives this system a go for themselves, I’d welcome any feedback on their experiences.