A Town in the Aftermath

On May 1, 2005, Posted by , In Campaign Workbook, With No Comments

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The adventuring band known as the Dragon Company trudges into the village of Wayreth.

They carry with them their wounded comrades, overstuffed bags of loot, and enough tales for a dozen bards. Despite grim odds, the Dragon Company has cleansed the undead-infested Tomb of Volgrath. For the next two days, they sample local ales, heal their wounds, and spend a small fortune in gold and gems. Their spirits restored, the brave adventurers depart Wayreth and move on to their next great quest. The scenario described above, although mundane on the surface, represents a plethora of campaign development opportunities and future plot hooks, as well as introducing a living, evolving world to your players. Player characters usually go to a town or village to rest and recover between adventures. They seek local healers, replenish their supplies, and swap stories at the tavern. Once the characters have what they need, they leave. The town becomes a waypoint or rest stop but little more. The next time your adventurers descend upon a town, use their visit to develop your campaign and plant seeds for some future adventures.

Consider what happens to the town left behind:

How does the adventurers’ visit affect the community? If the characters return to that town or village a month or even a year later, how has it changed?

When answering these questions, consider the following ways a party of adventures could influence a community.

THE LOCAL ECONOMY

When adventurers swagger into town, they carry more wealth than most families see in ten lifetimes. Characters purchase expensive equipment such as weapons and armor and blithely pay top silver for rooms and meals. Unless a community regularly experiences an influx of adventurers (and their bags of gold and gems), so much wealth suddenly entering the local economy wreaks havoc. On a simple level, such wealth could either harm the town’s economy or bolster it significantly. As a guideline, if the characters spend more than three times a community’s gold piece limit, assume they impact the town or village’s economy with their largess.

How could money be bad? Well, too much gold flushed into a small community can cause a spike in commodity prices and labor costs. Local citizens lose their jobs and businesses, or have less to eat, as the people who did not receive money from the adventuring party can no longer afford the higher prices. Alternatively, the Hood of wealth could create new jobs, expand businesses, and attract new citizens. If the characters spend enough gold, the town may experience impressive (and possibly painful) growth over the next year.

The party could depart the sleepy village of Wayreth only to find that upon their return a year later the village has become a bustling small town.

IMPRESSIONABLE YOUTH

Without a doubt, everyone in town hears tales about the party’s exploits.

Even if the PCs avoid telling stories, the locals fabricate their own. How do these stories affect the community’s youth? Young men and women could run away from local farms in search of adventure.

If even one or two people run away from a small village, everyone remembers and probably blames the characters for their bad influence. As adventuring is a hazardous occupation, runaways often perish. When the characters return to the village, they might face an unfriendly or even hostile reception.

You could also have one of the locals hire on with the party as a pack bearer or torchbearer. Such an individual provides а link between the party and the community and gives a possible reason to return in the future.

NEW MONSTERS FOR OLD

In the course of adventuring, characters may slay a powerful monster or a group of weaker ones. Consider what new monsters move in because of the available lair. For example, after the Dragon Company clears the undead from the Tomb of Volgrath, a band of ogres and gnolls moves in and takes up residence. Some locations, especially ruins, dungeons, and tombs, act like monster magnets. Once the characters leave the region, these new creatures could terrorize the nearby village, providing a reason for the party to return.

THE RULING CLASS

Some rulers may be unfriendly or even hostile to the PCs. Imagine a region plagued for several years by a group of manticores. The local baron is unwilling to stop the monsters, or perhaps is incapable of doing so. How does he feel when a band of adventurers sweeps in, slays the monsters in one day, and earns the local peasants’ gratitude? Likewise, how do the local citizens now feel about their ineffective baron? After all, he never dealt with the manticores in three years, yet his tax demands never wavered.

If the characters rid an area of a powerful monster or similar threat, consider how the local ruler reacts. On the surface, he may greet the characters as heroes. Behind his handshakes and smiles, however, he might detest their meddling. If the characters return to the region, he may have them waylaid by hired brigands or stalked by assassins. If his resentment extends to those the characters aided, he may raise taxes or punish anyone who dared show gratitude to the party. The characters could return to find a grim, forlorn town where people refuse to help. A more powerful ruler might enact laws to punish adventurers for interfering with his local rule.

Such laws could include excessive taxes (such as 50% on all loot) and onerous weapon restrictions (only noblemen may carry longbows and crossbows, for example). A religious leader might even enact laws to outlaw certain faiths—such as the one practiced by the party cleric.

Another possibility is that the local ruler may have benefited from a monster’s presence. The brigands dwelling within the Bleak Forest could have been secretly working for the baron.

If the characters drive these brigands off, they also eliminate a source of the baron’s revenue.

REVENGE IS SWEET

Adventurers often leave behind loose ends. For example, the evil necromancer’s lieutenant may have escaped, or one of the necromancer’s close friends may have learned of his demise. Surviving villains could punish the villagers for helping the characters. Once the characters depart, the villains unleash their vengeance against the commoners. Alternatively, the villains could infiltrate the community and lay a trap for the returning party.

CHANGE IS CONSTANT

The most important thing to remember is that the party’s actions impact surrounding communities, even if just in small ways. If the characters eliminate the Bleak Forest brigands, traffic along the road returns to normal, or even expands. Merchant caravans can now travel the road without fear. If the characters destroy an evil necromancer and his undead legions, the nearby town loses its fearful, desolate nature. Whether the characters perform heroic deeds or dastardly ones, their actions change the world—or at least one corner of it.

A local village or town could explode in growth, or find itself withering and forgotten. With an influx of outsiders, а town might grow and become a different place within a year. The citizens may thank the characters and remember them fondly, or they could curse the day the party arrived.

As you evolve a community in the wake of the PCs’ visit, recall how they behaved during their stay. Even if the party’s arrival later brings sorrow to a community, the citizens should nonetheless remember the good deeds the party accomplished. If, however, the characters acted like mercenaries and thugs, the locals should remember them as such. As your campaign progresses, balance the changes you make to towns and villages. Some of the changes should make life better, with the characters remembered as brave heroes. Other changes, however, should inflict some loss, anger, resentment, and even fear of the party amongst locals. The characters should enjoy their share of successes and glory, but at the same time, remember their actions always have consequences, intended and otherwise.


BY MARK A. HART
BY KYLE HUNTER