Is there a step by step guide to build a village, town or city for a DND game? I have trouble getting my ideas down on paper. I feel a guide may help.
This is how I make mine:
Pick if I want it to be coastal, in a forest, desert, etc.
Pick a cool name.
Decide if this town is mostly for passing through, or if major things are happening here.
Decide if they’re cut off from other towns or near others.
Decide on population, race majorities and minorities.
Pick how the town makes money, what are its imports and exports if any.
Who is the leader? How do people like them?
What is the towns major problem? Starvation, rats, monsters, etc?
How strict are the guards? Do the villagers trust outsiders? Do they hate any race or class?
Come up with a bar, inn, weapon, and armor shop name and staff for each. If they’re known for anything, what are they known for?
How does this town get along with outsiders/other towns?
Any well known locals? What are their names, what are they known for?
If your players are good, evil, or neutral how would the townsfolk react? How would your players react here?
A lot of times some of this info is never asked about from my players. I recycle and use that info for other towns if need be. Half the time no one asks about the armor shop, or the potions shop. But its nice info to have on hand.
I also sometimes make mini flash cards detailing the important bits like:
Inn: Sleepy Fellow. Run by Ma. 5 copper a night. Worlds best pillows, they’re always stolen. Ma is sick n tired of it and will gut any thieves.
Here are some little extra tips and tools, too.
Plan your city around your landscape. If its a thin and spindly island, you’re not going to have a ton of open space. If the city is in a desert, there are probably very tall walls to keep the sand from blowing in, or the houses might be below ground, etc.
Here is a cool map maker to help visualize things.
Think about what you’d typically find in a town. Inn, bar, and leather working shops will be basically anywhere. Larger towns will for sure have armor, weapons, potions, etc. Farmer’s markets, hospitals, etc. are also usually present.
What kind of town is it? Is it peaceful, do they forage and lack trade routes? Is the town large, have a large guard presence?
How does the town make their money? Hunting, gathering, self sustaining, making crafts?
I use this sometimes to give me town ideas. I don’t really hit generate tbh, just the options alone help me out a lot.
How can your town serve the quest[s] and your players? Is it the main place where quests are given/done? If so, it might need to be more fleshed out. If they’re just passing by you don’t need a lot of detail. Maybe just one quirk or two to make each town unique. e.g. “Every Thursday is bring your pet to work day” for the local guards.
Aries: Zealot. At best, a righteous pursuer of justice and honour, at worst, a paranoid and ruthless berserker. Donned in blessed armour and sacred ornaments; the anathema of the Damned, and forces of Evil. Holy Hymns, Benedictions, and Sacraments abound, and scour the battlefield.
Taurus: Veteran. The immovable object. The last standing of every siege, of every fray. Persistent and hulking, able to brush off the most grievous wounds as mere grazes. Very few know from where they draw their strength, given the horrors they’ve witnessed, and the horrors they’ve enacted.
Gemini: Mercurial. An oddity of the guild halls, none quite know what they do, not even themselves. Seemingly effective in all situations and prone to lucky, unexpected victories. Friendly, curious, gentle, and seemingly unflappable, they round out any group, smoothing tension (and insufficiencies) as they go.
Cancer: Mechanist. What better place than a battlefield to test an experimental mage-cannon, of course it’s going to work this time! Able to make something out of nothing, lovers of ruins and machinations. Free time often spent artificing, improving, or tinkering. Don’t let them borrow anything precious to you. Entertaining to say the least, and generous to a fault.
Harlequin. Consistently underestimated, these dancing, joking acrobats carry daggers behind their jests. Keepers of the old Magicks of shanties and folk-ballads, victims find themselves poisoned by a word spoken, a note played, and a doubt sewn. One of the most ancient, and secretive lines of profession.
Virgo: Vestal. Composed, serene, and elegant. Masters of Magick, sealing, and preserving. Defensive masters of magical dueling, able to unweave the most stygian hexes and jinxes, often as they’re being cast. Glorious, potent invocations of healing, and enough amulets, talismans, and runes to put most temples out of the market.
Libra: Contractor. Balancing, transforming, unrivaled in the Magick and understanding of change. Be it exchanges of loyalty, wealth, power, or vitality, these scholars are transmuters extraordinaire. Master summoners, often with a complex web of debts and favours to the most tenebrous Voids, radiant Divines, and shady businessmen.
Scorpio: Heretic. Masters of the esoteric, the occult, and the stygian. Vile evocations and rituals making use of the most violent Ungods. Chaotic? Certainly. Evil? Not always, these magisters of the profane understand the vast void of grey morality, and are as philosophical as they are powerful. Prone to surprising acts of heroism, and the first to throw themselves in harm’s way to protect their own.
Sagittarius: Druid. Part naturalist, part adviser, part lorekeeper, part Ancient. Invokers of Magicks older than even the Harlequin, and of a source much more Adamant than Humanity. Oral words of Power spoken softly, yet with all the weight of the World behind them. Their ambitions lie beyond the mortal world, and as such they do not like to lead, only advise, and if necessary, judge.
Capricorn: Lord. A micromanager, precise, optimal, and efficient. Brings the best, and oftimes worst, out of those who serve under them. Rallying cries, shouts, and barked orders lend ground and coordinate in the heat of battle. Natural leaders, and often brutally straight to the point, what they lack in subtlety they more than make up for in raw strength.
Aquarius: Artisan. Creative, imaginative, with seemingly endless practical skills. An Artisan has their hand in everything from blacksmithing, to runework, to sculpting, to homunculus manufactory, and they put their soul into it all. Jacks-of-all-trades, and passable in combat, it is rare to find a guild or clan without its fair share or Artisans.
Pisces: Prophet. Readers, weavers, and sometimes defilers of the grand tapestry of Fate. Proclamations, Condemnations, and Prophecies of ill or good fortune are just a part of the arsenal of the Prophets. Direct, and mysterious connections to the Divines, the Ancients, and the Ungods, if they do not like an outcome they forsee, they often do a little doctoring.
A great stone ruins that repairs itself over time. The locals believe that something catastrophic might happen if it ever finishes itself, and work tirelessly to destroy and deface it. Prophetic carvings show horrifying monsters defending the ruins, and people are disappearing, but nobody has ever seen the monsters.
A town has become plagued by nightmares and some creatures are falling asleep never to awaken. After questioning the residents, the players discover that the town’s local wizard has recently been banished as they believe her to be the culprit.
The players will likely investigate the wizard, but they quickly find out that the old woman is not the cause of the nightmares. The wizard hasn’t given up hope on the town and has been doing her own research. She does have an idea of what might be behind it: a Night Hag. She hasn’t been able to detect one magically in the material plane or in the ethereal plane, so she thinks the hag must have found a way directly into the realm of dreams to harvest souls.
The wizard cannot consistently cast spells in the dream realm and will have no one to awaken her outside of it, so she implores the players to enter the dream world and stop the hag once and for all. Although it will clear her name, the wizard only cares for her old friends in the town, even the ones that have turned on her. If the players accept, she gives each player a draught of yellow liquid that puts them to sleep. When they awaken, they find themselves in the magical realm of dreams.
This dream world seems a lot like the town from before, but with exaggerated visuals like deeply bowed roofs or trees that are much larger than normal or people whose faces are caricatures of their selves from the waking world. In addition, many random features seem to exist here, as if parts of other townfolk’s past experiences have overlaid the community’s shared mental interpretation of the town. The whole place is very surreal.
Magic works differently in the realm of dreams. Each time a player casts a spell, roll 1d20+the spell’s level. On a result of 21 or higher, roll 1d20 again to choose a random mishap from the following:
1-3: The spell ceases to function but the area within 60 ft. of the caster is changed cosmetically (colors are bright and random, area is covered in mold, objects are now comprised of various fruits, etc.)
4-5: A pit 15 ft. wide and 10 ft. deep per level of the spell opens up directly beneath the caster. They can make a DEX save to avoid it (DC 10 + the spell’s level)
6-7: The spell is changed cosmetically to render it useless. For instance, a Fireball might instead produce a swarm of house centipedes or a Magic Missile spell might change midair into ribbons.
8-9: The spell does not function. Instead, a Darkness and Silence spell are cast, centered on the caster and last for 2d4 rounds.
10-11: The spell targets an area or target other than the caster intended, determined randomly.
12-13: The spell does not function. Instead, the caster produces another spell of the same spell level at random, even if they do not know the spell.
14-15: The spell does not function and the direction of gravity is switched to a random direction. Roll 1d6. Gravity now pulls:
3: Front of the caster
4: Right of the caster
5: Behind the caster
6: Left of the caster
16-17: The spell does not function and all creatures within 90 ft. of the caster take 2d6 psychic damage.
18-19: The spell is changed into a fundamentally different spell after changing the spell’s name by switching letters around or rhyming it with another word at the behest of the DM. For instance, Heat Metal might become Meat Metal (changing a creature’s weapon and armor into hunks of flesh) or Tree Stride might become Tree Bride (causing the caster to marry a nearby tree).
20: Roll twice, ignoring this roll if rolled again.
Players must search the strange world for wherever the Night Hag is hiding while facing other horrors like Shadow Demons, Black Puddings, Shadows, Wraiths, and other creatures called Nightmare Spawn (see below).
Once the players track down the Night Hag and begin to fight it, the hag starts to exert powerful influence on the battle by using energy from the souls she’s captured. With a DC 18 Arcana check, a sorcerer can intuit that they may have a similar ability. Since a sorcerer’s power stems from their soul, they have the same power to influence the dream world that the Night Hag does, and can spend one Sorcery Point to use one of the Dreaming abilities of the Dreaming Night Hag (shown below) as if they were the hag.
When the Night Hag is at half their hit points or at some other dramatic moment, reveal that there are actually two Night Hags; one has been using abilities from the shadows the whole time.
Nightmare Spawn (CR 3)
These creatures are tainted dream matter that haunt this realm. They have been conjured by the hags to torment the townspeople. They are usually encountered as random fears of townsfolk, whether it be mundane phobias like a giant spider or a snake or whether it’s more specific like an NPC’s abusive father or living version of a doll that scared them as a child. Eventually, they take on the fears of the players as well.
Torment: The Nightmare Spawn has advantage on attacks against frightened creatures.
Multiattack: The Nightmare Spawn makes two slam attacks when it takes the attack action.
Slam: Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6+4) bludgeoning damage.
Frighten: The Nightmare Spawn can use its action to change its form into that of something that a creature it can see is frightened of. It instinctively knows what things frighten creatures the most. Its statistics remain the same, but the targeted creature must make a DC 15 WIS saving throw or become frightened. Each round until the Nightmare Spawn changes its form, the targeted creature can attempt a new saving throw at the start of each of its turns to end the effect.
Dreaming Night Hag (CR 6)
A Dreaming Night Hag can never set foot on the Material or Ethereal planes, but can travel freely through other planes as well as the realm of dreams. Perhaps banished from the waking world by a powerful mage or simply a shadow of a dead Night Hag, though no one really knows.
Resistances: Cold, Fire, non-silvered and non-magic weapons.
Condition Immunities: charmed, frightened
Senses: darkvision 120 ft., passive perception 16
Languages: Abyssal, Common, Infernal, Primordial
Magic Resistance: The hag has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
Dreaming Hag’s Eye: The hag can spend their bonus action to learn the greatest fears of a creature they direct their gaze at.
Frightening: A creature that becomes frightened within 120 ft. of the hag take 1d6 psychic damage each round while frightened.
Dreaming: The hag is not affected by the Surreal Magic of the dreamscape (described above). In addition, the hag can pull on the energy from her bag of souls to alter the dreamscape using her reaction. The hag can choose one of the following:
The setting of the dreamscape changes instantly to another location of their choosing, usually one known to them.
Target creature is teleported to a location the hag chooses. The creature can make a DC 16 CHA saving throw to resist this effect.
Target creature is polymorphed into a creature chosen by the hag until their next turn. The hag is immune to this ability.
The hag creates any object of Large size or smaller next to them or in their hands.
The hag transmutes any object of Huge size or smaller or area no greater than a 15 ft. cube within 90 ft. of them into something else of their choosing.
Claws: Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 18 (3d8+4) slashing damage.
Spellcasting (Spell save DC 15, +7 to hit with spell attacks):
At will: Major Image, Detect Magic, Magic Missile
2/day: Plane Shift (self), Ray of Enfeeblement, Phantasmal Killer
1/day: Eye Bite, Bestow Curse, Hold Person, Lightning Bolt