GWJ Collaborative Fantasy Town

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I thought of an idea that I want to see if there is any interest in. Full disclosure - the idea came to me because I DM several games and I have NO imagination to do something like this on my own.

Here's the proposal:

We GWJers collaborate to create our own fantasy town. Some place that different games could use as a start town, or game hub, etc. in their campaign(s). If it goes well, perhaps broaden it and add surrounding area or maybe even a small continent eventually. Then go from there if it actually progresses.

First, though, just a town of about 100 - 150 residents, including children, outlying farms, etc. Not too big, not too small.

I'm a 5th Ed. D&D guy, but I would want to make this place _mostly_ system agnostic as much as possible, but there would have to be some common terminology. Ie. if you wanted to show that the Pukadoria Tavern owner Blocko was once and adventurer and got to X level, we would need a common language to express what that level is and what it means. (to be figured out later)

I was thinking we'd first have a map and label all the buildings and landmarks with numbers then start a list like this:

1) Town Hall
2) Gallows
3) Bazaar area
.
.
.
25) Cobbler Shop
26) Bowyer Shop
27) Bowyer's House
.
.
.
67) Farm
68) Farm
69) Farm

And then people could choose places they want to flesh out. Example - I would take #26 and write a description for the shop, who works there, what services it provides, etc. Then also take #27 and describe the house and residents and what they do (work at the Bowyer). If there's any interesting story/mystery related to the location or resident/inhabitants, include that.

In the end, there would be a town that is fully "stocked" and ready for anyone to use in an RPG game. There would be backstory and relationships (good and bad) between the residents, adventure hooks all over the place, and maybe even some mini-adventures already penned if someone wanted to go that far.

I wouldn't want to start with someone's already made town that we flesh out more. I want this to be a "from scratch" endeavor.

As for the technical side of collaboration, a GWJ thread to discuss it works well, but it isn't good for storing the information in a related manner. I submit that a Wiki is the easiest and best place. If this goes forward we can talk about it more.

There are a lot of things that could make a project like this great and some that could cause problems. When you bring a group of people together to work on a project, everyone is going to have a different idea of what should be "canon". I would suggest everyone keep an open mind, subscribe to "Yes, and..." and "No, but..." and work together.

I'll just leave this here and gauge interest.

Important note: I would not "own" this or think my opinion on something has more weight that anyone else's. In fact, I would probably be a lesser contributor than most people that wanted to be a part of this. I do have some ideas on storing the related information for the project that I believe make sense, but we can talk about that later.

-BEP

Link to initial land plot planning sheet:
Google Sheet for Initial Land Plot Tracking

Reserved

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As a former DM with neither the reliable time nor the mental bandwidth to pursue running a campaign anytime soon, I love this idea and would enjoy participating. One of my favorite things about DM'ing was actually the world-building aspect.

[Edit]I am quite happy to be a "junior" member of the town-building crew. As in, I'm not too concerned about what the greater parameters are that end up being established for the overall canon that's built up for it. I'm more interested in coming up with a given location's occupants, background stories, current events, etc.

Very interested

This could be very interesting. I always have trouble creating an interesting environment for players to start out or hang out in. My towns basically just become a menu of options rather than a living place, so participating in something like this would give me a good idea of how to actually establish a place like this in my own world and be a fun activity with the community.

As someone slowly creating their own homebrew city based on this (wip) map as i play one of my campaigns...

*cracks knuckles*

This is ma jam.

Perhaps worldanvil would be a good place to organise this?

Anyone mind if I throw in a concept I have been hashing out...

Tinkerer/ crafter shop that takes in unusual materials to make cool gear. (i.e. monster hunter crossed with 5th ed)

I had been thinking an elf with a gnome apprentice combo with some sort of amusingly disfunctional relationship over the last 100 years or so. Starts as just a place to buy basic stuff... then requests help or eyes a trophy the party has and offers to make something for the fun of it/ spare parts initially...

This had been part of an idea for a campaign I had.

Also wanted a tavern with an owner that was significantly more than what they seemed. Extremely well liked local community leader type... maybe founded the town.

Spoiler:

Really a metallic dragon that liked to help people have a safe place in the region to live. (Likes to people watch.)

I really like the idea of a basic town where everyone has a level or two of secrecy that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

I have got, like, a LOT on my plate at the moment but i'm sure i can knock together a map at some point, no bother.

Trap #1 successfully deployed and tripped! Pyx was snared and volunteered to make a map! Heh.

I have DungeonDraft (for generating Dungeon maps) and WonderDraft (for generating world maps) but I don't have anything that generates towns well. I've seen your maps, Pyx, and really did hope you would be interested.

My original thoughts were if 3 or 4 people showed interest, I would call it a Go, figuring others may trickle in later. We're there so this is now officially "A Thing". How good or long-lasting of A Thing is yet to be seen, but it's A Thing so it's time to go to the next phase...

... deciding where to centralize the data in an organized fashion. The criteria I had in my head for this were:

1) Easy to use for all builder skill levels
I don't want anyone who is willing to contribute to be overwhelmed with a UI that is inscrutable. Someone not participating because they are frustrated would be a whole sack of sadness.

2) Easy to use from a "I'm browsing it" perspective
On the flip-side, it needs to be easy to look around in for a non-builder.

3) Extensible
This will start as a town. If The Thing grows beyond that, we don't want to have to move to a different platform because we chose poorly.

4) Free to Use
I don't want anyone to have to spend anything to participate.

5) Not linked to one Owner
This is a biggee to me. You don't want a collaborative project where there is one person who owns the site (or whatever) and then that person goes ghost causing the project to die.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

If World Anvil fits the bill, then I'm OK with using it. Is it easy to pull up the town and get a list of all the buildings / inhabitants and then possibly click on an inhabitant like Manta's Tinkerer and get deeper info on them? Ease of use is what I'm getting at. I would assume that it wouldn't be a successful took if it weren't easy to use.

I just looked at it and the pricing scheme. The functionality appears to be there in spades. The pricing is what makes me balk. If I'm reading it correctly, someone would have to pay $58 (-25%) a year to own a campaign where 4 other people can be co-editors/owners/writers. Or $105 (-25%) a year to have 9 other people collaborating. That's a bit of scratch - and if there's ever interest from more than 9 people, not everyone can participate.

IF one person can have a Master account with the others having free accounts and still be able to collaborate, I would be willing to send some $$$ their way to help foot the bill of the master account. I'm a cynic/realist and what I see happening in the future is the one person who owns the master account that holds the campaign losing interest and not wanting to renew the next year and the campaign going away. That's the kind of stuff that worries me.

-BEP

Curious and interested

@Manta - the Tinkerer shop and associated interesting personnel is exactly the kind of thing I was hoping for.

If you guys have read "Thieves' World" - that book is what comes to mind. It was a... well, you can see for yourself here:
Thieves' World Wikipedia Page

I read the first anthology around 1982 and loved it and the idea around how it was made.

Manta's idea above is great. But, not every inhabitant of the town needs to have cool stuff associated with them. So, people like myself that don't have a good imagination don't have to feel pressured into coming up with extensive backgrounds, plot points, etc. There's nothing wrong with taking one of the local bakers and creating their family and shop and call it Done.

Be open to other people wanting to incorporate your Baker's life with their Armorer's life. Maybe they used to be a couple before the Armorer did something unspeakable so now they don't even talk anymore. "Yes, and..."

-BEP

I am a little confused. Does this involve writing, drawing, concepting, designing? All three?

Writing is the heart of the project. A contributor could write just a basic list of who lives in a house (Name, age, gender) or something as elaborate as a mini-adventure based on a town-member needing a McGuffin retrieved from a nearby abandoned mine (or the like).

As far as drawing is concerned, a single map of the town is the only required drawing. Buildings will be labeled with numbers so they can be cross-referenced with the inhabitants. On the other hand, if the 97-year old half-blind human tailor also happens to be the lone surviving member of an old cult and still has the torture chamber in their cellar that is linked to a nearby cave by a hand-dug tunnel, the person coming up with that piece of town lore may want to create a map for that and detail what can be found in said cellar or cave.

I'm not sure what you mean by concepting and designing.

I envisioned taking the map and assigning a bunch of the buildings generic titles like "Baker 01" or "Tavern 01". Then whomever wants to flesh out "Baker 01" writes a description of the building, what's in it, who is in it, etc. and that gets added to wherever we store all the data. Slowly, the town will change from "Basic RPG Town 01" to an interesting place for characters to visit or perhaps even live in.

As a start, I was going to make a list of what kinds of inhabitants would exist in a town of this size. I thought 100 - 150 total inhabitants was a good start, but it may be too many or possibly too few. Old Widow Marstin may have 12 kids of her own, so that farm would hold 8% of the whole population of a 150 member town. The actual number of inhabitants will be fluid and only known at the end.

-BEP

There are a number of population generators out there, e.g. the one on donjon: https://donjon.bin.sh/fantasy/demogr...

which seems to be based on a document referenced here (and available elsewhere if you search for it), called Medieval Demographics Made Easy by S. John Ross. (I found a copy here.)

So that might make a place to start.

And of course, there are whole games about creating towns with history, too. (There's one in particular that was featured during one arc of the Friends at the Table podcast, but I don't remember what it's called offhand. I'll do some research and get back to the thread.)

(edit) Awesome links, Katy. -BEP

I just did a quick search to see what might exist in a medieval fantasy RPG town and came up with this list. This is just a guide and has too many things on it to fit in a town of 100 - 150 inhabitants. I'm sure people will want to put things in the town that aren't in this list, too.

I bolded ones that I would put in a fantasy RPG town to start with if I were making one and had to pare down the list. My opinion only, it doesn't really mean anything.

Alchemist / Herbalist
Apiarist
Baker
Barber
Blacksmith (Armorsmith / Weaponsmith)
Book / Scroll Store
Bowyer
Brewery
Brothel
Butcher
Carpenter
Cattle Barn
Cheese Maker
Church
Cobbler
Farms
Farrier
Fletcher
Furniture Maker
Furrier
Gem Cutter
General Store
Granary
Graveyard
Haberdasher
Inn(s)
Jail
Jeweler
Leatherworker
Luthier
Mason
Miller
Monastery
Outdoor Market Area
Plantation
Potter
Quilter
Saddler
Sanctuary
School
Sheriff / Constable Building
Shrine
Silversmith
Skinner
Soapmaker
Stables
Tailor
Tavern(s)
Temple
Tinker
Town Hall
Toymaker
Weaver
Well
Woodcutter

-BEP

bepnewt wrote:

@Manta - the Tinkerer shop and associated interesting personnel is exactly the kind of thing I was hoping for.

If you guys have read "Thieves' World" - that book is what comes to mind. It was a... well, you can see for yourself here:
Thieves' World Wikipedia Page

I read the first anthology around 1982 and loved it and the idea around how it was made.

Manta's idea above is great. But, not every inhabitant of the town needs to have cool stuff associated with them. So, people like myself that don't have a good imagination don't have to feel pressured into coming up with extensive backgrounds, plot points, etc. There's nothing wrong with taking one of the local bakers and creating their family and shop and call it Done.

Be open to other people wanting to incorporate your Baker's life with their Armorer's life. Maybe they used to be a couple before the Armorer did something unspeakable so now they don't even talk anymore. "Yes, and..."

-BEP

See, that's my thought process too.

Sure, some of the people will have some secrets or whatever that can serve as plot hooks or even the basis for mini-adventures. But many of them will simply be regular folks getting by, with some detail available on their background, personality, and relationships with other townsfolk to make it come alive as a campaign setting.

Also, I didn't realize there are software suites that might be suitable for this. I assumed we'd have to build some sort of wikipedia-esque (for user-friendliness of indexing, searching, and cross-linking pages & entries) site. I'm quite happy to chip in towards an annual license, that doesn't sound too onerous for me for a pleasant long-term "living world" project like this.

Katy wrote:

And of course, there are whole games about creating towns with history, too. (There's one in particular that was featured during one arc of the Friends at the Table podcast, but I don't remember what it's called offhand. I'll do some research and get back to the thread.)

The playthrough I'm remembering was the Marielda arc of the Friends at the Table podcast, and they used The Quiet Year game as a framework. Not quite what you're getting at here, but an interesting worldbuilding game. (Friends at the Table is about 90% collaborative storytelling, with a thin veneer of Dungeon World as a framework. Long episodes with an inventive GM guiding the group.)

Been kicking ideas about this in my head during my down time. Trying not to get too out there.

For now, until we have a permanent place to store the data, I created a google sheet to just hold "land plots" that represent a building. To seed it, I added the Tinker Shop and 2 residences for the 2 tinkers. This isn't a sheet to store all the ideas for the buildings and their inhabitants, just a quick reference for collaborators to see what people are being created.

I initially had the sheet wide open for anyone to edit, but with this forum being able to be read by anyone, I changed it back to only people I share it with being able to edit it. Anyone here is welcome to edit the sheet, I'll just need to know your google login so I can "share" it with you. Either PM your google login to me or post it here in the open if you want. If you don't have a google login and don't want to get one (understandable), it's not a problem. As people post in this thread with their ideas, I'll automatically add them to the sheet when I see it. You only need to give me your login if you want to personally edit the doc.

Link to initial land plot planning sheet:
Google Sheet for Initial Land Plot Tracking

(Freeport Hamlet was just something I named the Doc - it is a placeholder for whatever name we choose, not the actual name)

Mantid wrote:

Been kicking ideas about this in my head during my down time. Trying not to get too out there. :D

While this shouldn't be 5th Edition D&D specific, I did have in mind that it was for a fantasy town, not modern or sci-fi. Try to keep races, items, etc. centered around fantasy, but don't feel obligated to stick to races, items, etc. that are D&D "things". One rule, though - NO TIEFLINGS!

Oh, what was that, Pyx? You're going to burn the town to the ground? Ok, ok, Tieflings are in.

-BEP

I meant to mention this earlier. Inns/Taverns are typically the heart of a fantasy RPG town. Feel free to have more than one collaborator work on big stuff like that.

Or a single person can tackle one and then ask for help if it becomes too much.

-BEP

ONLY tieflings!

I'll see about doing a scribbly version of a map shortly - need a break from more serious work stuff / trawling through that itch bundle for TTRPG things!

It appears that I can give editor access to the google sheet via having the user’s email address. So, if you aren’t a google person and want to edit the sheet, PM me your email address and we can try that.

-BEP

very rough map with 50 locations marked... probably take me a while to do a proper version, but this should hopefully tide over for now!

IMAGE(https://smackfolio.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/gwj-map.jpg)

Freakin’ Wow.

We’re there any assumptions you had when you made it? Examples:

- 38-44 is a wealthier area or perhaps larger businesses
- 12 is a graveyard
- 27 is a farmer’s market
- 33 is a general goods / trader / shipwright
- 1 is an Inn / Tavern

Stuff like that. If there’s anything you had a specific thought about, mention it here before stuff getS claimed.

Did I mention Wow? Thanks, Pyx. Seriously.

-BEP

I was thinking of the Elf as the smithy type person and the gnome as a tinkerer...

But that was when I was thinking of a smaller town than this. Needed an armorer/ weaponsmith and wanted someone to add a little creativity with the tinkerer.

On a sheet formatting note... Can we have a page 2 where we add details that can be referenced. Maybe hotlink things as it gets larger. I'd like an area to write in extra details/ plot hooks/ quirks. Maybe as stories build we could go so far as to say these shop owners dislike the mayor because of that one incident....

A relative location might be good to, but that also might be restrictive. Is it a forest town, a fortified town, desert oasis kinda thing... etc.

Aaand while i got distracted typing things up BAM map.

Thanks Pyx!!

EDIT... can I steal #40 for my shop? or is that too big and needs to be a guild hall or something?

bepnewt wrote:

Freakin’ Wow.

We’re there any assumptions you had when you made it? Examples:

- 38-44 is a wealthier area or perhaps larger businesses
- 12 is a graveyard
- 27 is a farmer’s market
- 33 is a general goods / trader / shipwright
- 1 is an Inn / Tavern

Stuff like that. If there’s anything you had a specific thought about, mention it here before stuff getS claimed.

Did I mention Wow? Thanks, Pyx. Seriously.

-BEP

actually yeah pretty much spot on with all of those.
i'll bagsee me 19 and 34 for now (remote lonely cliffslide manor and a tower)
i can add more slots later when i do a proper version of the map anyway.

Edit: Pyxie-hausered!

Do what you want with the sheet(s). I would prefer the fleshing out of the ideas be in the thread here, and then copy them into the sheet if you’d like. But, my preference doesn’t really mean squat - I’m just another collaborator here. Organize to your heart’s content in the google sheet.

I would like to wait for Pyx to give some input on her assumptions in regards to the map before claiming any of the more prominent buildings since she probably had some sort of vision when drawing it up. Worst case, you grab 40 and then move it to another building later if needed.

Edit2: Pyx can always enlarge a building or add a barn, etc later when she gets closer to a final draft of the map.

-BEP

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