Saturday, June 3, 2017

Throwing Meat on Bones: Designing Settlements

In my Ánemos game most of the party is from the same place, Nános. The founding principle of this campaign was to try out some of the ideas about romantic fantasy and long term adventures with months of domestic time that +Joseph Manola writes about at his excellent blog. A hugely important part of this is the players home, and in this campaign that's the Grandsire's Enclave (the analog for the home village in a vanilla RPG).

I have been working on some options for the party to make decisions about how to invest in their home while they are out adventuring (because they were kind of exiled for kind of inviting a practitioner of a Sun Cult to Nános and kind of murder the Grandsire with mirrors), so when they finally return home they will have a lot of cool options. I read a post a few weeks(months?) about building up your village and it was good... but of course when I started this post I couldn't find it so I wrote my own rules. Here is that original post form the superb +Mateo Diaz Torres over at gloomtrain.

There have been other hacks like this, and this is loosely modeled on those (specifically Pathfinder's Settlement mechanics introduced for the Kingmaker Adventure Path), but also on some spreadsheets I made for my Vindjord game a few years ago that were similarly intended, but the system was never used. Taking a cue from some of these hacks I am giving the Enclave stats like a character :
  • Military: Used when raising an army, or when doing auto-resolution of conflicts when the PCs are away or when withstanding an attack
  • Agriculture: Used to figure out the population cap of the Settlement
  • Culture: Used to see if the settlement is able to help a PC to research something, or used to see if the settlement and the party get any morale bonuses for that month
  • Trade: Used to figure out the monthly income as well as famous-ness of settlement
All of the buildings provide modifiers to these stats and some unlock abilities like ship building or increasing the max value of an item available for sale in the settlement. Many of the buildings might require a special artisan to run them, so if the party finds a talented smith in their travels they could invite them to set up shop in their Enclave.

So here is a table with some options that the PCs can invest in (assume that each building or improvement takes a month to build):

The filled in slots are what has been built at the start of play, consider doing the same with your own.

I have instituted a cyclical time constraint on the players, with roughly half the year being unsuitable for sea travel, and therefore adventuring (that's what you get with a world of islands and a monsoon season). The thought is they will return home for the Season of Storms and play house for a few months (of course through descriptive montage) and build up the Enclave, then go adventure again once the weather clears. My group is currently half way through their first Season of the Sun, so they haven't interacted with any of this yet.

I'll keep you all posted with what my group thinks!

The Math

So here is what I have cooked up, with examples from the Enclave (examples will make some more sense if you read this post about Automata)

  • All Settlment Stats start at 4. This base score increases as the population grows (every exponential increase), the minimum number of inhabitants for a settlement is only like 30-40.
    • The Enclave started at 36 (6^2), and the base score will increase to 6 once they hit 216 (6^3).
  • Stat bonuses use the standard 5e spread, so a score of 10 means a +0 bonus, and a score of 6 means a -2 bonus.
  • For a monthly settlement income roll 1d20+Trade Modifier, this determines how good trade was this month. Apply the adjusted rate to the basic rate (money/population) and add it to the coffers.
    • The rate  I am using is 10 money/Circle (units of 6 Automata)
    • I am not letting my PCs use the Enclave's income for themselves, they must reinvest in the community, until they have a glorious military coup. 
  • The total population possible (as opposed to the realized population, you should keep track of how many peasants die) should be calculated as r* Agriculture score. 
    • So the rate for the Enclave is the constant 5.166 (I back calculated this rate for my game based off of how many people I said live in the settlement from the first session). Meaning that at their current Agriculture score of 6 there can be a total of 5.166*6=31 Circles supported (with rounding of course).
  • At the beginning of each month roll a morale check for the settlement, 1d20+Culture bonus. The result determines if they are in good spirits and gives them a bonus to all other rolls for that month. Its hard to get anything done when there hasn't been a good feat lately or a new book at the library.
  • Culture bonuses are also used to see if any traveling artists/ musicians/ scientists/ alchemists/ etc stop by for a while and applied to PC research checks at home.
  • Military rolls are opposed 1d20+Military bonus checks, the magnitude of winning/losing determines how big the victory/defeat was. Should be super back of the envelope calculation to determine the invading force's bonus, and only used when the PCs are away.
That's all of the hard and fast math I have figured out so far, but it seems like its enough to run with it. I like that the town income is separate from the PC's but they can spring some of their own cash if they really want to build a better smithy so they can finally buy better weapons. I have also given the PCs a map of the island to draw on as they build it up so they have some more concrete idea of where the ranch will go, and just where to put the garden.

***Note: this really intended for lower level characters investing in their home town, it's not really intended to scale to a metropolis or domain level simulation. You absolutely should not do this with every place they visit, it's a waste of valuable DM planning time***


  1. This is very cool. I think that you've got yourself a really nice base here. You've put a lot of thought into this and I really like it and it sounds like fun to play.

    I gotta ask, what is a Solar Foundry?

    1. Hehe, I alluded to it above.

      Their island doesn't have a good source of charcoal or other fuel suitable for smelting, so they contacted a Sun Cult and asked to see how the smelt without​ fuel. They stole their Solar Smelter designs and invited a Sun Cultist to demonstrate it for them. The Cultist didn't take kindly to bring tricked into working for free, so he murdered their leader with the Solar Smelter they had built.

      It's like a big solar oven, but for or.

  2. Do the PCs dictate how the island grows or do they have to politic it out with the settlement's government/populace?

    1. Good question, I assume that at first they are going to have to play politics, but after a few levels and large donations to the settlement I imagine some sort of per shift in their favor.

      It all really depends on what your PCs seem interested in. If they like negotiating let them, if they want to plot a coup let them, if they want to just buy stuff for the community with our trouble let them.