View Full Version : Kobold Quarterly Howling Tower: Social Studies

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06-19-2012, 02:12 AM
Originally posted on Tuesday 06-19-2012 02:01 AM at koboldquarterly.com (http://www.koboldquarterly.com)

http://www.koboldquarterly.com/k/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/town-223x300.jpg (http://www.koboldquarterly.com/k/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/town.jpg)Cities and towns crop up frequently in most RPG campaigns, assuming you’re not spending all your time in a megadungeon. Given their importance in establishing a setting in general and in immediate game events, I’ve never been very happy with the way most RPGs deal with them. Published town descriptions all too often focus on material aspects that provide interesting color but seldom are factors in actual play. If there’s a map, odds are high that it shows an inn, a blacksmith’s shop, the mayor’s home, possibly a barracks, and dozens of unlabeled buildings. What a bland mix.
The most important point to understand about towns and cities is that they’re not collections of buildings; they’re collections of people, with the emphasis on collection. A few individuals will stand out from any group, but groups themselves have important characteristics. Individuals are unique and unpredictable, but groups can be qualified and quantified in interesting and reliable ways. The ways of doing so are what I’m chiefly interested in.
What follows is a series of short tables that you can use to generate collective qualities and attitudes for the people of a town. Each table determines an attitude, outlook, need, or other characteristic of the townspeople as a group. One set of characteristics can easily cover an entire small town. In a larger city, discrete neighborhoods, guilds, religious sects, or ethnic groups can be treated separately. Give each group its own characteristics.
I don’t pretend that my approach is exhaustive or definitive, but it works for me. Use whichever of these tables you like, ignore those you don’t like, and add others of your own design. There’s no great need to be consistent from town to town; what’s right in one place might be unnecessary somewhere else.
I haven’t provided a lot of detail on specific entries, because the real fun is interpreting the results.
Social Organization: How do the people organize themselves? Who do they consider “family?”

Clans or tribes
Castes (social, occupational, religious, or age-based)
Trade guilds

Social Strength: This represents the solidity of the town’s institutions, the people’s faith in their leaders, and their respect for authority.

In revolt or collapse
Crumbling institutions, social upheaval
Change is part of progress
Stable society
Tradition rules
Fanatics; roll again to determine their brand of fanaticism

Religion or atheism
Law or chaos
Good or evil

Ethical Strength: Use this rating to judge the trustworthiness of an informant, the honesty of a merchant, or the openness of an official to bribery.

It’s every person for himself or herself
Corruption is a fact of life
Get it in writing
Trust but verify
People are born good
People keep their promises

Valued Qualities: Who do the locals look up to? What impresses them?

Valor and honor
Scheming and intrigue
Military prowess
Knowledge and magical prowess

Tolerance of Outsiders: When characters first arrive, a roll above the town’s tolerance rating can mean the PCs have aroused suspicion.

Hostile and suspicious even of fellow citizens
Hostile and suspicious of outsiders
Mistrustful of any who stand out as different
Mistrustful of new arrivals but warm over time
Generally welcoming
Friendly toward all

This second table can determine what specific bias the citizens hold.

Country of origin
Wizards are trouble
Adventurers in general are trouble

Expectations of Outsiders: What do locals want from outsiders?

Conversion to their way of life
Respect for local customs
News of the larger world
Free-flowing wealth
Help against bandits, monsters, invaders, or oppressors
Help with a local problem that isn’t solved easily through force

About the Author: Steve Winter has been involved in publishing Dungeons & Dragons in one capacity or another since 1981. Currently hes a freelance writer and designer in the gaming field. You can visit Steve and read more of his thoughts on roleplaying games, D&D, and more at his website: Howling Tower (http://www.howlingtower.com/). If you missed the earlier entries on the Kobold Quarterly site, please follow the Howling Tower tag to read more!

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