Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hamlets, Villages & Features

I have debated what to tackle next and whether or not the right thing to do would be to continue with the entirely random generation at this point or to dig down into how any of this would apply directly to my world.  I could get into how to generate a seacoast, which I've completely dismissed as an elemental part of the random generation ... and I could talk about the differences of one kind of village as opposed to another.

From the book The English, A Social History 1066-1945, I came across this nice distinction between population centres which were primarily agrarian and those that were primarily mercantalistic ... and the distinction was not one of size or population.  A village of 500 could easily have its primary workforce leave town in the morning for the fields, while a village of 300 could be entirely service-oriented, populated by no field workers at all but by artisans, lenders, carters and so on.

Thus, in the previous post, and indeed in the generation system altogether, we could say that an ordinary six mile hex might not have merely a collection of hamlets, but may actually have a village inclusive that would be larger than the village actually indicated during the generation phase.  The "village" that was rolled and indicated on the general map would then be a money feature and not a population feature.  That would be specifically a place where several guilds were established.

I admit that I hadn't considered this previously, and only came across it as I was reading on towns preparing for a post about them.  If this is the case, then, I may have to remake my mind about what would be in an ordinary hex, in terms of actual persons.  After all, if we can't bend with new knowledge, what's the point in reading anything.

Originally I meant to propose that an ordinary hex, such as that I described yesterday, would have 1 to 6 hamlets.  Now I think that, in order to truly fill out the hex, it should have up to three levels of inhabitants (newly considered), all of which would fall below the level of the manse, or land operated by the manor house.  It is more or less assumed that those groups of hexes that include towns, cities, onasteries, carter posts and so on are ALSO lands where manor houses are fairly common, with anywhere from 3 to 10 manor houses per six-mile hex.  A typical manor house, after all, included about 9 square miles of farmland, meadow, orchards and forest, with places of marshland and separated ground for defense (baileys and such), burial, walking gardens and so on.

But we're speaking here specifically of hexes over which there is no direct authority - lands too remote, too poor, or too upon the edge of the wilderness to encourage a rich landlord to build a manor and thus lord over the peasants.

The three stages I mentioned would be degrees of concentration - all would be primarily agrarian in industry.  There would be scattered cotter houses, such as occurred in large areas of Hungary, the Ukraine and Russia for a large part of its history - settled homes hundreds, perhaps thousands of yards apart, taking advantage of each little bend of a river or other access to water, with large families exploiting the immediate wilderness is relative isolation.  Transhumance groups may temporarily reside in such places during certain seasons of the year.

Then there would be the hamlets we spoke of yesterday, with family grouped together as bands, with joint kinship and a certain amount of interbreeding.  These would be under the authority of a headman and probably some sort religious leader.  There might be anywhere from 1 to 6 hamlets in a given hex, but these might be grouped together or they might be scattered, depending on the familial relationships.  Two groups of hamlets might indicate a continuous conflict, like the Hatfields and the McCoys.  Three groups might suggest a more tolerant view of outsiders.  A substantial proportion of these hamlets may not be directly agrarian at all, but may largely depend upon hunting, fishing, minor stock raising or large berry patches that occur naturally in the hex for sustenance.

Finally, there may, or may not, be a village, or possibly two, anywhere from 100 to 500 people in size, which would have no special political nor monetary power - it would simply be a very large clan.  These societies would be certainly agrarian, but the whole town would pick up and leave for the fields in the mornings and return to the fields at night.

For a party, the most important thing about such an area - these semi-civilized hexes we've been describing - would be their value as jumping off points for adventuring into the true wilderness areas beyond.  Consider the inconvenience of having always to travel back twenty, forty miles back to a real town or money-changing village.  What arrangements could be made, instead, with the communities out on the periphery?

An inn or tavern is out of the question.  The best roads would be beaten ground, hardpacked, with stones littered sparsely upon it to provide cohesion in the rains.  More often roads would be rutted farm roads, soft and subject to causing vehicles to become mired during wet seasons.   Not the sort of thing that one would want to ship food and drink over to keep a tavern supplied.  Nor would there be much coin in the area for the residents to pay for such things.

Still there might be barns, where the locals would be willing to look after the party's horses, where the party might sleep out of the rain in exchange for some skills or labor (money would not be of much use as payment), and where a supply of hay could be obtained.  There might also be a granary, as hay alone is not enough to keep a horse healthy, nor is it much good for people.  The party might eat better if there are storehouses of vegetables and grains for them to snack upon.  After all, as we say, the nearest market is 30 miles away.

Alternately, a nearby meadow might also serve to increase the health of the party's animals, since it would include clover and other nutrients not to be found in hay (I get really gritty with my party's horses, insisting that while they can let their horses crop from the side of the road, if they don't include some proper horsefeed - which can be expensive - their horses will not do well in the long run).  Meadows might also hold some potent herbs and plants that might save a poisoned party member's life ... if you wanted to stipulate that the meadow's indicated presence also indicates the presence of such medicinal plants.

Pure water could be obtained if there was a well present.  I continue to contemplate ways to bring parasitic infestations and diseases more firmly into my games, and if such were the case, there would definitely be an interest in a good, healthy well - if the party did not include someone who could purify water.  Arguably, however, a well could be more than pure.  Particular wells could always increase healing (without being magical), offer unique water varieties for the creation of potions and such, or even be the necessary cure for a specific kind of disease - an undiscovered future site of an as yet unconceived health spa.  Too, in high mountains, there might be a hot spring, and that too might offer cures, comfort or even an increased morale for hirelings (for having been brought to such an exquisite place).

There might be a nearby fishing pond, for the acquisition of free food.  The pond may yield anywhere from 2 to 10 lbs. of fish a day per competant angler, and be virtually inexhaustible for party or locals.  Of course, the locals might also object, and there might be restrictions or negotiations which the party might be forced to undertake.  Either way, the pond could prove a valuable resource, particularly if no other feature is present in the hex.  A game trail, where the hunting is good, would provide a similar resource for the party - with a good opportunity for 40-80 lbs. of meat being taken at one time on a roll of 1 in 6 - I think I'd increase the likelihood 3% per level of ranger.

Finally, there might be a guard post, specifically if there is a village, which would include 2-5 men of fairly relaxed attitude but still anxious to see that the local customs are observed.  This could cause some trouble for the party, not because these men would be difficult to kill, but because they could easily arouse the local population against the party in times of trouble.  Getting to know their names and what they might like would be a good idea.

This is obviously far too gritty for a lot of players - it just isn't as interesting as killing orcs or such.  For myself, getting this stuff organized only in the last month or so, it helps solve a long time issue that has been nagging at me since I began this game.  What services are available to the party?  What exactly do those services provide?  Where are they found, and how common are they?

However this may or may not work for you as a DM or as a player, think of what this could mean for solitary play, or ultimately as a base-line for how you'd construct a world in a computer simulation.  You're not just tramping around in empty bush.  You're coming across a trail, you're recognizing the signs and you're marking it as a good place to come back to if you need food next week.

I think that is solid value.


Arduin said...

I like it. Well, I like having specific features like this, with specific purposes.

I had envisioned that one might roll off for each one with a percentile based on the number of civilized hexes adjacent: a restful parallel to the growing wild.

Obviously these things would all be available in actual market towns and suchlike.

Seeing this series expand has been a great joy, without a doubt. I look forward to seeing Kosovo in the near future.

PatrickW said...

Interesting ideas and some things I need to think about for the new campaign I'm starting at the end of the month. Some questions:
1) How much of this system assumes a "civilized" area like Europe as opposed to someplace like the Americas? I'm thinking a lot as eventually you will be using this to generate close in maps for your game. Baseline assumptions about the civilized areas would seem to be different if one were modeling a Mayan (Aztec, Olmec, etc.) area than Medieval European. I may be wrong, but I'd like to hear your thoughts varying the civilization assumptions might (or might not) play out.
2) If you go with a lowland definition of the wilderness hexes, would it work to designate part of the wilderness as water, either a lake, sea, or even ocean? The civilized areas would then become the coastline, inlets, and the like.

Thank you for your time and writing.

Alexis Smolensk said...


I don't see this as being necessarily European. The Chinese, Hindi, Transasiatic and African cultures all include areas of wilderness that are only partially tamed, featuring small isolated habitations. Granted, a Mongol 'hamlet' would look very different from a European one, and they would not be necessarily farming, but one can properly insert stockraising in place of farming and I did mention Transhumance as an alternative to scattered non-centre settlement. It is a matter of interpreting the data for the culture you're depicting.

If you'll remember, I intended to base my actual results upon infrastructure generation built upon actual settlement ... so in the case of a strongly metropolitan community like the Mesoamericans - examine the link carefully - then the distribution of same infrastructure would strongly centre on that one or two cities that formed the basis of that culture. The random generation above, less so, but then it was deliberately simplified.

Regarding lakes, seas or oceans. I would suggest either selecting areas that would be coasts for such things, inserting them ahead of doing any number generation at all, or possibly deciding that an area of "wilderness" where there was no settlement was due to that hex actually being a lake. In fact, all the green wilderness on the above map could be indicative of lake or sea, and could thus be drawn as such ... and you could increase the likelihood of generating seas by skewing the numbers as you wish. You could also roll for each hex to determine if it were water or not. There are a number of generational methods you could employ.

As I've said, the location of my seas for my world are already determined. But for your world, I recommend you making your own random tables.