The forest quakes as the heavy footsteps of the dragon shakes the trees. The critters are running away from the flames of the dragons breath. The village, not too far away is raising the alarm with a clanging bell, but that seems to be drawing…
We’ve already talked what Greenfang is known for and why it was built where it was. We’ve talked about how the merchant guilds run the show around Greenfang and how they have mercenaries to keep the peace, but how well do they really keep the peace?
I think that the criminal underworld is one of those things that is tricky to get right in a city. I find that it tends to go to one of two extremes. Either, there is little to none criminal activity in the city because you’re just supposed to shop there and not look for trouble or look beyond the surface of where you’re at, or everyone is involved in a conspiracy. Now, both have some issues, the main one being that it isn’t all that realistic. We know that organized crime and gangs exist in the real world, and they have throughout history, so why is a D&D town different? It shouldn’t be.
Let’s get back to Greenfang though, what sort of criminals are going to be there?
Outside of the town you’re definitely going to have a larger number of bandits than you would normally watching the roads because they are going to be trying to hit up caravans, or, more likely, they are going to try and deal with adventuring parties that come into town for the auctions on goods because they are going to be loaded with money and not yet have the gear that they want. Most likely there is going to be more organized group that is pretty specific on whom they hit. Then there will be a few who have split off from that group or who try and go it on their own from the start who end up having shorter careers as bandits.
The organized group of bandits, The Green Falcons, are going to know to avoid the merchant guild caravans because those are going to have better guards, and even if they don’t, the merchant guilds are going to hit back hard with their mercenaries if they lose a caravan. So, the Green Falcons are likely going to try and keep the random bandits down as well, like the merchant guilds would want, because the merchant guilds would crack down on all bandits if they lost a caravan. The Green Falcons would also have people in the city who are sending information back out to the bandit camp wherever that is located. It probably wouldn’t be someone in every guild, but there would probably be a couple around who are gathering information when a guild is going to send out mercenaries to crack down on the bandits.
Beyond that, I think Greenfang is going to be more focused on the white collar crimes. That’s what the guilds are going to crack down on but also what the cons that people are going to try and pull. You likely always have dirty money changers who are keeping some extra for themselves. The merchant guilds are probably going to consider that the cost of doing business and as long as it’s not too much, they won’t make a stink about it.
I think, also with so much money being in town you are going to find that there is gambling. I would suspect that there is some guild in town that all they do is run different fights, tournaments and stuff like that to keep people entertained, especially since it’s in the middle of no where. But that’s probably fairly tame and while someone might die, it probably doesn’t happen too often. So, most likely there is going to be something going on under the table, a secret gambling den either for fights, games or chance or possibly both. This is going to be ignored by the merchant guilds because it doesn’t take any money from their pockets, just the pockets of their employees.
So Greenfang is definitely going to have a criminal side to the town. There’s probably even a good amount of money to be made if you are careful about it, and at all points in time there is probably someone trying to get rich by scamming one of the guilds. In your game, that’s useful for your story because you can either have your adventuring party brought in to help stop it sometime. Your adventuring party, though, might be blamed for it if they have been in the town too long and because they are the “new” people. Also, a battle or two with bandits seems very likely since they aren’t probably going to be coming in with a caravan. Or it’s possible that the players are brought in to deal with some bandits as part of a larger crackdown and some extra bodies are needed. The thing with all of these story hooks is that they aren’t going to be your whole game, but a good bit of combat if you want something simpler and also a good way to get your players involved with the guilds if you need it for your story line.
Next, we’re going to talk about religion in the city as well as how the city might physically be laid out.
Alright, time to wrap up the city build, there is so much more that I could talk about, there is actually building out shops and places like that, but I wanted to keep this at a slightly higher level since you don’t need to see…
Oh boy, we’re talking about everyone’s hot button issue, the economy and it’s best friend politics. Fortunately, it’s the economy of a fictional D&D town, so that should be less of a sticking point and how it’s important for creating your fictional city and make it feel like a real world.
So, we’ve talked about this a little bit. Greenfang is a town that doesn’t have much in terms of it’s own resources. It was instead built in the wilderness close enough to the mountains to be able to handle shipping of ore, and because of that, multiple different trade routes were started to get the ore heading out more directions than just down the river. And that, then made Greenfang into a town that has a lot of trade going through it and a good hub for secondary headquarters for merchant guilds.
So the town is really full of merchants and that’s where most of the money is changing hands. But because of the proximity to the mountains and ore, you’d have a few other businesses pop up. Obviously, you are going to need inns for the merchant guild members who are coming in to get the newest shipment of goods from their guild. Plus, people who are hunting for food or growing some food, though, that is most of what is shipped and brought back into Greenfang. That, and goods that are specific or well known from the cities at the end of the trade routes.
But there is another group that would have definitely moved into the area and probably into Greenfang, and that is master crafters who forge the ore. If they can buy it before it goes through a reseller, that means that they are getting it at a better value, and then they probably sell to multiple different guilds. In fact, since this is my city, they actually hold a monthly auction for these master worked weapons and armor and other things so that the guilds bid it up and the master crafters can get the best money. In Greenfang the auction day is basically a holiday that everyone attends. A non-guild member can buy items, but most of the items are sold in bulk because the master crafters have apprentices who are turning out things in bulk like pots, etc. which are cheaper to buy when they are made in Greenfang and shipped out, than raw ore shipped out and smelted elsewhere, though that still happens.
Now that we are seeing where the money is flowing through Greenfang, we can start to see who has power. I think that there is a high council in the town that is technically supposed to be neutral, but every seat is going to be attached to a guild and is probably a guild member or related to a guild member. The high council is going to be focused on what is best for keeping the business running strong for a long time. This can lead to some contentions when a new guild tries to get established and steal out a council seat from under another guild. It also can cause troubles when a guild needs something specific, but generally the guilds ideas all align because they care about keeping their guild making money by selling goods, so the ideals don’t diverge too much.
The merchant guilds are also going to be the ones in charge of protection. While there might be an official standing guard, they are basically used to split up disputes between squabbling merchant guilds, or to run new guilds out of town before they can be established if the new guild is bugging enough of the old merchant guilds. But the protection around the city, most of that is done by the merchant guilds who have a good number of mercenary soldiers. They keep them busy keeping the roads out of the town clear so that their caravans can stay safe. This means both dealing with bandits which tend to give Greenfang a wide birth, but also wild animals that might show up. Most everyone in Greenfang can deal with something like a rabid fox or maybe even a wolf, but for larger or more monstrous creatures, the merchant guilds send in the mercenaries.
Greenfang in general is fairly rough and tumble for being as large as city as it is. But it’s also in the middle of nowhere, so the faint of heart aren’t that apt to travel to it, and they also aren’t that apt to stay. So on the criminal side, while they crack down hard on things like stealing from the merchant guilds, other things that are technically not legal in the nation are allowed here. The city guard is kept somewhat busy busting up bar fights or dealing with drunks in the street. But stealing something is cracked down on hard, so that isn’t much of an issue. It’s more apt that someone will stab another person or a slight than someone would steal something.
We’ve made it into Greenfang a little bit, and we can start to see how the city is running. We can see why a city was built up there and how it’s running. Next time we’re going to look a bit at the criminal aspect and what other groups besides the merchant guilds and master crafters might be out there.
Share questions, ideas for articles, or comments with us!
At this point in time Greenfang is getting close to being built. We’ve talked about the economy, the politics, the criminal aspect of the town. All of these things are really going to drive the plots that you can surrounding Greenfang. But, they don’t really…
I think that this is a very rare thing. I don’t know that a ton of people ever really complete their D&D games. There are multiple reasons for it potentially not being completed. But, is that something that’s okay, or as the DM should you be looking to complete it?
First, what do I mean by complete a campaign. I think that there are a few different things, but I want to clarify a few things that it isn’t. First, it doesn’t mean that you get to level 20, in fact, very few campaigns ever get to level 20, and the campaign books that Wizards of the Coast puts out for Dungeons and Dragons, most of those stop around level 10. The reason being, anything else would be too much leveling quickly, and they don’t want to start at a mid level campaign, because it’s harder for new players to jump in there. It also doesn’t mean t hat the campaign ends for one of several reasons. When I say completed I’m talking about the story the DM has set forth being done.
Why might your campaign end, there are two main reasons. The group falling apart or the DM burning out. There can be a lot of reasons for the first one, the group falling apart. It can be because someone moves away, or someone gets too busy, or really anything that might divide the group. It’s unfortunate that it happens, but it does happen, and there isn’t much you can do about it. The other one of DM burnout can come for a couple of reasons. If the DM is driving the story and the players are passengers on the DM’s story, it makes it a lot of work for the DM. Or the DM can have split up there story so much that it has become too much work for them to keep all of the threads together, or it might just be that the DM has been a DM for a very long time.
But, that’s not how we want our campaign to end. Whether you’re building up to that final epic encounter against the evil deity at level 20, or the BBEG who is a Wizard you can fight at level 10, you want to finish the story. It’s more satisfying for the DM and for the players. And, if you can do that, you likely will create more people who want to continue playing or maybe try running their own game.
So what can you do as the DM? I’ll come back later for players.
- Keep the story varied. And by that, if you are going to have McGuffins around that the players have to collect, keep the collection process different and changing. Make the settings feel unique and make what the players need to do feel very different so that they feel like they’re not just hacking and slashing their way through the same adventure.
- Keep the players involved in the story telling. If you want the players to feel like their not just along for the ride, have them help you come up with details. This can be tricky if you aren’t great at improv, but if you aren’t, send out Google Surveys to your players between sessions, have them give you character names or descriptions of places that you can work into your next session as you continue planning it. This means that it isn’t just going to be your creative juices in it, so the players are more apt to stay involved with the story and you, as the DM, are less likely to burn out.
- Take Breaks. It’s a surprising one, but I think it’s good. If you are playing every two week for four hours, take a break every six months and just cancel a game or however often you need it. This, again, helps with burnout so that you don’t feel like you’re always pushing to your next session of the game.
- Don’t feel like you have to push to level 20. It’s fine for a game, and normal for a story to be complete before level 20. You might have thought you wanted the big bad to be fought at level 20, but to help with your burnout or the odds of someone dropping out, keep your story tight. That way you won’t burn out and players won’t get bored, and if you can tell a good and tight story to level 20, more power to you, but it isn’t needed.
So that was for DM’s, but it’s also on the players, there are things you can do to help complete your game:
- Miss as little as possible. It seems fairly obvious, but if you aren’t there or if enough players aren’t there, the story probably won’t progress as fast so that you don’t miss anything important. Now, at a larger table, it might still progress, but get caught up on your own time, don’t slow down the game when you get there just so you can be caught up. And when you do miss, let the DM know as far ahead of time as possible.
- Be engaged. This is several things rolled into one. Being engaged means don’t be on your phone at the table, unless you’re looking up a spell or ability. That contributes to DM burnout. Be ready to help the DM when they ask for it in terms of creating the world and more of the setting. I often ask for character names or descriptions, be ready to come up with some on the fly, and if you can’t, that’s fine, just don’t be surprised when the DM asks. Also know your character sheet. It’s a pretty simple engagement, take the notes you need so that you know what you are going to need to do. And finally, be engaged with the planning of missions and the story. It’s so many things, but if you have a side conversation or if you are just even passive in the story, it causes more DM burnout and can end a campaign before it’s time.
- Share the spotlight. You might be always engaged, you might never miss a session, and those things are huge for keeping the DM going in the game, but if you hog the spotlight as a player, it might cause other players to do the first two items on the players list. As the RPG Academy says, “If you’re having fun, you’re doing it right.” And that means fun for you and fun for everyone at the table. So share the spotlight, if you see someone who isn’t engaged, get them more engaged in the game. The DM might not have noticed, but you have the same power to take control of the story and get the player engaged as the DM does in a lot of cases.
- Be open and honest with the DM. If you aren’t enjoying the game, or if there aren’t parts of the game that you enjoy. Let the DM know, but better yet, let the DM know what you are enjoying. Framing the positives of what is really keeping you engaged allows the DM to do more things that they know the players will like, versus having to guess at what might work only if you say what you don’t like. And this can be tricky, especially after a rough session, but take a minute the day after to text or e-mail your DM and let them know what you’ve liked or what you haven’t and you’ll find that the game likely improves and it means that the DM has something more focused to prepare.
There are going to be more tips, I’m sure, for completing a campaign. But this is a good spot to start if you’re a DM or if you’re a player. Realize, still, that there are going to be a lot of campaigns that just end, and that isn’t a bad thing. But if you can bring your game to completion, you’re going to have a ton of fun with it and create some memories in the process.
What are some things you’ve used for running a game to the completion of it’s story? Are there things as a player you’ve found that have helped you?
Share questions, ideas for articles, or comments with us!