Friday, March 15, 2013

Build your own Nulb

As anyone who's familiar with the T1-4 supermodule knows, while Hommlet is super detailed, Nulb is not. Instead, you're given a representative sample of buildings and characters who interface with the overarching line of adventure, and told to go to town building your own village.

(See what I did there?)

Well, my players have already made it clear they're not particularly interested in poking townsfolk when there's treasure to be had in the hands of the local bandits in a nearby dungeon. And I say, good on them. (I like Hommlet, I like thinking about it, I like building background for it, but I don't want to force uninterested players to grovel through it. Let them choose their own adventure.)

So, for Nulb, I'm going to try something different. I'm going to keep it as a skeleton village - obviously the important personages will stay in place, and some building names and even some history will appear. However, any real fleshing out of the town will be up to the players, around the table. If they come up with something good, I'll write it down, and it will be so.

How's this different from what I normally do? After all, GMs should steal good ideas from their players.

Mostly, the difference in this case is I'm being explicit. When my group gets to Nulb I'm going to pause and say something to the effect of, "Look, guys, this is Nulb. It's a sketch village. It's a dive, with bandits and mercenaries and docks and etc. Buildings are in disrepair and many are vacant, and the whole place is inhabited by all sorts of scum."

"There are rumours to be had in Nulb, and people who know things. However, it's basically a blank slate. If you want to leave it that way, that's fine - the rules in DF 2 for abstracting Town fit right in. If you want details, they're yours to make, and I'll run with them."

Obviously there will be changes and twists to player suggestions, but I like the idea of letting them build a town if they like. It's less work for me up front and more fun for me, because I get to discover the place as they do. And they don't have any danger of an infodump or unfamiliarity with the town. If they don't care, it will be obvious, and we'll move on. If they do care, then they get to take an active hand in something they care about.


  1. I certainly can't speak for your players, but I'd almost want to take a half hour of BS session over drinks and snacks or something rather than create anything on the fly during play. Just shatters my fourth wall too much to be given that sort of "player agency" (I think that's the current term in gaming circles) when I'm trying to inhabit another character.

    1. That's a danger. However, if they're not interested, we can always either a) go with the abstract, which works well for Nulb's purposes, since it's mainly a base point for the Temple, or b) I can build stuff at runtime/between sessions.

      I've always enjoyed the idea of collaborative worldbuilding, and I've enjoyed it in play when it happened. That said, I know different people like different things.

  2. I like the approach. The nice thing is, if you don't like something you decided to included, the owner gets knifed/moves on/goes on the lam or the building gets burned down (on purpose or otherwise), runs out of stock, turns out to be a fraud, etc. It's not like that wouldn't happen anyway.

  3. This concept is new to me. Could you give an example?

    1. Sure. I first got the idea from John' Wick's Play Dirty Pyramid Articles, which I highly recommend. Even if you don't use them (and I'd be very careful doing so), they're great to read and very thought-provoking.

      The basis is simple: instead of asking you if there is something in town, the players will instead tell me there is something in town, subject to my veto or modification. This works with consenting, rational adults, because they understand that the system works on trust and mutual creativity, rather than using it as a method to get what they want from the gameworld and run. This can be places, NPCs, or details. For example, one might say, "I'm going to the blacksmith to see what he can do about my armor." (Okay, now there's a blacksmith.) Then I say, "Fine. Who's this blacksmith and what does he do?" and we run with it, learning together about who this man is as the PCs interact with him.