ONWARD HEROES GAMING
Your Very Own Village is a system that we have used in the classroom for children as young as five, and at the gaming table for teens and adults who are new to RPGs.
Draw a simple village map with your players. You can put a white board on the table, or a gridded piece of paper, or a posterboard. Start with a crossroads and some kind of water feature, and then go around the table, letting each player add something in turns.
First round: Add something functional. Stable, chapel, blacksmith, town hall, grocery, farm, placing it in a logical location on the map.
Second round: Add something decorative or cultural. Library, museum, statue, garden, shrine. The placement of these sites can be more whimsical.
Third round: Add each PC’s own dwelling. The farm, the sewer, above a store, a hovel, an alley, a mansion. Where do they live in relation to each other?
Fourth round: Add one person that each PC loves. A mentor, sibling, parent, neighbor, or anyone they care about. These NPCs will be in danger later.
The GM’s job: Make sure there is a tavern and a mayor and some kind of cultural theme like lobsters, a strange goddess, a musical genre or another element the town is known for. Encourage specificity. Listen. What are your players enthusiastic about? That element will help you create a threat to this village they love.
It’s the day of a festival — a wedding, a funeral, a holy day, a memorial of a victory or defeat. Choose something based on the world the players have suggested, their relationships, and the NPCs they created.
Veteran NPC TEAM: The town has a party of official adventurers that take care of the place, but they are lazy, boastful, distracted, greedy, etc.
Newbie PC TEAM: The PCs are the kids, the outcasts, or the losers, but they adore each other and they have people who believe in them! Create your NPCs based on qualities you know your players will despise: rude to animals, disdain for art, bossy. Make “opposites” for the PCs to give them antagonists and encourage roleplay.
CLASH: In this phase the PCs have a run-in with the veterans at the festival. Maybe there is some bullying and taunting. This interaction ends poorly for the PCs, with some kind of embarrassment or failure. During this scene, someone in the town expresses worry about the looming threat, but the “real” adventurers dismiss it.
The threat attacks! Yes, today of all days! Someone’s trying to steal the village artifact or smash the village asset or kill one of the beloved NPCs or take over the village landmark. The official adventuring party is immediately and dramatically wiped out, down to the last person, preferably off camera. After the shock fades, the PCs must step up and be heroes — save the day!
Bring out a wave of lesser enemies before you hit them with the big bad. Drag them around to any interesting village locations, and jeopardize all their favorite NPCs. When they’re banged up some, let the tide turn, and when they triumph, let their victory be cinematic. A new band of heroes rises to save the town!