Sometimes when playing a fantasy TTRPG, you just need a realistic village. Whether that is a starting place or a stopping off point in an adventure, the vaguely-medieval village is a staple for travel, exploration, or to act as a home base. Pitchfork: Village Creator was made by Mark Key of 3 Skull Pub to do exactly that.
Pitchfork: Village Creator was released as a tool & early glimpse for Mark Key’s full game Pitchfork, a medieval folk horror TTRPG set in a roughly 15th century fantasy version of the Holy Roman Empire (aka Late Medieval / Early Modern Central Europe). In that game, you play “peasants in an isolated village.” Presumably then, this tool would be the first step to help create the village the game will take place in as a GM or cooperatively with the players. Each step has a rolling table to help you randomize if you are unsure as to what to place on the map or names to pick. These tables are based around d6s or d12.
The art added by Harry Boddice really adds to the atmosphere created by this tool. The look reminds me of a rustic Romanticism inspired by illustrations from 19th century collections of German folklore. It makes me really look forward to seeing the full breath of the art present in the full Pitchfork manual.
But now let’s take a look at the tool itself.
Crafting a Pitchfork Village
What’s in a name?
When starting a village in this tool, we start with a name. That may make sense to some, but our name goes further than just giving the place a reference. It also describes the basic environment of our village and the key resource our village is best known for. Each geographic feature and resource have several name elements that we can pull from and combine together.
In my sample village, I decided that the main resource that powers the economy is mining for ore and the location will have an alpine enviroment. Pulling from the example name elements, I decided to make my village’s name Unterspitze or, to translate it to English, “Underpeak.”
What’s in a village?
Our next step would be picking out landmarks that would be present in the region around our village as well as in the village itself. The mini manual suggests at least 3 regional landmarks and between 4-6 village locations, also giving them names. Each important location in the village is also given a rumor about something that happened there.
For Unterspitze, my three regional landmarks were an Abandoned Mine, a Mushroom Field, and a seemingly Bottomless Lake. The bottomless lake, I decided would be created by a waterfall from glacier melt on the edge of the village.
The four village locations I decided to create along with their rumors and strange things about them are listed here:
- A Great Cesspit – Rather than make this a cesspit, I decided to make this a spoil pile from the local mines called the Abraumhalde. This spoil pile was the site of a small battle between a foreign lord and the followers of a local gentry. Several men-at-arms in the battle were buried in a rock-slide and their bodies are believed to still be buried in a smaller pile at the foot of the larger spoil-pile.
- A Local Inn – This inn has actually been abandoned. Some horrid events happened there and led to surviving members of the family that owned it to flee the village for parts unknown. The only person who might be able to claim ownership to it is one of the NPCs we will discuss later.
- A Smithy – The smith makes amulets for the miners that are supposed to protect them from trickster spirits like kobolds who sometimes use their magic to create gasses in the mines that make people sick.
- A Communal Oven – This oven produces an unusual color of ash. It is also believed to be inhabited by a trickster kobold, because people who help handle the ashes also get the same sickness the miners do.
In a final step for this section, the village is given a strange oddity, something that marks it out as being bizarre in comparison to it’s more mundane neighbors. I decided that a lot of the buildings would be made from resources scavenged from a nearby ruin. A great fortress used to stand proud in the mountain pass close to Unterspitze. In fact, the inn was actually built onto a still-standing tower of this fortress’s outer walls. This is why the Inn remains abandoned and in disrepair, as the horrid events that happened there have left it cursed in the eyes of the villagers
What is a Village Without its People?
In the next step, the tool encourages you to create a cast of important NPCs to inhabit this village and its environs. Each NPC has a name, a role, a motivation they desire, a problem that keeps them from achieving their desires, and bonds between them one more more of the other NPCS. I created six NPCs for Unterspitze, so I will describe them below.
- Friso Onken is the villages healer. They are motivated to achieve perfection in their craft, but they are rather docile which interferes with their ability to enforce treatments on reluctant patients. They have an antagonistic one-sided relationship with Beata after their breakup.
- Juta Eiseler is a fowler or bird hunter in the village. They have a strong desire to abstain from the social life of the village, but their strong religious beliefs keep bringing them into the life of regular villagers with distressingly common frequency. They are Magus’s associate in both his herbalist trade and spiritual practice.
- Magus Harke is the village’s priest & herbalist. He desires to be kind to all. Due to some personality quirks that make him rough to be around, though, he is rather unpopular in the village. Magus is a close associate with Juta both in his trade, but also as their spiritual advisor. He also shares a secret with Konrad and advises Friso on being more firm bedside manners.
- Helgi is a hunter. They desire to defy the traditional teaching of their parents, but they are also incredibly superstitious like their mother was before them. They are secretly in love with Juta.
- Konrad Hoss is a forester. He merely seeks to restore the happiness of his earlier life as the son of the keepers of the Abandoned Inn, but he is incredibly distrusted due to him being the only known survivor of an disaster there that did not flee the village. Magnus knows some secrets about Konrad and that night. He also is Helgi’s confidant in their attraction to Juta.
- Beata List is a peddler who regularly visits the village, but does not actually live in Unterspitze. Their mission in life is a seeming quest for gratification. Problem is that they are often miserly about their pleasure-seeking, often leaving them rich in funds or goods, but empty-handed or dissatisfied. They are a former lover of Friso, but parted ways because Friso’s docility left Beata dissatisfied.
Now we reach the end of our creation journey with a couple of final little steps. The first is to create threats or problems for the village, presumably so that the PCs for the Pitchfork ttrpg to either solve or at least deal with. The first problem our village of Unterspitze deals with are problems from jealous neighbors in the village at the bottom of the mountain called Hohnufer. While the local lord lives in that village, much of their wealth comes from Unterspitze’s mines. This causes friction. A second problem is an increasing rise in instances of Kobold-inflicted illnesses and other misfortunes impacting the lives of the villagers & the productivity of the mines.
Finally, we need to decide who is in charge. The local noble or their representative who rules over these lands around the village. As I mentioned previously, I decide that they would be a noble and live in a manor at a separate village at the bottom of the mountain where the villager Beata List actually lives. Their name is Emil von Notthaft and are know for being narcissistic.
And that is Pitchfork: Village Creator! The core game of Pitchfork is hopefully going to release around the middle of this year as according to Matt Key’s Carrd page. In the mean time, you can use this tool to create late medieval villages for world-building with your other games and writing projects.