World-Building Tool Review - Empire Builder: Settlement Overview

Previously I had reviewed a generator by the tool creator Mobius Tempus for Ennead Games and was quite impressed by its depth and utility. This time, I will be upfront and say that was again impressed by the quality of the product being offered. But first, some more information about Empire Builder: Settlement Overview and the series it belongs to.


What is this for?


The Empire Builder Kit is a set of tools created and offered al-a-carte by Ennead Games. They are targeted at world-builders and DMs to help them fill out the world map of their settings for campaigns or story-telling.


This one, as the title “Settlement Overview” might suggest, is for creating the details of a randomized settlement from a small hamlet to a metropolis. Details like the settlements’ size, districts, major powers in the city, levels of law, potential threats, and so on are included. While this this tool might not create a detailed settlement history and faction structure like a tool like Ex Novo might, that is not the point. This tool is to create the framework that your imagination or those of the players might utilize to expand on it.


An interesting part of this tool that was absent in the previously reviewed Deities and Pantheons was that this one included a walkthrough of the tool in the Appendix. I believe this was included as, unlike the previous tool, this one is a bit less straight forward in its structure on the steps a person should be taking to use this tool as intended.

Walkthrough


Just like last time, I am going to take you through a walkthrough of the tool myself. The results of all the rolls are listed at the end of the along with a crude sketched map.


The first step in the tool is to have you roll the size of the settlement. This is two-part roll to determine the category with a further roll if you wish to determine the exact number. A second roll would determine the population density of the settlement with the number of 35k/mile being the medieval population density average for a large town or city.


For my settlement, I rolled that the it would be a village of about 150 people all told. I did not bother rolling for the density due to the settlement’s size. There are also a suggestion that one might want to use an added or subtracted modifier on future rolls. For example, adding to the roll for the number of districts if the settlement is a city or metropolis and subtracting for a hamlet. I also decided to omit this step to explore the interesting possibilities that might result.


The next set of rolls helps create a better feeling for the settlement at large. These included the general architecture of the settlement, the atmosphere of the settlement that a part of PCs might notice upon arriving, and the defenses that the settlement might have.


For my village, I rolled that the settlement had a cursed feeling to it, ancient-feeling architecture, with a freshly dug earthen ditch topped by a wooden fence around the outside of it. Just to clarify, the architecture roll was “Ancient: Other Civilization,” with this being the other ancient options being very Mediterranean-centric (Greece, Egypt, and Rome)


Now we start to get more granular, many of the following rolls can be done on a district by district basis, apply to a section of the settlement or population, or applies to to whole. You can use dice rolls to determine this or go based on your own choice.


My settlement developed three basic districts. The main district was a Necropolis with a district populated by craftspeople to the southwest and a poorer, mainly residential district to the west of the village. Law in the village is largely ineffective and there is little difference between the bailiff and the criminals that he is supposed to manage. The districts generally follow the natural flow of the environment, but the necropolis had a triangular geometric layout.


Now that we have fleshed out the settlement, the questions to answer is where and why this settlement exists. The location of the village was along a crossroads and it was founded for scientific or research purposes. The nominal leaders of the villagers were the founders of it, but much of the power rests in the hands of a criminal organization or gang. A group of creatures threaten this village.


Another element I did not utilize was a tool to allow the creator to randomly determine the racial or species breakdown of the basic population. There are also tools to populate your settlement with certain buildings or determine what resources the settlement creates or extracts from the local area.


The Finished Product


This process was actually really helpful and created an interesting and compelling image in my mind. The end product was a village I really wish I had an active campaign that I could throw a group of players into!



Name: Zeffari


Size: Village (~150)

Attitude / Atmosphere: Cursed

Architecture: Ancient: Other Civilization (Whole Settlement)

Defenses: Fence with a Ditch (New or Perfect Condition)

Districts: 3

#1 - Middle: Necropolis/ Cattacombs

#2 - Southwest: Crafting (Various)

#3 - West: Residential - Lower class

Law: Almost as bad as the criminals

Layout: Follows natural contours and features

#1- Geometric triangular patterns

Location: Crossroads

Purpose: Scientific or Research

Who Rules nominally?: Founders or their relatives

Who pulls the strings?: Criminal/gang

Threats: Creature (group or army)

Area of effect?: Just this settlement



The Village of Zeffari is a small village on the edge of an ancient burial site. At the cross roads of the roads between several major old city sites, it was originally uninhabited because of superstitious surrounding the Hills of Songs, the name for the burial mounds that mark the eastern half of the village.


The settled portion of the village of about 150 people is made up of two main districts. To the north of the road is the Digger Camp. This is a ramshackle camp where laborers live. It has a tendency to fluctuate as laborers move in and out of the . It is also the source of much of the criminal underworld that has come to control much of the power in the village. To the south of the Western Road is the Delver's District. Here, the community has developed around the original workshops and warehouses set up by the original explorers of the ruins sent by the University to explore the site.


The village has recently come under pressure from wights who they believe they have been coming from the tombs. Rather, they are from another ancient civilization that was the original enemies of the civilizations that built the tombs. As a result, the village has suspended the exploration and has fortified what little they could.



Where can I find it?

Empire Builder: Settlement Overview can be found at DrivethruRPG and Itch.io. It is also available through several different bundles on Itch and DrivethruRPG with other generators and tables produced by Ennead Games. I highly recommend going the bundle route, as it is always a great deal and the Empire Builder Kit energizes well together



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