Saturday, June 25, 2022

Random Map: Inhabitants

Randomly-generated countries need people to live in them!  Last time we looked at rolling up a country, terrain was the focus.  Today, let's see who lives there.

First I'll roll up some random terrain from that table as we go through an example country:

  • Ridges run northeast-southwest that can easily be walked along.
  • Deep ravines run between the ridges with cascading streams.
  • The sea is to the east, a rocky coast with waterfalls and few safe landings.

There are four species of people in Signs in the Wilderness: the Colonial city-people who tend to live by the sea, the roaming Giants who can eke out a living in more marginal terrain, the Humans who farm and hunt best in lightly wooded valleys with lakes, and the tree-dwelling Goblins who prefer swamps and thick forests.

Roll three times to see which peoples have the most effect on this country:

Locals (d20)

For our example country I got giants, humans, and humans.  If you get the same result twice, that's fine.

Terrain makes a difference to these people: goblins thrive in swamps but don't do much with island chains, for example.  For each people result you got, check to see what their modifier is in this land:

Modifier+1 for each of-1 for each of
colonialswarm coast, harbor, rivers near the seafar north, inland, no easy way to sea
giantshighlands, ponds, open countrythick woods, swamps, far south
goblinsdense forests, swamps, cliffsopen country, islands, deserts
humanslakes, wide valleys, semi-woodedrugged mts., swamps, deserts

Looking at the modifiers for giants, I have to make some decisions about what this country is like.  I think I'd like it to be densely forested (a -1 for giants) but I'd also like the ridges to be easily walkable because they're thinly forested up near the treeline (which seems like highlands, a +1 for giants).  Net, that's a +0 for giants.

For the humans in this land, they get a -1 due to the ruggedness of the ridges and ravines, and I don't think any of their other modifiers apply.

From this point on, each of the four peoples has their own table.  If one of your results was Humans, roll on the Humans table plus their modifier, and so on for whichever other peoples you got.

Humans (2d6 + modifier)
≤2humans once lived here, Tales of nomads skilled in folk magick, natural phenomena ascribed to human powers
3few scattered towns warring over resources, Meager Remnant of a once-great tribe
4-5a struggling Tribe among many Ruins
6rival Towns on brink of war, forbidden zone
7ancient ruin, strife with newly-arrived Tribe
8thinly-settled Hunting grounds newly taken by a strong tribe, many burned towns
9Tribe of neighboring country recently invaded
10-11Trade center, many other towns, roads
12Forbidden kingdom, outsiders put to death, trade via trusted intermediaries
13+Nation whose Power extends to other lands, collecting tribute and tolls, raiding to seize captives and suppress enemies

Because we got humans twice up above, I'm rolling twice here on the Humans table, both times applying their -1 modifier due to the terrain.

  • The first result is 5: a struggling Tribe among many Ruins.  Those ruins might be from other people about to be rolled up, or they might be from other people that used to live here.  Maybe they're from an older civilization that once inhabited this land.
  • Next, an 8: thinly-settled Hunting grounds newly taken by a strong tribe, many burned towns.  There's conflict in this land already.  Not sure if the burned towns belong to the struggling tribe or if they're someone else's, maybe a tribe that was entirely driven out?
Colonials (2d6 + modifier)
≤1stories of an Expedition that came through, artifacts, possibly survivors
2-4imperial Guns & trade goods, no colonials
5forgotten town of religious exiles, ruins of a fort/mine
6trading post of a Company
7Fort, abandoned settlements
8two of: trading post, fort, mission
9-10largely controlled by a far-off Company: resource settlements, trading posts, old fort
11-12several settlements among many ruins
13+one of the chief surviving Colonies and its outlying settlements/forts/&c.

Today's example country doesn't have any significant colonial presence, but as you can see from the table, colonial influence can range anywhere from mere stories of an earlier explorer to a major colonial city.

Giants (2d6 + modifier)
≤2giants are gone, landforms said to be built by them, Tales of wanderers
3a Mission abandoned by the colonials, now run by the descendants of its students
4-5scattered trappers, fishers, herders, traders
6many wandering Traders
7perilous ruins of a dead House
8two Rival houses, contested border
9three houses: Weak, Strong, and Ruined
10-11a Mighty ruling house, several smaller ones
12+a powerful Alliance of three great houses

The giants in this country have two rival houses with a contested border between them.  I think that's enough groups here to cause plenty of interesting conflict with shifting alliances: two rival Houses, a strong Tribe, and a struggling Tribe whose towns were burned down.

Goblins (2d6 + modifier)
≤1goblins once lived here, forbidden woods, Tales that confuse them with ghosts
2-5one powerful village in a Secluded region
6-8three main Villages compete for hunting grounds, prey on livestock of others
9-12Populous, good hunting grounds, outsiders fear this land, a few giantish traders
13+interspersed villages of three major Clans, people travel from far away to study, trade, visit renowned hermits

Each of these tables has a result for mere stories and legends, for a country that doesn't really know who those people are, but remembers bits and pieces.  Tales of goblins from long ago tend to confuse them with ghosts or other strange beings that come from forbidden woods in the night and prey on settlements.

Legends of humans tend to see them as some kind of magicians who control things like the weather.  A country that hasn't seen humans since long before the apocalypse might ascribe a cold north wind to hidden humans up in the passes.

Distorted memories of giants lead to stories of them shaping the land, saying this hill was raised by the giants, or this canyon was carved by them.

Go here to roll up some terrain, then roll to see who lives there.  (The random roller here doesn't properly take the modifiers into account.)

Click here for random inhabitants.

Giants and their House-Corporations

Giants always come back to their House.  As trappers and herders, giants spend most of the year on their own, only seeing others every once in a while.  But each spring, they come back to their ancestral home.

The House is like a corporation, thought of as a person that can own property.  It is a physical structure, but also a kin-group and a territory.  The house is a symbol of the lineage that gathers there and is governed by its highest-ranking members.  (Most of the time, only those of the first rank live at the house, sustained by tribute from lower-ranking giants.) 

Each House has a sigil, marked at the house and at the boundaries of its land.  The name of the house describes the appearance of its sign using specialized terminology, names like Lazy Deer, Diamond Walking Snake, or Smoke Over Turkey.

Membership comes with rights to gain food from the land on your appointed circuit.  Roll twice to see what kind of harvest rights are available:

Harvest Rights (d10)
1-3 Gathering, diving, beach-combing (d10) 1: clams/mussels, 2: walnuts, 3: acorns, 4: snails, 5: mushrooms, 6: eggs, 7: persimmons/huckleberries, 8: crab apples, 9: carrots/dandelions, 10: seals/walruses
4-5 Trapping, snares, bait, pit traps with stakes (d10) 1-2: jackrabbits, 3: geese, 4: otters, 5: beaver, 6: ducks, 7: squirrels, 8: turkeys, 9: raccoons, 10: goblins
6-7 Fishing with stone weirs, basket traps, spears (d10) 1-2: trout, 3-4: salmon, 5-6: crawdads, 7: bass, 8: eel, 9: herring, 10: river shrimp
8-9 Grazing herd animals for meat, cheese, wool (d10) 1-2: llamas, 3-4: alpacas, 5-6: bactrian camels, 7-8: yaks, 9-10: colonial longhorn cattle
10 Driving stampedes off cliffs, through narrow defiles (d10) 1-3: buffalo, 4-6: caribou, 7-8: bighorn sheep, 9-10: strange herd animals

taking the herd to good pastures

Wander about in search of food, but do not wander too far.  Each house governs a territory 20 to 100 miles across (30-160 km), enough room for hundreds to find food.

Border (d20)
1-3 Sea, large river, lake
4-6 Waterfall, rapids, cliff
7-9 Swamp, salt marsh
10-12 Ridgeline, desert
13-14 edge of the Forest
15-16 low range of Hills
17-19 Rock, standing stone
20 remnant of a lost Civilization

For each border, roll to see what the relations with the neighbors across that border are like.

Neighbors (d20)
1-3 long friendship
4-6 wary truce
7-9 enemies
10-12 paying tribute
13-14 peaceful trade
15-16 died/emigrated
17-20 shaky alliance against new enemy

stalking buffalo while wearing animal disguises

Near the house are a few places important to the people here:

Nearby Site (d6)
1 ancient Tree, alone on a grassy hill
2 deep Sinkhole with water, a cenote
3 natural Pillar of stone, a kigilyakh
4 large Cavern, difficult to reach
5 long-abandoned House
6 Ruin of an old kingdom

Roll to see the significance of each site.

Importance (d6)
1 Shamanist rituals take place there
2 forgotten Treasure hidden there
3 great Battle was fought there long ago
4 place of meeting Enemies under truce
5 Healing is said to happen there
6 new Religious movement gathers

The house itself is in a defensive position, used as a refuge in times of war.

Site (d6)
1-2 high on a Pinnacle, steep steps cut in rock
3-4 raised earthen Mound, riddled with ancient passageways
5-6 steep-sided Hill, only one shallow approach

But the house is also meant to be a gathering place for its hundreds of people.

(d6) Around Structure
1 stone wall 5 feet high (1.5 m) stone/adobe walls with no gates, only ladders
2 steep-banked stream raised high up on massive wooden pillars
3 hidden triplines and pit traps circular stone wall, open-air courtyard
4 many large wooden spikes roofed pavilion, open on all sides
5 hilltop sentries, signal fires fenced-in garden with fruit trees
6 wide circle of standing stones mission once built by the Colonials

The house itself has a few features to make life easier for the indolent first-rank members, or to support the annual gathering.

At the House (d8)
1 Lodge for the reclusive first-ranking members
2 open space for Games or the Moonlit Play
3 Cellar for storage of food, ice, or valuables
4 Granary or Treasure House up on stilts
5 cistern/cenote full of Drinking Water
6 lookout Tower, occupied at all times
7 Workshop for carving, flintknapping, weaving
8 Racks for stretching hides, drying fish/tobacco

a time for serious debate

Whether they're at the house or out on their rounds, the people of this House have been debating serious matters for the year ahead.

Topics of Debate (d12)
1 Fear that the War shall be reignited.
2 Whether the Prophecy be true.
3 Violent dispute with neighboring people.
4 Strange Travelers in these lands.
5 New religion in the lower ranks of the house.
6 Too many people; must establish a new House.
7 A great Deed to restore their dwindling glory.
8 Access to colonial arms, food, trade.
9 Vengeance for an ancient Crime against them.
10 Role in a greater Alliance of houses.
11 Risk of pursuing a great Opportunity.
12 A leader who cannot be trusted.

Let's roll up a random House, Dead Broken Fence:

  • People here gather persimmons and drive bighorn sheep into narrow places where they can be hunted.
  • Long friendship with those who live beyond the marsh.
  • Shaky alliance with those who live over the hills, allied against a new enemy.
  • A new religious movement among the people gathers in secret at a nearby abandoned House.
  • Meetings under truce are conducted at the standing stone.
  • Sentries keep watch from hilltops near the house.
  • The house itself is raised on mighty wooden pillars atop a steep-sided hill.
  • At the house there is a separate lodge for the first rank, a cistern for collecting rainwater, and a place for stretching and drying hides.
  • People debate whether the House has grown too large and shall have to split off a new House.

Roll up your own giantish House:

Click here for a random House.
food to harvest

border relations

nearby sites

site of the house
around the house
structure of the house
features at the house

matter for debate