Dungeoneering Basics - Towns
With a name like Dungeons and Dragons, it might seem as if settlements are merely an afterthought, just a place for adventurers to dump off their loot, and barter for equipment. In reality though, a town can be incredibly important for many different reasons when it comes to creating your world in a D&D game, and deserves some special thought.
While there might not be an overabundance of peaceful places in your fantasy world, the occasional dot of light in a world filled with darkness does well to ease the tension of adventuring, and allows players to unwind a bit, whether it's by shopping, or even discussing current events with townspeople. While heroes are typically willing to help out those in need, giving them a chance to befriend characters goes a long way in expanding the narrative, and giving said heroes another reason to want to help the region.
When creating an adventure for your group, it's hard to justify long winded explanations about the history of the world you created, since most players become bored after hearing a history lesson. The easy way around this, is to sprinkle that lore into the lives of the townspeople, and even into the landmarks throughout the village. Learning that a town has a general store doesn't illicit much of a reaction, but when the players are told that the village has a tower, that was once home to an insane mage, suddenly the players are more invested, and want to learn details. Had you spent the opening to your game babbling about an arch mage that once dominated the lands in the area, you might not have had much of a response. Lore found within a town is a great way to get the heroes of your group to be more interested.
Another thing to consider, especially when it comes to large cities and even metropolises, is that an entire adventure or even campaign can take place within the confines of a large enough city. Sewers filled with Wererats, a windmill where a Harpy hides out, an abandoned asylum filled with Gibbering Mouthers; all are great dungeon locations, which aren't very traditional. So long as you can imagine it, and can find a home for it in your city, then anything is possible.
Though the game isn't called Towns and Dragons, settlements filled with civilians should be something that deserve some special attention, and shouldn't just be ignored or glossed over. For an example of how a city can be used to great effect, make sure to check out Noobs and Dragons, our podcast that involves the Elvish city of Narquelion, which is a town perpetually trapped in autumn.