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This post was inspired by some observations of my habits while playing Skyrim. I noticed after a while that I favored certain towns for their merchants.

I also took note of locations where the inn was readily accessible if I wanted to do some alchemy, smithing, or enchanting because I wanted to take advantage of the “Well Rested” effect. This led me to thinking about the minimum requirements for establishing an effective player “hub” to adventure and whatnot.

What do the players want? What will they go out of their way for?

Well, you’ll need NPCs the players interact with most to be readily accessible basically anywhere they’re expected to go — you’ll want guardsmen, a local lord, a rumor mill, and somewhere the PCs can recruit followers.

You might also want a temple or sanctuary where they can go to be blessed, to have diseases or grievous wounds healed, or to have companions revived.

But if all these things can be handled in town, what is there for the PCs to do? Everything an adventurer needs is in town, but most towns don’t actually need adventurers — trouble tends to follow and they’re bad for the economy.

So here’s where I started looking at the whole thing in the context of the Trades system I’ve been developing — a community has needs, right? The things you’re going to find in a successful settlement are need-fulfilling things.

If you go into a stable settlement, you’re probably going to have “town stuff” to do — dealing with merchants and interacting with high-powered individuals such as knightly orders and local warlords — in a struggling settlement you’re more likely to have a quest that affects the entire population.

Combining Trades, which are based on meeting the needs of a settlement, and the settlements-as-characters, “rolling up” a community will determine what that community needs, and quests become an emergent part of gameplay.

Emergent quests are generally more organic and less contrived.

Adding all this together, you get villages in need — which begin to flourish with the success of the PCs. Towns are places the PCs turn to for aid in their endeavors, and provide higher-level adventuring when the time comes.

There’s more to do, but I think I’m getting somewhere with this.