Yesterday Titled Mills released the computer game “Hinterland” over Steam. In that game you play a character that was tasked by the king to build a new town in the hinterlands of his country. You do that by cleaning the area of monsters, bandits and the undead (Diablo-style), building houses for new settlers and equipping them with the best equipment possible. Although the game is pretty simple graphics- and gamplay-wise, it’s much fun seeing you small community grow. You can even ask your settlers to join you on your adventures into the wilderness.

Playing that game got me thinking. The gameplay of Hinterland should be easily adopted to fantasy roleplaying. A whole campaign could revolve around the building of a town somewhere in the wilderness, perhaps at the frontier of a once powerful kingdom. Did someone say “Points of Light”? In my opinion this kind of campaign could be perfectly suited for the new D&D 4th Edition. And with having a small village that the players are tasked to protect and develop further, you not only give them a home base but there’s much to do.

You can have them secure the area, try to establish diplomatic relations with the barbarian tribes/dwarven clans/elven communities in the area, destroy the evil wizard/lich/warlord/whatever that has build his tower near the town, secure access to certain resources like a spring, gold mine, whatever the town needs to grow and prosper. They will also have to maintain peace inside the town and even recruit new settlers and some guards to help defend the town when they are away adventuring.

Of course this could also be adopted to other genres like Western, SF, et cetera. In a western game you have the classic western frontier town and the players are perhaps the town’s mayor, sherrif and the deputies trying to help the town survive. In a SF setting you can expand the town to a whole colony world. You can let the group scout and survey the world, protect colony ships full of settlers, fend of space pirates and explore the ancient ruins left over by an ancient and highly advanced specues!

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

5 thoughts on “Hinterland”

  1. Yep, this has huge potential. It demands a lot of the GM, though, in terms of carefully scaled encounters and overall prep time. It also doesn’t leave a lot of room for the morally gray Wolverine-type characters that don’t necessarily want to go on expeditions to find new sources of fresh water. But I agree, a sandbox setting is ideal for this type of gameplay.

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  2. I’ve both run and played in this style of game. With the right people, it is a lot of fun. Players, especially spellcasters, can get really creative. Stone Shape for walls, Unseen Servants and Craftersman, and Minor Creation were great for building the town. Zone of Truth, Discern Lies, and Detect Thoughts were useful for policing and dispute resolution. Good times. One innovation that was very well-received was a set of rules for adjudicating the health of the community and setting priorities. We ended up using a conversion of the Settlers of Catan card game, but there are lots of options.

    .o.s last blog post..Notes from the Other Side (of the DM Screen) 3

  3. I was in a Hackmaster campaign that followed a similar theme: our party leader was a noble refurbishing an abandoned keep. Most of our adventures centered around either getting enough money to fund it or building the reputation necessary to get people to move there.

    Now, how would you take care of who leads it? How can you justify an adventuring party sharing equal power? If you put one PC in charge, how do you choose which PC is least likely to ignore the others?

  4. I would not give one of the players command over the others. If I would be running a campaign as this I would give the task of building up a town/refurbishing an abandoned keep to the whole group. If they decide one of them should be leader, it's fine for me, but I would try to give them the chance to make it out between themselves.

  5. Whenever I've done this, the players gravitated towards areas of expertise. e.g. the Fighter focused on the militia and defenses. The Cleric on church-building, morale, and domestic espionage. With the adventure that I ran, the party had an official charter that bestowed responsibility on the whole party for the settlement, not an individual leader.

    <abbr><abbr>.o.s last blog post..Notes from the Other Side (of the DM Screen) 3</abbr></abbr>

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