12 Local Village Customs

During their careers, wandering adventurers pass through many villages. Most are boring and unremarkable places. Some may be in need of adventurers, while yet more are just simply odd.

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)


A big part of a village’s character is its local practises and customs—practises that have grown up over time for one reason or another. Two villages could be virtually identical in layout, industry and demographics and still have a wildly different feel because of one or more local customs.

Use the table below, to generate a custom for such a village the PCs pass through:

  1. Men are not permitted to wear red clothes, while women must wear something blue.
  2. Children are not permitted to speak inside buildings unless given permission by an adult.
  3. For two hours starting at midday everyone stops work to rest, eat or sleep.
  4. By local decree it is forbidden to ride animals within the village’s precincts.
  5. Each family is responsible for keeping the road directly outside their house clear of obstruction or hinderance. Thus stretches of road are clear of all obstructions—including dung—while others are not.
  6. Births are a time of great joy in the village. When one occurs, a festival-like atmosphere reigns; there is much drinking and carousing (which inevitably leads to more celebrations roughly nine months later).
  7. Each family maintains a small, private burial ground on their land—normally in a corner of a field of garden. There is no communal cemetery and strangers cannot be buried within the village’s bounds.
  8. During the night, every family must keep a candle burning in a window overlooking the nearest road. Thus, those out late can always find their way home.
  9. Dung is highly prized by the local farmers, because the surrounding land is hard to farm. Thus, several thriving local businesses have sprung up. These both “harvest” local “deposits” and import dung from nearby settlements. Even individuals sometimes sell their “excess.”
  10. The locals believe a nature spirit dwells in the nearby river. Although it teams with fish, no one dares fish there in case they anger the river’s protector. Those caught fishing are severely punished.
  11. No matter the weather, it is customary for adults to wear a hat outside. This has inevitably led to subtle one-upmanship and competitions for the greatest, most elaborate designs.
  12. The villagers are obsessed with self-defence. Almost all go about their daily business heavily armed. Even the children all carry daggers.

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This article will appear in GM’s Miscellany: 20 Things, available in March 2016. For more, check out our Free Resources page.

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8 thoughts on “12 Local Village Customs

  1. All very, very good – but I like #2, especially, for some reason.
    Almost instantly, the idea that the folks of this town or region are often well-disciplined and courteous came to mind and right after, that I could easily envision a sort of “coming of age” ritual where the child is encouraged (expected?) to deliver a speech in front of family and friends in a communal building where they were previously barred from speaking openly. Perhaps even so much as initially raising their voice over the din of existing conversation so that they may be heard – and the sign of adulthood respect is that everyone – for the first time in their life – stops to listen intently to what they have to say and without reprisal. (Other children, not of age, might even be jealous of this newly-acquired freedom granted to their former peer.)
    Another concept would be that, on the flip-side, perhaps there are also those who balked at such social constraints and later in life can become very outspoken, loud, even aggressive – and maybe intolerant of perceived “oppression”, as well.

    • I like this idea. It could offer a great start to a module. Everyone gathered in one place, the tension of a coming of age ceremony and the opportunities for high-jinks etc. could make this a great encounter!

      Thanks for sharing it here.

  2. I got the idea from the Twilight Zone episode where Billy Mumy played the little boy that everyone was frightened of. In this case though it was all the children. If you came into the village and a child asked you to play with them and you didn’t you had a chance to be banished to the ether plane. Of course I did give saving throws vs spells, if you saved you played with the child(ren) equal to your constitution in turns….I still have some kinks to work out of it though, so I don’t use it that much, I’m open to suggestions:)

    • Jay, I’d make it more subtle than a straight play or get banished. Instead, I’d go for a graded banishment. So, for example, after the first time the PC says no he begins to feel cold. the next time he ways no, his outline begins to get blurry, the third time he becomes insubstantial and so on. I’d also have the effects come on gradually so it’s not super obvious what is going on!

  3. Hello,

    I became aware of what you’re doing over here about a month ago, and have lost more than an appropriate number of hours reading the blog. Good stuff, seriously.

    I write a series of books kind of like your own — 99 cent miscellaneous gaming ramblings called “Random Encounters” currently with five volumes on Amazon. They do reasonably okay — 10 or 20 copies a day.

    Would you be interested in some cross-promotion? For example, the format of my books is 20 ideas per book. One “Brought to you by ragingswan.com” for one of the 20 might be pretty cool.

    Let me know what you think.



    • Hi Jason,

      Thanks for getting in touch. I’ve just purchased the first book in the series and I’m jolly interested to give it a read. Could you contact me on creighton (at) raging swan.com and we can discuss things further.