Not Courbefy

Plot-a-Day: Buy Your Own Village

Just stumbled across a video reporting about a French village that wants to sell itself for 300,000 Euro.

Not Courbefy, by Peter Whelerton, cc-attribution
Not Courbefy, by Peter Whelerton, cc-attribution

It looks like the people of Courbefy have tried this stunt three times already, and all attempts to develop the village have failed. Quite honestly it’s not hard to see why, the place is out in the middle of nowhere and your 300 grand buy you less than a dozen run-down crappy buildings. No offense, Courbefy, but that’s just the way it is.

However, it occurs to me that buying or inheriting an entire village may actually be an awesome hook for a campaign, or a piece of fiction. Hollywood, I am sure, will turn this into a chick-flick: The village is bought by the rich city-slicker, ideally a foreigner, who is tired of the hectic life. The villagers are at first resentful of the new owner, because he’s so different, but after they sabotage his efforts to renovate the village at first they learn to accept him as one of their own and together they can turn around the fortunes of the village. The rich foreign city-slicker, naturally, falls in love with the only pretty local young girl, and aren’t you getting the feeling that you’ve already watched this movie?

Anyway, we can do better than that.

  • The city’s inhabitants are secretly occultists worshiping Great Cthulhu or some other dark god.
  • If the village is by the sea, the Deep Ones come out at night.
  • There could be any kind of criminal activity – smuggling of firearms, drugs, or alcohol. The later works especially well for a Prohibition era story or game. Depending on the setting, the smugglers could be the heroes.
  • Space aliens have been using the village for their cruel experiments, which is why so many people fled in terror. The whole sale may even be a plot to attract new people – though why the aliens would need that instead of just abducting people from the neighboring village will be hard to explain.
  • If this were an Enid Blyton universe, the characters are children of the village’s new owner, and will stumble across a treasure hidden in some old ruins.
  • Two words: Zombie Apocalypse.
  • It’s 1940. A few weeks after the protagonists start working on their village, the Germans move in and take over. They decide to use the village for a small garrison, or perhaps for a prisoners’ camp. Our heroes my even be seen as collaborators at first, and must win the trust of the villagers to organize a resistance force. A similar plot should work extremely well for a Twilight: 2000 campaign.
  • Old Dungeons & Dragons even included setting up a small barony as a major element of a character’s life. Possible complications include all the above (even Germans, though that may be pushing it a bit) as well as Orcs, Dragons, and vengeful Gods.
  • Nuclear war or asteroid apocalypse destroys civilization while the protagonists are in their village; it survives due to its isolation and the players need to survive and then kick-start a new civilization while dealing with the hungry mob that’s left over from the previous one.
  • And you can also turn the tables around; the players are locals who have to sell out of desperation, but the buyer has some nefarious plan for his new village.

A village is, of course, a good default setting for this kind of adventure. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t spice it up:

  • Location makes a lot of difference – It could be a small village in Colonial USA (especially for something Lovecraftian), in the Old West, an Oasis town in a desert somewhere, or perhaps even a small island in the Caribbean
  • The settlement could be in space: The Ceres colony, a waystation orbiting some gas giant, or a small and forgotten out-of-the-way colony world.
  • An abandoned fort out in the wilderness or undersea city may also do the trick

For any of these ideas to work, you’ll want to spend enough time to prepare the settlement and its environs, as well as all characters. Since the players will spend a lot of time in a small area you can’t gloss over detail easily.

Update, 2012-05-23: Henry River Mill Village, in North Carolina, is up for sale at a 1.2 million US$ price tag. It probably has a better chance of getting sold, considering it was featured in the movie “Hunger Games“. The movie angle could be used as a red herring o distract from the actual plot at first.

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