CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Stoking The Flames

The Redrun Smithy

Two weeks ago we started building our little town. I decided that I would begin with what I believe to be the center of a community; the place where they gather to eat and talk. Although the tavern might be the social center of a town – at least my town – it is not always the economic center of the town. In small hamlets and villages like the one we are making here the blacksmith is usually the economic powerhouse of the community. Today we're going to take a peek at what makes the blacksmith so important in general, and who the smith in our town is.

When most people think of a smith the first thing that pops into their minds is the image of a weapon or armor maker. But for most small town blacksmiths, weapon smithing was, in truth, a small part of their business. Sure they would have to make a sword or two for the local militia, but most of the people they were crafting for were farmers. The main source of their income would be both crafting and maintaining household items.

Farming implements were of the utmost importance to a local community. A smith would craft and maintain items such as plows, shovels, and rakes. The smith also made other items that were often needed in the household like knives and other utensils. Keeping the house itself in working order was helped by the smith who made hinges, locks, keys, and probably hundreds upon hundreds of nails.

Horseshoes were a major part of any good smith’s repertoire, but few know that the local blacksmith was also the local horse dealer. The smith was considered one of the most trustworthy members of a community,  and usually with good business sense, so the locals felt that he would only purchase and sell the best horses he could find.  Although most games of D&D are set in the medieval or renaissance styled eras, it is interesting to note that the decline of horse transport contributed greatly to the diminished role of the traditional town blacksmith.

One other role the blacksmith played even as late as the 19th-century was general medical practitioner. Many people thought that the blacksmith had magical abilities due to their iron working and knowledge of metallurgy. Smiths practiced a form of medicine based on some parts science and some parts local superstition. The smith would perform general medical procedures including dentistry and in some places even practiced veterinary medicine.

All in all blacksmiths held high social positions in medieval and early modern societies, despite the fact they were laborers who worked with their hands. They were considered wealthy not because of what they owned but because of what they knew. Most smithing was a closely held secret passed down through families. And smiths were often powerful figures in their towns.

Redrun’s Smithy

On the other side of the one dirt road that makes up the town proper from the Cracked Anvil tavern sits the Redrun Smithy. The smithy is actually a few buildings connected together to form one larger shop. The small wooden framed building that actually faces the town side of the road is the shop proper. When the proprietor is not working in the actual smith – which isn’t often – he can be found here, making sure the wares he keeps in stock are neatly organized. Most of the stock items are household implements such as utensils and cups, and basic farming implements like spades and hoes. There is an abundance of different sized nails in numerous wood bins, separated by length and then thickness.

Behind the shop, facing away from the center of town is the actual smithy. The building that contains the forge only has three walls so that the room itself doesn’t overheat. Everything in the room seems to have its own special place with a flow that allows the smith to get from one place to another without being hindered, all the while keeping anything he might need in reach. Beyond the forge the most noticeable pieces of equipment are the anvil, a large work table, and the slack tub for cooling down pieces.

Against one wall is a board on which hang various tools. There are a dozen different hammers and tongs, as well as vices of all different sizes and shapes.  About a quarter of the wall is taken up by files with varying degrees of abrasiveness. There are also assorted other handmade tools, most likely for special projects the smith once had.

To the side and slightly behind the shop appears to be a stable of sorts. It’s mostly just a large covering with open walls and a few separate stalls, as well as a hitch for horses that don’t need to be housed longer term. The stable stalls include stocks for keeping the horse still while horseshoes are applied to their hooves.

Ableton Redrun

Ableton is the town smith. He didn’t arrive with the original in founders of the town but arrived maybe fifteen years ago. One of the founding families had a smith on their staff who serviced the town’s needs before Ableton came, but his business fell off – a sore spot between the current smith and the family – when Redrun’s smithy was opened. The burly man from out-of-town proved to be an master smith, among other things.

Master Redrun doesn’t speak much of his past, not because he’s trying to hide it but because it is incredibly painful for him. He has told the story once or twice and the petitioner of the story invariably buys Ableton a drink at the Cracked Anvil for dredging up the memories. Even with his unfortunate past the smith is a fairly jolly fellow and makes his customers feel welcome.

Ableton lived to the way to the south of the holy city on the northern border of the great plains. He was a smith in his hometown, married and with a young son. As happens on occasion a despot thought to build himself an army and make a play for a swath of the holy empire’s land. Master Redrun’s town fell to the invading force and his wife and son were killed. As was common for smiths, Ableton was enslaved and conscripted into the army to forge arms and armor. But the smith was smarter than most gave him credit for and he escaped.

With no home and no family Ableton sought to get as far away from civilization as he could. He remembered tales from travelling caravans of towns on the other side of the great plains, and through the Stonespire mountains. He took what riches he stole and made his way across the barbarian infested plains and then travelled the edge of the mountains till he found a pass. On the other side of the pass, in the foothills, was the town of Nestletop.

Since making Nestletop home Ableton has made a name for himself as a honest businessman and a reliable human being. Although the founding families still sit on the council of the town the common citizens all put Ableton forward to become a council member and protect their interests. He was welcomed by most and sits alongside the head of each founding family as well as a representative of the elves who live in the forests alongside Nestletop.

The Redrun smithy provides for most of the daily needs of both the farmers and the founding families. The Jaroth family uses him to peddle their fine horses when trading caravans come through town two or three times a year. He also provides a number of basic medical functions – including dentistry – although the town goes to the elven druids and shamans when they have more serious illnesses.

After losing his family Ableton has not sought to start another one, which has led to the conundrum of how to pass on his knowledge. Smithing has been handed down from father to son in his family for generations and he has many secrets to impart, but no son of his own to teach them to. As Master Redrun isn’t getting any younger in the past year he has taken on an apprentice. The boy is the son of one of the original farming families that made the trek to Nestletop, staking their claim in the very beginning. The youngest of eight children, the boy seems to have a keen interest in the art of the blacksmith and a mind sharp enough to grasp what Ableton has to teach.

So hopefully we’ve learned a little bit about blacksmiths and their role in a medieval village. I have to admit there was a ton of stuff that was completely new to me, but I was lucky enough to have a friend who is keenly interested in blacksmiths and smithing in general. And now we’ve added a smithy and smith to our town as we slowly build it up one piece at a time.

Who are the blacksmiths in your world? Do they do more than just forge weapons and armor? What is their role in your world’s societies? Would you use the Redrun Smithy and AbletonRedrun in your campaign world?

Forging a new piece of a town is like crafting a nail to build a house, time consuming but well worth it. If today’s article has stoked the flame in your creative forge please consider becoming a contributor. Monthly donations of as little as one dollar can be made to my Patreon. A one-time donation can easily be made to my Patreon. A one-time donation can easily be made to my Paypal. Every bit helps me keep the lights on so I can concentrate on bringing you the content you deserve.

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