Whenever I start thinking about fantasy worlds I pretty soon start to question the economy. This is not always the literal economy of money. What I mean is the general sense of how things fit together.
The classic example of a badly thought out ‘economy’ is the big monster in a room at the bottom of a dungeon. What does it eat? Where does it crap? How come it hasn’t died of some disease caused by the cramped conditions, filth and lack of sunlight? How did it even get in the room in the first place? Why doesn’t it leave if it can get out of the room. And if the trite answer is ‘it eats dwarfs that come down the corridor’, then you have to follow up with: how many dwarfs does this thing need to eat and how often. And then: how come the dwarfs are so stupid that they keep coming down this deathtrap corridor. That kind of stuff irritates me until I make up an answer that works. Magic is the excuse of the intellectually lazy.
So now I have this thing by Tracy and Laura about this town and micro population that has been isolated for centuries, no less, until a message was sent out just the other day for these adventurers to come in and, well, do bugger all except kill the summoner really.
But that’s not a problem. Mythic will solve this for me. The real problem is the biological and social economy. If we are to believe the time and physical dimensions of the place then we must be looking at a community of inbred deformed predominantly infertile mutants. Two questions have to be answered since we do have this community and those are the conditions.
Biological. Centuries of inbreeding.
1) This must be only partially true or the community would have died out. I believe the minimum number for biological diversity is around 2000 individuals and there is no hint that there are that many people in this kingdom. There must be periodic influxes of ‘new blood’. So here is what happens: the Gypsys steal babies and women and deliver them to the village. (Important note – these are the gypsies described in the game. I’m not trying to say anything racsist about a genuine group).
2) Deformities and mutations will be in evidence. The characters might interpret this as a sign of some demonic presense. Whenever the characters meet a citizen, make a roll to see if they are deformed, and if so what deformity they have. As ‘new blood’ themselves, they may well be ‘popular’.
Social. Centuries of isolation.
1) Strahd is a vampire. Vampires prey on humans. These people are his food stock. He breeds them like rabbits. What effect does this knowledge have on the villagers? Resignation, docility, petty rebellion, submission, anger, punishment of those who speak out? Any or all or these and more? I don’t know yet. The very important thing to remember though is that these people have been incarcerated their entire lives, watching family members dissappear to feed the vampire. The image of the angry villagers storming the castle, unless something really catastrophic is going on, strikes me as being incredibly unlikely. If they rise up it is the major event of their history. Nothing is bigger. Anyone who is rebelling is not ‘the last holdout who remembers the old days’, they are young firebrands who have not learned the hard way. Alternately they are the very old who have lost everything and see nothing left to loses. Certainly none of them will have a credible plan or even a conception of what freedom would mean. Use the rabbit metaphor.
2) Since the gypsys go out into the world to steal babies and women, they must also bring back other things. Clothes, tools, news perhaps. This will all be valuable and sought after. The reverse of this is also true. Tools and clothes and attitudes of the villagers will be archaic, and patched and ramshackle. Even their language will be heavily accented and full of local words.