On of the main advantages of having pure fantasy world of the Gruv added into a game so heavily based in history like 1879 is that you’ve got a lot more leeway to make up some of your own material when it comes to world building. Granted, this is a game that diverges from normal history, so you can do this on the Earth side too, but there’s always some pressure to still stick in the ball park of theme and style present at the time.

With the Gruv, everything is effectively a blank slate, so you can free reign to make up just about anything you want about it in order to personalize the game for yourself. We make several points that set a lot of the tone, but these are easier to change or disregard when there isn’t actual history behind them.

This is particularly true of settlements. Villages, towns, and cities tend to be where a lot of focus is placed in a campaign given that these are the main areas your players will be able to find NPCs to interact with, and sometimes you need a place with a particular unique flair to make a certain campaign idea work. In the Fort Alice chapter discussing locations beyond the fort itself, we’ve included some general guidelines for being able to write up new areas for yourself, and so this week I thought I’d give you a preview of some of what’s going to be included there.

Creating New Locations

The Gruv is an entirely new world, consistently being explored, colonized, and otherwise changed by those enterprising enough to make their way out into the unexplored wilderness and carve out a place for themselves. As such, you should feel empowered to create your own new settlements to suit the needs within your own game of 1879. When creating new locations, there are a few points to consider. These points are in no particular order, and indeed, most of them will be interconnected and must be considered simultaneously.


An exact census of the population of Earthers within the Gruv is nigh impossible at this point. Aside from births and deaths that escape official records out in the areas beyond the fort, as well as efforts to smuggle people both in and out of the portal without official notice, the anomalies of the portal itself seem to resist efforts to give any sort of rigid definition to the numbers. Record keepers can review the same manifest of the same train, with all passengers and crew accounted for one by one, and still come up with as many different counts as there are people doing the counting. How exactly this ties into the nature of the portal is a matter of debate, but in the short run, all it means is that figuring out how many people actually live in the Gruv is essentially a guessing game.

This of course doesn’t stop the boffins from trying, though their guesses can vary widely. The Empire’s 1881 census places the total population of England, Wales, and Scotland at roughly 30 million. Using this as a point of comparison, most experts tend to estimate the population density of the Gruv to be roughly 10% of the Empire, placing the total population to be around 3 million. There are several dissenting opinions that argue these estimates do not properly take into consideration the number of non-British citizens residing in the Gruv, and place the overall estimate closer to 4 or 5 million, but in the official halls these voices are largely dismissed.

Ah, good old Parliament. Couldn’t even count how many fingers they have without getting into a political debate.”

– Djehuty Jones

Regardless of where the actual numbers lie, when it comes to writing your own settlements, bear in mind that there is far less population in the Gruv than there is on Earth. On Earth, a population 200 people would likely be considered a small settlement, but in the Gruv, that would be considered a moderately sized village. The population of an area will determine what resources they are likely to have, and thus what will be available to your players.


History is a major theme of 1879, and this should be present in new locations you create to tie it into the overall narrative. That said, this does not mean you need to create a detailed time line of events covering every single moment in the location’s past. A paragraph or two is usually sufficient to paint a general picture of what has happened to make the location interesting and to fit it into the existing story. Consider some of these points when writing the back story for your town:

How was the town founded? When was it founded? Who was involved? What drew people to the area initially? If it has grown into a large population center, what events occurred as it grew?

Most of these questions will feed into several of the other points to consider. You may want to create a rough idea of the town’s history before you start and then adjust the narrative as you work out the specifics, or you may want to wait until you have completed the other aspects and then tie it all together. Either way, you should have this information worked out by the time you are done and kept on hand so that you know what players will be able to find out.


This includes both resources that are naturally available to the town and ones that have been constructed or imported. The larger a location is, the more likely it is to have some sort of unique resource available. This can be as simple as an abundance of viable farmland to something as complicated as a new, unique creature or plant to exploit. The Gruv is a strange place, and the British are very much interested in exploiting this new land for whatever valuable materials they can get their hands on, so feel free to be creative.

Of particular note for constructed resources, carefully consider if the location warrants having a rail line installed. Remember that the rail line is the lifeblood of commerce and travel within the Gruv, but that there is also a significant cost in building a rail line out to a location. Who is fronting this cost? If it’s being done by a business, they will need to have some sort of unique resource available only in this location that they feel they can make a profit off of to recover those costs. If it’s being fronted by the Crown, they will need to find some sort of economic or strategic value to the location to warrant the expense. If it’s being paid for by the citizens themselves in a collaborative effort, there will need to be a large enough population to offset the costs. If the location does not have a rail line, and doesn’t have any alternatives such as waterways available, its level of access will be severely limited, relying on trucks, wagons drawn by beasts of burden, or simply walking to get anything or anyone to or from there.

Adventuring Potential

Why is the area of interest to adventurers? Is this tying into a larger plot point you already have started in your campaign, or is this a stop along the way where you plan to provide potential for a couple of subplots and side quests? A good and interesting location will have at least one major plot hook, possibly several, that could draw players’ interests. Even if they don’t have the time or interest to pick up the plot hook while they are there, if it’s interesting enough, they may make a point to come back to it later. If this happens, just be sure to consider how the plot may advance if they players aren’t around to intervene. If there are consequences for having not gotten involved initially, let the players experience the ramifications of their choice.


Who are the major NPCs that players are likely to encounter or hear about at this location? How do they relate to the plot hook(s) you’ve created? What are their motivations? What are their personalities like? How do they look? Though you don’t necessarily have to create a full character sheet for them (unless the characters are likely to have to deal with them in combat), but having a rough idea of what abilities they have and what level they will be at is a good thing to consider ahead of time. Also bear in mind what resources the character will have at their disposal, whether they’re using those resources to aid or bargain with the players, or they’re a villain and using their resources against them. Once you have worked out their personality and motivations, having a few simple lines of dialogue worked out ahead of time for likely questions or situations they’ll be in will help with the immersion factor, both for your players feeling like this is an actual person they’re encountering and for a game master falling into the role.


If there are any special mechanical items that you need to know for unique items/creatures/spells/etc that you have created relating to this area, be sure to work them out ahead of time. Be sure to utilize the resources in the 1879 Game Master’s Guide and 1879 Game Master’s Companion for creating custom resources. When in doubt, find a resource in the existing materials that is similar and change the statistics as desired to suit your needs.


Once you have sufficient information for your location worked out, write up everything in summary and keep it available in your notes. When your players leave the location, do not throw the notes out. The players may revisit the area later, and you will want to have your notes to fall back on. Be consistent in how you describe and handle things. Feel free to change aspects of the location, but once the players have encountered that part of it, there should be a justification for the change. Perhaps they visit a new town you’ve written up and make friends with the tavern owner, and when they come back find out that he has retired and his daughter has taken over the business. These sorts of changes give the feel of a dynamic and rich world that the players can interact with, but they require a basis in consistency so that they have a root to compare those changes off of.

What type of settlements have you written into or plan to write into your 1879 game? How do these locations affect the game and help make it your own? Let us know in the comments below, or share with us on Discord.