A downloadable game

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Ex Novo is a playable city-building generator to construct fictional villages and towns. This physical game can be played alone or with up to 3 friends. Playtime ranges from 1 to 3 hours. 

Meet with your friends and collaboratively draw the map of your city as you explore the conditions that led to its founding and the events that shape its development. 

Our aim was a generator that builds settlements that are useful for further creative use. For example in narrative endeavors or as preparation for pen and paper role-playing games.

Please share your cities with us using the hashtag #exnovo.

Created by Martin Nerurkar and Konstantinos Dimopoulos.

Playing Ex Novo

You (and up to three friends) take on the role of the guardian spirit of a freshly founded settlement. Its founding just brought you into existence. And with it it brought you your purpose: to witness its growth, shepherd its development and remember its stories.

As you play you will make sense of the events happening as you draw and plan on a collaborative map of the settlement and its changing shape. In the end you will have created an interesting fictional place with a sense of history.

Sequence of Play

Play begins with a brief discussion phase. Here each player shares their assumptions and expectations. You will also determine city size and age in this phase.

Then we move to the founding phase. Taking turns, each player defines some of the basics of the settlement, such as its purpose or the surrounding terrain. Whenever a feature is determined the acting player will draw it onto the map. By following the predefined sequence of turns you will end up with an interesting starting situation.

After this you enter into the development phase. Here each turn adds an interesting event that needs to be interpreted by the active player. During this time the settlement will grow, change or even shrink. This is where the exciting history of your city is played out, its shape evolves and the map grows.

The final phase is the topping out phase. Here a few quick turns are all that's needed to wrap up the development of the city and tie off all loose ends.

And finally you'll be left with an interesting settlement that you can enjoy or use as a jumping off point for something else, like a role-playing campaign.

Purchase

Buy Now$5.00 USD or more

In order to download this game you must purchase it at or above the minimum price of $5 USD. You will get access to the following files:

Ex Novo 12 MB

Development log

Comments

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I actually like this game! Is it possible for me to gain any community copies for this? I could not afford it to be honest.

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After watching a video on youtube about solo rpg I discovered EX Novo!

It's a REALLY good game to create a amazing city!
I gave it a try and i end up with a very interesting setting for a maybe future game!

First a little settlement of hunters struggling with the druids of the region and the royal guard, then a long winter + war nearby + plague and hunters became lumberjacks with a flourishing industry of magic wood... but in the shadow grows a cult who adore a coven of witches and the army tend to become a bit more expeditive with weapon which  spit fire...


Welcome to Riverwood, a great place to start your adventuring journey!

(i maybe retake the map on inkarnate, to make it real!!)
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Thanks a ton for the kind words, the support, and above all the shadowy cults of Riverwood :)

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I've been playing this solo, attempting to make a city for another RPG campaign. It's been really fun and has given me some great ideas! I do have a question. If factions lose all of their citizen tokens do they effectively no longer have any influence in the city? Could they have been driven out?


For example, I had my city occupied in the very first development phase. A few phases later a faction led a propaganda campaign against this faction taking the one citizen token they had their. Is that faction done? Would it make sense to have the propaganda campaign lead to the ouster of the occupying force? I could see this being a "what makes sense for the story" but I was just curious if there was a rule for this I was missing.

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Hey, and thanks so much for using Ex Novo to enrich your RPG campaign; really do hope it will help you! 

As for the question, well, there isn't a specific rule in place, but I would argue that the faction probably remains in play, albeit completely powerless. If though --narratively speaking-- it'd be more appropriate to have it vanish I'd say go with that instead. 

Either way it really is up to you to decide what feels right. playing loose with the rules is part of the experience anyway :) 

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We've done it. A serious, proper run. (Though my art is still terrible, I wish I was as good drawing quick and rough as I am drawing slow and careful.) The resource icons and such aren't my doing, unfortunately, they're found things from the internet.

Behold Vixenwood, seat of House Liskfield (with a couple little tweaks we'll be making to suit the Song of Ice and Fire ruleset). It sits in the Westerlands of Westeros. A brief history of this hamlet:

Vixenwood was founded by a convergence of scouts who camped on the secure little peninsula, in the time during the latter days of Aegon's conquest of Westeros. After the war, these scouts decided collectively to make it their home.

The four terrain features that dominate the landscape are the river that cuts the peninsula in two, the Vixenwood (home to many foxes, and origin of the village's name), the hilly land east of the river, and Deadmire, so named for the bones discovered beneath it some time after the founding. The Vixenwood yielded many edible rootplants, which were available for mass foraging after hunters drove the dangerous predators out of the forest.

After settlement, the ruling house sent knights to see to the newly formed peasantry. These knights ruled over the village for decades, adorned with silks that put even some lords to shame (another gift from the Vixenwood!). When they got too big for their titles, though, their lord sent a small army to demand his tribute. When the knights defied the army, they were slain in a violent little skirmish.

After that point, the populace was left to more or less govern itself. While the farming folk deferred largely to their elders at first, it was the hunters, with their weapons and martial expertise, that filled the void. Without armed knights to rule, the task fell naturally to those with bows.

Unfortunately without lords to demand they wash their stink, the earthy hunters stopped caring for their hygiene and fell ill. This in turn contaminated the rootplants they collected, resulting in a new fields popping up all over across the river to fill the need for meals. Eventually the disease forced the to burn their own dwellings in a desperate attempt to stem the decay, and for a time, the village was divided in two, hunters disbarred from crossing the river.

It took another 30 years or so - and the advent of herbal medicine in the village - for the hunters to reclaim their former glory. A booming boar population in the Foxwood yielded leathers, and clad in iconic cuir bouilli, they once again became the undisputed leaders of the settlement.

Some time after the end of our Ex Novo phase, a keep was constructed over the ruins of the old knights' hall and would serve as a home and fortification for House Liskfield, who would seize power by scheming against another Westerland house and being elevated to nobility themselves during the Blackfyre Rebellion.

.... Okay, not as brief as I'd intended. But that's an excellent sign! Just goes to show how much engaging lore can come from Ex Novo so quickly. This was only a 10-turn run, too! Really loving this thing, best $5 I've spent in a long time. My friend and I already have our next session in mind.

Wish you could realize how happy this makes us! Thank you, really, and here's to the lovely city of Vixenwood!

Started off excited and I'm stuck on 2.1 - what the heck is a quadrant in game terms?

My guess is it's "roughly a quarter of the total map space". That's how I interpreted it.

Then the entry for 'Hills' fills the entire map I guess?

(1 edit) (+2)

Oh damn, that's a good point. My other guess would be "a zone created by the lines your drew". In fact, a deeper search of the book I did just now found me this:

"Quadrant size
If you have relatively equally sized quadrants
you can consider them to have an area of about 1
square kilometer."


That definitely seems to imply that a quadrant is meant to be one of the zones formed during step 1.3.

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Ah man! Quadrant is a holdover. I guess I missed those when we changed from the quadrants system to the regions. Will be fixed in the next update!

Good to know, thanks! For now I'll just have to mentally sub "region" for "quadrant". :)

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Sorry for this... a quadrant is the older name for regions. Seems to have remained in a few entries; will be fixing this in the next update :)

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That makes sense - thanks!

And sorry for the confusion!

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Superb game! This does exactly what I wanted it to and does it OH so smoothly. A friend and I used digital software for a very rough first run at the game, making this little hamlet for our Song of Ice and Fire RPG run. We're eager to sit down with it tomorrow and try a more serious run (with a more uniform format for labeling)!


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Why, thanks a ton fro the kind words, and for giving our little city builder a go! If this is your rough try, we can't wait to see what you come up with next!

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I've just dropped in to say, I've had an absolute blast playing this after getting it in the Racial Equality Bundle :D 

After about two hours, I've got not only a map, but several ideas for stories for either roleplaying with my friends or writing up - this was a brilliant way to get the brain juices flowing, thank you so much for making it!

Fort Lanza  Rockwood Occupied West Arandia attached (they had revolutions, counter-revolutions, plague, extinction, bandits moving in... it's all gone well! :P )

That's wonderful to hear! And thanks a ton for sharing the delightfully serene, uhm, (checks history books) West Arandia! 

Did each regime change the town's name btw?

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Yeah - it started as a military research base, was the subject of a revolution from the growing Free Trade Alliance in it's economic sectors, then the very next year the Royal Guard was sent in to quash the secession - so things are somewhat tense on the streets currently, and the name of the city changes depending on who you ask!

Brilliant!

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Like some others, I saw this featured on Dicebreaker this morning and had to buy and download. Very excited to make some cities and history when I get the chance! Hopefully then I'll have some better feedback than "this looks really really cool."

Thank you, and really looking forward to your input; and your creations!

Yes! Share your cities! I love seeing maps :D

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Saw this on Dicebreaker, immediately got the game... needed it so much as a newbie ttrpg game master, and youtube dropped this on my lap. As a student of Geography, this is also very impressive. Thank you, thank you!

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Thank *you*, and you'll be intrigued to know that my PhD is for the most part in (urban, unavoidably) geography! Really appreciate the kind words and would be fascinated to see what you come up with :)

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Whoa, hello Senior! My focus is on cultural geography via popular multimedia (I'm a wimp at physical geog) and I'll for sure share what we come up with! More power to you and yours!

(bows while wishing the very best)

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Same deal, saw it on Dicebreaker. I'm extremely short on money thanks to a huge shift in my finances starting this month, but I'm in the process of sorting through which of the many games I've been curious about that I want to buy with my budget, and Ex Novo is now right near the top of that list. I expect I'll be buying it soon.

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Saw you featured on Dicebreaker's channel on YouTube.  I'm absolutely diving into this tomorrow!

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Why, thank you so very much; hope you enjoy crafting your cities, and please do let us know how things went!

yes! We love looking at everyone‘s maps!

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I played to the Founding Phase and im having fun. Dont realy know if im making all the steps right and i realy wanted some youtube gameplay to see how it works.
Leaving my map.

ps: i have 2 factions/groups but i only have one District drawed... is this right? Well the one group that had no District are a group called "Free", they are homeless people ...so if it is wrong the way i played maybe is just half wrong.
pss: typo on page 12 in the Example of Play it says in Discussion Phase that the Village was picked from the table and is number as a 2 but Village is nr 1. Another on pag 23 that have Events: Warfare D666 (111-166) instead of D666 (111-666)

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And this is how it ended.

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Hello! Sorry for the belated response; it's Konstantinos and I absolutely love the map you came up with. Also, though a rarity having 2 factions and 1 district is actually possible, and, besides, Ex Novo not being a competitive game always allows a bit of freedom when it comes to interpreting rules.

Thanks so much for trying out little game though :)

(3 edits) (+1)

To follow up: Konstantinos is right, that you generally end up with more than 1 district, unless you're aiming for a very small village.

However at the start of the game (after founding, before development) it is in fact pretty much the norm. You always start with only 1 district and between 1 and 3 factions.

And the Warfare (111-166) is not a typo. The event table goes from 111 to 666 but every first digit has its own theme. 111-166 is Warfare, 211-266 is Politics etc...

But the one about village is right. Good catch!

And lastly: Great drawing!

(+1)

just sent a link to my friend! we're trying to find a map generator thing for a universe we're creating and this might help especially since we can play together :D

Happy to hear that! If you run a session, let us know!

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Excellent game... Actually it's more than a game :-) Tested, and truly enjoyed!

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Thank you! Very happy to hear it. I just ran another playtest session and collected a lot of cool and useful feedback. An update will be incoming in a few weeks. Want to collect more stuff!

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I posted a picture of our settlement on Tweeter. I might create a polished map of it on Inkarnate. If you are interested in my feedback I could give it via e-mail...


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Man! That looks super dope! Please do send your thoughts! Did you run Ex Novo solo?

I've already collected a bunch and as said, we're planning to revisit the rules later this month. Just want to collect some feedback first.

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Hi Martin, thanks but it's just a humble first try! :-) No I didn't go solo: we were with my wife and her daughter (15 yo). They are not found of indy/board-games like I am, but do appreciate some 'mainstream', classical or simple/middle complex board-games (Mah-Jong, Takenoko, Scrabble to name a few). The interesting thing is that they both appreciated the process of creation, despite the fact that the game is rather low paced and that there are no competitive goals. All in all, we had a great time building this together. I'll write you an email with my thoughts. Again, congratulations for this great piece of work!

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Oh, this looks absolutely brilliant! Thank you !

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You're too kind :-). As I said in the post above, we had a great time with ExNovo. I surely will experiment further with the rules. Congratulations! And thank you for this great work.

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We really do aim to further develop the whole concept. Give you more stuff to experiment with :)