The Campaign Builders' Guild

Campaign Creation => Campaign Elements and Design => Topic started by: Gilladian on October 29, 2017, 09:35:05 PM

Title: Help me create a small city/large town
Post by: Gilladian on October 29, 2017, 09:35:05 PM
I'm creating a town (a bit under 5,000 people) and I would love some creative input.

The idea is that about 40-50 years ago, a nation stumbled across an island that had previously been protected by magic from their discovery. Nobody knows (or cares) how or why; the discoverers have begun to explore, and established a base to work from. They've explored up and down the coast for miles, but this is the only spot they have so far established a footing on. Yes, I know it doesn't make an WHOLE lot of sense, but for ease of running the campaign, that's what I'm going with. Maybe later I'll decide there are a few other settlements; maybe not.

Anyway, this is a rugged frontier town in a dangerous place, with a LONG thread to safety. So there's a castle, a small army, and numerous adventurers. There's a sort of feel that most of the people here are either criminals, outlaws, runaways or people who are hiding from something; why else would they have come here? The realm they come from is civilized, controlled, moderately-high-magic, and lawful. Also very controlling and unfriendly to non-human folks.

The place they've come to was a heavily populated magical empire, a thousand years ago, which then collapsede. In the meantime, there've been many wars, and there is (apparently) no human/demihuman population remaining. So basically only "enemy" humanoids "out there".

So help me decide how the town is ruled, who the major players in the town are, and what the adventurers would find when they get there. I'm going for a sort of wild-west but medieval with moderate-magic feel. It will be run as an Epic 6th (3.5E) DnD campaign, if that matters. Races in the town should be mostly human, with a smattering of elf, half-elf, dwarf and hafling.

Thanks for any ideas! Or even just questions.

Title: Re: Help me create a small city/large town
Post by: Steerpike on October 29, 2017, 11:29:35 PM
This is an awesome setup.

So if you've got a "civilized, controlled, moderately-high-magic, and lawful" power running the show, I think there a few options. One that I kind of like the thought of is that this frontier town is basically a company town being run by a mercantile operation who've been giving the blessing of this powerful realm to explore and exploit the new island, much as the English gave a royal charter to the Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson's Bay - a company which became, for all intents and purposes, the government of what would become Canada for some time. This company would have a high-ranking Governor as its head, with a series of factors and other officers below, and then a mass of servants, tradesmen, sailors, etc. There'd be pretty ad hoc courts, with company representatives acting as magistrates.

One alternative might be to make the town more like an overflowing gold rush town, with very little in the way of actual authorities at all - more like Deadwood, with maybe a Sheriff at best to enforce order, and a few elected officials to make decisions. I think both options have a certain appeal, and both fit with your concept.

I'm mostly interested in what the wars were like, and whether there's any weird magical stuff left behind from the battles - like summoned monsters still lingering, cursed battlefields, lost undead battalions, rusting war-golems, etc.

Title: Re: Help me create a small city/large town
Post by: LoA on October 30, 2017, 01:12:45 AM
I agree with everything that Steerpike said. However what I want is more details. Is this based off any real world culture? Is it just a standard fantasy setting? Sounds to me like it is. An interesting idea you could use for your lawful society is to use Hobgoblins as the main power. Keith Baker (the author of the Eberron setting) did a very interesting write up on the goblinoids of his setting and how they were inherently hive minded and orderly, gaining happiness and satisfaction from belonging to a collective. That could be really cool to explore.

PS. Are you the one that was working on a society of lycanthropes? Whatever happened with that?

Title: Re: Help me create a small city/large town
Post by: Gilladian on October 30, 2017, 09:08:36 AM
Hey, Thanks for the replies! Yes, LoA, I am the lycanthropes person. We used that culture in one campaign, briefly. One PC was an exile from them, and then they visited several of their villages. It was fun!

This new location is set several hundreds of years earlier in the campaign world than that locale/era. In this time, the lycanthrope folk are still hiding, living on the fringes of the empire that is sending the settlers to this new town/island.

So, Steerspike - I like your idea of a "company town". I can see the ruler being called the "Lord Governor". I think that on the whole he's competent and an effective (if not particularly kind or generous) ruler, but he has two issues - first, he must always turn a profit for the shareholders "back home", and he's an alcoholic - not always drunk, but has times when he goes off on a bender. During those times, his underlings tend to get away with things that either line their own pockets or promote their own personal plans, whatever they may be.

No "courts of law" per se - but the military could hold investigations and "courts martial" for their men; the temple (the general religion is polytheistic and paternalistic, with a lawful sun god at the head) would maintain order amongst their members, and there'd be a court where mercantile disputes would be handled - supposedly headed by the Lord Governor, but at least some of the time really run by one or more magistrates. I'd have to have a rough idea how that worked... and this same court could probably issue some sort of "certificate" for authorized adventuring groups - and then of course, the PCs could always remain unauthorized, if they prefer.

The "home empire" that this setting feeds off of is a pretty bog-standard fantasy empire, with vaguely roman roots. At this time, it is lawful neutral, and not intolerable as a system. Eventually, it will fall into evil ways, leading to a collapse and the "future/current" campaign world that my PCs are familiar with. Whatever happens with THIS portion of the setting will end up having some effect on that time period, I hope.

As far as what happened HERE, in the past - the FIRST world-spanning Empire fell about 3,000 years ago (pardon my earlier error - I had conflated two different historical events) - it is nameless, and almost unremembered in this day. It ended with the "interregnum" during which magic failed for some unknown period of generations. When magic gradually returned, the "old world" was forgotten, and nobody even realized there were magical barriers blocking the "new world" from finding it. Just in the past 50 years, explorers from the current (third) Empire have begun exploring and discovered this large island that they don't realize is very near another continent, which is still shielded from them.

So I literally don't know what caused the interregnum, why this land was blocked off, or what's happened here in the past 3,000 years. I'm eager to put many ruins, battlefields, lost history, etc... everywhere.

I've been running campaigns that were laced with metaplot, had megavillains with complex plots of their own, etc... (we're about 2/3 through with a very odd version of PotA right now) - and I want to run something far more sandboxy, with no mega villain (not that there aren't going to be arch-baddies, but no trace of any PLOT of their creation, if you get my drift). I want my PCs in this campaign to be able to pick up or drop any thread they choose. If they get curious about the ruins "over there", I'll figure out what they are and how they fit into things. I've got tons of time to lay out some broad strokes, as it may be six months or a year before we wrap up the current campaign.

So my first goal is a good starting base, and then I'll start pushing outward, seeing who and what they're interacting with. Which, of course, may necessitate changes in the town's structure. Oh, well!

Title: Re: Help me create a small city/large town
Post by: Steerpike on November 01, 2017, 10:39:27 AM
I love sandbox-style campaigns. This sounds like a great game.

One thing I think should be figured out early is whether this newly discovered land has resources of any kind - this will really change how the town looks and functions. If it's a scavenger economy based on magical relics taken from the ruins then there's probably going to be a big market of some kind, and perhaps people might be incorporating some of these artifacts into their businesses, homes, etc. If there's something to mine (magical ore? crystals?) then the town will be near the mines, with lots of businesses to provision, equip, and support the miners. That kind of thing - you'll want to figure out what makes money go round in this place. This also will lead to plenty of instant adventure possibilities.

I get a kind of STALKER vibe from this whole thing that I really like.

Title: Re: Help me create a small city/large town
Post by: Gilladian on November 03, 2017, 12:26:47 PM
Resources - yes, they will exist. This is a region where there should be coal, so I'm assuming a small coal-mining business, and a good local hunting and fur-trapping trade. Not sure of any other mundane resources. They raise enough grain/hunt and fish enough to feed themselves, but almost every luxury comes via ship. I'm thinking that the registered adventurers who work for the company are bringing in enough interesting stuff, either magic or raw materials or old knowledge/broken magitech to help support the economy. So yeah, both a legit way to sell found items, and a black market for stuff will be needed.

Title: Re: Help me create a small city/large town
Post by: Gilladian on November 05, 2017, 02:41:40 PM
Here's what I've written up so far -

Not much, and I did use a random generator for the Inns, but it is a start.

Title: Re: Help me create a small city/large town
Post by: grovelwine on December 30, 2017, 02:21:02 AM
Very cool, good stuff. As far as trying to add some variety to the old-west feel maybe look at Chinese "westerns" and draw on American Indian mythology for inspiration. I'm not thinking so much in a blatant way, i.e. you meet a stoic old guy in the desert and go on a spirit quest, but you could have something like a skinwalker cult that plays into the intrigue in the town. Some kind of rattlesnake or gila monster inspired lizardfolk monsters/race. Lots of turquoise. Don't know if you're looking for adventure/dungeon crawl ideas, but maybe the company town discovers a sort of tunnel complex built by the original empire that settled there, and it matches up with the accounts as of yet unconfirmed of a massive treasure being hidden underground by the original empire, but also one that was cursed and brought about their ruin, something like that. You could have some kind of twist where there isn't a literal curse but the treasure is some exotic natural resource that has an effect on the groundwater supply so interfering with it could dry up the wells and lead to massive unrest and drought. Just spitballing some ideas

Title: Re: Help me create a small city/large town
Post by: Gilladian on January 21, 2018, 09:29:24 AM
I haven’t worked on this much lately, but am thinking on it again. I am trying to decide a few things: some backhistory of the ancient mage war, whether or not I want any magic tech, and if there are ANY humans left alive in the region at all, or if they will only meet demihumans and humanoids.

I think my ancient past was crated by a handful of epic powered human wizards, dragons, or similar feuding. One or two turned to absolute evil, and the others banded together to destroy him/them. Eventually, they cast spells that cut this half of the world off from the rest to prevent destruction of the whole world, and then battled themselves to a standstill. So some of the archpowers are still around, just quiescent. Or not.

As far as adventures, this will be an E6 campaign, and I want to run mostly site-based small dungeons and short scenarios that are mostly stand alone.