View Full Version : Fleshing Out A City's Neighborhoods!

2013-05-16, 12:22 PM
Hey, Playgrounders- I'm hoping to get some inspiration/help from folks here, as I poke at and polish ideas for an urban campaign. My inspiration is mostly ripped from Dragon Age II's Kirkwall, but I feel like the place could use a few more districts than just High Town, Low Town, Dark Town, the Alienage, the Docks and The Foundry District.

Some info about the people of the city and their interactions here-

Humans are probably the least fleshed out, but they have ostensibly the dominant presence in the city- and the temples that regulate mage-craft (licensing the wizards and forcibly gathering up the sorcerers for observation) and dispense magical healing are their invention.

Dwarves are beginning to be the financial power in the city. Those who come to the surface are technically exiles, but for a very long time they have been slowly building a network of trade that feeds back to the dying kingdoms underground. They own factories and foundries, many of which are under-regulated and worked by-

Orcs. Orcs have been the go-to mercenaries for whomever could bully them into service for centuries, ever since their creation by the Ancient Empire. There is a ban on new orcs entering the city, and it's rare to see a (recognizable) female amongst them- and yet, despite blazingly unsafe working conditions in the dwarf-owned foundries, their population seems to remain steady.

Tieflings are a small population in the city, and their treatment tends to be not unlike that of medieval European Jews. They try to keep their heads down and work their small monopolies on items from the Ancient Empire, from whose crazed nobles they descend (and they're feeling much better now, thank you).

Halflings work the docks on the river- theirs are the faster boats for smaller goods, and they connect with pastoral farmers outside the city to get the populace a lot of its food.

Elves are a small population, mostly in the theater district. They aren't much trusted, because their Sidhe ancestors were what the Ancient Empire fought tooth and nail, and they themselves are exiles from Underhill, having to play on human fascination with their beauty to survive.

The city is cramped, dirty, and tense. High cliffs protect its harbor and its jagged coast makes it difficult for non-halfling ships to slip in and out of the inlets. As the temples have a monopoly on healing and licensed, properly-contained magic, it also becomes a hot spot when sickness is on the land, people trying to get in so that they can be protected from disease (which is a bit of a reversal of the real-world tradition of fleeing to the country in times of plague).

2013-05-18, 06:46 AM
Have a look in here (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/we/20030719a): it's a D&D web-enhancement for the DMG, giving you a district by district guide for making cities. I've stolen and borrowed from it extensively for my setting.

Kol Korran
2013-05-18, 01:09 PM
Hmmmm... I too often come here for help in fleshing parts of my world/ campaigns/ adventures- Twelve heads are better than one, no? (Said the Hydra).

I haven't yet played Dragon Age (I know, I know) but here are some ideas, perhaps you can use them?

1) The silent schools district: A mostly poor looking district, inhabited mostly by the tieflings. In it exist a few small schools, aimed mostly at keeping their community educated and civilized. They tutor some other races students, but only a few, and on special request. The schooling is quite spartan and monastic like- very simple and basic furnishings, time devoted nearly entirely to schooling, debates and philosophy.

Noise is not welcomed in the district, as the school masters consider it a disturbance, a distraction, and a sign of vulgarity. everything is conducted in hushed tones, and if you enter or go by the schools, you can actually hear the sounds of many pens scribbling at paper.

If you wish, there could be some secret or hidden teachings, to which only few are privileged. Also, the learned tiefling teachers may hold a great deal of knowledge, but it is kept privately. And scholars can have non scholary ambitions as well.

2) The canals: near the docks some enterprising halfling families excavated the streets into canals, so they could take their boats deeper into the city, and closer to their homes. (A bit like Venice?) The district can be trespassed only by boat or swimming (or roof to hopping?) from landing to landing.

The canals also run special boat races, for boat men to jostle for a higher position, and also for the games, for money from betting and more. The halflings invite others to view the games (and spend their money), but few have been invited to race yet, mostly out of a true disbelief that no one can take a boat down a curve like a halfling. (you could also make the races across some small rock islands a bit off to the river/ sea)

The canals is also the home of a small underworld halfling illegal business group. They circumvent the city's taxes, and also bring in some prohibited merchandise. They are all part of one big halfling family, run by one of the dock masters. Friendly up front, but can turn quite lethal if their interests are threatened.

3) The humble maker: A street name given to a formerly very poor neighborhood inhabited mostly by outcast dwarves, not part of the big families in the city. They bought tiny spaces, and opened tiny shops, in the very narrow and twisting alleys of this darkly lit district. Theier shops are their homes as well, and prove to be an interesting site. The dwarves are small tradesmen, making good quality items (not magnificent, but good. quite better than average), for fairly reasonable prices. This have been a well kept secret by some, but rumors spread, and now The Humble Maker is considered the place to go if you want something well made or just... interesting...

For some of the Makers also deal with quite rare or refined arts- grooming special plants, making special alchemical items, preparing paper to withstand fire, moisture and tear, and so on.

A possibility (see if this fits in your campaign): The makers are not greedy people, and usually just get enough to live a bit comfortably. Some of them however seem to follow a strange belief/ code- they seek to better/ worsen/ influence the world somehow, and will some time not trade for money, but for an exchange of service- "a favor for a favor" as they might say. usually not big stuff, sometimes their requests seem utterly random and disconnected, but the Makers keep their secrets. Who knows what they plan?

4) The Barracks & partner district:
fairly obvious by the name, this district or two or three, reside at key points- near the gates, near a protective for and so on. I assume it trains mainly human soldiers, but they should have a whole list of services they require, which might be get in the partner district: from food shops, entertainment (see next), brothels, and so on. Inside the barracks I assume most things are orderly, people trade lightly, and most interaction is formal and dull. But in the accompanying districts things are much more lively, where the soldiers (and sometime officers) let their hair down, grab a drink and relax a bit. This might prove a nice contradiction to use, and both can prove interesting places to adventure in.

5) The Arena:
(It will need a better name) This district revolves entirely around a sort of mini colleseum, or several smaller arenas. Contest of skills, combat, athletics, and more are held here. This is quite the staple of many games, so I'll leave it to you. Remember that as the barracks require a lot of services, so does the arena- places to house animals and beats, competitors, luxury houses for parties after a win, perhaps a small cemetery?

6) Cliff side vertical burial tombs:
Dating to the very very early days before the city even, the cliff side houses many old family tombs, dug into the rock, perhaps as the guardians of the city. most are as simple as holes in the rock, but some aremore complex. It's quite hard to find someone here unless you know exactly where s/he is. The is a VERY narrow ledge leading up and down, wide enough for a single person, with small spots on the side at times to allow a person to pass. I don't know the details of revering the dead in your world, But I suggest here some old, heathen customs might be practiced.

7) The great market: There may be smaller version of this, but nothing like the big market- in a fairly big space for the city (yet still small and cramped) there is a mix of a garden and a market, where all races are welcomed, and where many things can be found, most of them for the common crowd, not the eye looking for quality. the general Bazaar scene from movies, with vendors shouting, people haggling, everyoen pushing and so on.

You can make what you want of this place, but I have 3 ideas:
- Set a small but respectful place for out of town traders, perhaps with odd customs, dialects, and exotic merchandise.
- Have the place be the main rumor mill of the City- people of all districts meet here, in this relative anonymity of the crowd, their conversations unheard through the ruckus of the merchants. You can have different kinds of official or unofficial info brokers here. As with the makers they may require a juicy piece of info in return, making info even more valuable...
- A personal favorite of mine: add some gypsy like merchants/ people- dealing with chance, fortune telling, lucky/ cursed charms and other things of dubious value. Have them be hated by most of the other merchants, but possibly they can be a wild ace. You might even combine things and make THEM the info brokers. Have a conversation of a game of cards and some home brewed liquor..

All I have for now, I may have more later, need to sleep now. Good luck!