View Full Version : Advice on a city

2016-09-07, 02:35 PM
I'm trying to create a city to serve as the focus of the campaign for a while. I want it to be a big city, easily able to contain whole adventures within its borders for a while.

I envisioned it being divided into four major sectors, each with its own unique theme and atmosphere, with a small fifth sector that serves as the unifying governing body, and an underground sixth sector where all the shady and illegal stuff happens.

And that's all I've got. I'm running dry how to actually dress up the individual sectors. I want each sector to almost be an entire smaller city unto itself, with its own culture, customs, and laws, with the dedicated government sector mostly just keeping the other sectors playing nice with each other, and dealing problems that affect the entire city as a whole.

I know I want the government sector above the others, though I haven't decided whether that means it's a giant tower, or on top of a mountain or hill, or on a floating island, or what.

And I know I want the four sectors to be wildly different from each other, to the point that it's legitimately impressive to outsiders that they can manage to coexist with each other.

So any ideas to kickstart my brain into filling in the gaps?

2016-09-10, 04:16 AM
Three days and no response? Would it be appropriate for me to bump this thread now?

If not, then here's another legitimate post expanding on my question.

I'm looking for some sort of flavor to inject into each individual sector that would normally set them to clashing with each other, but somehow, here, they manage to coexist. Such as Sector 1 is full of elves, and Sector 2 is full of Dwarves. Or Sector 1 is full of churches to good-aligned deities, populated by paladins, healer/protector clerics, and generally good-natured people, and Sector 2 has legalized slavery and a strict caste system where everyone is opressed and treated like objects by the class above them.

And what could the Government Sector be doing that keeps it all civil? I want the individual sectors to be co-dependent, like maybe the dwarves forge the weapons and armor that are sent to the elves to be enchanted, and everyone uses them to defend the city. Or something like that. But I want there to be something stronger and ironclad that comes from the Government Sector that ties them all together, and I'm coming up blank imagining what it could be. I see it as a staunchly Neutral force, especially if something like the paladin/slavery sectors are in play. But not necessarily cold and dispassionate.

I considered some sort of Neutral-god-worshipping aspect of the government, but I couldn't find any strong Neutral gods that weren't just unconcerned, or more focused on their area of influence. A god of Nature wouldn't really be commanding his followers to build a sprawling city.

Basically I want something vaguely like a cross between Midgar, and Zootopia.

I'm having real difficulty coming up with any cool ideas for all four sectors at once. I want them all to have that stark contrast with each other that my examples have, but I can't think of anything cool past two sectors. I considered a "four elements" themed division, but couldn't think of any cool, deep conflicts that should be happening but aren't.

2016-09-11, 03:25 AM
This part of the forum is mostly used for the mechanical parts of homebrew, your question might be better asked in the World-Building section (Mostly because more people who like puzzling through these sorts of things frequent there).


This is an interesting idea, but to me it begs a certain question. There are several parts of a city that are effectively independent polities with very divergent cultures and outright diametrically opposed beliefs. So why is it a single city? Why has it not exploded into several independent city-states, or had one faction crush the others?

This requires that there be both something stopping them from destroying each other (and the city itself), as well as some reason to remain as part of a single body.

You touched on that with your neutral gods thought.

Something this reminded me of though is the city of Sigil from D&D- it's an extraplanar city that has portals to and from nearly every other place in the cosmos. This makes it a very interesting place that many, many groups have an keen interest in watching and interfering with. However, outright warfare over the city is kept in check by the mysterious patron of Sigil- the Lady of Pain. Her Serenity rarely does much to interfere with people's lives, except if they attempt to destabilize or control the city itself. Anyone who does that usually dies or gets trapped in a maze forever.

Gods have been ruthlessly cut to pieces by her wrath.

This insures that despite being a nexus of extra-planar travel, even angels and devils - beings composed of diametrically opposed cosmic forces - are forced to grit their teeth and be polite.

Food for thought.

I would look at creating a couple of philosophies to properly flavor the different factions.

You obviously want some tension between the different groups. Maybe look to things like the four temperaments or the Magic the Gathering color wheel for inspiration?

Maybe what keeps the different groups together is that each gets along with some, but not all, of the other factions- with a single ruling council made up of representatives from each philosophy, with some powerful neutral figure serving as a judge/tie-breaker/executive authority?

Maybe the reason they get along is because some terrible cataclysm has forced them to work side-by-side?

2016-09-11, 12:03 PM
Somehow I totally missed seeing the world building forum. Is there a way to move the thread, or do I have to re-post the question?

I want to figure out the culture/motif/flavor of the individual four sectors of the city before I figure out how they're being kept together. I figure knowing what's being kept in check will give me an easier time deciding how.

The government and underground sectors I'll save for after I write up the other four. The government will be influenced by what it is it's governing, and the underground sector will be influenced by what's illegal or taboo above.

The four city sectors don't NECESSARILY have to be opposed to each other, but I definitely want them to be normally incompatible.

I like the comparison to Sigil. It's actually part of what inspired it. But I want to keep it a little smaller scale.

I know I want it to be an independent city-state. Either it's relatively isolated, or any surrounding nations just think it's too weird and unpredictable to risk invading. Haven't decided which yet. There might be a wall around the city, but maybe not. I haven't decided whether it fits the feel I want it to have.

I know I want each sector to nearly be its own smaller city. The Government sector imposes just enough law to keep everyone working together, and leaves the rest of the laws up to the individual sectors. But each sector must respect the laws of the other three. For example, if the slavery sector exists, then the other three sectors must recognize slaves as their masters' property when they travel to those sectors, but on that same note, if those three sectors all have laws against kidnapping, then the slaver sector can't capture new slaves except on their own land.

(in fact, the more I play with the oppressive slaver sector in my head, the more I like it. I like the idea that one of the "illegal activities" that happens underground might be freeing slaves.)

You obviously want some tension between the different groups. Maybe look to things like the four temperaments or the Magic the Gathering color wheel for inspiration?

Maybe what keeps the different groups together is that each gets along with some, but not all, of the other factions- with a single ruling council made up of representatives from each philosophy, with some powerful neutral figure serving as a judge/tie-breaker/executive authority?

Yes, I want the city to be made of exactly this. Like, imagine a sector full of paladins, a sector full of druids, and a sector full of ravenous man-eating monsters. The paladins could see the druids as fellow protectors and be on friendly terms, yet the paladins would see the monsters as a threat to the innocent, and the druids would see the monsters simply as beings following their nature, trying to survive. I don't want a "red vs. blue" situation between any two sectors, I want a "red, blue, green, and yellow all crammed into a small apartment, afraid of pissing off purple" situation. I want each sector to be at odds with some sectors, depend on some sectors, be friendly with some sectors, and be wary and unsure of some sectors, all while experiencing severe culture shock with all others.

But I'm having a hard time weaving that web. The paladin/druid/monster thing was my best example I've come up with so far.

And I want emphasis on the culture of each sector. What do their buildings look like? What are their laws? What kinds of people live there? I want the whole place to be fantastical and exotic.

I suppose since that oppressive slave sector has taken root in my mind, that's as good a place as any to start. Who would be friends with a place like that? Enemies? Who would trade with them? What would they trade? Who do they look to for support? What kind of land do they sit on?

I've also got in my head some kind of water-sector, bordering the ocean, where mermaids and other aquatic beings live, where all the port traffic comes and leaves, and with gondola-navigated waterway streets.

And a merchant sector where shops and businesses are everywhere, where the richest citizens tend to live.

And an oriental/feudal Japan-style sector.

But I don't have any deeper image in my head for them than that. I have no idea how they would interact with each other.