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View Full Version : DM Help Massive port city - noncombat encounters



Pinjata
2016-10-07, 06:16 AM
So, my players are travelling north along the Sword coast and have just departed Baldur's Gate. I thought I was well prepared when it came to cities, but it had turned out I was not. I had a place where PCs have slept well fleshed out, same with shape of the city, the docks, ships ... but city still turned out rather bland and generic. THey wanted to go to House of wonders and I had to come with description of museum on the fly ... I am usually well prepared for the regions people enter, but it seems I failed a bit regarding Baldur's Gate.

Next stop is Waterdeep. I have city description (as they sail in with the ship) well mapped out, same with taverns where they may sleep over. But everyday life, interesting things for them to see ... This I lack.

This does not mean I need to have "appropriate CR encounter" spawned at every corner. But players did want to get involved in many things in previous city and I was wery underprepared regarding this. What "encounter shiny baubles" can I throw their way in Waterdeep? (or any other major D&D port city)?

They are level 3 btw.

thanks

Storm_Of_Snow
2016-10-07, 07:11 AM
Some thoughts:

Major port city - you will get traders. So, what about a merchant needs help getting his goods from the dock to his warehouse (or vice versa), for some reason the regular guys can't or won't do it, and the PCs are wandering past. Or livestock coming off a ship have broken loose and are blocking the streets.

You also get sailors who've been on a ship for weeks, if not months, and have just got paid - so you get brothels and, erm, independants. :smallwink: Even if the PCs don't partake of the services on offer, they're likely to be good sources of information. And following on, if they do partake, the PCs may need to go and find a herbalist or apothecary to cure what Julio Scoundrel referred to as a curse of the itchier kind. :smallyuk:

The watch might stop the PCs because there's been a crime in the area and they want to eliminate them from their enquiries. Or there's some watchmen who're corrupt and try and shake the PCs down.

Assuming there's no indoor plumbing, someone empties a chamber pot out of a bedroom window without looking, and the PCs are walking past at the time.

The guild of messengers are having their annual competition to see who can deliver a message from one side of the city to the other in the fastest time - so there's a load of people doing parkour across rooftops, over walls, under carts and so on.

Some religious or civic festival. Or two rival groups are having a parade about something that's likely to devolve into violence.

What about simply having a monthly large market, where the PCs can potentially pick up all sorts of rare/exotic goods, but they might also run foul of pickpockets, confidence tricksters and other criminals, which includes those who're part of the indigenous thieves guild, and those who've come in from out of town and who'd be nailed upside down to the wall by their ears if the thieves guild discovered them.

A sewer collapses just ahead of the PCs, blocking traffic down the street.

Pinjata
2016-10-07, 08:02 AM
Splendid effort, much appreciated.

MrZJunior
2016-10-07, 10:44 AM
How about some sort of race? Chariots rushing through the narrow twisting streets, crashing into houses, damaging monuments. Since Waterdeep is a port town you could have a boat race or something like that. Maybe the boat favored to win sinks mysteriously the night before. Is it someone trying to narrow the competition or maybe an insurance scam? Every year or so there is a rowing race on the Thames in London between members of the Waterman's Guild, it's been going on for a couple centuries I think.

Kiero
2016-10-07, 11:25 AM
There has to be a parkour-style race or chase across the rooftops.

thirdkingdom
2016-10-07, 12:24 PM
There has to be a parkour-style race or chase across the rooftops.

You mean like this? (https://youtu.be/2GHz2bU92So)

Storm_Of_Snow
2016-10-10, 03:07 AM
How about some sort of race? Chariots rushing through the narrow twisting streets, crashing into houses, damaging monuments. Since Waterdeep is a port town you could have a boat race or something like that. Maybe the boat favored to win sinks mysteriously the night before. Is it someone trying to narrow the competition or maybe an insurance scam? Every year or so there is a rowing race on the Thames in London between members of the Waterman's Guild, it's been going on for a couple centuries I think.
Or Dragon Boat races, or even charity raft building (say the local guilds compete, and proceeds go to the city's orphanages).

gtwucla
2016-10-10, 08:45 AM
How about some sort of race? Chariots rushing through the narrow twisting streets, crashing into houses, damaging monuments. Since Waterdeep is a port town you could have a boat race or something like that. Maybe the boat favored to win sinks mysteriously the night before. Is it someone trying to narrow the competition or maybe an insurance scam? Every year or so there is a rowing race on the Thames in London between members of the Waterman's Guild, it's been going on for a couple centuries I think.

The race is a great idea. I would add it as part of a holiday, like a weeklong celebration of the harvest or spring (whatever season it is). That way you can add all sorts of festivities, also foreigners and the trouble they get into with each other and the locals.

In addition to sailors maybe also add a smuggling ring and thriving black market. You could run into all sorts of fun trouble there. Turf war, arrests, eliciting the players help, running into powerful items, etc.

AnBe
2016-10-12, 12:00 AM
I'm not entirely sure this would work for Waterdeep specifically, but that's because I don't know that particular city that well.

A demi-god (or something equivalent) flies up to the city on a giant air ship called The Plaguebringer, which is invisible. This evil demi-god infects the city with a special plague that spreads rapidly throughout the city, killing many people. The plague will continue to spread and eventually destroy the entire city, but that demi-god is the only one with the cure. He/she will only give the cure if the leader of the city makes some sort of deal with him/her, usually involving the exchange of riches.

After the deal has been resolved, the Plaguebringer and her captain will hand over the cure and leave the city with the majority of its riches.
If the leaders of the victimized city do not agree to any deal, then the demi-god simply turns that city to his/her rudder and never returns, leaving it to rot.

Eldan
2016-10-12, 02:54 AM
Some religious or civic festival. Or two rival groups are having a parade about something that's likely to devolve into violence.


I always like this one. Religious conflict is always good in bigger cities.
*An oracle of the crazy-old-man type is standing at the street corner, shouting doom at the gilded temples and their idols. The high priest very much would like him gone, but it needs to happen diplomatically, as he's technically a holy man.
*A new and maybe blasphemous religion is sweeping through the underclass. It contains dangerous ideas, like how people shouldn't be slaves to other people, not even when their debts are entirely their own fault.
*The local temple is fragmenting. Half the priesthood preaches one thing, the other preaches another. The dispute seems to be over an apparently small point of dogma that most of the citizens of the city don't understand, and yet, the priests have openly come to blows over it. This can't be allowed to continue, the king has decided.

Not drawn from any real world religions at all.

Or economic ones, for a trading port:
*A major trading house is collapsing. They don't have the gold anymore to back their promissory notes. This could threaten to put a lot of local businesses out of business. A riot is threatening.
*The government is running out of money to finance a costly war. They don't think they can really push through more taxes, so they need new revenue streams. There's plenty of ideas floating around. How about taxing adventurers who come to town? They aren't really citizens, after all. Or a lottery. Or financing an expedition to unknown lands to make some profit.

MrZJunior
2016-10-12, 07:40 AM
Or Dragon Boat races, or even charity raft building (say the local guilds compete, and proceeds go to the city's orphanages).

I like these ideas.

Mark Hall
2016-10-12, 12:53 PM
Keep in mind the parts that make the city unique. Waterdeep practically cries out for break-outs from Undermountain or "exotics" up from Skullport... a mind flayer or drow walking the street, carefully guarded by mercenaries. Barbarian dignitaries gawking at everything.

Consider also the other color of the street. Near the docks, you might have two sailors hurling insults at each other, or beating each other with belaying pins while a crowd cheers them on. Or a noble berating a peasant. Or someone chasing a thief. Have the players stopped by people asking for directions, or a group of mages trying to put out a building fire.

Psikerlord
2016-10-12, 03:12 PM
Low Fantasy Gaming has a big random table of non-combat encounters for cities that might assist: free PDF - https://lowfantasygaming.com/

veti
2016-10-12, 05:14 PM
One word I've not seen yet in this thread: spies. A "massive port city" should have plenty, both commercial and political. And "political" spies will be further divided into "foreign, hostile", "foreign, benign", and "local, factional".

They'll range from the furtive (random lounger who slopes off nonchalantly when he notices you noticing him), to the charismatic (genial, popular figure who knows everyone and is constantly hosting parties and pumping them for information in the nicest imaginable way), to the downright aggressive (think James Bond, but probably not so well dressed).

Pauly
2016-10-12, 11:47 PM
Corruption on the waterfront (Combat prohibited because it brings too much attention)
- Smugglers.
- Dock workers controlled by the Mafia (oops thieves guild)
- Power struggles between said smugglers and mafia
- Obtaining information about operations for the city guard

New Naval technology affairs
- New ship/weapon designs need testing
- foreign spies want the designs (spy/counterspy)
- obtaining special scarce resources for new ship/weapon technology

A Typhoon (category 5) is coming.
- informing people of the incoming event (land or sea)
- surviving the storm when the buildings start getting torn apart
- rescue survivors (land or sea)

Endarire
2016-10-16, 04:20 PM
City of Splendors: Waterdeep (https://www.amazon.com/City-Splendors-Waterdeep-Roleplaying-Supplement/dp/0786936932).

There's an entire book about this giant city! (That's an Amazon link.)

Storm_Of_Snow
2016-10-17, 04:28 AM
One word I've not seen yet in this thread: spies. A "massive port city" should have plenty, both commercial and political. And "political" spies will be further divided into "foreign, hostile", "foreign, benign", and "local, factional".
You'd also have local counter intelligence and foreign sleeper agents (and possibly local sleepers, especially if there's conflict brewing and the port's a primary target).

And certain groups might also be spies in certain circumstances - for example, the local streetwalkers and brothel workers could well feed pillow talk up to a figure head for things like blackmail or insider trading (call her the Queen of the Streets or something similar - the upper echelon ones, the courtesans and those of similar names would also do it, but they'd be more circumspect because the information they're deling in is likely to be a lot more sensitive, and could well be traced back to them very easily). Or the errand boys sent out to do deliveries for various traders could detour via the docks and merchants warehouse and feed information about stock movements back to their employers, or they get a low denomination coin for telling the sausage-in-a-bun vendors where an incident has happened so they can try and sell their wares to the crowd of onlookers.