View Full Version : DM Help Need help developing an undercity

2017-08-09, 08:57 PM
I'm starting a new campaign up with my roomates soon, and I've already settled on the main concept: Cast adrift in a floating city, the players were hired and trained by a powerful wizard before a catastrophic event ravages the world. The wizard in question sacrifices themslves to protect the city and help fight against the forces of evil as they revel in this cataclysm. The city is safely afloat, but some of the wild and monstrous races that settled nearby the city were picked up as well when the city went afloat, and the monstrous races have managed to excavate the bottom level of the floating archipelago and created their own undercity where they plot and scheme against the civilized races above. I've got plenty of ideas for the city proper, and for many of its inhabitants, but I needed some help solidifying concepts and fully fleshing things out.

Part of the undercity's secrecy comes from the fact that flight in and around the floating island is limited - magical flight doesn't work at all on the island, and within the city walls not even creatures with natural means of flight can take off. The Undercity's inhabitants first settled underneath the island by use of flying creatures, and when they rarely seek to breach the surface to interfere with the humanoids in the city they do so by flying up, or climbing/burrowing if they're capable. Obviously not the perfect and most airtight defense, but the city at large can't devote the resources into sending orgnaized troops spelunking down the side of a floating island, possibly to their deaths. That's the main hook to get the characters interested in exploring the undercity (among other things I haven't finished establishing yet), but I'm wondering if that's too complex a defense mechanism. If not, what else would you suggest to replace or enhance their security so the city guard can't just march into the undercity? It's entirely possible that there's other tunnels or pathways into the surface that have been made by the inhabitants as well, but they're either incredibly discreet and secret or require magic to access, so the initial trek into the Undercity is going to require a creature that can naturally fly or a lot of chutzpah to go rock climbing several thousand feet in the air.
The goal of the undercity's populace is simple - they hate the humans (especially that wizard) for sending the city into the sky, and want to seek revenge. I think I've got a good idea of how they plan to get back at the humans - if they can figure out how to control the spells that keep the land aloft, they can flip the city on its head and crash the city into the ground. Obviously, the main motivation is that the undercity's people are worried that if the floating island lands upright, their undercity might get destroyed in the process. Does that sound like a worthwhile goal for them to accomplish? I'd love to hear any other ideas that you might have as to what the ultimate goal of the undercity is in relation to the surface dwellers. Obviously there are multiple forces at work, each with their own motivations be they petty or vengeant, but I think the undercity needs a decent reason to keep together even though most of them are vile, cruel people or monsters, and this was the most logical modus operandi I could come up with given the circumstances.
Provided that the goal I have in mind for the undercity is reasonable or well-grounded enough (no pun intended), what do you think should happen if the heroes land the island upright? Technically the undercity didn't exist before the land was pulled from the ground, but I could see that only meaning that landing would block all the tunnels they've dug out from the center and they'd just have to make new paths to the surface. I think it's totally okay if the Undercity's revenge plan against the surface dwellers is a little unfounded in truth or logic because of the situation they're in, but I do want to think of the consequences of both the heroes and villains winning in this geo-political microcosm. I just don't want it to seem like the Undercity was just being stupid if the heroes manage to land the floating island and nobody gets hurt and they were just being jerks because they were taken on a magical joyride.
I have a lot of solid ideas for prominent figures in the Undercity, but I'm trying to nail down at least 5 unique concepts for the "leaders" of the various aspects of the community - one political, one religious, one military, one economic, and one social. I have good ideas for some of them, but I'd love to hear what people can come up with. Nothing's off the table as far as concepts or mechanics go (For example, I'm considering a medusa whose gaze hypnotizes people instead of petrifies them as either the economic or social leader), I just need another 3 or 4 concepts for above-average monsters to lead the undercity (I already have a religious leader in mind whose concept is incredibly far along at this point).

Any input or insights that you can give would be great. I really just want to make sure that I'm not throwing an undercity into my floating island because it seems cool, I want it to make sense and I want it to be interesting and threatening enough that it entices my players towards it. I'm pretty far along in the idea, but I want some input to make sure that it's a knockout implementation. I don't run handmade campaigns often so I try to make sure that everything is as thought-out as it can be. Also, if any ideas in this thread spark your interest, feel free to utilize them. I appreciate any help you can give in advance. :)