View Full Version : Building a city-based campaign: New York in the future!

2008-01-24, 11:45 AM
I've been in the mood for a dystopian d20Modern/Future for some time now and I've got the players now too.
The thing is, I want it to mainly revolve around that great city that never sleeps and I find myself a bit at a loss on how to "build" a city of that magnitude especially considering that the city already exists :smalltongue:

The campaign is set in post-WWIII (C.E. 2040), Republican-ruled USA (well, NYC as I said :smallwink:) under martial law.
The economy is in regression and facing severe decline. It's probably gonna get worse before it gets better. As always, there are some rich-ass-mofo's around. Read: Corporations (oh what a wonderful cliché :smalltongue:)

The main problem for me is building this huge city. I was thinking of doing it like it's suggested in Urban Arcana, building the city with neighborhoods and such. But NYC is so big! :smalleek:
So I got to thinking that for at least in the beginning the PC:s should stick to hanging around in Manhattan and then we'll work our way out to the other counties :smalltongue:

The campaign's main themes are gonna be the schism between rich and poor, the price of knowledge and/or freedom etc. and social decay.
Any suggestions to themes btw?

Anyway, the campaign is going to start at a charity party in a penthouse suite in Manhattan owned by a philantropist CEO of a cutting-edge (A.I., nanites, secret directed energy weapons etc., you get the picture) technology company.
But the party is going to be crashed by Mindwreckers (d20 Modern & Urban Arcana) and they'll be the first "big" antagonist to the party. I just have to make the party bond a little and such in that event.
The only character concepts the players have done for the campaign is a Yakuza martial artist/recruiter who likes cars and stuff, and a hardboiled and corrupt cop.
For the latter, played by my best friend :smallsmile:, he says "think Kurt Russel in Dark Blue". He's a good roleplayer so I have high hopes for the character, ALSO, my friend can draw real good. Speaking of which, I've another two people who want to draw for free, another close friend and an acquiantance :D

Oh, I always write too much :smallfrown:
But what I want help with is some tips on how to build a futuristic NYC (i.e. make a real city in to a fictional one) and some help planning that first encounter.
I've mostly been sketching on different factions, preparing "the future" and such.

Thanks in advance,

2008-01-24, 01:35 PM

Might a nuclear bomb have been deflected away from NYC? If it lands to the east of Manhattan, the prevailing winds would take the contamination away ... usually.

The Manhattan Conglomerate decontaminated much of the city, and owns the "Scrubbers" which catch contamination when the winds blow the wrong way. It is also in charge of security -- Manhattan is a high-value terrorist target.

Owning a Manhattan passport is the only way to leave/enter the island, and there are frequent lockdowns for people without higher level passports.

The Conglomerate also controls the surrounding area, more or less. There are regions that are as yet too contaminated, and others being contaminated.

Wearing filter masks is standard -- you just do it. The quality of which varies by your economic status. High status people use invisible masks (which use lasers to keep contaminates away from one's breathing) -- so not wearing a mask is a serious status symbol.

The Scrubbers use the same technology as the invisible mask, scaled way way up. Large banks of lasers and tracking equipment blast the contaminates away from the city in an aurora-like lightshow when the wind is right.

Pure Water is expensive (has to be shipped in, and there is an effective monopoly on it -- smuggling is lucrative). Most people drink what people call "sludge", which is contaminated water treated with substances that prevent the poisons from entering your metabolism. FlavoGoo is a top-selling Sludge-based drink.


That fit your flavor?

This allows you to restrict your characters to the island by having a terrorist threat happen -- they aren't high enough status to leave.

For some decayed urban adventures, heading off into the contaminated zones can be fun.

Brooklyn, which is currently being decontaminated, provides a middle ground.


For economic functioning (why the **** is there a major city still next to a nuclear strike!), basically it is all graft. After the near-miss, some politician managed to push "we can rebuild new york!". Trillions have been poured into the hell hole that was post-nuke new york, and this is the result.

It is mostly owned by various corporations, all of whom own shares in the Manhattan Conglomerate, which provides for external security, scrubbing and cleaning of the nuclear waste.

Kickbacks go to politicians to keep the Save New York project going. Massive subsidies to corporations exist if they build facilities in the area -- so everyone has a project here. Because of security reasons, the low end workers are pretty much trapped here -- legally leaving NYC requires dozens of levels of paperwork which take years on the average and the expertise of a high priced lawyer, plus graft. Leaving it illegally is generally cheaper and easier, but still beyond the means of most people.

The Elites, however, have Passports which give them relatively free movement. Thus NYC isn't a trap for them.

Note that as a jail, for some NYC is a pretty good one. You do get lots of toys, status, etc from being a wage slave in NYC. And the company store sells you good cheaply (paid for by subsidy from the feds).

Certain nearly random goods are monpoloy priced, and others are cheap. The security layers around the city are so binding that breaking the monopoly isn't effectively legal, and requires fancy smuggling.


Is that good fluff for you to use? Or wrong flavor?

2008-01-24, 02:47 PM
Simple answer for the 'overwhelmed by scope and scale' thing: think like a movie director. *Only* lay out backdrops and scenery for the areas the story is likely to need. This may require some pre-plotting on your part.

Have a couple of generic layouts (bar/club, alleyway, all-night noodle parlour, sewers/tunnels, etc.) ready for use if needs be. For everything else, use your good sense. Don't be afraid to steal ideas from here, there and everywhere. If you do it right the players won't care. :smallwink:

2008-01-24, 03:09 PM
You know what, Yakk? That sounds really awesome :smallbiggrin:
Also, this post maybe long.

I had planned nuclear exchange in the war to be fairly minimal because of y'know, everyone's afraid of that "nuclear armaggeddon" scenario and the war was about resources, energy, so keeping facilities and such unharmed was a priority. Besides, nuclear strikes can give pretty bad PR if it's against a major population centre :smalltongue:
But what has happened though is that several dirty bombs have been used by different organisations across the world, e.g. London is supposed to be that ****ed up because of the damage and a fascist goverment (Think V for Vendetta) and eventually it's a possible location for another campaign if this one goes well. Obviously I'm thinking pretty far ahead now :smalltongue:

Still, I'll not set in stone what has happened in the war as it was a pretty confusing era. 15+ years of fighting, countries merging and fracturing to the left and right, economic reggression plus social and urban decay as people across the world flee the countryside and gather in the major cities. Yeah, seems many small towns across the world has been silenced and wiped of the map. Some towns bear signs of combat (bodies, collateral damage etc.) while other towns has just had their inhabitants disappear *cue X-files theme* :smalltongue:
Also, food shortages. This is going to be great =3

I really like that lockdown idea though, the Conglomerate sounds useful and the enviroment is going to be the pretty damaged in the setting so the masks and such might also work.

Even with all that, NYC is supposed to be one of the best places to live in; A liberal city hall (etc. note to self is to read up on US politics :P) a crackdown on crime is underway and at least most of the city is reasonably safe from crime. Even still, it's a capital for finance and such so the economy is working as reasonably as it could. It's certainly still going to be one of the richest cities in the US if not the world, but it's bloated by lots of refugees and such.

Thanks a lot for the ideas, I can feel them sparking inside my brain :D
If there's more to clarify, I'd be glad to do that but I'll probably do so with a wall of text :smallredface:

EDIT: Thanks Mr. Bosssmiley, I'm working on a few of them now. Also, I got the Critical Locations book which has a lot of such locations that I can customize at will =3
And, uh, I'll keep my head cool now. I'll just do a few big strokes and then work myself down to Manhattan :smalltongue:

2008-01-30, 05:15 PM
ehm *bump*
On another topic, is this thread necromancy? The thread's not as old as the forum rules say it ought to be if it's dead, but it's past page 3.

Now I'm going to make lists of random place names for bars, restuarants etc. plus names for character, and such other stuff that might be good to make in advance. Except planned events and such, I'm not really sure what else to prepare.
I've had a few ideas though, but I'd appreciate a little help.

I want to railroad the PCs a bit in the beginning. Like, the party is crashed by Mindwreckers, carnage ensues and the host for the party dies (among many others, i.e. many "fatcats" will croak) but the PCs survive by some means (how, why?) and then the police arrive just after some of the Mindwreckers escape (by parachute, HARDCORE or what? ;D), ofcourse the police start to clean up and they detain the PCs. Perhaps some detainment drama, interrogations and then the PCs are released to look for clues and explore Manhattan on their own.
How do you people think that sound?

Also, two of the current players are aiming to be psionicists. Yakuza guy who'll be a Fast hero and aim for Psionic Agent (Urban Arcana) and a new guy who's gonna go Charismatic hero and end up a Telepath. Third, corrupt cop guy most probably is going to stay "mundane" but might aim for a Battle Mind.
Finally, fourth guy is playing a Smart/Dedicated hero advancing to Investigator working for a secret, but somewhat altruistic, organisation on a mission to gain knowledge. He's specifically interested in the paranormal.
And I think that will work out pretty well.

2008-01-30, 06:25 PM
One quick suggestions for bars: use the Mars Bar. It's a real bar in New York, at 25 East 1st Street, and it is without question the grungiest place on Earth. It would make a great place for meeting any poor social-outcast-type characters.

Another suggestion: levees. Current projections are that with global warming, half of New York will be underwater by 2050. Have the really rich people live way uptown and on top of hills, where the water level won't rise so much. Half the poorest people live way downtown and have the downtown levees by in a bad state of repair. The levees could also have guard towers on top of them, for the police to watch the citizens from. A good side quest would be stopping a terrorist group from blowing up part of the levees and flooding the city.

For the starting party that you proposed, set it in the Freedom Tower, which they're building on Ground Zero.

A few more suggestions for places:

The subway tunnels. There are a lot of abandoned or rarely visited tunnels in the city, and it's believed that a lot of homeless people live in them. A community of either desperate refugees or insane underground cannibals would be a good encounter.

Columbia Univeristy. There's a lot you can do with a college (secret research project, student informant, student group that's linked to the Mindwreckers, etc.), and it should be easy to find a campus map. Plus, the tunnels under Columbia University (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_University_tunnels) are just plain awesome.

Central Park might be a good rest from all the urban squalor. One suggestion: make it an armed camp. Soldiers jogging on the Great Lawn, snipers in the trees, a patrol boat in the Resevoir, etc. Or it could be full of hippies, possibly who use the public land to grow some kind of herb that increases psychic powers. Or it could just be a nice place where the rich people go to relax.

2008-01-31, 12:38 AM
Like any good movie or television series set in a city have reoccurring settings within the massive scale of the thing. Sure there is an endless number of buildings and people, but it is always the same key places that are important enough to return to. NPCs and organizations, for example, become associated with certain places. Oftentimes the settings will change ownership vfrom one critical plot member to another.

I say do something with the underground, that is, either the sewers or the subway. Perhaps their is a resistance that hasn't been dug out yet. Maybe it is contaminated and dangerous, making the perfect place for an unknown territory to exist in a known world. Maybe it is the safest place, and people claw their way to get a glimpse of the secret society free from nuclear danger. If you pick that last hook, you can always have the overriding plot device be the outbreak of another nuclear war, and the people below just don't care about the risk of killing off the slums above them.

The last thing I'd recommend is having deception paired with power. A lot of people operate in our world by assuming that the people who are in power want whats best for them and that anything dramatically bad in the world can be foreseen and to some extent controlled. This society proved those assumptions wrong to the characters, now you've got to prove those assumptions wrong to the players.

Please avoid making this a large political statement about how the rich and the corporate control everything in our society and are the source of everything that is wrong with it. It will come off as incredulous and preachy. I understand though that is a strong theme that can be done without making your players want to kill themselves. So I say, offer at least one important NPC who has a degree of power or success who isn't a Social Darwinist and does something genuinely good for mankind. If you are feeling pessimistic, have him/her die a martyr at the hands of evil. If you are feeling optimistic, have the players save him/her from dieing are martyr at the hands of evil. Whenever you make such a dark comment about human nature, you have to show the other way, someone who has hope and can redeem mankind's sins.

2008-01-31, 04:54 PM
Good advice, all of it. The only thing I regret is that I can't spend more time on preparing as I've got homework to do :smalltongue:

I googled the Mars Bar, seems, eh, "nice". But I do think it seems a bit too crusty for my PC:s, save for one :smalltongue:
I might try to work something out with the players, I've already asked them to make a few "contacts/friends" that they could use for info and I could use for plothooks :smallamused:

Oh, and I'll restrain myself from preaching to my players. However I'm not very anti bigbusiness or something, I just would like to think that it's just people who mess up regardless of their status in society, beliefs, ethnicity etc.

Back to doing homework :smallsigh:

EDIT: I forgot to mention it I think, the host for the fundraising-party the PCs are attending is a real philantropist and is holding the event out pure motivation for the war-orphaned children of his homecountry.
Unofficially however, he is also a telepath from the secret organisation of the Enlightenment (very "classic" conspiratory group, make the world into a "paradise" with a content working class and an elite to rule) so his longterm ambitions are a bit shady.
But no worries, I'm not going to point out (e.g.) Republicans or corporate exec. as LAWFUL EVIIIIIIIL :smallwink:
The world is just shades of grey and all that, but I'm gonna set the mood for the campaign like an actionmovie or something, nothing that serious you know?

2008-02-01, 12:22 AM
I'd consider using Sharn City of Towers and tweaking it to personal taste.