City Guard based Campaign


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


I'm suddenly interested in running a campaign where the players are either part of a large city guard, either working for it or pressed into service for one reason or another.

Does anyone have any good info on what to take into consideration in terms of how a city guard would operate? I was thinking of just reading up a lot on police chain-of-command and process and all that sort of thing, but I figured I should also look into the differences they would've had with a city guard in a medieval city.

Liberty's Edge

Sounds like good ideas. Many city guards would be exceptionally bored - standing around waiting for yelling. Undoubtedly you'll have your pcs solving crimes and things.


I actually put together a mock theme party for this very thing.

Forensic physician Investigator
Order of the penitent cavalier w constable archetype
Urban hunter w' tracking hound
Diviner wizard.

HRH's Special Crimes squad.

Edit: I would also like to recommend to you the Zeitgeist: Gears of war adventure paths, which makes the pc's members of basically the nations FBI.

Grand Lodge

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C.S.I Absalom, start every case with a murder mystery and a pun.

*party finds the body of an Abadarian cleric*
"Looks like he's, cashed out."

*Barb rages*


Well, the first thing to know is that technically medieval cities did not have a 'guard' in the same manner we think of today. In medieval Europe (especially England) if a crime occurred there was a "hue and cry" (further referred to as H&C) and all people that were in the direct vicinity of the H&C were expected to aid in the apprehension of the offender. A good read if you want more information on the subject. Once/If the offender was captured they were then delivered to the local Shire Reeve (now today as a Sheriff), who was also the local tax collector and enforcers of his Lord's laws.

Now, if you're looking for a more modernized city guard that is typical in fantasy settings, then I can give you some good information. The head of the guard would likely be an appointed position by the city leader. He/She then selects their administration that run the day-to-day tasks of maintaining the guard and setting up areas of patrol for the guards. You then have set hours the guards would work with waystations set through out the city that the guards could potentially be located. Or if we want to get crazy,the waystations could be staffed at all times by minor magics users that can cast Message which could be used to notify the roving patrols of criminal activities (think a 911 Call/Dispatch Center).

Before I go any further, I suppose I should ask how much information you're looking for?


You may want to wiki related terms like Constable, night watchmen, thief-takers, Bow Street Runners, and the Metropolitan Police -- aka Scotland Yard.

The Bow Street article linked has a list of novels involving Runners, including The Toll Gate by Georgette Heyer. (Why I even knew about them.)


You might want to look at an adventure from Dungeon Magazine #44, A Hot Day in L'Trel (a Google search should suffice). Basically, 'something' occurs and the city catches on fire during a heatwave. The city guard hires locals to expand their ranks during the time of emergency and crisis (and there's a reward for uncovering the cause of the fire, which should peak most adventures interests and keep them involved even if they don't join the city guards.) The mystery part isn't necessarily a key factor (though an encounter or two is linked to it), but a good GM could always sprinkle in more or less clues for investigative-minded players.

The adventure is mainly a series of encounters and stories over the course of a week or more where the PCs deal with fires obviously, looters, riots, and food shortages. There's also trouble at the docks, creatures attracted by the fire, missing people, etc. It gives the PCs the ability to act as a guard unit without the basic boredom of standing at a gate, they are actively set to seek and assist.


Funny you should come up with this. My group has suggested doing a one shot of a sort of quasi-renaissance era S.W.A.T. team... lol


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Opuk0 wrote:

I'm suddenly interested in running a campaign where the players are either part of a large city guard, either working for it or pressed into service for one reason or another.

Does anyone have any good info on what to take into consideration in terms of how a city guard would operate? I was thinking of just reading up a lot on police chain-of-command and process and all that sort of thing, but I figured I should also look into the differences they would've had with a city guard in a medieval city.

My biggest suggestion is to read Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms, Feet of Clay, Jingo, The Fifth Elephant, Night Watch, Thud! and Snuff all have to do with the troubles of policing a fantasy city and nation. It has been an idea I've kicked around in the past too, and they have helped me get in the right mindset. While hilarious, they are also pretty insightful examinations of the civilization.


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My only advice would be to avoid forcing the PCs into it. To force a PC to do something requires being more powerful than them and keeping an eye on them constantly. Otherwise they just punch you or skip town. But if you can follow the PCs anywhere anytime and beat them with one hand behind your back... why do you need them? Just go out and police the city yourself with your super ninja powers.

It's not always a bad idea to put the PCs under someone's thumb if it makes sense, but this scenario in particular seems ill-suited for it.


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A city guard campaign is going to be very limited in scope. Once you get past about 3rd or 4th level there is probably not a whole lot that the city guard would handle that won’t be a cakewalk to the players. What I would suggest is having the players be members of an elite force. Kind of like the three musketeers. Your players are agents of the crown not ordinary city guardsmen.

In the beginning they would probably be assigned to a single city and deal with fairly low level threats, but as they level up their area of operation expands and they tackle more difficult problems. Eventually they will end dealing with things like plots from other nations, and other powerful threats.


Master Han Del of the Web wrote:
Opuk0 wrote:

I'm suddenly interested in running a campaign where the players are either part of a large city guard, either working for it or pressed into service for one reason or another.

Does anyone have any good info on what to take into consideration in terms of how a city guard would operate? I was thinking of just reading up a lot on police chain-of-command and process and all that sort of thing, but I figured I should also look into the differences they would've had with a city guard in a medieval city.

My biggest suggestion is to read Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms, Feet of Clay, Jingo, The Fifth Elephant, Night Watch, Thud! and Snuff all have to do with the troubles of policing a fantasy city and nation. It has been an idea I've kicked around in the past too, and they have helped me get in the right mindset. While hilarious, they are also pretty insightful examinations of the civilization.

...and you will have good examples for high level characters in the night watch, with royal heirs, dragons, time travel, etc.


Simon R Green's Hawk and Fisher books. Fantasy guardsmen, complete with God Squad, Street of the Gods, Political campaigns, and more. A fabulous inspiration for this kind of game. You might also look at the Lies of Locke Lamora and the rest of the series for urban fantasy adventures (Lies of Locke Lamora and the rest of the series are about the criminals but still great inspiration).


Make sure your players are all on board with playing the type of characters you might have it mind - if you plan on steering them towards certain character type. I mean, even in a fantasy world having town guards who lob fire bombs, hunt the enemies of their faith, or rally their allies with song could be a bit of a stretch. Obviously hilarious, but a stretch. Talk to your group and see how far they are willing to go with this. Whatever crimes and tasks you have them handle (murder mystery, giant rats at the mill, rounding up drunks, necromancer in the graveyard, orc raiders), I suggest you also periodically have a group of adventurers come through town, who mean no harm but ultimately always end up turning the town upside down. For extra fun it could be the same higher level adventuring group every time. It could be fun for the PCs to see the world through the eyes of NPCs for a change. You could even cause the adventurer's Diplomacy checks to work against them. :)

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