City-based campaign building (Warning: Wall o' Text)


Homebrew and House Rules


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Inspired by expansive cities such as Waterdeep, The Free-City of Greyhawk, & Fritz Lieber's Lankhmar, I'm tentatively thinking of a city-based setting.

I'm not a terribly big fan of Tolkien races so right now Humans & Ratfolk are on my short-list of playables. Any that people would like to offer; I'm open to listening.

I AM however super interested in grim, sword & sorcery novels. My idea of a gigantic city is not all clean streets, parks & war wizards patrolling neighborhoods. More like narrow labyrinthine streets choked with masses of citizens animals. Wizards rarely see the light of day, priests appease fickle gods & roaming thugs prowl slums & alleys at night. Nobles live a part from the masses, guarded by hardened mercenaries.

Classes are a hard one for me as an old school player: I see Fighters & Rogues. Urban versions of barbarians & druids also seem to fit. Clerics seem like a no-brainer, but inquisitors, shamans, & warpriests - not so much.

I have a wild hair to add Mediums & Occultists because spirits would be abundant in a city-setting & implements would also be likely. Besides, thematically I like those classes a lot. Oracles, Brawlers, Slayers, also all fit.

Classes like Bards, Investigators, Swashbucklers, Gunslingers, Monks, Ninja, Skalds, Samurai, Cavaliers, Vigilantes all have a tech/social/cultural level either higher or too foreign than the gritty rough & tumble environment I'm interested in offering (i.e. Renaissance Europe, Ancient Japan, Old Norse, don't feel like sword & sorcery.). Theme is important to me but kitchen sink-style has never been something I've liked about published settings.

So I'm just opening this to the forum for the heck of it. Anyone who wants to toss out ideas are welcome. Sorry about the Wall o' Text


Make magic mysterious.
Have the clerics, wizards and occultist themselves don't know the difference between their magic. The high priest of a cult can just as easily be a wizard as a cleric. Keep the players guessing as to what kind of powers these mystics have access to.

Magical items should be rare and have side-effects. People should wonder if having these things is really worth it.

Anything can be worshipped. A cult can just as easily worship an elemental or an idol as an actual god.

Warpriests and shamans could be used in the foreigners quarter. This were you find all the immigrants from other cultures. Ninja's could be the elite forces of an assasin cult. Play up the strangeness. Make the players feel out of their dept whenever they enter the quarter.


Wizards trade training for bodyguard services, resulting in the magus. These are then highly sought after by need groups, sometimes leading to friction with the wizards.

Inquisitors work if you want the temples to be paranoid or trying to guard their turf. They would patrol the area near the temples, make it a rough place for the nonfaithful. Or they become a temple's force for clandestine actions. Can't have the clerics/oracles getting incriminate.

For other races, the tengu surprised me. They fit in quite well with ratfolk, and their sword training gives them a dangerous edge over thugs with clubs.

If you want a night terror group, the strix are also a nice danger for a city campaign.


OK cool. Great ideas all around. Thanks for the advice.


More Wall o' Text

City Overview so far. No stats in the community builder yet, just ideas:

Sprawled out against a part of the great River Danar (the river is 1800 miles long, 5 miles wide in most places), a truly ancient city built atop the urban corpses of former incarnations. In places layers of buried tunnels, caverns, & rooms extend for many meters. Closer to the docks, the more likely the layers are flooded or collapsed entirely.
The city proper is surrounded by clusters of smaller settlements from farming/fishing communities to places where ferries cross the expansive river.

Wards & Regions
The Nobles live apart from the masses behind thick walls & guarded by well-paid mercenaries. Nobles may be hosting guests who aren't otherwise living in the Foreign Quarter

The Docks lead directly into a poorly-enclosed Bazaar with both permanent & temporary shops. Night time on the docks is not the best time to go wandering around even in small groups.

The Bazaar is a flurry of activity most of the time, only quieting down late at night. It is a major thoroughfare for nefarious folk entering or leaving the city as it is not fully walled in & poorly guarded at night.

The Foreign Quarter is docks adjacent & organized into enclaves & neighborhoods according to race/culture. Some are visiting merchants & dignitaries, others are immigrants who have settled in the city.

The Necropolis is primarily reserved for nobility & wealthy merchants or other officials.

Known Temples & Cults
No specific area of the city features temples. Many spring up close to an associated quarter or region.

Sacred Harlot Religion: Organized & recognized by the leaders as official. Found in both the slums & Nobles Ward. An excellent source of information.

Cult of The River God: Considered official just to satisfy dock & river workers. Devotees appease the god more than worship it. River workers report seeing long, sinewy undulating coils break the surface of the water at a distance, but the whole creature has never been sighted.

Lord of The Underworld/Guardian of the Departed: Official & organized religion sees to funerary needs, consoles the grieving, & guards the Necropolis.

Agriculture God: Found mainly in surrounding farming communities. Depicted as an aurochs headed, burly, tanned man holding a sickle & flail.


I feel like you should take a look at The Blight, by Frog God Games. (Note that only the PDF is available right now. I don't think the hardcovers have actually been printed yet...) Having started to read it myself, it sounds pretty much dead-on for what you're looking for.


Some idea's on the temples and cults:

The temples are divided in several area's:
The center, the holy space. Only the High Priest and his direct subordinates are allowed here. This where the good loot is.
The great hall: for the official rites that anyone can watch.
The inner chambers: for iniated members and priest only. Here you have the secret rites that the outside doesn't know about.
The priestly living quarters: they have sleep somewhere.
Slave quarters and workspace: the temple earns it's money providing a service to the community and that is done here.

The cults are all mystery cults. It's members should have access to feats, items or spells that the players don't have and will only get by either joining the cult, or by stealing it's secrets.
It's true doctrine should only be known by the priests. Initiated have a greater understanding then the common man, but the fine details are only for the inner circle.


GM Rednal wrote:
I feel like you should take a look at The Blight, by Frog God Games. (Note that only the PDF is available right now. I don't think the hardcovers have actually been printed yet...) Having started to read it myself, it sounds pretty much dead-on for what you're looking for.

While I agree that the product is probably invaluable for what I'm attempting, the price tag of $160.00 makes it out of the question. Thanks for the offer though.


hjgz89 wrote:

Some idea's on the temples and cults:

The temples are divided in several area's:
The center, the holy space. Only the High Priest and his direct subordinates are allowed here. This where the good loot is.
The great hall: for the official rites that anyone can watch.
The inner chambers: for iniated members and priest only. Here you have the secret rites that the outside doesn't know about.
The priestly living quarters: they have sleep somewhere.
Slave quarters and workspace: the temple earns it's money providing a service to the community and that is done here.

The cults are all mystery cults. It's members should have access to feats, items or spells that the players don't have and will only get by either joining the cult, or by stealing it's secrets.
It's true doctrine should only be known by the priests. Initiated have a greater understanding then the common man, but the fine details are only for the inner circle.

Everything you've mentioned is a great way to flesh out the faiths. thanks for putting that all together so I can make a good checklist. :)


I should note that price is for the physical version. The PDF version is significantly less expensive (and not a bad price at all for more than nine hundred pages of pretty darn good content).


GM Rednal wrote:
I should note that price is for the physical version. The PDF version is significantly less expensive (and not a bad price at all for more than nine hundred pages of pretty darn good content).

Oh OK, I'll go back and see about the pdf. Thanks

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