Metropolises, cities, towns, villages, and hamlets, these are the bread and butter of any session setting. Each city should have their own distinct feel, and constructing a city gets into much more immediate detail than building the world around it. This may seem intimidating at first, but after Creating a World, and Building a Nation, you can build off of the world that was already created. What is even better, the more cities that you build, the more it also defines the nation and world around it! Each play session can have a few different cities within it, so the goal to creating cities is to be able to do so quickly, while still maintaining its uniqueness.
Cities can be fleshed out to your hearts desire, but before you start planning the entire session, its important to start with the basics:
- Name – A name is always necessary before the first session. If you are having trouble coming up with a name, try combining two to three words that you would use to describe your city, or try a Name Generator.
- Population – Population will change the feel of a city entirely. This could be a sprawling metropolis, or a one-horse town. The public could be distrusting, friendly, strict, or uncaring, or any combination. This is an easy way to establish the feel of the city.
- Different Laws – Depending on the nation, each city could have their own set of laws, or even just additional laws from the nation. A story arc could even be created if a specific city has conflicting laws with the nation.
- Primary Export/Source of Money – Though this is not necessary, it can be another way to easily create uniqueness. There would absolutely be differences in how a city functions if it is a fishing town, versus a mining town, or farming town, or is just a settlement for an empire.
- Notable Individuals – Coming up with a National Leader, or famous public figure, or war hero, are all perfect examples of notable individuals. You can create a general feeling of distaste, or excitement among your players by how others talk about these characters, by knowing them personally, or rumors that may be entirely false, or absolute truth.
- Known For – What puts this town on the map? It could be a primary export, like “the crab capital of the world”, or a general feel of the public like “The saddest place on the coast”. A simple tag line can do wonders for immediately creating a city.
From small gift boutiques, to full scale shopping malls, establishments create the backbone of adventures in a city. Determining if there’s a blacksmith, or a TV repair man can mean the difference of getting an item repaired, or having the need to buy a new item (or even if a player can learn to live without it). Though shops are always the first thing to come to my mind, there could be a lot of play in a place like a casino, arena, or race track for the gambling character. Scholarly characters may want to visit a magic tower, expansive library, or prominent museum. An inn or a tavern is always a staple in RPG games, determining where the characters will be able to sleep, or what they can eat. In any town, there’s going to be odd jobs that the characters can do if they are strapped for cash. However, before you write this town’s manifesto, remember to keep a city loose, or in flux.
Keeping it loose
In building a city, experience has taught me to not over plan. Players can be unwieldy, and can skip over a town that you may have spent hours preparing. Players may also want their characters to seek out something that you haven’t thought of. At this stage of development it is just as important for your players to create the world as it is for the Game Master to.
Keeping things structured, but relaxed allows for change based on the characters actions. It’s good to keep some establishments and non-player characters on reserve in case one of your players decides to go looking for a black market to try to find a new weapon. You can easily create an entire black market bazaar from a few shop vendors, and things can be spiced up by meeting an opposing faction, or a previous enemy. Keeping things loose adds to the game by creating collaborative storytelling, which will keep your players much more invested.