Establishments are the lifeblood of cities, where the magic happens for the players! Creating establishments is also where all of your hard work from city creation and nation creation pay off, most of the work is already set! Based on the nation and city, the types of establishments, how common, and how well advertised they are will already be determined. The more establishments you create and the more familiar you are with the world in which it’s set will make creating establishments easy as key-lime pie.
Establishments can be just as planned as cities, however, a lot of times your players will try to find specific shops or services that you have no time to set up! Luckily, it is very easy to create new establishments very quickly.
- Service – The first thing: determine what type of establishment this is. This could be a service based establishment, as an exterminator, taxi, or church. It could also be goods based service like a shop, or store. These establishments could also be a bit more abstract, such as a gladiatorial arena, which can mix the sale of food, with the service of “Entertainment”. Of course, there’s always the classic Tavern.
- Clientele – the patrons of an establishment can help determine the tone of the business. A business that is occupied by the upper-crust of society will likely feel safer, and be much more expensive than a place where the seedy underbelly of society frequents. What the business does and whether or not their services or goods are legal can also attribute to this. The clientele can quickly determine the tone of a business, and help you get a feel for characters within it.
- Name – Often times this is the most difficult thing to come up with off the top of your head. If you’re planning this city ahead of time, try describing what they do when you’re coming up with the name. If it’s a business on-the-fly, try starting off with a poor name, and see if any of your players can top it. If they do, that’s the new name of the establishment.
- Notable Goods/Services – A restaurant has specialty dishes, shops have niche items, cable guys may have preferred customers. Whatever the business is, you can add a lot of flavor to your establishment by creating something notable (Be it good or bad!). The surprise in the Meatloaf Surprise could be that it tastes like steak, or maybe that it’s not made from meat!
- Owner, Staff, and Regulars – A small tavern may be run by only the bartender, or a handful of employees, whereas a factory could be run by hundreds (Or more) employees. Consider some of the regulars as part of the establishment itself. You could even end up creating your own Norm from Cheers!
- Shtick – Much like characters, never discount a theme or a common phrase in an establishment. These can set up the clientele, as well as the employees very quickly for you. Characters could have walked into a florist shop, there would be an entirely different feel to the establishment if it only sold carnivorous plants, as opposed to the typical Flowers. Both of these would also have very different feels from a floral shop where all of the flowers are dead.
Do It Faster
In many scenarios, a Game Master will have to come up with a new establishment on the fly. Players like to go looking for businesses you hadn’t planned on, or get kicked out of the first bar they went to for starting a fight. In these cases, you will not have time to sit down and plan out an establishment, but that’s OK. Start out small and flesh out the details as the players go along. Start out with a name and establishment type, add in the first employee they see, and ad-lib from there. Game Masters can also point to a player and tell them to describe one thing about the employee, or something about the room. This creates a collaborative story which can also get the players more invested!