Thursday, September 23, 2010

City Generation - Districts

As you will recall if you tuned in on Monday, I originally planned on writing this post on character power level and advancement to round out the posts on character generation. However, as I was writing it, I found I didn't really have much to say about the topic, and I didn't want to waste your precious time reading something dull. So I will summarize quickly, and move on to a more interesting topic -- city building!
  • How powerful and experienced characters should be and how realistic the setting should be depends on the GM and players, but it's best to have a default choice to give people a place to start from.
  • I find the City of Lives should live in a basically realistic universe, but wherein the player characters are extraordinary people and can act at the peak of human endeavor: like The Bourne Identity, Supernatural, or The Dark Tower series.
  • Similarly, PCs should, by default, be experienced but not true veterans, having been professionals for approximately 3-5 years.
  • Character advancement in CoL will work according to the rules laid out in the Dresden Files RPG, because it is simpler and more elegant than anything I could work out on my own.

All right. Let's move on. It's time to build ourselves a city [cracks knuckles]. We have the player characters all generated, now they need a world to inhabit, a place filled with adventure and possibilities. The City of Lives is vaguely is vaguely sketched out: the centerpiece of the multiverse, travelers from thousands of worlds visit daily; noble houses vie for power as the lassez-faire government stays out of it; tensions between bloodlines constantly erupt into class warfare. But where and how do people live? What are the important landmarks and who are the important people in the City?

First: Districts. Every city has its neighborhoods and districts -- shopping, financial, residential, entertainment. Myself, I like the idea that the City was designed with a careful, precise layout -- that has almost completely fallen apart. Originally, the City was precisely divided into 12 (10? 14?) districts, split like spokes on a wheel or slices of pie -- but over the centuries, they've wandered over their proscribed boundaries like disobedient children.

Let's brainstorm. What districts are necessary in a city?
  • harbor
  • market
  • upper-class residential
  • middle-class residential
  • lower-class residential/slums
  • financial/banking
  • government
  • bureaucracy/administration
  • entertainment
  • industrial
  • storage/warehouse
  • religious
  • university
  • guilds
  • law and courts
  • tourism -- particular to the City of Lives, a cross-Realm travel and tourism district.
  • and since this is a roleplaying setting, let's also add in a forgotten, sealed-off area full of dangers and treasures -- a "Lost District" perfect for dungeoncrawling.
Hmm. We've got seventeen districts here. That seems excessive and complicated. Maybe we can consolidate a few of these.
  • The warehouse district? Let's collapse that into the harbor district.
  • bureaucracy -- that can collapse into the financial district, the guilds district, or the government district. Let's split the difference, and say that there is city administration in both the guilds and financial districts.
  • and law? I like the idea that the City maintains its lassez-faire doctrine so far that it barely has any courts, and no government-run police force whatsoever. So let's pull that out entirely.
This leaves us with fourteen. That seems reasonable. Time for some names. Now, I can't brainstorm a full bevy of names all on my own -- only a couple come to mind off-hand. So I will travel across the interwebs to some random name generators: this onethis one, and this one. Some time winnowing down the possibilities and playing with the results, and we end up with: 
  • Council Heights -- government
  • Sylvennis – residential, nobility
  • Templedowns (or Soulhearst) – churches, religion
  • The Factorium – tradesmen, industry
  • The Lost District – walled-off dumping ground
  • Penelope’s Wharf – harbor, warehouses
  • The Crux – inter-Realm travel, tourism
  • Orhall – guilds, administration
  • Corhurst – residential, middle-class
  • Sagelights – academics, crafting training
  • Tradespoint – market
  • Clovenmouthe – residential, slum
  • Belltown – entertainment, theatre, prostitution
  • Solura – finance, supporting administration & bureaucracy
Okay, looks good for a start. Next time, we'll find some specific interesting locales in City Generation - Landmarks.