Sunday, September 26, 2010

City Generation - Locations

Last time, we drew up the districts for the City of Lives. But that is only the vaguest sketch of the City. We do not think of Los Angeles only as Hollywood, Ventura, and Studio City -- we know the Warner Bros. backlot and water tower, Graumann’s Chinese Theater, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. These locations -- landmarks, important businesses, sites for potential adventure -- are vital to creating a city suitable for roleplaying. Thankfully, The Dresden Files RPG recognizes this fact, and provides a handy system for laying out important locations and defining its essential characteristics.

The characteristics DFRPG identifies are:
  • Name: Obviously, the name of the location
  • Description: A brief description of the location
  • Theme or Threat: Whether the location is mundane or malevolent.
  • The Idea: Detailing the important theme (or threat) to keep in mind when telling stories about this location.
  • Aspect: Just like a character Aspect, this is the most defining characteristic of the location.
  • Face: The person most strongly associated with the location, that the PCs will mostly interact with -- the barkeep, household head, guildmaster, etc.

So, with these in mind, let’s see what we can brainstorm. I want to create locations that really reflect the important themes of the City -- so let’s start with a center of class warfare. Perhaps the border of the territories controlled by one of the noble houses and one of the Iversdotter street gangs. Okay. Let’s assume that the division is defined by a cross street -- Thousand-Eye Lane? Hoplite Road? Valkyr Street? Spirit Walk? We want something evocative -- and, specifically, evocative of its border status -- so how about Verge Street?

So Verge Street is the border between the territory of House Jocasti, a Promethean power, and the Grim-Grin clan of Iversdotters. Each has their own ideas of how to treat their “subjects” (official City rights having no place here), and each wants to expand their power. Verge Street could be the front line, a no-man’s-land, or a small, Casablanca-esque neutral zone. I like the front line idea, with the constant fight making the residents’ lives difficult. Sounds like a “Threat” to me -- with the Idea being “the front line of a war the civilians want no part of.” Let’s distill that into an Aspect that can be invoked and compelled -- how about “Unsafe Streets” -- no, something more evocative: “Gang Warfare Spills onto the Streets.” Maybe a bit better, but it sounds like a newspaper headline. Let’s take a step back. The Aspect is what is going to affect the PCs, should they ever venture here -- they will likely not be associated with either side of the conflict, but perhaps they will be forced to be: “Pick a Side, or Face Two Armies.” That’s a little better. It gives a sense of what’s going to be the focal point of any adventure taking place in Verge Street -- being pulled in two directions, and the difficulty of staying out of these particular local politics.

Now we need a Face -- a person associated with this place. Actually, I think since there are two sides here, we need two Faces, one for House Jocasti and one for the Grim-Grin clan. The Jocasti presence here is unlikely to be anyone of particular importance to the House -- the nobles are unlikely to want to get their hands dirty. So perhaps a charismatic street general they’ve hired -- probably a Leovite, as they tend to be servants for the Noble Houses. I run to my name generators again, looking for a Biblical-sounding name, as I do for the Leovites: Jothary, that’ll do. Jothary needs a Character Concept Aspect: “Charismatic Leovite General Who Leads By Example.” Perhaps that can be cut down, but it’ll do for now. On the Iversdotter side, it’s more likely that one of the Grim-Grin leaders is on the front lines, so let’s create Milvia Grim-Grin, who is willing to do anything to forward her clan’s needs. Character Concept: “Grim-Grin Leader with Dirty Hands” -- again, we might come back to that, but it’ll do for now.

Okay, let’s look at this in proper layout:

  • Name: Verge Street
  • Description: The violent border between House Jocasti’s holdings and the Grim-Grin clan.
  • Threat
  • The Idea: The front line of a gang war with no middle ground
  • Aspect: “Pick a Side, or Face Two Armies”
  • Faces:            Jothary - Charismatic Leovite General Who Leads By Example
  •                      Milvia Grim-Grin - Grim-Grin Leader with Dirty Hands

Looks pretty good. I can think of a couple of adventure hooks already: the PCs are contacted by a civilian shopkeep who wants to stop being harassed by both sides, and they have to defend him or help him pick a side; the PCs are trying to cross the City, and have to pass through Verge Street -- one of them is injured, and they have to find a way to get their compatriot back, either choosing a side or (with difficulty) avoiding the conflict; already working for House Jocasti or the Grim-Grins, the PCs are tasked with taking over for the current general (against their strong objections) and pushing the front forward past Verge Street.

All right. So that’s how Locations work, and we’ve created the City’s first. Many more are necessary, of course, but it’s a fine start. Join me next time as I flesh out the first of my districts in City Generation - Sylvennis District.