Friday, November 12, 2010

How to Build a District: The ART method - Corhurst

Okay, so the trifecta of Archetype/Real-Life Inspiration/Theme (Hey, that can be abbreviated at ART! Should it be the ART method/system, or is that too pretentious-sounding?) worked well for creating our Bloodlines. Let’s try the same technique for creating districts.

Where we’re at now is Corhurst, the main middle-class residential district. We begin with the--

Fantasy Archetype: Well, this is tough. I already wasn’t sure if the “archetype” model would translate well from Bloodline to District -- from culture to geography -- and it’s mad that much harder for Corhurst, because the middle class has relatively little presence in most heroic fantasy, so we don’t have much to go on. But... the idea of a safe haven is part of fantasy fiction. The default D&D setting assumptions focus on a town or small city surrounded by wilderness -- it provides the PCs with a place to rest before heading out to explore the hazards outside.

Now, in the City, these dangers are less likely to be rampaging orcs than backstabbing politicos -- but the premise remains the same. A place without double-dealing, where you can trust people, is a luxury in the City of Lives, and should be treasured.

Real Life: I see Corhurst as a bit like suburbia. While it’s inside the City, and thus won’t have the full “lawns and picket fences” vibe, it’s the home of the middle class -- those unprepossessing managers, merchants, and scribes to similar to office workers and retailers on Earth. Let’s take that suburbia concept and use it. Suburbia is associated with greenery -- not wild greenery, but well-manicured vegetation. So -- how ‘bout the City’s biggest park is in Corhurst? A few moments on a random name generator site, and now we’ve got Thywylde Park, a massive expanse of forests and paths, a cross between NYC’s Central Park, London’s Hyde Park, and a park that I lived near during middle school. We’ll go further into Thywylde Park in the Landmark section later.

Theme: An island of peace in a sea of chaos. Most of the City is filled with conflict -- between Houses, between gangs, between Bloodlines. In Corhurst, however, the nature of the middle class Bloodlines’ cultures -- the Leovites’ notion of service, the Iversdotters’ clannish honor, and the Pariahs’ quiet isolation -- tell me the district is unlikely to see a lot of fighting. And that’s not a problem -- on the one hand, Corhurst is likely to be less exciting, filled with fewer adventure seeds, than most other districts. On the other hand, it can be a safe haven, a resting place for PCs between their exciting adventures.

Let’s add in another foundation for the creation of districts -- a Landmark. Some place that helps define the nature of the district, that works with the central metaphor to flesh out the meaning and purposed of the locale. Now, the theme is order in a sea of chaos -- but chaos must occasionally burst through -- for realism, and more importantly, for drama. So how do we represent that in a landmark? Thywylde Park, introduced earlier. The park is manmade, cared-for nature -- order triumphant. But chaos comes in, danger intrudes. Perhaps a hidden wood deep in the park, filled with beasts and monsters... but that doesn’t match the metaphor, that’s more like danger hidden by false order (like The Stepford Wives) or danger contained by order (like a prison).

How can chaos come from outside the park when what’s just outside the park is the sleepy suburbia of Corhurst? From other Realms, of course. So there’s a Shiftgate (or Road, if we end up running with @pryllin’s City of Crossroads ideas) in the park. Now, an ordinary Shiftgate implies no danger -- but what about one that doesn’t work properly? An unstable ‘gate, a sort of tear in reality, that connects to various, random, Realms at random times, spilling out creatures from all across the Realms, both mundane and apocalyptically dangerous. This concept borrows from fiction like Torchwood, Primeval, Discworld’s Sourcery -- the idea that alien danger can show up abruptly at any time.

Well, we've got a nice little district here. Let's also look at a couple pieces of description:

Government: Corhurst is almost completely run by the Iversdotter gangs. Though they are always jockeying for position and territory, their shared cultural heritage (and the nature of that culture as honor-bound and clan-focused) means there is little conflict compared to SylvennisCouncil Heights, and Clovenmouthe. The Clouded Ghetto governs itself, according to ancestral Pariah principles, but the Leovites and those Pariahs who reside outside the Ghetto live under Iversdotter rule.

Religion: Corhurst is filled with small neighborhood churches. Its priests are, in general, more liberal and less picky about rules than Templedowns’ Lightspeakers. Their churches end up being more like community centers than hard-line places of worship.

What do you think of the ART method (and the name?) What do you think of Corhurst? Next time, let's take a look with a A Treatise on the Nature of Divinity.