Of Cabbages and Kings

Now that we have created the world, lets populate it with some countries and cities for those countries.  There are different things in city creation that in the games I have played in tend to be overlooked, but can make for a more interesting game. For example, in the First Edition AD&D DM’s Guide has a whole section on different social class and rank that takes up at least four pages, even describing various forms of government that could be in place in the cities and countries in the world. Check out this to see some examples, though remember, there are more options you can look at here, and in fiction such as in Ultima VIII Serpents Isle which had three cities run by different groups: Monitor run by the Knighthood, Fawn where the most beautiful person rules, and Moonshade where the Mage Council elect one of them to rule. This sort of thing was something that I hadn’t seen reproduced in the same sort of detail in the D20 line until some of the 3.5 and Pathfinder supplements with Cityscape and Ultimate Campaign and such. This thread touches on the fact some as well, with the lack of certain government types in fantasy works, giving examples of some, like the various governments in the Lord of the Rings. An interesting idea I’d like to try and see players deal is would be a Clan Ring style like in King of Dragon Pass, where you had seven people who would be of different skill levels in the seven different fields and then offer their advice on the situations that came up. Good way for people to influence things, because they could try different means of making the people vote their way.

With the article in the last post on Residuum which the writer uses an a sort of fictional stand-in for oil in their fantasy world, using it as a great reason to spur things in the campaign. Some people want it, others fiercely guard it. Deals can be made for it, people will kill for it, and so forth. As the article states, Eberron has Dragonshards in it, and there have been all sorts of things done to get their hands on that. What this allows is for the idea of have and have not areas and having to figure out how to get what they need. Let’s start with a city in the middle of a mountain range with lots of mines for gems and other things. They’ll need to trade those supplies for food, clothing, and other such things, such as in the computer game Dwarf Fortress. So, likely if this was a kingdom, probably a satellite city springs up at the base of the mountain to do farming and herding, perhaps another city at a forest to produce lumber and other such supplies.

Also, remember that there are sometimes things that make cities different from each other that can give flavour to the city, a sense of pride and motivation to its citizens and sometimes even play big factor in the city itself. Alexandria had the library, the pyramids at Cairo, Rome has the Coliseum. What does this city or planet or whatever have that will make it different than others. Maybe its a natural wonder like the Grand Canyon or a construct like a Space Elevator or maybe it is something special like the Jedi Temple at Yavin IV. Each thing gave the area something that was special to it, and you might be able to figure out ways that someone may want that, as much or more so than an oil well or gold mine. It can sometimes be a crushing blow to the loser and a rallying victory to the winner to take possession of such treasures that they may make ti their goal.

The city location, and thus resource availability and also any exposure to different culture/race, plays a big role in how to determine the type of government that it has, for certain. The culture they have and the cultures they encounter may adapt their styles, as well as the further you get away from the power center of a country, you may notice a slip from a formal structure of government to a different one if one exists at all. Frontier justice, for example, where the sherrif and mayor rules the town’s law and general politics. However, other things can play a factor in this. Population density and education level can influence, as smarter people may believe they can govern better than someone else and thus start shifting to a more democratic style from a monarchy. Look at the Magna Carta as an example of that.

Once you’ve got the main idea of governmental views assigned for the area, you need to start thinking about how the people will act. What will people do if they cannot get the things the need? Will they trade, seek conquest or perhaps try and use thieves and spies to steal things? How will the people react to the choices their government makes? If you have a larger group like the Gestahlian Empire in Final Fantasy VII or even the Star Wars Galactic Empire spanning a large collections of planets, then you’re likely to have dissenting voices like the Returners and Rebel Alliance. But what about the citizens who just dislike the government without taking an active offensive role, they may be agents for an opposing government or may look to find a way within the system to change the government if it is possible, much like the Magna Carta in the previous paragraph. This means you’ll need to do personalities for the important people in the various circles, even a couple of the more influential in the lower ‘classes’; you never know when you’ll need them. Just look at examples like the Demonskar Ball fan addon for Shackled City adventure path or the Prince of Redhand adventure in the Age of Worms adventure path, where it suddenly became social events instead of physical challenges. GURPS has the Social Engineering book, Shadowrun had Shadowbeat that talked about music and newscasts and the like. It is the people that truly make a culture, be sure to expose your people to it sometimes. Maybe it can be as simple as people staring at them when they eat a different way or getting fined for having visible weaponry not peacebound, or perhaps it could be as complex as the whole city is deeply religious and anyone who isn’t is a criminal.

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