Roleplaying Tips Weekly E-Zine Issue #489
GM's Guide To Adventure Writing
Old school advice means tough love for PCs and GMs,
compelling and challenging game because of it.
Plus a new
contest. Send in your pick pockets contents
ideas for a
This Week's Tips Summarized
GM's Guide To Adventure Writing
A Brief Word From Johnn
Frank Franzetta Dies at 82
When but a youngin' I found his art dark, mysterious and
intimidating. It graced the first Conan book I tried to
read. I was not reading many adult books yet, but I borrowed
that hard-covered tome from the library at least six times
over the course of a couple years until I conquered it. I
associated Franzetta's art with this battle ever-after.
Frank Frazetta, Fantasy Illustrator, Dies at 82 - New York Times
How Do You Handle A Tricky Player Personality?
A GM recently asked for help on the GMMastery list, and I
thought you might be interested in my take on things. To add
in your opinion, join the group at
I have a new campaign and a player who is new to my group.
He and his wife are highly educated, and unfortunately he
thinks using as many words as possible to say the simplest
things is the only way to speak. On top of that, from his
small time in the US Army, he seems to have developed the
idea that it's impressive to others to say things like "I
have to 'pop smoke' at 10pm" to say he needs to leave by 10.
I don't know how to deal with this guy. I've said a few
things nicely but gently...he merely looks at me like I'm
stupid. To tell me he is using the "low light" mode of his
Low-Light/IR goggles took him 3 minutes...a full
justification for flipping between modes, how often he was
going to do it etc.
Here was my reply:
I look forward to the answers of others who respond to this
thread. In my opinion, you have two options: change yourself
or part ways.
You will not change another person's personality. You can
try, but I've not seen it happen. Not in gaming, at least.
You might try timers to get faster responses, have an aside
with him and communicate your issues, etc. but I do not feel
you'll have much luck. This person is who he is, and that's
great, but it does not mesh with your style.
It's out of your control.
Usually, you have success focusing just on what *you* can
control. Which is yourself. So, while this is difficult, try
to reframe the person and their behaviour. Look for bits
that you enjoy in his stories. Use empathy to see where he's
Build a bridge, as they say, but start at his side and work
back towards yourself. Building bridges fails most often
because people start from their side, trying to get the
other person to see their point of view. Instead, you can
try to see the world through his perspective, walk a mile in
his shoes (and then you're clear, because you're a mile away
and you have his shoes, as the joke goes).
If this all sounds bad to you, then imho you need to part
ways. I've separated from gamers before because of a
personality clash. I tried to bend, the others might have
too, but RPG are a highly social game and if there's no fit,
go your separate ways. Hire slow, fire fast.
Have a game-full week, RPT readers!
Return to Contents
Pick Pockets Contest = Win NBOS Software
Time for another contest. The theme is items you'd find when
picking pockets. But there's a twist, as I'll outline below.
But first, what are the prizes?
Thanks to new ezine sponsor NBOS, three winners will be
selected at random and each gets their pick of one NBOS
software title. Visit www.nbos.com to see what GM
software you can choose if you win. Perhaps Fractal Mapper
will help your campaign mapping. Maybe Astrosynthesis is
what you need to chart the galaxy. Have you checked out The
Deadline = Monday, May 31. There's not much time for this
one, so get your entries in now - multiple entries are
Pick Pockets + Hook
Imagine you found a fortune cookie in every pocket you
picked. Instead of a future prediction or lottery numbers
though, you find a juicy detail about your world, your
enemies or your quest.
Every GM's dream:
"In his pockets you find [roll, roll] 23 gold pieces and a
handful of rice. One grain looks rotten due to its brownish
"Oooh! I throw away the money and investigate that brown
piece of rice. Does it have any markings? Has it been carved
into a shape? I look very closely at it in the best light I
When a character picks a pocket and comes away with some
loot, try to use that treasure to enhance the game with
details and hooks. Sure you can roll up 2d20 copper pieces
and a bit of lint, but that's boring. Liven up your games
with interesting pocket contents.
For example, in a past campaign a pocket contained a locket
with a painted portrait of a beautiful young lady in it. The
PC investigated and learned where the lady was. He paid her
a visit and this spawned a new side quest, which was to
eventually tie back into one of the main plots (which was
unplanned but I seized the opportunity of the PC's
interest). Unfortunately, the PC died before he could take
Here are examples of types of details you can add to pocket
contents to enhance your campaigns:
Types of Details
- Answers (i.e. a detail finally explained)
- World development
- Plot development
- Race and class development
- Character development
- NPC development
Types of Objects
- Names or initials
- Special material that can be traced
- Picture, drawing
- Symbol or rune
- Unique item that can be traced
Remember that the pick pocket victim is rarely killed in
RPG. So, based on what is found in his pockets, the PCs can
return to attempt to parley, shake down, follow or
investigate the person.
The pocket contents do not have to shoulder the burden of
supplying a lot of answers. The contents just provide enough
information to help the PCs decide to take further action.
Whether the action gets the group closer to their goals or
not is up to you and the pocket contents. A red herring once
in awhile helps players stay on their toes.
Pocket contents do not have to lead the PCs back to the
victim, either. The interesting detail can point the
characters to groups, other NPCs, locations or keywords for
research. The detail could also reframe existing
information, helping the PCs with a breakthrough by new
interpretation of known facts. It would get repetitious for
pocket contents to always lead the PCs back to the victim
for follow-up action, so make contents details point to all
aspects of your campaign.
Sometimes a PC chooses a random victim. They're bored or
need more wealth, and they either target a random NPC or you
let them know a juicy target just walked by. Sometimes,
however, the victim is chosen for a reason. In either case,
you can use pocket contents to propel your game forward.
Just avoid too much of this with random victims because
sense of disbelief disappears once every pocket contains a
Targets picked for a reason can have the desired item in
their pockets, plus another item or two with juicy details
that lead the PCs to new directions. Do not be satisfied
with the status quo: "Item found. Quest over. Check."
Complicate things or dovetail things so there are always
interesting possibilities afoot.
For example, the PCs pick an enemy's pocket and come away
with a small bag. Inside is [roll, roll] 1 small emerald, 4
gold pieces, the diary the group was after, and a pair of
dice. Further investigation reveals the dice have been
expertly shaved. The party gambler takes these and starts
using them. As the game plays out, the dice generate all
sorts of interesting acquisitions in pots won, plus get the
group in trouble from time to time when the gambler is
caught cheating. All this great gameplay from a small,
extraneous detail in a pick pocket encounter.
How to enter
Email your entries to me at email@example.com
Each entry is one pick pocket item that has an interesting
hook or detail that would enhance a GM's game.
Multiple entries are welcome.
Use the tips and ideas above for inspiration if you get
stuck. I think the best way to enter would be to develop
five or ten interesting pocket contents items you could use
in your campaign right now. Not only does that give you a
bunch of contest entries, but you've just done a bit of
campaign planning as well!
Example entries, item + hook:
A napkin with a crude map on it, and the name of the tavern
where the napkin came from.
A claw from a monster the PCs are about to quest for.
A pair of ladies' gloves with the initials A.L. on them.
A key with a symbol of Kane on it.
A rock made of some strange flecked material with the word
"Barakus" written on the bottom.
Good luck! If you have any questions, drop me an email.
Return to Contents
GM's Guide To Adventure Writing
By James Edward Raggi IV,
Success and Failure
The most important thing to remember when constructing an
adventure is to not assume that the PCs will succeed at any
point during the adventure.
As a referee, your job is to be completely impartial during
game play. You have absolute power at the game table and can
bequeath success or mandate failure at any time. Doing
either of those things ruins the game, as both give no
incentive to play well.
Do not fudge the dice. Ever. Luck is a part of the game, and
the dice are there for a reason. Resist the temptation of
sparing characters that fail or even die due to "bad luck"
or a "stupid die roll."
Would it be acceptable to tell a player that just rolled a
stunning success that you've decided, just because it's more
fun, that the die roll doesn't count and he instead failed?
I don't think so. So why would ignoring the dice in the
players' favor be acceptable?
Good game play will tip the scales of fortune and those that
rely on pure luck deserve what they get - either way. At the
same time, if an incredibly lucky roll derails the entire
adventure and gives the players a quick victory, it should
stand. It needs to work both ways. When the dice go badly
for the players, they should be thinking of how to not let a
roll of the die be the sole determiner of their fates. And
when the dice go a little too well for the players, the
referee should note what he needs to do to prevent a single
die roll from determining the course of an entire adventure.
Traditional games are all about the players (and referee)
learning to play better over time. The characters'
experience gains are secondary. Demand and reward player
excellence and the game will be more challenging in the long
So what are the consequences of deciding to play this way?
The party is just lost and sitting around because they
didn't find the secret door that leads to the next section
of the dungeon? Tough. It goes unexplored.
The party missed a vital clue and has no idea where to turn
next in a murder investigation? Tough. The killer gets away.
There are too many options to choose from, and the players
are disorganized and can't agree on an option and look to
the referee for guidance? Tough.
This only works if the referee is willing to realize that
sometimes, all his work on an adventure is going to be
wasted. The players are sometimes going to be unwilling or
unable to see it all. The referee must contain his ego and
resist the urge to introduce some way of being able to show
all his work off. And the referee must not take the unused,
unexplored parts of his adventure and plug them in
elsewhere, as this negates the choices the players have made
that led to them, intentionally or not, failing to explore
the areas in this particular location.
Playing this way also means that the game can "stop" at any
time because a battle wipes out the PCs, or some other
disastrous result that means the mission will come to an
abrupt end. Oh well. Of course success is always more fun
than failure. But if failure is not an option, then the
success is but an illusion, it's fake, it's a lie. And by
taking the attitude that the end result determines the fun
of the game, then suddenly the process of playing the game
is not fun in and of itself.
I don't need to say anything about how stupid that is, do I?
Every adventure must have situations that directly and truly
threaten the lives of the characters participating. If there
is no true threat, it is not an adventure, it's a tour.
I'll go so far as to say there should be situations designed
specifically to kill characters. A monster that's way too
tough. A trap that's going to claim a victim. Save or die.
These sorts of things. Every. Single. Time. The key is to
put these "expected death" situations in places where it
isn't necessary to encounter them. The players must choose
to engage in these areas and situations.
Teach them that the game world isn't scaled so they can kill
Every adventure must have meaningful choices that the
players must make, and these choices must significantly
alter the flow of the adventure for them to have any
The absolute key to good gaming is the ability of players to
choose their character's actions. Any adventure that
dictates what a character thinks or feels or does (barring
magical enchantments, of course) is a terrible, terrible
The choices made must be real choices. "Floating locations"
of the "Well, whichever inn they stop at will be where the
adventure happens" sort is not a real choice, it's a mere
illusion. This is worse than railroading because it is
dishonest in its methods.
Choices should not only be offered, but forced: things are
happening, and the players have to do something, and none of
the options seem to be all good. Of course, if they choose
to not do anything, they've still made their choice and the
consequences should be different (and more severe!) than if
they'd done something.
There are two standards that adventure rewards must meet:
they must be enough, and they must be not enough.
Enough that everyone involved doesn't think that they've
completely wasted their time... and not enough to leave
anybody really satisfied with what they have. They need
more! Where next to plunder?
Note that concealing the rewards well may wind with the
players not finding it. Tough. As a referee, just make sure
it's there. Don't help the players to actually find it.
A player-driven adventure challenges the now-common
philosophies of good adventure pacing. Common wisdom today
states that if the action has slowed and the players either
don't know what to do or don't want to do anything, the
referee should make something happen to give the players
something to react to. I declare that this ruins the pro-
active element in traditional gaming, causes the referee to
be biased towards character action, and creates a
disincentive for players to control their own destiny.
But what do you do if all the obstacles described in the
Success and Failure chapter actually stop the party?
You do nothing.
If a player complains that he's bored and that nothing is
happening, look at him and say, "I agree. So are you going
to do something or not?"
It is not the referee's job during a session to provide
excitement for his playing group. His job is to administer
the setting and resolve character actions. If the characters
are taking no action and are not interacting with the
setting, then the referee has literally nothing to do. The
players are wasting his time.
Other common standards of pacing become obsolete when
dealing with a player-driven adventure. Traditional games
commonly feature a "retreat, rest, and recharge" element of
play, and in fact almost demand such a thing. This creates a
bit of difficulty in trying to structure an exciting
adventure if the party is going back to rest after every
fight of even slight challenge.
Don't let the players turn the game into a series of "Scout
out the next room, ambush the beasties, collect the loot,
and then retreat back to camp and get all the spells back."
Or don't let them complain of monotony and boredom if that
is what they choose to do. There are a variety of ways to
prevent this, although some may seem heavy-handed.
Cave-in traps or other methods of blocking exits can be
useful, once, before it becomes a crutch instead of an idea.
Pit or slide traps that dump a party to a lower level and
teleporters that move a party somewhere unfamiliar are old
tricks that might be acceptable a time or two. Missions with
time limits are another possibility, but the meticulous
planning needed to make an adventure just challenging enough
will tend to cause the referee to become too invested in the
The first reliable way to control this is through the proper
use of wandering monsters. Never skip a wandering monsters
check, and never hand-waive the results. Do this for the
area that the PCs decide to rest as well. If their
recuperation is not just a matter of saying, "We go back to
camp," maybe the players won't be so quick to do so.
Keep a strict record of time! This wisdom was presented in
bold in a major publication and has been laughed at ever
since. But it's excellent advice. Endless searching for
secret doors and traps takes but a second to roll for the
players, but a good deal of time for the characters. How
long does that torch burn? And that lantern? So many
referees simply make sure that there's a torch or lantern
present (and if the referee is on the ball, he might make
sure that somebody with a free hand is actually the one
carrying it) and then ignore it. Players will pick up the
pace if the torches and lanterns keep going out...and
keeping close track of encumbrance means they can't just buy
a hundred flasks of oil, either. These oft-ignored rules
aren't there to be a pain the ass, they are there to push
play along in a system that otherwise rewards characters
moving at a snail's pace.
But when the players go looking for adventure...you'd
better have some for them to find.
You've been given a big pile of philosophy concerning
adventure design, but now it's time to put it together into
a coherent adventuring environment. As a nod to this hobby's
traditions, this environment will be called a "dungeon"
here, but this remains true if the environment is a dungeon
The first thing to remember when creating an actual
adventuring area is to forget the idea of "encounters." The
"encounter" has become known as the standard unit of
"excitement" in an adventure. It's an awful terminology, and
it influences adventure design in an adverse way as referees
stop to think of adventures as a flowing, natural sequence
of events and more like a flowchart where players travel
along boring lines in order to get to the "encounters."
Never place a secret door that you intend to be found.
Never place a trap that you do not intend to be set off to
its full effect.
An important factor in designing a dungeon is allowing for
the fact that under the guidelines presented in this book,
characters will die. Perhaps often. Replacement characters
are often rolled up very quickly, but there needs to be an
in-game explanation for how to introduce these replacements.
Create challenges for every primary class in the game,
especially those that are not present in the player
Spellcasters, particularly clerics, always have a number of
spells available to them which they simply never prepare.
This is due to referee laziness; off course they are never
chosen if they are never used! Create situations where such
spells easily solve the issue at hand. They'll gripe and
moan at first when they realize they have to come back to
the situation the next day with the proper spells (and
complain yet again that they are doing so at the expense of
"useful" spells... you know, the type used in combat), but a
referee being diligent in this course will remove the idea
of "useless" spells from his campaign altogether.
Interaction versus Combat versus Traps versus Tricks
It is usually better to present an encounter with a greater
number of enemies than it is to give the players one
opponent at a time. It's attrition versus "The Big Fight."
Make smaller, less threatening opponents the order of the
day, so that the decision to continue on or stop and rest is
actually meaningful. If every encounter is a big one, then
continuing on is stupid. This is advice that I really have
trouble with in my home games. I can usually eyeball a
Single Big Monster for suitability against my group. But
there get to be a lot of dynamics when it comes to group
encounters. It's a bit difficult with groups of creatures,
because for all the "kill 'em all and sort the character
sheets later," tone all this advice takes, the ultimate goal
is to challenge, not annihilate, the players and their
Make use of terrain and "set pieces" when coming up with
Kill Them and Take Their Stuff - Complicate it! Vary what
the treasure is, hide its value, make it inconvenient to
Random encounters are a wonderful tool. They keep players
from ever feeling secure about their position in an
adventure location, they can turn tense situations into
complete chaos, and they are just good all around fun. Never
fail to create a random encounter table for your adventuring
locales. While most of the random encounters should not be
major battles, there should be at least one possible
encounter that will be a roughly equal, major fight, and one
entry which will probably be too much for the party to stand
toe to toe with.
Note that many old modules poo-poo wandering monsters by
advancing the idea if a random encounter depletes the party
too much or detains them from their final goal, the
encounter should be ignored. This sort of thinking is
drenched in the notion that the game is somehow a failure if
the characters do not reach the pre-scripted conclusion in
just-so condition so that they can deliver a satisfying
climax to the adventure the way they are supposed to. Isn't
that the sort of thinking this entire essay is trying to
avoid and prevent?
Take care that the random charts make sense within the
adventuring environment. These creatures roaming around will
also be coming into contact with the placed creatures. Why
aren't they killing each other? If they're random monsters,
it's a good bet their lair isn't keyed on the map. Where do
they live? How do they get from there to the dungeon? If the
party is closing doors behind them as they go, many
creatures won't be able to "randomly" appear.
One solution is to make random monsters connected to a keyed
area. This can happen in several ways. The first is to just
assume that every (or most, or whatever's appropriate) keyed
area's inhabitants have an extra member or two running
around the environment.
Also, not every random encounter needs to be a battle.
Adding in neutral or friendly encounters into the table can
provide an unexpected twist. The encounter need not even be
with anything living. A cave-in, flash flood, or other
random event can easily fill a random encounter table slot.
Think before placing traps. Really, there is no quota for
placing traps and they should never be thrown in there "just
Three things must be thought through before placing any
trap. First, what triggers it? Second, how do people who are
supposed to be in the area avoid the trap? And third, why
hasn't the trap been triggered by all the wandering monsters
(and regular nearby inhabitants)?
In instances such as a tomb or mad wizard's lair or some
such, these are easily answered. Nobody is supposed to be
there, period, and it makes sense to booby-trap the living
hell out of the place. Locations with living inhabitants,
not so much. But each trap should have a clear purpose.
Be descriptive about placed traps. It should be possible to
detect and disarm almost any trap without making a die roll.
In fact, if the proper way of dealing with a trap is nothing
more than a couple of thief skill rolls, then the trap is
boring and no good. You can do better.
"Gotcha" traps keep players on their toes, but are also
detrimental to game play. Merely entering an area shouldn't
be enough to trigger a trap. There should be some specific
action that triggers it. Poison needle traps are a perfect
example here. If a character does not attempt to open a
chest or pick its lock, they have no problem. It's only by
taking a specific action that they put themselves in danger.
Not that this is a screed against pit traps and the like.
They have their place - especially if nobody is bothering to
use a ten foot pole anymore. The problem with such traps is
that they are often in areas where many creatures travel.
Not even the most diligently trained or fiendishly clever
beast will walk amongst traps unless there is an ongoing
siege or hostile information. Any "triggered just by
standing or walking right there" trap that does more than
sound an alarm is simply not going to be found in areas
where people, or creatures, ever go.
Obvious, no-roll-needed-to-find-them traps are simply
awesome. They dare the players.
The last consideration to make is whether this trap is
effective. Too many referees place traps as "obstacles" in
their adventures to be "overcome." Traps should be placed
with the full intention of being triggered. Whoever set the
trap was certainly aiming to kill (or imprison, or
immobilize, or whatever) whoever set it off, and certainly
trying to keep people out of a specific area, so it must be
able to do what it sets out to do or the whole thing's
worthless. If you're going to place a death trap, set it up
in a way that will kill, and count on a character dying from
that trap during the adventure. When (if!) the traps are
discovered and bypassed, it becomes a real accomplishment
(even if it was dead easy and the players don't understand
what might have happened), and not just something that
happened because it's "supposed to" in these types of games.
* * *
Thanks, James, for permission to reprint your article.
Readers, this article first appeared at
LOTFP RP: Guide to Adventure Writing
Comments are still open there. Feel free to drop by if you'd
like to add to the discussion.
Return to Contents
For Your Game: 10 Cities
By Cheka Man,
This city is built on the ocean behind a coral reef. The
pavements are floating pontoons whilst boats are rowed or
sail through the streets. Many of the citizens are
fishermen, providing food for the city, and sailing further
and further out as the years go by to gather more fish and
seafood as food for the city. Flooding is not a major
problem as the houses are themselves tethered houseboats and
rise up and down with the tide. Whilst a storm might blow
individual houseboats loose of their moorings, it would be
unlikely unless colossal to be large enough to destroy the
Apart from a small number of jewellers who have formal city
licenses to harvest coral, the taking of coral from the reef
is strictly forbidden, and one of the major tasks of the
city's police, the Admirals Guards, is to keep the reef safe
from irresponsible destruction. Murderers and illegal reef
harvesters are chained to the reef and left to drown. Should
the reef be destroyed, it would cease to keep the large
waves away from the city.
Like all large cities however, the city has developed a
criminal underworld over time. There are small gangs, but
the big powerful organized one that has real power is The
Regulators. They operate behind the scenes, basing
themselves in the city quietly, not wearing their colours in
Apart from the criminal staple diet of extracting protection
money from business people, they specialize in stealing
coral and raiding vessels outside the city. They keep the
amount of crime below a certain level, however, to avoid a
full-scale crackdown on their activities.
The city is ruled by an elected mayor, who takes the title
of Admiral and a Council of Captains, each of which is in
charge of a Ward, and responsible for policing it, putting
out fires (although since water is plentiful fire is rarely
a problem), and generally making sure things run smoothly.
This city is built of wood from the forests round about, and
whilst the winters and springs are wet and rainy, the
summers and autumns are often hot and dry. As a result,
despite an efficient Fire Department, fires are a big
Over the centuries, there have been at least three major
fires that have burnt large parts of the city down. Despite
repeated Mayors' Orders to stop building with wood and
thatch, these orders are widely disregarded by the vast
majority of the city's residents.
Recently, one of the Small Town Festivals, a holiday
celebrating victory in a battle centuries ago, has been
banned despite widespread opposition by those determined to
celebrate come what may. The problem is that it involves
widespread use of firecrackers and other fireworks, and with
the summer as dry as it is, there is a great worry that the
entire city risks going up in flames. The underworld of the
city, because of the money they can get, have started a
black market in fireworks which the City Marshals are trying
their hardest to clamp down on. The PCs might either be
trying to organize an illegal fireworks display or be trying
to clamp down on it.
3. Tiger Eye
This city sprang up a few years ago around a gold mine, and
is a sprawl of buildings whose twisted streets at this stage
lack any sort of street planning. Many of the city
inhabitants are rough and ready people who are all too ready
to brawl or worse. And in the absence of a police force, the
only law and order at all is provided by the bouncers of the
many clubs, pubs and shebeens. The general lawlessness of
the streets has annoyed the richer citizens, who are unsure
what to do about the problem.
Some think that the lack of respectable women is one of the
problems of the city; others are considering setting up a
chapter of The White Knights
[http://strolen.com/viewing/The_White_Knights] to deal with
the problem through vigilantism.
4. Deep Hole
Deep Hole has been dug into the Silverrock Mountains by the
and is lit not by flame, which might ignite seams of gas and
lead to explosions, but by the soft glow of purple mori
rock. The buildings are all of dark grey slate. Everyone
above the age of seventeen has a job: unemployment is not
tolerated and refusing to work (except on the few High Holy
Days) is a crime and punished harshly.
Some work on new buildings and chipping out new tunnels to
expand the city. Others work tending the fungus gardens to
ensure the citizens are fed. Still others are in the small
but efficient army and the larger police force, or trade
gemstones with the Topsiders.
Whilst it is possible to get a permit to go Topside,
provided there is an acceptable reason to do so, the vast
majority of the Nekron have no desire to go there. The
centre of the city is the cathedral and the four magic
towers around it.
Whilst the Nekron are a dour people and most of their
marriages are arranged, they do know romance, and many of
the weddings that take place in the cathedral result in
There are two penalties for those who break the laws. For
small crimes, a period of unpaid hard labour, for anything
serious, a public death by beheading with the scimitar, and
they do not hesitate to punish Topsiders who venture into
their domain without behaving themselves. The bodies of the
executed are placed in the fungus fields without ceremony
and chopped to pieces.
The destination of all dead Nekron is to the fungus fields
to help feed their kin, however those who died blameless are
allowed a decent funeral first and are not chopped up.
5. The Tower
The Tower is a city built within a single skyscraper that
towers up into the sky, with small parks on the outer edges
to provide greenery. Everything that a city needs is built
within the skyscraper. The further inside the building and
the higher you go, the more expensive it is to live there.
To live on the outside with windows that let natural light
in is worth paying good money for. The further up and
inwards one goes, the more likely it is that should there be
a major disaster, one will not be able to escape alive.
Fire restrictions are strict. The lower floors and the outer
floors of the city are well policed, since that is where the
rich citizens of the city live, work and buy things. The
inner core of the city, where the teeming masses live, is
largely under the control of criminal gangs. On the lower
levels this can be a dubious benefit, as certain crimes such
as rape are not tolerated, and the gangs are generally at
peace with each other.
The higher inner levels are decrepit slums full of violent
crime where the gangs are feuding constantly, and only the
tough and violent have any sense of safety. Murderers and
arsonists in the *civilised* areas are punished after a far
trial by being thrown out of the windows from a hundred
floors up, to die when they hit the ground below. In the
uncivilized areas the same applies without a trial.
The first thing one notices about this city is that the
walls around it are huge. The second thing is that no one is
allowed in or out. The city is a prison town, entirely cut
off from the outside world, and those inside are serving
terms ranging from thirty years to life. The guards only
patrol the walls and gates. Inside, the prisoners grow their
own food and are left to their own devices.
Many thought the prisoners would slaughter each other or
just starve to death, but an uneasy peace reigns in the city
as the inmates know that they can only survive if they get
along with each other. Though basic, their houses are far
more comfortable than prison cells would be.
Once Stonebridge was a mighty town, fed by its river trade,
where the vessels of grain would sail under its magnificent
bridge of ornately carved stone. Then the river began to
silt up and the larger ships could no longer get down it to
disgorge their cargos. Trade fell, unemployment rise and to
make matters worse there was an influx of illegal drugs,
causing an epidemic of drug abuse and vandalism. Many of the
houses were repossessed and boarded up and the criminal
element has taken to squatting in them. Most of the good
people of the town have either moved out or keep very much
to the better areas of the city, abandoning the poor to
8. Sun City
Whoever named this city surely named it ironically, because
it is a city of the teaming poor. Most cities have a mixture
of the rich and the poor. Here, anybody who gets rich by
means fair or foul goes to live elsewhere. The houses are
shacks with walls of plywood and roofs of tin and corrugated
iron. In the dry season it is hot and humid. In the rainy
season the rattling of the rain on the tin roofs can be
heard from outside the city, and what sewers there are
overflow, voiding their foul contents into the streets and
into peoples homes.
Burglary is rare, mostly because no one has anything much
worth stealing, but violent crimes and murder are
Deep within the plains that they control, the orcs have set
up a city of their own. Although the sewage system is
somewhat basic, it works well enough to avoid major diseases
from wreaking havoc. The houses are tents and teepees, and
one of the most important laws is that bodily or other
wastes do not foul the part of the river that flows through
the city itself. Also, the city moves its location every
third month to a new part of the river, with pontoon bridges
used to cross it.
The orc-haters who believe that orcs are incapable of living
in anything but small groups would be surprised at this new
Luna is a unique city, where the harbour, the walls, the
houses and all the buildings are made of softly glowing mori
rock. Ships have no trouble finding it in the worst of
weather, and with no darkness to be found anywhere in the
streets, crime by night is reduced.
There is a downside to this, however. In the summer, great
swarms of mosquitoes and other biting insects fly into town,
and people who go out by night have to wear thick clothing
to avoid being bitten. Petty criminals are punished by being
tied up outside for ten minutes for the insects to bite.
* * *
Get 20 more city ideas at: 30 Cities
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