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Thread: A city coveted by many, but owned by none. (concept for review)

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    Post A city coveted by many, but owned by none. (concept for review)

    I want to know how far out of the field a concept this is. It'll ultimately affect the layout of a city map, which is reason enough to ask the question here I think.

    I have a city in my campaign, the center of it actually, that has become a sort of nexus for world trade. It was originally a far flung colony of an empire, but the empire fell and the colony grew into an independent city-state.

    The city is surrounded by sea and wilderness. Primitive cultures abound, but the nearest kingdoms and young or crumbling empires are either across the sea or much further inland. The only reason the city has gotten it's reputation for trade and not been forgotten entirely is it's position to facilitate trade between those isolated inland cultures and those across the seas.

    Why this would matter for a city map? I was thinking of keeping major defensive measures to a minimum. A wall to protect against the primitives, and a small military force, but no real standing army. The idea is that the real threats, all of whome certainly covet the wealth of the city, simply won't allow any of the others to claim it for themselves. Independently it poses no real threat and everyone gets rich... Those making the money would prefer it go undisturbed.

    Now. Reality check. How plausible is that?

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    Community Leader jfrazierjr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aristotle View Post
    I want to know how far out of the field a concept this is. It'll ultimately affect the layout of a city map, which is reason enough to ask the question here I think.

    I have a city in my campaign, the center of it actually, that has become a sort of nexus for world trade. It was originally a far flung colony of an empire, but the empire fell and the colony grew into an independent city-state.

    The city is surrounded by sea and wilderness. Primitive cultures abound, but the nearest kingdoms and young or crumbling empires are either across the sea or much further inland. The only reason the city has gotten it's reputation for trade and not been forgotten entirely is it's position to facilitate trade between those isolated inland cultures and those across the seas.

    Why this would matter for a city map? I was thinking of keeping major defensive measures to a minimum. A wall to protect against the primitives, and a small military force, but no real standing army. The idea is that the real threats, all of whome certainly covet the wealth of the city, simply won't allow any of the others to claim it for themselves. Independently it poses no real threat and everyone gets rich... Those making the money would prefer it go undisturbed.

    Now. Reality check. How plausible is that?
    I think it's perfectly acceptable. Given the distances you mention both overland and water, any type of attempt at subjugation would require a sizeable force and supply line. Also, any one faction which took over would then threaten the balance of trade. What good is a subjagated trading center of the world if trade suddenly stops because it has been taken over by X faction, and your not sure how well, if at all, your goods will be able to pass through the new city power centers.... To me, it's a nice standoff. Now, this assumes that the rulers of the other places have an understanding of free markets and economics; madmen generally understand neither and just go to war to compensate for something else in their life.

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    Guild Member Sirith's Avatar
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    How primitive are those primitive cultures exactly? What do they have to offer kingdoms and empires far away, and what do those powers have to offer them? How do they look at trade culturally? These factors will influence the economy and culture of the city itself, which can be used as a basis for your city. In itself I think it's a definitely plausible, these are just questions that popped up while reading your and jfrazierjr's posts.

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    Guild Member DanChops's Avatar
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    Sounds like a great basis for an intrigue-filled campaign!

    I'm trying to think of real-world analogies to what you're describing, but having difficulty coming up with one. Perhaps Mombassa in the 1500's if the Sultanate of Muscat had fallen to the Persians instead of the Portuguese, and the Portuguese had never shown up? Or maybe Goa from 50 years later if the native inhabitants were much more primitive, and the Portuguese empire had fallen?

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    Their are basically two groups of local natives. The first is less advanced and highly tribal. Some tribes play nice and others are just as likely to eat you as trade with you. The other culture has a smaller population but is more advanced, having developed masonry and basic metal working, and are generally accepting (if not a bit naive about the intentions) of the cities inhabitants.

    I'm sticking to a "strangers in a strange land" theme with a vaguely european culture building a thriving city on the perimeter of a rain forest on a tropical continent. I'm borrowing heavily from similar situations in history, including the crusades, the discovery of the new world, the wild west, and numerous examples of the british empire throughout africa and the near east. My natives will be influenced by the cultures of the natives in most of those examples.

    Most of the trade I'm talking about happens between those more advanced but distant cultures to either side. The city is just a convenient gateway to both or, more often than not, a neutral center that lets both sides come half way. Local products have a market too though. Those 'old world' crops that can grow in the harsh 'new world' environment (and wouldn't otherwise survive the trip) have found a market. New world crops that can be grown right outside the city have to travel less distance and are that much easier to get to market. The primitive locals cash in on locally grown spices, though plantations are becoming more common and cutting out the locals.


    I think I'm comfortable saying that most of the other cultures accept, despite their greed, that the current situation is profitable and best left alone. The mad man who just doesn't care? Sounds like a campaign story arc to me, and is sort of the reason I developed the idea. With no formal army it falls to mercenaries, including the heroes of my campaign, to sort things out before things escalate to a seige.

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    Guild Adept Valarian's Avatar
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    A city like this would become a hub of trade and negotiation between tribes. A great fair of tents would rise outside the city walls, as tribes come and go to trade at the city.
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    Community Leader Facebook Connected Steel General's Avatar
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    Just to throw out anotehr idea, instead of a small military, you could have a small civilian constabulary (or whatever), and then each of the merchant "factions" could have their own private "security forces". Disputes between factions could be handled in the "boardroom", so to speak, or could spill over into deadly street brawls between the "private armies" of the factions.
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    Community Leader Facebook Connected Ascension's Avatar
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    In such a city, it's my thought that the guilds would run the city as a defacto government of merchant princes or maybe left over nobility. In either case various factions have their own agendas and I would think that some sort of walled off sections for the various feuding families/guilds would be present despite lack of immediate exterior threats, sort of like enclaves. Also, despite its distance, a city with that much wealth would be highly coveted and always under a threat...even freemen will protect their homes from marauding tribes. So, I would think that this city would be walled nonetheless, taking into account the evolution of the city. On the other hand, a Great Fair (a la David Eddings) is a town of tents under the control, and policed by, one certain kingdom thus needing no walls. So those are 2 options that I see: walled city with walled enclaves and private armies of feuding factions or a great fair type of tent city already under the rule of a kingdom. To go out on a limb, it could be a thieves den or pirate city with slapdash and shoddy construction and the usual lawlessness, debauchery, and villainy with tunnels under the walls, secret entrances, bribed guards etc. that in reality remove the effectiveness of any security measures. Or lastly, it could be a nomad city...sort of a city on the move, depending on the season, where all of the buildings are actually wagons and they migrate up and down the coast.

    My 2 cents

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    Quote Originally Posted by Valarian View Post
    A city like this would become a hub of trade and negotiation between tribes. A great fair of tents would rise outside the city walls, as tribes come and go to trade at the city.
    Great idea. The city is already home to the largest market in the world, but a second less official market established just outside might be fun. I'll have to include tent town on the map.

    The guilds have been disbanded and free trade reigns, so most anyone can come and try to sell whatever it is they think they can make money on. Of course, space in the main market requires a license. These side-markets might skirt the rules and have no regulations. Shop outside the market at your own peril.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steel General View Post
    Just to throw out anotehr idea, instead of a small military, you could have a small civilian constabulary (or whatever), and then each of the merchant "factions" could have their own private "security forces". Disputes between factions could be handled in the "boardroom", so to speak, or could spill over into deadly street brawls between the "private armies" of the factions.
    Absolutely! The senate runs the city, but mostly just to maintain it and mediate as needed. A police force of baton wielding constables keeps the peace. I considered a division of Inspectors that investigate crimes, but I'm not sure if that might feel too modern. I was toying with using it and D&D 4e to run a CSI style campaign in a fantasy city.

    The merchant houses hold most of the real authority, having the influence to gain licenses to maintain large armed forces for the purpose of guarding caravans, warehouses, and so on... I'm definately interested in setting the trade houses up as corporations.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ascension View Post
    some sort of walled off sections for the various feuding families/guilds would be present despite lack of immediate exterior threats, sort of like enclaves.
    I'll likely go with walled enclaves for the trade houses. As for the rest of your post: Gold mine! Seriously, cool ideas. If not used here, I'll save them in my notebook for later use.

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