A city for my campaign
ok ok... so its not exactly in progress at all :) more like i wanted to run things by you fine people before i find the time to make this map, since i really don't know what i want, or what should be included.
The Story So Far
My one and only player (at the moment) has it in his mind that he wants to be a prim and proper paladin, who knows only good, and lives in a world where good and bad are finely defined...
I couldn't let him think that now could I?
What the player thinks
what I've got so far is this boy was taken from his family when he was really young, to live with his uncle. His uncle was at that time an average middle-classed merchant, but still had a much better life then his parents, so he was sent so that he could end up with a better life.
His father was a great storyteller, spinning tales of great warriors, loyal and true, always doing whats right for his master... the player has grown up wanting to be like the knights he heard so much about when he was younger... The land in which they live in is quite newly discovered, and in many ways a frontier, and frontiers need supplies... While the mountain routes of supply became thick with bandits, his uncles business grew, offering an alternate (while expensive) form of moving goods, using sea travel, which is safe from highwaymen and bandits
With growing power came growing opportunity, and his uncle made all of his dreams come true... at 18, he was enlisted to become a knight of a local lord. After leaving for his training.. he was visited by someone from his original small town, stating his parents were in trouble. Rushing to their aid (despite being told otherwise by his superiors) he arrived at their farm (the farmhouse map i posted earlier)... he arrived to late, to find bandits looting his parents farm... while he tried to negotiate, he ended up killing a few of them, but became poisoned and incapacitated... before he was killed however, his friends, fellow knights who had followed him that night, chased off the remaining bandits and carried him back to the fort.
What is really going on
The boys parents were hard up for money, and sold their son to a merchant who promised them he'd have a better life (something about not being able to have his own son, etc etc)... His uncle brought him up well, and took good care of him... While he was quite a story teller... who often talked about knights and loyalty... he rarely talked about valor or good or evil... it actually irk's the man that the player has come up with the notion that knights are good and true... it interferes with his plans... See... he is part of a group who worship a dark god, and are working to release this gods demon minions on the world. The player is a pawn, chosen as a boy to become the vessel for one such demon, and like all the other nights of this lord, is coming to the age where his soul will be harvested and replaced...
His parents had heard that he had become a knight, and were trying to get in contact with him... to suckle at the teat of his success... their inquiries about their son had created a problem, perhaps they saw to much, or learned something they shouldn't have... regardless.. they were marked for death...
the players uncle is actually controlling many of the bandits blocking alternate trade routes to the more populated south so that his trade routes become the only viable way to move goods to and from the south. He dispatched some of his bandits to take care of the players family... He wasn't supposed to interfere, and will be punished quite a bit... absolute loyalty to his lord is required without question...
What i need
In future sessions, my player become thoroughly introduced to the world, and fort which will be his home for some time... I'm making a map of all the cities mentioned so far... tho starting with the lords castle/fort and the city it guards... it will need to be at least a nights hard ride to the village the players parents are from, which will be pretty much a few farms... but can be a fair distance from the port city his uncle calls home... The area is a northern frontier, think of Canada... hot summers, harsh winters, but great natural resources such as lumber and mining...
The city itself should be normal in most ways, but afford me opportunities to plant the seeds showing the lords true intent... simple occurrences, buildings, or organizations that seem normal may have a shady underside when looked at more closely... while it should take awhile, such taint should eventually be traced back to the fort itself...
I have a general idea of what I want to happen with the campaign, but lost all my details as i got swamped with work... I want the player to live at the fort for a time, making friends, learning tactics, etc... odd things will happen, make him think about whats happening around him... He will also physically change... as he is being poisoned, and prepared for possession certain things will happen... eventually, (either in a really big event, or more subtle) he will in fact be possessed, but will be able to force the demon out, or at least regain control of his body and mind... (it'd be a nice effect to have an evil conscience constantly screaming at him to murder people, cut out their throats... just slay them all!... kinda like an evil intelligent weapon.. cept its you)... after such an event... he will have some special powers... not sure what yet, but something supernatural... he will be approached by people he had thought were his enemies, which end up being the good side... while they disapprove of letting a chosen demon-spawn such as himself live, he is taken in by his next mentor... a man who delves into the evil arts to help the good, while no one trusts or likes him... he gets more results then the rest of the organization combined... he will teach the player to become their most promising tool to fight the demon hordes... with his demonic powers, he's the only one that stands any sort of match against the fully possessed demon-spawn.
ideas on anything from campaign plots and ideas, to map layout, even building placement would be great... while i'll be starting at a smaller city or region scale, much of the fort and certain parts of the city will become large VTT maps, so i'm thinking maybe some sort of vector program... but i'm still not decided...
in any case it should be fun, i look forward to hearing ideas!
looking forward to some fantasy mapping once all this school crap dies down...
I'll give it a go Loogie. It sounds like you are looking for a frontier city that has a sinister/intrigue element. The plot that your pc is involved in, sounds great (not for him of course). Plenty of opportunities for betrayal, and holy cow--I never saw that coming moments.
Obviously, most of the atmosphere is going to be created by you, the dm and your npcs, but here are a few thoughts on how the city can back up your campaign's theme. First, the fort. Although having it made of black stone with bodies impaled on it would be a dead giveaway, try giving it a severe, monumentalist look. The merchant and those in the know serve the Hells/Abyss (or whatever they are called in your game), so the architecture of the places they inhabit should have a subtle infernal influence--use of black and red, severe lines, towers with sharp pointy things on the top, etc. Don't overdo it, but a viewer should be subtly discomfited looking at the fort.
Second, law. It sounds like whatever dark power the merchant serves is more lawful evil than chaotic evil (maybe not, it seems that way from your description), so the city that he's a power in should have a strong police/military presence with possibly checkpoints and an execution/stocks area for those who dare break the rules (and one that gets frequently used--that pc might not have noticed it at first, but on second look the city should seem to go overboard on punishment).
A third thought is tone. Although the city is on the frontier, the undercurrent of evil in it could manifest as the city being a magnet for kooks, charlatans, and whackos. There could be licensed brothels and gambling dens that on first brush serve to let off the miners and workers steam, but on a closer look serve to trap them in a cycle of debt. Above all, normally frontier towns, while rough, have a hopeful element to them as people seek to reinvent themselves. Yours, while having that, should have it prove to be a false note as the mask of the city comes off and it serves as more of a trap for those unfortunate enough to enter it.
Given that your city is on the frontier, there should be multiple strongpoints around it and at a minimum, a wooden spiked log parapet, if not an outright wall around it. Depending upon its wealth and size, you may want to have internal walls as well--used by the ruling elite to control and regiment the populace. Only the buildings of the wealthy would be made of stone, with most structures made of wood, packed earth, and straw. Given the brutality of the winters, the structures would probably have a claustrophobic feel on the inside--as the builders try and maximize the area that can be heated without having it be so large that the inside gets drafty.
One subtle thing you can do to emphasize the law aspect of the city is make sure that the roads follow some type of grid. Most older European cities had a crazyquilt patchwork of roads that followed old trails and land features and could have a curving mazelike quality to them. In antiquity, only authoritarian societies with strong governments, such as Rome, built cities on a regimented grid pattern, so giving your city a grid pattern might be a subtle hint that some dictatorial organizing force is at work.
Another idea is that you've indicated that there is quite a bit of things going on underneath the surface. You've meant it so far in a figurative sense (what your pc thinks is going on and what is really going on vastly diverge), why not make it literally true? If the merchant and the evil cult he belongs to have so many nefarious schemes going on, it would make sense they would have a tunnel network to warehouses, safehouses, hidden temples etc. so that they can do their business without being seen. Create a web of hidden tunnels that all lead back to the fort.
I hope you find a thing or two in all the above Loogie that is of some use. Your campaign has an excellent premise, I'm curious to see how your city turns out.
have to say you've given me many ideas, and many things i never thought of (grid roads, and for some reason i forgot the city should mostly be made of wood)... I was already planning many underground and hidden tunnels and passages, and many seedy spots for gambling and debauchery... most of which, if the player has the time and desire, can trace all the way back to the fort... ideas for colors and a monumental structure are great as well...
Glad you found a couple of ideas you could use Loogie. As I said, I'm curious to see how your city turns out.
One additional thought, since nothing in the city is quite what it seems to be, why not have the surrounding wilderness follow the same theme as well? The pc may have been told that the frontier is dark, untamed, brooding, savage wildlands that must be conquered and controlled. However, on a deeper look he may find it a place that holds allies, hints that things are not quite what he thinks them to be, and a final reveal that far from civilizing, the city is despoiling the lands around it. Megaliths, stone circles, eldritch ruins from civilizations long past would be perfect to hide in the deep wilderness.
Perhaps very deep in the wilderness is a site sacred to the evil deity the merchant follows? (Which is why the city may have been secretly founded in the first place--the city dwellers think they are settling the frontier, but are really there to provide sacrifices, slaves, soldiers, and workers for when the evil deity's site is fully empowered and/or the deity is released--I'd suggest that the pc dealing with the merchant and fort be low to mid level adventures, while taking out the remote site and possibly traveling to the planes where the deity is imprisoned should be APL 12+.)
Thats a great idea... the dark and foreboding forest where people seem to disappear frequently... I'm thinking, some dark shrine or such is being built in the forest, slaves to do the dirty work are being siphoned from the brothels/bars/etc via the underground tunnels. You drink a little to much in a bar one night and you disappear... as well as the odd strayed explorer who comes a bit to close for comfort... Because of the growing darkness in the forest, a multitude of horrors are attracted and taking up residence there, allowing for several forays into its depths to root out the evil... finally coming to the true reason it is a dark place...
As for the demonic worshipers themselves, I've planned to have them broken off into different sections, for instance, the knights themselves are meant to look like the good guys to onlookers, so they will separated from the actual priests and such who preform the demonic duties. The merchant and his guild will be even more removed, as would the bandits... Many of the members of any of these guilds will be oblivious to their actual intent, and will be much like the player, in that they are part of the evil organization without even knowing it (also making it much more then "find everyone who is part of this guild and kill them or bring them to justice" for many people may have not intended to do anything wrong...) The main purpose will be to allow these groups to be found and confronted, without knowing that the Dark priests and Valiant Knights are part of the same group...
I'm definitely getting more anxious to start work.. but i do still have some more work to do at school... i should get some time very soon, to write some of this down, and begin designing maps...
I was just thinking, to add some extra influence to show that the forts occupants are very strict, ordered, and yet uncaring... what if the villages existed before the fort was erected, in the normal unplanned manner, but when the fort was founded, they forced the city to redesign its roads to be more orderly... causing several buildings and such to be moved, torn down, or even have such things as roads going right through the first floor of a building, creating a tunnel... any thoughts?
i got some time and decided to post a quick and dirty outline of the city plan so far...
i've made some extra additions to make the city a bit more bang for its buck... and also solidified some of the other explanations we've come up with above...
one of the main features displayed here is the 2 main roads and the wall surrounding the outer edge of inner city, and the others outside... these structures have all been built on ancient waylines, and collect energy from those who walk them. The everday work in the city is actually giving energy to the dark arts performed within the fort.
the second feature to note is the formation of a series of ruins in the forest to the north... these ruins include a graveyard, with a large temple in its centre, these ruins are of a previous settlement who created this temple, either destroyed by something evil, or stumbling upon an evil artifact that caused its destruction... over the years the forests have swallowed it back up, but the dark forces are searching it in order to find the power there. Sacrifices will be brough here, as well as slaves to help the excavation.
everything else is just for illustration of the location of features...
let me know what you think.