Author Topic: "Themes" for Cities?  (Read 780 times)

Jürgen Hubert

  • Owlbear
  • *
  • Posts: 372
    • View Profile
"Themes" for Cities?
« on: July 09, 2010, 12:36:08 AM »
I've been thinking about building and developing cities as settings (again). And it occurred to me that cities (as well as neighborhoods, on a smaller scale) could be developed by starting out with a certain overall "theme" which is then reflected on smaller scales again and again. This not only makes it easier for the game master to come up with new ideas for the city, but also gives the players a better sense of what to expect from both the city and its inhabitants.

The Dresden Files RPG already does this with its Aspects for cities and neighborhoods, but I think this approach is useful enough for other games as well. So here is my challenge: Come up with a theme for a city or neighborhood within a city, and then give a few examples on how that theme is reflected in individual characters, locations, adventures and so forth within that city. For instance, the theme "corruption" is reflected in all the entries in this thread.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Jürgen Hubert »
_____


The Arcana Wiki - Distilling the Real World for Gaming!

beejazz

  • Yrthak
  • *
  • Posts: 1511
    • View Profile
"Themes" for Cities?
« Reply #1 on: July 09, 2010, 10:49:55 AM »
I like using events as themes. Partly because things like culture are only apparent as such to an outsider (I watch TV, read books, go to school, and rarely think about what makes American culture different from all that stuff I've never seen except through an American perspective). Partly because you can change themes mid-campaign keeping the same location, NPCs, etc. and just changing their significance based on the circumstances. Partly because events themselves mean change.

So for themes:
Plague
Famine
Drought
War (your home aggressor)
War (your home invaded)
Occupation
Factional Conflict
Regime Change
Reconstruction
Growth
Discovery
Beejazz's Homebrew System
 Beejazz's Homebrew Discussion

Quote
I don't believe in it anyway.
What?
England.
Just a conspiracy of cartographers, then?

sparkletwist

  • Administrator
  • Flail Snail
  • *****
  • Posts: 1744
    • View Profile
"Themes" for Cities?
« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2010, 03:26:18 PM »
I like that theme of "corruption," but it can be expanded upon as a set of related themes, I think. For example, is it corrupt due to the politicians in charge caring more about their own interests than the well-being of the city? That could lead to a certain decayed quality, as they siphon money into their own pockets and don't pay for any upkeep. Or is it corrupt because of an evil spirit being present? That could lead to some of the same look, but maybe a more eerie quality. Or maybe buildings aren't decayed, but more... faded, somehow. Maybe the corruption isn't moral or spiritual, but physical, i.e., the ground is actually collapsing under the city.

I think you can also get a theme if you think of a virtue or vice, as in, what people who first walk into that city or area of the city are likely to feel that it embodies. If you say "scholarly," you can think of a lot of stately buildings, a somewhat quiet atmosphere, clean and a bit austere. Or, "militant," which may have more of the clean austerity, but darker overtones: signs of strength, for example. Or "libertine," a seething district filled with opium dens, brothels, gambling houses, and other sleazy establishments. I hope that helps a bit... :)

Jürgen Hubert

  • Owlbear
  • *
  • Posts: 372
    • View Profile
"Themes" for Cities?
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2010, 01:17:28 AM »
Just as examples, several other themes I have chosen for my cities are "Government Conspiracy", "City of Tomorrow", and "Adventure Town".
_____


The Arcana Wiki - Distilling the Real World for Gaming!

Steerpike

  • Flumph
  • *
  • Posts: 3952
    • View Profile
"Themes" for Cities?
« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2010, 02:43:02 AM »
I tend to do this quite a bit...

Moroi: Parasitism, Addiction, Madness (the Elder Trees, the nectar-junkies, the surreal maze of the Boil, the ghettoes, the asylums)

Macellaria: Adventure Town, Transformation, Meat (the Skin Markets, fleshcrafters, curio bazaars, Wormhive)

Somnambulon: Death, Control, Capitalism (the Lords Revenant, zombies)

Marainein: Immortality, Disease, Spirituality (the Wasting God, the undying priests)

Lophius: Pirate Town, Gangland, Framentation (the Driftwood District, Bile-Mire, the many islands and factions)

Skein: Reason, Power, Wealth (the magisters and their familiars, the living spires, the Moth Kings, the automaton factories)

Dolmen: Slavery, Religion, Hierarchy (subhumans, tiers, dioceses, religious laws)

Crepuscle: Commerce, Cosmopolitanism, Age (ancient labyrinth, Chimera Plaza, multifarious races)

Erebh: Darkness, the Unknown, End of the World (Abysm, the abyssoscopes, the miasma-harvesters, archeologists)

Jürgen Hubert

  • Owlbear
  • *
  • Posts: 372
    • View Profile
"Themes" for Cities?
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2010, 07:01:32 AM »
- "Government Conspiracy": The government in this city has secrets - lots and lots of secrets. Homeless people tend to vanish a lot - they are kidnapped and used in secret facilities for experimentation. The government manipulates elections, and suborns the local newspapers. A secret cabal in the government might have made deals with aliens (or demons, or angels) for their power. Men in Black prowl the city in black vehicles.

- "Hidden Fear": People tend to put on a front of normalcy, but everyone knows its a lie. While the city seems inviting during the day (though the locals won't make eye contact with strangers), monsters prowl at night and nobody will open the doors for anyone, even if they hear the screams. Especially if they hear the screams. There are lots of unspoken taboos nobody tells a visitor but which nobody willingly breaks for fear of simply vanishing.

- "City of Tomorrow": The city is an architect's dream. Grand buildings soar towards the sky, and all major constructions are centrally planned to give the city a unified and imposing aesthetic. If there are any problems the city needs to solve - whether traffic, water supply, or waste disposal - small, decentralized solutions just won't cut it when bold visions that will awe visitors can do just as well. Everything seems designed to make the individual small - which sometimes causes the city planner to forget the human element.

- "Military-Industrial Complex": Government and society are tightly intertwined with the military and the arms industry. The government buys the latest weapons of war from companies, and in turn either aggresses upon a neighbor to justify the expenses - or uses the threat of aggression by a neighbor to the same end. Most citizens support it, either because they are serving in the military, working in the arms and supporting industry, or because they have been affected by government propaganda.

- "Faded Glory": The city has grand buildings and large avenues - but the former are either run-down and abandoned, and the latter are dirty and showing cracks. There are still scions of families who used to be rich and powerful living in some of the grand old mansions - but they were forced to sell many heirlooms a long time ago and now desperately pretend that they are still important. The street lights are either damaged or stolen, and at night the city becomes dark other than a few better-off areas where the vestiges of government and hotels for foreign dignitaries are.
_____


The Arcana Wiki - Distilling the Real World for Gaming!