Monday, February 14, 2011

Give Your Cities Some Character

"Man, we're hurting. Let's go back to town and heal up."

"Yeah, I want to buy some better armor while we're at it."

"And I need to get some spell components."

"Hmm... I guess I could pick up a few gp's picking pockets. Let's go!"

You've spent hours detailing the dungeon down to exactly how many copper pieces each kobold is carrying in his pocket, but the nearest city is just a dot on the map with a name next to it. Running a roleplaying session in a city can be difficult when you have to make up the details on the fly and this can lead to having bland generic cities except for the one or two that you may have detailed descriptions for. Oh, you could use some random city generation tables, but most take too long, involve lots of tedious dice rolling and chart referencing, and provide far more detail than is needed for the average game session. What you need is a fast and easy city generation system that gives you just enough details to get on with the game.

A city is just a large group of people, right? You already know how to roll up a character, so why not roll up a city in the same way? With a minimal amount of tweaking, you can use the same six stats (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma) that are used to describe characters to quickly detail an entire city. And to provide you with that old-school feeling, you roll up a city by rolling 3d6 in order.

Strength: The Strength characteristic of a city refers to the strength of its defenses. This can be anything from fortifications to how large the army or militia is. Examples:

3 no defenses of any kind
4,5 no fortifications, army = 1% of population
6,7,8 ditch, moat, or partial wall around city, small keep possible, army = 2% of population
9,10,11,12 walled city with keep, army = 5% of population
13,14,15 walled city with castle, army = 8% of population
16,17 multiple walls around city with strong castle, army = 10% of population
18 multiple walls around city with impregnable castle, army = 15% or more of population

Dexterity: This is a measure of the amount of personal freedom that the citizens of this city has. It can also be used to determine how likely it is that the players will be harassed by town guards, city officials, tax collectors, etc. while they are in the city. Each day roll 3d6 and compare it to the city's dexterity score. If the roll is greater, the players will be harassed in some way that day. Examples:

3 everyone is watched and questioned everywhere they go; very heavy taxes; no weapons, armor or beasts allowed
4,5 foreigners are watched and questioned everywhere they go; heavy taxes; no military weapons, armor, or medium or larger beasts allowed
6,7,8 foreigners are frequently questioned; heavy taxes; no large military weapons, heavy armor, or medium or larger beasts allowed
9,10,11,12 foreigners questioned at the gate; moderate taxes; no dangerous beasts allowed
13,14,15 everyone is free to come and go; light taxes; no large, dangerous beasts allowed
16,17 everyone is free to come and go; almost no taxes
18 no government or laws - anarchy

Constitution: Constitution is a measure of the size of the city's population. It can also be used as an indicator of how likely it is to find non-magical items for sale. Roll the city's Constitution score or less on 3d6 to see if an item is available. Items that cost 10gp or less should always be available and should not require a roll. Apply a modifier to the roll of -10 for items with a value of 100gp or less; -5 for items valued from 101gp to 500gp; +0 for items valued from 501gp to 1000gp; +5 for items valued from 1001gp to 5000gp; and +10 for items valued over 5000gp.

3 3,000 or less
4 4,000
5 5,000
6 6,000
7 7,000
8 8,000
9 9,000
10 10,000
11 11,000
12 12,000
13 13,000
14 14,000
15 15,000 to 20,000
16 21,000 to 49,000
17 50,000 to 100,000
18 more than 100,000

Intelligence: Intelligence measures how influential wizards and magic are in the city. Examples:

3 no wizards; no arcane spell casting or items available
4,5 only one or two wizards; up to 2nd level arcane spell casting; no magic items available
6,7,8 few wizards; up to 3rd level arcane spell casting; potions and scrolls available
9,10,11,12

several wizards; up to 5th level arcane spell casting; potions, scrolls, wands available

13,14,15 wizards guild; up to 7th level arcane spell casting; potions, scrolls, wands, rings, magic weapons and armor available
16,17 wizard college; up to 9th level arcane spell casting; most magic items available
18 several wizard guilds and colleges; up to 9th level arcane spell casting; all magic items available

Wisdom: The Wisdom score details the place of religion in the city. Examples:

3 no temples; no divine spell casting or items available
4,5 only one or two temples; up to 2nd level divine spell casting; holy water available
6,7,8

temples for several major deities; up to 3rd level divine spell casting; holy water and potions available

9,10,11,12 temples for most major and a few minor deities; up to 5th level divine spell casting; holy water, potions, and scrolls available
13,14,15 temples for all major and several minor deities; up to 7th level divine spell casting; holy water, potions, scrolls, and staffs available
16,17 temples for all known religions; up to 9th level divine spell casting; most magic items available
18 temples for all known religions; up to 9th level divine spell casting; all magic items available

Charisma: This details how peaceful a city is and how happy its citizens are. It can also be used as a measure of how beautiful a city is. Charisma can be used to determine how likely it is that the players will be witness to or the victim of a crime. Each day roll 3d6 and compare it to the city's dexterity score. If the roll is greater, the players will have an encounter with criminals (pickpocket, muggers, etc.) sometime that day. Examples:

3 crime is rampant and gangs rules much of the city; citizens are on the edge of revolt; garbage and sewage everywhere; many buildings are in ruin
4,5 crime is very bad and the thieves guild is very powerful; citizens are hard and cynical; much of the city is ugly and poor
6,7,8 crime is common; citizens are wary and untrusting of strangers; the city is grey and bland
9,10,11,12 crime is at a normal level and the citizens are fairly satisfied; the city has a few buildings or parks that the citizens are proud of
13,14,15 crime is low and the citizens are happy; the city has several buildings or parks that the citizens are proud of
16,17 crime is rare and the citizens are very happy; the city has many buildings or parks that the citizens are proud of
18 crime is almost non-existent; citizens are extremely happy and proud of their city; the city is filled with parks, beautiful buildings, fountains and impressive statuary

Alignment: Now that you have the city's stats rolled up, you can use them to determine an overall alignment for the city. This is done by using the Dexterity score for the Lawful/Chaotic axis and the Charisma score for the Good/Evil axis.

Dexterity Alignment   Charisma Alignment
3-7 Lawful   3-7 Evil
8-13 Neutral   8-13 Neutral
14-18 Chaotic   14-18 Good

For example- if a city has a Dexterity of 12 and a Charisma of 7, it would be Neutral Evil in alignment.

A city's alignment is a good indicator of how harshly crime is punished there. Examples:

  Murder Robbery
LG imprisonment for life imprisonment, branded
NG imprisonment imprisonment
CG banishment fine
LN beheading forced labor, branded
N hanging forced labor
CN victim's family will seek revenge victim will seek revenge
CE sentenced to fight in gladiator pits loss of a hand
NE impaled loss of a finger
LE crucifixion sold into slavery

Example City

To show you the system in action, let's roll up a new city. I rolled 3d6 in order for the six stats and came up with:

Str- 13

Dex- 5

Con- 18

Int- 7

Wis- 11

Cha- 10

Interpreting the numbers provides us with a good overview of what the city is like. It is a huge city with a population of over 100,000, strong walls, a citadel, and a standing army of at least 8000 soldiers. There are few wizards, but temples for most major deities are present in the city. Perhaps there are laws against practicing magic that keep wizards from wanting to live here.

Crime is at a normal level for a city this size and the citizens are fairly happy with their lot in life even though taxes are high. Strangers are questioned closely about their business and weapons are tightly regulated. This gives the city a Lawful Neutral alignment.

As you can see from the example, it is quick and easy to roll up the details for city using this system. With a little tweaking, the system could also be used to roll up the details for entire countries as well. Try it out and give your next city some character.