Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Fragments - Encounters, Towns

I've gone through a few of my files and I'm convinced I have scattered junk that I can post on this site, that might be of some use to people.  I'm going to label all of it 'design fragments,' and I want to specify that such pieces are ideas that got started and ran out of steam.  I don't expect them to work for people, they didn't work for me.  I have seen some interest shown, however, so I'll throw out the things I can find.  I've chosen to make no changes, no clarifications ... seems more fun that way (less work for me, too).

I think I will mark these files according to their last modification:

From Mar. 25, 2002:


The procedures and tables for determining random monster encounters during the course of a campaign are given here.


Before actually encountering a monster, rangers and assassins will sometimes receive first warning of the monster’s existence by a sign, or trace that the monster has left behind. Signs will tend to be simple – such as tracks or spoor – among animal intelligence creatures, and more complicated as the monster’s intelligence rises. An intelligent creature may leave signs such as a mark of two slashes across a treebark, or the remains of some wood cut in a special way to show the making of a nearby lair. Even a stylus found on a city street may have serious implications for an assassin, who suddenly breaks out in a sweat because he knows what it means.

A quarter of all encounters will be nothing more than the found sign, with the creature never actually materializing. 90% of reamining encounters will begin with the seeing of the sign, and the encounter happening thereafter. If a 91-00 is indicated, there is a fifty percent chance that the wrong sign will be seen prior to the encounter, misleading the ranger.


The prime city or cities/town or towns in a campaign will usually have pre-determined denizens and many encounters will be set according to facts thus developed. However, urban areas have distinctive characters, just as quarters of a city will differ according to wealth, ethnic background, or purpose.

Tension. City encounters may be determined according to the cities tension level, which is an indication of any particular area’s potential for concern to those who move within it. Increased tension may mean racial or cultural violence, potential malevolence, mortal danger, or a simple threat to purse or person.

Cities are separated by street type (plazas, avenues, lanes, alleys, or courts); the wealth of a region (rich, mercantile, poor, or destitute); and authority (public, business, or private). All Plazas will have a public nature, and these will lead into Avenues; from Avenues extend Lanes, which will in turn give way to Alleys or Courts.

Plazas are a wide, open areas, characterized by gardens and available access to public buildings, markets, and monuments. They have a base tension level (T-level) of 1 (T-1); and except in periods of upheavel, will not increase during the day. Plazas are the show places of the city, are heavily patrolled, and quite safe. Generally, a city will have one plaza for every 5,000 inhabitants, with a minimum of one per city over 1,000 people. The first square of a city will be the market square; a city of 10,000 will also have a Palatial Plaza, surrounding which will be the citadel, palace, and law courts. A city of 15,000 will have a Plaze dedicated either to a university if one is present, or a military Plaza if not. The next Plaza will certainly be military, or a rural market, which will be now separate from the artisan’s market. Following Plazas could be any of the following: a roundabout, or walking park, for wealthy citizens; an area adjacent to a track or coliseum, part of some sort of public spectacle; temple or cathedral grounds; public wharves; or academies. Additional squares will repeat those already listed; if the city is a port, then market squares will juxtapose with the docks, and dock markets will separate from the artisan’s market as a place for raw and imported materials. Squares will have from 3-5 Avenues which lead outward from them.

Avenues are wide throughfares, generally 25-40’ in width, which are continuations of roads which lead out of town or pathways from one Plaza to another. They will have a base T-level of 1, or possibly 2 (1 in 6). Lining them are artisan’s shops, taverns, inns, and private habitations, usually comprising expensive flats, mansions, or estates. 1-2 avenues will exist per two thousand persons. Branching from the Avenues will be Lanes. A city will have a maximum of one Lane connected to an Avenue somewhere in the city per 500 people.

Lanes are narrower public streets, generally 12-20’ in width, providing access to the largest portion of the mercantile and working classes. The T-level of a Lane is always that of the Avenue which it connects, +1. Lanes will only lead from one Avenue to another if the T-levels of both Avenues is the same. Lanes are used for cartage from one portion of the city to another, are lined with flats, the shops of lesser artisans, seedier pubs and hostels, and warehouses. Lanes lead to other Lanes, Alleys, or Courts. Lanes may dead end (1 in 12 chance). If a primary Lane leads to another Lane, then the secondary Lane will have a one higher T-level 2 in 6 rolls. Secondary Lanes may lead to third class Lanes, and thence to fourth class Lanes … there are no lower Lanes than fourth class. Each lower class of Lane has the same chance of increasing the T-level. There will be one secondary Lane per 1,000 people; a third-class Lane per 2,000 persons; and a fourth-class Lane for every 4,000 persons. Thus a city of 5,000 would have 18 lanes. Finally, a Lane will have from 2-5 Alleys leading from it. One in 6 Lanes will lead to a Court.

Alleys are walkways leading which are usually impassable for vehicles, being usually only 5-8’ wide. They are often twisted stairways leading up hills, narrow bridges between gaps in the city, or tunnels. Primary Alleys will have have a T-level of one greater than the lane they adjoin. Alleys lead from Lanes to Lanes, or more often to Courts, or they may dead end (1 in 6 chance).

Courts are open spaces between 100-300 square feet, surrounded by very poor accomodations (5 in 6) or by warehouses. The T-level of a court, regardless of the adjoining lanes or alleys, will be a base of 3. On a roll of d10, it may be higher: 1-4 (unchanged); 5-7 (add 1 point); 8-9 (add 2 points); 10 (reroll, adding 2 points plus the next roll). Courts are often lairs for the most dangerous members of the citizenry. There will be one court per 200 residents in the city, and they are generally nasty places to be.

Sometimes higher T-levels will present “fronts” to hide their true nature to the denizens of the city. For example, an assassin, capable of detecting T-levels (qv), knows of one Lane called Vanity Street. When he was a lower level, he classified it as T-3, as he was unable to detect a higher level of occupation. However, as the assassin has gained levels, he has been able to ascertain higher T-levels; upon turning 7th level, he suddenly starts to see things on Vanity Street that were never apparent before – a spot of blood, a doorway that he realizes has never been opened, a “feeling” that the residents are actually more ill at ease than he ever guessed. Why are so many of the windows shuttered? Isn’t that a whiff of … garlic? And at once he realizes that the street is actually T-9! A shudder passes through him. What is lurking behind closed doors?


1: Patrols ever-present; pickpocketing (1% chance per day), general rudeness towards outsiders.

2: Common patrols will generally harrass citizens to “keep them straight”; foreigners will number 2-5% of the population. Pickpocketing (2% per day). 4% chance of encountering a beggar.

3: Rare patrols, never in groups of less than 9 and none younger than 30. Guards will not harrass citizens. Pickpocketing (4% per day); beggars (8%). Thieves travel in pairs and beggars in twos and threes. Foreigners number 4-10% of the population in Lanes; 1 in 4 Alleys or Courts will be 92-98% foreign (100 – 2d8). Random violence (1% per day), most unlikely in the direction of the party. Bawds will accost the party, informing them of hookers, selling opium, having info about illegal activities*. Bards, jugglers, actors, street performers will be common in Lanes, but not in Alleys or Courts.

4: No patrols. Crime will flourish. Pickpocketing (80% per day), and thieves will backstab persons travelling alone. Beggars will be replaced with poor gangs who are indolent or aggressive. Random violence (3% per day).
5: The area is under the control of some criminal element or cult, though the area will appear little different on the surface than T-4. Persons who are not familiar to the residents will be queried and told to move on – if they refuse, they will be sandbagged by 2-3 “mugs” of 4-5th level and a thief of 5-7th level. If they cannot provide an adequate explanation for their actions, they will be killed. Persons familiar to the residents will be asked to pay “dues,” do favors, and generally expected to comply with any request. Persons who do not will be “taught” a lesson, most likely the breaking of an arm, or a leg. No thieves will pickpocket, as they will generally demand what they want openly. Random violence (6% per day); evidence that violence has occurred (hollowed out buildings, splashes of blood, burned remains) will be obvious to the trained eye.
6: Abandoned by organized human settlement, this is an area used for dumping (8 in 10) or a graveyard. No person will be in evidence; destitute persons, madmen, or unaccountably evil persons may be in residence. Rats, centipedes, and other small monsters of less than 1 HD will be common. Such areas will almost invariably be Courts. Buildings will not be upkept. Dead storage for some businesses is common. Contracting Disease (4% per visit).
7: Area chronically subject to plague. Contracting Disease (8% per visit). Human or demi-human habitation is zero, but skulks, doppelgangers, rakshasa, vampires, and the like will portray themselves as humans. Rats and other vermin will increase in number, but more deadly creatures such as otyugh, mimics, trappers, lurkers, slimes, and molds may be encountered.
8: Some powerful creature’s lair exists here. If the creature is of the undead, then elements of a graveyard will be present. The creature will have retainers/followers appropriate to its character.
* Assassins have a 5% per level chance of locating a bawd regarding a particular activity in this area, and a 25% chance of that bawd having personal or financial info, ie., about a fence, job, movement of a particular person, etc; a 15% chance of knowledge about a recent crime; a 10% chance of having the name of the assassin who did the job; and a 5% chance of knowing the employer. These go up at the rate of 1% per level of the assassin. Thieves have an equal chance of locating a bawd, but only with regards to information about the movement of money; which will come with a 25% chance +1% per level of getting the info wanted. Assassins or Thieves can always find info about harlots, a gambling venture, drugs, or put themselves in an position to give rumors. Other characters have a flat 5% chance of finding the bawd wanted, with a flat 15% chance of that bawd having the info desired. They have a flat 70% chance of finding a harlot, a 40% chance of locating drugs, and a 10% chance of locating a gambling venture. Rumors given out by characters other than assassins and thieves will not be believed.
There are modifiers to the T-levels listed above, as follows:

+1 if estate or mansion is temporarily unoccupied.  -1 guardhouse present.  +2 house or quarter, burned out.  +1 at night.  -1 rich quarter.  +2 sewer beneath surface level.
Note that unnoccupied estates or mansions in the rich quarter will also benefit from the negative modifier.

Guardhouses will sometimes exist at an intersection of Lanes, thus dissuading the criminal element from thriving in that area.

Areas which are burned out will need to be cleared before rebuilding can occur; in the meantime unwanted groups, cults, or creatures may have moved in.

Night will encourage numerous persons or creatures to venture into areas outside of their normal haunts … and so the entire city will become more dangerous or lively once the sun has gone down.

Sewers will exist only in some cities, which are large enough to justify them; they will be filthy, filled with muck and sometimes running water, depending on the quantity of rain. Sewers will lead to other sewers, which will in turn have their T-level determined by the city overhead.


PatrickW said...

That stuff is good - damn good. It provides some solid guidelines for city development, something I'm only so-so at. I may codify the numbers a bit for population sizes to simplify it as a reference document.

Thank you for sharing and keep up the good work!

BrianKLujan said...

I have to agree with PatrickW, this is good stuff and really puts a spotlight on how feeble I really am at making cities.

Who knew there was more to a city that a map :)

nextautumn said...

Wow. I'd love to see what DID work.