Category Archives: Cities

Day 5 E is for Entrances & Exits

E – Entrances & Exits – gates, sewers, streams, rivers, etc.

There are many ways into and out of a city besides the gates. Think like a thief or assassin, or an intelligent or hungry monster. How to get in or out without being noticed, or without consequences?

Any opening in the walls, or over or under the walls, is a potential entrance or exit.

Rivers, streams, harbors, aqueducts, sewers, hidden doors, sally ports, and so forth.

If there is a blind spot on the wall between towers that a thief can climb over, the thieves guild will know about it.

If there is a subterranean connection to the cisterns or sewers, the thieves guild would know about it – unless there is no current connection. Or it could have something nasty, so the thieves guild knows about it, but can’t use it. Perhaps the thieves guild could hire a party of newcomers to go after the whateveritis under the guise of a merchant having a problem. The gold paid to adventurers to avoid risking guild members’ necks would pay for itself, if the adventurers are successful, and it opens up a new smuggling route.

News stories in recent years about underground cities being found during renovations in different towns in Turkey, give an idea to the type of things that can be discovered in an area that has been inhabited for thousands of years. In RPG’s this has an interesting twist by having many fantasy or science fiction races and their different activities setting the stage for events and discoveries in the current era of the game. The well-known concept that the truth is stranger than fiction is a wonderful source of ideas for constructing and modifying your cities, and other aspects of your game world.

Be creative and determine connections that are only partly known. What if a well used smuggling route suddenly opens up to an unknown cave complex after an earthquake, and the route is blocked by something bad. Or what if the something bad is smart and strikes up an alliance with the smugglers/thieves guild?

Is there a magical device to allow or control entrance into or out of the city? That is, is magical entrance and egress from the city blocked or controlled to only allow those with the right device to do so?

Known and Unknown Entrances & Exits

  • The city authorities can only control the things they know about, and have power to control.
    • If they know about teleportation, it does not mean they have the means to block it.
    • A forgotten portion of the sewer system may not have any bars or gates, or any form of patrol.
  • Likewise, the thieves guild and other shadowy groups can only exploit the things they know about, and have the power or ability to exploit it.
    • The leader of the thieves guild knows there is an excellent route into and out of the city, but there is a group of trolls down there, so they can’t use it.
    • Bribes and threats to a guard’s family may be better than trying to be sneaky and avoid paying or risking a fight with the town guards.

Types of Entrances & Exits 

  • Gates
  • Sewers/Drains
  • Rivers/Creeks/Streams/Harbors
  • Aquaducts
  • Bridges (Why go on top of the bridge, when you can walk on the bottom?)
  • Catacombs
  • Caves/Caverns (Connecting to Sewers, Rivers, Catacombs, Dungeons, Cellars, etc.)
  • Blind Spots between towers
  • Hidden Doors/Sally Ports (Wealthy persons along the wall may have a clandestine method of passage unknown to the city authorities.)
  • Air (Magical Flying Devices, Flying Creatures.)
  • Magical Entrance (Spells like Teleport or Gate, Teleportation Rooms, or Devices for magical transit of space.)

Means To Control Entrances & Exits

  • Guards
  • Tolls
  • Rules/Laws Governing Entrance
  • Mundane: Signs/Doors/Gates/Bars/Moats/Drawbridges/Portcullises/Murder Holes/Arrow Slits/Barricades/Pavises/Pits/Cauldrons/Mantlets/Etc.
  • Magical: Continual Light, Detection Spells, Glyphs of Warding, Protection Spells, and Special Devices to block teleportation, for example.
  • Patrols: Regular or Staggered Intervals. Irregular and infrequent patrols may be the same as non-existent if they are only once or twice a year.
    • The frequency of patrols is something the thieves’ guild will know well. The neighborhoods of the rich and powerful will usually have more frequent and larger patrols than the less well-to-do areas of the city. Areas where there has been recent trouble may have a show of force with large and frequent patrols until things go back to “normal”.
  • Other

Make a list of how normal and illicit access to the city occurs. If you have a map, note it on the map, or have a “cheat sheet” to remind you of these things.

Day 4 D is for Dungeons

D – Dungeons/prison, jail

Any large city will have a means to imprison law breakers and trouble makers.

A large enough city might have district jails for local/petty crimes, and a main prison for major crimes.

A prison could be an above ground structure, such as an island in the middle of a harbor with a tower.

It could also be a dungeon under the governor’s palace.

Some prisons can be intentionally imposing structures with a design aimed at intimidation and fear. Perhaps stone lions that come to life when there is a prison break. Maybe they have gargoyles that are bound to serve the warden. Jet black stone construction of sheer walls of an unusual height, with towers and battlements, and big, mean, tough guards on patrol. Magical wards to prevent magical ingress or egress, rooms with detect lie, or perhaps just the interrogation chair has that ability, so that the interrogators can lie. Huge banners flying with the insignia of the prison.

Are there pits where the worst prisoners are just dumped and forgotten, like a series of oubliettes?

Depending on how “nice” the government is, there could be shackles on the walls, torture chambers, a gallows or chopping block.

Some types of crimes might warrant putting someone in stocks in the local square. Public shaming was a formal type of punishment that lasted into colonial times in North America.

Is there a secret police? If so, do they wear a uniform so that everyone knows who they are, and fear them and listen to them out of fear?

Is there a standard uniform for constables? Does the city guard perform all policing functions? Is there a difference between the city guard and the army? In the Wednesday night online AD&D game I play in, one city we spent time in has different districts of the town controlled by different factions. Each faction has their own city guard for their area. It is sort of a miniature confederacy in the same city.

Are there any magical items to aid in enforcement? Are there any spell casters involved in policing? Is spell casting banned?

Are their hounds or other types of creatures, perhaps magical, or other worldly used to track down fugitives?

What does the judicial system look like? Are you guilty merely by being caught, or are their judges and/or a trial? Do punishments consist of monetary fines, or cutting off body parts? Is slavery or indentured servitude part of the system?

Are there rules that “everybody” knows, unless you’re an outsider, but you are still expected to know? Is “The Law” chiseled into a monument, or kept in a large scroll somewhere?

Is exile an option? Is such exile at one’s own expense, or are you shipped off to a penal colony? The ancient Athenian version of exile was ostracism. So named because they wrote the person’s name on bits of broken pottery, an ostraka, plural ostrakon. The person was banished for ten years, and thus was “temporary”.

A city with a strong bent to lawfulness will tend to have a consistent way of handling crimes. Do racial issues come into play? Do humans and dwarves get along, for example?

Is the justice system fair for all who live there?

What about adventurers just passing through?

If this is a ruined city, what are the signs left behind of the justice system? Prisoners still on the rack? A pile of bones from the last hanging? Will undead of unjustly condemned prisoners lurk about these places?

In March, 2014 I published an article on districts or quarters of a city.

Day 3 C is for College of Magic

In my campaign, the ancients were more advanced in their use of magic. This was supported by the Collegium of Mages. Each ancient city had its own college of magic that was a way for weeding out the bad apples and ensuring that the wisest and most skilled wizards powers were put to good use.

When civilization collapsed, those ancient halls became a dangerous place for all but the most intrepid or foolish of adventurers. That’s where all the good stuff is!

How does a current city in a high magic setting handle the organization or lack there of of its wizards?

For a fallen city, what kinds of things might there be found in the haunts of wizards?

In addition to magical devices, like weapons, armor, wands, ring, etc. there could be rooms, statues, golems, familiars, imps, homonculi, trapped creatures, magical traps, and many other kinds of things to make going their both interesting and dangerous.

What kinds of experiments might be found there?

Would lanterns or other devices with continual light or continual darkness be common in such a place?

Would there be special devices, phrases, or other means to safely access these areas?

In my campaign, there are different levels of amulets that enable the wearer to enter such areas, in addition to showing their rank.

Would a geas be placed on the unwary to get some item needed to restore the guards and wards making it harder to get in?

All magic users and illusionists had copper or bronze medallions that were non-magical and merely showed one as a member of the Collegium. As the medallion tarnished or aged, one knew their skill level was advanced. Much like the black belt derived from the accumulation of dirt and grime on the belt.

At the level of Wizard, 11th level, the wizard received a silver amulet, gold for Mages at 16th level, and platinum for Archmages at 18th level.

Day 2 B is for Boats

B – Boats/docks

Further related to water are boats and docks.

If a stream or river goes through a town, there will be traffic of some kind if they are navigable. Traffic that will either use the water for a road, or traffic over the water via a bridge, causeway, or ford.

Larger bodies of water will support ships and lead to a need for docks, landings, wharves, dry docks, cranes, shipwrights, boat wrights, carpenters, sail makers, net makers for fishermen, military docks for the navy, longshoremen/dockworkers, sailors, navigators, captains, admirals, taverns, fishmongers, markets, etc.

If there is navigable water nearby, it will have some effect on a city. Even if a few days ride away, trade from some places will be quicker by water to the closest point. This will lead to a town that is the docks for the city and then there will be roads from there to the city.

Canals can be either a constructed or a natural part of a city. For example, Venice is constructed in an area of low land and the canals have been used for the benefits of defense and transport.

Constructed canals would connect rivers to each other, or perhaps the sea. An extravagant city could have canals that are part of a moat system and rely on rainwater or the sea to keep it filled.

A city with extensive canals would have lots of docks and bridges or walkways to connect buildings. Cities with canals would have lots of boats for transportation of both goods and people. Would their be gondolas for hire that are polled, rowed, or towed? Would their be only one kind of power to these boats, or a mixture? Would magic be involved in powering boats?

Boats take many different sizes and shapes, from a crude log to a kayak, canoe, rowboat, barge, raft, flatboat, galleys, longboats, and sailing ships. Sails can be found on boats and ships of all sizes.


Day 1 A is for Aqueducts

A – Aqueducts/pipes/fountains/cisterns/wells/artesian wells/water towers/flood control basins/drains/Archimedes Screw/Dippers/Reservoirs

Without water to drink, a city cannot arise. There won’t be more than a large village or small town without plentiful water.

A few collected homes can manage with a nearby stream, river, or lake that does not run dry.

More reliable sources of water to avoid the problems of drought will result in wells, cisterns, rain barrels, or other means of collecting and accessing water.

The climate will affect water supply. For a large city to arise in an arid or desert region, even more water is needed to offset evaporation, or technology is needed to minimize evaporation. Unless the desert conditions developed after the city existed, and are part of the reason the city became abandoned, some consideration for this needs to be addressed in planning your city.

Except for a bunch of clerics using create water there would need to be a consistent and reliable source of water. Assume 1 gallon per person per day. And at least one gallon per animal per day. In an arid environment, drought resistant animals, like camels would be the long-haul beast of burden.

Fountains were used to make water available to the masses in the ancient world. The people would go to the fountain to collect water in jars each day.

Public and private baths. What is the cities cleanliness culture? How much water is required?

Rain cachement from runoff from roofs to underground cisterns. Such man-made or artificially enlarged caves/caverns easily make a dungeon.

Tera cotta roof tiles with terra cota drain pipes indicate a need for an industry in or near the city or easily shipped to the city from elsewhere.

Pipes or pipelike structures to aid and direct the flow of water would be well maintained in an inhabited city.

The city watch, any military outposts/castle/barracks, and the city government and leading class would have greater and more secure access to water.

Disruption of the water supply following an earthquake or other natural disaster, war, monster incursion, or “innocent” activities of player characters would result in unrest from mere grumbling to riots or organized revolt, depending on the mindset of the populace. Could some such action be the cause for the downfall of the city?

Water in excess is also bad. If there is sufficient rainfall to result in flooding of the city, rain cachement basins and storm drains to direct flood waters away from the populace would be present. Coastal cities could be subject to storm surges, tidal waves, and hurricanes. How much excess water can a city handle? Seawater and storm debris in the drinking water is not good. Usually the underground portions of aqueducts were only a few feet high and normally the water ran about half that height. Cisterns could be simple stone or cement lined pits to massive cavernous chambers like the Basilica Cistern of Constantinople that still exists in Istanbul today.

Would a sufficiently advanced magical civilization bind water elementals or other water based creatures to ensuring the continuation of the water supply? Similarly, earth elementals could be put to use in construction of passages through mountains and hills. Also wizards could do their public service using dig, rock to mud, or mud to rock, move earth, wall of stone, etc.

My campaign is a low magic setting, that is, the heights of magical creation and invention are in the past, but such past objects can still be found.

Whether a city is abandoned or not, water weirds and other water based creatures could be trapped in fountains, wells, or cisterns, or live there voluntarily.

Wells and cisterns make a good place to hide or lose something valuable. What if the party is hired to go retrieve a lost item in one of the wells or cisterns and discovers an entire under city full of adventure.

What does the local thieves/assassins guild know about the water system and any connection to an illicit trade route or a black market ran through the under city.

The water supply is separate from the sewer system. I will deal with sewers in a later posting in this series. The water supply is “clean”. What penalties would the party incur for contaminating the water supply? What if they or another actor/group cause the sewer system to flow into the water supply?

In a desert or arid region, there would be severe penalties for compromising or adversely affecting the water supply. In a region where there is less issues keeping the supply going, it would take much more to cause a problem, unless it is an authoritarian regime, or strict bureaucracy where it matters. Of course, anything to mess with the players is always fun!

In a desert or arid region, settlements might develop near oases, and oases would guide trade routes.

Water is also a source of power for mills.

Rivers, streams, lakes, seas, and oceans are also sources of food. Swamps and marshes have a surplus of water making the ground of little utility for settlements or farming. How does water and its surplus or scarcity inform existing and abandoned settlements?

Information on various ancient water technologies for further reading below:

Roman aqueducts supplied public baths, latrines, fountains and private households. Aqueducts also provided water for mining operations, milling, farms and gardens.

Fountains were originally purely functional, connected to springs or aqueducts and used to provide drinking water and water for bathing and washing to the residents of cities, towns and villages. Until the 19th century they operated by gravity.

The Nabateans of Petra had a sophisticated collection of desert based water technology. More on Nabateans with lots of pictures.

Iran – desert water transportationQanat – a series of underground connected wells that transports water over a distance. Can be used for cooling and ice storage.

The reservoirs for qanats were an anbars.

Persians had ice houses (evaporative coolers)  and Wind catchers for cooling.

Ancient Water Technologies Website


Wells specific to fortifications are Castle Wells.

Water well

Artesian Well: A water well under positive pressure.

Irrigation tools: Shadoof

Sakia or Persian Wheel

Archimedes’ Screw

Chain Pump 

Scoop Wheel – Similar to a water wheel, but works the opposite. A water wheel is water powered, but a scoop wheel is an engine powered by a windmill.

Windmill: can be used for grinding grain or draining wetlands for agriculture.

Water Mill

A type of water mill is the tide mill that uses the flow of tides rather than a river or stream.

Horse Mill: Can be used for any milling purpose, but most often grinding grain or pumping water.

Wishing Well

Fighting fires: The ancient Romans had the vigiles. They had a fire engine that was a double action pump. Until the advent of canvass wrapped rubber hose, fire hoses were made of leather with brass fittings. The first firehoses were developed in 1673, but brass rivets and brass connectors would not be outside the technology level of a fantasy world.

Saltern – Area for making salt.

[UPDATE] – I was reading an article about using the Byzantine Empire as a model for a campaign setting, and it referenced the Valens Aqueduct. It gives some information on water storage in Constantinople that is very impressive.

Following various threads, as I am wont to do when reading Wikipedia, I read of Constantinople’s three historic open air cisterns, Cistern of Mocius, Cistern of Aetius, and Cistern of Aspar, and the millions of gallons of water they allowed. These were open air cisterns built of brick and stone, not like the underground Basilica Cistern mentioned above.

[UPDATE: April 18, 2016 – I was reading an article about the puquios of Nazca, Peru, a pre-colonial water collection system. Wind goes down a spiral hole in the ground to help raise water from the ground.]

2015 A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal – Cities/Cities As Ruins/Cities As Megadungeons

Initially, I was struggling with the idea of a theme for this year’s A to Z Blogging Challenge. Last year I just picked a topic that fit the letter for that day and went with it. Then I remembered my half started project to help me deal with cities, ruined cities, and my thoughts that a large city was in many ways equivalent to a megadungeon. Indeed, a ruined city is but the surface level of a megadungeon.

I will be fleshing out general ideas and ideas for tables, and on-the-fly information for navigating a large city or ruin without advance preparation, or with a set base of preparation, like a map and a general idea of where the different quarters are, etc. Planning a ruined city relies on planning one that is inhabited, the only difference is that a ruined city needs a reason for why it is now in ruins.

This project is as much a tool to help me as it is to share my insights with others.

I will reference past articles on some of these topics. Some information I may have previously only collected information and not yet made an article. I wrote at least a rough outline of each article and have them scheduled to post. I have been going back to each one and adding, revising, cross linking, and otherwise trying to improve them. So far, I don’t have as many tables as I initially envisioned, but I do have many lists I will work to develop tables or clean up for a list of ideas on various topics. Since this topic is so much on my mind of late, I am linking to posts that have come up and continue to be published by others. One relatively new blog, Lost Kingdom, has coincidentally, published articles that tie very well into mine, and I link to their articles for more details. Trying to find the time to read all of their past articles is a challenge, but well worth the effort.

Building a city for an RPG, whether a living city, or a fallen, ancient one, requires thinking it through and populating it in a pattern that fits. Not everyone needs this level of detail to guide them in creating their cities. I often just determine that there are so many of this or that business and don’t worry about a map. This project is for improving the level of preparation by creating a sort of checklist to touch on, to help DM’s that aren’t so good at spur of the moment to have some ideas to help with improvising their cities.

I look forward to feedback and ideas to fill in gaps.

There will be new tables for some things, and my detailed slant on how to build cities/ruined cities. Of course, in the A to Z Challenge format, it won’t be a complete system, but will contain points and questions to ponder for anyone developing a city. Some of these ideas will translate into building cities for any genre of RPG.

I will quote myself from my Post-Con Write Up of Marmalade Dog 20 and a relevant conversation I had with Adam Muszkiewicz:

When Adam and I were talking the topic of random tables and drop tables and all the dice tables came up. I mentioned that I am slowly crafting an all the dice type table to help me generate area of an ancient “abandoned” city for houses, building, and other features. Adam pointed me to a display at Roy’s booth for Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad, Winter 2014, Issue #1. Pages 10 and 11 have a neighborhood generator, and pages 12 and 13 have a gang generator. The neighborhood generator has a lot of ideas that I am looking for so I bought it.

I am going to enjoy this!

All my posts on megadungeons, and cities.

I also have a list of those RPG bloggers that used the (GA) tag on the A to Z Sign Up Page. I didn’t have time to look for those that didn’t use a tag, so if you want to be on my list, just let me know your number on the sign up list. My list, 2015 A TO Z CHALLENGE – RPG BLOGGERS, is on the right side of my blog under the A To Z Challenge logo.

[UPDATE] I went to each of the RPG blogs signed up for this year’s challenge, and only a couple of them appear to be participating in the theme reveal, so I wait, as do all of us until perhaps later today, or April 1st, when the posts begin.

[UPDATE 2] Here is a link to the List of Those Signed up for the April, 2014 A to Z blogging challenge.

Magic and Technology – The Porcelain Argument

I ran across this article, The Porcelain Argument: How would the existence of magic affect technological advancement?,  on Sunday. I very much enjoyed it and it is in line with my thinking of how a high magic setting would function.

My campaign is, for humans, a now low magic setting because the ancient empire collapsed a thousand or more years ago and much ancient magical knowledge was “lost”.

Reading this article had me nodding my head in agreement.

I highly recommend it to help set the tone of your campaign’s magic and technology levels.

One interesting thought, would those who could not afford magic invest in fancy technology to try to mimic magic in an effort to appear to be in a higher social status? Hidden mechanisms for an elevator or lift, some way of igniting a light, etc.

This reminds me of a History Channel show some years ago about ancient inventors who made temple devices to make certain items in the temple move or act on their own, with wheels, pulleys, or primitive steam power. One I believe was a holy water dispenser for a coin donation. Another had a dove or other bird “fly” across the sanctuary. In a world where clerical and druidical magic is not lost other than turning from the gods or nature, how would temple technology be different from the rest of society? However, in a societal collapse, the precise applications for certain spells might be lost, if the central hierarchy of a faith was lost.

This all helps to highlight the questions: What remnants of the ancient civilization are still in use? What remnants of it are still visible? What devices both magical and non-magical might adventurers discover? Would any such devices be “set loose” and go on a rampage, or cause other mischief?

In a sandbox setting, one does not have to have all these answers until the players come close to finding them. I have a few things thought out, but as for mundane items, I have not given it much thought. This has definitely given me food for thought and started the wheels turning.

Marmalade Dog 20 – 2015 Post Con Write Up

Welcome To Marmalade Dog
Welcome To Marmalade Dog

The first slot started Friday at 3:00 PM. I was too late to join in a game, so I visited with Roy Snyder and Adam Muszkiewicz  and Pete Schwab  and others until the 7:30 PM slot when I was set to run T1 – The Village of Hommlet.

When Adam and I were talking the topic of random tables and drop tables and all the dice tables came up. I mentioned that I am slowly crafting an all the dice type table to help me generate area of an ancient “abandoned” city for houses, building, and other features. Adam pointed me to a display at Roy’s booth for Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad, Winter 2014, Issue #1. Pages 10 and 11 have a neighborhood generator, and pages 12 and 13 have a gang generator. The neighborhood generator has a lot of ideas that I am looking for so I bought it.

No one signed up for my slot, so I played in Adam Muszkiewicz‘s Kickassistan session. Roy, Pete, Andrew Moss, Jared Randall, and Laura Williams all joined in. I had never played DCC and it was great! Adam had an interesting concept. Our character sheets where blank 3×5 index cards. We rolled for random professions, and birth portents. We did not roll any stat until we needed it. Each character was first level, so we got to pick a class. Adam had different players make up why we were their based on our known information. If we were rolling for our main ability for our class we got two re-rolls, but had to put the rolls on another stat. This was with 3d6.

This was the first cooperative role playing session I had ever played. Normal roll playing is cooperative, but this was a few notches up. It gets all the players involved in making an interesting story. After the game, I talked to Adam and we were on the same wavelength and agreed that it either had to be a rules system that the GM had total mastery, or something so simple to make mastery trivial. We both agreed that Delving Deeper would be a good one. Adam had a rough idea of what he wanted to do and greatly encouraged us to come up with something creative, even if it was off the wall. The most hilarious thing was that Roy Snyder invented the Minotaur Class. It would take too long to recount all the hi-jinks the Minotaur got up to. I can’t wait to see the write up for that.

The way this worked is if one was a fighter, they rolled their strength and other associated scores when there was combat or some other reason to know that score. For wizards, we got to pick two spells and toll for two. My character rolled a secondary profession of a sage with a dagger, quill pen, and piece of parchment. Based on this, I though a wizard made sense. I rolled intelligence and it was a 13 so it gets a +1. There is a table in DCC for Mercurial Magic effects. Also there is the concept of point burns, where one can use a point of a physical ability to boost the chance of success. This point burn is temporary. So the first time I cast a spell, charm person, I elected to burn two points of strength, then I had to roll my strength, and I rolled a 4. Thankfully, I did not say I used 4 points of strength, because when an ability hits 0, you are dead. The mercurial magic effect for that spell was then rolled, and it requires spells to be cast with point burn or suffer corruption. There were two other spells that I used and found out their effect. For Flaming Hands, the effect is gender bender that lasts an hour. Finally, Color Spray had the effect of memories of a dying god. I had to roll a d20 to determine the effect. If I rolled low, the dying god would take over my body, if I rolled moderately well, I would avoid the worst, but still have to roll every time. I rolled a natural 20! Adam was amazed. By rolling a 20 this meant that I had mastered the dying god’s memories and a new one would be revealed each time I cast the spell. Plus, it supercharged my casting and I always roll a d24 instead of a d20! Each time I cast Color Spray, Adam asked different players what the specific memories were of the dying god, and it was quite entertaining. I don’t yet know what happens if I use Magic Missile or Spider Climb. I also never took a hit, so I don’t know how many hit points I have.

I like the magic system. It is simple, but requires tables to determine effects. Each spell has its own table. If one does not like fire and forget Vancian Magic, the DCC system or similar is easy to mimic. The wizard can cast their spells at will and just roll a d20 for effect. The point burn mentioned above can give a boost to help insure success. The bonuses to the roll without point burn is +1 per level and  and pluses for abilities over 12. One can add another plus for each point burned from physical abilities, Strength, Stamina, and Agility. If the roll is bad, but close to success, one can burn luck points, but those don’t regenerate, but GMs can award luck points.

The only complication to playing DCC, besides needing a new set of rules, is the need for non-standard dice and in the all the dice tables in the issue of Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad, i.e. d3, d5, d7, d14, d16, and d24. I finally got a d30 this past summer at GenCon, but need the others. By the time I decided I needed to buy more dice, the vendor selling dice had already packed up and left before the end of the night Saturday. It is easy to simulate the d3, d5, d16, and d24 using other dice. I am tired and not thinking how I would simulate the d7 and d14. If you had either a d7 or a d14 you can easily simulate the other. So, an online search for more dice may be in order.

After the game on Friday, we went to a bar and closed it. I only had one beer, since I had to drive 15 miles back home. I had not closed a bar in a long time, but we sat around talking about various RPG related topics, from systems to genres, to play, to Kickstarters, and more. It was a lot of fun!

In the first slot on Saturday I played in the DCC funnel ran by Mike Carlson. All four of my characters leveled to 1st level and survived until the last roll of the adventure. We had to make a luck roll, below our luck. One of my characters started with a 16 luck and had burned one, so I had to roll a 15 or lower and rolled a 20. Two of the remaining three characters also failed. One player had non of her four survive. The other three players had two of their characters survive. Mike made a stamp for dead characters. It had a skull and crossbones on the handle and he used red ink to stamp the dead characters as dead. We had a blast.

Dead Characters
Dead Characters

In Saturdays’ second slot, two other GMs did not have full tables, so I had 8 players for Hommlett. So as my first time running a convention game, this was the first time for only two of the players at a convention game, but they were experienced role players. It was fun to see how Adam and friends, and Pete and Roy made this their own thing. They made it to the dungeon under the keep when we ran out of time. Everyone had fun, and I asked for any advice for me. Adam and others agreed that I should have gotten them to the keep sooner for a convention game. They all agreed that I ran it well for normal play.

First Session Player's View
First Session Player’s View


First Session DM's View
First Session DM’s View


In the third slot of Saturday, I played again in Adam’s Kickassistan session, and brought my character from yesterday. It was great! I still don’t know my HP…. We had most of the players from the day before and some new ones and had a blast! Shane Harsch didn’t have anyone for his 5th edition session, so he joined in. His wizard character, mine, and another were planning great things!

Adam demonstrating how he flosses. ;)
Adam demonstrating how he flosses. 😉

Sunday, there is one slot and I ran Hommlet again. I did not have anyone signed up for my session and Pete did not have anyone for his session. Eric Piper got called into work, so his full Castles & Crusades session was cancelled and I ended up with 7 players for Hommlet. I felt that I ran it much smoother and even though Pete knew what was there from the day before, he did not meta game. This group avoided some of the trouble of yesterday’s group, but the cleric of this group went down the secret passage while the others were doing other things, and they found him dead. They rested until morning and went back to town, and I let them equip with the other cleric I had rolled. They only had one character in their group get knocked down. They got a lot farther in the lower level. It was fun and I see how I would run it differently still in a convention setting. Most of the players in this group turned out to be from the town where I lived, and we did not know each other, although two of them know my oldest son.

Second Session Hommlet
Second Session Hommlet

My analysis of running a module at a convention is that initially, I thought it would be easier, since it was all planned out. However, I did not know it as well as if I had put something together on my own. I was way over prepared. I wish I had put that much time into my own campaign, and I would have had a whole new area planned out. I am now able to run Hommlet any time with a quick review of the rules. There was talk from my first session crew of trying to finish it. I would like that, or if the second session crew wanted to keep going. Perhaps next year or at another con.

All of us who signed up to run a session are interested in meeting up for Marmalade Dog 21. If that group is there every year, I will be glad to go and run sessions and play.

Several of us also plan to go to UCon in November. I can’t wait!

My DM Badge
My DM Badge


Con Shirt Front
Con Shirt Front
Con Shirt Back
Con Shirt Back

Resources and Their Source

I have a BA (Bachelor of Arts) degree in History. I like the ancient and medieval period, Meopatamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, etc. I like following different websites and one of those is the archaeology page on

Last week they had an article about Roman aqueducts.

That article got me to thinking about other types of construction, like Roman roads, buildings, city walls, etc. I have ancient cities that I will need to plan at some point in my campaign. Large cities need things like water and food, which mean ancient wells, cisterns, canals, irrigation, aqueducts, etc. and ancient fields and farms. Farms for simplicity sake would include cropland, grazing land for herds, fishing banks along the coast or a lake or river.

Huge stone structures require quarries for the source material. Abandoned quarries and still used quarries would be places an adventure might turn. Granite, marble, sandstone, etc.

Large building project of wood, whether a temple, fort, fleet of ships, or housing for the masses will require access to a large amount of forest. Were ancient forests depleted, are they restored to their former bounds after a thousand years? Stone building projects usually rely on wood for bracing and scaffolding. Without fast growing wood or woody plants, like bamboo, a large city would quickly deforest a huge area. How do sylvan creatures, elves, and druids react to this?

Metals require mines for coinage, armor, weapons, tools, etc. Copper, silver, tin, gold, platinum, iron, mithril, adamantite, etc. FYI – Copper and tin make bronze, copper and zinc make brass. The working of metals will require either large forests to supply wood for making charcoal, or coal mines for coal.

The above mentioned herds for food would also supply the leather for armor, belts, pouches, saddles, etc. Exotic herds could be culled for exotic leather items.

Other types of materials used in civilization are bricks, from simple mud dried bricks of earth, straw, and water, to fired bricks of clay. Again back to using wood for charcoal or mining coal to handle a large number of brick buildings and walls.

Glass is not a necessity, but does require sand and other ingredients, plus wood for charcoal or coal from coal mines to fire it.

Add to that the bakers in a huge city and all their ovens for bread.

One does not need to stat out or write up every little detail of an ancient city. However, keep these things in mind when there is a city or town adventure in a living town or the remains of such things in and ancient ruin of a town or city. For example, the fountains of Rome were the pressure release for the aqueduct system and were the source of fresh water for those who could not afford to have water piped to their homes. Will there be ancient fountains that are silted in, but contain coins from wishes? Or fountains filled with rainwater, but stagnant and smelly, but also have coins, or a monster and coins?

Roads are needed to connect cities and towns, to tie an ancient empire together. Roads, walls, and buildings can all be constructed using mud to rock, for sandstone; or wall of stone, for granite. Yes, they can be dispelled, but in AD&D you have to be a high enough level to do it. If an ancient empire was magic rich and had lots of high-level friendly wizards making buildings, it would explain a lack of or fewer quarries than is otherwise needed. Was a temple devoted to creating food for the masses, and the cities thus needed fewer farms and herds? I can see a very lawful civilization doing such things. Would there be ancient magical fountains that never ran out of water? Magic bread ovens that never ran out of bread?

What problems and challenges of modern civilization would a high magic society be able to solve using magic as their technology?

  • Sanitation: Sewers send it all to a pit of a permanent disintegration to avoid stink and disease. Or if they didn’t have that level of magic available, would use carrion crawlers and otyughs.
  • Construction/Infrastructure: Magic to assist with building roads, walls, forts, castles, etc.
  • Ships and wooden construction: Cooperation and trade with sylvan creatures, elves, or druids would provide all the needed wood while preserving the bounds of the forests.
  • Food and Water: Can be created magically, as suggested above.
  • Communication: Crystal balls, palantirs, mirrors, or other devices could facilitate communication between an emperor/king and his governors, nobles, and generals.
  • Travel:  Magically created roads for the less well to do and caravans. Teleportation rooms/chambers/stations for travel between cities, or across cities, or to neighboring kingdoms.
  • Trade: By the use of superior and coordinated magic in the running of an empire, it could simplify trade due to superior communication and travel capabilities.
  • Health: Sanitation as described above. Health care by clerics of temples.
  • Education: There would be great centers of learning, colleges and universities for the study of magic for the benefit of all. Great temples and seminaries for the study of divine magic.
  • Light: Donations to temples or commerce with wizards would mean everyone has a bulls eye lantern with continual light. Streetlights would have continual light. There would be less need for candles and lamp oil, other than for the poor or ritual use.

A strongly lawful society learning to good with a high level of magic would have a tendency to have these things. War would be far off and the orcs and goblins would be far away, just a story to most people. But if something happened like a strange disease that spread rapidly via the teleport system faster than it could be cured, chaos would ensue. The chaos caused could bring down the whole system. Wizards who survive try to keep things going and end up fighting for turf, thus accelerating the collapse. Troops are needed to keep order, generals who are lawful, but not good would be tempted to pay orcs and goblins to help fill their depleted ranks. Soon wizards are mistrusted and on the run. Civilization as we know it is gone, cities are abandoned as the masses flea disease and civil war. All the neat things that the ancients knew are mostly lost to the knowledge of all but a few after a thousand years. This is the scenario of my campaign. The players don’t know or need to know any of this, just that centuries ago, there was a lot of magic and many wonderful things that a brave and successful adventurer can find.

In a way, my campaign is a “post apocalyptic” world, but there is no radiation and mutants. Although there might be strange creatures brought about by ancient wizards and their experiments. There are powerful ancient artifacts and devices that require study to use without destroying one’s self.

City Districts Posted on G+ World Building Community

I posted this comment and question about names for districts/quarters in towns and cities on the G+ World Building Community.

I am working on ideas for different districts/quarters for towns and cities in a fantasy (D&D) setting.

I have come up with a few from memory and my own ideas:
– Temple quarter
– Wizard quarter
– Royal & Noble quarter
– Government/Bureaucracy quarter
– Merchant’s quarter
– Non-human quarter (for areas where they don’t just mingle right in)
– Rich/Poor
– Docks/Wharves/Shipyards
– Thieve’s quarter

I then turned to Google, and Jerusalem and it’s four quarters, based on religion, tends to predominate the results. I found that old cities often had 3 to 5 quarters, Paris has 18 districts. Usually, there is the old town/city which may or may not be a citadel/acropolis/medina.

So a lot of them also have government quarters, lower/upper town, old town/city, and royal quarter.

I am curious what sorts of Districts/Areas/Quarters/Divisions of town and cities do you have/use?

I have one large ancient abandoned city that I am working on ideas to help with dealing with the players running around it. I have a general idea of what is where, and then am adding my own ideas to some city tables I have found on various blogs to generate some things ahead of time, but also to have on hand for on the fly generation as needed.

It is tricky to avoid every other house/building being the same without some options to help mix it up.

NOTE: I see developing large ancient cities whether active or ruins as related to megadungeons, and it may just be the above ground level of a megadungeon.