City Adventures (…again)

This time last week I was musing about city adventures. It seemed a common theme that the crux of the problem was that most city adventures involve wrong doing, and that there would always be people better suited to dealing with wrong doers than a heavily armed gang of vigilantes, or PCs as we like to call them.

The core of this months fanzine is city adventures. I think I came up with a pair of interesting and exciting situations for players to try and unravel.

As I was finishing writing the issue, I started to reflect and at the time what struck me was that what I was offering took this form (under th ehood, not literally)

  • These are the bad guys
  • These are their plans
  • This is how they carry them out
  • This is how the PCs can get caught up in this mess

I know GMs that love that structure. It gives them great flexibility to play out the ‘adventure’ in their own style. What it isn’t is a dungeon in city clothes.

For city adventures, palace intrigues/assassinations/insurrections are over done.

Equally, the sewers seem to be the ‘go to’ place to put the bad guys.

It is the middle ground that appears to be the hardest territory to run something. That is where the town guard walk the streets, where inconvenient witnesses could see too much.

If I were writing up and adventure idea for my own game, then I may happily burn a city to the ground. I could then run adventures arround the rebuilding. Doing that in someone else’s game is possibly overstepping the mark.

In adventures I have previously published, I have burned cities to the ground, open portals to the time of dinosaurs, had them ripped apart by active trees/treants, and infected them with the plague.

The common factor is that the city becomes the canvas against which the adventure takes place. In the city burning, there is only one potential combat encounter, but the adventure is best served by talking the situation out, not by killing the person that is being awkward.

In the dinosaur adventure it is pure hack and slash with T. Rexes in the street and pterodactyls in the air and big swishing tails mashing through the fronts of buildings.

The Treants may or may not have been borrowed from Isengard, an idea I can neither confirm or deny. Only this time the characters are on the inside of the ring of trees.

With the plague city/town, it is almost a casual obstacle in the characters way. They are supposed to resupply in the next town, when you get there is it is closed because of the plague. No supplies, no rest, but there could well be a chance to earn some serious brownie points and reputation.

What has struck me is, in the same way that the most dangerous threat that a PC can meet is an NPC, they are much more dangerous than any monster, so it is with city adventures. What makes the adventures work are the NPCs and their plans.

The actual setting is backdrop, even more so than in a dungeon or in teh wilderness.

2 Replies to “City Adventures (…again)”

  1. But the best part is you get to stay alive! Well until the cities de facto ruler decides you shouldn’t and drags you from the cell to the hanging tree.

    You may not get treasure but you do gain reputation and that can buy you a place at a table to eat or favourable costs for every day or even unusual items. It can be about who you know and what you know.

    The fighter doesn’t get to gobble up all the XP from monsters, nor the mage from fireballing everything out of existence. The healer really doesn’t have much to do either. Your “standard” adventuring party has to think on its feet. Which stops the game from being all about level progression.

    There is a lot to be said for a good city break.

    1. It was certainly a challenge writing them.

      In a big enough city, you could run all of the above at once. Burndown a quarter, have dinosaurs terrorise another, an outbreak of plague. Then you layer on some organised crime just for continuity’s sake.

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