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Thursday, 27th December, 2007, 04:28 PM #1
Gallant (Lvl 3)
Notes for a New Campaign City, Parsantium
I’ve been doing some thinking recently about running my next (possibly 4e) campaign set in a homebrew world, rather than using the World of Greyhawk or the Forgotten Realms as I’ve done for most of my games in the last 20 years. So far I’ve written a few notes on the city of Parsantium which would be where the campaign would be based and thought it would be fun to post these here and maybe get some feedback from ENWorlders.
The idea behind the city is that it’s a cultural crossroads, a melting pot. Elements have been ripped shamelessly from history, fantasy fiction and D&D settings. Some of the names are placeholders until I come up with something better; others have been stolen from various sources and might change too.
The City at the Crossroads
Metropolis, Conventional, AL LN, 100,000 gp limit, Assets 380,000,000 gp, Population 76,267 (racial mix tbc but includes dwarves, half-orcs, halflings, gnolls; few elves or gnomes)
The Free City of Parsantium stands astride the wide and slow-moving Dolphin Strait where the Griffin Water joins with the Corsairs’ Sea, and is thus at the crossroads of two continents and more importantly, four trade routes. Parsantium and its surrounding countryside and farms is ruled by Basileus (“sovereign”) Corandias XVIII the Lion-Blooded, direct descendent of the famous Batiaran conqueror and mighty general, Corandias I the Magnificent. Corandias’ wife, Thecia, is often referred to by disgruntled citizens as “that scheming enchantress”. The Basilieus is advised by his loyal vizier and wizard Arridaeus, himself a descendent of Corandias the Magnificent’s vizier. The day-to-day administration of the city is delegated to a Prefect, the coldly efficient and uncharismatic Bardas.
The city is divided into three quarters, each governed by a tribune and reporting to Bardas the prefect. The Imperial Quarter is on the north-west side of the strait, the Mercantile Quarter is on a central island, and the Old Quarter is on the southeast side. These quarters are further divided into wards: eleven in total. The layout of the city and the fact that the Batiaran rich tend to live on the northwest side of the strait while the poor (many of Sahasran or Akhrani origin) live on the southeast side makes Parsantium a divided city. This is made worse by restrictions on commoners from the Old Quarter visiting the Imperial Quarter – they need a pass which is only issued for those on “special business”. Unsurprisingly, there is a thriving black market dealing in stolen or forged passes, and many would-be burglars disguise themselves as nobility to sneak into the Imperial Quarter. However, since many of the residents of the Old Quarter are Sahasran in ancestry and therefore darker-skinned than the Batiarans of the Imperial Quarter, some of the guards are known to make racist assumptions about who is a commoner and needs to show a pass.
The basileus’ palace and the Holy Basilica of Pelor are located on the north-west side of the city (the Imperial Quarter) which is also home to the decadent and wealthy noble class. A large coliseum stages chariot races and gladiatorial contests which are very popular amongst rich and poor alike. This part of the city also houses the Great Library and the dwarven district.
The central island (Mercantile Quarter) is home to one of the world’s largest markets: goods arrive here by sea from the Caliphate of Akhran to the south west, from Tiangao to the east overland on the Silk Road, from the city-states of the now-fallen Batiaran Empire to the northwest and from the kingdom of Sahasra across the Pillars of Heaven mountains to the southeast. As you might imagine, almost anything can be obtained here as long as the buyer can afford it. A bronze colossus, 100 feet high, depicting Corandias the Magnificent stands in the centre of the marketplace.
The southeastern part of the city (the Old Quarter) is nearly as cosmopolitan as the market: here there are temples to gods of Sahasra, Akhran and Tiangao, as well as coffee shops and teahouses. Also located here are dojos teaching the fighting traditions of the mountain temples, and the mysterious Esoteric Order of the Blue Lotus (an arcanists’ guild with wu jen and sha’irs as well as wizards and sorcerers as members). This is also where most of the poorer districts and slums can be found, including the homes of the Sahasran poor, half-orcs and gnolls.
Parsantium was founded in the distant past by Sahasran refugees fleeing through the snow-filled passes of the Pillars of Heaven Mountains to escape the dark empire of Kadar and its fell sorcerors and geomancers. About a thousand years ago it was conquered by Corandias the Magnificent and subsequently grew in importance, becoming a powerful city and trading hub for the region. With Corandias’ death in battle with the fearsome striped centaurs of the Great Grass Sea, his empire was divided up by his opportunistic generals since his son and heir was only three years old. In the centuries that followed, repeated invasions by orcs, hobgoblins and gnolls led to the break up of the Empire. Parsantium itself was sacked several times during this period, before being recaptured from the hands of an infidel humanoid "king" 100 years ago by Corandias XVI the Stubborn. New, very thick, city walls were built, trade opened up to the east with Tingao along the Silk Road and the city’s prosperity increased again.
The city, like its inhabitants, is a mixture of styles. In the northwest district, [Batiaran] architecture dominates: there is a lot of marble, and buildings have columned entrances, with pediments and friezes along the top decorated with sculptures. Others are topped with domes and decorated inside with beautiful mosaics. To the southeast, there are shining gold-domed mosques and exotic-looking Sahasran temples covered in colourful painted carvings of gods and heroes. Throughout the city, however, inns tend to be built around courtyards with a cool fountain in the centre and filled with shady palm trees.
Still need come up with these! There will be several dungeons under the city itself, including some ghoul tunnels under the cemetery. The Feyshore Forest is a couple of days travel outside of Parsantium near the Griffin Water and contains some ancient Sahasran ruins… In addition, I am hoping to come up with a bunch of urban adventures tied in to the city and its diverse inhabitants.
Any comments or ideas much appreciated!
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Thursday, 27th December, 2007, 07:24 PM #2
The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
Okay, I walk into Parsantium. What are the food vendors selling? What does it look like? What's my first impression going to be, good or bad, and what tourist site am I going to want to go see?
(And this is really good. I'm wrestling with some of these issues for my next campaign, so it's fun to see what you've done.)
Friday, 28th December, 2007, 04:16 AM #3
Lama (Lvl 13)
just a thought
Scotley and I called the districts in our city of Lauralie Summerhome "Wards" for some reason. I guess because that's what they are called in my home city. Anyway, I've never been truly happy with that, but the only term I could think of to replace "wards" is "precincts", which I like even less. "District" or "quarter" are good choices, and, I guess "ward" is good, too. Maybe there's a term out there that's better suited to a fantasy setting, though. But when it's all said and done, it's not the names that you use for the districts, it's the quality of the setting and the vibrancy of the npcs that will make it come to life. Good luck, and Happy Designing!
Friday, 28th December, 2007, 08:47 AM #4
Gallant (Lvl 3)
These are great questions and I need to do some thinking about the answers! Certainly, there will be a noticeable difference in feel if you enter through the south-east rather than the north-west gates. Will have a go at writing some flavour text for each.Originally Posted by Piratecat
Friday, 28th December, 2007, 08:50 AM #5
Gallant (Lvl 3)
Quarters sounds good, but can you have just three? Maybe I need to divide the bigger northwest district into two halves?Originally Posted by Leif
Friday, 28th December, 2007, 05:31 PM #6
Lama (Lvl 13)
Yeah, I used to struggle with that same idea. I mean, would that mean that you only have three-fourths of a city?? But then, I changed the definition of "quarter" that I was mentally using, and began to think of a "Quarter" in the sense of "living space" instead of a finite fraction of a whole city. [See, Webster's definition #8a: [a quarter is] "a division or district of a town or city."] On Star Trek, when someone is "confined to quarters", does that mean that they must immediately separate into four pieces of equal size? heheOriginally Posted by RichGreen
Friday, 28th December, 2007, 06:42 PM #7
Gallant (Lvl 3)
LOL! In that case, the northwest is the Imperial Quarter, the central marketplace is the Mercantile Quarter and the southeast part is the Old Quarter as this was founded first by the Sahasrans fleeing the sorcerors of Kadar. I also need to name the two city gates - these could be named after heroes of the city.Originally Posted by Leif
Some other thoughts:
- the inhabitants of each quarter of the city support their own chariot-racing team: the Blues, Greens & Whites. This is a bit like Celtic & Rangers in Glasgow or AS Roma & Lazio in Rome - each team's supporters share religious, political and/or cultural affiliations.
- street food includes kebabs on skewers, squab-on-a-stick, cheese pastres, thick hunks of bread smeared with tomato paste and olive oil and stuffed vine leaves
- the south-east gate is a chaotic jumble of camels, bullock-drawn carts, crippled beggars, snake charmers and eunuch/transvestite hustlers. By contrast, the north-west gate is much more peaceful and organised. What few beggars (mostly kids) are chased away by the guards whenever a noble is carried past on her palanquin.
- outside the coffee shops, old men sit grumbling about business, smoking sheeshah and playing backgammon.
- one of the most popular spots in the Old Quarter with both visitors and resident young lovers is the white marble Garden Mausoleum of Hulieman -- a beautiful domed building set in tree-lined grounds which survived several attacks on the city and now serves as a public park.
Friday, 28th December, 2007, 08:54 PM #8
Scout (Lvl 6)
Don't forget the Caravanserai
Merchants visiting the city invariably make their way to the Caravanserai a low stone wall enclosing an extensive courtyard where merchants and visitors can raise their tents and pavilions. Here the smell of coffee and spices mingles with the dung of camels, horses and even bullocks being housed, feed and watered for the night. Picking your way towards the large guest house at the far end of the courtyard you ...
Originally Posted by IcyCoolSpoiler:
Saturday, 29th December, 2007, 10:14 AM #9
Gallant (Lvl 3)
Good point - I'll incorporate a caravanserai near the SE gate in the Old Quarter.Originally Posted by Tonguez
Saturday, 29th December, 2007, 03:30 PM #10
The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
To be more realistic, you'll want more teams than just 3. A good example is the famous Palio in Siena, Italy.Originally Posted by RichGreen
One option is to split each neighborhood up into three sections, giving you nine teams. Another option is to have each deity's temple sponsor a team. But intra- and inter-neighborhood rivalries are a GREAT source of adventures.
Either way, this is really fun. I did something similar in Eversink, where each merchant house sponsored a boat in a race through the canals.
Last edited by Piratecat; Saturday, 29th December, 2007 at 03:40 PM.
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