(Discussion) City of Orussus Description




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  1. #1

    (Discussion) City of Orussus Description

    I started this thread as a place where we could kick around ideas for fleshing out the city of Orussus without cluttering up the main discussion thread. The idea here is to accumulate enough material to form a proposal for a good city description.
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    Quote Originally Posted by El Jefe
    I started this thread as a place where we could kick around ideas for fleshing out the city of Orussus without cluttering up the main discussion thread. The idea here is to accumulate enough material to form a proposal for a good city description.
    Here's a suggestion: the supreme governing body is a council composed of representatives of the city's important organizations, such as the university, various guilds, and possibly large trading companies. The council serves as legislative body as well as appointing executive and judicial authorities.

    Several reasons I like this kind of arrangement. It leaves open the possibility for higher-level PCs, through associated organizations, to get involved in local politics (potential plot hooks later on), while keeping political complications distant when there isn't a planned hook. A syndicalist arrangement de-emphasizes family status, so PCs with no history in Orussus can establish themselves as important players -- keeping options open. Entrenched republican traditions could fit in well with Creamsteak's idea of a legalistic system -- no special privileges, at least not legally recognized, inherent in noble birth.

  • #3
    I think we can divine a few things about the inhabitants of Orussus from this fragment of the Living ENWorld Encyclopedia.

    Note that the most significant building in town is the High Court of Orussus. In pre-human times, this was a temple. Now, if you look at real human history, in most ancient or midieval cities, the largest building in town was either a temple or church of some sort, a palace, a forum (marketplace), a stadium, baths or (near the end of the midieval period) a town hall. The good people of Orussus could have chosen to put the old temple to any of these uses, but they did not. Evidently the rule of law and the institution of the courts is very important to them.

    I don't think this is at all at odds with the idea that Orussus is a crossroads town and port, drawing all sorts of strange and chaotic types from hither and yon. While travelers, merchants, and thieves come and go, the permanent residents have to find a way to live with all the hustle and bustle, and still maintain some sort of peace. Given that, I don't find it odd at all that the city proper has a decidedly lawful bent.

    In this case, lawfullness doesn't necessarily mean choking bureaucracy. Indeed, that would be the downfall of a busy port and trade center...excessive taxes and regulation would simply drive business to some location near town, but not in it. Rather, I would think Orussus's lawful tendancies to manifest themselves as a strong belief in using the city's standing institutions to solve problems as opposed to an "every man for himself" philosophy. A common creed might be that come what may, so long as the decisions of the High Court are just and all are treated fairly, we'll all find a way to get along.

    The consequences of this are that the standing institutions are well provided for, competent, and efficient. I think we've all seen this reflected by the town guard: In Rivenblight's Castaway, they have little interest in affairs outside the city (so long as city affairs are properly tended to), and in the recent duel outside the Red Dragon, the response of the guard was prompt (30 seconds response time) and efficient (all suspects in custody and facing justice after a single round). Further, the justice that the duelists faced was well-honed...they were free to go as soon as they peaceably resolved their dispute, and not one moment before. Although interaction with the city institutions won't always be this slick, we can expect things to generally work well because the citizens of Orussus care for things to work well.

    Now, government by council (probably meeting in an impressive chamber in the High Court) is very appropriate to this sort of city. There are probably longstanding regulations governing how many representatives each guild, group, or organization seats. Also, Orussus is a free city, which means that it is not beholden to any lord, king or nation, and both considers itself and is considered by others as capable of managing its own affairs. Finally, note that there is no king, emir, or overlord ruling the city...if so, surely his palace would be more noteworthy than the High Court. Perhaps there is a special mansion for the Mayor to live in so long as he holds the post, but this would not be overly ostentatious (perhaps no more than 2 or 3 times the size of a typical wealthy merchant's home) and would not "belong" to him once out of office. I'd also expect the office of mayor to rotate between the various groups, perhaps regulated by statute...
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    I really love the way you put that... and I totally think things can swing in that direction. Orussus started as a nickel and dime idea with the start of LEW "well we need a tavern to congregate in... what about the red dragon inn? sounds just generic enough to be awesome for this project..." and has slowly grown into what I think makes for a very interesting city to play in. I like the way you sort of capture the city as reasonable and caring, but also responsible and willing to do what's necessary.
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  • #5
    I'd like to expound a little bit on the size of the city. Again, from the encyclopedia:

    Thanks to the "large sewer system", there are "hundreds of ways in and out of the city that one can use without being seen". That implies a fair-sized city. The map we saw in the other thread, by my count, is suitable for a city of about 2-3000. I think Orussus is bigger than that.

    Looking for real world examples, only fairly large cities had sewers. Even London didn't have a network of sewers that we would recognize until the Renaissance was pretty much over. Paris is a poor example, mainly because it's underground was dug up and rebuilt several times over as the city grew. Rome numbered over a million inhabitants at it's height. It's true that the Cloaca Maxima was built when the city was much smaller, but even that wasn't needed until the city had completely covered the Palatine hill and was rapidly filling in the swamp we now now as the site of the Roman Forum. That's right, the Cloaca Maxima was conceived less as a sanitary sewer and more as a public-works style "drain the swamp" project.

    But if we go back, back to the very earliest sewers, they belong to the now-abandoned city of Knossos on Crete. It's hard to tell just how big the city was when the very first sewers were laid, but when it was abandoned about 1500 BC after a series of earthquakes and invasions, it had a perimeter of about 3.5 miles (the same as a circle 1.1 miles in diameter). That implies a population of between 50,000 and 100,000.

    Now from the encyclopedia, the sewers "could provide service for a city twice the size of Orussus". I'd say that implies that the pre-human city of minotaurs that forms the ruins beneath Orussus would be about the size of ancient Knossos, especially if there are "hundreds" of secret entrances. "Twice the size of Orussus" could mean twice the population, twice the area, or twice the diameter (2x as big a "spot" on the map). Twice the population would imply that Orussus occupies about half the area of the old city, which would be a circle about 3/4 of a mile in diameter. Twice the diameter would mean Orussus has 1/4 the population of the old city, and that would be a circle about 2900 feet in diameter.

    So, depending on population density, my estimate of the population of Orussus would range from 12,500 (for a city half the diameter of one that once held 50,000) to 50,000 (for one that had half the population of one that crammed 100,000 in a 1.1 mile circle).

    Even 12,500 would be an ambitious mapping project if we took it down to the level of every shop, house, warehouse and shed. But maybe a simplified streetmap wouldn't be too bad, showing the principal places of interest.
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    Ah, but... I'd gottenthe impression that the "sewers", aren't necessarily sewers, are obviously far too large for a cityof its size, and at least have portions that definitely predate the current city.

    In which case... 2-3000 wouldn't be unreasonable, and it gives me a great for that particular town map, and a couple possible adventure hooks.

    Don't forget that the vast majority of the town's population would be transient adventurers. Think of it as a sort of 'boom' town or 'tourist' town. All of its facilities and resources are going to be five to ten times what the permanent population requires.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pbartender
    Ah, but... I'd gottenthe impression that the "sewers", aren't necessarily sewers, are obviously far too large for a cityof its size, and at least have portions that definitely predate the current city.

    In which case... 2-3000 wouldn't be unreasonable, and it gives me a great for that particular town map, and a couple possible adventure hooks.

    Don't forget that the vast majority of the town's population would be transient adventurers. Think of it as a sort of 'boom' town or 'tourist' town. All of its facilities and resources are going to be five to ten times what the permanent population requires.
    The "vast majority"? When was that decided? Don't forget it's a trade port, and that's going to account for a lot of business and support a significant population. Also a transient community, and a lot of services supporting them, but the people providing the services live in the town too. That'll make it a good-sized town.

    The largest cities, however, would be capitals or administrative centers of larger countries or regions, and it doesn't sound like Orussus is that. So I'd say probably somewhere between 10,000 and 25,000.

    I'd prefer toward the upper end of that range. The larger the city, the more potential for a wide range or organizations and activities that can provide plot hooks.

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    Some thoughts

    - Personally, I like the idea of a ruling council better than mayor and council. If there's a mayor, then he's probably got final say - more power, anyhow. If it's just the council, then more things will be decided by vote, and that will mean more interesting politics. That isn't to say that there wouldn't be a (perhaps rotating) President of the Council, who runs the meetings, but it would be more of an honorary position than a powerful one.

    - The encyclopedia entry mentions that minotaurs once lived there. Could it be that at least part of the "sewers" are in fact the labyrinthine underground portion of their city? Minotaurs being minotaurs, they wouldn't have gotten lost down there, and with an underground tunnel system, they could have made their entire city virtually a fortress (for purposes of protection should they be attacked).

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    Quote Originally Posted by CCamfield
    - Personally, I like the idea of a ruling council better than mayor and council. If there's a mayor, then he's probably got final say - more power, anyhow. If it's just the council, then more things will be decided by vote, and that will mean more interesting politics. That isn't to say that there wouldn't be a (perhaps rotating) President of the Council, who runs the meetings, but it would be more of an honorary position than a powerful one.
    I would think any government needs some sort of executive position with the authority to make snap decisions in a crisis without having to convene a council. It could be a relatively weak executive, and I don't care whether you call it a mayoralty, but there ought to be someone.

  • #10

    CIty Size

    It seems like we have one vote for 2-3000, another for about 12,500, and a third for 25,000. For reasons of consistency, I think it would be best if we (meaning the entire LEW community, not just the 3 of us) could reach a consensus. It would bother me to have Orussus portrayed as a very small town in one adventure, one where "everybody knows everybody in town", and then to have it portrayed as very large in another, one where two citizens could live out their entire lives in the city without even so much as hearing of the other.

    Is this a suitable subject for a poll?
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