5E 5e Urban campaigns - Page 3
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  1. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by TerraDave View Post
    But thats also the problem. In the more standard FRPG genre, you don't want that choice most of the time. Its easier not to have it. You may want the option...but then that should come with some penalty or require using certain weapons or tactics (like the bag of gold).

    What am I talking about? The characters have lethal weapons (swords...fireballs) that they need to defend themselves as they selflessly salvage lost items (which they selflessly keep) or they need these to stand up to some evil. They don't want to kill a bunch of things, but thats just what happens in this dangerous world. The don't have a choice.
    Well first you do need to use certain weapons, melee weapons. There is no striking to subdue with fireballs and quarrels.

    Second, in many if not most fights the PCs are the aggressors. If they didn't want to kill someone they didn't need to boot the door. They had a choice and they made it.

    Third even in the modern age it considered perfectly appropriate to respond to lethal force with lethal force even if you have alternatives. A cop will not get in trouble if he reaches for his gun instead of his taser when he is shot at.

    Lastly, outside of a city setting, leaving foes alive, without weapons, at 1hp, and without providing supplies, is not actually sparing them. You're just farming the deaths out to the first wandering encounter to come by. Hopefully it's not one of the races which considers torture an art form.

  2. #22
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    The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)

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    Quote Originally Posted by ccooke View Post
    I set most of my 5e playtests in a megacity setting that came into my head one day.
    The basic premise is a city roughly the size of France and Spain combined (or about 1/8 of the land area of the USA). It's ancient and densely packed, running from a coastline of cliffs and sunken docks in the west to a continent-spanning desert in the east. The City has never had a central government - it's just too big. Legends tell of a couple of times when an individual was able to conquer enough of the city to name themselves Emperor, but none of these lasted past a couple of decades (usually falling to the squabbles of the generals once the original guiding force died).
    Without any central power, the city is organised into districts - walled cities-within-the-City. There are tens of thousands of districts in the city, more than any single person could ever visit. Some districts band together into fiefdoms, with a few being quasi-nations in their own right with shared legal codes and culture. Each district is surrounded by a wall (for the older districts, a succession of overlapping walls as it expands). The walls themselves are magical and almost impossible to bring down.

    Somewhere between a quarter and a third of the city is outside any surviving district, though - this area is called the Fill, consisting of slums, ruins and abandoned districts. Every few generations, a new domain arises from it... or sinks back into it. Some ancient domains have been sealed up magically, either as a result of magic or plague in the past; some parts have gone wild, with thick forests growing above and around urban decay.

    The basic services of the city are provided by a number of powerful city-wide Guilds - one which maintains the major trade roads (and polices them; think lawful neutral paladin-nomads), one which maintains the sewers and aqueducts (as above, so below). One secretive group that manipulate the stone of the city walls (creating new walls around districts where needed, maintaining the old ones... and sealing up entire districts to halt the spread of disease and other contagions). One guild (really an alliance of many smaller guilds) that manages the flow of trade, concentrating mainly on staple foods (the most common of which is a long, starchy mushroom which can be grown on any stone surface with a little water and a simple magical ritual. When boiled, they have a bland, nutty flavour and look quite a lot like thick noodles. It makes terrible beer, which is considered traditional in most of the poorer parts of the City).
    The guilds mostly recruit from the Fill, where they run schools and academies - and can better influence the loyalty of the students.

    Obviously I have a good bit more setting detail in my notes, including a few bits and pieces on how such a large city can function (magic, obviously, but I have notes on the where and how), how it came to be, etc. It's been a fun setting to use - I've set a string of one and two session adventures in it, with the PCs all affiliated with a thieves guild (and the players told to generate any character they liked who had at least one feature that made them fit in the thieves guild (trickery domain for a cleric, illusion for a wizard, any race that's good at hiding, any background with thieves tools, stealth, deception, etc.
    Great premise...can't xp you again yet.


    "My favorite part of DMing is making whatever interests the characters important. Or at least seem important." - James Wyatt

    Unconquered Kingdoms, Obsidian Portal July 2016 Campaign of the Month

  3. #23
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    Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)

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    Quote Originally Posted by TerraDave View Post
    I have a big issue with that rule, which comes from 4E, where I had a big issue with it.

    First, for you and what you describe, it may work great. Essentially you are shifting in the genre a little, and what you describe sounds great.

    As in a supers game and probably some others, it creates that situation where damage is usually non-lethal, and someone will make a choice to "take someone out"... permanently, which is an interesting choice.

    But thats also the problem. In the more standard FRPG genre, you don't want that choice most of the time. Its easier not to have it. You may want the option...but then that should come with some penalty or require using certain weapons or tactics (like the bag of gold).

    What am I talking about? The characters have lethal weapons (swords...fireballs) that they need to defend themselves as they selflessly salvage lost items (which they selflessly keep) or they need these to stand up to some evil. They don't want to kill a bunch of things, but thats just what happens in this dangerous world. The don't have a choice.

    Think about how lethal force is justified in real life. If you change reality, so that swords are just as effective in doing non-lethal damage, but you kill anyways, what does that imply about the killers? Robust adventure (or military action, or police action) becomes much more genocidal.

    I think that rule work because people ignore it. If you think about it, its a problem for games that are not 1) like a supers game (A team style!) where lethal force is rare or the other extreme 2) where everything that dies should because it deserves to (which probably would include the PCs at some point, I guess completing the circle). If the game is in between, that rule creates a bad choice, over and over again.
    Your point is taken, but my take on it is that's why we are also seeing the nuances in the alignment rules. Evil races are mostly intrinsically evil. Even the half-orc has to struggle with the evil tendencies of his orcish heritage. Some creatures are completely intrinsically evil. A devil is a devil because he's lawful evil, and if his alignment changes somehow, he's no longer a devil. Those were examples in the RAW.

    So when you're outside the city walls or crawling through a dungeon, you can slay orcs without as much guilt or the accusation of being murder hobos.

  4. #24
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    @Andor and @Gargoyle

    I don't really disagree, but there situations where that rule complicates things. What if the enemies are elves, or I decide orcs are not all evil (or decide that intrinsic evil is not a reason to kill something as they are just acting in there nature).

    I guess I am saying the rule does not help. It also does not help to capture someone in a way that tactically interesting, which is another story. But yes, for a lot of games, you can basically ignore it.

  5. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gargoyle View Post
    Your point is taken, but my take on it is that's why we are also seeing the nuances in the alignment rules. Evil races are mostly intrinsically evil. Even the half-orc has to struggle with the evil tendencies of his orcish heritage. Some creatures are completely intrinsically evil. A devil is a devil because he's lawful evil, and if his alignment changes somehow, he's no longer a devil. Those were examples in the RAW.

    So when you're outside the city walls or crawling through a dungeon, you can slay orcs without as much guilt or the accusation of being murder hobos.
    I have a soap box, define evil in your game. Just let the players know what is evil; things like cannibalism, worshipping X, Y & Z gods, cold-blooded murder, slavery, races (normally because they worship X, Y, & Z gods), etc. What this does is create a line in the sand for your players and build culture taboos in your game. Even if a player performs an evil act, they can look for forgiveness from the gods and it allows you to keep "score" on when to change a characters alignment, example 10 evil acts will result in alignment change or not asking for forgiveness within a period of time.

  6. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by TerraDave View Post
    @Andor and @Gargoyle

    I don't really disagree, but there situations where that rule complicates things. What if the enemies are elves, or I decide orcs are not all evil (or decide that intrinsic evil is not a reason to kill something as they are just acting in there nature).

    I guess I am saying the rule does not help. It also does not help to capture someone in a way that tactically interesting, which is another story. But yes, for a lot of games, you can basically ignore it.
    I think that's a very fair statement.

  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hand of Evil View Post
    I have a soap box, define evil in your game. Just let the players know what is evil; things like cannibalism, worshipping X, Y & Z gods, cold-blooded murder, slavery, races (normally because they worship X, Y, & Z gods), etc. What this does is create a line in the sand for your players and build culture taboos in your game. Even if a player performs an evil act, they can look for forgiveness from the gods and it allows you to keep "score" on when to change a characters alignment, example 10 evil acts will result in alignment change or not asking for forgiveness within a period of time.
    Reminds me of the old 1e alignment chart.

    I think 99% of the time, people around a table can agree without deciding beforehand what's "evil", and it's never been an issue with my group. TBH, alignment changes don't come up a lot in my games. I usually outright ban new PC's from taking an evil alignment (although I have made a couple of exceptions that seemed to work out fine), and I sort of just communicate to the players that:

    1) The party trusts, likes and respects each other, even if their alignments vary. They trust each other with their lives; something in their background gives them reason to care about each other.
    2) The campaign is about heroes. I don't pressure them to be good or lawful, but I do impress on them that they are heroic. I'm ok with greedy heroes or reluctant heroes, but I like to run campaigns that are ultimately heroic.

    I have had player characters change alignment in the past, but it was sort of an afterthought and not a big deal..."hey that wasn't very lawful of you", "yeah, I think I'm more neutral good." <changes his sheet>

    The challenge in the urban campaign won't be good vs evil so much as running afoul of the law. I have no problem with PC's committing all sorts of petty crimes if that's in their nature, but they need to understand that they can't just bust down the door of the evil noble, slay him, and take his stuff. They need to be more subtle. I think my players are mature enough to figures this out without too much overt help from me.

  8. #28
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    The Great Druid (Lvl 17)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gargoyle View Post
    The challenge in the urban campaign won't be good vs evil so much as running afoul of the law. I have no problem with PC's committing all sorts of petty crimes if that's in their nature, but they need to understand that they can't just bust down the door of the evil noble, slay him, and take his stuff. They need to be more subtle. I think my players are mature enough to figures this out without too much overt help from me.
    One thing I do for the Urban games is have a list of what is and is not against the law. I also have expected punishments. This can help define the setting for instance once we had murder and assault of a noble with a punishment of death or something severe. But the murder or assault of a common person would just hard labor. This immediately defines a class system and then I can have the arrogant NPC nobleman that taunts commoners knowing if he can get them to hit him then they will be in big trouble. I also used the laws to show it was a corrupt system so with a large enough bribe almost any punishment could be bought off.

  9. #29
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    Also remember there are a lot of laws; church, guild, civil, military, tax, kings, etc. This can make a trial interesting with stuff like; who will have jurisdiction in a crime and even if there was a crime. Nobles can get away with a lot, members of standing in a church or guild could get better treatment, killing a noble can be worse than killing a child.

    Also, right off the bat, it is important to pick one of the following: guilty or innocent until proven otherwise.

  10. #30
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    Good advice on laws, I think this is where I may use Ptolus. Looking through the book, I'm amazed at how great the campaign is, but also reminded of why I didn't run it. It's really just too comprehensive and big for me; I would be flipping through the book more than DM'ing. So I'm going to create most of the city myself with some simple notes and just grow it as it goes, but I'm yoinking the section on laws as well as other bits. May even use the map.

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