A Campaign Based Entirely In One City

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I have an idea for  campaign I'd like to run.... I don't want to get too into the details, (because one of my players likes google a bit too much) but it basically revolves around a huge fantasy metropolis. In theory, I'd like the players to have an open world within the city and very rarely leave at lower levels.

Can anyone point me toward interesting reading for this type of campaign design? Or even on making cool cities? 
A few guidelines for using the internet: 1. Mentally add "In my opinion" to the end of basically anything someone else says. Of course it's their opinion, they don't need to let you know. You're pretty smart. 2. Assume everyone means everything in the best manner they could mean it. Save yourself some stress and give people the benefit of the doubt. We'll all be happier if we type less emoticons. 3. Don't try to read people's minds. Sometimes people mean exactly what they say. You probably don't know them any better than they know themselves. 4. Let grammar slide. If you understood what they meant, you're good. It's better for your health. 5. Breath. It's just a dumb game.
If you can get your mitts on Sharn: City of Towers (a 3.5 Eberron supplement), I can guarantee you that it will be the location you run. That's a great book.

To organize the dangers and threats, I recommend using Dungeon World's campaign/adventure front guidelines.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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I did a campaign like that a long time ago. It was actually pretty cool.

Best advice I can give is from the get go tell all the PC that everything they will need is in the city and they have no reason to leave. It worked fine of me. Did a couple murder mystery type things, the PC cleaned the criminal element out of the city arena, a dungeon crawl through the sewers, and a couple crawls through large trap filled mansions.
You know, I always wanted to run such campaign as well for a long time for its possibility of limitless depth, color & charactor of interaction with meaningful npc's & sense of continuity, identity & a place players can feel rooted to.

I tried to look for such already made diverse and sprawling metropolis, but I couldn't find one that meets my expectation, large enough to provide a sense of a world in itself.   I realized that for me to make this happen, i had to design the metropolis from ground up, the immense layouts, key locations & key npc's.

I never got around it.  One day I hope to though.  I feel it can really be awesome.  Let me know, when you find or create such map...I want to copy. Tongue Out
If I were to do it, I'd do it set in Sharn with players who knew Eberron.

Or I'd create the city from scratch, with my players involved in every step through shared storytelling. The former's only because I really like Eberron (and Sharn specifically) otherwise the latter would be my preference.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

My general idea currently, is to have a city that is sort of the last bastion of civilization in it's area. The world outside is dying and inhospitable, so the city is being swarmed with refugees. Occasional raids by armies of monsters are less motivated by evil, but rather a will to survive. I'm thinking that the city is a theocracy ruled by a church of civilization, sworn to keep life ordered but with different factions within the city fighting for favor and room. Food is getting harder to supply. Most of the magic is being siphoned directly to keeping the city hospitable. I'm envisioning the game starting with the players, fresh off a boat, immigrants whose reasons are their own, registering with the officials giving their name and relevant info. I just feel like it's hard to find info for the actual DESIGN part of this sort of campaign.... but people here are pointing me in the right direction.

I feel like, even if I don't directly use stuff like Sharn, I'd be smart to read the books. 
A few guidelines for using the internet: 1. Mentally add "In my opinion" to the end of basically anything someone else says. Of course it's their opinion, they don't need to let you know. You're pretty smart. 2. Assume everyone means everything in the best manner they could mean it. Save yourself some stress and give people the benefit of the doubt. We'll all be happier if we type less emoticons. 3. Don't try to read people's minds. Sometimes people mean exactly what they say. You probably don't know them any better than they know themselves. 4. Let grammar slide. If you understood what they meant, you're good. It's better for your health. 5. Breath. It's just a dumb game.
Eh.. This is f-ing awesome idea.  I am gonna have to copy it!  Beauty of it is that the metropolis can be in ever changing and expanding process as more refugees, races floods in and settles.  Which means i don't have to have a complete metropolis drawn out from the beginning to start the campaign but build it as I go.  Freaking awesome idea!  Why didn't I think of this lol.  You rock.
If you can get your hands on them, the Cadwallon RPG books by Rakham fit the bill. It is the last and largest city not yet drawn into the Ragnarok. It has a very Planescape feel.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadwallon_%28role-...

I absolutely adore the artwork, the story elements. I will warn you that the books are translated from French, so there are times where you might read a sentence a couple of times before you go "Oh, that's what they mean!" Even so, it is totally worth it.
I don't want to get too into the details, (because one of my players likes google a bit too much)



If I may offer a counter-point (not just because I need to know MOAR), one of the main schools of thought on these forums is that characters chould be surprised instead of players: that players should be in on the secret so that they can role-play their characters as not being in on it.

And I need to know MOAR!

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Member of LGBT Gamers

Odds are, if 4-6 people can't figure out an answer you thought was obvious, you screwed up, not them. - JeffGroves
Which is why a DM should present problems to solve, not solutions to find. -FlatFoot
Why there should be the option to use alignment systems:
Show
If some people are heavily benefiting from the inclusion of alignment, then it would behoove those that AREN'T to listen up and pay attention to how those benefits are being created and enjoyed, no? -YagamiFire
But equally important would be for those who do enjoy those benefits to entertain the possibility that other people do not value those benefits equally or, possibly, do not see them as benefits in the first place. -wrecan (RIP)
That makes sense. However, it is not fair to continually attack those that benefit for being, somehow, deviant for deriving enjoyment from something that you cannot. Instead, alignment is continually attacked...it is demonized...and those that use it are lumped in with it.

 

I think there is more merit in a situation where someone says "This doesn't work! It's broken!" and the reply is "Actually it works fine for me. Have you considered your approach might be causing it?"

 

than a situation where someone says "I use this system and the way I use it works really well!" and the back and forth is "No! It is a broken bad system!" -YagamiFire

Another good sources book is Cityscape.  Its a 3.5 book for this exact situation.  It gives advie and tips on how to build such a large city and adventure ideas for it.  You can find a pdf version online
"As shepherds we shall be, for Thee my Lord for Thee. Power has descended forth from Thy hand that our feet may swiftly carry out Thy command. And we shall flow a river forth unto Thee and teeming with souls shall it ever be. Et nomine patri, et fili, et spiritus sancti"
There are books on Waterdeep and Freeport

Both are pretty good.

Cityscape is great if you want to design it all yourself.
My general idea currently, is to have a city that is sort of the last bastion of civilization in it's area. The world outside is dying and inhospitable, so the city is being swarmed with refugees. Occasional raids by armies of monsters are less motivated by evil, but rather a will to survive. I'm thinking that the city is a theocracy ruled by a church of civilization, sworn to keep life ordered but with different factions within the city fighting for favor and room. Food is getting harder to supply. Most of the magic is being siphoned directly to keeping the city hospitable. I'm envisioning the game starting with the players, fresh off a boat, immigrants whose reasons are their own, registering with the officials giving their name and relevant info. I just feel like it's hard to find info for the actual DESIGN part of this sort of campaign.... but people here are pointing me in the right direction.

I feel like, even if I don't directly use stuff like Sharn, I'd be smart to read the books. 



Honestly, looks like you have a great thing going already so far, sounds interesting from where I am sitting!  Are you looking for maps and such?  I'm sure that there is something out there that could be used.  For the most part, I just do maps for encounters and dungeons only.  City maps take a whole lot more time and effort for something that will not reward that effort, most of the time.
My general idea currently, is to have a city that is sort of the last bastion of civilization in it's area. The world outside is dying and inhospitable, so the city is being swarmed with refugees. Occasional raids by armies of monsters are less motivated by evil, but rather a will to survive. I'm thinking that the city is a theocracy ruled by a church of civilization, sworn to keep life ordered but with different factions within the city fighting for favor and room. Food is getting harder to supply. Most of the magic is being siphoned directly to keeping the city hospitable. I'm envisioning the game starting with the players, fresh off a boat, immigrants whose reasons are their own, registering with the officials giving their name and relevant info. I just feel like it's hard to find info for the actual DESIGN part of this sort of campaign.... but people here are pointing me in the right direction.

I feel like, even if I don't directly use stuff like Sharn, I'd be smart to read the books. 



Honestly, looks like you have a great thing going already so far, sounds interesting from where I am sitting!  Are you looking for maps and such?  I'm sure that there is something out there that could be used.  For the most part, I just do maps for encounters and dungeons only.  City maps take a whole lot more time and effort for something that will not reward that effort, most of the time.


Yeah exactly. If I'm doing a campaign in a city, I have to have the city have more depth than the usual towns I've built in the past. Unfortunately, it's daunting and frustrating to set pen to paper and start drawing maps and stuff.

I'd also like skills and abilities to stay relevant which I havent out a ton of thought into yet. 
A few guidelines for using the internet: 1. Mentally add "In my opinion" to the end of basically anything someone else says. Of course it's their opinion, they don't need to let you know. You're pretty smart. 2. Assume everyone means everything in the best manner they could mean it. Save yourself some stress and give people the benefit of the doubt. We'll all be happier if we type less emoticons. 3. Don't try to read people's minds. Sometimes people mean exactly what they say. You probably don't know them any better than they know themselves. 4. Let grammar slide. If you understood what they meant, you're good. It's better for your health. 5. Breath. It's just a dumb game.
You could always take a look at the shackeled city adventure path paizo.com/products/btpy7dx9?Dungeons-Dra...
My general idea currently, is to have a city that is sort of the last bastion of civilization in it's area. The world outside is dying and inhospitable, so the city is being swarmed with refugees. Occasional raids by armies of monsters are less motivated by evil, but rather a will to survive. I'm thinking that the city is a theocracy ruled by a church of civilization, sworn to keep life ordered but with different factions within the city fighting for favor and room. Food is getting harder to supply. Most of the magic is being siphoned directly to keeping the city hospitable. I'm envisioning the game starting with the players, fresh off a boat, immigrants whose reasons are their own, registering with the officials giving their name and relevant info. I just feel like it's hard to find info for the actual DESIGN part of this sort of campaign.... but people here are pointing me in the right direction.

I feel like, even if I don't directly use stuff like Sharn, I'd be smart to read the books. 



Honestly, looks like you have a great thing going already so far, sounds interesting from where I am sitting!  Are you looking for maps and such?  I'm sure that there is something out there that could be used.  For the most part, I just do maps for encounters and dungeons only.  City maps take a whole lot more time and effort for something that will not reward that effort, most of the time.


Yeah exactly. If I'm doing a campaign in a city, I have to have the city have more depth than the usual towns I've built in the past. Unfortunately, it's daunting and frustrating to set pen to paper and start drawing maps and stuff.

I'd also like skills and abilities to stay relevant which I havent out a ton of thought into yet. 



I don't envy you the task you have before you.  I enjoy drawing maps, but not city maps.  I suppose if I had a lot of time, it might be more appealing, but for the most part, I often find maps online and co-opt them into my campaigns.

With your idea, I might try to find a map of New York from the late 19th century into the early to mid 20th century.  All those refugees and such have only two directions to go after a while, up and down.  ;)
If they're going to be in the city for an extended period, they may want to take the time to start up a business of their own, or get into dirty backroom mercantile politics. Two competing tavern/inn owners for example, might go to extreme lengths to one up the other and the PCs could be hired by either side to perform amazing feats, stunts, or other quests to attract people to the place.

There's also the seedy underbelly/criminal underworld side to the city too. Night time adventures can always spice things up, as that's usually when the weirdos come out to play.

Make several locations that are interesting/fun to explore. They can go down beneath the streets or stretch into the sky and be a tower of wonder. NPCs are also key. What kind of people guard, own, or maintain the places they go to? Even the burglars just casing the joint might be fun to talk to.
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
I have an idea for  campaign I'd like to run.... I don't want to get too into the details, (because one of my players likes google a bit too much) but it basically revolves around a huge fantasy metropolis. In theory, I'd like the players to have an open world within the city and very rarely leave at lower levels.

Can anyone point me toward interesting reading for this type of campaign design? Or even on making cool cities? 



Found wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/we/2003071..." title="wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/we/2003071...">this, maybe that'll help?
I'd recommend Ptolus. It's pretty much a 808 page book written by Monte Cooke and a bunch of other people creating a campaign setting around a city called Ptolus! Amazing resource , only downside is it's insanely expensive, looking to be about $60 for the pdf. But, I don't even think the world's largest dungeon is more than 800 pages (Checked. It is. <.<)

rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/24802/Pto...
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