That's sort of what I was thinking, Arthur. Also, I'm just about to start a new 4e game, and I've decided to give this city a shot; it seems different from other story hubs I've used in the past, and when I pitched the idea to my group, everyone seemed to think it was great. I'm pretty excited about it. I'll let you know how things turn out.
Here's another idea: Since much of the surrounding countryside is mud, regular wagons and draft teams are useless. Instead, goods are hauled from a series of satellite villages on the edge of the deluge to ferry stations on the edge of 'Lake Strassa' on flat bottomed skiffs pulled by teams of mud golems. In short, Strasan mages have made a virtue out of necessity and are now reknowned for their golem-creating skills.
Guys, your responses are so amazing and helpful, I'm happy you all found the idea as interesting and engaging as I hoped it would be. Your collective imaginations are giving this city more life and character by the post. Thank you very, very much.
@milkducks: I am absolutely thrilled that you like the city so much to use it in your own story. Please let us know how it goes.
@Arthur & El_Shawno: Those are some genius ideas! I like the idea that the surrounding countryside is almost impassable by normal means. I think I'll work on the golem-crafting aspects later tonight with some background on the art of artifice.
I'm actually looking forward to D&D Next. I think that every edition had some really awesome qualities, and every edition has truly awful design flaws. I don't expect Next to be any different, but if WotC is actively trying to incorporate the good bits into one unified whole, then I do expect it to be worth playing.
I've made a few minor changes to my story's version of Strasa: rather than a city of granite spires, it's more or less made up of brownstone (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brownstone); instead of eidetic servants passing messages around, the city breeds a special kind of raven, known for its skill in mimicry (most carry tiny cases on their legs, however, so small scrolls of information could also be passed in a more conventional manner) - it's very common to see these blackbirds flying overhead throughout the city.
Also, in my world, Kord is primarily a god of Storms. Amongst the savage tribes of the world, he's also seen as a god of battle and warfare, because to those peoples, storms represent war and chaos. Among more civilized folk though, like the people who live in Strasa, Kord's pretty much just the god of Storms. Having sid that, Strasa is sort of a holy city to his followers. The cleric in my group has already said she plans to be a cleric of Kord.
The city was originally built in a valley, and after centuries of rainfall, now looks like it essentially rises up out of a lake. The area surrounding Strasa is a dreary marshland, home to foul bullywugs, war-like tribes of lizardmen, and deadly crocodiles.
I've decided that my first story will be a sort of murder mystery. I figure Strasa could be kind of a creepy place, especially at night. And it might be a great opportunity to tell a scary story. I'd like to set up scenes where the group's hanging out in a local tavern; it's warm inside, the fire's going, people are being loud and having fun, but something's wrong. There's a kind of uneasy feeling in the air. Outside, the rain is pouring down, and stormclouds are gathering overhead. A crack of lightning streaks across the sky, and one of the more perceptive players notices, as the flash of lightning illuminates the night, that a lone figure is standing outside the window, looking in on everyone. If they try to investigate it, they don't find anyone there. Soon after, you can have them find a dead body or something.
I dunno, Strasa seems like a super creepy place. I'm looking forward to using it.
Everyone in my group is also really excited. Hopefully, we'll begin playing next weekend.
One thing that sticks out to me is that after that long of constant rain, there would literally be NO green within the city. Any area that would be ground/turf/landscaped would have long since washed out, turned into massive sinkholes, or simply eroded. Yet without dry times, cement/mortar won't set. Without magical assistance (likely only in the wealthy, municiple or temple areas), the ground would be simply stacked blocks or slabs of granite. This could make for unstable footing during combat or skill uses of Athletic/Acrobatics, as the slabs rock or 'bounce' when weight is encountered.
edit: Leading to colloquellisms like "unstable as a Strassan beggar's two step"
Foundation The city of Strasa was originally founded on the shores of the old lake Strasa, a small but deep pristine valley lake at the convergence of several major rivers, which flowed over the valley cliffs in massive beautiful waterfalls that served as inspirations for generations of poets and artists. The beauty and natural wonder of the surrounding countryside attracted nobles from across borders. Upon a central hill that formed a peninsula into the lake, these nobles built universities and estates, theaters and temples, all magnificent and shining. Land quickly ran out, as the wealth and status of the city attracted more and more aristocracy, who came to see the famous plays and enroll their children in the best academies. So they began to build up, creating elaborate towers that flaunted the wealth and power of their owners. In order to protect their homes from the misty drizzle thrown up by the crashing water falls, the nobility erected powerful wards to keep out water of their estates, some of which still stand today.
The Worker's Towers and Cecil's Wall While the central hill of Strasa remained dry and stable, the rest of the valley was occasionally flooded and the working class consistently had to rebuild their lowlying homes, until they learned how to develop flood resistant architecture. Some of the working class also began to live out boats, though the aristocracy viewed this as an invasion of 'their lake', which led to increasingly hostile relations between the classes. A pragmatic Dwarven engineer, Cecil Flanhammer, presented a solution to the city council, noting the ingenuity of the working class in their attempts to stave off the floods, and began the construction of a massive public housing project on the backside of the hill. While not as magnificent as Strasa 'proper', the Worker's towers were functional and structurally sound, with deep Dwarven made foundations. Cecil considered the projects a great success in city planning, providing many public amenities, such as clean water, market spaces, public halls and roof top gardens. The nobility, however, felt that they had been ripped off, and that the interconnected structures were eyesores that were infringing on their right to a good view. No longer able to seperate themselves from the masses by height, the nobles of Strasa conducted their second major public work, a massive wall to block the lower class parts of the city from view. It became known as Cecil's wall, despite it's construction going to a rival engineer. The wall served more of a symbolic purpose than defensive, and many of Worker's tower's had sky bridges that led into the wall, to facilitate the steady flow of workers and goods that needed to enter the city.
The Rains Begin Then the rains came. No one knows why for certain, but they came all right. At first it was tolerated. The lowlands that were occupied by the poor and working class flooded first, and forced crowding into the Worker's towers. Using the solid structure of the towers as support, many illegal buildings sprouted off the sides of the towers to escape from the rising water. The rains kept coming, and the first waves of nobility sought other homes. The council began to invest heavily in solutions to the rain, seeking any means to stem the problem be it divine, arcane or mechanical. This stirred a wave of innovation, especially in the field of artifice, as mechanical pumps, waterproofing alchemy and rain powered technologies became implemented. The artificers rose from the working class sections as well as the nobility and bred a new middle class of problem solvers, that are the forebearers of the Strassan government today.
Restructuring of Strasa It was quickly realized that the rain wasn't stopping, and that all of the solutions that had any value weren't stopping the rain, just dealing with it. The nobility began an exodus, aside from those who were already too invested in the city itself. The flooding of the surrounding wooded hillsides turned them into marshes, and even though they sat on the edge of the diluge they were horribly ruined. This led to an influx of woodland elves into the city, who crowded the slums to even greater extremes. Eventually the rules that divided the classes began to break down, and the working class spread into Strasa proper. Cecil's Wall became less of divide and more of a central avenue, it's height and many gateways providing easier travel than the increasingly flooded streets below.
The Rain Renaissance The engineering class rose to importance during this time, with several major guilds achieving major political importance. Likewise, the academies and universities turned their focus to more practical pursuits. The attempts to stave off the rains by any means necessary had brought an incredible diversity of rare and strange goods into the city, including many that were prohibited elsewhere, and some smart moves by the guilds insured a steady flow of new materials. With an abundance of materials and increasingly easy water travel, Strasa became a center of trade for those willing to brave the rains for a deal. The availability of prohibited and illegal goods, as well as the anonymity provided by thick rain cloaks also brought a significant underworld element into the city.
Who will stop the rain? However, it's been a long time, the rains keep falling and the waters keep rising. Strasa is getting tired. Most of the lower levels of the Worker's towers and Cecil's Wall are underwater. The engineering guilds are more political than skillful, and they say that entering an academy will make you mad. With every generation, the population shrinks, and Lake Strasa grows, increasing the distance from useable farming land. The marshlands that formerly housed the friendly woodland elves are now filled with lizardman tribes and bullywugs. Strange creatures move beneath darkened waters. And still the rain falls...
That's what springs to my mind when I think of Strasa the Raining City. Use what you will.
Old Lake Strasa Old Lake Strasa refers to the original boundaries of the lake pre-Rains, and runs along the valley cliffs to the north and east of the city. Though Lake Strasa is now greatly expanded, it has always been a deceptively large lake. The rivers that flow into the lake carry much more volume than the winding Bressk river that leaves it, even at it's current swollen levels. Some scholars postulate a connection to the Elemental plane of Water, or that it is a major tributary to the vast seas of the Underdark, but what they can agree on, is that wherever the water is going, it isn't going fast enough to compensate for the rain. A few have even postulated that the Rains come from the bottom of Lake Strasa in an infinite loop. Despite the popularity of arguments about the nature of the lake, no one knows for certain as the bottom of Old Lake Strasa has never been found. Many deep expeditions do not return, as any mechanical or magical failure means certain doom in the dark depths of Old Lake Strasa. Those who have attempted have reported strange networks of tunnels that begin hundreds of feet down the chasm, that appear to have been carved by inhuman hands. Due to the high risk and several cases of madness the academies no longer fund exploration of Old Lake Strasa.
The Falls The Cyrandies is a churning mountain river fed by glacial snow melt in the summer and coastal rains in the spring. It has many tributaries but makes a strange bend away from the coast and heads inward to Lake Strasa where it creates the Hierophant, an awe inspiring avalanche of water that is hundreds of feet wide and a hundred feet tall. Or at least it used to be. It's still impressive but the water has risen a lot and the Rains tend to blur it's visibility from a distance. The other major falls is the Hoplites, that lie closer to the city itself and constitute a great number of smaller waterfalls that mix and mingle with each other. The Hoplites are highly irregular and hide many cranies and nooks that can be discovered if one paddles carefully, and the area used to be a playground for young nobles seeking to explore. Since the Rains new rain-fed water falls have begun to shape, making the whole area unpredictable and dangerous.
Mudway Bridge The citizens of Strasa did not sit idly by as the waters rose and the floods knocked out all major paths of entry. Though the original highway to the city ran parallel to the Bressk river, this lowlying road often flooded pre-Rains, and was used predominantly in summer and fall. When the highway was flooded, Strasans took the Woodway, an easterly heading path that wove through farmlands and the forests of the woodland elves. It was an easy but not straightforward path that was easily triple the length of the highway, following ridgelines that afforded a view of the picturesque valley. When the Rains came this became the only legitimate land route outside of the city. However, in order to get onto the Woodway, one had to cross the lowlying regions east of the city, which easily flooded. Building on preexisting dikes and levees, the Strasan council comissioned an emergency construction of a roadway. Through extensive manual labor the workers managed construct a earthen rampart across the lowlands, just in time to see it flooded over.
It was first wave Rain Renaissance artificer Harvold Ghremin who came up with a solution. Harvold crafted the first generation mudpaver golem. These golems resembled mounds of dirt and gravel rather than the standard humoid fare, but could absorb and animate loose material and grow to massive size. In addition, they contained a small water elemental that worked to absorb water and spray it out, preventing the mudpaver from completely disintegrating. By sending mudpaver golems back and forth across the bridgeway, they deposited large layers of sediment at a much faster rate than a human hand could accomplish. This massive accumulation of muck and mud across the rampart gave it the name "the Mudway" to the locals, who could expect to be thoroughly soiled by the time they crossed it. One problem was that the mudpaver golems were slow and took up a lot of the space on the rampart, and it greatly limited the time available for goods to cross. However an intrepid tradeshalfing, Borvin Swiftwater proposed using the mudpavers as pack beasts to haul ferries to and fro the city. Though the Mudway is still maintained for foot travel, it functions predominantly as a railway for the massive ferries that carry goods and supplies into the city.
Cecil's Wall Though it once divided the city, Cecil's wall is now considered a main thoroughfare that connects Strasa. Built by under the supervision of Thravan Hosterweil, a powerful human patrician, the wall was 50 feet thick at the bottom and rose up nearly 50 feet where it was 15 feet wide. Built as a symbol of power and wealth, it is elaborately designed with ornate gatehouses and marble columns. It contains rooms and passageways throughout it's solid structure, though the bottom levels and the foundation levels are flooded. Though initially created to block out the view of the lowerclass Worker's Towers, Hosterweil built skybridges connecting the Towers to the wall, ostensibly to allow for servants to access into the city, but also to allow the city guard easy access into the fortress like structures. Of course, nowdays the gatehouses are used as offices and docking stations, and the ramparts are opened to allow for travel along the length of the wall. The walls have been expanded at the top, and particularly near the sky bridges, the wall is connected with other structures.
Wroughthammer Pits The sinking nature of Strasa is good for the building industry, especially the Wroughthammer Guild and the Sellmasons. Originally the Wroughthammer guild was responsible for providing raw materials for the growing city of Strasa and opened the Pits to provide for the insatiable demand for quality granite. The Pits isn't in Strasa proper, but it's located in the high hills West of the Hoplites and the stone is delivered to the city via the Mudway ferries. The brutal conditions in the quarry are beyond even dwarven standards and the Wroughthammers use a combination of disposable goblin labor brought in by the black market and golems, including warforged. Occaisionally prisoners of Strasa will find themselves delegated to the pits, where they may soon fall victim to treacherous rockfalls, and the ever beating Rain. The Pits also ship large amounts of rubble and debris to Strasa, and used as landfill. The Wroughthammer Guild is currently working to subjagate lizardfolk tribes in the area, hoping their aquatic nature will give them better resistance to working in the Rain.
Sorry if I'm flooding this thread. It's a really cool setting and I have a lot of ideas. Though I don't know how well these ideas fit with FormerlyCurious's story, I'm going to keep throwing them out there and people can use them as they may.
The Ferryman Institute of Practical Necromancy Citing the need for an aquatic workforce and using significant quantity of blackmail, Yvelen Sarismoss successfully lobbied the Strasa city council for the issuance of Necromancy licenses that granted the bearer legal rights to raise and maintain undead for nonviolent purposes. With this, Yvelen was able to open the Ferryman Institute to train budding young necromancers in the Art, without the pesky incursion of self-righteous paladins. Though rumored to be an extension of the hidden College of Secrets, a Vecna worshipping religious order, the Institute operates openly and it's graduates are more-or-less respected in the city. Ferrymen are called on to perform numerous and varied tasks, and use their skeletal servitors to do minor underwater repairs, retrieve sunken items and scavenge for goods. Though the main curriculum is dedicated to raising the dead, the Ferrymen Institute also offers courses on construction, diving, surveying and navigation skills. Those who show the necessary drive are often offered deeper initiation into the cult of Vecna. Graduates are independent contractors, but there is a respectfed hierarchy and they often meet in the remodeled cathedral of Pelor that serves as the Institute's headquarters. Here they exchange news, service their boats and skeleton divers, and trade recovered items and secrets. The current headmaster of the Institute, Quaron Ivikor was a pupil under Sarismoss and has a place on the city council. Sarismoss still runs the Institute and the cult from a state of necromantic stasis as she attempts to become a lich before the last of her life force runs out. From this stasis she observes the city through the eyes of the undead controlled by the Ferrymen, searching for the final components of her ritual...
The Librarium of Ioun The Librarium is at war. With water. Hundreds of thousands of texts and parchments are at risk with the rising water and even the learned scholars of Ioun don't have the magic to hold it all back. Though much of the Librarium was effectively looted by the exodus of nobility who withdrew their personal collections and sometimes more, the building still contains untold quantities of unique books and scrolls authored by Strasa's once burgeoning academic community. With the coming of the Rain, the scribes and librarians have done their best to shelter this store of knowledge, continuously moving books higher and higher up the tower, comissioning additional rooms and expansions for storage and study. The result is the Librarium becoming the most complicated structure in all of Strasa, a maze-like agglomeration of hallways, staircases, studies and exhibits. It is nearly impossible to find the book you are looking for without the help of a librarian or a scrying ritual, and sometimes both are required. A constant effort is made to re-catalog all of the texts, but disagreements over proper placement and the upward migration of books prevents it from ever becoming a reality. Despite the affiliation with Ioun, there was a schism with the local temple of Ioun, and they are headed by different leadership and play different roles in the community. The current head librarian, Poland Ulheath, is a wiry spectacled cleric of Ioun of indeterminate age and boundless energy, who has made it his goal to resist all attempts to remove texts from Strasa, even for purposes of safe keeping. Books are not for loan, due to the dangers of water damage and Ulheath's paranoia.
The Temple of the Tempest Kord had little following in Strasa til the Rain came, but he rapidly grew in popularity as people sought to appease the mighty storm god. The Temple of the Tempest stands as testament to that. Located on top of a Worker's Tower, the Temple is a relatively recent construction that stands dominant on Strasa's skyline. Unlike most other buildings, it is designed to be exposed to the elements and the rooftop serves as a place of worship. It is well designed, and has an excellent system of water drainage, pouring the water down and around through chutes to create water features and fountains. Lightning rods jut ominously from the Temple, drawing the crack of thunder, the Voice of Kord, to the ceremonies. The head priest, a dragonborn paladin called Mytark the Bold leads enthusiastic prayers and ritual sparring in the pouring Rain, claiming that the Rain will wash away your sins. It has become a point of pilgrimage for the followers of Kord, and it draws a lot of strange folk into the city, strange folk who aren't afraid to fight...