Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What do you want out of a OSR city supplement?

Older edition adventures and supplements are far ranging in the situations they depict, yet retain common elements to make them useful to players and referees of older editions. The most obvious one being the statistic presented in a terse format compatible with one of the older editions of Dungeons and Dragons.

Compared to other types of adventures and supplements there is a lack of city supplements. A product that details a large settlement for use in a campaign. One of the more famous is Vornheim and it has it's own distinct format. One reason Vornheim is unique and a success is because it more about how Zak runs cities than a physical description of the place. And as it turns out many people found how Zak runs a city is useful to running cities in their own campaign.

So.... which lead me to the question asked in the title of the post.

What to you want out of a city supplement written specifically for the OSR? Other than everything stated for older editions of DnD.

Off the top of my head here are some things that could be in such a product.

A physical description of the settlement, the traditional map with a number key followed by a description of each locale indexed by said number key.

How the author runs cities in his campaign, guidelines, random tables, etc

What I been called a sandbox of NPCs. Basically a list of important and interesting inhabitants with descriptions and just as important how they interact with each. Referees can use this for campaign focused more the adventure that arises out of meeting people and dealing with the complications that arise from that.

Basically what would make a city supplement more useful to you as a player or referee of older editions compared to say Cities of Harn, Chaosium's Thieves World, etc.

Finally if you like Vornheim or want another good resource for refereeing a city in a campaign I recommend getting Midkemia Press Cities. I think I was their first PDF customer as they just sold out all the physical copies. Not only I got it I use it. It basically three sections, one is an outstanding series of random encounter charts for cities. The second is what they call character catch-up, basically a series of guidelines and charts to find out what the character been doing in between sessions. The last is a series of city building guidlines and charts. I printed these up as three digest size booklets and they been working out great.


Dan said...

NPC's, especially ones that PCs will actually meet.

Adventure locations, like an orphanage run by cannibals or an old haunted tower.

Some kind of gang war, that will be in the news and may directly involve the PCs at some point (especially any thief characters).

Todd said...

NPCs and locations are by far the most useful to me. However it the presentation that is important. I don't want to have to read and memorize the whole supplement to understand the relationships or interesting bits and hooks. I need various quick reference methods which I can use then drill down into details if needed.

wrathofzombie said...

I got what I need for a city supplement with Zak's Vornheim City Kit. One of the most useful RPG books I've ever bought.

Zak Sabbath said...

Long before Vornheim I wrote this thing describing what I wanted in a city supplement:
I can imagine a lot of things that aren't Vornheim but score well there.

Midkemia is good, but the tables could be organized so as to work faster at the table.

Matthew Schmeer said...

Vornheim + Weird Adventures + the 1e/2e TSR Lankhmar Accessories would do the trick. In less than 32 pages. Or less than 116 if you want more bloat. And in a readable typeface. Please. Thank you.

DaveL said...

I can't believe someone mentioned "Thieves World," I bought that boxed set decades ago, but never got an opportunity to play it. Apparently it's rare and hard to find now, but it's a cool setting nonetheless.

As Todd said, "various quick reference methods," to make stuff up on the fly and not get bogged down in a lot of page flipping.

Stan Shinn said...

I think I would want something like this:

2 page description of the city

List of Organizations (Thieves Guild, etc.)

City Map (best format might be a Tourist style map as suggested here:

Detail map of each AREA of the city (Docks, Temple District, Merchant District, etc.)

Descriptions of each AREA of the city (sort of like Blackmoor's Hex descriptions but organized by city area)

Random Encounters Tables (Mostly NPCs, cutthroats, patrons, etc.) keyed to each AREA of the city.

100 Buildings (Tables for random buildings or blocks)

10 Tavern Names

100 Plot Hooks (might be included in encounters instead though)

50 Patrons (organized by District)

10 Campaign Ideas with Plot Points
Adventure Plot Generator

100 Names (No stats, just names, for Humans, Dwarves, Elves -- both males and female)

100 NPCs (with Brief Description, Quirks and Abbreviated Stat Blocks)

Treasure Tables (Looting Dead NPCs, Monsters)

Stuff that might be good but I'm not so sure about including -- might be better outside the book or excluding:

10 Dungeons ('One Page Dungeon' adventures which would make sense in a city context)

100 Monsters (Abbreviated Stat Blocks for Top 100 Monsters you might find in a city -- not sure if this is the right number)

10 City Geomorph Maps

richard said...

Nancy Chandler's shopping and tourist map of Chiang Mai.

Seriously. Just ignore the fact that it's a real city and imagine everything on it fits your setting. Write adventure hooks for the Night Market and the Temple of Bells and so on. Throw an underworld in (say a tourist map of Mykonos town), fill its empty blocks with hell gardens or the shrine of Ise or the Forbidden City in miniature or Soane's Bank of England as a ruin.

Nobody wants to detail a whole city, but sometimes it's been done for you!

Ωmega said...

I would love something akin to random hex crawling rules but for cities/towns. With some nice dice drop tables for off the cuff exploration. I would like a dual implementation so that I have tools I can use to answer "we are checking that village, what do they have there" and also "we want to buy some swords and some fresh horses, do they have that here?". And answer it with a single toss of a few dice.

imredave said...

One of the most essential all, a listing by type of whats where. I remember not so long ago, trying DM my adventurers through Necromancer games bards gate. A hefty tome of over a hundred pages. Of cousre the wanted to know where's the temple of so-and-so? is there and inn nearby? wheres the nearest dry goods store? All these things are in Bards gate but having to thumb through to find them was not a good use of our gaming time (p.s. I did find a download index on the web, but by that time theplayers had given the big city the big wave goodbye and headed back into the wilderness. Not one of my shining moments in DMing.

Frank said...

I would definitely want something that actually explained how to use the city in the game system of choice. I got lots of lonely fun out of City State of the Invincible Overlord, but almost no play. I recall one session of PCs wandering around the city and no one could figure out what to do in the city that was relevant to D&D (what do you do in the city to gain XP? Do you really go knocking off shopkeepers and stealing their til?_).


Hedgehobbit said...

I'm a little late but what I'd really like to see is a chart that lists all the important people in the city along with their relationships to each other. Each NPC could get a small 3/4" portrait along with a very short profile [Bob, F2, Str +2] as well as a couple of easy to decipher icons to say what guild he's in and whether or not he's secretly a vampire. That sort of thing. Kinda like this:

In addition, have another chart that shows all the guilds, gangs, and secret cults and their relationships to each other.