Web Enhancements07/19/2003

Dungeon Master's Guide
Building a City

Your PCs want to go to town and get some healing, investigate a cryptic note they found, and buy new weapons and supplies. Looks like you need a city -- on the double! With this quick system by designers David Noonan and James Wyatt you'll have one for them in no time -- and it'll be unique and memorable. So, what are you waiting for? Enhance your campaign today with a few new cities of your own design!

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How to Build a City, One District at a Time!

If you plan to run an extended adventure -- or even a whole campaign -- in an urban environment, it's important to put some time and effort into describing the details of your city. Chapter 5 of the Dungeon Master's Guide for D&D v.3.5 provides a basic framework for describing some key features of a city, such as its power centers, assets, and highest-level nonplayer characters. This web enhancement expands that basic system into one that is more complex, but well worth the extra work in terms of the payoff for running a city-based campaign.

The basic unit of this city construction system is the district. A district is roughly equivalent to a modern city block or a small neighborhood. On average, a district represents about 500 people, though some districts (such as tenements) have a higher population density than others (such as noble estates). Because a district is so large, this system is unsuitable for use with smaller settlements. A district has its own population number, gp limit, assets, important NPCs, and character, or "feel."

It's much easier for both the Dungeon Master and the players to think about a metropolis made up of eighty districts than to contemplate a teeming population of 39,761 individuals. The city structure becomes even easier to deal with if you assume that wards or neighborhoods are just clusters of identical districts. Thus, a metropolis might have a dozen wards: waterfront, noble's villas, shantytowns, merchant's quarter, temple quarter, and so on.

As a starting point, use twenty districts for a small city, forty for a large city, and eighty for a metropolis. If you need to, you can always add more districts, but the total population number you get by doing that may bump your city up a size category.

About the Authors

David Noonan, a game designer at Wizards of the Coast, Inc. was one of the developers of the revised Dungeon Master's Guide. His other work includes Manual of the Planes, Stronghold Builder's Guidebook, and the forthcoming Unearthed Arcana.

James Wyatt is also a game designer at Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Best known for designing Oriental Adventures, James recently worked on the Fiend Folio, the D&D Arms and Equipment Guide, and the forthcoming Book of Exalted Deeds. He worked on D&D v.3.5 as a designated kibitzer.

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