Tuesday, April 8, 2014

NPCities

Ok, maybe you can do something with this, right now I like it...

Let's pretend Immryr, capital of Melnibone, home of Elric, had stats. What would they be?

Strength: Melnibone isn't all that in terms of military might--it is on the decline. Still: they would put up some fight…. 6?

Intelligence: The libraries and scholarship of Immryr are world-class. No doubt. Perhaps none finer in the whole setting: 18.

Wisdom: How old and how spiritual is Immryr? Well very both, but maybe not the most ancient most hallowed place--that's probably some spooky ziggurat somewhere, so: 17.

Dexterity: I suggest a city's dexterity is its trade--and Immryr is in decline, but you can probably get most things there…13?

Constitution: How safe is Immryr? How much danger is it in? I'm gonna say a lot--Con 6.

Charisma: How beautiful is it? How much culture does it have? It is meant to be the most baroque and melancholically beautiful of cities, so….18.

Now let's look at the stats of its most famous inhabitant…
Pretty close to the city itself. (The stats in parenthesis are without Elric's sword.) People imply places. I bet The Shire's stats look a lot like Sam's and Lankhmar looks like the Mouser's.

Why bother to do this? Well truly decent tools for generating cities and places are thin on the ground and often require memorizing all new terms and ideas whereas NPC-generating tools are everywhere--why not parasitize them to make places as easy to handle as people? Describing cities as having the basic D&D stats lets you do all kinds of things, including:

-Make a random place on the fly using any NPC stats you might have lying around or a random NPC generator. (Roll 3d6 for each stat for Whatever Place Happens To Be Around The Corner, roll d20 for each stat for places that're supposed to be interesting by themselves.)

-Generate places of origin for your group's PCs using their own stats as a base. So if Gozar the dwarf has a high wisdom, you can, unless you've got a better idea, assume his hometown is a venerable temple city. You can grab some character sheets and start your campaign map with the places hidden inside these people. Thieves will tend to hail from trading (dextrous) cities, clerics from places with temples or long history, fighters from powerful nations, dwarves from stable (high Con) enclaves, etc.

-You can abstract questions people face in cities and settlements using the stats. Can anyone in Ghorsmakkia translate this? Roll the city's Int. Can you get Red Lotus powder? Roll Dex. Anybody got a problem they need solved? Roll Con and hope they fail (bad Con cities are fun cities). Is there any decent gambling? Roll Cha. Any magic healing? Roll Wis…etc.

-It also might work for organizations in general--guilds, cults, etc. A trade organization within a city could easily have a higher dex than the city itself.

Let's take a look at some places….

London

Str 15
Int 18
Wis 16-17 (it's not Babylon or Jerusalem, but it's spooky)
Con 14 (in Guy Ritchie movies) 6
Dex 17
Cha 16

The Shire

Str 4
Int 8 (they got, like folklore about badgers and stuff)
Wis 9
Con 18 (safe as houses)
Dex 8-12? (they don't seem to lack for goods despite being isolated)
Cha 13 (they have like festivals and whatnot)

Maybe "rural halfling village" stats get rolled on 4d6-pick the lowest 3?

Ptolus

Str 18
Int 18
Wis 18
Con 3
Dex 18
Cha 18

This shows the limits of the system: Ptolus is purposefully designed as the main city in the setting--so everything interesting is there. However…if you broke up Ptolus by neighborhood you might get a more interesting array of stats.

Lankhmar

Str 16
Int 17
Wis 16
Con 4
Dex 18
Cha 18

That's a little better--especially since refugees from Lankhmar can run off to Illthmar if they find themselves in need of that 10% of imaginable goods not available at home.

Place I just rolled up on 6d20:

Str 4
Int 18
Wis 18
Con 12
Dex 13
Cha 10

So clearly we have some kind of scholarly library or wizard tower built on an ancient site of power. It's usually safe despite having no political influence (Str 4) but once in a while there are raiders or the monks kill each other and it's not far off a main trade route. Nice.

Not sure if and how far this goes--(if you needed two armies to fight could you resolve it by giving each a class and making them first level and having them go at it? Tech level=armor class?)--but it's an idea.

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36 comments:

  1. I think it should be tech level = experience level, city like Immryr that terrorized whole world for millenia should be high level magic-user.

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  2. The problem with adding experience level like that is that Str and Dex already measure military and trade might--which pretty much determine tech between them already, or are close to it.
    Also: there aren't really a lot of times you need 20 levels of tech distinction in D&D or when tech level matters more than all the other stuff (D&D is built so xp matters way more than stats).

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  3. These are are really handy shorthand. If you know Kine Gather has con 8 you have a pretty decent idea of how likely the guards are to show even if you didn't think about that before. Helps you to be consistent when making stuff up, I like it.

    Have you considered giving them HP to represent population? Could be good for modeling barbarian sackings or whathaveyou and showing off its "injuries" to the players.

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    1. Again: population (like tech level) would seem to model something that, in this scheme, depends on Str (military might) and Dex (trade might).

      Using HP obviates 90% of what the system measures.

      I can see using it as something to be divided up if you were doing Risk style battles but that's a new thing

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    2. My head has been on warring city-states, Mesopotamia style-ee, as a shifting PC-independent backdrop thing. So that's where the HP thoughts snuck in from.

      Regardless, good stuff.

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    3. Why doesn't population depend on Con (safety)?

      Even if the place has high Str (mil. might) that doesn't necessarily mean they are strong in numbers. Maybe the defenders are a single cohort of golems, for instance.

      If the it had a high Dex (trade), the traders could be meeting there and trade (fair), but then leave and return on regular intervals of time? (Trademeet)

      HPs would be useful in campaign play, like ACKS' higher-tier play. The more HP a place would have, the more rigid it's established rule. Places would start like Characters, with low HP and then after certain period of time they "level up" like characters do. The nature of the place could be based on their Alignment. Chaos could build dungeons, Neutral could be nature, a basic canvas for all the comedy, Law could be civilizations. Spinning in circles here.. Hm..

      But, yeah, ... Well thought and simple, Zak! Keeping it simple seems the most important part at the end.

      This will be really good someday.

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    4. "If the it had a high Dex (trade), the traders could be meeting there and trade (fair), but then leave and return on regular intervals of time? (Trademeet)"

      I don't know what that means. By "trade" I mean the availability of goods from far lands, not how much the word "trade" appears in a description you wrote.

      As for pop depending on Con=safety…that makes no sense so far as I can tell. A populous place could be large and rigid (high con) or a regular city with lots of dangers (low con). We're talking how safe the streets are. High pop could go either way.

      As for HPs…see the rest of the discussion here. It is an adjunct to STR as described here. A high STR place would not be ones whose defenses are secure (golems) but one which is expansionist.

      The alignment connections you've drawn seem arbitrary and unrelated to things in actual play.

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    5. I can maybe see adjudicating this problem by inserting BRP statistics, so instead of a D&D array you could include SIZ as a statistic, then if you really wanted to generate a rough population schematic you could work SIZ+CON, calculating the rough area of the city as well as the safety/security influence.

      It's definitely something I'd have to ponder beyond just posting a comment.

      I may have to write on this idea to hash it out a bit more.

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  4. If you use tech level at all, and not consider it included in the other stats, i would suggest using the difference as a bonus to the conflict rolls of the one with the higher tech.

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  5. Tech level is for GURPS. Level should measure decadence. In 4E terms, Heroic levels are the Archaic period or "age of heroes", Paragon levels are the Classical period or standard fantasy "third age of mankind", and Epic levels are the Decadent period where you find places like Melniboné and Viriconium. (Insert confused analogy here about level-draining wight renaissances.)

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  6. You can use this kind of system to measure dungeons as NPC characters too.

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  7. Several RQ products from mongoose took this approach for empires and not for me - a map, some district names, a ruler and a encounter table to suggest stye of city would be my choice - i just re purpose history or old gamer maps or archeology plans - steal from history and pick a few interesting details - too many games dont really uses stats much - if i did do this i would define what stat bonuses equaled
    STR = famous fighting force
    INT = wizards schools or libraries
    CON = prisons, courts and legas institutions +=good ones -=horrible ones
    DEX = markets or great guilds or merchant houses
    WIS = great temples
    CHA = wonders

    negative "bonus" more like infamous features like a prison camp, notorious losing army, hideous eyesore like sewerage choked rivers....

    i must stop before i convince my self this is awesome

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  8. Nice, very straightforward. I've always said that the original attributes were under-utilized in favour of bolting on shiny new unnecessary mechanics.

    Imrryr had a great sea maze that protected it - that would make the case for items.

    Armor could be a natural defensive formation:
    Leather - Forest or swamp
    Chainmail - Sheltered harbor, narrow entrance pass
    Plate - Sea maze or stonewall

    Then there's magic items:
    Potion - Bazaar of magic trinkets
    Ring - Natural fountain of magic property
    Wand - Guardian statue

    XP might be different races or cultures who accumlate and interact there, allowing PCs a greater range of classes and interactions.

    Levels:
    1 Humans only
    2 Dwarves
    3 Elves
    4 Halflings
    5 Goblins
    6 Orcs
    etc

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    1. Again: the way you're using items and xp just seems like drawing an allusion for the hell of it.

      Like if I find out a place has a "guardian statue" then…well I still gotta go write a guardian statue--I'm not much better off than I was before I inserted that detail. And the same with level--like if you're gonna make wholly arbitrary connections like elf=3rd level then might as well just assign city characteristics to letters of the alphabet.

      The idea of the 6 stats is it's a mechanic and mneumonic.

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  9. this would work good for "regions" like eg the Endless Glacial Steppes have Con 18 and Dex 14 so the dudes from there are tough and good with bows.

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  10. I like this idea. A lot.

    I've been doing something remarkably similar for years with Starships and Mecha.

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  11. I'm fairly sure I've seen a system that described cities in terms of levels (and classes?) including inter-city warfare resolved using said systems, but I haven't a clue as to where I saw it. Seems like it was recently, though - past few years. I like the simplicity of this method, though. It helps generate character.

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  12. I'd rather go with Dex being adaptability - young vibrant cultures being able to absorb new ideas and challenges rather than suffering damage from them. which certainly has a relation to trade, just a bit more indirect.

    I'd put Immryr at about a 4 for this measure of Dex (almost completely ossified), but I'd also put its STR up to about 14; long past its best but not a push over just yet.

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    1. While Dex may make a better _analogy_ with adaptability it is a much less useful stat in the game.
      You need to know whether you can buy a silver dagger in a city.

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    2. Well, true, but you might also want to know if they're refusing to move on from longbows when you're trying to buy/sell matchlocks which they regard as the work of the Devil. That's what I mean by it still being related to trade, but it takes in culture too.

      Anyway, interesting idea.

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    3. I think if a culture is "refusing to move on from longbows" that's not something that ever comes up in my game, and even if it was it'd be an issue of the GM deciding rather than wanting the stats to produce an emergent answer.

      I mean: If you're playing some kind of Civilization Simulator, fine. But I'm trying to only deal with issues that I can imagine actually coming up in the game I actually run.

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  13. This rating system for cities would work very well out-of-the box for Fate, in particular for with the Fate Freeport Companion, which uses the traditional D&D attributes for characters with a numerical scale from 0 to +4.

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    1. Yeah. If only FATE wasn't total shit...

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  14. Another idea worth stealing. Will probably just go the entire way and call these stats what they are: Military, Trade, etc. - I am not necessarily seeing the connection between these attributes and the stats of the average citizen, but I want the other benefits of such a system.

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    1. That makes perfect sense--using the Standard Six is just a helpful mnemonic device and a way to see how characters you might run into imply backgrounds and places that you can add to the campaign

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  15. Maybe Immryr have stats in parenthesis like Elric for when it dragons are sleeping (and for when they are awake).

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  16. I really like this, and it makes a lot of intuitive sense for those of us really accustomed to characters, but less so with building cities.

    I think the Charisma score could also measure culture. Not only is the city beautiful, but it attracts artists and poets (perhaps it has a long history of patronage like Florence).

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    1. Oh I missed your mentioned of culture until I reread your post. So nothing to add then. Great idea!

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  17. I've been doing this for states and political movements for a couple months now. The ability score mods affect the actual stats of the political movement's leaders, and vice versa - which really helps crystallize the changes that occur after the PC's mount a coup.

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  18. Cool idea! And now I have use for my old D&D Rogues Gallery that's been sitting around unused for 20 odd years. Thanks!

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  19. Nice, that's going to make it a doddle to track settlement details on index cards. And I can already see how it would make military conflict resolution flow.

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  20. This is excellent. It reminds me of the Classic Traveller system system for randomly generating worlds, but quicker and more intuitive. I plan to use this.

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  21. Along the lines of the FATE Fractal this sort of idea, so an interesting one...where everything can be a 'character' as such.

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