Building a Fictional City?

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Building a Fictional City?

Postby Havard » Mon Oct 07, 2013 11:19 am

The Grand Theft Auto Games have cities like Liberty City, San Fierro, Los Santos etc. DC Comics have places like Metropolis, Star City and Gotham. How would you go about and construct a fictional city setting for D20 Modern? Do you see any advantages with using a fictional city, or would you prefer to use a real one?

In most of the examples above, the fictional cities are thinly disguised paralells of real world American cities. How would you go about if you were to create a fictional city for your game? Is it easier to come up with US based cities than say European ones?

Thoughts?

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Re: Building a Fictional City?

Postby night_druid » Mon Oct 07, 2013 11:25 am

I'd say "yes", simply because American cities are more familiar to both the designers and players of those games. Much easier for an American to create a pseudo-LA or pseudo-NYC than pseudo-Paris or even pseudo-Tokyo.

Now, for people living in the UK or Norway ( ;) ), I can imagine pseudo-London might be easier to do than pseudo-LA. :)
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Re: Building a Fictional City?

Postby shesheyan » Mon Oct 07, 2013 12:16 pm

ignore this post. misread the topic.
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Re: Building a Fictional City?

Postby Havard » Mon Oct 07, 2013 9:20 pm

night_druid wrote:I'd say "yes", simply because American cities are more familiar to both the designers and players of those games. Much easier for an American to create a pseudo-LA or pseudo-NYC than pseudo-Paris or even pseudo-Tokyo.

Now, for people living in the UK or Norway ( ;) ), I can imagine pseudo-London might be easier to do than pseudo-LA. :)


Familarity is important, but also suspension of disbelief. I have found that making settings too close to home often makes it hard to introduce various elements such as the supernatural etc.

I would probably not create a city that was too similar to one of the European capitals. Rather than a pseudo-London I think it might be easier to create a British City that was a mix of say Manchester and Liverpool? Also, some large German harbor town borrowing elements from Hamburg might be easier to pull off than doing Berlin.

OTOH, is it just better to use real cities? I have played in campaigns set in modern day New York, London and medieval Prague. They all seemed to work fairly well.

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Re: Building a Fictional City?

Postby night_druid » Mon Oct 07, 2013 10:02 pm

I guess you could use real-world cities, but I think the problem arises when you use real-world street addresses. I doubt many people would appreciate their shop going from a quint jewelry store or game store to "a shoppe for black magic arts, where only the truly wicked step through the doors". I could see where some have a WEE bit of a problem with that. ;)

Now, in dealing with supernatural, I suspect European cities are slightly more desirable, as people associate old-world magic with, well, the "old world". :)
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Re: Building a Fictional City?

Postby agathokles » Wed Oct 09, 2013 4:08 pm

On the other hand, Call of Cthulhu uses real cities. When dealing with American cities, they're also quite accurate -- for example, the Chelsea Hotel where the first scene of Masks of Nyarlathotep is set truly existed in the Twenties, in the spot where the adventure locates it, IIRC. I even have Google Maps set for all locations in NY and London.
OTOH, they generally use fictional newspapers (like the "New York Pillar").
Dark*Matter practically only uses RW locations, as do most games in the conspiracy genre, AFAIK.

Even in comics, where DC Comics makes regular use of fictional cities, Marvel uses real world ones. The choices nowadays seems more a stylistic one than one linked to any issue with RW addresses (someone sure lives on the spot where the Juju House stands in Masks).
In the superhero genre, the rift may be linked to the different treatment of the genre themes.

In modern games (not particularly d20), I personally use real world locations as much as possible, and tend to stick with areas my players know well (i.e., Milan and environs). I don't see the need of having fictional cities in that kind of games (the fact that I run mostly games set in the conspiracy or modern fantasy genres rather than supers probably influences the choice, but even then the only supers one-shot I ever run was X-Men based).

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Re: Building a Fictional City?

Postby frost73ite » Mon Mar 16, 2015 10:14 pm

I wouldn't say it's all that hard to create a completely fictional city that is believable. An excellent Tokyo example is big hero 6's san fransokyo. Combine elements of a city you're passibly familiar with and elements of a less familiar city from another region, and give it a name that fits. The hardest part is creating a suitable map, and putting together the locations your players will visit, complete with the appropriate npcs. Flesh it out with the appropriate tech level integrated into the scenery, and make sure you play up the differences to make it less familiar as needed. Just remember that all cities have several similarities, even when the details are vastly different.
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Re: Building a Fictional City?

Postby ripvanwormer » Mon Mar 16, 2015 11:30 pm

agathokles wrote:On the other hand, Call of Cthulhu uses real cities.


On the other other hand, it also uses fictional towns like Innsmouth and Arkham.

It's hard for me to imagine what a fictional pseudo-London might be like. Maybe you could call it Camelot in an urban fantasy setting, and invent an alternate history where it had an unbroken history from Arthurian times, overtaking London as the nation's major urban centre.
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Re: Building a Fictional City?

Postby Sock Puppet » Thu Apr 23, 2015 1:54 pm

For my Diesel campaign setting, it's set in an alternate near-modern history. That means I get to use mostly real-world geography and city layouts, but I can also change stuff around. That means, for example, that I get to build an art deco extension to Westminster Palace and keep the aerodrome that used to exist in Lewisham.
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Re: Building a Fictional City?

Postby agathokles » Fri Jun 05, 2015 4:41 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:
agathokles wrote:On the other hand, Call of Cthulhu uses real cities.


On the other other hand, it also uses fictional towns like Innsmouth and Arkham.

It's hard for me to imagine what a fictional pseudo-London might be like. Maybe you could call it Camelot in an urban fantasy setting, and invent an alternate history where it had an unbroken history from Arthurian times, overtaking London as the nation's major urban centre.


True, but Arkham and Innsmouth are relatively minor centres -- they could exist for all the average person (not living in NE USA) would know. Major cities like Metropolis or Gotham are clearly designed to shout "this is a fantasy replacement of New York/Boston".

Fictional major cities thus work better in urban fantasy/alternate future (as in your example) or future settings (Night City or the Sprawl in Cyberpunk).

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Re: Building a Fictional City?

Postby Angel Tarragon » Sat Jun 06, 2015 12:52 am

Gotham is actually just another name for Manahttan island AFAIK, it might actually refer to a smaller section of the island.
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Re: Building a Fictional City?

Postby Michael Silverbane » Sat Jun 06, 2015 1:49 am

Figuratively speaking, both Gotham and Metropolis represent Manhattan...

Wikipedia wrote: In terms of atmosphere, Batman writer and editor Dennis O'Neil has said that, figuratively, "Batman's Gotham City is Manhattan below 14th Street at eleven minutes past midnight on the coldest night in November, and Metropolis is Manhattan between 14th and 100th Streets on the brightest, sunniest July day of the year.
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Re: Building a Fictional City?

Postby Big Mac » Mon May 09, 2016 12:45 pm

Havard wrote:In most of the examples above, the fictional cities are thinly disguised paralells of real world American cities. How would you go about if you were to create a fictional city for your game? Is it easier to come up with US based cities than say European ones?


The fictional cities tend to be based on US cities with tall buildings, with tall buildings being used as shorthand for "advanced building techniques".

I think that some of this actually has come down to geology. If you look at a real-world European city like London, a lot of it is built on clay. That's made it a lot more difficult to build high buildings than New York. Building underground railway lines has been a lot harder too. There are very few London Underground lines in South London because of the problems digging through clay.

When they built The Shard, they came up with some new techniques to anchor the building, so London might go sky-high now, but I think that people are basically making a fictional New York most of the time.

I think my favourite modern fictional city is Megacity One, from Judge Dredd. Judge Dredd has just taken everything to the Nth degree. :lol:
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Re: Building a Fictional City?

Postby willpell » Mon May 09, 2016 1:55 pm

As a former player of both superhero and urban fantasy RPGs, I've done my own city designs a lot, and I never do them as ersatz versions of New York or LA or the like; I feel it's both disrespectful and inefficient, as there's a lot of rich detail about the real cities that you can research and use. When I've created my own cities, it has always been with a very deliberate distortion to reality in mind - for instance, one of my games had a theme of religious faith and questioning thereof, so I set it in "New Rome", the city with the highest per capita number of churches in America. Most of my others were not quite that on the nose (and in many cases I don't even remember what the gimmick was - I have a city named Harbor Bay but I don't remember why exactly I created it), but there's always meant to be some specific reason why I made a city up rather than using an existing one.
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