City Campaign Problems and Solutions

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Havard
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City Campaign Problems and Solutions

Post by Havard » Sun Apr 22, 2018 5:04 pm

1) Too easy for PCs to get into trouble. Too many city campaigns have ended with the PCs getting into fights with city guards and being thrown out of the city, put in jail or felt the need to get out of town untill things cool down.

I think the best way to handle this is to talk about it in advance. Sometimes suffering through the consequences of bad decisions or bad dice rolls can be fun. But at other times, it is just frustrating and can even lead to the end of a campaign. What I would like to do to solve this is to give the players some get out of free cards. While I don't want the PCs to feel like the DM is being lenient, there are some moments where you just want to give the PCs a pass. Do we really want to run yet another escape from the prison scenario? For the umpteenth time?

a) NPCs to the rescue. Whatever the PCs do, whoever they upset, there is likely to be someone out there who is pleased with those events. This is a great way to introduce some polticial aspects of the game. However, make sure that the players understand that there is a price to them getting help.

b) Allied organization. Somewhat similar to a), but this organization can be established in advance. Witnesses can be bribed or threatened. Keys, weapons etc can be smuggled into prisons.

c) City Guards are not a modern police force. Many parts of town will not be guarded at all. There are no photos or cameras. Witnesses are unreliable. Unless the PCs are caught red handed, they should be able to just lay low for a few days and they should be fine. If they have just killed a major noble or merchant it might be different, but a few bar brawls resulting in the occasional death might not mean the city guards will even make this case a priority.


2) Too easy access to supplies, healing, allies etc.

Will get back to this later.

3) How to create real combat type challenges, like monsters and stuff? Or how to run D&D without those?

Will get back to this later.

4) A bit of politics is fun, but how to avoid the game from being bogged down by them?
will get back to this later.


Do you have suggestions to these problems? Or other examples of problems that might arise in a city campaign?

-Havard
Last edited by Havard on Mon Apr 23, 2018 8:45 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: City Campaign Problems and Sollutions

Post by willpell » Sun Apr 22, 2018 7:41 pm

Havard wrote:
Sun Apr 22, 2018 5:04 pm
3) How to create real combat type challenges, like monsters and stuff? Or how to run D&D without those?
There are monsters in cities; most types work more or less normally, with only a few being impossible to use.

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Re: City Campaign Problems and Sollutions

Post by Havard » Sun Apr 22, 2018 8:22 pm

willpell wrote:
Sun Apr 22, 2018 7:41 pm
Havard wrote:
Sun Apr 22, 2018 5:04 pm
3) How to create real combat type challenges, like monsters and stuff? Or how to run D&D without those?
There are monsters in cities; most types work more or less normally, with only a few being impossible to use.
Agreed. There are plenty of monsters that can work. Some cities will even allow humanoids to live in parts of the town. I would also make sure that any city I would run a campaign in had plenty of sewers, dungeons, catacombs and underground temples to allow for creatures that might be harder to use above ground. Large creatures like giants, dragons etc could attack the city, but a big difference from wilderness campaigns would be that the PCs might expect at least some help from guards and other citizens.

Of course getting other NPCs involved could also help with the PCs motivation. If only low level guards are around, the PCs might have to get involved if only so that the guards and citizens would not all be destroyed by the monster. Unusual monsters might fly into the city, dig their way from below or even be teleported into town.

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Re: City Campaign Problems and Solutions

Post by RobJN » Sun Apr 22, 2018 9:52 pm

Well, for 3), you just build an inn above the entrance to the huge, monster-infested mega dungeon. Obviously. :roll:
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Re: City Campaign Problems and Solutions

Post by shesheyan » Sun Apr 22, 2018 10:01 pm

For city campaigns I've had best result with groups of characters that were «roguish/mercenary» in nature. Its easier for them to move around shady places and ask questions without attracting too much attention.

I recall a pretty good city adventure in Dungeon magazine. It took place in the ruins of a manor. It was infested by deadly plants. The result of the owners ill advised crossbreeding experiments.
Last edited by shesheyan on Mon Apr 23, 2018 2:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: City Campaign Problems and Solutions

Post by zontoxira » Sun Apr 22, 2018 11:23 pm

1. Groups, low-level ideally, arrested for petty crimes like pickpocketing could also get a fine or do some small service for the town (and possibly force them towards your next adventure). The town guard has a group of able bodies to brave the ancient catacombs that were recently unearthed at the town cemetery, and doesn't have to waste any of its guards traversing these perilous areas.

2. To have access to these supplies, the characters need to spend resources, in the form of hard-earned gold. Still, one could limit the amount (or even access) with various tricks: supply X is scarce, because a fire broke out a few nights ago at the only warehouse that it was stored, the town temple is too busy dealing with a mysterious plague or the characters may not revere the same deity, and their allies cannot be available since they are currently embroiled in some political intrigue.

3. Like what willpell and rob said above; there are also those who do their 'job' in disguise, in the shadows, under the city, and may become the stuff of urban legends.

4. Unavoidably, setting a campaign in a city you will somehow incorporate politics. Where social groups gather, there's tension and power struggle. Unless the character go neck deep into politics, the safest IMO way to have such a thing would be to present a few factions and have the characters occasionally run errands for them.
shesheyan wrote:I recall a pretty good city adventure in Dungeon magazine. It took place in the ruins of a manor. It was infested by deadly plants. The result of the owners ill advised crossbreeding experiments.
I recall a few city adventures in Dungeon, like The Matchmaker (Dungeon #007) and A Race Against Time (Dungeon #081). Veiled Society is an excellent urban adventure, as well. And Murder in Baldur's Gate is the best 5e has offered thus far as an urban adventure, touching on a topic I'm quite fascinated.
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Re: City Campaign Problems and Solutions

Post by Big Mac » Mon Apr 23, 2018 12:53 pm

Havard wrote:
Sun Apr 22, 2018 5:04 pm
b) Allied organization. Somewhat similar to a), but this organization can be established in advance. Witnesses can be bribed or threatened. Keys, weapons etc can be smuggled into prisons.

c) City Guards are not a modern police state. Many parts of town will not be guarded at all. There are no photos or cameras. Witnesses are unreliable. Unless the PCs are caught red handed, they should be able to just lay low for a few days and they should be fine. If they have just killed a major noble or merchant it might be different, but a few bar brawls resulting in the occasional death might not mean the city guards will even make this case a priority.
In AuldDragon's Adventures in Space campaign the city watch was the allied organisation.

The PCs heard about some murders on the Rock of Bral, in Auld's second adventure Spelljammer Adventure 2: Skulking Below and decided to act as a vigilante force to attempt to win a reward. They actually went to the watch (or one of Bral's three watches if you want to be anal about the canon ;) ) to talk about helping.

The PCs were not really taken seriously, at first, but when they discovered that the murders were being carried out by creatures hiding in a disused basement in part of Bral's Underdark they got authorisation to carry out a further search. This lead into Spelljammer Adventure 3: Underbral.

During the next adventure Spelljammer Adventure 4: Scourge of the Scavver two of the PCs got caught by other members of the City Watch and my PC Braxon played a I'm glad you are here, we need your help card. That didn't work, but the watchmen did take us in to see the contact we had made earlier and our reputation for solving two previous problems (and getting them out of the way of the watch) persuaded our contact in the city watch to go to a building the PCs were interested in and demand to search it.

That would not work everywhere, of course. And it would be unrealistic to have it work everywhere. But if the PCs can catch dangerous criminals and hand them into the watch, they are making the work of the watch easier for them.

Even in a city where a Lawful Evil NPC is leading the watch, they should be intelligent enough to figure out that if a bunch of player characters want to risk their lives taking on a criminal, the NPCs own people will be able to do their jobs without having to face that risk.

Even a corrupt NPC who is in charge of a watch that is allowing crimes to happen might allow the PCs to act against rival organisations that are taking a slice of their pie.

The watch shouldn't just be a thing that either arrests the PCs or doesn't arrest the PCs. It should be a living organisation made up by a number of NPCs that are pulling in different directions.
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Re: City Campaign Problems and Solutions

Post by willpell » Mon Apr 23, 2018 8:43 pm

PS, you might wanna edit the OP to read "City Guards are not a modern police *force*". Whether they constitute a police *state* is probably going to depend on the alignment of the city's power center....

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Re: City Campaign Problems and Solutions

Post by Havard » Mon Apr 23, 2018 8:46 pm

willpell wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 8:43 pm
PS, you might wanna edit the OP to read "City Guards are not a modern police *force*". Whether they constitute a police *state* is probably going to depend on the alignment of the city's power center....
Lol, good point! I think I meant to write police force. Fixed now! :)

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Re: City Campaign Problems and Solutions

Post by Dalillama » Mon May 07, 2018 9:40 am

1) a)Sounds like a player problem to me. Players in modern games manage to do illegal stuff under the cops' radar, fantasy players can learn to do the same. Or hang, whichever.

b)One popular way to stay out of trouble is bribery, and it's a lot easier to bribe most premodern law enforcement groups. (can depend, though; Classical Athenian police were slaves, with limited opportunity for personal gain). Nepotism is another favourite; if you're related to the right people you can get away with a lot (Chinese magistrates were prohibited from serving in their home district/town to prevent this)

2) Those typically aren't free; if you want resource management to be a big part of the game, then the resources become money, favours, permits, etc.

3) a)Foes don't have to be 'monsters' as such; a necromancer preying on a poor neighbourhood for experimental victims, a perfectly ordinary crime syndicate, thugs hired for a legal task that the PCs disapprove of (evicting an old widow, breaking a debtor's legs, I dunno what kinda stuff your players are like to take exception to)
b) Monsters that can pass as human at least some of the time: lycanthropes (wererats are a favourite), vampires, some fiends (and where did they come from anyway? That warrants further inquiry), doppelgangers, etc.)
c)If the city has been there long enough, there could be all kinds of subterranean places; Seattle was built on mud, and the buildings kept sinking. Today, Seattle is mostly built on Seattle, and there's rooms and buildings and passages underground. Rome has extensive sewers dating back thousands of years. Nottingham is built on a network of sandstone caves, natural and carved both.

4) I don't really see a good way around this one, unless the PCs just remain resolutely apolitical and never do anyone favours or establish relationships. I tend to run with it, personally. Last game I ran was set in a small mining town, but there were still several factions whose interactions were relevant to the PCs. (The corrupt Sheriff and his associates, the shadow demon cult being set up by his deputy, a vigilante group trying to overthrow the sheriff so their leader could control the town, and also drive out 'undesirables' (including most of the PCs for assorted reasons), the Hip Sing Benevolent Society who ran Chinatown and didn't want to be run out by vigilantes, and the Fenians, who wanted to organize an armed expedition into British Canada, and in the meantime not be run out of town by vigilantes).

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