Well That Place Sounds Interesting

When I make new cities and towns in my games, I sometimes like to do “themes” to make the location interesting and memorable. If you can pick a particular focus, you can have your players explore a place that stands out in their minds, and gives them the chance to see something unexpected. Here are a few ways I’ve made places interesting by giving them a theme.

Dormalla, the Vile City, was a place that I developed by trying to make a truly awful cesspool of a place to live. I made it a place where magic of rot, sorrow, and everything foul flowed together, and said it was a place that drew people to it that had some great negative emotion in their hearts. People with sorrow would be drawn here and live in their sadness. People prone to anger would come here and live in a small mud hut, fuming constantly at the world. Everything was gross; sewers running high with filth, ditches of mud, scrawny animals running about. It was a place where new unpleasantnesses lurked around every corner. It wasn’t extremely magical, but it had the players looking up the cost of soap for the first time ever.

Weirdd was a city that was built around a wild magic zone, which meant that all spells did not do what they were meant to. This place had strict laws about casting even the simplest spells, and they even sold a version of the Rod of Wonder for cheap, as it was sort of their signature thing. It was a really fun time when one player was affected by a rogue spell effect and instinctively cast Dispel Magic on themselves to end the effect…. their casting did not work as expected, and they were shrunk to 1/12 their size. So fun.

In my homebrew campaign setting, Starfolk are a people who love luck and gambling. For this reason, I developed a new way of doing trade in their cities. This is an excerpt from my campaign setting document:

Starfolk merchants prefer to do business by incorporating luck. Often times a price will be “a ten sided” or “between two twelves”. This refers to the result of a rolled die or dice. A ten sided will mean the result of a rolled ten sided die, while between two twelves would be the difference between the results on two rolled twelve sided dice. Other methods of determining price based on dice rolls may be encountered. Because of the need for true luck, and to avoid the use of weighted dice, merchants have (or carry with them) a small canister of an alchemical fluid that ensures dice are balanced. Any die placed in the liquid will slowly spin if it is perfectly balanced. If it is weighted or flawed, it will not spin, and will float with the favoured side up. Travelling merchants sometimes have small canisters that they wear around their necks; orbs with a flat bottom that can be opened to reveal the liquid. Storefronts will often have a small jar of the fluid with the necessary dice already floating in it.