Off the Path: City Construction, Part 3: Wards

So far, the city construction process has really only covered fairly homogeneous settlements. You might describe a bustling port as having lots of commerce (high Trade score and the Mercantile property) but highly-transient population that can get pretty rowdy (low Stability score). This isn’t a lot of detail, but until you need more it can be enough.

When you do need more, though, it’s possible to take a closer look.

Historically, many cities are actually made up of smaller pieces referred to as wards, districts, quarters, boroughs, neighborhoods… you get the idea. Each has its own characteristics that differentiate it from the others. Sometimes they grow over time, with the city expanding outside its walls or other barriers (such across a river) and then incorporating the new growth again. In other cases (such as the Seven Hills of Rome) several smaller settlements might grow until they merge together into a single, larger settlement.

The city construction guidelines make it easy to implement either of these.

Multi-Ward Settlements

It is very easy to split a settlement into wards, simply by dividing the population into smaller pieces and treating each as its own settlement with its own qualities. The settlement as a whole retains the same base settlement scores and level adjustment (if needed). Each ward has its own level adjustment and can assign the base scores differently.

Each settlement can have up to three qualities, plus one more at levels 13, 17, and every four levels after that. The settlement can assign a number of ranks up to the settlement’s level to these qualities. These ranks don’t need to be split evenly, but no quality should get more than half the ranks available (rounded up).

Each ward can have up to three qualities, and a number of ranks allocated to them equal to half the ward’s level, rounded up. Again, no more than half the ranks (rounded up) can be assigned to a single quality. The qualities of the wards should reflect those of the settlement as a whole (if you have a Mercantile quality for the settlement, at least one ward should have the Mercantile quality).

Port Elren

Port Elren is a small town (level 9, nominal population 283) at the mouth of the River Elre, where there are some modest docks that actually do more business than might be expected — possibly because of the crafters (tanners?) on the other side of the river. It has base scores of 16, 7, 13, 8, 11, 8, and I’ll assign them to Trade, Stability, Military, Social, Craft, and Infrastructure respectively:

  • Military 13 (+1)
  • Trade 16 (+3)
  • Infrastructure 7 (-2): I suspect the tanners are a bit upstream of the town proper
  • Craft 11 (+0)
  • Stability 8 (-1): pretty rowdy, lots of transients and ne’er-do-wells.
  • Social 8 (-1): lots of dives and cheap entertainment, not so much of the elites and whatnot.

Being a level 9 settlement, it’s grown and improved a bit, and gets a +2 modifier to all its scores:

  • Military 15 (+2)
  • Trade 18 (+4)
  • Infrastructure 9 (-1): things are cleaned up a bit, the roads are no longer paved in sewage, etc… still subject to some problems here, though.
  • Craft 13 (+1)
  • Stability 10 (+0): enough money and trade happen now that a city watch has been formed.
  • Social 10 (+0): some money has come in, and this is no longer quite as much a backwater.

As a level 9 settlement there are three qualities. Let’s say Trade, Military, and Industrial. This is primarily a trade town, with lesser emphasis on craft (local but valuable trade goods) and defense (fortification):

  • Mercantile IV (+4 to various checks relating to Trade and other connections);
  • Industrial III (+3 to checks relating to Craft and other ‘can we make it?’ questions);
  • Fortified II (+2 to checks related to Military defense and the like).

Altogether this tells me actually quite a bit about the settlement. I’ll still want to work up what the numbers mean specifically, especially with regard to player concerns (+8 to many Trade checks sounds like there should be a good market for valuable stuff like recovered treasure), but even so I’ve got a relative sense of things.

Port Elren, Multiple Wards

I’ve got a high-level view of Port Elren, but it looks like the PCs are going to hang around for a while. I’d like to get some greater detail.

It looks like I’ve got three major centres to the settlement: the fort, the market and docks, and the crafters. I’ll create three wards.

  • The mercantile ward is largest, so I’ll make it level 8.
  • The crafters is the next biggest, even if they’re on the other side of the river (so presumably there is at least one bridge), I’ll call that ward level 5.
  • The fort on the hill might have been quite important at one time, but is now almost an afterthought, so I’ll call that ward level 3.

The level 9 population (nominally 283 people) is now split between three wards of levels 8, 5, and 3 (nominal populations 200, 71, and 35 respectively, with modifiers of +2, +1, and +0 to all ability scores respectively). Because I’ve split these up, I’ve decided to use the same base scores but arrange them differently.

Score Settlement Scores Mercantile Ward (+2) Crafter Ward (+1) Military Ward (+0)
Military 15 (+3) 13+2 = 15 (+2) 8+1 = 9 (-1) 16 (+3)
Trade 18 (+4) 16+2 = 18 (+4) 8+1 = 9 (-1) 7 (-2)
Infrastructure 9 (-1) 11+2 = 13 (+1) 11+1 = 12 (+1) 13 (+1)
Craft 13 (+1) 7+2 = 9 (-1) 16+1 = 17 (+3) 8 (-1)
Stability 10 (+0) 8+2 = 10 (+0) 13+1 = 14 (+2) 11 (+0)
Social 10 (+0) 8+2 = 10 (+0) 7+1 = 8 (-1) 8 (-1)

Still not a lot of great night life around here. Each ward is better than the others at something, and these are largely reflected in the settlement scores as a whole. I see some differences between the settlement as a whole and all the wards. That the settlement’s Infrastructure as a whole is lower than the individual wards might mean I should change the score assignments for the settlement (swap Social and Infrastructure, say), or I could interpret it as a distinct lack of cooperation between the districts.

If I’d stuck with my original plan where all wards use the same base scores this wouldn’t happen. I might amend this so that if I do rearrange the scores, the settlement score must be equal to or greater than the lowest matching score among the wards. In all cases the settlement as a whole should be at least as strong — have a score no worse than — the weakest of its wards.

The qualities are pretty straightforward. Each ward can have up to three qualities.

  • Mercantile Ward is level 8, which means it can assign four ranks to qualities, no more than two to any one quality. Obviously gets Mercantile II (+2 to Trade checks, among other things), and I’ll assign Patrollers I (+1 to Stability) and Wealth I.
  • Crafter Ward is level 5, which means it can assign 3 ranks to qualities, no more than two to any quality. Craft (Leather) II (+2 to Craft checks) represents the fine leathers and leather products produced locally, and Industrial I suggests there’s a fair bit of other production done here.
  • Military Ward is level 3, which means it can assign 2 ranks to qualities, no more than 1 to any quality. There’s a decrepit old fort (Fortified I) and a small temple to the god of war (Religious I).

This is a higher-detail view of Port Elren than I started with, and I’m getting a better feel for the nature of the place. It’s a dirty industrial port town, still pretty rowdy in places, but busy and accumulating quite a coin for someone.

I don’t know that I’d go to this level of detail for a town that I’m not expecting to use a lot, but I think there is some potential for this to be useful when developing a town the PCs are likely to be around for a while.

The next post in this series makes a big step, from the local scene to nation-wide.

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