Off the Path: City Construction, Part 2: Qualities

In my last post I talked about the basics of city construction. Settlements have

  • settlement scores analogous to characters’ ability scores, though applied to different purpose;
  • levels analogous to character levels, that influence the size and resources available;
  • population analogous to experience points (which will come into play more in the next article);
  • qualities that expand on and help provide texture for the settlement.

In this post I’m going to talk more about qualities.

Settlement Qualities

The Pathfinder GameMastery Guide defines a dozen qualities that influence the nature of a settlement. Each quality is basically binary (present or not) and has a fixed effect. For instance, the ‘Academic’ quality indicates that “the settlement possesses a school, training facility, or university of great renown. (Lore +1, increase spellcasting by 1 level)”, where ‘Lore’ is a score that “measures not only how willing the citizens are to chat and talk with visitors, but also how available and accessible its libraries and sages are”, and ‘spellcasting’ affects the highest-level spells available for purchase or hire in the settlement.

I’m not using the same scores as the Pathfinder GameMastery Guide, so obviously I can’t use the same qualities the same way.

Measuring Qualities

Binary qualities are easily applied and adjudicated, but I am leaning away from that. I think I’d rather see them quantitative, with different values, so I don’t have to define ‘Fortified I’, ‘Fortified II’, and ‘Fortified III’ qualities. I’d rather see ‘Fortified’ with a value of 3 than need three qualities.

Off the top of my head (I haven’t formalized a list) I think I’ll have qualities such as

  • Fortified adds to Military modifier on rolls against attacks. This quality probably looks like a palisade or earthen ramparts or stone walls, choke points in approaches to the settlement (probably with guard posts), siege engines, and so on.
  • Religious might add to Stability checks, but I can imagine examples where it might not. A primary benefit, though, comes in having divine support for the settlement. This quality might indicate a large temple or collection of temples, religious icons commonly displayed, and so on.
  • Mercantile adds to Trade modifier on certain checks. This quality probably indicates many or large marketplaces, caravansaries, dockyards, guilds, and other locations to trade or means of transportation.
  • Industrial could add to Craft (more people working to make stuff) or Trade (more goods to export)… or I could see a couple more possibilities. It might not even add to any checks, instead providing other benefits. I need to think about this. In any case, it probably looks like more crafters, or improved manufacturing resources such as mills and factories.
  • Wealthy would probably add to one or both of Trade and Social checks, depending on the origin of the wealth. The houses are nicer, people tend to be better-dressed, and so on.
  • Resources (needs a better name) would add to Infrastructure checks, and indicates things like storehouses to hold food, aqueducts to ensure good water, and so on.
  • Academic is probably like Religious in that it might not actually add to any checks, but provide support for skills within the city, especially Knowledge or Profession skills. As might be expected, a settlement with the Academic quality probably has schools and colleges and the like.
  • (Skill) indicates that the skill, or rather those that practice it, are easier to find than might otherwise be the case, or more capable than might be expected. This could interact with Religious, Industrial, and/or Academic. For instance, while you can reasonably expect to find an armorer in most cities of a certain size, the Craft (Armorer) quality indicates that more or better armorers are found here than usual. This probably looks a lot like Industrial, except that it should be evident which skill is the focus of the quality. Also, it is probably easy to see the results (products or services) of the skill available for sale.

As I said above, each of these would likely have a numeric value indicating ‘how much’ effect the quality has. This value might be added to specific checks as needed, and in some cases is just a measure. ‘Craft (Weaponsmith) I’ might mean common weapons are readily available for sale, while ‘Craft (Weaponsmith) II’ might mean uncommon weapons or masterwork weapons are readily available — no check needed, they just are.

The list needs to be developed further, but this should give a sense of what qualities are, what they do, and how they might influence the appearance of a settlement.

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