Mythmere wrote:I don't ordinarily do cities at a high level of detail, but I will sometimes detail a neighborhood so I can describe various shops without having to do both shops and people on the fly. I find it difficult to use someone else's city at that level of detail, though - I even have difficulty with the City State.
Heh, I know what you mean about the City State. Actually, the Flipping Frog Tavern is a nod to the Overlord's city.
That said, I think part of the problem is that City's tend to be too large and... how can I put this? ... accessible may be? In fact, I think this can be a problem with wilderness campaigns in general. Basically, the area of play is too big, and the freedom of movement by characters too free, for the DM to plan it all out. It forces the DM to pencil stuff in, and then make the detail up on the fly. For me, this was always one of the really big advantages of the dungeon; it was an environment that the DM could fully detail, and then just let the players explore it in a free-roaming manner. IMO this is why the later modules, in trying to be more 'realistic' and 'escape the dungeon', ended up becoming so linear - in order to provide the detail the module needed, the freedom of movement the players had needed to be curtailed or guided to along a series of set-piece encounters.
I'm trying to overcome this with my own city by building it as a series of districts, where I treat each district in the same kind of way I'd deal with a Dungeon level. I've been helped in this by a piece of artwork from an old issue of White Dwarf, a lovely piece of work that showed a fantasy city built into the side of a mountain. What interested me was that the city was made up of separate areas linked by paths and bridges. I've stolen this idea, imagining my mega-dungeon being inside the mountain, and the city outside. The players start off in the Lower Ports district (the Cities equivalent of the 1st level of the dungeon). There are ways out of the district that lead to the sewers and my mega-dungeon, but also to the Upper Ports and other 'levels' of the city. This has allowed me to focus the Lower Ports on low level parties, while the upper levels of the city can provide increasingly greater challenges. In a nutshell, it's megadungeon design meets city design.
Aaaargh - I've gone off on one again. Sorry for rambling. As I said in an earlier post I've been bitten bad by the S&W bug, and am as obsessed about my campaign as an 14 year old newbie