Wednesday, June 11, 2014

And Now For Something Completely Different

This Week on Worldblogger:
After my hiatus, I found myself unenergized by the world I'd previously been creating. On further reflection, I think I was approaching it from too cosmic a standpoint. What really interests me about worldbuilding are the details. I was so hopelessly far from details on my previous world that I had a difficult time dragging myself back to the keyboard each week.
This week, then, I've decided to do something drastically different. This week, I simply drew a map of a city and, based on that map, I'm going to brainstorm some ideas. Next Wednesday, I'll write a detailed description of the city – which you can insert, whole-cloth, into your novel, D&D setting, what have you. Let's see how this goes!
The Map:

Obviously a populous city – I imagine all the interior brown boxes represent small neighborhoods, rather than actual buildings. Many criss-crossing streets, one major river that streams through the center of the city and empties into the ocean. Seven bridges cross the river and seemingly random intersections. Large walls with circular, turreted towers. It's interesting that the wall doesn't seem to encompass the entire city – does it serve some other purpose than defense? Was it never completed?

The most salient detail of the map, perhaps, is the large island some distance off the shore. When I was drawing the map, I imagined it was something like neutral territory for the citizens, where they could trade and exchange goods without some negative influence – either government or societal – over their mercantile enterprises. Hence, I drew all the colored stall tops (again, meant to represent the idea symbolically, rather than literally). Lost of docks and jetties too, which probably means many people to trade with. Ostensibly, the city's not very isolated, but those high walls might disagree.

When I was drawing, I'd sorta imagined a rich, populous Middle Eastern/Mediterranean city, the kind of place Fafhrd, Conan and the Grey Mouser would frequent. I imagine the place a spiritual cousin to the Free Cities in Martin's Essos, with more than a little influence borrowed from Gentlemen of the Road too. Maybe the land to the south is wild, expansive steppe or desert, populated by raiding hordes of nomads, who bring the goods they pillage and conquest here for trade. Perhaps bearded, red-shirted savages come down from the north, to similarly trade raided goods.

As for the city itself, I imagine it teeming, crowded and full of strange and exotic goods. The smells of cinnamon, cardamon, fresh fish, stale piss, spilled wine – all mingling together. Bravos walk the streets, urchins ply the crowd's pockets, great and unusual beasts of burden trundle through the narrow alleyways.

I'm currently toying with an unusual or atypical system of government. All the time, places like these are depicted as brutal dictatorships, like the Overlord of Lankhmar, where the common people are worthless trash than the nobles grind into the dust. What if this city was a democracy? Not even a republic like we are, but an actual Athenian democracy. What if voting was a regular, even weekly part of life? Imagine the more interesting corruption and graft you could play with in a democracy like that.

A strictly democratic, richly mercantile desert port, where much of the city's wealth is traded outside and the citizens fiercely protect their voice in civic matters? Sounds like a good starting point!

Let's maybe try one more thing – what if every week, I conclude with some question, something you spambots can vote on or suggest ideas for, that would determine some important facet of the city?

What's the predominant religion of the city?

  • Monotheism (devoted to one, all-powerful deity)
  • Polytheism (devoted to many smaller, less powerful deities)
  • Philosophical (devoted to an ideal, a concept, a way of life)
  • Irreligious (devoid of higher beliefs, an atheistic or even blasphemous state)
  • Other (leave your suggestions in comments)
Feel free to vote or suggest ideas in the comments!

Next Week on Worldblogger: The City Is Named!


  1. I vote Monotheism! Or potentially some kind of religious divide, like rival monotheisms.

  2. As always I vote Philosophical!

    (I have this idea that keeps bouncing around my head about how a cult of self-improvement, aimed not at revering the gods but becoming them, might play out politically once it has become mainstream...)