Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Rainy City

The Rainy City will be the setting for our "one of a kind" campaign framework. It's a place where each spell, magic item, and monster is (usually) unique, and where most of the real monsters are men. It's a little bit elemental, a little bit post-apocalyptic, and a little bit weird. It's meant to be a staging ground for an urban D&D campaign centered on robberies and intrigues.

It's the end of the world. It always rains. Rain beats against the walls. It seeps through the shutters. It pours off the mossy backs of the gargoyles. It turns streets into streams and rivers.

Teetering, damp towers lean against rotting townhouses. Servants dash through storms on petty errands. Fireplaces sputter weakly, and spellbooks filled with moldy spells rot in spite of the protections lavished on them for their precious contents.

The great school of magic used to be here. But that was before the world ended and the rains came. Now the old school is mostly under the bay, its secrets ruined and lore lost. Oh, a few of the highest towers peak out of the waters, testifying to its presence. Ferrymen use the towers as moorings and wayposts when the rain and fog make navigating the bay treacherous. But the school is from a past world.

But there is magic here. Wizards hide themselves away in their damp townhouses, each one jealously guarding the few secrets he still has, scrounging and scheming for more. The richest men live on the three peaks on the north bay, where the rains pour off the dark rocks in waterfalls. The poorest live in the sump, a low lying slum that is as much a swamp as it is a city. The desperate, striving tradesmen build their townhouses in rings that cling to the lower slopes of the peaks. Strange foreign merchants dock but rarely stay. The incessant gloom and rain drive all but the greediest or most hopeless men to move on as quickly as they come.

Rainwater pours off the backs and from the mouths of the gargoyles that decorate the stone towers and keeps. They plot too. Some say said they plot to destroy the city, but wizards sometimes hire them to keep watch over their petty secrets, anyway. Most find that rough men are security enough. Violence comes easily to them, and they care little for sorceries. But thieves can make a fortune here, if they are quick and clever. From the lowliest medium to the greatest wizard, the mages hire experts to steal spells and enchanted items from their enemies. And from their friends.

It's the end of the world. The rain never stops. And there's no one left to trust in but yourself.


  1. I'm really digging this film noir-ish conception of a classic D&D city, it sounds almost like something from WFRP, or what Eberron could have been...

    Great articles. New fan. +RSS feed +blogroll

  2. This is really excellent. As I'm sure you know, a specific setting is the key to a good story -- stage, film, book -- or a good campaign and you've nailed it. Over and over and over we see settings, cities, maps, that try to be all things to all people (over here's the Middle-Eastern Bazaar, and here's the Parthenon, and here's the Aboriginals, etc) and that's just death.

    The Rainy City. Great name. Immediately evocative.

    The end of the world. That right there is a universal concept everyone can grasp. It establishes a tone. I'm seeing everything in a minor key, down around the 60% range of the gray-scale.

    Rising sea-level, the last towers of the great library just peaking their nostrils up, a soggy, frustrated, but not yet quenched mercantile class, all simply superb details. Can I play in your campaign?

  3. Thanks crazyred. I appreciate it.

    You would be more than welcome at our table. Shoot me an email if you ever find yourself in mid-Michigan. And if you make it Gen Con, let me know -- I'll be there this year, and I usually try to make it every year that I can.