Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cities of Urbis - Building Bodenwald, Part I

If I want to get serious about publishing Urbis, I need to flesh out the city-states of the Flannish Cities region, the industrial heartland of the setting. Two of the cities - Dartmouth and Nimdenthal - already are fairly detailed (including rough city maps), and the cities of Grüngarten and Praxus also have quite a lot of district writeups already (though no maps, so far). But the rest have only bare-bones descriptions, and I need to change that. Let us go through them in alphabetical order. The first one is Bodenwald, which is described thusly:

"In Bodenwald, the Astromantic Society was founded, and the city still serves as its headquarters. Thus, Bodenwald serves as the center of most activities involving the exploration and colonization of other planets, and many people who hope to start over on a new world come here. The city has become rich by trading exotic goods and minerals from the colonies, and its zoological gardens, which feature many creatures from other worlds, attract many scholars.
Bodenwald is one of the few Flannish cities with a surviving aristocracy, and despite the fact that an elected parliament governs the city, the eccentric and wildly popular King Maximilian III can certainly influence politics when he puts his mind to it. He has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Astromantic Society, and the riches its efforts bring to the city have reflected well on him as well."
There are also some details on the Bodenwald Protectorate - the land the city-state controls - but no description of the city itself yet. The primary inspiration for this city-state is late 19th century Bavaria and Munich, though I might also look at Stuttgart for inspiration.

Let's start with the basic geography. Wikipedia tells us that Munich lies on a plain, which is convenient for building cities but is less interesting for adventure settings. So how can we make it more interesting? Well, perhaps the "plain" is actually an ancient meteor impact crater (like the Nördlinger Ries, which is also in Bavaria) - this would nicely emphasize the connection to space the Astromantic Society stands for. The locals have therefore given the city the nickname "The Cauldron" or "Kessel" (in German). Furthermore, the Munich plain was covered by glaciers during the last Ice Age, which have left their marks with moraines and glacial erratics - leftover stones and detritus carried by the glaciers. So let's say large boulders are scattered across the crater which are traditionally believed to be the home of the fey - but those fey also try to stay away from the parts of the crater where fragments of meteoric cold iron are buried.

Continuing with the Munich Wikipedia entry, I note in passing that modern-day Munich has a fairly high percentage of resident foreigners - 24.4%, which reminds me to figure out the resident minorities of Bodenwald. Looking at the map of the Known Lands, that likely means some Siebenbund halflings and gnomes, likely a higher number of immigrants from the Parginian Rim (as that region is poorer than the Siebenbund) which might result in some Discendenti activity, and a smattering of expatriates from Thenares and some Avareen elves. There might also be some minor dwarf holds in the hills and mountains of the protectorate.

Next up is religion. Munich has Roman Catholicism as its single largest religion (as it is the case with most of southern Bavaria), so let's make the predominant faith that of Thenos, the largest "monotheist" faith of the setting - but unlike the more austere version practiced in the coastal city-states, the local branch is very ostentatious and is famous for its passion plays (like those in Oberammergau, also in Bavaria).

The name of the city "Munich" derives from "Mönch", the German word for Monk, and as far as anyone knows the city founding was connected to Schäflarn Abbey. Thus, Bodenwald was originally built around an abbey as well. Possibly this abbey was guarding something - either a huge chunk of Meteoric Iron or sealing one of the Fey Stones. I will make that decision later...

Another interesting detail from the history of Munich is that a bridge was built across the river Isar as a crossing for the Salt Road, a trade route for salt. But salt was also used to ward against ghosts in some cultures. Was a Salt Road established through Bodenwald to ward against some major ghostly incursions - perhaps the ghostly remains of the local Goblin Mound Builder culture which were slaughtered by the human invaders? And was the abbey founded to safeguard against the goblin ghosts?

To be continued...