Thursday, October 24, 2013

My Gaming Projects, Part II: Urbis - A World of Cities

After discussing my Doomed Slayers setting in a previous post, I turn to my Magnum Opus: Urbis - A World of Cities.

It all started with the famous Wizards of the Coast "Setting Search" of 2002, where the company was looking for a new D&D setting and opened a submission process where the finalist would receive the sum of $100,000 (though they would have to use some of that money to develop a "setting bible") - an enormous sum in an industry where most authors can't make a living with their writing. I submitted my own idea, and despite rumors to the contrary my submission (like 10,900 others) washed out in the first round (Eberron was the final winner - which I don't begrudge at all, since it really is an excellent setting). But I liked my own idea enough to develop it further on my own from that first, one-page summary, and developed it through a number of iterations - the latest of which can be found in this wiki.

So what are the central ideas of Urbis? Well, at the time I was heavily influenced by the Obscure Cities - a parallel world/comic book series by the Belgian artists François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters. This world conjured vistas of grand, majestic cities that had Mad Architects the way pulp settings have Mad Scientists:     

This meant that I wanted my own D&D world to have vast cities as well - with populations ranging in the hundreds of thousands, or even millions of inhabitants. This also meant avoiding Medieval Stasis - instead of the usual psedo-feudal arrangements, the basic units of society and government would be independent city-states surrounded by large protectorates.

Since this was supposed to be a D&D setting, I started out with all the usual components of D&D (or the d20 system) - all the races, all the monsters, all the magics etc. - and then added a new element that would drive a Magical Industrial Revolution and thus cause the rise of the city-states. This new element is azoth, a potent universal magical ingredient which allows for industrial-scale production of magic items and which is generated by so-called nexus towers, magical architecture which converts the ambient life energy generated by people living nearby into magical energy.

Of course, this was only the start. I had to describe entire regions in detail, examine how the various D&D races would fit into such a changed world, work out a pantheon, create interesting organizations that could help or hinder the PCs, describe the economics, society, a sample city-state, and much much more...

...and I am still not done.

I still want to publish the setting as a PDF product on DriveThruRPG and elsewhere though (likely using the Pathfinder system, unless D&D 5e offers a new Open License) - but I am beginning to realize that the huge mega-setting book I originally envisioned may be a bit too ambitious. Perhaps it would be wiser to publish a more condensed PDF first - concentrating on the Flannish Cities region, which I consider to be the "heart" of the setting. Each city-state in that region would get a one to two-page writeup, while the other major regions would only get a short overview - and detailing them could be left to later supplements.

Of course, I need to focus my attention to actually get to the publication stage, and I can't do everything at once. So I ask you, gentle readers: What would you like to see published the most (and perhaps buy)? More Doomed Slayers material? A publication of Urbis - A World of Cities? Development of the Dreaming Stars setting? Or something else entirely?