Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Guest Post: Setting and Player Introduction for The Lost City

World Background

The characters begin in Scumville, a notorious metropolis of scum and villainy. Home to Amranin men, Orcs, Kobolds, Dwarves and even a tiny Halfling presence, Scumville is the most diverse city in the Upper Kingdoms. The bustling capital of Far Imran, her docks, markets, gambling houses and brothels operate night and day.

Scumville is in a precarious state at the time of this adventure. Three years ago the Middle Kingdom successfully invaded Far Imran, laid siege to the capital, and forced a number of concessions. Among them was the abandonment of foreign policy, and tolerating garrisons in the capital and elsewhere.

The powerful and entrenched Mayor of Scumville undermines the influence of Middle Kingdom observers and the local garrison at every turn. Defying orders to tear down the defensive wall around the city, work has largely stopped, and even repairs made in places. Rumor has it that the Middle Kingdom suffers both from an uprising in its eastern holdings, and from the unrelenting claims of the Federation of Free Cities to the north. Occupation troops have thinned out to deal with problems elsewhere. The subjugation of Scumville was not decisive, and the occupier’s tenuous hold weakens with every passing month.

Game Intro

It is against this backdrop that the characters join an expedition into the Sudden Waste– a vast and uncharted desert stretching endlessly to the south. Organized by Mr. Henri the Trader, a well-respected and feared businessman who controls most of Scumville’s up-river export trade, the expedition’s goals are vague. Formerly, travel into the Sudden Waste was forbidden without a Letter of Marque from the Office of the Mayor. Now, such authority lies with Middle Kingdom bureaucrats.

The nominal objective has something to do with exploration, trade routes, and seeking riches… somewhere. The characters are, for the most part, in no position to even inquire, let alone demand, further explanation. They are told only that they are signing up for a mission that may last up to two months, and for which they will be compensated the equivalent of about half a year’s day laborer’s wages.

Some (not all) are also informed that, upon satisfactory fulfillment of their contracts, Mr. Henri will procure for them a Letter of Merit from the Mayor’s Office. Such a Letter could have value as a get-out-of-jail-free pass for lesser offences in Scumville, and might carry weight as a letter of introduction in other lands.

Read Earlburt’s entire series on The Lost City:

  1. Setting out for the Lost City
  2. Nonvariable Weapon Damage, Alignment Tongues, and Rolling Hit Dice
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11 responses to “Guest Post: Setting and Player Introduction for The Lost City

    • Earlburt October 31, 2012 at 9:36 am

      Me too. And it wasn’t my idea.

      I’ve been concocting this gameworld for nearly twenty years– adding details, refining bits and pieces. But the nucleus of it is Scumville and Bigton, which were the main cities of a gameworld I remember as a player, in games run by my best friend growing up. His world was vivid in my imagination, but not terribly fleshed out on paper. I had only the vaguest sense of what was “true” of his world in terms of geography, scale, etc.

      Anyway, when I laid down a sketch of my world, I started with the very small details I remembered from his and just built around that. I always found Scumville to be one of the more charming bits.

      • jeffro October 31, 2012 at 10:37 am

        I remember you mentioning your own Tolkien setting way back when we first met. Probably the same setting you were planning on using for the homebrew game I made a goblin character for. That’s cool that its roots go so far back… though it is like you to build on previous game sessions wherever possible. (I tried to explain that about you to the guy I play Napoleon’s Triumph and he totally doesn’t get it. When I tried to explain it some more… I realized that even I didn’t quite grasp it!)

      • earlburt October 31, 2012 at 11:16 am

        Yup, that game would have been set in the same world. Would have also started in Scumville, in fact. Every FRPG I’ve run has been set there. And I do like adding to the world via gameplay, as you’ve described in some of your recent posts.

        In fact, my reference to an uprising in the middle Kingdom was an idea born from something as simple as a player leaving the game. After three or four sessions he realized role-playing wasn’t his cup of tea. Rather than simply have his character disappear quietly, I converted him to a NPC and in his last session he was possessed by ancient spirits and awakened a new man, hell-bent on recapturing his hereditary lands and title. I’ve plotted the course of this uprising, and one day aspire to run a game where the players somehow get involved in it.

        One of my favorite aspects of gameworld design is starting with a kernel, the smaller and more arbitrary the better, and making it into something big.

  1. Chris Mata October 31, 2012 at 6:27 am

    I read ‘tiny halfing presence’ as ‘tiny halfing PRINCESS’ the first time I read it.

  2. Ben Brophy October 31, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    I so so so wish I was playing in this campaign! I am considering playing Pathfinder – have you tried it? There seem to be some local groups around here.

    • Earlburt October 31, 2012 at 3:16 pm

      I have not. Since high school, the new-to-me systems I’ve played are easily enumerated– Warhammer Fantasy RP, D&D 4th ed., and Burning Wheel/Mousguard.

      I’ve heard enough about D&D 3.5 (which wikipedia says Pathfinder is based on) to know I wouldn’t be much interested. I figure, if I’m going to use a rules-intensive system at all, it may as well be Rolemaster. And I don’t entirely dig the evolution of systems towards making PCs heroic, and having success be the normative outcome. I think I like greater chances of failure in a set of rules.

      All that being said, I’d totally play any game with you. While I didn’t dig 4th ed. in and of itself, just to be playing a campaign at all is a rare privelege.

      I remember that you had a map of the Scumville, Bigton, Cashmere gameworld. I’ve wished many times to have had access to it.

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