For this post, I’d like to present to you a setting I was using for an early version of the Dungeons and Dragons Next beta test. It was a city that served multiple purposes: it was a base for the characters, it was the hub in which they received quests, and it was also the place where many of the adventures and quests took place. It was a large part of the sessions.
When I make cities and other places for role playing game I try to think first about history. I really want to try to make them feel as if they’re not there for the characters to play around in; it is a living breathing place that could exist whether the PCs do or not. Thinking about the history and the characters of the setting, even if the players are not likely to run into some of it, goes a long way in solidifying it’s place in your game and world.
This post is going to be a bit more detailed and fleshed out than the setting appeared in my sessions, we only ran two or three at that particular point in time and I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I wanted to put in the setting. As stated before, I have no map. I have not the skill nor the software. Hopefully it is clear enough for you to analog.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy it!
A setting for use in your campaign world.
Bridgestone is a peculiar city in many ways. The most obvious of which is that the city sits stretched out across a wide chasm with a river running thousands of feet below. The city is actually built into, onto, and through an ancient Dwarven fortification that guarded the river and this hand made pass into the mountains to the north of it. Most of the old fortification has been built upon and is hidden, besides the bottom stone foundation of the city.
It is an independent city as well, owing no allegiance to any one King or Lord. Rather, as a center of trade, it affords itself freedom with generous deals to surrounding fiefdoms. The city is ruled by a council of elected officials, though it is by no means a pure democracy, as you will soon learn.
It’s a bustling city, full of merchants and a wide variety of citizens. No one race has the clear majority here. There is also a clear class gap, as the city has a large population of poverty stricken citizenry as well as many well to do sorts, self made or from a noble house.
It’s a city perfect for the apprentice adventurer, for opportunity and profit abound. Though not without risk.
Areas of the City
The city, as mentioned before, is a resettled Dwarven ruin, and much of the older portions of the city utilize and re-purpose the old architecture. The rest is built right on top of it, and so in some sections of the city the place has become layered. Some places have five different businesses in one large open stone area, and still others you have to climb two sets of ladders and go through a tunnel to reach. It can be chaotic and confusing for a newcomer. The city does, however, have some semblance of organization as a whole. Here are the major sections of Bridgetown.
The Circle District – Merchants and Markets
This district of the city is the largest and the always the busiest. It is essentially the marketplace of the city. It is a rough circle, surrounding the Council District and touching upon every other major section of the city. No matter what section or quarter you are in, you can easily find a way to the Circle District and thus a way to any other section.
The Circle is wide and filled to the brim with shops, inns, taverns, small open air market sections, stalls, and quite a few people selling things right out of a cart. It is separated from the Council District by a think wall, a remnant of the ancient fortification, with one gate. This is always heavily guarded.
The Merchants guild is the major power in this section, and it is usually one of their members who sits the council in representation of The Circle District. The guards here wear yellow capes and are employed by the Merchants Guild.
The Purple Quarter – Mages and Mystery
The Purple Quarter, despite it’s name, is a smaller part of the city, and is separated from the rest with a good thick wall similar to the one surrounding the Council District. Here, the major player is The Purple University, a large complex dedicated to the pursuits of the arcane. The University elects one of it’s members to sit the council.
The Purple Quarter is a place of magic and grand sights. There are many quiet gardens, libraries and bookstores, and peddlers of relics and artifacts at every corner. Here there is an obvious gap as well, between those who study and pursue arcane arts and the laborers who serve them. Many of them live in alleyways hidden from the main roads, or any other parts of the city altogether.
The University itself is a wonder. It utilizes old Dwarven architecture but adds onto it, making it almost unrecognizable. There are many towers and keeps, connected with open-air hallways that go through gardens of beautiful trees. There are a few glass domes, in which exotic gardens are kept for their use in potion making or as magical components.
The guard is made up of hired swords, paid for by the university. They wear purple capes. They are known to be less disciplined than other guards.
The Boulder District
This district gets it’s name from a large stone, which seems to be a block of marble carved to look like a natural boulder, that sits on a dais in the middle of it. No one knows the purpose of the piece of art, but it is thought that this part of the city was once a temple of the ancient dwarves. Today, this district is the center of craft in Bridgetown.
Much of this part of the city is new construction. There are many new wooden and stone palisade buildings, and you can almost always hear the sound of construction. Here most of the wood craftsmen, blacksmiths, sculptors, and architects reside. There is no main ruling guild, all of the guilds elect a Councillor as a whole, and the election process is fiercely democratic. The craftsmen are often at odds with the Merchants Guild, who they must go through to sell what they make, and are often thought to try and manipulate their election processes.
Much of what it is built around the city is chartered here, besides the erratic and hodge podge additions in the poorer areas. The architects here are greatly respected for not only building necessary amenities, but also for maintaining many things that citizens take for granted, such as the sewer system. The Guards here are a voluntary militia, and are the smallest force in the city. They wear gray capes.
This section of the city is a densely populated slum between to other districts, slim and long. The buildings are packed tight together, and it has many layers that extend deep into the understructure of the city, including the sewers and even into old rooms of the fortress long forgotten. Here the poorest people live where they can, sometimes in small tunnels going nowhere, or in the basement of a long abandoned stone tavern. This is also the section of the city where many mercenaries gather.
Two guilds are in power here, The Explorers Guild and The Hirelings Guild. They are essentially the same in make. with slightly differing purposes. The Explorers Guild hires out adventurers to nobles or scholars who want to explore lands and ruins, making claims or discoveries without having to put themselves in danger. The Hirelings Guild generally has a more martial purpose, that of hiring armed adventurers to be guards or even to go and fight in conflicts outside of Bridgetown. Many of the adventurers in The Grift are a part of both guilds.
The guilds maintain a surprisingly good relationship, and take turns nominating a Councilor from within their guild. This is thought to be because they generally have different actual areas of control; The Explorers Guild looks to the areas outside of the city, and the Hirelings Guild to the inside. The Council itself has a high opinion of the two guilds, because without their organization the number of adventurers in Bridgetown could lead to chaos and violence.
The Grift is also home to the Thieves Guild, an illegal and unofficial organization that the two other guilds consider their sworn enemy. The poorest of The Grift, however, have a positive relationship with the Thieves Guild, no doubt because thieves come from their class.
Recently, the many members of the Zahhakir diaspora have settled in this district, the only place they have been able to find as a home together. The Zahhakir are a ethnic and religious group within the Dragonborn race from a place far away, across the sea. They are an exotic peoples, many of them dressing in the styles of their homeland. They tend to keep to themselves, and are a pacifistic people. Their leader in diaspora, an elder dragonborn, is said to be within the city as well though his location is kept secret as a matter of protection.
The Guards of the The Grift wear red capes and are generally hired out from within the Hirelings Guild by the administration of both guilds.
On the underside of the city is a system of pulleys as well as ladders, ropes, and wooden platforms that all together make up the Riverdocks. Ships dock at the river-top docks, and their cargo is lifted up by the pulleys and platforms to the city above. Many of the citizens who work here are River Halflings, nimble and used to working on the water. This district has no Councillors, as it is small and no one really lives here.
The Marble District
This district is called so because of the number of marble and white stone buildings. Here many of the temples of the city reside. There is actually a city law, that no religious building can be erected outside of the Marble District. The reasons for this are muddled and are constantly debated.
This is a smaller district, but many who live here work the temples and are well off. No one deity or religion has control, and the Councillor of the Marble district is generally any man or woman who can donate the most gold to as many temples as possible. This generally means they elect someone who is outside of the different religious structures, though he or she must have lived in the district for a year. The place does have a residential area for particularly fervent (or forward thinking) residents.
Their guards are generally apprentice clerics, and they wear white cloaks.
Gardenstone is a gated community, where the noble houses and more affluent merchants buy estates and houses away from the filth and squalor of the city. There is an association of estate owners that elect a Councillor, as well as making sure the residents here maintain a certain quality of standards.
There are many lawns and gardens here, and all of the estates are separated by walls or canals. The guards here belong to a private force paid for and maintained by the Gardenstone Association, and wear black capes. There is not much crime here, however, and they generally spend most of their time patrolling at night or attending processions.
The Gardenstone Association seems to be at odds with most other guilds in some form or the other, though in recent times they and the Merchants Guild have worked together on certain projects.
The Council District
Here is the very middle of Bridgetown, a small walled mini-city where sits the Council of Six. It is also full of offices and meeting rooms, where business from all across the city can occur if it involves the City Bureaucracy. This is a well maintained place, with some small gardens and fountains.
The main building here is Skyward Keep, a tall and grand building where all official Council business occurs. Here they hear petitioners, debate laws, and receive ambassadors. It’s a many roomed keep where visitors can stay for extended times.
The guard force here is an actual Knighthood, called the Sons of the Bridge, whose commander is also the official leader of all armed guards in the city, though this is ceremonial unless in times of crisis. They wear capes of blue and on their shields is a device depicting the city stretching over the chasm.
The following is a list of NPCs who are the current members of the Council of Bridgetown. Use them if you wish, but feel free to make your own to fit your campaign world.
Matthias Mordren – The Circle District
Matthias is a half-orc merchant. He is very well to do, and part of this is because many underestimate him due to his looks. He has made his fortune mostly on negotiating very good deals with traders from other lands, and no one can quite say he has one trade he focuses on like most other merchants. Mostly he seems to be a connector, getting hands close enough to exchange money, and taking some for himself.
He is known to be jovial on the outside, but behind closed doors he is ruthless determined. He is known, however, to have a particular hatred for the citizens of The Grift, and in recent times the Guilds there have had problems getting fair deals from merchants. The reasons for this are unknown.
Nelle the Iceheart – The Purple Quarter
Nelle is a young human woman, and a scholar of great repute across many kingdoms. She, however, is not a magic-user, and if asked (and she cares to answer) she has said that she prefers theory and logic to practical applications. She was elected very recently in a controversial and very close election among the member of the Purple University.
Her title is one she wears with something close to pride. She is said to have a completely expressionless face at all times. She never seems to blink, and always speaks with an even tone. Her complete lack of emotion is said to unnerve those she talks to, and this seems to suit her purpose.
She is also a cripple, both of her legs suffer from some ailment she doesn’t divulge and are malformed. She generally conveys herself with a simple wheeled chair.
She is a brilliant logician and tactician, and seems to have come up the ranks of scholars from the very bottom, though she has hidden her past extremely well. No one knows exactly from where she came. Her contributions to the University, especially in rare lores outside the realm of the arcane, are vast and have played a part in her selection as a Councillor.
Ashe Ironshaper – The Boulder District
Ashe is a dwarven woman in her middle age. She was elected recently but a large majority, mostly because of her very public opinions of the Merchants guild and the Gardenstone association. Her metalworking business is pretty large as well, and she is known to be a skilled craftsman, but also has a good head for business.
She is known to have a very fiery temper, and many debates at the Council seems to start and end with her words. She has a very soft spot in her heart for those in The Grift, and employs many poorer people for menial tasks and labor within her business.
Also known is her passion, which often matches her temper, and she is said to have had many lovers. This has proven useless as a weapon against her, however, and like everything else she does or says she wears it on her sleeve proudly. The Merchants guild very recently have started a campaign to impeach her from her position, and there have been physical violence in the streets between merchants and craftsmen over her.
Lady Imogene the Lance – The Grift
Lady Imogene is a retired dragonborn knight, and the former commander of The Sons of the Bridge. Why she retired is unknown, but she soon returned to a commanding position as the leader of the Hireling Guild, and then as their chosen member of the Council.
She is a woman of strong convictions, and is astutely religious in her chosen faith. She speaks little and only when she has something worth staying, and is known for her fair and stoic demeanor. She is very skilled with both the lance and the sword, and has a mind for battle tactics and leadership. She seems to be uncomfortable in a political role, having once said, “On the battlefield you can see the swords drawn.”
She has found a friend in Ashe Ironshaper. She is also known to have quarreled with Nelle, whom she thinks is heartless when it comes to the poorer citizens. (Nelle, however, simply says she thinks logically instead of emotionally.)
Mushton Oljeeza – The Marble District
Mushton is a Dragonborn Sorceress, and a member of the Zahhakir diaspora. Because of her prodigious talent in alchemy, she had amassed a fortune. She is a scholar of religions as well, she has said, and lives in the Marble district and loves to spend her time talking to the religious heads, who seem to find her annoying at best but find her gold wholly welcome.
In truth Mushton seems to be a savant who believes herself actively intelligent. Those who speak to her find her awkward and rambling, and convinced of her own superiority. However, just when they discount her, she’ll perform some insane feat of alchemical engineering. There are many guesses as to why the religious heads gave her the council seat, but gold has certainly played a part.
Peter Mandellione – The Gardenstone District
Peter is the Elven son of a major player in the Gardenstone Association, and was given the position after showing great skill in negotiation. He is known to dabble in every one of the high arts, from painting to wizardry, and flits to one and the other like a butterfly. He is also known, in hushed tones, for a penchant for cruelty, and many would kill to find the skeletons he has in his closet.
He often speaks during Council debates but rarely has anything of substance to add. He prefers it this way. He often seems to want to play one Councillor off the other. He has in recent times, it is said, to have begun courting Mushton. She hasn’t noticed.
Here is a short list of the organizations within Bridgetown, and could provide an easy adventure hook for your players.
The Hirelings Guild
This guild is for mercenaries and bodyguards, and performs tasks of a martial manner.
The Explorers Guild
This guild is for adventurers seeking lore and relics. They are generally contracted by scholars, nobles, and the clergy.
The Merchants Guild
The main commerce organization in Bridgetown. They also interact with traders from other provinces
The Thieves Guild
An unofficial and illegal guild, they claim to work for the poorer class. Some dispute this.
The Sons of the Bridge
A knighthood under the direct command of the council.
A people in diaspora from their sacred homeland. They are a dragonborn (or draconian) ethnic and religious group, finding shelter in Bridgetown simply because it was willing to take them (and anyone) in. Their leader is also in the town in an unknown location.
The University Staff
Leaders and administers of the Purple University.
The river halflings live all along the river that runs beneath the city. They’re a rustic and tribal people, often hired as laborers. They tend to be a close knit community, ruled by matriarchal wise women.
I mainly put this together as a background for your adventures and campaigns, but I have some ideas that you might like to use.
- Lore of the Dwarves – There are many hidden chambers within the older sections of the city. Can the characters find some forgotten lore of the ancient dwarves? Why did they abandon the fortification? What was it’s purpose?
- The Zahhakir – The leader of the Zahhakir seeks adventurers to help solidify his people’s place within the city. Finding them suitable homes, work, and contracts with guilds and groups.
- New member of a guild – There are a variety of guilds that the players can work for. The obvious two are the Hirelings Guild or the Explorers Guild. Alternatively, high level character could hire out of these guilds.
- The Council – Each of the council members are playing dangerous political games, some for high ideals and other for personal gain. The characters can find themselves trapped in this web of politics.
- The Sewers – The sewers are a complicated maze that connects all the districts, and most of it is old architecture of the ancient dwarves. This is said to be where the thieves guild hides. It is also said that the Purple University hides failed experiments down here.
- Trade – For a more negotiation and role play based campaign, there are many trade opportunities here in Bridgetown, and many of the provinces surrounding it would love to get a better deal.
I hope this isn’t too dense. I also hope it’s not too general. My actual wish is that you take it and restructure it to fit your campaign! It could be a quick stop for the players or a whole campaign base and setting. Let me know what you think! All feedback is always welcome. Thank you for reading Role Play Craft!