So to recap from last time: I was excited about a system for creating urbancrawls outlined at The Alexandrian and was also inspired by the feeling of the Steve Jackson Sorcery! gamebooks and decided to give the urbancrawl system a shot to design a “strange magic” city.


We left off last time with a list of districts, a definition of what a neighborhood was and a list of layers we were going to use. This time we’re tackling a rough map and a neighborhood list. Since there are plenty of neighborhoods, I’m tackling the four smaller ones this time and detailing on the districts for the two largest. I’ll cover the neighborhoods in those next time.

Here’s the (very rough) map. It’s just a set of neighborhoods surrounded by the city walls and bordered by the wall, the five major rivers, the major roadways, and the shores of the central lake. Note that none of those have names at this point. This is just one step up from a sketch, and then only because I figured using software would result in a slightly more readable result than hand drawing it.  Districts are color coded, Neighborhoods are labeled with a key. We’re also not going to name them at this point either. That’s something we can handle later and something that takes up an awful lot of brainspace and time while being subject to change if the neighborhood map or list changes under it.

  • B – Bazaar District: Since the city is a trading hub, this is the main district. It encompasses three of the five water entrances to the city, three land entrances, and much of the lakeshore. Though it comprises two non-contiguous pieces of land, it is considered a single district because the palace (P1) and temple (T2) neighborhoods that separate the two parts are also mainly economic, and the two parts can be easily bridged by the smaller roads that circle the lake shore and by ferry and skiff across the lake.
    The neighborhoods in this district contain many densely packed shops of all descriptions around their exterior. Inside are mostly middle class dwellings and a fair amount of local services, amenities, and green areas.
  • C – Crafter’s District: This single neighborhood district is home to the most noisome crafting shops in the city: tanners, papermakers, animal processors, alchemists, smelters, etc… The district is located on the wall to keep unpleasant smells and smoke to a minimum. They have rerouted a tributary of the river that borders their neighborhood and use it to fuel their industries, dumping wastewater into out-flowing streamlets that in theory exit beyond the wall. This district is smoggy, and the air smells and even tastes strange. This neighborhood did suffer some damage from the incident in the ruined district. It has been mostly repaired, though a few buildings are still missing.
    Landmark: the central aqueduct that feeds the neighborhood with fresh water, a marvel of engineering and stonework
  • P – Palace District: This district is where the city’s nobility and government services are located. The district is one of the cleanest and best guarded districts. It is patrolled by the city watch, a well-funded and trained militia that ostensibly protects the entire city, but focuses mostly on the palace and bazaar districts.  The district is elevated above the rest of the city with a level of crushed stone that keeps the ground dry and solid. Buildings are well constructed. Neighborhoods are ringed by shops or services and the inner areas are filled with upper middle class dwellings, large noble estates, and copious gardens, water features and statuary.
    • P1 – Palace Trade Neighborhood: The government holds a monopoly on certain valuable commodities. The stores that ring this neighborhood deal in many of those goods and are spacious, well guarded, and heavily constructed. Business owners have official government scales and purchases often require official permits, identification, and forms signed in triplicate. In addition to these goods, this neighborhood also houses official government buildings where you can find government services, paperwork available to the public. The inner parts of the neighborhood generally hold housing for government workers, militia families and the occasional middle class citizen or minor noble house. Public spaces are well-tended and fair in number, if not too flashy.
      Landmark: The transfixed column – a stained marble column with a spear embedded deeply in it. Said to be the last stand of a squad of soldiers during an attack in the early days of the city. One of their archers was pinned to the column by the spear and continued to fight.
    • P2 – Palace Government Neighborhood: This neighborhood houses the city’s government buildings, all of which are large and impressive. This includes several courthouses, headquarters and barracks for the city watch, the palace of the current lord of the city, the mummified remains of an earlier lord, and the council buildings – where the small inner circle of the highest nobles interpret the will of the lord of the city. Inside the neighborhood are homes for mid-level noble families and the highest castes of government workers and civilians. Public spaces are many and impressive.
      Landmark: Palace of the mummy lord – a large opulent palace that houses the lord of the city and his many caretakers and servants who upkeep the grounds to the highest standards.
    • P3 – Palace Noble Neighborhood: The businesses that ring this neighborhood sell goods and services of the highest quality. These buildings are large and crafted and decorated richly. The residential area is a mix of fair-sized apartments for individual nobles and walled estates for families. Public areas are plentiful and impressive, with high quality statuary, water features and gardens. The city watch is ever-present and visitors without business are largely unwelcome.
      Landmark: The garden maze – a large impressive garden with enchanted plots that keep perfect conditions for an impressive collection of plants from all over the world. The gardens have many brick path mazes and in the center is a hedge maze rumored to hold even more impressive specimens.
  • R – Ruined District: This district used to be home to a magic university and related facilities, but is now largely ruined due to a massive accident of an unknown nature. Buildings had once been built of traditional stone and wood construction, but many are collapsed, burned down or dangerous. No one goes into the district if it is possible to avoid it.
    • R1 – Fallen Neighborhood: Though many of the buildings in this neighborhood are badly damaged, people still live and work here. At one point this neighborhood sold mostly necessities and paraphernalia needed for study at the now destroyed university. Now the few staff and students that survived peddle what useful goods and services remain in the broken buildings of the neighborhood. The residential portion is shabby and in poor condition as well, and public areas are damaged and often stripped of anything of value. One area which is not lacking is security. Especially at night, all buildings that are still standing are barred tightly.
      Landmark: The Study Hall – One of the more popular college haunts, this inn and tavern managed to survive the accident fairly unscathed. It is now home to a large number of squatters and is heavily fortified with all doors and windows boarded up or blocked with furniture. It forms a good forward base, if shabby and lawless, for forays into the ruins.
    • R2 – The Crater: This neighborhood is mostly collapsed and or burned. A fine ash settles over ruined and hollow buildings. The outer ring is mostly standing but badly damaged. The inside is mostly piles of ruined construction materials and burned out husks. Since a large portion of the neighborhood was interconnected university buildings this is now mostly one massive ruin full of hazards and remnants of school facilities. No one lives here and few venture inside. Whatever the accident was that destroyed the neighborhood has left strange and dangerous things in its wake.
      Landmark: The Crater – in the center of the maze of ruined university buildings lies a huge still smoldering crater. There may be clues to what happened still here.
  • S – Slums: This is actually two districts, the northern and southern slums. Like all other districts, the outer areas of slum neighborhoods also host shops, but the goods to be found here are usually inferior or of a questionable nature. Residential areas are overcrowded and dirty. Public areas are all but nonexistent. Buildings are mostly made of wood and are in poor condition. In many places, structures are crowded close together or touching.
  • T -Temple District: This District houses the city’s temples and other religious institutions. Like the Palace District, it sits on a raised bed of crushed stone that keeps the ground dry and solid. It is also clean and well guarded. The temple district is patrolled by its own guard force, the temple guard, a military and religious militia which enforces not only the law but also a minimal level of “proper” moral behavior as interpreted by the most popular and wealthy religions. Those who are disrespectful or blasphemous may find themselves on the wrong side of the law in this district. Buildings in this district are well constructed, usually of stone and often decorated with religious motifs. Residential areas mostly house priests, other temple employees and the occasional upper middle class civilian or minor noble. Public areas are often impressive displays of religious figures or places for quiet contemplation.
    • T1 – Temples of the Small Gods: This neighborhood houses many small temples from less popular religions. The actual stature of the god themselves within their religion is less important than how many worshipers they have. Many of these temples are small buildings. Others are simple open air shrines. Others are simply a bust and a small space for offerings. Since the neighborhood serves so many religions, it is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city. People from many different cultures can be found worshiping their respective gods here. The residential areas of this neighborhood feature many small crowded apartments. They house not only the local priests but also many of the minor religious personnel from other neighborhoods. Public areas are as diverse as the temples, worshipers and priests themselves. There are gardens for quiet contemplation, feast halls, dance circles and more.
      Landmark: Shrine to the Unknown God – tucked away in an alleyway is a simple untended stone bowl where those whose gods are not represented elsewhere in the city can come to make offerings.
    • T2 – Temple Trade Neighborhood: This neighborhood holds a number of shops for religious needs. Everything from vestments, to holy symbols, to sacrifices can be found here. Buildings are usually either dedicated to a single god of a pantheon and bear their symbols or are festooned with symbols of dozens of religions. Though these structures are built solidly and highly decorated, only the ones dedicated to the most popular gods are of any large size. Residential areas are usually quiet and well guarded. Public areas are understated but plentiful.
      Landmark: The Pens – one of the easier sets of shops to hear and smell is the pens where temple merchants sell various blessed animals to be used in sacrifices.
    • T3 – Temples of the Large Gods: This neighborhood houses much larger temples dedicated to the most popular pantheons and gods. The buildings are ornate, covered in sculptures and inlay appropriate to their religion, and guarded day and night. The structures here rival even the Palace Noble Neighborhood. The residential areas house the priests, their assistants and a few noble families and are the equal of the quarters of minor nobles, although there are a wide range from simple dwellings to small palaces depending on the religion in question. Public areas are as varied as the religions they serve but are many and impressive.
      Landmark: The white-gold pyramid – the size of a small temple, a pyramid sits in a garden a short distance off one of the main roads. It looks like a temple and is richly adorned with polished marble and gold leaf, but it may be statuary, as there appears to be no way to enter it.
  • Where are the docks?: So last time I mentioned a Docks district that was actually neighborhoods around the water entrances in the city and the lake shore. I’m still deciding if this will be neighborhoods proper or just layers within appropriate neighborhoods. It has the potential to add a fair number of neighborhoods unless handled correctly.

Next time: I finish the other half of the neighborhoods, make a final decision on the docks. After that, we start populating layers.