Obligatory recap: I’ve read about a system for creating urbancrawls (similar to hexcrawls but set in a city) from The Alexandrian. I had also been enjoying the Sorcery! gamebooks by Steve Jackson and their strange magic setting. Enter this series of articles, where I use The Alexandrian’s urbancrawl system to design my own urbancrawl with a strange magic theme.


We left off last time with:

  • a list of districts
  • a definition of what a neighborhood was
  • a list of layers we were going to use
  • a rough map
  • a neighborhood list
  • neighborhood breakdowns for the Temple, Palace, Ruins, Crafting, and Bazaar districts

This is the last installment where I outline neighborhoods. This time I’m tackling the final districts: the slums. Next time I’ll start working with layers (multiple encounter keys).

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 brain space and time while being subject to change if the neighborhood map or list changes under it.

  • S – Slums: This is actually two districts, the northern and southern slums, noted as NS and SS. 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. Unless otherwise noted, homes in slum neighborhoods are simple and usually one room. Shops are mostly one or two rooms, and contain an attached bedroom for the proprietor. Public areas are small, poorly kept and often inhabited by those with nowhere else to go.
    • NS1 – Chokestreet: This slum is downwind and downstream from the crafting district. Though the crafting district is supposed to shunt the worst of its pollution outside the city, a fair amount of it ends up here. The air in this slum is foul and on poor days difficult to see through. Water is contaminated with runoff, mostly undrinkable and is occasionally flammable. Residents will often travel to the edges of the neighborhood to procure potable water.
      Landmark: The Pit – At the lowest point of the neighborhood, the accumulated pollution creates a permanent eye burning fog. Lower still is a pool of polluted water and runoff. Occasional gouts of brightly colored flame light up the smog.  
    • NS2 – The Itch: Much like the animal pens that this neighborhood borders, residents here deal in animals and animal products. However, they deal more with small animals, offal and the like. In addition, because of the close quarters, stores of feed, offal, bedding and waste, the neighborhood crawls with all sorts of vermin. Rats are plentiful, but more common are bugs of all description, some as large as a man’s hand. Vermin traps and few very small windows (sometimes covered with firm cloth or rarely slices of horn to keep vermin out) are common features. Public areas have a notable lack of water features, as they tend to breed flying insects.
      Landmark: The Hive – a cluster of small buildings in this neighborhood has been taken over by a hive of giant bees. These bugs are rarely dangerous if left alone, but they emit a loud noise and can be seen flying about the city. A few residents take precautions and harvest as much honey as they dare.
    • NS3 – The Bloom: This neighborhood was unremarkable if poor, before the accident that destroyed the ruined district. The accident caused a number of issues here. Most immediately, a number of buildings were destroyed and many have yet to be repaired. In addition, many refugees from the now ruined magic school have taken up residence. The population of the neighborhood is swollen with low level mages and alchemists. Finally, one of the fragments of the college that rained down on the streets contained spores for dozens of strains of fungus. In a wet city like Juntial, these spores spread rapidly. Structures in this neighborhood often sprout many varied types of fungus and residents regularly scrape their homes clean to avoid damage.
      Landmark: The lost house – Perhaps the first structure to be hit with the fungal debris, this building stands completely covered in several feet of fungus of unusual size and colors.
    • NS4 – Catwalks: This neighborhood is densely packed and has the occasional taller building similar to The Heights. It also features a number of hastily assembled catwalks over the narrow streets. Braver residents will often travel via catwalk as a shortcut. Residences here are simple, and densely clustered. Thought not all of them have ladders, stairs, and ropes to the roof, many do.  Only a few have second stories. Public areas are often on the roofs of other buildings.
      Landmark: Candletower – Towards the center of the neighborhood is a stone tower and short attending building . This is Candletower, ostensibly the home of a local noble. However, it receives few visitors, so little is known about what goes on inside.
    • SS1 – The Warrens: More an extension of The Maze than a neighborhood in its own right, the warrens are made up of densely packed shifting lean-tos and tents clogging the streets of an already tight neighborhood. Paths within change from day to day and there is no room for mounts or vehicles of any sort. Buildings are small, simple and sometimes divided into multiple tight rooms. Public areas are nonexistent.
      Landmark: Garbage Fortunes – roaming the outskirts of the warrens with the rest of the trash vendors is a bent old crone who tells fortunes. Her price is simply a handful of garbage, which is thrown into her trash fire. Strange, but she is a regular fixture of the neighborhood and her fortunes are of good quality.
    • SS2 – Old City: This neighborhood was one of the earliest in the city. Originally typical if snug buildings with stone foundations, most of the buildings were lost in an attack by the native inhabitants of the swamp. Rebuilt later, most are now only enough wooden construction over the old foundation to permit entrance and exit. A few of the original buildings survive, towering over their now diminutive neighbors. Because the houses and shops are so short, streets are lined with local fast-growing woody plants to form a privacy screen.
      Landmark: The Dust Pit – Most places in Juntial are constantly damp, especially the lower class districts and lower elevations. Thus the sunken foundations in Old City are perpetually in danger of flooding and seeping moisture. A few of them, however, hold enchantments from before their ruin that keep them dry. The Dust pit is one of these enchanted foundations. Filled with dry sand and silt, it is in use as a fighting pit. Seating is arranged outside the foundation. Barkers and pennants advertise the fights.
    • SS3 – Artisan’s Alley: During the upgrade of the Raised Market, each founder hired various types of workers. Just before completion of the work, one of the founders mysteriously disappeared. It was discovered that he had nowhere near enough money to pay the workers and artists that had been working on the project on his behalf. Many of them were not from Juntial, and now with no pay for their labor couldn’t afford to return home. Of these, a good number moved into the nearby slums, opened up shop and took on apprentices. Several generations later, the neighborhood is festive, bohemian, and adorned with artistry of all types. Homes and shops are simple but well decorated in eclectic styles. Public areas showcase artworks of both permanent and temporary nature.
      Landmark: Founders Square – One of the pieces of art that was commissioned and never paid for was a larger than life statue of the founder responsible for stiffing an entire neighborhood. Several of the artists stole it in a drunken midnight horse cart raid and erected it in the middle of their new neighborhood. Since, it and the square in which it rests has been routinely defaced with mocking artwork depicting the subject in an endless panoply of unflattering and rude representations.

That’s all our neighborhoods, a description and a landmark for each. Though these may be fleshed out more or tweaked as I go, for the purposes of this article series, I’m going to move on. Next time we’re going to look at layers of encounters.