Friday, 27 November 2015

Cities of the Great Road

Khan's Palace in Fergana Valley. Now a museum, this palace once served as the 7th home of the last ruler of Kokand Khanate, Khudoyar Khan.  He was the last Khan of Kokand and took the throne in 1845 when he was just 12 years old.:
Khan's palace, Kokand, Uzbekistan.

There are dozens of cities strung out along the four-thousand-mile length of the Great Road, and most of them really don't need to be developed in any detail because they exist as places to be passed through: their economies are built around the fact that, every year, thousands of people flow through them on the way to somewhere else. The expectation of their inhabitants and rulers is that each party of travellers will stumble in through the gates exhausted from some epic journey; that they will sleep for a couple of days, buy or sell their goods in the marketplace, spend a day or so sight-seeing, and then leave, perhaps to return the following year heading back in the opposite direction. As a result, they tend to be show-piece cities: each of them has a great marketplace, a street of inns and hostelries for travellers to sleep in, a few really impressive architectural set-pieces (palaces, temples, grand squares), and that's about it. People who stay in them for months or years instead of days or weeks are likely to run out of things to do pretty damn fast; but at least there's always a steady flow of interesting strangers staggering in through the gates...

The consequence of this is that the deep character of each city is usually going to be fairly irrelevant: what counts is the way it bursts upon the eye of the new arrival, because that's what the PCs are likely to be. I've thus assembled a set of simple random tables, which should allow a GM to throw together a given City of the Road in a couple of minutes. Of course, there will be more to the city that this: but the tables will reveal how the city is likely to appear to the casual visitor, which is all that the PCs will ever be for most of them.

Hayastan (Kobayr) - Armenian painting:

Overall Character (roll 1d8)
  1. Gleaming and prosperous
  2. Gloomy and oppressive
  3. Tumbledown and ruinous
  4. Stunningly beautiful
  5. Sensual and seductive
  6. Bustling and cosmopolitan
  7. A shadow of its former glory
  8. Sinister and cruel

A Great Centre For Trade in... (roll 1d20)
  1. Printed books
  2. Porcelain
  3. Fur
  4. Opium and other drugs
  5. Clockwork marvels
  6. Weapons and Armour
  7. Wine
  8. Carpets
  9. Silk
  10. Spices
  11. Tea
  12. Coffee
  13. Horses
  14. Slaves
  15. Textiles
  16. Glassware
  17. Gold
  18. Silver
  19. Jewels
  20. Guns.
Being in the Right Place at the Right Time - Moon Balancing on Minaret Khiva Uzbekistan:
Minaret in Khiva, Uzbekistan.

Biggest Tourist Attraction (roll 1d10)
  1. The spectacular palace of the city's ruler(s).
  2. An ancient temple to a now-forgotten god, repurposed to serve the city's current religion(s).
  3. A sacred relic, believed to have healing properties, which the sick and the faithful undertake great pilgrimages in order to visit.
  4. The city's vast fortifications, built to protect it in some bygone age of colossal violence.
  5. A great library, which holds many unique manuscripts.
  6. An famous guild of ingenious clockworkers, full of mechanical marvels.
  7. An ancient university, where many famous sages once taught and debated.
  8. A great and beautiful shrine to the god(s) of the city.
  9. The lush and flower-filled water gardens, a famous meeting place for lovers.
  10. The rusting remains of an ancient God Soldier, whose giant metal body has been converted into an oddly-shaped but extremely secure fort. 
Government (roll 1d6)
  1. Ruled by a local monarchy.
  2. A local governor rules the city on behalf of some distant imperial capital.
  3. Oligarchy.
  4. Theocracy.
  5. Brutal despotism.
  6. Conquered 1d6 generations ago by a nomadic warlord from the steppes, whose family are currently in the process of being assimilated into the aristocracy. (The less time ago it was, the more of their nomad culture they retain.)
Ateshgah fire temple in Azerbaijan. This is supposed to be the first or one of the earliest fire temples of the Zoroastrian religion.:
Zoroastrian fire temple, Azerbaijan.
Religion (roll 1d8)
  1. A variety of local gods, unheard-of elsewhere.
  2. A major world religion, whose religious centre is located in some distant empire.
  3. A once-great religion, driven to near-extinction elsewhere by persecution, which still endures in this city as the state religion.
  4. A heretical version of a major world religion, which in its original homeland was long ago persecuted into oblivion.
  5. A cosmopolitan mixture of different faith groups, each worshipping their own gods.
  6. An unique syncretic fusion of several major world religions, which would probably be regarded as heretical by the religious authorities of all of them. 
  7. The ancestor-heroes and nature-spirits of the steppe tribes who conquered the place 1d6 generations ago.
  8. The Way of Solar Righteousness.
Unique Feature (roll 1d20)
  1. Bubbling with barely-controlled civic tensions. (If these are not somehow controlled or suppressed, a revolution or civil war will break out in 1d10 years time.) 
  2. Plagued by highly-organised gangs of thieves.
  3. Weird ruins just outside town are said to be haunted.
  4. Home to a large population of serpent folk.
  5. Major centre for airship construction.
  6. Protected by a giant clockwork lion, although this is only wound up for battles and parades.
  7. Site of an important school of Jewelled Fan Dancers. Murder Harlots will be run out of town.
  8. Ghetto of Blighted outside town.
  9. Has a huge ceremonial necropolis. The wealthy and powerful compete to built themselves the most extravagant graves in the most fashionable areas of the cemetery. 
  10. Famous for its spectacular public festivals, held at the spring and autumn equinoxes. 
  11. Famous for its doctors.
  12. Famous for its poets.
  13. Famous for its artists.
  14. Famous for the rudeness of the people.
  15. Famous for the beauty of its women.
  16. Famous for the beauty of its men.
  17. Famous for the unhealthiness of its climate.
  18. Famous for the quality of its cheese.
  19. Prone to earthquakes.
  20. Government has been infiltrated on all levels by spies loyal to the Wicked City.

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