I've written a fair bit about the Wicked City since starting this blog, but one thing which could probably have benefitted from being addressed more directly is why on earth PCs would end up there in the first place. The standard D&D dungeon has a built-in reason for people to want to go there, despite its dangers, in the form of treasure; but unless the campaign premise is 'liberate the Wicked City', why would your PCs ever want to go to this horrible half-ruined police state to begin with? My intent has been for the Wicked City to be a very 'sticky' location, insofar as once the PCs arrive, there's lots of things around to prompt them to either remain for longer than they intended or to make repeat visits in future. But first you need a reason for making that initial visit - so here are twelve...
Reasons for a brief visit to the Wicked City
- To buy something which is only for sale in the markets of the Great Bazaar.
- To seek out the clockworking expertise of the city's Steel Aspirants, which has no parallel elsewhere in the world.
- To hunt down a wanted criminal who has fled to the city.
- To seek out information known only to a famous spy, who has since taken up employment among the families of the Cobweb.
- To evacuate a specific individual or family from the city.
- To retrieve a magical or sacred item from the Maze.
- To make contact with the Red Brotherhood on behalf of a foreign government with an interest in undermining the rule of the Wicked King.
- To make contact with one of the Cobweb families, on behalf of a foreign patron who needs access to some knowledge or object which only they possess.
- To locate and free someone who has been imprisoned by the King's Men on trumped-up charges, probably because they looked like a good target for extortion.
- To broker a marriage between one of the Cobweb families and a foreign aristocrat who really, really needs to marry into money.
- To locate and free someone who has been captured by the Brigands of Noonday Dark and sold into slavery in the Wicked City.
- To make contact with the embassy of the Scarab Men in the Wicked City, as this is the only channel of communication known to exist between the Insect Queen and the outside world.
Once they're in the city, of course, their opportunities for becoming entangled with its horrible destiny multiply. PCs who appear to be competent (or simply cheap and expendable) might find themselves recruited as agents by any of the city's factions; idealistic PCs may be moved to take a stand against the city's injustices, especially if they've formed personal connections with some of its inhabitants, while more vengeful ones might turn against its government after one too many shake-downs by the King's Men. Then again, they could just be given some kind of mission that is likely to involve a lengthy stay in the city, as they gradually work out how to achieve their goals. Here are twelve possible reasons why PCs might find themselves needing to stay in the city long-term:
- One of the PCs, or someone close to them, has unwisely become hooked on some horribly addictive narcotic, and only the Serpent Folk of the Wicked City can supply them with their regular fix.
- One of the PCs, or someone close to them, has fallen in love with one of the Wicked City's residents, and the Man With Stones For Eyes won't let them leave.
- To find some way of liberating the Cloud Castle from the city's government, as a way of earning or repaying a major favour from the Blue Folk.
- To free the spirit of the ancestress of the Children of the Pines from the King's Tower, as a way of earning or repaying a major favour from them.
- To steal some kind of experimental military technology from the Clankers or the Air Corps on behalf of a foreign power.
- To rescue someone being held captive by the city's secret police in the Ministry of Information.
- To free a peri who has been captured by the city's government, and is currently being used to power a weird perpetual motion machine somewhere in the King's Tower.
- To find out what's going on at the top of the King's Tower, and who (if anyone) is actually running the Wicked City.
- To steal the war mask once worn by the Wicked King before his disappearance.
- To find out what has happened to the city's spirits.
- To lay the groundwork for a rebellion against the city's government, preferably with the aid of the Red Brotherhood, the People of the Rubble, and the various inhabitants of the Maze.
- To discover the city's true name, and the true nature of the Wicked King.