The other day, I was thinking about fantasy cities and ways to define them. Most of my cities for NOD are done as a small section of the place with interesting personalities to run into, along with a run down on the ruler, high priest or priestess, etc. Just enough to make the place memorable and with a focus on something special that might bring the players hundreds of miles – the finest armorer in the region, a black market for stolen goods, etc.
The idea of a key industry crossed my mind – think of several industries and specialties and generate one specialty in one industry in which a city excels – i.e. if you want the best éclairs, you have to travel to Barnabas, the City of Eclairs. So, Barnabus would have a bunch of master bakers who produce the best éclairs in the universe, and in fact are so skilled they can bake magical effects into their éclairs (i.e. magic potions). Barnabas would have many excellent normal bakers as well, and to support the baking industry would need associated industries like milling, farming, orchards, jelly makers, beet growers, spice merchants, etc. As I played with working this into a system, I realized that it was breaking my #1 rule for NOD – focus on adventuring. This industry stuff was interesting, but how was this forwarding the goal of sending players on adventures? Putting an hour of work into generating some demographics that will never lead to one daring sword fight, swing across a chasm, assassination attempt, kidnapping or plundered treasure horde just doesn’t make sense to me when we’re working at creating an adventure game.
One thing that did come to me, though, was the idea of rival families. You see, when I was thinking about different medieval industries, merchants came to mind. But how does a city specialize in merchants? Well, maybe banking – but every city needs merchants. And then I thought about great merchant families, and the Montagues and Capulets came to mind and I thought – you know what every fantasy city needs – rival families. Three families at least – one the most powerful, the other the bitter rival and the third the up-and-comer playing one off the other. That can lead to adventures, as players get involved with these folks and their endless machinations. With that in mind …
STEP ONE – THE FAMILY
Every family has a head – the man and woman who holds the legal reins. We need to determine how old they are and what they can do. In this case, all of these families are going to be mercantile in nature. All family heads are going to be venturers. Their level depends on their generation: Adult 1d6+1, Mature 1d8+2 and Old 1d10+3.
1-3. Adult (25 to 35 years old)
4-5. Mature (36 to 55 years old)
6. Old (56 + years old)
Now we need to roll 1d6 for the family head’s siblings. Each sibling has a 50/50 chance of being male or female and comes from the same generation as the head of the family. We’ll presume that any older family members are dead, or else they would be in the leadership position.
The siblings are probably nondescript merchant types or venturers, but might be something else. Roll to find out for sure. At the same time, roll a 1d4 to figure out their general personality.
1-6. Merchant (0-level)
7-10. Trader (3 HD)
17. Thief or Assassin
18. Magic-User or Illusionist
19. Cleric* or Druid
20. Fighter or Duelist (1% chance of a paladin)
* Clerics worship as follows: 01-70 – Deity of Trade or Wealth; 71-90 – Lawful Deity that might frown on some business practices; 91-100 – Chaotic Deity/Demon/Devil
1. Sanguine (impulsive, pleasure-seeking, sociable, emotional, creative, compassionate)
2. Choleric (ambitious, leader-like, aggressive, passionate, energetic, dominating)
3. Melancholy (introverted, thoughtful, pondering, considerate, artistic, perfectionists)
4. Phlegmatic (relaxed and quiet, lazy, content, kind, accepting, affectionate, shy)
For those with class levels, roll them as follows:
Young* – 1d4
Adult – 1d6
Mature – 1d8
Old – 1d10
* For children of adults
75% of males and females are married and have 1d4-1 children. Each siblings mate is (1-4) from the same generation or (5) one generation older or (6) one generation younger. The children are all from one generation younger than the younger partner in the marriage. Roll up the children’s personalities and occupations as well, unless the children are from the generation younger than “Young”, in which case they are too young to have an occupation.
For each person in the family, roll up their Charisma score as well on 3d6.
Adult or older children of the siblings have the same chance as the siblings as being married with children. Young children of the siblings have a 50% chance of being married and have 1d3-1 children.
STEP TWO – ASSETS
Each of these mercantile families has core assets dependent on the number and age of the family members (not including spouses). Each family also has a town house for the head of the family and each sibling, and the necessary servants for each town house (butler/valet, cook, upstairs maid, etc.)
Young – 1d20 x5 gpAdult – 1d20 x 10 gp
Mature – 1d20 x 50 gp
Old – 1d20 x 100 gp
In addition, the family gets 1d4+1 rolls on the following table of special assets.
1. Tied by blood to a noble family – the head of the family is a (1-3) 3rd cousin, (4-5) 2nd cousin or (6) first cousin to a (1-4) baron, (5-6) count or (7) duke or (8) king.
2-3. Tied by marriage to a noble family – replace the head’s spouse or one of the sibling’s spouses with a person of noble blood (as above).
4-9. Owns a caravan of 2d6 wagons or elephants or 4d6 camels to a nearby city
10-15. Owns a merchant galley that travels to a nearby city
16-20. Owns a caravan of 3d6 wagons or elephants or 6d6 camels that travels to a far away city
21-25. Owns a merchant cog that travels to a far away city
26-27. Owns a valuable heirloom that is (1-3) a major piece of jewelry, (4-5) a major gem or (6) a minor magic item
28-30. Owns 2d4 fine horses
31-33. Owns 3d6 fine hounds
34-36. Owns 3d6 fine falcons
37-38. Owns a single magical beast
39-40. Has a hired magic-user (roll 1d4+1 for level); all family members can cast a single non-offensive 1st level magic-user spell per day
41-43. Has a hired assassin (roll 1d4+1 for level); all family members carry vials of mild poison
44-48. Has a hired duelist (roll 1d4+1 for level); all family members +1 to hit and damage with rapiers
49-50. Has a hired gourmand (roll 1d4+1 for level)
51-55. Owns a fine manse in the city (1d6+6 rooms)
56-59. Owns a fine mansion in the city (1d10+10 rooms)
60-62. Owns a fine villa or manor in the country (1d8+8 rooms)
63-66. Owns a fabled wine cellar (total value of 3d10 x 100 gp)
67-70. Owns a fabled art collection (total value of 3d10 x 100 gp)
71-74. Owns a fabled armor and weapon collection (3d6 pieces, all masterwork and legendary)
75-78. Has a seat on the city council
79-80. Has a seat on the king’s privy council
81-83. Has master of the local merchant’s guild
84-85. Has a dark family secret
86-88. 1d4 x 10,000 sp in additional assets
89-90. 1d3 x 1,000 gp in additional assets
91. 1d2 x 100 pp in additional assets
92-95. Has a letter of marquee from the king
96. Suffers under a family curse
97. Enjoys a family blessing (an ancestor was a saint or martyr)
98. Has an infamous (and rumored) torture chamber
99. Has an infamous (and rumored) cabinet of horrors
100. Has an infamous (and rumored) shrine to a demon or devil lord
SAMPLE FAMILY: THE MONTFLEURS
Arnou Montefleur – Sanguine 4th level Venturer, Adult
Arnou has two sisters:
Gallia is a phlegmatic, adult trader (3 HD) married to Merlin, a young merchant. They have three infant sons, Merlin, Arnou and Delmar.
Allyriane is a sanguine, adult duelist (1st level) married to Octave, an adult merchant. They have three young children, Tristan (3 HD trader), Therese (3 HD trader) and Fleurette, a goldsmith.
The families assets are 10,000 sp and 310 gp in cash money, locked away in the family’s town house.
The family also owns a caravan of 5 wagons that travels to a far away city, 8 fine hounds, a merchant galley and, though this is only rumored, a shrine to the devil Mammon in their cellar (it’s really behind a sliding wall in their dining room).