... now with 35% more arrogance!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Fixing Urban Geomorphs

Twice now, I’ve mentioned that I needed to talk about the urban geomorphs.

The Problem:
There doesn’t seem to be much variation between residential blocks. Part of the issue is that I can’t just go wild with every city block: there has to be a sprinkling of crazy stuff amidst a lot of more ordinary stuff. Another part of the issue is that we’re not dealing with just one house per block, but anywhere from 3 to 6 houses. Three houses in one block that are identical to three houses in another block is going to stand out.

Failed Solution:
Every household had some random elements: Person X behaves mysterious, on 5+ on 1d6 it’s because of this, on another 5+/1d6 roll, something related is going on. But that still doesn’t distinguish one reused block from another enough.

The Hidden, Better Solution:
Each of the urban geomorph pamphlets also has a short list of random NPC traits and secrets. I changed these from pamphlet to pamphlet, but the lists were very short, so they didn’t add much variation.

But! Imagine instead that the lists were longer and filled an entire pamphlet… and there’s more than one pamphlet like that. It allows more variety for NPCs in a neighborhood. And some of the plots or secrets I put into the map key would actually work just as well as stand-alone secrets on that list.

Another pamphlet or series of pamphlets could be about events, for example illness or death in a family, theft, intrigue… the sort of thing PCs might get involved in.

What This Means:
Although I still plan on doing some other urban geomorph pamphlets, most of them will probably be craftspeople, shops, inns, and unique locations (cemeteries, abandoned house, pond, fountain, statue.) There probably won’t be any more residential pamphlets, unless I think of a neighborhood intrigue that really, really needs to be written up.

Instead, think back to the conversation Scott Anderson and I had about a potential supplement with unlabeled geomorphs of various sizes. Most of the geomorphs for neighborhoods would be here. There would be large geomorphs usable as player visual aids and smaller labeled geomorphs you cut out and either clip to index cards or tape on a notebook page. Most households will just have a family name and number of family members, but there’s a random chance to add a plot or secret to a family (and in rare cases, two plots or secrets.)

This will add a lot more variety to the geomorphs.


  1. I've enjoyed these geomorphs as is, but I think this new method will improve them. I definitely look forward to future installments.

  2. Have you considered...
    Creating a number of first story, second story, and third story interiors. Then you could map a building with a variation of the three and have lots of variety. just variety invisible on the geomorphs themselves.

    1. So interiors would be lettered instead of numbered and always listed from lowest to upper. A building could then be: Building 17adc
      or something like that.

    2. That's an interesting idea, but I think that would only work with major buildings like manor houses or temples. And even there, I'm not sure it would provide much real variation.

      What I have thought of is something similar: not interiors, but people or their secrets. That's sort of what the random NPC traits does, but I'm talking about going just a little bit farther, with plots that have 1 to 3 parts that get assigned to one or two members of a household. The plots would be a little more detailed than the secrets and would interact with each other in unpredictable ways.