4 hours ago
Sunday, March 4, 2012
The Devastated City Crawl
The idea of “city as dungeon” in the sense of exploring a city is well-established. But what if a city looked more like the ruins or dungeons that fantasy adventurers are more commonly crawling through?
History (and sometimes current events) provide examples of good urban environments for this sort of thing. Other examples can be found in fiction: Stalingrad in the film Enemy at the Gates or (from fantasy) Ambergris from Jeff VanderMeer’s Finch and Seattle from Cherie Priest's Boneshaker. The only question is how “dungeon-like” versus how “functional” the city is.
Here’s how it could work: The city would be torn apart by internal factions. One or more of these could be an invader, but this is also a chance to inject some political strife. The key is that, however it started, the fighting has largely degenerated into a stalemate. Different factions (or species) hold different areas, and raids occur, but not full-on warfare. Areas in between might be occupied by neutral opportunists. Some of these would likely be monsters that roamed, smelling blood in the air.
This sort of “dungeon” doesn’t have to have just one level. In a world were magic might have allowed tall buildings, there may be areas stratified by height. If some form of bombs, aerial shelling, or gas attacks have been employed, there might well be a network of tunnels underground, too.
This sort of scenario suggests one big difference from the usual dungeon-delving set-up. It might very well be that the PCs are living in the "dungeon" themselves rather than just visiting it. The safe retreat for healing becomes a lot less safer, and the struggle with the city’s other denizens becomes more of an existential concern. The “points of light” are a little dimmer--and the stakes are higher.