The Wargamer

23 June 2017

Paper & Pen RPG Games: Cityscape

Looking to run a D&D campaign in the city but need some pointers? Get ye to a bookseller and exchange some silver pieces for Cityscape.

Published on 17 DEC 2006 12:00am by Scott Parrino
  1. fantasy, role-playing, scenario design / creation

D&D Says It All

D&D. Two letters and an ampersand. Simple, yet with those three characters little else needs to be said. Whether gamers play role-playing games (RPGs) or not, all know what RPGs actually are, and all RPGs can trace their genesis directly to one source: Dungeons & Dragons. Today, RPGs come in a myriad of genres and media: pen & paper, computer-based (MMORPG), console-based, miniatures-based, or text-based on a forum, they seem to be everywhere. Pen & Paper D&D is the granddaddy of them all and it has come a long way in 30 years. The version 3.5 rules that are currently the standard now enjoy a co-brand of the d20 system that covers almost every historical era, from primitive Neanderthal prehistory to the gritty sci-fi subplots of the PC game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

Narrowing that focus to just the D&D fantasy realm, the number of expansions, campaign aids, and supplements is just staggering. In many ways D&D has started to resemble Advanced Squad Leader in terms of volumes of expansions and rules, if not exactly in realism. I personally have over two dozen supplements for D&D in my possession. One day my wife innocently asked me if I didn't have them all and visibly paled when I replied, "not even half". That answer itself is understated, as I was only thinking of those supplements published by Wizards of the Coast when I answered.

Most supplements for D&D allow gamers to focus their game. In a return to its roots there is Heroes of Battle, which facilitates miniature armies and brings gamers all the way back to TSR's Chainmail, from which D&D was inspired. Other supplements introduce new monsters or magic, but of all of the supplements I own, the ones I enjoyed the most are a series of environmental supplements: Sandstorm, Frostburn, and Stormwrack. Addressing desert, cold, and ocean environs respectively, these books are outstanding resources for players interested in an adventure set in these locations. Now a fourth set of rules has been added, and it covers perhaps the most complex setting of any adventure: the city.

Bright Lights, Big City

In a dungeon or wilderness setting interactions can be fairly narrow. Player characters (PCs) on their way from camp to a troll's cave probably won't see anything but trees unless the Dungeon Master (DM) wants something else to happen. That makes the DM's job fairly easy - he can set up an encounter with a troll and move on to the next encounter. But even in all but the smallest hamlet PCs may run into a dozen non-player characters (NPCs): the mayor, baker, blacksmith, merchant, innkeeper…the most modest of towns may have a list of potential NPCs that could theoretically run into the hundreds, and large cities, well, I think I've made my point. Little wonder that few adventures have cities as a long-term setting.

Enter into that challenge Cityscape. Consistent with Wizards of the Coast's other publications, this hardcover 158 page book is printed in full color and packed with rules and illustrations that will facilitate anyone seeking a guide for creating or playing in an urban adventure. Five chapters cover the topic of the scope of a city; spells and feats for players; political and power structures within a city; events, monsters and NPCs; and campaign hooks and advice on running a campaign based in a city.