I had originally posted to Zenopus' Google+ group about how differently each Holmes' Rules Portown setting was, mainly according to size, since size was one of the only determining factor in Holmes' description. Many of the posters are of the opinion that Portown shouldn't be any bigger than needed, which I agree with on the surface, but I also believe it should be designed with campaign growth as well; as the campaign advances, more of those unexplored places in Portown become more relevant in time.
Since that post was created and posted via 'dumb' phone, I truncated most of it and decided to make a better presentation here, via laptop/coffee shop wi-fi, when I had more leisure time. As I get more comfortable with how Blogger works, I find that I am a lot more open to honesty and creativity here than I am on other forums or email lists. Call it creator control via Blogger, or whatever, I just feel that blogs can be designed to be a lot more open to exposition than other sites & fora.
This is a side-trek from my Marrowbeast series of adventures, but related, since I've finally thought about getting serious with my version of Portown. Now, don't get me wrong, I loved Paleologos' version of Portown, but it wasn't big enough for my tastes, and didn't feature as much terrain as I had originally envisioned.
So, I designed my version of Portown with a series of random city design tables I created a few years back, with a few caveat decisions. (I might release that in PDF here in the future.) The result is an original interpretation of an ancient "small town" that is older than recorded history, and generally fits in with Holmes' description in the Basic rules.
Some of Portown's features:
- the town sits on a solid bedrock foundation, which shields the rest of the surface world from an ancient evil (or several shirt-tail related evils),
- a river channel that bisects the town (think Venice-style channel as a major thoroughfare),
- an aqueduct and water storage system,
- a stone quarry (a natural extension of an earlier campaign that features a quarry; I added a quarry to Portown...) riddled with ancient natural caverns with buried treasures and evils,
- Greek style temples, shrines, gardens and bath houses (hot & cold running natural steam baths),
- Portown is protected from the violent sea and the strong tides by 'guardian cliffs', with a natural arch that allows smaller ship traffic up the city channel,
- the ruins of Zenopus' tower and cemetery sit atop the cliffs on the west side of the arch.
- "Dockside", almost a pirate and assassin infested town its own right,
- a large structure called the Green Dragon Inn, a small village, HQ, and sanctuary for PCs, and a source of rumors and the starting place of adventures within and without Portown.
I may go into other aspects of my Portown later (especially upon request), but for now, I'll just leave you with what's here now. One of the major influences for Portown is a city called Hortown in an animated film called "Tales of Earthsea". The multi-level aspects of Hortown really inspired me to create something comparable; so the high cliffs to the north of the town serve as a shield from the raging sea weather and strong tides, and also provide a natural, cavernous "arch" that allows river traffic to travel inland up river safely, instead of traveling through the shallow, natural river to the west.
The cliffs are riddled with countless caves and tunnels, some of them labyrinthine and unstable, but most of the ones close to the surface are inhabitable, and used for storage and businesses, legal and immoral alike. A perfect hodge-podge of business and illicit pleasures can be found here, with respectable merchants and ship captains often walking hand-in-hand with pirates, smugglers, and real monsters of the underworld.
Everything between any and/or all of these interesting points should be ignored until needed, and even the extra stuff could be safely ignored if it doesn't have a direct impact on the game (like the aqueduct, which I'm having second thoughts about...). Ironically, the "Lair of the Marrowbeast, Part One" is meant to supplement an area of the Docks by giving the referee an encounter table that is good for the short adventure and the Western Docks. The Eastern Docks will have a slightly different encounter table, and eventually, each entry on the table will have its own unique description, even unique NPC encounters if a "special" encounter is rolled. This is what I love about modular settings, and the concept of old school "modules". It all fits together to form a whole, or a very detailed frame for the sandbox campaign.
If my version of Portown needs anything, it is an isometric map view, which I'll manage eventually, in lieu of a 3D/aerial view of Portown (because I suck at aerial view art!), eventually replacing this boring two-dimensional map with an engaging and exciting isometric map, and some much needed place-name changes (C'mon.... "Stairway to Heaven" Street??? WTF was I smoking at the time?), and possibly incorporating the 1800's era Marblehead peninsula map posted at Zenopus' Archives.
General design theory and specific Portown discussion and questions are welcome, including your own versions. :)
Alrighty then - I'm off to find some isometric graph paper, and off to the next stage of the Marrowbeast quincunx and the continued evolution of Portown! :)