Game of Taps: Nearing the First City

Hours stretch into days as you pass through mile after mile of fetid swamp, watching and hoping for some vision of civilization. At noon of the second day, you catch a glimpse of your first sight: the high peak of some vast tower rising out of the muck miles and miles away to the southwest; an hour later, when you catch sight of it again, you see now that it is in fact a colossal ziggurat of unimaginable and incalculable size. It is only then that you realize what must lie beyond the swamp; beyond this stinking and insect-swarmed terror can only be the fabled First City, great Ur-Hadad, the jewel, tarnished though she may be, of mankind's collected realms. Your head abuzz with dreams of the wonders and splendors, treasures and pleasures that this great city may offer, you hasten your pace at the oar, each row bringing you closer to what may lie inside the First City's high walls. 

It is nightfall before your first glimpse of the Usud Usal, a high wall that separates the city proper from the trackless swamp beyond. Here, built up against the wall like a lean-to shed, the village of Mustertown huddles close to Ur-Hadad's westernmost gate. The city proper may be rock and plaster, marble and metal, but Mustertown, shelter for the commoners, rogues and miscreants deemed unworthy for entry to the great city, is a moldering mass of crudely-cut and salvaged wooden planks that swell with the surrounding humidity. It is here, at least, that you may finally find some respite after your long ordeal in the harrowing swamps. 

In my Game of Taps campaign, the First City of Ur-Hadad fills the role of "campaign mega-metropolis," like Waterdeep, the City of Greyhawk, or Goodman Games' own Punjar. I plan on borrowing liberally from these other metropolises as makes sense, as well as from Purple Sorcerer's "Sunken City" series (I friggin' love the idea of Mustertown and am importing it and the swamp surrounding it whole cloth). I wrote this little bit as the players' first glimpse of the First City, but a lot more information will make it into their hands and yours as it is written.


  1. This seems like a very good opening. I think you're onto something in using Ur-Hadad as your generic jump-off point, and more or less important the good fiddly bits from other materials. If they work, what's the point of reinventing them?

    What'll be really interesting to see, though, is how Ur-Hadad becomes a place with its own sights and flavor, and how the adventuring PCs make it something you hadn't anticipated.

    And, yes, I agree about the Sunken City's genius. Why are we here? Why are we adventurers? *points to big-ass city poking out of mud* "See that? That's my way outta this stinkin' place. I'ma make big, see? Gonna be hot and cold running whores and lakes of booze, for me. Now, if I can only find the right kinda folk to make that happen..."

  2. A lot of the "reference material" I'm quoting here I'm using as just that: it's a jumping off point for me to take things in my own vein. One of the fun permutations on the Sunken City stuff that I've hit upon so far is the importance of the Bright and Grey Prizes that can be found in the city; a Grey Prize is worth a bunch of money, but a Bright Prize is money *AND* the right to spend a few days inside Ur-Hadad. Of course, your first step in the city has to be to visit the guy who paid for your Bright Prize... introducing a great way to tie PCs to potential patrons.

    I know I promised to post a play report from my game this last Tuesday, but it's been a busy week for me. One of the most fun parts of the session was a group of fresh level 0's negotiating with "the Shoveler" (a fresh level 1 who would be otherwise unremarkable if it wasn't for the fact that he shovelled an ooze to death) to retain his services for their trip into the Sunken City. For them, the idea was very much "We'll bring this guy in with us to save our asses while we find some sort of treasure to get us out of crushing poverty and gong farmery" but it quickly turned into several deaths on the side of the employers. I'm really looking forward to the players making it home to Mustertown to see what they'll do with their first glimpse of the First City.

  3. Oh, that's quite clever, especially the patron angle. And it gives PCs a reason to return to the city, making it a real center of culture and commerce, not only for the region, but very much for the players as well. I imagine it's a lot easier to find nice things to buy with their loot if they manage to get inside. Otherwise, perhaps pickings are slim, or maybe just not of the best quality (foodstuffs included... outside the walls there's a lot of "gastrointestinal distress," you might say).

    Well,I hope you find some time to write that one up. I'm not sure why, but I love reading playthroughs. And I know exactly what you mean about getting them home. When I GM, I really like to show of the new "toys" I've made for the players, especially if I've really put some work into it.


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