Jordan's Page of Useless Babble

Step 13: Creating your Capital
Every campaign setting has a capital city. The city is usually, but not always the capital city of the region where it lies, and the city represents the central hub of your setting. Most players will start their campaigns in the city, and most major activities in the world will touch on the capital in some way, even if extremely minor.

In the Forgotten Realms it's Waterdeep, in Dark Sun it's the Free City of Tyr, in Eberron it's Sharn, in Greyhawk it's the City of Greyhawk, in Ravenloft it's Barovia. These central hubs although of differing size, are all capital cities.

The capital city will be the most developed area of your campaign setting. Although you may not detail every single street and NPC there, you'll certainly want to identify different neighborhoods and wards within. There will be several NPCs important to your setting who will live there.

This is one step that you should not ever ever ever, under any circumstances skip. A setting without a capital is anchorless. A capital city is more than just a capital, it's a home, even away from home. It's a relatively safe place for the heroes to rest, relax, train, study, sell their excess goods, make connections and find the next adventure.

Now I'm not going to tell you how to create your capital city. That's covered extensively in the Dungeon Master's Guide, the Dungeon Master's Guide II and Cityscape. Rather than needlessly repeat what's already been written, I'll go through the basics with you and give some helpful suggestions.

The Basics: When creating your capital, there are a few basic things that you must know. The most important is the size of your capital. In most campaign settings, it will be a metropolis, but depending on the population density of your world, it may be less. For example, the duchy of Barovia in Ravenloft is only a village. Starting on page 137 of the Dungeon Master's Guide, you'll get information on how to create the basic numbers behind the city.

Depending on what kind of campaign you're running and what material is available, you may want to look beyond the Highest-Level Locals and Racial Mix of Communities tables, as they only deal with core material. They can however, give you a good jumping off point for adding in alternative information. For example: a psion is much like a monk, so you could say that the highest-level local psion would be approximate to the highest-level local monk and roll accordingly.

Also remember that this is no simple hamlet, this is your capital city. It may be home to many powerful and important NPCs (but not too many, you don't want the players to feel superfluous). Feel free to make your important NPCs more or less powerful than the norm for the area.

Step 13(a): Setting up Neighborhoods
Once you've got the basics of your capital city down, it's time to put things in it! As a general rule of thumb, you should neither allow players to find everything they want to in the capital (especially if what they're trying to find is outlandish), nor should you deny them access to the basics.

What it comes down to is detail. Too much detail is staggering for players to follow, and too little detail makes the experience generic and lackluster. You should provide them with enough information about what is in the city, and not so much that you make it a chore for your players to find what they need.

Geography: Detail about the geography of the city should be kept fairly simple. You can certainly list major streets, especially if they're homes to important structures of people. Mostly, you'll want to stick to dividing your capital into wards. Each ward has a distinct purpose, and is more likely to be home to it's own special array of goods and services than any other ward.

For example. If your city is built on the water, you could easily have a dock ward. That ward would contain the docks (obviously), but would also likely be home to warehouses used to store goods coming to and from the city. Bars, brothels and inns would be plentiful, but cheap, so as to provide sailors with a place to sleep and spend coin. They would also be a good place for thieves guilds and guard stations, as the area is likely to be rougher than the rest of the city.

Conversely, a religious ward may be home to most of the temples in the city, an artisan's ward may be home to everything from fine shops to wizards, and a tomb ward may contain the city's graveyard. The sky is the limit when making wards. Just pick a theme and build.

You don't need to name your wards by their functions, but rather, think about what the citizens would call the wards. Doing so will help you provide another layer of flavor to your world.

Step 13(b): Placing Important Locations
Once you've divided up the city into wards, it's time to start thinking about important locations. These are the places that absolutely positively must belong. Important guilds, famous inns, prisons, palaces, wizard's towers and the like are all excellent candidates.

Your important locations will be manned by important NPCs, so take the time to flesh out the people who live there.

Remember, you don't have to detail everything out finely and you don't need to list every possible location at once. As players explore your capital, they're sure to turn up an NPC, business or other location that's deserving of being added to the list. The world we live in is dynamic and fluid. Your capital city should be no different.

Step 13(c): Creating Landmarks
Many capitol cities have landmarks that distinguish them from ordinary towns. It may be a labyrinthian dungeon that reaches far beneath the city, a massive tree that grows from the center of the town square, or maybe the city is of a peculiar shape or floats in the air.

While your capital city isn't required to be as fanciful as that, adding a landmark can make give it some degree of uniqueness that sets it apart from other cities.

Step 14: Making Other Important Cities
Once you've finished making your capital city, try making other important cities. You want to focus on areas that the players will interact with, either directly or via NPCs. This step is, of course, purely optional. You may find it easier to create other cities as the need arises.


  1. Create a capital city for your campaign (see Step 13). Make it as detailed as you wish.
  2. Create other important cities for your campaign (see Step 14) following the same guidelines as given for the capital city. These do not need to be as detailed as the capital.


In this edition of World Craft, there are no examples given for the Penumbra setting. Detailed cities will be made available when the final product is released. Feel free to look at other books for ideas and examples, especially those detailed above.

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