Deep dive 2: The City of Montara
As promised, today I'll talk about City creation, and game setup in general.
The Crimes of Empire
So, you've sat down to play a campaign of Legends From the Borderlands. You've discussed what sort of story you want to play, checked that everyone is on the same page about the kind of content you want to see, and what kind of commitment you have in mind. The first step to build your world? Decide two crimes that define the Kitrean Empire's occupation of Montara, out of Cruelty, Corruption and Neglect.
Each crime comes with questions for your group to answer. Say we've picked that the Empire ruled Montara with a mix of Corruption and Neglect. We'd then put together answers to questions like this:
- Which City landmark was rendered useless by rampant corruption?
- What did the Montarans do when they found warehouses full of spoiled food after a harsh season of famine?
- Where must people walk to for them to get potable water?
The Houses - and the War
Next, each player picks a House to govern. Let's say we've picked a Vassal of Magista, a Division of Kaetur, and the Order of the Commons. Their initial choice is their statline - which grounds the House's strengths and weaknesses in the events of the war. After a round of stat picks, we might end up with:
- From Magista: The Empire’s many secrets came to light only during the War and at great cost of lives. This Vassal of Magista is strong at diplomacy and subtlety, less good at direct action.
- From Kaetur: Your lengthy siege is what broke the city. This Division of Kaetur is very good at military action, but has few friends.
- From the Commons: The city’s people were denied any of the Empire’s luxuries. The Order is good at subtlety and aggression, but won't do well at the negotiation table.
The players continue making choices: their traditions, doctrines and loyalties. As part of this, the Kaetur detailed an Empire Cabal that still threatened them - they decided this was a cell of Kitraen saboteurs, still hiding in the city.
Drawing the Map
The next step is the most important: you draw out the map of your city, together.
First, each player draws two City Building cards, and two Borderlands Landmark cards - if you're not using these cards (available as a print-and-play download soon), you can also roll on the provided tables. You take it in turns to place one of these markers on the map, adding further detail. And for each, you decide which of these it is:
- A remnant of the old city, with an NPC Cabal rooted in it.
- A scar of the war, a ruined location that you'll need to go on a quest to fix.
- A haven, a well-preserved and secure location where your House makes their base.
- An impending threat, that'll grow and define your first Flashpoint.
You can only pick each option once.
So, after our first round, here's our map:
The Magistans put down a Garrison, and described it as a remnant. Under the occupation, the Kitreans used a local group as their security services. Neglectful, remember? The strongarms still linger, making their home in this garrison. Next, the Division of Kaetur placed down an Emporium, and claimed that as a scar. That lengthly siege devastated Montara's bazaars, and if people are to begin trading there again you'll need to convince them it's safe again. Finally, the Order of the Commons place down a Hospital - a haven they set up as their base in the wake of liberation.
After Round 2, we have:
- An academy of the Qoam arts, now occupied by the Vassals of Magista as a haven.
- A temple of the Lusman faith placed by the Kaetur, ruined during the occupation and now a threat as it's home to an arcane horror.
- A bank where the Empire stored the wealth they were pillaging. The Commons say it's now a remnant, as revolutionary forces occupy it and attempt to redistribute the assets inside.
In Round 3 we turn to the borderlands. We have:
- A port on the river, that the Kaetur forces have occupied as their staging area.
- Once-fertile plans and farmland; the Magistans put it as a Scar, now corrupted by the Ambiance of heavy Qoam usage. It's growing crops, but they are not edible, and work will need to be done to make the land usable.
- A pass through the mountains guarded by a mighty fortress. The Commons label it a Threat - the war front is in this direction, and a steady stream of deserters have been trickling through here.
Finally, round 4.
- The Vassal of Magista place down a fungal grove deep in a crystalline cavern with a lonely shrine. They have no choice but to make it a Threat. They don't have an idea, so the GM draws a random Factor and comes up with a Place of Power, where barely-contained mystical energies converge and overflow.
- The Kaetur warriors place down an inverted crystalline mountain, dangling from the sky. This giant crystal, hovering over the city, is home to a Remnant - the ruling classes of Montara took refuge in this mountain when the Kitreans invaded, and see little reason to come down with the Ilvashans now occupying their city. But how has the mountain's Ambiance warped them in the meantime.
- The Order of the Commons finish us off by placing down a hollow hill where an Onygauros makes its lair. This particular collector-beast is a Remnant, and they decide it collected tales and folklore of Montara. With the city's archives ruined, it now is the only source of the city's histories.
So, that's your map. The final step is to name any cabals created in map drawing, and make up an epithet for this city. Is this Montara the Peaceful? Montara the Brave? Maybe Montara the Holy?
Next you'll make characters, and dive into your first flashpoint - dealing with those deserters, the horror in the temple, and the runaway magic in the cave. But that's for another time.
Finally, if your group isn't interested in this stage or you want to hit the ground running, we'll also providing four pre-made cities for you to use. If you don't use them for Montara, maybe they're its neighbours?
That's it for today. But I'd be happy to answer any questions you have!