A Magical Classical City (DnD Other)

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Taking inspiration from A Magical Medieval City Guide, this guide seeks to measure and exploit the differences between campaigns in a medieval and classical setting in hopes of creating a more enjoyable experience for any and all gamers out there. Please note that this "guide" is only a suggestion. There are few to no serious game rules in this; it is only a set of ideas which might be enjoyed.

Differences between Medieval and Classical settings[edit]

In the real world, there were many differences between cities of the classical and medieval eras.

During the time of the Roman Empire, the Hellenistic world, and the cities of classical Greece itself (before Alexander the Great), cities were extensively based on trade, independent city-states were the often the norm (until the growth of empires), and each city would have its own patron deity or set of deities.

In the middle ages, cities weren't very extensive in Western Europe; most of them were simply the seat of a bishop or were some of the few areas where trade hadn't collapsed (such as the cities of Moorish Spain.) In Eastern Europe, the dynamic was much like the ancient Greek world, but few to no cities were independent states. Furthermore, all of the cities of Europe lacked the old patron deities; instead, all of them were Christian. The closest the cities had to their classical protector gods were patron saints.

Eventually, during the high middle ages, towns and cities began to grow again in Western Europe. Fueled by commerce, independent and semi-independent cities emerged in northern Italy, where the Renaissance began.

In the D&D game itself, the cities and and campaigns are normally assumed to be a sort of pseudo-medieval England setting. The major difference comes from the classical attribute of the game having many different gods, rather than simply worshiping one God (as it would have been in the real medieval Europe.)

The chart below enumerates the differences between a classical and typical Western European medieval city. Note that some major developed medieval cities such as Venice, Bologna, Rome, Athens, ThessalonĂ­ki, Cordoba, and Constantinople aren't considered in the lisiting because they were either a. Eastern European, b. Non-Christian, or c. Weren't typical;Bologna, for example, had a university, stable government, and up to 180 towers (some of which were over 60 meters tall, which was amazing by the standards of the world at the time) during the middle ages, giving it a skyline at a time when most other Western European medieval cities were simply a concentration of buildings around a cathedral or castle.

Table: Classical and Medieval city differences
Classical Medieval
Main purpose: Trade and/or government. Main purpose: Seat of religious official and/or defense of area.
Government: Usually monarchic, sometimes oligarchic or democratic Government: Feudal, controlled by local ruler who is loyal to another, bigger ruler.
Importance: High, frequently the center of economics and culture for a region. Importance: Low in most cases; manors are more important.
Planning: Good, frequently on a grid or geometric pattern. Planning: Poor, little organization, generally poor sanitation.
Freedom: Barely different than the countryside. Freedom: Much freer than the countryside

Elements of Classical Cities in the D&D game[edit]

Cities from the classical era were not monolithic. The time in which it was built and its location were major influences in a city's development. For the purposes of the game, the elements shown here are somewhat anachronistic, combining to form a city with Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman elements to form a setting that is most suitable for the game.

Patron god/gods: The very atmosphere of the city is in no small part determined by the divinities worshiped there. This will be a major influence on what the party finds upon entering the city. A city with a warrior god as patron, for example, will likely have a high concentration of warriors, whereas a city with an agricultural patron deity will likely have abundant food.

Philosophy: In addition to religion, philosophy can be a major force in a classical city. If there is a major school of philosophy in the city, it can complement or oppose the prevailing religion, depending on the exact teachings of each. A city with a stoic or platonic philosophy is more likely to be a well-ordered city with education, morality, and justice whereas an epicurean or hedonistic city will more likely be full of sloth, disorder, immorality, and corruption.

Government: Most D&D cities are run by a single major power broker, but a classical city can be run by either a monarchy, timocracy ( military-government), oligarchy, democracy, or tyranny (unlike the monarchy, there are no limits to the ruler's power.) The government of city determines much for the party's experience in the city; a democracy will be more free and open, while a tyranny will likely be closed and will probably not welcome the party in.

Classical City Locations[edit]

While not every classical city has all of these sites, it should be noted that these location are important elements in classical cities in general (for the purposes of the D&D game.) Note that elements common to all cities (temples, markets, etc) are not counted in the list as they are assumed to be present.

Forum: A center of government, religion, business, and law, a forum is a major point for the life of any important city. Forums are typically higher-end places, with most of the important civic functions coming together in one particular place.

Stadium: A place for generally non-lethal sports, a stadium can be an important aspect of a city's culture.

Arena: A very dangerous place for those who enter it, an arena is a place of blood sports in which the party may be forced to fight (or choose to do so for money rewards.)

Theater: A focal location for a cultured city, a theater shows plays which reflect the city's culture.

Academy: A place of learning, an academy can be an invaluable asset to the city's culture and economy.

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