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It's been a loooong time since I posted!

I'm still running games in the City of Brass, only I stopped running the "poor squatters" campaign due to waning interest after the election (too close to home?) and after my gaming venue changed its schedule from biweekly Wednesdays to less convenient monthly Sundays.

Now I'm running a dungeon crawl campaign set under the City of Brass (also known as Mirrorrim) and I've converted the 90-page player's guide that I share with my group into a FREE 60-page Player's Guide to Mirrorrim: The City of Brass (Free Preview Edition), which is now available on DriveThruRPG.

Download it today!

This preview contains player-focused teasers for the setting, but a creative game master could use what is here to build their own campaign and dungeons. Much of the content is system-agnostic, but the racial options are OGL 5.0-compatible.

MIRRORRIM is a huge, ancient desert city-state built on top of a megadungeon.

Mirrorrim contains thousands of years of secrets and wonders, buried beneath the city streets in sealed-off caverns and tunnels—the city’s “megadungeon.” As dungeon explorers, you’re in grave danger. First and foremost, the city’s government forbids you to enter this dungeon. After that, you’re in danger from the monsters and traps that fill the dungeon’s halls. (And fear of those monsters escaping is why the city forbids you from tampering with the dungeon.)

Inside the book, you'll find 57 pages of content focusing on the setting and character-generation options:

* A map of the city (peek at the preview here).

* The city of Mirrorrim, its legal system, and points of interest.

* Short descriptions of the better-known dungeons and the laws that try to keep you out.

* Organizations that your character might interact with.

* A brief treatment of how magic is different in this world.

* A little talk about modern and ancient languages.

* A list of unique names for Mirrorrim characters.

* Information on the 14 racial options in the setting, with complete write-ups for the new ones.

* Discussions of class options and how they fit into the setting.

Races

Some of the best stuff in here lies in the unique takes on races, even the usually-familiar ones.

Elves live less than 30 years and make pilgrimages to the Great Tree to store and retrieve racial memories. Dwarves are literally made of stone. Gnomes see into the spirit world. Halflings are a survivor slave race who have evolved to eat less, take up less space.

You can play Djinni: air elementals enslaved to a magic lamp. Or mean-spirited Efrit fire elementals. Gnolls are PC races, and they're shrewd, socially clever "pack" people who function well in cities. Ratlings are small rat humanoids, surprisingly well cultured and impeccably dressed.

Want really weird? Gargoyles are living statues from a local neighborhood, who have come to life, but still feel a pull to that part of the city. Flamenku are flamingo kenku from the desert who get their nutrition from a weird, blue algae.

Even humans come in two varieties in Mirrorrim: Commoner and Noble.

http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/214245/Players-Guide-to-Mirrorrim--Free-Preview-Edition-5E
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Look! Preorders for "carry. a game about war." Revised Edition, with awesome play aids.
Proof of the Squad Card play aid for carry. a game about war. Revised Edition. Already made some visual tweaks and ordered a new proof - primary change is that I figured out a better use for the Burden area.

A deck of these (15 cards) is included gratis in each preorder of the new revised edition in print, and will be a $5 extra after the preorder closes. Also, 20% of preorder sales will go to the National Immigration Law Center!

http://ndpdesign.com/preorder
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Weird Races

In the City of Brass, there are some weird races.

I mean even the "normal" races aren't normal. Halflings are a slave race. Elves (and, to some extent, Half-Elves) are mayflies. Dwarves are carved, not born. Gnomes see into the spirit world. Half-orcs are half-human, half-giant-ant.

You can play a Tiefling or an Aasimar, too. At first, I thought they were demons and angels, but then I realized that they're really Efrit and Genii. Or maybe I should just allow Genasi. The jury is still out, and we have a couple tiefling PCs already.

You can play a Dragonborn, but they're not really dragons. Instead, their origins come from the giant veiled chameleons that live in the desert. They're bipedal, and they have a prehensile tail, a sticky tongue, skin that changes colors (though not as well as their animal brethren).

You can play a Warforged (Eberron), sorta. You're not forged for war at all. You were a statue in a courtyard or a gargoyle on a rooftop and some spirit took over you. Now you're a "living" statue made of stone or brass or wood. That is, you're still a Construct.

You can play an Aarakocra, but they look like flamingos, not hawks or vultures. Pink and orange and skinny little humanoid legs.

You can play a Dark Elf, but not a Drow. I mean that you don't have dark skin and worship Lolth. Instead, you're an deep-underground albino who just hates the harsh desert sun and you have all the usual problems other Elves have.

No, you can't play a Changeling or Shifter (Eberron), Goliath (Elemental Evil), Minotaur (Waterborne Adventures), or Revenant (Gothic Heroes).

I'm not sure about Eladrin (DMG) yet.

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What should I do with Humans?
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Events in the City of Brass

In the City of Brass, events happen in a sort of rhythm. There are at least five large celebrations on the calendar every year, plus countless small ones.

Festival of Fire - midsummer
Harvest Feast - autumn
Sacrifice Day - midwinter
River Fair - spring
Empress Day - early summer

Far more interesting events occur now and then as the tides of local or regional politics flow in and out. Once per adventure, roll on the "Random Local Event" table.

Random Local Event (1d10)

1 The city shuts down the market for failure to pay taxes.
2 A kind blacksmith moves into Kickstone. He'll pay well for apprentice labor.
3 A new gang of 2d10 members arrives in town, looking to claim territory. The gang is (1d6) 1: criminal, 2: anarchist, 3: vigilante, 4: press gang, 5: guild, 6: Blackguard.
4 A sewer tunnel collapses for several hundred feet, making it difficult to navigate to points east.
5 The Fire Shrine attracts 1-3 new clerics.
6 Floating eyes scan the town for 1d6 days, looking for something.
7 Someone makes a donation to the Commune, (1d6) 1-3: enough food to feed everyone for 2 days, 4: 1d4 RP of repair materials, 5: a keg of ale, 6: a bunch of old books.
8 A tenant in Kickstone discovers a weird secret door in their basement and comes to the Commune for help.
9+ Roll on the Random Ash Borough Event table.

Random Ash Borough Event (1d10)

1 Roll for a different borough instead.
2 A fire sweeps through the borough. Roll 1d6: 2+, the fire threatens Kickstone; 5+, the fire threatens the Commune.
3 Harhai, the Ash Borough Captain, was murdered in his sleep, leaving an angry gnoll faction and an empty political seat. Elections to follow.
4 A new bar opens in Ash, offering some kind of exotic entertainment. (1d6) 1: pit fighting, 2: open bard night, 3: animal fighting, 4: drinking contests, 5: magic shows, 6: nude dancing.
5 A pregnant rogue rookdrake nests on a rooftop. It drives out most of the building tenants and starts hunting people in the street at night.
6 A local gang gets stronger, and can operate at the Borough level. Multiply their number by 10 and then divide it by 1d6.
7 Word is that a minor noble frequents a bar in Ash.
8 An enchantment factory opens in Ash, looking for magical workers.
9 The Borough Captain hosts a gladiator event. Fighters must be Ash residents. Kickstone is expected to field a team.
10 Roll on the Random City Event table.

Random City Event (1d10)

1 The empress leaves (or returns to) the city with great fanfare.
2 Hundreds of ships appear in the harbor as an army attacks the city. Conscription increases.
3 Food shortages cause all food prices to increase (+1 sp/day survival cost) for 2d6 months.
4 Unemployment surges. It's harder (+5 DC) to get a job now.
5 A nasty crime by an individual against a member of nobility puts a minority race (pick randomly) in danger.
6 The empress issues a poverty relief edict, offering free bread to all citizens for 2d6 days.
7 A heat wave makes life unbearable for the week. City travel is dangerous without water.
8 Unusual sea storms dump torrents of rain on the city, flooding many areas and bringing out dangerous animals (rats, snakes, giant spiders, and worse).
9 Someone important dies: (1d20) 1-8: a well known general or noble; 9-13: the head of a noble house; 14-17: a ranking member of the Hall of Brass; 18-19: one of the other icons (not the Empress); 20: the Empress.
10 A malign planetary alignment connects the spirit world with the mundane world for one night. Spirits come out. People get stuck in the spirit world.
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Things I Actually Didn't Steal for City of Brass (or maybe I did)

Part One

As I dig deeper into the research, I am finding similarities between my City and other settings. Here's a bunch of things that I didn't intentionally steal. In some cases, I probably read the idea 5-10 years ago and it was bouncing around in my brain when I came up with my Brass material. In other cases, the choice is just sort of obvious so it's no surprise that other great minds thought alike.

As Picasso said, "“Good artists borrow. Great artists steal." I think he stole that idea from T. S. Eliot, appropriately.

Plateau. The City of Brass has upper and lower sections divided by a giant plateau. There are magical and mechanical lifts between the two levels. I am pretty sure this is a feature of both Ptolus and Sharn (Eberron). I probably stole this subconsciously. For me, the plateau is a physical metaphor for the social division of the city.

Ifrits. I mean, c'mon. Of course the City of Brass has to have Ifrits and Djinn and such. I won't put mine in charge, though I was considering until last week making the Empress an Ifrit. Instead, the Empress will be an elven woman who has summoned and enslaved 88 marid, 44 djinn, and 22 ifrit.

True Fact: In real life, ifrits and such come down to us from the Qu'ran and were tools of Iblis / Shaytan (Satan). Also, figuring out what the plurals should be is tricky. Ifriti or Ifrits? Jinn or Jinns?
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Time

When running the City of Brass, tracking time is important. I'm not talking about tracking minutes and turns. I'm talking about tracking time at the macro level.

Days

The basic unit of time in the campaign is the day. Characters must find something to eat or spend 1 sp to buy some very basic grub.

Other things are measured in days. A day is about the length of time it takes to cross the city on foot. If a character finds a job in Ash Borough or down near the docs, they'll spend some time travelling to and from work and they'll spend most of their day working. Searching for free food using the Survival skill takes the better part of a day. If a character wants to search for resources to repair the Commune, that takes a day. Emptying junk out of a Commune room takes 1d6 days and repairing a broken-down room takes 2d6 days (and materials).

Upkeep and income that happens on a daily basis applies only to days that happen during game sessions. If you get paid 11 cp per day of labor and spend 10 cp every day on food, you'll net +1 cp per day, but those days only happen during play. Between game sessions, even though days are passing, the campaign does not track them for upkeep and income purposes. It's assumed that you break even every day, outside of play.

Weeks

Since game sessions tend to occur every other week at the Windup Space in Baltimore, there's a two-week rhythm to time in the setting, as well. Campaign time tends to match real time in that regard. If it's been a month since I last ran a game, then a month has passed in the City of Brass, too.

The characters won't care much about weeks, because the upkeep and income rules don't apply between sessions. However, the GM tracks weeks because various plots are in motion and they have a calendar.

For example, the Masons Guild seems to be interested in the parcel of land that the Commune sits on. The timeline for the Masons plot might be built like this:


MASONS

The Masons Guild (really, the Scrapers Guild) seeks a site for a new building as part of a larger sewer project.


Phase 1: Surveying

Week 0: Masons investigate the Kickstone neighborhood and find the Commune building, ripe for razing.

Week 2: Masons with surveying equipment cordon off one street at a time in front of the Commune to measure and map the block.

Week 6: Masons meet at the guildhouse to select a site, ultimately choosing the Kickstone site.


Phase 2: Guild Hearing


Week 0: Masons at the records hall inquire about the ownership of the Commune. Either find an old deed with no living owner or find a fake deed planted by Comrades.

Week 2: Masons investigate the authenticity of the deed.

Week 4: Masons post notices on the Commune of a hearing of eminent domain at the guild hall.

Week 6: Noble interests plant false rumors about activities at the Commune.

Week 8: Masons host a guild hall meeting about the future of the Commune property. Noble interests (servants) are present. Determine through role-play and skill checks who holds the power (Comrades or Nobles).


Phase 2A: Noble Bribes (if the Comrades hold the power)


Week 0: Noble interests offer a deal to human and elven Comrades, or to owner of deed.

Week 2: Nobles make veiled threats.

Week 4: Nobles hire dark agents to make attacks on Comrades.

Week 6: Nobles hire dark agents to burn the place down.



Phase 2B: Eminent Domain (if the Nobles hold the power)

Week 0: Masons post an eviction notice on the Commune door with a four-week warning.

Week 2: Masons post a second notice with a two-week warning.

Week 4: Masons show up to demolish the building. Equipment arrives. Masons order everyone out.

Week 6: Mason guards forcibly clear the building of all residents.



Phase 3: Clearing

Week 0: Masons demolish the building and start building the new sewer outtake plant.


It's built in phases so that certain PC actions or Problem rolls can push the plot into another phase. The GM can advance plots naturally from week to week, or use the Problem rolls to advance things much more slowly. When the campaign reaches the last week of a phase, then the next phase starts during the next game session (whenever that is) if the GM is ready for it.

For example, if we're in Phase 1, Week 6 (Masons choose the site) and one of the characters tells a surveyor that they own the deed to the building, the GM has three options:

1. Immediately move things to Phase 2, Week 2 (Masons investigate the deed's authenticity).
2. Wait until the weeks pass for the event to come out naturally. Next session, roll into Phase 2, Week 0.
3. Wait for the players to roll one of the Masons-related events on the Problem table before advancing that plot to Phase 2, Week 0.

Sometimes a Problem on the table can advance a plot to a deeper stage. Literally, most of these weekly plot points could be an entry on the Problem table.

Note that none of the plot outline is fixed in stone. It's simply a matter of what will happen if the Comrades don't change events. In fact, the entire 2A section was added mid-campaign because the players surprised me by forging a deed and planting a copy in the records hall.
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Numismatics

In the City of Brass, actual currency is nothing like what is in the Player's Handbook.

During play, we talk a lot about "silver pieces" and "copper pieces" and occasionally "gold pieces." Those are the currencies used in the rulebooks and the players understand those well. We use them as a shorthand for what is really going on.

The City has two money systems. The ancient tradition of coins minted by the Palace is the most common form. Guilds have an Imperial license to mint their own coins, though, as long as they do not look like Imperial coins.


IMPERIAL COINS

Tum

For thousands of years, currency has been minted by the palace. The main unit of trade is the tum, a tiny coin of brass. While there are plenty of 1-tum coins, each about the size of the nail on your pinky finger and weighing around 1 gram, a single tum doesn't buy much. The coins are not perfectly flat. They tend to be slightly cupped because of the imprinting process that stamps them on only one side. Because of this, locals call them "scales," as a pile of them resembles fish scales.

Mur

Because of the low buying power of the tum, the City mints a 7-tum bronze coin, called a mur (the number "7" in Common). It is about the size of a U.S. penny and weighs around 3 grams. This is what people call a copper piece. Most daily household purchases are conducted with these coins, which the populace has nicknamed a "brass." There are also 3-tum ("tor") and 5-tum ("sunt") coins in circulation.

Seph

Mercantile transactions commonly use a pewter coin called the seph. Its pewter is made mostly of tin and lead, with a little copper and antimony. They contain no actual silver. A seph is a little larger than a mur, a little thicker, and it has a silvery-blue cast to it. Each is struck with the head of the Empress on one side, the symbol of the Guilds on the obverse. New sephs are a little larger than a U.S. quarter and weigh about 9 grams.

Qanit

A larger, heavy coin called the qanit is the base of larger transactions. Made of a gold-copper alloy, the reddish coins are struck one one side with the head of Emira (the city's noble founder) and the fiery star symbol of the Fire God on the obverse, hence their nickname as "suns." A qanit is worth 1001 tumi. The amount of gold has been diminishing (and the amount of copper increasing) over the centuries as the leadership slowly debases the coin. It used to be almost entirely gold. When minted, a large group of gold qanits is enchanted with a magic mint mark that is tough to counterfeit.

Por

Treasuries use a rare coin called the por. Made of a platinum-gold alloy in a complex process involving magical fire, the por is valued at 17 qanit, or about 25 gold pieces. Called the "plate," these are rounded rectangles in shape and ridged so that they stack nicely. Rather than being struck, they are etched with magic, usually with illusion spells that show tiny scenes from history. They are almost impossible to counterfeit, and any attempt to do so would probably point straight back at the wizard who did it.


Summary of Imperial Coin Values

1 tum "scale" = almost worthless
1 tor = 3 tumi
1 sunt = 5 tumi
1 mur "brass" = 7 tumi = 1 copper piece
1 seph "shield" = 11 muri = 77 tumi = 1.1 silver pieces
1 qanit "sun" = 13 sephi = 143 muri = 1001 tumi = 1.43 gold pieces
1 por "plate" = 17 quanit = 221 sephi = 2431 muri = 19,448 tumi = 2.43 platinum pieces


GUILD COINS

The guilds have a more convenient money system, based on multiples of the brass mur. All of their coins are the same size and shape. Based on the concept of the platinum por, they are perfectly square (with slightly rounded corners), with a square hole in the middle. Each edge has four notches like the crenellations of a castle tower, so the coins stack perfectly.

The metalsmithing process that creates coins of this shape is rather difficult to counterfeit, but it's not as secure as the magical fraud defenses built into large-denomination Imperial coins. For that reason, Guilds place additional magical enchantments on their coins so that, when Guild coins are stacked together, they make a very satisfying and unique "clack" sound that every City of Brass citizen knows by heart.

All Guild coins are called "towers" and differentiated by their material: bronze towers, silver towers, gold towers, platinum towers, etc. The metal content of each coin is carefully controlled, and the currency is never debased by skimping on the valuable metal in them. The bronze tower contains 75% copper and 12% tin. The silver tower is pure silver. The gold tower is a gold-copper alloy with 92% gold content (22 kt). The platinum tower is a gold-platinum-silver alloy. In general, the coins have a much lower value than their materials, by design. By Imperial decree, anyone can take a Guild coin to any Guild bank and exchange it for its value in Imperial coins.

Special "rod chests" for carrying coins make use of the square hole. Coins can be slotted onto the steel rods and with a little shaking, the coins all stack up nicely and stay in position. Counting coins is very easy this way, as each rod is 100 coins, and each chest is (usually) 10x10 rods, so a filled chest holds 10,000 coins.


Summary of Guild Coin Values

1 bronze tower = 10 mur = 10 copper pieces = 1 silver piece
1 silver tower = 10 bronze towers = 100 mur = 1 gold piece
1 gold tower = 10 silver towers = 1000 mur = 1 platinum piece
1 platinum tower = 10 gold towers = 10,000 mur = 10 platinum pieces
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City of Brass Map

Here's a sketch of the city.
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Map of the Desert

Here's the rough first draft of a map of the area around the City of Brass.
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City of Brass: Themes and Sources

I chose "City of Brass" as a name and inspiration for this campaign for a few reasons. The name conjures visions of deserts, ifrits, jinn, and magical lamps--and killer kings and slavery. It has been interpreted over and again in different ways in gaming and literature. Its origins are political and religious, and frankly, non-Western.

You might recall its treatment in One Thousand and One Nights, where Emir Musa encounters a dead, dusty city with grave inscriptions warning the reader to make good of life, for God takes all eventually. "Here was a people whom, after their works, thou shalt see wept over for their lost dominion; And in this palace is the last information respecting lords collected in the dust."

http://www.bartleby.com/16/701.html

Old gamers like me remember the mention of it in the old AD&D Manual of the Planes (1987). Set in the Elemental Plane of Fire, it's a place of oppression and awfulness. Unless you're one of the Ifrit elite, of course.

New gamers may know the Necromancer Games D&D 3e product (2008). I bought a PDF copy, but I must admit I just learned of its existence. I haven't had time to read it, but it looks to be a deeper treatment of "plane of fire"-style pseudo-Arabic mythology.

Rob Kuntz created a City of Brass product (2003) for Kenzer and HackMaster. I've never seen it and I don't have hundreds to drop on a print copy.

Magic: The Gathering players probably have seen the City of Brass card. "Tap to add 1 mana of any color to your mana pool. You suffer 1 damage whenever City of Brass becomes tapped." (Yeah, that's the Arabian Nights version of the card text. I'm old school, okay?) A city that hurts you when you use it for its diversity. Excellent...

There's also a marvelously wrong-headed poem by Rudyard Kipling, written in 1909, about the ills of the Welfare State. I think it's a bit overwrought and tortured, but damn, it's some fine rap lyrics, if you can wrap your flow around anapestic pentameter. I certainly had Kipling's version of the City of Brass in mind--ironically--as I chose the name.

In the end, I wanted a big city with a mythological feel that wasn't strictly Western in culture. I wanted something political. All the gaming treatments of the City of Brass envisioned a pretty stark social stratification, with Grand Viziers lording over a slave population. My vision of the City is grim, but not quite so extreme. It lives in the gray area where poverty makes slaves of people in all but name. My City's empress will probably be an ifrit with a horde of marids at her command, but the city's main inhabitants are humans and elves and dwarves and halflings and other "normal people" (for a fantasy setting).
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