Urban adventures can be incredibly fun and a great change of pace. To successfully run an urban adventure, though, the GM must realise they are fundamentally different to wilderness or dungeon adventures…
In my Borderland of Adventure – after over two years of game play – we began our first major urban adventure. We’d done small, side trek urban adventures before but this was the first adventure in which the PCs would have to explore an entire town! In preparation for the adventure, I considered exactly how urban adventures are different to “normal” adventures. Here’s what came up with:
- Law & Order: Urban settlements almost always have a watch or guard. They always have laws the PCs must follow (or risk getting into serious legal difficulties). Many settlements have laws about citizens wandering about town heavily armed and armoured which affects the combat capabilities of most groups. Murder, theft and arson – features of many dungeon delves – are likely also frowned upon. This means the PCs may have to use different tactics to achieve their goals.
- Help & Hindrance: Many vested interests lurk in a town. The thieves’ guild may not take kindly to the PCs poking around an abandoned manor while the city watch might welcome any help the PCs can offer in solving a spate of grisly murders. Similarly, a range of faiths and powerful personages may help or hinder the PCs in their quest.
- Spellcasting & Services: The PCs have ready access to a range of services they wouldn’t normally be able to use in a dungeon. They will be able to hire spellcasters, shop for items (both magical and mundane) they suddenly need and so on. This is a great boon to the hard-pressed adventurer.
- Home: If the adventure takes place in a PC’s home town, he’ll have much more knowledge of the locality. He’ll also likely have a vested interest in completing the adventure. In a home town, the PC will also have a support network of friends and family he can call on. Such individuals can be a source of material aid as well as being excellent sources of information.
- Go Anywhere: The PCs can literally go anywhere and visit hundreds of locales. The GM must be far more prepared – or excellent at ad-libbing details of places and people.
- Different Challenges: Urban adventures are less likely to deal with the traditional types of adventures – the kind of adventures where you kick the door down and kill everyone inside. Instead, they’ll probably require more role-playing and investigation to complete successfully. That’s not to say there won’t be combat – there almost certainly will – but there’ll be less than normal.
Help Fellow GMs
Do you consider other factors when designing or running an urban adventure? If you do, share them in the comments below and help your fellow GM’s build better urban adventures!