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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    Cikomyr's Avatar

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    Default Giving personality to a Big City - Designing Donlon

    Yes, the name of the city is London reversed. I made that name up on the spot and it kind of stuck in my memory.

    In my homebrew campaign, I needed a massive, cosmopolitan city for plot reason. I tried coming up with personality quirks to make it more interesting, but a friend who went over my notes told me it was too generic compared to my previous work. So I am coming in front of you, Playgrounders, to pick your brains.

    I wanted some sort of Ank-Morpork like city. A big cesspool of self interest that doesn't care about conquering the world because everyone comes to trade here anyway. I wanted a city that didn't came across as The Evils of Civilization, but that wasn't a bright shining city on the hill either. Just a big trading city.

    So the idea of a Canal city came. And no like Venice, but more like Panama. It's a city created at the junction of two major oceans, and any maritime trade has to go through it, so why would it worry about conquering trade interest?

    So came probably my favourite sentence describing Donlon: "Donlon doesn't care about taking over your distant little piece of country. Donlon doesn't come to you, because everyone has to come to Donlon eventually".

    Then I thought about having it being a "lawless" environment, and pondered what this meant. Came my second idea: there is literally no government in Donlon. No city watch, only local, self-funded militias or Merchant House guards. Donlon is some sort of pipe-dream functional anarcho-capitalist state. There is a "Directorate" that helps coordinate and build major public work essential to the overall wealth of the city (ex: the canals themselves), but it's merely meant to help large merchant houses coordinate.

    Without going into political theories in this post, I had to seriously ponder how an Anarcho-capitalist state could genuinely function (as I doubt it could in real life) and thought that the main reason any system of political economy turns "evil" and self destructive is when labor is treated as disposable masses. So came the idea that in Donlon, labor is at a premium. Workers and "poor" boroughs have the power to resist any tyrannical power of the merchant houses, and that some sort of equilibrium has been reached between economic classes. Trade guilds and worker unions also make sure there's no coersion of workers.

    It's a pipedream, I know. But the PC just met a seafaring volcano-powered civilization that travel the ocean on massive Arks with a Moana thematic. So might as well make up impossible civilization if we want to.

    Anyway. I then pictured the idea that the general outlook of the people of Donlon might be the same as the city itself. People in there usually don't give a rats' ass at what you are doing, as long as you don't get in the way of people making a buck honestly. And to be fair, since there isn't any "law", there isn't any real crime either. Drug traders, cartels operate openly. There ain't any "protection" racket because local militias actually do it more honestly. Prostitutes of all races and gender have their own powerful guild that protects them.

    Somehow, it's a workers paradise. If you don't mind the smell.

    I also had ideas about the Adventuring Guild being based there, and rich individuals or local organisations use it to strike anonymously at others, or steal or go outside the city to do stuff (a bit like Mr Johnsons hire Shadowrunners).

    There is the Duellist Guild who is a type of assassin's guild for the High Gentlemen Society.

    Theres a few mercenary companies for anyone who need big muscle fast. They have an understanding with the Burroughs *not* to deploy in the city ever, or the Farmer's Guild, Smith's Guild, Courtesan's Guild might just outright deny them service.

    Effectively, I tried to make an organic, functional anarcho capitalist state. What could be added on top to make it less generic?

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Giving personality to a Big City - Designing Donlon

    Sounds similar to Sigil, if you replace the plane hopping with anarchic mercantilism and add more crowds and smells.

    My suggestions for adding ambience:
    - Create a custom encounter table. Some actual encounters and some scenes for pure flavor. (Example: Revilo's Gang of Orphans.)
    - Create a rumor table. More of the above. Create adventure leads. Background info. Current events. Some true, some false. (Example: Dragon Turtle attacks envoy ship.)
    - Have one or two fitting sidetrek adventures prepared. (Example: The third Dock War, featuring The Bloody Hooks versus the League of Extraordinary Stevedores.)
    - Player maps of city and a few prominent locations. (Example: The Shining Spire Inn. Where noone knows you name, and even the chamber pot leaks.)
    - A music playlist, if that's your thing.

    Other than that, have a rough plan of how you can introduce some of all the stuff you have created to the campaign. But don't force it.
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  3. - Top - End - #3
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Giving personality to a Big City - Designing Donlon

    The basic requirement for capitalism to work is enforceable property rights. You donít need a police force or a central authority for that. What you need is a legal system kind of like republican Rome.
    Cases are brought to the forum.
    Juries are assigned by lot (again increasing the power of workers because you can say that the working class are the only class allowed to be jurors, eveen if the lawyers and judiciary are drawn from higher levels of society).
    All prosecutions are private. What that means is that people with low wealth approach high wealth individuals who will fund litigation for future considerations. Favors and votes were often more valuable than money in Rome.

    What you then need is a mechanism for enforcement of judgements, which can be social, tradition, guild enforcing judgements on their own etc.

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Giving personality to a Big City - Designing Donlon

    There are some screwy results in the economic game theory of infinitely iterated games which clearly don't apply in real life, but could make grist for the mill for fictional economics. Specifically, if you have an infinitely iterated game with rational players, in any game with some net benefit from cooperation, each player can compel each other player to take any finite-cost action they want by threatening to never cooperate again unless they do the requested action. There's a lot of reasons that this breaks down in practice, but its a weird quirk of the math applied blindly.

    So lets say you want an anarcho-capitalist city that has no property rights but yet still manages to function. The way you do that is to make the entire economy revolve around futures, and have the major players in the economy be immortal (these don't have to be individuals - it could be immortal factions, companies, etc). Wealth is explicitly a collection of promises of future action or labor rather than tied to physical goods. The trick is, if you're the first to break your promise to provide those futures on demand, everyone else takes that into account and it affects the future value of your own currency. To put it another way, its an economic arena where every individual is basically a state and has the ability to print their own money at will, and the market decides what their money is worth.

    It's likely that such a society would develop an outer ring of barter or threat based economics. If you can trade in future promises of labor, someone would figure out that they can receive property in exchange for not killing someone (since property is after all only a finite value, whereas death is an infinite penalty). So there'd have to be some other emergent thing acting as a counter-balance to that - again, I'm thinking that as long as the major participants whose value 'counts' are effectively immortal organizations rather than people, then the death of a particular member of the organization has only finite value and can be offset by the organization as a whole refusing to deal with the murderer's organization from that time forward.

    This kind of thing would develop a lot of deep-seated feuds and would get quickly clogged with all of those agreements and ultimatums and threats. So in practice, navigating the market would be an insanely involved process, and it wouldn't look anything like an actual free market in the slightest (but could very well hold pretenses of being so in how it presents itself to outsiders).

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    Cikomyr's Avatar

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    Default Re: Giving personality to a Big City - Designing Donlon

    Well, I know the currency of this world is backed by magical energy. Instead of the petrodollar, it's the Managold. Major guilds craft/empower magical batteries with set values to trade large amount of species.

    These batteries can substitute spell component values for costly spells.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Troll in the Playground
     
    Beleriphon's Avatar

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    Default Re: Giving personality to a Big City - Designing Donlon

    Quote Originally Posted by Cikomyr View Post
    Well, I know the currency of this world is backed by magical energy. Instead of the petrodollar, it's the Managold. Major guilds craft/empower magical batteries with set values to trade large amount of species.

    These batteries can substitute spell component values for costly spells.
    Sounds like the dragonshard economy from Eberron. The prices of items in the setting a presented in terms of hard currency as usual, but in actuality a huge amount of trade is driven by trading the value of dragonshards. IIRC the Kundarak Bank operates on dragonshards futures market.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: Giving personality to a Big City - Designing Donlon

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    There are some screwy results in the economic game theory of infinitely iterated games which clearly don't apply in real life, but could make grist for the mill for fictional economics. Specifically, if you have an infinitely iterated game with rational players, in any game with some net benefit from cooperation, each player can compel each other player to take any finite-cost action they want by threatening to never cooperate again unless they do the requested action. There's a lot of reasons that this breaks down in practice, but its a weird quirk of the math applied blindly.

    So lets say you want an anarcho-capitalist city that has no property rights but yet still manages to function. The way you do that is to make the entire economy revolve around futures, and have the major players in the economy be immortal (these don't have to be individuals - it could be immortal factions, companies, etc). Wealth is explicitly a collection of promises of future action or labor rather than tied to physical goods. The trick is, if you're the first to break your promise to provide those futures on demand, everyone else takes that into account and it affects the future value of your own currency. To put it another way, its an economic arena where every individual is basically a state and has the ability to print their own money at will, and the market decides what their money is worth.
    To say it more simply, economy can be based on trust. This guild has honored its deals in the past, it is trustworthy, you make business with them because it is safe. this other guild has betrayed trust, you don't deal with them.

    power may be based on a reputation for honesty - regarding business, at least. Includes being able and willing to carry out threats, and not making enemies you don't have to.
    I did something like that in my world, with the merchant union being able to control worldwide economy specifically because it was recognized as reliable and non-threatening by everyone; and in a world of superpowered people that can teleport inside bank vaults or knock down the reinforced door with a fist, being reliable and nonthreatening can be charged at a premium.
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  8. - Top - End - #8
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: Giving personality to a Big City - Designing Donlon

    Famous Failures

    The Unfinished Canal:
    Several corporations have bankrupted attempting to build a competing canal. The result is a water route into the city with an intermodal facility that transfers goods to land transportation for use in the city or trade via caravan to inland trading partners.

    The Forum:
    During an era in which wealthy organizations tried to outbid one another by building public works, a group began but never finished a massive public gathering place and market. Most of the brickwork is still exposed, with less than 10% encased in marble. Artists from around the world were commissioned but never paid, so only a fractiom of the intended frescoes and statuary have been completed.
    The Red Ass is a partially completed statue of a massive horse, the head of which has not been carved from the single pink granite block.
    The Broken Goddess lies in chunks after the artist who carved it destroyed the statue when he learned he would not get paid.
    Muddy Lane was once a street which is now flooded annually each spring when floodwaters flow along an incomplete aquaduct and spill into the city.

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    Cikomyr's Avatar

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    Default Re: Giving personality to a Big City - Designing Donlon

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    Famous Failures

    The Unfinished Canal:
    Several corporations have bankrupted attempting to build a competing canal. The result is a water route into the city with an intermodal facility that transfers goods to land transportation for use in the city or trade via caravan to inland trading partners.

    The Forum:
    During an era in which wealthy organizations tried to outbid one another by building public works, a group began but never finished a massive public gathering place and market. Most of the brickwork is still exposed, with less than 10% encased in marble. Artists from around the world were commissioned but never paid, so only a fractiom of the intended frescoes and statuary have been completed.
    The Red Ass is a partially completed statue of a massive horse, the head of which has not been carved from the single pink granite block.
    The Broken Goddess lies in chunks after the artist who carved it destroyed the statue when he learned he would not get paid.
    Muddy Lane was once a street which is now flooded annually each spring when floodwaters flow along an incomplete aquaduct and spill into the city.
    Oooooooohhhh **** this is great. Fantastic idea man

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Flumph

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    Default Re: Giving personality to a Big City - Designing Donlon

    everyone knows the sewers workers guild is a protection racket....you don't pay you get flooded...you try to pay other people to do the work and the many tunnels the current guild has put in may well get crossed (which is interfereing in their business and suits will be filed) and misfortune (including sinkholes, cave ins, pudding/jelly infestations) suddenly become common plus being between two bodies of water the subsurface rock of the region is very difficult to deal with even before money and politics. It's annoying (and sometimes more) but everyone puts up with it since nobody has a better solution and the shared torment has become a sorce of social cohesion within the city. Everyone makes jokes about it, its something every local can gripe to another local about at any random tavern be they rich, poor, greenskined, whatever and all can dream about getting away from their clutches when they make their big score and whine with envy about those few rich individuals that have magical drains/disposal systems
    .

    Black & Smith's Masons and Roofers: the Black and Smiths don't work iron. Its the family names. When Delenor Black the wizard married the younger daughter of of the rich merchant Tiberius Smith and went into business with his brother-in-law 217 years ago a Donlon institution was born. You see, the Smiths were a mercantile bunch and Black was rather ready to retire young after initial success adventuring turned sour (leading to most of his party and most of his treasure being disintegrated by an irate beholder with a mind for revenge) but liked the finer things in life and was willing to put in some work now to relax later. . . Which led to their bright idea. Black created a trap that casts a minor variant of the Wall of Stone spell but suspended in a frame under magically animated saws. The whole, highly secret, contraption is said to be more complicated and may they have several of them but the result is that soon large blocks of stone of regular colour, texture, and size stared to pour out of the Black & Smith warehouse in the middle of the city at great speed and with minimal labour costs, or transport (or import taxes) that allowed them to undercut other merchants bringing in stone while maintaining profit. Over time the they added a earth-to-clay system where people can dispose of dirt from other construction projects in the city and produce roof tiles from it. . . The business is well known and a large portion of construction in the city uses their products. These materials form the classic building materials of the modern Donlon style...even the exotic materials used in other building are measured against these ones. Basically the Donlon equivalent of Portland Stone

    The Flying Decanter: So Fire fighting insurance.....it was a good business for a lot of people for a long time in Donlon. Fire crews would protect their clients and only their clients...building owners would hang markers showing they were clients of various firefighting teams so that they would receive protection....and it kinda worked until the Inferno Guild War broke out 198 years ago....The various companies bidding wars and threats to each other had been ratcheting up for years and finally got out of hand...that many were now fronts for other business ventures, mostly violent and/or unsavory, and using the good name of the fire crews to open doors and gather information was probably also a part of it. They started setting each other clients buildings on fire....which led to retaliation....often against the wrong target...which invited more retaliation. Information collected in surveys to "have the proper information to protect your building" and to set rates started appearing in the hands of those who would find it useful...security measures were suddenly known by assassins and thieves...warehouse contents were known but competitors...Things got out of hand....Eventually the clients had to do something...secret negotiations were done in the shadows by disgruntled clients...195 years ago most of the fire crews were massacred by hired mercenaries for what they had done over about a fortnight...but with firefighting still needed to be done and another war between competing crews was deeply feared, so a "charity" called the flying decanter fire service was set up to receive donations of decanters of endless water and flying carpets...a company who sought no profit and could out compete any challenger in speed and power of service....frankly it was done out of the fear of ever again being at the mercy of such an event again, even if it was very expensive for those who set it up...but a silver lining was soon found...and those companies, burgurs, and bankers who created this system found themselves lauded by those people too poor to have fought the terror of the firecrews themselves...and so found a friendly business environment-people knew who saved them the trouble and tended to favor their businesses with custom or good terms...which has led to powerful social custom of the up-and-comers in town. A donation of small flying carpet, a decanter of endless water, and a stipend to man them is a social marker of Good-Citizenship-Signaling for the uber-rich. And today the flying firemen of Donlon are the most common thing pointed to on how well the cities lawlessness has allowed them to be better than other cities in the long run....many Donlon fans elsewhere will not shut up about them even. Honestly there are not that many of them, but there don't really need to be as they are powerfully effective as firefighters but they may be even more powerful as a legend.
    Last edited by sktarq; 2019-08-15 at 12:23 AM.

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    ReaderAt2046's Avatar

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    Default Re: Giving personality to a Big City - Designing Donlon

    In the Vorkosigan Saga, there is a world called Jackson's Whole that is very similar to what you are describing, and one of their major quirks is a reverence for the Deal. If you can get a Jacksonite to make and accept a Deal, they will stick with it come hell or high water, and they expect everyone else to do the same. I also remember reading that fraud and treachery tend to get much more harshly punished in criminal gangs, because the bosses know that they don't have any legal system to appeal to. So I propose that in Donlon, your word is considered your bond to an extreme degree. If you can prove that someone in Donlon has broken a promise, everyone will join forces to (possibly literally) eviscerate him, because everyone knows that without a central authority to force people to keep their contracts, the whole system relies on people being able to trust each other's deals and promises.
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