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I, at some point, want to run a Sandbox D&D game set in some huge slummy city. Does anyone have any ideas for locations and plot hooks and NPCs and stuff? Think Ankh-Morpork (Discworld), Bas-Lag (Perdido Street Station), and Dunwall (Dishonored).
I'm running a fairly similar campaign right now. Let me ask you something that will get the ideas flowing though:
What does your city look like? Slummy can't be the only thing to say. How big is it in square mileage (roundabouts, don't go crazy)? What are the streets like? If you were the city planner, how would you categorize the local demographics? Is the city split into Districts or Wards? Once you know what your city looks like and who the people who live there are, you can plan for what, roughly kinds of things might go on where.
Why was your city built where it is? Most cities are founded along rivers due to access to water (The Nile, the Euphrates, the Yellow River). Some can also be built on higher ground such as hills or mountains, but they still need a source of water, like a well or a spring. Is this city near an important trade route, either by land or sea (or teleportation circle)? If so, it's going to be bigger than if it's isolated in the wilderness, and have more crime due to the wealth passing through. Depending on if there are nearby borders you might also have a large interracial population (Constantinople/Istanbul).
If there is no geographic reason for your city existing (middle of nowhere), then another reason must be found. For example, Persepolis, the capitol of the Persian Empire was built in the center of the Empire without regard to water or trade or anything like that. It was built for political reasons, to make sure that every part of the Empire could show up when commanded by the Emperor. In that case, water would need to be brought down from the mountains via aqueducts or brought up via wells.
Without knowing more about your city, making interesting and believable encounters will be more difficult.
As a guy who just spent a week designing a trade city, the best way I found to make the slums the slummiest was sex, drugs, violence, more drugs and bad architecture. To make it memorable I actually placed the city along a river and on both sides of it, but made the slums be partially sunk. So most streets are just damp, whereas certain alleys have a few inches of water seeping up, and basements are completely flooded in places. Leads to the poor being shoved in to a tight, mould ridden space where the only real ticket out without money is crime. Just how I found a good way to make slums happen :D
Richard Ayoade, in his role as Moss, has summed up my battle with learning Anima quiet succinctly: "You can't handle the crunch!"
- DMing: Pathfinder
- Playing: SWSE
- Sitting on the Shelf: Anima, SWSE, Edge of the Empire, The 5 40k Systems, Advanced Dnd, 3.5 DnD, Gamma World
Just find a copy of Planescape: Torment or get your hands on one of the Sigil guides from the AD&D Planescape setting and you're gold!
Not necessarily the best start. But you can get Uncaged: Faces of Sigil as a PDF. It's a book consisting entirely of weird NPCs with one to three pages of fluff each. My favourite book of all times, easily. For buildings and so on, you can get In the Cage: a guide to Sigil, which isn't bad, but not remotely as good, either. A bit dry.
Finally, I can recommend looking on Planewalker.com for Desire and the Dead, a low-level city adventure that is especially interesting for its wide variety of NPCs and side quests that you can probably plunder for something.
“Not a promise, not an oath, or a malediction or a curse,” I said, sounding calm, probably inaudible in the midst of the screaming. “Inevitable. Wasn’t that how she put it? I told them. Warned them.”
-Taylor Hebert. Yes, I'm a proud Skittle.
Well, other people have been saying things. The only thing I can recommend is something I saw once called Ishka. Take a look, if you feel like it. It's a good bit of 'brewing, if you need a huge, scummy city.
"Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day" --Charles Dickens
DMG II 3.5ed has a very nice sandbox city in it, chapter 4 is an contains all the information you need to ran the city. Most of the plot hooks and places are actually pretty good, it is also a very nice premade sandbox if you want to give the sandbox city idea a try before trying huge one.
Another great place to find NPC or plot hooks is World Largest City, just like Ptolus it has much more contact than you could ever use.