Industrial Wrights and Magic VI – Settlement Foundations

Now that we’re coming up on larger settlements… it’s time to take a look at the foundations of cities, so we know how to tinker with the basic values given below.

Just as importantly, unlike the situation in 3.5 or Pathfinder, Eclipse-style settlements are NOT general purpose markets and magic item shops. There are millions of possible magical items, many of them (and almost anything of interest to an adventurer) highly specialized. If you want full plate armor (always personally fitted) you either go to a city large enough to support a master armorer and find one or you spend a few points to develop an adventurer’s usual superhuman skill in the field and make it yourself. The same applies to magic items. If you want a Cloak of the Four Winds, and the only person who makes that sort of thing at the moment lives in a city two hundred miles away… it’s time for sending messages (and expecting a long wait) or for a trip. Similarly, most people are very, VERY, poor by the standards of adventurer’s who raid dragon hordes. There is no ready market for magic items at the prices adventurers want to charge outside of the largest cities.

Standard Settlement Values:

Settlement Type   


Guards / Militia

Town Budget

GP Limit

Total Cash Assets

Settlement Modifiers Foundations

Settlement Level

Near-Ghost Town          1-40                                   No Guards/Militia No Town Budget        1d8 GP or GMO       2d20 GP or GMO -5. Wild 10% / +5         Nothing much is sold here. None                     Level Zero
Thorp                        40-160                            Guards/Militia 1d4+1 Budget 1d3 GP            GP Limit 1d20 GP       2d4 x 10 GP -3. Wild: 10% / +7             Sells basic foods, tools, and
handicrafts only.
25% One Foundation        Level One
Hamlet                    161-800            Guards/Militia 4d4 2d4 x 10 GP               1d4 x 10 GP                 2d4 x 100 GP -2. Wild 5% /+5           Cloth, Sells rope, tools, leather
armor, and simple weapons
50% One        Level Two
Village                      801-1800           Guards/Militia 3d8+8 2d8 x 10 GP               3d8 x 10 GP               4d6 x 100 GP -1                                           No specialists, but stuff
can be sent for given time.
1 Foundation Level Three
Small Town             1801-4000         Guards/Militia 3d20+20 3d20 x 10 GP              2d4 x 100 GP              3d4 x 1000 GP +0                                Resource refinement – iron, fine cloth, etc. 2 Foundations Level Four
Large Town            4001-10,000               Guards: 5d10 x 10 5d10 50 GP                5d6 x 100 GP           5×10 x 1000 GP +3                               Mundane specialists and
scholars are available.
2 Foundations Level Five
Small City          10,001-24,000             Guards 4d4 x 50 2d8 x 600 GP             3d6 x 1000 GP            4d6 x 10,000 GP +6 (2 Rolls)                         20% Garrison of 2d6x20 Traders and exotic goods. 3 Foundations Level Six
Large City        24,001-50,000             Guards 4d6 x 50 2d12 x 800 GP            4d4 x 3000 GP          4d12 x 12,000 GP +9 (3 Rolls)                 Garrison 3d6 x 10 x 1d6 Universities and Magic 3 Foundations Level Seven
Metropolis       50,001-100,000           Guards (3d6 + 6) x 100 2d4 x 2500 GP           2d6 x 10,000 GP        10d4 x 25,000 GP +12 (4 Rolls)               Garrison (2d4+1) x 100   Foreign enclaves abound. 4 Foundations Level Eight
Megapolis  100,001-500,000         Guards (2d6+3) x 1000
2d8 x 5000 GP          GM Discretion.          8d8 x 100,000 GP +12 (8 Rolls)                         The Garrison is no longer
5 Foundations Level Nine
Imperial City         500,001+                     Guards 4d12 x 1000 2d8 x 5000 GP          GM Discretion.          5d4 x 1,000,000 GP +15 (12 Rolls)                Guards ARE the Garrison Anonymity is normal 6 Foundations Level Ten

Guards/Militia: The able-bodied who can assist at first, They start going professional (even if often part time) around the small town level.

  • Town Budget: How much cash the town, as a group, can scrape up to pay for public works and jobs in any given month.
  • GP Limit: How much cash is available to buy things with. Note that this is a TOTAL, and that characters are unlikely to be able to extract more than a fraction of it with any single sale.
  • Total Cash Assets: How much money you could find if you grabbed all the readily-portable valuables in the settlement. X10 if you’re valuing buildings and such, x100 if your valuing the land, structures, and inhabitants as a whole. (Say you want to buy your own Thorp full of serfs).
  • Settlement Modifiers are used to determine the level of important NPC’s – mostly because, like it or not, the higher level characters ARE the settlements major power centers, authorities, military resources, and major industries. Add the settlement modifier to the die rolls given below to determine the highest level character(s) in that category in the settlement. If the total is two or higher, roll 1d6 for the number of subordinates of about half that level. That pattern continues, but – as a rule – it doesn’t much matter; the player characters usually aren’t interested in dealing with anyone who isn’t important and influential (EG; of reasonable level) in one way or another.
  • Dice marked with an “*” may be “wild” types in small settlements. Check the indicated chance to use the alternative modifier on those dice. Such individuals usually live near, but not in, their host settlement and are wilderness-oriented. Wild Arcanists are commonly plant-mages, herbalists, shamen, or elementalists. Wild Entities tend to be treents, awakened animals, dryads, and similar creatures of the wilds. Wild Priests tend to be druids, anchorites, shamen, and so on – and Wild Warriors are commonly rangers, beastmasters, shapeshifters, and lycanthropes,.
    • Administrator (Aristocrat, Politician, Noble, Organizer): d4.
    • Arcanist (Artificer, Astrologer, Mage, Pacter, Spirit Binder, Summoner, Illusionist) d6*, d4.
    • Commoner (Farmer, Miner, Weaver, Cook): d6+2, d4+2.
    • Entertainer (Thespian, Jester, Courtesan, Barkeep/Psychologist): d8-4.
    • Entity (Dragon, Fey, Giant, or similar): d20-14*. Many settlements will have no associated “monsters” at all.
    • Hedge Mage/Priest (Adepts, Witches, Pastors, Herbalists, Ritualists, etc): d6, d4.
    • Priest (Cleric, Druid,Shaman, Enlightened Soul, etc): d6*, d4
    • Professional (Expert, Inventor, Sailor, Sage): d6+4.
    • Scoundrel (Rogue, Bard, Factotum, Ninja, etc): d8, d6.
    • Warrior, NPC Basic (Militiamen, Guards, Hunters, Frontiersman): d8, d6
    • Warrior, Exotic (Martial Artists, Paladin, Cavalier, Shapeshifter): d4*, d4.
    • Warrior, Combat Focused (Barbarian, Fighter, Ranger, Scout): d8, d6*, d4

Foundations are reasons for their to be a settlement there – and the bigger the settlement, the better the reasons tend to be . Unlike the similar concepts of “Tags” in Dungeon World or “Qualities” in Pathfinder, Foundations generally are not transient. Governments, alliances, and nations change – but the great cities continue, even if they wax and wane.

You don’t really have to bother with foundations. If the characters are just picking up supplies before going back to a dungeon or something just send them to the nearest sizeable town, maybe introduce a few sources for healing, or speciality items, or alchemical supplies, and let them get on with what they want to do.

City Foundations:

  • A Good Place: The most basic, and common, reason for a Settlement; the spot is not obviously prone to natural disasters, is not overly infested with monsters, and offers access to reasonable amounts of basic resources – water and food (whether by hunting, fishing, agriculture, or magic) most obviously, but a truly good place will also offer access to clay and/or stone, hides and/or fiber, and wood and/or some substitute for fuel and structural materials. If something is especially abundant, it will be traded with other settlements.
    • Being in A Good Place makes it a great deal easier for a settlement to grow and flourish. Non-adventurers living in it are treated as one level higher when determining their wealth-by-level. Attempts to make money with Craft or Profession checks gain a +4 Bonus.
  • Beasts:: This town breeds exotic animals, crafts peculiar constructs, programs eccentric AI’s, or builds amazing androids, robots, or golems. This may range from an old woman who breeds exotically-colored Budgerigar in her cottage in a Thorp on up to a major research center that creates mass-cloned lots of “normal” or anthropomorphic intelligent talking animals for anonymous buyers in an Imperial City – but the general principle remains the same; you can easily purchase creatures here that would be difficult or impossible to obtain anywhere else.
    • Whatever-it-is is available at only 75% of the base price, but used items of that type sell for a mere 40% of their base price. Add 1d4+1 special facilities dealing with whatever-it-is suited to the scale of the settlement.
  • Capital: Whether through location, tradition, or decree, the Settlement is a nexus of political power – THE place for the local VIP’s, government offices and archives, and (since political power controls monopolies, taxes, and business conditions) people of groups with lots of money to hang out. It will be full of powerful people, rich in infrastructure, and filled with fine buildings and monuments.
    • Add Administrators (d8, d6), Arcanist (d8), Entertainer (d8, d6), Priest d8, d6), Professional (d12, d10), Scoundrel (d10), Warrior/Basic (d12, d10), and Warrior/Combat Focused (d12, d10). Double the Budget, including the (x12) allowance for magical infrastructure. Add (2 x Level) major administrative buildings, palaces, arenas, monuments, or other major works.
  • Crime: For whatever reason, the Settlement is a tolerated hotbed of subversive and criminal elements and cults – whether that means that it is full of slavers, assassins for hire, poison shops, and mad necromancers and demonologists or whether it supports hidden groups of paladins and clerics of righteous gods in the midst of an chaotic evil empire. Goods and services that are generally considered unethical or blatantly illegal elsewhere are sold here openly, and very often legally. There may still be things that you’ll have a hard time finding, but they are few and far between.
    • Double the GP limit, major non-adventurer figures calculate Wealth By Level as if they had two extra levels, allows the sale and purchase of normally-restricted goods and services. Add various secret hideouts as needed, ranging from gang hangouts to secret underground training facilities for the local assassins. Note that the streets are dirty and maintenance is often neglected.
  • Culture: This Settlement may be a great center of fashion or literature, premiere all the great plays, produce the most popular music, or just throw fabulous festivals and parties – but once the feedback loop starts it tends to become self-sustaining (the place becomes famous, which draws anyone trying to break into the business it’s famous for, some succeed, the place becomes even more famous from their efforts, and so on). No matter what the attraction, it will draw many visitors and a good deal of cash in exchange for intangible ideas – about the cheapest of all possible exports.
    • Decide what the place is a center for. Double any reputation modifiers collected while living here. Add Professionals (d8+4, d4+4) and Entertainers (d12-4, d10-4). Increase the DC of earning money through Perform by +5 but double the resulting monetary rewards.
  • Egotism: The Settlement was the personal project of someone powerful. It will be littered with statues, monuments, shrines, and similar items devoted to glorifying that individual and/or his patrons and will have various useful public works meant to support it.
    • Add one major civic structure (arena, racetrack, mansion/palace, great square, fortress) per settlement level and 10,000 GP worth of (blatant) public works and magic per settlement level.
  • Enchanted: The Settlement is a focus of powerful ambient magic, some of which is available to every resident. There will be strange weather, an abundance of fey creatures, minor magical phenomena in the streets, and plenty of minor magical mischief.
    • Each resident gains access to one to three (one automatically, one if level 6+, and one if any one of Int, Wis, or Cha is 16+) bonus magical feats (commonly Grant of Aid, Luck, Mindspeech, Occult Talent, Shaping, or (very commonly) the use of Charms and Talismans, but others are possible). Sadly, these bonuses will fade if a character is away for more than a week or doesn’t spend at least two-thirds of his or her time in Settlement. Add Entity (d6, d4) and Hedge Mage / Priest (d8). Increase the budget for settlement magic by 50%.
  • Enclave: This settlement is a stronghold of a particular race, ethnicity, or culture – and will draw more members of that group, people who need things that group does (or are believed to do) particularly well, and visitors who wish to visit an exotic town, in a self-perpetuating feedback loop. Appropriate racial, ethnic, or cultural speciality items will be easily available. Merchants and businesses targeting outsiders will shamelessly pander to relevant stereotypes.
    • Add Administrators (d8, d6) representing the group in question and everyone else in relation to said group. Add (d8, d4) Specialists in group-related fields. Group-related items are available at 75% of the normal cost, but sell for only 40%. Add 1d4+1 businesses, small districts, or similar showcasing the various stereotypes for visitors and tourists.
  • Established: This Settlement is OLD, with a history that goes back many generations. Some of its reasons for existing may have passed, but tradition and accumulated infrastructure has become a reason of it’s own. This is a common status for Settlements that were once entryways to new lands.
    • Double the budget for magical and mundane infrastructure. Add (City Level) facilities – libraries, schools, art studios, tourist attractions,historical or haunted locations, or similar – with centuries-old reputations (which the locals will gladly fill you in on in excruciating detail).
  • Guilds (Large Town and up only): This Settlement is a center for major guilds of factions – not the minor guilds of carpenters and weavers, nor the loose clubs of the (highly individualistic and contentions) major spellcasters – but the associations of those who have some power, but not enough to negotiate with the great on equal terms. Guilds of Mercenaries, Adventurers, Rogues, Assassins, and Scouts, Witch’s Covens, Warlock Cults, and more may all have a strong presence in town – commonly offering their members access to Hearthstones and/or Package Deals. While these are generally of some use to primary casters, their benefits tend to be focused on meeting the needs of more mundane types. Such a town is also likely to boast a few extra high-level types.
    • Add (City Level – 4) “guilds” of interest to adventurers which offer appropriate members who base themselves in the city some significant benefits. For an example, the Mercenaries Guild might offer a Package Deal, or boost a warrior-types effective level by one when it comes to calculating Wealth By Level (via getting special deals and using in-house facilities if anyone asks for an in-game reason), or offer access to a Hearthstone – or even offer more than one of those benefits. Such guilds invariably focus on “Low Tier” character types, offering little or no benefit to “High Tier” types.
  • Hub: The site is a natural nexus for resource processing – perhaps where coal from the valley, metals from the mountains, lumber from the northern forest, and herds being driven up from the southern plains, all tend to come together. It is a setting of manufacturing and industry.
    • Mundane equipment suited to the level of the settlement costs only 75% as much as usual here, but sells for only 40% of its base value.
  • Outpost: This Settlement (Small Town maximum) is supported from elsewhere – whether for diplomatic, military, trade, or other purposes. Outposts are rarely in Good Places, otherwise there would be little need for any special reason to place a settlement there; one would spring up naturally. Outposts that ARE in good places usually lose their Outpost status after people settle in.
    • Add a fortification and/or a diplomatic office and/or a trading post, a garrison of (2d4 x 10 x Settlement Level) men, and minor support businesses, normally including a healer of some sort. Mundane adventuring supplies (possibly exempting extremely expensive items such as telescopes) are readily available regardless of settlement size.
  • Presence: The Settlement is the seat of a major divine or quasi-divine power. Whether blatantly or subtly, it will deeply influence events. Residents may have visions, those who violate local taboos may suffer terrible fates, sacred, intelligent, or otherwise powerful animals may be common – or there may simply be some demigodling running the place.
    • Add (d12, d8) servants and a (d10) enemies of said power, at least one secret shrine, and a variety of strange customs that no one will explain to visitors.
  • Primordial: The Settlement contains, watches over, or has formed a bargain with, some terrible elder horror, sleeping power, artifact, monster, or hidden force. While this may be an onerous duty, and demand strange taboos, rites, and behaviors, there are always benefits for the inhabitants. The entity may be a source of strange magical resources, or sometimes bestir itself to defend the Settlement, or grant magical powers in exchange for meeting it’s demands and performing its rituals.
    • Given that each such situation is unique, there are no standard modifiers. A settlement built on the back of an island-turtle that only wakes once a century is very different from one haunted by a dark god where the walls occasionally bleed magical ichor that bestows the “pseudonatural” template on those who ingest it.
  • Resource: The site offers access to one or more special material resources – metals, gems, rare or abundant woods, petroleum, upwelling earthblood (whatever that is), coal, exotic herbs or fungi, compounds and drugs, the ingredients for exotic gourmet cheeses, or something similar that’s valuable enough to be worth establishing a settlement to get easy access to.
    • Add +4 to skill checks made to obtain funds in the settlement. Add +50% to the town budget.
  • Ruins: Plenty of Settlements have some old ruins, a haunted graveyard, or wererats in the sewer system, suitable for an adventure. THIS one has a nearby megadungeon – a multi-thousand year old necropolis, tunneled out mountain, abandoned (underground?) city, or other location that a hundred adventurers could explore for years and not run out of adventures to go on.
    • Add (d8, d6, d4) characters specializing in adventurer support – healers, armorers, alchemists, and so on. There will be a backroom market dealing in strange items (often with odd drawbacks) from the ruins, a doubled-up militia/city guard, and fairly regular problems with stray creatures from the ruins.
  • Sacred: A notable religion considers the area a holy site. There will be shrines, some holy men, pilgrims, and various archeological sites scattered about. It is entirely possible for more than one religion to consider a city holy – although even if they do agree on THAT, they very rarely agree on anything else.
    • Add Priests (d10, d8), (City Level +2) temples, monasteries, and Sacred Locations, and halve the effective cost of religiously-oriented magical features, such as a Healing Spring or appropriately oriented Planar Spire.
  • Safety: In a dangerous world this location is defended by divine decree, isolation, being perched atop a towering mesa, ancient wards, mighty walls and earthworks, the presence of a “school for adventurers”, being hidden (note that this tends to cut off trade and external support, so make sure that your settlement can get along without it), existing in a dimensional pocket (also tends to cut off trade), or something similar.
    • No modifiers. Most cities work hard on defending themselves anyway, so this just leaves more resources for other projects.
  • Trade: The Settlement is a natural nexus of transportation and trade – whether by air, sea, being at the intersection of major underground routes, having teleportation gates, dimensional rifts, access to the realms of dream or the afterlife or some other exotic aspect of reality, by hosting an ancient starport, or what-have-you. Materials from distant lands and exotic cultures will be relatively common. An extra 2d4+2 powerful individuals (nature and level GM) and their entourages will be around to take advantage of that – often making the settlement a center for whatever arts they practice.
    • Triple the GP Limit. Double the Budget, and multiply the amount available for City Magic by 1.5. Transportation, exotic items, and information are all readily available, as are would-be henchmen, kids selling “treasure maps”, and contacts with far-away places.
  • Twinned: This settlement has a an immediately accessible companion settlement. If, for example, it floats in the air, it’s “companion” may be on the surface, underground, in orbit, across the boundaries of life and death, in an alternate dimension, in the past or the future, magical versus technological, linked by a realm of dreams, or simply a little ways off but connected by some sort of transportation system.
    • While the second settlement must also have this foundation, both settlements are presumed to cooperate with each other, allowing both locals and visitors to draw on the resources of both settlements. Increase the Budget and the Magical Infrastructure allotment by 50%.
  • University: The Settlement is a long-established center of learning – hosting one or more great schools of magic, martial arts, channeling, mystic arts, or some other major discipline. Museums, ancient libraries, and research laboratories are likely – and it many be possible to obtain or commission a variety of unique items, alchemical reagents, or strange secrets.
    • Add (d8, d6) Professionals (Sages and Teachers) and a (d6) Administrator. Add (City Level) related Facilities of appropriate scale. Various ancient tomes, clues, and hints as to obscure adventures may be found around the city.

Exotic Conditions:

Exotic Conditions are abnormal, even by the standards of d20 cities, and often transitory. Ergo, these are even more optional than the rest of this…

  • Freedom: This settlement offers liberty. Slaves, bound spirits, summoned monsters, and anything else bound to service is legally – and sometimes magically – set free upon entering the settlement. Classically this was a major draw; in d20… it is a great deal more questionable. Slaves of more or less “normal” races are one thing – but bound outsiders, creatures called through gates, and many more d20 entities are considerably more problematic. And if it’s purely legal… how the Settlement will stop some high-level character out to retrieve a lost servant without suffering enormous amounts of damage is just as open to question. It’s best to leave this one to planar metropolises in chaotic planes; everyone there expects random insanity anyway.
    • There are no general rules for this one; it’s simply too volatile for that.
  • Newly Founded: This settlement is full of crude buildings and empty spots, has little or no organization or law enforcement beyond lynchings, and has very little infrastructure beyond what any higher-level individuals who are involved have brought along.
    • Treat this Settlement as if it was two levels smaller with respect to infrastructure, one level smaller with respect to the GP limit.
  • Ruinous: This settlement is a wreck. Whether due to a recent dragon attack, or being overrun by a barbarian horde, or some such, much of the population (and almost all the higher level types) have fled, monsters have moved in here and there, and there’s a power vacuum. Fortunately, this is generally a temporary condition; much of the infrastructure will probably survive and people will soon move back in.
    • Doing business here is difficult to nigh-impossible. For the moment, this isn’t really a settlement any longer; it’s a disaster area.
  • Therapeutic: This settlement offers health benefits. Unfortunately, most of the classic benefits (mineral rich hot springs which soak away infections or arthritis, rare herbs which relieve the plague, holy grottoes that offer miracles to the faithful) are pretty meaningless in most d20 settings, where easy magic handles all of that quickly and conveniently. Ergo, this Foundation is only applicable in settings where there’s something that ISN’T easily fixed. For an example, the classic Red Steel AD&D setting featured massive contamination with Vermeil – a dust that could give you various powers but which also gave you detrimental mutations – and the much rarer Cinnabryl, a magical ore that could protect against the side effects of Vermeil and which could be forged into (quasi-) magical weapons cheaply. In that setting a Settlement that offered some relief from the side effects of Vermeil would qualify for the “Therapeutic” foundation. Otherwise, pick something else.
    • Once again, there are no general rules for this since it’;s based on some exotic feature of the setting.

One Response

  1. […] average resources, on a likely trade route, or whatever. The spot you pick will prove to have two Foundations. At DC 60 it will prove to have three, at DC 75 it will have four, and at DC 100 it will prove to […]

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