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We Built This City

"A culture, we all know, is made by its cities." - Derek Walcott

Two weeks ago, I ran a poll asking what my readers would like to know more about.  The winning answer was city building, so here we are.

Niz and Ragnarok meet Janubiz the Whirlpool Rider, githzerai privateer.
 Recently, I've been trying to flesh out the city of Genkar, a major city in my campaign world.  Genkar sits on the western coast of Aradove.  While certain parts of it have been hinted at in my campaign, and others have been described to me by my players, many of the elements of Genkar have never fully been fleshed out.  I want a map.  I want names of locations I can lay before my players and say "ok, here is Genkar".  So, in short, I needed a way to flesh out this city, to build it and let it be natural.  But where to begin?

The first thing I thought to do was to look at the various cities in my (really 'our' because it belongs to myself and my playgroup) and determine one word that could be used to describe it.  Below is a list of various cities, and the words I picked for them.

Genkar: trade
Scryiz: war
Ru'Endaar: art
Dawnscythe: nature
Finyar: politics
Elyusis: wonder

While some of these ideas are very one-dimensional, they are necessary in order to give us a basic outline of what I'm trying to achieve.  Is Genkar the only city that deals with trade?  By all means no, but if I know that it is important to the city, it gives me a better idea for things to add and NPC's to populate it with.

Once I had a major theme, I thought about the history of the city and deities they might worship, along with things such as emblems and values.  As time has gone on in my campaign, we have learned that Bahamut plays a large role in the city.  So, I decided that Bahamut is the main deity worshiped in Genkar, and that the emblem of the city is a gold dragon.

The next step I use comes from a very well-written article by Dave "The Game" Chalker.  Dave created what he called the "5x5 Method" when it comes to creating storylines and quests for your players.  The article can be found on (  I used the 5x5 Method to create a city.

First, we create 5 districts for the city.  Many RPG supplements use districts in their city design, as it helps everybody stay familiar with certain areas.  For Genkar, I have these 5 districts.

  1. Docks District
  2. Grandfather District
  3. Council District
  4. Market District
  5. Outskirts
For each of these districts, I gave each 5 locations within them that the players could go and interact with.  Some were small and easy to add, others would turn into large areas of exploration/role playing encounters all on their own.
  • Docks District
    • Sharleena's
    • The Old Goat
    • Privateer's Landing, also known as the Serpent's Tooth
    • Sewer entrance
    • Shipwrights' Workshop
  • Council District
    • Sierett Manor
    • Steward's Palace
    • Court of Honor
    • Igneous Hall
    • Miximaggi's Boutique
  • Grandfather's District
    • Grand Temple of Bahamut
    • Dragonspell, Academy of Magic
    • Tower of the Protector
    • The Lighthouse, barracks of Genkar's Light, their army
    • The Scales
  • Market District
    • Guild Wagons
    • Weapon Shop
    • Armory
    • Apothecary
    • North Gate
  •  Outskirts
    • Farming Fields
    • Stables
    • Eastern Gate
    • Grazing Fields
    •  Storehouses
 I spent some time coming up with ideas for NPC's and the merchant council that rules the city.  I then came up with a list of quests relating to these NPC's and areas of Genkar.  If the PC's decide to explore the city and learn more about it, cool.  If they don't, no worries.  At least I have Genkar fleshed out.

At times, this method can be tricky/difficult, as it can be hard coming up with 5 different locations in each district.  However, once complete, you will have a fleshed out city with lots of locations to explore.  For me, the next task is to map out certain locations (I already started with the Tower of the Protector).

Zaktis, Bastin and Gregg meet with Voenn in the Tower of the Protector.
On a last note before this post ends, I thought I would discuss the history of Genkar.  This will be useful for some of my players who read my blog, and I figured I would share some of the world with my loyal readers.

Genkar was named after the gold dragon that protected the small settlement after Dovesong Abbey fell.  The fleeing survivors made for the coast in order to be near a water supply.  Genkar had helped lead the knights of the Abbey, but was unable to save them all during the fall, so he relocated with the survivors, seeing them as his people to help save and protect.  The people of this new village took to using the gold dragon on their standard, in honor of Genkar, and still do so today.

The wilds around Genkar were treacherous, but many foes feared the gold dragon, which allowed the villagers to slowly build their city.  Generations of lives passed, building the settlement of Genkar from a small village to a larger, fortified city.  Many said that they were blessed by Bahamut, and indeed it seemed so.  They were protected by a dragon and rebuilding after the tragedy of Dovesong.

The gold dragon's exploits involved hunting numerous chromatic dragons of the area to near extinction.  The bones collected from the fallen wyrms were stored in the city, and are said to still lie there, though none know where they have gone to.

Eventually though, a colossal red dragon named Skiivir took residence in the mountains of the south known as the Inferno Peaks.  Genkar, unable to let such a foe exist, flew off to fight the red wyrm, though he was heavily outmatched.

The people of the city grew worried for the fate of their guardian, and when they finally saw his shadow over the sun, their worries turned to grief.  Genkar had returned, though his wounds were fatal.  He landed to the ground, looked at his city, and his people, and died.

As time went on, the emphasis on Bahamut became less and less, though there are still the heavily devoted.  The proximity of the sea, and the river known as the Serpent turned Genkar into a major trading hub, with ships of all kinds coming in and out of port.  Traders journey west towards the city in hopes to sell their wares.  Yet there are many who look on the banner of the gold dragon and are unaware of the heroic beast who made such a city possible.

As always, be sure to leave comments with what you think, and be sure to follow me on Twitter @artificeralf

If there's enough questioning about all of these locations, I would be more than happy to go into detail about them.


  1. Replies
    1. The Scales was supposed to be the city's prison. It was short for the Scales of Justice, and looks like a giant form of draconic Bahamut.


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