The Chimeric City
a D&D 4th Edition Campaign Setting
Nobody knows when the City was built, or who built it. Some believe that the City was constructed by ancient gods; others say that it has always existed. No one knows where the City's boundaries lie, or even if it has any, it's imposing stone constructions sprawling far and wide, many parts crumbling in forgotten ruin; endless miles of columns and ziggurats and pyramids, countless descending levels of catacombs and sewers and sub-sewers.
The Regions and Boroughs of the City
By convention, the City is divided into four regions, one for each of the four cardinal directions: Northtel, Southtel, Easttel, and Westtel. Each region houses several boroughs which act as independent political entities. Each of these boroughs have their own distinct architectural styles and naming conventions, all of which resemble those found in some ancient city from our own world. Below is a list of the four regions and their major boroughs, along with regional benefits based on the predominant regional topography, conditions, and inhabitants. The architectural style and naming convention of each borough is listed in parentheses.
Rife with labyrinthine construction, especially around Knossos, large portions of the northern part of the City have collapsed into floodwaters, creating a patchwork of urban seas and archipelagoes.
Regional Benefit: You gain Northspeak as one of you known languages. This replaces a language you would otherwise know, other than Common. Also, choose one of the following benefits: add Athletics to your class skill list and gain a +2 bonus to Athletics checks; or, add Dungeoneering to your class skill list and gain a +2 bonus to Dungeoneering checks.
Knossos (Ancient Cretan)
Mycenae (Ancient Greek)
The driest region of the City, Southtel, with it's obelisks, ziggurats, and pyramids, houses the borough of Giza, as well as the rival boroughs of Eridu and Uruk.
Regional Benefit: You gain Southspeak as one of you known languages. This replaces a language you would otherwise know, other than Common. Also, choose one of the following benefits: add Endurance to your class skill list and gain a +2 bonus to Endurance checks; or, gain resist 2 against fire.
Giza (Ancient Egyptian)
The eastern region of the City contains many pagodas with roofs collapsing in ruin; the southern part of the region grows marshy and jungle-like around the borough of Angkor.
Regional Benefit: You gain Eastspeak as one of you known languages. This replaces a language you would otherwise know, other than Common. Also, choose one of the following benefits: add History to your class skill list and gain a +2 bonus to History checks; or, add Streetwise to your class skill list and gain a +2 bonus to Streetwise checks.
Anyang (Ancient Chinese)
Much like Easttel, Westtel is drier in the north and wetter in the south. Around the borough of Tolan the weather is desert-like, but southward in the area of the rival boroughs Kaan and Mutal the climate turns jungle-like.
Regional Benefit: You gain Westspeak as one of you known languages. This replaces a language you would otherwise know, other than Common. Also, choose one of the benefits: add Nature to your class skill list and gain a +2 bonus to Nature checks; or, gain a +1 bonus to initiative checks.
Connecting the different regions and boroughs together like tangled string of beads, satellite communities form networks of encampents, townships, and outposts along the City's major trade routes. Nomadic tribes can also be found leading a gypsy-like lifestyle, traveling between boroughs in roving bands and camping in the City's crumbling interstices. The cultures and naming conventions of nomadic groups vary widely, and analogues of nearly every real-world culture can be found somewhere in the City. If your character comes from a satellite community or a nomadic tribe, you must still choose a region of origin and apply its benefits.
The Historical Society, located in a roughly central area relative to the four regions, has no naming conventions of its own, as its inhabitants come from all parts of the City.
Environment and Society in the City
Plant life springs up wherever it can find purchase, but it is found in much more abundance in the wild and abandoned ruined parts of the City. In these swaths of crumbling wild, allosaurs stalk the avenues in search of sauropod prey while leathery winged scavengers wheel in the sky; herds of duck-billed hadrosaurs graze in flooded parks, and packs of deinonychus skulk in alleyways, clicking their scythe-like claws against the broken flagstones, waiting for the kill.
Networks of elevated, recessed, and underground aqueducts, aquifers, and reservoirs provide every borough with more than sufficient water for drinking, sanitation, and irrigation. Fed from these plentiful water sources, every household maintains two gardens: a rooftop garden where squashes, beans, tubers, and other foodstuffs are grown, and a basement garden of mushrooms and fungus crops that require no light. Because these household gardens cultivate largely failsafe, high-protein, nutrient rich crops that are usually sufficient to feed the families that grow them, most trade centers around commodities like salt, regional or orchard grown delicacies and spices, metals, and so forth. Some families keep small, hornless ceratopsians in much the manner that real-world folk might keep pigs, while others maintain coops of chicken-like compsognathids for meat and eggs; these can also provide a source of tradable goods. Excess foodstuffs are usually traded to nomadic tribes (who often make their living as traveling merchants, peddling the commodities mentioned above), or to the Historical Society, which gains its income through trade and academy tuition.
The people of the City worship the City itself, or a sort of City-spirit, in many different forms and manifestations. Some worship the civilized spirit of the City, epitomized by the organized, protective haven of the boroughs, while others worship the City's more primal and untamed aspects.
Inter-borough conflicts occur regularly in the City, and some boroughs have express rivalries with each other. Competition for space or resources, problems with trade relations, old blood feuds, and differing ideals or doctrines can all fuel animosities. While many conflicts are resolved diplomatically, others escalate into violence. Such skirmishes can sometimes be quite protracted and bloody, especially between rival boroughs. True war, however, as it is envisioned in other worlds, is impractical in the City as the topography prevents the coordination of large forces such as armies.
Founded in the last century in the old abandoned heart of the City where the many different building styles collide in a surreal jigsaw puzzle, the Historical Society began as an apolitical organization with one express purpose: the pursuit of forgotten knowledge. Now, while still an ostensibly apolitical organization, the Historical Society holds a great deal of power in the City. It remains completely independent from the various boroughs, but has academies scattered throughout them, exerting its influence by siphoning off the best and the brightest from every region of the City. Many PCs find their way into the Historical Society via these academies.
The symbol of the Historical Society is the scarab. Society members say that scarabs are the keepers of great secrets, that they travel through cracks in the City to places where no one else can go and see things that no one else has ever seen.
There are those in the City who resent the Historical Society's monopoly on valuable artifacts. Whether unscrupulous collectors or simply bands of enterprising criminals, many of these people have formed artifact-seeking organizations of their own. Groups such as the League of Explorers and the Artifact Finders Guild are the sworn rivals of the Historical Society. Members of such rival organizations are universally denounced as "looters" by the historians and surveyors of the Society. The looters themselves, call all agents of the Historical Society "scarabs," after the Society's coat of arms.
The Chimeric People of the City
For reasons unknown and usually unquestioned, the people of the City come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Some may have violet cat-eyes, or aquamarine feathers, scales, fur, a prehensile tail, or any number of features that might seem outlandish if such things were not considered completely the norm.
All people within the City are of a single race, but as the inhabitants vary so widely, PCs may choose any race's racial traits (except warforged), provided you can come up with an original appearance and a reasonable rational for your character's racial traits. Keep in mind however that some races are more problematic than others (see "Problematic Racial Traits" below), and remember that "interesting" and "original" are not synonymous with throwing as many physiological accessories onto your character as possible.
The Historical Society provides a useful tool for adventure running, namely a resource for providing the group with motivation and direction. The Historical Society employs groups of archaeological surveyors, exploring the far-flung ruins and deep recesses of the City in search of artifacts and insight into the City's past and origins. But such a lifestyle is not for the faint of heart, as the uninhabited regions of the City are rife with many dangers, from simple pitfalls and wild beasts to cutthroat looters and bloodthirsty bandits. So enter the PCs, some of those brave few who find reasons to press beyond the boundaries of the City's safe havens, as surveyors under the auspices of the Historical Society.
Your character's name should match the naming conventions of your home borough. If your character comes from a satellite community, use the naming convention of the closest major borough. If your character comes from a nomadic tribe, pick a real-world culture that your tribe resembles and use its naming conventions
Besides Common, four major languages are spoken by the people of the City: Northspeak, Southspeak, Eastspeak, and Westspeak. The following three languages are not used in the City: Elven, Dwarven, and Goblin.
Races with unusual origins or overt magical powers can create additional hurdles in coming up with a reasonable, unified character concept.
Elemental Origin (Genasi): How did you come by your elemental connection? Were you exposed to some force that altered you, or were you born this way, your nature some legacy of your heritage or an ancestral event?
Fey Origin (Eladrin, Elf, Gnome): How did you come by your otherworldly connection? Was your birth marked by uncanny events or strange omens? Did lions in the street give birth to two-headed serpents on the very hour of your entrance to this world?
Immortal Origin (Deva): How did you come by your divine connection? Were you born under particularly auspicious circumstances, surrounded by omens or prophecies?
Overt Magical Powers (Eladrin, Doppelganger, Dragonborn, Drow, Genasi, Githyanki, Gnome, Shadar-kai): How is your "racial" power an extension of your character's other qualities? Are you a wielder of the Arcane, or of some other power source that gives you this uncanny ability?
Your class power source may have some influence on where in the City your character originates. While varying from class to class, Arcane and Divine characters are much more likely to come from major boroughs and population centers, while Primal characters hail from nomadic tribes or sometimes from smaller satellite settlements; Martial characters run the gamut between the two extremes.