Recently I wrote the City Adventure chapter of Crypts and Things Remastered, which centres on the Demonic Pirate city of Port Blackmire. I wrote it pretty much in a couple of intense sittings, and after completing it I reflected on where it had come from.
From the introduction to the chapter:
Magnificently vast ancient crumbling cities are such a staple of the Swords and Sorcery Genre that they become characters in their own right. They are the back drop to many a caper, such as magical heists, murder stories, clashes with dark robed cultists who have set up murderous shop just down the road from the character’s local tavern. With this in mind I present Port Blackmire, a city straight out of the British Grimdark tradition of the 1980s, of dangerous city states where all residences within the city walls are trapped to keep out not only the thieves but the dark things that prowl the streets, either openly or in human disguise, and the city’s ruler is the most evil thing in the city. A place where even the good pay tribute to the city’s vile old temples to keep misfortune from their door.
This is the playground for the characters, whether they are blowing their misbegotten gains in the taverns on grog or on some high stakes game of chance or earning some extra coin by locating missing persons or burgling some fool with more money than sense. Sometimes it’s the place where adventure comes straight at them, dragging them out of their comfy beds when they most need to rest up and heal from their last venture.
Welcome to Port Blackmire.
Much of the inspiration came from the Fighting Fantasy books of the 80s and their spritual descendants, the pages of White Dwarf Magazine and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay First Edition.
Port Blacksand (City of Thieves) – was a principle inspiration, heck the name is a clue here 😉 Black Sand is the star of the Fighting Fantasy book City of Thieves, a character in its own right, a dangerous port controlled by a mysterious Pirate Captain Lord Azzur. The place is filled with traps and monsters, and is an active risk to the heros life.
Khare (Sorcery book 2:Cityport of Traps) – My memories of Khare are slightly less well defined, but it carried on the theme of the Dangerous City as a character in its own right. Here the traps of the title are set by the Lawful members of the city to stop their Chaotic neighbours from helping thierselves to their treasures.
Irilian (White Dwarf 42-47, Best of White Dwarf Scenarios III). This high medieval city state in decline is the star of a 3 issue mega scenario from the early days of White Dwarf. So much detail was crammed into it that they used a slightly smaller font to keep to the alloted page count. The city, orginally rich from the jem trade, is well past its best. Yet it has all the Guilds, Temples and monestries from its hayday. It’s state of social torpor makes it the target of attack from ancient evil, that is more an impersonal force in the tradition of Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising Trilogy. In fact its the city and its institutions, possesed by this force, that is the opponent in the scenario.
Middenheim (Warhammer 1st Ed, City of Chaos). On the surface of it Middenheim is a massively bigger rerun of Irilian set in the Warhammer Fantasy Old World. Its a high medieval city undersiege by the forces of Chaos and the players must interact with the city’s instituions and power players to win the day. What makes Middenheim interesting is that it focuses on Politics as well as the nitty gritty of the city encounters. That and the scale of the city, which magificiently sits atop a mountain with a flat top rising up from the forest floor.