Flip-a-Card: City Construction Playtest

July 15, 2020 - 4 min read

Since posting a starting point awhile back, I worked on a deck of cards for randomly generating a city.

I got the Neighborhood cards ready enough that I could try it out. Unfortunately I didn’t finish the Dynamic card text in time, but I knew roughly what I wanted.

We started with three neighborhood and three dynamic cards. You can see the specifics below. We used Jamboard to arrange cards online, which worked out okay. A better tool like Miro, or a mind-mapping system that let us draw connections that persisted as we shuffled stuff around, would have worked better.

Overall, people thought it generated an interesting city. I think the biggest compliment I got was “hey, can we add more cards?”

Here’s our notes on the city!


Uptown - flourishing

What political and social systems support the neighborhood’s position?

  • Nobles from the surrounding lands gather here to rule. They bring their larger-than-life social structures with them, and that fuels the entire economy of the city.
  • Artisans labor to create art for them and to hold elaborate balls and events for them.
  • The artisans are ruled by a byzantine guild system to make sense of the money that the elite among them get.
  • In theory, the guilds rule the city that only hosts the nobles. They select their leader, the effective mayor of the city, from a reincarnated line.
  • The high burghers, made up of the heads of the most important guilds, hold the secret of the election.

How is that power wielded, and for whom?

  • “Mayor” - Upholds the laws of the city day to day, and is its ceremonial representative.
  • High burghers - Negotiate city laws and administer justice for important people.
  • Nobles - Rule their own lands. Their privilege extends into the city, but the city’s laws apply to them.
  • City infrastructure - bailiffs, guards, etc. execute the will of the mayor and high burghers.

How does someone become accepted by Uptown?

  • Guild folks are accepted by ascending their organization’s individual systems.
  • Nobles’ reputations depend on their conspicuous consumption and audacity.
  • Unattached artisans and artists (only when their work isn’t covered by a bonded guild) earn favor by their performance and patronage.
  • Noble sponsors can elevate people beyond their normal station, standing by them—patronage is a commitment.
  • Commoners are basically never accepted. They can be in the neighborhood to do their work, but if they don’t offer unique service to someone in power, they’ll always be peons.

The Warren - struggling

Old town. Buried under the new uptown district.

Has the city forsaken itself, or fallen prey to outside influence?

  • The denizens of the new Uptown area willfully disbelieve that the Warren is a thing.
  • Their cast-offs live there, but they live nomadically.
  • The Warren is a pop-up city with the city. The dirty remnant of the first story of the city.

What secrets do the inhabitants furtively guard?

  • An entire counter-culture apart from the noble displays above.

Does the Warren bristle at visitors, or hunker down and wait for them to leave?

  • They seem to pretend like nothing is amiss, while waiting to see if the newcomer is ‘cool’ or not.
  • If they are shitty, the warrenites will just…wander away.
  • If they are cool, then they are given the proper introduction.

The Sanctuary - flourishing

Who lives here? Why do they live here specifically?

  • Clockwork artisans. They eschew the guild system, and arose as a discipline after the formation of the great guilds.
  • They have their own internal structure, and if they find aptitude in you, they make it hard not to join.
  • Clockwork is the Tai Chi of engineering.

What is it that separates the Sanctuary from the rest of the city?

  • Inside the ancient walls of the city.
  • The current city is largely outside of the walls that bounded the city in antiquity.
  • The walls are mostly intact, and can be fortified with effort.

What sustains the sanctuary and its peoples’ lifestyles?

  • Their unique skills set them apart and are always in demand.

The Temple - struggling

What belief system or systems were practiced here?

  • Hierarchical. Promotes displays of wealth for the glory of God.
  • That fueled the ridiculous noble excess.
  • The canonical text of the church is a growing set of letters from the hierophant. More recent gospels have become more political and less fundamental.
  • “The theological equivalent of Gerrymandering”.

What motive, such as greed, corruption, or apathy, stands against them?

  • The excess of the nobles led them away from the church in all but name. Their patronage has dried up leaving the church lacking in funds.
  • The well-intentioned church folks have basically abandoned the Temple for smaller flocks in the Warren.

How has a lack of faith helped the city? Hurt the city?

  • The “true” clerics have made an impact on the Warren.
  • The hollow leadership of the Temple continue to preach prosperity gospel, driving the wedge between the rich and the poor.

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