For a Gygax ’75 campaign the world was anchored by two points: the Dungeon, and the Local Town. These two points of interest were to be the major focus of the campaign during the early stages of play, and for Gygax the represented an opportunity to let the game world stretch its legs. He wrote:
. . . Here your players will find lodgings, buy equipment, hire mercenaries, seek magical and clerical aid, drink, gamble, and wench. The town would do well to resemble some of those in [Robert E.] Howard’s “Conan” series or [Fritz] Leiber’s city of “Lankmar.” Strange towers, a thieves quarter, and temples of horrible deities add greater flavor to play. The ‘Thieves Guild,’ a society of evil clerics, a brotherhood of lawful men, and so on bring a bit more interest also. If a few warring nobles from the surrounding territory also send large parties of men into the place occasionally some interesting brawls can occur. Honest and dishonest merchants should be indicated. Taverns which drug patrons should likewise be indicated, and so on. In any even be sure and leave room for additional things and expansion . . .”Gygax, 20
A Gygax ’75 town, then, must be one that provides the players with lots of locations to get into mischief. But to leave it at that is to simplify the world that Gygax envisioned players exploring. In the Gygax ’75 town Dungeon Masters (DMs) were encouraged to populate it with honest and dishonest merchants; we’re supposed to have taverns that roll their patrons (and possibly sell them into slavery). Our town isn’t supposed to be a blank slate with a tavern and a shop that sells all its items at the list price in the Player’s Handbook. We’re supposed to make it a vibrant location that feels real to our players.
It’s just so damned fun!
Let’s get to designing our town. Now, what I would refer to as the “traditional” model of designing a town is one in which the DM works there way throughout the city, drawing each home, lining out each road, and marking all of the interesting features. If this is the style you prefer than I highly encourage you to go with that and to make the town as you always have.
My players are too prone to setting fires and summoning powerful demons for me to get much use out of such maps.
Instead, I developed a system a few years ago that I’ve used with some success. I tend to come up with a series of street names and what’s on them. This allows me to give them places to go, and not become upset when they ‘accidentally’ insult a god and bring its wrath down on the city.
As you can see from the above table I can use this to give me the names of the various locations that I’m going to be playing with. For my games this has helped me far more often than going through the process of detailing the city in the more traditional model. It also frees me up to add new shops as the adventures spend their wealth about town, and to close down shops when the adventures stop.
Now the full version of this table that I’m using for my home games also denotes who trades fairly, price variations, and who is likely to try and roll the players when they get a bit too drunk and wild in the wrong neighborhood.
When it comes to the other side of the Gygax ’75 town, where we decide about all the local organizations struggling for power, I tend to hold off on doing any of that until my players begin to take a more active look at the local world. I have a few names written down (in this case: The Three Brothers; Sparrows; and the Sisters of the Proud Tower), but until the players actually interact with them there is no point in me detailing them at the present time.
Gygax, Gary. HOW TO SET UP YOUR DUNGEONS & DRAGONS CAMPAIGN – AND BE STUCK REFEREEING IT SEVEN DAYS PER WEEK UNTIL THE WEE HOURS OF THE MORNING! EUROPA. April 1975. pg 20. DIGITAL. https://archive.org/details/Europa_6-8-1975-04/page/n19
The Gygax ’75 Quick Links
The Setting of the Campaign
The Map Around the Dungeon
How to Build the Gygax 75 Dungeon
The Dungeon Level 1
The Dungeon Level 2
The Dungeon Level 3
The Local Town and All the Trouble
The World Plan
Conclusion & Links to Other Challengers!