[RPG] How to run a D&D urban campaign


I'm currently in the middle of DM'ing a city campaign. I've found it's quite a bit more difficult than a dungeon. I have the city mostly planned out (type of city, the ruler, the districts, centers of power, etc)— I used a generator to get most of that info.

My problems are these:

  1. What do I say to the PCs when they get to a part I haven't written
    anything for or planned anything? Currently, when this happens, my
    mind races and I pause for a bit while trying to think of something.
    Any tips?

  2. When the PCs need to get from point A to point B in the city, how do
    I describe the journey there? Currently, I say something like
    "you head south and then west" and maybe throw in a random
    encounter. How do you guys do it?

Any ideas or tips would be appreciated. I do have the Cityscape book, which is a great resource. I'm looking for how other DMs run a city campaign, and for any tips on how to make one successful.



Best Answer

Write places apart from their location

You can make your dungeons apart from their locale. Perhaps you've written up an encounter in the catacombs of the sun god, but the party keeps walking around in the harbor district instead of the city center? Move it to the temple of the sea god! Thieves' Guild up to no good? Party has found another of their hiding spots in the rich part of town! Party finds an evil cult hiding in an old granary? Make them hide in a new granary, that burned down under suspicious circumstances!

In short, write so that the locale cannot be found in just one spot. Same goes for random encounters: they do not have to be bound to one sport. Fire, brawl fights or sudden Purple Worm attacks do not give a hoot about where in the city they are.

And don't forget: write up the crude lines for all districts of your city, from the rich parts to the poor parts to the merchant district to the market district to the harbor district and everything else.

Making my way downtown...

Make there interesting places for the PCs to see: maybe they find statues of heroes of the days of yore, or religious buildings, or cementaries, or maybe just a tavern with a funny sign outside. Keep repeating these locales as the party walks by them, so they start recognising the places. And if they start to recognise them, they start to care, meaning they will do stuff to defend these places, allowing for you to guide the story a bit more.