Friday, August 10, 2018

Two Neighborhoods in Umberwell

Jack Shear from Tales of the Grotesque & Dungeonesque is writing a book for his Umberwell campaign setting, which will likely be similar to his Krevborna book. I've played in Jack's Umberwell campaign, and recently, I had the opportunity to preview a random neighborhood generator he's written for it.
So here are two random Umberwell neighborhoods, built using the generator, and my idea for the seed of an adventure you could have there.
Neighborhood purpose: artist's quarter
Neighborhood aesthetic: maze-like
Noteworthy neighborhood feature: monument

1 - The Cubist's Quartet: 
Filled with art students all slowly driving themselves mad, streets are so sharp-angled they're nearly non-Euclidean, uncanny resemblance between local streetmap/architecture and the output of the local artists, here cubism is realism, dozens gather daily to sketch beside the quarter's most famous statue - the 20' tall "Portrait of the Artist Descending the Stairs".
Why would you adventure here? The streets aren't just maze-like, they are a maze. And the purpose of this maze is to hide from the world a single house and the unwilling occupant kept prisoner there. A recent gallery opening provides three clues - the same artist has a painting of the house, a portrait of the prisoner, and an abstract rendering of half the maze. A patron in the position to recognize what the paintings show has hired you to obtain the artist's sketchbooks and to navigate the maze, find the house, and visit the prisoner, to kill, free, or relocate them.
Neighborhood purpose: landfill
Neighborhood aesthetic: floral decoration
Noteworthy neighborhood feature: rooftop farms
2 - Rose Hill Reclamation:
(This was a really tough one!) Once a botanical garden, then rezoned as a dump after being flooded with sewage, specializes in chamberpots and other broken crockery, the red clay tiles on the original surrounding wall were all stamped with a rose motif before being fired, the ground is like gravel made of shattered pottery, the roofs of the original exhibition buildings now grow wild with feral Queen's Roses possessed of animal intellect.
Why would you adventure here? A mysterious group calling themselves "the Reclaimers" have taken credit for a half dozen assassinations, all using Queen's Roses as the murder weapon. The dump seems like an obvious place to start looking for them, but no one seems to be present on-site during the day. Climb the red tile wall at night though, and you'll see a handful of campfires arrayed in a loose circle. Investigate the center of the circle during the day, and you'll find what you were unlikely to notice before, that someone is excavating the dump, peeling away layers of soil and pottery with the thoroughness of an archaeologist. They're obviously looking for something specific.
The aesthetic seems to be more important in my first adventure seed, but it might inform what the Reclaimers are looking for in the second. I hope I caught the feel of Umberwell in both neighborhoods and adventurer-starts. The seeds are deliberately a bit light on detail to leave the important decisions to the individual referee. As I said, Jack offered me the chance to preview part of his book (after reading my previous random neighborhood post, actually) and I thought it would be fun to put his procedure to the test. I will say that unless you're a very fast thinker, this is probably better to use to prep beforehand, rather than trying to use at the table during play.