Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Pompeii as Model Undercity or Ruins

Over the long weekend besides running a surprisingly-fun character-generation only session of the new Hill Cantrevs/Beyond the Wall mini-campaign (more about that later) and basking in the never-ending white-hot Texas sun, I had some mental room to get back to working on my cyclopean city-ruins pointcrawl project.

In the course of doing some research on real world existing ruins I discovered some wonderful, “I would be challenged to do it better” finds.

I am a firm believer in non-linear site design (thanks to that thought-provoking  old analysis by Melan) and how that makes for richer, more-interesting gameplay for the site-based focus of D&D, it's stunning just how much real sites seem to provide rich examples. And even more wonderful that thanks to the vast Annwn storehouse of stolen knowledge how easy it is to rustle up some inspiring visual examples.

Take Pompeii.

Truth be told I have modified actual-existing small-scale maps of that city for my Jakallan undercity (and later Kezmarok undercity when I shamelessly reskinned it), but at the time had never seen a larger-scale block map. Now thanks to Guide Archeologiche Mondadori: Pompei  by Eugenio La Rocca, Mariette and Arnold de Vos check this out.
Click to enlarge.

Notice how you have large access street-corridors with several avenues of approach. These can take the place of central staircases or main corridors of mega-dungeons that provide quick access to the “deeper” sections while presenting players with a number of exploratory choices. With the numbering system already here you can project a pointcrawl system quite easily to help guide travel and exploration in the zoomed out mode.

Even better is how the Roman-penchant for creating dense urban complexes (insulae) breaks the blocks down into a number of smaller discreet areas themselves sub-divided with large numbers of interlocked, non-linear choices. The above-mentioned book and some other internet sources even provide a wonderful selection of “pre-keyed” micro-examples of the city's larger villas, each of them could make for nice little sub-dungeons. (Note that these maps are mostly sites from that larger block map.)


  1. Yes these make for great maps, what is even better is that they have some villas with virtual tours, which make for great visual aids, for city adventures. Great for inspiration, plus you realize that the Romans often built in "geomorphs" which can be used to quickly cut and paste a city together.

  2. This is amazingly cool and one heck of a great resource! Thanks for posting about it.