Developing a New Campaign Setting: The Town of Tagentium

Some dental "fun" (I wonder if clerics can fix teeth) and work-related issues have forced me to delay kicking off my DCC campaign by two weeks. During that time I've been doing some reading on late Antiquity and noodling around with my setting. As I've mentioned previously, my game's feel is inspired by the decades following the fall of the western Roman Empire. I'm not looking to create a 100% historical analogue. But there's a lot about it that screams D&D. You've got your barbarians kingdoms. You've got the eastern half of the fallen Empire that still considers those lost lands part of its territory (paging Emperor Justinian). Now we'll be adding to the mix the undead, dragons, sorcerers, and the like.

I've been giving some thought to the starting town of the game, currently named Tagentium. The idea is the game begins on a small island close to a much larger island. I've not been planning on developing it too much as I expect play will move off the smaller island, Little Brother, after a few adventures. But with a little bit of extra time I've had some time to fool around - a lot of it being an excuse to play with Campaign Cartographer's City Designer add-on. I've done well at overland maps and dungeon maps but I've never been all that good at designing cities. Working on a town has made me think about some elements from the larger campaign. Using S. John Ross' Medieval Demographics article he describes a town as having a population of one to eight thousand, typically around 2,500. They usually are not walled but for this exercise I decided to make a walled town - given the recent violence a walled coastal town seems a reasonable assumption.

After some experimenting I found a map style I liked. I wanted to get a basic idea of what the town looked like and I'm far from complete but I felt sharing a work-in-progress might be illuminating. As with most drawings you can see a bit more if you click on it. Looking at it I realized I was a bit inspired by the town of Threshold in the D&D Expert Rules. Tagentium is at the end of a small river on the island of Little Brother. Keeping with my idea of a town founded during a Roman Empire-like period it has its own amphitheater. You can also see a palace for the ruler of the town and a large building to the east of the river which is a church. I'm still in the process of drawing out the streets. I started out with the main streets which are better planned than the unpaved side-streets. The main streets have buildings made out of concrete whereas the side streets also have wooden buildings. In the empire this would probably once have been unheard of but one of the things that suffered in Western Europe in our world after the fall of Rome was the massive civil engineering of the Empire. I'm guessing this town has been sacked a few times and some of its original concrete buildings have been replaced with lesser quality buildings.

The presence of a church has me thinking about the religion of the Empire. On our world both halves of the Roman Empire were officially Christian by the time of the fall of the west. It should be noted there were some massive doctrinal disputes that made the Christian religion far from unified, many of them concerning the divine vs. mortal nature of the Christ. Interestingly, my readings has taught me that the barbarians who came to rule over the lands of the western empire were typically Christian though the common people were often pagan. For this campaign I'm going to assume that the Empire did indeed move towards a monotheistic religion. I believe this is also in keeping with some of the assumptions of AD&D - consider for example the illustrations of clerics in raiments reminiscent of Christian priests. However, I'm thinking it would be interesting for it to have been less than universal and in this campaign, like in our world, the barbarians have still to have been converted. Plus I'd like to make some use of Roman religious beliefs - my research revealed all sorts of things about Pluto, Orcus, and Dispater that I'm planning on using in my first adventure. As far as the monotheistic religion goes I'm keeping it vague until the game starts - if a player wants to be a cleric of this religion I'd like to give him an opportunity to have some say in it.

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