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D&D Burgoo: Second Cities (Hardby)

This is one in a periodic series of articles looking at second cities — places to base a campaign in published settings other than such signature cities as Waterdeep, Greyhawk or Sharn.

City: Hardby (5,100)

Published setting: Greyhawk (Wizards of the Coast/TSR)

Why it’s a good choice:

Clearly, the City of Greyhawk is the heart of the Flanaess, which means many of the great adventuring sites are near to the Free City. Setting a campaign in Hardby puts the players in the same proximity to those classic locales — Star Cairn, Maure Castle, even Castle Greyhawk — as well as the classic Ghost Tower of the Inverness [1].  Unlike Greyhawk, which sits on the Selitan River, Hardby is the gateway to Woolly Bay, which opens up a host of other opportunities — either seagoing (pirate) adventures or exploration of any cities and sites along the coast. And of course, archmage Rary the Traitor is out there somewhere in the Bright Desert — someone will have to deal with him sooner or later.

Mind your Ps and Qs

If your players are in need of a Miss Manners lesson in how to behave with civility toward women, or if you have an all-female adventuring party that’s tired of serving a series of tyrannical kings, then Hardby is uniquely suited. The city is ruled by women, the Gynarchy. Though in the wider scheme the Despotrix must bow her head to her masters in Greyhawk, within the city  she still holds considerable power. Players who prefer the intrigue of politics as a backdrop should enjoy the rivalries and shifting alliances within the Gynarchy — which I think is very much akin to the scheming one finds among the White Tower of the Aes Sedai of the Wheel of Time [2] series of books.

One place you must visit

I’d suggest taking a pass on the Great Cranes (which is on every map) and have the players hit the outskirts and visit, instead, Minaryn Castle, home to the Throne Knight Messalina, a wizard and adviser to the despotrix. If she can’t get the players in trouble, er, directed toward adventure, no one can.

Good resources

I’m partial to the map of Hardby that came in Domain of Greyhawk map pack as part of the accessory The Adventure Begins [3] (ISBN 0-7869-1249-9, Wizards of the Coast, 1998), because it’s mostly blank, allowing the DM to fill it out themselves. The city’s leading persons and many intrigues were detailed in Dungeon 109/Polyhedron 168 [4] in Paul Looby’s article “Hardby: City of the Scorned.”

6 Comments (Open | Close)

6 Comments To "D&D Burgoo: Second Cities (Hardby)"

#1 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On January 25, 2010 @ 10:39 am

Excellent old-school Greyhawk lovin’ right here…

I try to avoid the Big Names in my campaigns, and focus on the supporting cast, whether NPCs, cities, locations, etc. They don’t dominate the scene, the players probably don’t know all about them, and the GM has much more elbow room.

#2 Comment By John Arcadian On January 25, 2010 @ 11:55 am

Awesome idea! I know when I am playing in a published setting, having everything happen in the “BIG CITY” of the area feels contrite and limiting. Sure, there are many pre-established things to choose from, but it is harder to mold to my vision. The players can easily bring up a splat book and tell me how so and so organization should work, and thus why my way of doing it is wrong. They summarily lose a few levels to a wandering wight, but hey that is the price of knowledge . . 🙂

#3 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On January 25, 2010 @ 1:40 pm

[5] – Second cities are a great way to keep the flavor of a setting while still working with largely a blank space.

[6] – Elbow room … I love that term!

#4 Comment By Scott Martin On January 25, 2010 @ 6:42 pm

I like this type of city– enough a part of the world that you get the flavor, not the spotlight of umpteen books, so I don’t feel like I know less than the players. Lots of room to color around the edges and surprise players who know the big cities by heart.

#5 Comment By mygirlfriendisadm On January 26, 2010 @ 5:11 am

As a non-American, I haven’t the foggiest clue what the connotative implication is behind naming this post after a type of meat stew, but I think this is a cool idea, especially since as a novice DM, I’m inclined to dislike any city that my players will know better than I do.

Have you ever tried inventing cities in existing settings? I wonder if campaign setting die-hards object, as it would definitely violate their knowledge of the setting’s geo politics. (“Since when did Breland have a city called Stratican?!” “Since I said so.” “OMGWTF! Imma play WOW nao this game sux”)

#6 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On January 26, 2010 @ 10:01 am

[7] – Both columns I write for GnomeStew — D&D Burgoo and the Crock Pot — are just wordplay off our site’s theme … sorry to confuse.

Inventing cities in existing settings is an excellent idea. A GM should always feel free to invent/re-invent cities, rivers (and their courses) mountains, hills and plains as they see fit. The published setting should never be considered “canon,” but rather a jumping off point for adventure — allowing the GM to craft as they see fit.