Saturday, October 13, 2012

Reclaiming the City One Cobble at a Time

Baldur's Gate is crowded and as such, real estate is expensive. Prices are not as inflated as they are in Waterdeep to the north, but buildings rarely remain vacant for long. As a result, Baldur's Gate has precious few green spaces. People must therefore increasingly rely upon farmers outside the city's walls for their food. As the food supply chain grows longer, food prices increase and quality diminishes. Sabine, a recent arrival to the city, wishes to change this and in so doing make the city a greener place while empowering its poorest citizens.

     Even in a crowded city like Baldur's Gate, nature will take hold and thrive if given a chance. Sabine likes to think she is the one to provide that opportunity. To that end, Sabine locates spaces that could be transformed and turned into gardens or animal pens. Some of her recent projects include prying up the cobbles in a seldom-used courtyard to make way for a potato patch. She helped clear a pile of debris next to a home so that a goat pen and chicken coop could be built. Sabine also helped people build small garden boxes outside their windows so that they could grow their own salad greens. 

     Sabine is trying to petition the Council of Four to condemn dilapidated buildings so that they can be torn down and in their place community gardens built. This is a daunting task, since the gold that can be collected via property taxes - no matter how little - is precious to the city's coffers. It's becoming apparent to Sabine that if the city's leadership won't give her real estate, then she will have to figure out some way of taking it. 

     While turning parts of the city into productive mini-farms is an admirable goal, there are some that are threatened by Sabine's ideals. Merchants would rather the city be entirely dependent upon their imports. Farmers outside the city walls also do not want competition. They are also petitioning the Council of Four and are asking for a ban on livestock and crops grown within the city walls, citing concerns over food purity and sanitation. The Thieves Guild views food as just another commodity and is already helping themselves to the fruits of other's labor.

     Then there is the matter of close-minded landlords not wishing their land to be altered in any way. One landlord in particular is threatening to send in thugs if Sabine does not dismantle the raised garden beds she built on a vacant lot he owns. Sabine would hate for her movement to turn violent, but as a Druid she has few compunctions about spilling blood when nature where nature is concerned.

     Sabine feels as if she has few allies, save for the other druids in the city. If she were a little more open-minded and receptive to divine help, she might find inspiration within the Temple of Gond. Always creative and industrious, the clerics of Gond might be suggest ways to use roofs and the sides of buildings into productive, attractive-looking growing areas.

Sabine, Female Human, Druid 3; Armor Class: 9 (Dex bonus), Hit Dice: 3d8, Hit Points: 12, THAC0: 20, No. of Attacks: 1,  Damage: 1d4+1 (sickle), Alignment: Neutral Good, Move: 12

Spells: 1st: Create Water, Shillelagh, Purify Food and Water, 2nd: Dust Devil, Speak with Animals

Strength: 10, Dexterity: 15, Constitution: 11, Intelligence: 11, Wisdom: 15, Charisma: 15

Non-weapon Proficiencies: Agriculture, Herbalism, Swimming, Weathersense

Saves: Parlayzation, Poison, Death Magic: 10, Rod, Staff, Wand: 14, Petrification or Polymorph: 13, Breath Weapons: 16, Spell 15

Notes: +1 to magical based saving throws due to Wisdom, +2 to saves versus fire or electrical attacks due to Druid class, can identify plants, animals and pure water, can pass without trace through vegetation

     In recent years I have become fascinated by the subject of urban farming. People are so disconnected from the source of their food for a number of different reasons - time, geography, laws, etc. Sabine was inspired by some videos I've seen on turning our cities green and encouraging people to take (some) control of the food supply chain.

New York Farm City from Petrina TV on Vimeo.


  1. Plenty of adventure seeds here:

    * The need to investigate prior ownership of a certain plot of land (in case the previous owner may have owed money to someone in a thieves' guild or gambling contact)

    * Special seeds may be necessary - perhaps some adventurers might take on the assignment to fetch or recover them...

    * Does the plot of soil have a dark history that requires a priest to consecrate it or remove a curse?

    * Once planted and growing, perhaps a special crop needs to be secured from vandals or thieves.

    * Perhaps outlying farmers want to 'dissuade' uban farming because it has the potential to threaten their livelihoods...

    1. Solid ideas all the way. Your first suggestion gave me an idea. The city says, "Sure, you can have some land, but first you have to CLEAR THE CREEPY FREAKING HOUSE that sits on said land."

      I was also thinking that while trying to clear some land, the digging unearths "something." A cursed item, coffin, hidden vault?

      Gardening in the Forgotten Realms would be rad. ;)

    2. Perhaps a little 'Poltergeist' borrowing (the plot is on an unrecorded burial ground...)

      Medieval cities that built upwards would be ideal for the OP concept. Late Medieval Europe still had plenty of green (this company does museum dioramas [link]), but amplify the population + presence of magic, and practical usage of a 10th story terrace could be of great use...

    3. Whoa!Those models are incredible! They are so detailed you can imagine yourself walking through them. Brilliant artistry.

    4. They recently added some of the imagery on their site - it's just amazing stuff...

  2. This is a great example of contemporary events and ideas opening up a familiar fantasy environment...

    1. Thank you, sir!

      When I heard that 2e was being re-printed in May I got fired up. I always liked 2e. I started playing it in 9e after many years of rejecting it as "not Gary's Game." When I finally sat down with it, I ws struck by three things: 1) It is not very different at all form 1e mechanics wise, 2) I liked how so many of the subsystems in it were optional, and 3) The options for rewarding experience points opened up new avenues of play. Story awards and role-playing awards really worked for me.

      I know 2e is a touch subject in the OSR, but I dig it. :)

    2. People house rule games into swiss cheese anyway... subsystems kind of make that easier.

      2E never had a chance given the fragmentation of the market when it was released. TSR went in the wrong direction with the adventure content (Planescape box was fantastic, but the modules didn't measure up, and the Hickman Revolution was a disaster for open ended exploration - the DL setting was actually really good, but the modules were on train tracks...)

      Regarding touchy subjects... content is king and 'old school' is just code for Generation X at this point...

  3. On a somewhat related note, I ran a Pathfinder game set in Baldur's Gate and one fellow played a Druid. I was never happy with how it went, so I've since tried to figure out ways to create an urban druid's circle. In a way, I have been inspired by the street shamen from Shadowrun. I think one of the next druids will perhaps a "lord of the rats." I was also thinking about a druid who holds sway over the cities flying critters (bats, owls, pigeons) while another looks after the harbor.

    I'm also thinking about re-tooling some of the Baldur's Gate material from Loviatar. I was so proud of a few of the articles, but because they were only found in the zine, the material was relatively obscure. Tweaking it for AD&D usage might find it a home with more folks. We'll see. :)

    1. I'm finding druidic research to be a pain in the ass - much more fiction than history, but a city bound Circle (using the PHB description as a starting point) might be a wholly secret organization - certainly secret enough to raise suspicion of witchcraft that could be urged on by competing temples in the vicinity.

      Given the intersection of elements required for a sacred spot for such a group... air and earth and water combine in a sewer. Fire and earth and air combine, perhaps, beneath a blacksmith's forge in the center of the city...

  4. I stumbled on this over on Canonfire - about halfway through there's an article on druids (in Greyhawk but it might be useful inspiration for a BG-centric write up):

    1. Excellent! Thank you for passing this along. I look forward to reading it. Roger Moore was always one of my favorite TSR staffers.