Whhh okay, deep breath, this is going to be a big one.
M. John Harrison’s Viriconium was one of the big inspirations that brought Cörpathium into existence, and one of the things that I loved most about those stories was that the city was never the same; places move, facts shift, but it remains Viriconium. So that’s something that I wanted for mine, a city that could be destroyed and brought back without just hitting a reset button, and is why my magic mishap and city encounter tables are so gleefully full of potentially world shattering stuff: I’ve never been worried about having to start again, it’s fun if everything gets torn down.
But at the same time, I’m not writing fiction here, I’m writing things that need to be used. Actually throwing everything out and starting from scratch would be an insane thing and a huge waste of my time.
So, my answer was to write up twenty potential boroughs, a method for randomly generating the entire city with a dice drop, and conditional variations based on what boroughs end up existing and which dice generated them.
First you take a 7 dice set and 5 other d20’s in your hands (or more if you like go nuts) and drop them in front of you, trying to keep them reasonably close together.
Each dice represents a different borough. Their position doesn’t necessarily show the physical layout of the city, just how the boroughs relate to one another.
You take the points of the shape on the top of each dice (well, just the points for the d4, and for the d10’s pretend they have a triangle on top), and if that leads to another dice, those boroughs are accessible to each other, which ends up looking like this:
Now the numbers on each dice relate to a different borough on the table below. Go through the 7 dice set first, beginning with the d20, then move to the highest number of the other d20’s. If you get a duplicate number, replace it with the next lowest number not already taken by a smaller dice, and if all the lower numbers are already taken, roll on the Additional Undefined Boroughs tables.
(Clicking any of the borough names will take you to its full description further down the page.)
There are also some constants regarding Cörpathium:
Replaces the dice nearest to the bottom. The Corpusmilch canal (and Möldenghast Blvd either side of it) then flows through to the furthest dice.
|The Emerald Pit
Replaces the additional d20 nearest to the centre of the group. Roll on the Additional Undefined Boroughs tables for its surroundings.
|The Howling Spire of Time
If the Twin Nests do not exist, place the Howling Spire of Time in whichever borough you see fit.
|Chance of Deicidium per Borough
POOR boroughs have a 1 in 6 chance.
MIDDLING boroughs have a 4 in 6 chance.
RICH boroughs have a 5 in 6 chance.
|Guilds for Everything
If there's one thing Cörpathians love, it's organisations.
The Candle-Makers Guild, Seamstress Union, The Baker's Cooperative, the Rag and Bone Guild, Order of Lost Letters. Numerous guilds for everything.
Chances are that no matter who you talk to, they're part of some kind of sect, no matter how small.
So then things look like this:
Cörpathium’s government and law enforcement depends on what boroughs actually ended up existing in this iteration of the city, so you start at the top of these tables and pick the first one that applies:
(select the first that applies)
(select the first that applies)
|If there is no Temple District, but the Blood-Red Palace of the Godless exists, Cörpathium is ruled by the Godless and the Childlike Oracle, the Lamb, Eater of Eternity.||If the Blood-Red Palace of the Godless exists every single borough will have a Deicidium, and the Godless are responsible for the order and protection of Cörpathium.|
|If there is no Temple District, or the Blood-Red Palace of the Godless, but The Old Folk exist, Cörpathium is ruled by that which crawled up from the Emerald Pit so long ago, and the Old Folk live.||If Cörpathium is ruled by the vast thing that crawled up from the Emerald Pit, Cörpathium is guarded by the Order of a Thousand Eyes. Replace the Deicidiums with Watch Houses and re-roll for each borough that doesn't have one.|
|If there is no Temple District, or the Blood-Red Palace of the Godless, but there is a Manifestation of the Monolith in the Dark, it is no manifestation, Cörpathium is ruled by the Monolith and those that speak for it.||If Cörpathium is ruled by the Monolith in the Dark, Cörpathium is watched over by the Silent Ones. Remove any Deicidiums, the Silent Ones have no home, they simply are.|
|If there is no Temple District, Blood-Red Palace of the Godless, or the Wheel of Gold, the Haugroten trading family own all of the Fogwalk and hold a constant seat within the Corvuscult, as well as appointing a trio of Haugroten Sons to watch over each borough.||If there are no more than three Deicidiums and the Corvuscult are in power, the city guard is made up of the private mercenary armies of the Corvuscult families, the Whoredens. Remove any Deicidiums and place a Whore Den near each Corvuscult Family's home.|
|Otherwise Cörpathium is ruled by the Corvuscult.||Otherwise Cörpathium is guarded by the Godless.|
Which in this case means that Cörpathium is ruled by the Corvuscult and guarded by the Godless.
The Emerald Pit (in the centre there) still needs to be in an actual borough, which is where the Additional Undefined Boroughs tables come in:
|d6||Additional Undefined Boroughs|
|d12||Name: Poor||d12||General Environment: Poor|
|1||The Warren||1||Infested with fungus and an unnaturally large amount of insects. At least there's something to eat.|
|2||Swinehaven||2||Ramshackle buildings overgrown with plantlife.|
|3||Crone Spawn Commons||3||Oily, sludgy slum, terrific brewhouses.|
|4||Black Rose Hill||4||Enormous kludge idols to strange gods are erected in the streets, on rooftops, in the middle of public houses.|
|5||Corpsewallow||5||Built around an open sewer, algae-covered stone hewn steps leading down. Easy access to Cörpathium's subterranean for the Kanalsknecht, easy access to Cörpathium for things that live below.|
|6||Red Rookery||6||Inhabited below the streets in the sewers and tunnels and carven halls, the lavish buildings above abandoned to superstition.
(roll on Rich tables for the borough above)
|7||The Drowning Mass||7||A single monumental swaying tower continually built upwards from scavenged scrap, erected in the midst of another borough.|
|8||The Scales||8||The pages of religious texts and pamphlets plaster the walls.|
|9||Bladderrot Downs||9||Carrion birds wait patiently on cracked tile rooftops, the people throw birdseed about them as they walk to no avail.|
|10||Syringa Vulgaris||10||Thick layers of soot coat every visible surface, communal fires are kept burning in the streets near alley entrances.|
|11||Roach Bottom||11||The buildings are well-kept but the people are anaemic, a blue-and-white walled mansion of turrets and balconies looms in the centre of it all.|
|12||The Pit||12||Leeches. The people walk around with giant fucking leeches gorging on their blood, letting them grow big and fat enough to cook like some kind of nightmare blood sausage. On the plus side all this leech treatment means they're all surprisingly healthy, if a bit light-headed.|
|d12||Name: Middling||d12||General Environment: Middling|
|1||The Flower Bed||1||The door of every building is carved with a mass of tiny figures and the people walk mice on leashes of string.|
|2||Bloodvessel||2||Fruit vines grow up the faces of buildings, bats are everywhere, heavy round seeds underfoot are the foremost cause of injury and guano is scraped from the streets.|
|3||Liberius Waltz||3||An abnormal amount of lanterns both on the street and hanging from building walls, lamplighters work in packs here.|
|4||Blackmark||4||Aqueducts bring water to an excessive number of overflowing fountains, the streets are constantly flooded.|
|5||Crowsfoot||5||Brightly-coloured pennons hang from the balconies of every house, inked with various poems, some like wards of protection, some regarding potently vapid nonsense.|
|6||White Walls||6||The streets are paved with several layers of skulls, their brainpan supporting foot traffic, supposedly covering something more concerning below.|
|7||Littledeath Point||7||The walls are plated with thin pressed sheets of bronze depicting battles that never happened, great romances that never were, fables taken deathly seriously.|
|8||The Festival||8||Shambling buildings leaning out over the streets to drape silks and lanterns over the heads of those below, waiting for the next celebration to begin.|
|9||Blackfriar's||9||The entire borough subscribes to a sect that forbids cleaning of any kind or severity, but the craftsmen are some of the best in the city.|
|10||The Gallows||10||The buildings are tall and stern and spiked as if previously used for some dastardly purpose, inhabited now by gaily dressed dandies and sighing madams.|
|11||Tenderloins||11||Soft pink curtains hang in every window, beautiful terrace houses huddle close and hide the activity in the alleys behind, an enormous marble statue depicts a young woman willingly offering her thigh while a starveling dog chews on it.|
|12||The Bowery||12||The ground is sour, like a marshy mangrove mud flats type deal. The entire borough is built on one big stilted platform over the top of it. You can see crabs and breeding insects through the gaps.|
|d12||Name: Rich||d12||General Environment: Rich|
|1||Dulwich Hill||1||The buildings are all painted in solid pastel shades, hand-lettered black script above the doors proclaiming the owner or purpose.|
|2||Weaver's Cross||2||Every roof is a spire, it's like a patch of needles threatening the sky.|
|3||Báthory||3||The cobblestones are carved like the beautiful faces of youth, scrubbed daily to shine by hump-backed cleaners.|
|4||Yellowbrick Court||4||Clean white walls enscrawled with symbols in living green moss, constantly trimmed and watered.|
|5||Moonpond Waltz||5||Houses raised up amongst an absurd walled-in zoo, the occupants accompanied by a small entourage of armoured handlers wielding mancatchers and padded tower shields whenever they wish to go for a stroll.|
|6||The Old Rat Ward||6||Monumental houses of dark stone arranged in the sign of the Yellow Queen, dedicated to pursuit of her knowledge and happiness.|
|7||The Spiral Rise||7||The walls are all coated with dripping pink wax, like a thousand candles had been lit around the parapets and allowed to burn down.|
|8||Copperpin Peak||8||Rich red droplets of blood always seem haphazardly splashed about on the streets, porcelain-pale and just as smooth, but if the sombre polished-wood faces of the houses have a tale to tell their lips are tightly sealed.|
|9||Blue Points||9||Every house has a goat on a running chain, allowing them a good 10ft reign around the front of the building. They're like a status symbol, would you look at the horns on that.|
|10||Willowood||10||The entire borough is like one big theatre, the sets are absurd, everyone acts as if they were auditioning for a part with exaggerated melodramatic flair, don't block.|
|11||Dartmoor||11||All of the major buildings are ceramic, curiously shaped, decorated by images of unseen flora, with vulgar yellow stone staircases that spiral down into the earth.|
|12||Featherwort Downs||12||Birds in cages line the streets, hanging from balconies and street lamps, attached to doors and trained to sing a certain song when a visitor shakes them.|
Which I roll on and get a poor borough, The Drowning Mass: Inhabited below the streets in the sewers and tunnels and carven halls, the lavish buildings above abandoned to superstition.
Which means I need to roll a rich borough to go on top of it and get Báthory: The cobblestones are carved like the beautiful faces of youth, scrubbed daily to shine by hump-backed cleaners.
Which is awesome.
And a great city needs great entrances, so here’s a few that can be put around anywhere that makes sense (well except for The Tributary which should be put at the opposite end to the Fogwalk so that it can be next to the Corpusmilch as it enters the city):
An expanse of open-palmed beckoning arms, their perfect marble skin marred by patches of crustose red lichen, reaching out around a gaping entranceway astride the Corpusmilch river.
Entrance requires a gift or action dependant on the cycle of the moon. Nothing may pass through the Tributary during the full moon.
|The Common Gate
Six severed goat heads hang from the walls along the gateway, hung with wooden charms. A low keening crawls from their throats and their nostrils flow with a lurid pink mucus when something unnatural moves in their presence.
The heads need to be prepared and replaced weekly as they rot.
Gaping fish-like lips emerging from the wall, hewn from the same stone, carved within like a cavernous throat, an inviting tongue lolled out, waiting to swallow you whole.
Attended by the Fishwives, it's best to treat them kind or you may find the mouth on the other side reluctant to open, the way behind you closing.
|The Oracle Gate
The undying head of a little girl sits in an iron cage suspended from a lantern post, limp red hair hanging now almost to the ground.
Each group of travellers leaving by her gate must ask a question or curse their own journey. Roll a d6.
1-3 she answers your question true
4-6 she spouts prophecy unavoidable
Each group of travellers entering by her gate must answer a question of her own, and if they do not know, must seek out the answer before the moon's next phase.
Lie to the little girl and face the laughing living light which spills from her mouth.
Which after I think maybe half an hour including messing around in Photoshop, gives you a city that looks like this:
The actual dice that generated each borough also determines another variation, which you’ll find in the Dice Variance tables below. I’m not going to list all of the ones I got here, but among other things it did result in a huge flesh giant being under construction, and the in-vogue religion being Yoon-Quiun, most hated enemy of Roy’s snake worshipping Mystic, which I think is pretty funny.
Anyway here are the full borough descriptions. Really most of these could be used as cities all by themselves, they don’t have to be in Cörpathium. In fact after generating the city above for our current game, one of the first things I did was decide that the the Sulphurous Spires wrapped around the Demiurge Pit would be a whole other city to visit.
The Additional Undefined Boroughs could also be used for extra neighbourhoods outside the main walls or to pop up unexpectedly if you travel down an unfamiliar path or whatever you want.
Really, I’m incredibly happy with this, it feels like nose to tail cooking in RPG form and I love it.
Make your own Cörpathium.