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In a long running campaign you usually come across countless towns and cities, some of which can become a blurry memory with time when nothing stands out. Sometimes events, like a bar crawl or monster hunt can be enough to make a city important to the plot later down the line more memorable, but sometimes it can help to make the city stand out simply by being a city that stands out. Below you'll find a list of 30 city ideas with a short description of what the main theme is. They can all be turned into towns, villages or settlements of any size you wish of course.
If you're looking for more or something different, I find it easiest to pick a single word or theme and build the city around that. This makes it easy to make them both memorable and stand out. You can use existing cities with ease for this, at least those with a nickname. Take Los Angeles for example, it's the city of angels. In an RPG setting the angels theme could be literal angels, it could be well behaving citizens, perhaps the entire city is covered in statues of angels, or perhaps it's a city where many innocent people die who then turn into angels. There's a lot of ways you can go.
If you need even more inspiration for this, check out the city nickname generator on my other site for an easy way to get a whole range of themes.
Below the sands of the hottest desert lies the city of Ahn Jhaqin. Days and nights are too hot for most, so the city has been built beneath the surface to escape the heat. Only once a night do the doors to the outside open to let people in and out and replenish supplies. Any longer and the increasing temperatures will ruin the gentle, underground climate so many now rely on.
Traders from far and wide come to buy and sell exotic creatures for all kinds of purposes. Circus shows, zoos, personal pets, exotic toxins and much more can all be gained. The true monsters, however, are the traders themselves who often handle the creatures with cruel hands.
Like a great festival, the city of Arcan is conjured twice a year to celebrate music, spread knowledge gained over the previous 6 months, recruit new magicians, and far more. Magical spectacles, duels, classes and all sorts of other treats and delights can be found, so there's plenty to do for both masters and novices alike.
Underground waters at higher temperatures provide a great way to heat the city of Atamdal, part of the Bonadon Snowlands' icy climate. But once in a while a geyser will spew hot water into the air, which catches many visitors by surprise and causes the occasional damage.
In Bhirgarom status is everything. The higher you climb the social ladder, the further from the core of the seemingly endless layers of city walls you can live. The closer to the center, the worse of you are. The edge is where goods are delivered fresh and daily, where those at the top have first choice and discard everything else to the next layer of wall.
Choln is a city of breweries, distilleries and other alcohol production businesses. People often joke the fumes from these businesses makes the cows in the fields just outside of Choln drunk, but how true this is remains a tale wrapped in truths and urban legends. It's not for the drunken cows people visit Choln though, it's the wide selection of often cheap beverages of course.
In Dhorzun, champions of all sorts are treated like kings. Their desires and wishes are the commands of many, but lose your champion's title and you'll be kicked out or forced to serve the newly crowned champion.
It's unsure whether Emyran Thalor was built around nature or nature was built around it, but the city is one gigantic garden with everything you could imagine in a garden as well as homes, stores, businesses and other elements you'd commonly find in a city. Insects, leaves, shade, beauty and sweet scents are all around.
Eskirith is a new city built with careful planning and future generations in mind. To some it's seen as a flawless city, to others it's too artificial and lacks a soul. Either way, other cities can learn a thing of two from Eskirith in some areas like waste management and city planning. Other elements, like aesthetics, remain a subjective topic.
Galaris can barely be called a city, it's more of a central hub of the world. Portals from around the world connect to Galaris, and Galaris connects the world to itself in doing so. Commerce takes advantage of this of course, but few people stay for long, there's simply too much to see in the world.
What was once a booming city with a stray cat problem turned into a city home to strays of all kind. Animals, humanoids and others are all welcome. Ganrend embraced its strays rather than getting rid of them, offering them a place in the world when nowhere else would.
Haven and prison, Graymoor is home to countless dead and undead beings who were either banished here or sought a life here of their own volition. This collection of beings some would call heinous or unnatural often brings trouble with it as there are plenty who seek to rid the world of this place.
Hilgolir was built without enough planning. Higher and bigger were the theme for a long time, so many buildings rise high up into the sky. With the sun low on the horizon no light penetrates to the streets below and street lights are on virtually 24/7. But some take advantage of this eternal nightlife.
To the uninitiated Impul may seem like a strange, barren place. Empty buildings somehow have plenty of people in them, just laughing or living life in a place devoid of anything. But the initiated know they live in a virtual reality. Buildings change every day in the virtual world and will become whatever is needed. A conference room, a nightclub or simply a dining room with family far away, all is possible in Impul.
Saying the people of Iresari are reserved is putting things lightly. They keep to themselves, don't celebrate holidays, virtually avoid all eye contact and keep social interactions to a minimum. A haven for some, a place of loons to others.
Year after year, the city of Ittonaq is carved and built into the clean snows and ices of the Azure Expanse. Come spring, the city melts and ceases to exist until winter returns.
Many decades ago the city of Kahn Tirran was divided into 5 sections after a war resulted in the overthrowing of a dictator. The 5 kings who did the conquering were all eager to take control of this rich city, but had to settle for a fifth of it each. Each king lives in their section as a show of ownership and an attempt to win the public in their favor.
In the unusual Delita Valley a grass species grows unlike any other. Each day it grows up to 2 feet (60cm), yet people decided to build a city within these grasses. But rather than getting rid of them all, the grasses were left in place. Each week roads change as people carve new paths through the fast growing blades. Occasionally people are caught by surprise by hiding animals or even each other as grasses are suddenly cut right in front of them.
Karania has long been the home of the largest tribunal in the country, but has grown over the years to become a center for criminal investigation, enactment of justice and everything else that has to do with it. Thieves and criminals have no place in this city other than in handcuffs, but that doesn't mean some won't try what they see as the ultimate challenge.
The old, sick and otherwise dying often end up in Kholgiz Rath for one reason or another. Fear, indifference, lack of money, it doesn't matter, the citizens of Kholgiz Rath are all left to their own devices. Despite this they persevere, even if only shortly for some.
A climate favorable to some, unfavorable to others, and a landscape that amplifies the rainy side of this climate are all that's needed for the city of Maiko to be almost continuously under the spell of rain. The city makes full use of the rain though. From water transportation systems to areas with musical effects from the raindrops, and from farm irrigation systems to aquacultures.
Strictly speaking, Manarfell isn't invisible, just hidden. A thick layer of fog penetrates even the deepest parts of the city on most days of the year. Seeing anything at all is difficult beyond a few meters, so a large city can quickly seem like merely a neighborhood if you don't venture far.
Aranketh was once a beautiful city rich in trade, people and dreams, but a volcanic eruption destroyed this all. Instead of moving to a different location, survivors built a new city from the ashes of the old. Remnants of the disaster still linger behind every corner, but New Aranketh rises further and further each day.
Ophosa has traditions dating back centuries, many of which revolve around scattering petals in the air to celebrate, announce or otherwise pass on messages around Ophosa. It started as blue petals for a wedding announcement, red petals for a death, and white petals to announce days of elections.
Since these beginnings, countless other colors and combinations have gained popularity to the point of petals dwindling from the sky virtually every day.
Cogs, wheels, steam and other technology powers everything in this city. From the city walls to the supply carts, from the clock-tower to the city hall, and from personal transportation to personal care. Both the lazy and the creative seek this town for their own reasons, while others tend to stay far, far away.
Dark desires are a regular commodity in Thalnis. Drugs, alcohol, gambling, deviant pleasures and far, far more is all for the taking here, but be aware for others may seek to take you for their own deviant desires.
The city of Tiranas seems completely out of place. Nothing is around for miles upon miles upon miles, yet the city stands tall and proud in the middle of nowhere. It's often dubbed The Lonely City because Tiranas is all alone in its surroundings, but the citizens are anything but alone.
A long standing tradition originating from a trade agreement has resulted in Usinard being built entirely from a local wood. Stone buildings are forbidden by law to uphold this old tradition, and some take it a step further by banning all non-wood construction materials from their businesses. Not all do of course, but it can be a laborious task to find comfort some are familiar with when visiting Usinard.
In the city of Walden musicians of all kinds gather to play, write, discover and share their music. It has evolved to the point that music plays at every hour, social gatherings are held around musical performances, and discussions and disputes are settled through musical duels.
When the discovery of gunpowder happens in an already popular town, things are bound to get explosive. People flocked from all around to discover this new marvel. Some wanted to know the secrets, others wanted to improve them, and others simply wanted to mess around with them. No matter the reasons, explosions happen on a daily basis for all sorts of reasons. Tests, accidents, fun, it doesn't matter in Zhantir.