Right now, City of Brass uses the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition rules. You’ll need a Player’s Handbook to make a character, but there are free alternatives on the Internet:

  • D&D 5e Basic Rules contains the essential rules for playing (and is nicely printable). The races and classes inside are rather limited, but you can supplement them with rules from the SRD.


  • Use the standard character generation rules with the modifications below.
  • Races are a bit different, mostly color not mechanics.
  • Classes and races might have social stigma attached.
  • You’re in a city, so wilderness characters don’t make sense unless they’re from far away.
  • Don’t use backgrounds; just add 2 skill proficiencies that make sense.
  • You start with no equipment. You get 6 GP to save or purchase stuff with. That’s it. (And some spell components.)
  • You must have a Profession (a free vocational proficiency that isn’t TOO useful).
  • You must have a reason you are forced to live in the Commune as a squatter.

Mechanical Stuff

To create a character to play in the City of Brass, consider the following:

Mostly, just create a standard character using the options in the Player’s Handbook. If you want to do something weird using rules outside the PHB, ask me first.

You will use the “standard array” of ability scores, the standard book races (but see below) and classes, and all the standard rules for skills and such. The main change is starting money.


Use the standard array (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8) for your ability scores (in any order, of course). Choose any standard race and class. You’ll start at level 1, even if everyone else is further along.


Use any standard race option in the Player’s Handbook.

Skim these before choosing your race, because some of them are different in the City of Brass.

If you play a Human, you’re basically one of the majority races and that carries a kind of privilege. Half Elves to some extent, too.

Dwarves and High Elves are second-class citizens, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t well-to-do members of these races. Play one of these if you basically don’t want to deal with racial social issues.

If you play anything else, you’re asking to delve into nasty racial social issues: prejudice, micro-aggressions, bigotry, and outright violent racism.

Halflings are third-class citizens, but a few rise to respectable middle-class positions. Wood Elves are looked at like they’re weird, but they’re basically just elves. Gnomes are what happen when elves and halflings have kids. They’re third-class citizens, maybe worse.

Tieflings, Dark Elves, Dragonborn, and Half-Orcs are entirely distrusted by most of the populace, as if members of those races are monsters. In the poorest areas, they’re slightly more common and people treat them marginally better, but still worse than halflings and gnomes. Play one of these races, and you’re basically asking the DM to hit you with racial injustice.

Also see the note below about the non-green geography of the City, under “Classes.”


Religious types get a small perk if they’re willing to “guide their flock” so-to-speak and are Good-aligned. They can aid people in the Commune (including PCs) when they have to make their once-per-session Morale checks. This includes Clerics, obviously, but also Paladins and possibly Druids and Monks, depending on how you spin the character.

Arcane spellcaster types are looked on with suspicion. Wizards are fairly well understood and tolerated; after all, there’s magic all over the city. However, Sorcerers and especially Warlocks are mistrusted, even vilified. The Temple of the Fire Gods in particular expresses enmity toward them.

Nature types are fish out of water. The city is on a dead, salty sea and borders an enormous, rocky desert. The nearest forest is 1000 miles away. You can play a forest-based Ranger or Druid or Barbarian, if you want, but you’re not from around here… at all. Of course, you can play one of those classes with a bent towards the desert or the sea. Also, there’s a huge river with a large flood plain that runs hundreds of miles through the desert, a sort of snakelike seasonal oasis. You could be a river-focused nature lover.

(That applies to races, too. If you want to be a Wood Elf or a Forest Gnome, remember the nearest woods is on the other side of a vast desert.)

Starting Money and Equipment

You’re dirt poor. You start with 6 gp of equipment and money.

If a class says you have equipment, you don’t have it. If you absolutely need something to do the things your class does, like you need a spellbook to cast spells, then you have that thing for free. Fighters can fight without armor and weapons; they don’t get those for free.

The members of the commune are poor. Assume you have no armor or weapons at start, no spellbooks, no adventuring equipment. You have the raggy clothes on your back and 6 gp of equipment. Maybe you had more at one time, but you pawned it to feed yourself or your friends.

You start with one sample of each Material component for up to three spells you can cast.

You probably should choose proficiency in the Survival skill, which offsets 1 sp of lifestyle cost per day. You must spend 1 sp/day to live in Squalid conditions, or 2 sp/day to live in Poor conditions (see the PHB for lifestyle descriptions). If you want to attain Modest conditions, you need to spend 10 sp/day.

I’m also nerfing the Crafting rules somewhat. Without a proper workshop and access to quality materials, assume you can craft only 1d6 sp worth of goods per full workday.

What is your profession?

Everyone should name a profession they are trained in.

This works like a skill. Add your proficiency bonus to the applicable ability check when doing things directly related to your profession. Professions don’t need to be pragmatic. Art and entertainment and social stuff are very important to the commune.

Generally you need to make an Easy check to find even basic work that pays 1 sp per day. Your skill roll will determine what kind of work you find:

Roll at least…To find a job that pays…
101 sp
151d4 sp
202d6 sp
251d4 gp

The job is a one-time gig, not a guaranteed job. You go work for the day, probably roll to see how well you did, and then earn money at the end if you don’t fail.

If you return to the same place the next day, you gain Advantage on the roll to see if they rehire you for another day. If you miss a day, you lose the Advantage. There are no weekends off in the City of Brass.

Personality and Background

I’m using all the stuff in the Player’s Handbook regarding Personal Characteristics (Traits, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws), but these are optional for you. All of the other stuff, below, with questions about your reason for living in the commune and a profession are mandatory.

I’m not using Backgrounds. They just don’t really work well for the City of Brass. Write your own background that makes sense, and take two additional Skill Proficiencies that make sense.

The Personal Characteristics are basically an easy way to earn Inspiration during play. I expect players to play up their Traits, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws, and lobby me-the-GM when you think you’ve earned Inspiration. I will probably not remember.


It’s important to establish that you’re a desperate comrade who depends on the commune for survival. In general, people like you can’t just leave the City of Brass.

Why are you here?

Every comrade has a reason they are in the commune. Your reason should justify why living in the commune is your very best option. How did you find the commune? Why can’t you leave?

Here are some examples:

Homeless. You are poor, have no other place to stay, and have no other option. You sleep in the commune because you have no better option.

Secrets. You keep a dangerous secret. Perhaps you owe a lot of money, either to the government, a bank, a guild, or someone even less undesirable, and you face debtor’s prison or worse. Maybe you wronged someone very important, and the entire city is after you. You hide in the commune so that your past doesn’t catch up with you.

Minority. You are different than the majority of the citizens of the City of Brass. Different how? Perhaps race, gender identification, disability, sexual preference. You stay in the commune because the people there accept you for who you are.

Beliefs. Perhaps you have chosen a profession or advocation that society frowns upon, such as sorcery or a lesser-known religion. Perhaps the government pronounced that art or writing like yours is blasphemy or treasonous or obscene. You hide in the commune so that you can continue doing what you believe is right.


Who are your connections?

You are connected closely to this commune, through bonds of blood, friendship, and love. Name at three people here who are very close to you. One or two should be blood relatives. One or two should be trusted friends. Maybe one is a lover or spouse.

I’ll probably ask you to prepare an index card for me at the start of the game. You’ll write down the name of your contact and some details so I can use them as an NPC.


City of Brass AdamDray