City of Brass
Influences and Design Notes
Daniel Levine tipped me to Marx & Monsters: A Radical Leftist Fantasy Sandbox, by Max Barry / TheLoneAmigo. I asked people on G+ to tell me about the D&D campaign they desperately wanted to play in, where the characters had deep attachments to their home town and weren’t murderhobos.
Marx & Monsters really grabbed me. As you’ll see when you read the article, it’s based on ideas from Ben Robbins’ West Marches campaign idea, which I also love. I’ve run West Marches campaigns (short-lived, unfortunately) and played in them.
I call the Marx & Monsters type of campaign “West Marxist” as an homage to Ben’s West Marches.
I don’t think the campaign has to be Marxist at all, though. Obviously, there’s room for lots of Leftist ideals, but I think there’s probably opportunity to pursue Libertarian goals here, too, if that’s what you’re into. I’m a dirty liberal, though.
City of Brass
I chose “City of Brass” as a title without much thought. It just came to me, and I took it. Yes, I was entirely aware of the title’s history in One Thousand and One Nights, in Dungeons & Dragons: Manual of the Planes, and even in Magic: The Gathering. I am not directly using any of those things, but the influences are there, certainly. I think my City of Brass will have an Arabic flair to it—but I’m still designing, so who knows.
Read more about my themes and inspirations for the City of Brass.
I’d like to borrow liberally from these cultures. I’m sick to death of D&D settings based loosely on the middle ages of Western Europe.
- the Byzantine Empire
- ancient Sumeria
- Imperial Rome
- ancient Egypt
- Abyssinian empire (13th century Ethiopia)
I’ll steer clear of using any version of modern Christianity or Islam or Judaism in the setting. I don’t want any of those religions being thought of as “the bad guys.” I’ll probably use D&D-style pantheistic religions, with more flavor borrowed from non-Western sources.
Things I Actually Didn’t Steal for City of Brass
(or maybe I did)
As I dig deeper into the research, I am finding similarities between my City and other settings. Here’s a bunch of things that I didn’t intentionally steal. In some cases, I probably read the idea 5-10 years ago and it was bouncing around in my brain when I came up with my Brass material. In other cases, the choice is just sort of obvious so it’s no surprise that other great minds thought alike.
As Picasso said, “Good artists borrow. Great artists steal." I think he stole that idea from T. S. Eliot, appropriately.
The City of Brass has upper and lower sections divided by a giant plateau. There are magical and mechanical lifts between the two levels. I am pretty sure this is a feature of both Ptolus and Sharn (Eberron). I probably stole this subconsciously. For me, the plateau is a physical metaphor for the social division of the city.
I mean, c’mon. Of course the City of Brass has to have Ifrits and Djinn and such. I won’t put mine in charge, though I was considering until last week making the Empress an Ifrit. Instead, the Empress will be an elven woman who has summoned and enslaved 88 marid, 44 djinn, and 22 ifrit.
True Fact: In real life, ifrits and such come down to us from the Qu’ran and were tools of Iblis / Shaytan (Satan). Also, figuring out what the plurals should be is tricky. Ifriti or Ifrits? Jinn or Jinns?