This is the first part of a massive gazetteer of the city of Ptolus (also to be found in the full sourcebook as well as this PDF release). It begins with an overview of the city, then looks in more detail at the Docks, the Guidsman District, Midtown and the Necropolis. There are eleven districts in total, the rest are to be found in the companion volume Districts of the City Volume 2. This is intended as a resource for the DM, players - however familiar with the city their character might be - should stay away, as there are loads of secrets and plot ideas best found via play!
The Overview begins by saying that Ptolus is over three hundred and fifty years old and home to some 75,000 souls. That's big, certainly by the cod-mediaeval standards of fantasy worlds (London had a population of 20,000 in the 14th century!). In this chapter the races, climate, layout, economy, and official institutions are covered. Everyone seems to have a different view of what the place is like, its essence... den of thieves or bastion of nobility? A hub of magical knowledge and the home to Princes of the Church. All these and more, and of course, evil lurks beneath. It's a good place for adventurers, particularly if you are using the default setting as the Empire doesn't really like adventurers very much but tolerates them here in Ptolus!
The population is diverse. 70% are human but the rest are just about any race you can imagine including the ones that are rare in the rest of the world. The distribution varies based on district but by and large people are tolerant apart from when it comes to those races perceived as being 'evil' - orcs, lizardfolk, goblins and the like.
As part of the Empire, the city is ruled by a Commissar, although as the Empire crumbles many feel it would be more appropriate that Ptolus become an independent city-state in its own right. The current Commissar is well-liked. Coming from a military background he has troops ready to defend the city and an impressive array of advisors drawn from the more martially-minded residents. He also pays attention to the City Council, having elevated its importance in the scheme of things. Law and order are maintained by a City Watch, who have a mission to keep the peace. There's plenty of detail on both governance and law enforcement, useful if your adventuring tastes run to intrigue or criminal activities. The city also boasts a fire brigade and other groups who gather information and keep the peace.
Next, the city's economy is discussed. There's an Imperial currency that everyone is supposed to use, but Ptolus is renowed for accepting all manner of coinage, and there is also a system of letters of credit in operation. Finally, there's a detailed explanation of how the city is laid out, filled with useful tips on how best to describe it to your group. Oh, and the climate. Apparently it's either raining, or is about to rain, or has just stopped raining. (Now I know why Monte Cook included 'Seattle weather' in the Acknowledgements!)
On to the Districts, where there is a common structure beginning with a section on the overall 'flavour' of the district being discussed. This is followed by a section on running the district with plenty of suggestions as how to best present it to the players and what the party might do there. Some typical NPCs are provided, useful when someone says they are going to start asking around... and of course there are plenty of rumours for them to hear when they do. Then it gets down to detail with notable locations described in turn... but there's always room to add some more as you need them. Just keep notes unless that particular inn is actually SUPPOSED to move around the city under its own power! There are price and quality ratings for all purveyors of goods and services, and even more NPCs.
Just reading through all this material suggests plotline after plotline. Side adventures or full-blown campaign ideas abound... and there's this solid underpinning to base it all on, this ultra-detailed city environment. A real classic of how to create a fantasy city that really works!
Return to Ptolus: Districts of the City Volume 1 page.
Reviewed: 30 January 2018