Urbis - A World of Cities is a fantasy setting currently being developed for the Pathfinder RPG by Paizo. Due to legal restrictions, this wiki only contains setting information without any rules material. Those interested in game rules for Urbis are directed to the Urbis Mailing List, where rules material will be made available in the Members' section.
Before we start, there are a few things you should know.
- Use the navigation bar at the top to browse the site. You can reach the main index pages from there.
- If you want to contribute material to the wiki, you can join here.
- The text in the Urbis Wiki is color-coded. Blue text is "canon". It describes "official" setting material either written or approved by me (jhubert). Any entirely new setting material - towns, neighborhoods, buildings, geographic regions and so forth - not written by me should not be written in blue. Instead, use green text to signify its non-canon status. Use the following code block:
[[span class="non-canon"]]Enter text here.[[/span]]
If you want me to change the status of your submission from "non-canon" to "canon", send me a private message to my account, and I will review it as soon as possible. Not all submissions will necessarily become canon, but even non-canon information might be interesting.
- Each entry also has two further sub-sections - "Adventure Ideas" and "Designer's Notes & Resources". The former allows you to add adventure ideas to a page in the form of bulleted lists. The latter allows the creators of a page to explain just where they have gotten the inspiration for the main entry, and also allows contributors to add links to off-site resources which may be useful as further inspiration.
So, what is Urbis all about?
Urbis is Urban Fantasy
As the name implies, cities are central to Urbis. Gone are the quaint market towns of other fantasy worlds - these belong to an earlier, feudal age. Instead, the world is divided into a multitude of city-states with populations ranging into hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people! While there are plenty of wilderness and frontiers left in the world, these are not the main focus of this setting. There are plenty of things to do in the cities, from hunting monsters in the sewers, getting caught up in struggles between crime families, fighting for social justice for the downtrodden masses, to high-stakes games of dimpomacy and intrigues between the rich and powerful of the cities.
Urbis is a Magical Industrial World
While most RPG fantasy worlds draw their inspiration from the Feudal Age or Renaissance of our world - or even earlier periods - Urbis is heavily inspired by the time of the European Industrial Revolution - the time when cities came into their own. On the one hand, it was a time of wonder - of scientific and technological prowess, and it seemed that there was nothing that humanity couldn't do. On the other hand, it also saw the rise of the urban poor - of masses of desperate people huddled together in ramshackle apartments who had not only work themselves to near-death, but also had to send their underage children to the same factories to keep their families from starvation.
The Nexus Towers, the iconic image of Urbis, represent both of these extremes. On the one hand, they promise near-limitless magical energies to those who control them, and thus make the vast cities with all their splendor and magics possible. On the other hand, they draw upon the very life of all those who live nearby, thus also becoming the Satanic Mills that many people imagined the early factories in our world to be.
Urbis is Realistic High Fantasy
At first glance, this seems to be a contradiction in terms. After all, "realism" and "fantasy" do not often come together. What this means in the context of Urbis is that for all the magical trappings of the setting there is an inherent logic to it. Fireball and other spells have radically altered the face of the battlefield. No longer is a battle fought with tight infantry formations that just ask to be killed by area-effect spells. Instead small groups of warriors try to sneak into enemy territory so that they can take out key installations or people before the other side notices. Raise dead has a real effect on the social structure of the setting - the rich and powerful are unlikely to die permanently of anything except old age. And all those monsters that look like they couldn't have possibly evolved in an Earth-like environment… well, they didn't. Most of them were brought to this world from other planets.
To sum it up, nothing in here exists in isolation from the rest of the setting. Everything affects the rest of society in some big or small way, or at least has the potential to do so - if the player characters bring it to light.
Urbis needs Heroes
While the cities seem calm and civilized on the surface, below it are intrigue, social unrest, and hidden wars that could turn into open bloodshed at any moment. As the cities grow ever larger and the differences between rich and poor more pronounced, some sort of radical transformation or even outright revolution becomes more and more likely.
Something has got to give. The only question is: In what direction will you push it?
Designer's Notes & Resources
Many pages in this wiki will contain a Designer's Notes section such as this one. In it, the author(s) of the page will add their thoughts on what they intended with writing the page - what their inspiration was, and how it fits into the larger context of the setting. Here now are a few thoughts on the setting as a whole.
On one hand, Urbis introduces some fairly novel concepts (such as the nexus towers) and also tries to rigorously examine the effects of these and of standard D&D magic on society, which in many cases produces a rather alien culture compared to either real-world societies or the "standard" fantasy worlds published for D&D. On the other hand, Urbis also has a large number of obvious similarities between many of its regions and real-world countries and regions throughout various periods in history.
This is intentional.
Yes, having so many parallels to our own Earth is not entirely realistic, especially if you consider the effects of magic and non-human intelligent beings must have had on the history of a world. However, it makes the world much more accessible for players, who don't always have the time to familiarize themselves with massive amounts of setting information about a realistic, but throughly alien fantasy world. It also makes adventure and campaign design much easier for dungeon masters, who can freely borrow ideas and plot lines from history, which has far more written material than all published fantasy worlds together. Likewise, most nonhumans still exhibit most of the common tropes associated with them (although I hope I have managed to introduce some new twists that make them interesting in their own right) so that the players will have some basic ideas what to expect of the role of these beings in the wider world.
But remember, all of these are only a starting point. Once you and your players have become familiar with the basics, you can introduce them to the more alien aspects of the setting that lurk just below the surface…