Monday, March 31, 2014

Mapping Vanor: The City

The following post contains the neighborhood capsule descriptions I sent to my players before the Ruins of Vanor campaign started properly. All neighborhoods (or regios, as the Vanorans call them) refer to locations on the Big Board map to the left, which is mounted on a piece of poster board 3ft x 2ft in size. At this early stage of the campaign, some areas are more defined than others, hence the abundant white space for most of the map. We'll add more to the Big Board as the campaign goes on. 

Oh, and three guess which historical city I have based Vanor on...


The ruined city within the outer Marcian Walls consists of ten districts. Of these ten, only four have settled habitation; the remaining six are in ruins and teeming with beasts, kalingoi goblins, and undead. As residents of Vanor, you know much about the settled districts and significantly less about the ruined ones.

The Settled Districts

Regio I. Campus Marcianus
This district (the "Fields of Marcian") is the second most populous area of the ruined city. Originally a marshy plain outside the walls of the original city, the Fourth Witch-King, Marcian the Reclaimer, had the marsh drained and used as a staging area for his wars of expansion and conquest. Eventually, the fields became a built up area of grand public buildings, temples, and theaters; refined boulevards and columned porticoes; and dense urban apartments clustered in between. Bordered by the Basana River in the west and the Via Lata (aka The Broadway) in the east, the current district is anchored by the great and still functioning Baths of Tullius and the massive but crumbling Stadium of Marcian. Retaining walls along the Basana have fallen into disrepair, and repeated flooding has turned part of the district into ruined marsh, which now serves as a den for thieves and criminals. Closeness to the neighboring Regio IX. Overlook district has meant repeated monster, undead, and vermin incursions, threatening the stability of the Marcian Fields. It has seen better days.

Regio II. Campus Vaticanus
This district ("Vatican Fields") is the smallest, newest, and most orderly of the ancient ruined city's districts. Anchored in the west by Vatican Hill and the massive Solarium of the Unconquered Sun at its base and in the east by the looming Barbican fortress, Vatican Fields is a planned district of detached villas, domus residences, marble porticoes, and religious statuary. Isolated from the ruin sprawl by the Basana River, Vatican Fields suffers little of the monstrous incursions that trouble the Regio I. Campus Marcianus district directly across the river. Silver and gold-clad sun priests stroll along the Via Cornelia on sunny days. Country gentry visiting their urban villas move through the streets on covered litters. Street vendors hawk their wares from tabernacle shops. And at night, the streets are lit by the soft blue glow of lumin lamps. Life in Vatican Fields is truly touched by the Sun.

Regio III. Transbasana
This district is the largest and most densely populated of the ruined city's districts. When access and services fell away from other districts as the city collapsed, Transbasana across the river retained key water and infrastructure services, so people poured in. Today it is a teeming slum and manufacturing district that completely covers the summit and slopes of the Janiculum Hill. It is home to the great basilica known as the Hall of Work, headquarters of the powerful Labor Collegium; the looming and twisted Tower of Mysteries, holding the secrets of the Arcanum Collegium; and the Naumachian Pits, a former artificial lake that's been converted into gladiatorial arenas.

Regio IV. Aventinus
This district was once the key port of entry into Vanor for river trade and commercial traffic, with its river banks converted into long, porticoed quays fronting row upon row of storage warehouses that reached all the way back to the slopes of the Aventine Hill. Today, commercial traffic is fairly limited, and most of the quays and warehouses have been converted for other purposes or left to ruin. Instead, due to its direct border with the ruined Regio V. Via Interius district, Aventinus is the key staging area for explorations into the city's ruins, centered on the Delver's Porch, a portico along the river serving as the key mercenary market; the Emporium, the largest quay and chief docks; and Northmen's Landing, the quay and warehouse compound taken over as a Varangian holdfast. And adding to the district's dangerous character are the two witch king tombs squatting on the Aventine's twin summits.

The Ruined Districts

Regio V. Via Interius
Sparsely built and serving as the chief overland entrance from the ports of the Inner Sea, this district is dominated by ruined caravan posts, religious shrines, and a large bath complex overrun with kalingoi goblins.

Regio VI. Celian Heights
In its heyday, this was a fashionable residential district, dotted with wealthy homes and villas, recreational baths, and opulent basilicas. Today, delvers target the family crypts dug deep into the Celian Hill's north slopes and beneath the ruined villas as sources of lost wealth.

One small section of the Imperial Necropolis on the Esquiline Hill
Regio VII. Esquillae
Largely made up of the Esquiline Hill and the upper greenbelt ridge that divides the eastern Marcian Walls with the summits of the Quirinal, Viminal, and Cispian Hills, Esquillae is a dangerous regio dominated  by the tomb of the evil Third Witch-King (remembered only as the Anti-Pater) and the imperial necropolis contained behind it, which serves as the chief source of all the undead in the ruined city.

Regio VIII. Alta Semita
Containing the Quirinal, Viminal, and Cispian Hills and the upper summit behind the hills, Alta Semita was a rich and sumptuous district of villas, basilicas, schools, and temples affording excellent views of the lower regios of the city. Today, it is perhaps the most dangerous and overrun ruin in the city, due to the presence of two witch king tombs on the lower summits of two hills and one witch king tomb built beneath a massive and ruined bath complex on the upper summit.

The old Temple of Sol Invictus
Regio IX. Overlook
Dominated by the long ridge of the Pincian Hill, Overlook was known as the Hill of Gardens due to the overabundance of pleasures gardens and recreational complexes. Bordering with the Regio I. Campus Marcianus district, this densely built district is a key focus for exploration delves and holds the ruins of the first Temple of Sol Invictus, rumored to be filled with great wealth in its hidden lower vaults.

Regio X. Velabrum
Once the political heart of the mighty city centered on the Capitoline and Palatine Hills, today the Velabrum is littered with ruined forums, crumbling market porticoes, overgrown horse tracks and amphitheaters, and, at the heart of it all, the dangerous and deadly tomb of the First Witch King, Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun, perched atop the Palatine Hill.

Image Credits:

Images #1-#5: Map by author, working from the public domain image "Plan of the Hills of Ancient Rome," engraved by C. Smith, Strand (link).

Image #6: Roman Graveyard Image from Lapham's Quarterly (link).

Image #7: "Model Temple of Aphaia Glyptothek Munich" (link).