Creating a Fantasy Metropolis: Cities by Stephan Abrams and Jon Everson

Creating a Fantasy Metropolis: Cities by Stephan Abrams and Jon Everson

Cities (Chaosium, 1986). Third Edition. Cover by Dan & David Day

As a follow-up to last week’s post on the Forgotten Realms City System, today I have Cities, from the Universal Supplement Series, published by Chaosium in 1986 (previous editions were published by Midkemia). It was written by Stephen Abrams and Jon Everson, with cover painting by Dan and David Ray, and it was illustrated by Kevin Ramos.

In stark contrast to last week’s City System boxed set published by TSR — which was nearly all maps and practically no content — this supplement takes the opposite tack: no maps, all content!

[Click the images for urban-sized versions.]

Some tables in Cities: Already Occurring Scene; Beggars, Thieves, Urchins; Priests and Adventurers

Cities is described as “a unique handbook of urban possibilities,” and it is designed for use with any system. It includes 60 tables and dozens of sub-tables, some of which I have photographed for this post. It’s got hundreds of random encounters that can often function as adventure seeds, and it contains all the tools for developing a city and the communities within it.

One of my favorite methods that I often employ when refereeing city play is also covered in this book: Already Occurring Scenes. I’ve always loved the idea of presenting players with a situation that their PCs observe or happen upon, and then it’s completely up to them whether they get involved or not. They might say “Nope! We keep walking by,” or, they might stick their collective nose in the business of something that they maybe should have ignored. It’s a fun device, and I’m glad to see it covered here.

More Cities tables: Drunk, Drugged Townsperson; Peasants;
Lodging; Occupational Background; and Street Traffic Density

There are some exceptional city supplements out there, and this is one of the finest, in my opinion. So many seeds for further shenanigans! It’s excellent.

I think Chaosium did a great job with this book. It’s a really useful resource for city play, full of the sort of randomness and unpredictability one would come to expect in an urban fantasy setting.

Anyone else use this supplement before, or something similar?

Employment and People tables 

Jeffrey P. Talanian’s last article for Black Gate was a review of the Forgotten Realms City System. He is the creator and publisher of the Hyperborea sword-and-sorcery and weird science-fantasy RPG from North Wind Adventures. He was the co-author, with E. Gary Gygax, of the Castle Zagyg releases, including several Yggsburgh city supplements, Castle Zagyg: The East Mark Gazetteer, and Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works. Read Gabe Gybing’s interview with Jeffrey here, and follow his latest projects on Facebook and at

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Eugene R.

I have the first 2 editions, published by Midkemia Press, which are in the manual typewriter/photocopy format of many early RPG booklets. I never saw the Third edition, but I was tempted to buy the Chaosium’s Thieves’ World supplement since it contained the Cities material, updated for the Chaosium product.

In addition to encounters and city planning, there is a 3rd section of Cities that is useful: character “catch-up”, i.e., all the training/skill-building/outfitting, employment/career advancement, family affairs, financial finagling/living expenses/gambling/carousing instances that are available. Plus, random events! (Each week.)

Oh, and an Appendix with … more tables! (That is where Occupational Background and Street Traffic Density are hiding.)

Baron Greystone

I admire the Midkemia Press folks and have certainly used this book. They also have an app for Android and PC, see their website.

Tony Den

This useful book was rebadged as RuneQuest Cities by Avalon Hill. Same cover and interior art. I am too lazy to dig it out and check if any of the content got specifically adjusted with RuneQuest 3 stats etc. IF memory serves I don’t think so.

Joe H.

I have this one too — the Runequest version specifically, I believe. I can see its utility, but I admit that in the day I was a bit disappointed because (IIRC) it didn’t have any maps or any advice on actually mapping out the city. I should dig it out and give it a look again one of these days.

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