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We're beginning a Geist game and we talked about how interesting it would be to build a city together as a group so we really felt like it was our home town.

I've heard Damnation City is good, but also that it's primarily focused on VtR and how to control a city as a vampire. It doesn't really matter if it fits well with White Wolf — we can kit-bash it — but really we're looking for something that can help us do it, preferably something that would tell us the good, the bad, and give a few plot hook ideas for other things being brought into the city.

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Are you looking for sourcebook suggestions, or general advice for city building? – Rain May 10 '11 at 18:03
My go-to system for collaboratively building any setting stuff is playing a session of Microscope. It's not specific to city-building (hence a comment-not-answer), but could do it handily. Sounds like a short session would give you plenty to work with. – SevenSidedDie May 10 '11 at 18:27
I won't put it as an answer because it contradicts the OP, but Damnation City isn't so Vampire-focused that it's not a great resource for what you want. – Jadasc May 10 '11 at 19:06
General advice, actually. – Kitsuiko May 16 '11 at 15:46
up vote 13 down vote accepted

You must check out the city creation in the Dresden Files RPG. It is specifically designed for group collaboration. It takes your group step-by-step through points of interest, supernatural influence, key players, etc. You decide along the way why things are important and what makes them cool.

The rules don't really care about the granularity of demographic statistics or street layout. Which is good, because your game doesn't really need those. It does produce a story-rich setting in which to base your game.

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As a bonus, it's a good genre match. – SevenSidedDie May 10 '11 at 19:43
+1 It also has a really good set of advise on making RPG representations of real cities. – Cthos May 10 '11 at 20:32

I don't know of any systems/sourcebooks that do this.

However, were I the storyteller, I'd do the following:

  • Buy in from players. I've found that if the players don't care about adding to the game world (as opposed from playing in the world), then you won't get anything from them (at least not anything useful).
  • Come up with the general statistics. Population, ethnicity (in percentages), relative level of wealth, etc. You want to know that people are wealthy
  • Decide how many kinds of "monsters" the city will have. Will it be a Geist only town? Are there Vampires? Werewolves? Mages? Aliens? Rabid Soccer Hooligans? How many (roughly) should each population be?
  • Now ask the players to fill in the details:
  • What's the major industry(ies)?
  • What's the name of the major employer(s)?
  • Maybe give the players some sort of XP bonus for each detail that they offer to be filled in.
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There's also Block By Bloody Block which is the sourcebook for building cities/neighborhoods for Hunter: The Vigil. It's smaller then Damnation City but provides various suggestions for city layout and integrates supernatural threats from other lines if I remember right. I'll also echo the comment to not discount Damnation City as it's a very impressive book for city building!

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GURPS City Stats

I haven't gotten my hands on this yet, but since I'm a fiend, it's on my list. Here's what the publisher has to say:

Since the dawn of history, people have come to cities – to visit, to pass through, to stay. And bustling streets provide opportunities for adventure.

GURPS City Stats offers cohesive rules to define a city’s impact on adventurers. A new stat block provides a compact way to write up a city, just like a character, vehicle, or planet. Guidelines for using urban regions in your campaign suggest how to turn them into exciting encounters or challenging places to live.

City Stats also includes stats, descriptions, notable residents, and campaign options for four sample locations suited to different types of campaigns: Athens (historical), Tredroy (fantasy/GURPS Banestorm), San Francisco (modern), and Pavonis Portal (science fiction).

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This supplement is primarly about how to stat a city in GURPS terms. It useful, but mostly if you're running a GURPS game and is closer to guidelines than a fully featured design system per see. – Jo-Herman Haugholt May 21 '11 at 1:28

Meanwhile, if you're looking for city layout, the Cartographers' Guild has several tutorials on making city maps. This one, for example.

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