Forging the City of Anvil for 5E D&D — Quarters and Cultures Part 1
People are defined by their culture. In the fantasy genre species tend to take all of this language, education, wealth, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities and habits into one melting pot and we risk falling into monolithic thinking. In the City of Anvil for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons citizens have their own take on cultural views but it may also be important to consider larger communities tend to break into zones as well. New York City has boroughs, San Francisco is famous for China Town, London has East and West sides as well as different English accents just in the city alone. The City of Anvil is no different.
Great 5E D&D stories start with worldbuilding
For this worldbuilding installment I’ll examine the concept of city quarters — real or imagined zones taking on their own identities within the greater context of also being Anvilites. Different economic realities, different dialects or slang and perhaps a dominant class or species develop in each quarter. This gives them each distinct flavor and the opportunity to evoke unique story arcs, encounters and adventures in each zone.
Quarters can be separated by many concepts. They may be simply opposite sides of a street. A quarter where the wealthy or powerful live might be walled off and post guards. Waterways might act as natural barriers requiring bridges, ferries or private watercraft to cross. It might be fun to have one of each.
Furthermore the City of Anvil demographics ought to feature at least one distinctive quarter dominated by one species, just to give it a different flavor than the rest. I’ll imagine this as a dwarven quarter, or the Arch as they call it colloquially. The other three districts comprise the heavily mercantile Bazaar nicknamed the Strange, a Royal Quarter called the Castle and the Commons, which has it’s own internal area referred to as the Ditch.
The Bazaar and the Commons are mostly commercial and residential accordingly but not exclusively. There’s zero reason why a family can’t live above (or below) their business in the Strange, and equally no reason a small business or shop might exist in the Commons in the same manner. Less savory businesses operate anywhere except the Castle given the right payoffs and connections. As it is in our world, so it exists in the 5E D&D City of Anvil — money talks. There’s gold to be made in transportation within and between districts. Cabbies, ferries, messengers and the like can be found all over Anvil.
Faiths, religions and cults pop up in every district. Some are very public while others not so much. All of these aspects shape the residents of each quarter. In most cases they share a common language and identity as Anvilites yet individuals from any quarter may view themselves as special in some way too.
Organizations and the dynamic relationships between them along with their aims, goals and motivations emerges as each one is explored more closely. Below you’ll find further details about the Royal Quarter and part 2 moves out of the Castle and into the three lower quarters — the dwarven Arch, mercantile Strange and the Commons.
Royal Quarter of the City of Anvil
Citizens in the Royal Quarter live at the top of the social structure (regardless of what the city dwarves of the Arch say). A thick stone wall with guards posted at all three entrance gates to the district from each the other three surrounds the Castle and its denizens. This wall connects with the one surrounding the City of Anvil proper and creates a defensive buttress should any lower quarters — as Castle citizens would say — be invaded by an outside force or rise up in revolt. The wealthiest of Anvil live within this walled quarter along with two ruling families: House Argent and the Von Seide family.
The Castle Quarter is predominantly populated by humans with some representation of other races included. The two largest established churches in Anvil stand within the walls of the Royal Quarter. One is the dwarven temple to Moradin and the other the much vaunted Silkenwood Academy of Arcanum. The people of this quarter enjoy the protections the walls and heavy patrols by House Argent guards and the Black Sashes of the Von Seide family provide. Crime is limited to what one can get away with by back room deals and enormous transfers of wealth or property.
It would be fair to state that outside of special days of celebration, worship at one of the two churches or extreme affairs of state the lower quarters rarely if ever enter inside these walls. This creates ignorance on both sides of the wall as each tends to heavily speculate or assume the affairs on the other side.
Geographically the Royal Quarter is the smallest by far, with the least population and highest standard of living. This microcosm created its own very formalized regional accent because of the high standard of education. Slang and shortcuts like contractions are rarely heard. Because the streets are kept very clean and clear of clutter the population favor lighter and brighter colors without much fear of soiled garments. These two features alone make citizens of the Castle quarter stand out like sore thumbs in any other district. Most travel with a guard of some sort though some are brazen enough to walk among the common citizenry without one.
Within the Castle quarter and to a lesser extent elsewhere through the entire City of Anvil — but especially in The Arch — architecture retains a certain quality associated with the influences of the City of Anvil’s dwarven population. Expert masonry, intricately carved statuary and reliefs, flying buttresses and sweeping bridges are everywhere. Only the Dwarven Quarter stands above some of these works in quality but none possess the scale of the Royal Quarter. This is where the wealth resides and the people in control of it have no fear letting others know.Outside the Royal Quarter lay the other three districts. Starting at the west is the Dwarven Quarter. The Arch is divided from the Strange by the winding Palmara River, which enters the Castle district under a portcullis section at the base of the wall and exits to the south of the city under a similar structure. In the center to the north lay the Bazaar Quarter, which hosts the anvil plaza in it’s southernmost region. One the east, separated from the Bazaar by the Anvil Artery is the Commons. The Artery is the largest street in the City of Anvil and facilitates access to both the residential and business quarters equally. The Artery remains busy day and night. The Dwarven Quarter enjoys access via the Steel Road cutting through the Strange and leading into the Arch over the Palmara by way of Hammer Bridge, a magnificent structure in all it’s dwarven glory.
Follow up and discover more about the City of Anvil in part 2 of this exploration of quarters and cultures. and explore the City of Anvil category for even more details about this thriving 5E D&D emerging throughout this series of posts. You can also check out the gallery below to see examples of six different potential crests to represent the heraldry of the city. They’re numbered 1-6 so you can let us know your pick for the City of Anvil’s coat of arms in the comments and we’ll see which one turns out to be the favorite.