Forging the City of Anvil for 5E D&D — Quarters and Cultures Part 2
This post continues worldbuilding for the City of Anvil for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons (or any fantasy tabletop roleplaying game really). Part 1 lays out the City of Anvil into four distinct quarters and explores the history and socio-economic circumstances within the walls of the city. Anvil’s Royal Quarter received a closer look too and here I’ll visit each of the other three districts — the Dwarven Quarter, Bazaar and Commons. Taken as a whole the City of Anvil presents a vibrant location for 5E D&D adventurers to call home and with the limitless potential within the city walls they may experience epic quests right at home.
Great 5E D&D stories start with worldbuilding
Dwarven Quarter of the City of Anvil
The Dwarven Quarter, colloquially called the Arch, is a bastion of the City of Anvil’s dwarven architecture and culture. The Royal Quarter boasts of scale only through the expertise of Anvilite dwarves and they surely remind anyone who forgets this point. Whereas other dwarven cultures seem driven to dig and mine Anvilite Dwarves are inspired to build and carve. Dwarven culture takes the Arch for its regional nickname from the massive spectacle known as Hammer Bridge. Common anecdotal history says this architectural wonder was created on a dare to bridge the wide and swampy Palmara. Rumors hold dwarves cannot swim and so fear water. (It is advised by the author of this document to neither broach the subject with any dwarf nor spread such tales as it seems a touchy subject.) Either inspired or insulted by such tales Anvilite Dwarves not only built a bridge over this river but made sure to make it one of the most carved and daring structures in all of romantic architecture.
Drawn here by the legend of the anvil long ago, the people of the Dwarven Quarter see it as their duty to protect and maintain the faith of Moradin within the walls of the City of Anvil as if the god himself called them to this purpose. Frictions may arise within the city over a number of affairs but none can question the Anvilite Dwarves see the protection of the city’s namesake artifact as sacrosanct and quell other conflicts over this one issue.
Within the Arch quarter itself great pride was taken to make even the homes of common citizens something to brag about. Obviously this district is dominated by Anvilite Dwarves but there are scattered pockets of other races represented. Most earned their place within this quarter as educators, diplomats or treasured artisans of one kind or another. Some are lucky to be here for a deed performed in the past for these proud people — and no debt is ever left unpaid by an Anvilite Dwarf.
The best tavern in all the Arch is run by a tiefling woman whose deeds must have been mighty to have the honor of serving non-dwarven alcoholic beverages within their own quarter. The common tongue spoken on the streets of the Arch is a mash-up of dwarvish and common at about a 3:1 ratio. This can be jarring for outsiders at first. Retaining a pure dwarvish tongue is typically reserved for academic, holy or political pursuits as well as the written word. Within the Arch all street signs are written in Dwarvish and proudly embossed in gold painted letters.
Structures within the Arch are a blend of wood and stone and none go undecorated by expert carving. The lowliest home within the Dwarven Quarter would seem fancy in the Commons on its exterior merit alone. Anvilite Dwarves take great pride in their district and culture and would have nothing less. The color palette for garments is less extravagant here but made up for in the style, cut and an appreciation of jewelry. Jewel tones mix with earth tones much like dark ales and spicy gravy –favorites in the Arch incidentally.
Streets are mostly patrolled by dwarven soldiers loyal to the Clans Goldenarch, Eisenhand and Leadbelly although the latter’s troops tend to be more of a guarding force for their mercantile concerns.
The pride of the district is Goldenarch College of Architecture founded by Thane Orvald Goldenarch nearly 200 years ago. Orvald’s daughter, Magatha Goldenarch-Theil, now serves as dean within those hallowed halls after the passing of her father some years ago. The college remains a beacon for those wishing to advance in the study of structure and design with a flair for Anvilite Dwarven decor.
Apart from Hammer Bridge the dwarves are best appreciated for the large underground cisterns each quarter enjoys. These cisterns collect rainwater and store it away from the elements to provide fresh water for each district not only as a daily service but also assisting them in times of siege or drought. These cisterns were engineered as a cooperative action in appreciation for the protection of the central anvil they hold sacred.
The Bazaar of the City of Anvil
East of the Arch and west of the Commons lay the Bazaar. This heavily mercantile district shares one common aspect with the Commons — the closer one gets to the anvil the larger and more expensive properties grow. Therefore it could be said the first structures on either side of the Artery are typically simple and more common fare. Invasions or raids by enemy forces breaching the main gate to the City of Anvil would likely make quick work of such structures. Seeing a blend of building styles for those homes and businesses closest to the gate would not be uncommon and represent something of a mark of pride and signal of resilience. Those closest to the anvil can be quite extravagant and charge a commensurately higher price.
The Bazaar gained its nickname the Strange after a public faux pas by a visiting dignitary who mistook Bazaar for bizarre in Dwarvish and was all but laughed out of the city. That said all manner of trade goods and peoples dot the Strange with a wild blend of cultures, flavors, scents and colors. To call this area Strange would not be taken as an insult as the region takes great pride in its diversity. It would be fair to say within reason almost any culture has a chance to be spotted on at least one day a year in this quarter. One such flamboyant figure is the dragonborn merchant baron Tazanaak “Tazz” Ghexian. His constant entourage of kobold servants are a frequent sight in the Strange and his connections in the textile trade are unsurpassed. Perhaps it’s his sapphire scales or his noble demeanor but his kobolds seem to trip over themselves to be the first to pull out a chair, pour a drink or other menial tasks. None know why the kobolds behave in such a manner but this comedy of errors is a frequent and often hilarious display.
The Strange is home to goods from far and wide and sees patrons from all quarters as well. It is the one place common to see nobles from the Castle, dwarves from the Arch and citizens from the Commons in one place outside the holiest of days. The sounds of manufacture blend with laughter and music while the smell of meals cooking blends with spices and perfumes. It would not be unusual to see parties bartering over a handmade cart or piece of artwork then walk a few steps and have a full meal. Livestock tends to be traded more toward the northern wall, giving this region a distinctive odor.
Because of this diversity and hasty transactional life those who reside full time in the Bazaar tend to have a faster cadence in their speech and a wild blend of fashions. Sentences tend to be short and punchy with a heavy use of slang and colorful speech. Blended race families are very common in this district as merchants may travel near and far seeking new wares or selling their own only to find love or marriages of alliance along the way.
Homes in the Bazaar tend to be on the small side as the majority of the building’s footprint is dedicated to mercantile pursuits. This led to many shops having apartments above or below the business and some families are not above renting a bed to a passing traveler for a quick profit.
Peace is kept in the Strange by way of a blend of Castle troops and private guards hired by the wealthier of merchant barons. Some seek security from less reputable sources like the Black Brooms and Broken Hearts gangs of the city. These Thieves’ Guilds hold no love between them so the success of the hired security may hinge on whether or not there is a truce between these two groups. Since the disappearance of Sweeper, presumed head of the Black Brooms, tensions in the area have been high. Fires have broken out in both the Strange and the Ditch area of the Commons of late, placing all parties on high alert during the late hours.
The Leadbellies hold concerns in the district as well, being manufacturers and purveyors of finely made crossbows and other arms. Needless to say their booths are well protected.
The Commons of the City of Anvil
To the east of the Artery lay the Commons, a heavily residential sector and home to the largest population within the City of Anvil. Anvilites here are nearly as diverse as they are in the Bazaar and many who work in the Bazaar reside within this quarter. Humans are in the largest percentage here but not by much. A large variety of many races live in the Commons with a fair chance of running into almost anyone here, including a few dwarves who may have originated outside of Anvil. Children are in the greatest number in this region for obvious reasons, leading to a number of family businesses dotting the district. The Royal Quarter also sponsors a small schoolhouse here focusing on reading, writing and arithmetic. There are a few modest family run inns within this district catering to clients who may want a quieter stay at a lower price with meals including whatever the resident family serves.
Culturally many of the same linguistics exist in the Bazaar as here albeit to a lesser degree. Those who call the Commons home tend to be more pragmatic and fill out the ranks of the working class for the entire City of Anvil. Clothing tends to be very workaday with earth tones favored to hide the trials of working for a living. Splashes of color are worn with pride on special occasions and bartering is a way of life even between neighbors.
Homes are simple wood construction except those closer to the anvil itself. These homes tend to be grander with a blend of wood and stone and house the district’s wealthier residents.
Of the two Thieves Guilds, the Black Brooms call the Commons home. More correctly they claim the Ditch for their home. The Ditch is a region of the Commons where a past siege collapsed a section of the east wall and destroyed the homes of the residents there, crushing many below the falling stones. Assistance for these poorer folk was not rapid. Concerns focused more on the repair of the defenses than of the destroyed homes and as a result houses in this strip are made from salvaged materials and reside in the depression made by tons of rock hitting the earth inside the wall. Much of the fallen stone was salvaged by troops to repair the wall so what remained wasn’t much. To this day the neighborhood continues rebuilding and the resentment for having to fend for themselves after the battle remains in the living memory for many here.
It comes as no surprise then the Black Brooms both originated and found protection here. The Brooms are more a vigilante group than a criminal concern but in the eyes of an organized guard force violence by anyone else other than those in authority is a crime. The Brooms do make a brisk living providing protection of the illicit sort but this revenue stream wanes should interests in the Commons, and especially the Ditch ever be in danger. They do supplement this income with a brisk business in smuggling much to the chagrin of merchant barons.
Overall and for the most part the quarters of the City of Anvil see themselves as Anvilites first when viewed by outsiders but will fall into regional preferences when no one else is looking. In the next installment development of the city zooms in even closer to look at the city dwarves as a distinct lineage and culture with new traits and features to represent them in 5E D&D for players and Dungeon Masters alike.