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How do you place a fictional city?


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So here's a problem I can never come up with a good solution for: what to do when I create a city, or even use one of the campaign settings in HERO. 

 

Let's say I'm using Hudson City for a Pulp HERO setting. It definitely has a New York feel, but I also want to use the Empire Club in the game, which is explicitly set in New York, among a couple of other cities globally. So, do I drop Hudson City somewhere on the Eastern seaboard, or do I replace New York with it? Or something else? 

 

There are benefits to either situation, so I'm looking for what has worked for others. 

  • If I simply place Hudson City in place of New York, then any reference to New York would simply be replaced by Hudson City. Simple, right? But it does take away a little bit from the historical feel of the game if I replace the country's largest city without explanation.  This would be like Sue Grafton does with the Kinsey Milhone mysteries: invent a city (Santa Teresa) and simply replace an existing one (Santa Barbara) in the stories without any explanation of why Santa Barbara doesn't exist. But this would be harder to do with pretending that New York doesn't exist.
  • I could go the way of Millennial City (replacing Detroit) and say that New York blew up and is replaced by Hudson City, or something like that, but I'm not so fond of that option.
  • The other thing I could do is just drop Hudson City somewhere on the East Coast and pretend like it's always been there. This makes actual history still fairly constant (since I don't have to explain away New York), but it invites some other problems: Why would something like the Empire Club be in Hudson City, when New York is just right up the coast. Or I could have H.C. be the base for play, and commute to New York when needed. Anyway, the main problem with this approach is that it affects the other cities on the Eastern seaboard (at least theoretically). 

 

So, what have you done in these sorts of situations? Any genre is fine (pulp, Champions, Dark Champions, etc.), as long as the advice has some rationale for the decision made. Thanks for your suggestions!

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I'd just find a small town/city that isn't famous and plop the city there.  Maybe on top of New City off the Hudson River a little north of New York. 

 

As for why, X is here rather than there, who knows.  Maybe one of the founding members liked it over there than here.  I've been at several companies where development was here or there instead of the silicon valley because this SVP wants to move there(not silicon valley).

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You could have it replace Newark and everyone would thank you.  It gets a different name because it's in a different state.  You don't touch NYC proper.

Or rename a secondary locale...for NY, that might be Albany or Binghamton.  Syracuse and Buffalo are getting much further west and into the Lakes a bit too much.  Or plop it into a relatively empty area...not that there is much of one in New York State, unless you want to trash the Lake Country.  Druther not do that, for similar reasons why you don't want to trash NYC.  But not too far west and north of NYC, there's Monticello.  Google Maps suggests you could put something there.  

 

It's all gonna depend on what I need done.

 

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One thing I’ve thought of trying is to shrink NYC and other places in order to make room.

 

In real life NY is both the financial center and the fashion center of the county, for example. Spin off either of those, or some other industries, to another city in your campaign and there’s no reason for NY to be so populous. Give your city a decent port and railroads and it would siphon of business from ports up and the coast.

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I'm pretty sure that officially, Hudson City is on the New Jersey coast, at a spot that's unoccupied land in the real world. That's a fairly short jaunt from New York, so ties to the Empire Club should pose no problem.

 

Generally speaking, if I have access to a published city setting that's well developed and suits my gaming needs, I prefer to use that rather than create my own (stimulating but a lot of work), or use a real one that I'm not personally familiar enough with to create an aura of verisimilitude for my players. But I'm not averse to moving such a city to another location that I prefer. For example, in my last Champions campaign I liked the idea of a major metropolis at the center of the contiguous United States (I may have been influenced a bit by Smallville ? ), so I jiggered a few events in the history of the CU town of Haynesville, Kansas, so it eventually grew to become Millennium City. I changed some Detroit-derived place names in MC, and altered the geography beyond the city's map to fit the Kansas landscape.

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I've used Hudson City allot over the years.  I just pick a chunk of the Eastern Seaboard and plunk it in.   Much like they did for Gotham and Metropolis (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gotham_City_map_(Amazing_World_of_DC_Comics).jpg) .  I may not use as much the book itself, but the map is gold.

 

I fall back on HC mostly because it is the only modern setting RPG with an actual usable map.  One that can be blown up as much as needed without pixelating.

I even have a copy I went in and removed all the interstates and replaced them with rail lines for Pulp Era games. 

 

I really really wish that the maps in Vibora Bay,  Millennium City,  Thrilling Places, and Champions Battlegrounds had been given the same treatment.  Champs Battlegrounds has the most gorgeous but utterly useless maps I've ever seen.  Such fantastic microscopic detail that cannot be brought to the table.  I don't know how many times I have really wished I could print out a usable copy of that mall.

 

But to go back to your original question.  The easiest thing is to place it where Metropolis was or swap North/South and put it where Gotham was. 

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6 hours ago, Spence said:

I've used Hudson City allot over the years.  I just pick a chunk of the Eastern Seaboard and plunk it in.   Much like they did for Gotham and Metropolis (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gotham_City_map_(Amazing_World_of_DC_Comics).jpg) .  I may not use as much the book itself, but the map is gold.

 

 

That link is awesome! Thanks for that. This is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for.

 

On 8/2/2018 at 6:09 PM, Lord Liaden said:

I'm pretty sure that officially, Hudson City is on the New Jersey coast, at a spot that's unoccupied land in the real world. That's a fairly short jaunt from New York, so ties to the Empire Club should pose no problem.

 

Generally speaking, if I have access to a published city setting that's well developed and suits my gaming needs, I prefer to use that rather than create my own (stimulating but a lot of work), or use a real one that I'm not personally familiar enough with to create an aura of verisimilitude for my players. But I'm not averse to moving such a city to another location that I prefer. For example, in my last Champions campaign I liked the idea of a major metropolis at the center of the contiguous United States (I may have been influenced a bit by Smallville ? ), so I jiggered a few events in the history of the CU town of Haynesville, Kansas, so it eventually grew to become Millennium City. I changed some Detroit-derived place names in MC, and altered the geography beyond the city's map to fit the Kansas landscape.

 

I love what you did with Millennium City. That's a great idea. I'm a Midwest kid, so it fits really well into the kind of narrative I'd be interested in developing.

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  • 2 weeks later...

In the four part JLA/Avengers Crossover it was mentioned that the Justice League Earth was slightly larger so there was room for places like Gotham City and Metropolis.  If you made Earth just a little bit large you'll have room for Hudson City, but will lose the need for Leap Years.

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The more you tie to real-world history the harder this is. If you focus action on the main city and use everything else as backdrop (or for exotic locale adventures) then it's less of an issue. If your character histories are intertwined with real world events, then you need to spend a lot more time thinking about this.

 

I had a campaign where it became a running gag that not only was the city location unspecified, there was no map of the city (because I was too lazy^H^H^H^Hbusy to create one). 

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1 hour ago, Talon said:

The more you tie to real-world history the harder this is. If you focus action on the main city and use everything else as backdrop (or for exotic locale adventures) then it's less of an issue. If your character histories are intertwined with real world events, then you need to spend a lot more time thinking about this.

 

This really is the crux of the problem, isn't it? If you've ever read any of the Sue Grafton alphabet mysteries, she simply replaces Santa Barbara with Santa Teresa. Who's going to miss Santa Barbara? But it allows her to still travel to Los Angeles and San Francisco without any sort of discontinuity. What her sleuth never does, however, is visit Santa Barbara! But that's a lot more easily ignored than if I were to replace New York City. I think maybe the "replace Newark" suggestion from Vondy is workable, because who ever goes looking for a better life in Newark? My brother lived there for a while and all he got was robbed!

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6 hours ago, Talon said:

The more you tie to real-world history the harder this is. If you focus action on the main city and use everything else as backdrop (or for exotic locale adventures) then it's less of an issue. If your character histories are intertwined with real world events, then you need to spend a lot more time thinking about this.

 

I had a campaign where it became a running gag that not only was the city location unspecified, there was no map of the city (because I was too lazy^H^H^H^Hbusy to create one). 

 

Springfield! :)

 

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4 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

 

This really is the crux of the problem, isn't it? If you've ever read any of the Sue Grafton alphabet mysteries, she simply replaces Santa Barbara with Santa Teresa. Who's going to miss Santa Barbara? But it allows her to still travel to Los Angeles and San Francisco without any sort of discontinuity. What her sleuth never does, however, is visit Santa Barbara! But that's a lot more easily ignored than if I were to replace New York City. I think maybe the "replace Newark" suggestion from Vondy is workable, because who ever goes looking for a better life in Newark? My brother lived there for a while and all he got was robbed!

 

Did he get a t-shirt that read "I went to Newark and all I got was this lousy t-shirt to replace the one that was stolen off of me." :)

 

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19 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

 

This really is the crux of the problem, isn't it? If you've ever read any of the Sue Grafton alphabet mysteries, she simply replaces Santa Barbara with Santa Teresa. Who's going to miss Santa Barbara? But it allows her to still travel to Los Angeles and San Francisco without any sort of discontinuity. What her sleuth never does, however, is visit Santa Barbara! But that's a lot more easily ignored than if I were to replace New York City. I think maybe the "replace Newark" suggestion from Vondy is workable, because who ever goes looking for a better life in Newark? My brother lived there for a while and all he got was robbed!

 

Having never read the books, could the reason she never explains what happened to Santa Barbara is because in her works, the city never existed in the first place? It was always Santa Teresa?

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On 8/18/2018 at 5:16 AM, Vanguard said:

 

Having never read the books, could the reason she never explains what happened to Santa Barbara is because in her works, the city never existed in the first place? It was always Santa Teresa?

 

Although it's never really explained, I think that's the idea. Just pretend it never existed, or rather, it was actually called Santa Teresa. I'm not sure why she chose this route, but it always fascinated me. It solves some problems, but creates some others. But she does some other interesting things with her timeline as well, so that her books written in the '90s are still set in the '80s as if no time happened between novels. Over the course of 26 novels it's a bit disorienting, so misplacing Santa Barbara seems par for the course. 

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On 8/19/2018 at 2:37 PM, Lord Liaden said:

Would it fit with the world timeline you have in mind to go the Millennium City/Bay City route, and just destroy an existing city in the past and build your new city on top of it?

 

I'm trying to avoid that so that there is continuity with a more contemporary timeline. But I've been considering it as well because it makes for some interesting story options . . .

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On 8/19/2018 at 3:28 PM, Doc Shadow said:

I usually place Hudson City in Connecticut turned 90 degrees so that the city is oriented East/West rather than North/South along the bisecting Stewart River that branches off of the Connecticut River further north. But sometimes I'll place it in New Jersey.

 

I like that as an option. Connecticut is sorta "just there," and could use a larger coastal city to rival the other states. 

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On 8/19/2018 at 6:50 AM, Brian Stanfield said:

 

Although it's never really explained, I think that's the idea. Just pretend it never existed, or rather, it was actually called Santa Teresa. I'm not sure why she chose this route, but it always fascinated me. It solves some problems, but creates some others. But she does some other interesting things with her timeline as well, so that her books written in the '90s are still set in the '80s as if no time happened between novels. Over the course of 26 novels it's a bit disorienting, so misplacing Santa Barbara seems par for the course. 

 

She probably chose that route so that there was no conflict. If Santa Barbra never existed, then no one would miss it and/or question its absence.  What other problems does having the city replaced with another one create? I'd think that there would be no issue and that any references to the one city would just be replaced with the new city instead. No muss, no fuss. Or none that I can see.

 

The timeline thing I've seen done before. So for me, that's not all too strange. Some authors just seem more comfortable writing about/in a given time period.

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