Whenever I get ready to start a new campaign I try to looks through online art of various cityscapes to get a feel for what kind of world I want to build. I always leave it up to my players on what direction they want to travel and use the geography to sort of shape what a city may look like. Here are some fantastic pieces of art to help inspire your next set of adventures.
Originally designed for Wizards of the Coast’s Return to Ravnica, Fooyee beautifully incorporated transportation into his work. Ravnica itself is a source of inspiration for campaign ideas, but the way each mana type is represented throughout the world is wonderfully illustrated in pieces like this one.
Taking inspiration from England and India, this illustration shares steampunk elements, but also high fantasy, similar to Eberron campaigns. The misty steam can obscure the sights of the well-kept gardens, but from the airships, the city looks like one hosting royalty.
It might be from my time playing Elder Scrolls Morrowind, but I’m a fan of haunting marsh towns. The dangers of swamps and bogs can be easy game elements to throw your players off their footing. The haunting visuals of this piece are remarkable.
Not only is this a splendid piece of art, but the creator provides a full description of the elements he incorporates into it.
The near-noon sun beats down on this resort oasis city in the Day. Al Jebra’s river and streams keep the town cool. Mountainous rock formations offer a shadowy respite from the heat. Once this oasis was a small stop in a pilgrimage on the Path of the Angels, Al Jebra has blossumed into a premier resort in the middle of the desert under the young burning sun. As the Dark & Day try to mend their fractured history, Al Jebra will be the host to the first World’s Fair!
When it comes to a fantasy setting, it’s easy to forget how fantastical architecture can be. Something like this immediately appears dark and gloomy, but this far into the distance, we may not be able to see well-lit city streets glowing through a green haze.
Legend of the 5 Rings serves as its own system separate of Dungeons and Dragons, but in the past, they’ve had crossovers and players were able to visit Rokugan. For fans of old samurai movies, running a short campaign with Asian inspired culture can be a lot of fun and a different take on medieval fantasy.
Large cities definitely play a role in campaigns, but unless the main focus is interacting with day to day business like in Waterdeep or Ravnica settings, they almost seem like a waste. What I tend to do is focus on hamlets and thorpes as my adventurers travel and keep major trade centers rare. These smaller towns can be their own villages, refugee camps, or even the remains of a now-defunct noble family estate.
Keep an Eye Out for Inspiration
No matter the type or setting of your campaign, there’s always artwork in the world that can inspire you. You may even use your experiences with towns outside of your own to dramatize their best aspects into a fantasy realm. Now is a great time to play as more and more players join online gaming communities.