A layout and description of the various features of the city.
This is an Out of Character forum for the players of Etzos looking for further information about the area.
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In response to questions by Rosamond, I decided to place this additional information here for easy access. Some of the later questions will be at least partially answered by my responses to the earlier ones, but I am going to pretty much treat them each as if they stood alone.
These kinds of details aren't anything I'm going to go to any great effort to scrutinize and enforce in threads, but it's true that having them detailed helps visualization. And that can only serve to help role-play. So here goes:
The city is located on a flat plateau on top of a hill. In the valley below, at the riverbanks, there may be docks for the kind of boats that are flat enough for river traffic and come there to load and unload goods to or from the city. There is maybe some buildings where goods can be stored temporarily, maybe some homes too, maybe some fishermen and small boats. This is part of the farmland plains. Is it so?
Okay, the whole layout of the city is circular. Perhaps a hundred yards beyond the outermost boundary of the "Outer Perimeter" housing and barracks on the west side, runs the Southwood River. There is a mill/drawbridge/barbican structure over it, as it is the shallowest part of the river. This is made up of several stone structures on both sides of the river, all situated to provide archery support to each other in case of attack. Because it is possible for hostile forces to ford the river at other locations, both north and south, there is a wall around both complexes. More about this location can be found in the "Outside the Box" section, under 'Southwood River Mill'. The "barracks" mentioned there are not the main army barracks located in the outer perimeter. They are just to house the troops guarding the mill specifically. There are no homes around this base, nor is it truly part of the farmlands. If one traveled a quarter mile or so, due west from the Mill, they would run into the very northeast corner of what is considered "The Farmlands".
There’s several avenues up to Etzos. There’s no trees on the slopes, only stone and low vegetation. There’s also no houses on the slopes. Is the city built exclusively on the flat top plateau ? Is it built as five flat “floors”, like flat discs stapled on each other, and you go up/down to the adjacent floors on stairways and/or ramps?
The Outer perimeter is lower than the city proper, and was never carefully leveled to be entirely flat. But it is pretty much flat throughout its circumference. The ramps are at an incline that rise from the outer level to the ward level, a difference of maybe eight or ten feet. Both the ramps and the ward level itself are bolstered by stone bulwarks along their edges to prevent erosion from either weather or traffic. The wall around the outside edge of the ward level rises an additional four feet for defense purposes. The different rings of the inner city are all on the same level.
A traveler would first arrive to the perimeter. There’s no wall around it. (The wall comes on the inner side of the Ward ring. The perimeter is an open city area, and it’s totally flat. Is it built with a systematic layout, with well-ordered streets with pavement on, cobblestone for example, and no randomly winding streets? Or is it not meant to be imagined this way? Perhaps simpler streets, sand, mud, a more of an organically growing maze?
I would not go so far as to call any portion of the outer perimeter a "maze". It follows the same circular pattern as the city proper, each row of housing units or shops following the same concentric pattern. It is only hard-packed earth, with shops and homes having stone foundations or flooring. Some of the paths between units waver a bit off the perfect track of the ring, due to some unit's needs for larger areas, or extensions to the initial units. The housing areas tend to be the most evenly tracked areas, with the Citizens Market and Outer Crafting Zone being the worst.
I imagine the timber and adobe houses to have dark/tarred timber and natural brick colors in red and terracotta hues, or possibly the brick is sometimes covered with grout and painted. How do you think of the timber and brick houses?
I imagine the pure wood houses may be on the simpler side, made of planks. I don’t know if they are grey, colored, or dark brown/black due to tar. How have you imagine them to look?
Okay, I'm going to have to defer to player creativity here. There IS such a thing on Idalos as "Tanwood", which is the most prevalent kind of commercially-used wood. As one might guess, it is tan in color. Adobe can vary somewhat, depending on variable mineral elements in the mud used to make it. But for the most part, adobe tends to be beige-ish in color. The Housing Committee may well have people out there customizing homes for citizens, PC and NPC alike.
If you notice the background I use for many of my text boxes, it is a reddish-colored, fluted, stone surface. This was intended to represent a common color theme for the city of Etzos. So it stands to reason that most of the homes are tan-colored wood, or reddish-beige adobe. I have mentioned in some texts, the occasional departure, where a brick or stone structure may sit among these repetitive patterns of wood and adobe. There also will be breaks in this pattern where homes or shops have been painted to make them more easily found and remembered by locals.
And I’m wondering if the houses are built in rows or stand-alone. It would make sense to me if the timber and adobe structures would more often be rows, but the wood houses would more often be stand-alone due to need to prevent fire from spreading from house to house. Don’t know if the two types of houses are built all over the areas or if there’s different sub-areas with different houses.
There are never more than two wood units in a row, often broken by the inclusion of only a single adobe unit. But the presence of even this single adobe unit will help keep fire from spreading too fast. Efforts have been made from day one to alternate wood and adobe both within rows and laterally as well, the homes in the adjacent rows being deliberately lined up to hem in wooden units with adobe ones. This tendency is consistent throughout all the outer zones. So you end up with a sort of checkerboard tan and red/beige pattern.
How many floors are the houses in the perimeter? How broad or narrow are the streets? And what’s the height difference up to the ward ring? Are the rooftops of the perimeter below the ground of the ward ring? Is there a slope between the rings, or is there kind of “a vertical wall”? Are the “discs” (or floors) of the city stone terraces "carved" out in the hill, or are they huge constructions built of stone?
For the most part, housing in the outer perimeter is low-cost, and therefore, single-story. I mentioned an 8 to 10 foot difference in level between the outer and ward rings, the only slopes being the ramps themselves. The rooftops are nearly level with the ground level of the ward ring, but as stated above, there is a four-foot wall atop the bulwark around the edge of the ward ring. Also, the gap between the closest ring of housing units and the wall of the ward ring is wider than the gaps between rows of houses. This is to prevent attackers from trying to jump from the roofs of the outer perimeter to the front edge of the ward ring. Housing units are 20' x 20', and the gaps between them are approximately the same. Any variation in unit size encroaches on the gap between, rather than giving cause to add extra space.
There no slopes or stair-step structuring between any rows of houses, or levels of city. The height difference between the outer perimeter and the Ward Ring is a deliberate defensive feature beyond anything anyone could call a stair. It forces attacking armies to approach up the ramps, making them a killing zone, both from the neighboring wards and the Gate Towers at the tops of the ramps. The Circular wall sections inside the Commercial Ring, and the actual towers of The Citadel are all of stone construction. The material used to build the many shops and high-cost homes within the city vary greatly, and feature a wide variety of colorful, tactile and architectural design features.
I’m under the impression people can enter straight into the perimeter, and although there can be soldiers around and random checks on new arrivals can occur, there’s no regular control; you can just continue in via one of the ramps. Is it really just to enter the perimeter, no guards, no control? Or have I misunderstood this?
While any stranger CAN walk right into a outer area from the wilds beyond, one can only enter the city at the Great Parhn Gate on the west side. The other gates DO give access to the city, but are kept locked and do not allow entry without a signed or accompanied recommendation from a recognized authority. This does not mean only some politician or high ranking guardsman. It can be a known merchant or social figure. It basically means there must be a recognizable figure vouching his responsibility for the person being granted entry.
I don’t know how the ramps up in between the perimeter blocks and up to the Ward ring are meant to be imagined. Are they are simply broader outdoors streets and you can move freely from (example) the people’s market into the south-west housing area and from there over next ramp to the barracks? Or can the areas only be reached via the Ward ring?
I would guess you've got a pretty good idea by now, but just to be sure, the ramps are about twenty feet wide and are at outer-perimeter-ground-level out the furthest reach of its zone. Moving in toward the Ward Ring, they rise steadily to a height of 8 to 10 feet, which is ground level of the Ward Ring. The fluctuation in flatness of both the Outer and Ward Rings account for the variation of this height difference. What this means is that if you stand beside the ramp at the outer wall of the Ward Ring, and walk toward the far edge of the Outer perimeter, by the time you get halfway there, the ramp will be 4 or 5 feet high. It is only this height obstacle that infringes on a citizen's freedom of movement between outer zones. there is no law restricting this. It's simply that most people would choose to walk the extra hundred feet or so, rather than climb over the ramp at a 4 or 5 foot height.
I’m wondering if there’s any vegetation, weeds, patches of grass and low bushes, climbers on house walls, potted plants, gardens? There’s also a tent shop and I’m wondering if this means tents can be set up in the perimeter.
There are many empty housing slots in every quarter of the housing zones. Tents can be freely erected in these locations, as long as they remain unclaimed. However, knowing that the tenants are not paying a housing charge, roaming guards consider complaints by these "squatters" to have the lowest priority. And knowing this, many thieves and miscreants consider them the most convenient targets. Someone with a tent can pay half the normal housing charge to receive equal status as a regular housing tenant.
Many housing units are constructed in anticipation of sale or rent, and no one is allowed to live free-of-charge in one of these units. These units tend to have flora around them, due to lack of foot traffic. Any tenant is free to add floral decoration to their housing slot, inside or out. But outside vegetation where occupancy is dense does not generally last very long.