Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: Country vs. City

Kord’s Balls, your boots are so last season. And your public transportation? Terrible.

Many of us are familiar with the story of the Town Mouse and the Country Mouse. It’s an Aesop Tale that has been told and retold throughout the years, with the moral being the city is a terrible place and that people should be grateful for what they have. That’s not what this is about.

Rural areas and cities always have their pros and cons, and depending on the personality of the individuals, they might be better suited for one or the other. Rural areas can offer pristine beauty, peace, quiet, good neighbors and simple living in a tightly knit community. Urban areas are generally situated in regions that are easily accessible, with waves of information, goods and people passing through.

Different volumes of people mean things like sanitation, crime, education, agriculture, transportation and other things must be dealt with differently. Committing a crime in a city could mean dealing with months of bureaucracy or just being killed by the city guards. Misdoings in the country could mean house arrest, being thrown in a cellar or being chased by an angry mob. Differences in architecture mean hiding in the city means sneaking between buildings. A rural getaway might mean running into the forest or through barns. It’s not as easy to slip away in a crowd if there are no crowds.

Growing up in a city versus the country means exposure to different things. When I visited Kentucky as a teenager I was told it must be hard to go shopping in New York City because we didn’t have malls. I thought it was a pain in the ass to have to drive everywhere because everything was spread out and there wasn’t any public transportation. A child raised in the country may have a skillset very different from their urban counterpart and a different knowledge base. Accents may differ or the names of games. A child who grows up in the country might never experience the harsh reality of a slum, while a child from the city might never fear wild animals.

And then there are the stereotypes to deal with. Villages and cities might have their views on the residents of other villages and cities but the contrast between the Country Mouse and the City Mouse can be stark. City people can be seen as stuck up, cruel, or expected to be rich. People from the country can be seen as resistant to change, superstitious or poor. Villages might feel left out of the governmental process if they are far away or welcome the distance from mercurial, non-traditional city folk. People from the city might see villagers as keeping the country back, voting for measures that keep the country from moving forward. Yet country and village must live together in harmony, all still making up a single nation. At the end of the day, the citizens regardless of where they live are all creatures with a cultural identity who want to be safe, to prosper and enjoy life.

For GMs

  • What is city life like? What is country life like?
  • What are the major cities and what are they known for by the other citizens of the region? What are the urban people known for?
  • What are the villagers known for? Are they known for being kind? Untrusting? Stupid? Wise?
  • What events or things contributed to or lead to the cities growing to the size they are now?
  • When are times people from villages and people from cities come together?
  • How many people from the villages and cities are actually born there? What kind of migration does the citizenry see?
  • What cultural differences (beliefs, foods, clothing, religions, etc) are there between the rural areas and the urban areas? Differences in education?
  • How do people get around villages? Cities?
  • What kind of infrastructure is available to people in rural areas versus urban?
  • Are there discrepancies in class in the country? In the city?

Plot Hooks

  • The PCs are all from various villages in the region and are given scholarships for a university in a large city. They are all assigned to the same room and taken on a tour of the city by an upperclassmen. When something comes up, the PCs are asked to fend for themselves, given a map and an allowance before they are unleashed upon the city. What do they look for? What do they encounter? How do the guide and the other students treat them? Alternately, one of the PCs could be from the city and asked by a teacher to take the new students on a tour.
  • When passing through a village, several parents who overhear the PCs are heading to the city are asked to look for their teenage children who left several weeks ago. The parents give them some descriptions of the children and ask them to return them. How do the PCs go about finding the kids? Are they successful? What reason do the parents give the PCs for the kids leaving? Why did the kids leave? How are they faring in the city? Are they eager to go home or dreading it? Do the PCs find all the kids at once? Can the kids all leave or have they gotten into trouble in the meantime?
  • The PCs are send to a town the country has deemed large enough to be considered a city and are sent to survey the area and the residents to decide what kinds of infrastructure and programs should be added to aid in their growth. How do the people feel about the idea of expansion? How do the surrounding villages and towns feel? How will the upgrades be implemented and paid for? What kind of work will have to be done to lay a foundation for expansion? What led to their growth in the first place? Does the government have any plans for the city, trying to steer it in one direction or another (military city, industrial, university town, trading post, etc)?
  • Every several years the country holds a series of games where every community can send a representatives to compete in the cultural games of the country. The PCs are sent to show what their village/town/city is made of. What events are they all participating in? Does their hometown have any rivalries with other locations? What do the winners get? What kind of issues come up as city and country folk gather?
  • Tourism in smaller villages is a big draw for income where the PCs are from. The PCs run one such outfit, taking groups of city dwellers and foreigners from village to village, through wild areas, stopping at important religious or historical sites. On one such tour they notice a group of city folk and overhear them planning something serious, something that could be disastrous or at least life-changing for many people in the country. What do the PCs do? Where are the plotters apparently from? Why are they on the tour? Do the PCs try to stop them?

For PCs

  • Were you born in the city or the country?
  • What kind of interactions have you had with people from different sized areas?
  • Do you have aspirations to relocate to somewhere smaller or bigger than where you grew up?
  • Do you have any views on or prejudices towards people from the city or the country?
  • What do you know about life in the city or the country?
  • Are there any telltale signs of where you are from? What parts of your personality come from being raised in the community you were in? A telltale drawl when you’re drunk? Do you constantly walk quickly from place to place?

Cities, towns and villages are so much more than the structures. What say you?

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