This City From Above

This City From Above is a GMless Hexmapping game about the life of a city…

You can PWYW for this title on DriveThruRPG or, or download a free PDF here. To get early access to monthly games, support me on Patreon.

This city is a place of connection, of fractious discourse, of potential.

Each day a million different events may occur; some which go unnoticed and others that change the face of this place completely.

Sometimes the smallest of moments can have the greatest impact.

Hexmap, with numbers 1-20 scattered across it

The River

Start with a river. Going clockwise from the last person to put their feet in a river, ask each player to roll (or roll 4 times) to plot the route of the river through the city. Draw lines from the first and last points to the closest edges of the Hexmap. To locate a Landmark, Scene, or the course of The River roll a d20 and refer to the Hex numbered on the map. When this is done, give your River a name.

Factions, Schisms, Unities

Each player should come up with Factions that inhabit the city, until there is 1 Faction per player or at least 4 factions.

Next, take it in turns to pick Schisms that divide the factions and Unities that join them. Go around the group until each Faction has at least one Schism and one Unity with another Faction. These can be foundational and serious,             or nonsensical and incredibly petty. Use the list below or make up your own. Expand on the Factions’ histories as a group.

  • Philosophy
  • Class
  • Religion
  • Fashion
  • Marriage
  • Cuisine
  • Music
  • Morality
  • Industry
  • Territory
  • Art
  • Succession
  • Jingoism
  • Cleanliness
  • Power
  • Education
  • Literature
  • Injustice
  • Pride
black and white image of various gentlemen in top hats and coats looking grumpy


Take it in turns to pick a Landmark prompt and roll a d20 to place it onto the Hexmap until each player has picked 2 or you have 8 Landmarks on the map.

Expand on the Landmark prompt to give it a name, then decide what form it takes, why it was placed there, and what it means to each Faction. You can use the same prompt more than once.

When you have placed all your Landmarks, give your City a name, then begin creating Scenes.

  • A place of worship
  • A place of nature
  • A place of commerce
  • A place of justice
  • A place of memorial
  • A place of solitude
  • A place of industry
  • A place of creation
  • A place of sanctuary
  • A place of laughter
  • A place of performance
  • A place of inspiration
  • A place of honour
  • A place of mercy
  • A place of injustice
  • A place of deliberation
  • A place of healing
  • A place of silence
  • A place of solemnity
  • A place of reprisal


Scenes are vignettes of life in The City. No matter how small or inconsequential they may seem, they can shape the course of The City’s future in ways that their participants could never imagine.

Take it in turns to generate scenes. Scenes should always involve the whole table and at members of least two Factions, drawing on Schisms and Unities and the established history of The City.

Roll a location for your Scene, then decide on a prompt – roll on the table, choose or come up with your own.

1A missed connection11A great proclamation
2An illicit purchase12An exchange of information
3A show of force13A moment of clarity
4A conferring of wisdom14A betrayal of trust
5An act of kindness15An act of faith
6A meeting of minds16A passionate affair
7An uncovering of secrets17A moment of revelation
8An act of violence18A timely intervention
9A valuable deal19An unequal trade
10A declaration of love20An artistic collaboration
anthropomorphised animals wearing fancy clothes


If you’re struggling to frame scenes, then consider using these optional rules for focus. The focus of your scenes can be one of the following, or a mixture of the three as you move in closer to the action.

TOP-DOWNFor setting the scene where we see the city as a whole before the scene begins or view an area from a long way off
3RD PERSONFor describing crowds groups more intimate views of locations or quickly covering events
1ST PERSONFor describing individual actions engaging in dialogue or discussing individual thoughts or emotions


Sometimes, a Scene may hinge on a specific moment that needs a resolution. In this case, work out which Factions have the most control in the Scene by dividing a line from 1-20 between each Faction involved. The more of the line that a Faction takes up, the more control they have. Next, roll a d20. If the result of the roll falls in a Faction’s part of the line, then the scene resolves in their favour.

woman shaving a man - he looks well shocked


After each Scene, roll on the Impact table to see what the far reaching consequences of this small event are and the Time table to see how long these changes take to occur. Once you’ve seen the impact, take some time to talk amongst yourselves about how the scene caused these changes, the snowballing of events that led to them, and the potential ongoing effects on The City and its Factions.

1-5PETTYCreate or remove a Schism or Unity
6-10MINORCreate or remove up to 2 Schisms or Unities
11-15MAJORCreate or destroy a Landmark, orCreate up to 2 new Schisms/Unities
16-19PRODIGIOUSCreate or destroy a Landmark, orCreate up to 2 new Schisms/Unities, orAdd or remove a Faction
20MONUMENTALCreate, destroy or replace a Landmark, orCreate up to 3 new Schisms/Unities, orAdd or remove up to 2 new Factions
11 Year
2-55 years
6-1010 years
11-1525 years
16-1950 years
20100 years

The End

You can choose to end the story of your city at any time or use any of the following milestones to bring your game to an end:

  • 1000 years pass
  • All original Landmarks are destroyed or replaced
  • No original Factions remain
  • No more Schisms exist between Factions
  • No more Unities exist between Factions

When your City’s story ends, take a moment to discuss your hopes for its future and your regrets for its past.