Let’s bring this series full circle. We started with the OSR/classic era version of the world’s oldest RPG. Today, in the last major post in this series, let’s look at how to adapt the Rainy City to 5th edition.
Choose a Background, Race, and Class
One strength of 5e as a game is the menu of big, broad, interesting decisions it provides you when making a character. The backgrounds, races, and classes of 5e provide broad strokes character concept material that can inspire a diverse range of character concepts. When you start combining them, the emergent possibilities for characterization are very rich. One of my favorite modeling games to play when prepping a new campaign is “what is an ‘elf’ in this setting?” — and the Rainy City is no exception. And the Rainy City also has its own list of “peoples” — the most populous groups that make up the city.
Let’s jam these things together and see what happens!
In my home campaign, I call elves, dwarves, and halflings the “remnant” peoples because they’re the iconic fantasy roleplaying races that are not always front and center in the city these days, where so many other diverse peoples have made it their home. The remnant peoples each still have a role to play, however!
Let’s start with the obvious. Boggies are halflings. They were halflings when I ran the Rainy City with the Rules Cyclopedia. They were halflings when I ran it with The Fantasy Trip. They live in round houses (which I picture looking a lot like big beaver lodges). Their neighborhood is called “Bog End.” You don’t need any help adapting them, other than that I would make them entirely immune to Will o’ the Wisp enchantments.
The next remnant people is the group known in the city as the “Mine Goblins,” who toil beneath the Tower Cliffs and have a goblin market in the Silver Falls Mines. It helps here to remember that a “people” need not be mapped one-to-one to a specific single race in a game like 5e. I’d treat the mine goblin people as encompassing a shared cultural mélange that includes a mix of dwarves, gnomes, and goblins. I personally tend to picture them all as fairy-tale like beardy little mine people, so I’d happily throw kobolds into the group with the same aesthetic. But if you’d rather keep the 5e look for kobolds, you could keep them separate. More iconic 5e kobolds might be swarming all over down by Wormswell in the Sump, in service to the worm. A 5e kobold would also probably make a very good Puddingman, if they went up and joined the Puddingman’s Union out of Old Town.
Elves. I’m going to include elves, eladrin, and drow here for simplicity. Most people say there is only one elf in the Rainy City, the Grey Elf, who lives in the Mids and hires “divers” (adventurers) to escort him on dives into the underwater ruins of the Grand Academy of Magick. No one knows what he seeks. But is he really the only elf? Some people whisper that the town is filled with elves, who have secret doors hidden throughout town and only move in hiding. It’s not that the Grey Elf is the only elf — he’s just the only elf people know about.
This is a great hook for one or more players, and maybe you’ll all figure out the truth (for your campaign) about the elves when someone makes one. It is a lot of fun to be the last member of a particular group left, or one of only a few. And it’s a lot of fun to know a secret that the rest of the city doesn’t know.
As to the other races? Well, one fun aspect of the city is how the turning of the seasons affects the water-breathing peoples, but 5e’s water breathing PC races tend to be amphibious. In the default Rainy City setting, only deepsies — the people who are infected by that fishy infection — can freely breathe both air and water. That provides them with a unique niche. They’re diseased, and marginalized because of it, but they have an ability that no one else has most of the year (except during the Rainy Season). This helps them get by in some jobs, and in some cases even find ways to prosper.
I’d use triton as is for deepsies.
Ok, remember when I said a “people” didn’t have to map one-to-one to a particular 5e race? It goes the other way, too — a particular 5e race doesn’t have to map one-to-one to a single “people” in the Rainy City.
Because I think I’d also use triton for mermaids and mermen.
I’d make one change, however — they have to remove their “shawl” (their tail, which becomes a shawl they can carry around) to breathe air and have legs, meaning that they have to switch back and forth. Fairy tales are filled with stories of mermaids having their shawls stolen. Personally, I’d never steal from an adventurer, mermaid or not — but then again I’m not one of the grasping, short-sighted NPCs of the Rainy City.
What about dragonborn? I think they’re the result of someone making a deal with the Worm in the Sump and not carrying out their end of the bargain. If you betray the worm, you’re cursed to take the form of a dragonborn, and the Worm still considers your debt unpaid. The Worm might also offer status as a dragonborn to someone who wants it.
In exchange, of course, for a service.
As for tieflings, they’re right at home here — the town is filled with demons, devils, and other invisible beings. Sometimes these beings incarnate for a time, forgetting most of themselves and living as a mortal. Some do this over and over, living and dying, then incarnating again for new lives and experiences. These are your tieflings (and aasimar). Also, the classic trope of a demon paramour is right at home in this town, so you can still have classic tieflings, too.
One more fun one. Gulls. The gulls of the city — sentient seagulls about the height of a halfling — are one of the major peoples of town. I’d just use aarakocra stats for these guys.
Finally, it’s a city where refugees from all the worlds and all the planes can potentially wash up. Any people of any setting or supplement could find a place in the Rainy City.
There are a lot of divine casters in 5e. What do we do with them? I talked about this same basic issue in my Zweihänder post, and the options here are similar.
First, maybe you like the fact that the gods aren’t around and don’t grant spells to priests. It’s part of the flavor of the town. Try running a 5e game without divine magic! Healing gets rarer, and the texture of the town is emphasized. The acolyte and charlatan backgrounds will take care of most of your needs for cult and religious leaders. Oh, and warlocks and bards, both of which make fine cult leaders. I would, myself, also still allow the divine classes, just noting that any divine magical powers don’t work. You might think that means no one would ever play one, and you’re probably mostly right, but I wouldn’t discount the possibility that a player might see this as an interesting hook to hang a character on. A Paladin from another world who has been separated from his god and his god’s gifts? There’s potential there. (You could also capture this with the acolyte background and fighter class if you want to use the concept without taking the hit in character abilities, of course.)
Ok, but what if you and your players really don’t want to go without divine magic? I’ll offer the same solution I did for Zweihänder — you can keep it by bringing the gods down to our size. Replace the default model of a pantheon of powerful gods with the ten thousand petty gods and demons of the ten thousand cults of Levee Town. Small, demanding, and very, very present, these beings could grant divine spells to their worshippers.
But to prepare yourself to pray and regain spells between excursions, you must go into the presence of your god, physically heading to Levee Town to pray to your diety. Maybe that sun god you worship stands on a box in Littleshrines preaching his own doctrine to anyone who will listen. Times are tough, ok? It makes him shine just a little when you stop by! Look at you. You made your god happy. That’s a good deed!
If you want divine magic in the Rainy City, petty gods and demons are a great approach. It’s a lot harder to look your god in the eye when they are disappointed with you, if you actually have to go stand in the rain on a busy thoroughfare in Levee Town and really look them in the eye, you know?
The Harmonious Chantry of Alchemists is, arguably, the most powerful single organization in the city. I think in 5e, it probably has the monopoly on training all legal artificers of every subclass, not just the Alchemist subclass. Any artificer who works outside the bounds of the organization is probably doing so in secret. The rest of this, I think, takes care of itself.
Weather Magic, the Seasons, Fire, Larvae…
Rather than repeating myself, I’m going to point you here for some thoughts on weather magic, fire and the seasons, larvae, and so on — these apply equally well to 5e as they do to old school editions of the game.
There’s a start on 5e!