grew up in Northern California in a very small town. It did not have much to offer in the way of entertainment facilities, but it did have “Pacific Shores.”
The sharp-eyed among you will notice that there are many roads, but no buildings. “Pacific Shores” was a housing development put up in the late 1960s to take advantage of the lake front property. Once the first houses went up, someone noticed that the land is a sandy bog, the winds hurricane force in winter and by the way, the entire site is a wetland with endangered species…in a flood plain. Oops. All development stopped and it is now heavily overgrown.
For teenagers, the almost endless roads, dead-ends, remoteness and party spots offered endless entertainment. Think of it as my personal abandoned hedge maze that I played in as a teenager.
The reason I digress to my teen years racing around empty unfinished housing developments is the concept of abandonment. It seems like almost every role-playing game has the PCs crawling through an “abandoned” something. Sewers, nunneries, temples, monasteries are common locations. Clearly something must be causing the resident’s flight from these sites (well, not the sewer.) Occasionally, some backstory in the scenario explains the reason for the empty building. Often, it is empty because the DM said so.
My endless demand for more realism in my games drives me to ask for a reason. In modern America, the sub-prime mortgage crisis creates empty homes and neighborhoods. “Pacific Shores” faced environmental issues. Similiar forces could be at work in a game setting.
The reason I am bemoaning the lack of explanation is the cost to build all of this stuff. If you abandon a castle, you are literally throwing away millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours work. I am open minded to “fantasy” reasons, if they lost a war, got plagued or magically cursed, fine. Even pedestrian reasons like the site was too old, beyond repair or a trade route moved are all acceptable. Please, please do not have everyone leave and then never offer a rational explanation as to why. Even NPCs need reasons to make difficult choices.
Oh, I heard that some lots in “Pacific Shores” are up for sale. Any takers?
Trask, the Last Tyromancer