Preface to the Platinum Edition of 'City Builder'

Michael O. Varhola

Following is my author's preface to the revised, updated, expanded, and re-illustrated Platinum Edition of Skirmisher Publishing's "City Builder: A Guide to Designing Communities," for which we are currently running a Kickstarter campaign. We hope you will check it out and consider backing it if you have not already! 

In 2007, I started working with Gary Gygax, creator of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game, on an exciting project for the Gygaxian Fantasy Worlds series called “Essential Places.” It was the fourth project Gary and I had worked on together and the second title I authored for the series, which was published by Troll Lord Games. Sadly, it was the last project I would work on either with him or for the series, and when Gary died in 2008 it died with him and I was left holding a large manuscript that I had already been toiling away on for more than year. It was, in fact, large enough to be two books, and the 70-or-so general descriptions of “essential places” it contained were the basis for what eventually became my Skirmisher Publishing’s City Builder: A Guide to Designing Communities

City Builder, a system-free guide to designing communities that could be used in conjunction with virtually any roleplaying game, or even as a writer’s guide or interesting read, was immediately well-received by the tabletop gaming community and went on to become Skirmisher’s most successful title and a Platinum bestseller at the popular DriveThruRPG retail site. 

We designed City Builder as a resource that storytellers could use to create fun and believable communities, and interesting and compelling places within them, for their game settings. Altogether it contained guidelines for creating communities of all sorts and sizes and entries for dozens of different kinds of places adventurers might visit or spend time at, from taverns and inns to temples and guilds, organized into 10 thematic categories. 

As successful as City Builder became for us, it was still one of our earlier titles and eventually did not represent what we were capable of as a company in terms of writing, editing, layout, design, art, or access to technology. Our awareness that City Builder could be even greater than it had been was, in fact, our motivation for creating what we are now calling the “Platinum Edition” of the book and, in doing so, taking it to the next level and turning it into a publication that is representative of where we are today. 

With the Platinum Edition of City Builder we have created a dramatically improved version of the original book and upgraded it in every way possible to make it more user-friendly, enjoyable to read, and visually appealing. We have completely redesigned the book to give it a more contemporary and accessible look; have thoroughly revised all of the text, to include expanding and reediting it as necessary and reorganizing the contents of some of the entries or their places within the book; have done more to standardize entries and give them a parallel structure; have added information to entries when applicable about how they might be approached in unique ways by various fantasy races; have added three completely new entries for specific places; and have replaced the original disparate collection of images with a suite of more than 100 new illustrations that have a complementary style and give the book an even nicer and more cohesive look. 

This new edition of our most popular title is now an even more essential asset to storytellers creating villages, towns, cities, and other sorts of communities for ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, and fantasy settings. We sincerely believe that the Platinum Edition of City Builder has a place on every game master’s bookshelf and have made every effort for them to want it to be.