Community - Basel GURPSified

By The Literate Programmer, Mon 28 November 2016, in category Gurps

Community, Fun, Gaming, GURPS

FNORD The super secret group of GURPS bloggers has decided on a "community" theme for this week and while I've had a hard time coming up with a good idea, I think I've finally found one.

Basel (2016 C.E.)

Population: 175'000 (Search +3)

Physical and Magical Environment

Terrain: Woodlands
Appearance: Attractive (+1)
Hygiene: +0
No Mana (No Enchantment)

Culture and Economy

Language: German
Literacy: Native
TL: 8
Wealth: Comfortable (x2)
Status: -1 to 5

Political Environment

Government: Direct Democracy, Municipality
CR: 3
Military Resources: $4.6M
Defense Bonus: +0


Basel lies directly on the border with Germany and France, and some of the nearest villages across those borders are arguably already suburbs of Basel. There is a large contingent of *Grenzgänger*, people who cross the border to work in Basel while living in France or Germany.
The Rhine flows right through Basel, all the way up to Rotterdam, where it ends up in the North Sea. The port is the only cargo port in Switzerland and accordingly important for trade.
Several pharmaceutical companies of world-wide influence have their origin and headquarters in Basel, which makes Basel a center for pharmaceutical research and brings a substantial expat community (~30% of population) to the city. The university of Basel, established in 1460, is the oldest in Switzerland and has an accordingly well-stocked library. It's not the only institution of higher learning, however, with various specialised institutions and research societies in and around the city.
Basel has also been the site for various international treaties and conferences, from the Council of Basel in the 15th Century to the Basel Accords on banking supervision.
While most people speak German, almost everyone knows at least some English. All the Swiss people had French classes in school, so even with French one can probably survive in Basel.
However, the *actual* language spoken is Basel is the local form of Swiss-German. German speakers will not generally understand Swiss-German, though those from directly across the border might. In the Alsace, which was part of Germany for a long time, a similar dialect is still spoken by some people though it is becoming rarer.

Well, that was an interesting exercise. Most of the various parameters were easy to figure out and apply, though the terrain was a bit tricky, as was Wealth. I figure that Switzerland probably mostly qualifies for Comfortable wealth in GURPS terms, though. On top of that, Basel has been doing pretty well in terms of income and has a comfortable budget, so even within Switzerland, the city is doing well.

Summarizing highlights for the notes was thankfully easy, as there are several points that make Basel an interesting adventure location. For example, Paracelsus1 worked at the University. He was an astrologer and alchemist with rather radical (at the time) views on gathering evidence by observing nature. He is credited as the founder of the Toxicology as a field of study, which gives player characters plenty of reasons to interact with him.

Similarly, the various international meetings that took place in Basel are fertile ground for intrigue and assassination attempts. Or perhaps it's the Zoo2 that's more important, as its breeding programme is one of the best in the world. Another thing that might be relevant for gaming is the physical size of Basel. At 24km2 or just over 9 square miles, Basel is really small for its population. Getting anywhere is quick, whether on foot or by public transportation - which is excellent as in the rest of Switzerland. The worst option might be a car as there is a perpetual lack of parking space in the dense3 city. The inner city is even closed completely for car traffic now!

In a more magical campaign, the city is likely to contain several places of power, due to how old its university and some of its churches are. Perhaps it even began in Roman times, when there was a fortified camp on the hill where the cathedral now stands, making the place truly ancient. The university has several spell books, which might well turn out actually possess power, and the Egyptology department is very strong, which is certain to interest magicians.

For completeness' sake, I should probably mention that Basel has an airport. Although, well. The Euroairport Basel-Mulhouse is actually entirely in France. There isn't much space around Basel to put an airport elsewhere.

  1. Full name Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim. Mhmmmm, delicious over the top-ness. 

  2. Oldest in Switzerland, apparently. 

  3. 7'300/km2 or 19'000/sq mi, which is denser than Tokyo!