Investing In: i’m sorry did you say street magic? part 2!

“iʼm sorry did you say street magic is a game about building a city: filling it with life and vivid detail, exploring its hidden corners, and meeting its strange and wondrous inhabitants. It was designed to be played as a single-session game, but it can also support multiple sessions of ongoing, continuous play. iʼm sorry did you say street magic is played without a game master or facilitator, and can comfortably accommodate two to six players, though it works best with four or five.”1

Last time I introduced i’m sorry did you say street magic? from Caro Asercion. My friend Rich got us together to complete what’s normally a session of playing the game as we hadn’t done any events yet, or even named our city! I thought I’d share our process with the example city a bit more as I think this is a game that’s fun for any to invest in (har har) but also could be helpful for city or world building for any game you want to play!

I had mentioned last time how we realized it would be great to play a game in this city we were building, using something like the Cypher System from Monte Cook. It had also made me think of the FATE system for Dresden as well as your table builds Aspects for locations, people, etc. However, I could see this being used for D&D, Pathfinder, Urban Shadows, etc. It’s particularly valuable if you’re staying in one location but you could do it for every new city or area your game is planning to visit!

Quick recap, my friends and I had determined our city would be: fallen, layered, and spectral. We’d created an underwater city, built on a trench, with a vertical aspect toward the surface but also down to vents and buried, ancient technology below. Our residents could be merfolk-like or simply water breathing; I think I’d mentioned Final Fantasy X in that way. Of course some residents were sentient octopus or crab-like. Lots of special details to support diverse peoples, varieties of life, and even trade with surface dwellers which is where the Foundation-stage neighborhood of the Tethers had come from where flexible elevator like tethers with air support allowed those merchants from the surface to reach the highest area of the city.

A Compass Shows Us The Way

Next it was time for us each to perform a Compass round, which culminates in an Event. The compass is an abstract theme, short sentence, or otherwise exploratory subject that we want to focus the round upon. Each player then gets to wander the city (i.e. create a neighborhood, resident, or landmark in a neighborhood) before the original player who declared the compass sets up an event. Let’s use my compass round as an example.

Compass: The Relics Guild

We’d spoken of various guilds working throughout the city, for example the Gardeners who maintained the Swaying Fields area I mentioned last time. I created a Landmark to support this called the Neon Bazaar in a neighborhood that we’d already created called The Depths. Landmarks, as you may recall, have an address and a true name. The address can be abstract so I used: around the bottomless vent. I imagined and described a neon bioluminescent set of stands made from old metal or small caverns all set around a central vent at the bottom of the trench that daredevils might sometimes try to swim across. The vendors there sell ancient metals, found relics, etc. while watching to see who makes it across the bottomless vent. Problem is, sometimes that vent sucks down anything immediately over it!

We created another Landmark as part of this compass round called: Assessor’s Row. This address was around the outer ring of the Neighborhood of the Tethers. It was where the Arbiters would set prices and values for various relics scavenged below. It’s where diplomacy and bartering would happen between those who worked, scavenged, even adventurers in the Depths. We imagined our more charismatic player characters would spend time here trying to get good prices for found goods. We also imagined just outside this area dangerous thieves might be watching, waiting to strike…

We created one more Neighborhood called the Ceiling as well. Now technically we did this out of order, or rather I did, as last time I’d created the Landmark of the Swaying Fields before having a neighborhood to put it in. Well this would solve that.

Neighborhood: The Ceiling

Reputation: easily forgotten, always growing, the common individual, risky ne’er do wells taking chances, a gateway to the depths

True name: day to day labors, exchanging black market relics, it all seems so boring, away from prying eyes

Now we knew what that floor of the ocean would be called where the vertical structure met those built into the depths. It’s where the common person might live, especially farmers or hunters, as well as those working on materials from below. We also felt this was the best place for an adventuring story to begin as black market exchanges might happen here in a tavern or out amongst the seaweed of the Swaying Fields.

Events are What’s Happening!

Finally it was time to have an Event! An event has a Name, a Summary of what happened, a Voice of the City from each player, and then a culminating new perspective from the original Compass / Event creator, which in this case was me. Voices of the City could be a question you pose that are meant not to be immediately answered (maybe later in an adventure), state an option some in the community might have, or show a consequence of what this event did to impact the people/city. It could even alter the city! I created the night of the bottomless blowback there in the Neon Bazaar!

Event: the night of the bottomless blowback

Summary: one night while the Neon Bazaar was busy, the bottomless vent blew out and up instead of sucking things down, projectiling a number of oddities, materials, and even a person who’d gotten sucked down the night before!

Voices of the City:

Mike: Things can come out of the vent!? I’m going fishing…
Rich: Did somebody cause this?
Rob: the ones above all and the arbiters wish to install a mechanism to collect that which might project out of the bottomless vent

New perspective: some people of the Depths believe that maybe the ones above all orchestrated the blowback to able to impose new regulations on the Depths and control relics coming out of the Neon Bazaar

I envisioned one night where that bottomless vent shot out a number of things including a person who’d been sucked down the night before after risking a swim across. We discussed how it was quite a surprise. I like how Mike positioned the possibility that maybe now some community members try to fish items out while Rich opened up the idea that maybe this was made to happen with his question. I decided the so-called leaders at the top of the city were now mandating there had to be a mechanism to catch that which might come out. And ultimately we felt that this would lead to suspicion of those in other areas of the city possibly creating this event to impose new rules and regulations, somewhat based upon the voices we’d created. It sets up a lot of new activity, political intrigue, possible adventuring for a game to explore or at least that was our intent! We know the people trading at the top want to controls what’s being found at the bottom, where those who live there have now increased power, wealth, and influence. A little chaos and strife can lead to a number of possible quests, avenues of play, and help frame the perspectives of at least some in the city.

We each performed a Compass round but knew we couldn’t create a city without finalizing a name. We decided upon Eonglass for an implication of time, the shape of an hourglass for some vertical perspective, but also how up and down could change as you flip it. We liked the glass aspect from a material perspective and like how this harkened back to our three aspects of fallen, layered, and spectral. One of the most recent events actually saw a human-like eye machine or magical entity appear that is roaming the city, watching, providing an even greater haunting feel to the spectral nature of shift sands and peoples in the city.

If you’re looking for a city-building game, a gm-less game, or a creative way to build your world with your players, then I highly suggest you invest in i’m sorry did you say street magic?

Investing In:

I wasn’t quite sure what to name my article series when I first started but the idea of showcasing or discussing things that make me excited, that I find new and interesting, or maybe I’m otherwise passionate about seemed to fit with the idea of Investing In something like the Pathfinder 2E mechanic. To use some magic items you have to give that little bit of yourself, which helps make these things even better. I like the metaphor of the community growing and being strengthened in the same way!

I also want to hear what you’re Investing In! Leave me a comment below about what games, modules, systems, products, people, live streams, etc you enjoy! You can also hit me up on social media as silentinfinity. I want to hear what excites you and what you’re passionate about. There’s so much wonderful content, people, groups (I could go on) in this community of ours that the more we invest in and share, the better it becomes!


Banner I’m Sorry Did You Say Street Magic? inside cover, game by Caro Asercion, art by Shannon Kao 

  1. about this game excerpt, I’m Sorry Did You Say Street Magic?, Caro Asercion
  2. starting a new game banner image, I’m Sorry Did You Say Street Magic?, Shannon Kao
  3. wandering the city banner image, I’m Sorry Did You Say Street Magic?, Shannon Kao
  4. tips, advice, miscellany banner image, I’m Sorry Did You Say Street Magic?, Shannon Kao

Rob Pontious

You may know Rob Pontious from Order of the Amber Die or Gehenna Gaming's first series of Monster Hearts 2. He currently writes Know Direction's Investing In blog as well as a player for the Valiant podcast and Roll for Combat's Three Ring Adventure. He's been a lover of TTRPGs for over three decades, as a gamer, and a GAYMER. You can find him on social media as @silentinfinity.