Urban Prairie
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Basic Information

Urban Prairie is the terrain that forms in a city after buildings have been demolished and the area has fallen into disuse. This is generally considered to be a modern phenomenon, but in fact could have been observed in medieval Rome or late period Constantinople: both cities that had fallen so far from their peak population that they had productive farmland within their walls.

See Also

  • Dead Mall - a former shopping mall often found within urban prairie.
  • Detroit - this city is particularly famous for this type of terrain.
  • Ghost Town - when an entire community is slowly reclaimed by urban prairie.
  • Liminal Space - boundary areas between civilization and the wilds.
  • Post-Apocalyptic Decay - a timeline of how things break down in the absence of mankind



Game and Story Use

  • Urban Prairie makes it possible to use much of the same imagery prevalent in After The End campaigns.
  • Just because there is no longer much visible evidence of human habitation it doesn't mean that there are no remains left. Perhaps the former inhabitants have left secrets lurking below the ground…
    • This is particularly congruent to the many fantasy settings which have medieval cities with extensive sewer systems of the sort that the real world only developed in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century. Most fantasy settings are post-lapsarian and it makes perfect sense for the primitive "modern" city to be built on top of the underground infrastructure of a fallen "city of the ancients".
  • Good for emphasising how far a civilisation has fallen when your PCs enter the "city of the ancients" and find that their own people are living like nomads and squatters, surrounded by wilderness in what was once a city.
  • Early Runequest material included a city that was stuck, limpet like, to the outside of the wall of a much larger city of a fallen nation, now reduced to monster haunted ruins.
  • Equally, you could posit something like the Pelennor Fields of LOTR - an area of fortified farmland adjacent to a city, that looks weird until the PCs (if not their characters) realise that it all used to be city … the modern urban area is just a single district (say, the port district) of something once much larger. Thus a set of strange, discordant walls around mostly open fields with a few large buildings that are all that survives of the original city.
    • This really happened - early medieval Rome and post-conquest Byzantium both are reported to have had agriculture going on inside the city walls on areas that had once been built up, but had since become (literal) urban prairie.
  • There's a horror short story out there somewhere about a city with a whole derelict neighbourhood overgrown with kudzu (the problem actually being with the things that live in the kudzu) - but the idea of a derelict, massively overgrown area is worth pinching.
  • Urban Prairie is the perfect environment for bizarre new animal behavior to develop. Animals that had once been chased away by humans, then learned to live and prosper at the edges of our society by eating our scraps and refuse, who are now in danger of dying off since their main source of food has dwindled. This may lead to beneficial mutualism partnerships between species, or alternately to fierce competition and natural selection pressures fueling rapid evolutionary changes. Creatures that had previously been skittish around humans may become more aggressive or even become man-eaters out of desperation. (For an example, see Aggressive Squirrels Terrorize NYC Residents.)
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