City on the Shoulders
This is a map I made when I was 20. Some parts of it are geologically improbable or have evolved in another direction in my mind, but it’s still close enough to indicate what’s going on.
This game is set in what we’ll call the New World, where halflings, gnomes, and orcs are the indigenous cultures and elves, dwarves, and humans (in that order) are settlers from the Old World. More information about that in the Cultures article.
Just west of center on this map is a circle with the letters “Gn.” Above that are three hill symbols. The ancient city of Axlar is in more or less the area of the northeastern hill, though in fact what we should be imagining is a pair of particularly wide, high, and rocky hills set close together. To give an even better clue as to what it looks like, the word “axlar” is the Old Fevarell term for “shoulders.” (And “Old Fevarell” is the pedantic GM term for “Modern Swedish,” but that’s literally neither here nor there.)
Given the halfling predilection for living on the flat plains and the gnomish love of hills and valleys, the reason why either of those groups—much less both of them—took such a fierce interest in this particularly high and stony place has been lost to time. Perhaps it was of military interest in another nearby border skirmish. Regardless, contention over the city became a time-honored tradition. It has changed hands between the halflings and gnomes many, many times and has grown very large.
For the last hundred years or more, there has been relative peace in this area. The gnomes have all but entirely withdrawn from Axlar, and the ruling families are halfling. A strong middle class of humans and elves have also moved in, which may account for the shift toward neutrality. Everyone is trying to look to the future instead of to the past.
At least, that’s the story they tell upstairs. But it’s a well-known fact, if seldom spoken within the walls of the city, that Axlar has the highest crime rate in the New World.