I hadn't planned on posting today. I had a tough day lay-off) and spent my time doing other, more important things. However, as I peeked over some of the Bloodsand Arena material that previews the Wizards of the Coast's Dark Sun setting, I thought about life and death in Caldera.
In the Dark Sun world, life is cheap. No one cares if you live or die. I realized that Caldera is different. I believe the city is a bit schizophrenic about the issue of death. On one hand, two million people are crammed into a city, stacked like sardines, so violence is a fact of life. On the other hand, the government has a compelling interest in increasing the city's population.
This got me thinking. If population growth is a primary concern, the senate would do everything in its power to combat those things that attack a city's population growth: disease, malnutrition, violent crime, fires, and exodus.
I recently posted an article about dwarf sickness, a disease unique to Caldera. The city is constantly stricken with all kinds of ailments, normal and magical. These ravage the city population. A terrible plague can wash over a city and kill a vast number of people.
The senate funds the temples to research divine magic that can cure diseases. The temples sponsor clerics who go among the sick, helping them.
In general, Caldera has enough food for its people. There is sufficient farm land around the city to provide basic needs for everyone. There's a grain dole for the poorest. The problem is getting the food to the people who need it most. Evil gangs intercept food deliveries and extort the citizens.
The senate deputizes adventures as police to protect food silos and shipments from gangs and monsters (especially giant rats).
While there are many complicated laws prohibiting and punishing criminal acts, the senate has been unable or unwilling to fund a proper police force. There's a long tradition of justice requiring the plaintiff to drag the defendant to court. That is, the aggrieved party has to do the policework.
Recently, the senate has started deputizing strong adventurers to go out and bring the worst criminals to justice. Before this, citizens would hire adventurer types to serve as bounty hunters. This still occurs, especially when a noble house wants swift justice.
Especially in old cities like Caldera, fires are a huge threat. Either by arson or accident, a fire can spread quickly in a city so densely packed as this. Most of the city's buildings are made of stone but they contain a great deal of wood and other flammable materials, and even stone burns.
The senate has established a system of fire squads and preparation. Firefighting in Caldera is very dangerous due to the presence of elemental fire created by magic. This fire seems to have an evil will of its own. PCs might be hired to serve on a firefighting team.
The simplest way a city loses its population is by exodus. That is, conditions get bad and people just leave. This is not easy to do in Caldera.
Centuries ago, the city's government made it very difficult to leave the city. Only trusted mercantile citizens come and go as they please. It is easy enough to get into the city. To get out requires having the right papers.