Recently, I stumbled over a photo of a location in Thula, Yemen showing some steps I had seen from other angles in the past. But this angle was the one that finally took my breath away. I did a bit of digging to discover the photo was of a fort restoration project. I'll credit it as it was on the place I eventually located it, ArchitectureWeek.com
. Bookmark this website in your inspiration folder, if you have one. If you don't have one, start one today with this pic and location. A quick search online will help you find other angles, as I knew from before, and soon you'll have a full location that can be fictionalized for your game world with a center piece that will be very memorable for your players. Give it a new name, place it on your map, and populate it with the people or creatures you imagine reside there.
Thula Fort Restoration, in Thula, Yemenby Abdullah Al-Hadrami, Sana'a, Yemen Photo: AKAA/ Cemal Emden
As you can see from the photo, these steps wind and switchback multiple times leading up the side of a cliff face. Climbing these steps would be largely under the scrutiny of anyone looking down from above. You can just imagine someone explaining how he wanted a fort upon the heights and the engineer's first reaction being pleased that he'd be gainfully employed for the rest of his life, and his descendants as well. His second reaction being, "We're going to need a way up there, some steps maybe."
But your version of the location need not be like that. Notice that the photo above is practically cut in thirds, the upper right corner showing the sky and valley below with the town. It would not be all that tough to take a photo manipulation program, snag the lower left two-thirds portion of this photo and place it over the top of another photo of a more desolate valley. Cliffs and tors jut out of the ground most anywhere. You could have a dense forest below or place this by a seaside. Whatever suits your world.
Any location can be described as having a fort. It's easy to simply say that there is a cliff with a fort on top of it. But taking the time to find a few pictures online, if your descriptive skills are scant or too heavily taxed from a long week of work, is a fine shortcut to bringing a location to life for your players. Whatever it takes to get you to the top.
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