I have no idea why was I focussing on cities and not features in general. I guess because it made more sense that, from an island, they would travel to another point of civilization and not some random point in the wilderness. But sticking in the city is part of the problem, they do more shopping in Nidus than exploring.
|A Newhon Ghoul|
Anyway, back to cities. I think a city that feels different to be in would be a good choice. So a Sparta-like city with a lot of slaves would allow for awkward social moments where players have to interact with slaves or are mistaken for them. A very religious pilgrimage destination would work too (If the party members are some of the few non-believers around). I like the idea of a city with most of the people lepers and visiting there means you'll probably get it too.
I also think a city which is ripe to be affected by game-world changes, so the two above might have interesting developments in a plague, or invasion. I suppose any place would be affected by those kind of big changes, but I'm thinking a border city that's colonized by an empire, with foreign troops oppressing a populace, might be more likely to have "interesting" things happen than a trade center, port city.
With Zak's idea that the map I show the players is what their characters think the world is like, what would be some good misconceptions to play up?
Erroneous cultural beliefs. Maybe those cannibals really aren't. Those evil, demon worshippers are just a different religion.
Unrealistic expectations. The condition of a place is very different, more squalid than thought, or maybe a savage backwater is in actuality a pinnacle of a different culture's civilization.
Wrong scale. Distances should be off, maybe a continent is much farther away then it shows and the voyage there will prove harrowing.
Out of Date information. That would more likely affect a an old found map than the character's conception of their world. Although, I suppose news travels slow. I think I'll reserve this for my "way out." Instead of planning out of date features, my do overs can include city-erasing events that have happened since the characters have heard about a place.
The ghoul pic is public domain and a bonus to pay for the rambling.