Friday, October 29, 2010

City Generation - Revels

Last time, we determined that Belltown, the former entertainment district, was an unconscious plagiarism on my part, being a Seattle neighborhood with the same specialty. Since I was already considering making Belltown a neighborhood rather than a full-blown district, this clinched it for me. As of now, Belltown is retconned as Revels, a neighborhood within Sagelights. Now that we've established where exactly Revels is, let's figure out what it is.

Revels is the main neighborhood for entertainment of all kinds:
  • theater
  • visual art
  • music
  • dance
  • prostitution
and is dominated by:
  • Prometheans, Pariahs, Leovites, Kipmen, and Dead-Blooded
Religion: Religion is not a big deal in Revels, but superstition is. There are beliefs associated with success in the theater, and things that will spell failure. These events are usually not ascribed to any particular deity, thought of as "curses" or "boons from the theater fairies."

Government: Most of the governing in Revels is done by various high-class patrons -- Prometheans making up the majority, with Sky-Carvers a close second and Sons of Light a distant third. Plagiarism is a serious crime in revels, but also a profitable business. When one theater puts on a successful play (or dance show, art show, concert, etc.), other theaters instantly find a way to copy the show -- stealing the script, recording it with Lightcatchers (magical cameras) and Soundcatchers (magical audio recorders), etc. They then reproduce it nearby, usually at a lower price. It is always a race against time for the plagiarists to make up their investment and cease production before the copyright police shut them down and confiscate their profits. Some shows have lost their official provenance, and are often the object of fierce rivalries -- and sometimes physical battles -- over who has the right to produce or display the work. 

Culture: The culture in Revels is dominated by theatricality. Art and creativity are serious business, and plagiarism is a serious crime (see Government). Fashions are fantastical and over-the-top, inspired by theater costumes, and often daring in terms of both propriety and the "rules" of fashion.
Examples of fashion:
  • Promethean Harlequin: A jester's motley with cloth interspersed not with alternate colors, but bare flesh, and an illusionary flame in the mouth.
  • Explorer Chic: Lots of leather and rough fabrics -- a stylized version of rough-and-tumble explorer-wear.
All kinds of art are popular, from high-class to low-brow. Some of the most popular:
  • Theater: Tragic romances, screwball comedy, adventure stories (with more action than would be possible without magic).
  • Musical theater/Dance: Epic opera, Broadway-style musicals, ballet, jazz dance.
  • Visual art: Abstract sculpture, hyper-realistic painting, multimedia performance art
  • Music: Baroque orchestral, rock-and-roll quartets, throat-singing
Here, I was looking for seemingly unrelated and paradoxical artistic styles, emphasizing the openness and strange esotericism of the City. I do consider giving things a little more of a theme, as most cultures gravitate towards a particular style of art during a particular period of time.

Prostitution is a matter of course in Revels, from streetwalkers to escort services to long-term sexual "leasing." There is no shame in the profession, practicing it or partaking in it -- though this may not be true once the client returns to their district of residence. Sylvennis, Council Heights, and Templedowns in particular take a dim view of prostitution.

The Thousand Tastes 
Description: Prostitution, orgies, sumptuous feasting
Theme: You can get anything you want here, so long as it’s filthy
Aspect: Desires Unbounded
Face: Rebec lev-Shivrael – Leovite Madame Willing to Sell Her Girls Out For a Solu

The Cup-and-Ball 
Description: Low-rent whorehouse catering to the lower classes
Theme: When you’re here, you’re slumming… no matter who you are
Aspect: Filthy in More Than One Way
Face: Leopona Bofia-per – Pariah Madam Will Protect Her Girls Even From the Big Boys

Nox Theater 
Description: The biggest theater in the City, center of opera, dance, and stagecraft (literally)
Threat: A Niontian [sentient, evil shadow] is hiding his dark murders backstage
Aspect: Sumptuous Pleasure Hides Dark Secrets
Face: Predjan Ziljovije – Grate-Scratcher Theatrical Manager Without a Dramatic Bone in His Body

Thanks for coming to Revels with me. Next time, we'll head to the Factorium, the center of manufacturing for the City.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

City Generation - The Crux

Last time, we took a look at Solura, the financial district that took some of the defunct Tradespoint's characteristics. Now we'll examine the Crux, the center of tourism and travel -- and now that Tradespoint is gone, trade. What do we know about the Crux?
  • The center of Crossrealm travel.
  • A lot of those operating, if not residing, in the Crux will be Outlanders, visitors bringing goods from other Realms.
Okay, what comes next?
  • Crossrealm trade, travel, and tourism dominates the economy.
Let's lay out a few of the notable species of Outlanders that spend a lot of time, energy, or money in the Crux:

  • Emerald Wavedancers: Non-humanoids from a water Realm, the Wavedancers communicate through chameleonic patterns on their skin.
  • Fractal Elves: Beings from the Far Realms, who exist in multiple worlds at once in a complex, beautiful – and often deadly – state.
  • Holoceners: Near-humans who have no civilization or technology to speak of, but whose raw Crafting talent is unparalleled.
  • Ma’ar: Realmshifting six-legged sentient “big cat” marauders, in a cross-world conflict with the Shertasi.
  • Memes: Sentient thoughtforms transmitted by speech and thought, infecting their hosts. With host bodies from dozens of Realms, Memes require a large variety of foodstuffs and other support, so the crossrealm trade of the City is perfect for them. 
  • Nethermen: Claiming to come from the mythical space between the Realms, nethermen are perfectly human in their physique, but cannot understand a world as stable and immutable as ordinary reality. Their tendency to walk into walls is amusing, but casual murder (expecting the victim to get back up the next second) is less so.
  • Niontians: Hailing from the lesser Chthonic worlds, Niontians are living shadows who live by a code of deceit.
  • Notional Construct: Sometimes an idea takes physical form. Pure and elemental in their world-view, notional constructs have a tendency towards fighting.
  • Scarcity Merchants: Far-Realm beings able to manipulate reality and give a customer exactly what they need -- but charge bizarre and arcane prices, like your sense of humor, one hour out of every week, or the gender of your first child.
  • Shertasi: Realmshifting twelve-foot reptilian humanoid imperialists, in a cross-world conflict with the Ma’ar.
Religion: All kinds of belief show up in the Crux -- monotheism, pantheism, atheism, humanism (or more properly, sapientism), and so on. No deity reigns supreme, not even the Light, and the Crux has a number of churches and temples second only to Templedowns. Religious tolerance is higher than anywhere else in the -- if a Crux trader or tavern-keeper turned away clientele based on religion, they would have no customers. In fact, it is from the Crux that some of the City's most popular "cults" have arisen: Kivian Taoism, Practical Theosophy, and the Church of Lies, to mention but a few.

Government: The City's official authority has little influence in the Crux. The Centrum Guild, who manage all inter-Realm travel, also police the district. Their job is unenviable, having to maintain different techniques, prison cells, etc., for Outlanders with inhuman abilities or psychology. For example, Fractal Elves may inadvertently kill dozens as their form shifts through the Realm, or a Netherman might cause gross vandalism, uncomprehending the permanent nature of their actions. Should these beings be prosecuted? If so, how would you imprison a creature who is only partially in our reality and could walk out of prison simply by shifting their weight, or punish someone who has no concept of regret? The Centrum Guild's enforcers must answer these questions, over and over and with innumerable variations.

Culture: The Crux is a melting-pot of innumerable cultures -- every bloodline in the City, along with travelers from Realms both near and far. Because of these mixes, nothing is taboo in the Crux -- it may not be to everyone's tastes, small fringe groups may actually protest or enact violence -- but in the main, anything from monogamy to group sex to ritual sacrifice is acceptable in the Crux (so long as all participants are willing). Food of all kinds appears on every street corner, including many things a human would not recognize as food -- or sometimes, even recognize as physically real, and the same can be said of music, and art forms. There is painting, and then there is Holocener Airbrushing, living sculptures of swirling wind; there is song, and then there is a Memetic Tonal Rondeau, capable of rewriting a listener's mind in whatever way the singer chooses; there is theater, and then there is Ma'aran Hunting Drama, in which the audience becomes part of the chase -- with a significant portion of the theatergoers doomed to be caught and eaten for the entertainment and edification of the others.
For the edification of the readers -- after all, this is meant to be a backstage look at something coming together -- the Outlanders came first. A couple -- the Shertasi, the Ma'ar, the name, at least, of the Niontians -- came from previous work of mine, adapted for this use. The Memes and Fractal Elves came from popular culture (Memes: Pontypool and others, Fractal Elves: drug culture and the idea of multidimensional beings a la Flatland). The Emerald Wavedancers, Holoceners, and Niontians came from wanting to create beings that didn't fit into the traditional "elf/dwarf/halfling" molds, while the Nethermen, Notional Constructs, and Scarcity Merchants came from a desire to go even further, into Realms (pun intended) seldom seen in fantasy roleplaying.

Then when working out the names and basic concepts behind their religions and art forms, I started from something real (Taoism, Theosophy, Rondeaus, audience participation theater), and gave it a twist -- from simply the name (I still don't know what makes Kivian Taoism different from regular Taoism), to the form (living wind sculptures) -- and tried to get inspiration from what little I know of the cultures I've just established (the Ma'ar are obsessed with hunting, and the Memes propagate through language).

And finally, I've always been intrigued by the idea of how law enforcement deals with things distinctly outside the norm, whether in comic book worlds filled with superheroes, to alien worlds, to fantasy worlds filled with magic -- hence the difficulties the Centrum Guild faces.
I have just discovered that Belltown is actually a real place -- a neighborhood in Seattle, that specializes in music and entertainment (but, unlike the City's Belltown, not prostitution). This is the last straw, that tells me I should reclassify my own Belltown as not a full district, but a smaller neighborhood (or neighborhoods) within other districts. Plus, it needs a new name. And thus, next time, join me as we venture into the neighborhood Formerly Named Belltown!

Friday, October 22, 2010

City Generation - Solura

Last time, we finished out examination of the slum Clovenmouthe. Today, we venture across town to Solura. What do we know about Solura?
  • The center of business and commerce.
  • Ruled by guilds and city and administration 
That's about it. Not much thought has gone into Solura yet. Let's flesh it out. 
  • It'll be a business district, with little to no residences.
  • It will be dominated by the middle class -- LeovitesIversdotters, and especially Pariahs.
    Religion: The Light has little purchase on Solura's citizenry -- they tend to worship the almighty solu (the citizen's unit of currency). With the large percentage of Leovites among the City bureaucracy would imply a strong belief in the Light. However, due to the status of profit and the influence of the heretical Pariahs and Iversdotters, most of the Leovites who work in Solura are unbelievers or attend church only occasionally. However, the precepts of Pariah philosophical thought are very influential, such as the following:
    • Learn all you can, but only share it with your family. 
    • Family first, profit second, all else a distant third.
    • Enter into a contract cautiously, for no contract should ever be broken.
    These ideas have been adopted (some say perverted) away from their original purpose, with most companies and guilds in Solura orienting themselves as a "family" and demanding traditional familial obedience from their employees.

    Credit is a relatively new invention in the City (coming in over the last century or so), but it is extremely popular, with numerous guilds and companies offering lines of credit (at least, to the middle and upper classes). The City's official currency is the solu, named after Solura (and the sun), backed by the consortium of guilds, companies, and banks. The solu is roughly (and I emphasize roughly) equivalent to a dollar from about 1900 -- or about $10 currently. The solu is a silver coin with a stylized picture of the sun on it. A half-solu is a large copper piece, a 1/100 solu, or "penny" (plural pence) is a small copper piece. Solu also come in 10, 50, and 100 solu denominations.

    Government: While profit is the highest motive, it is meant to be profit for all -- the general wisdom is that if a monopoly develops, the economy will collapse. A consortium of guilds, known as the Free Association of Merchants and Businesspeoples, enforces the concept of free and fair trade, breaking monopolies and governing prices. Of course, the Free Association of Merchants and Businesspeoples  is not perfect, and powerful companies often get preferential treatment, while prices are universally set at a level more beneficial to companies than customers. Working against one's organization -- by helping another, providing information or such, is against the laws of Solura, and enforced by a private police and judiciary force known as the Contract-Keepers. The Contract-Keepers use fines as their primary punishment, with corporal punishment second, exile third, and imprisonment a distant fourth. Their first goal is always to discourage further crime, whether through fines or shame.

    Culture: The culture of Solura is fragmented and cosmopolitan. People bring beliefs from all different backgrounds, with only one defining congruence: business. Profit is the watchword, and the most defining ethical concern. Loyalty is an important concept in Solura. Some hold loyalty to their guild, some to their company, some to their administrative department, and some to the City itself -- but all are expected to stay loyal, an expectation usually enforced by ironclad contracts.

    Let's look at some interesting Locations:

    Department of Levies 
    Description: The center for the hard-working tax collectors, who never manage to get any taxes. 
    Theme: Due to poor funding and public hatred, the tax collectors never collect any. 
    Aspect: Underfunded and Underappreciated 
    Face: Eliah lev-Behary – Embittered Leovite Tax Man

    The Free Association of Merchants and Businesspeoples 
    Description: The center of the main merchant guild of the City.
    Threat: A tyrannical mercantile guild forces all traders to belong, with unreasonable fees and rules. 
    Aspect: Tyrannical Officials Crack Down 
    Face: Zebed lev-Shaluchel – Leovite Administrator With His Boot Coming Down

    Guild of Alchemists and Artificers 
    Description: Guild of non-Crafter philosophers. 
    Theme: The non-Crafters are angry at their uselessness.
    Aspect: Second-Class Scientists 
    Face: Nari Rona-per – Pariah Philosopher Resentful That Brains Aren’t Enough

    The Plentifer Club 
    Description: One of the most exclusive gentlemen’s clubs in the City.
    Threat: Class and debauchery mix – mostly cigars and bourbon, but they can set up with drugs or prostitutes.
    Aspect: Exclusivity Means No Prying Eyes
    Face: Michai lev-Cadron – Consummate Host Will Get You Anything

    Seat of Judgment 
    Description: The main official Court of the City. 
    Theme: Very little actual power (as few crimes make it here), but they make up for it with huge egos. 
    Aspect: Perceived Importance Much More Than Actual Power 
    Face: Ornurius Rallius – Imperious Judge Who Cows No-One

    Thanks for visiting the financial district with me. Next time, we'll visit the centerpiece of cross-Realms in The Crux.

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    City Generation - Thoughts

    As we move through the various district that make up the City of Lives, I constantly wonder how much it veers away from what an actual city looks like. The City of Lives is a somewhat idealized and abstracted metropolis, but I want it to ring true for the players who enter it -- if the City doesn't breathe, the entire setting is dead. Thus, the question of separation. I like the idea of a spoked city, and of district defined by dominant function -- commerce, manufacturing, religion or housing. But if the districts become too narrowly defined, they lose their realism, becoming flat, 2-dimensional characters. Just as a fictional person needs multiple strengths and weaknesses to be believable as a real person, so too must a town, city -- or district.

    The first step is to combine a couple districts with little personality of their own. Orhall was envisioned as "the guild district," but in reality, guilds formed around business and commerce. Thus, it has little reason to stand on its own, and should be folded into the likewise underdeveloped "financial district" Solura.

    Similarly, Tradespoint, while having a wonderful name, has little character on its own, and even less verisimilitude. Where is trade gathered? Where do they put the stores? Historically, in one of two places -- near the goods or near the people. Suburban strip malls are out of character for the City, so trade should be centered where the goods enter the City -- on the river at Penelope's Wharf and by the shiftgates coming in from other Realms in the Crux. I may reappropriate the name Tradespoint for Penelope's Wharf -- I don't know which name I like better -- but the district as it stands is dead, dismembered.

    The next question is if Belltown should exist as an independent district, if entertainment and prostitution should be spread out across the City, or if I should split the difference and call it a neighborhood within another, larger district. Similarly, is the university district of Sagelights big enough an idea to support 1/12 of the City? Or the manufacturing center known as the Factorium, in a society that is (mostly) pre-Industral Revolution?

    Unfortunately, I don't have answers for these questions yet... more pondering must be done. I will return, with... Solura? Tradespoint? Only time and Fate will tell!

    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    City Generation - Clovenmouthe Part 2

    Welcome back to our section on the slums of Clovenmouthe. Let's just pick up right where we left off...

    Government: The government of Clovenmouthe, such as it is, is made up of a loose confederation of Iversdotter gangs. Each gang is controlled by a single leader, a president/general known as a "Fyrste," elected by a combined vote (to winnow down the candidates to two or three possibilities) and trial by combat (to decide between the last contenders). The Fyrste periodically meet in a summit or "stevne," where they discuss the trade and political issues that affect the entire district. [Fyrste and Stevne are both Norwegian words, fyrste meaning "first" and is a term for political leader, and stevne meaning meeting].

    Small portions of Clovenmouthe are outside Iversdotter control -- mostly small neighborhoods controlled by Kipmen gangs, autonomous underground Grate-Scratcher communities, or areas ruled by one or more guilds. These areas have their own laws and governmental systems (Kipmen often arrange their citizens into packs or herds, for example).

    Culture: Most of Clovenmouthe's residents bunch together into bloodline groups, interacting with others primarily in business. Partly due to the Iversdotters' influence, Clovenmouthers value family and clan, loyalty, honesty, honor, and industriousness. Etiquette and social propriety are of a low priority -- as is hygiene. Music is popular, as is decorative pottery, jewelry, "low" comedy, street and religious theater. Clovenmouthers marry late but have a lot of children (especially Kipmen, who sometimes have litters).

    Religion: Clovenmouthe residents are, by and large, fervent believers in the Light. Their belief is simple, straightforward, based more on blind faith and trust in their local clergy than on knowledge of scripture. However, the ruling Iversdotters eschew the Light, instead practicing a form of ancestor worship, holding their own form and past as perfection, and asking assistance of their progenitor Sigurd.

    And a few Locations:

    Thewer’s Meet
    Description: Grate-Scratcher Swap Meet
    Theme: Though they have nothing, the Grate-Scratchers hang together
    Aspect: Even in the Sewer, Life Flourishes
    Face: Brezza Drasavanic – Grate-Scratcher Security Chief Looking To Keep Her People Safe
    Eagle-Shield’s Barrio
    Description: The neighborhood controlled by the Eagle-Shield Gang, controlled by Ingra Eagle-Shield Iversdotter.
    Threat: (Blood Boils Over) Constant interblood skirmishes with Kipman Wolf Whales
    Aspect: Sanctuary in the Storm of Gang Warfare
    Face: Ingra Eagle-Shield Iversdotter – Good-hearted But Ruthless Gang Leader
    The Shattered Ring
    Description: A dark, seedy tavern.
    Threat: This can be a friendly tavern or a death sentence, depending on who you are.
    Aspect: Comforting But Dangerous Shadows
    Face: Mirko Svijevic – Friendly But Imposing Grate-Scratcher Barkeep
    Thanks for coming with me to the City's underbelly. Next time, we'll head downtown to City Generation - Tradespoint.

    Sunday, October 10, 2010

    City Generation - Clovenmouthe Part 1

    Welcome back to our series on district building. So far, we've covered Sylvennis, the seething stew of aristocratic scheming; Templedowns, the inspiring/asphyxiating religious center; and Council Heights, where idealistic politicians go head-to-head with the vilest schemers. Today we'll head the opposite direction, over to the lowest-class district -- the slum of Clovenmouthe.

    Upon reviewing my posts, it looks like I have said nothing about Clovenmouthe - but a few ideas are in my head, so let's start with those:
    • It is the residence of the lowest of the low -- those unfortunates who barely make enough to scrape by, if that -- and is filled with crime, violence, misery... and, oddly enough, in some places more contentment than the richest houses of Sylvennis.
    • It is ruled by the Iversdotter street gangs, who keep safe those under their protection -- for a price.
    • The main Bloodlines present are the Kipmen (mongrels of animal and man), Dead-Blooded (part man, part undead, and hated by everyone), Grate-Scratchers (underground-dwelling scavengers), Rurals (uneducated farmers who grow plants right on their bodies), and the ruling Iversdotters (magical clones of a single woman, living in a martial society).
    So, with those pieces, what else can we derive? The first rich piece of setting I see is the idea of the ruling gangs. I see these as rather more positive than street gangs in our own world -- they have a code of honor, and honestly take care of the civilians they extort "protection money" from. But they're not saints, either -- the Iversdotters take much from their charges, sell them drugs, disrupt their lives with gang wars... It's a broken system, but the best the City has to offer these poor people. So -- since the City government must have little to no influence in Clovenmouthe, what responsibilities must the gang leaders take upon themselves?
    • Police and courts: Whether they have their own actual police force or if it is more spread out and less official, the gangs must keep order in their holdings, which means catching those who break the rules and dispensing justice. Traditionally, gang justice is swift, efficient, harsh -- and not necessarily correct, with an accusation almost always leading to a conviction. "Better safe than sorry" and "Guilty until proven innocent" are the watchwords in Iversdotter police work.
    • Public works: With no City workers coming in to fix the roads, pipes, or what-have-you, it's up to the gangs. They're unlikely to put this at a high priority, but they do need to make sure that the roads and such are up to a certain standard, or else their drugs won't get to their locations, their troop movement will slow, and their citizens will rise up in revolt.
    • Taxation: Taxes or "protection money" -- it's pretty much a matter of labels, either way it's people paying money to a more powerful entity to take care of them. And the poor of Clovenmouthe need taking care of.
    • Business and Trade: Much of this business is taken care of by the City's guilds (which I will address in the section on Orhall), but the gangs do need to ensure that their citizens are treated well enough by the guilds' businesses and factories to continue their responsibilities to the Iversdotters. Trade is highly regulated, if not in the way we might expect -- keeping an iron fist on their profit margins is the highest priority, especially when transporting drugs and weapons that might be illegal in other parts of the City or other Realms.
    • Foreign Politics: "Foreign" in this case means other gang territories, other districts, seldom if ever venturing outside the City. The gang leaders need to ensure their areas of control will not be threatened, politically or militarily, so sit-downs and summits are common occurrences -- as are armed conflicts.
    Now that we've figured out basically how the Iversdotter gangs will take care of Clovenmouthe, we'll stop here and wait until next time to cover religion and culture. See you next time, for City Generation - Clovenmouthe Part 2

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    City Generation - Council Heights

    Before we get to today's topic, let's address a question. Anonymous asks "If the Leovites are the priest caste, why are they also servants in Sylvennis? Priests are usually at the top of the social ladder." Ah, good question. Traditionally in Earth culture, priests have either been at the top of the social ladder (as per the Hindu caste system) or outside of it completely (as in Medieval European and Chinese culture). However, the priests of the City of Lives have a unique relationship with the Sons of Light -- They see them as the chosen of the Light, so the Leovites' devotion for their deity requires them to serve the sons of Light, either as priests or directly as mundane servants. This is unusual compared to Earth history -- however, I find it exotic but plausible, reflecting an alien world rather than showing inconsistent behavior. However, Anonymous, you made me think of something important: the Leovites probably would find it offensive to work for Prometheans -- who are descended from the first who rebelled against their god -- or the Sky-Carvers -- who are constantly vying with the Sons of Light for control of the City. So having Leovite butlers and chefs would be an exclusive honor for the Sons of Light, while the Prometheans and Sky-Carvers would use Pariahs and Iversdotters -- and all would use the lower classes (Grate-Scratchers, Kipmen, Rurals, and Dead-Bloods) for the lowest positions in their households -- scullery maids, stable boys, etc.).

    All right, with that question answered, let's move on into Council Heights. Again, what do we know?

    • A small but vital district, Council Heights is where the City's actual governing is done.
    • Because the mysterious monarchs the Elder Trio run the City with a policy of lassez-faire, the politicos of Council Heights have relatively little actual power.
    Okay, let's begin with that second point. How much power do the politicians have? What kinds of things do they actually do?
    • The Elder Trio, an inscrutable triumvirate of supernatural beings far beyond the power and understanding of City citizens, acts as the Executive Branch. However, the Trio is reclusive and prefers a hands-off approach to the City -- (partly) because of this, the City has no standing army or police force.
    • The High Council acts as the Legislative Branch of the City government, passing laws and raising taxes. However, I've established they have little actual authority. Due to the lack of police force, they have no way of enforcing their laws.
    • The Courts are underfunded and undersupported -- and because there is no City police force, they deal with mainly civil cases. They act as the Judiciary Branch, though their ability to change the law is dependent entirely on the noble Houses and Iversdotter gangs accepting their judgment and enforcing these modified laws -- which is by no means guaranteed.
    Religion: Faith and law are related in the City, in that its laws and foreign policy are influenced by the values and beliefs of the Light. However, there are many precepts set forth in the Light's religious writings that are not represented in City law, and vice versa. Many of the political elite are true believers, whether in the Light or simply in people -- but they always represent themselves as devout and mainstream church-goers (the minor religions have little presence in Council Heights).

    Culture: There is a constant struggle between the idealists who want to change the City for the better, and the manipulators who want nothing but power. Political machinations are not quite as deceptive or morally dubious as is Sylvennis, but it grows close -- and the results affect more of the City. A large minority of Council Heights citizens are Outlanders -- foreign diplomats and their support structure.

    And finally, a few interesting Locations:

    House Trelius 
    Description: Manor of one of the main council clans
    Threat: Warring nobility make it unsafe
    Aspect: Beautiful Surface Hides Ugly Wars
    Face: Arcadipane Trelia – Weaselly Councilor
    The Curia 
    Description: The High Council’s meeting place
    Theme: Politicians making laws and treaties
    Aspect: Perceived Importance Outweighs Actual Influence
    Faces: Arrulio Tralius Verimadis – Morally Questionable High Councilor
                   and Truccio Iovennio -- Idealistic Young Councilor In Over His Head
    House Solfidley
    Description: The home of the only Rural rich enough to buy his way into politics.
    Threat: Solfidley intends to destroy the Council and its "corruption."
    Aspect: Secret Vendettas, Hated Wealth
    Face: Arbron Solfidley -- Wrongly-Rich Revolutionary Working From Within

    Sunday, October 3, 2010

    City Generation - Templedowns

    Last time, we talked about the aristocratic district of Sylvennis, trying to flesh it out and make it playable. Today, we'll do the same for Templedowns, the religious district.

    What we know about Templedowns:
    • It holds most of the churches, including the central church authority for the City.
    • The dominant population are Leovites, the leonine priest caste of the City.
    • The dominant religion is known as "the Light." (Don't worry, I determined this between posts, you didn't miss anything. We'll go into this more later).
    Hm. Not much more than Sylvennis. That's okay. Let's flesh it out.

    Religion: Obviously, this is a big deal in Templedowns. The Light is the dominant religion - it's a monotheistic faith that worships the sun as the creator deity. The Church of the Light is mostly based on Christianity, but I want to ensure it's distinct and has a fantasy feel. Consider the Chantry from Dragon Age. Heavily, heavily based on Christianity, Dragon Age changes their prophet's gender and models her after Joan of Arc, makes their priests exclusively female instead of exclusively male, and makes the church in charge of utilizing mages (read: witches) instead of simply exterminating them. That's all that distinguishes the Chantry from medieval Christianity -- this made it immediately understandable and relatable, but kept it from feeling suitably alien for my tastes. So the Light needs some definitive differences -- let's start with borrowing from other religious traditions, to add verisimilitude (and to keep things easy):
    • The priests of the Light, known as Lightspeakers, are expected to take a spouse and continue the Light in a procreative fashion as well as proselytizing -- in the fashion of Judaism, Islam, and most Protestant traditions.
    • Lightspeakers are born, not made -- without special dispensation, any priest of the Light must be related to another. This borrows from the Judaic tradition of kohens and the Levite caste.
    • There is no single divine book, instead there are a number, with commentary from religious leaders -- again, borrowing from Judaic tradition (hmm... I think we're seeing a pattern).
    • Asceticism is seen as a sin. It is denying the wonderful world that the Light has provided -- but avarice is also punishable. The middle path, as in Buddhism, is encouraged.
    • Non-violence is a big deal, beyond Christianity's take on it. There shall be no religious crusades in the City.
    • Ambition is a virtue -- this is a notion borrowed not from any religion, but from modern secular American culture.
    • Death is a major taboo for the light. There are no notions of afterlife rewards, only during-life rewards. The religion has no official stance on the afterlife (Judaism), and death rites are considered unclean and not honoring the Light, so are passed on to secular funerary arrangers.
    A couple things I haven't seen specifically in any real-world religion (though they may exist and I'm just not aware) and want to include:
    • The supernatural is not seen to be related to religion in any way, either positively or negatively.
    • There is no separation of church and state, but nor is worship of the Light mandatory. Church leaders are encouraged, even expected, to hold important secular positions.
    There are also a few minor religions in Templedowns, mostly relegated to Cult Circle, an unpleasant little cul-de-sac that shows how the Light considers other religions in its very name. A few cults that spring to mind: 
    • The Promethean Heresy: If you'll recall, Prometheans are descended from Prometheus, who is, let's say, not a Titan in this mythology, but the half-mortal son of the Light. He rebelled against the Light and gave the arts and sciences to humanity, and the Light chained him up for his insolence. The Promethean Heresy paints him as the hero. It's mostly Prometheans, artists, and philosophers.
    • Kivian Taoism: I have no idea what this is, but it sounds cool. Presumably a variant on the Taoism we know on Earth, but as practiced by the Kivians, whoever and whatever they are.
    • Practical Theosophy: Theosophy in our world was an attempt to pull religions together and combine religion and science into a coherent whole, using each to understand the other. The "practical" implies a more hands-on approach to the concept -- perhaps these folks attempt to find gods and, well, interview them?
    Government: Let's create an opposite to Sylvennis here, and have Templedowns actually respect the City government's proper authority. Templedowns follows the laws laid out by the High Council and the Elder Trio, enforced by a police force funded by the Church. Leovites, the biggest population in Templedowns, are an honorable Bloodline, and so they are likely to be mostly law-abiding and uncorrupt -- but as the Sons of Light are seen as Chosen by the Leovites, their population gets a lot of special treatment which leads to plenty of corruption on that end. The small areas of the district that aren't associated with the Light, such as Cult Circle, are, unfortunately unprotected and undesired.

    Culture: As the district is dominated by religion, that faith permeates every facet of Templedowns culture. Church is a daily, not weekly, ritual. Prayers ring in the streets. Those who aren't priests are church caretakers, or church clerks, or have a family member who is a priest... 

    Okay, let's round off the discussion with a couple interesting Locations:

    Church of the Blinding Light
    Description: Church of the central religion
    Threat: The place of religion for the City
    Aspect: Beloved But Constricting Faith
    Face: Zias lev-Phimeon – Leovite of Great Faith and Passion
    and Theodocrita – Crackpot Who’s Right
    Cult Circle
    Description: Where the tiny religions of the City live.
    Theme: The place for the small, alternative faiths.
    Aspect: Not Too Small To Matter
    Faces: The Heliolate – Son of Light Helior Cultist Intent on Destroying the World
    and Stegdan Korcena-per – Eminently Practical Theosophist

    Next time, let's venture into the Council's territory in City Generation - Council Heights.