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!