Tuesday, November 2, 2010

City Generation - The Factorium

Welcome back to our continuing series on creating city districts for the fantasy campaign The City of Lives. Today we examine The Factorium, manufacturing center for the City.

So, what do we know from our brief mention of the Factorium back in the "districts" post?

  • It's the center of manufacturing
  • It's the center for tradesmen and traditional crafts
  • Mostly lower-classes live there.
Okay, so what logical conclusions can we come to from there?
  • Kipmen, Grate-Scratchers, and Rurals will dominate the population, as tradesmen and, especially, workers in the factories. There will be some Dead-Blooded and some Iversdotters, but this, by and large, isn't their most comfortable area.
  • In management positions will be Iversdotters and Pariahs, well-used to running things in their cultures.
  • The factories will mostly be owned by the upper-class Sky-Carvers, Sons of Light, and Prometheans, but some will be owned by entrepreneurial Iversdotters and Pariahs.
  • The atmosphere won't be filled with conventional smog, since they won't be using conventional manufacturing methods (more on that below) -- but the air/water/earth may be affected by the intense magic use.
  • Do people have physical or mental reactions to a magical atmosphere? Allergies? Psychosis? Illness? Positive effects -- increases strength or intelligence? Do they gain mutations? Strange abilities? None of these questions are ready to be answered, but they're interesting to ask.
  • There are few residents in the Factorium. It's mostly a commuters' district.
Religion: Due to the prevalence of lower-class workers, the Factorium's religion is much like Clovenmouthe's -- simple but devout belief in the Light.

Government: The Factorium is essentially an extension of the noble Houses' territories in Sylvennis and Council Heights. Each factory is owned by a noble House (or occasionally an Iversdotter gang or Pariah family), and they control the surrounding are with their own rules and enforcement (see Sylvennis). 

Culture: The Factorium is extremely stratified. There are the owners, the managers, and the workers -- and the independent craftsmen, who are completely removed from the industrial manufacturing system. None of these pieces interact much with each other -- managers deal a reasonable amount with both workers and owners, but the others are very isolated.

Though the City of Lives is at a fairly low technology level (approximately similar to 18th century Europe), their near-ubiquitous magic allows for industrialization, just in a different manner.

Hmm. I'm running out of material. Well, let's start brainstorming. Now, this district is inspired by the mood of factory districts in 19th and early 20th century London -- think The Jungle. However, the conditions and mood will obviously change to reflect the magical nature of the City's industrialization. There is no steam or coal power, or complex gearwork machinery. All of the power and "mechanization" will come from magical energy and techniques. So, let's take a look at some examples of other fiction that have examined fantasy industrialization.

Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura: A fairly obscure computer game, with a terrible, buggy gameplay, it is nonetheless an incredible, well-thought-out portrayal of a classic Tolkienian fantasy world going through an industrial revolution. However, it's not terribly useful for our purposes, because it paints a dichotomy between magic and science (one will not work in the presence of the other) that does not exist in City of Lives. Also, the industry in Arcanum is not magically based, but identical to that in our world -- steam trains, revolvers, coal power -- with the exception of fantasy details like the oppression of orcish factory workers instead of African-Americans or Irish. So let's look somewhere else.

Eberron: Word has it that the D&D setting Eberron features this idea, with advanced magic turning the city of Stormreach, among others, into an industrial-era city achieved without the actual use of science. However, I'm not really familiar with Eberron -- any readers want to let me know more about it?

Jade Empire: This video game features an Eastern take on the basic concept -- steam technology combines with magic a fair amount. However, besides golems, the actual social and industrial ramifications aren't explored in the game. Hmm. Golems -- fantasy robots, essentially, working tirelessly and helping the industrial revolution along -- I shall consider the possible place for golems in the City.

Perdido Street Station/The Scar/Iron Council: One of the initial inspirations for the City of Lives, the city of New Crobuzon and the world of Bas-Lag are aggressively non-Tolkienian and strange. Specifically for this topic, there are considered to be three main branches of science: physics, biology, and thaumaturgy (or magic). Seen as no different from other types of science, New Crobuzon melds steam technology with magic without seeing a difference between the two. Aside from the fact that Bas-Lag's pure technological level is higher than the one I want for The City of Lives, it's a pretty perfect model. However, I can't think of any specific inspirations to take from it for the moment.

Avatar: The Last Airbender: An extremely high-quality animated series about elemental magic, kung-fu, and reincarnation, this is probably going to be the single most useful source of inspiration for the City's industrialization. Avatar shows no high technology, and yet parts of the Earth Kingdom and almost all of the Fire Kingdom look very similar to Industrial Revolution-era Earth in certain ways. In the city of Omashu, Earthbenders capable of controlling dirt and stone created massive tracks, similar to those for a train or tram, and then magically move stone platforms along. In the Fire Kingdom, it goes even further -- ships apparently coal-fired and automated are, in fact, run by Firebenders creating flame magically instead of shoveling coal. This is a fair model of what the City of Lives will look like. The specifics are different, but...

I see an assembly line where the items move along by a Forceshifter levitating them through the air instead of using a conveyor belt; where Wildshifters carve wooden objects from tree trunks without a single seam; and where Relicshifters attach metal pieces with mystic energy instead of bolts or welds. Instead of moving crates with forklifts, Bloodshifters become inhumanly strong and simply carry them. To put a box on a shelf, Wildshifters command plants to wrap it in vines and carry it upwards; or Worldshapers lift the ground itself to reach; or Skyshapers lift the box in a miniature tornado; or Forceshifters levitate it, or Realmshifters teleport it.

Transporting goods or people across the City is a matter for horseless carriages with Relicshifted force moving the wheels; or drawn by horses modified by Bloodshifting to require only two hours of sleep and a handful of feed to work tirelessly 22 hours a day; boats travel the rivers propelled by Waveshapers acting as mystic gondoliers; Skyshapers and Forceshifters fly the rich through the air over the City; and the very rich can even be teleported across the City or even the Realm by Realmshifters.

Well, I seem to have gotten a wee bit off topic... and also gone over my word limit. For now, I shall leave you with these images of a city run on magic and yet eerily like our own history, and we shall come together again next time as I examine the middle-class residential area of Corhurst!