Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The City named Garden

Garden city is a setting I created specifically for a type of early modern fantasy game mixed in with psychic, occult, and alien elements. It was greatly inspired by Into the Odd, Goblin Punch's own Eldritch Americana setting, and also Blackgate (an erotic gay furry VN), and it's basically a 1 to 1 copy of that premise.

Unlike many of my other settings, Garden city comes from a special place in my heart because it is built off a feeling. When I was younger I sometimes suffered from some (very minor) insomnia. I would take walks outside in my gated community, and when I went for midnight drives to get food, I would get a certain feeling of comfortable nostalgia from the darkness of the city, combined with the electric lights. This feeling is what I want Garden to feel like. Electro-swing is its anthem.

If you take anything from this post about Garden's setting- get the feeling of a life being a trickle instead of a river. Unlike our world where there is a great surge of activity and then a quiet night, Garden is mostly a quiet night with small bits of activity constantly. Since it's always night, you'll always have some shops open and some closed, some couples laying out under the unfamiliar stars and some people sleeping in black windows above you.

Lost Souls
Everyone not native to Garden was lost. Maybe they got lost on a dirt road, ran through a sewer or crawlspace, just fell asleep in a foreign country on a park bench and then they ended up there at Garden. The first thing they realize is that it's always night time in Garden, and about the second thing they realize is that Garden is FULL of goddamn aliens.

Humans are just one of myriad of species in Garden. There are humanoid animals, demonic looking creatures, discolored and bumpy forehead people, twisted objects brought to life, crustaceans and invertebrates, walking amoeba, and things that defy even these descriptions. Every single species that calls Garden home had a world before, which had a sun that is now gone. Sun worship is popular in Garden, as a lost or waiting godling. The messiah is a sunrise. Some even believe touching someone with a sunburn when they come to Garden as good luck; because nobody here can get one.

Half the people of Garden are instead native. They look as their parents do, but have never felt or seen the sun. Their eyes are slightly bigger and darker, with pupils better adapted to the darkness. Finding a mate in Garden can be challenging, since you have to find a member of your species of the opposite sex, but plenty of people adopt or have loving childless interspecies relationships too. Many people are “married” to their job or gang instead, spending their time wearing a threadbare fedora and smoking a crudely rolled cigar filled with strange plants that grow in moonlight.

In the dusty old shelves of the city's oldest libraries, the most delicate tomes written on the most crumbling of leaf-bound parchment, you can sometimes see stories of the founding and first “settlers” of Garden. Surrounding Garden is a massive forest of huge trees, that grow and sway even in the total darkness of this land. Within this forest of trees are monsters, wild beasts, sand traps that swallow people whole, and many other extreme dangers. The people who first ended up in Garden had to stick together to survive, huddling around campfires and building candle-lit houses high in the trees.

Then the legends get fuzzy. There are words about a “deal” and a “compromise”. Roughly half the population of the first settlers split off from the Garden city founders- these later became the Torchlight Society. The Garden city-slickers that remained gained access to electricity, and were able to finally begin building a (relatively) safe and happy city. It brought with it industry, hovering cars, warmth, and most importantly electric lights against the darkness.

The city grew and grew, more and more districts were added to the outskirts, chopping down trees in the outer limits of the city, never straying from the electric floodlights. Building up multi-floored apartments, squat condos, Kowloon-walled city style hives, or even larger manors and family homes in suburbs out of all kinds of scavenged and reused materials. Almost any kind of city structure from history you can think of is present here- from dusty old mainstreet looking western towns, confusing cobblestone mazes like rainy old london, modern suburb grid based homes, highrises and shanty towns. Some parts barely even look inhabited, but you can be sure it's lit up.

Despite all this urban development and the ever growing number and resources of Garden's people; the darkness outside the city is ALWAYS a threat. The monsters and things outside the city do not supernaturally appear within its borders, there must be a line of black for them to follow inside. No boogeyman is going to appear in your closet at the highrise you live, but more then once a person living on the outskirts of the town opened their door and saw a window ajar or back door open to the forest beyond the city, and they simple turn around and leave and never return. If the lights ever go out in a district of the city, bad stuff comes out to play and people panic. That's why everyone in Garden's gotta be armed; and they love their guns.

Garden is a true melting pot of a society. With so many different races, ideologies, religions, and people forced to live together merely for survival things have to stay flexible. The entire city could be best described as a sort of urban wild west, things tend to almost be anarchic at times but with a strong libertarian bent. If you can make it, sell it, and keep it then you get to have it. That doesn't mean there isn't justice; the concerned citizens of the city employ “Enforcers”, the lawman of the lawless metropolis, but each part of the city essentially rules itself, as long as you've got the money and guns.

Parts of the city are communist, parts are fascist, parts are theocratic. They all bow to the power of arms and the power of the dollar. Particularly headstrong old ladies can rule their tenement complexes, with gang leaders ruling city blocks and corporations sometimes co-opting entire boroughs. Some of the most stable powers in the city are the casinos and big factories; most things in Garden are hand made but the few things that aren't, like the scrap metal bullets and pork products from the pig yards, are worth a lot of money to the people who make them. And all that money glows in the dark.

There is a strong pioneer spirit in Garden. Everything is second hand and recycled. There are all kinds of abandoned subdivisions, factories, complexes, mental hospitals, nature preserves, and even sinkholes in the city that are ripe for scavenging. Most people dabble here and there, but the real juicy prizes are guarded by psychic infused monsters, bloodthirsty wildlife, territorial gangs, and even creepier things in the dark. People leave those places to the Sweeps- professional building clearers and adventurers armed with scrap metal chimney guns of their very own. ie; The players.

As far as technology, Garden is totally scatterbrained. People arriving to the city if they got lost in a vehicle may do so in an old kerosene clunker, a gasoline guzzler, a hybrid, a hovercar, or even something stranger from their home world. All depending on the technology of their period from their own world. These cars are sold off or stolen, especially to shifty liars that severely underpay the car owners to chop them up for scrap. Nobody actually drive these cars here in Garden, hover cars are far cheaper- tapping into the power grid is essentially free and it's not like there is any gasoline in the ground here anyway. Technology beyond this seems very stuck in a 1920s-esque period. Land-line phones, movie cameras and record players, but no computers or televisions.

Everything is hand made in Garden, especially the guns. Some mafia dons have suits of power armor for their best guys or a robot butler powered by springs; but all this stuff has to be maintained by hand. There are no replacement parts except what you can make yourself. With that being said; there are a few factories in this place, especially to sell some basic common supplies like canned food, soda pop, bullets, and really cheap cigarettes called sparklers that sometimes shoot off sparks at the end just like the firework; usually the person smoking one of these spits it out and burns off an eyebrow, getting a few laughs at his expense from his buddies.

But where does all this material come from? Much of it comes from outside the city by way of migrants. Sometimes a garbage truck gets 'lost' and ends up in the city, filled with things to scavenge. Sometimes people find an old burned out airplane crash or dead guy just outside the city limits; as though on its way here but failing to make it the last leg of the journey. These are ripped apart and sold. Many parts of the city are old and abandoned, all it takes is to crack open one dusty old basement filled with crumbled old pie tins and the whole city's need will be filled for months.

Gunsmiths of high quality are especially prized. People in Garden value their weapons very highly, and despite the ammunition being mostly mass produced aside from a few rare and valuable special bullets, the guns themselves are scrapped and bolted together from old roof paneling and tin cans. High quality gunsmiths can take these pieces of shit and make them automatic shotgun shell spitting death machines- some even work with explosive launching devices capable of blasting apart the paper thin walls of the tenements. If you're a Sweep; it's in your best interest to be on good terms with these artisans.

All of the above has only just started to touch the surface of the true strangeness of this place. The stars in the sky go by without repeating, no race in the city notices any that match their home constellations. The entire place is crawling with ivy and animals and trees and green grass lawns; but all exist without a sun. Garden is very much a living city- and despite being filled with all kinds of escaped farm pigs and ring-tail lemurs roaming the streets at night (since it's always night). The plants just seem to grow on their own accord. Some people in the city have created their own indoor farms to grow a few imported plants using special light bulbs; but that's one of those rich luxuries, actual sunlight plants.

For seemingly no reason; the nighttime conditions or other strange power of the city seems to 'awaken' the psychic ability in many of the residents. Ask around; different people from different worlds have different tales of this sort of things. In some worlds, like our own, psychic powers are largely considered a shadowy myth that some believe but are not proven. In other worlds psychics are a rare but very real part of their societies. In yet others, there has been NO belief in psychic powers, but even they can sometimes awaken strange powers. Psychic users in Garden usually gain a single power that develops along with them; some can start fires or manipulate electricity, some can move objects, others have supernatural senses or can read minds. Some become a “God-Child” that can seemingly manipulate any facet of reality in increasingly severe and permanent ways until they lose it and hole themselves up in a building, changing the dimensions within every room and every resident, morphing the rules in there to some hellish paradise in their mind.

Underneath the city of Garden are service tunnels. They're white walled, usually clean, and always dimly lit with lights. They criss cross underneath the city, most installations have access to them, and many apartment buildings have a door to one in the basement. Strange thing is, no single company or organization can attest to building all of the tunnels down here. Here and there most have done some maintenance, added a few doors or tunnels, ran wires down a length to a new subdivision of the city, but there isn't record of where many of the tunnels come from. They even seem nonsensical sometimes; between two large office buildings under the city will be a tunnel with a locked door off to the side. Brightly lit and locked, leads to a fully stocked and abandoned office; nobody has a nameplate here, as though it was just built and nobody uses it yet.

Also down here are the Lockers- along the hallways and in the side rooms. These lockers are always locked, but curious sorts who break them open find items within. Snowglobes, boxing gloves, pictures, strange coins, weird looking tools and organs in jars, even guns. Some theorize these are the lost 'items' like how people get lost to the city, but these items are never “normal”. They often have supernatural abilities, or enhance psychic abilities and are a collector's dream to get their hands on some genuine locker loot. But these tunnels are not safe. There are things down here, shifting invisibly along the walls, attracted to noise. Men in white cleansuits and masks, old women sweeping the hallways with long brooms. Breaking open the lockers is the fastest way to get noticed down here; and end up dragged away to a tunnel nobody has been down before, never to be heard from again.

And what about the Torchlight society? There is no known colony of people or beings beyond the walls of Garden, except for them. The Torchlighters live out in the forest, digusted by the city's electric lights, somehow having found a way to live with or around the scary stuff out in the black woods. They very rarely trade with Garden residents; sometimes giving away scraps of metal found in the woods or rare foodstuffs that the Garden residents don't have access too. Sometimes they are “at war” with Garden and instead attack with bombs and bullets of their own, but always supported by some of the tamed monsters of the wild. They always try to take out power lines and plunge a neighborhood of the city into darkness to do maximum damage.

And besides all that; nobody knows where the fucking electricity comes from.

1 comment:

  1. Somehow reminds me a little of Midsummer Nights Dream crossed with Portal.