Wednesday, March 31, 2021

40 Minute Settings- Heap

Heap is a shithole. It's like a garbage dump of different worlds. Once the technology to create portals becomes wildly available to a civilization, they will naturally start to throw away all their garbage. At first it might just be nuclear waste, plastics that never degrade, that sort of thing. But pretty soon they'll dump their normal litter and garbage away, and then it's only a matter of time before the excess population gets dumped too.

It happened to Earth, but it has happened to other places too. The world gets crowded. Over populated. People start to want to look for a better life. At first they don't even have to trick people, just give them the option. Keep the communication between the worlds as sparse as possible. Nobody ever comes back of course, that's the point of a depopulation program. They're told they can go here for a better life, a fresh start. Meaningless bribes like the removal of all debt or allowing them to breed again in eugenic societies- genetic dead ends are dumped in Heap like any other cesspit. Soon after, refugees from oppression and wars will go there, and punishment for crime will include permanent relocation.

Heap is a nexus of many worlds. Humans are there, as well as the pig-like Azon and the enigmatic Phissy. All these species and more have ended up opening stable connections to Heap, and all of them used it as a trash can. Heap is a world littered with garbage. Cities were built here, but the canals between them are filled with sewage. Huge sinkholes filled with trash have becomes the main scavenging locations for the impoverished residents. Heap is filled with high rises and micro apartments. Nobody who lives here has much of a choice, so the landlords have a field day. They can charge pretty much whatever they want- it's either that or go live like one of the many millions of homeless vagabonds digging through trash.

Heap's People
The many species who live in Heap do so because they were either tricked or forced to come here, they aren't usually happy about it. Getting sent to Heap is almost always a one-way ticket. Nobody is allowed to come back to their homelands without special connections or an insane bribe, and everybody in Heap is living hand to mouth. Well, almost everybody.

Heap is a world of urban decay. The place was falling apart when they built it. Now it's much worse. Cracked pavement and falling apart infrastructure are the norm. The water and lights mostly work, but it's expensive and spotty because you can never know when somebody will start siphoning it off your building. The canals are how people get around now, airboats are the luxury sports cars of Heap. People living here are hard scrabble. They dress in stolen rags, usually plucked from a corpse of somebody who tied slowly of toxic poisoning from the air and water. They work whatever filthy jobs they can. Certain outreach programs have given jobs to the area, but they're busywork at best. Painting garbage to make it look nice to anyone flying overhead, underwater canal welders, a few factories. Those who work in the health clinics (and whorehouses) can make a decent living. But of course, owning anything is an invitation to be robbed.

Most people work odd jobs. Garbage scavengers, growing food in the gutters, and petty theft are how most people get by here. One of the most controversial careers is those who work for the landlords. The eviction officers. You don't even get paid for that, they just slip a copy of the keys in your box and you force the tenants out. You get first dibs on whatever they have. That's what Heap is like.

Heap has grocery stores, spas, hardware stores. It's a normal “civilized” place. You just start to notice that all the doors and windows have bars on them. Armed guards patrol the stores from catwalks- ready to shoot shoplifters without a trial. Everything is just so slightly out of your price range. Everything's a bit dingy and faded. Most things here a recalled from the “real” world out there, the place you can't go back to. You don't think you've seen a tree since you came here. You could try calling the police if something bad happens, but you know they won't come. That's what life is like.

Heap's Technology
Heap is a place where many alien races and cultures have come together. It seems that everyone who has developed portal technology has about the same overall level of technology, but with different specialties and off shoots. Humans ended up being really good at computers. The bug aliens whose name nobody can pronounce have incredible body modifications. Drugs are a Heap specialty- it's a home grown thing here. Only way to design stuff that can make one species high and another one not dead is to have a LOT of hands on experience.

Guns are also made in this place. Often modified or hand crafted, making bullets is one of the most stable and good forms of work in this miserable place because of how much they are used. Not a night goes by when you don't hear gunshots- you just hope it's not in your own apartment building. Turf wars by the gangs or grudges being settled are more then enough to keep the bullet factors working all the time. Everybody with anything to defend in Heap is strapped.

Those who need to fight for a living in Heap- mobsters, eviction agents, people on the run- they need special help. Guns aren't enough. Instead, they turn to the special methods. Their bodies are sliced open, alien doctors sowing the ligaments back up with little chips inside. These are morphs. Imagine someone putting a flamethrower in your arm, powered by your blood. Now imagine what kind of daily routine and diet you'd need to keep to both avoid dying and to keep it in working order. Morphs are unique, special enhancements people put in themselves. It's as much of a burden as it is a gift. All of them show signs of it on the outside.

Those with morphs to spit fire or acid have burns along their arm- most put their morph in their non-dominant hand, as to keep their good one for punching or shooting. Ice morphs are cold, of course. Morphs that turn your body into a hive for insects or leeches are very nasty, but very effective in the closed environments where fights break out. Heap is an artificial environment, it's not like people have easy access to bugspray. Some morphs are put into the legs, chest, eyes or other parts of the body. Some people have urban travel morphs- their legs are skinless, bulging with muscle, which must be massaged and bathed in salt every day or else they'll start to cramp and probably sever an artery with how hard they'll spasm. In return for this sacrifice, you'll be able to jump a few stories- right up to your mark's window. Why not? It's not like you have a long life expectancy here anyway, what with the pollution and toxic air.

Hope for Heap
Heap is a bad place. Everybody here is on edge, racial tensions run high. Nobody likes the greedy landlords and everyone thinks everybody else owes them something. It's kind of rough. But even with all that, there is life growing up from the gutters. Kids (god forbid) play in the gutters sometimes, under careful eye of their parents. People have barbecues; sometimes the smell of alien cookery wafts into your window, and it smells good. Sometimes the pie guy wheels his cart outside your building. Damn, that guy is great. He carries a shotgun under his cart and can fire bone spurs from his head under his chef hat but he's the nicest food-cart guy around. The graffiti on the walls is beautiful. This place is filled with artists and musicians, exiled from their worlds because their art wasn't worth enough in capital to keep them in a place that wasn't the garbage pit. But sometimes this garbage pit isn't so bad.

There is of course, talk of revolution. Some want to destroy Heap, return to their home worlds, break the portals and force their people to take them back, or better yet, stop the cruel march of progress that is forcing people to the Heap dimension in the first place. Some people talk of a socialist revolution in Heap itself; taking all the property and giving it to the average citizen, instead of to the rich landlords who don't even need to visit this smelly dimension to get their checks. Some just think we need God here, or charity drives, or just hope. Maybe we can have hope. But hope needs to be defended with more then just words.

Author Afterwards
This world of mine is based on a few concepts. The idea of Heap peeked out at me when I was thinking about my home setting Garden again in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps if I could go back in time and change what I thought, I would have made Garden into what Heap is. Heap to me is the more grown up, better, more fully fleshed out version of Garden. But I can't just abandon Garden, it's got too much work and love put into it, but it's a bit silly. I think making Heap a sort of prison or outside place that is better explained in why it exists helps with the feel a bit.

The idea behind the Morphs and Heap in general came from Bioshock. One of my favorite games. I think this version of a “magic system” is a little better then the psychic stuff from Garden, but that's just a gut feeling, not idea how it actually looks from the outside. I also love the sort of dark and dingy modern life aesthetic seen in a few places, like Paratopic or any Puppet Combo games. I don't really have much else to add here- Heap is a sort of vague idea on my mind and I decided to write it up using my 40 minute setting format. Hope you enjoyed it, there might be other projects involving Heap in the future, it's gripped me in ways that I didn't expect.


  1. Question: have you watched / read Dorohedoro? Because you just more or less described its setting and it'd be wild if that was convergent evolution.

    1. Yes. (I watched it after. I was surprised too.)

    2. Actually that's a lite. I DID come up with the idea for Heap before Dorohedoro, but the name I made up after I watched the show. I specifically remember being made that "Hole" was taken now because it's a really good name.