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The Neon Hedge: Building Changeling Las Vegas
Last night we went through the city creation process for our new Changeling the
Lost campaign set in Las Vegas. We used a hybrid Microscope/Dresden Files
approach with G+. The group built some big picture elements first (some Id
already established), then the details of the city
(Persons/Places & Rumors/Questions). Each participant also added a new faction
to the mix. I think what continues to amaze me about this process is that it
greats great details while still leaving the GM enormous room to construct the
campaign as they see fit. For GMs who worry about control- Id say give it up
and enjoy the fun of building around the concepts your players craft.
New Contracts Require Action
Once a changeling has bought into a Contract set, they can purchase higher
ranked clauses as they wish. However to buy the first item in a Contract set
requires some kind of symbolic action. They can undertake a quest, seek out a
mentor who knows the Contract in depth, commune with a significant
representation of the Contracts sphere. In practical terms Ill require the
player to spin a brief narrative riff to justify their purpose- and may
negotiate some hurdles to jump through.
Special/Symbolic Actions to Bank Glamour
Each Changeling may choose one of the Contract sets as key to their identity.
They may then take actions in game to bank some extra glamour which may only
be spent on those Contracts. The most which can be banked at any time is three
points. The action take should be related and require some time. Sherris
example was taking positive and good karma actions on the part of her Ogre
Witchtooth to empower her curses. Players can develop this in play.
Keeper: The Director :D (Howard Hughes)
Hughes madness reflects his change from human to Changeling. Ambitious and
strange, he then went further eventually evolving into a Keeper himself. His
influence and attention linger in the city he built.
Dual Kiths Allowed/Encouraged
Players may choose two kiths, one as their primary and one as secondary. This
grants two distinct kith abilities. Characters who opt to be single kith will
gain some extra points for character creation.
Blasted Glass Hedge Entrance
The one of the nuclear testing sites outside Las Vegas has an anomaly reaching
from the real world into the Hedge. A plain of blackened blasted glass, still
radioactive, lies well behind military fences. It has a gateway into a sparkling
Hedge made of bright crystal, with trails strewn with broken glass. Pin-prick
glass splinters rain like snow here, making it doubly dangerous. A path to here
from greater Las vegas has not been discovered. Rumors suggest amazing secrets
and treasures hidden in this isolated place.
Accessible Court Contracts
The Courts of Las Vegas dont have a monopoly on their own Contracts.
Changelings do not have to possess Court Mantle to purchase those. Instead, they
may gamble for access to them. These still cost XP to buy, but a Changeling who
beats the house can purchase a particular set as they wish- if they win big
they may even get a discount. Changelings may possess such contracts from

multiple Courts.
Neon Elementals
The nature of Las Vegas has created a new order of Elemental, born of Neon.
Near Future 2020
The campaign takes place in near-future World of Darkness Las Vegas. The
promised year of Cyberpunk has arrived, bring with it modest changes in the form
of higher gas prices, self-driving electric cars, wearable computing, and a
fifth trilogy of Star Wars films.
Goblin Casinos
The Goblins of Las Vegas are divided into many tribes and groups- engaged in a
constant battle of rivalries and vendettas. Instead of one central Goblin Market
, there are instead many different Goblin Casinos with differing themes, terms,
and goods. Changelings have to be careful maneuvering around the Hedge of the
Strip where Hob Buskers bearing invitations dont take no for answer.
Struggle between Mages/Werewolves
Mages and Werwolves operate in Las Vegas. Theyre embroiled in an ongoing
struggle, with the Changelings who know of it wisely keeping the sidelines.
However recent rumors have suggested that both sides have been secretly vying
for an alliance with the Beasts of Vegas.
Farewell Vampires
Vampires are rare and dangerous within Las Vegas and the world at large. Some
form of Gehenna occurred at the turn of the millennium. Those very few
vampires who still exist are...something else.
Underworld Struggles
Reduced in influence by the ongoing transformation of Vegas into a corporate
wonderland, the Mafia has suffered an additional setback. They have been
infiltrated by magical creatures, resulting in a massive power struggle.
The Nature of Darkness
The process of building Las Vegas established or left open a number of classic
WoD details. Vampires, Masquerade or Reckoning, have vanished. Geists and
Prometheans exist- likely in the classic form from their sourcebooks. On the
other hand, Mages and Werewloves, while mentioned were not defined further.
Therefore they may or may not follow the classic WoD pattern (as the GM sees
fit). We do know one thing about the werewolves: theyre slightly boring and
New Facts of Changeling Life
Two Freeholds exist in Vegas, one dominated by the Summer Court. Some Hobs can
operate out in the real world for short periods of time. Fetches are mysterious
and killing ones fetch has uncertain repercussions. Travel between cities can
be dangerous for Changelings. Outside the protections of a Freehold, theyre
significantly more vulnerable to the attentions of Keepers. Entitlements are
spiritual blessings gifted by mysterious Changelings who have reached some form
of enlightenment.
Lights and spectacle. A feast of glamour and dust running from Mandalay Bay to
Circus, Circus.
Tawdry: Neon Elemental, Levinquick/Apsaras that runs Temptation, a huge danc
club. Charismatic/terrifying. :D Perhaps Monarch?

Nightsky: Theres an observatory atop the Stratosphere

Mirrored Waters: The dancing fountains of Bellagio are oracular
Moths to the Flame? The huge spotlights atop the Luxor are a magnet for
changeling rumours.
Rumor: Including that bathing in the light will grant a wish...
or make a call.
Siegfried and Roy: Changeling servants to a Beast Fae Keeper.
Question: What did Roy do to deserve the punishment from his Master
Wayne Newton: Werewolf Hunter, he takes on apprentices. These rarely last.
The central business district of the city. Once the gambling center, it still
has some gaming, but now lends itself to hotels, convention centers, businesses,
high rises, and government offices.
25 Hour Market: While there are many rival Goblin casinos with varying
offerings, challenging obligations, and treasures galore theres also the
hole-in-the-wall 25 Hour Market. This tiny consistent Goblin Market
Convenience Store always has the basics in stock. Of course theres a
significant mark-up.
The Count: Bitter and Jaded. Hes the head of the Society for the
Preservation of Vampires
Museum of Strange Things: It has a (partially dissected) alien body in it
Rumor: Oh, its actually a Changeling
Rumor: No, its actually a Keeper!
Rumor: Dude, its a mage, twisted by his own magic. Duh.
Rumor:...Shaved werewolf.
Rumor: Its that guy that told off the Count.
Vegas dedicates itself to entertainment and away from the casinos the city
serves tourists and locals with playgrounds, gardens, preserves, zoos, sport
complexes, and arenas. From Fairgrounds to Little League Fields to Hiking Trails
to Rollerderby Rinks.
Marquant Zola: Human Tour Guide for the Redlands Zoo. This small,
tucked-away place specializes in cryptozoolological beasts.
General Rumor: A group of beast changelings are slowly invading Vegas in an
attempt to take over the protection racket from the mafia. They may be u
the parks as their gathering ground.
Behind the glittering faade of Las Vegas lies the real living city- all the
anonymous people who serve the casinos and the lifers who only know Vegas as
their hometown. This includes local business and industries, schools and
campuses, ethnic enclaves, and apparently uneventful lives concealing secrets.
Papas Pawn Shop: A magical store of necessity, it varies widely in
location, moving from place to place.
Off the Clocks: Any changeling can use these boltholes. They have to break a

clock face off the clock to get into the tiny protected space. However t
must pay Changeling-style prices to get out.
Token Rumor: The MT Pass. This blank plastic pass card when used at a hotel
employees entrance will take you to what you seek. That may be for better
or worse.
The Vegas dream creates a turnover population of those who come to settle and
vanish quietly when things dont turn out as they hoped. The crash of the
housing market accelerated the flight of this turnkey population. They left
behind half-finished sub-divisions, schools, and building projects. But there
will always be more arriving to live in these strip-mall serviced sections of
the city.
Thorn Haven: Transient House for Changelings travelling through Las Vegas.
Spotted new arrivals and those who have made arrangements with the Court
are lodged here. This keeps them isolated from the Freehold for mutual
protection. Working at the haven is a dangerous and rotated duty.
The Rot: Deep in the sewers below Vegas lies the Grotto of Rot, full of very
strange fungi.
The Clearing House: Banks intent on foreclosing on blocks of properties hire
the more unsavory supernatural elements to create an atmosphere of uneas
and depression--increasing their ability to accrue huge swathes of L.V.
estate for cheap future development
Things fall apart. Places get iffy. People vanish. All cities have dark corners,
especially those that run through the night. These are all those shadowy spaces
The Runabouts: A Hobgoblin Taxi Service through the Hedge. They can get
Changelings quickly from one part of the city to another for a price. Th
vehicles vary from rickshaws to patchworked minivans.
Question: How do the Hobs maintain an accurate map of the Hedge?
Gren Dells: A supernatural bar where mages/werewolves/vampires/
changelings have a small-area peace treaty. The owner, Gren Dell can get
anyone most any kind of info, but the price is steep.
He must be defeated in hand-to-hand combat.
Serenissima Vindiola: A Promethean-Created who was apparently assembled out
of alien material. She is trying to create more of herself.
The Old Chinese Theatre: Often shows double-creature features, and kung fu
movie marathons. Run by Vera Gaunt, a Torn Sin-Eater newly come from Los
Angeles, bringing a small pack of Sin-eaters with her..
Rumor: Werewolves think shes a vampire, and vampires think shes a mage
Rumor: Changelings dunno wtf is up with that, but speculation abounds.

Between the city and the desert lies the fringe- the edge gas stations, small
communities, truck stops, and dumping grounds. Here the protections of the
Freeholds fade and the wild takes over.
The Hedge Fun: Brothel for those whose tastes run to the...eclectic. Mortals
who make their way there rarely make their way back out.
The White Lodge: An order of Mages operating in Las Vegas, in thrall to
their regional magical overlords. They operate like a sorcerous
telemarketing firm, trying to rope people into service of their dark mas
Devout Lycanthrope: Theres a container church on one of the highways run by
an old werewolf trucker who has been born-again and is hiding out from W
Newton. Hes friends to all supernatural creatures, so long as theyre
willing to accept Jesus.
Rumor: I heard hes totally hookin up with Sheryl at the Blue Spoon
Summerlins one of the largest communities of the wealthy in Vegas, but there
are many other enclaves like it scattered throughout the city. Some flaunt
celebrity residents while others hide within gated communities. Wealth, power,
and buried secrets.
The Blue Lady: She knows the ways to access confessions. Shes wealthy and
she owns many outlets for confessions--internet, counseling services, ph
Pretty Gardens: Manmade lakes hide a collection of statues, that one may
sight-see if one walks along the bottom. These are housewives turned int
pretty statues! Some werewolves rent scuba equipment to supernatural
tourists. Theyre called the Pretty Gardens, because werewolves are not
Welcome to Summer: A second Las Vegas Freehold controls the wealthy enclave
of North Las Vegas. It is run by a banished Keeper who looks like an ali
Hes led the Summer Court to permanent control of this Freehold and when a
changeling makes him angry, he sells him to one of his old Keeper friend
Rumor: Recently, UFO wreckage was found in the desert, and some wonder
if this Summer King didnt come from the wreckage.
The Hedge reflects the strange natures and histories of Las Vegas. From odd
features within the thorns to the organization of the Hobs, this covers those
places past the veil.
The Strip: No, the other strip. Countless Goblin Market casinos, all locked
in constant war. Like the mortal Strip, only way nastier.
Circus Circus: A corrupted, evil place where Keepers go to browse for
children that they want to take home from them. Its the least expensive
place to visit on the strip and the games are all rigged to magically ke
their users entranced. While the parents are busy gambling, the Keepers

the kids, winning them from slot machines in a Hedge version of the same
Grazeland: Theres a Casino in the hedge run entirely by Elvis impersonators
where the things you gamble for are typical goblin market fair - and
sometimes the odd changelings freedom.
The Sanitarium: A casino where changelings can gamble their clarity
The Outback: A strange hob-podge goblin casino of redneck & Aussie themes.
It has led to a plague of Australian poisonous toads in the nearby hedge
-Dont lick it.
Department of Parks and Recreation: Weird, obsessive, and not to be messed
with. Could they perhaps be Beasts?
The Drummers: Wild pack of street kids, information dealers and guides. None
seem to be older than 14 or 15. Some have suggested a connection to Circ
Circus. The leader tends to wear a different face, but she and her
lieutenants all have inky black eyes.
The Monorailians: Mysterious Hobs who have assumed the guise of Greys.
They feed on unease, panic and horror from tourists. They appear normal,
but out of the corner of your eye you can see their images.
AROOT: A Ride Out Of Town. Some of the mundanes have gotten the sense
that there is something really bad going on--they run a sort of incredul
underground railroad to get folks who need help a way to get beyond the
city borders and to another place of civilization. They really dont get
- but they know that the need is real.
STARR: A group of academics who are trying to solve the unified theory of
Supernatural Arms Designers/Dealers- secretly fuelling the various wars to
continue bringing in the greenbacks.

Players will begin the game with 10 bonus points for creation.
Characters may be given flaws. Instead of granting extra experience, these
will function like classic Storyteller, offering additional build points
the beginning. A character may take up to two flaws. The GM will decide
much the flaws are worth.
The first session will be a kind of Prologue. We will play out the
characters escaping from the Hedge simultaneously and their first meetin

Well set up the arrival and basic premises. Then well jump forward
slightly. This allows everyone to establish a life and other details
(like allies, contacts, etc) as they wish. I may GM fiat some obligation
community between the Motley members.
City Building: A New Campaign Jam
New campaign building- one of the great pleasures of the GMs life. I enjoy it
even more when I can combine that with player input and ideas. They provide the
scaffolding and I do the finishing work. As Ive mentioned several times in the
past weve used several variations on Microscope to do this preliminary
development. With the shelving of the Wushu campaign, I got the players
together on Friday to assemble something new.
Of the three concepts I pitched, they settled on a fantasy game with the
character acting as sort of City Guards. The PCs will be keeping the peace in
a section of the city, limiting the damage from crazed adventurers, trying to
advance themselves, dealing with plots and conspiracies, building a network,
and perhaps even figuring out how to line their own pockets a little. The game
will have a dash of building (setting up shop, creating networks of contacts,
earning promotions), some investigation (solving crimes, preventing incidents,
uncovering villains), and some fighting (boots to the head). While the
characters will be part of the city authorities, they will be loosely overseen
and given a good deal of independence.
The metropolis itself is a rough & tumble city-state on the borderland. It has
independence, though it has been conquered from time to time (actually many
times). It is a port city, at the headland of a river valley of the ancients.
Several rival Empires may prove to be threats. The more I look at it, the more
it reminds me of Pavis. The feel and tech level should be close to
Lankhmar, Elder Scrolls, Tolkien, Game of Thrones, etc, with magic. I
established that basic premise for the players to build from. We plan to use
our homebrew, Action Cards, for a campaign that lasts one year real time
(24-26 sessions).
With that in mind we went ahead and built the city as a group exercise. I used
mostly the same approach we used with Grey Reign. Players build Neighborhoods
at the top level, Places/Persons/Things within those neighborhoods, and
Rumors/Reports connected to those. We did seven rounds- two of them open and
five with a theme determined by the Lens:

One: Past Glories

Two: Vice
Three: Faiths & Cults
Four: Under Construction
Five: The Outside World

Instead of Legacies from Microscope, players created a faction or group. We

built quite a bit of the city, but theres still plenty of room for new
neighborhoods and ideas. For example I have to sit down and map out the
pantheons, how magics structured, some kind of map, and what the major nations
of the region are. I should also note that we used the Palette (aka Add/Ban)
list more liberally than standard Microscope. Rather than simply being about
adding out of genre elements or restricting genre tropes, we used it to add
global elements to the world.

I haven t yet come up with a name for the city...

Multiple Racesbut with a twist. There are Ancient and New lines for
each of the races, including humans. Ancient versions are extremely
long-lived, taller & strong, and clearly notable as of that blood. Theyre
also extremely rarer and dying out. How this split of old and new came
remains up for grabs (probably with different stories for it).
The city is a port, but at nestled within a river delta. Upriver live and
vitality cling close by the banks- with deserts and rocky terrain beyond
that. It wasnt always this way but some event transformed the area. Hence
it is a rich site for explorers searching for ancient ruins and lost
The city experiences strange weather phenomena from time to time. These
events keep people indoors. The source remains uncertain.
There are multiple cultural holidays in the city- representing the numbers
of people who have settled here and the fragmented history of the city
itself. People have to track days for kinds of events, districts affecte
and what kind of business can be held then. Almanacs and posted calendar
are useful.
There are a limited number of schools of magic. Each possesses a unique
primal spell which is usually the first one taught, and the one most
easily empowered or developed by casters of that school.
When travelers leave to head inland, they must leave something behind. It
can be a donation, a gift, a precious object, a letter. These are collec
in various places in the city.
Magic is taught, but it can also be innate. Some wizards are simply born
with heightened gifts.
The level of engineering is comparable to the Roman era or early Middle Ages
There are no sophisticated non-magical machines (like mass production lo
printing presses, or crossbows).
Divination, prophecy, scrying, past visions, even speaking to the dead for
information- none of that works in the city. Informational magics of any
kind simply do not work here. They do elsewhere in the world, but not he

No subtle magic casting. When you cast a spell- people know it. You might be
able to create a distraction, but if observed, you cannot hide your cast
ingas it gives off some external signs.
No non-affiliated people. Everyone belongs to some kind of faith or cultthats simply a given. As a result thats often taken for granted and in
some cases viewed simply as membership in a club or organization rather
a statement of philosophy or belief.
A section of the city built vertically during the Sheten Inquisition. It is
connected by rop bridges and walkways to the Verdant Stairs. The Vertices
reach close to two hundred feet in the area- a mammoth structure much wider at
the base. The interior is a hive and constantly under repair. Travelers heading
inland from the city must pass through at least the lower sections of the
Sharvasdar the Minder: An Ancient Elf who haunts the Vertices. He fought
against the Sheten Inquisition. Sharvasdar usually remains hidden, but h
pops out from time to time with lunatic frenzies.
Blood Oath Veranda: A covered alleyway known for sanctifying with divine
favor all covenants and contracts agreed upon therein.
Prefect Bilious Marblespeck: Lord Judge and Assayer for the Office of
Relinquishment for Safe Passage.
Dorada NiAlique: Exiled Noble of the Volosha appears to live a decadent
life off the riches her family was able to abscond with. The astute eye
notes the circle of bodyguards move with military precision, her salons
favor tacticians & strategists, and her lovers are very rich.
Wheels of Eternity: A group of buildings in the Vertices shaped like wagon
wheels. They house the citys lawmakers and bureaucrats. Petitioners are
said to usually have to wait forever. For judgment, the wheels of justic
turn slowly.
Terraced Gardens rising from the flood plains to the top of the citys riverside
Dusthroat of Gales: A lizardman gardener of note. He maintains several
patches on the stairs. Dusthroat raises various herbs, roots, and sacred
woods used in the rituals of cults and worship. His secret methods resul
t in
an amazing potency for these products.
Harbingers of the Golden Lily, Lady of Scents: A cult in the verdant Stairs.
They cultivate flowers and plants in order to make the perfect aroma of
which one breath will send you to heaven.
House of Briars: The embassy of the Elves and creatures of the Fey. It is a

tangled place high on the apex of the Verdant Stairs.

The Parade of Beasts: The High Time of the Cult of Beasts. Once a season
during a full moon, all of the citys animals gather in the gardens and mo
in a grand procession through the city until they disperse at daybreak.
The buildings surrounding the remaining three towers of the Archons who rule the
city. Once there were a dozen such masters and towers, but time has worn both
Reckoners Temple: One of the oldest structures in the city, where founders
and city namers must appear to establish their legitimacy. At least
eighteen foundings have been recorded. The temple also tracks the relati
strength and influence of cults and gods in the city- with an eye to
preventing any one god from gaining supremacy.
Lyriel Savant: The great grand-mother of Lucias Savant, the heroic element
mage who was part of the group who most recently founded the city. The
Savant Monks care for the poor in her honor.
Oduans Sort: A massive labyrinth library/reliquary of curated treasures
given by travelers throughout history. Oduans cults great work is
maintaining, cataloging, navigating, researching, and guiding those with
need to the right item./knowledge for a price.
Boulevard of the Faithful Ones: A wide streets with the oldest (and richest)
cults and religions have their main temples and cathedrals.
Dragon Fire Temple: A great golden dragon-shaped temple where both many pray
for elder magics in worship of an ancient dragon and thieves ask his
blessing to build their own treasure hoards.
The Blackened Day: Every year there is an extended solar eclipse and the
full day is darkened almost like night. It is celebrated by some in this
neighborhood and feared by others.
Shadow-Well: The name of the wells within this area. Each neighborhood has a
unique name for their water supply. The citys prime magic consists of the
fresh water cisterns and fountains of lovely cool water everywhere. The
desalinates the coastal waters and distributes the water by any availabl
A jet-black area of the city blasted by a mad wizards, home to the poor. Those
who live there long enough find themselves slowly transformed into onyx.
Palace of the Beggar King: Ancient ruined manor house, now onyx where the
family that claims ties to the hero who ended the mad wizard live. At th

center, the wizards & hero remain- locked in stone and battle.
Truth in Secrets: A group who tracks and collects rumors & secrets- trading
their knowledge only among their own or in trade for other secrets.
Cult of Wizardry: Followers of Kahleen Stillwater who claims to be a
descendant of the mad wizard. She believes he sacrificed his mind to sav
the world and resents the Palace of the Beggar King. There has been an
ongoing feud between these groups.
A disciplined area of the city deemed of great importance to its livelihood.
Fishmonger Square: Plaza inland from the docks where one can purchase any of
the days catch.
Hawks Song Plaza: A featureless square transformed daily into shop tents
and stalls where the merchants great and small sell their wares. At nigh
t it
is taken over by moving parties gathered around entertainers, food & dri
purveyors, and minor spectacles.
Rumor/Report: Every few weeks someone hears that the Archons plan to tear up
the plaza for noble born townhouses, a great temple, or the new
Moneychangers Guild Hall, but so far these plans have not come to fruitio
Dace Forewave: The most talented protg of the legendary shipbuilder
Last Timber! One of the few remaining shipwrights here, dales ships are
magically imbued. They have a sentient figurehead that can navigate and
predict the weather.
The Yards: Once a place for building fleets from the Woods of Zantyr upriver
. Now the Yards serve mostly for the repair, descaling, and refitting of
free vessels and ships. A mafia of folk from the conquered island nation
of Volosha run the area and excludes rival workers.
The All Seeing Eye: A tall and massive lighthouse being built from the Cult
of Lathos, Lord of Flame, to watch over the harbor.
Dead Queens Hail: When new settlers or exiles arrive in the city they make
their way here to his massive inn/tavern hall. There the Fellows of the
Dead Queen direct them to the neighborhoods and enclaves of their fellow
natives. The Fellows have perhaps the best sense of the ethnic diversity
the city.
An area full of the best of brothels, theaters, baths, and places to dine.
House of Roaring Thunder: A natural amphitheater that magnifies sound coming
from the stage. However it steals the sound from the audience in turn.
Many illicit deals happen here using a silent hand language known only t
o a

Lucinda Totalmeasures Spice Emporium: A shop that collects and sells all
manner of spices, essential oils, herbs, and ointments.
Three Sips Aqueduct: One of the oldest features of the city, this aqueduct
transports and purifies water from the river into a cistern in the midst
a square of brewers. It is always attributed to the most powerful brewin
cult- but markings tie it to a long-ago struck down cult of prophesiers.
The Newest Trend: A fancy little shop featuring all imported items from
across the world. Brought in by ships in the harbor. Only the wealthiest
afford the select and unique items sold here, but it has also become a
target for thieves and black marketeers.
Tae Mann-Bonn: Claiming to be immortal, she is a powerful alchemist who
states that the first principle of transformation is a cozy workshop. He
shop is supernatural comfortable and charming.
The Carnival of Ghosts: On the night of the High Holy Feast Day, this
macabre parade wanders the streets and alleys searching for somethingor
someoneand will not leave until it is found.
The Bronze Players: A richly hued faction from the desert. Theyre a
travelling group of actors and musicians who came into the city and have
unexplainable fear of roped bridges. Unable to leave, they settled into
city become a permanent part of the Plazas features.
A literal undercity, formed during a mad rush for rumored mineral and ancient
relics. The illegal excavations unearthed segments of elder dungeons from the
past city and collapsed portions of the streets. It is now part topside
fragmentary neighborhoods, part sinkhole, and part underground rooms and
caverns. It is a ready place for marginal non-human groups and adventurers
caught in a pinch.
Cavern of Mysterious Vices: A large cave riddled with mouth-like cracks that
open and close like a vise. Sometimes things are crushed and sometimes t
are turned into other exotic materialssometimes dangerous
As Above: A tavern located in the deepest sinkhole. The ale is dark and the
back booths hide an entrance to a series of tunnels being excavated that
below the streets above and provide navigable, familiar ways to pop up t
the city above.
Rumor/Report: The owner(s) of As Above are identical triplet Dwarves who
seek an ancient treasure of their people.
Bracemar: A stone giant sorcerer who has established the major school of

Crystal Thought, one of the eight forms of non-divine magic. Bracemar is

said to craft items for those willing to undertake one of his bizarre
Formed just on the outskirts of the city, one of the local blacksmiths has
created a new sandstone material with heat and desert sand to make everything
from beads to bricks.
Sons and Daughters of the Desert: Overland Scout Guild with ancient survival
wisdom and knowledge of the upper river provinces.
The Vext: A band of desert exiles who arrived here a dozen years ago mounted
on massive insects. While they normally keep to themselves, they do enga
in trade. Secretive and said to possess lost magics, they forge their ar
and weapons from the carapace of their insects and inject strange elixir
from their venoms.
Cultivators of the Bountiful Harvest: Guild which tends to the food plants
on the Verdant Stairs.
The Grim Pallbearers: A group who ritualistically bear the citys dead to
the Onyx Graveyard. They wear masks and heavy cloaks to conceal their
identities so they wont suffer a social stigma.
The Unmarked: One of the oldest remaining Thieves Guilds in the city. They
work to blend in and infiltrate their targets. Each member must find a
double in the city who they work to copy and emulate. This is said to give
them a ready patsy.
Expansion Scouts: Often made up of random adventurer parties who leave the
city, going out into the desert wilds, expanding trade routes to other
cities and reporting possible coming threats to the city guard.
Tarsand Stalkers: Once nomadic cultists of a sky god, they can never be
more than an inch from the sky. They live mainly in tents on rooftops an
travel across them as well- using a network of ropes, lines, and bridges
Observers of the Celestial Spheres: A loose group of astronomers and
astrologers who claim to find knowledge and fortunes in the study of the
night sky.
Steampunk city building using microscope


In a couple of weeks Ill finally be starting my homebrew L5R campaign with a
character and family campaign (you can see notes on this here). We have a party
of five players; two of them have a number of obligations (family and otherwise)
. They often miss together. It occurred to me tonight that it might be useful to
have a failsafe game. That way if were missing the pair we dont have to
skip or have these players miss important events or plot development. Tonight
I had the three more regular players and we built the basics for the campaign.
I offered them three options, all of which involved the party as some form of
law enforcement in an urban setting. A) A fantasy setting with the PCs as city
guard dealing with rivalries and out of control adventurers. B) A modern game
where the players serve as police for the secret world of monsters and magic.
CSI Diagon Alley. C) A steampunk game with magic and the weird out in the open.
They settled on this last one and after some discussion we decided it would be
an alternate history America, set in the late 1800s.
I posted earlier on my idea of city-building using Microscope. It owes some
inspiration to the Dresden Files City-Building mechanics I read recently. First
we established a set of facts about the world in general. Then we did a series
of rounds with players establishing:
or a Rumor/History.
As with Microscope these items are nested beneath one another. We did four
rounds where the lead player established a theme, and then four rounds without
a theme. After each rounds I had the player to the right of the lead player
establish a group- a faction, conspiracy, or organization present in the city.
There are competing groups of wizards (the nature of that competition
remained undefined).
Travel by water or rail is more efficient and faster than any other means
(magical or mundane). These systems have been well defined and work bett
than airships or sorcerous travel.
No Vampires
Paganism flourishes and has active results in the world. Christianity and
other like faiths are but one among many.
Canada is a wild, dangerous, and unexplored territory. A land of monsters
and untamed magics.
Every known form of magic is cyclical in some form. It runs stronger/weaker
according to those cycles (day/night, seasonal, tidal, lunar, etc.).
The New World is not a United States, but instead is divided into
territories with independent control (ala America in Castle Falkenstein)
Even within these territories theres a strong decentralization streak.
Mad Science exists. Delving into it makes you mad. The more mad you get,
the smarter you get. And vice versa.

In the New World, to belong to a city as a citizen and/or resident,

you have to be a member of an organization. They must have at least one
vouch for them, with more memberships giving persons greater stability a
pull. However membership costs dues- a kind of indirect tax.
Firearms are of the late Victorian period. Despite Mad Science they have not
advanced into the 20th Century (so no machine guns, big bombs, etc.).
We had four rounds with themes: Bad Places, Getting Around, Secret Things, and
The Law.
At some point in the process we decided that the city, called Grey Reign,
would be relatively in the location of Detroit. This would involve some slightly
shifted real-world geography, but that would be easy. The city would sit on
locks between two great lakes and have a canal system running through it.
A lovely, lonely penal neighborhood filled with special trees and flowers.
Soporific, they keep the worst criminals pacified. Guards on site have to be
equipped with gas masks to protect them from the effect. Rumor has it that some
guards have become prisoners after succumbing to the flowers and mixing with the
Madame Retunia: A Caretaker/Botanist to the Garden of Tranquility. She also
provides services to private parties.
Moshi: Flower sprites. The very small creatures are mischievous and create
problems on the island.
Asylum of Reformation: A fortress to hold Mad Scientists, whose brains are
so consumed with madness that the Gardens are ineffective.
The governmental hub of the city of Grey Reign. This massive, maze-like building
has expanded and now covers several city blocks. Covered walkways and
connections have been used to absorb neighboring blocks and stores. It contains
offers of government, order, and justice.
The Red & Wire Web: Law officers have access to a byzantine communication
system manned by minor magically talented operators. In the field, they
report up the chain and receive messages.
The Councilor: A title/position earned through deeds and accomplishments,
and assigned by the higher ups. The duties are said to be mysterious.
Vincent Ralboryo: An agent and envoy of The Windy Cities, a neighboring
region which hopes to annex Grey Reign and the surrounding areas. He is
to supply a network of infiltrators, but nothing has been proven.
Corner Florists: Ubiquitous flower carts commissioned by City Government to
brighten the streetsand to act as a network of spies.
The colorfully named area which houses the citys main rail station.

Emperor Han Zu Pang VIII: He controls the rails that move goods and people
through the city and beyond.
Rumor: The Younger Emperor is not young at all; there has only ever been one
Han Zu Pang. He uses dark sorcery to maintain his youth and hold on his
rail empire.
The Bad Day: Once a year, bad things happen in the Empire district. People
go missing, buildings burn, and organized mass deaths (of things like mi
frogs, etc). Suspicions point to the doings of Emperor Han Zu.
Aubrey Locklock Sadubya: Leader of the Reborn, a group of those who
through overgrafting have become possessed by new and mysterious identit
A center of manufacturing and processing industry for the city.
Esterine Warbler Rescuer: Founder of the Universal Gift Mission and a
saboteur dedicated to bringing down the industries which prey on the wea
in the city.
Wreckers, Inc: An underground workshop devoted to stolen tech and supplies
for Mad Science. Theyve managed through various means to keep themselves
away from official scrutiny. Has a front as a pawnshop.
Rumor: Mockheart, the proprietor of Wreckers, Inc, has a sideline in
disposing of awakened mechanical persons. Normally these beings are tested
and given rights- but some owners skirt this or dispose of them illegall
y to
avoid problems.
The Carving Hall: For a price, persons can buy or sell organs or limbs,
magic or non-magical. The Hall conducts their operations outside of lega
channels, a grey area at best.
The wealthy section of the city, named for a number of small but lavish shrines.
Palace of Heavenly Delights: A brothel and a gentlemens club. Well known
for its exotic services and discretion.
The Brethrens Gate: A legendary club and order for the chosen wealthy of
the city. The rarely seen City Elders are said to hold secret ceremonies
Climey Baste: Agent for the newly arrived and unduly unconnected.
Knows everyone, amiably clownish. Hooks people up with civic organizatio
and guilds. Gets paid to recruit.
Dr. Thaddeus Gue: Once a successful Mad Scientist, by accident. He is always
trying and failing to reclaim former glory. Some believe hes been cursed

with sanity.
The Underworks: Grey Reign was built upon and older city, the heart of
which Holy Hill was built upon. It contains a maze of underground tunnel
and supposedly lost treasures.
Confluence Day/Hour/Minute: Every three years or so, all of the major
magical orders reach their arcane zenith simultaneously. It is a festiva
and a time of great trepidation.
Ships locks used to pass between the two lakes and connect up with the canals
of the city. The many warehouses for the city are here as well.
Captain Ducky King: A famous ships captain. Hes reportedly the best
captain for hire.
Gutter Rails: An ersatz illegal system of gutters & scaffolds allowing
rapid travel across rooftops- from the Locks to the Ovens to Central Hub
Rooks Law.
Asimovs Sanctum: An area of steamworks where clanks and other awake
robots hide to escape the wreckers.
Drop-Penny Doors: Multiple magical societies maintain
bolt-holes for a price. If you dont belong, you can still get in by
dropping a penny in a slot. But if they do so they must agree to whateve
favor is requested.
The bad part of town.
The Sawtooths Dump: While the canals of the city offer options for transit,
horses remain important. The Sawtooths are a family of Wererats who have
collected manure and nightsoils for generations. They scavenge through t
material and dispose of waste.
Precinct of the Lost: Ruined and disgraced officers go here when they
screw up.
Corben Sethand: Reputed half-god summoner and protector. The children of
the gods grow up and gain both power and madness. If they come of age th
become out of control and deadly. Sethand finds and utilizes their talen
for his own interests, an illegal trade.
The city runs on canals which allow for traffic and travel through the city.
The Hub is the huge network at the heart of this system. There are above ground
waterways as well as tunnels and underground networks connected to this. One of

the largest districts and crossroads of the city.

Taffys Eatery: A gigantic cafeteria serving hundreds daily.
Noodles and sauce are the City Dish.
The Breeder: A man shrouded in mystery. He breeds the fastest, strongest and
healthiest horses around. No one knows where his facilities are.
Rumor: The horses may not be horses at all. They seem to be more aware
than they should be. This is also part of their allure.
Order of Theseus: Operators of the Magical Communications of the Maze-like
Gallowshall. Theyre voices from the squak boxes, no one has ever seen one.
The Constants aka Lich-Given: A dangerous group of magically gifted persons.
Theyre a secret conspiracy dedicated to controlling the city. They increase
their power and sustain themselves by imbibing vitae distilled from the body of
their fallen dark master, the legendary warlock-lich, Thomas Paine.
The Masked Lamplighters: Mysterious Guild who keep the city lit at night. They
wear strange animal masks.
The Mockingbird Signers: A criminal organization of thieves, ruffians, and
second-story men. Notable for their use of ghosts- controlling them or using
bottled phantasms as weapons.
Vigilant Cartographers of Grey Reign Proper: They keep and publish maps and
catalogs of civic badges. Theirs is a society of sleuths, explorers, artists,
and some say, vigilantes. Misspelling the citys name will get you beat upa point of honor.
The Fist of Gallowshall: Enforcers of the law. The limits on their power is set
by the Councilor and his cohorts in the Gallowshall.
The Artists: Tattoo artists who imbue their art with power. They may or may not
reveal this to the client, and some of their gifts may be entirely random.
The Pragmatic Order of Forgiveness of Potential: Children of and former
not-quite Mad scientists who gather together to support each other in
ignoring the lure of their own shining genius.
It felt like it really went well- I enjoyed the process and everyone had a good
time. We had three people who had played Microscope before (myself included)
and one complete newbie. She had no problem getting into the swing of things
and developing really cool ideas. The process went more smoothly than I could
have hoped. We managed to do everything here in under two hours, and we could
have easily done another round or two. It feels natural. I expect well
probably use some version of Fate (probably Kerberos Club) or World of
Darkness for the game itself. Both offer ways to connect characters to place,
so that will be useful.
I did notice that theres less interaction between elements in this version of
Microscope. I dont think Id realized how much of that there is normally until
I played this. It really reveals some of the power and genius of the original
game. Also we had a focus on the second level down- Persons/Places/Events,
while we only had a few Rumors/History. I wonder if theres a way to
incentivize those elements. Im not sure if you could do that with the

interactivity question- unless you had perhaps more concrete themes

(like people or places) from the Lens. On the other hand, it might be worth
having one or two rounds where people have to put down Rumors/History.
Alternately/additionally players might ask open questions about those people
or places- story hooks they want to explore for later.
Who is the mysterious cloaked figure seen on nights of the full moon around
McSweendons Pie Shoppe?
I enjoyed it and it would be easy to come back to and expand. Nicely, while
Vamps are out, I still have plenty of room to use Changelings and other classic
types in the game. Im really curious about trying to do this in or as a G+
hangout game. You could easily use Google docs to set it up. I wonder how well
that would work.