Mar 3, 2012

The City as Dungeon: The Orthocracy of Kaddish

I'm going to start posting districts from the Orthocracy of Kaddish, one at a time. The city of Kaddish itself is intended to be a giant open-air dungeon of sorts, rather than a traditional homebase for PCs. It has farmers, stores, teahouses, all that sort of thing, but it's also filled with horrible monsters, vampire cults, slave pits, etc. Dwer Tor and the Kadiz nomads are intended to be somewhat comprehensible places for PCs. For all their faults, they can come to understand how these places operate, and having learnt the logic of them, feel safe there. Not Kaddish. I want something weird, horrible, incomprehensible or alien to be going on every time the PCs enter the city. The entire city is a sort of megadungeon, although not sketched out in quite the same way.

As a prelude to the actual districts, two pieces:

What a First-Time Visitor to Kaddish Would Notice

It's massive. Kaddish is incomparable in scope to the rest of the Dawnlands. It is three times larger than Dwer Tor, itself perhaps fifty times larger than any other settlement in the Dawnlands. It is almost 15km across and 12km wide, and takes half a day or more to cross on foot (a few hours by canal-barge). It has a population of 750,000, about a third of the entire population of the Dawnlands, living within city limits or on surrounding farms that stretch out for several days walk.

It is crowded. The nomads stand out of arms reach of one another when they talk. The Dwer stand just within (dwarven) arms reach. The Kaddish crowd around one another, shouting, gesturing, packed by the thousands into open spaces. Because of their polygamous families and correspondingly high birth rate, there are thousands of children roaming the city in wild gangs. They live in crowded tenements, piled on top of one another in hollowed out heaps of rubble and hunched over in the halfling-sized factories of the Greyward. The entire city smells like dung fires whose fuel is dredged from the canals that serve as open-air sewers.

It is grandly patchwork. Buildings are concrete (a Kaddish invention) poured over wood frames that can't quite bear the weight. The grand temple of the Red and Blue Snake Cult towers hundreds of feet into air while shacks bunch around its outer garden wall. Even the cheapest lean-to is painted with intricate designs and every wall has some grand scene from Kaddish history on it in faded paint and scored with fresh graffiti. Every building is coated with ivy to burn, grapes to eat or other useful vines.

It is supremely weird in its customs. Human sacrifice is not common throughout the Dawnlands - except in Kaddish. Enslaving your fellows is not done - except in Kaddish. The nomads have no organised cults, the state handles religious matters in Dwer Tor, and yet the cult allegiance is one of the guiding stars of Kaddish life. There is no one in charge to negotiate peace with, no one to blame for what its army does or reign it in, no one who speaks for the Kaddish as a whole. Entire districts of the city seem to be at war with one another. Clan, college and cult allegiances are impenetrable to the outsider.

It is new, incredibly new. Magic with a distinctive Kaddish flair and unique rituals. Alien monstrosities - the products of the soulforges - that have never been seen outside the city. Secret technologies like steel, concrete and paper that are not found elsewhere in the Dawnlands. The Kaddish are constantly building, rebuilding, demolishing and redemolishing every stone in the city. Stores, banks, and temples are unique institutions of Kaddish found nowhere else in the current Dawnlands.

There is simply nothing else like it. It is an alien, dangerous place for the first-time visitor, and many never make it back out again.

Overall Municipal Geography

The city of Kaddish is organised into roughly 25-35 districts or wards at any given time. The boundary of a given district is fluid, but the canals serve as rough borders. The number and nature of districts change relatively rapidly - new buildings rise up, old canals silt over, a gang leader might seize three old districts and build bridges between them, uniting them into a single area. Typically, districts are organised around a landmark. In the absence of canals to organise boundaries, the ability to see a particular landmark or building indicates which district one is in, as well as giving it its name.

Broadly speaking however, there are three main areas of the city into which districts might fall.

Inner City: The old city of Kaddish. This was the city of Kaddish in the time of the Dawnmen, and in the kingdom of High Kaddish. It is surrounded by an irregularly maintained wall, and has seven districts in it, most of which are stable. The fewest number of canals can be found here, only three running parallel from east-to-west. They are heavily silted, and bridge traffic is in the hands of gangs of the Burnt. The current districts are the Granary, the Spire of the Screaming God, the Forgetower, Capitol, Third Ward, Glasshall, and Sharp Alley.

New City: Mainly the south and western sections of Kaddish, except for Greyward, which is the northernmost (and largest) district. The foundations were built after the end of the last war with the Hill People, but it was only after the revolution drove the peasantry into the city that the New City became important. The orthocrats have built up the various districts to display their prestige and status, and to erase the memory of the old regime. The New City is the largest section of Kaddish. The most stable districts include Greyward, Snakes, Pit, Grave, the Guardhouse, King's Head, the Square of Justice, Old Market, Makar's Ward, Thrancastle, Stable Street.

The Outer City: There are three districts of Kaddish that are outside, or slightly separated from the rest of the city. The citizens of these places still part of the urban life of the city, with the furthest district a mere 5km. away from the city. The three districts are the Reservoir, Muster Bastion, and Exile.

Kaddish is surrounded by a web of small farming villages and slave plantations that produce most of its agriculture. Plantations tend to be closer to the city, while farming villages can be found along waterways between the city and the Birth and Death Rivers.