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Æternal Legends: Pocket Kingdoms [Jun. 11th, 2007|02:26 am]
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The world is a weirder place than anyone can deal with. When the Unaware can’t rationalise a place, it either becomes mundane or seals itself off. Dragons’ lairs locked themselves away from Unaware eyes long ago, and whole kingdoms in hide in the middle of urban centres, shielded from the outside world. Whatever the reason, nobody can find the area. Out of sight, out of mind.

Each of these pocket worlds – or Interstices – has at least one anchor in the Unaware world. These anchors can be anything. A hidden alleyway in a major city leads to an Aware bazaar. A locked door under a tower block is the entrance to the Palace of Halls. Its labyrinth of cluttered, bland corridors contains doors that open to buildings across the world. A disused road should lead to a ghost town, but the Aware see a thriving mining outpost where prospectors pan for magical metals. When Legends see these anchors they can step through, into the hidden worlds beyond.

Have you ever wrapped a flat map of the Earth onto a globe? You can do it, but you have to cut bits out. Think of those missing pieces as Interstices.

– Arturo Smith, A Treatise on the Hidden Earth

Each anchor imposes a condition that allows any of the Aware to enter if they know the magic word, secret door and so on. Populated areas have obvious requirements, but hidden lairs and unspoiled wilderness require more research. Legends can use their Spheres to gain entry instead of obeying the condition, as long a player can describe a way in which his Sphere might apply to the problem. This is partly a matter of ingenuity and partly a matter of the Legend bending the nature of the anchor with his heroic will. Accordingly, it costs a point of Will every time the Legend tries to breach an Interstice in this fashion. Legends of Strength fight gate guardians; Legends of the Foundation gather a host to demand entry. The GM sets the task’s type and difficulty. Most Interstices are Difficult (5) Threshold Tasks.

Conditions of Entry

The moor that leads to the Eternal Fields only allows the companions of a blond child carrying an albino mouse on the third Wednesday of October to enter.

Under the Carpathian Mountains, an ancient stronghold allows entry to any dwarf or troll who knows the correct corridors to traverse.

The town of Fall’s Creek requires not only that visitors ride horses when entering or leaving, but nobody can make the journey with technology from before 1850.

The Blue River Dragon’s lair only allows visitors – even Legends – who can survive its underwater environment. The gateway is at the bottom of the rapids.

Interstices are all over the place. Those with an Aware population – true Pocket Kingdoms – gravitate to urban centres. Buildings and alleyways become doorways to Aware cities. Magic packs whole towns inside the creases on the map. Major Interstices area have populations larger than the number of Aware in the linked city.

The Ministry has offices inside each Kingdom, but they’re usually swamped. The black market thrives. Every dealer sells untaxed magic items, but a few add illegal devices and slaves to their stock. The streets of most Pocket Kingdoms are always crowded. Pushers sell cheap drugs and street-wizards offer semi-legal spells. Paid companions of all genders, Clades, and inclinations chalk out their hourly rates. There’s a wild atmosphere not seen in the mundane world running through the streets. The Ministry is the only law, but it has an unsteady grip on things. Goblins breed chimera in basements; doorways lead to mazes of steam-pipes and dragons embodied in industrial cables and gears.

“We don’t trust outsiders.”

“Then it is my pleasure to reinforce your prejudice. And steal your horse.”

– Anita Maxwell, Fall’s Creek: a Travelogue

Other Interstices hide in the wilderness. Some hold large towns that only the Aware know about, but far more are lairs of ancient beasts. Shaped around the needs of their inhabitants, each wilderness Interstice is different. Hidden lakes offer access to underwater worlds. Mountain eyries have clouds in place of land, but everything can fly. Occasionally, some of the Aware settle in such an Interstice. If they survive, they face the risks of all colonists. They thrive or starve based on their ingenuity, ruthlessness and Fate’s fickle hand. Even the presence of strapping sons and daughters is no guarantee that a settlement is doing fine. It might just mean that the dragon only eats a few of them a generation. Everyone needs help in these remote places, and most aren’t above forcing the matter. Sometimes, the dragon doesn’t mind foreign fare – including visiting Legends.

Waydowntown

Take a widdershins route through Toronto’s underground PATH system. Buy six red articles of clothing at six different underground malls and you’ll reach Waydowntown, a huge urban Interstice that covers two Shadow Counties. Waydowntown looks like the PATH’s network of malls and underground offices a generation after the apocalypse, extended into a giant labyrinth whose outlying regions turn into graffiti-covered sewers and natural cave systems. Waydowntown’s full of shops, taverns, hostels and apartments crammed with the Aware. The Ministry has no choice but to accept the will of the Crimson Council that runs the city. They’re little more than an armed mob dominated by an ever-shifting handful of Legends. You can buy anything in Waydowntown, from manticore spines to an array of intriguing, morally questionable personal services. Waydowntown is also one of the few Interstices with a working mass transit system. It has five underground rail stations that correspond to the five stations connected to the mundane PATH: Dundas, Queen, King, Union and St. Andrew. Each station has its own trains, controlled by its Rail Clan. The Rail Clans go to war every few years, using their subways as engines of destruction. Trains will stop in the midst of tunnels or explore strange lengths of track that lead to hidden caves, underground rivers and even other Interstices.

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