|Art by Liz Danforth|
As regular readers know, recent posts have been about Flying Buffalo's CityBook series of supplements. Electronic versions of these books are now available at RPGNow for your gaming edification. In this post, we look at the third CityBook. Having the subtitle Deadly Nightside, the theme of CityBook III – as explained in the Introduction – “is a dark and dangerous excursion into the seedier section of fantasy cities.” The term 'Nightside' is used as the actual name of a section of a hypothetical city rather than a generic term for an unsavory urban area. Whereas the establishments in the previous installments were organized according to business type, entries in Nightside are organized in three layers: Good, Bad, and Deadly. This layer structure is “the rough order characters would be likely to encounter [the establishments].” The Introduction continues: “In short, unless you've got a very jaded gaming group, you're not likely to hit an opium den right off the bat.” Yes, an opium den is described on pages 76 – 82.
Michael Stackpole was the sole editor of CityBook III and also provided two of the establishments. One of these entries – The Undercity – is like a Beggars' Guild, but “definitely a different Beggars' Guild.” The term 'Undercity' refers to beggar society as well the location where the beggars reside (also called “the Warrens” or “the Underrealm”).
The City's current level is built upon a dozen previous cities – some old enough to be legendary, a couple more lurk beneath those. The beggars, over the generations, have dug down, excavated and set up living quarters in buildings that once stood in sunlight but now dwell in everdark. Most of them live in a level about four cities below the surface, and the sewers cut through levels 1 and 2, though never did hit any of the warrens.(The sewers are described as a separate 'establishment'.)
The beggars are divided into six 'tribes': FAKERS (“...normal children of beggar parents”), WARDREGS (“...warriors or adventurers who have suffered maiming injuries”), GUTTERKIN (“...the utterly desperate and destitute...[usually] old, drunk, or mad”), ILLKIN (“...people who have been maimed and disabled by disease and illness”), SPOILED (“...those who have been maimed by an accident, or on purpose, and can no longer function in society because of their injury”), and YSRAIGET (“...congenitally deformed beggars”). Many of the Ysraiget are 'changelings' – malformed children of 'Upworld' parentage who have been switched with “normal beggar babies.”
The term 'Ysraiget' is derived from Ysrai, a god that the beggars worship. “A full thousand years before history was recorded with any veracity, Ysrai's temples were swept from the earth...,” the book explains,“Ysrai is so thoroughly removed from the minds of men that his name is only known to a few practitioners of arcane and blasphemous rituals.” On the lowest level of the Undercity, the beggars found a statue of Ysrai, “broken and scarred like themselves...” Creating their own cosmology, “The beggars made this god their own.” They also “tied the selection of their King to their patron deity.”
The current Beggar King is Myre. According to his description: “He was one of four beggars who met the prime requisite for candidacy; he was maimed in a manner similar to the injuries on Ysrai's statue.” As King, Myre “has stressed the importance of gathering and sifting information.”
Through a bizaare [sic] set-up, beggars all memorize and analyze (if mentally capable) all the news, rumors and actions in the City. Stories pass through the Undercity and are relayed to the individuals who handle that information. New beggars are trained and learn everything one of the older beggars knows so redundancy is built right into the system. In fact, some of the most hideously deformed Ysraiget are so mentally gifted they can remember and recall centuries-old gossip as if they'd heard it the day before, and they'll link it with any cogent data gathered before or since. Without benefit of books or scrolls, the beggars have the most complete history of the City and world in existence today!Myre's part in the information network involves him spending “time in Domdaniel's Gate speaking with Tranq.”
Domdaniel's Gate is an establishment contributed to CityBook III by the designer formerly known as Paul Jaquays. The current Domdaniel's Gate tavern is situated under the ruins of the original Domdaniel's Gate. Thirty years ago, the original tavern was destroyed by...
...a time implosion, caused by the crash-landing of a time vehicle. Its pilot, Tranq, a man from the far-flung future found himself stranded in the past; pieces of his time machine scattered across the near past and future like a debris trail from a sinking ship.Tranq is the current proprietor of Domdaniel's Gate. As a tavern, the “Gate” has a regular clientele of “undiscriminating local bullies, ruffians, thugs, and punks...” Other than the tavern's bartender, Tranq's true nature is known only to Myre, the Beggar King.
Myre discovered Tranq's secret as a child and would often help him find the missing pieces of the time machine. When he became king, it only seemed natural to use Tranq's establishment as a formal link with the “normal” world. Tranq often uses his futuristic technology to aid the beggars in whatever ways he can.All of the alcohol that the tavern serves is acquired on the black market and is delivered via the Undercity. Also, Tranq is the only non-beggar to have been instructed in the “beggar dialect.”