Inside the Arcologies
Setting: The arcologies are the new crucibles of civilization. Within the confines of the megastructures large numbers of people live in close proximity to one another with a minimal amount of personal possessions. This close proximity requires rigid discipline and strong law enforcement to ensure that chaos doesn't erupt. The Arco is a scene of churning activity and where cities were dynamic organisms, this setting is inside the human ant hive.
Visual: The bustle of New York and Times Square, Downtown London or Tokyo, but pushed inside of a mega mall/mega apartment building.
Themes: Dehumanization, Desensitization, Separation from Nature. The residents of the arcos are dehumanized as they are required to live under strict guidelines that value preserving social order, economic prosperity, and the good of the many over free will, individual expression and exploring the human condition. The media is ever present and many of the residents are so saturated with sex, violence, and marketing that when they do come across something depraved or horrible, they are already numb to the situation. Finally, the arco is a synthetic environment, there is little nature inside, and what is present is artfully manicured on a scale matching a theme park. Residents are afraid to go outside because nature is scary, full of dangers and chances to be injured.
Tone: Characters search for greater meaning, or struggle against the authoritarian leadership, or artistically chaff under the carefully sculpted media avalanche. Despite the bustle, nothing has really changed at the end of the day.
Mood: The arcologies are wonders of science and engineering, but the residents of the arcos are little different than chickens in small cages, but instead of laying eggs, they buy things and work.
The Urban Sprawl
Setting: The Urban sprawls are the cores of the old cities, wrapped around the feet of the arcologies. Demi-arcos and skyscrapers cluster together to form urban canyons and man made mountain ranges, while drainage canals and systems are artificial rivers. Law and order break down outside the fortified walls of the biggest buildings, and in the shadows of those behemoths there is no doubt who the haves and the have nots are.
Visual: Downtown LA, Jerusalem and the West Bank, Gang members and Cops the only difference being the uniform, urban primitives with dreadlocks. Judge Dredd's Megacity One, San Angeles of Demolition Man, Snake Plisken's Escape from LA.
Themes: Dog Eat Dog, Crime and Punishment, Anarchy Versus Order: Where the arcology is a study in monotony, the Urban Sprawl is a constant battle of dichotomies. It is easy to line the residents of the Urban sprawl into two groups, victims and criminals, but almost everyone would be in both lines. Victims of circumstance, victims of crime, victims of poverty, victims of misfortune, victims of accidents; thieves, prostitutes, beggars, graft, and a laundry list of other crimes. Few of the things done are against the new laws (prostitution, soft drugs) but the decay or morality is present.
Tone: Survival, making a buck, enjoying what there is to be enjoyed, hating the bastards in the arcos.
Mood: The sprawl is the tattered remnant of what was possibly the best of human culture. Ethnic art, ethnic food, cultural games and sports, pride in organizations and people as opposed to corporations.
Under the Sea
Setting: Seacologies and underwater habitats are common, especially in temperate and tropical regions, there is seldom a doubt that the residents are underwater, there are portholes to look outside, pipes and valves, and emergency signs and drills in case of Flooding Emergencies.
Visual: Leviathan and The Abyss for working class seacologies. For more commercial and residential, The Love Boat if it was an underwater city.
Themes: Under Pressure: Like the arcologies, order and discipline are high, since it only takes a little bit to cause a disaster in a seacology.
Tone: Stress and paranoia balanced out against the relative quiet and isolation that can be offered by being constantly underwater.
Mood: While no less dangerous than space travel, underwater operations get screwed in the funding and research department. Everything has a retro-dated feel to it. Everyone is paranoid because many of the seacologies are older, plus the issues of contamination, psychological pressure from work and being underwater.
The Underworld of the Geofronts
Setting: Tunnels and chambers burrowed into the Earth. In previous eras noxious and noisome industries were isolated from communities in Industrial parks, refineries and the like. Now, these industries, along with waste recycling, water reclamation and other waste related industries are handled underground. The workers who work in the geocities are also the lowest level of laborers, the least paid and least respected. The work is hard, pays poorly, and is given no respect. Most surface dwellers never think of the engineers and mechanics who keep the water flowing or the power on (outside of the arco). This combination of obscurity and poverty leaves many geocities as hotspots of social unrest, socially transmitted diseases, and the origin of many strange synthetic and black market drugs.
Visual: Factories and refineries in man made caves, lots of concrete and wire cage wrapped lights. Workers all wearing the same uniforms, banging on pipes and inspecting junction boxes and utility systems
Themes: The Unseen world, and Extreme Poverty. The geocities are homes to the poorest of the poor urban dwellers, living their lives in caves and warrens under the pilings of the arcologies and urban sprawls. The trash of the arcos is the bread and butter of the underfolk, and they are quite resourceful in turning trash into synthetic drugs, black market goods, and blackmail material.
Tone: Hostility towards the rich drugged well armed surface dwellers, college like activism mixed with terrorist ideals of symbolism and looking for cults of personality to lead the oppressed.
Mood: The geocities are full of rot and decay, criminals from the sprawl hide here, and push all of the unsavory things they can. The geocities are also the hidden cores of terrorist organizations. Most local authorities ignore the geocity slums because it only takes a small amount of effort to restrict the movement in and out of the holes, and then there is a whole separate level of security, closing the geocities and the arcos provides a double barrier between the wealthy and the poor.
The Black Void of Space
Setting: Space stations, colonies and habitats in orbit above the Earth or the Moon, mining or military asteroid bases, colonies at Mars, and a handful of exotic colonies and science stations, and the ships moving between them.
Visual: The undramatic boosting and braking of 2010, calculating movement of ships through not just relative space but meeting objects at a particular point ala hitting a moving target through a computer hologram. Ships have some sections that are lattice work and scaffolding, and they are not sleek or sexy, ergonomics takes a back seat to construction on the ground and assembly in orbit.
Themes: The Brave New Frontier, Madness in Space: the further one moves away from Earth the more profound the voyage. The brave and bold venture into space, be they bold explorers, bold military crews exploring, or bold corporations looking to wring a profit from the vast wealth of the Solar System. Madness is also an issue, a mixture of isolation in space, operating in a closed environment with a small number of people. There are also strange radiations and diseases lurking in space that science cannot explain.
Tone: While the ideal leans towards Star Trek, to boldly go where no man has gone before, this is the gold clad pipe dream as the mundane is leaks and maintenance, loneliness and dealing with inner demons.
Mood: Gothic Space Horror. Space is not a nice place, between the myriad ways to die, there are strange radiations and vibrations. The further from the protective cocoon of the Earth ships travel, the more profound these ailments and conditions become. Short version: radiation from the sun drives away the strange cosmic emissions, while strong magnetic fields do the same. The colonies are relatively safe, but its the getting there that's the hard part.
The Electric Realm of the CogNet
Setting: The online matrix of the Cosmic era, the CogNet is an electronic gestalt created by thousands of semi-sentient computer cores and tens of to hundreds of thousands of server farms. In excess of a billion people use the CogNet on a daily basis to conduct their jobs (virtual cubical farm, running automated machinery, operating drone equipment) their leisure (virtual video games, holodeck like simulations, total recall artificial vacations) to criminal activity (cyber hacking, virtual crime, data theft, etc).
Visual: The interface of The Matrix meets the commercial nature of the Internet, Game simulations range from Speed Racer (film) to Tron: Legacy type games. The Flash and dazzle of Vegas, dripping with color, light and all the targeted marketing of a search engine on the scale of Times Square, tailored to each individual user. Sex mingles with money, electric promises and push button gratification.
Themes: Maya. Maya is the Indian belief that the material world is but an illusion of the spiritual world, but in this instance the CogNet can seem more real than the real world, colors are more intense, there are more people and everyone is who they want to be, who they want to appear as. The real world is drab, and dull, everyone is the same decaying meatbag in a Fight Club dystopia. What is real, the small apartment in the arco, or the massive empire owned in the CogNet? Who is more real, the ex girlfriend and her baggage, or the harem of nubiles constructed from old Star Wars images mixed with Sex-Bot programs?
Tone: Escaping the material world, avoiding the misery of the daily grind, indulging into the cyberelectric fantasy. Sitting at the virtual cubicle looking at a virtual picture in a virtual realm of a mountain or a lake that the wage slave will never see with his real eyes. Taking a virtual tour of New Moscow on Mars is more likely than traveling 65 miles to see Lookout Mountain or Shell Beach. Pulsing hacker avatars armed with state of the art virtual weapons fighting virtual battles online for virtual assets worth real money. Everything is brighter than life.
Mood: The CogNet is a mixture of the HoloDeck from Star Trek and the Matrix, some people indulge in it on occasion while others could be organically connected to their machines and wouldn't need to unhook except for biological functions. The net is a tool, and is projected on by the people who use it, and the nature of the CogNet reflects the nature of the user back on them. A greed man will be surrounded by virtual wealth, a thief will find all the things they can steal, all under the auspices of the unblinking mechanical eye of big brother.
The Forgotten Wilderness
Setting: The wilderness is recovering, following the folly of man. The forests have been recovering, as have other biomes. There are stations and labs that are working to help this recovery along to repair the damage done to the biosphere. Large tracts of land have been restored to forested conditions, bereft of human inhabitants or visitors.
Visual: The Call of the Wild, White Fang, most any film that deals with leaving the city behind to enter the wilderness.
Themes: Artificial Nature, Genesis: many animal species were driven to extinction have been reintroduced through genetic engineering. There are tigers and pandas and gorillas again, but they started as clones grown in labs and reintroduced to nature. In some places, this is visibly obvious in odd ways, as all tigers might have the same stripes, or trees are planted in mathematical patterns. New species are emerging from the genetic manipulation, and considering the tainted source of this technology, many of these new lifeforms are hostile to man.
Tone: Conservationists and Creationists (save versus replace) ideals, science will save mother nature after almost killing her.
Mood: Underfunded and considered unimportant by the city dwellers, biodiversity is seen as less important than the cost of electricity per KWh. Animal conservation is also considered unimportant since vitual zoos and online parks are stocked with virtual animals, many of which are 'superior' to normal animals. Psh! real tigers cant talk, but Tigger the Tiger at the iZoo taught us about phonetics and insert Disney merchandising campaign material.
Setting: the non-euclidean mathematical realm that Dimensional Engines draw their energy from, also the source of the river of sorrows that fuels parapsychic abilities. Several exotic materials have their origins in Outworld, such as the superconducting superfluid 'LCL' used in AISCs, and other special goos and oozes.
Visual: Either a dry erase board of arcane symbols, or seen in epileptic phantasmagoric nightmares, a hellish place of agony and suffering that looks like a wasteland but feels like Hell.
Themes: The Source is Tainted, being the source of arcanotechnology, the elsewhere otherwhere of Outworld is fundamentally corrupted by human suffering and torment. This resonance carries over, turning much of the things created from arcanotechnology into negative influences that further human suffering rather than helping. AISC and the CogNet are turning people into electronic vegetables. Drones and clones have devalued human life to a tally on a spread sheet.
Tone: Either obsessive horror or academic disdain. Those who believe in the Outworld are seen as lunatics and ghost chasers. In the realms of science, it is looked down on the characterize a mathematical constant.
Mood: Paranoia and fear, dealing with the Outworld is courting damnation and madness. Scientists frequently break down or go mad, they become raving hermits or criminals. Criminals become ensconced as heroes and geniuses. Things are bad, but they are going to get much worse, if the growing influence of Outworld isn't checked.