This slum reveals the darker face of the City. Shanteytown is exposed to the elements and unprotected by wall or guard. A seedy mixture of driftwood shacks, impromptu shelters, lean-tos and camps thrown up on old ruins, and filled with the underclass and those with nowhere else to go, Shanteytown is for many the end of the line.
Shanteytown sees few patrols of the Watch, leaving its residents to keep order as best they can. They survive on piece work, rag picking, fish gutting, begging, scavenging and day labor at South Wharves, and on the handful of legitimate businesses in the district ... as well as preying on one another. At the marshy confluence of the Grand Canal and the Dragon's Marsh, fevers are common, as are skin rashes and infections. Between diseases, malnutrition, overwork and the ever-present gang violence, most Shanteytowners do not live to see fifty.
Watchmen periodically sweep the place - in groups of no less than four, and always mounted - but most locals hold their tongues about organized (and unorganized) crime and their perpetrators, fearing reprisals ... for the gangs return almost as soon as the soldiers' backs are turned, and hatred for the arrogance and cruelties of the Watch is rife. There are scarcely any shops, but there are personalities ...
Just about the only orc businessman in the City (and often pummeled for his presumption) Naseer is a terrible wheelwright, and gets business on nothing more than being one of the rare ones outside the Old City, given the surcharges on taking wagons out of the Gates. Even his fast work and willingness to repair wagons any time of the night might not save his reputation if people learn he is into bestiality with goats (which he then cooks and eats).
Yitzhak Gorni is a talented, charismatic, very handsome woodwind performer and troubadour, and few understand why he wastes his time here instead of at the glittering manors of the Old City. Gorni is one of the most conceited men of the City, having proclaimed freely in lurid and bombastic terms his irresistibility to women. That he seems to be right endears him to few men, and several gang members plan not merely to give him a beating, but make sure no woman finds him attractive ever again.
Lywyn Darkquill is a meltingly beautiful young priestess with glossy red hair and drowning violet-blue eyes, who radiates sanctity and works tirelessly for the poor; she is idolized by most in Shanteytown, and none dare touch her. She is, of course, a Black Ring Adept, one of the rising young stars of the hierarchy of evil. She relishes the challenge of corrupting as many souls as she can, and comports her duties with enthusiasm and verve. She has three acolytes, who pretend to be teenagers and young adults but who are all trained assassins of the Black Ring cult.
'Lady' Julia (her late night partisans insisting on the title) runs about the only honest tavern in the district. It opens an hour before dark and stays open late into the night, and is heavily patronized by late-shift workers at the various local industries. Any trouble, and the joke is that she'll lop the ears off of a rowdy with a pair of orange-painted shears kept behind the counter. Known to few - except a couple of the key gang leaders - Julia is a wizard and ex-adventurer ... and devoutly wants to keep clear of the local mages' guild, with whom she had many a clash in the day. She keeps a raccoon named Lotor who lives in the rafters; he is actually quite intelligent and is her de facto familiar.
Jon Fonda is a drugrunner and smuggler who operates out of a ramshackle shop front. He runs one of the local gangs, but cannily pays out to three other key gangs so as to operate unmolested. He keeps two button men who serve as muscle with him at all times. Jon is short and fat, and lecherous beyond measure - he'll always find time to take a lady in the backroom to 'pay down' a drug debt, and any absences he has from the front of the shop is almost certainly connected with backroom gruntings.
Hal the Debased was once the powerful wizard known as 'Halar the Purple,' but his downfall came when certain improprieties with apprentices came to light. The mages' guild defrocked him, and he crawled into the bottle. Now he is in Shanteytown, a broken shell of the feared adventurer of old. Sometimes he scrapes up enough sobriety to cast a spell or three for those who can pay, but he fails more often than he succeeds.
'Snarf' - Joco earned this unfortunate nickname partially for the wheezing honk he makes when he sniffles, which he does constantly - is a sailor down on his luck. Through no fault of his own, the last four ships he's sailed on have foundered or been lost at sea, and he can get no more berths from the superstitious ship captains. He's no killer, and is by inclination no thief, but he's down to his last couple pennies, and would do an awful lot for silver to cross his hand.
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? Responses (7)-7
I love that you presented this area via the personalities. I also really like any post that gives us a good side long view of society, a location and moment in time. Your narrator here alludes to or refers to things that exist elsewhere in the world. Thus, in this brief aloof summary of notable people we get introduced to a mage guild that hands out frocks which represent privileges of magical rites. We learn that there is an evil cult of assassins that corrupts people and murders them. When the narrator says 'of course' it implies that it is a cliché in this world that all seemingly virtuous people have a dark side. There is a city Watch which is violent and tyrannical. There is canal and a swamp. As a reader I took a lot of pleasure from all the bits and pieces of the larger world that you managed to weave into the list short list of character. I found this a solid submission as it is written.
If you wanted to work on this more address some of these points.
The characters, as a whole though, were not well developed as literary or RPG resources. In storytelling terms some of the definitions of the character lean on genre troupes. For example you have a couple ex-adventures. What is an adventurer?
Also we don't get a lot of visceral or visual details regarding most of the characters. With regard to Nesser , we don't get the flavor of dealing with this character. Yes he blows goats but how is that going to fit into a story. Is it true? Or is it perhaps part of the general anti-Orcish slander. Perhaps you could describe the experience of being in the same room or alley way as Yitzhak. Do we expect him to be fair all be it incompetent? In some characters we get a little more like with Jon Fonda or Snarf. *snarf*
This comes to the second point about RPG standards. I remember reading the old modules, like Trouble at Tragdoor and even in those very sophomoric attempts at story telling give us NPCs were written up with 'will dos' and 'won't dos'. More sophisticated RPGs have motivations and even pop-psych profiles. Again some of your characters do have that type of motivations listed in their bios.
Also some of your sentences are kind rough. Consider the second sentence of the first paragraph.
They survive on piece work, rag picking, fish gutting, begging, scavenging and day labor at South Wharves, and on the handful of legitimate businesses in the district ... as well as preying on one another.
That is a chewy sentence. I dropped your text into the Hemingway Editor and it gave it readability score of 13 or Okay.
Overall, a tight little sign-post submission. (Sign-post: gives us a general direction and some pertinent details.)
Well ... as far as relying on tropes go: no kidding. Don't we all? Honestly, I wouldn't expect anyone on this site would need any instruction in what an 'adventurer' is.
Beyond that, yeah, the NPCs run a paragraph apiece. I could've built them up a lot more, but then why bother grouping them? Could have done them as separate NPC subs then.
As far as sentences go, some people like long sentences, some people like short ones.
I desired instruction as to what you or your narrator meant by adventurer. Do people self-identify as adventurers in your setting?
Nope, although there are various euphemisms out there. Still, there's a big difference between someone who's an agent for the Good Guy/White Light council, someone who's a mercenary taking short term gigs for the gold, someone working for the kingdom's secret police, and a bored young nobleman who's a part-time thrill seeker for the hell of it. Third-person omniscient viewpoint, we might (and do) have a collective word to describe it all, and 'adventurer' is what the tabletop RPG industry has settled on. People *in the setting* probably wouldn't.
I actually like the opening descriptors. They do give me a nice visual and visceral sense of the place. Can smell the muck and other odors. The npcs are ok I guess. Kinda agree with axle on that part. But pretty decent hive of scum and villainy you got going here!
I've been writing up a similar place lately, so nice to get some ideas here.
Good set of personalities but I did find myself wanting more with each one, especially Lywyn. I can come up with the rest that I have questions about or that need expanding on, but would be nice if some additional information was provided to help bring them more to life.
Great list though!
I like this place - it has a whiff of Thieves world, especially with its touches of unsavoryness... :)