Thursday, September 3, 2015

HMS Apollyon - Player Introduction from Player Guide

The gates of the Bleeding Gaol opened, and the stiffness from your cramped confinement, the chaffing from the fetters and the psychic scars of darkness and uncertainty has finally left you over the last day or two.  Now there is only the Rustgates and the near certainty of a bad death.

You were born and raised among the stews and fleshpots of the Cannery, Pickbone Square, The Pool or even the Sun Rookery, but that hardly matters now.  Likewise, the pleasures and pains of the life you lived there are all just memories - that you were the shift leader on the can line, or the fastest scrivener in the factor house is as immaterial as if you were the worst copyist in the Queen’s Scriptorium or a lay-about Vory thug who never managed to savvy The Code.  Whatever you were is stripped away by the brand of ‘flotsam’ on your right wrist, and whatever you did to get here matters little.  Even guilt and innocence are unimportant, as only social status offers survival in Sterntown: access to food, protection from arbitrary violence, the freedom to move about town, availability of shelter, and the right to purchase proper supplies and equipment all depend on who you know and who finds you useful.  Even if you once were, you sentence means that you must again prove your value to self-interested and capricious judges.  You are an exile, a criminal, and outcast so  it’s your lot to live the rest of your days in the festering favelas and dense scaffold slums of the Rustgate, where you can either die or  find a thin accommodation with survival by pulling treasures from the haunted hull.


The Rustgates - almost accurate map of street level
The Rustgates are a small, even more densely populated area of the already cramped Stern.  Like all “decks” of the Apollyon they consist of a series of 100’ tall vaults of green-black orichalcum – unworkable “ship metal” formed by the long lost technology of the builders before the great marooning.  Unlike some other areas of the vessel, the Rustgate (and most of Sterntown) contain few orderly sublevels and whatever cabins, gangways and working spaces they once held have been ripped out, their stone, steel and wood repurposed to build a sprawl of scaffolding, balconies, poorly ventilated tenements, storefront shrines, bars, burlesque houses, gambling dens, fighting pits, noodle shops and flop houses. 

While at the deck level there is some semblance of a street, only on the “Golden Way” running in front of the great Gilded Exile Burlesque House do these streets reach from the metal of the lowest deck to the buttresses of the ceiling.  The majority of the space within the vault that makes up the Rustgates is tangle of buildings, shacks and scaffolding piled atop each other, forming a crazy web of shanties and hovels above the more prosaic buildings below.  
The principal industries of the Rustgates are vice and scavenging from the hull, and the powers of Sterntown profit from it anarchy and hidden order as the Rustgates provide an influx of treasure and raw materials from the rest of the hull that Sterntown’s industry and luxury both depend on, while also offering a productive way to dispose of citizens who defy, disrupt, question or inconvenience them.

The population of the Rustgates is truly made up of the vessel’s lowest and unluckiest.  Factorial workers maimed by machinery and cast out of the grim, tidy tenements of neighborhoods like Pickbone Square, and every other variety of madman, cripple and urchin.  Gangs of feral urchins (widely believed to be cannibal) nest high above the streets in the blower ducts and descend to rob, kill and run confidence games on the slightly less impoverished  denizens of the Rustgate’s lower levels.  Scavenging, trading in scavenged goods, and sybaritic entertainment are the only jobs within the Gates, and except for those too far gone to injury, madness or addicition the community’s leaders expect everyone in the Gates to work or starve.  The Gates principle factions control all life, and a longtime resident who offends the gangster “block captain”, the Steward thug,  or even the street preacher of Lyriss, may suddenly find themselves going hungry as even the stand where they’ve bought kelp and dried fish for ten years turns them away.  Only the three public fountains, great stone pools surrounded by chipped, hull-plundered statuary, whose faces have been re-carved many times to honor entire lineages of Uptown philanthropists are open to all and provide clean water and a sort of watering hole sanctuary to all. 

The incredible density of life in the Rustgates allows about eight thousand residents to be crammed into a space that is about two city blocks square, but built up in an overlapping mass of stories and half stories as high as a ten story building.  Like almost all of Sterntown it is lit only by artificial light, mostly by dim bluish gas lamps fueled by decaying waste piped from processing centers on the level above.  Private light sources are common as well, from the stub of tallow candles used by the beggars and addicts to light their pleading faces to the strings and bouquets of gay multi-colored glow kelp bulbs that advertise even the dingiest dive bar or knocking shop.

The Golden Way, the short ‘U’ shaped street that runs from the Rust Gate fortifications past the Gilded Exile Burlesque House and to the gates of the Bleeding Gaol is the most brightly lit, busiest and safest spot in the Rust Gates. Uniformed and relatively polite Steward gendarmes patrol the Golden Way’s starboard arm, while clusters of nattily, even foppishly, dressed syndicators openly bearing advanced weaponry such as block magazine rifles and drum feed, self-cocking arbalests.  The street is lined on all sides by theaters, gin palaces and fancy brothels and designed to appeal to both the most successful of scavengers and the wealthy Passengers who flock to its ‘seedy delights’.