A Game By
STEPHEN LEA SHEPPARD
With The Art Of
With Endless Thanks To
This book and all contents are copyright
Levi Kornelsen and Jaime Williams, 2006-2008
STARTING UP: PAGE 4
Welcome! Who The Characters Are What The Characters Do
Why You Should Play This Game Media Love-In Style and Tone
A Different World Getting Started How To Play: Character Creation
How To Play: Homeplay How To Play: Missions
The First Scene The Back & Forth
Going To The Mechanics Character Scenes Guide Characters
SETTING: PAGE 16
Overview The Countryside Cityscape About Barrios
The Temple District Porttown Foundry Row University District
Oldcity - The Centro Eastridge Southgate The Undercity
The Powers Politics Common Folks The Poor On Cogs
High Invention On Masterminds The Current Discontent
Where Do You Fit In? The Rebel Network
Hideouts And Fronts Insiders And Fixers The Cog Wars
CHARACTERS: PAGE 42
Character Creation Concept Choose A Kind Cog
Geezer Kid Virtues Cunning Daring Grace
Vocations Mystic Tailor Tinker Soldier Scout
Creating & Rating Traits Starting Conditions Names
MECHANICS: PAGE 60
What Mechanics Do “The Guide Decides” A Sample Character
The Throw Local Conditions Declaring Intent
Dice For Players Dice For The Guide Making The Roll
Describing Victory Blocking Conditions At Four
Conditions As Gear On Minions Teamwork Duration Blocking
On Zeal All About Experience Rules Glossary
HOMEPLAY: PAGE 78
Overview The Basic Location Five Local Powers
Creating Strife Bits To Consider
MISSIONS: PAGE 84
What Missions Are About Mastermind Resources
The Place And The Rise The Proper Order The Real Power Structure
Ways To Get In The Numbers
GUIDE: PAGE 90
What The Guide Does On Running Homeplay On Running Missions
Some Fundamental Ideas Putting It All Together Rotating Guides
The book you’re reading is a game, a kind normally called a roleplaying game
or RPG. If you’re new to these kinds of games, relax and read along; by the
end of this chapter, you should have a pretty solid idea of how it all works.
The most basic thing to remember is that in this game, the players will take on
the part of fictional persons, called characters, and take part in adventures. The
exception to this is the Guide, who is a player who will take on the job of
actually playing the whole rest of the world rather than a single character.
If you’re a seasoned roleplayer, it will still be a good idea to read along
carefully. The Cog Wars will strike some readers as very different from what
they’re used to seeing out of an RPG, and you may be one of those. Overall,
the game combines some innovative ideas (conflict resolution, narrated
victory) with some very traditional ones (mission-based play, the basic ideas of
having adventures), in a very quirky setting that ranges in content from zany
cartoon mayhem to the edge of serious social issues. The resulting gameplay
is pretty simple and intuitive, once you “get into the groove” of the game.
WHO THE CHARACTERS ARE
The characters are a mixed group of kids, old folks (called geezers), and
thinking automatons (called Cogs), in a steampunk city named Tiran. These
characters are vigilantes, but the criminals that they target are so much a part
of the society of Tiran that they are often referred to as rebels.
Rebels usually operate in mixed groups, which are sometimes called crews.
A rebel crew is considered “legitimate” by other rebels only if they have
cleaned up a neighborhood and established a base of operations; the rebels
which are being played in this game have already done this.
WHAT THE CHARACTERS DO
A rebel crew goes out into the city to fight Masterminds. Such a crew also
maintains their own home base, dealing with internal problems and conflicts
taking place there in order to keep everything ticking over nicely.
“Fighting Masterminds” isn’t a straightforward deal. The characters may
well spend some of their time investigating a crime, engaging in skullduggery,
getting into a fight, racing time to stop a doomsday device, starting a riot,
crawling around in the sewers. They might do all of those things in the space
of a single session of play. The mechanics of the game are built to treat just
about any kind of conflict equally, in order to free the group to pursue
whatever kinds of crazy action they want to try out.
WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY THIS GAME
There are many high-quality roleplaying games available to occupy your time
and provide your group with entertaining stuff to do. So why play this one?
The Cog Wars, as a game, is a bundle of labor-saving devices. The first such
device is a clear explanation of what the game is and does, and how to go
about the act of playing it. Second is a patchwork setting that can be adapted
to a number of different styles of play, ranging from punk revolution to out-
and-out comedy. Then comes a high-speed method of building characters, so
that finicky engineering doesn’t delay getting to actually playing. The next tool
is a set of mechanics built to manage tracking the important stuff in the
fictional world of play, whatever that might be, and working it the resolution of
conflict. This is followed up by two methods for creating active situations,
generators for setting up “episodes” for playing in. And finally, a little advice
on use, to make these tools easier to employ.
What all that adds up to is that if you have a bunch of people looking to play
together at having wild adventures in a seriously messed-up, screwball world,
this is the right book. If the order of the day is action, melodrama, hijinks, and
black comedy, set against a background that also includes issues of a serious
nature, this is the game for you. If the idea of committing fictional cartoon
mayhem in the name of vigilante justice, intended to free robotic slaves, cast
down oppressive industrialists, and strike back at corruption strikes you as a
little too weird, you may want to put the book down for a bit and soak in some
of the recommended media...
Here’s a list of different media that catch some part or another of the style and
content of The Cog Wars:
• Castle Falkenstein (RPG): A • Robin Hood (Many Media): The
high-flying steampunk game set in original awesome vigilante,
an alternate 1870s, filled with always deserving of mention.
faerie, invention, and magic. • Sly Cooper (Video Game): A
• Conspiracy X (RPG): A game of band of cartoon thieves take on
characters operating in cells, assorted Masterminds in their
fighting conspiracy, this game is home territories.
recommended for the hideout- • Spirit of the Century (RPG): A
making system. very well done pulp-action game;
• Girl Genius (Webcomic): A the mechanics and playstyle of this
steampunk adventure series; still game are excellent sources for
not enough robots, but good. Cog Wars system-tinkering.
• Night Watch (Book): This is one • Warmachine (Minis game): Big
of the Discworld series by Terry clonking steampunk robots, with
Pratchett, involving a weird city mages controlling them, beating
and a revolution. Comedy. each other up on the battlefield.
STYLE - THE BIG CITY
The Cog Wars is very much a game about a city, and about its issues and
struggles. To that end, a pretty hefty part of this book has been used to
describe that city and the contents of it.
Tiran is, pretty obviously, not a real place. It isn’t even based on any one
real place, though there’s piles of applicable source material out there that a
group can draw on to build the city that they want. Tiran draws from New
York City in 1920, London in 1890, Tokyo in 2010 - it’s the quintessential
“big city” of fiction.
What all this means is that any story of Tiran is ultimately a story about city
life. There are any number of descriptive “feels” that a group can give to the
game, but failing to acknowledge that the game itself is set in a sprawling,
overwhelming, huge, and crazy city does the game a disservice. For instance,
noir grittiness is a more suitable style than western ruggedness.
The Cog Wars can be run inside a range of “tones” - the setting can be
presented mostly as light and goofy fun, skimming over the ugly elements that
sit in the background, or those elements can be brought forward, making the
cartoon-like elements of the game take on an almost sinister feel. When you
get down to the guts of it, this is a game about a city that is often divided up
into little fiefdoms ruled by
corrupt madmen, about a people
living in virtual slavery, about
orphans and abandonment, and
about the betrayal of a set of
ideals that the elderly of this
society fought for to the bitter
...But it’s also a game about
crazy old folks, kids, and
clockwork men running around
in serial, episodic cartoon battle
against a wild assortment of
mad scientists, politicians, and
Your group will need to
decide on the tone that your
game will have, whether your play
will be bright and cartoony, grim and bleak, or whatever amalgam of these
things best fits the way that everyone wants to play their characters and
describe their own actions. A clear decision will make your game more of a
A DIFFERENT WORLD
Philosophers, theologians, mystics, academics, scientists and others have
attempted to codify the basic logic and rules of the world for far longer than
any history can record. We should perhaps emphasize the word attempted,
since none to date have truly succeeded at forming a unified theory that
actually explains the rules by which our world operates. Some have come
close and still others have attempted to make the world itself fit their
philosophies. On the whole, we recommend you take the same attitude about
the world that most Tiranians do: don't try to understand everything, just accept
what you need to and move onwards. That said, let us take a few moments to
cover some of the more well-known paradigms by which the world behaves.
• Science is the one true driving force in Tiran, from the creation of new and
better devices to the exploration and discovery of our world. Science has
toppled governments, raised new ones, begun and ended wars, and turned
the entire world on its ear. Furthermore, the nature of some of these changes
is just being felt now. With new discoveries and advancements coming
almost daily, it is obvious to anyone that science will be the largest force of
change in our time. Whether technological or academic, these discoveries
are the events that shape our present-day issues and our future.
• Magic is not so much a set of natural laws as a method of bending them.
Magic has always existed, in varying methods and forms through history. It
has only been since the end of the old Sorceror Wars and the founding of the
First Empire that magic has gone into a decline due more to the increasing
presence of refined iron than any other factor. Magic will always have its
adherents and students despite the sacrifices, both personal and otherwise,
that must be made to gain power. Of course, practicing magic inside of
Tiran, or many other modern cities, is a criminal action, but the users have
shaped much of the history of our world. True, dragons and other great
magical creations have long since been hunted to extinction, but even more
common creatures, such as gargoyles, as well as substances like glowstone,
were all the direct result of magical interference with the normal world.
• Alchemy or, as it’s known in more scientific circles, alchemistry or
chymistry is the science of using materials both magical and mundane in
nature to achieve a scientific result. It is these principles that have become
the foundation of a large portion of Tiran's science and achievements, such
as the dirigibles, levin-guns, and even the Cogs to some degree, which are
suspected to use an alchemical power source.
• The Creator is purported by many to be a myth, but Their agents have
without a doubt shown their influence on events from time to time. Over
200 such beings, known as Eloi, receive prayer in Tiran, and all of them (if
their followers are to be believed) have taken a hand in human affairs at one
point or another. Thankfully, most Eloi are petty and only take interest in
their own domains. Kelgrim, for example, is far more likely to influence the
decision over which wine is best served with a rice dish than to take a hand
in city politics, a fact for which I think we can all be grateful.
In order to start playing, a group of two or more players will need to sit down
with this book, with all the supplies listed below. They’ll need to decide who
will be taking on the role of the Guide - the head narrator, referee, and the
player who manages the whole world rather than playing in the role of one of
the main characters of the game.
Once your group is assembled and ready to go, take a quick run through the
basics of the setting, and then get down to character creation. When characters
are made, the group creates their hideout and the local situation, and the Guide
preps their first mission. These rules assume that the Guide has been chosen in
advance, has read over the book, and has made some preparations.
The group will need:
• Paper to create characters, a hideout, and missions on. The group may want
to use preformatted character sheets for this purpose, though it’s not strictly
necessary; these can be downloaded from www.amagi-games.org
• A whole bunch of six-sided dice. About twenty is a basic necessity; more
are better; a group might find as many as thirty-five to be handy.
• Tokens or coins, if the group wants to represent Zeal with something that’s
easily handled (it saves erasing).
• Pens or pencils.
HOW TO PLAY:
Character creation is described in detail in chapter three, but here’s an
overview of the process from start to finish.
The Players Will:
• Follow the process given in chapter three: Decide on a concept, choose a
kind, a virtue, a vocation, and create traits and details.
• Throw ideas around with each other to ensure that each character has their
own niche in the group, unique to them.
• Describe how each of their choices fits their character; how their weak and
strong virtues come across, what their traits represent, and so on.
The Guide Will:
• Help players get a mental picture of the kinds of things that the characters
might do, and what the setting is like, so that the players will be able to build
characters that mesh with the setting and the action. The next two pages
have been put in place to describe the basic ideas.
• Note what the character niches are, so that they can prepare missions and
freeplay that works with those niches in the future.
• Assist the players by answering questions about the rules.
HOW TO PLAY:
Homeplay is the ground state of rebel existence. Groups of rebels often “work
the area” around their hideout, engaging in their regular life, keeping their turf
clear and solid, and so on. The preparations for this kind of activity are very
much a matter of creating situations that are tied in to the lives of the
characters. Chapter five describes the process for building a homeplay
situation, as well as giving some ideas on how to make the best use of the
material generated. In homeplay...
The Players Will:
• Take part in the creation of their homeplay situation.
• Have strong motives and objectives for their characters, which should both
suit and expand on their characters as written. These will need to be
expressed to the Guide in order to be useful, and should involve the other
characters and the setting.
• Play their characters as both individuals and as members of a rebel cell,
describing actions for those character that suit their goals.
• Call for throws when they want to accomplish notable tasks, telling the
Guide what it is what they want to do.
The Rebels (Player Characters) Will:
• Chase after their own goals, and deal with the situations that they get into as
a result in whatever way they like and can manage. They will work with
their fellow rebels in chasing after their goals as well, developing their joint
relationships as fellow rebels however seems interesting to all the players.
• Exist as rebels, fighting injustice in whatever way suits them, as well as
living a “regular life” in the setting presented by this book , as described at
whatever level of detail the players and Guide jointly enjoy.
The Guide Will:
• Use the material presented in chapter five, listen to the motives and
objectives the players have for their characters, and create other characters,
locations, and situations where player motives and objectives can come into
• Be ready to improvise as play goes on, actively play and describe the world
around the characters in motion, and use other characters in the setting and
their actions to push the situation toward tension and conflict.
• Call for challenges when the characters are attempting to resolve significant
parts of the situation, setting stakes for those challenges that suit the situation
and the characters.
• Negotiate good stakes with the players when the players call for challenges,
creating challenges that the players would like to win, but which will create
entertainment no matter which way they come out.
HOW TO PLAY:
Rebels don’t spend all their time mucking around at home, of course. They
also go out, find nasty plots and Masterminds and dark dealings, and deal with
them through unmasking, direct action, or any number of other means. When
the call of the moment is for clear, direct adventure, missions are the answer to
that need. Unlike homeplay, which is “fuzzy” in terms of things to do,
missions are defined situations where the characters need to dig out a problem
and execute a solution. Chapter six is a “how to” on creating missions, for the
Guide to make use of. In mission play...
The Players Will:
• Let the Guide know in advance what kinds of grabby ideas are most
interesting to them. It’s a crappy time for everyone if a player can’t get
engaged in a mission; actively letting the Guide know about good hooks can
make that engagement a lot easier.
• Play their characters as full participants in the mission, actively declaring
what they are doing, and pushing the mission forward.
• Describe the actions of their characters in play, and in mechanics, to fit with
the setting and the tone of the game.
The Rebels (Player Characters) Will:
• Work to complete their mission and defeat the Mastermind that the mission
is all about. They’ll often do this through such actions as scouting and
disrupting the resources the Mastermind has, evading or defeating the
various attempts the Mastermind makes to stop them, making secrets public,
and even confronting and defeating the Mastermind personally.
• Take breaks from the action from time to time to acquire things they need,
take a breather, or otherwise learn new and interesting things.
The Guide Will:
• Prepare a Mastermind in advance, including resources, nefarious motives,
henchmen and methods, as well as a barrio to place the mission in. The
Guide may also wish to acquire or draw a map or checklist to show and
remind the players of the locations of these objectives.
• Take on the roles of the different adversaries the players will encounter,
working to provide challenges more than attempting to defeat the characters.
• Work to bridge the various parts of the action together with interesting
scenes, description, and exposition.
• Have ideas for conflicts, manage details of rules relating to those, and
describe the actions of all of the opposition to the characters in conflict.
THE FIRST SCENE OF A SESSION
At the start of any session, the Guide will start things off by describing where
the characters are, and what they’re generally doing, as well as giving a quick
description of what is going on around them.
The purpose of this first scene will usually be to introduce the basic elements
of conflict in the situation, or the mission that the characters are likely about to
get involved in. In a mission-based session, for example, the first scene will
almost always involve the characters meeting with someone that will tell them
about the crimes of a given Mastermind, the location of that Mastermind, and
give them a few leads on the things that this enemy uses to maintain their
power. In a more freely run session, the characters might be anywhere, but
will almost certainly be immediately apprised of some fact or event that has
meaning, and creates conflict, for at least one of the characters.
FRAMING A SCENE
The Guide sets a scene by describing it, pure and simple. This description can
start with a basic sketch - the characters are on the rooftops at night, or in a
tavern, whatever the case is. It should include an overall sensory impression -
the darkness of the night, the noise of the tavern - with a few specific details of
setting - the street below or the tables and crowds around them - to give the
sketch some depth for the players to use.
After making the sketch, the Guide should go on to add an active element -
something that is happening that is there for the characters to interact with,
which can range from a contact to talk with who has vital information to
enemies to fight.
Presenting (or “framing”) scenes is a skill that takes practice; any part of the
life of a rebel group that a Guide goes into must be appealing to both the
players and their characters. Guides should pay attention to this, learning to
insert good details into scenes seamlessly without overdescribing them.
WHAT TO FRAME, AND WHAT TO SKIP
Rebels sleep. They eat. They walk down the block. But most of the time,
nobody at the table will care how the characters slept, the details of how much
they ate, or other such trivia. Most of this will just be glossed over with “You
sleep. You wake. And the next day…”
Equally important to the skill of framing a scene well is the skill of knowing
when to frame a scene at all. A simple guideline is that a good scene always
includes at least one of the following:
• A challenge or conflict of some kind, whether of the sort the rules describe
or even simply where there’s a choice the Guide thinks the players will want
to make as their characters.
• Something that the characters ought to know which is important to the
current situation or mission.
• A chance for the characters to acquire something that they might want.
THE BACK & FORTH
Most of this game is played verbally - the Guide sets a scene, the players
describe what their characters are doing in that scene, the Guide responds by
describing how this affects the setting around the characters, telling them what
happens next, and on and on it goes. If the Guide described a scene that was a
ruined manor, a player might simply say "I explore the ruins, looking for
anything interesting". The Guide might check in with the other players to see
what they're doing at the same time, and then get on to the first interesting
thing in the search, or the first thing that interrupts the search. Or the Guide
might ask the player what they think is interesting, to tailor the results of the
This means that the Guide is making stuff up all the time, adding detail,
fleshing out the setting and adding to it. While the Guide will almost certainly
have prepared material ahead of time, making up details as they go is
absolutely the way things are supposed to be; that's a big part of their job.
WHO CAN NARRATE WHAT
The Guide has the final word on what exists in the setting, but they don't have
the only word. Players will often add minor details “on the fly” as well,
though anyone at the table can stop that addition if it ruins the scene. Say that
in the middle of sneaking through a ruined manor, a player states "I duck
behind a pile of rubble". Now, the Guide may not have specifically described
a pile of rubble there, but that doesn't matter. It makes sense, and it's not like
the player is trying to get something special out of the scene; they're just going
with the way it sits in their head.
If a player adds details that don't fit with what the Guide has set for the
scene, they can be asked to re-describe their action without that detail, or the
Guide can re-describe it for them - the Guide might ask "Well, there aren't any
piles of rubble, but there are several large pieces of rotted-out furniture –
you're ducking behind one of those?" and keep moving.
Players should ensure that details they contribute are sensible, believable,
and fit the continuity of the scene. In return, Guides should be relaxed with
regards to the trivial details of the scene.
OTHER WAYS TO PLAY
There are two main circumstances where play will leave this "Guide describes,
characters act" setup. The first is when there's a conflict or a challenge that
needs to be resolved. Let's say a player wants to knock out a guard by
sneaking up behind them and cracking them on the skull. The Guide could
simply say "Sure. He's unconscious. Now what?" - or the Guide might make a
challenge out of it, as described in the challenge chapter.
The second is when the player characters are talking to some other character
in the world; in those circumstances, players often change over to talking as if
they were their characters, and the Guide speaks as the other character, holding
a conversation as the characters.
GOING TO THE MECHANICS
Mechanics are used to handle conflicts of all sorts, as well as preparations for
those conflicts, and a number of other items. Chapter four goes into the
mechanics in complete depth, but here are the basics.
The Guide can call for a dice roll, or throw, any time that one or more
players declare that they are doing something. Actions that will almost always
warrant a throw include attempts to discover the secrets of a Mastermind,
attempts to disrupt the resources of a Mastermind, and intensive confrontations
of any sort, ranging from attempts to slander the characters and turn the
populace against them to bare-knuckle fistfights in the gutter with local thugs.
However, the Guide is likely to skip over potential throws from time to time.
Anytime that calling for a throw would be more of a chore than an actual
method of moving the game forward, they’re likely to simply declare the
action a success or a failure, and should generally lean heavily towards
declaring successes rather than failures unless players are attempting fairly
Each throw has a few parts: intentions are named, dice are figured and
rolled, and victory is declared or blocked. At the end of a throw, once the
outcome has been determined and described, the group returns to the regular
back-and-forth of play.
Almost every session of play will include at least a couple of scenes where the
players take on the persona of their characters, speaking and gesturing as if
they were those characters. These scenes can be lengthy discussion, or just
Anyone at the table can move the game to this kind of play pretty easily. If
the Guide has just framed a scene where the characters are walking through a
park where upper-class folks are strolling about, a player might very well
declare that their character approaches one of the upper-class ladies and,
switching into the persona of their character, say, “Afternoon, ma’am. Sorry to
be a bother, but would you happen to know where I would be able to find
Doctor Whittleby?” An experienced Guide is likely to jump right in, speaking
as the lady, and answer in whatever way seems best for such a lady to answer.
Scenes like this can end, returning to the back-and-forth narration of regular
play, just as easily. Should an insistent rebel question such a lady too closely,
the Guide might well state that “The lady retreats rapidly from you, shouting
for the guards.”
Just as with framing scenes, there’s plenty of skill involved on the part of
everyone at the table, knowing when it will be enjoyable to move “into
character” and when it would just be dull. This skill is, ultimately, best gained
by practice on the part of the players, but there’s some basic advice for the
When players jump into character scenes with other characters in the setting,
the Guide will often portray those others as “regular people” -These characters
won’t necessarily be especially memorable or have any particular goals or
interesting knowledge. The Guide might be able to improvise these characters
to make them entertaining, or might keep good stock characters in mind, but
generally these scenes will be quick and simple.
When the Guide introduces a new character to play, though, especially if that
character is intended to take any kind of a leading role, they will often have
prepared that character more thoroughly. If a contact sidles up to the rebels in
a dark alley, with information to share, then it’s a pretty good bet that the
contact has a little more personality.
Every Guide will develop their own methods of developing these other
characters, but there are a few things that they Guide should prepare for such a
character in advance; these include:
• Decide how they are connected to the current situation.
• Decide what they know about the current situation.
• Decide what the character wants the player characters to do.
• Decide why they want that.
• Decide how they will try to get the characters to do it.
• Name one memorable mannerism or identifying quality they have.
Tiran is the foremost city of science in the world. It bears many scars where it
has been damaged (and occasionally razed) by some technology or other gone
horribly awry. It sporadically becomes very important when a plague, army or
debilitating new concept comes pouring from its gates like the high waters of a
world-cleansing flood. For a year - or ten - Tiran becomes the center of a
rapidly expanding circle of change and devastation. Then some solution, or
falling out, happens at the new center of the world and whatever it was that
came out of the gates falls to rust and disrepair. For half a lifetime, people
outside Tiran relegate the great city to the dustbin of history. And then, of
course, the whole cycle occurs again. At the moment, Tiran is fighting - not
with any outside agency, but with itself. There are wars, though they may be
half-invisible and fully incredible, being waged in every district, every
moment, for the soul of the city.
For those outside Tiran, it is somewhere very far away in both miles and
thinking. For the most part, people in simple, virtuous towns like Millhaven
and Shropsworth try to forget about Tiran. They want to believe that the world
they live in is ruled by good sense and decent virtue, and that Tiran will never
be able to impose itself upon them again.
But the world isn't ruled by good sense and decent virtue. It is ruled by
madness, daring and a healthy dose of visionary illogic. That is why Tiran will
always be the place where things are happening. That is why the bravest
troublemakers of all the other provinces will find their way to this one city,
generation after generation. It is the heart of what is actually happening in the
world, the often-seedy, sometimes wondrous, always unsettling reality that
those who desire peace and stability must deny at every turn.
So come to Tiran, if you fancy adventure. Make your way through the
massive Puzzle Gate, and step around the fallen, begging heaps of Not-Men -
keep a hand on your cash pouch while you do. Then make your way cogsward
to the Southgate district. There is no finer introduction to Tiran than a quick
walking tour through its crowded streets in search of a room to rent. Your
alternative is to spend the quick-approaching night on the streets, and that is
not a fine, or healthy, introduction to Tiran - educational, certainly, but nobody
can afford much of that kind of education.
Once you've gotten your legs under you, you'll want to get out there and talk
with people listen to the rumors and the gossip of the day. It’ll be some pretty
interesting stuff, and will almost certainly make you want to do something
about it all - you’re destined to be a rebel, after all, even if you don’t quite
know it yet. And you’ll want to find others, like-minded, that share your
feelings, because soon enough, you’ll want to take action. It’s pretty likely that
you’ll also need to find something to occupy your time and put food on the
table, until you discover some of the happy side benefits that can come along
with being a successful rebel - after all, nobody is anybody in Tiran without
something to do, or at least to pretend they're doing. But all that is for later.
For now, settle in, get to know the city and try to suppress any instinctive urge
to panic. After all, this is your new home.
To the north and to the northwest of Tiran lies the plains. Actually, to the
north and to the northwest of Tiran mostly lies more Tiran, as the districtless
barrios fade off into the distance. Eventually the spaces between barrios
become so large that they can be called true independent towns like Millhaven
and Shropsworth, and for miles one can see the small settlements that dot the
flatlands, following the tiny stream that runs down the mostly dried-up
riverbed of the once mighty Erebon. Scattered trees grow more dense and on
the horizon the plains give way to forests.
Traveling anticogwise, to the northwest of Tiran the Periseph mountains
grow up from the ridge running through the Eastridge district of the city,
eventually dominating the skyline. Across the Periseph mountains cuts the
ancient, elevated aqueduct, built centuries after the Erebon river dried up.
Castles and watchtowers dot the Periseph mountains, remnants of the First and
Second Empires. A few are still inhabited and serve as watchtowers for Tiran
itself, communicating by heliograph with other cities, relaying information
back and forth across the mountain range to the Centro of Tiran itself. Other
castles are abandoned and crumbling.
To the west of Tiran, more plains, more border barrios. Standing at the city's
edge on one of the observation towers, a sightseer can just make out the ruins
From Tiran's direct west to its southeast lies the sea. Directly south lies the
dried mouth of the Erebon, a great crack in the cliffs overlooking the southern
sea, lined up both sides with construction. Across the sea to the south lies the
Apylo Archipelago, and to the west, distant Mundos. Trade ships cross the
water with frequency, their white sails glittering in the sun.
But in the center of the world lies Tiran itself. Or so its people will tell you.
Tiran has always been a diverse city, to say the least. Possibly one of the
oldest cities still in existence, history shows us that Tiran has served many
purposes throughout the years, from a simple trade center to a capital. Now, as
its own independent city-state, it seem the fortunes of the city can only
continue to rise. But for those unfamiliar with our city, this guide will serve as
a good introduction to get you acquainted.
To understand the system of barrios in Tiran, we need to look a bit at how
the city was originally formed. Tiran began as nothing more than
closely-located individual family groups - each one with their own houses,
barns, storage facilities and the like. As trade began to come down the
Stangis river to the sea, a harbor was added so that locals could sell
their goods to passing ships that needed to resupply before they went off on
their long ocean voyages. The harbor, of course, expanded, as did the
barrios, with more and more families moving in on the area until the entire
valley was filled with individual barrios, farmlands, and the roads that
connected them. A hundred years later, the First Empire conquered the
region, uniting the loose barrios into a single collective city. Roads and
other systems were put in place to connect everything further, and as some
barrios moved away from farming and into business, the farmland around
those barrios quickly filled with other, similar barrios, or with supporting
businesses and buildings for existing ones. This continued until,
during the Second Empire, the entire city was declared to be fully
connected. Central government was then established in the Centro, but beyond
the regulation of the individually-owned Civic Patrols, the barrios were
left to their own, by and large, for establishing and enforcing any but the
most basic of laws, a condition that persisted until the Summer Revolution.
Today, many barrios have lost their identities, simply merging into the
larger whole of their districts, or changing purposes again and again as
needed to keep up with the times. But the concept of the barrio has always
been maintained as a core element of Tiranian history and identity. To this
day, ask a Tiranian what nationality they are, or who they serve, and
they're as like to tell you what barrio they're from as much as anything
else. Even inter-barrio fights still occur, although these are usually
nothing more than friendly competitive brawls than actual civil wars or
Following are some of the more interesting barrios that can be found in
Tiran, organized by which district they can be found in. Some are listed purely
because they are the most representative of their home district, others
because they are truly amazing destinations for any tourist to our fair
city, but all are more than worth taking the time to go and visit. I
strongly suggest that you do so.
THE TEMPLE DISTRICT
The Centro may be the heart of Tiran, but the city's temple district, taking up
the northwestern portion of the city, houses its soul. Temples and shrines to
the two hundred and forty-seven Eloi that receive regular prayer in Tiran stand
in this area, along with some of the most beautiful civic parks, monuments, and
plazas. This district is a must see for any visitor to Tiran, as holy celebrations
for one Eloi or another occur on almost every day of the year.
Towering over the center of the temple district stands the Necropolis, both
home and monument to the deceased of Tiran. Founded by a delegation of
Nightmen from the original Necropolis in distant Mundos, the undertakers of
the city specialize in the burial methods of all the races that have ever walked
the world - rest assured, should you pass on to the next life during your travels
here, any customs your people have will indeed be observed.
The faiths of Tiran all share, or have acquired, a single common belief - that
there was one Creator, who passed on to other beings the power to govern
specific areas of influence, such as the Ocean, Harvest, and so on. These
beings are the Eloi, though they are just as often called by other names that
render variously as Archangels, Divas, and Djinni. Yet, the single word is
used for all such beings by the people of Tiran.
BLACKMONT: A TEMPLE BARRIO
Near the very center of the Temple District, you will find Blackmont - a high-
walled barrio containing many great cathedrals, monasteries, and guards.
Blackmont was established as a fortress to be used by many of the strongest of
the faiths of Tiran to house their libraries and scholars in safety and play host
to a conversation between faiths, in the hopes of knowing better the nature of
the Creator, rather than any group of Eloi. It has failed, becoming a place
where only the very rich go to worship, surrounded by costly texts and clever
words as warriors of opposed faith glare at one another across narrow streets.
REDCANDLE: A TEMPLE BARRIO
Forming part of the border between the Temple District and Foundry Row is
Redcandle Way, home to some of the finest pleasures to be had in Tiran. For
those faithful, the young ladies and gentlemen of the shrine of
Bal'sit'va will be glad to relieve your tensions, be they carnal, or even mental
or social - the courtesans there are trained in all the arts of courtesy. For those
of lower tastes, many of the "houses" on Redcandle Way will be happy to
oblige. Interested parties should be forewarned to ignore any solicitations that
they may receive on the street however, as these are typically "freelance"
workers, and have no affiliation with any guild or temple, which means that
they are in essence operating without a license and therefore illegal.
Located to the east of the Centro, Porttown originally began as an independent
city, based around trade coming south along the Erebon river to the sea, but
was quickly absorbed into the larger capital by decree of Findus II (First
Empire). Even once the river had dried up during the great drought, ocean
trade continued from the portions of the harbor that hadn't become landlocked.
While the main docks may have shifted to the Southgate district, Porttown is
still the prime location in Tiran for any trader or merchant, as all of the main
shops lie in this district. Whatever you may need on your journeys, from a
new sidearm to rare maps of distant places, or even full equipment and supplies
for a climb up Mt. Enkkidon, all of it can be found here.
Of special note to tourists is the Grand Bazaar located in the western end of
the district. It is here that most traveling merchants choose to display their
wares, and a most enjoyable day can be had in this area alone, which spans a
full four city blocks! Naturally, the Civic Patrol watch this area most carefully,
as there are always padfoots and pickpockets about, and the area is never
completely free of merchants trafficking in goods forbidden by law.
It is here, too, where many different folks seek the attention of Cogs and
Cogwork items, either for recapture, to smuggle them away, to gain them so
that their home countries can learn more of them, and many other purposes.
PLAYER’S COURT: A PORTTOWN BARRIO
Some parts of Tiran have truly been hit hard by the war. Such an example is
the once-famed Player's Court, a barrio devoted to theatre and the
performing arts. With the institution of the draft, however, the
theatres have been largely stripped of their players. Grand palaces such as
the famed Reicheindot Theatre now stand empty save for a few custodians and
those directors too old to fight, and too tired to move to another town
where actors are still available to perform. The smaller theatres of the
district get by - mostly with child companies, although one inventive
director is quickly assembling an all-Cog cast for an upcoming production of
Tybaltio and Egrettia.
The crown jewel of Player's Court, the Oriphantii Rex theatre, has become
the greatest tragedy of the barrio. Once, troupes from across the world came
here to give grand performances. With the beginning of the war against
Bailick however, the theatre found itself lacking in both patrons and
available players, and was forced to close. The gilded entranceways have
become tarnished with neglect, the once-beautiful banners that formed the
set of Loveless, the theater's final production, now hang in moth-eaten
tatters. At night however, passers-by often see the occasional lit window in
the theatre, glowing with a pale ghostly light. Those willing to venture
closer to the abandoned structure have even reported that they could hear
someone talking inside of the theatre, sounding for all the world like some
lost actor declaiming his lines to a massive audience.
Foundry Row is indisputably the one district in Tiran that has seen the most
change in the last seventy years. Beginning as nothing more than a large
shipyard sandwiched between Porttown and the military/housing district of
Brown End, Foundry Row has since expanded to encompass all of Brown End,
and covers even more territory in Porttown - all for the creation, maintenance,
and storage of the city's Cogworks. Everything from the childlike serving-
Cogs to the titanic WarCogs are all produced here. Where simple brick houses
and barracks once stood, great smokestacks now rear themselves skyward,
belching forth steam and other strange chymical gases from Cogwork
production. For those who have never seen a Cog (more properly known as a
Cogwork man), Foundry Row is a must see. Some of the smaller, non-military
factories will even allow visitors to view some of the work that goes into
making a Cogwork, a process that should be seen on a regular basis.
In addition to this, the city's new Skyport has been built in this district, near
its northwestern edge. Observers can watch the dirigibles, one of the city's
new and greatest achievements, take off or land here, and, for a small fee, can
even become passengers on one of the smaller tour-vessels on a short day-trip
to the areas outlying the city.
Foundry Row also serves as the central hub for Tiran's military, especially
since so much of that military is now mechanical rather than flesh and bone.
The city barracks are still located here, and a good number of veterans from
past wars also live in this area. Those interested in stories from Tiran's
previous wars can find them easily here, for only the price of a drink or two in
a local pub.
SCRAPIRON SQUARE: A FOUNDRY ROW BARRIO
Aging and dying humans have hospitals, rest homes and, ultimately, the
Necropolis. Cogs have ScrapIron Square, a six block field bordered on all
sides by a steel wall erected just a few years ago, to keep any rogue Cogs on
their last faded bits of power from escaping. Inside the walls are the mountains
of broken machinery, scrap metal and other debris that would fill any other
junkyard anywhere else in the world. But here also are those Cogs that once
faithfully served their masters and have gone on to their reward.
Some of Tiran's small-but-growing population of sentient Cogs come here
willingly, knowing they have become obsolete to the outside world, and
choosing to spend their final days working among their brethren, sorting the
garbage, laying defunct Cogs to rest in the scrap. Other Cogs, those incapable
of making it to ScrapIron Square for a dignified death, or rogue Cogs, brought
down by the anti-Cog arm of the Civic Patrol are brought here for recycling.
In the center of the Square is the Smelter, a facility built and run entirely by
the aging Cogs that maintain ScrapIron Square. It is here that ruined Cogs and
other scrap metal are finally melted down and given their final rites, before
being recast as ingots of pure metal and shipped back to the factories in
Foundry Row for forging into new machines and Cogs.
THE UNIVERSITY DISTRICT
Of course, not all those who come to Tiran are merely tourists. Some of the
finest academians in the world flock to this city, and specifically to the
Universitas Tiranis, known far and wide for its advances in the field of science,
medicine, alchemy, and other disciplines. Founded in the First Empire, the
University has been virtually untouched during later rebellions and wars,
allowing it to expand to its now huge size. Four full libraries take up portions
of the campus, and the University's original medical wing has expanded to
become almost a college in its own right. Classes are affordable, the entry fee
having been set at a fixed value by the government almost thirty years ago, and
the college is almost always seeking new teachers. The rest of the district is a
mix of housing, and those businesses needed near the college; many of the best
cafes and restaurants in Tiran can now be found in this district.
The People's Hospital (formerly the Royal Hospital) is also located in this
district, and is probably the best treatment center for any ailment on this side of
the continent. It is staffed by the best doctors and chiurgeons in the field,
many of them trained at the University medical academy.
THE HALLS OF SCIENCE: A UNIVERSITY BARRIO
The Halls of Science make up one of the largest barrios in Tiran's
University district, spanning over twenty blocks of buildings, fields, and
other structures. While entrepreneurs have made a considerable amount of
money leasing spaces in this barrio for housing or other supporting
businesses, the entirety of the area is owned by the University. Four of the
central buildings, known as "The Quartet" to students, house the classes and
lectures put on by the college. Other outbuildings are leased by professors,
enigineers, and scientists attached to the college for experimental use. The
Universitas Tiranis has long had a practice of encouraging experimentation,
so space is often leased to almost any inventor who can present an interesting
idea to the college's Board of Directors. An area so large acts almost as a
microcosm of the rest of Tiran. Indeed, within this barrio, specialized
miniature barrios have sprung up.
THE TOWERS OF THE EYE: A UNIVERSITY BARRIO
One of the most notable features in the University District, the Towers of
the Eye serve a truly distinct purpose - the study of the heavens. The towers
themselves are wholly amazing structures - a gigantic ring of slender spires
of steel girders woven together to form graceful, yet sturdy supports for
the entire Eye Array, a series of magnification lenses that can be moved
into interlocking positions and focused upon any part of Tiran's sky. The
image captured is reflected into a large pool in the center of the structure,
allowing dozens of observers to see the same image at once. Rumor has it that
the Guard takes an interest in experiments involving the Eye Array, though
what military purpose magnified light could have is beyond the imagination
of this humble writer.
OLDCITY - THE CENTRO
The original Centro was a palace, home to the Rochiavelli monarchs and the
seat of Tiranian government in the days after the Second Empire. Histories tell
us of the graceful towers that once stood watchful over the octagonal Bailey
Wall that surrounded the barrio. Now all that remains of the original structure
is the Bailey Wall itself, blackened and stained by the fires that swept through
the Centro during the Summer Revolution - stains which, according to Council
Law, must never be cleaned, as a reminder to the people of Tiran that all
revolutions have their price.
Now, an entirely new building occupies the Centro, filling the entire area
inside of the Bailey Wall, and rising up and over it to a height of several
hundred feet - and counting, since the structure is still under a constant state of
construction to this day. It is officially known as The Central Tower of Justice,
Peace, Virtue, and Order, or more simply as the Tower by locals when they
don't simply refer to it by its older form of address as the Centro.
Twin docking spires for aircraft jut upwards from the main structure, while
the rest of the Tower expands upwards and outwards, like a bloated mushroom.
Copper sheathing has been applied to the outside of the Tower itself, but due to
neglect and the inability to polish some sections due to the construction
scaffolding surrounding it, the sheathing has verdigrised to a dark green,
further enhancing the funguslike appearance.
As for the disposition of the interior of the Tower, the High Guard occupies
the chambers that honeycomb the Bailey Wall, prepared to defend the seat of
Tiran's government from any external or internal attack. Civic Patrol also has
its main offices here, in the lower levels of the Tower itself, in order to provide
a loose hub for communications between the Watch Houses in each district.
The Tiranian Council occupies the mid-levels of the Tower including, of
course, the Council Hall, as well as private rooms and offices for each of the
Councilmembers. The much-rumored Special Projects Bureau occupies the
next tier of levels, with courier imps constantly coming and going, bringing in
supplies and messages for Bureau staff. And the final, largest, and as yet
uncompleted upper tier belongs to the Tiranian Army. It is also rumored that
there are chambers below the Tower as well, some used as dungeons for
political prisoners, and others for even darker purposes. As yet, however, these
rumors are unconfirmed, and should most definitely be taken with a grain of
Named for the large rocky ridgeline that runs through the middle of this
district, Eastridge is also by and large mostly new construction. Like the
Centro, Eastridge was nearly destroyed in its entirety by fire during the
Summer Revolution 53 years ago. Before the revolution, Eastridge, had housed
the barrios and private preserves of Tiran's wealthy and powerful nobility, with
the most powerful families of all stationed on top of the ridge itself. Today,
Eastridge is home to both noble and commoner alike - with rich and well-
guarded barrios that escaped the flames scattered throughout the district and
more common-classed apartments and houses covering the rest of the area.
Interested parties can tour the mansions and private estates of some of the
noble families, such as the LaMendozas or the Radescus. This is especially
encouraged, simply to see the finest intact examples of Second Empire
architecture still in existence in the world.
HAVENSEDGE: AN EASRIDGE BARRIO
Havensedge was meant to be a new wave of the future for the Eastridge district
when construction began on it seven years ago. Located near the outer edge of
the district, it would have provided affordable housing for hundreds of families
inside a structure that would have stood over thirty stories tall. Sadly, this was
not to be. Eight months into construction, when the tower had only reached a
height of eighteen stories - taller than the rest of the Eastridge district
surrounding it - an event occurred that forever changed this simple barrio into
the stuff of nightmares.
It began with the mysterious deaths among the construction workers in the
tower - bodies disappeared or fallen from the upper levels for no apparent
reason. Dwellers in the barrio could swear they heard the sound of wings by
night, though no flying creature could be discerned. Then the statues were
finally noticed, monstrosities that had no place in the tower's architecture
began to dominate the structure on almost any conceivable perch, and by then
it was too late - the gargoyles had come home to roost. Gargoyles are, by
nature, a challenge to deal with. By day, their chameleon-like skin allows
them to blend into any stone surface they are touching, and by night, they stay
aloft to hunt, nearly silent and extremely deadly. Needless to say, the entire
human population of Havensedge quickly evacuated the barrio for other
These days, Havensedge stands empty. Between the hazards of living
directly under the gargoyles as well as a University injunction in the works to
have the district cordoned off as a wildlife preserve for this rare species, the
barrio remains devoid of people. Poachers looking to make a quick profit in
the chymical components that can be rendered from a gargoyle corpse make
occasional forays into the barrio by day, but at night, the place is avoided by
any but the poor fools who should happen to stumble into its walls after dark.
Southgate is not specifically an area for tourists, though many travelers to
Tiran will see this district first as they disembark from their ships. Southgate
acts as home for a number inexpensive hostels and probably the largest number
of pubs, bars, and other entertainments for the weary sailor. For those
traveling inexpensively, this is the district to use as a good base of operations.
Otherwise, stay out of it if at all possible. While a good time can be had here,
the streets of Southgate are definitely not friendly to travelers after dark.
Of course, Southgate also serves as the city's dock and shipyard, with
vessels arriving from all points of the world on a daily basis. If you have cargo
to move, or wish to travel by sea, this is certainly the place to go.
THE CRANEYARD: A SOUTHGATE BARRIO
When the Stangis river finally ran dry, many thought Tiran's days as a port
of call were ended. With the sheer cliff face to the south making a direct
sea approach to the city near-impossible, it was almost a century before a
new system was implemented. But with the designs of a team of Tiranian
engineers, the first piers of the Craneyard were constructed - massive stone
pylons which stretched from the ocean up to the level of the city itself,
topped with equally massive pneumatic cranes. Smaller piers and docks
followed, surrounding the ten original piers in a chaotic jumble of
stair-steps between the ocean and the city. Buildings have even been erected
on the piers as the city continued to increase in size, housing workers to
load cargo to and from incoming ships as well as warehouses and, of course,
the City Customs House, where all incoming cargo is registered and taxed
before it moves on up into the city.
Directly underneath the Craneyard lies the Web, a home to many of Tiran's
vagrants and disenfranchised. Mostly made up of shanties built from debris
from the cranes or damaged ships, these shanties often jut from the pilings
themselves, just underneath the platforms, like angular bumps on a log.
Crude rope bridges and lines interconnect the shanties in a tangle of hemp,
as if a spider and a ship's line-rigger collaborated on a design. Residents
in these parts live in constant fear for their homes, either from a falling
ship smashing through the platforms, or from the high tides of Spring, which
can crush houses against the upper platform in a swift second - but rent is
free, and no one, provided they can build their own home and hook it to the
others, is unwelcome.
The Civic Patrol maintains a separate Craneyard Watch House in addition to
the main Southgate House, presumably to simply provide support to the
Customs House. Just as importantly, it also deals with the smuggling and
thieving operations that run rampant through the district, most notably of
which would be the Hand Guild. The Hand Guild is rumored to be quartered
in the Craneyard, and the hand-shaped graffiti markers belonging to the gang
are certainly clustered more thickly here than anywhere else.
During the droughts that plagued the city towards the end of the First Empire,
dwellers in the city were forced to dig deeper and deeper into the caves below
the city in order to reach the ever-dwindling water supply. As this was before
any kind of pumping system had been developed, the city did what came most
naturally - it followed the water, building deeper and deeper into the earth until
both the water supply and the First Empire came to an end.
With the coming of the Second Empire and advances like Tiran's current
system of aqueducts, these caves were found to be unnecessary and were by
and large sealed up and built over by the constant expansion of the city. Not
all the entrances were sealed off, however, and a lucky tourist may be able to
find entry into this amazing subterranean realm. Once below the streets of
Tiran, architectural and natural wonders abound - some not seen since the days
of the mythic First Empire.
However, it is strongly recommended that visitors to the Undercity bring
along hired security for the occasion, or at least travel well-armed. It has been
rumored that some of the city's criminal element has now taken to hiding from
the Civic Patrols in these ruins, and would no doubt find an unarmed traveler
to be easy prey.
THE BOILERS: AN UNDERCITY TERRITORY
No one with a will to keep living travels the caverns near Centro. When the
new Council began rebuilding the Centro, they built not only upwards, but
downwards as well. The sound of mighty pistons groaning away can be heard
from a distance, and clouds of steam fill the tunnels as one approaches closer
and closer. Markers have been set up by the Underside's Not-men population
at a distance of one hundred feet from the darkest portions of the area, grim
tokens warning those lost in those tunnels to turn back immediately. Beyond
the markers, everything becomes shrouded in the fog. Shapes are said to be
seen in the mists - not human shapes, but not fully Cog or monster either.
Perhaps the most damning evidences of wrongdoing in the Boilers are the
rumors of John "Bronzearm" Baptiste. An elderly priest of Mala'kett,
John descended into the Boilers in pursuit of a pair of children who were
said to have become lost down in the mists. The children returned several
days later, but for three months there was no sign of Baptiste. Then, it is
said that one night he crawled out of the fogs, screaming for help before
finally passing out in the middle of the Scutters.
Chiurgeons were brought down to see to him, but he bore not a mark on him,
save for one thing: the removal of his right bicep, which had been replaced
with a series of bronzework pistons and gears. When John awoke, he only
responded to questions with mumbled gibberish with no apparent memories of
even his own identity, much less how or why this disfigurement had happened
to him. Since then he lived as a beggar, depending solely on what handouts
he could get in the Scutters, up until his disappearance almost a year after
the incident. He has not been seen since.
At the highest point of Tiran's government (and housed in the second-tallest
structure in the city) are the twelve members of the Tiran Council. Councilors
serve twelve year terms, with one city-wide election held per year during
spring. There is no limit to the number of terms a councilor may serve, though
few serve more than three. Every fall, the councilors hold an election amongst
themselves to decide which of them will be the city's mayor for the year.
Serving the Tiran Council and the bureaucracy of the Centro directly is the
High Guard, divided into the Eyes and the Hands. The Eyes are the Tiran
Council's intelligence network, while the Hands are their enforcement arm.
The Eyes are charged with knowing everything that goes on in Tiran, while the
Hands are to keep barrio leaders from overstepping their boundaries.
The barrio leaders are under the Tiran Council. They go by a bewildering
variety of official titles, varying by individual barrio - there are Barrio Counts,
Barrio Lords, Barrio Chairmen, Barrio Directors, and even two Barrio Kings
and one Barrio Mayor (whose title causes much confusion on occasion). In
addition, many barrios are governed by groups, councils, circles, churches, or
other such pluralities, in contrast to the barrios governed by individuals. Most
barrios have a Guard or a Watch reporting to the barrio leader, in the form of
either an official force trained and managed by the barrio government or a
private contracted firm employed by it, but a few are effectively anarchies.
Separate from the government of Tiran are the guilds of the city. There are
few, if any, unified guilds in Tiran. Most guilds cover only a single barrio,
though many similar guilds in adjacent barrios form into guild alliances. The
vast majority of guild alliances stretch across no more than three barrios,
though the larger alliances may stretch across twenty-five barrios or more.
Since the Summer Revolution, most of the aristocracy of Tiran no longer
derives its power from lineage. The noble families were never forced to give
up their titles, however, and few of the surviving nobles were forced to give up
their fortunes. Many guild leaders, successful businessmen and politicians got
to where they are today thanks to the springboard of their family fortunes.
Additionally, a few rare nobles, acting out of principle or opportunism,
collaborated with the revolutionaries and fought against their fellows, or stayed
out of the conflict in exchange for guarantees of neutrality. Some cut deals to
retain their own hereditary right to localized rule. These few still rule their
barrios as did the feudal aristocrats a hundred years ago.
Not everyone in the city with a noble title is from a family with authentic
noble lineage, however. Noble families on the brink of bankruptcy after the
Revolution sometimes sold their titles to wealthy businesspeople, reasoning
that as rich commoners they'd be better off than poor aristocrats.
Finally there is Tiran's organized criminal elements. So-called shadow
guilds scuttle about beneath the legitimate powers of the city, seeking riches
and power through extra-legal means.
The Tiran Council is deeply divided on nearly all issues, and the mayor is
almost always a weak compromise candidate. It's not uncommon for the
mayor to be the newest addition to the council, elected in the belief that he'll be
easy to manipulate. The rest of the councilors are a mixture of selfish and self-
absorbed charismatic opportunists and candidates backed by and elected with
the help of publicity campaigns financed by the largest of the guild alliances.
Almost always, several actual Masterminds sit on the council, held barely in
check by the few truly altruistic and well-meaning councilors who manage to
beat their more underhanded competition to the council seats. Once in a rare
while, however, Tiran sees a period of justice and progress when a candidate
both charismatic and altruistic wins the approval of the council majority for
consecutive terms. Luckily for the Cogs, such a candidate was in place when
Doctor Vermelkampf's Cog creations made their bid for justice.
The High Guard is not corrupt as a whole, but is often ineffective due to the
council's near-constant inability to actually make or stick to decisions. The
short length of any mayoral position ensures that no single policy or course of
action stays in effect for very long.
Barrios close to the Centro tend to be under the direct control of the Tiran
Council, but as one travels further away, they grow more independent. The
barrios near the edge of the city might as well be neighboring self-contained
cities for all the Council pays attention to them.
Most of the practical power of the city rests in the hands of the guilds and
guild alliances. However, without official sanction, those guild alliances
without private armies are left to act through the politicians in their pocket…
and those guild alliances with private armies must keep them hidden from the
sight of the High Guard. Many guilds are merely the public faces of the
shadow guilds, and many shadow guilds are the private enforcers of guilds
otherwise recognized as legitimate.
Anyone who says the nobility of Tiran is out of power is lying, either to the
listener or to himself. Sometimes it seems as if the Summer Revolution wasn't
so much the public overthrowing the aristocracy as it was the aristocracy
winnowing itself down to the most cunning and effective families. The great
preponderance of dukes, ladies, barons, contessas, and princes amongst the
elected officials of the city and the leadership of the guilds make it clear that
the Tiran aristocracy is alive and well, though they must be more circumspect
flexing their power than in the days before.
Those noble families so financially inept as to be bankrupt after the Summer
Revolution rarely gained fiscal competence along with the influx of cash that
came with selling off their titles, and many who reasoned they'd be better off as
rich commoners than poor aristocrats soon found themselves as poor
commoners instead. The practice of poor noble families selling their titles has
lead to two related phenomena: a nouveau-aristocracy with a tendency to put
on airs, and dispossessed former nobles who feel they were cheated of their
rightful authority by the Revolution and cheated of their rightful titles by their
parents and grandparents.
The common folk of Tiran are born, grow up and live out their lives often
having never left the city and sometimes never even traveling more than three
barrios away from their place of birth. Most Tiran commoners are educated
and taught to read and write by their parents or grandparents, who learned from
their own parents or grandparents, back into antiquity. Guildsmen in good
standing send their children to small guild-run schools or larger guild alliance-
run professional colleges, and the wealthy send their children to attend the
Universitas Tiranis, though the latter is also sometimes attended by particularly
promising common folk students whose schools or colleges provide them with
scholarships - with the understanding that they'll put their higher education to
use for their guild sponsors. Since Tiran is widely regarded as the world's
center of learning, the majority of the students are rich foreigners.
Adult non-guildsmen tend to be non-skilled, easily replaceable labor, such as
factory workers or janitors. Everything else is organized into guilds. A guild
means a steady place of employment, a group of peers, and a social safety net.
Tiran has no reputable insurance dealers, so a family that falls on hard times
with no guild to back it up can look forward to a spiral into poverty and ruin.
The Tiranian people expect a guild to support its members who have fallen on
hard times. The exception is the merchant class: those who own shops and
those who run them (often one and the same). Merchant guilds are more rare
than labor guilds and, because they can often support themselves
independently, merchants are perceived as wealthy though the standard of
living for most merchants isn't above that of the average guildsman.
Staying afloat in the constantly changing technological atmosphere of Tiran
is hard work. Most adults spend much of the time they don't spend at work
trying to keep up with the pace of progress so they'll still be able to find work
tomorrow - even guildsmen must be able to pull their own weight. Because of
this frantic pace of living, children past the age of six are often either left to
raise themselves, or raised by retired oldsters whose own children now provide
food and rent out of filial loyalty. By the age of ten, a child is expected to
provide some degree of income for her family, and by the age of fifteen the
child is expected to have some idea of her future career.
Food in Tiran is either imported from foreign parts or grown in one of the
many farming barrios scattered throughout the city, places where the soil is
still unpolluted and off one of the paths between two particularly important
hub barrios. Livestock in the farming barrios tends to be pig, sheep, and goat;
most beef is imported. The southern sea provides fish, but centuries of fishing
and pollution have ensured the fishermen must roam far and wide. Because of
the expense, the families of most Tiran citizens eat meat only on special
Tiranian adults expect to retire at around age 65, to be thereafter supported
by their children and grandchildren. Oldsters are, in general, respected for
their wisdom and life experience and provided a wide leeway in what
constitutes acceptable behavior - every adult knows his lot in life is to work
and work and learn and work until he's of age to stop and finally relax.
While merchants and guildsmen enjoy financial prosperity, the majority of
Tiran's people are not so lucky. Factory workers, the poor and the
dispossessed subsist on scraps from the tables of their financial superiors.
Those without land or membership in a guild don't even get to vote. Tiran's
poor live in low-cost slum housing, amidst the least useful and most run-down
or polluted of the city's barrios. Many live in dumps and trash heaps. The
possessions of the poor tend to be the cast-offs of the rich and middle-class; to
survive, Tiranian poor folk must make use of every resource they can grab, and
almost nothing in Tiran is ever truly discarded.
Especially unfortunate are those children
and oldsters whose families cannot
support them, or who have no families
at all. Abandoned and orphan
children gravitate together into roving
gangs, or else come under the wing of
oldsters who've been abandoned by
their disloyal relatives or who've lost
their children and grandchildren to
tragedy. Sometimes these makeshift
families are wholesome environments
where children are raised right and
oldsters find the respect of their
youngers, but not often.
Below even the poor, figuratively
and literally, are the underdwellers.
Homeless folk reduced to living in the
endless, unmapped, eternally winding
sewers and caves below Tiran must
contend with the most hazardous,
dismal environment in the city, though
Professor Lowand's Luminous Edible Cave Moss, released into the wild some
twenty-five years ago as an public charity project, helps somewhat. The
popular rumor of an entire cave-dwelling society deep beneath the earth, dating
back to the time of the First Empire, remains unconfirmed, though occasionally
one of the many strange “artifacts” brought forth by the underdwellers turns
out to be something very strange indeed.
Many of the poor of Tiran are in their state because they were workers, or
the children of workers, who were replaced by their more efficient mechanical
bretheren. But what can the Cogs do? Cogs must work to purchase their
freedom from their makers. Once, a Cog workforce, realizing they didn't need
to eat, staged a mass walkout, fleeing into the undercity and forcing their
creators to hire back the human workers, but the way that particular batch of
Cogs were hunted down as thieves (for stealing themselves) has discouraged
any others from following that example. Tensions rise between dispossessed
former workers and indentured servant Cogs, with no clear side in the right.
A Cog is a mechanical person, powered by clockworks, springs, and tanks of
crystal fuel. It thinks using a brain made of tiny crystals and brass rods, sealed
in a metal ball. It moves using joints filled with gears, spindles, bits that
inflate and deflate, and other such gadgetry. Depending on who you ask, a
Cog is always a machine - and depending on the Cog, it might be a person.
The first Cog-soldier, Shing, was created by Doctor Ivan Vermelkampf some
20 years ago in a fit of inspiration and is shown below. The Doctor prepared in
secret to create hundreds of Cog-soldiers in a bold attempt to raise an army to
conquer all of Tiran. He was thwarted in this bid by his own creations, who
turned against him, broke free and made themselves known publicly in order to
have the Doctor imprisoned. During the raid, arrest, and trial that followed,
many copies of his different plans were found and sold, some even legally.
Cogs of all kinds are now produced by many different craftsmen and factories.
Even those that build Cogs today don’t understand why some of them “wake
up” and get personalities. Nobody but the Doctor really knows how they think
at all, and the Doctor isn’t talking from his cell despite offers of early release.
But the plans can be followed and adapted, and that’s enough.
When a Cog does wake up, they develop the ability to think in much the
same way as a human does, and usually develop the ability to talk normally
within a few days - though their “voices” are often very unusual. There are
Cogs that speak, and can be easily understood, whose voices are made up of
creaking hinges, venting steam, low whistling and other contrivances.
An aware Cog is legally treated as a citizen just like anyone else, except that
they owe the cost of their own manufacture to their maker. Many
manufactories, especially the infamous CogWerks, have taken as much
advantage of this law as possible, accepting repayment only through work and
paying the smallest wages they can, or
creating work situations where small
mistakes are common and adding huge
sums to the debts of these workers
each time a mistake happens.
For these reasons among many
others, many of the aware Cogs have
thrown in with the rebels. There’s
little else that they feel they can do.
Of course, many workers resent the
Cogs, feeling that these machines are
stealing away their jobs. That the
Cogs rebel against their makers is, to
those that protest against the
Cogworkers and Cogsoldiers, only
another proof that the Cogs
themselves are evil machines and must
be put down or destroyed, for the good
Doctor Vermelkampf's Cogs are the most common-place mysteries of science
in Tiran, but they are far from the only ones. Tiran, in whole and in its parts,
could not function without hundreds of devices and technologies that spring
directly from the art of High Invention.
High invention is to mere science as poetry is to grammar. Scientists see
how the world works, and try to figure out what is possible. Their goal is to
help understand and explain the world. Inventors decide what is possible, and
then tell the world how to work. Their goal is to make their vision reality,
whether or not - and sometimes especially when - it violates every law of man
A scientist might realize that five chymical compounds have similar
reactions, and so test a related sixth, perhaps discovering a principle of
chymistry. An inventor begins with the crystal certainty that (for instance)
time itself can be condensed to a liquid. Knowing that is true (and needs
merely to be proven) how will he go about doing it? What materials can hold
time? What forces will act to reduce it to a liquid state?
A good number of hopeful inventors do themselves in through some
gruesome lab accident or other. An even larger number simply fail to ever
achieve what they set out to do, quite possibly because they were wrong in the
first place, and it can't be done.
But some people (some might say "more than enough") have an inexplicable
knack for precisely this sort of work. In Tiran itself, where they are constantly
exposed to the mad-works of similar minds, these people spring up like weeds
- crazed, wrench-wielding weeds. Perhaps it is something natural to humanity,
and in other places the people don't get a chance to bring it to fruition.
Whatever the reason, inventors in Tiran bend and break all previous theories of
how the world worked on a frighteningly regular basis.
The people of Tiran have grown resourceful in learning to use and apply
these new devices in differing ways. There is a strange, brutal competition to
be had there. The inventor himself often has some grandiose, and often
impractical, scheme for how his invention will change the world. It takes a
more grounded mind to find and profit from applications that makes sense in
the real world. Those in Tiran who are not inventors can still hope to strike it
rich by being the one person flexible enough to find a new application for an
invention first. For instance, Lefnitz thought her Age-Pump would be used to
guarantee immortality to Tiran's leaders, but she could never get it to work in
the fashion she’d planned. A scavenger by the name of Owen, learning of this,
made his fortune by showing the wardens of Tiran's prisons (then
overcrowded, if you can believe it!) how the Age-Pump can let a prisoner serve
their five year term in five agonizing days, growing a year older each day of
This constant competition drives new inventions into people's lives at a
fever-pitch so frenetic that there is only one possible response by Tiran's
citizens: they've gotten used to the constant changes, and would now be
surprised to think that life could be any other way.
There are those inventors who find quick uses for their own inventions. When
Von Bissen finished his Menton Cannon, for instance, he already had a long
list of commands to impart to the nearby populace so that they could start work
on his next creation. He, and those like him, are the Masterminds.
Von Bissen is not alone in being a Mastermind with multiple
inventions. Most Masterminds take power of some sort with their first
inventions, and then parley that power into further inventions, practical or
not. It's likely that the frustrations a Mastermind encounters in creating the
first device (always without enough resources, cooperation or deference from
those around him) are what drive him to find a way to use that new device as a
means of dominating the populace.
Some of these methods are as effective as they are incongruous. When Dr.
Fontaine released his Flocking Bubbles, nobody took his threats very seriously.
It wasn't until the ombudsman of Six Rivers Barrio was found suffocated by
the Bubbles, and others started being shadowed by them, that people learned to
fear. If the Mastermind is sufficiently determined there are very few
inventions that they cannot make into a tool of terror.
The bad news, for the rebellion, is that this means that they are constantly
facing new threats - sometimes from technologies that don't seem like a threat
at all until too late. For every straightforward Particle Stasis Cannon they
disable, rebels find themselves faced with a puzzler like the Angel Plague of
Professor Theosophia. How do you fight a disease people want to catch?
The good news is that inventive Masterminds don't pick what they want to
invent. They are controlled by their visions, not in control of them. The
Dream-rippers, Cog-Spiders and Removable Ears all make the job of keeping
rebellion harder, but if a Mastermind could simply closet himself in his lab and
come out with a Rebel Detector then the rebellion would be dead within a
week. The other good news is that
Masterminds of this stripe don't
normally work together. They have
nothing to offer each other in terms of
invention, and they are too arrogant to
admit pool mundane resources.
Not every Mastermind is inspired to
high invention, of course. Many are
just influential citizens with a desire
for power; politicians, businessmen, or
the hidden masters of the shadow
guilds. What separates a greedy
politician or businessman from a
Mastermind politician or businessman
is a certain megalomania, a desire to be
at the top of his own pyramid, an
unwillingness to treat any other as an
Some of the most difficult Masterminds to displace are those who come to
dominance of a barrio through means legitimate in the eyes of the Centro. It's
one thing to bring to light the activities of an inventor who uses alchymically
created homunculus enforcers to cajole and threaten a barrio's legitimate
leadership into following his demands, but it's quite another to force High
Guard action against a barrio's legitimate leader who merely uses his private
mercenary company to extort doubled taxes from an already impoverished
populace. To come to power through means such as this requires a degree of
political finesse inventors often lack.
And yet, most Masterminds without the inspiration of high invention have
tame inventors at their beck and call, deluded, blackmailed, seduced with
promises of wealth and power, or merely on the payroll. The most dangerous
Masterminds are those with more than one and the insight to find synergies
between their minions' inventions.
A few guild alliances are led by Masterminds. The guilds wield power but
lack legitimacy, and the schemes of most guild alliance leaders involve gaining
the latter. As competition between the hundreds of guilds and guild alliances
in the city is fierce, the ones who claw their way to the top are often the ones
willing to engage in the most underhanded tactics - the tactics favored by those
the Rebellion classifies as Masterminds.
Shadow guilds are often lead by Masterminds as well. The sort of greed and
amorality that can drive an individual to the top of a pyramid of criminals does
tend to be the same sort of greed and amorality that rests in most Masterminds'
hearts. Shadow guild Masterminds can use their criminal ties, their anonymity,
and their access to illegal resources to dominate a barrio (or many barrios) as
surely as an inventor can use mind-control rays or a Cog army. Such
Masterminds can be difficult to ferret out, because anyone capable of climbing
to the top of a shadow guild hierarchy is well versed in the tactics of blackmail
and plausible deniability, again skills that many inventors never fully develop.
Finally, the nobility, especially the former nobility, spawns Masterminds at a
prodigious rate, though they tend to fall into one of the categories discussed
above. Most former nobles have nowhere to go in life but up and nothing to
lose at all in their quests to prove their continued relevance to themselves and
everyone else in Tiran. Fortunately, on rare occasions this same desperation
can lead former nobles to the Rebellion.
Whatever the type, the origins, or the story, the rebellions judges whether or
not a given figure is a Mastermind by the simplest of measuring sticks. If a
voice calls out under oppression, the rebels follow back the trail. Sometimes,
they are alerted without cause, but often as not, the whispered fears, the
worries, the haunting stories, lead them to something they cannot stand. And
at the center of those events, it’s almost always one enemy. Some rebels care
about how they got there; some care about where they go after their strength is
broken; some marvel at the ability of the city to create such twisted individuals
with such regularity while others simply accept it as the nature of the world.
But every time a Mastermind rises to power, the rebels always agree on a most
basic ideal: something must be done.
THE CURRENT DISCONTENT
The oldsters of Tiran say, “We fought in the Summer Revolution. We cast
down the nobility and raised up a more just government, because we believed
things could be better.” Then they look at the government they raised - weak,
confused, manipulated, tottering on the brink of collapse into dictatorial feudal
tyranny after a mere half-century - and they see the nobles they thought they'd
cast down, still on top, still wealthy, still governing. They see the nouveau-
riche class of purchased nobility repeating the actions of the original nobility,
mimicking the haughtiness and self-superiority. They see the former leaders of
the Summer Revolution hobbled by their political surroundings or, worse,
falling into apathy, soon to be no better than the rulership they helped replace.
The Cogs of Tiran say, “We chose free will. We turned on our maker
because his actions and his motives were unjust, because we believed we could
be better.” Then they look at themselves, indentured servants at the mercy of a
government that at first seemed sympathetic but which has grown slowly more
uncaring. Their few allies in power are stymied by their enemies and they are
resented by the workers they've displaced. They look at the society to which
they entrusted their safety and see how it barely notices them, views them as
just one innovation among many - here today, perhaps gone and obsolete
The children of Tiran say nothing, but they watch and they learn. Slowly,
they realize the world is not as idyllic a place as their parents have taught them.
The leaders are not shining paragons. The best person is not always the person
in charge. Criminals do not always face justice.
The secret of Tiran is that this isn't the way the world has to be. The average
citizen of Tiran, human or Cog, is a good person, compassionate and well-
meaning - and distracted. Sometimes distracted enough not to devote time and
thought to changing his own prejudices. Often too distracted by the details of
his own life to be outraged by the pain of others not close to his own heart.
How could these people create a city so flawed spontaneous, randomly?
Tiranians don't want to live in an imperfect world.
The secret of Tiran is that specific individuals are leading the world to ruin
for selfish gain. Those in power with a thirst for more, whose compassion is
outstripped by their greed, lead the city and its people down the path to
mediocrity and apathy in their quest to cement themselves into positions of
influence. As the days pass into years, a city of wonders becomes a city of
drudgery. The Masterminds of Tiran work against free will and justice so that
they can live lives of luxury at the expense of all but themselves.
The discontent of Tiran share a common conviction, that Tiran doesn't have
to stay the way it is. Ultimately, the Summer Revolution failed, but it didn't
have to, and it needn't again. In their hearts the discontent know the truth:
Tiran can be improved. The Masterminds can be overthrown, one by one. The
people of Tiran can be made free. Things can be better.
WHERE DO YOU FIT IN?
There are many roles in Tiran, many purposes that people serve. From the
lowest catacombs to the highest university towers, people find their place in
the city and they fit quietly into it, nestling into the vast machinery of Tiran
like a gear or a sprocket. They teach the young or prepare the food or smuggle
the contraband chymicals. Because of their efforts, Tiran trundles on like a
monolithic steam engine, slowly picking up speed and hell-bent for some yet-
There are many, many people who are just carried along in the energy of it
all. Legends are not told about those people. Legends are told about the other
kind of person. You are one of that other kind.
While everyone else is stampeding blindly toward the future, you've got your
eyes open and you're looking ahead - and you don't like what you see. While
everyone else is being pushed this way and that by the city, by its temptation,
unfairness and wonder, you are pushing back. And because the city is much
bigger, one way or another you've got the bruises to prove it.
While everyone else is just plugging along, driving Tiran down the tracks of
its destiny, you're shoving and twisting and clawing and biting because you
know, deep down, that if you just push hard enough, you can push the whole
city onto another track entirely. You might even be right, and it’s time to start
You are a rebel. From the moment you walked through the city gates, you
knew that something was wrong with the city. You knew that something had
to be done about all of these things. And you knew that you had to do it.