When the past is always with you, it may as well be present; and if it is present, it will be future as well.
-William Gibson, Neuromancer
1. The Free City of Bastion
~Here is Dennis Taygir, human, twenty-six years old. He's a bad mother, you can tell. Stands there smoking a cigarello beneath a flashing street sign, mirror-shades shining.
Yeah, Dennis is bad. Look at him, one hand taking a draw, the other resting on the handle of his Jarais Maker Custom. .44 Auto, best damn piece you can find down here in Static-town, baddest part of the baddest ring in Bastion. Even got it embossed, got his name right there in the handle, inlaid in platinum. Piece like that, you're either bad or a corpse, this part of town, this time of night. Piece like that, the piles'll be wet in the pants even before the Bastion night rain gets to them.
How bad is Dennis? The worst. The best. Rat, hoodlum, thug, Street Samurai, call him what you will. He's heard it all, any name you got, he doesn't give a flip. That coat he's wearing? That's Hrokr-made, real ancient work, carved scale runeplate and real bear fur, legit. You can't buy that, the only way you get that is taking it off some mother who ain't as bad as you. That's how he got it. That crow-man didn't need it, not in the gutter where he's sitting now. Got plenty of blood in the pool to keep him warm, the poor pile.
Dennis is bad. He finishes his cig, throws it on the rain-slick conplast, stamps it out. Taps his Jarais. He's telling the world he don't give a flip what you think. Wearing what he is, he's telling the world to bring it. Bring what you got, he'll bring more. Got a contract lined up just tonight, 14 megabytes of hot ram in his satchel, four dead meatsacks in his past and just a dropoff to go. Gonna make his employer happy, gonna make Dennis happy. Maybe the money'll go to an even bigger piece. Maybe he'll get his gods-damned name engraved into the armor, why not. Let the suckers really know who they're messing with before their brain gets a bit of air.
Watch Dennis finish his smoke, watch him swing off as if these streets belong to him. Street Samurai, this is my fiefdom, move out the way, rice paddy peasant. Yeah, he's bad, no doubt about it.
The psychic bullet ripping through his skull a second later lets him know, just a second too late for it to be useful, that Dennis, you poor flipping meatsack, it don't matter how bad you are. There's always someone badder than you, and Bastion, she's got a million more of em'. Maybe would have been a useful lesson for Dennis a second ago. But he ain't bad no more.
Look at the crow-man smile as he takes that mighty fine piece and that mighty fine armor.
Segment 01: Introduction to Bastion - The Neon-Drenched Streets
The Cataclysm, whatever its nature, changed the face of the entire continent both geologically and socially. In all the world of Pyrrhus, only one city still shines in untouched pre-Cataclysmic splendor.
Bastion is the neutral city, the Free City, concrete and crystal and electricity in concentric circles, drenched in flickering neon and buried under smoke and fog, but rising to touch the bottom of the sky. Bastion is the stronghold of the past in the uncertain present, and the reflection of the future in the mirrored shades of street thugs.
In less poetical and more statistical terms, Bastion is a city sited in a glacier valley almost exactly in the geographical center of the Pyrrhus supercontinent, shaped like a series of progressively tighter circles, holding a population of about ten million over an area of roughly 800 square kilometers. Circles of Bastion are differentiated from each other by the height of the structures within; single-story on the outermost ring, tall enough to vanish into the clouds in the center. The tallest spires are perpetually shrouded in fog and mist, and the lower levels of the inner circles rarely lack at least a drizzle of cold rain.
In the midst of this downpour, Bastion is a city of lights. Psitech bulletin-boards, corporate and national ads, radiovision broadcasts and neon-tubed signs compete for the attention of a teeming population of tens of millions of traders, corporate officers, foreign diplomats, hardened soldiers, street thugs, mercenaries, vagrant wanderers and kids out for a good time. The city is both the geographical center of the continent and the cultural center of Pyrrhus society, where the latest in psitech and the most mysterious of ancient remnants mix. Alfar peddle their crafts from electric storefronts and back alley shops. Human Street Samurai make shady deals over drinks and cigarellos with cloaked and hooded Lycan agents. Recently-awakened Myrmidon warriors play board games with Hrokr mystics on trash can lids. Inscrutable Duranta caravaneers call out their strange, alien wares to passerby. Mercs to join your cause, thugs to mess up your rivals, adventurers for hire to raid ancient ruins, weapons and armor and electronics and vehicles and computers and more abstract wonders. If it can be found anywhere, it can be found here.
This cultural mixing is enabled by several examples of surviving pre-Cataclysmic technology which effectively make the city impossible to besiege or take by military force. Most are subtle, but one is blatant, the one which any visitor to Bastion will notice first: the Sentinels, hulking autonomous war machines. Bristling with horrifying weapons, clad in impenetrable armor alloys and scribed with powerful magic wards, Sentinels come in an array of shapes and sizes, from building-high to human-high, light as a bird and wide as a boulevard, but all endlessly patrol the borders, streets and skyline of Bastion, seeking out any sign of military presence and brutally suppressing it with lethal force. Though less interested in stopping simple everyday street violence, the Sentinels enable the people of Bastion to meet, trade and live in a relative peace rare elsewhere.
Segment 02: The Geography & History of Bastion
Bastion’s true age is unknown, its creators and original purpose lost to time. What is known for certain is that the city-state predates the Cataclysm, and every street and building speaks to an advanced civilization with capabilities beyond modern Pyrrhus society.
Bastion is sited in the middle of a glacier valley, made of almost perfectly round rings, referred to by the inhabitants as layers, which grow tighter with reduced distance to the city center. The outermost layer is the widest, the center the narrowest at a single structure. Though there’s plenty of more recent construction atop the old, the pre-Cataclysmic structures of Bastion follow a predictable height pattern, with buildings on the outermost layer usually about a story or two tall, increasing in height in layers towards the center. From above the city is a circle, from the side an irregular pyramid.
Winds from the bays and inland sea north-west of the city bring a constant stream of wet winds, and (perhaps intentionally), the shape of the city’s architecture forces those winds into a wet concentration overhead. Bastion is rarely ever without even a light drizzle of rain, and frequently suffering downpours in the deeper sections of city canyons. Natural resources, metals and wood both, flow into the city from its near neighbors, the Umbra to the south and the Crying Mountain to the east and plain principalities to the north. More modern roads join ancient conplast from every direction and bring goods, services, laborers, businessmen and adventurers from nations both nearby, like the plutocratic Duchy of Petraux and troubled Freehold Republic, and far away, like the former Mehnir capital of Tetmiang and the Duranta enclaves of the White Wastes.
Following the Cataclysm, the city-state was the one shelter against the ravages sweeping the continent, a fortress of hope. The name wasn’t chosen just to sound cool, after all. Into the empty spaces of the towering spires and electric depths moved refugees, mercenaries, soldiers and survivors, huddling behind the shield-wall of the Sentinels. Trading on artifacts left behind enabled the people of the city to survive while the rest of the world slowly re-formed. Today’s Bastion is a motley conglomerate of megacorporations seeking business opportunity, tradesmen seeking same, refugees from destroyed nations seeking asylum, and punk wanderers looking to loot and pillage in order to better enable their ability to loot and pillage.
Bastion was the first post-Cataclysm nation to achieve stable government, following a generally democratic system. After the ill-fated siege of the city by the famed conqueror ‘Sun-Eater’ Dhakar, (who died when a Sentinel stepped on him while coming around a corner), Bastion’s disparate communities began to realize that no, they didn’t have to live like the hunted in this place any more, and began nominating leaders. The Emancipator, a Hrokr mystic, became the city-state’s first Lord Mayor, and encouraged the drift towards Bastion’s current generally democratic state. The verdict is still out on whether or not introducing bureaucratic red tape into a ‘Free City’ was in fact an elaborate prank.
Bastion remains today as an enclave of neutrality. It has no armies, fights no wars, takes no sides. You’re on your own, here, for better or worse.
Segment 03: Life & Society in Bastion
Though national identities died hard, the ever-present Sentinels ensured that Bastion remained the one place where rallying the troops to conquest wouldn’t solve anybody’s problems, and so cultures and races have been forced to mingle. The result is something completely unique. The city’s safety as a trade and meeting hub, combined with its central location, caused a cascading effect of wealth and new immigrants over the past decades. The Free City is both literally and figuratively the center of life on the continent.
The constant wet sheen on every surface lights up the city like a hall of mirrors filled with floodlights. Even in the inner layers, where structures scrape the heavens, streets narrow into packed lanes of people and the sky is the color of a burst of static on a broken screen, visibility is never an issue here. The frequent appellation ‘the neon-drenched streets’ comes, however, not from the rain but from the result of unlimited access to power. Roars of music and recorded ads blare from every dance club, department store and seedy bar, and nearly every surface is covered in pulsing tubes of light, creatively re-worked by Bastion’s business-minded inhabitants into storefront signs. Pre-cataclysmic energy sources, from the hydroelectric plants on the bays not far from city limits to more mysterious psionic constructions of still-unknown function beneath the streets, provide ample energy to everyone. It’s no wonder that networked computers, a relatively new arrival on the tech scene, are found in strongest concentration and achieve the most importance here compared to the rest of the world.
Bastion is a heavily classist society, though class is rather more fluid than most of the rest of Pyrrhus, where feudal loyalties and strict hierarchies and the tattered shreds of cultural traditions remain strong. Here, Rep is the name of the game, your skills your currency, what you offer and who wants it. The fancy-suited bigs sitting in their penthouse offices in inner-layer skyscrapers might have crawled their way up from the gutter by hard work and success (hah! Not likely) or by simply being the craziest meat in the underworld, but they’re respected and feared for what they can do. In the crowded inner streets where trench-coated masses squeeze past each other under the pouring rain, it’s the mercs with rep that get sidewalks to themselves, the ones who get the biggest jobs because they bring the biggest payoffs to their employers. Reputation makes or breaks you here. Cooperation is, naturally, somewhat less common than competition as a general attitude; from teenage alley rats to coolly professional corporate assassins, anyone else you meet may be a threat to your cred.
Social darwinist as this society is, it isn’t entirely a terrible parade of one-upmanship; the people living in Bastion follow a wide spectrum, after all. Bastion is also a place of scientific discovery in well-funded laboratories, a cross-roads of academia and learning, an exchange for the arts. More than one continent-wide radiovision studio has headquarters here; the Doppleganger-written psychological dramas are especially fine fruit, and if we’re talking fine fruit, hey! Fresh from the glasshouses of Minor Kyras, best apricot you’ve ever tasted, cutter. Mind the mercs having a running shootout on the rooftops, though. Inconsiderate punks.
Segment 04: Notable Places & Organizations in Bastion
He jests at scars that never felt a wound.
Segment 01: Introduction to Scarberg - Life will find a way
Even the deepest cuts may heal, but inevitably a scar remains.
Scarberg is the healed-over wound of a long-ago battle powerful enough to cleave the very planet. A kilometers-long canyon carved into the northwestern mountains of Pyrrhus, the chasm has over the years become lined with the homes of those fleeing war from all over the continent, a testament to the will to survive possessed by exiles and refugees. Clearly no natural formation, Scarberg carves a perfectly straight, unerringly smooth line right across steppe and peak as if a sword took a swing out of the ground.
The origin of the Scarberg is disputed. Most stories attribute the canyon’s creation to a weapon of unimaginable power that struck during the Cataclysm, carving a line of destruction through the rock – this is supported by Scarberg’s proximity to the Blightlands, visible from the top of the canyon on the clearest days. Other stories tell tales of a legendary folk hero, a master of Menhir power, that kicked up the mountains from a flat plain and then cleaved them to show his strength. Or, perhaps it is true what some of the local adepts say, that there was once a great vein of jewels and precious gems here that thought and felt, until a Hrokr trickster convinced it that thinking gems could not actually exist and they vanished in a puff of philosophy.
The walls of Scarberg are a spiderweb of platforms, shacks clinging to the rock, rope bridges and rigging, wires and pipes, that reaches over a kilometer in height at the highest point. The bottom of the canyon is a rushing river of wastewater and garbage and detritus from the heights above, perpetually humid and covered in sticky fog; the heights of Scarberg are elaborately-carved walls and monuments and graffiti and paintings layered upon layer by waves of immigrants; in-between, a permanent shanty-town and refuge for the displaced, the exiled and the antisocial. Wide metal catwalks and rope bridges connect the canyon’s sheer facing walls, providing access to a honeycomb of shacks, shelters and carved-out caverns
The Scarberg region is notable for a general antipathy towards nationalism. There are no countries or nations in Scarberg, and the entire area survives on a kind of unguided chaos. Scarberg is an entity with no history relating to the three great civilizations of Pyrrhus, and as a world of migrants and the dispossessed, it is as much a melting pot as anywhere on the continent.
Segment 02: The Geography & History of Scarberg
It’s a big cleft in the ground.
It might have been created in the cataclysm.
It’s near the Blightlands.
Segment 03: Life & Society in Scarberg
Scarberg, the entire region, has no centralized authority, government, laws or law enforcement, though some people in the canyon have chosen to band together into cooperatives not unlike the frontier towns of the American Old West. The people living here are a stew of races, cultures and origins, with little to unite them past a shared aversion to the wars that grip the rest of Pyrrhus. At best, neighbors mind their own business and get by. At worst, gangs of hardened criminals, opportunistic swindlers or just bored kids fight for territory and spoils and cause heaps of trouble.
You never know what you’ll find in any particular steel and tarpaper shack clinging to the cliff walls. Among simple farmers, craftsmen, mechanics and workers, deserting soldiers or powerful criminals in hiding might wait. More than one group of do-gooders has set up shop in the canyon also; Adept conclaves, mercenary guilds, and even some major intercontinental corporations have begun making inroads into parts of the Scarberg.
While clearly not a stable and organized series of municipalities, Scarberg’s industrious denizens have managed to make life a little more modern and comfortable for everyone. Most of the canyon gets electricity, largely due to a daring raid on a Paragon Sky trunk mainline near the southern part of Scarberg some years ago by a group of adventuresome types which resulted in a tap that has somehow still gone unnoticed. Jury-rigged pump stations and mist collectors maintained by clever engineers and gearheads in the canyon depts capture water and pump it upwards with magitech-enhanced machinery.
There were no lies here. All fancies fled away. That's what happened in all deserts. It was just you, and what you believed.
3. The White Wastes
Segment 01: Introduction to the White Wastes - In the desert, you can’t remember your name.
The White Wastes were an inland sea once, before the Cataclysm. All that remains of that great aquatic expanse now is a massive desert of salt stretching across the whole of northern Pyrrhus. White and gray sands gleam into the distance until they meet the sky at the farthest horizon, a blinding reflection of the perpetually-dazzling sun.
Though they appear that way at first, the White Wastes are hardly an empty expanse. The former seabed is rich in natural veins of copper, manganese, nickel, azurite and silicon buried not too deep below the sands. The sun-bleached bones of ancient creatures litter the landscape, monstrous fossils of prodigious size that provide a source of ivory and building materials. Just below the sands still lie the ruins of lost seaside cities and towns, attracting archaeologists, historians, and tomb raiders alike.
On the edges of the white sands many frontier settlements and towns have sprung up to service travelers, prospectors, and the sort of crazy people that wind up in the middle of inhospitable wildernesses. The largest of these settlements is the Free City of Heron, a dusty, sandswept metropolis famous for being built atop one of the rare accessible aquifers in the region, the old city center where the buildings are carved from single massive tusks of some unknown creature, and the inexplicable presence of a population of the birds the Free City is named for. Though herons are elsewhere coastal freshwater birds, the flock that calls the Free City home seems just as happy gliding on the dessicating sandstorms that blow through the waste in great tempests called ‘whiteouts’ or ‘bleaches’ by the locals.
The northern reaches of the White Waste are possibly the deadliest, most inhospitable part of Pyrrhus. The Blightlands may be full of inexplicable artifacts and mana effects, and the Banemires fill the dead with unholy life, but the Waste’s lack of water sources, population of vicious subterranean creatures, flesh-cutting whiteouts of salt and glass and roasting sunlight just edge them out. Miners and explorers here must be hardy folk to get out alive.
The most well-known geographical feature of the northern wastes is an enormous pit crater of fused glass, called The Eye. A gigantic saucer reflecting blinding white light of the sun, the Eye is called what it is for two reasons. The first is the crater’s slightly oblong shape. The second are the urban legends from those who have seen it up close, that the crater seems to ‘follow’ those who dare to look into it, that the center appears darker than the rest, like a pupil.
The White Waste region is also unique on Pyrrhus for holding the largest concentration of the strange Duranta race found anywhere. Strangers to Pyrrhan history, and perpetual outsiders, the Duranta seem to find this most alien territory to be the closest thing to a home for their kind. There is a larger than normal population of Duranta merchants and mercenaries to be found in the frontier towns of the Waste, and wandering the ruins and the sands deeper into the interior. Speculation runs rampant among the people of Pyrrhus as to why this might be. The Duranta, as a rule, prefer not to answer such questions.