Saturday, January 21, 2017

The city that never sleeps

I'm playing a game of Exalted currently and one thing that has been really fun is that the GM leaves a lot of room open for the players to provide input.  In this specific case he had requested several citystates as background.  Here is one that I came up with.

Fu Tien, The kingdom that never sleeps.

Fu Tien's most valuable asset is that it is a breadbasket kingdom. It controls many hectares of fertile farmland that produce rice, and many other staple grains.  Large irrigation ditches mesh the fields together and serve as a water way for transportation of goods.   A few sleepy hamlets provide gathering spots out in the fields and paddies. With the majority of the land flooded for rice the area has an overall swampy feel.  Waterfowl (duck & Geese) being the primary game to be found (as well as frogs and other swamp creatures to be found amongst the flooded rice paddies).  It is most known for its one large city, Shen-Fan the capital. It is here that the kingdom receives its nickname.

Any public building, be it government, or commercial never closes. Availability is... the number one priority within the city. Needless to say the city is a place of constant trade, business, and entertainment.

A position within the city, be it store owner or government official is not attributed to a person, it is attributed to a mask of office. The dynamic this causes is that an important position is usually filled by two or three people who share a mask of the position. However, this causes several interesting effects.

The first: Social status is determined by mask. Higher positions, and the wealthy have ornate masks. These are passed down as heirlooms, and a reputations cling to masks across generations.

The Second: One person may have several masks. It is not uncommon for a ruler to don another mask and conduct intrigue, or slum to either find out first hand the thoughts of the commoner, or to seek vice with impunity.

The third: Duel relationships develop between people and the masks, with sometimes even best friends turning to bitter rivals and vice versa depending upon the mask they wear.

The fourth: Not everyone wears a mask. The farming villages generally have one mask that is communally owned and is only used when a villager travels to the city to conduct business.  The assumption in the city that a person without is that this person is a foreigner or a poor peasant.  A person is generally treated as not even existing unless they are actively spending money, but they can expect to be ignored if any mask wearers are there for service. 

The most common type of mask is the full face mask. Masks come in many other types though, ones that cover just the eyes/upper face, those that cover just the lower, ½ masks like the phantom of the opera or ones with just he chin exposes like greek theater masks. These partial masks may serve a practical purpose (like exposed eyes for archers) though often they are for fashion purposes and are treated similar to a low cut blouse or high cut skirt as different parts are revealed to show of certain assets.

Names: People have two names in the city. A birth name, which is a single Chinese first/last name: Chen, Chin, Wong, Fai, Wing, Long, Pak, Tau, Hung, Kok, Yahn, Loung, etc. This name is used with a personal mask (always worn out in public. As much of a requirement as pants in other cultures) Non-personal masks have names too (the 2nd name) and this is the name of the position the mask holds in society. Names can be titled etc, as a mask becomes more famous (masks hold more historical personality and status than individuals – as a result people will “live up to” the reputation of the mask.  A mask can give certain bonuses to skills related to it due to confidence of the wearer, though there is no reason a mask can't be enchanted as well to give magic bonuses

Mask name examples: Head butcher of the eastern market Mistress of 100 delights Brutish Robber 2nd Magistrate of the traders quarter Etc. Birth and death of a mask. If a mask is broken it is dead. The offense is as grievous as murder of a person (possibly more so) They have their own funeral ritual and everything. If a person accomplishes something of renown (or circumstance dictates a new mask is needed in society ) their mask may be entitled. On these rare occasions both names are used as well as the title when worn by the originator of the mask. Example: Chen had been a bus boy but saved up enough money to open his own restaurant (the drunken monkey). He turns in his bus boy mask when he quits his job and makes a new mask is to open the restaurant. He is now known as: Chen Manager of the Drunken Monkey. When he goes off shift and has another person manage the restaurant, they take the mask and are known only as: Manager of the Drunken Monkey.

The things the city are known for are trade, and entertainment. There is a large red light district that appeals to all tastes and types (think the Vegas strip mixed with Amsterdam). The culture if very blunt and up front. Although anotimity doesn’t really exist as a mask has as much reputation as a person anywhere else, the constant migration of traders etc that feel they have anotimity because of the masks have affected the culture (much like people feel like they can say whatever they want due to internet handles). As a result people will be very blunt and often only really have respect for and when wearing a position mask. (ex. The manager of an establishment has to be polite because the manager of the establishment is connected, and will treat all guests cordially. The same person with their personal mask on, may tell the same person: “nice outfit, do you look as good out of it?” out of the blue

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