Whispers and Rumors

excerpts from the ashcan

Children of the Undercity tell stories. Wash your face before you sleep, they say, or coal-eyed orphans will drag you into the bowels of the machines, never to return. At least, not as yourself.

The seedier merchants don't like to talk about it, but there's a criminal element around Market Gate that's beyond anything those Teeth thugs could put together. You ever hear the word "soldati?" They're organized, sister, and they can get you anything for a price. But, uh, you didn't hear it from me.

There's a hidden library underneath the Castle where artifacts and records of the Sparkitects are kept. That's why no Undercity personnel are allowed below the Castle.

The Mainspring isn't as secure a prison as they'd like you to believe. Someone's supplying the crazed spark inmates with parts and raw materials, and they're building something big.

The University and the Academy are fierce rivals in public, but they share a secret curriculum of forbidden lore for sparks who can prove themselves worthy.

Want to know why the lights never go out in the Upper Crust? The Third Stainless Law prohibits the use of the Four Auspicious Configurations that make machines run indefinitely. It doesn't say anything about the Fifth.

Somewhere there's a switch that reveals hidden seams in the walls. If it's flipped, sections of the walls will drop all the way into the ground, leaving the city naked and defenseless.

Marcus Bartok, Speaker of the Council, has an illegitimate daughter working scullery in the Larder. Word is that he's got kids by servants scattered all over the city, but this girl's the spitting image.

The big statue of Protodyne is hollow. Guess who's inside?

There's a reason the windows on the Tenor line Sonata cars are welded shut, and it's not just to keep kids from getting their arms sheared off. If you cut a hole in the glass and listen real close, you'll hear it.

Most of the compulsory work done by sparks in the city is maintenance of the machines in a single huge warehouse that's never in the same place twice. The layout changes so no one's caught on yet, but those machines have been worked on for decades. What are they working toward?

The deeper you go in the Undercity, the brighter the ambient light gets. When it's so bright you can barely see, tell them its time to come back. We need them.

Steam City is the jewel of the region, and no other state is as hated. Some think it's jealousy, but I think we're just winning the game.

What is this?

After a session at ConCarolinas 2009 fell flat for me, I decided to build a new game to help players handle narrative agency. The system does a little handholding, but it's fast and flexible and it does a pretty good job showing how illusory the borders of player agency are. It also sports some beautiful cover art by my friend Will.