Today it’s a special request: while it is fun to play with mighty magical powers and battle whole armies, it does tend to leave the melee specialists a bit out of the loop. Ergo, it’s about time for a visit to a realm that doesn’t allow much magic – or any without drawing on outside powers – and only allows small-scale psychic abilities. Still, it SHOULD still have a fairly decent technology level, and offer confined conditions and plenty of hostile groups and local subplots; that will force the characters to rely a bit more on stealth, subtlety, and occasional hand-t0-hand violence.
Fortunately, there’s a realm on Kevin’s list that’s almost tailor-made for things like this on the list: the Linear Developments Realm – a realm spawned from core about four centuries ago. As with many realms, when Kevin first visited this one, he did a bit of casual recruiting and left one of the recruits behind as an agent: over the next few years, a surprising number of new recruits came from the Linear Developments – something which he really must get around to looking into now that he’s assigned a few more Thralls to positions there.
The History of the Linear Developments looks something like this:
2043: Massive overcrowding in several nations major cities leads to the creation of the Renia Manshon or “Linear Developments” – massive strips of essentially-identical 32-floor apartment / limited-function arcology blocks joined into multiple-mile long mass habitations. Their myriad connections, identically repeating unit designs (making it easy to crosslink surveillance feeds), massive size, and abundance of electronic and human screening, soon make them favored locations for criminal operations.
2047: After population control laws enacted in several nations mandate sterilization treatments after the live birth of a third child and immediate treatment of fourth and later children born more than one year later many groups in the Linear Developments begin concealing the births of their second and later children, creating a sizable, floating population of illegal and unregistered youngsters throughout the Linear Developments. With official sources of supplies and services stretched thin, scams, theft, and petty crime become a way of life.
2057: With the Linear Developments well-established, several thriving criminal enterprises are equally well-established. Illegal substances, amusements, and (especially) forged paperwork, are produced by numerous gangs and syndicates who exploit the dense populations of the Linear Developments, and the plentiful supply of officially non-existent children there, as runners, troops, slave labor, organ donors, playthings, and experimental animals. Unfortunately, the overworked law enforcement organizations have widely come to be seen by the linear residents as enemies, providing even the worst of the criminal syndicates with widespread cooperation and cover.
Out in the Manifold, the identically repeating structures, standard-issue supplies, clothing, and public health care (including, thanks to popular obsession with the topic, life-extension treatments), relatively confined spaces, regular cycle of public events, and mass-produced entertainments are tailor-made to develop a strong, consistent, realm – a repeating tangle of linear arcologies, limited-access greenway parks, industrial and service zones, and upper-class skyscrapers surrounded by vaguely-defined factory farms. Fortunately, at least at first, most of the “victim” and “oppressive authority” roles are filled by phantasms.
2074: The Kochinde Massacre. In a well-coordinated attack, several apparently-innocuous groups manage to infest 38 Linear Developments with nerve gasses and biowarfare agents – striking primarily in the middle of the night and then sacrificing themselves blocking attempts at sounding the alarm or sealing off the more distant sections of the arcologies. While their success is far from total – more than two-thirds of the Linear Development population escapes unharmed – the plot kills some 46 million. Many pass into the Manifold in their sleep, without even noticing the transition, turning a strong, consistent, realm into bustling world. In core, no one is ever able to determine why a series of fantasy-fiction fan clubs decided to emulate – on a larger scale – some of the background events of the Kochinde Saga, but the reaction includes banning the Saga and various related materials as well as breaking up the Linear Developments.
This may have been an accidental incidence of a primitive infectious violence or “weaponized” meme – or it may have been an intentional act by someone with a truly advanced understanding of the human mind. No one has ever found out for sure.
Out in the Manifold, over the ensuing centuries – despite both medical treatment and the unconscious life-extension typical of the manifold – the initial residents of the Linear developments pass into other lives and realms. As the original linear developments recede into history, the flow of “recruits” from the core slows to a trickle. However, with better than fifty million initial residents – mostly from groups with a cultural commitment to large numbers of children – the total ensouled population of the Linear Development Realms swelled rapidly into the billions, despite the reduced fertility of the Manifold and the continuing “enforcement” of the sterilization laws. Unfortunately, that means that the “victim” roles are now mostly being filled by real people as opposed to phantasms.
As a first-circle realm, the Linear Developments prohibit magic, although they do allow basic psionics (witchcraft), and – in fact – allow it considerably greater range than it normally has. Boosters for both power and range exist, but are generally too large for transport. Given that Psychics could command considerable salaries, they were rarely residents of the original Linear Developments – and so are most often encountered there as a part of the somewhat-oppressive (if fundamentally benign) power structure and/or working for the law-enforcement organizations.
The technology level is essentially of the early “cyberpunk” era: computer and monitoring systems are ubiquitous, but not yet widely linked into a near-inescapable web. Simple communications and tracking implants are available, but advanced systems are extremely rare. “Smart” fibers are not available (but will function if imported), and negative energy systems will not work locally. Similarly, advanced energy weapons tend to be translated into basic firearms. Most visitors will find themselves cast as “outsiders” – performers, public-service types, criminals, law-enforcement, religious figures, and other specialists – who’s jobs take them from one Linear Development to another.
Kevin has some connections in the Linear Developments – although, unfortunately, those connections tend to presume that he’s a representative of one of the criminal cartels that purchases illegal children for use as transplant donors, disposable playthings, and other horrific purposes, since none of the ones that his representatives select are ever seen again. While that’s because they go to jobs out in the Manifold – and considerably better futures than most they could expect in the Linear Developments – no on in the Realm except his agents knows that. If he’s been identified there, he’s probably quite wanted – even if they’d probably consider both Kevin and his agents underage.
Arcologies, and even Linear Developments (currently mostly a name for roads, pipelines, and similar structures) are hardly new ideas, although this version (or at least the 2043 – 2057 entries) was loosely inspired by a background element from Pegasus in Flight, by Anne Mccaffery – as well as by Cyberpunk 2020, Shadowrun, the movie Aliens, and a variety of other books and movies.