Million: Abridged Guidebook
Act of Mutual Accommodation and Decorum
Better known as the MAD act, it was passed a very long time ago by a king who was said to be an insane prophesier. Here is a summary of the most important points.
Ghosts entering the Million Zone are liable to be confined.
The Million Zone is defined as the region within the following landmarks:
The city of Million and its harbor
The Ambiguous Line
People are forbidden to die.
Dying is illegal and punishable by confinement.
Murder is illegal and punishable by confinement.
This law did not please everybody and since it was passed everything about accommodation and decorum went down the sewers. However, no matter what people may think about the MAD act its importance cannot be denied since without it things would soon go bumping in the fog. In the end Million remains fog-free and its inhabitants continue not to die.
Following the successful rise of the various assassin guilds as household staff providers, butlers, cooks and maids found themselves largely out of job. However, their dedication to serve was so great that they did not accept to be cast aside and started the Butleran Revolt.
Butlers, cooks and maids decided they would go on offering their services and not only would they serve, but they would serve and protect. Indeed, law enforcement at the time was handled by a street gang called the Militia that represented a minor annoyance to criminals and a major one to the people. Somehow, however, the manners of the butlers, the skills of the cooks and the charms of the maids helped them successfully take over law enforcement. Still, some say their intimate knowledge of little known facts about the life of the lords was also a key factor in the whole process. Others think they really did take arms and mounted commando operations against the Militia. But most people believe that truly, good behavior was more than enough to insure victory over the previous city guards.
One of the most famous establishment in Million is the cafe. These little eating areas can be found all around the city, even in its most remote corners. It is rumored that Million itself actually started out as a very popular cafe owned by an overly ambitious person.
The problem when too many cafes try to outwit each other with creative menus of varied sandwiches and drinks is that at some point you have got to bring it to a more physical level to gain an edge. As a result, each owner rules like a merciless expansionist vying for the control of terrace areas. Their staff act much like street gangs who defend and conquer territory and mark it with graffiti or olfactory markers, such as a sweaty shirt.
Rivalries are bitter and displays of machismo are flamboyant as waiters battle by looking intimidating, snorting noisily or stamping their feet vigorously. They conquer territory by frightening away their rivals. This even happens when patrons are being served, which is usually considered a good show as well as a gambling opportunity.
There are six moons floating over Million and they are named after mythical characters: the Bouncy Beauty, the Love Interest, the Mysterious Stranger, the Redshirt, the Sidekick, and the Wise Old Guy. Each moon completes its cycle in a different number of days, something like (following the order above) 30, 36, 42, 24, 48 and 54. Much like anywhere else, they kind of influenced time keeping.
Before the famous Mercurian calendar, time was more or less successfully kept in check in a rather random manner. Each month was named after a moon and then changed moon each month. This led to some confusion and much abuse and nowadays the method is obsolete. Mostly.
The Mercurian Calendar
Adopted a very long time ago, the calendar is loosely based on the iconic labors of some antique hero who inspired generations of pottery artists, hero-wannabes, and calendar makers. The calendar follows the Love Interest over a year of 432 days divided in 12 months named thusly: the Cat, the Hydrant, the Moose, the Board, the Unstable, the Pigeons, the Bull, the Ponies, the Corset, the Goats, the Apples, and the Beast.
Days are counted in faces (the first 12 days of the month), sixes (the next six days), and dings (the last 18 days). The most important day of the month is the last day, called Pay Day, which is also the very same day on which interests and rents are due. Since many people will do things tomorrow while many others wanted them yesterday, these are the two basic time measuring units.
Campaign for the Redshirt
While nobody of great influence is disputing the actual length of a year, there are some who would prefer to use another moon, one that embraces the changes of modernization and let go of old mythology, one that puts more emphasis on the normal people and less on the hero. This is the proposed spirit behind the Campaign for the Redshirt, but since the main motivators are innkeepers, many think money is the real reason since, of course, rents are paid monthly.
The Barley-Darling Countdown to Tentacled Hell, Unending Liquescence and Hopeless Underworld
In an attempt to decipher the cryptic writings of H. P. Lorecraft, Robby Barley and Augustin Darling assembled the less disturbing parts of his stellar charts and somehow turned them into a weird calendar, the C. T. H. U. L. H. U. for short, a countdown toward some sort of inevitable doom that will ultimately befall Million. However, not only are people unconcerned due to the fact that someone will be undoubtedly prophesied to deal with the situation, but the infamous Tentacle Day has already been postponed twice: once due to a simple calculation error and once because the tentacles, apparently, went to sleep. They are expected to wake up on a Moon Day. The theory as to what this actually means is the day when the moons will align in a manner and time appropriate for a colorful stellar manifestation to occur so subtly that the mere realization it has just happened will send the living minds into a space-time continuum where it is always Sun Day. Mindless people will be replaced by tentacles. That is, unless someone manages to wake up the tentacles before.
While working on the calendar, Barley developed the belief that one of the moons is actually an artificial creation designed by the Umbrella Makers Guild. He has since become a fervent conspiracy theorist. For his part, Darling's dangerously deranged imagination spawned a whole pantheon of unsavory entities. He can now be found preaching in the Red Light District, explaining the intricate relations between stellar events and creative tentacle husbandry, unleashed lewdness and humid unions.
Confinement is usually the solution against crime. Ghost are sealed in red clay pots about the size of a big fist and locked by the dozens in tiny dark rooms. Humans are not put in pots but otherwise suffer a similar fate only to be left out once their sentence is over. Prisons are usually not very big and located in locked and guarded towers that run along the city walls.
All is not pink and fluffy in Million. It is rather grey and wet and there is some pretty nasty stuff. Crime has a place and so do those who organize it and they are in constant battle with those who wish crime had no place anywhere in Million. Criminal organizations are not thief guilds, unless they would constantly go beyond their quota. These are organizations that dwell in trully despicable stuff, like pyromania, dementation and racketeering.
Sample of Criminal Organizations
The firestarters originally were vigilantes specialized in starting fires where it cannot actually start. They saw themselves as benefactors and liberators whose goal was to free the people from the firefighters oppression. Somehow they thought they fought organized crime: fight fire with fire! However, their chaotic and unpredictable ways proved to be too much for the firefighters to handle and soon they became hated by all.
Realizing they could not go on like this, the firestarters decided to compromise. Instead of using random violence to deal with the whole "firefighters versus the public" conflict, they opted for a more business-like approach and decided to propose their services as professional pyromaniacs. Their goal is still the same, they just developed some sort of conscience and therefore they do not start fires without actually having been contracted. Nowadays, firefighters secretly hire firestarters in order to have a chance to do their job. Though these illegal dealings can bring lots of shame on all parties involved if discovered, a successful operation gets the firefighters off the back of everybody else and reaps lots of votes.
Lords of Laughter
While it is common belief that laughing alone is a sign of mental instability, a few people actually believe that laughing altogether is a dangerous activity. These people spend their time depressed and grumpy or write melodramatic plays and emotional poems in an attempt to make everybody else sad and depressed.
However, some people have decided to embrace the notion in an entirely different way. The Lords of Laughter (LOL for short) are a post death ban, not so secret organization of people eliminators who get paid to provoke an untimely sanity breakdown in their target. Their weapon of choice is, of course, laughter. No matter whether someone believe or not that laughing makes insane, laughing with a LOL is a one way ticket to Diggers' Hill.
The LOL are accomplished stand-up comedians expert at making their target laugh their way into madness. They do not, however, skulk around to surprise their victims with a profoundly disturbing comical quip thrown at them when they least expect it. They approach their target cunningly disguised as someone with whom they want to talk. A few minutes later they leave behind a laughing - and quite insane - victim.
One of the best known criminal organization, the Villain People are career criminals notorious for dealing in all sorts of illicit activities and for owning most costume hobby shops and designer brands, their main trademark being they like to dress up in extravagant fashion.
Villain People are divided in groups, often called families, each operating in a different district. Conflicts between families are not uncommon and were traditionally resolved violently with the losers ending up deep into the harbor. While, despite the MAD act, some still hold to this archaic tradition, more and more conflicts are now resolved on the fashion runway where independent judges grant victory to the most outrageous designers, who are of course sponsored by the Villain People.
Sample of criminal activities the Villain People get into.
Demolition Racket: Many inn owners resort to underhand methods to get the upper hand and the Villain People take advantage of this. They will accept money from an inn owner to sabotage a rival's inn. Of course, the rival is allowed to make a counter offer. The price can be raised again and again until someone cannot pay anymore and becomes the target. Since cash is paid up front, the Villain People can choose to step out of the deal at any time after a counter offer has been made without attacking anyone on the grounds that everybody has paid not to be destroyed.
Ghost Jar Contraband: This activity exists because many unconscionable people think ghosts in bottles make lovely decorations. The Villain People hire unscrupulous ghost catchers to capture "free" ghosts in glass jars to be sold in sewer markets. Of course, possession of a confined ghost is punishable by confinement, but many are still willing to take the risk.
Staging Prophecies: A charlatan prophesier working for the Villain People prophesy all sorts of wonderful things to the victim. The Villain People then make sure these things come true. Not only the victim pays big money to the prophesier, but the prophesies put them in circumstances where they become vulnerable to other scams.
Sticker Dealing: Producing and trafficking stickers is always a lucrative business for the Villain People.
Put quite simply, people in Million do not die. Not that they cannot: it is still possible if someone really, really wants it to happen. But the whole dying business has been forbidden by the act of Mutual Accommodation and Decorum. Million's alternative to death is insanity.
In a somewhat more normal world, most diseases incapacitates to a certain degree or bring about an early demise. Million has its share of nasty bugs, but some had to evolve considerably in order to maintain their status of calamities against people who do not easily die.
The process of catching diseases and the way to treat them can be easily explained by a skilled and imaginative doctor using the rule of five. Results, however, may vary.
Sample of Dangerous Diseases
This disease slowly alter the mind of infected people in such a way that they gradually believe they are sheep. Not only will they act like sheep, but they will try to escape from the city and regroup with other infected people in fields where they compete with actual cattle.
People infected with this disease slowly start to hold their breath for longer and longer periods of time, as if they were afraid of losing air. While this only prevents them from doing such things as talking or blowing candles for example, later symptoms send them right up Diggers' Hill. Indeed, infected people can go down the streets rolled in a ball, lie still on water and float, or jump down rooftops as if trying to take to the air.
Also known as the red plague, this disease is mostly an annoyance and only dangerous some of the times. Once infected, the diseased starts seeing red clay pots where there are none. The majority of people only see a few pots wherever they look, while some see lots of them. These pots are quite real to the diseased and must be dealt with accordingly. For example, the diseased will need to remove a pot it sees on a chair in order to use it. The disease becomes dangerous when its victims see too many pots to be able to operate normally.
Yes, even a paradise such as Million is plague by drugs. Besides the usual stuff that nobody really wants to call drug there is one - whether or not it qualifies as a drug matters not - that represents such a calamity that a special force fights alongside the authorities to put an end to its use. Or at least to force the dealers to change their glue stuff.
This growing scourge takes the form of stickers. Cheap stuff are poorly drawn images that do not really inspire. Expensive stickers have beautiful images, sometimes illegally drawn by renowned artists who want to make a quick profit. The new trend is to have one single image drawn over more than one sticker, thus forcing the customers to pay more for potentially better results.
These images are called stickers because addicts, also called stickers, stick them on their body, usually where the light shines less. The glue stuff used to achieve that comes from crushed blue flowers, charming and sweet-smelling flowers that are guaranteed to please the eye, though at an increasingly higher cost. That is why the florist guild offers its members paramilitary trainings and sends them off to bust out drug dealers. Authorities turn a blind eye on this vigilante work, though only as long as they get credited for the good results.
There are many reasons why people feel the need to use stickers. Sooner or later everybody turns insane and moves to Diggers' Hill. While many do not notice the subtle changes in their behavior, some do and try to hide them. A way to do that is by using stickers as anchors to reality. They use images that personifies what they think they were and behave as such. Ultimately they build a false world and do not even realize they are now living in a mad house. Other reasons include the need to flee reality or to try and improve one's general behavior through an easy fix.
It has once been said that in order to fly you had to fall and somehow miss the ground. The economy of Million sort of follows this principle: it fell at some point, missed the crash, and then started soaring like never before! Since nobody seems or wants to admit this logic defying system is fundamentally flawed, the whole thing keeps on flying like a little bird spinning in a typhoon. Not the ideal, but not a crash either. Yet.
Everybody fits somewhere along the money chain. From the penniless beggar to the rich merchant to the furtive thief, each has a role to play in money redistribution. From a certain perspective, it is not quite unlike a food web and this helps explain why imaginative zoologists are in charge of Million's economy while economists are back to being only thrifty and frugal people. This special organization is the ZEBRA, or the Zoologists Economic Board of Revised Accounting.
In Million, many people can go literally insane over money. Considering the fact that each coin bears the staring face of the king on one side, that is hardly surprising. Some people have at one time suggested that money should be abolished, but everybody else refused because this would hinder their thriving economy. Instead it was proposed that the face could be replaced by the king's butt and its cute fluffy tail. The suggestion was adopted, but people still go crazy over money.
While fire may represent a major threat elsewhere, in Million it does not get a chance to shine as much as it would like. Any fire reckless enough to try and take a stroll around runs the risk of encountering all sorts of water sources, from a foxy smooth shower to a seriously leaking cistern to a dangerous rogue puddle patiently waiting in ambush. Therefore, things rarely get out of control. At least the way they usually should.
Before the Butleran Revolt sent most city guards out of the force, Million had no organized firefighter squads. A couple of lords came up with the idea to change this in an effort to boost their chance of being elected. They recruited the former Militia members and formed the first fire brigades. Soon after however, every lord was sponsoring a team of firefighters. With too many brigades to fight the occasional fire, the situation soon turned, er, rather inflammable. When their services are actually required, different brigades will rush to the scene and beat each other up until the victorious can finally attend to their job, by which time the rain might actually have done it.
In their spare time, firefighters do all sorts of other tasks in order to show their sponsors care about the people. They serve as examples of what fine citizens should not do, they bully the public into paying and supporting their sponsors, and they rescue pets in trouble.
More recently, some firefighters have become concerned about the fact they spend more time being thugs than firefighters. While everybody else had already realized that, only a few dare to take actions. The relationship that developed between firefighters and firestarters is strangely symbiotic and destructive.
Fire brigades are usually named after their sponsor's, a district's or a street's name.
Like your typical fantasy setting, Million stands somewhere on an unfinished map. However, in this case, this is explained by the fact that as far as anyone knows, the whole world is covered by a think fog, except for Million and its surroundings. The world is therefore divided in two distinct parts: Million and foggy country.
Theories such as natural phenomena or the imminent end of the world have been proposed but ultimately rejected as being either uninteresting or unrealistic. The preferred explanation is that the fog is actually created by the ghosts of the dead that have been steadily increasing in number since death was still a major concern. This solution better explains three important questions:
Why is the fog always there?
Why does it turn people insane?
Why has Million been spared from the fog?
The first question is easy to answer: the dead have nowhere else to go so they hang around. Now, why is that so is still under debate, but at least that does not directly question the existence of something that is there and stays there.
Answering the second question is simple as well: the dead and the living are not quite made to coexist and therefore some misunderstandings are bound to happen, a lot. Usually, the living mind does not cope very well with them.
The last question and its answer appeared with the accession to the throne by a mad prophesier. The king apparently struck a deal with the dead - known as the act of Accommodation and Decorum - and since then the ghosts were forbidden from entering Million and its immediate vicinity. In return, however, the living were forbidden to die and join the ghosts in the overly crowded rest of the world.
These are the ghosts freed on the original mother's day. A list of the missing offenders was compiled from the registry and the final total numbered 39. They came to be known as the “freeniners" because someone tried to be clever and failed, but the name stuck anyway. The list was disclosed to ghost catchers and includes some well-known characters such as Jerry Jingle. To this day 13 have been recaptured, but the real identity of two of them is still questioned.
Guilds, Clubs, and Societies
People form groups for various reasons and purposes but mainly because everybody else does it. Guilds, clubs and societies represent the basis of Million's social organization and therefore few are those who are not member of one or another.
Guilds are associations of merchants, artisans or otherwise crafty people. They maintain standards, protect the interests of their members, and are convinced they can do the same at the city level by meddling in politics. Since there is not only one guild per craft but one guild per technique and/or family, similar guilds are often involved in cold wars.
Societies are more intellectually oriented and their members associate together for purposes such as religion, culture, or science. Many societies were created by the ruling authority to deal with an issue of some sort. The wealthy and educated represent the typical society members, but there is always some place available for people ready to serve drinks and clean the rooms. Societies also play a role in politic, if only to try and bring an intellectual aspect to the whole business.
Clubs are by far the most numerous organizations with many lasting but a week while a few grow to become guilds or societies. They serve just about any purpose imaginable, be it for good or bad.
Sample of Organizations
Much like the necromancers, the assassins were left unemployed after the adoption of the MAD act. However, they effectively recycled themselves as butlers, cooks and maids and are now highly sought by rich people who like quiet and discreet staff able to disappear in the dark and get rid of pesky thieves.
Since stickers hit the alleys, the florists have become a force the organized crime has to reckon with. Florists are expected to follow an extensive paramilitary training as well as to master various flower arrangements techniques.
Once a flourishing guild of creepy and rival funeral home owners, necromancers have returned to their sources and usually stick to talking with ghosts.
Private Investigators Guild
Private investigators privately investigate people and sell the reports to other people. They do not generally need to be hired to operate. Each guild specialize in certain type of people (aristocrats, orcs, chocolate lovers) or work for specific organizations (the MPD, the ruling council, the the Cover Up).
Thieves play a part in Million's economy. One of their main goals is to move around money that would otherwise remain stored. However, they have a quota to respect and all the guilds compete to get the biggest share. Those who are caught going over the quota face confinement.
Umbrella Makers Guild
The infamous guild whose pipes run all over Million. Its engineers have developed most of the city's technological advancements as well as very fashionable umbrellas. However, it is believed the guild has a secret agenda with a dark purpose.
Wood is used for many things in Million, but most trees grow in foggy country and only the bravest dare face its dangers. Woodcutters are well paid, but usually do not work for a very long time. An experienced woodcutter is one who went on more than two forays. Woodcutters dress in highly colored clothing in order to be more visible in the fog.
The members of this society have the arduous task of proving that any anachronism recorded in Million is, in fact, not one at all. Anybody disagreeing with them is welcome to present their written arguments and the members will consider if a discussion would be amusing or necessary.
Lost Paradise Society
This society was created some years after the act of Mutual Accommodation and Decorum was passed. Its mandate was to find where the ghosts are supposed to go, why they cannot get there, and what it would take to send them there. Their most influential member, one Horace Philbert Lorecraft, realized the answer was out there and not that hard to find. He looked at the sky while drawing charts, he dreamed of strange creatures and places, and stalked the foggy harbor searching for odd people. Years later, he declared he had discovered the truth. He put it all down in a book, packed a suitcase, and went to spend the rest of his life locked somewhere in Diggers' Hill, where he still resides to this day, eating ice cream and writing letters to dead people.
The book, named the Neuronomicon, proved to be quite a challenge for the other society members. Unable to read it without turning bonkers themselves, but convinced Lorecraft had it all right, they decided that an altered state of mind was the solution. They are today credited for the discovery of a few potent hallucinogenic drugs. Whether they would help is anyone's guess since the Neuronomicon disappeared a long time ago, though a few incomplete copies are rumored to exist.
Holidays and Festivities
Million counts many holidays and various festivities. These are either held on specific dates, days or sixes (the six days following the faces). While they serve various interests, holidays and festivities are notorious for being great occasions for parades of all sorts. And parades always make great opportunities for chaos and mayhem.
Sample holidays and festivities
Decades ago, a frenzied young man armed with a huge stick forced his way into a ghost prison and started breaking pots while looking for him mum, claiming it was not her fault if she had been savaged by a pumpkin and died. He was promptly arrested and confined, but not before he had successfully freed many ghosts. This offended most mothers who have since then chosen this very day to remind their sons not to be ungrateful.
Red Pots Sixes
To sensibilize people to this disease, many just leave around real red pots. By the end of the six days, the confusion is total. Mothers' Day follows right after, to the relief of many.
Referred to as Days of Wants, these are special days held in the honor of the gods. They include: Any Way You Want It Day, Everybody Wants You Day, I Just Want To Have Fun Day, I Want A New Drug Day, I Want Candy Day, I Want It All Day, I Want To Know What Love Is Day, I Want You To Want Me Day, I Want Your Sex Day, etc.
Typical fantasy cities tend to have too much inns for their own good. Million is no exception, even if the average number of travelers at any moment tends to be zero. Inns act as taverns, serve cheap fast food and offer cramped rooms for people who do not need more than a bed for one reason or another. However, many innkeepers now offer larger rooms in an attempt to attract more people.
There is a fierce competition going on between inn owners: the higher the inn, the greater its status. An inn is typically rated half a star per floor. Comfort and security are entirely optional features that do not influence this general perception.
People do get old, sick and badly wounded, but do not usually die. Instead they go crazy, insane, mad, senile, whatever. They lose it one way or another and must eventually be removed from society.
Insane people are sent to a retirement house. Most of them are located in Diggers' Hill, which used to be Million's cemetery. It is now practically a city itself, though its inhabitants are mostly deranged people and care-takers. However, particularly disturbing or dangerous cases or those unable to afford the jingler's fees are not sent to Diggers' Hill but carried out in foggy country and locked-up in one of the many towers used to hold such people.
Investigating madness is sometimes slightly more complicated then investigating death since the victim can also turn out to be a problem all of its own as it is not very difficult for a crazy person to go around causing troubles. Much like death used to be, insanity can be natural, accidental, aligenic (caused by someone else), suigenic (caused by the patient) or undetermined. It is the job of the alienist to determine that.
An alienist is commonly known as a headcracker and sometimes called Jerry Jingle. Jerry was a very infamous alienist who unnecessarily sent many people to Diggers' Hill, usually into his own asylum. He was eventually shred to pieces by his own mad groupies. Alienists assist investigators, purge society, and spend lots of money on advertisement. Healing people of their madness is considered a fun but unnecessary hobby.
King: the making of
As far as anyone can remember, a king always sat on Million's throne, though the title has not always been hereditary. There was a time when, upon the death of a king, a new one would be chosen from amongst the people. In these times, children could grow up thinking one day they would be the king, or the king's father, or maybe their grand child would be the king's neighbor. It kept people hopeful, a bit like lottery, except not quite so.
First, aspirants had to be elected. People talked and bullied and cheated their way into being voted by others. Once the voting was over, the count would be tallied and the results revised first by the chamber of lords, then the clergy, and finally by the ruling council who would select three names. The chosen aspirants were brought to the Legendary Beast. Though it was expected to choose from those three people, more often than not the Legendary Beast reminded everybody that it would not let mere humans dictate its choice. Once the final decision was made, Million had a new ruler.
And then one day the Legendary Beast made a rather unusual choice. A rabbit held by a little girl was showing off its fluffy tail and the Legendary Beast could not resist. It leaped from its dais and started chasing after the rabbit. This was taken as a sign. Many were those who thought this was quite ludicrous, but more thought a cute rabbit would make a nice king. In the end, the ruling council finally had to agree. Not because of the people's wishes, though, but because they came up with a nifty plan that would turn this farce to their advantage. Or so they thought.
Prior to the butleran revolt, law enforcement was just another kind of criminal activity. Now the Million Police Department, or MPD, is properly, if slightly differently, serving and protecting the public. Of course, the first butlers, cooks, and maids who started it all are not that anymore. They have become respected peace officers. However, people have a hard time forgetting their humble origins, especially since the traditional manners and uniforms have been kept.
Ever since the revolt, the MPD's headquarter, Bakers Yard, has occupied the same spot at 122 Bakery Street. It used to be called Monty's Pastry Delicacies, but Monty, a cook himself, gave the rebels a base of operation before joining the revolt himself. Nowadays, the MPD is also called the Million Pastries Department and their specialty is cream-stuffed "peace pastries".
Besides the pastry department, the MPD counts three bureaus which address different issues in a professional and timely manner.
The Bureau of Reconciliation and Order
The BRO ensures the peace and quiet of the public and of private individuals by enforcing good manners, proper language, and orderly behavior. They patrol the streets of Million, reconcile disputes and take away troublesome elements. They also work very closely with the guild of private investigators in order to remain aware of important information concerning equally important people and are legally compelled to blackmail such people if it would guarantee peace and order would be upheld.
The Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation
The MBI handles crime investigation and purges the city of what may cause disturbances. They do not crack cases or solve crimes by themselves, however, but rather help people do so by providing them with clues on the perpetrators identity and whereabout. MBI agents also frequently team up with alienists, whether or not madness is directly involved. Finally, they often plan overly complicated sting and covert operations, but usually sub-contract these to special agents since their outstanding manners usually make peace officers easy to identify.
The Bureau of Civil Affairs
The BCA works closely with city officials and the ruling council in order to manage the city. Agents of the BCA take care of public health concerns, which include sanitation, sewer inspection, control of disease outbreaks, and drug fighting (which is sub-contracted to florists paramilitary groups). They also oversee urban planning and development and issus all sorts of permits. Finally, they are in charge of surveilling food and wine quality, stocks, and prices (using their own peace pastries as baseline reference).
The Legendary Beast used to be a wise, omniscient, lordly and fabulous creature. It was believed to have been invested by the gods to choose the rightful heir to Million's throne. This in spite of the fact that there was absolutely no proof whatsoever to support that. But who needs proof when you have faith? And so, for many centuries, the Legendary Beast chose who was worthy to become Million's ruler.
In the end, the Legendary Beast had become rather dumb, ordinary and grouchy. Continued inbreeding to keep its line pure proved to be a bad idea after all. After having chosen a rabbit to be the king, the Legendary Beast was discarded altogether. Its ilk can now be seen roaming the streets and barking at people. Those who still have some respect for this proud heritage take them as pets.
Million has got a king. To everybody he is the King, mainly because no one can quite make out the difference between this one and the previous one or if it is already the next one or even if it is a male or a female. It can be hard to tell if you know nothing about rabbits.
The rabbit king has been around for an awfully long time and he is bound to stay there since the title is now hereditary and he has enough descendants to justify the name of the city. But not everything is all cute and fluffy in Million's castle. Every rabbit wants to be king. Decades of subterfuge and backstabbing have turned them into a bunch of heartless and treacherous heirs. Indeed, the royal rabbits now possess abilities such as the dreaded Maddening Bunny Stare and other insane-no-jutsu secret techniques. They can easily drive a typical person nuts within minutes. Since they hone their skills on just about anyone, it can be quite a harrowing experience to visit the king's castle. So much so that visitors are required to wear a blindfold. This not only helps save them but also disguises the fact that the place really is a mess and in need of much repairs.
Magic: the inevitable
Magic started a very long time ago, back when the dawn of humanity was still a thing of the present. People would gather together around a fire to share stories and weed. One night they mused that it would be awesome if magic was real and you could turn people into newts. One of them then said magic was real stuff and proved it by performing a neat trick using drinking cups and rocks.
To put it simply, magic in Million is just a big deception. It follows no rules or natural laws that can be disputed or disproved but instead works according to whatever concept one wishes. It just works in a tricky show off sort of way. But for all its coolness, magic is not quite the end all that people would want it to be. Most of the time, magic allows a practitioner to do just about the same thing as anybody else. They just do it in a way that seems to defy any logic. When they do more fantastic stuff, though, they always need secrecy and some sort of staging area. And when it does not work, people just find excuses, though magic is rarely blamed. Magic is that mysterious, it is.
So, Million looks like, well, a city. It has high stone walls and a maze of mostly clean cobbled streets, leaning towers and chimneys, jumbled buildings and invading cafe terraces, waterwheels and cisterns of all sizes, downspouts of all shapes and miles long pipe system that awkwardly and sometimes treacherously run all over the place. And at the center of it all, like a tarnished antique lying proudly on a mound of rubbish, stands the huge castle of the king.
Over its long existence, and even more so because of the disappearance of the rest of the world, Million has become home to countless people. Consequently, the city is now a medley of cultural influences that only manage to fit together in a quaint sort of way. Buildings are constantly altered to fit a new owner's vision or mood. The end result is an unusual architectural style that everybody criticizes and no one really likes.
Million is divided in many districts, each with its own identity, though going from one district into another can at times be very radical while at others be so subtle one only realizes it too late. Every district essentially offers the same things as the others but in differing style and quality. Many do have their specialties, though.
Sample of Districts
Ultimately left with no boats going or coming from anywhere, Million's port was facing a bleak future. However, some clever entrepreneurs invested some time and money and soon the port was advertised as being full of Brilliantly Recycled Anchored Ships and Sails, or brass for short. They even used brass plates wherever they could. Yeah, very clever. But Million's inhabitants need all the place they can get and all those ships now serve as any other building.
What city could be called a fantasy city without some sort of coliseum where people can sit with popcorn and enjoy furious and uncensored confrontations such as thumb wrestling, staring contests and dramatized police arrests. The Angular, Million's own coliseum, is a very popular center of attraction complete with souvenir shops and picnic areas for the family. Contrary to common belief, it was named after the district, not the opposite. Where the district got its name is a mystery.
Named thusly because the main temples of Greed and Lust are located here, Holly Hood is where it all happens: greed and lust, fame and shame, wild days and nights. This is the district of noisy theaters and luxurious mansions, vain thespians, forgotten stars, adulated superstars, screaming fans, annoying paparazzi and nosy reporters, busy playwrights and stressed producers. Many people seek fortune and glory here, but only some do and few because of their talent.
Somehow named after the prestigious Million's University of Schooling and Education (the MUSE), this district represents the intellectual center. Multiple academic institutions are eager to entertain interested students with a wide variety of classes such as Advanced Experimental History, Economics of Zoology, Paradoxical Hermetic Studies and all sorts of other such nonsense. The headquarters of many societies are also are located here.
Those believing salvation lies not with Greed and Lust need only take a brief stroll down the streets of Red Light District, named after its many holy fires that must be kept alight to ward off cold and impiety. The whole ward also bustles with packs of preachers dedicated to converting lost souls to obscure patrons such as the Lord of the Dance or to mystical bracelets that will bring balance in their owners' life. Anyone careless enough can easily lose money, mind and soul.
The following generator can help you quickly identify the mood of a district at any given time. Just click to find out what impression the PCs get from the neighborhood or how the residents will react to their presence or meddling.
The people of Million like to be well informed and besides nosy neighbors they can count on many newspapers and magazines. While most of them are amateurish, boring, comical or do not last longer than a single print, two important newspapers have withstood the tests of time, public criticism and versatility to provide everybody with the latest gossips.
The Million Confessions is published by a bunch of monks known as the Clone Brothers. Most of them spend their entire life within the walls of their monastery where they copy, counterfeit, duplicate, multiply and reflect. Rumors and wild theories abound as to why the Million Confessions came to be. The only certainty is that the monks invented a cunning way to gather facts about the outside world: the confessional. Monks listen to people they do not know or see confessing about what they have seen others do, what they have heard others say, and what they think of others. A Million Confessions is a very popular and comprehensive handwritten repertoire of gossips published once a month.
Long ago, the Umbrella Makers Guild realized that: 1) information is power and 2) people want to be informed. Having already given much to Million and its inhabitants, they decided it was also their duty to keep them informed and this is why the guild sponsors its own newspaper: the Cover Up. Although rumors say the Cover Up uses the pipes as indiscreet listening devices, the official information gathering method remains the use of reporters. Unlike others, however, the reporters of the Cover Up are quite tenacious, if not downright intimidating, when it is time to get answers. Most people do not like them, but many agree they do get their facts. However, these facts then go through the editorial board, sanctioned by the Umbrella Makers Guild, and no one is certain if what comes out truly is what went in. The Cover Up is very popular because it tells people what they really need to know. It is printed once a week with very noisy hydraulic printing monstrosities.
Newspapers also work in collaboration with paparazzi. Not as technologically advanced as some others, paparazzi in Million instead rely on an uncanny skill: speed sketching. They can sketch almost any scene in a matter of seconds and always with a green pen. However, the final result depends more on subjective interpretation and subliminal messages than actual accuracy. While these drawings may be interpreted slightly differently by everybody, for some unknown reason members of the Expired World Society invariably see columns of moving symbols instead. They also believe the paparazzi are agents part of a monitoring network working for the original System Provider.
People: culture and language
Be it due to fashion, tradition, or delusion, Million's inhabitants are quite diverse and mismatched. While there used to be many civilizations, most are now only remembered through bits of architecture or out of fashion clothes. However, modern fancies have produced some sort of whimsical cultural renaissance. Cultures in Million are constantly stereotyped, not because of racism, but out of necessity and simplicity. It is much easier to characterize a group of people with a few stereotypes than to try to understand who they are, especially since they might change next season.
Despite their multicultural background, everybody realized it would be much easier to just talk the same language. It is hard to identify what kind of language is now spoken, but it serves its purpose and that is enough for a language. However, the so called cultural renaissance also gave rise to the idea of linguistic diversity. However, instead of bringing back to life dead languages, each culture usually adopts some sort of lingo or slang or something. The diversity is there, as well as the occasional confusion, but unless dramatic tension calls for it, people usually manage to understand each other with minimal efforts.
Sample of languages
Musical term lend themselves easily to new interpretations. Here are some examples, but these may vary depending on the current vogue.
Dirge – 1) defeat 2) to be unsuccessful.
Fugue – 1) nonexistent, fake 2) bad, awful, unsatisfactory
Harmonize! – let it go, relax.
It's a jive – It’s a lot of fun.
March – go, move.
March off! – go away and leave me alone!
Metal – very good, interesting, or appealing.
Nocturne – depressing
The score – important event; may be used sarcastically.
Symphony – gossip, information, recent news.
Two-step – risky, hazardous, chancy.
Warble – 1) a problem or inconvenience 2) cause another person to have a problem or inconvenience.
Whistle – talk.
Besides the obvious and usual, here are some more slimy expressions.
Gooey – 1) nonexistent, fake 2) bad, awful, unsatisfactory
Gunk – 1) a problem or inconvenience 2) cause another person to have a problem or inconvenience.
It's a splash – It’s a lot of fun.
Muck you! – a rude expression.
Muculent – very good, interesting, or appealing.
Mud – gossip, information, recent news.
Ooze – go, move.
Ooze off! – go away and leave me alone!
Sludgy – risky, hazardous, chancy.
Slush it! – let it go, relax.
Sneeze – talk.
Sneeze off! – shut up!
Sneeze out – to tell everything.
Snot – not, negation.
Snot it! – stop doing that!
Viscous – That’s very good! Often used sarcastically.
Politic in Million is relatively simple. Once the rabbit king was on the throne, the ruling council asked him if he would be against booting out the Legendary Beast and making his title hereditary. The king sniffed the air, but never refused. The ruling council then asked him if he would be against letting them make the rules, though they would still seek his final approbation. The king sniffed the air, but did not disagree. And this promptly became the basis of Million's politics.
Nowadays, the power is within the hands of the ruling council, which went from advisor to ruler. The council is made up of magistrates who are chosen from four different political groups with at least one magistrate chosen from each city district. The clergy, of course, has magistrates and in fact with 24 of them they form the largest group. The aristocracy is undeniably represented within the council. Important aristocrats are called lords and as many as 18 can sit on the council. The guilds also have a say on the council where up to 12 guild masters can be magistrates. Finally, all the societies can pool together and choose 6 chancellors, society leaders, to act as magistrates on the council. At any one time, three randomly chosen magistrates will act as the Voice of Reason and interpret the king's wishes should he be required to address anybody.
Laws are proposed by the ruling council or any political group, but only the magistrates can vote to see if the law can be submitted to the king. If the law is voted favorably, the king is then asked whether or not it is cool by him. Since the king never says a word, any law the council wishes to pass must be presented in a specific way to get his consent. However, only one magistrate may present the law. In order to choose who that person will be, the four political groups choose a general (could be anyone, even from outside the council) and engage in a bloody and vicious war with armies of tiny wooden figurines. Mastery of intricate rules, a knowledge of strategy, hard luck and bribery are all necessary to win the day.
Prophecies and chosen ones are common in Million. People just have to go out on the streets and they will find stands at dozens of street corners where an eager prophesier will willingly relieve them of a few coin in exchange of a prophecy. If a customer feels unhappy about a prophecy, they can always visit a second prophesier, though on average the first one is usually right, unless it was a charlatan.
People can be destined to accomplish all sorts of heroic actions, from trivial to ordinary to worthy of a best-seller. Although prophecies do come true, some are so obscure or insignificant no one ever realizes it has come to pass. Still, there is a chosen one for every heroic situation imaginable and should a major problem occur, there will be someone destined to deal with it successfully. Most people in Million would not despair on doomsday: they would rush to the nearest prophesier hoping to be the lucky hero.
Pumpkins are nightmarish creatures trying to find their place in a world that would rather not have anything to do with them. No one knows much about them, but everyone agrees that they represent a real danger.
While it remains a fact that nobody reliable has actually witnessed a toothy pumpkin carve its way through an innocent but delicious person, the threat alone is enough to justify the existence of professional pumpkin hunters, also called punters. These individuals have the dangerous task of keeping Million safe from the orange menace.
Punters have mastered the subtle and demanding art of stalking pumpkins. This can take hours and the trick is to approach the pumpkin without attracting its interest in order to deliver the final kick. One false move and the hunter is pumpkin lunch. While the whole process looks like a total waste of time, punters maintain that stalking is very necessary and therefore they demand lots of money.
One thing Million might seem to lack is the presence of fantasy races. Indeed, everybody and their uncle is a dull human. However, this was addressed by a popular movement unoriginally called the Façade.
It all began when a bunch of fiction writers decided to create stories about imaginary worlds. Their otherworldly characters became so popular they attracted devoted fandoms. Nowadays, fans form clubs dedicated to impersonating various fantasy races by using makeup, masks, costumes and phony languages. Fantasy races in Million really only are an aesthetic difference.
On a side note, the Villain People's hobby shops are quite popular with fans of the Façade who frequently visit these establishments. Now it is commonly believed that these role-players avidly use stickers to get into their persona. They are also suspected of performing weird ceremonies and worshiping pumpkins.
With an average annual rainfall somewhere between too much and unrealistic, one would be tempted to think that weather forecasting would be a rather uninteresting hobby in Million. But people are always demanding and one cannot simply go on predicting just another rainy day. When not trying to determine the type of rain that will fall, weather forecasters are expected to find out accurately when it is not going to rain and for how long.
Rain has influenced Million's appearance, improved its inhabitants' quality of life, and inspired every successful designers. There is no rain god to thank for all that, though, so people tend to forget the impact rain has on their life but not on their mood.
Almost everyone in Million, despite their cultural background, conveniently worships the same gods. Still, there are some divergent point of views, be they cultural, personal or political, regarding the gods real names, gender, appearance, importance, favored food, etc. But if there is one thing everybody agrees on is what they want their gods to be. There is Greed, who wants to have and Lust, who wants to feel. And there is also Cody Coddington, the god who wants what the people want.
Cody is the one god about whom there is no mystery. Everybody knows Cody's story, from his humble origins as a bartender to his ascension to godhood. It is a classic tale that started, of course, with a prophecy, a very long time ago. Cody was a rather average guy whose ambitions were also rather average: get laid, get rich, or get both by sitting on the throne. One day he did like everybody else and visited a street corner prophesier. His life changed from then on as the prophecy heralded the rise a new god. In the span of but a few days, Cody somehow went from schmoe to hero and ended up having to undertake a deadly pilgrimage through foggy country. The fact that he was never seen again is proof that he successfully ascended to sit next to Greed and Lust.
Simply put, Million lives on rice as it is the most important and cheapest food product. Not only can anything edible be made out of it, but it is so versatile all its parts can be used for just about anything else: paper, straw, glue, pillow stuffing, and cheap jewelry are but a few examples. It also serves as a substitute for money, is used as a weight unit (a grain, a handful, a meal, a five-course diner, etc.) and its cultivation makes for good-looking scenery out there in the Vicinity. All things considered, why rice is not part of the rule of five is a mystery. The popular belief is that the pumpkin subtly stole its place in the people's heart through fear and deception. The pumpkin is that insidious.
Some Popular Simple Rice Recipes
All Spice Rice (use all available spices and experience a different taste each time)
Mice on Rice (usually three blind mice)
Nice Rice (a gourmet meal)
Rice & Dice (a gaming night light snack)
Rice 'n Lice (a meal for the poor rich in protein)
Rice on Ice (a frozen desert)
Slice o' Rice (sliced rice served with vegetables du jour)
This unusual rice tastes like cinnamon, smells like cinnamon, and looks very much like cinnamon. This rice is not only unusual because of its cinnamon properties, but because it is an unusual poison as well. Someone using G rice lives longer, sees weird things, and wants more G rice. Someone who stops using G rice however will die shortly after. It was all very cool many years ago to use G rice, but nowadays nobody dies and seeing weird things will send many a user to Diggers' Hill. That is always the case with those people who believe G rice can allow you to travel between planets, if you do not mind becoming a mutant and have the means to build a ship that flies above the sky.
Rule of Five
The rule of five finds its origins in old traditions and folklore and is used to explain the relations between just about everything. Its symbolic imagery can be simply used as a game or memory aid or can help clarify complex abstractions, describe medical problems or demonstrate martial techniques. Whether it is fact or fiction is not important. What matters is that the rule is a reliable universal truth with creative license.
The rule of five uses, well, five basic symbols: Fog, Pipes, Pumpkin, Rain, and the Rest. It is unclear how these items came to be chosen, but it seems evident that an attempt was made to avoid clichés in favor of stuff more relevant to Million. The end result is a set of symbols that relates together only by a stretch of the imagination, though that adds to their mysticism. Each symbol represents much more than the obvious. For example, fog stands for diplomacy, obscurity, stability; pipes mean imagination, intimidation, intrusion; pumpkin is more about adaptation and deception; rain represents adversity, mobility and perseverance; and the rest is usually assigned whatever does not fit the others.
The classic thing about this is that each item wins over and is defeated by two others. This is the basis of all the interactions. So, fog wins over pipes and pumpkin; pipes win over pumpkin and rain; pumpkin wins over rain and the rest; rain wins over the rest and fog; the rest wins over fog and pipes. Some people prefer to interchange the rest and fog and this has sparked some interesting public debates.
Finally, the rule of five allows people to get creative with normally bland words. A piper, for example, is someone who is creatively intimidating and thus usually manages to get his way. Foggy talk is the diplomatic use of meaningless words that confuse people into agreeing. Sleeping like a pumpkin means not sleeping at all but instead lying in ambush ready to chew on the next passerby.
Million also boasts a huge sewer system. After all, it receives extensive rainfalls and, really, a proper fantasy city has got to have sewers. These consist of a vast network of tunnels large enough to insure the city will not get flooded. They can also accommodate anything from a rat to a giant crocodile to a small community. In fact, it is rumored that more than half of the sewer system is composed of ancient parts of Million that have sunk into oblivion.
Everything from above eventually ends up down a sewer drain. This helps keep the streets clean and rain free and also provides the sewers inhabitants with a variety of discarded goodies. Junkmongers, merchants and charlatans, search the sewers for interesting stuff to sell or resell.
Space: the disputed frontiers
Space, territory, turf, zone, call it whatever you want, there's just not enough of it. Beyond Million there is nothing. There are no neighboring cities, no possible expansion, nowhere else. This leave Million as the only place available for, well, pretty much anything. This also tends to make any space available pretty sought after. Cafes want terraces. Merchants want markets. People want a place to live. Firefighters want more territory. Villain People want more territory. Inns reach for the sky. Sewer folks invade the underground. Pipes crawl over every wall. Even pumpkins compete for a hunting ground. Factions fight in any way they can and these conflicts are known under the generic term of Guild Strifes. Space is a commodity everyone wants and the fact it already belongs to someone else is inconsequential.
Sports and Entertainments
Sports and entertainments are important in Million and people always find some time for them. The Angular, theaters and even the vicinity offer them many options to escape from their lousy life.
Sample Sports and Entertainments
This rather violent sport opposes two teams of players whose goal is to taunt their opponents to the point of making them mad enough to come over and beat them. The team who gets the most beating wins the game. Taunts are totally uncensored and can be so colorful that spectators are reminded both before and after each match not to try them at home.
Originally, each team member would come on the field with a clay pot and players would break the opponents' pots instead of their jaws. However, one day a really pissed off player instead decided to break "laughing" Larry Mucker, who promptly became a legend in this sport. Following this incident, more and more spectators started watching crackpot for the off chance of enjoying such demonstrations of mindless violence. Rules were later changed to please the fans. Players are still required to come in with clay pots, but they are usually used to collect the occasional fallen teeth, which sell very well as memorabilia.
This popular sport involves two teams of seven players using thin 5-foot long wooden pipes to move a tiny iron ball across a 60 by 100 yards playing field in order to score into the opposing team's basket hanging 10 feet in the air. Slightly bigger than the pipe's diameter, the ball can only be moved by sucking air through the pipe to grab it and then by blowing air to throw it. Players are allowed to run while sucking on the ball, but opponents can whack their pipe with their own in order to free the ball.
However, dancing is the most important aspect of the game. Players are expected to dance when: the game starts, their team scores, the opposing team gets a penalty, their team wins, the spectators request it. If the performance is not good enough, the team loses a point, which can often change a lot of things.
Oddball games are usually held in the Angular and crowds love them.
There are two important dancing styles: Step Dancing and Hop Dancing. The classic step dances are very serious and complicated affairs with extensive sets of rules directing movements, positions, dress and hair style, facial expressions, diet and so on. They have been around for centuries and have not changed a single bit during all this time.
Hop dancing has been introduced by oddball players. Its main purpose is to provoke and impress by shaking around in unnusual ways, or at least in ways that have nothing to do with the traditional steps. The popularity of the sport has brought this dancing style to the public and some are now trying to mix new and old together.
Pirates had long ago devised a way to hurt people. They would draw body parts on pieces of paper and have their victim pick a one at random. Then they would hurt it. With time, the many pieces were reduced to the following list: bones, heart, liver, lungs, spleen. To help determine who would hurt the victim, each item would appear several times, but labeled differently: captain, first mate, quartermaster, boatswain, and crew. Eventually the whole thing turned into a game, not only to hurt people, but to gamble away their stolen stuff. Later on, everybody else decided to appropriate the pirates' card game, generally known as grace anatomy, and adapted on improved on it in all sorts of ways. It is now a popular entertainment.
While just about anybody can hunt little critters in the fields, the rich prefer to hunt bigger and more challenging preys. Big game hunting represents such a good entertainment that reservations have to be made weeks in advance. Big forests can only be found in foggy country, but one forest within the vicinity has been preserved for hunting purposes. Not all trees are real, but the whole set-up is good enough. There are three types of big preys: the hart, the boar and the wolf. However, these creatures can only be found in foggy country and volunteers willing to go out and caputure them are rarer than the beasts themselves. Therefore, they are usually replaced by more readily available animals appropriately disguised to look the part: cows, pigs and dogs.
A recent innovation to hunting is the lair and lurkers approach in which an abandoned, self-contained location is filled with volunteers posing as vilains such as savage toe cutters or disguised as mythical creatures like troll dolls. The hunters must go through the location while facing the opposition in order to accomplish some basic mission, like rescuing a damsel in distress. However, since the volunteers are poorly paid, money more than skills usually wins the day.
Million's many theaters offer a varied selection of entertaining shows such as classic plays, musical concerts, talk shows and dramatizations based on real events. The latest innovation is the reality theater where the lives of normal families are exposed to everyone. They live on theater stages designed to provide them with functional living areas that offer very little privacy. People with no lives can come and watch those of others.
The Laborious Games
The games are another example of something inspired by the ancient hero Billy Mercury. While a very long time ago people from different countries would compete against each others, these days only Million's districts square it off during these competitions, which are held every five years in the Angular. Each time a different month is chosen to showcase the corresponding event in a particular way.
Much like the labors, the games are comprised of 12 events loosely themed on the actual tasks performed by Mercury, though somewhat modernized. Indeed, the conceptors of the games realized Billy sometimes had it easy, like winning a crowd with a witty remark or burning down a field of hydrants with a newly devised double-piston flame thrower. Therefore, the events have been designed to be more physical and exciting. Also, the length of the whole business was altered: if Mercury completed everything in just under a year, modern games are all done and over in about a month.
The games are briefly summarized below. They have more or less remained unchanged for many years now, except for technicalities here and there.
The Twelve Games
The Cat Grooming: This is a challenge of skill and creativity where athletes must turn a beloved pet into a stylish thing of pure beauty. Cats are always included in the judging panel. Categories: domesticated cats and feral cats.
The Hydrant Handling: Athletes must throw replicas of hydrants as far as they can. Categories: small, standard, stout.
The Moose Marathon: This event involves runners staggering around the Angular with a huge chunk of wood (about 5' wide and weighing around 40 pounds) strapped on their head. Categories: sprint, 42 laps, and last moose standing.
The Eremitic Board: Wearing tattered robes and beards (or false beard for female teams), opposing teams face off in gladiatorial debates over a randomly chosen subject. The goal is to force the opponents to agree with your idea for fear of looking stupid. Categories: civilized, vulgar, and brutal.
The Unstable: A dangerously leaning pile of dishes is created following a randomly generated algorithm. Each athlete is given three minutes to convince the spectators according to the laws of expectation. Once their time is over, the goal is to properly clean the most dishes in the least amount of time without breaking any. Categories: plates, mixed dishes, booby trapped pile.
The Steampunk Pigeons: A shooting challenge where pressure canons throw brightly colored tin pigeons in the sky and athletes must shoot them with a sling and stones. Categories: single pigeon, volley, and extreme (the pigeon is shot at the slinger).
The Crated Bull: This event is a test of tauromachy where the athletes have a set amount of time to lure a fighting bull into a big crate. Imprisoning the bull might be the goal, but athletes are also judged on style and technique. Therefore, they must use their time wisely between showing off and crating. Categories: iron cage, wooden cage, psychological barrier.
The Cannibal ponies: The athletes have one hour to catch a pig (let loose in the arena) and cook a three-course meal. A fine balance must be achieved between how much time is spent hindering the competitors and cooking the dishes. The judges are traditionally the cooks and managers of the Sea Ponies. Categories: diet, high fat, offals.
The Polite Corset: Athletes wearing corsets pound each other to the ground until one can remove the other's corset. Categories: boxing, wrestling, no holds barred.
The Garrisoned Goats: With one maneuver, each athlete must scare into paralytic fright as many goats as possible. Categories: scream, mime, impersonation.
The Apple Rumble: Six golden apples in a basket are put in the center of the arena. All participating athletes must compete to bring as many as possible back to their starting point. The event stops after a certain amount of time or as soon as one athlete makes it back with at least one apple. Categories: one minute, 10 minutes, last man standing.
The Beasts: Athletes must master unruly stray dogs as quickly as possible while keeping all their bits and parts. Categories: single dog, pack, vicious dog.
Million's inhabitants know most basic inventions, such as the wheel, the toilet flush system and the crude dental drill. Originally known for their fashionably simple or ingeniously bulky umbrellas, the umbrella makers guild has also claimed to be responsible for most, if not all of Million's hydraulic or liquid-related improvements. Examples include the advanced water clock, waterwheel, plumbing, public baths, hydro powered organ, force pump, valve tower, siphon, hydraulic mining and then they go on with fluid mechanic, quill pens and various alchemical stuff. They even recently patented steam-powered devices. Other cool inventions outside the umbrella's shadow include toilet paper, rat trap, gunpowder, double-piston flamethrower and beauty parlors. Yeah, they know lots of things, which is pretty fantastic, right?
Theories: from conspiracy to loony
Here is a list of a few theories running around.
The Expired World
To most people, the world is an unknown fog-filled land except for a city located somewhere. They might be interested in what is out there, but their own little world is usually more important.
However, the few members of the Expired World Society claim to have a better understanding of the world on which they live. They say that for a long time the world was quite normal: standard edition given freely for a limited time. However, when the expiration date came up, the ruling government refused to pay and as a result, they were left with a crippled world with only basic features available. Though some functionalities were ingeniously recovered over time, the world is still sub optimal.
According to the Expired World Society, Million stands on an isolated landmass. However, they are quick to add that the whole thing is not quite a floating island, because that has been done to death and dying is illegal. Instead, the world looks like an inverted mountain with the tip balancing on the sun. Not the real sun but the world's core, or inner sun. Therefore, people who venture in the fog not only can go mad but can fall off the edges. Most of the water constantly does just that, though. However, it boils as it goes down and is sent back up as clouds. Then rain falls down and the cycle goes on. The fog came from the death of all those people who died during the downgrading. Of course, some sort of paradise was one of the neat features.
A handful of them are a bit on the extremist side, though. According to them, a big reboot will fix the problem. However, in order to achieve that, everything and everyone must be shut down. They do exemplify a typical end of the world sect.
The Missing Rain God
With all the rain that keeps on falling, one would expect to see a rain god sitting next to Greed and Lust and Cody. However, such a god had been voted out a long while ago because it was said that rain is already all over the place and gets an undue amount of attention. Besides, what would a rain god do except making people feel wet and miserable?
Some claim that Cody's deification was a scam staged to prevent the rain god from reclaiming its rightful place. They say that the prophecy was misunderstood, that the water mentioned in it had nothing to do with a bartender and that the wrong chosen one had been selected. Now, the rain god walks the streets of Million, unknown to all, powerless and probably working as a bartender. Sightings of the rain god are not uncommon.
The Pumpkin Conspiracy
While a handful few blame the people for turning the fog into the dead, some prefer to blame the pumpkins. Indeed, they claim they are vengeful manifestations of otherworldly innocent creatures. On this strange world, once a year, people armed with sharpened knives carve toothy grins out of innocent but delicious pumpkins and use them to frighten both ghosts and children. It comes as no surprise that the dying wish of many pumpkins is to seek revenge on their tormentors. Alas, for some obscure reason, such revenge takes place on Million!
According to the theorists, that very same place where the pumpkins come from is where the dead are bound to go. It is therefore quite reasonable to say that for as long as the massacre of innocent pumpkins will take place, nightmarish pumpkins will haunt Million where the ghost will stay.
The Shadow of the Umbrella
When people need to pin a conspiracy on a group, they usually choose the umbrella makers guild. This guild is quite wealthy, influential and practically essential. However, the guild members might be victim of their success and many believe they are up to no good.
For example, it is believed the mysterious guild has secret rulers who have been around for much too long and plan on staying even longer. They pull the strings on everything. They have money, they have power, they are everywhere, much like their pipes. They run strange experiments, have contact with beings from out there and want to turn people's mind into jelly.
Too Much Imagination Will Kill You
Back at the dawn of time, not everybody was impressed by the cups and stones trick. Whether they were clever or had not actually been smoking herbs, they realized that magic was just a trick. However, despite them saying so, everybody else wanted magic to exist. This desire for true magic was so great that magic simply came to be.
According to the detractors, this occurred more than once with preposterous results. It was the people's desire for fantastic absurdity that turned a perfectly normal foggy phenomenon into the end of the world. And again, in order to make sense of what had none to begin with, they willed into existence nightmarish pumpkins that would have otherwise made wonderful pies. And so on and so forth. However, nobody really listens to what these doom sayers have to say. Their lack of imagination makes them boring to death and dying is illegal.
The Truth is in the Rest
In the most accepted variant of the rule of five, it is clearly visible that the rest wins over the fog. According to some people, that suggests there is a hidden truth in the rest, an answer to the yet unanswered question about where the dead should go. The same people say that the pumpkin conspiracy is real, though in the following way. The pumpkin, while it cannot defeat the fog, still wins over the rest, and therefore the truth. But, they go on explaining, why would the pumpkin do that? Simple: the pipes win over the pumpkin, somehow forcing them to hide the truth. But why would the pipes do that? Because they are defeated by the fog, which translates into being subjected to the act of Mutual Agreement and Decorum. And in a dramatic display, these people reveal the punch. Who is behind the pipes? The Umbrella Guild!
Wet plains inhabited by rice farmers. Wavy hills harboring sheep herders watching over slushy pastures full of sheep and would be sheep. Rich but gloomy and sinister mansions plagued by localized thunderstorms and disturbing secrets. Highly experimental and hazardous hydroponic farms troubled by pumpkins. These are some of the sights one would expect to encounter while traveling through the vicinity.
The vicinity represents the part of the Million Zone that is not the city, its harbor or Diggers' Hill. However, due to increasing pressures from various movements among their ranks, the dead are always trying to take on more unclaimed land, subtly stepping in any part of the vicinity that is relatively uninhabited. While the River neatly marks a frontier that is hard to deny, the Ambiguous Line is, well, not so precise and has become an unusual battleground where death meets undeath.
The Ambiguous Line is inhabited by hardcore farmers and herders, commonly called foggers. Living with the constant whispers of the ghosts have fogged their mind to the point where all of them should be confined into matted cells somewhere in Diggers' Hill. However, they actually are the unsung heroes guarding Million, their houses standing like towers along an invisible wall keeping the fog from creeping in. Because they live on the frontier and keep mostly to themselves, it has long ago been decided they would be allowed to go on living as long as they would keep the fog away. Nowadays, nobody thinks much of them and their name is used to insult people, as in mother fogger.
Million: Another Fantasy City ©2008-2010 by André Lacerte.