A Tale of a Living Magical City
“You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.“
Samuel Johnson, in The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. (1791) by James Boswell
This is the tale of two cities, both are called London.
One city is the city seen on picture postcards and described in guide books. The city tourists come to see and commuters see in passing. The city eight million people work in by day and sleep in at night. The city which is guarded by Bobbies and is ruled by an elected mayor. The city where money is earned in the towers of the City and spent in the shopping streets of Westminster. The city that has been rebuilt after each disaster that struck it. That city is known as London.
Then there is the other city. The city rarely seen on photographs and only described in fairy tales. The city tourists and commuters rarely get glimpses of. The city inhabited by a community of thousands and ignored by millions. The city guarded by Aldermen and ruled by the Night Mayor. The city where money is worthless and power and status are currency. This city wasn’t affected tha much by the Great Fire of 1666 and truly goes back to Roman times. That city is known by many names. True London, London’s Shade, The Soul of the City, but most of its citizens call it Londinium.
This is the tale of those two cities and those who live in both.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
Our tale of two cities starts on the morning of 14 November 1941, right after the first night bombing of London. Up to that time the Luftwaffe bombed industrial and military targets. During that night the war got real for both the citizens of London and Londinium.
And as Churchill gets the Brits ready for war, so does the Night Mayor with his subjects.
This is the story of those caught up in that struggle.
This story will start with six characters. I have sent invites to those who expressed interest in the forum post: Magical London as a living city. A lot more background information about this story and the background, plus some of the rules can be found there.
Also, though we start in 1941, and the war will be the background for the first two chapters, we’ll be slowly be advancing through time, with new chapters skipping forward, sometimes by decades, and the characters will grow, age, and die. If anyone wants out, because the story or background wasn’t what they expected, or R.L. keeps you from posting for the foreseeable future, please let me know before you quit outright. I’m more than willing to let you go, but really would like to work together with you to kill off your character in dramatic fashion, so that it advances the story and adds extra drama and tension. (We’ll do that in private messages so to add surprise and tension.)
This story is inspired by many sources. The main inspiration is the Matthew Swift series by Kate Griffin. The Night Mayor, the Aldermen, the city sorcerers, the basic setup all come from this series. But it is only inspired by this series, it is not the law writ large. We’ll be deviating from the basic premise in many ways. Sorcerers will still be the most powerful of mortal magic users, but I’ve added a few other classes of mages not featured in the series. We’ll start in in the forties and in that I’ve let myself be inspired by Full Dark House (Bryant & May #1) by Christopher Fowler for that. Kate Griffin’s series is quite bleak and I hope to have some of the whimsy of Gaiman’s Neverwhere in this story. Other influences are the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch, Felix Castor series by Mike Carey, Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka,Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, The Night Circus l by Erin Morgenstern, and many others.
On character creation:
All characters start out as human. They may have magical powers and abilities, but they are basically human. There will be many other supernatural beings in this setting, but I want the players’ characters to be a human as possible, at least in the beginning.
We start in 1941. This means that all characters should be part of that time. Research it if need be. So a young anti-establishment character can be a anarchist or a pacifist, but not a mod, punk, or skin head. Older characters can be veterans from the Great War or Boer wars, but not from the Napoleonic wars.(In creating the cards, I sometimes used art which isn’t time appropriate, don’t be led by that. So the martial artist may be able to navigate the city in a very athletic manner, it won’t be called parkour for at least another fifty years.)
We’ll start in 1941, but the story will progress through the rest of the 20th century. Real history will be the background to this story. Characters will age, unless they have magic to keep them young. So starting out with a relatively young character is preferable.
All characters are tied to London. They may have lived there all their lives, they may be recent immigrants (maybe Jewish refugees from Germany), but the all have strong feelings towards London, whether positive or negative.
All characters have ties to both Londons. They once started out in London Above, but through happenstance they also became part of London Below, probably due to their innate magical abilities. It can also be the other way around; that the discovery of an aspect of Londinium gave them their abilities. Whatever may be the case, they haven’t yet cut of the ties with London above. They may still have family or other responsibilities there. They will also be relatively new to Londinium.
London is an integral part of the setting. I want to keep it as real as possible. So the actual geography and features of the city will come into play. Familiarity with London will help, but you are encouraged to study up on London through Wikipedia, Google Maps, etc. Expect to be sent polite revision requests, if you make mistakes.
We will all write in third-person past tense. Your character’s bio doesn’t have to reflect that style. Be as creative as possible in describing your character. Journal entries, job interviews, stream-of-consciousness dreams, whatever you think is appropriate.
We will need one of each Nature, so if you’re late in creating a character, carefully look at what others have created. Some natures are optional, but I need at least one Alderman, one City Sorcerer, one Druidic Sorcerer, one Seer, and one Necromancer.
I will not start this story before August, due to being on holiday in France, probably without internet access. So take your time in creating your characters. And expect no feedback on your character submissions before the Monday the 3d of August.
Hosted and narrated by:
Jan Bernd ten Berg (JBtB)
Scenes played: 4
License: Community License