Monday, September 21, 2015

Dyvers, Part 2: So There was this City Filled with Monsters . . .

I've been thinking some more about what it would mean to have a city that is built on these colossal statues of lake monsters and filled with smaller lake monsters that are kept in aquariums throughout the city. The stereotypical side of my mind wants to say that the city would automatically be evil, or at the very least filled with vile cults worshiping the monsters of the deep as gods, but that's because we've been conditioned to think that way about such things by the hobby we love (just think about such a city in Call of Cthulhu, Warhammer 40K, and so on). It would be so easy to go down that road and to make the Dyvers I've been working on into such a place; a second city of evil on the continent that will draw millions of vile worshipers to its haunted streets - and yet that seems so boringly predictable. To go down that path where my players would know what to expect is to make Dyvers into a pit stop barely worth remembering beyond the fact that it had enough shops in it for them to unload their loot and get drunk for a fortnight before they had to head back into the wilds to seek their fortunes (and eventual deaths). So we need to go a different route.

One of the themes that I focused on in the last post, Dyvers, the City You Don't Remember, Remembers You Still, was the rivalry between Greyhawk and Dyvers that existed not only militarily but also culturally and economically. It's this rivalry that would make the lake monster thing more than the hallmark of vile worship. The statues and aquariums are a form of bravado and a way to remind the wider world that they have just as much danger and potential as Greyhawk itself. Yet it enlarges their position in regard to such things as they're bringing the Nyr Dyv and its dangers into their city. By doing so they've given the world the idea that their city holds the secrets to something more dangerous and lucrative than the hidden depths of Castle Greyhawk.

Now that's something that I can get behind.

It gives Dyvers a greater sense of itself. A population that would openly show off the dangers that surrounds them would naturally have a bit of a chip on its shoulder; like Memphis surrounded by the Mississippi and waiting for the next flood but proud as hell of that muddy water that could wipe every last soul in the city off the face of the earth if the dams fail. Perhaps even more appropriate is to compare Dyvers to those old Southern cities that name streets after the hurricanes that took neighborhoods and the Yankee generals who burned their way through the South leaving a swath of destruction behind them that crippled the South for decades afterwards. For the citizens of Dyvers the Lake Monsters aren't just an act of bravado but an open acknowledgement of what's made them who they are. The monsters and their attacks that come from the Nyr Dyv have significantly shaped the culture of the city and the way of thinking that the people have developed. 

Are they fatalistic? 

Undoubtedly; but this isn't a taciturn acceptance of fate's cruelty from a helpless populace blankly staring at certain death ahead of them. This is a whole city that has thrived on the edge of an unfathomable lake with a wild river that could wash them all away. Yet in spite of that they have thrived. Their economy is second to none and the trade that flows through their streets has opened up a nearly unlimited supply of cash. Only that isn't enough because everyone that matters is heading to Greyhawk and everything that's important seems to happen there. So they're faced with two options: let Greyhawk remain the number one city in the world and fade away or spit in their face and remake the world in Dyvers image. 

This isn't some fruitless cultural war waged in the forums, across Twitter, and through online petitions. The stakes for the people of Dyvers actually matter because if they win they aren't getting Target to stop dividing toys by Boys and Girls they're getting the whole world to look at them and wish they were them. This is the old style of culture war where one city is attempting to set the tone for the rest of the world by bringing the best, brightest, and most creative together and changing everything that comes next. This is Paris, London, New York. This is the place you dreamed about going to from the first day realized that there was more to the world than just your own little town. This is Dyvers. 

More later.


  1. As a local to many of those Southern principalities you mention, I can tell you the local "habit of thought" is to accommodate disaster (live through them), remember specifics (memorialize storms/events), and hold onto a kind of local pride (call it a grudge against the agents of fate that torment them).

    This would BRILLIANTLY grant Dyvers a tone and personality that is surely lacking in all RPG settings!

    Please let me know if I can help with anything in your development. I'm now thinking of Dyvers in a while new way. Thank you.


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