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Welcome to the City of Nodd.
The labyrinthine streets before you are brimming with beasts of all shapes and sizes. Their otherworldly gurgles and groans fill your ears, and their reek fills your snout.
Sinister towers silently loom, their windows like eyes of something hungry and cruel. As strangers enter buildings through toothy maw-shaped doors, you can’t help but wonder if they’ll be coming back out again.
Strangely, the city itself doesn’t look entirely constructed, but rather grown - chitinous architecture appears to have erupted from fleshy ground. A shopkeep lances a boil on the wall outside her front door. You could swear having seen the building wince, ever so slightly.
Dirty, glass-covered walkways span between buildings, and warped bridges arch over sickly canals. The same putrid liquid gurgles from the fanged mouths of grotesque fountains. These are surrounded by bizarre gardens of nightmarish plants, whose ill-pruned tendrils choke anything nearby - perhaps in a literal sense, if the vine-wrapped corpse you just passed is any indication.
It’s dark, and hard to discern the time of day; the sky is a vile green, boiling with clouds. It’s humid, and moisture seems to cling to buildings and people alike. Steam billows from grates underfoot, and a luminous haze of arcane smoke seems to hang in the air. The glow of lamps and signs pierce the murky gloom.
Tents, carts, and kiosks line the streets; beggars, buskers, performers, vendors of all colors and flavors and smells peddle their wares and services. In some cases it’s hard to tell what’s being sold. The windows of shops and restaurants are all densely festooned with anything that might draw one inside.
The smells are palpable. Each passage seems to assault one’s senses in a new way - strange musks, the scent of bizarre cuisine, otherworldly drugs, blood, death, filth.
Carriages pulled by immense, deer-like abominations known as miggwitches can be seen. The beasts, despite their docile nature, appear to have reins attached to their genitalia.
Similar sadistic indulgences can be seen all around. A well-adorned (and well-fed) creature on a palanquin hauled by servants passes by. Someone is walking someone else on all fours with a leash. Someone is picked up by their neck scruff and dropped into the toothy maw of something much bigger.
In every direction, the city throbs with dark desire; everywhere you look, the city hungers.
A City of Monsters, Magic, and Madness
Nodd refers to both the city and the gray expanse surrounding it, known as the Abyss. It is not currently understood where or even what the greater realm of Nodd is; the further you travel away from the city, the greater the stories seem to vary. Those who have traveled the furthest have either never returned, or have inexplicably ended up at the city once again.
Arcane energy - called "gloam" - is both generated and consumed by the city itself; it manifests as spells, architecture, objects, plants, beasts, and even citizens.
The City is watched over and controlled by the Council of Nodd, a secretive establishment made up of mysterious figures. The council has a number of attendants that enforce laws and keep watch over Nodd’s citizens.
If Nodd becomes too orderly and smoothly-run, chaotic and unexplained events are said to occur. Bizarre weather, unusual behavior among citizens, arcane phenomena, and manifestations of monsters are all products of excess order. For this reason, the Council seeks to control this inevitable chaos by enforcing chaotic behavior in citizens.
This means that the city's laws and social conventions are not written with the ultimate goal of order, but rather a sort of controlled chaos. Laws change frequently, sustaining an unending upheaval. Vanity, exhibition, exploitation, violence, materialism and excess are all encouraged; citizens are urged to endlessly indulge. If a citizen ceases to generate enough chaos, they’re dealt with accordingly.
In addition to warding off naturally-occurring chaos, the spent energy of chaotic acts can be converted back into usable gloam. Following chaotic events, this spent energy is collected through the Conduit - a steeple-like structure at the top of the Council Spire. The way the conduit works is a closely-guarded Council secret. The conduit somehow collects and rejuvenates the energy, and allows it to be concentrated into a raw fuel.
Citizens of Nodd
Nodd is a city of monsters, and is fantastically diverse. An endless variety of exotic, dangerous, beautiful, and mundane creatures liven its streets; if you’re an outsider, encountering another of your own kind may be a rarity. Oftentimes a single individual of a species will find its way to Nodd and blend into the madness with no effort.
Insiders & Outsiders
Citizens of Nodd are either insiders or outsiders. An insider refers to any organism that originated in the realm of Nodd. They are said to be born of Nodd's unspoken needs, influenced by unknown arcane mechanics.
Insiders can take on any number of appearances, and some are unlike any others. However, there are several that are considered common enough in Nodd that they're identified with names, such as slyne and ravel. Cross-species hybrids are common and referred to simply as hybrids, or some awkward informal hybrid-name (such as a slyvel, in the case of a ravel and slyne mix). Even more common are ambiguous mutt species, which are referred to as “chimerae”.
Outsiders, on the other hand, inexplicably appear before the city's gates, seemingly cast onto its doorstep from another mundane reality. These special creatures are a recent anomaly, and are rather rare, sparking curiosity among insiders. The Council has even taken to calling them the Chosen Ones, and has established a protocol for ushering new outsiders into the city. Alongside most inhabitants of Nodd, these creatures often appear beautiful, if not divine. Insiders regard them in a wide variety of ways, from intrigue to abject hostility.
Outsiders who end up in Nodd don't seem to remember the series of events directly before they wake up before the gates to the city, but rather snippets of their past life that return to them in dreams and visions.
Micros & Macros
Nodd's variety of inhabitants means a variety of sizes are involved.
Microcitizens - usually referred to as "micros" - are those deemed too small to use most of the city's amenities. Macrocitizens - macros - are the opposite. For micros, this begins somewhere around one foot in height; for macros, anything much beyond fifteen feet begins to be problematic.
Due to a punishment administered by the Council - a practice simply referred to as "Shrinking" - convicted citizens may find themselves released into the city a mere four inches in height. Many citizens are micro for this reason.
Microcitizens may have a challenging time surviving in Nodd, and are subject to various forms of abuse and objectification, such as culinary use (in which case they're referred to as "tenderlings") and research fodder. Often, a micro will try to establish a relationship with someone trustworthy of average size, and seek shelter, protection, and sustenance from them. Some average citizens repurpose closets, wardrobes, or spare rooms as micro apartments or townships. The specific locations of these tends to be kept between micros and their keepers, lest someone be tempted to sell a large quantity of healthy micros for some unsavory purpose.
Macrocitizens are less at risk for mistreatment, and may themselves be a source of fear for average-sized citizens. Destructive or feared macros are known colloquially as "kaiju", and their destruction is often not contained or discouraged by the Council, unless of course it gets out of hand. Most macros can be easily contained by powerful spells, and strive to keep just within the Council's tolerance.
Depending on size, there may not be many accommodations for macrocitizens that are not custom-built.
While you don't need to be a mage to use magic, many citizens consider themselves mages to some degree, or are employed (or owned) by them. Some are passionate if not religious about their roles, while others dabble, preferring to work as apprentices to pick up a few showy fireworks to draw attention at bars, enhance themselves aesthetically, or otherwise aid or improve their personal life in various ways.
Houses & Cults
Many mages seek the prestige and reliability of an education from one of the six official houses, which each represent an aspect of magic. The houses' fellowship splits itself into two sects, each representing a different nuance of the house. Each differs in its tactics, aesthetic, rituals, and belief.
For those who can't find what they're looking for, or for those who do not wish to be associated with the Council, cults are an option. These operate in the same fashion as the houses, but are run independently by powerful mages.
Flora & Fauna
Like insiders, animals and plants spawn in and around Nodd from the city's needs - which also demand a basic ecosystem. These can be of any appearance, but some consistent forms have been identified.
Any bestial species can occasionally manifest as what is effectively a sapient counterpart. The opposite is also true, resulting in what’s known colloquially as a “feral”. This term may also apply to any sapient insider that’s been temporarily rendered a beast via transformative magic.
Most mages have one or more familiars - a special animal companion with whom they’ve bonded.
Many mages pit their familiars against one another as a form of sport, and some fight alongside their familiars in combat.
Like citizens, animals, and plants, Nodd's architecture also spawns from the city's needs. While legally considered inanimate, even Nodd’s buildings are living things. Old, abandoned buildings are culled during The Pruning, and new architecture spawns during Sporefall.
A freshly spawned building is called a “sporeling”. These tiny buildings are widely accepted to be exceptionally cute.
Buildings grow, age, occasionally fall ill, feed, and defecate (if an insider offers you "gutter grog", by all means refuse). Buildings vary in their level of awareness; those that seem a bit more conscious may occasionally exhibit mood shifts, or may misbehave in various ways. Those that are unable to be dealt with are generally euthanized.
Buildings may become possessive of their occupants, and a particularly possessive building may lock doors and windows in an effort to keep their owners at home. Some may utilize fixtures such as showers or ovens in an attempt to kill any guests they deem to be a threat, rationally or not.
Free housing is available to citizens, and even the most basic accommodations tend to be on the luxurious side.
To differentiate from the Arcane Houses, one does not generally refer to one’s “house” in Nodd, but one’s “chambers” or “home”.
Furniture, too, is alive in Nodd.
Ideally, furniture will do little more than pulsate and occasionally shift around. Furniture that moves too much or exhibits other undesirable behavior is said to be “ambulant”. Ambulant furniture can either be tamed, or euthanized and stuffed.
“Dead furniture” is considered less appealing and natural than furniture that’s still alive.
When furniture dies, or is euthanized without the corpse being used, it’s sometimes made into a food item called “couch steak”. Couch steak refers to any cut of meat taken from cushioned furniture, such as couches, ottomans, armchairs, and beds.
Parts that are hard and chitinous, such as legs, may be cracked open like crab legs. This is known colloquially as “couch shrimp”.
Some furniture pieces, particularly quadrupedal sorts, sport visible genitalia. Oftentimes an ottoman or sofa will be castrated before it's euthanized in an attempt to address ambulant misbehavior, such as humping. The testicles of furniture can be used culinarily, and in this context are called “couch potatoes”. This is generally considered to be bottom-shelf fare.
The Pruning & HearthHunt
Every turn, old, vacant buildings are destroyed during The Pruning. During this time, the Council sends forth destructive forces to clean up old and dilapidated structures to make room for new growth.
HearthHunt precedes this event. This refers to citizens exploring abandoned areas of Nodd to scavenge usable artifacts left behind before The Pruning takes place.
Architecture becomes especially anxious during this time, and may trap hearthhunters inside in an effort to make themselves appear occupied and wanted, and therefore safe from culling. The buildings may also attempt to spawn desirable items and amenities such as banquet spreads and opulent furnishings to lure in potential owners - but these items are usually what hearthhunters mean to take before abandoning the building to its fate.
Some buildings don’t lure hunters in an attempt to be owned, but simply out of spite in their final moments. In either case, this makes the HearthHunt a sport rife with peril.
Common transportation in Nodd includes beast-driven carriages, balloons and dirigibles, canal boats, monorails and elevators, teleportation, and various creatures and constructs. Many citizens own a beast or construct for personal transportation - a privileged citizen may own both a terrestrial and an aerial mount, and possibly even an aquatic mount for traversing Nodd's network of underground canals.
There’s also the popular hoverboard-like device known as the scarab, which can zip quickly between buildings - or directly into, as the case often is.
Entertainment & Social Life
Due to the mechanics of gloam generation, Nodd is a lively and indulgent environment. The city is largely structured around entertainment.
Street shows and vendors line the streets, and shops ruthlessly compete to offer the most novel, interesting, exceptional, and indulgent products and experiences. Originality is richly rewarded, and virtually nothing is too bizarre, vile, or sacred to be made into a paid attraction or item.
It is widely accepted that one generates more chaos the more people perceive the act. As such, Nodd culture maintains a high tolerance for vanity and flamboyance, and its citizens often tend to be very expressive by means of fashion, body modifications, material possessions, housing, pets, and more.
Nodd's currency is gloam, the same as its energy source. One can use a mage kiosk - machines accessible all over Nodd - to exchange immaterial currency for a cartridge of raw gloam, and vice versa.
Necessities in Nodd are expensive, whereas luxuries are relatively easy to come by if not forced upon citizens. This isn’t to say the wealthy don’t have access to indulgences the poor do not, but simply that substances, pleasurable services, and indulgent products are far more affordable than a bar of soap (one that doesn’t intoxicate you, at least).
It is hard if not impossible to remain sober in Nodd without wealth; the Council prefers all its citizens be intoxicated, such that they’re more driven to cause chaos. Only the wealthy can afford to be sober, abstain from sex or violence, or even dress modestly - though certainly not all choose to live this way once they’re financially secure, and most continue to mindlessly indulge.
While it is possible to sustain oneself without sex or violence, it generally takes great creative or intellectual effort to do so. Artists, entertainers, and inventors may be able to generate enough gloam to afford food, medicine, and self-defense spells if their creations and performances draw enough attention. Some may prefer to invest in the talents of others, and serve as an agent for up-and-coming mages.
While specific factors are unknown, it’s widely accepted that a citizen stops being resurrected if their gloam balance remains low or stagnant for too long. This is a constant looming threat to citizens, and encourages all to behave chaotically regardless of their financial needs or material desire.
Death in Nodd isn't permanent - as long as a citizen has been generating sufficient chaos. If this is the case, the individual will be resurrected, no matter the circumstance - and no matter the state or location of their corpse. The corpse will remain, and the citizen will receive a new body, in whatever state it was in before the time of death or terminal damage. However, the memory of the experience remains. This process happens in the Court of Resurrection. It takes both insiders and outsiders roughly one sleep (about 24 hours) to form and stabilize enough to leave the facility.
Whether or not one will be resurrected is unknown until they've been resurrected, creating much uncertainty and distress. The one exception to this is an "immortal" citizen, whose ego file shows an infinity symbol. This honor is thought to be bestowed on particularly valuable citizens for a variety of reasons, and denotes that they will be resurrected no matter how many times they die. However, this may be revoked at any time.
Aging & Corruption
Alongside aging, citizens undergo a process known as corruption, which makes a citizen more in tune with the city's magic, and renders their appearance gradually more monstrous. Acute corruption is also achievable by various means, and is usually a terrible idea.
Particularly with the technology of resurrection, it is thought to be possible to live forever in Nodd, though the city's dangers make this difficult.
In Nodd, there are no rigid biological laws governing what can and can't breed to make a hybrid. While this doesn’t mean everything can breed with everything else - while not well understood, there are still arcane laws to consider - it does mean even biologically incompatible pairings may be able to reproduce.
These mixed-species hybrids are known as chimerae. Many if not most insiders are chimerae. A chimera would legally be considered an insider - even if its parents are both outsiders - due to being formed within the city.
Nodd is not particularly accommodating of a family lifestyle, and juvenile citizens are largely left to fend for themselves. Often, orphans - called “gutter runts” or simply "runts" - will form gangs to protect themselves and other orphans until adulthood. They tend to make small townships on rooftops, inside the walls of buildings, and in other areas that see little to no foot traffic. Oftentimes the only easy way to access these places is through various pipes and other systems an adult of most species may not be able to squeeze through, hence the name.
Runt gangs are hardly a force to be reckoned with, and are known for stealing from and exploiting their elders in various ways in order to survive.
A citizen’s entire life can be accessed via their ego bracer. This device attunes with the wearer, and can send messages, search the Arcanet, store items and familiars, record holograms, and more. The main screen contains one's ego file - this contains basic information about them, and lists items and creatures for quick access.
The screen doesn’t have buttons of any kind, but rather demands the user concentrate on the desired information. The bracer’s audio will be present in the user’s head, and visuals will manifest on the bracer’s screen as a magic hologram. Only the user will see or hear this information; others will only see a colorful jumble of symbols and shapes. If the user is unable to concentrate, the hologram and sounds will fail to manifest. If the user cannot see, one can learn to manifest the information in other ways, or purchase an ego bracer for one’s specific situation.
Most ego bracers also act as a basic utility artifact with several spells one can browse in a list. For a basic ego bracer, these generally include things like light-producing spells, heat and cold, a spout of clean drinking water, and basic self-defense spells. More expensive models may be capable of casting better spells, but usually a mage will have a separate, higher-quality artifact for anything more powerful or specialized.
Ego bracers need a gloam cartridge to function. Gloam’s natural green color can be seen in the bracer’s screen, but this can usually be changed in the bracer’s settings - at a small energy cost.
The Abyss is a general term applied to the area surrounding the City of Nodd. Much of the land closest to the city is occupied by windy plains and patches of dense forests and swamps.
There is no naturally occurring sun in Nodd. However, a powerful spell performed daily by the Council creates the illusion of a day and night cycle. This affects the city and the surrounding areas, but anything far beyond that becomes an impenetrable darkness
Those who have tried to document the furthest reaches of the Abyss have either never returned, or inexplicably find themselves back at the city after months of travel. Stories involving travel of this magnitude often conflict in perplexing ways - each individual in a single party may return to report an entirely different experience, given they return at all.
Near the city, there are several smaller townships, villages, and outposts. Many of these are occupied by individuals who find Nodd too distasteful to be a part of, and those who seek solitude, safety, the thrill of the wilderness, or something else entirely. The presence of civilization diminishes the further you travel from Nodd.
As many strange and monstrous beasts roam the Abyss, competitive hunting is a common sport in Nodd, and hunters adorn their chambers with all manner of bizarre trophies.