Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Strange City background

(This is just what's in the PDF, converted to text so I can play with it. I haven't decided which CC license it will be under eventually, so for now it's under development.)

Strange City is the background for any new superhero stuff I run, whether it's solo or group adventures. It's meant to be a mid-sized metropolis with (as the name indicates) some access to the occult and the Fortean. While Strange City has the usual run of self-made tech geniuses, easily robbed labs, and mutant rights groups, it is also a mystic nexus. More people learn the fake occult here and the real occult, witches and vampires and zombies are real (if mostly hidden), and the spells from that book you found on the internet might work here, though not the way you expect.

Each section has ideas that occurred to me that might form part of an adventure or character for your character or group. These are ideas only: ignore them or change them as you please.


Strange City was founded in 1666 by Ezekial and Hepsibah Strange, and it remained a small (almost endangered) community for hundreds of years. The discovery of high-quality pitchblende in the 1950s changed that, and the city quickly mushroomed because of its new connections to the tech sector. (Strange Village became a city in 1961.) The city has two universities. Both are well-respected, though not at the very top of their fields; Enoch Strange is a world leader in dealing with the sociology of the strange and the occult. SIT has developed some amazing new technology but critics say it exists mostly to feed the city's hungry tech sector.

The city has districts:
  • The Mines is now the factory and warehouse district, although it was once the mining area. There are underground tunnels here and occasionally one will collapse.
  • The Offices is the business and banking district.
  • The Flats is the slums and the poor housing.
  • The Coast is where the rich people live.

Others are named as needed (the artist district, the theatre and entertainment district, and so on).

The Universities

The two universities are well-regarded, but their names alone not going to get you a job, unless you're in their specialties.

Enoch Strange College

The much older of the two is the Enoch Strange College. It is a liberal arts collegis with a reputation for turning out independent thinkers. Its specialty is the sociology of the occult, and its rare book library is the envy of universities this side of Arkham.

There have been scandals — one of the professors founded a cult — but the place has been free of trouble for about fifteen years. (Of course, some would say that it's ripe for problems.)

State Institute of Technology

Despite the name, the SIT is no longer affiliated with the state college system, but it is a public college. (There is a movement afoot to change the name to the Strange Institute.) It deals with technical matters. Critics say that it exists primarily to feed the ravenous maw of the local tech scene and that it turns out drones instead of thinkers—but they are well learned drones, for all of that. There certainly are professors whose experiments are on the cutting edge, and in fact a bequest from the Judas Strange Foundation requires experiments that are risky.

The SIT campus is on the edge of town. It has a complex maze of delivery and steam tunnels underneath it that make it well-suited for criminal lairs, but the criminals in question are usually creating or growing dope.


There are other schools and colleges in the area. The best-known is Nugget College, a vocational college that teaches electronics and media presentation.

The Media

Strange City has two and a half television stations, a dozen radio stations, a daily newspaper, and two weekly newspapers.


Two of the stations are network affiliates. The networks do local news, but most of the programming is imported.

The half station is part of the educational process at Nugget College, a private institution in town. Its programming is entirely local and changes with each semester. Some shows have a continuity because students stay with them from term to term, but all of them change once in a while.

In a game:
  • Annoying or sycophantic questions will probably come from reporters at the network affiliates; truly oddball shows and “events” will come from Nugget College as a student experiment.
  • Sometimes a new reporter is looking to make a name and get hired by a bigger station somewhere.


There are three big stations whose formats change occasionally. They are currently oldies, talk radio, and country & western. They are owned by syndicates, and the programming is dictated elsewhere. The rest are small radio stations that cater to specialized tastes.

In a game:
  • One of the talk radio hosts might choose to make vigilantes a convenient scapegoat for everything.


There are three newspapers.
  • The Bee is the daily, and is part of a chain. Leans conservative or Republican.
  • The Strange Times is a weekly with excellent investigative journalism. Founded in the early 1970s. Leans liberal or Democrat.
  • The Citizen Weekly is best known for its ads and its personals, though the personals are mostly online now. (Still, the Weekly’s Strange Happenings column is looked at by everyone from occultists to cat-loving grandmothers.)

In a game:
  • The Bee sometimes hires someone who wants to make a name and move up. It is also an excellent adversary if someone wants to be persecuted by a paper.
  • The reporters from the Strange Times are likely to uncover things that someone doesn’t want uncovered.
  • The Strange Happenings column is an excellent way to spread rumours and news, and its pseudonymous author might actually be a super or occult master.

Mass Transit

Transit in Strange City usually refers to the rail system, but there are buses. The rail system is mostly an elevated rail system because parts of the city are on a floodplain, but some sections are underground. There are also buses, taxis, and Karry, an electronic ride-sharing service that has disrupted the lives of taxi drivers.

In a game:
  • There is violence between taxi drivers and Karry drivers.
  • A super starts “flight-sharing,” carrying people to destinations as part of Karry.

Places to Rob

Banks dot nearly every corner, but the ones with access to the highways tend to be most robbed. Someone with super strength has made a hobby of ripping out ATMs and leaving with the contents.

There are three "big" museums: The Strange City Art Museum, the Strange City Technology Museum, and the Enoch Strange Museum. Any of them might receive something worth stealing.

There are a number of small specialty museums in Strange City, which might get something rare and unusual.

The laboratories at the universities have a tendency to be robbed.

The Super Scene

The city has a super-group, the Centurions. Its most prominent member is Quantum Strange; his principle foe is K-Osprey (who sometimes spells it Chaos Prey). They have a headquarters in town and outside of town is a decommissioned military base that they bought, Camp Centurion. That's where the dangerous material is tested and the real training happens.

In the last few years, though, the Centurions have taken to fighting global or even interstellar threats, and the business of protecting the city largely falls to the Parahuman Reconnaisance and Tactics team and vigilantes. PRAT is always willing to bring out its big weapons, and Lt. Karpinski has a somewhat adversarial relationship with the local vigilantes...possibly because they tend to deal with the problems before PRAT can. (They never refer to themselves as PRAT, by the way, though everyone else does. In the police force, they're Strange City Parahuman Reconnaissance and Tactics, or SCPRT.)

There is an unusually high number of supervillains in Strange City: they outnumber heroes by between 15:1 or 20:1, depending on the definitions used. Enoch Strange's sociology professors have been working on why, but they haven't come up with a reason why there even are supervillains. The conservative press claims that having powers makes you a supervillain.

As a powered person yourself, you know:
  • There is power suppression technology that works on most supervillains most of the time. (Treat it as a Power Nullification rank 9.)
  • The federal government agency that deals with superhumans is the Parahuman Investigation and Corrections Agency (PICA). (They also hate their nickname.)
  • Medical care with no questions asked is available from the Abattoir, from Dr. Chimera. The Abattoir moves from time to time, but someone usually knows where it is (a difficulty 3 task for a known super). Dr. Chimera rarely has the most up-to-date equipment, but it knows its business. Dr. Chimera can handle trauma from violence and has a comprehensive knowledge of the effects of various superpowers. Some have wondered why Dr. Chimera’s has never been raided; those who wonder too loudly disappear.
  • There is a supervillain prison outside the city—the Black Rock Prison. It is administered by PICA but the actual day-to-day operations are contracted out to a private company.
    (Black Rock will have a riot and the private company will be replaced when I come up with a cool place to have the replacement prison.)

In a game:
  • There is a riot at Black Rock Prison.
  • Someone figures out how to defeat Power Nullification.
  • A villain comes to the heroes because someone has stolen the files from the Abattoir, and the villain doesn't want that information getting out. The heroes must find the thief, if they agree.

Neutral Ground

There are a couple of places that are regarded as neutral ground. Generally, no one steals there (largely because there isn't anything worth stealing) and they are places to have a talk. The existence of places like this are one reason why the police force has a guarded relationship with vigilantes. One of the places is a bar; the other is a vegetarian cafe. The third place is medical.
  • The bar is Free State, a country & western bar in the Mines district.
  • The vegetarian cafe is Home on the Grains, over in the Offices district.
  • The medical place is the Abattoir. Dr. Chimera and his staff do not allow fighting on the premises.