Geography is a source of ideas and a major thematic source in this game. Both in the idea of geography as an implacable force against which humankind is powerless, and as a qualifier of human freedom and choice with a modest dollop of fate.
Geography has the power to create particular atmospheres and to shape events. In Nobilis, with spirits and the mythic, geography is easily a character. Geography also instigates plot momentum, the disconnect between the prosaic and mythic world can propel story, for example.
Geography has spirit. Geography contains spirits. The Prosaic and the mythic share attributes, but tackle them from different ways. And as an overlay we have the Thousand-Fold Forest.
The Impact of the Cityback and Globalization
Ananda’s Cityback represents, in many ways, the powers of globalization, which rather than eliminating the relevance of geography, globalization is reinforcing it, and ever since Lovecraft (and probably before) globalization has been a good source of horror and its definitely a big source in the fantasy that I enjoy.
With Ananda’s estates, it is useful to consider topics like mass communications and economic integration especially given the growth of the state and the weakening the state concept, leaving a Hobbesian world of small, fractious regions. Within them, local, ethnic, and religious sources of identity reassert themselves, and because they are anchored to specific terrains, they are best explained by reference to geography. Like the faults that determine earthquakes, the political future will be defined by conflict and instability with a similar geographic logic. And within those faults lies a source of horror. One only has to look at the furor over “terrorism” or the militias fear of “Aztlan” to see that.
It is also interesting to think that upheavals that weaken social orders and other creations of humankind leave the natural frontiers of the globe as the only restraint. In this way, one can see the Thousand-Fold Forest as a response to Ananda. And the story possibilities there, well they are certainly a major concern being developed in this campaign.
I sat there in the midst of all that red and gold and gawped in awe. That washed out grey city I had ignored for days spewed out all that power, that sheer beautiful energy. I was seduced then, I never forgot that display. I was never again fooled by the quiescence of the backstreets I saw from my bedroom window. They were dangerous. They remain dangerous.
China Mieville, Looking for Jake
The Cityback can be viewed as the enchanting undermining of cities. It is the living infrastructure of energy that lies beneath every city.
People tend to celebrate cities and think of them as sheltering organisms. But many find the horror. The Cityback is both.