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[#] Let's Go to the Mall!
05:42pm EST - 11/09/2008
Sometimes, what creates the best game setting it taking something familiar and turning it on its ear. In this spirit, I present to you a game setting that I simply call "The Mall."

As the title suggests,the entire game takes place inside of a mall. Of course, there has to be a twist. In this case, the twist is that the game is a post-apocalyptic setting. People have lived inside of this mall for generations now. There is no outside to these people; their entire world exists within this decaying shopping complex.

The shopping complex itself, back in its prime, was gigantic, the size of a city. It hosted hotels, movie theaters, grocery stores, and virtually every kind of store that you can imagine. People would travel the world over to shop there, and it was a marvel of modern architecture.

Not that the people in the game know any of that. The concept of tourism is alien to them. The residents of the mall don't even have an idea as to what money is, save for a few clans that know that you could trade it for stuff. Paper for goods? Inconceivable. Just like how they don't understand the outside, they don't even know what caused them to live here.

Generations ago, people banded together in stores, trying to eke out an existence. These people eventually formed clans under the banner of the stores that they lived in. The stores provided the raw materials that would now provide them with what they need to survive. A clan is as much a statement of who you are as it is what you are. Your store defines your culture, how other people see you, and how you live.

Of course, there's always those who either reject clans or were cast out. Life for these people is tough. They have to find hidden, secret places to stay, with the understanding that you can only stay for one day before you must move on. While they are invaluable due to their knowledge of the layout of the mall, they are all too frequently captured to be conscripts in clan wars, slaves, or worse.

The mall itself is a paradox, not exactly making sense. Though cut off from the outside world for countless years, there's still running water from the faucets. Heat, cooling, and electricity come and go seemingly at random. They can run for days on end, then be off for a month. Those old enough to remember tell horror stories about when nothing worked for a full year – people froze to death during the winter, and died of heat during the summer.

The first floor is the common floor, where the bulk of the game takes place. There are escalators leading to upper levels, but people are prevented from traveling up them by escalator guards; powerful warriors in black and white who always seem to know what's going on and have never been defeated in combat. This doesn't stop people from trying, however, as people can clearly see that the upper floors are not only nicer, but that the people who live up there have a much better lifestyle than them.

In the center of the mall is a gigantic area known as the Amusement Park, which is both feared and revered. There, gladiatorial fights take place for the benefit of those on the upper levels. On one hand, these fights often lead to a painful death. On the other hand, for those that survive and entertain their audience, they can be vastly rewarded with canned food, jewelry, and other useful items. As well, fighting in the Amusement Park earns you status amongst your peers. When traveling near it, however, pray that they aren't short on entertainment, or you might find yourself fighting for your freedom.

Various open areas with access to skylights are used for the sole purpose of growing crops and other plants. These areas are often highly contested by by clans, though a few have managed to work out peace treaties of various sorts. Though they may be fought over, none would dare even think about harming the crops. To do so would be to invite the worst sort of death. These locations contain numerous sorts of crops, and the type available for trade changes from location to location. One famous neutral “field” sports a waterfall, rice, grain, and a most rare commodity, fruit trees. It's not famous for its trees, however – it's the fact that emissaries from the upper floors occasional come down to trade for the fruit.

Food courts are where merchants congregate for business. These bazaars usually happen once a week, with groups from various clans coming to trade whatever they have to offer. One exemption to this rule is the Court of the Queen of Ice. This marketplace is protected by the Queen's Guard, and always has something for trade. The Queen's personal court and chambers were once a well-known restaurant more known for dairy products than their other foods, but these days it's as opulent as you can get. Another court is trying to organize itself in the same fashion, but the self-appointed King is having difficulties.

Former pet stores find themselves with a unique position of security. Few know the arts of husbandry, and so taking over their breeding pens would only lead to eventual disaster. Their trade of meats is vital to the survival of many clans, so disrupting their business is a sure way to gain the animosity of others.

Equally, jewelers are in a similar position. The mall was large enough to sport many clusters of jewelry stores, though these days most of them are controlled by a single clan. People come to jewelers to have metal worked, to trade for baubles and trinkets, or anything else that the jewelers might have. Jewelers are a more stable supply of goods than food courts, but many view them as asking too much for what they offer. Though the arts of forging are still unknown to this world, their prowess of working preexisting metals grants them a special status. As such, they often are hired as diplomats and negotiators. Few willingly will attack jewelers; not only are jewelers well-armed, but all jewelers will aid in the defense of another jeweler, regardless of clan. When jeweler clans war, only the foolish attempt to take a side or otherwise interfere.

Death, naturally, is a commonality in the world. While some dispose of bodies through cannibalism, most still consider this to be a crime against nature. Instead, these people turn to the open elevator shafts, disposing of their dead through ceremonial dumpings. Sometimes, people are thrown into these shafts as punishment, when simple death or casting out from a clan isn't a harsh enough punishment. The underworld is a frightening thought, and if you linger near an elevator shaft long enough, you can hear... things down there. Some say that they're animals, others say that it's survivors of their punishment, and some insist that demons wander that subterranean darkness. Regardless, nobody wishes to go down and find out.

In stark contrast to the underworld are the skylights. Though rumors insist that many more can be seen in the upper-most floor, the few that can be seen on the first floor are wondrous things. Many are broken, allowing rain, snow, and sunlight be experienced directly. Some consider the bright lights in the sky, the blazing yellow orb and the ever-changing white light, to be gods of some sort. Every generation or two, somebody decides to try and see what's beyond the skylights, attempting to climb up to them and past them. Almost all don't make it, falling to their death far short of their goal. Rumors persist, however, that some people have, never to be seen again.

The core of this setting, of course, is survival, and a difficult task at that. Ranged weapons are all but nonexistent, simply consisting of thrown weapons. If there were guns, then long ago all the ammunition was expended. Many melee weapons are improvised or were once something else. People struggle just to survive day to day, with clan wars far too common, famine arising from having nothing to trade for food, and plagues sweeping through the mall.

Creating a character for this setting should follow whatever rule system you choose to use for it, but players should ask themselves various questions as they create them: What clan do I belong to, and how do others view this clan? Or am I obviously clanless, and if so, how do I tend to my survival? How have I fashioned my clothes? What kinds of items do I carry on myself?

However, within this are endless possibilities. Clanless gutter rats, scheming raiders, even noble knights and men of learning are possible with consideration and thought. To help give you an idea, here are some sample characters for your consideration.


For the game master, this setting presents a new set of challenges. One must think about how every-day items can be re purposed in new ways. As well, coming up with new clans can be a challenge. Wander around your mall to get a good look at various stores, kiosks, and even decorations in order to get ideas. Naturally, not every store in the mall is occupied, but there are plenty of ideas to be gleamed. Here's some examples of clans for your convenience.


More than just these are available, of course. Take a look around your mall to get inspiration. The mall is huge, and capable of fitting quite a bit in there, so don't hesitate to add things.

Another tricky matter is, of course, your players. They're going to think about things that somebody in this setting wouldn't. Stress that the mall is all that these people have ever known, and remind players of that. Of course, if you care to, you can always explore what is outside, but getting out would be an adventure all of its own.<

As well, don't hesitate to reward and punish your players. Word of mouth travels fast, so people who destroy things will quickly gain a negative reputation of being wasteful and may earn attacks. Let them declare that they're going to break the glass to get into a store – surprise them when the bulletproof glass refuses to break and draws the unwanted attention of others.

On the other hand, encourage adaptation and re purposing. For example, vending machines are broken and long since emptied. However, if your players decide to use a two wheeled truck to block the door, then run with it! Have a group attack, only to find that they have to squeeze through, opening themselves up to attack or getting stuck. Have those bodies carry something useful to the players. Or you can give XP awards. Especially find awards for those who get into the spirit of things and role-play the setting well.

Occasionally remind players about their food stores. “And by your current count, you have three days of food” can be a great motivation to get players to act. Few people want to play out their characters starving to death, and it can be a good way to kick start an adventure.

Also remember that the ability to read is a dying skill. Perhaps employee training manuals are revered objects, with possibly one person trained every generation to read them. Perhaps others seek out a character that can read to translate something scrawled on a wall from ages past, only to discover that it says "The End is Here."

Adventures can take a plethora of styles. Here's some suggestions to get you started, but feel free and create your own.



Perceptive readers will notice that not once throughout this writeup has the name of the mall, or the country it's located in, been mentioned. This isn't by chance. Firstly, the PCs will have no concept of country. Secondly, it doesn't matter. If you feel the absolute need to put it in a country, then put it wherever you feel is best. The place is a city all to itself, so it could easily fit in any major country. If you choose to explore the reasons for them living in there, or what's on the outside, you're on your own.

Though this is geared towards “familiar but not,” this basic concept can be adapted any number of different ways. For example, it can be easily modified to apply to a flotilla of boats, or perhaps a world ship that's suffered one too many failures in various systems.

All in all, have fun with it.

~Thin Fatguy

-

Comments

1 Bob Smith
09:42pm UTC - 11/09/2008 [X]
This is very interesting, sort of a mix of Necromunda, a cargo cult and Terry Pratchett's kid's book Truckers. It appeals to me.


2 PrivatePlatypoda
10:57pm UTC - 11/09/2008 [X]
Your formatting reminds me of a bad poem.


3 PrivatePlatypoda
10:59pm UTC - 11/09/2008 [X]
Your formatting reminds me of a bad poem.


4 Thin
01:11am UTC - 11/10/2008 [X]
I fucked up the HTML, sorry.


5
04:17am UTC - 11/10/2008 [X]
Well, the economics in such a complex must be Medieval one; as you can perhaps remember, subsistence production requires quite an area under crop to feed a single man, not to mention a town or a city. So it's either they have some weird and unrealistic giant greenhouse-to be halls or it's some 100 men in the complex.
Oh, and either way those areas will be able to feed less people than to be in a world-famous mall in any given moment, so there must be some large-scale food wars.


6 Fatum
04:19am UTC - 11/10/2008 [X]
Previous comment is mine, should be obvious from the hilariously broken grammar.


7 PurpleXVI
04:51am UTC - 11/10/2008 [X]
Fatum, on the other hand, it's a goddamn game. :P The specifics do not need to be perfect, or do you also argue about the ecological implications of Beholders when you play D&D?

As for a city-sized mall... It might very well have a zoo, parks, even aquariums. Secondly, it's not unreasonable to imagine that the various food places might have had enough canned/preserved food in their freezers to keep people alive until they got farming and shit.

'sides, the broken skylights might have resulted in some birds and bats fluttering their way inside, producing populations of them for the inhabitants to eat.


8 Fatum
03:43pm UTC - 11/10/2008 [X]
I'd like to, but they are fine, really, cause their sole purpose in life is being killed by adventurers.

Well, canned food does seem reasonable, but it's just postponing the inevitable hunger wars.

And hurr-durr birds and bats need to eat something too.


9 Thin
09:49pm UTC - 11/10/2008 [X]
See, in my mind, that only heightens things a bit. I left it with things that don't exactly add up simply because it gives people something more to work with. Yes, there should be food wars, and yes, on occasion there are. Yet at the same time, not as many as you'd think. Why? How can they sustain themselves like this without adequate food crops? It's something a GM could explore.

Maybe something more sinister than you might think is going on. Maybe this is part of a long-term social experiment that outsiders secretly keep maintained, which you can have PCs later explore. Maybe you want to end up with it degenerating into some weird perversion of Dark City. Maybe people end up with enough to eat because the apocalypse that trapped everybody inside was magic, and the magic is making food. Maybe everybody are just androids and don't know it.

Honestly, Fatum, I'm surprised that you focused on that and not "Hey, wait, electricity wut?"


10 Fatum
10:12pm UTC - 11/10/2008 [X]
In fact, electricity, hot and cold running water etc supply systems are hypothetically real things possible to implement in a city-sized building, and with a little stretch we can even assume they require little to no maintenance.
On the other hand, there's no way tribal or medieval society survives in a city not surrounded by a vast agricultural area.
I apologize if my comments seemed not all too pleasing for you, it's just that my engineering education makes me particularly sensitive to common sense. :3
Oh, and great setting, anyhow.


11 Thin
10:33pm UTC - 11/10/2008 [X]
I don't take it like that at all! I have a general rule about any of my ideas -- if you end up pulling anything from them, even the slightest hint to use in your own stuff, then I've done my part. The fact that you're willing to consider the possibilities tells me that you're pulling something from it, at least.


12 PurpleXVI
12:17am UTC - 11/11/2008 [X]
THIN. IDEA.

"Maybe everybody are just androids and don't know it."

Android mannequins and store clerks(some sort of society where no one wants to do such menial shit) who slowly developed sentience, but not until a decade post-BOOM, and they've all got the delusion that they're human. They CAN eat, and they WILL fight over food, but they don't need to(or they only need to do it far more rarely than humans due to super-efficient hydrocarbon reactors).

Which also explains their weird loyalty to, and identity associated with, their various stores. They're programmed to.


13 Fatum
05:23pm UTC - 11/11/2008 [X]
Welcome to Mall: Dystopia. :3


14 CS 3 Goto
04:21pm UTC - 11/16/2008 [X]
Gee, it sure is Fallout round here.

And I don't mean that in a bad way.


15 ChocoHearts
01:31pm UTC - 11/22/2008 [X]
Wow, this is awesome. I like the idea quite a bit.

As to the lack of food issue... what if the Nobles and Upper-Class know about the outside - perhaps even farm the surrounding lands? Maybe there are just a few who know, keeping an army of slaves to harvest and plant?


16 Thin
10:19pm UTC - 11/22/2008 [X]
See, now you're thinkin' ChocoHearts. You like that idea, go for it! I write up setting stuff like this for people to mess with and make their own. Besides, like with you and Purple, I like seeing where people take my stuff.


17 Alebeard
12:26pm UTC - 11/30/2008 [X]
This is fantastic. I've been hurtin to run a post apoc game with the new ruleset I came up with, and I think I may test it out with this setting.


18 oranges
12:37am UTC - 6/10/2010 [X]
I'm new here, and this is my first post.
I'm really digging Purple's story explanation. perhaps the uppers could be actual people, but they don't know the difference, and the escalator guards are non-sentients in some kind of doomsday setting, preventing the humans from mixing with the AIs forever. only they can tell the difference. of course, all the pcs would still be the sentient AIs.
just an idea. what system would you use for this? probably one not too rules heavy, eh? care to share your idea, Alebeard?


 

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