The City Below (or “Stealing GURPS: Monster Hunter Ideas from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere”)

So, continuing my work on shamelessly ripping off Neverwhere by Gaiman for my GURPS: Monster Hunters game set in the Dresden Files universe, I’ve also started robbing from Doctor Who, principally for descriptive prose.



The Tenth Doctor (Tennant), when telling the Master about the Time War and the threats it spawned, said the following:

The Could-Have-Been King with his Army of Meanwhiles and Never-Wheres.

This is such an awesome bit of descriptive flair that it begs to used. Following up on that, the Eleventh Doctor (Smith) commented in his first season finale (after all of time was broken) thus:

Echoes, fossils in time, footprints of the Never were.

Put those together and mix it up with some more nonsense, and there’s a fantastic description of the City Below:

A tiny piece of the Never-Was, carved upon footprints of the Could-Have-Been with foundations wrought from the memories of tomorrow. It is the place where the echoes of the Maybe become solid and that which is Lost may yet be Found.

What does this mean? Nothing. It’s gobbledygook but it has a really cool flow and feel to it that fits my purposes … although I am going to struggle for visual aids, I expect.

In session 2 of Clean Slate, Colin is given a task that involves “a journey outside of the boundaries of earth, along the spine of the dreams of Man and through the nightmares of the Fade” which is already a fairly appropriate way to phrase things about the trip, but he needs an actual “mission statement.” Following the Neverwhere motif in which Gaiman used actual places in London and twisted them (e.g., Earlscourt was actually … an Earl’s Court where the characters interacted with an Earl), I’ve done the same with this mission plan.

Via the Black Road, you must enter the City Below and go to the Lake of Shadows. Cross it and proceed on to the King’s Gate. As there is no King sitting in his throne, pay homage to the Regent and prove your worth in whatever manner he decides. Succeed at this and ask for the Key, which you must then take along the Gray Road to the great Stone Bridge. This should allow you access to the Nickle Hill where you must find the West Gate and open it with the Key…

I expect that the player(s) will immediately latch onto “Nickle Hill” – here in OKC, we have a neighborhood called Nichols Hills and, to be blunt, it’s where the rich people live. Using Google Maps, I’ve located a pretty appropriate house to serve as my final climax spot. Apart from that, though, a lot of these references are likely to skip by the player(s) which is actually perfectly fine right now.

What I’m definitely trying to do here is get a bizarre, almost trippy feel during this with the Colin character feeling like he’s dancing through a lucid dream and then, afterwards, leave him not entirely sure what actually happened or how much was imagined. I’d already mentioned in session 3 how I wanted to do a GURPS: Chase through the Nevernever, so I’m leaning toward that taking place while he travels the Black Road (which is, for all intents and purposes, the City Below version of I-35 which runs north-south) and then across the Lake of Shadows (which I envision as literally a lake made entirely of shadow.) The big issue I really have here is how best to handle the actual rounds – in the Chase rules (Action 2), it specifically states that the rounds are an abstract period of time sufficient for “both sides to try something cool” which is all well and good, but as time is going to probably be running weirdly in the City Below and I don’t want Colin to simply run the entire way, I probably should plan on having the actual chase begin near the end of the first leg (Black Road to Lake of Shadow to King’s Gate.) This way, it is a Chase that only lasts a few rounds, right up until the PC reaches the Gate … but what if he fails and is caught? Well, fortunately, Colin has Serendipity so he can (and probably will) abuse that. Something else I want to keep in mind is how to ensure that the actual Chase is interesting: I’ve often noted that one of the most important parts of any action scene is Location. A sword-fight by itself isn’t necessarily interesting (depending on the choreography, I suppose) but if it’s in a carbon-freeze facility with a seemingly endless fall or atop the ramparts of a castle that is crumbling around both participants, then suddenly it becomes far more exciting. So what I really need to do is determine:

  • Who is chasing him and why?
  • What are some interesting bits of scenery that can be easily incorporated into said chase?
  • What kind of obstacles can be thrown in that complicate both sides of the chase? For example, shadow creatures (what with the Lake of Shadow) who are fighting one another and couldn’t care about the mortals but their fight collides with both “boats.”
  • What are the consequences of losing this Chase?

The intended three tests (a feat of strength, a feat of riddles, and a feat of will) will take place in the Regent’s Circle (I currently envision the “Regent” as a homeless beggar type to underscore the ‘don’t believe everything you see.’) Ideally, the above-mentioned Chase flows directly into this test, with Colin stumbling into the Regent while his pursuers are a half-step or two ahead of him.

Fortunately, I’ve got a couple of weeks before this matters, what with GenCon next week and the week after being a planned “let’s go over characters and setting” session…