Our Setting: Nexus, the Infinite City

Nexus is a city, or metacity, composed of bits and pieces of cities from a wide variety of alternate realities. Opinions vary as to how this came to be; some people believe it's the work of unseen powers which they refer to as the Architects, some believe it's a natural phenomenon, and quite a few, despite the lack of any evidence to prove their uniqueness, believe it's the work of their own gods/spirits/mad scientists.

The bits and pieces, referred to as 'zones', vary wildly in many characteristics. Zones are anything from a few meters to tens of kilometers across (although a few hundred meters to a few kilometers is most common). Zones can have any sort of buildings from mud huts to skyscapers of industrial diamond, and any sort of inhabitants from primates with stone tools to giant pink insects that use the ghosts of sacrificed enemies to power their spacecraft. The only constant is that zones are cities, or parts of cities, although sometimes so strange that only their original inhabitants recognize them as such.

Zones bring their own laws of nature with them when they enter Nexus, although they are subjected to an 'averaging' effect, so that certain basics such as levers, combustion, electicity, the astral plane, and mana work to some degree almost everywhere. The details vary, however, so that anyone who relies on these effects had better be prepared to adjust their equipment or spells to compensate. More subtle effects, such as semi- and superconductance, and the powers of gods and spirits, are unlikely to work outside their native zone or its immediate surrounds.

Since air flows freely across most interfaces, the atmosphere is similar across large areas; the average is quite suitable for sustaining human and saurian (and most other) life. The sky is an average of the skies of the realities surrounding any point, so there is a sun that travels from one side of the sky to the other, taking twelve hours to do so, although it appears to wobble and change color and brightness as it moves.

There are some zones with natural laws or environments that are much different than the average; these are separated from their neighbors by much more noticeable interfaces that keep the disparate enviroments separate and, in the case of differing natural laws, perform translations of objects and sometimes people into their functional equivalents on the other side. For the most part, however, zones tend to end up next to other zones which are fairly similar (thus producing phenomena such as the Canal, the Iron Jungle, and the Infinity Freeway); strong interfaces are typically found separating one oddball zone from its surroundings, or else separating a large stretches of two different sorts of realities.

Although most zones fit in some reasonably nice fashion onto something that appears to its inhabitants to be a plane, there are some interfaces that, rather than being a visible or invisible line between two sides of a street, are gateways to someplace far removed or not on the 'map' at all. These interfaces often have other strange properties, such as only being traversable at sunset, or being nothing more than a certain spot where, if you spin widdershins thrice while humming The March of Cambreadth, you will be transported to the basement of the Palace of Seventy Delights.

Zones usually reside in Nexus for only a limited time; the shortest time recorded is a quarter-hour, and the longest is several thousand years and still counting. When new zones arrive, they either push old zones out of Nexus and replace them, or shove existing zones aside to make room; zones appear to only leave Nexus by being replaced, which suggests that Nexus is constantly growing. Except for a few rare cases in which two or more zones alternate possession of a certain spot, zones which leave Nexus are never seen again. No one knows what happens to them.

There are also realities which, though not part of Nexus, are connected to it by interfaces. Old Nexus hands refer to these as the suburbs, which annoys their residents no end. Trade with the suburbs is a vital part of Nexus' economy, as Nexus has almost no arable land or equivalents and is too fragmented to have much of an industrial base, and is always exciting since there's no way to tell when the interface to a suburb will vanish, leaving you with ten tons of feather pillows soaked in turpentine and no way to trade them for asparagus beetles.

Needless to say, although there are uncountable petty fiefdoms, neighborhood watches, criminal gangs, and hive minds, anyone can tell you that there is no government for Nexus as a whole. The very idea is absurd.

Our Heros: The Nexus City Government Survey Team

No, really! They have badges and everything! They just can't find their way home again, even though their fearless leader can find his way anywhere else. Once in a while orders and direct-deposit paychecks arrive over the Net, but most of the time they have to muddle through as best they can, taking odd jobs to fund The Mission and putting up with people who think the idea of a Nexus city government is a joke.

Except for the leader, all the original survey team members are minor criminals of one sort or another working off their debt to society by assisting the Nexus City Government in surveying its territory.

Surveying Nexus is a dangerous job, and not all surveyors collect their pensions.

The Story So Far

Quick summary: the team saves Nexus from indescribeable destruction, then tries to find a place to catch up on sleep, but is interrupted by the arrival of a new zone and a lost surveyor.

Apartment Rules

The Nexus system, overall, is quite good. However, being fairly detailed, it's somewhat slow in spots, and has quite a few table lookups. In an attempt to speed up combat (the most rules-intensive part of any game), I simplified the penetration-vs-armor system, then the autofire rules, then the wound point system. The last lead into completely redoing the damage system, including non-lethal damage and healing, but at least now there are rules for drowning.

Overall I'm relatively happy with my changes, although since most of them apply to the combat system and the campaign so far has been combat-light, they can hardly be said to have been rigorously tested.

There are more changes I want to make, but I haven't gotten around to them. In particular, the power system is hopelessly fuzzy and needs to be replaced with something more concrete (probably Champions-like). Unfortunately, that's a major undertaking I haven't had anywhere near the time for. Also, the initiative and phase system induces strong feelings of unease, but I'm not sure exactly what to do with it. It's clean and consistent as it is, so any change would probably involve completely scrapping it and starting over.

This file was last modified at 1635 on 22Jun99 by trip@idiom.com.