The islands of Alanu

The founding fathers of the Alanu republic came as refugees to the land, after the sinking of the Iron Islands. They mourned the loss of their homeland and it was at first hard to adapt to living in a land mostly lacking in islands. The only real island in the city proper is a small one situated just outside the harbor, dominated by a fortress.

Both the rulers of the republic and the original elven lords have generally tried to restrict the expansion of the city area. As the population of the city despite this has doubled many times during the 500 years since the landing of the exiles, this policy soon gave the them a new kind of islands in form of the large densely populated brick apartment buildings that now in the thousands houses a large majority of the city’s inhabitants.

As the large buildings started to appear the exiles soon came to call them ‘nagu’ which is an old word for ‘island’ in their old language. The nagu is central in the lives of most Alanu citizens as a place where they both live as work. Many, especially women and children, seldom venture more than a block away from the nagu they call home. The regular inhabitant of a nagu has a rather insular view of life. The average citizen of the republic only get truly engaged in it’s struggles when it concerns the safety, stability and prosperity of the microcosm of their own block and their own families.

Most nagu are firmly established as parts of a street gangs turf who are typically based out of a tavern in the area. The gangs are the closest thing to a police force on the streets of Alanu and the general public, especially citizens, usually has little to fear from them as long as they pay a protection fee and show them due respect. Many street gangs see themselves as the protectors of order and take pride in keeping their blocks clean from the worst squalor. Often with quite violent means. They are also,  usually through several layers of bosses and patrons, an integrated part of the politics of the republic. The “spontaneous mobs” that mauls a unpopular politician to death are often more reminiscent of well organized armies of the streets.

The inhabitants of a nagu tend to stand together towards the outside world. Neighbors living in the same house or sharing the same yard don’t always like each other but they know that internal strife threatens their common security and therefore usually keep a somewhat respectful peace. To steal from or swindle a neighbor is in the eyes of most an almost unforgivable crime while stealing from “strangers” who live a couple of blocks away can be seen as a rather acceptable, if illegal, source of income in poorer areas.

The typical nagu is between three and five floors high but despite regulations some buildings reach even higher. Greedy landlords often add rickety extra floors on the roofs of their houses and bribe city officials to look the other way. Because of the risks of fire, collapses and the long stairs the apartment rents gets generally lower per floor. Up to a couple of houses form blocks around a walled yard used for keeping animals, cooking, meetings and crafting. The nagu are usually 10 to 20 meters long and it is not unusual that small streets become tunnels or disappear altogether when two nagu are combined into one. The ground floors are generally dominated by workshops and taverns. A typical nagu contains about four to eight families.

Most nagu are owned by minor landlords who often live in one of the apartments themselves. There also exist some nagu that are collectively owned by those who live in them. The owners are usually related in some way and the self ownership can often be traced several hundred years back. But the minor landlords are steadily getting fewer as the powerful families of the city has realized that owning nagu can be more lucrative than owning farmland. During the last decade more and more nagu has been bought by senatorial families, quite often by using armed thugs and other tools of intimidation.

Most adventurers in Alanu live in and their adventures are therefor typically based out of a nagu. The nagu is both at good souce of adventure and a good place to rest between adventures. A tavern at the ground floor is a very useful place to hang out in search of shady employment and interesting gossip regarding hidden treasures and other opportunities. The nagu is also a good place to hide if the streets of Alanu are getting a bit to hot and if the ranks of adventurers needs to be replenished more adventurers can always be recruited from friends, relatives and neighbors who want a quick path to fame and fortune.

Before the start of a gaming session the referee should, with or without input of the players, come up with some general facts of the general area of the block the adventurers are based out of. What kind of workshops are there? Are there one or more taverns? How many families lives there? Does it exist any important conflicts between the neigbors? Who owns the house(s)? What kind of gangs exist in the area?  How many nagu share the back yard of the block?

Adventure ideas:

– The minor landlord named Hillalum that owns the nagu and also runs the tavern is getting pressured by the local gang who wants him to sell the house for a low price to a senator named Balashi. Hillalum asks the adventurers for help and promises lowered rent and another small reward if they can convince the gang to leave him alone.

– People have started to disappear in the area. When the young son of the landlord disappears he puts out a reward for his safe return. After some snooping around it seems like members of an extended family who owns a large nagu with it’s own back yard has been seen nearby when people has disappeared. The family keeps to themselves and are actually having their own secret chaos cult in a basement that is connected to tunnels that are clearly older than the house. Will the adventurers succeed in rescuing the boy before he is sacrificed?

– As the local street  gang collapses because of conflicts after the death of their leader,  several neighboring gangs sees an opportunity to conquer their turf. The streets explode in violence. Will the adventurers try to create some order?

– More and more ratmen, mostly escaped slaves, are gathering in the old tunnels and sewers under the streets of Akanu. One night the nagu that the adventurers live in are invaded by ratmen that steal valuable property of theirs. Will the adventurers follow them when they escape down into their dark tunnels? What will they find there?

The nagu of Alanu are mainly inspired by the historical insulae of Rome. Here are some pages about them that can be of interest:

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2 Responses to The islands of Alanu

  1. z says:

    Are you stealing my thoughts to write this blog!

    I had come to pretty much the same idea of organisation for my east-meets- apocalypse Xanadu campaign- minor street gangs ruling Burgu so long as they never got high & mighty enough to annoy a Kikozu (nobleman).

    I had no idea it was a real phenomenon. “If there is nothing new under the sun, but that which Has been before…”

  2. berra81 says:

    The modern state usually sees it as very important to control its entire territory but in places where it’s presence is weak och absent there will always grow new alternate structures of power. Organized crime gangs are prime example of such structures. Some of my main inspiration sources are the Godfather movies (especially part II), Gangs of New York movie, HBO:s Rome series and of course the historical reality behind the fiction.

    I’m also inspired by Sudhir Venkatesh research about the economics and relations of urban poverty in Chicago and New York.

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