Magical Streets of Ravenhelm

This week we played another session of I’m Sorry Did You Say Street Magic by Caro Ascersion and created a Victorian city of the supernatural and steam-driven super-science called Ravenhelm. The River Mana serves as the primary dividing line between the science and supernatural sides of town. The bridges that span the river are tended by the Plongeurs, a guild of mechanics and plumbers known for their precision and elbow grease, who coordinate the raising of the bridges to allow for ships to pass up the Mana.

On the east side of the River Mana, lies Tinker’s Row, the neighborhood dominated by machinery, filled with metalworks, gadgetariums, and gearworks, where the many craftspeople of the city live. The heart of the Row is a metalworks called Smythe’s Smithy, an open air market known for both fine craftsmanship and the welcoming guffaw of its proprietor. Another landmark in Tinker’s Row on Clockwork Alley is the Hall of Science, where the winners of the annual invention competition are on permanent display, including the staticky Tesla coils that dominate the entrance to greet visitors. It is also the starting point of a race between a young inventor and his rival, the former’s jet-carriage competing against the latter’s automated velocipede. As they careen down toward the river, both vehicles crash, but the young inventor wins the foot race back to the Hall. Unfortunately, you can’t win a vehicle race on foot. At the edge of the Row is the Community Archive, called the Bookhouse by most, which welcomes those who enter Ravenhelm from the east and contains many books and pamphlets about the great city and its technological marvels. The Archive is tended by the Head Librarian, who is an agent of compromise able to broker alliances, even between the supernatural keepers of the Candy Apple and Eternal Night from the western side of the river.

A crane waits at a bus station overrun with water.
Image courtesy of Caro Asercion.

On the western shore lies the Bitter Apple Woods, full of great trees that create a vast, shadowy forest in which supernatural creatures dwell in homes scattered amongst the trees. The two biggest landmarks in the Woods are the Candy Apple Church and the Eternal Night Planetarium & Café. The Candy Apple Church is deep in the woods and was long ago abandoned by the believers, so the vampires took over care of it. It’s known for quiet and tranquility, but when two young vampires break tradition to marry elsewhere, the repercussions ripple across Ravenhelm. Across the Woods, at 1 Milky Way, lies the Eternal Night Planetarium & Café, a night spot where you can watch the stars while listening to eerie orchestral new age sounds. Thanks to the intervention of the Librarian, Eternal Night and Candy Apple agree to work together to keep weddings in the Woods and out of Le Grand Ville.

Le Grand Ville is the neighborhood to the north of the other two and spans across the River Mana. Therein live the rich, powerful, and famous, or those who wish to appear so, looking down upon those too strange or too proletarian to live there. The Grandioso on Halindroso Road is the fanciest and most advanced restaurant in the world, using high technology and animated objects to provide exceptional service and delicious dinners to any who can afford their pristine, upscale attentions. The Grandioso is the reason that the Eternal Night and Candy Apple had to band together because it became a venue for vampires and other supernaturals to hold their events. There is quite the scandal when royalty is found to be living at 344B Coventry Lane, creating whispers and rumours about the Heir’s Hideout after having lived there uneventfully for so long. The Heir’s best friend is a kindhearted klutz who makes a mess of the Heir’s surprise birthday celebration. But the biggest event was the arrival of the Queen to bring her son home, an event that caused a stir and an opportunity for the Grandioso to court royal patronage.

Angel Tourism Street Magic

This week, we played I’m Sorry Did You Say Street Magic by Caro Asercion and created a grand, ornate, sprawling city that serves as the center of a great world religion but now sees more tourists than believers.

Downtown is the center of town where there is more shopping than cathedrals, but the roads are made of decorative colored bricks in patterns that come together at the very center into a central mosaic, the Angel Mural. All roads lead to Mural Square, but the origins of the mosaic are lost to the annals of time. Nearby is Hotel Row, a strip that caters to the many tourists who visit the city, famed for its nighttime amphitheater that’s hidden from the street view by the many hotels where laser light shows originate. Elsewhere in Downtown is Stenlake Art Museum full of modern art works and an arboretum, and Sten Lake itself, surrounded by a park with duck-shaped paddle boats for tourists to ride.

A crane waits at a bus stop overrun with water.
Image courtesy of Caro Asercion.

Working your way up from Sten Lake and Downtown, you come to the Holies, the neighborhood where the most temples and the offices of the faith’s hierarchy reside. Opalescent spires climb up the hills until you come to the Crystal Palace at the crest of the great hill, an animal sanctuary characterized by lush foliage, a sun-warmed, dense jungle right inside the city. At the bottom of the hill, closest to Downtown is where the Night Service is held 24 hours a day, providing unceasing ritual and regularity to the working people of the city, who come to visit it regularly as a right of passage. On the far side of the great hill lies Dry Bones Cemetery, which is creepy and largely deserted by the living. Its cobblestone paths and gnarled bare trees lead to the Heaven-bound Mausoleum, a massive crypt built centuries ago which leads underground into the heart of the hill, full of unlit torches and seemingly endless coffins. The Ghost Guide tries to keep the stories of the crypt and the cemetery alive, but the murder of crows who roost in the graveyard see themselves as the true protectors of the tomb and drive off those who become too curious.

Around the other side of Downtown lies the University District, which is large and friendly, full of cafes and restaurants and Art Deco university office buildings. The heart of the District is University Library with eagle statues atop its steel and mirrored glass facade. Next door to that is the Robert Burns Memorial Hedge Maze, constructed of varying shrubbery of multiple colors with an angel statue at the center. The most popular place in the District is the Fox Den, an open air asian bistro with the most famous foods and cherry blossom trees growing between the tables. The Burrow is the Den’s basement after-hours club with colored lights and 80s night, where the bartenders and DJs entertain into the wee hours. Cyrus the Aussie bartender is a notable standout and can always hook you up if you need a guy.

Three events punctuated our evening of play. The Angel Festival downtown brings in lots of tourist dollars to the city’s economy, even if they can be destructive and leave a mess. Sten Lake is the venue for an outdoor fundraiser to maintain the Crystal Palace, but it creates tension as the Holies resents that such events must be held Downtown. And the University holds regular Midnight Madness Movie nights at Dry Bones Cemetery, but such a widespread event is loud enough to wake the dead. Will it?

Street Magic Xanth

We played I’m Sorry Did You Say Street Magic by Caro Ascercion in this week’s session to create a magical and mysterious city called Xanth that sits at the nexus of time, with portals bringing people and technologies from throughout history together in a single place. The time-displaced residents mostly live in Timetown, whose raucous energy is contained by the disorienting technomagical barrier known as the Shift and whose residents ride the vomit comet more formally known as the Temporal Rail to loop through the ages. A would-be time autocrat is plucking dictators from history before their demise for storage in his Refuge, but his plans remain unknown. Under the city lie the Rimlands, a grim windowless land known for its oppressive heat and banging machinery and inhabited by the forgotten underclasses. Most denizens of Xanth would never venture there except for the Cavern of All Desires, where impish dwarfs drive dark bargains with ironic twists in exchange for your heart’s desire.

Shapes laying out our game of I'm Sorry Did You Say Street Magic.

On the surface are the City Square and Merlin’s Place. The latter is the neighborhood where magical creatures choose to dwell, with its old-timey cobblestone roads and thatched roofed buildings circling the ancient silver tree with the glowing lantern fruit, Thornglow. Thornglow is protected by the Glow Guardians, a group of kindly pacifist monks who initially oppose a druid who intends to live within the tree. In the end, the mayor vests the druid to live in the tree, which doubles the Guardians’s workload as the tree becomes a tourist attraction once there is someone to see. While some make hefty donations to support the druid’s upkeep, others worry about the future of the tree and what political fallout will result from this change. On the edges of Merlin’s Place is the Greenwood, a mystical river through a forest where smugglers sell their wares in dynamic swindles and scams, including one incompetent scammer, Rusty McCrusty but better known as Krusty.

The City Square itself is the central meeting place, the hub of government and commercial activity. Everyone is always rushing away from you at all hours there (“No time to talk” they say). The central landmark of the Square is Poet’s Corner, with a massive domed roof and space for all to stand and voice their thoughts. It’s the city’s primary icon and where the mayor makes seasonal speeches from its famed forty-two steps. Tucked away nearby is the Last Lagoon, a quasi-legal speakeasy where protestors gather and “mums the word”. Toward the end of our night, the Mayor makes a major speech in Poet’s Corner about the city’s plans for the future, which leads to public protests about the druid, worries about funding for the Zenubian Archives, controversy between opposing sides on a proposed ban of duplication magic, Thornglow sensing the city’s unrest and releasing calming pollen and seeds throughout Xanth that may counteract the attempts of the time-displaced dictators to sow unrest and begin their push for power.

High above the city floats the land of Zenubia, which consists entirely of floating buildings and constructs, including the Little Garden, a park with multiple fountains and a stone path that provides a little serenity in the technological marvel. Tethys the promising business student leads a study group in the Garden for her fellow students. People may enter the wealthy Zenubian enclave by taking the ferry at Sun’s Reach, a sunny canal that begins on the surface but stretches into the sky. The Zenubian Archives are a multimedia library with VR interfaces to supplement the traditional tomes that hold ancient knowledge, but first they must tear their eyes away from the flying atrium that carries up through the entire building. The official archivist is Sumara, a dedicated historian whose eccentricity cannot hide her extensive knowledge and who thought she had secured enough funding for the Archive until the mayor’s speech put that in doubt.

Did you say Bonesville street magic?

Welcome to Bonesville! A colorful, magical city we created this week using I’m Sorry, Did You Say Street Magic by Caro Asercion, a city where the dead mingle with the living in a colorful, Burton-esque world. Let me introduce you to its neighborhoods, landmarks, and residents.

Derelict ships and ruins litter Shipwreck Beach and the neighborhood that surrounds it is populated by many ghosts who never knew the city while alive. You can almost hear the hushed conversations behind hastily drawn curtains as you walk down its streets toward the Blue Whale Bar, populated with locals in the day but big crowds from all over at night, or toward the Shipwreck Troll, more affectionately known as Barnabas, a statue guarding the entrance to the neighborhood. One day a group of school children encounter Lady Martin living across from Barnabas, and are surprised by the kindness behind her sad tale of being marooned here after attempting to escape the city. A campaign to clean up the beaches leads to a great deal of controversy as some locals are happy with the improvements while many object to the destruction of their past.

The city’s founders set up their mansions in what is now called Old Town, but those mansions have mostly been divided up into multi-family units and filled with creative types looking to cheaper accommodations and inspiration. These artists have festooned the neighborhood with colorful streamers, artworks, and carved hedges. One mansion, though, remains unoccupied, having become the keeper of the city’s history and annual Founder’s Day Festival. The Founder’s Day Mansion and the Old Town Library are often visited by the ghost of famed writer Edith Stenlake, who overseas the annual library book sale that benefits local children. Another landmark is La Belles, a store on a narrow, cobblestone street that specializes in window displays of Edwardian clothing in dramatic lighting. The proprietress, Athena, can be found there, perhaps in an argument with her sister, a refugee witch of the Argent Coven.

At the center of town are The Warrens, a large hedge maze that is the seat of city government. As you pass the Entry Arbor, you’re warned against entering unless you know where you’re going, but you can’t walk away without feeling like the bush is judging you. Deep within the maze is the Lost Fountain, surrounded by stone benches of cold marble but no longer filled with water. You can feel the ghosts rustling the hedges before you even sit down. Here you’ll find Antonello de la Torre, a ghost who’s been Bonesville’s mayor for decades and is particularly adept at keeping everyone happily distracted.

Out beyond the beaches are the swamps of Bogburg, a rough neighborhood with a big heart, where many of the living reside in big apartment buildings. Johnny Johnson, one resident of these block houses, is obsessed with hunting the green-eyed mega-fish known as the Jade Leviathan and, with the help of a ghost buddy and folks from the Bonesville Alchemical Institute, known for their explosive results, manages to catch the giant fish. The ghosts of Bogburg attend services at Our Lady of the Soggy Heart, a sunken cathedral with bioluminescent stained-glass windows. When the window’s glow is replaced with alchemical concoctions, most everyone asks themselves “But why?”

When you visit Bonesville, you want to be sure to see the Night Market, an open-air marketplace known for warm spices and glimpses of magic. You can always orient yourself by looking for the colored plume coming from the cauldron at The Witch’s Brew, and pick up a few magical trinkets while you’re there. If you’re of age and looking for more adult entertainment, visit the Garden of Unspeakable Delights by looking for the hedges shaped like mythical creatures. Another major attraction is the newest neighborhood: Shrubbery Town is full of the most wonderful houses grown entirely from shrubs, including the Brick Bush Mansion, which while entirely vegetal appears to be made of strong bricks that would deter any huffing and puffing wolf. Be sure to say hello to Agatha, the town’s horticultural master, if you run into her as she’s always happy to see new people. Another wonder is the Shrubco Factory building in which plants have grown into machines that produce goods for sale at the Night Market. “How?” you ask. Nobody seems to know.

Thank you for visiting Bonesville. Come again!