Saturday, October 20, 2012

Literary conventions

As I've mentioned before, the primary inspiration for Vesh comes from recurring settings and themes in my dreams, plus a whole bunch of other shit for inspiration (LasVegas, Disneyland, the Mall of America; Bioshock, Planescape, The Dark Tower; Hunter S. Thompson and Transmetropolitan).

Last night I had a dream about a literary convention, and this deserves a bit more explanation. Writers are rock stars in Vesh. They're movie stars. They're the big cheese. They're Lady Gaga and Madonna, they're Freddie Mercury okay you get the idea. Publishers and printing houses are the big agents and band managers. It's a frothing, scintillating, glittering business.

"yeah okay sure you just say that 'cause you are a writer and it's wish fulfillment"

Actually no, this came about because of something I'd realized about Quintessence.

As mentioned before, and for those just joining us now: Quintessence is the distilled essence of human faith, belief, and imagination, and it's the basis for all magic and most technology in Vesh. In its raw form, it's also highly toxic and causes unstable rifts in reality as it responds directly to subconscious desire. It's a vicious literal genie that has its uses but it's dangerous.

Quintessence is distilled from objects in which people have a lot of faith, belief, or in which they've invested a lot of imagination, or from objects that represent those things, or which have been in close proximity to such things. Costumes from theater productions. Weirdly, cinema never took off in Vesh's universe for some reason (I've never once dreamed of a movie theater), but if it had, props from movies are a good example. Paintings. Religion's a big one, and when Northreach swept south into Myshtar one of the first things they did was convert every last shrine to the Fey and the Elementals into Quintessent energy to fuel their war machines; they also rotate their Cathedrals of Purity, making the very act of destroying and rebuilding the edifices into a religious ritual, which is one reason Northreach has such a huge supply of Quintessence. Religion is a powerful source.

So are stories.

But why literature? Why isn't art, or theater, or hell, even religion itself the Big Deal here? Literature isn't even the most potent source of Quintessence--the most potent source is human sacrifice, especially martyrdom, especially done in a cruel, unjust, and overly theatrical way.

Why literature?

With stories, the thing in which people put their ultimate faith and belief and imagination is the story itself. We get reams of fanfiction and tons of devoted fanart not because of a physical object, no matter how much people will laud physical books, but the story itself. And the thing about a story is that it can be copied over and over again, reproduced, given new life, new spins, new takes. It is a renewable resource. You can't destroy an idea, not fully, not even Quintessence can do that.

With artwork, we put a lot of value on the physical first edition production, even in the case of prints. We want things that are hand-made. We want originals, not copies. While a photograph of the Mona Lisa is still beautiful, you're not going to get a lot of Quintessence out of it because the bulk of the belief is in the painting itself.

Books, on the other hand...

People can and will fall in love with physical books, sometimes to frankly stupid degrees. I once saw on Tumblr someone get pissed as hell because some artist had used books to create a beautiful carving of a skull. How dare he waste perfectly good copies of Microsoft Windows 95 Instruction Manual!? GOSH. I myself had a well-worn, dog-eared copy of The Neverending Story that was just a trade paperback that I adored and was very sad when I lost it. Of course, then I had an excuse to get a nice hardback, but even then... and I still search for the mythic lost copy I had when I was a tiny child, a movie edition book that had the shimmering copper cover and the Auryn embossed into the front, the real physical thing that my grandfather lost in a hospital when we lent it to him (I doubt he even read it, frankly).

Books are relatively easy to produce (as compared to paintings, sculptures, etc), extremely easy to reproduce, and the physical object will always generate some level of belief and faith and imagination on the part of people. There's something about the physicality of the object that we love. And then more elaborate special editions can be produced, with forwards, illustrations, new covers, bigger sizes. I know some people who collect versions of just one story. There's one person, for instance, who has every single edition of House of Leaves alone.

And the thing is, despite this, a lot of books are lost or destroyed, despite how much people love them, despite the care, despite the beauty. Libraries and bookstores destroy thousands of perfectly good books every year just because they can't keep them, and this isn't just shitty trade paperbacks. These are original editions from the 1800s, these are beautiful hand-illustrated manuscripts, these are well-loved objects. It's just a matter of too many books being created, and not enough room to hold them all.

In our world, it's a terrible shame and a waste. I still wonder why we can't just donate truckloads of these things to third world countries, where at least if they can't read them they might use them as building material and insulation (which you can do! I actually use shitty trade paperbacks to insulate parts of my room in winter. They're marvelous for that. If highly flammable.) But in Vesh... old library books especially are excellent sources of Quintessence. You can sell your beautiful signed illustrated first edition copies for thousands of dollars if you know the right people. And even your old shitty trade paperbacks are worth something to someone.

Which brings us back to writers. Books with shitty stories don't sell, unless they're Twilight or Fifty Shades of Gray. Rather: self-published poorly edited bullshit that you find on Amazon doesn't get you a whole lot of Quintessence. You have to build a following. You have to market. You have to get to the point where people will pay thousands of dollars for a signed limited edition copy, where you get the gargantuan Hall H at ComicCon when Joss Wheadon is there lines for authors. When you get to that level, when you get people really believing in your stuff, that's when you become a goldmine not just in terms of how much money you make selling your books, but in terms of the secondary Quintessence market.

Back to movies, music, TV shows, paintings, and sculptures -- people don't feel the same way about VHS or DVDs most of the time. You don't see people on Tumblr flipping the hell out about how someone used a dozen DVDs or CDs to make a sculpture. If you get the stuff signed, sure, it means a lot, and I have a few CDs that I personally care about (Okay, just my Protomen CDs. But that's different). When I've lost books, I've usually been genuinely sad, even if it was just a dog-eared copy. When I've lost DVDs, my entire reaction has been meh. Maybe this is a product of the digital generaton and how digital content is easily replicable, but honestly I think it's because books are easy. The story's right there, it's inside the thing, you don't have to watch it on a screen or wrestle with region codecs, you just open it up and it's there. Again -- physicality. The things which have Quintessence from theater productions are the props, the costumes, the venue itself... all of which aren't nearly as easily replicable or replaceable as books. Besides, people put stock in the originals, not replicas in these cases.

Which brings us back again to literary conventions. This stuff is SanDiego ComicCon level of "oh jesus that's a lot of screaming people." And it's crawling with Quintessence merchants. You want that signed original edition copy of Romance of the Underground Empire? You'll have to beat twenty Quintessence merchants to get it... and worse yet, your own enthusiasm and desire to get it before them just makes it even more valuable TO those merchants. The more people want something, the more Quintessence they can get out of it.

This also means that there are thieves who specialize in breaking into libraries and stealing books. People keep their personal libraries hidden, under lock and key, and often deny owning any books, in case some Quintessence hound is looking for them. Libraries have airport security. Shit is bananas.

Also, people tried to make eReaders, but they required Quintessence and produced none and so the big publishing houses and big-box bookstores rapidly crushed that market, in much the same way as the big gas companies have quashed electric cars.

Gamewise, this means books of any kind are worth MAD LEWT. PHAT LEWT. and if your character knows how to distill quintessence (Which ALL spellcasting needs in this setting!), best to raid a library.

As for the dream? It was actually very boring, mostly I was fighting my way through this stupid convention trying to find this one author and her husband, and when I did I was very cross and said something badass like, "You do realize that finding you was a dreadful waste of my time and money, yes?"

I think it was because someone else at the convention was trying to get them assassinated, which while illegal in the particular Holding we were in, was totally fine in a Holding nearby, so I had to keep these two inside the hotel and hope the crazy dude didn't decide that he wanted to risk the wrath of the local Warlord anyway. BODYGUARD DUTY YEAH.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


In Vesh, most disputes are resolved within each Holding according to that Holding's particular rules and laws. Inter-Holding disputes are resolved mostly by those Holdings beating the shit out of each other for a while, or quietly backstabbing, depending on which Holding we're talking about. In cases where an individual causes problems across multiple Holdings, usually deals can be worked out, and people can work together to take them down. It's in the general interest.

On occasion, however, something more is needed. Vesh has no overarching governing body; there's nothing to tie the Holdings together, and if anyone ever tried there'd be outright war (this hasn't happened yet, mostly because everyone recognizes how utterly dumb it'd be to try). But sometimes, an inter-holding dispute goes on so long that it threatens the integrity of the other Holdings, the business of the city (because Vesh IS a business: it's in the business of entertainment and illusion)

In that case, the Grey are called in.

No one is quite sure when the Grey began, or where they come from. They didn't seem to exist back when Vesh was just a normal city with some places to gamble. And yet they seem to also have always been.

Most of the time, the Grey are called in as mediators, to sit and keep some of the more childish Warlords in check during meetings. They are neutral, outside both the pulls of ego and of money. They aren't paid for their services, at least, not that anyone knows of. You just ask them, and they arrive.

There are a few Warlords they refuse their services to. The Queen of Tir Na Nog is one, because she tends to call upon them every day with a new SO AND SO WAS MEANNNN TO ME! SO AND SO IS OPPRESSING ME!!!

Every warlord (even the Queen of Tir Na Nog) knows better than to harm one of the Grey. None of them are sure what would happen, but each will vouch that it's a terrible idea. There are rumors that in years past, one Warlord called a Grey to their Holding, and had her killed. No one will speak this Warlord's name, or say who it was.  Nikolai Habsburg, owner of the Průmyslový Palace resort, and one of the oldest Warlords, will crack a dessicated smile when asked. "She was foolish," he'd say, "And proud, and did not know that one cannot threaten thunder. Now even her name is forgotten."

On equally rare occasions, the Grey intercede on their own, without prompting. Usually when this occurs, every Warlord drops what they were doing anyway, as does any citizen who knows what's good for them.

Again, this doesn't happen often. They're no secret police, and they answer to no one. But that may be why they're so terrifying.

The Grey also set up places called Grey Circles, which are areas in the undercity surrounded by large standing stones. These areas are Quintessent negation zones; basically, antimagic fields. They exist for the purposes of negotiation on neutral ground.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

More talk about Quintessence Poisoning

obviously am mired in Thesis-land, but in browsing other people's feeds found an interesting Thingy that I'm going to note here where I will immediately forget about it ever having existed:

Table of Terrible Shit to happen to spellcasters at various levels for being spellcasters

Obviously, this is 1. level-based and 2. more flavored for a classic Howard-style Sword and Sorcery style game. It wouldn't really work for Vesh at all, but I wanted to keep it in mind anyway just for mechanical stuff (I'm really bad at mechanical stuff)

The idea behind the corruption in Vesh is... well, like I said, I was inspired partially by Bioshock, where the use of plasmids gives you Phenomenal Cosmic Powers at the expense of sanity and health, and paired with nasty addiction. I also look at the Jokers in George R. R. Martin's "Wild Cards," where people in a superhero world might have an interesting or even useful mutation, but where it's marred by either a grotesque physical deformity or nasty limitations on its use. I think my favorite examples of this were a woman who gained pyrokinesis but no resistance to fire, so she burned to death, the woman who ended up with invisible skin but not invisible organs, and another woman who gained super-sensitivity but to the point that even the lightest of touches was excruciatingly painful. Pyrokinesis, invisibility, and super-senses seem to be useful powers, but if you don't have the mitigating factors they're both useless and dangerous to the user.

As such, maybe not all Quintessence poisoning kills you. Excessive use will cause the mutations to pile up and eventually take you out, but some people just end up with stupid or debilitating mutations. An elephant's trunk for a nose might make it hard for your puny human lungs to breathe, though you could find ways around it.  Also, most Quintessence mutations develop slowly: an elephant trunk would grow out over the course of what might be years. ... now I think there may be an NPC in Whatever Holding Is The Trite And Stereotyped Fantasy East Asia might have one.
See also: for good examples. Someone might get invulnerable skin! And no disease resistance or impact resistance and invulnerable hair and fingernails oops. What happens when that person ends up with blunt force trauma but can't get surgery? I think this world (which... I don't have a name for the world as a whole. Oops. Or much concept of geography. Or knowledge of what's outside the main three countries, or the way the Underdark works -- yes, there is one, it's known just as the Underground Kingdom, and they hate everyone, but like all of this world everyone down there is a normal human, the only fantasy races are the result of Quintessence manipulation and therefore Fakey Fake.)
(That was a long parenthetical)
So part of me wants it to be that yeah, spellcasters might start getting useful things, that also slowly kill them. Congrats, you have Force related powers! You can cast Magic Missile at will! Your skin starts turning into a Wall of Force! ... GOOD LUCK WHEN YOU ENCOUNTER THE ANTI-QUINTESSENCE SECURITY FIELDS IN SOME OF THE HOLDINGS.
ramble ramble.
I do think it should also trigger when prepping or casting spells, and it varies based on the spell type. Interestingly, Wizards and Bards are ever so slightly more resistant, because technically they do work through a medium, they have to memorize those spells from schemas, or use music to channel the power which indicates some degree of control. They'll get poisoned at a slightly faster rate than average Quintessence Engineer if they take the proper precautions, which is to say, they'll get it, but slowly.  3.5 style Sorcerers and Warlocks, however, are channeling raw willpower, so they'd be poisoned very quickly. Weeks, rather than months. And whatever they catch might be more deadly. As for divine spellcasters? Man don't even get me started. There are NO gods in this universe, or demons, or really any native magical life beyond fae mushrooms, which aren't even fae, they're just called that. I'll... explain this in another post, probably. Point being: demons, angels, gods, all that is the invention of quintessence or the misinterpretation of it. Clerics, druids, whatever, they're in the same boat as Sorcerers and Warlocks. They're using their pure will, probably even (somehow) burning through the quintessence in their own bodies (which people native to Vesh can't do, I might add; they need fae mushrooms and schema to do that).
It's bad shit, is what I'm saying.
The nice thing about this ("nice") is that if you were to run this using 3.5 (why???) you would end up with a nice way to put a clamp on CoDzilla and to let non-spellcasting classes take the fore. Shame the non-spellcasters in that system are a pain in the butt and frankly boring to play. So, back to 2e and its modern clones.
Also no, this actually doesn't mean that people hate the religious, or are afraid of them! A lot of people in Vesh ARE very religious. They just don't try to cast spells on the faith of their gods, because what are you, an idiot? Besides, it's on the individual if they cast spells. It's kind of like smoking, really. Don't do it in buildings!
THAT SAID... at the same time, I don't want to punish spellcasting players too much, or overly punish divine casters over arcane casters in a way that isn't fun. I need to balance flavor and mechanics. And I need to find some way to restrict Raise Dead since I doubt it'd work in this universe... hrm. UNLESS IT DOES AND THAT'S PART OF THE OFFERINgS OF SOME OF THESE PLACES???


And now some random musings about Holdings. What I know so far is that almost all of them are themed, and very cheesily themed. The very old ones are sort of like... you know that old school Vegas feel? Bright lights, ladies in feathers, slot machines? It's that, because originally Vesh was pretty much Las Vegas. It was all about the games. These places are often old, run down, and seedy. Quintessense was pretty much used to power the lights, like electricity, but it was self-contained and didn't require a power plant. Though it's still very successful, I think of stuff like the Tropicana when I think of these older places, that sort of "classic" Vegas feel. ... I don't even know if that's strictly accurate, I have only been to Vegas once. And then Vegas historians jumped down my throat? Maybe comparing it to the entirety of Reno would be better.

Then an enterprising fellow figured out that through schema he could cause different effects. Create illusions, make things hot or cold, fool the senses, and so on.

This led to the first boom. Need to figure out how exactly this worked, but I think initially a lot of it was blind hedonism. Palaces made out of diamond, or chocolate, or naked people, or whatever. These places pretty much no longer exist, as people quickly figured out that Quintessence should be used sparingly and in very specifically contained schema to prevent mass poisoning. This was the era of the stage wizards, men and women who would channel the raw stuff on stage to create miracles. These people usually died young and of really awful shit. I imagine a few lucky/unlucky (?) ones are still around, with horrifying but useful and nonlethal mutations. Some might have even become something more/less than human in the process. But there aren't many, and it's sort of an urban legend now. These places are more like the MGM Grand or the Bellagio -- no specific themes, though often inspired by other cities, and always with elegance formost.

Built on top of the ruins of that came the Warlords and their Holdings. After Northreach decided to start conquering the shit out of everything/going nuts with religious dogma bullshit, various gangs and "entrepreneurs" began to gain power in Vesh by offering whatever fantasies anyone desired, some by indulging their deepest desires. They'd build entire fantasy playground landscapes based on mythology, literature, and fiction, designed to cater to everyone's secret fantasies. A lot of these places are laughably stereotyped and thoroughly ridiculous. Think stuff like the Luxor, Excalibur, New York New York, Circus Circus, and so on. The main difference is that these places also act like self-contained city-states, with their own rules and laws, and there are residents who buy in completely to the illusion. These people live and work there in exchange for protection, housing, and the chance to live entirely in a fantasy world.

Some examples:

* Tir Na Nog --  you know how Otherkin Elves are ALWAYS nobility, every last one of them, and have their heads up their asses? Now imagine if those people could actually BE Elves. That's who mostly lives in Tir Na Nog. There's all kinds of fake fairy folk and weird pagentry and lots of renfaire style anachronistic mashup bullshit based possibly on no real history, ever. The Warlord here calls herself Queen Titania (of course) and insists on ridiculously complicated formalities when being addressed. She'll also talk your ear off about how they really ARE elves and fairies on the ~inside~. In truth, the whole place is actually run by her aide, a guy who calls himself Puck, who seems suspiciously like Owen from Gargoyles, only unlike that one he isn't actually Puck, he is just a stoic guy who is making a lot of money by catering to a bunch of crazy people's desires.

* Gothy place -- yeah you'll notice most of these places have no names. This is where the Twilight / Interview with the Vampire fan crowds hang out. Lots of vampire ladies who spend a lot of time swooning in windows and being tragic and terribly gothic. See the Vampire poem generator. The Warlord of this holding is also a woman, the Red Queen, but unlike Titania she doesn't actually buy in to her own image. To be honest this is all one great big trolling attempt to her, one that is making her very wealthy. She really does not get on with Titania.

* Cyberpunk place -- Every single person is a dashing rebel hacker who is fighting The Man in this gleaming dystopia. Every last one. No one actually works for The Man. Somehow, The Man stays in power because if they ever actually "won" what would be the point? No one actually knows who the Warlord of this place is. Some suspect he/she is in fact ACTUALLY a machine intelligence, but that would be incredibly silly.

* The High Court -- This place gets into weird LARP with Tir Na Nog all the time. Think all the fake ideas of Medieval Europe, with dragons and courtly love and all that. The Warlord here has used a lot of Quintessence so that he seems to, in fact, be an actual Dragon. He also had a bad case of poisoning that his doctors work very hard to keep in check -- luckily for him, it's mostly nonlethal, in that it just makes him disgustingly overweight, covered in scale-like protuberances, and causes his skin to constantly secrete a vile-smelling oil. This is all covered by the huge amount of Quintessence schema used to keep his dragon form.

* Gansta's Paradise -- every last stereotype of rap music videos come to life, plus real life Grand Theft Auto. This place holds a LOT of power and influence, and it is always really loud. The streets are filled with gang wars and bullets, only of course no one ever dies because they're Quintessence powered guns and ho ho it's all fun and games sort of. The Warlord here is actually a very refined gentleman who, much like the Red Queen, doesn't give a shit about the theme and is just happy to be making shittons of money. Needs a name that is not a ripoff of a song.

* Bella -- This, much like the real life Bellagio, is an ostentatious re-imagining of a real city, in this case the city of Belagael, a port city far to the south, once the jewel of the country of Myshtar, now under Northreach control. it's one of the more "normal" holdings. Sort of. interestingly, almost no Myshtaran refugees are here, because they find it insulting, and also because a lot of them are wondering where the hell the seedy dockside curry bars are ("BUT OBVIOUSLY NO PLACE AS ELEGANT AS BELAGAEL HAS SEEDY DOCKSIDE CURRY BARS!?")

* INCREDIBLY METAL PLACE -- this is actually a very small holding that is every metal album cover ever meets Robert E. Howard. Actually has REAL internal factioning problems between a bunch of Gorean types and a bunch of types who really are just here to have bullshit sword and sorcery adventures. one faction also has a problem with randomly breaking into people's houses and taking their stuff, and coming up with bizarrely complicated solutions to problems for a bunch of supposed barbarians. Has a level system. The Warlord actually thinks the genuine and for real deaths and fighting are fucking hilarious and does nothing to stop them, and some people actually come in and pay him for the privilege.

* Extremely stereotypical Orientalist place -- I dunno what the real Far East is actually like in this world (hell, I dunno if they ever actually had ANY of these myths... hmmmm) but this place is all about ridiculous Chinese dragons in the same place as Japanese samurai and Indian minarets. Because.

* Equally stereotypical Arabian Nights place -- Probably run by the same warlord as above. Equally "oh come on."

* Circus Circus type place

* I need to come up with more

* Hypothetically I could come up with Holdings on the fly, there are a LOT of them of varying sizes

There's an entire underground under all of this that consists of maintenance tunnels, the remains of Old Vesh (from before even the first casinos sprung up), which has been pretty thoroughly drained for Quintessence, and a lot of homeless camps of people with bad poisoning and who can't get jobs in any of the Holdings. This is also where a lot of the Rifts open up, because a lot of the Holdings vent steam from their Quintessence engines down here. Dangerous stuff. Lots of mutants. There's also some holes into the Underground Empire, but unless you want to get brainscrewed and then shot, it is inadvisable to go down there.

The streets between the Holdings are similarly weird; they're very empty, and you can actually see cracks of the natural gray sky between them. You can walk from holding to holding through ther,e but it's a bad idea as the place is lousy with thieves and bandits waiting for dumb tourists to do just that. Most people take the skybridges. Also, the streets are where most of the nastier fights between rival Holdings take place.

uhh more later, I should Thesis.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


It occurred to me while cooking that a lot of what Vesh is about stems from some disappointments I had in Bioshock. I mean, the skeleton of the setting grew out of a series of recurring dreams I used to have about a vast city of interconnected hotel/resort things like Las Vegas but even moreso and with a dark secret, but the actual functioning of the setting I think comes from that Bioshock thing.

Bioshock is touted by many to be a critique of Objectivism, but it doesn't go quite far enough. In Bioshock, the society ceases to be an Objectivist society and falls to authoritarianism as Andrew Ryan and Frank Fontaine's ambitions get the better of them. But in the end, that's less a critique of the system itself, and more a critique of human nature. Does Objectivism, when followed strictly, encourage that kind of behavior? Absolutely. But I think a truly Libertarian/Objectivist society bears with it other ills that would be better addressed in a city that's on its way to a fall, rather one that's already fallen. Furthermore, Vesh is, ironically, only one of two equal evils, the other being the People's Democractic Republic of Northreach. The latter is a theocratic oligarchy, wherin the ones in power don't believe a word of the religion they tout, but find it a useful way to control their people. So the idea was to have these two nations that are polar opposites: in Northreach, everything is controlled and monitored, 1984 style, whilst in Vesh there are literally no laws save what the Warlords make in their individual Holdings, and even those, well... some Holdings are better at enforcing those laws than others.

So, basically, what you have in Vesh is the way that only a very, very few actually hold power, and while there is a true "free market" and no government regulation, what you really end up with is a few people with the concentrated wealth lording it over the rest of the city. You have violence in the streets outside the Holdings, you have an entire underworld, and of course, the toxic waste generated by Quintessence. I mean maybe someone with a better eye for government systems can help me out here, but yeah, that's the gist.


The Bioshock comparison also helped me realize something about Quintessence: I want it to be a bit like Adam/Eve. Quintessence can do a whole lot of good... but at some significant cost. The city's functioning relies on it, without this stuff it falls apart at the seams. At the same time, this substance is also slowly killing portions of the population. Unlike in Bioshock, no one has a monopoly on its production. Instead, Vesh itself as a city holds as much power as it does partially because unlike other cities, there's no regulation on its production, so people can go ahead killing themselves to get it. Granted, Northreach does this too, but they're running out of resources and must expand. Vesh's one advantage is that its freedom means that artists still try to survive, people still really believe in religions when they believe at all, and so there's still sources. Northreach is running dry, and often they resort to using blood magic from dissenters since their government regulated art programs didn't work so well when the artists knew their stuff was just going to get processed into quintessence.

Point being: Quintessence should be like ADAM. It won't kill you/make you nuts/mutate you right away, but it'll happen eventually. Unlike ADAM though, if you're using the end product (ex, a magic wand, a potion, experiencing a simulated world) you're far less likely to get sick.

FIRST POST (one one one?)

This will, once I get off my butt (And used to Blogger's peculiar system?) be a brainstorming blog for a Flailsnails campaign set primarily in Vesh, with possible excursions to Glyshar, the Democratic Republic of Northreach, The Underground, Myshtan (and its famed capitol, Belagael), and environs beyond.

To give a taste...

From here, the rooftop spire of the Bella Note, you can finally see the whole sky. There it is: perfectly linear delineations, a sky split and divided into many sections, each color, each difference marking a different Holding. There's the deep blue night sky of Tir Na Nog, the fiery red of the City of Brass, the perfect blue of Bella Note above your head, the perpetual sunset of Tropicalia, and more and more off into the distance, each place projecting its own eerie, alien sky.

Your A.O. unit bleeps. Ten minutes. You need to break into Bella Note headquarters, drain the paintings, and get out before you're caught. Being caught means a turf war. And turf wars are bad for business.

But, well, for business? You're the best. Time to get to work...