Using Damnation City for a Victorian Game
Gustave Doré - Ludgate Hill (1872)
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Damnation City is a book chock full of concepts that can be used across all World of Darkness supernatural types and time periods. Although it was written with a focus on Vampire: the Requiem and the modern age, much of what it contains is surprisingly malleable and requires minimal tweaking. But it is also such a long and densely packed book that it can be difficult to know where to begin. One of the meatier sections describes evocative sites in just about any city, and it is too useful to ignore for an urban game - but the world has changed in the last century or so, and some of the things we think we know about the Victorian era are wrong. While reviewing the sites, I automatically wrote many of them off as being unreasonable, only to find through my research that they existed for much of Victoria's reign.
Many of the sites are going to be largely the same as they are described in the book. The brothel, for instance, would actually make for a middle to upper-class house of prostitution in Victorian England; many of them were more like the Badlands Motel. Other sites only need a couple of changes. The different kinds of hospitals will quickly dispel the notion of any kind of 'central' and 'general' health care. Some of the sites started springing up after a particular date, like private detective offices, but other places just don't date back that far in history, like the idea of a laundromat. Below are easy reference lists for you to consider. For full statistics, see Damnation City pages 273-330.
Change the Following
Army Surplus Store: This was a subscription service open only to higher-ranked service people and widows of officers. The stores handled a variety of things, from groceries to guns to travel furniture/supplies.
City General Hospital: There were charity-run hospitals run by volunteers and unpaid doctors, and they would turn away those who couldn’t pay or be vouched for, those chronically ill, and the mentally ill. Specialist hospitals sprang up to handle particular and usually very contagious diseases. Workhouse hospitals were the worst in cleanliness and care but were the only hope for many. Asylums for the mentally ill were entirely separate from the aforementioned hospital types. Mid-century, hospitals started to include their own pharmacies, kitchens, laundries, mortuaries, and chapels.
Coal Tunnels: These would have been used and active rather than abandoned.
Crematorium: Though the poor were often burned after a period of internment, cremation was limited and many resisted the practice on religious grounds (namely Christian beliefs). The first crematorium in England was built in 1879 and was only used a handful of times a year from 1885 through the end of the century.
Hidden Temple: Mystical groups seeking esoteric knowledge were accepted as upper-crust affairs, rather like many other "secret" societies, and wouldn't have had to be hidden. Some had libraries of their own, though only inner circle members were likely to know anything of real value.
Hot Dog Cart: Coastal locations and cities like London had fish as their local “fast food,” usually centered in districts nearest the water.
Illegal Sweatshop: While conditions in most Victorian factories would seem bad by modern standards, a truly illegal sweatshop in Victorian England would have been one in which a labor law was being wilfully broken, such as age and hour restrictions. The description of the sweatshop in the book is a good one for the basic Victorian factory floor.
Library: Libraries were mainly by subscription, with rare free lending libraries by mid-century.
Limo Service: See notes on modes of travel (to come).
Penthouse Condo Haven: High society supernaturals would need to maintain at least the illusion of keeping lavish rooms at the top of some building, though it wouldn’t have had nearly as many stories as modern buildings; such accommodations could be rented, especially during The Season when the affluent came to the city from the countryside.
Photo Studio: By mid-century, most metro areas had photo studios.
Private Detective Agency: The first agencies were set up in the mid-1850s.
Shooting Range: While the NRA started in England in 1859 and there were annual meetups mainly for the wealthy, shooting ranges and gun clubs didn’t become popular until c. 1900, when private clubs spread.
Repertoire Cinema: By the mid-1890s cinemas started to pop up and moving pictures were becoming popular; they were usually focused on non-fiction documentaries and news, however.
Tenement Squat: Such a building would have been full of the poorest citizens, with a dozen to a bed, and would have been called a rookery. Some rookeries only took up the topmost or bottommost floors of a building, with passages in between.
Roller Rink: While roller skating rinks existed from around the mid-1870s, skates were expensive until they started to be mass-produced by the end of the century. A few ice skating rinks were also around.
Taxi Dispatch: See notes on modes of travel (to come).
University Hematology Lab: While blood transfusions were being done and experimented with in order to treat blood diseases, the Victorians were not aware of blood typing or how to prevent clotting and had no reliable means of storing blood.
Zoo: The London Zoo wasn’t open to the public until 1847.
Remove the Following
24-Hour Laundromat: Washing was done at home, often on Monday since there were likely to be leftovers from the food on Sunday and fresh cooking wouldn't be needed.
Abandoned Factory: Most factories were being used or were converted for other industries rather than left empty.
All-You-Can-Eat Buffet: There were many mealhouses, often divided up by one’s profession as much as means, but they did not serve endless food.
Community College: These didn’t exist, though universities like the University of London started in the 1830s and eventually admitted women, as London did in 1878.
Dojo: There was an attempt to teach a mixed martial art called Bartitsu at the very end of the century, but it did not catch on and died out within several years, taking the founder’s school with it.
Elephant Graveyard: Decommissioned trains were usually reused or repurposed.
Gray-Market Electronics Shop
Neighborhood Gas Station
Underground Parking Lot: Vehicles were not generally stored underground.
Used Car Dealership: Vehicles were rare and valuable enough that they tended to exchange hands privately.
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