I was watching a documentary the other night that screamed “cyberpunk / espionage adventure location!”
Oily Rocks, Azerbaijan.
We’re talking a floating city on the Caspian Sea that is in incredibly poor repair and produces half of Azerbaijan’s crude oil output. A metropolis of resource extraction with little regards to the humans who do the extracting. Half of the sexiness is that the place changes and mutates as various companies invest in new infrastructure, throwing on new platforms for storage, housing or offices. But really, where it screams “GAME HERE” is that sections of it already feel like they are partof some post-apocalyptic hell, decaying and falling apart.
The facility is poorly maintained, with miles of roads now submerged beneath the sea. Around some workers’ dormitories, the waterline now stands at the second-floor windows. Although a full one-third of the Oil Rocks complex’s 600 wells are inoperative or inaccessible, operations have continued without a significant increase in investment. The site, despite its imperfections, still produces over half of the total crude oil output of Azerbaijan. The government has striven to attract foreign investment into Oil Rocks, resulting in several new additions being grafted onto the existing structure.
Dormitories where the first two floors are flooded, but that are still in use! Miles of sunken roads, abandoned drill platforms, leaking and decaying storage containers… You can easily put a copy of this city off any coast and add it to your Mutant Future / Gamma World game, with an enclave of mutants still harvesting oil, making them a local superpower – albeit one very reliant on outside sources of scavenged hardware to keep their rigs in operation. For a more modern setting, it’s a perfect black/grey market environment for an espionage or cyberpunk scenario – a corporate city out in the middle of nowhere.
You know, I had a very similar thought recently as i09 has been covering the Kowloon walled city outside of Hong Kong that was demolished a few decades ago. If memory serves me there were roughly 50,000 people living in a 6.5 acre area that was considered the most densely populated place on earth at the time. The photos and documentary videos are fascinating…
So, of course I had a similar thought: this would be an awesome RPG setting! A Kowloon walled city style adventure with extremely cramped spaces, dense housing, a maze of dark alleyways, a city run entirely by crime lords (warring thieves guilds), where around every turn is its own danger and the populace is living in a state of perpetual fear both from without and from within. Maybe built into a cliff or built inside and on top of an old fortress in a very dangerous area that people just continued to seek refuge in and build up houses on top of houses on top of shops on top of houses. Fire is a major danger (using fireballs or oil in a less than judicious manner could spell disaster… pun intended). The crime lords of the major factions extort the people and business for legitimate and illegitimate protection money to protect from the dangers of orc and goblin raids, as well as protection from other guilds and their own goons. The primary market is on the ground level, although shops and haberdasheries are scattered throughout and some businesses are run from inside dwellings. The closest there is to a city square is an open patch of roofs that form a slight depression. Access to this area is limited to what might pass for the elite of this grimy arcology, the wealthier merchants, the crime lords and their families. The layout of the original fortress survives beneath the levels of homes and shops and has been incorporated into the surrounding structures. Hints of the fortress can be seen in the remaining parapets and tower fortifications, although their efficacy is severely hampered by the growth of the city that overwhelms many of the original structures. There is the possibility of a undercity lair, dungeon or mine… also the only reliable source of fresh water fed from a spring in the nearby mountains. Much of the city is “employed” as indentured servants to haul water and work the mines. There is very little in the way of fresh vegetables to be had except to the elite as there are few patches suited to growing crops aside from the roof areas. People living on the exterior walls experience the double edge sword of having access to the little fresh air and natural light available, and window gardens are frequently seen in those dwellings. On the downside, they are also the most vulnerable to missile attacks made on the wall by creatures outside the city, or the occasional stealthy creature that can infiltrate the guards and climb the walls to feast on the habitants.
And on and on… sorry for the long post, I get excited sometimes! 😉
Dyson Logos said:
Yeah, the walled city of Kowloon caught my attention when I first saw it in that classic Van Damme movie “Bloodsport”.
Played a game of vampire set almost entirely within the walled city.
That’s a hell of a find. I think I need to do some more research. Thanks for sharing!
this works super well for a gurps illuminati game im running
Dyson Logos said:
Yeah, I honestly can’t imagine a modern RPG that wouldn’t benefit from a run through Oily Rocks.
Excellent post. I made a similar blog post about a Japanese island city, Gunkanjima (http://asshatpaladins.blogspot.com/2010/04/resources-gunkanjima.html).