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Highspire, aka The Towering City

Highspire taps into several modern political issues: the rush to get children into good colleges, the tension between industrial progress and environmental health and the question of whether a system where you can succeed is a sufficient justification for a poor quality of life if you don't. Some common quests might involve a request to hunt down alchemical monsters plaguing the slums, secure materials for a young inventor hoping to earn a prestigious academic placement or end a group's ongoing pollution on behalf of citizens below them who want some plausible deniability. Keep in mind that anyone with sufficient coin to be causing problems for others likely has the coin to make the party's life difficult...or tempt them to switch sides.

The metropolis of Highspire is a city contained largely within an enormous stone pillar nearly a mile in diameter with hundreds upon hundreds of floors. No one knows where this strange artificial mountain came from, but the city is known as one of the preeminent centers of learning on the continent in both magic and science. It is also one of the larger centers of industry, and the base of Highspire is infamous as a morass of pollution so severe that the dangerous chemicals, alchemical runoff and corrupted food and water supplies cause everything from disease to birth defects. Worse, since magic is part of the mix, this mix of ooze and garbage sometimes pulls itself together with a modicum of intelligence, roaming the slums at the base of the tower and keeping the population in perpetual dread.   In Highspire, everything is about how far up you are. The highest levels are palatial and possess absurd resources, while the lowest are so polluted and so dangerous as to be nearly unliveable. An enormous lake of clean fresh water is somehow maintained near the top and flows through every level, creating a sort of plumbing. While higher levels are not supposed to dispose of waste in the waterline, this happens frequently enough that by the time it reaches the base of the tower the water is more sludge than liquid, contaminated with everything from industrial runoff to discarded alchemical experiments.   Most who live in Highspire dream of rising to a higher level, both for material benefit and social prestige, and one's "level number" the highest in the facility one has ascended, is a mark of social status. The culture is a mix of confucian meritocracy and free market capitalism, leading to a system of considerable personal freedom...but with little in the way of a safety net for those without.   Every aspect of the culture reflects this "high is good, low is bad" mindset. People from Highspire won't use straws, but rather lift their glasses over their head and tip them back to "receive" their beverage from above (implying it's cleaner, more valuable, etc than someone's who has to "suck up" their drink). Metaphors like "she's rising in the ranks," and "he's made it to the top" are common, and statements that something immoral was "low" perpetuate a common prejudice that the poorer people of Highspire are more desperate and less trustworthy.   That said, a considerable criminal underworld exists in Highspire, both deep in the lower levels where the guards fear to tread and in the complex series of ladders, bamboo poles and other ramshackle construction that surrounds much of the outside of the Spire, with gangs of young cutpurses snatching bags and sliding or climbing out of sight with the speed of circus performers. This extensive network is a cross between a ship's riggings and an impromptu shantytown, and though the view is spectacular the ramshackle nature of the platforms makes the whole area potentially dangerous.   As bleak as things can get, Highspire is also a meritocracy, and children who score well on academic tests or show talent in the application of real-world skills are often able to school at much higher levels than their parents could otherwise afford. This leads to a vicious competition among young people for the best grades and most noteworthy achievements, and many Highspire parents see (and treat) their children as potential tickets out of poverty.


HIghspire is largely human, with elves represented in moderate numbers in the upper levels and some dwarves employed in mid-level factories. A whole subspecies of mutated people exist, commonly called Fomorians, and while it's not illegal for them to rise above the lower levels it rarely happens.


Highspire has a Prime Minister who is for all intents and purposes a king or queen. They have an extensive court of advisors and numerous bureaucrats who handle the various day-to-day tasks of operating the city-state. Past Prime Ministers have ranged from disinterested dilettantes to compulsive micromanagers, with current Prime Minister Tanya Pearl's incessant reform efforts leading to the city's newest nickname, "Pearl's Peak."


While the Highspire military is probably the smallest of any of the developed cities, it makes up for its numbers with excellent and very vicious equipment. Chemical warfare is the norm for Highspire soldiers, with most carrying at least two alchemical items of some kind. Larger war engines promise to rain destruction from incredible distances and recent innovations in steam technology have lead to some of the first vehicles to be openly fielded on the continent.


Highspire generally takes in raw materials and exports processed goods, alchemical substances, chemicals and scientific equipment. Its pervasive lack of sunlight and poor environmental conditions in the immediate vicinity make it necessary to import much of their food as well as other products made from plants and animals.


As one descends the tower, the quality of plumbing, transportation, law enforcement and general maintenance decreases accordingly. The upper third of the tower features numerous elevator-like winch platforms, universal indoor plumbing and a strong guard presence. The middle tiers see more stairs, ladders and even chutes and firepoles as transportation, with most large lifts reserved for moving cargo. Guards are responsive and responisble, but not omnipresent in public like the upper floors. The lowest third of the tower is effectively an industrial sector, with factories and workshops crammed on top of one another and almost constant noise. Stairs and ramps define transportation except for bulk industrial goods and materials, most plumbing is spotty at best and attempts to summon the watch are generally ineffective unless some large disturbance breaks out.


HIghspire processes an enormous amount of ore, creating metals and synthesizing various chemicals and powders from raw materials from across the continent. As with most things in Highspire, one's position in the tower generally reflects a person's level of wealth.
Alternative Name(s)
The Tower, Pearl's Peak
Inhabitant Demonym
The Highfolk, People of the Tower, The Up/Downstairs.
Location under
The Crushlands (Multinational Region)

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