This Is L.A.: Rebuilding A Metropolis

DISCLAIMER: This is a translation of my earlier note in Polish. It contains no extra content and, in some places, link references have been replaced with ones that don’t require knowledge of Polish. Because I can’t be arsed to translate it all and translation software (ie. Google Translate) throws up seven colors of monkey shit when confronted with my writing style. Try it, or better don’t.

Downtown Los Angeles as seen from my American ...

Image via Wikipedia

Having decided on running a Los Angeles-based campaign for Shadowrun, I prepared a Google Earth overlay and started chewing through the „Corporate Enclaves” splatbook. As we know from the previous entry, the flooded area is, in our times, filled mostly with your typical American family houses – if you played GTA: San Andreas, you probably know how Ganton, the fictional counterpart of Compton, looked. The splatbook, however, insists that there are skyscrapers or at least multi-story buildings – and I, following my „think, analyze, criticize” motto, started asking what, why and what for. After a few days, I got enlightened: have the family houses been replaced with public housing like the Projects from GTA IV, built with „stuff as many people inside as possible” in mind? Well, if we demolish a block of small houses and slap a couple of ten-to-fifteen-story tenement blocks there, the number of inhabitants will grow a good couple of times. There’s only one little problem with that: due to the vicinity of San Andreas Fault, Los Angeles likes to shake sometimes. And tall buildings don’t like shaking, to say the least. Well, technology marches on – if Downtown LA can have skyscrapers that can shake and not keel over, and the growing population has to live somewhere, we can demolish the family houses of the more well-off and replace them with so called luxury apartment blocks (note: „luxury apartment block” is a term overused in Poland to describe anything that was built in the last two years and has apartments at least slightly larger than a shoebox, hence the irony). And here I noticed another thing: the whole area is one huge-ass suburb made of a handful of towns engulfed by the LA Sprawl. The more LA sprawls, the more suburban architecture, that is: those funny little houses, will be replaced with urban architecture, that is: large blocks. So we can safely assume that the closer to Downtown LA, the more likely we’re to encounter an obstacle course made from the ruins of tall buildings – well, with the exception of industrial districts, but we’ll get to that later.

A city of the future is nothing without arcologies, or complexes of pre-packaged „all-in-one” prosperity for low-ranking corp drones (of the non-mechanical variety): colorful shops within reach, plastic apartments, concierges at the door and high-polish maintenance. And – check, LA arcologies even withstood the shaking and flushing somehow. But apart from them, LA also has something called El Infierno. El Infierno is a dark, twisted take on an arcology – black market, poverty, gangs and all-encompassing urban decay, everything surrounded with a high wall to stop the blacks, greenskins, hornies and other freaks from spoiling the low-ranking corp drones’ mood with the fact that they exist, live next door and belong to a lower social class. Effect? Something like the Kowloon Walled City, or „a guy and a half per square yard”. And then, Good Lord took a spectacular shit on El Infierno and all that’s left are a couple of small isles between the 110 and 710 highways. But, for comparison: you could fit at least one Kowloon Walled City on each of those isles, which gives us some nice gameplay ideas. Crackhouse (and with an industrial-size drug lab!), gang fortress, smugglers’ stash – if someone dug in on the remains of El Infierno’s dry land, it’s sure he’s not going anywhere and throwing them out will require substantial amounts of force and related resources. Poor slobs can camp in the half-sunken ruins, but islands are for real playaz.

Apart from the slums, a couple of industrial and commercial districts took a nose dive as well. Profiles of companies that are there now are an interesting hodge-podge: logistics, electronics, CNC machining, hydraulics, foodstuffs, laboratories – and that’s only from a mile-by-half-mile block. If your shadowrunner is going to LA, he’d better pack a snorkel and a pair of flippers, because he’s gonna need them. And considering what’s in the water, he’ll need a NBC protective suit even more. Possibly armored. With „attractions” like very nasty microbes, radiation and mutated saltwater fauna (yes, including the sharks!) it may come in handy.

But back on topic of dry land: we can safely assume that each larger island with a highway over it has an onramp and some civilization. Not necessarily the triple-As (although you may expect them near the safe areas), but people surely moved out of the flooded areas and had to camp out somewhere. Let’s look at the map from the previous post: we have the big-ass yuppie home of Palos Verdes with its own airport (the Torrance Municipal Airport is, according to the roughly fitted overlay, located on the Palos Verdes Island), right next to it we have the big-ass Torrance Island (with highway access!) that most probably houses the harbor workers and the Palos Verdes gardeners and pool cleaners. Then, a whole archipelago going all the way north to El Segundo, tipped with a small, easily overlooked isle… with half of an abandoned refinery on it. The Long Beach Archipelago houses a Shiawase Biotech lab (I) – but here, the „take every island you can build an onramp on” rule doesn’t quite work, as the best property is located on the islands where highways don’t reach. Then, we have twin islands of Carson Park and Lakewood, located right out of Fun City. They look quite interesting (and remind me of the map of Vice City) and I wouldn’t be surprised if Fun City expanded there with their Wonder Years schtick (or, better, a theme park version of ’80s Miami). The rest, due to the vicinity of El Infierno, is less interesting, especially the island by the 110 Highway. I wouldn’t be surprised if the biggest fights were fought there, because if the corps aren’t chewing each other out, then the gangs are screwing up all of them. Especially with the Hahn Free Market (K), the local black market mecca, being located nearby.

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