Paris of the East!
Pearl of the Orient!
The Whore of Asia!
(If you are being less complimentary.)
The city is in a golden age, brimming with opulence and decoration. Modern technology in shipping has plucked the crown of trade, import, and exports from Canton in the south, and the Whangpoo brims with thousands of merchant ships, elegant liners and sleek warships, all crowding around the docks to take on goods from all of China and disperse the wealth of the rest of the world into the city's hands. International banks make their home in this place, attracted by the lack of taxation and the vast opportunities for profit that abound in the untamed and vast Orient. Forget militarised Singapore, backwater Hong Kong, ancient and decaying Peking or strict, regimented Tokyo - there can be no doubt that Shanghai is the greatest and most influential city in all of Asia, and she even competes with New York, London or Paris in glamour, glitter, and gilding, and outshines them all in opportunity. The most fashionable shops of the world are here, lining the commercial roads. A great renaissance of Chinese culture has been born here, in music, film and literature, with movie studios producing new blockbusters every week and everything possible published here, from political treatises to deep and thoughtful modern novels. Amidst a China roiling with military warlords, dispossessed peasantry, famine and hardship, Shanghai stands as a beacon of prosperity and stability, independent and answering to no authority other than itself and its own myriad interests.
Beneath the surface, barely-concealed, however, not all is so wondrous. Money flows like water in Shanghai, and very little of it ever comes into the hands of the common people. The slums are vast and overcrowded, growing up around the cavernous factories and warehouses, not even hidden away from the views from the windows of the grand hotels and office blocks of the Bund, and yet still invisible to those that would gaze out of them. Organised crime rules all, its tendrils getting into every nook and cranny of everything which goes on in the whole city. The Chinese inhabitants, pouring in from the ruined countryside in the hope of prosperity, buy their lives and living with their loyalties. To be unaffiliated is to be without an income, to be unprotected to be very swiftly dead in the gutter. The famous gangsters of the United States, those men in Italian suits who think themselves so mighty, would be swallowed up in an instant and consumed in this city, so weak are they in comparison with the mighty triads and street gangs. Illegal activity is omnipresent, and what few laws there are are so loosely enforced as to be practically irrelevant, with Chiang Kai-shek's Republican government (almost overtly) backing and preserving the criminal enterprises in exchange for a cut of the profits. Some of the local strongmen and crime bosses may be more benevolent than others, acting as protectors of their local communities at the expense of their neighbours - but they are all, fundamentally, the same thing.
A young man coming out from Europe or the United States, fresh in his pressed suit and with a contract in hand from one of the myriad foreign businesses that maintain offices here, can live like a king in Shanghai, becoming master of all he surveys. The 'Shanghailanders', as they are affectionately nicknamed (by themselves), are akin to the feudal lords of old, ruling over an underclass of servants and employees whose language they rarely speak. Pleasure and hedonism are the order of the day for even the poorest Western businessman - when girls, narcotics, drinks and entertainments are all so appealing, so plentiful and so cheap, who can resist? Competition is cut-throat, commercial espionage and dirty dealings are rife, and each man can only gain his fortune through another's loss, climbing up the corporate ladder by treading on the shoulders of his co-workers. Scandals are frequent, loyalties few. The terms 'honesty' and 'foolishness' are practically synonymous. A man can be the one of the richest in the city one month, living a fine life in a European-style mansion amidst the leafy avenues, and destitute in the streets, struggling and coughing with illness, trapped and unable to return home, the next.
But not all foreigners are Shanghailanders, those well-dressed and slick people of 'quality'. As an International City, Shanghai has attracted dispossessed people from all across the world in enormous numbers, with every background and story different, every tale to tell unique. Most notable are the White Russians - fleeing from the Bolshevik Revolution, first to Siberia and then further south into China, the Russian community is influential throughout the city, with their members, stateless and unable to leave, trapped in the den of vice and taking up whatever employment they can to survive. Dozens of 'noblewomen' prowl the dancing-halls and clubs, searching for foreign men to relieve of their currency and perhaps even secure a ticket out of the city. Tough Slavic men make up a significant minority in the Municipal Police and in the criminal gangs. And the Russians are not all. Jews from across the world, fleeing from persecution, have found themselves making a home in Shanghai, establishing a ghetto and trying to make their way in the world, escaping to a country which lacks prejudice against them for their heritage. Remnants of the Middle East, thrown out of their homes by the arbitrary arrangement of borders after the Great War, can be found here, too. Persecuted intellectuals of all stripes and colours, from across the globe, come to continue their work here, unfettered by the demands of censorship. There are former Czech Legionnaires, Mongols turned away from home due to their religious beliefs, American criminals on the run, bankrupted Australian drovers, Indian Sikh emigres aiming to spread their creed, and even oppressed minorities from the Congo. All hope for a better life, to make something of themselves - and all have a chance of finding it, for in Shanghai, anyone come out on top, if they are willing to spill enough blood, and cross enough moral lines, to do so.
A young man, passing through the city in the last decade with his Communist Party friends, has been known to say, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun", and for Shanghai, in particular, this is quite apt. Faced with the brazen displays of foreign wealth, unrest and dissent are rife, with labour unions semi-openly - and literally - fighting for the rights of the common Chinese worker to live honestly, and being beaten down fiercely by the owners. They have begun to gather what weapons they can and take control of parts of the slums, to defend themselves and their interests against whatever may come. In the shadows, Communists, disgusted by the supine posture of the Chinese Republic and its support of the status quo, plant bombs, assassinate officials, and plot the ousting of the foreigners and the overthrow of the corrupt Chinese government. But their cadres are small in number, and they are practically alone, and little aid from elsewhere overseas is forthcoming to these dedicated revolutionaries in the vanguard.
Amidst all this, it would be foolish to think that anyone could ever tame the wildness and chaos of Shanghai, and yet some - a few - do try. The very best that can be hoped for is the maintenance of the status quo - keeping the fragile veneer of wealth and stability that so reassures investors overseas and allows for the Westerners' profits to grow, year after year, the business monopolies to become ever more crushing and complete. The Municipal Police of the International Settlement and the French Concession Police in the south struggle to keep the peace and fight back against the gangs, plagued with internal corruption and never knowing if anyone can be trusted. The foreign diplomats do their best to promote and preserve the interests of their nations and their countrymen, both against each other and together against the Chinese, while the French governor does his best to keep a firm hold on the reins of power in the Concession, making illicit deals and sometimes even seeming to be more out for himself than for France. And closer to hand, there are watching, greedy eyes - eyes that believe China would be better off in the direct stewardship of a greater power, and that Shanghai, the key to Chinese wealth and trade, is a prize too great to ignore. The Japanese population in the International Settlement is by far the largest, their warships closest to hand, and their threatening presence is one that no-one can afford to ignore, with even the other foreign powers casting a wary glance in their direction.
Welcome, then, to Shanghai. A city of contrasts, of diversity, of glorious wealth and miserable poverty, of abject fear and purest love, of great heights of pleasure and the worst depths of suffering. Perhaps the fate of the world may not be decided here, but the fate of millions will be - and most importantly, your own fate is in your hands, in this place. One may often hear that anything can happen, that one never knows where life will take you - but here? This, perhaps, is the only place in the world where that is absolutely true. In the Paris of the East, the Pearl of the Orient, or even the Whore of Asia, everyone knows that there is only one thing to remember, and one maxim to live by:
The Paris Of The East is a game of chaos, intrigue and power struggle set in a fictionalised version of 1930s Shanghai - not an alternative history, per se, but a setting of historical fiction, where characters, factions and their motivations have been embellished to make for a better story, so that the game is more exciting for all players and more balanced. Where historical information about the real individuals is sparse or unclear, plausible fictional additions have been made to characters' histories and motivations, and players are of course welcome and encouraged to embellish these further and make these historical characters their own, in much the same style as Luc's Brazilsim, a game which this game in its final form took significant inspiration from and owes much to.
In addition, some roles are marked as 'Your Character Here!' - these positions are where either no information about the historical character in that position could be uncovered, or the position did not exist in the presented form and is semi-fictional. If you're interested in one of these positions, then contact me during your signups and we'll work out a character together. It may be possible to create additional, historically-inspired or plausible fictional factions as well, in the same way, but I'd prefer that the historical roles listed already below be mostly filled up first before creating any new ones.
The game is played by private messages and by public posts in the forum. The objective of the game is to roleplay your character and their faction, and achieve their public and private aims as best you can. Note that if your character dies or is otherwise rendered unplayable, you are not out of the game - a new character will arise to leadership of your faction, with their own agenda, and you will continue playing.The publicly-known statistics will be listed in the news thread, and for temporary signup purposes will also be listed in a post below. Players will receive a PM with their treasury and their full statistics. A (dumb and not to be taken at all seriously) example of the public statistics and a set of full statistics is listed below in the spoiler tag.
Leader: Molly Tov (Player Name)
Public Allegiance: Molotov Forum Community
Known Assets and Income: Molotov Forum (applied-logistics.org), +10 Balance of Power Games, +10 Govsim Games, +5 Roleplaying Games = +25
Personnel: 176 Registered Users (~79 daily logins), 66 Discord Server Users (~30 daily logins)
Faction: Molotov Forum Community
Leader: Molly Tov (Player Name)
Public Allegiance: Molotov Forum Community
Private Allegiance: Secret IRC Cabal
Known Assets and Income: Molotov Forum (applied-logistics.org), +10 Balance of Power Activity, +10 Govsim Activity, +5 Roleplaying Activity = +25
Illegitimate Income: -5 Inactivity, -5 Discord Drama, -5 Spambots = -15
Total Income: +10
Personnel: 176 Registered Users (~79 daily logins), 66 Discord Server Users (~30 daily logins)
Underling Loyalty Level: Moderately High (Registered Users), High (Discord Server Users)
Notes: Some information about your character and their motivations which I can't think of anything to write to continue this shitty joke example.
However, for the purpose of action resolution and GM rolls, there are two kinds of actions that can be taken in The Paris Of The East - positive and negative actions. These could also be called ‘beneficial’ and ‘harmful’ actions. A positive action is an action that intends to benefit someone - either yourself or another - in some way, while a negative action is an action that intends to damage someone or their interests. This means that some actions that in other games would be a single 'action' - such as stealing something - would require two seperate actions with seperate credit spends in this game.
Some examples: a peaceful investment aiming to increase your income, aid another faction, improve something in the city or hire more underlings would be a positive action, while aiming to kill someone else's underlings, damage their assets, cause chaos in the city and the like would be a negative action. However, an action which intended to deprive someone else of something and take it for yourself would be two actions in this system: a negative action allocating credits and describing how you intend to deprive the enemy of the asset, and a positive action allocating credits and describing how you intend to then secure this asset from yourself to begin benefiting from it.
The rules of this game - beyond the usual forum rules - are limited in number, but important to pay attention to.
- Do not share your private statistics statblock, the exact contents of your turn PM and your actions taken, or precise numerical information about your treasury, illegitimate income or hidden personnel, with any other players. It goes against the spirit of the game and will be less enjoyable for everyone if players are simply showing their GM-provided information as proof of trustworthiness, because the entire theme is that no-one can be fully trusted, things are often not as they seem on the surface, and that everyone has an agenda. Obviously, this doesn't stop you from telling someone that you can or cannot afford something, saying that you will do something in your turn, mentioning that you have some kind of hidden capability or assets in general terms, or offering them a certain amount of credits in a deal, but the actual contents of your private statblock, your turn actions and suchlike are for your eyes only.
- When submitting your turns, the following format must be used: At the start of your PM, list the starting credits of your treasury that I have provided you. Each action must then be listed including its action type (POSITIVE: or NEGATIVE:) along with how many credits you are spending on that action. At the end of your PM, tally up your total spending for that turn and how much remains in your treasury after the spending on your actions. "[TOTAL SPENT]/[TREASURY AMOUNT] = [FINAL CREDIT AMOUNT]" is the key. And yes, I know I have you writing your total treasury amount twice - this is to make sure that there are no errors in the total treasury amount.
- All PMs to me about the game must include the word Shanghai, including sign-up request PMs, so that my auto-sort into folders hopefully works. After the game begins, turns must only be submitted by replying to my GM turn PMs to you.
You're welcome to ask me questions on Discord about these factions and characters before you choose them, but in order to preserve secrecy, I can't reveal too much except the kind of basic information that you could discover through enough use of Google - like the true nature of a lot of the 'legitimate businessmen' and their organisations listed in the public stats. Once I've sent you the private statblock for a faction, you're locked-in and cannot change your choice so as to prevent the spread of behind-the-scenes of information about characters' secret motivations and capabilities, so please only apply for factions that you'd be happy to play.
As noted earlier, other factions, real or fictional, may be created by request or necessity if we run out of slots, but I'd obviously prefer that the historical major factions listed below be mostly filled out with players before I start assigning additional roles.