Friday, 27 May 2016

The Infinite City on the Water

The Infinite City on the Water is one of the levels of the crocodile's mind in Behind Gently Smiling Jaws. In the crocodile's youth, before it moved upriver and ensconsed itself in the lake in which it now dwells, it traveled the oceans - and saw a city on the coast, a kind of ancient Venice, which is now not even the dust of a ruin. That place still looms large in its imagination: a nest of bipedal creatures which in its mind are now something like birds - their colourful clothes, which the crocodile did not understand, it interpreted as akin to feathers; the shouts and calls of the sailors blended in its mind with the cries of the gulls; their fishermen reminded it of seabirds stealing fish from beneath the waves.

The buildings were a mystery to it and what it comprehends of architecture, it thinks of as a sort of endless jumble of hive-like mounds endlessly repeating, a fractal structure that a human would recognise as a never-ending repetition of canals, domes, quaysides, towers, apartments...a city with no end, but a city with no rhyme or reason. A chaotic mess crawling with half-birds burrowing in and out of its labyrinthine and meaningless doorways, windows, hallways and alleys. A bewildering pseudo-settlement, an Escherian nightmare, which looks as thought it has all the things a city has and has none of them... yet also oddly and almost hideously beautiful, because if a crocodile is capable of feeling awe, it felt it studying that ancient city from afar.

[Art by Ken Brown, Unknown, Gurmukh Bhasin, Unknown, Gurmukh Bhasin again, James Gurney]


  1. Replies
    1. Cheers. I now have to think about how to make it gameable. That's the hard part.

  2. You made an entire campaign setting essentially out of random tables. You've got this.

  3. Love this. I don't know if you've ever seen/been to the parts of the Croatian coast which were themselves culturally/politically linked to Venice for a long time? Split, Zadar, Dubrovnik etc. Venetian vibe but very stripped back and all in this pale white stone that I think is very eerie and appropriate. Like cities carved from crocodile ivory -