Maltese is a melting pot where many things change constantly, but a few things seem to resist the change and remain. Overall the city is diverse with a mixture of species, wealth, and technology that can be seen with a casual glance. The undercurrents include various political and gang activities in a constant battle to gain more control and influence. As the meeting of 34 local nations in addition to one of the busiest space ports there are plenty of cultures to clash and mingle.
The gangs vary in size with most being between five and a hundred members and those who survive the collapse of one gang often join or form others. The most common gang is the street gang which centers around a particular area or business it declares as its turf and harasses or robs from those in the area. The next most common is the go-gang or bouzouki who revolve around a set of vehicles and either engage in banditry or street racing, often both. Ghoul gangs are the most despised as they often engage in murder for body parts or slavery. Thrill gangs tend to be short lived, but are often violent and destructive with wiz-bang gangs being the most frightening as they are thrill gangs made up of wizards. Any gang, even a non-criminal group, can be labeled a poser gang if they follow a common theme such as dressing like cowboys or clowns.
Organized syndicates are generally more subtle, but harder to get away from than gangs. The Market is a well known shadowy organization that sells nearly anything and has gangs of acquisition experts to help find those items not for sale or too hard to come by legitimately most believe the mastermind of the Market is a Relobian. The Carnival is rumored to deal in all kinds of nefarious activities including demon creation and assassination and the known leader is a poser known as The Joker. Kingpin is a Tinagian who operates a variety of businesses and is rumored to practice extortion and assassination as well. The Gold Dragon Triad headquarters is in Norgrad, but it is assumed the leader is human. The Murau Yakuza is lead by a combination native Murau and humans. The Salvatore Family mafia is based out of Valence. The Bureau is a Rolatian Syndicate. The Division is a conglomorate crime syndicate based out of several corporations primarily in Nemar. The Sicarii are based in Abara. The Labyrinth is a Bognian syndicate in which the leader is declared the Goblin King. The Cabal is the Reyal Syndicate. Nearly all the syndicates and probably many of the corporations practice slavery to some extent, often kidnapping and then using torture, drugs, magic, or cybernetics to keep the slaves in line. Robots are cheaper for menial labor, but slaves can do creative work or possibly even magic.
Corporations are rarely less criminal in action than the syndicates, but put on a more polished public image. The law really has no meaning for the corporations although a bad reputation can cause a loss of sales so most operate their own media outlets and pay the neutral stations to give them good press if they can’t be controlled or destroyed.
Government is almost nonfunctional in Maltese with the Oligarchy rule there is a counsel with members all controlled by various corporate or syndicate interests who bicker and pass meaningless laws while affecting no real change. The level of corruption in the government is obvious to all but the most oblivious, however publicly speaking out against the system can be hazardous. In addition to the Metro Counsel in charge of overall city management there are smaller district governments usually with a mayor and city counsel, although some are other forms of government representing the nation of the district’s origin or the newer population which may now differ or even answer to a syndicate boss.
Police and Military forces often blur jurisdictions with conflicts erupting on occasions as both forces are rife with corruption and may be working for different factions in the same territory. Generally anything internal to the city is police business and any external threat is military business, but with most resident originating from another dimension the lines get blurred even for an honest person. In addition to the police and military conflict the police are divided into Metro and Local jurisdictions. The Metro police have jurisdiction over all the city and its surroundings while local police work within a specific district.
Small business is at the mercy of the gangs and corporations who prey upon them relentlessly. Some pay tribute to the syndicates for protection and if they are lucky the syndicates may occasionally hold up their end of the deal. Still there are those who manage to establish a small business and eke out a living in spite of the danger.
Vigilante enforcers who work alone or in groups can be just as nasty as the gangs, but often tell themselves they are perpetuating justice. Some organize into rather large groups or form alliances with others remaining lone wolf or falling into the gangs and syndicates they started out to stop. The Militia is the most well known vigilante organization and often backs the military when something really nasty crawls out of the lake or an alien invasion drops in from space.
Mercenaries are similar to vigilantes with the exception that they get hired to do the work acting as anything from private detectives and bodyguards to assassins and thieves for hire they rarely remain loyal to a single employer and most often expire soon after a big job against one of the corporations or syndicates.
Falling between Mercenary and vigilante is the Oracle group, basically a well intentioned group that tries to save the city from internal and external threats. Oracle agents may serve as crime fighters, private detectives, or monster hunters and never really know what to expect from one assignment to the next. Oracle agents are encouraged to work with the police and within the law as much as possible. Oracle tries to fill in where the police can’t and are often contacted by those who feel the police have failed or who are scared to go to the police. Oracle won’t always get involved, but doesn’t charge for their services if they do.
Movement throughout the city districts is generally considered safe if a traveler sticks to the main thoroughfares where the brightly lit streets and wide avenues are kept cleanest and most inviting. Generally the further a person ventures off of the main roads the more the true character of the district shows and the influence of gangs and syndicates becomes obvious. Generally true slums aren’t found within a kilometer of a main road, but in some of the more violent districts gang activity can sometimes spill out into the touristy areas.
There are many forms of entertainment in Maltese including bars, casinos, reenactments, concerts, theater, strip clubs, brothels, gladiatorial fighting, racing, ball sports, marksmanship, magic duels, fencing, beast riding, swimming, sailing, illusion parlors, brain-dance, carnival, circus, museum, library, lightsaber duels, and parks. Due to the availability of cloning technology death sports have surged in popularity as heroes can generally return to the sport within a couple weeks if a clone body is prepped before they die.
The world of New Malta is about the size of Earth and like Earth has a single moon with a yellow sun which made it ideal for colonization. What didn’t make it so ideal for colonization was the thirty plus native species who had established nations even though their technology was quite primitive by earth standards. The decision was made to colonize the planet anyhow and the local commanders thought it would be easy to suppress any primitive uprisings.
The primitive natives turned out to be quite adept at magic which was more effective than the original commanders thought, but with millions of colonists already on the way those taking over the messy occupational forces had to figure out a way to force the natives into an armistice on the colonist’s terms.
A bloody and costly conflict finally concluded when General Hammerstein sent messages to the native leaders that he had orders to render the planet uninhabitable if the colonies could not be established and demonstrated his resolve by dropping nuclear warheads on all the capital cities simultaneously from orbit. Within a month an uneasy peace settlement was reached and the United Nations diplomatic corps went to work trying to mend the damage the war had done.
A colonial city was set up in each nation with a central city called Maltese built on the remains of a native diplomatic trade city that had been named Elponistan. The city is made up of large islands bridging both the continents and the oceans of New Malta making it central in geography as well as politics in the world.
Some cities were well received and became very successful such as New Seattle in Rolatia. Other cities weren’t so luck, and one in particular now known as Shaky Town in Norgrad was completely depopulated and mostly destroyed. New Shanghai started out well like most of the other colonial cities, but some of the Norgradian warlords had not agreed with the armistice and secretly gathered an army of dragonriders to destroy the invaders. The attack started during the Chinese new year celebration and the local forces were overwhelmed. The attacks continued for weeks while the locals evacuated and more United Nations security forces were brought in to back up the Colonial defense forces already engaged. The Norgradian warlords were eventually routed and the survivors imprisoned with a victory declared by the UN forces, however the damage was so severe and so many predatory creatures had moved into the ruins that the city was abandoned and has become a rally point for those with anti-colonial feelings.
In addition to the locals the colonials had to defend the new territory from other expansionist cultures in space. Long after the battle of New Shanghai an invasion force of Vulcarth entered the system. The war with the Vulcarth in space lasted less than a year, but one of the giant battle spheres managed to land in Scrovia less than a thousand miles from New Lago and proved nearly immune to bombardment. The outer shell was eventually breached by heavy bombing but the Vulcarth presence has never been eliminated. It is assumed they have extensive underground facilities which combined with the generally violent and uncooperative nature of the native Scrovians seriously hinders the continuing efforts to eliminate the Vulcarth threat.
Maltese is far from the war and while it shows up in the news it isn’t part of the daily life for those without family in the military. Within Maltese the politicians, criminals, and corporations are the main threat people face on a daily basis. There are several crime syndicates operating in Maltese and occasionally battling one another openly for dominance, though most of the time they keep their wars quiet to avoid the wrong kind of attention. Corrupt politicians on the payroll of both criminal syndicates and heartless corporations pass laws that make life harder than it needs to be on the average citizen. The corporations serve only their own greed and likely commit more crimes than the criminal syndicates although they have teams of high priced lawyers and pay off politicians and news agencies to make their crimes look legal.
The outlook for citizens of Maltese is not completely distopian though, many things are legal and even the middle class can afford immortality. Even before the colonists came to New Malta they had discovered ways to force grow clones to make rejection free organ donors, but with the help of native magic they are able to recall a departed soul into a clone and bring a person back from death. The process is actually quite affordable at five thousand credits and allows anyone of means to live for as long as they choose. The body must be that of the soul, so no body swapping, and the soul can only occupy one body at a time. Most wealthy and high risk professionals keep a body or two in stasis as it takes eight months to grow one from a tissue sample. In addition to the potential for eternal life medical care is inexpensive and you can look like whatever you want. A mild body sculpt is only a hundred credits and will make the subject look exactly like they want as long as they stay the same or a very similar species, but if you want to have different hair, skin, eyes, rippling muscles, and be a little taller it’s a simple and mostly painless procedure. More money can do more things, real wings that allow you to fly, functional gills and webbed feet for living under the ocean, even the ability to regenerate lost limbs naturally can be acquired for the right price.
Maltese is a metropolis made up of thirty three land districts and some underwater areas. Each district has its own city government as well as a representative on the Metro Counsel. The police are set up in similar fashion with local police handling street crimes and other local problems while the Metro Police act more like the FBI stepping in for bigger crimes and cross jurisdictional problems. Many of the local police forces are mostly if not completely corrupted by the corporations and crime syndicates while the Metro Police tend to be less corrupted in general. Police are still limited by laws, but have more leniency in using force as they must contend with beings that have supernatural abilities. One of the difficult problems in dealing with Syndicate members is their willingness to commit suicide rather than get caught expecting their crime bosses will clone them if they show loyalty. Another problem for the police is dealing with vigilante forces, particularly the posers.
Posers are people who have chosen to emulate a style or character from history or fiction. The origin is likely in comic convention cosplay, but with highly developed body sculpting, genetics, and alchemy there are people who never get out of character. The 501st corporation is an example of a successful business built entirely on the industry by bringing item that appeared in the Star Wars films into reality, not just Stormtrooper costumes, but fully functional body armor complete with a working beam pistol. Some posers are quite harmless and others are dangerous or a menace to society. Police not only have to deal with the criminally minded, but also the civic minded but misguided such as the constant stream of batman posers that get killed trying to capture or eliminate the Joker in the carnival district or the corporate mogul who decided to get transformed into a real life superman.
The game is set approximately 100 years after Maltese was established.