Wednesday, June 8, 2022

The Falling City

"The Falling City" is just one of several descriptive exonyms used by travelers and scholars. Others include Fallingrock, The Howling City, The Agglomerate, The Boulder, The Pebble, etc. None of them are especially clever, but all are true in part. For what it's worth, the city's denizens (commonly dubbed "fallers") merely call it "home", or "The City" at most.

The aforementioned rock is a collection of natural stone and mortal-made debris several kilomiles in diameter. It is approximately bullet-shaped, with a flattened top and tapering bottom. The "city" portion of the Falling City is located on the flattened top. The whole thing is held together by a small well of artificial gravity constantly maintained by the city's magic-users.

Without that, the City would be torn apart as it falls through the Chasm.

The Chasm is several times wider than the City, and by most accounts infinite in height. Most of the time it resembles an approximately circular rock tunnel, but it is known to deform into more jagged or esoteric shapes and materials at times. Rarely, it will widen out into massive vaults that offer strange and alien vistas before inevitably tapering back inward. Dim, ambient light comparable to an overcast day seems to suffuse the whole Chasm without source- nothing outside of the City casts a shadow.

It is unknown what, if anything created the Chasm, or if it even exists in a conventional sense.

The City perpetually falls through the Chasm at several times the terminal velocity it should be- what limited observations that can be made from the City suggest that its underside glows orange-hot from friction. The same blanket of spells that keeps the rock together also keeps a breathable atmosphere on top of the city, though the bubble is not thick enough to block out the low, constant howling of the wind whipping past the edges of the rock. Toward the middle of the rock it's little more than background static like any city has.

Under ideal conditions the City is stable and centered in the Chasm with no wobble, tilt, or rotation to its fall. As gashes and scrapes along the rock's flanks can attest, ideal conditions are not always met. Course correction requires immediate and immense effort on the part of all able spellcasters lest the City be dashed to pieces.

There is no way in or out of the Chasm—and by extension, the Falling City—except by way of teleportation spells (oftentimes a misfiring one, at that). The fact that it doesn't seem to connect to any other plane in the multiverse supports the argument that it is its own self-contained demiplane. Where on the "map" that is, is a mystery.

How it remained unknown by the larger multiversal community up until fairly recently suggests that the plane was either created recently, or is just very well hidden. This is reinforced by the fact that divine magic tends to fizzle out in the City- not even the gods seem to know where it is. Meanwhile, arcane and primal magic work more-or-less normally.

The citizens of the Falling City maintain that the City has been around for millennia at least, epochs at most.

Every neighborhood seems to have a different origin story for the City and the Chasm, influenced by local culture and history. Some believe that both have existed since before the dawn of time, and will continue to exist after all else has ended. Others maintain a small hero-cult dedicated to the original mages and geotheurges who either created the City and the Chasm or transported the City into the Chasm in order to save it from some impending disaster. Evidence for each is murky enough that many choose to believe whichever they fancy.

A Few Other City/Chasm Theories Include:

  • The Chasm is the intestine of a Cosmic Earthworm that devoured the City's world long ago. The day is eagerly awaited when the Worm excretes the City onto a paradise built on solid ground and/or midnight soil.
  • The Chasm is a very long circular loop that the City flies laps through. Glowing magical beacons are fired into the Chasm walls at intervals in the belief that someday the City will pass them by again and prove the theory true.
  • The City is the leftover pocket domain of a dead and forgotten god. The citizens are fated to reincarnate within it for all eternity until they achieve moksha.
  • The Chasm is actually an illusion projected around the perfectly ordinary City to keep its limits and its denizens imprisoned. Their jailors are an omniscient, vaguely malign conspiracy of NIMBY wizards and disgruntled suburban planners.
  • The Chasm is actually a one-dimensional string in the process of propagating itself into empty space to form a brand new universe, and the City is a proto-particle that will help form new matter there. There's more to the theory than that, but most people mentally check out here.
  • The City isn't falling down through the Chasm, the Chasm is flying up around the City, maaan.
  • The Chasm is not infinite in length at all, and in fact its end is coming up very, very soon.
  • Everyone in the City knows its history and the nature of the Chasm exactly, but refuse to give any details to outsiders because the mystique attracts tourists.
  • Once there were many cities and other islands of life falling through the Chasm. Now only the one City remains, and the council knows why.
  • All of these questions and more could be answered if one were to just ask the secretive natives hiding in the Chasm wall.
  • The City was once a piece of masonry connected to a "Bridge" before it broke off and slipped into the "Under". Whatever that means.

Whatever its origins or nature, the Falling City is surprisingly accommodating despite its eminently hostile locale. It is arranged in a roughly circular plan with a combination of wide-open common spaces and narrow streets with efficiently stacked buildings. Being unable to build outward, the city builds vertically to account for the slow upward crawl of its population, which is no more than a few thousand. High-rise buildings are cheap, but soundproofing them against the constant howl of the Chasm is not.

The city is divided up into a half-dozen districts, each of which has a seat on the council that gives the city its veneer of government. Since most citizens of the Falling City have at least enough magical talent to create matter from thin air and live self-sufficiently, there are few limited resources for a central government to justify itself by consolidating and (mis)managing. The council mainly exists to organize the will of its citizens to prevent or repair damage to the city, treat with visiting outsiders, and pass judgement on criminals.

There are two punishments used in the Falling City; community service, which is used for the vast majority of offenses and ranges greatly in length according to severity, and Unfettering.

Unfettering is quite simple: a group of the city's most talented mages stand in a circle around the condemned in an open space. The mages suppress the city's magical anchoring effect around the individual for several seconds; the individual then proceeds to exit the city limits in a very expedited fashion. A cleanup crew is typically kept on-hand, on the off-chance that anything is left of them afterward.

Unfettering is exceedingly rare, fortunately. It is meted out only by council consensus when an offender has been found guilty of premeditating grievous harm upon their fellow citizens, or threatening the integrity of the entire city- practically speaking, both charges are one and the same. No one has been intentionally ragdolled to bits upon the skyline in decades, and no outsider has ever been judged so, no matter how clueless or rude they can be.

And there have been many outsiders in the Falling City, ever since access was first accidentally gained during the Conjuration Crisis of █████████. Visitors are frequent, though few mortals stay long enough to acclimate to the extra atmospheres of pressure and the complete lack of a day-night cycle. The city tolerates these planar tourists and enjoys their business for the time being, so long as they can pay in magical curiosities not available in the Chasm.

Natives of the City don't much care to leave their home, meanwhile. They may visit other worlds and planes, but to date no fallers have voluntarily moved out of the City. It might be just a hunk of rock screaming through the abyss, but isn't that most people's homes at the end of the day?

Thanks to many tourists, a handy list of interesting places and sites to visit in the Falling City has been compiled. It is always expanding or shrinking according to whim. The current interesting sites include but are not limited to...

Visitor Center: An ornate, almost garishly decorated building quite at odds with its neighbors, located centrally in the City in order to attract even the shortest of adventurer attention spans. It is what the sign says in a dozen-and-a-half languages (the length of which is growing every week); City Visiting Center: Planar Visitors Please Register Within! Within, a large lobby plays host to staff offering local resources to outsiders or educating them on the finer points of city law and culture. A small group of abjuration and conjuration specialists nicknamed the Shunters also stands by to protect citizens and visitors both from any hazards of planar travel. They're the closest thing to cops the Falling City will tolerate having.

City Hall: Unlike the Visitor's Center, most outsiders can't find this place for the life of them without direction, and some citizens are even prone to forgetting its location. Not because it's hidden in any way, but because of how utterly unremarkable the building is. Only the crowd that gathers outside of it in anticipation of important or potentially amusing meetings is any indication that this is the seat of government in the Falling City.

Tiriyab's Twirls: An experimental entertainment house that operates within a warded zone of partially weakened tethering. This allows anyone inside to move around in a low- or even zero-gravity environment. Games, performances, and drinking abound. The different open-air levels of the establishment are serviced by "twirls", rotating rings that function like lifts or conveyor belts. All of this is overseen by the eponymous Tiriyab, who is otherwise known for perfecting (and closely guarding the secret to) an at-will short-range teleportation spell which they use to navigate their business quickly. A recent arrival in the city, a former contortionist and thief-acrobat, seeks to earn permanent residence and work as a performer under Tiriyab (and perhaps also steal the spell).

The Spiral: An access tunnel that winds down into the rock from the surface like a massive corkscrew. It houses a modest undercity that mainly services the ever-rotating staff of magic-users tasked with maintaining the integrity of the rock by channeling power straight into its floors and walls. It's also a pleasant little getaway from the (admittedly already pretty subdued) hustle and bustle of the city's surface. The tunnel supposedly goes all the way down to the "tip" of the rock, but the temperature is so high down there that none but the most skilled magic-users ever visit, and even then it's only to make sure nothing is melting or harboring unexpected trouble.

Beloveds' Embrace: One of the small shrines dedicated to honoring some of the hypothesized founders of the Falling City; in this instance, the magical power couple known as Quy & Hnah. As the legend goes, when the arcanist and the geomancer married, they also wedded their arcane and earth magic together. This formed a potent mix that allowed them to raise and build whole continents in the mythic time before the Chasm, and ultimately led to the founding of the City. The shrine's votaries keep an extensive canon of Quy & Hnah's adventures for the public, mostly told in the form of parables on ethics, magical practice, and healthy partnerships. The shrine gets slightly more traffic than normal these days, after a popular albeit shallow and trend-chasing travelogue author mistakenly identified Quy & Hnah as the gods of the Falling City. Visitors typically leave the quaint little street-side alcove feeling slightly underwhelmed. A visiting cleric—exceptionally rare in the void of divine energy that is the Falling City—has recently arrived on what they claim is a sacred mission to preach about Quy & Hnah abroad. The shrine keepers are... perplexed by this.

"Wobblespike": A tower that has the dubious honor of being the tallest point in the City. Gravity is weaker and the atmosphere is thinner here. Unique within the Falling City's architecture, it is made primarily of metal. This allows the tower to bend slightly with the windy Chasm turbulence it is exposed to, rather than just breaking apart. Hence the somewhat silly nickname. The lower levels see small amounts of mixed use, while the top only ever has a motley assortment of researchers and/or diviners trying to learn more about the Chasm from that vantage point. An air elemental in a copper suit has recently taken up temporary residence on the roof, where they "record" the wind with the aid of a strange metal rod.

The Antiquarium: A shop that began as a modest establishment for hobbyists who collected and traded interesting minor magical items. Since the arrival of the first planar visitors, it has become a growing hub of people seeking grander and less cozy acquisitions. Up to this point all dealings and visitors have been peaceful, but the neighborhood around the Antiquarium grows antsy about the increasing numbers of traditional enemies and opposingly aligned outsiders, not to mention all the magic weapons and dangerous wands. The matter—as well as whether or not to post a few Shunters in the area— is soon to be brought to the City Council.

How Disenchanting: Much like the Antiquarium, this place unexpectedly earned a whole new life as more planar travelers trickled in. What began as a municipal box with a slot on the front for recycling magical junk has evolved into a thriving city-owned business. Adventurers, it turns out, tend to hoard literal tons of stuff in those Bags of Holding and Portable Holes of theirs. Many of them will gladly pay a small processing fee to have their old magic items broken down into raw magical extract, useful for spell components or item creation. The Falling City keeps a percentage too, of course.

The Meander: Vegetation and "wildlife" are present all throughout the Falling City, in private gardens and on more hospitable streets. But to get a taste of true envelopment in nature, most fallers take a stroll through this large park and garden. Named for its winding pathways, this park holds several plant and animal species unknown elsewhere in the multiverse, lit up and sustained by small artificial suns that lazily float through the groves. Since they can't survive in the Chasm, scholars theorize that they were originally taken from another world that has since been destroyed, or perhaps they were bred from wizard experiments like so many other monstrosities. A druid(?) who calls themself the High Orinthologue is squatting studying the local bird genera here.

The Scrape: Once upon a time during a particularly deadlocked and petty disagreement between districts, the City drifted slightly off course and struck an unexpectedly large protuberance from the Chasm wall. It cleaved off a chunk of the City's rim, taking streets and city blocks as well as all their occupants with it. It was the largest disaster ever recorded in the history of the Falling City. The site has since been reinforced to prevent erosion, but much of the visible damage has not been touched since that day. This shell of a neighborhood long-gone has had a memorial statue installed on its outskirts as a reminder of what can happen when the survival of the City is taken for granted.


  1. If the city is infinitely falling, people might extract infinite energy from the heated part of the Boulder / winds / endless kinetic energy if they discover material able to withstand high temperatures/friction (but in fantasy universe some kind of stygian adamantium or another is not a rarity, so it is quite possible)
    What the land around the Chasm looks like?

    1. Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner!

      Harnessing infinite energy is definitely something that they could do, if they so chose and had a reason to. Though, since most everyone in the city already has access to a good deal of utilitarian magic, the demand for external power sources is probably low. It'd take a couple of visionaries with a wild new project and a lot of convincing for the city to take a crack at it. That's an adventure hook right there.

      There is no land around the Chasm as far as anyone knows. It might be infinite rock (which is why it's so frustrating to people who theorize it's located in the Elemental Plane of Earth but just can't prove it). It might also be nothing, like going out of bounds in a video game and finding an empty void beyond the glitchy level geometry.

    2. Even if the people of the city don't need an infinite energy, somebody else might, and it might be the source of the tension or attempt at conquest, as another adventure seed.

      I have difficulty imagining Chasm then. Is Chasm just a rock tube in a void through which the city is endlessly falling?

    3. That's another good idea!
      And the Chasm as I imagined it is more-or-less a tunnel through rock. It can be tube-shaped, but not always. Sometimes it is more angular. Sometimes it narrows or widens out or becomes highly irregular, with all the hostile jaggedness of a deep cavern being spelunked for the first time.