What's this all about?
The British Isles
Cost of Living Allowance
Places of Interest
This short document is a rough outline of the setting that our Dark Age games take place in. It's not supposed to be the definitive setting - so if you don't like it, make your own up. Inspiration for parts of the work come direct from the gaming group, myself and Steve (another GM). I would also suggest you look at works by Peter Hamilton's Mind Star Rising (Lincolnshire & Peterborough), Jeff Noon's Vurt, Pollen & Nymphomation (for Manchester) and Ken McLeod's The Star Fraction (London).
While some countries were not adversely affected by the Fall, the British Isles were not so lucky. Social upheaval, localised flooding, massive immigration problems and the coup and subsequent revolution have significantly altered Britian. The island is not that big and has a very dense population (some might say "bordering on the thick" but I won't) which has been compounded by the almost continual encroachment of the sea; the fall of the last government and poor management of the intrastructure and megacity growth. The Kingdom fell apart when the government was robbed of their power duing the military coup of the late 2000s. The subsequent revolution provided anyone who thought they were in with a chance to grab some power. Indeed, the on and off again Public/Private consortiums that the Government had put in continued to rise in strength. Many say this was inevitable given the investment some corporate authorities had put in. The result is a very large melting pot of various ideologies and political bodies in a fairly small space.
When the last of the military juntas fell, Britain was carved up by the rebels like the war-torn europe of the 1940s. Different armies and groups clambered to the top of the political pile to stamp their identity on each strip of land. After the Fall came the Struggle (don't you love media-isms?). The struggle has left the old county boundaries somewhat intact but with various factions at the helm. Some large cities were broken up into zones with different zones being held by different parties.
What follows is a rough breakdown of who is calling the shots in modern day Britian.
Not every local government opted in for private police forces and continued to provide funding for a local security force. To this end, many used their police to hang on to power preventing any private interest groups from taking a foot hold.
Most cities are council-run and they tow the GovCentral line fairly well. The key influences on a council's behaviour is the amount of money is has coming in: too many unemployed and services will suffer. You can't take care of everyone when the coffers are empty and you have to start making choices between not feeding the masses or letting up on funding for fire or police services...
A growing number of councils are taking company donations in the form of Social Allowance in which they sponsor a person's welfare. To this end the individual gets a weekly "cost of living allowance" (or COLA), a chance at being housed and they must vote regularly on the company's social policies. The company will then take these interests into consideration before passing it's block vote on to GovCentral/local council to push through candidates or motions that would benefit both the community and the corporation.
Communities & Urban Villages:
These are tight knit groups of people who share a common interest; namely religion, race, sexual orientation, lifestyle or such like. The communities vary from each other in that they tend to follow the laws that suit them. It's always a good idea to check what they do and don't permit before hauling your 2 tonne ex-swede military panzer down the highstreet.
For the most part these communities are similar to the councils - they are happy to be left alone and get on with life. Of course, any large group of people with a common ideal is bound to attract attention from people with a different point of view (just think of Northern Ireland). As a rule of thumb, communities tend to exist within large cities where they enjoy the protection of another (ie: the council or transnational). They don't tend to be particularly large, often two miles or so in size is typical.
Typical examples of communities are:
In many smaller towns you tend to get one company who employs a large amount of the local population. There are no hard and fast rules with company towns. They can be laid back and take little interest in deviating from the norm provided by the elected council, or they may decided to take an "active part" in the education and day to day life of the community - after all you will be working for the company at some point.
Some company towns take the line that you must work for the firm in order to qualify for housing or other services. Others are happy to let you live there so long as you pay for the privilege. Health services and local security tend to be better than council-run operations but do remember that you are using company property and they have the final say. As a rule of thumb a company apartment will be better than one from a GovCentral council area.
Not all company towns provide Social Allowance but some most do. If anything, the company town schemes are much more aggressive in their tactics to get you back to work - after all a cynic might argue what's the point in them buying your vote when they already own the town?
Well known examples of company towns include:
In the Country & Agricultural Zones
So with all this activity going on in the big megacity sprawls, what about the countryside? Isn't England supposed to be a picture postcard of rolling hills covered with green pastures? Well, maybe in the 1920s and even then I doubt it. Climatic change and a large population has pushed farming out of reach for small holdings (that's farmers to you and me). All farm land is owned by the large agricorps who grow their own crops (GM is standard nowadays - what else would survive?) ranging from simple wheats, bioplastics, clothing fabrics or bulk grassfeed for the breed beasts. You might see a few sheep and cattle under armed guard and surveillance but the price of real wool and leather is pretty scary (what, you though that biker jacket didn't come out of a vat? What century are you from?).
Small villages are pretty scarce now as they've been squeezed out of modern life. The police just can't devote the resources to keep crime down and the military let most of the old road system go to pot unless it was from one garrison town to another. The messed up weather brought droughts and again poor infrastructure made it impossible to deliver decent sanitation and clean water to remote households.
To this end, commuters moved back into the city (often to some corporate supervillage) and the lack of police meant it was often a free for all out in the sticks. Strangely, the roving clans don't mess about on agricorp land and GM protesters wear kevlar as standard. Those companies that provided Social Allowance have used some of their power to help preserve large tracts of woodland or quaint villages, normally before building a corporate retreat or offices there.
To this end the space between the big cities is not a place best ventured unless you really know what you're doing. The megacities keep an eye on perimeter security with either physical walls - large earth banks, rivers, physical walls or more commonly electronic survilance (more on that later) so again the undesireables make their homes in the gaps between the road of webs.
The big roads like the S1 (which has both roadway and enclosed bullet train tunnel) are fairly safe and are paid for through tolls and company licencing. Parts of the old M1 are okay but the areas away from major population centres can be very scary (the Pennine Pass is a bitch, what with the freak weather and wrecker gangs that live up there).
The coup didn't give the military any positive PR but they are vital to the survival of the UK - or so we're told. Garrison towns include His Majesty's forces as well as the growing corporate armies - or rather corporate security personnel.
These towns are much like the more paranoid company towns and personal freedom is a lot lower than in the cities. Curfews, ID checks and work registration programs are very common and you don't tend to get Social Allowance. Instead, you turn up at the COLA office and are told what you'll be doing that week in order to qualify for your payment.
As mentioned above the countryside can be a very dangerous place due to the virtual non-existant law enforcement and complete lack of surveillance systems. Long ago the big cities decided that they should try and monitor, and therefore control, the areas that they could and try and stop the rot where possible. Inner cities and sprawling estates could be problematic and indeed it was decided that it would be just too expensive to try and bring order back to some boroughs. Instead they walled them off with surveillance systems, high walls and in some cases, fire corridors.
These urban hellholes were dubbed "scrubs" due to the lack of decent buildings and almost continual rubble and scrub land. Scrubs range from burnt out industrial estates and polluted land to run down terraced housing from the first industrial revolution. Gangs roam the streets freely and you know you've hit rock bottom if you're living here. More to the point, I should say "existing here" as it's no life.
Company housing replaced the less than useful company car. Less than useful in the eyes of the bean counters away. What's the point travelling to work when you can telecommute? The very big companies began to subsidise building schemes on the condition that they had first refusal on locations. This gave them a fantastic chance to position shops, supermarkets and offices - or exclude their competitors from that area!
But what do you do with empty apartments when you move your business away from the area? You could sell them on but this would weaken your powerbase and you could be giving away valuable assets. The solution came as PowerNet offered a number of tenants lower rent if they agreed to only use PowerNet's products (whenever possible) and protect the company's interests (after all, occupied buildings were less likely to be nationalised by the government). The project continued to expand with the help of the military government who saw the potienital to cut social spending and housing projects. The media frenzy that followed did not put PowerNet in a good light but lots of people wanted to sign on the dotted line. Okay, so you sell out to the Company but they house you - it's a hell of a lot better than the shanty towns and curfew opressed housing estates.
With little or no income from taxes and no immediate central government to organise the system, the social welfare payments drew to a very slow crawl. The transnationals offered the public chance to live in company housing and a set weekly allowance in return for their customer loyality and here's the catch - their vote. The megacorps were buying political power but they maintained that everyone benefited. The public were housed and fed while they represented their customers to provide the best service they could (pressing for cuts in corporation tax from the European government would allow them to give more to their dependants). The local community benefited as they could house people in the now empty government apartments.
To receive COLA, or cost-of-living-allowance you need to be registered with the European government and have a valid citizen's identity card. You cannot be working for any other company and must vote on various topics during the day from your apartment or in some cases, from public voting booths. Besides heating and housing, a COLA beneficiary also gets about thirty dollars a week for food and other necessities. This amount varies due to a person's age and their "use" to a company. Children receive an amount through their parent(s) while older people may be called in as temps. The downside to all of this is that you live in corporate maintained apartments and they have the right to search your apartment at any time. They can kick you out if they catch you in any activity that breaks the contract you signed. Some contracts are tougher than others, but you want to live in a nice place and watch lots of 3D right?
Society is slowly getting used to the idea of COLA, but the long term effects are not yet known. Crime is on the rise but this is blamed on poor policing rather than the diet of dumb-downed video pushing products only the workers can afford. Schooling remains a problem, as why train to work when you can just sign on to the COLA? A two tier society is slowly forming - but then the older generations say that the haves and have-nots have always existed.