Welcome to Hammetburg
Hammetburg is located in south Michigan, not too far from Chicago, so there has been some fallout from the gang wars that have taken place there in the past few decades, but generally Hammetburg is a typical, peaceful large town which has benefited from the far-sighted philanthropy of one of its founding families, the Vernes. The town as it stands now can be divided into 5 districts; the Old Town, Little Sicily, Chinatown, the University district and the suburb of Viridian.
The Old Town is the centre of modern Hammetburg and contains some of its oldest buildings, as well as being home to the offices of the Mayor and the other vital city services; here you will find the Town Hall where Mayor Max Grogan counts the money from his various alleged deals with organised crime and looks out over his domain, his view starting with Juliet Park, named after Arthur Verne's wife; opposite the park, facing the town hall, is a shopping precinct consisting of numerous high class stores with all types of luxuries and modern goods for sale. On the east side of Juliet Park is the Precinct House, home to Hammetburg's permanent police force, overseen by the fearsomely notorious Commissioner Daniel Tipton who regards the town with a fierce sense of ownership and, in one of Arthur Verne's legendary pieces of town planning, the Fire House is just one block further south, opposite the upmarket shopping mall. Over on the west side of Juliet is the cultural heart of Hammetburg, with the Museum of Antiquities & Curiosities overseen by its curator, Dr. Michael Connery and mainly featuring the displays of curios gathered in his world travels; the Public Library with the stern but fiery Margaret Sole acting as its guardian; and the relatively recent Lumiere Theatre, a cinema which has installed itself in the run-down and neglected Masquerade theatre & opera house, though rumours speak of a haunting in the old building. North-west of Juliet is the business centre of Hammetburg, with some of the more modern buildings located on the old slum district; these include the new offices of the Hammetburg Financial, the town's premiere bank and centre of the web of power & money controlled by James Caine, as well as a variety of insurers, stock-brokers, attorneys, accountants and other professionals. The other areas around Juliet are all residential with some local commerce, e.g. grocers, butchers, bakers, mechanics and so on.
To the North-West of the Old Town is the settlement popularly known as Little Sicily; there is no clear delineation as to where one ends and the other begins, but there is no doubt in anyone's mind that the two are distinct. Somewhere in the approximate centre, anyway, is the famous Sal's, an eatery with two faces; facing the Old Town is the Salvoldelli Ristorante, a high class restaurant serving the best of Italian & Mediterranean cuisine; behind this and facing the opposite way is Sal's Diner, a typical fast food joint serving quick & easy meals to customers in a hurry or on a budget. The whole establishment is the work of Ramondo Salvoldelli, restauranteur, chef and businessman: though you wouldn't ever want to say this in Little Sicily, someone in Sal's position couldn't have got to where he is without the consent of the crime families who are 'rumoured' (i.e. its officially denied but everybody knows it anyway) to run this section of the town.
A rather more down-to-earth form of culture has also found its home in Little Sicily, with the modern Hammetburg Playhouse putting on a variety of contemporary comedies & dramas, as well as musicals, under the direction of its actor-manager Patrick Connery; predictably, common sports are enjoyed here too, at either the Roman Racetrack, also the stables of the racing magnate Giuseppe 'Fast Joe' Porcellato, or the equally popular Vesuvius Lounge, a tacky neon bowling alley & amusement arcade with some novel attractions, though you might be hard pressed to get in here most days and the owner, Dominic Schelli, often speaks about expanding by buying out the quaint little old second-hand goods & pawnbrokers next door, but so far Papa Marco has turned down even the most generous offer that Dominic has made him. For those seeking more 'adult' diversions, there are reckoned to be more bars and clubs per head of population in this district than anywhere else in the town, not to mention places like Scarlet's Rest, where 'tired' gentleman may find a bed, but not much sleep, and good company that charges by the hour, all under the watchful eyes of Madame Scarlet, ageless and voluptuous owner of this fine establishment, which boasts some of the prettiest girls in the city; how she does it is Madam Scarlet's secret.
Due South of Little Sicily, and therefore South-West of the Old Town, is the area settled by the many hundreds of oriental immigrants and their descendants since the great rail-building era of the old west; it has been said by some historians that the area now occupied by Hammetburg was nothing more than a labour camp and that old man Verne just got the rail-builders onto town building by the simple expedient of telling them that they could build his town or get off his land; most of the residents of the Old Town deny this version of events vehemently, whereas some of the more venerable residents of Chinatown are said to know a secret or two about the town's origins, but they would never share this knowledge with anyone of Western extraction.
By one of those strange quirks of civil development and expansion, the St. Jude Cathedral is right on the edge of Chinatown and is taken by many to represent the boundary between this district and the Old Town; Bishop Sidney Mc Adam simply regards all in the town as his flock, regardless of where they live or who their parents were, though lately there have been several vandal incidents on the premises. Occupying the opposite side of the street from the cathedral is the enormous Ling Laundromat, taking up almost a whole block and offering all types of laundry, dry-cleaning, clothes mending and tailoring to suit every pocket. You will very rarely find Xie Luo-shan, the owner, on the premises, however, as he prefers to run much of the business from his permanent seat at the gaming tables of the Golden Gate Casino, where his good friend Yu Chang keeps the drinks coming and extends credit to his best customer.
Chinatown is also home to much light manufacturing and craftwork, so this is the place to come for jewellery, fine clothes, ornaments, musical instruments and even precision scientific devices; there is a darker side too, however, with whispers of trade in stolen antiques, illegal substances and even the superstitious practice of black magic! Behind all these rumours floats the intangible presence of the Emperor Black Dragon, a mysterious figure whose only visible manifestation is the Black Dragon Gang, a group of criminals who carry out the orders of their Emperor; if the Emperor exists, then he is either a being of potent arcane power or a very clever criminal mastermind, adept at misdirection and subterfuge… or possibly both! On the other hand, if you're simply tired of the Italian fare at Sal's, then why not come to the Jasmine Garden, an exquisite Chinese restaurant owned by Tan Ho and employing the finest oriental chefs in town.
Due East of the Old Town, the University District begins, dominated by the Hammetburg Institute of Advanced Studies, founded by Julian Verne, the son of Juliet & Arthur Verne and following in their tradition of futurology, the University encourages an interest in forward thinking in all areas of human endeavour, including physics, engineering, medicine and even the arts; the head of the Physical Sciences Faculty is Dr. Walter Franklin, an eccentric but brilliant tinkerer; heading up the Medicine & Social Science Faculty is Dr. Vanessa Stark, who also uses the closely-located Hammetburg General Hospital for her teaching; the Art Faculty is the purview of Trevor Saunders, who is deeply entrenched in a campaign to return the Masquerade theatre to its former glory and oust the 'philistine' cinema. The Director of the Institute is Paul Verne, grandson of the town's founders and comfortable in his sinecure position, though often criticised for having none of the flair & vision of previous generations of his family.
When Dr. Stark isn't bullying her way around the hospital, it falls under the responsibility of Dr. Jonathan Black and the two doctors are infamous around the hospital for their frequent & acerbic clashes over procedure and treatment. Nestled between the hospital and university is the home of KHBU, the local radio station, owned by a partnership of Martin Reubish and Samuel Goldfarb, though the melodious Voice of KHBU is Reginald Clayman; also of interest in the media arena, the Hammetburg Torch makes its home in this district and provides daily news about happenings in the town and beyond, with many of the front page headlines dreamt up by Dan 'The Scoop' Prentiss, though the paper's owner, Graham Mason, has been known to stamp down hard on The Scoop's more ambitious stories.
Even visionary philanthropists have their off days and Arthur Verne's greatest error of judgement was the founding of Viridian, a suburb of Hammetburg that was intended to provide a rural idyll to contrast with the bustling metropolis next door; Verne called it 'Viridian', likening it to a green jewel of unsurpassed beauty, but the only green you are likely to find in Viridian these days is toxic waste. This suburb has become a dumping ground for all the things that no-one wants to live next to; heavy industry dominates the skyline, belching out noxious clouds of pollution, and the residents of its once beautiful streets are the lowest of the low. Little Sicily & Chinatown may have their seedy sides, but even those have a certain elegance, a touch of respectability, honour & class; Viridian is populated by the utter dregs of society, the desperate losers, the poor & destitute, those on their way down to the bottom of the heap or who were born there and never got any higher. Life is short and brutal and the biggest employers are the very industries who make the district so toxically unliveable; most prominent amongst these is Polytex Chemicals, a refiner of various petrochemical products and producer of industrial grade chemicals, directed by Gregor Stanislav, a hard nosed and pragmatic businessman.
Viridian's other major 'landmark' is the Hammetburg High Security Medical Detention Facility, which is both a local jail and a state-wide holding area for some of the most dangerous criminals & lunatics in the country; the prison governor, Hugh Gaines, is an ex-military man who fought in the Great War and many of his ideas are somewhat old-fashioned, but much of the day to day running of the facility is in the hands of Charlie Seward, the chief warder. The 'medical' side of the facility is handled by Dr. Mark Irons, a young but experienced psychotherapist who has hopes of rehabilitating some of the patients in his care, but to the rest of the town, this part of the facility is a giant freak show full of murderers and deviants who would be better off put out of their misery; some of the more infamous residents include Dr. Heinz Muller a.k.a. Professor Stormcloud, a genius whose obsession with controlling the power of lightning drove him into a life of crime; John Dow a.k.a. the Zombie, a man so traumatised by his childhood that he became susceptible to any form of command and was a willing accomplice to some horrific crimes, made worse by his penchant for taking a bite from his victims; and last but not least, the Bug, real name unknown, who Dr. Irons has established was sold to a circus side-show because of his hideously deformed extra limbs and eventually became the criminal genius he is today after his rejection by society drove him over the edge.
If you're visiting Viridian, be sure to avoid the Dump; surprisingly, even an area as depressed as this has its cast offs and drop outs and they have all gravitated here. A crude shanty town can be found around the edges of a natural depression where the local industries dump their waste products and the garbage collected from Hammetburg is buried in huge, noxious landfills; it is said that those who make enemies in Little Sicily or Chinatown also end up here as part of the detritus. There are rumours of a vigilante who patrols this most loathsome of all parts of the town, but opinion is divided over whether he protects the residents from outsiders or is in fact just another shadowy crime figure who has set up business here; those who speak of him call him The Ragman but none have claimed to have seen him, though 'The Scoop' swears he is hot on the trail.