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Bedlam City


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Well - I wouldn't want it anywhere near Freedom City proper, otherwise our heroes look like chumps for not rolling in and cleaning up the place. It's a relatively small city, far away from anywhere, and just not important enough for them to clean up. At least, not important enough if you don't live there live there. 


I'd want to dial back Bedlam's awfulness a _bit_ - but not much, since it's supposed to be a hellhole. 


Fundamentally, Bedlam is a place to run games where your heroes are vigilantes fighting outside the system. Everything is broken - and fixing it needs heroes. 


Location-wise, Nick, that's all left up to you the GM. It could be an Atlantic port, it could be on the lakes. 


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6 hours ago, Heritage said:

I'd vote to make it Milwaukee-ish, with North pointing to the right of the map, placing the city on the North and South shores of a river feeding into Lake Michigan.


That makes sense to me. If you make it an offshoot of Milwaukee, then you can rotate the map between ninety and one hundred & thirty-five degrees and have it feed into Lake Michigan. If you put it near St. Louis, then the map stands as is and the city feeds into the Mississippi.

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So I've been lurking for a long while, and this may be the thing that gets me to stop. I've owned Bedlam City for years, and I love the setting to death. I'd love to see it here.


I'd be the first to agree that Bedlam has terrible adventures (and I'd add that many of the villains aren't worth much, either). What's fantastic are the adventure seeds, the descriptions of districts and businesses, the NPC relationships, and the dark secrets and conspiracies. It's a great city for vigilantes and mystics, with intricate descriptions of organized crime and dark magic alike. Where Freedom City is in the odd position of being the bright, shining city of tomorrow while also somehow having a seedy underbelly for the local street level heroes, Bedlam is a city so broken that street level heroes will never run out of things to do.


You don't know me yet, and I don't want to presume too much, but I'm tremendously excited that Bedlam might become an option here. As such, I've written up a draft guidebook page as thoughts to get the ball rolling. Just drafts; I'm happy to change anything and everything, including scrapping the lot if I've overstepped. If all goes well, I'll see about doing one for Bedlam's organized crime factions.


I've placed Bedlam on top of the small city of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, between Milwaukee and Green Bay. It'd be easy to move it, though. Let me know what you think.




Bedlam City, Wisconsin


Bedlam City is an infamous urban area of 270,000 people located along I-41 between Milwaukee and Green Bay, Wisconsin. It's roughly in the middle of the two cities, about 55 miles from each and 60 miles east of Oshkosh (though you have to skirt Lake Winnebago to go that way). The city sits at the mouth of the Manitowoc River, with a harbor that opens onto Lake Michigan. Once a thriving industrial city, it suffered a complete economic collapse in the last half-century that turned it into one of the United States's poorest, most crime-ridden metropolitan areas.





Bedlam City was founded in 1830 by Zebediah Scarlett, an evangelist riding the fervor of the Second Great Awakening, as a religious retreat away from the evils of the world. Unfortunately, he himself was a man of worldly evil; in his opium-fueled haze, he did not even register that that there was a difference between "Bedlam" and his intended name for the city, "Bethlehem". He certainly did not care that the land he had chosen to settle on belonged to the Potowatami Native Americans, and was instrumental in forcing the 1833 Treaty of Chicago which forced the tribe to relocate west of Lake Winnebago.


Although Scarlett's vices and dubious control over his cult following soon led to his death, he'd managed to do one thing correctly: Bedlam City had been founded in an excellent location for growth and prosperity. Several prominent families took control of the township after his demise and transformed it from a religious retreat into a thriving commercial center that grew along with Milwaukee to the south. During the Civil War, the city had the odd distinction of hosting perhaps the only substantial anti-abolition group in the entire overwhelmingly pro-Union state: the Phantom Empire. The Phantom Emperor, however, was killed by an angry mob in 1863.


At the turn of the twentieth century, large numbers of Polish and Italian immigrants came to Bedlam to work in its two major industries: meat and manufacturing. In response, an ugly outpouring of nativism resurrected the Phantom Empire, leading to anti-immigrant protests and violence. Many newcomers banded together for protection, laying the groundwork for what would become Bedlam's mafia families. Local racism got worse when, in 1917, many African-Americans arrived from the South in order to fill the factory jobs left vacant by the U.S. entry into World War I. They earned an extremely hostile reception.


As a result of the racist perception that Bedlam's jobs were being taken away by undesirables, the Phantom Empire gained so much strength that it effectively ran the city government in the early twenties, making it a dark time for minorities. Ironically, it was prohibition that put a stop to their influence. Liquor rackets enriched and empowered the Mafia families so much that they were able to challenge the Irish gangs that had traditionally dominated the local underworld and win. This made them powerful enough to openly stand up to the Phantom Empire, which quietly faded away over the next decade.


Bedlam City weathered the Great Depression well, and in the era of colorful gangsters that followed the legendary lawman Sammy "Snap-Brim" Hammer, his gadget-equipped "Flying Squad", and the deadly vigilante The Scorpion put a serious dent in the city's criminal element. A pro-Nazi group known as "Derr Bluttbanner" briefly menaced the city, and was rumored to contain many former members of the Phantom Empire, but Sammy Hammer ultimately foiled their plans. During the 50's postwar boom, Bedlam was at its height: a strong manufacturing center with a fairly low crime rate. Then it all fell apart.


By 1960, Bedlam's heyday was over. Economic stagnation and worsening race relations began to tear the city apart. In the 60's and 70's the area turned into a civil rights nightmare as national guard troops brutally suppressed race riots, causing serious damage to downtown. Things got even worse as the mob families went to war and a mysterious serial killer known as Capricorn began to stalk the streets. The hero Clayton Stone, also known as Black Anvil, rose up to protect the people as best he could, while the so-called "Hammer of Justice" began to protect white folks and menace everyone else.


The crack boom of the late 80's was a knockout punch, and the murder of Clayton Stone (probably on the orders of his own brother, a notorious crime lord) was the follow-up. Bedlam never really recovered from the wave of crime and economic depression that followed. A redevelopment commission organized to revitalize the city instead wasted most of its remaining resources on projects that fell through, including a super-team called "Justice Xtreem" that collapsed on its first mission and left everyone in Bedlam with a bad taste in their mouths when they think about so-called superheroes.


Over the last fifteen years, just about everyone has given up on Bedlam as a place that can be saved - or even is worth saving. Carved up by street gangs and organized crime, run by utterly corrupt officials and "protected" by an equally corrupt police department, the city is a place of little hope. Still, a few big employers linger in the area, and on the outskirts of town certain districts are experiencing actual economic growth. Whether these small movements forward will mark a chance at a new dawn for Bedlam or all fall to ruin as they always have before remains to be seen.



Vital Statistics


The "City of Now", as the redevelopment commission branded it, is home to about 270,000 people, almost 26% of whom live below the poverty line. The unemployment rate sits at 12%, two and half times the national average. It's likely to keep going up; most of the city's major employers have been engaging in rounds of layoffs. The crime rate varies between 1 in 100 downtown to 1 in 20 out in the abandoned, smog-choked Country Club district. That means about 240 felonies and 870 misdemeanors every week, which is unsurprising given that police response times vary between 15 and 30 minutes in most districts.


Every year Bedlam City makes it into the bottom twenty urban areas in America for these statistics, and often into the bottom five or ten.


The city is extremely racially diverse, but also extremely divided. People of English and German descent are the old blood. If they have money, the stick to the outskirts of the city: Greely Point and the suburb of Stone Ridge. Otherwise they're probably in with the working-class Italians, Irish, and Poles in Stark Hill, which is somewhat run down but has virtually no street crime; this is the domain of the Mafia, and you hustle here at your peril. Wolverton is mostly African-American, run down and with gang problems, but people mostly do own their own homes. Hardwick Park is mostly Hispanic, with more vibrant businesses but brutal landlords.


Smaller communities of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Greeks, Serbs, Croats, and other cultures dot the edges of the districts.





Bedlam City's biggest employers are along the Lake Michigan waterfront: the Rook Island Shipping Terminal and the Greely Points Docks. Rook Island was once touted as the business that would restore Bedlam's fortunes, but it has become extremely polluted and unprofitable, and is hemorrhaging employees. Greely Point, on the other hand, is growing and remains somewhat profitable, which is a source of major tension because the two ports are owned by rival mob families. The Bedlam Airport out in the haphazardly growing Meadows district is another business that is actually expanding for now.


Two manufacturing companies from Bedlam's heyday remain in business as major employers: the Greely Toy Factory and the Snacktastic Candy Company. Both, however, are having layoffs.





No one wants to be mayor of one of the five worst cities in America, so the position has been rented out to a hired city manager from mega-corporation Wolfram Aerospace. The company doesn't advertise who this person is, but he is widely known to be pale little Wilfred Krebbs, who only cares about getting the administrative paperwork done. Most major official change in the city comes from the eight-member Municipal Council, who are varying degrees of corrupt, inept, or both. Due to budget concerns, most city functions have been rented out to private contractors. Most of them are connected to the Mafia families.


There's no chief of police, either. The captains of the six precincts of Bedlam City operate effectively without oversight, and graft is a pervasive problem in the department.


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