Saturday, 7 May 2011

WOD Glasgow: Mean City Chronicles

Christian and quite a few other guys out there in the blogverse have been commenting lately on the dearth of World of Darkness posts. So I thought I'd include one here. This is the players handout I designed to kick off a new WOD campaign in my home city that never quite got off the ground. It was designed to take into account that three of the potential players were not native to Scotland and none of the players very were clued up on the local police. As you can probably gather from the sheer amount of "cop-talk" provided, the local police were going to feature quite heavily in the campaign.

The Mean
City Chronicles

Campaign Theme Song:

(taken from the classic Glasgow cop show, "Taggart")

Overview of Glasgow:

Glasgow is the Murder and Violent Crime Capital of Europe. The Knife-Crime Capital of the World.
Oh sure, every few years some other city, swept up in gang-war or major riots, borrows one or another of it's bloody crowns, but Glasgow is Europe's Mean City. And in the World of Darkness, it's even meaner.

So what is Glasgow?
Glasgow is a European City of Culture. Glasgow is a European City of Architecture. Glasgow is a European City of Music and Literature. Glasgow is a decaying cesspit of vice, drugs and corruption. Half a mile from the City Centre, often referred to by the inhabitants simply as, “the town” , crumbling tower blocks called “high-rise flats” house the dregs of humanity:“neds”, “junkie's” and petty criminals all jumbled up with those too poor, too old or too stubborn to move. A hundred yards from the famous Citizen's Theatre, gangs of youths batter and stab one another with improvised weapons while grannies shamble past the fray with their bags of cat food and cheap bread, hoping to avoid notice.

Glasgow is a city of many contradictions: called “the dear green place,” for it's many parks – at least one for every city grid square on a 1:50,000 map- it is also a “recovering” Industrial City. Once the ship-building capital of the world, it's 117 ship-yards are now reduced to a bare three. “Rejuvenation” has turned the once-detritus ridden banks of the Clyde into cycle-paths and business parks, but paedophiles, rapists and muggers still haunt the dark places along it's banks at night. Anti-pollution measures mean that Salmon once again swim the waters of the Kelvin and swans hunt in the Clyde itself for their dinner. Yet not fifty yards from the Clyde, the Festival Park's children's play-area is vandalised and demolished, the decorative pond choked with weeds and rubbish. It's bushes home to junkies shooting-up while children play in the dirt nearby.

Glasgow is a city of learning – it's many colleges and universities (some over five hundred years old) attract students and professors from as far afield as China, New Zealand and Japan. Yet while physics students play with the atom in their university-owned reactor, the high-school across the way struggles with discipline issues and over-large class sizes, its bitter and over-worked teachers yearning for the days of birch and belt. Each one wondering which of them will be next to feel the sharp-pain of steel grating upon rib when a recalcitrant pupil plunges a blade into their flesh.

Glasgow is a city of conflict: though peace reigns in Northern Ireland, Orange-men march their flute bands through Glasgow's Catholic areas to celebrate victories three centuries old and Hibernian marchers respond in kind. Several times a year, the cities rival football (“soccer”) teams, protestant-backed Rangers and catholic-supported Celtic; clash in one of the cities many stadium, sometimes resulting in blood-shed, always affecting the mood of the city. The “town's” many bars and nightclubs are a dangerous place on match night. But tensions do not persist simply between protestant and catholic alone. Muslims, who have lived in the city for generations, complain of ll-treatment and abuses exceeding any they have experienced before. Angry Iraqi refugees, feeling that the city somehow owes them something for the mess in Iraq, steal and cheat and fight, while their uncles and cousins who fled Saddam in '79 look on in horror, decrying the “bad name” with which these newcomers tarnish their own families. Organised Crime families murder their rivals in broad-daylight, outside schools, pubs and super-markets while horrified children look on. Gangs of youths, some as young as eleven or twelve, tank-up on drugs and booze before heading off to battle with knives and bottles against children from across the street. And on the darkest nights, when the moon is full, the Pure wage their eternal war against the Forsaken.

Glasgow is an ancient city, with hospitals, schools,universities, monuments and even pubs (“bars”) older than the nations of the new world. Yet by the standards of Europe and the Middle East it is but an infant -an upstart town settled in the 11th century. It is Scotland's largest city. The third largest in the UK. Yet it is not even capital of Scotland. Glasgow is a city of schizophrenia. Glasgow is a city at war with itself.

The Police:

Glasgow's police belong to three different forces: Strathclyde Police (responsible for most of Western Scotland as far north as the Highlands and as far south as the Border), the British Transport Police (who police the rail and subway trains, lines, and stations) and the Ministry of Defence (MOD police) who protect the airports and various military facilities. On rare occasions, the British Nuclear Authority Police are also present, but only when escorting nuclear materials to and from power stations and the naval base at Faslane, near the mouth of the Clyde.

All are over-worked and under-appreciated, tied up with too much paperwork leaving too little time for actual policing. Given the city's violent crime rate, a critic would be forgiven for thinking the police are ineffective, but, except where violence is concerned, the Glasgow's overall crime rate is low. The problem is not a lack of police on the streets arresting criminals, the problem is a lack of any prison cells in which to keep them. In any given month, more Glaswegian criminals will be arrested and detained in police custody prior to court on Monday than there are actual prison cells to keep them in. Criminals with as many as fifty or sixty previous conviction's are released back into the public domain, sometimes with three or even four bail conditions stacked up against them, to commit yet more crimes while the angry police look on, helpless.

Glasgow's police are frustrated, their tempers on the boil. Perhaps then, it is just as well that the average beat constable has no access to firearms. However, that is changing. While until now most police have been armed only with Baton and CS Spray; protected only by a stab-vest (with minimal ballistic protection), some Glasgow sub-divisions (precincts) are issuing even ordinary beat officers with tazers.

Actual firearm's cops in Glasgow are rare and highly trained. In Glasgow, most serve with Strathclyde Police, belonging either to the Tactical Firearms Unit, the Armed Response Unit or the VIP Protection group. Perversely, to join one of these units a constable must demonstrate at least some knowledge of handguns without actually expressing any interest in the firearms themselves. A classic Catch 22. As a result, most armed officers are former members of the armed services or sports rifle-shooters. Strathclyde's armed police do not ordinarily patrol the streets- they await the call to a firearms or a hostage incident. This lack of ordinary police-work means they have a great deal of time on their hands – time spent on the ranges or in the gym, making them the equal of many regular army units in terms of marksmanship and physical endurance. Strathclyde police do not have the only armed officers in Glasgow, however. The MOD police are also armed -these are the H&K toting cops whom tourists meet in airports. The Nuclear Police, for obvious reasons, are always very heavily armed - and usually accompanied by equally well-armed military personnel as well.

There are some additional powers that separate Scottish Police Constables from their colleagues in other countries. Particular their various powers. The major differences included:

  • Police Officers always patrol in pairs. Under Scottish law, corroboration is required before an arrest can be made. One witness to a crime is not enough to secure an arrest in Scotland, therefore, if police come across a crime in progress during the course of their duties and there are no civilian witnesses, both officers must witness the crime before the an arrest can be made. Of course, corroboration does not have to be provided by an eye-witness, police or otherwise. DNA evidence, CCTV, forensics etc. all count in this regard. In many cases, the reporter of the crime in question also counts as a witness, sometimes even if he did not actually see the crime take place. However, having two officers on the scene often ensures an arrest can be made there and then, as opposed to having to arrest the criminal later, once the forensic evidence has been analysed.
  • Police Officers in Scotland may resort to whatever level of force they feel appropriate to protect themselves and members of the public. To justify the level of force used the officer in question does not have to demonstrate that any other officer would also have used that same level of force. The officer must only demonstrate that they themselves felt it was necessary at the time -a very subtle and important difference. For example, a 100lb female officer would have no qualms about taking her baton or her CS gas to a 180lb male coming at her with his fists. But a male colleague of equal size and weight to the attacker would probably be asked to explain why he was so concerned for his safety that he felt it necessary to chin the guy with his baton. Something as simple as, “I was carrying an injury”,“He dropped into a boxers stance,” or “he is known to have a history a violence,”would more than satisfy his superiors -and the courts.
  • In Scotland, police are not obliged to use violence only in response to violence. They are entitled to undertake “pre-emptive self defence”. In which case they must only demonstrate that they anticipated violence was about to be used against them. Technically, everyone in Scotland has the right to use “pre-emptive self-defence” to protect themselves, but as police constables are trained to recognise “violence indicators” and the general public are not, your average ned would have a hard time relying on this defence in court.

What this means in World of Darkness terms is that if the Armed Response Unit turn up and think your armed, they are quite justified in pulling the trigger before you pull your hand out of your pocket.

A few more important pieces of information should you find yourself under arrest in Scotland.
  • Police Bail is not issued in Scotland – you cannot buy your way out of police custody with a promise to attend court as you can in England and the USA. Only the courts can issue bail. You cannot be “de-arrested” in Scotland. Once you have been arrested and charged with a crime, that's it. Even if the police of the procurator fiscal's office later decide your innocent, it's up to the courts to decide whether or not you will stand trial for the crime of which you were accused. As a result, Scottish constables are less prone to making hasty decisions than their counterparts south of the border.
  • Once arrested, you will taken to a police station, and finger-printed, photographed and made to provide a sample of DNA. After that one of four things will happen: you will be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice (a £40 fine for minor offences), released on Report (meaning that a report will be sent to the Procurator Fiscal, who will decide whether or not to try you in court), released on an undertaking to attend court the next day on pain of arrest or, finally, kept in police custody and transferred to court on the next “legal day”.
  • You do have the right to have one reasonably named person contacted in addition to your solicitor. However, the police will contact these named persons for you. The prisoner is not entitled to make a phone call themselves. Police also have the right to delay contacting these named individuals (including the solicitor) if they believe contacting them immediately would pervert the cause of justice. This means that, for example, if the person you wish to have contacted is your flat-mate and you've been arrested on suspicion of supplying drugs, the police wont actually call him -or your lawyer- until AFTER they've finished searching your house).

Glasgow Facts:
  • Glasgow has only a few shootings each year, often less than a dozen, and almost all related to organized crime. However, it has more stabbings in a single month than most European Cities have in an entire calender year.
  • Glasgow is a city 650,000 people, a solid fifth of the them either nationalised immigrants, illegal immigrants, or refugees and asylum seekers. Many of the more recent arrivals come from countries ravaged by war and bring with them an assortment of physical and mental disabilities. Some, especially those from Sierra Leone, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq or Somali, are former child soldiers with a savage and blatant disregard for human life, warring frequently with the native organised crime families for control of Glasgow's booming drug trade.
  • The psychological and cultural attitude to violence of it's citizens is such that ordinary members of the public have been known to lash out at terrorists with their bare hands – even while the terrorist is still on fire!
  • British Army medical personnel are often sent to Glasgow Hospitals for experience in treating trauma cases.
  • The quickest way to start a bar fight in many parts of Glasgow is to accuse a Scot of being English. The best way to get yourself beaten badly by multiple opponents is to profess a belief that Scotland is a part of England. (The United Kingdom is made up of different countries in the same way that the USA is made up of different states). In some pubs, telling a Glaswegian he lives in England is like calling a Deep South militiaman a “yank” and probably just as dangerous. However, this is such a common misconception (especially among American and Japanese tourists) that in most “working men's pubs” someone will probably take you aside and explain such things as the Union of the Crowns and the Union of Parliaments very carefully (and at mind-numbing length). Repeating these same misconceptions in a city-centre pub on a weekend or at any-time at all in pub frequented by neds or gangsters, will almost certainly result in a kicking (if you're lucky) or multiple stab wounds (if you're not).
A Mean City Lexicon:
Warning: Some of the material presented here may be considered offensive. It is listed for purposes of roleplaying and realism only, it does not reflect the opinions of the author.
  • Arse: Ass.
  • Bairn; A Child. Also wain.
  • Banged Up: In prison, or alternatively, pregnant.
  • Bar-L, The: Her Majesties Prison Barlinnie. Glasgow's most infamous prison.
  • Barnie: A brawl or loud argument.
  • Big House, The: Her Majesties Prison Barlinnie. Glasgow's infamous main prison.
  • Billy: term used inter-changeably to refer to either a protestant or a Rangers supporter (usually one and the same).
  • Bird: Slang for a woman. Often used to refer to some-ones girlfriend or sexual partner, for example “Jamie's bird got chibbed the other night.”
  • Brief: Slang term for a criminal defence solicitor.
  • Bummer, to give a: To provide false details of your identity to someone.
  • Chib: A knife or other sharp instrument such as a screw-driver. Also,“to chib” as in to stab someone or “be chibbed” to be stabbed.
  • Chinkie: A Chinese (or “Chinese-looking”) person or alternatively a Chinese restaurant or meal. Derogatory and considered extremely racist but still used by well-meaning elderly folk who are ignorant of the offence it causes or who use it unintentionally from force of habit (as well as by neds and others who actually intend to cause offence).
  • Chippie: A fish and chip shop. See the entry for “chips” below.
  • Chips: Thick French Fries. Usually deep fried in lard or vegetable oil but occasionally baked in an oven. Frequently served with deep-fried foods wrapped in batter such as fish, haggis, black pudding or sausage. Also sometimes served with deep-fried mars bars, scotch pies or deep fried pizza. Chips are also often smothered in such delicacies as curry sauce, chilli sauce, kebab sauce, cheese, coleslaw, mayonnaise, salad cream, mustard, tomato sauce, brown sauce and various combinations there-of. Yes, there is a reason Glasgow is the Heart-Disease capital of Europe. Just to show their appreciation for irony, many Glaswegians choose to wash down such fare with a can of diet Irn Bru.
  • Cosh: A blunt weapon. Often improvised. Also “to cosh” as in to club someone.
  • Crisps: Chips (in the American sense)
  • Denims: Jeans
  • Duff, Up the: Pregnant
  • Edgie: To keep watch or act as a sentry. Also the word called out by the sentry to indicate that a threat is approaching. Generally only used by youths engaged in petty crime or setting up an ambush on a rival gang. An adult using this term is in for a “wind-up”.
  • Fag: A cigarette. NOT an insulting term for a homosexual person (as it is elsewhere in the world).
  • Falsers: False Teeth (very common given Scotland's relatively poor dental hygiene record and penchant for fizzy drinks. Not to mention the sheer number of heroin addicts in the city).
  • Fanny: In Scotland this word means something quite, quite different from it's meaning across the Atlantic. One we wont go into here.
  • Fenian: Derogatory term for a catholic.
  • Football: Soccer.
  • Ginger: Any fizzy drink (a term derived from the colour of Irn Bru) or anyone with the misfortune to have been born with red hair.
  • Huckled: Arrested.
  • Irn-Bru: A ginger coloured fizzy-drink made in Scotland. It's secret recipe is rumoured to be known in it's entirety by only three people at any given time – no more than two of whom are ever allowed to be on the same continent simultaneously. Many Glaswegians drink more of this stuff than they do of anything else save water or alcohol.
  • Juice: Usually refers to a sweet fizzy drink rather than fruit juice.
  • JP or Justice of the Peace: An upstanding member of the public with little or no legal training, often advised by a solicitor, who acts as the presiding judge in trials over minor crimes heard in the District Court. Has the power to issue arrest warrants, search warrants and the like and is often called upon to do so at all hours of the day or night.
  • Kecks: Underwear.
  • Knickers: Woman's underwear such as panties and so forth, but excluding bra's.
  • Mate: Equivalent to buddy, guy or bro, used both as a term of address for strangers and for friends.
  • Ned: An ill-educated member of the public, usually white, conforming to the US term “white trash”. Normally dressed in a track-suit and baseball cap. Probably in possession of either drugs, alcohol and/or a knife. Has likely followed family tradition and never worked a day in his or her life, although a small minority may in fact hold down an actual (low paying) job. Very likely to indulge in opportunistic petty crimes if given half a chance. Considers time in Prison or a police cell a normal part of everyday life. Female Neds over the age of fourteen are likely to be accompanied by -and be screaming at- one or more children (the “wains”) in a buggy or pram. In England, neds are known as “chavs”.
  • Paki: Derogatory term for an individual of Pakistani, Indian or Bangladeshi descent. Also used to refer to a newsagent's or grocer's shop. Considered very offensive and downright racist but still used by elderly members of the community out of ignorance rather than from a desire to cause offence. Some elderly members of the Pakistani community don't understand what the fuss is about and find being called a “Pakistani” more offensive than being called a “Paki”.
  • Pal: Equivalent to buddy, guy or bro, used both as a term of address for strangers and for friends.
  • Patter: Humour, usually at some-ones else expense. A “wind-up”.
  • Pants: Men's underwear, usually refers to Y-fronts or briefs.
  • PF or Procurator Fiscal: The Scottish equivalent of a District Attorney.
  • Pint: Beer, Lager, Ale, Stout, Heavy and so forth are served in pint and half pint measures.
  • Pish: Urine
  • Pish-Water: A weak beer or spirit. Often applied to American or Canadian beers and bourbons (which are almost NEVER referred to as whisky in Scotland. At least not in polite company).
  • Piss: Urine.
  • Piss-Off: A slightly nicer way of saying “f**k off”. Usually used between friends.
  • Piss-Take: A prank based on deception or mockery. Also used to indicate a belief someone is lying or trying a “wind-up” by stating, “Your taking the piss!”
  • Pocky, The: A prison or jail cell.
  • Polis: The Police
  • Proddy: term used inter-changeably to refer to either a protestant or a Rangers supporter (usually one and the same).
  • Pub: A bar. Traditionally, after a hard days work a “working man” (a blue-collar worker) would stop off in a working man's pub for a quick pint with his mates before heading home. Then he might have dinner and come back out for a few more drinks with his wife or, if looking for a partner for the night, he'd go out “clubbin'” to a city-centre pub or nightclub. Other type of pubs exist as well, from the stereotypical “polis” pub, gangster pubs, wine bars, student pubs, rock pubs, Goth pubs, family pubs (that you can take your kids to and which probably provide kids meals) and so forth.
  • Rozzers: The Police
  • Senga: A female ned. Often an especially ugly one.
  • Specs or Spectacles: Eye Glasses
  • Shag: Sexual intercourse.
  • Sheriff: A legal professional who acts as a judge over moderately severe crimes in the Sheriff court, often, but not always, in conjunction with a jury.
  • Shite: Shit
  • Solicitor: A Lawyer
  • Square-Go: A fair fight. Often offered, but in fact very few so-called “square-goes” are anything of the sort.
  • Sweets or Sweeties: Candy
  • Tap: To ask someone for money. Usually (but not always) without the threat of force. Used to describe the act of asking a stranger for money as well as the act of borrowing from a friend.
  • Tim: term used inter-changeably to refer to either a Catholic or a Celtic supporter (usually one and the same)
  • Trousers: Pants
  • Wain: A Child.
  • Wheesht: Wind. As in “hold your Wheesht”. In other words: “shut up!”.
  • Wind-Up: A prank based on deception. Also to deliberately make someone angry. Someone easily wound up is said to have a key in his back.


Caliban said...

Hi Brian, this makes me come over all nostalgic for my home culture! I live just outside Glasgow now, but I grew up in Milton - "High" Possil, appropriately enough. You mention you're from Glasgow as well - this post certainly shows the knowledge.

Nook said...

This is really well written.
I could definitely use it to run a WoD game in Glasgow, and its far realistic than the write up in Shadows of the UK. Good stuff.

Dangerous Brian said...

Thanks guys. The original concept was for the players to play a bunch of Forsaken, then it sort of drifted into the realms of Hunter/Cops and eventually never happened at all.
Pity though, I'd like to ressurect it sometime.

Nook said...

I started running a cop / CSI game using the core WoD rules. The idea was to throw supernatural crimes at ordinary cops and see what they came up with.
The first murder was an assistant district attorney shot on some wasteland by a street gang.
The twist was that the ADA was a Ghoul disposing of the drained corpse of a missing girl for his master, and the street gang were the minions of a rival vampire.
The players had to determine what was going on and trace the crimes back to the undead masterminds.
It worked well.

If I ran it again, I'd run it as a Hunter game.

christian said...

Guests are arriving for a party in about 10 minutes, so I'll swing back later when they all jet so that I can check this out. :)

christian said...

Wow! Will just a bit more information, a map and few NPCs, you'd have yourself a heck of a supplement. This was an informative read. I had no idea there was so much knife violence. It sounds like the perfect environment for a chronicle.

Dangerous Brian said...

@ Nook: The final plan was to start the players off as probationary cops assigned to a tutor cop named Decker -who just happened to be Kinfolk and a Hunter. As the campaign progressed, all the characters would gradually have come to realise that they themselves were not enitrely human (though one would begin as a Mage and anther as a Changeling).
So in the end it would have been a broad spectrum WoD campaign with a Hunter flavour.

Thanks very much. I had a lot more planned, NPC's, sandbox locations, scheduled plot events and the like but all in note form. I doubt I'll ever get the chance to use them, but I'm reluctant to publish much more on the blog just in case I do.

Actually, I've also thought of binning the plot as a campaign concept and working on it as a peace of fiction. We'll just have to wait and see.

The Angry Lurker said...

Really well written and reminds me of home.

Dangerous Brian said...

Thanks. I knew Caliban was from originally from Glasgow, but I hadn't realised you were from our neck of the woods originally as well.

Ian Coakley said...

... the hell kinda game will require that much knowledge of chips?

In all seriousness, quality stuff - having lived in Glasgow all my days, it's pretty much as bad as is seen here. A bit less... grim, shall we say, but for WoD, it's at just the right level of horrificness.

Also, when it happens, I'm in for this game.