While Metrodome largely makes up the whole of the campaign world and will
almost always be the setting for your Dark Conspiracy sessions, it goes without saying that there is a larger world outside.
While Metrodome is a microcosm - with laws, customs, mores, and a culture exclusive to itself
- the outside world certainly affects things within the geodesic dome that
shelters our campaign setting from it.
It is true that the federal government is a shambles and Metrodome is largely
left to its own devices, but there is still a federal government, and - at least in theory - federal law still
applies even to urban areas, even to domed cities, and even to Metrodome.
In fact, due to its prominence, Metrodome is often a focus of legal precedents
at the federal level; it is the government's attempt to remain both present and
relevant in one of the most visible cities in America, thereby sending a
message to the rest of the country. Still, due to limited funds and
personnel, even these incidents are limited.
The following expounds on these aspects, and more.
Worldwide communications have collapsed. Private companies bought up the
networks and phonelines, leasing bandwidth - even entire backbones - to the
highest bidders. Huge, communications-based corporations sprang up
overnight. As a result, almost all landlines are dedicated to the
Internet and other forms of electronic data transmissions and are largely
reserved for corporate use. The rise in radio communications has
saturated the airwaves to the point that it's almost impossible to listen to
one, clear channel; stations overlap and interfere and the FCC is already
overtaxed. Almost anyone can assemble an inexpensive transmitter and set
about broadcasting their thoughts, playlists, or whatever else they want
without much fear of reprisal. Along with the always churning, overcast
skies, wireless communications are near impossible at any hour.
Non-digital, non-corporate media communications are local, pirated, and
fuzzy. The FCC has the authority, but lacks the manpower to do much about
it. Small, mom-and-pop telephone companies are a dime a dozen and both
their quality and reach vary dramatically. Corporations long ago found
dealing with individuals to be far more trouble than it's worth and instead
serve other corporations - some of which resell their services to these smaller
Corporations buy votes, paying off legions of otherwise disenfranchised people
(called "proles") and moving them into tenement buildings that
comprise entire suburbs. They use these proxy votes to elect the federal
officials willing to "play ball," which helps them on a national
level, but within their own borders, they are afforded the right to police
themselves and their employees and proles. And while these corporations
maintain attorneys (usually legions) to represent them in federal cases, only a very few have a judicial system
within their own policies; corporate "justice" is usually harsh and
swift, including braindancing, expulsion and banishment from any and all
corporate areas, imprisonment, and (it is rumored) worse.
Air travel is a luxury afforded only the wealthiest and most powerful.
Commercial airlines went out of business years ago and although one starts up
every so often, it is inevitably marred by terrorism or mechanical failure -
often within months of opening (if not earlier) - and folds soon after.
Ships are available, but considered even more dangerous.
Pirates literally rule the world's waters, preying on the most popular trade
routes. Their legends are fearsome and larger than life. They cling
together in lawless, rough and tumble, coastal towns, littered with bars and
vice dens - not to mention countless billions in stolen goods. Far worse
than terrorists, pirates do not take hostages; their victims are almost always
tortured, killed, raped - in no particular order - and marooned (whether left
on land or simply set adrift). Sometimes, everyone aboard is forced or
sold into slavery/prostitution, pressed into service (and generally worked to
death), or simply marooned. Unlike their historical counterparts,
modern-day pirates in the Dark Conspiracy world love to make prisoners walk the plank - it's just one of the many perks
of the trade.
Interstate travel is increasingly dangerous, especially in the US and North
America, and largely avoided. Like their sea-legged brethren, highway
bandits have a stranglehold on almost all the major overland
thoroughfares. Transportation of anything is almost invariably by convoy;
some may be foolhardy enough to try delivering cross-country alone, but no one
would be dumb enough to trust them enough to do so - except in the most dire of
circumstances. Besides the bandits, gangs of bikers and disenfranchised,
hell-raising auto mechanics scour the highway system, attacking small
settlements, lone travellers, and private farms, as well as the occasional
Most prisoners are sentenced to various corporate-controlled, for-profit
jails. These are the facilities your character was sentenced to if he has
ever served a term as a Prisoner (p. 46). This is, in no way, "easy time" and these are not
minimum-security prisons (though there are a handful of those - for
non-violent, white-collar crimes), but they are greatly preferred to the truly
"hard time" one faces in a Federal Reserve Prison Zone.
Corporate prisons are tough places, no argument, but certainly no tougher than
your average prison IRL today. In fact, if you consider the fact that
corporate officers have absolutely no incentive, and corruption is basically nil, the corporate prisons of the dark
future are actually harsher than any IRL facility. But overall, corporate-run prisons in the Dark Conspiracy world are often much like those IRL - the Starr Drive-Inn being a notable
At the federal level, the death penalty has been abolished due to cost, though
hardened criminals wish otherwise. To alleviate the problems of
overcrowding, whole cities, islands - even deserts and mountain ranges - have
been cordoned off and turned into prisons. Prisoners are dropped off by
helicopter or convoy and left to fend for themselves. Food and other
supplies are air-dropped infrequently and at random, and these drop-off points
are treated as warzones by the imprisoned.
Prisoners are given a week's worth of personal rations, a knife, and their
conviction papers (if they receive anything other than a life sentence) and
dropped at the same place food is delivered. Food is never delivered at
the same time as prisoners. Of course, newcomers are invariably set-upon
by those already imprisoned. Some are pressed into gangs, some are
murdered outright, some face even worse... few survive. New prisoners'
rations and papers are prized possessions which are usually the focus of these
Prisoners' [conviction] papers not only list the reason(s) for their
imprisonment, but the length of their sentence. If a prisoner has to
serve any length of time short of life, his papers are invaluable (thus many
get their introduction to prison life before they even arrive, as guards tell
them the best place to hide those papers... in front of the other prisoners,
who now know he has them - not to mention it's usually the first place the imprisoned look).
Though digital and containing a picture, if another prisoner has these papers,
he has a chance of fooling the guards and gaining his freedom. While
extremely rare, it does happen. Of course, prisons are designed to hold prisoners for life -
which is pretty short for many convicts (and thankfully so) - but anyone who
can survive 10-25 years in a Dark Conspiracy prison deserves a second chance at what passes for "normal" life. Few adjust
well, however, and recidivism is a whopping 96%.
Gangs are the only way of life in these death camps, though stories of
individuals who eke-out their own survival far away from the general population
are not uncommon. Depending on various factors - namely, whether or not
the gang thinks the prisoner useful to them for whatever purpose, and whether
or not he manages to fend them off - a newcomer may be pressed into a
gang. If he manages to fend them off physically, he may still find
himself at their mercy if he has no Survival skills. Or the gang may
seize his papers and hold them as "ransom" - as many prisoners find
out though, few prison gangs hold true to their word, and trade the papers to
Paradoxically, death matches (arranged by the gangs inside) are common and
sometimes filmed and televised by journalists, both corporate and non-, usually
during sweeps. R.A.S.S.L.has been accused of recruiting from prisons, but no concrete evidence
supporting this has yet come to light. However, many R.A.S.S.L.ers claim
to have served time (though it's almost always untrue).
Again, prisons are reserved for those convicts found unredeemable and/or highly
dangerous; even the most heinous of crimes can be plea-bargained down to lesser
sentences (braindancing, exile, etc.) in most cases. These prisons are
reserved for those deemed truly unfit for society - those who would receive the death penalty in our own, real
world; minor infractions often get one a term in a regular jail cell.
Braindancing is supposed to dissuade the convicted from committing the same
crime again (but does not always take) and is largely considered more
"humane" and effective than incarceration. In extreme
instances, convicted can be braindanced so that they never enter a city, area,
or region again. Whenever the convicted tries to commit crimes or enter
areas against which he has been braindanced, he suffers physical discomfort,
and a plethora of programmed emotional issues such as depression, distress,
fear and panic, and the like. While meant to discourage the behavior,
this has resulted in the convicted completely... "losing his
shit." Braindancing has an 80% success rate.
Another change made primarily to decrease prison overcrowding was the end to
the senseless federal "Drug War." While many localities still
have laws against specific drugs (namely the harder, more addictive ones, such
as cocaine, crack cocaine, opium, and heroin), others have eased drug laws
completely. Hemp was quickly harvested by agricorps the world over and is
in widespread use in many forms; Metrodome's BioDyne (the corporation's main branch) has extensive hemp fields outside the dome, as
well as a subsidiary company dedicated to the "adult entertainment"
uses of the weed.
Our discussion wouldn't be complete without mentioning Starr Drive-Inn, a corporate-owned and maintained prison for repeat non-violent offenders.
Starr Drive-Inn is as much a tourist attraction - albeit a fairly dangerous one
- as a prison, and is billed as such. Though no tours are given of the inside
of the drive-in, tourists are invited to cruise the outside premises and watch
movies from the "Back Lot" - a drive-in parking lot situated outside
the gates from which they can see the movies and tune-in to the sound on a
closed-band radio station.