A setting that's 50% Planescape, 50% Ravenloft, and 100% Original Content Do Not Steal.
The Drain, the Corral, the Sewers, the Asshole of the Multiverse. Names are bandied about freely, but The Patchlands is used most often.
Portals and gateways lead into the Patchlands, popping up at random throughout the Multiverse. It’s a one-way ticket, no exchanges. No magical effect, no Artifact, nothing has ever been known to lead a denizen out. Debating the reason for this is one of the favorite pastimes of the City's many sages and a growing cause of insanity amongst new denizens.
The Patchlands are a mess of portals of varying stability. One-way portals from other planes from around the Multiverse appear constantly, but there are also countless portals leading to various destinations around the Patchlands themselves. Some of them are temporary, some of them are permanent. It is not uncommon for a portal to appear out of nowhere within the City, nor is it unknown for one to simply change its destination.
Each area of land brought in from outside the Patchlands is called, naturally, a Patch. A Patch may simply be a few yards of bright grass, or a mountain-range if you look hard enough. There is a clear and visible border between each Patch called a ‘stitch’: The earth is suddenly made of a different composition, the color of grass changes from green to purple, a tundra becomes a lush valley… while there are commonalities amongst some adjacent Patches which allow for settlement, they are not terribly common and the vast majority of Patchland denizens live within Quiltworks City. Quiltworks City is generally (though like many other things, this is a contested claim) considered to be in the center of the Patchlands, having expanded out to the size of a large nation.
Anything that appears in the Patchlands from another universe (via portal) is heralded with a flash of light proportionate to the size of the object it is bringing. Small objects end up in the city. Animals, the errant sock, groups of people, never bigger than a small building. Larger objects appear farther outward from wherever the center of the city may be... Entire villages, forests, mountains and oceans simply appear out of nothing in a flash of light as if they had been there forever, appearing between existing Patches or (it is said) on the Edge of the World, expanding the borders of the Patchlands.
One of the most baffling and upsetting parts of this world, at least to the sages, is that water doesn’t act correctly. Water evaporates, but after a certain height it simply disappears in clear violation of the Laws of Physics. This does not stop the clouds from being permanent, shifting fixtures in the sky, nor does it stop the rain from falling down, pure and unpolluted. Attempts to reach the clouds and study them has been relatively fruitless, for they are utterly intangible and seem to part when one tries to grasp them.
No stars have ever been seen in the Patchlands, though there is still a sun and moon. As there is no magnetic pole, the cardinal directions must be determined by the location of the sun. Naturally, other cultures may have different ideas of what those directions may mean.
Even the most experienced planar travelers have been seen dumbfounded at the initial view of Quiltwork City. Its size is that of a continent, an endless horizon of buildings in every direction. Its size is so vast that rumors have spread of a city block simply appearing within a district, unheard of a scant 100 years ago.
While the numbers vary, you've been told that somewhere between 'a lot', 'too many', '40 million' and '70 million' people live in the city. You did manage to get a specific number at 502,394,295 but the source was drinking a barrel of wine one-handedly and slurring all the while.
One look at the skyline will show easily enough how so many can live in one place. There are more buildings here than on many of the planets the citizens originally hailed, and not a one of them identical to any other. Towers of stone, jade, crystal and glass pepper the city, matched in height only by the floating nesthomes of the flying races. The lower races’ Underhomes may well extend beneath every house, mansion, hovel, tree dwelling for all they know… spheres of flame, ice, electricity, celestial light and infernal darkness take up some lots, simply resting on the ground as though it were utterly normal.
The residential buildings are by far the least impressive of the lot. Temples of every deity who has ever walked the Multiverse have been raised to starless heavens. The Great University is raised far beyond even them, encompassing an entire district the size of a small country. It is the greatest library ever constructed by man or God, though many buildings have such claims to their respective fields. It is made entirely of polished wood, the entire building protected by what looks like small mountains that lazily orbit the Great University, burning gently with runes visible only to those who know how to sense magic.
But everywhere you turn there is a glory, a monument, a marvel and treasure of an entire universe that people pass by. The Rivers of An’guah run throughout the city, providing fresh water and irrigation to most districts from a lake merely three feet around in a perfect circle. A small-scale solar system exists in some district you don’t know, complete with its own sun, which can be observed from 100 yards without a bit of harm. An aurora mingles and swirls with twelve others, and you swear that you have never even seen some of those colors before and cannot imagine them again. These are all beyond what you have seen in your travels, and you could spend a lifetime among the marvels.
The city is explained as being divided in to districts, the boundaries of which are known only to those near them. There are so many of them that the merges, splits, changes, and takeovers cannot be kept track of even if they were publicly known. When people end up in the City, they do tend to seek out creatures similar to them, whether by race, profession or alignment. There are Orc districts, as well as Basketweaving districts and Aasimar districts. Near the center of the City is the much-beloved Cooking district. Districts tend to be patrolled and protected by volunteers, wanting to keep their homes safe. Alliances are often formed as well, though they always stay very small-scale. Nobody has ever come close to uniting even a small part of the City.
Nameless streets start as soon as they end, wells and marketplaces are stuck haphazardly all around, the city has thousands of separate, unlinked sewer systems and one may even find small forests and lakes in the middle of the town. Getting lost is easy, and sometimes, people never find their way back. There is no centralized leadership of the City, though there are leaderships that exist within some individual districts. Some are democratic, some are tribal, some are informal, and others less savory.
This gives the City the virtue of being the most diverse land in the Multiverse (that anyone knows of). The streets are cluttered with humans, orcs, Halflings, thri-kreens, salads, elves, bladelings, pixies, gnomes, angels, demons, elementals, goblins, and those are just some of the ones you’ve heard of. There is a blessing in this diversity: A drow can walk among the forest elves unscathed so long as no overt action is taken, lest a fullscale assault between districts start. Small scale gang wars between districts break out relatively often, but resources are quite plentiful and there isn't a lot to gain by waging a war. There have been only a handful of large-scale battles in the history of the City, and there seems to be no overpowering desire to change that.
The City has a number of colonies around the Patchlands, through the various permanent portals one can find in the City. About a third of the town's resources, food, building materials, luxury items etc. come from the said colonies. The rest of it is either made within the City itself, or quite often, simply appears there.
The most respected folk around the town are District leaders (if a District has one), architects, engineers and wizards. Sages, groups of self-appointed full-time philosophers, tend to be either respected or completely shunned, depending on what part of the City you're in.
Within any individual District, there are individuals to turn to… the leaders (should a District possess one), the architects, the engineers, the wizards all have their part to play like any citizen, but it is well known that their parts are often larger than most.
‘Elsewhere’ is considered the general term for anywhere that is not the City. Lakes, swamps, deserts, oceans, villages, anything and everything is in the general area known as Elsewhere. Generally speaking the farther you go, the larger the Patches become. The populated Patches often have their own cultures and civilizations, often virtually untouched from the planes the Patches came from. Sometimes, Patches are connected to the City by portals, leading to heavy cultural exchange and trade between the people. Still, in most cases, the people in the City tend to consider people living Elsewhere barbarians… far too many have shown up from a Portal-less journey from some populated Patch in tattered rags, claiming to be everything from pauper to King, hoping to find The Way Home.
Most Patches are quite normal. Green pastures, purple deserts, desert jungles, floating lakes, farmlands and such, varying from the size of a cottage to the size of a small continent. But there are a number of Patches that have come from places such as the Negative Energy Plane, and it's rumoured that there are Patches from outside the known Multiverse as well. Carelessly stepping through a portal can be lethal.
Patches keep the same exact weather and season cycle as they had before they were portaled in. Not every universe has the same time-structure, and the Stitches are often made clear by looking at the weather patterns of an individual Patch.
The Transitive Planes
Like most material planes, the Patchlands has its own Plane of Shadow and Ethereal Plane. They function quite normally: whatever prevents people from leaving the Patchlands doesn't stop people from traversing to the coexistent transitive planes. Planar experts are baffled senseless, however, by the existence of what appears to be an Astral Plane existing only within the Patchlands, a plane that normally is shared between every plane in the Multiverse. For whatever reason, however, it is unstable, unexplored and wildly different from the more well-known Astral Plane. Adventurers breathe a sigh of relief when they realize magic generally works with it as it should.
The two main types of portals in any universe: interdimensional and intradimensional. Naturally, they are a subject of heavy study.
Interdimensional portals are portals that open to other dimensions. Since nothing ever leads outside the Patchlands, the interdimensional portals are, without exception, the ones where things fall through. There are a good few which are simply air or water: portals don't necessarily open in interesting places, after all.
Interdimensional portals have three subtypes:
- Ripples: These are portals that only exist for a few seconds at the most, sometimes barely enough to suck up anything from a single person to a country. Those brought in through Ripples tend to be extremely bewildered and confused: This is not a magical byproduct, but a natural reaction with which you are all too familiar
- Rabbit Holes: These are portals that appear in unused, forgotten places, and stay there for any time between an hour and a decade. Every so often, a couple of kids hide in their closet, only to accidentally step through a portal leading to the Patchlands. Such portals are quite unstable, though, and tend to collapse once enough mass has passed through it. They are theorized to be behind the legend of many Fair Folk and faeries, legends which are considered more than a little racist by the actual denizens of that descent.
- Tears: Sometimes, an interdimensional portal malfunctions. The destination address gets permanently scrambled, and the portal leads somewhere completely different than the intended destination. Unusually often, this new destination happens to be the Patchlands. While those portals, unlike the two mentioned above, tend to be almost permanent, they tend to be quickly cordoned off and abandoned when people find out that once people go in, they never come back.
Intradimensional portals, on the other hand, are created due to the inherent instability and slightly chaotic nature of the Patchlands (though some, known as Needleworkers, have learned to create their own), generally known as Gateways.
- Gateways: Portals, either permanent or temporary, connecting Patches to each other. Patches often lead to and within the City, allowing for swift travel between districts if you can map out a way. They are often dangerous to traverse, but they're always two-way portals, and clever denizens have found ways to confirm the safety of such things.
“Glory be to our creators!”
“There is no God!”
Proselytizing is common within the City, for many believe that their Gods would allow them to return to their home dimensions with faith (evidenced by a surprisingly common cosmology amongst the dimensions, though the details vary and some have whole pantheons you have never heard of before). There is no true ‘standard’ religion, the same way there is no ‘standard’ anything amongst more than a district or two.
There is an astonishing sight, one you have never seen before, not nearly so wondrous but far more bizarre than the man-made marvels. A man in plain robes assembled in a common mass, preaching of a moral system and espousing the belief with, ironically, religious zeal, that there are no Gods at all.
Far more bizarre is that the man was not immediately struck by lightning.
No miracles in the traditional sense have ever occurred in the Patchlands, and the spell itself doesn’t even work. No sightings of any God have been confirmed as they have on your home dimensions, though divine spellcasting is still a prevalent force throughout the City. A number of theories exist on why that is so… many say that Patchlands have been cursed to never carry the voices of their Gods, while their ears remain open. Others say that divine energy seeps through in to the Patchlands from the planes of the Gods, and from this divine spellcasters are granted their power. And a growing number believe there are no Gods at all, having never seen evidence of their presence. There are many subtleties, and the question of faith has been a popular topic of discussion amongst intellectuals and common man alike. One thing is quite certain… no one in Patchlands has ever successfully cast Commune.
Raising the Dead: Resurrection magic works normally, generally speaking. There is one disturbing flaw in using it in the Patchlands: resurrecting someone who has been dead more than a few months causes them to have holes in their memories, growing greater the longer they have been dead. After (generally speaking) ten years, those who are resurrected live in a completely vegetative state, and after a time the spell simply does not work at all. No one has any memory of the afterlife, and the reasons for these changes in resurrection magic are completely unknown: this, too, is a hotly discussed topic amongst the divinely spellcasters and theologians.
Planar-dependent Magic: Banishment-type spells simply do not work, like anything else that involves travel to other dimensions, but magic that is dependent on tapping in to other planes generally does. The most common theory is that portals to Elemental and other non-material planes floods their energy throughout the Patchlands, just waiting to be tapped into by someone. Enough evidence supports this that it's accepted as a fact amongst the City's mages and sages.
Divine Magic: Divine magic generally works, though it's not universally accepted as to how this can be so. Magic that communes with the Gods directly, or calls for their intervention, simply does not work at all, nor does the Miracle spell. There have been reports of some divine spellcasters losing their power when they come to the Patchlands, though no one has figured out how this comes to pass.
Arcane Magic: The fields of arcane energy that allow spellcasting in most worlds still exists, and many have noted that the world is richer than others. Some theorize that the portals leech magic from the Weaves of other worlds, while others still believe that each dimension has its own Weave that exists as an unshakable part of its foundation.
The Way Home
Just because people are stuck doesn't stop them from trying to get home. The devout pray to the Heavens, the arcane try spell after spell, and a slew of new magics and items of power have been created for this express purpose… those who devote their lives to the way home are called Modiste: an old word meaning ‘tailor’, seeking facilitate passage to other realms.
There are rumors of an artifact, an orb blacker than oblivion. Its name is spoken with reverence: The Way Home. It has been whispered of since the very beginning of the City. Some claim that it only works once, that you need to destroy it for it to work. Some claim that Patchlands is in the condition it is because the said orb has been lost, and once found, the plane will function as others do and the people within will be allowed home. Some claim that it has been hidden by someone who does not want to see The Patchlands die.
However, for the vast majority of the populous, Patchlands is their home. Generations came and went peacefully. As such, The Way Home is only truly sought by some Modiste and is generally considered nothing more than a fairy tale.
Frequently Asked Questions (By people who have been suddenly thrown into the Patchlands)
- Q: Has anyone ever escaped?
- Vasculuss, Lizardfolk, Tavern keeper: “Nobody hasss ever esscaped, or if ssomeone hasss, he hass not returned to tell the tale.”
- Bungo, Halfling, Professional errand runner: “I heard that a number of people have already found The Way Home. I heard it'll grant anyone's wish, but upon granting it, it disappears to a random place in the Patchlands. It has probably already been found many times.”
- Q: How do you survive in this City?
- Else, Human, Pumpkin saleswoman: "You could join the District patrol. They get paid by the community around this District, and you get a free place to sleep as well. When you've got enough gold, perhaps you can pay an Architect to build a house for you."
- Bungo, Halfling, Professional errand runner: "Or, you could just live by scavenging a bit. It's easy enough to get enough food to get by, just by hunting for animals and such that fall through the portals. As long as you're not too picky. And sleeping outside is easy, just find a nice portal to some nice, temperate Patch to sleep at. People seldom die on the streets."
- Q: How old is the City?
- Terius, Minotaur, Sage: “The oldest inhabitants of the City claim to have been there when the City was merely a couple of blocks, some ten thousand years ago. The oldest thing confirmed in the entire City is The Champion’s Tower, however, but no one has a way to verify its true age.”
- Bar, Earth Mephit, Familiar: "N, n, not older than t, thirty thousand years...? N, not younger than, than, twelve? The earth, that is. The earth. Not the City. N, no, not the City."
- Patch: A large, physical area that has been portaled in to the Patchlands. Vary from very small to absolutely huge. They only appear far outside the City limits.
- Stitch: The borders of a Patch. The distances between Patches are so big, that there's barely ever any need to go past the Stitches.
- Portal: Usually refers to interdimensional portals that pulled the denizens from their home worlds, though is can be used as a general reference to any portal.
- Gateway: An intradimensional portal within the Patchlands.
- The City: Quiltworks City. Quiltworks is more or less official name for it, but to people living in Quiltworks, it's the only city that matters.
- District: A loosely defined area of like-minded individuals, usually defended by volunteers or some sort of a militia.
- The Champion's Tower: An absurdly large tower in the exact middle point of the city, originally built when the city was new. It has been expanded upon by master craftsmen from nearly every race, and is large enough to house Dragons comfortably. Through the ages it has been passed from the strongest in all the City, the current one known only as The Dark Champion. The treasures within is said to be greater than the pooled amounts of the entirety of the Dragon Districts, having housed many Champions throughout the millennia.
- The Dark Champion: An unknown being of great and terrible power which resides in the Tower. Hundreds of years ago, it came seemingly out of nowhere and waged battle against the former champion Urzazi the Infinite Sage. Their battle lasted for nine days and leveled ten times as many districts, killing countless denizens in collateral damage. In the past, denizens have attempted to challenge The Dark Champion, but they never return.
- Denizen: As there is no official process to living anywhere except the independent sub-continents, there are no true citizens of the City or much of anywhere else and denizen is the commonly accepted term for anyone within the Patchlands.
- The Great University: Unofficially referred to as The University, as there is nothing else that compares when it comes to higher learning. It is a giant district near the middle of the city where most higher education takes place.
- Needlers: See 'Needleworkers'
- Needleworkers: Generally a subgroup of Modiste (though some are not affiliated), Needleworkers are arcane or divine practitioners who have grown skilled at creating their own portals. They are afforded much respect and wealth for their ability to ease travel and get to new, unexplored locales.