Setting Introduction: New York City
“New York is an ugly city, a dirty city. Its climate is a scandal, its politics are used to frighten children, its traffic is madness, its competition is murderous. But there is one thing about it—once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough.”―John Steinbeck
The City That Never Sleeps
New York City is the most populous city in the United States both in number and density, with an estimated 2019 population of 8,336,817 distributed over about 302.6 square miles. Located at the southern tip of the U.S. state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass. With almost 20 million people in its metropolitan statistical area and approximately 23 million in its combined statistical area, it is one of the world’s most populous megacities. Among New York City’s claims to fame are most linguistically diverse city in the world (with as many as 800 languages spoken), largest foreign-born population (3.2 million as of 2016), eighth-largest economy in the world with a gross metropolitan product (GMP) of $2.0 trillion, and highest number of billionaires in any city in the world.
This veritable melting pot is an ideal cauldron for the denizens of the Chronicles of Darkness to not just exist, but thrive. They all have their own reasons for being here in the Big Apple. Sometimes those reasons harmonize and weave seamlessly into the diverse tapestry of the city, and sometimes those reasons clash against each other like a powder keg with a hissing fuse. At the end of the day everyone is fighting to survive and make it in the big city, just like you.
Welcome to New York. If you can make it here, you truly can make it anywhere. Good luck.
“One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” – Tom Wolfe
One doesn’t “ease into” life in New York City. Whether you’re born and raised or transplanted from elsewhere, the city will cling to you constantly and reliably. This is not just a metaphor—it’s highly likely that you feel it even before you walk out your front door. You did get woken up by your roommate getting ready for work again, after all. For better and for worse, the city claims you immediately, and you do the same in return.
Claustrophobia becomes a familiar companion quickly in the Big Apple. Only the rich folks can afford their own place, unless Mommy and Daddy are paying the bills anyway. Privacy is a luxury most can’t afford, and even those that can still need to be conscious of eyes and ears everywhere. For the supernatural, this translates to an abundance of mortal souls inhabiting every corner of daily life. This reality serves as a double-edged sword for them. While physical real estate is scarce, those that view humans as a resource find there are plenty to go around so to speak. The flip side? Unwanted witnesses, or rolling the dice on messing with the wrong randomly chosen target? You may be just another face in the crowd, but rest assured they have your face and can find it if they want to.
Mania in the City That Never Sleeps
“In Rome I am weighted down by a lack of momentum, the inertia of a spent civilization. In New York I feel plugged into a strong alternating current of hope and despair.” — Ted Morgan
Ask yourself this question: Are you the type of person that likes to stroll through life, take your time and stop to smell the roses along the way? If so, you stand a strong chance of sticking out like a sore thumb (or worse, a tourist) in New York City. Not that New Yorkers don’t know how to enjoy the finer things in life, mind you. But that life moves at a lightning pace and the natives know exactly when they need to get where they’re going, and how fast they have to move to get there. The shortest delay could turn into a much longer one if a subway gets missed, and you didn’t budget for an extra Uber drive this month. And besides, you know your line always runs late on Mondays.
Those looking to have anything going on besides sleep and work have to make plans and schedules. Even the most free of spirits find themselves at the mercy of the pace of the city. But the good news is that not all this activity is drudgery. Strange and exciting things happen at the same frenetic pace as everything else, but if you’re not keeping up you could easily miss it.
Kindness vs. Niceness
“My favorite thing about New York is the people, because I think they’re misunderstood. I don’t think people realize how kind New York people are.”—Bill Murray
New Yorkers carry their reputation with them wherever in the world they end up. They’re mean, loud, impatient, crass, the list goes on. Obviously these stereotypes paint with broad and oversimplified strokes, as most stereotypes do. But buried in the pile of assumptions may be a small kernel of truth.
The way New Yorkers navigate the world is born out of necessity. They are in a hurry, so they are blunt and direct. Time is precious, so they speak a mile a minute. In the scheme of their day your interaction is a blip on the radar at best, so niceties get tossed to the wayside. In many ways, this “not nice” rep is well-earned and deserved. But that only tells part of the story.
The city is a huge, unforgiving place. Its denizens realized quickly that the only way they would thrive was through helping each other. New York fosters a deep sense of camaraderie that can be hard to see in anything but the most dire circumstances. When survival is on the line, politeness feels flimsy and inadequate. In its place, kindness keeps people going when times get hard. Mileage may vary, of course. But even in the Chronicles of Darkness, help can come from the most unexpected of places.
Factions & Territory
“Each neighborhood of the city appeared to be made of a different substance, each seemed to have a different air pressure, a different psychic weight: the bright lights and shuttered shops, the housing projects and luxury hotels, the fire escapes and city parks.”―Teju Cole
Situated on one of the world’s largest natural harbors, New York City is composed of five boroughs, each of which is a county of the State of New York. The five boroughs—Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island—were consolidated into a single city in 1898. The supernatural and mundane mortals alike mingle all throughout the city both freely and at their own risk. In such a densely populated area enforcing hard borders has proven mostly impossible for the factions that called New York home, however these groups do keep strongholds and safehouses known to their own ilk.
Hunters keep the Vigil everywhere in New York, but their main base of operations lies in the city’s poorest and arguably “roughest” Borough. There, the Kingsbridge Armory serves as an oasis in the urban desert, where hunters can resupply, recover, or train some of their skills. The property has fulfilled this purpose for many years after its joint purchase by many of the compacts and conspiracies, but is currently held and maintained by the cell Aeternum.
The local Lost maintain their stronghold in the Brooklyn Free Economic Zone, or B-FEZ for short. Ruled by The Board of Directors, B-FEZ is the center of the unique economic power that the half-fae maintain in the city that never sleeps. That’s not to say that B-FEZ is nothing but a capitalist hellscape: Brooklyn maintains its air of whimsy and Bohemian dreams though the careful control of The Board, for they fight to hold back the tide of gentrification, on both mundane and supernatural fronts.
Queens is the perfect place for Beasts to settle. It’s diverse enough for their quirks to go unnoticed, large enough for their Horrors to roam without tapping too many Heroes, and populous enough to provide ample hunting grounds. The presence of several stable Chambers and the lack of Heroes in the borough have also made it the ideal stronghold for The Begotten as they try to unite and consolidate power.
Manhattan is the unbeating, unliving heart of the Kindred in New York. The island has seen centuries of shadow-warfare, but for the last fifteen years it has known a tenuous peace under the firm, distant hand of the current Prince. For the largest part, Manhattan itself is divided less by territory and more by spheres of interest and control, and the night-to-night dealings of the Kindred largely managed by the influential Five Families of the Priscus Council.
Staten Island is where Deviants and those that are still, on many levels, Mortals make their base of operations. While mostly mundane compared to the other creatures that go bump in the night, they make their place in one of the few areas of New York that has some semblance of privacy. The suburban borough is a perfect place for the mortals with lives altered by knowing the truth of the world, keeping them hidden from the larger fish in the pond but still allowing them to handle their own affairs.