Saturday, 22 April 2023

Dead Silver

1) Thumb-sized heavy coin of light-grey metal with a rather lackluster sheen. Usually caged in a secondary ring of gold, steel or lead to make it safer to handle. Do not touch with bare skin. Do not ingest. Do not inhale. 

Stored in air-tight glass container when not in immediate use but might be found freely among other treasures, a mere oddity if its value is not suspected. One side of the coin bears two crossed hooks over an unfamiliar crest. The second bears the likeness of a person currently touching the coin.

Push it through a pavement crack, into a door gap, into a mouth of a corpse, toss into an opening of a well, into a crevice at mountainside, into a bark fissure, into a wall fracture – any still object opening into darkness, be it a part of a building, or a piece of nature wide enough to let a body through will let the darkness widen and become fluid to let the body through. Just after the body goes through the darkness is gone, withering back to what it was faster than a heartbeat.

Dead Silvers are popular with criminals, drifters, occultists, revolutionaries, thrill-seekers, the desperate, the lost, the prosecuted, the exiles, the opportunists, the harried, those who cannot afford teleport or don't live in the places such magic exists. Each coin lets through a single person, unless more follow them immediately, tightly bound by a foot and hand or conjoined (surgically or otherwise) enough to be considered a single body.

2) The city behind the door of darkness. World closed off like an eggshell, horizon curving up, surrounded by nothing, white flame dancing on horizon under the darkest indigo skies. Layers upon layers of buildings, vast areas of twilight shapes dotted only by a few residential lights – emerald, sapphire, amber and ruby, a rare amethyst – and by the glow from ceaseless fires of Flutes, and, highest above all, by white lines criss-crossing the bricked up Tyrant's Palace, the thin shadowless net of pale flame netted over the dark bulbous mass. 


art by Jorge Jacinto

The crest of a coin indicates the district where in the city the traveller lands. Don't forget to pick up a coin from the pavement. 

Cross the city from one end to the opposite end, from Arsenal to Golden Gates, from Academia to River Pier, from Drowned Gardens to Hungry Bay, from Ossia to Holy Larva. Appear anywhere back in the world, no matter how far, with the only requirement the exit point to be a place not touched by the light for the last year: somebody's basement, somebody's closet, dark alley forgotten by sun, the sewer, the cave, the shadowed forest; there are more of such places than one might think. It doesn't matter how long the travel through the Dead Silver takes in the traveller's own heartbeat, it doesn't matter how far in the world distance they wish to travel – as they cross the city they cross the single night. Even if the traveller rest for a month, even if they stay in Dead Silver for a life.

Many do stay in Dead Silver: while it won't make one immortal by default to some it is the second closest, and the suspension of hunger, and breath, and thirst, and dreams to some is still better than a destitute starving life they had outside. The Tyrant's Palace said to hold the secret of true immortality, (and many try for it, but glowing barbed linelight so far bars any entrance). 

The Tyrants are absent-present rulers of the city: they don't speak or issue edicts and for all purposes are personally absent, yet their presence is ever-felt, deep to the marrow of the bones. The Tyrants are the weather, and the law system, and the divine light of the absurd zodiac. They rise one after another, their respective constellation lights the darkest indigo skies, and they impose their presence over the city, and fade only to reappear again, one after another, one after another again. Their courts fill the city like a rain, tall figures of Courtiers appear and vanish to be replaced with a different Courtiers just as their Tyrants are.

Calendar is measured in Tyrants, even if it has no meaningful years, only 'month' after a 'month'. The gradient of their rule replaces usual notches of the clocks, even if each lasts a different amount of heartbeats. As the Tyrant comes to the throne of the Palace the whole city shifts, the streets reconfigure, the reality somewhat changes: beauty of body is exalted and heightened along the certain lines once Bleak-of-Face is in zenith just as colours shift to blue, mental acuity unfocuses and no truth can be said about anything in the past; each of the Tyrants has a certain pull over Dead Silver, each is their own overlay. This is only dangerous to unwary newcomers, those unlucky to be caught in Ascendant Dancer apex or those caught in the area with Courtiers without proper safety measures. 

There are some that grow used to Dead Silver and stay there until the end of their days, but there isn't much to be said about them, except that they existed and then they existed no longer. 


Dead Silver was something I was very excited at one point to write about – my own everchanging city with fancy, somewhat sinister districts, and overlaying different layers of reality laws and weather and strange creatures that come and go on an exotic clock; city that shreds its tapping to reconfigure itself to each incoming Tyrant only to reconfigure itself again for the next one. I thought how players would learn about the places in the city, its ebbs and flow, and maybe come to like it.

But then I realized that for the purposes of the travelling through the night (providing that PCs even want to use the coins instead of much more faster and functional teleports), there is no need to learn anything about the city anything aside of the monsters, and it probably would be too much to ask players to do so, if everything that they look for is a quick trip.

Then I realized that its central premise 'to cross a world in a single night' also creates time paradoxes, so with that the city is completely unplayable as a gaming location, so the whole idea is kind of a failure. I leave it here as a tribute to now-discontinued subway tokens and the strange coins they once inspired.


  1. Beautiful (or beautifully ugly) imagery, a lot of Weird ideas, things that feel like intentional subtext (or if it's unintentional that's ok too)- evocativeness, this is awesome!

    Dead Silver as a concept feels almost like an alternate take on The Yellowbrick Road, or at least thematically; a traversal of spacetime that's really a traversal of an idea, in this case a kind of Wonderlandian abstract math made literal where time is defined by quasi-godly, largely absent tyrants. I can't help but feel that the concept of Dead Silver and silver coins and tyrants and many of the other ideas are meant to reflect a critique of capitalism and/or modern society (and maybe also of metaverses or other forms of especially digital escapism within capitalist society?).

    There is so much here and I don't at all feel like I understand all of it, in fact probably most of what I said above is wrong, but nonetheless its ability to evoke these thoughts, and the fact that I can plausibly imagine any number of other interpretations, speaks to its quality.

    Also I disagree that it's an unplayable failure! Why must spacetime and causality conform to some preconceived linear notion? Why can't a single night be one infinity in a set of infinite infinities?

    1. Thank you for your kind words; I am glad you found the article inspirational.

      To explain, deglamourize and, possibly, disappoint, nothing in this post is envisioned as any critique to capitalism, at least not inherently more so than any subway system (which inspired the place) is; even if we look at it is through in-world lenses the city is supposed to be scarcely inhabited, and without need for food, water, passions and most of the sleep and tons of empty buildings free to live in, it is kind of very threadbarely post-scarcity place, in a sense that nothing much is going on. Courtiers and some laws could be dangerous but so does the flashflood.

      Dead Silver coins are just re-interpretation of bi-metal coins such as lyre or yen. The travel through the night can be seen as a more detailed alternative procedure to "Shadow Walk" spell. I liked Corpathium ( and wanted to create my own city in a similar way, only, of course, it turned out to be a much blander and less interesting place so much I don't want to even post what got written; the idea of Tyrants is a combination of Weather of Grey ( with Old Laws from some "World of Darkness" supplement or another; nothing unique, really.

      As for infinite infinities, as it was supposed to be just an alternative to "Teleport" or "Shadow Walk" spell in otherwise pretty traditional setting, it complicates things too much in these regards. Maybe for something like Planescape it would work better but then again, if you already have something like Planescape, you already have all wonders you'd ever need.

  2. I have no clue what you're talking about. This is a great idea for both a location and a method of teleportation.

    I honestly hate normal teleportation anyway, which is why I rarely include it. But the idea of cursed, toxic silver coins that take you to a city beneath an indigo sky, ruled by an Immortal Tyrant and full of mysterious monsters? That is awesome.

    1. Glad you like it. Thank you for your kind words.

      To explain, deglamourize and, possibly, disappoint, time paradoxes, unfortunately, make it kind of unplayable. For example: it is Thursday and big race is tomorrow on Friday. Two people enter on Thursday, one leaves, crossing Dead Silver in a single night, thus arriving into Friday morning. Learning the results of the race, the person travels back to Dead Silver where the first person is still waiting, not crossing yet; the first person gets the knowledge of the race results from the second person and crosses the city, thus arriving into their own Friday morning (while the second person exits second time into Saturday morning). Knowing the results of the race, first person on their own Friday exploits the race system to bet a lot of money on the winner (this is not to mention that the first person has to be careful not to encounter the second person on their first outing, thus creating additional paradoxes).
      And if to delete the poetry about the crossing of the city in the single night, it is just a dark city like many others.

    2. Well, I can see that you've thought about this much more than I had. Honestly, I didn't understand what you meant when you brought up paradoxes.

      For an easy solution, just link the flow of time to Dead Silver, maybe it's accelerated or slowed. For example, walking across a room in Dead Silver (maybe 30 seconds) takes 10 minutes in our world, so if I entered on Thursday and crossed the City, then exited back to my world, to me only a few hours might have passed, but perhaps an entire day passed, so I return to my world on Friday morning.

      Alternatively, I enter on Thursday at 10:30 AM and cross the entire city, dodging inhuman gangs, fighting monsters and solving riddles. Eventually I make it across the city after hours or days of struggle and when I exit, I find I am hundreds of miles from my entrance point, but it is only 11:10 AM.

    3. Just as I said, to make Dead Silver city any playable, the core concept should be discarded.

  3. Also think it is a lovely place you've written up here. One can easily imagine the sorts of characters and subcultures that might gravitate around Dead Silver.

    Re: time paradoxes & unplayability, maybe that's what the tyrants and their courtiers are there at least in part to handle - their nature as a parallel/alternative clock or zodiac certainly seems to tie them into time as a concept. The roadblocks of bureaucracy and courtly subterfuge/violence - and sometimes maybe literal roadblocks - they'd put in the way of causing paradoxes would also serve to entangle players in the goings-on of Dead Silver.

    1. Thank you for kind words. Glad if you found the concept interesting.

      Could be. I haven't thought of Courtiers as a time paradox solvers but it might be a solution.