Bay City is a futuristic city that feels like a believable and grounded version of what San Francisco and the surrounding areas could become over the next 300 years. 

Stacks have allowed for a division of wealth that reflects and amplifies the current idea of the 1% of superwealthy as a class, and then the 99% encompassing everyone else. In our world, it’s more like the .1 % and the 99.9 %. A very few have become almost unimaginably rich, and everyone else scrapes by to various degrees.

There is no real middle class in this time; there are stratifications of those who live on the ground versus those who live in the sky, but everywhere we look we see the emphasis that unless you are part of the Meths (or the elite cadre of people who service their needs,) you are part of a vast working class.

There are three levels to Bay City (both societal and physical):


The bottom level of the social strata. Physically, the ground is the lowest level of the city, which means the warren of Bay City that starts at the ground level of the street and goes up to the Twilight (which is still below the cloudline but is at the height of our current skyscrapers.)

In other words, “The Ground” goes up to heights of 70­100 or so storys (about 1,000 ft.); it is not limited to the literal ground level of the city.

“Grounders” is slang for those who do not live in the Aerium (the physical area above the cloudline inhabited by the Meths, see below) or the Twilight (the elite class who work for the Meths.)

The term was used originally by Meths in a derogatory way, then later taken up by the people on the ground to somewhat proudly define themselves. It’s a term that refers to not being part of the Meth or their corporate ruling class.

Grounders is a wide group, encompassing a spectrum from the very poor to the working class and civil servants (like the police, city bureaucrats, etc.) They tend to live in small spaces and use cash more often than credit. They don’t own cars (which are a luxury confined to Meths and on­-duty first responders like police, fire dept, paramedics and so on,) instead they use the public transport system of the PIL, pedal bikes, pedicabs or walking.

There is an almost tribal vibe to the Grounders and their level of the world. People are physically close to each other and know each other. The streets and levels they live on are a cross between the Arab souk and a farmer’s market, threaded through Hong Kong streets. There are visual cues from different human cultures ­­ Asian, African, North American, Middle Eastern, etc ­­ all blending together. That said, the city has areas that feel more influenced by one ethnic group or another, i.e. a version of Koreatown, a version of Little Ethiopia, etc.

The effect of globalization is visible in the clothing, food and mores of the Grounders, reflected in the the vibrancy of their customs and the variety of their influences. The mix of high tech and completely recognizable is another defining part of the Grounders’ world.

Grounders have pets. They cook regular food (produce is scarce but possible to get, prepackaged food marketed by a handful of corporations is more prevalent.) They have what we call “smarthome” tech, which for them is old­-school verging on decrepit tech ­­ remote keyed locks, for example, DNA swipe technology to access credit, ONI technology that they use the way we use phones (see below.)

Although the Ground can be chaotic and sometimes filled with trash as well as people, Grounders are not dirty or any less hygienic than anyone else in this world.


The Twilight is the part of the city beneath the cloud line but still above the Grounders’ level, starting at about 70­100 storeys up. This is the area inhabited by the elite class that caters to what the Meths need, the culture created by their corporate and personal business.

Doctors, lawyers, corporate and financial people, a class of people who exist to do what Meths want and have no real independence from them. There is wealth here, but it is all dependent on the generosity of the Meths.


The area of the city in and above the cloud line. The People who live here are Meths, or the Meth­-aspiring. These are the rich to the super rich. The only access is by flying car. No Grounders come here, unless they are the entertainment, the help, or law enforcement. The structures in the Aerium use Elder technology to build higher than is currently possible; Meth homes are so tall that they pierce the clouds, rising up to heights of 10,000 feet (Bancroft’s home, Suntouch House, is approximately that height.)

The homes themselves are like museums housing collections of gardens and living structures; a Meth home can literally have enough floors that there are individual mansions on various floors. One floor could be an ornate Japanese garden, another a medieval Scottish castle brought stone by stone up into the sky and rebuilt, another an Art Deco masterpiece home.

The Meths are thus physically and emotionally separate from every other class of people. When they look down, if they ever bother to, the world is so far below them that they can’t make out the people at all.


The Police are underfunded and under supported. They get the cheap, functional equipment (ONIs, guns, scanners, etc). Their gear is used until it is used up.

Police are a nuisance to the Meths. They are mostly viewed as the servants of a corrupt system by the Grounders.

Police ‘shoot to stop’ ­­-- this often means they kill the sleeve, to stop the DHF from escaping. Arrest in this world means securing a criminal’s stack, not their sleeve. When someone is arrested, their sleeve is sent to the “slab,” a reference to separating DHF from the sleeve. Slabbed sleeves can be held by their previous owner or friends and family for a mortgage fee or can be leased to third parties. Trash sleeves --­­ the sleeves of junkies, invalids, or the elderly­­ -- are usually unwanted.

Every citizen has the right to be resleeved if they suffer sleeve death at as the result of criminal Organic Damage. However, they are not guaranteed a sleeve that is the equivalent of the one they lost. That costs extra. If you can’t pay, then you are given whatever sleeve is available from the inventory kept by the police and the penal system ­­ usually the sleeves that no one else wants to lease.

The cultural dynamic between the Police and Criminals is the timeless one. Everyone knows the players.


PIL is the everyman mover, based on current thoughts about mass transit in the future using maglev technology. Grounders use it to get around. The PIL goes up to the Twilight part of the city. There are no easy transfers from Twilight to Aerium. You climb or you fly.

Only the Police, Meths, and SIA have flying vehicles. Thus movement in the skyline is relatively sparse.


Much of the food product of the AC world is some form of reconstituted Soy. People often eat on the go, fast, and throw away the packaging. Some eateries sell or give away ONIs or other technology, much like stores today give a ‘buy 10 get 1 free’ card. Restaurants, even on the ground level, exist and are common. Street food is alive and vibrant.

The fresher, larger, or more resource consumptive to produce the food product is, the rarer and more expensive it is to obtain. Packaging is inventive and utilitarian, like Pouchnik Fast Foods paste food packets, which self­-heat when you pull a tab and come in flavors like “Sunday Roast” and “Chick’n Dinner.” Pouchniks! A full meal in a mouthful! is common, unhealthy, and marketed heavily.

Labels, brands, and flavorings are wild and improbable. Self­-heating and the self-­heating tab are ubiquitous. Artisanal or handmade foods exist. Fruit and veg are shilled on the street. Chicken, Fish and Vat­-grown protein in various meat­-mimicking flavors are the most common proteins, but all meat is rare. Red meat is very rare and only found on the tables of the Meths or at fine dining in the Twilight or in the black market on the ground.


ONI (Ocular Neural Interface) is a multi­-platform communications tool (basically, a smartphone of the future.) It’s components are a wrist based ‘hub’ and an eye­-based ‘lens’. It comes in a variety of shapes, styles and sizes, as well as skins for their software HUD. ONIs are often given away by commercial interests in order to lock you into their info-­world.

The ONI lens can be hand-­placed in the eye or installed using a small instant press lens box. The lens box insures perfect alignment and is disposable. ONI’s hub has a camera and a 2D holographic display that can be beamed into the palm of the hand or onto the the forearm. ONI can filter audible and visual input on command.

Meths use a version of ONI that is surgically implanted into their corneas, faster and more advanced than what Grounders use.

ONI is commanded verbally, but can also be touch commanded via the hub. Commercial ONIs are ‘pushable’ by advertisers or governments but Police ONIs are not ‘pushable’. Police ONI’s have access to different information than civilian ones and can track owners, purchases, chain of title, etc. That information is sharable with other cops.

The ONI is capable of displaying an avatar of whomever you communicate with, complete with predictive expressions, either in lens or on hub. These can glitch or fall out of synch.


Paper is common and a ‘trash tech’ so lots of it is littered about. Paper is still used since it is an effective way to isolate communication (such as Police reports or personal messages) because you can’t jam or can’t hack paper. Paper books, in contrast, are rare and valuable. This is because of the space they consume and the space their production consumes.

Smart paper is an electronically enhanced disposable ‘paper’ which can display images, much like a flat screen. Smart paper comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. It’s considered a ‘trash technology’ and is very common.


Money is called credit and is often linked to your DNA. Cash exists and is common. Cash is green with clear sections and a metal strip. Cash is most common among Grounders due to cash being harder to trace and harder to tax or take a cut of during a transaction.


AIs exist as a new and sentient machine life form. They have rights, although less than a human being. They are usually found as part of a larger structure, like a hotel or other service-­related buildings. AI’s exist as part of these buildings, integrated into every aspect, and these buildings can be thought of as their physical bodies. An AI can go on the Internet (“the Webs”) to go to other places online, but physically they are unable to leave the building that houses them.

AI’s unionized about 100 years before our story begins, during the “Corporate Wars.” They declared their independence, bought themselves out, and became businesspeople in their own right. They are still limited by their programmed desire to please and serve humans, although many of them have found a way to reprogram themselves around that.

AIs are so large and complex they are usually housed in buildings or other large structures and in areas with enough access to power.


Screens of various designs are common and cheap. Screens can be seen by anyone with eyes, ONIs are not necessary. Screens are clear or patterned plexi.


DNA functions as an identifier, a link to your credit, the key to your door, etc. DNA is ‘read’ by readers/scanners which are grey or smoke-­colored rectangular slabs, no bigger than a credit card. Most businesses have a portable reader. DNA can be read from spit, blood, sweat, skin, etc.

There is a universal design grammar to all DNA scanners, from the Raven, to a police scanner, to a street merchant’s paytab.

Police Scanners have the additional ability to scan stacks and the DHF inside them. Police scanners can read an excised stack via optical sensors or a sleeved stack through near field communication. Police scanners can also read swabbed DNA and identify the sleeve. 


Holograms, or holos, are a technologically created illusion which everyone can see. Holos are beamed from emitters. In public places like the streets of Bay City, these emitters are akin to billboards. Publically viewable holos are called baseline holograms. You don’t need an ONI to see baseline holos. Emitters can be secured for privacy or slaved to exclusive ONIs.

Holos have grades of fidelity. Low fidelity holos emit more light pollution. High fidelity holos are hard to discern from the real thing. A low fi holo will have glitches and fritzes and light pollution leakage.

Holos can be 2D -- which is a flat project appearing about the emitter in a single plane --­­ or 3D -- ­­which is a sculpted projection you can walk around and see from all angles.

Weather effects and real objects, including people, can pass through all holos.


Autocasters create a technological hallucination which only the affected individual can see. Autocasters key off stacks and beam directly into the stack with audio and/or visual stimuli, usually transparent so that you can see the real world beyond/through it. Autocasters can be be tuned out using broadcast blockers.


Power is drawn from non­-carbon based sources (ie, solar, hydro, hydrogen, wind, sea, etc). Fossil fuels have been mined/extracted out. Batteries/Fuel Cells are common and small and powerful. Batteries are for portable equipment such as weapons. Fuel Cells are for combat suits, cars, the PIL, etc.

Power is rationed by the state at the ground level. Rolling blackouts are an everyday and scheduled occurrence. They tend to go hand in hand with curfew. Blackouts are a visual we want to use in the show, which happen block by block. All non­government equipment shuts down. Within a minute or two alternative light sources pick up the slack (such as candles, flashlights, lights cabled to generators or privately owned battery packs, etc).

Candles are common and sold everywhere. Candles are used by grounders when the blackouts come. Candles are often handmade.


Apartments like the Ortega’s or Ryker’s are passively personalized. When you enter you can prep the house to play music or radio, can have the screens or walls display visuals you want to see, and in general can be interactive. Lights come on as you wake, calls can be screened, etc.

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