- "What we have built is more than some mere merchant den. This 'Kingdom of Swing' is a shrine to the individual, where a man, if he uses his own God-given skills, can profit, and where those who try to profit off the labor of others will quickly find themselves on the wrong end of a gun."
- ―The High Roller
|Kingdom of Swing|
|Notable events:||Establishment, Expansion|
The Kingdom of Swing is a misnomer. It is not an oppressive kingdom ruled by a dim-witted blue-blooded ruler. It is, instead, Baltimore's premier merchant's town, a veritable paradise of buying and selling, with an army of merchants and guards streaming in and out at all times and with a host of attractions to serve them all. Every other building in the town is a brothel, or a bar, or a cardhouse, or a store, and all of it leads to the Patterson theater at the town's center, where the greatest attractions are shown and where the settlement's leader, the enigmatic High Roller, presides over it all.
Before the war, the entire area was known as Brewer's Hill, as the National Bohemian beer company made its home there, selling cheap beer in Baltimore and elsewhere. The brewers' presence made the whole area profitable, and a host of restaurants, bars, and other attractions cropped up, including the Patterson Theater, where workers and locals would come to observe plays and shows or to participate in dances. The constant work at the plant kept the area prosperous, even during the recession that accompanied the Resource Wars, and the theater stayed in business even until the bombs fell. When they did, a large number of people fled to the theater, hoping for shelter. Unfortunately, it did not protect them.
For many years, the region of Brewer's Hill that would become the Kingdom of Swing lay empty save for a family or two of squatters or the odd scavenger poking about the ruins. Several small hives of feral ghouls inhabited the area, but the real prevention to settlement was that a large portion of Baltimore's East Side was, for the first hundred years after the war, little more than the battleground for raider clans and petty warlords fighting over salvage and arable land. The closest the area had to serious settlement was the small amount of settlement of the nearby Patterson Park, which, while having some land for farming, changed hands so many times that only a small portion of the land was ever used.
This all changed roughly a hundred and ten years after the Great War, when the first High Roller and his personal army of suited soldiers smashed through from the north, carving a swath of destruction through Baltimore City as it steamrolled down to rest at Brewer's Hill, where the High Roller set up shop at the Patterson Theater. This kind of force was like nothing the people of Baltimore had ever seen: a well-trained, highly organized force of disciplined soldiers. Although its origins are still unknown, most believe that the High Roller's army consisted of absorbed tribes and raiders from the north with a core consisting of remnants of the American Wasteland Army's soldiers. In addition to bringing much more powerful firearms and better tactics, the High Roller's army had a distinct culture, calling itself "The Mob". Apparently, the High Roller was obsessed with the 1920s era of American history and styled himself and his army after it. The Mob spoke in 1920s slang and, unlike local warlords and raiding bands, favored wild trade over control, so long as they were at the center of it.
Once the High Roller settled in Patterson Theater, he immediately began to expand. Residents of Baltimore soon saw Mobsters all around southeast Baltimore. Mobsters were guarding caravans laden with food and salvage, planting crops in parks, erecting walls, restoring buildings, and scavenging buildings and the docks. Word spread among Baltimore's communities that the southeast had a paradise in the making where merchants were safe. As wealth from local traders flowed into the area, more and more people were attracted to this new town, which had started calling itself "The Kingdom of Swing".
The culture of the Kingdom of Swing is as close to that of the 1920s as can be achieved in the wasteland. The High Roller has gone to great lengths to ensure that his city is as close an imitation of that era as possible. Rampant, free drinking and drug use is encouraged, as is flagrant spending. For those who can afford it, the Kingdom of Swing is the perfect place to indulge, offering all manner of goods and services: alcohol, gambling, prostitution, and nightclubs. Long-time residents of the Kingdom usually dress in its style, wearing bright suits or long dresses reminiscent of the 20s. Members of The Mob even go so far as to speak with 1920s slang, a habit that was drilled into them during their training. The Mobsters enforce this throwback culture vigorously. People who do not conform to the rest of the Kingdom's culture are usually turned away or otherwise "taken care of".
Entertainment, besides the aforementioned bars and brothels, is provided by the High Roller in the form of gambling houses and dance halls. Cards and other forms of gambling are often played in the buildings within the Kingdom that are closer to the Patterson, and dance halls will have some form of musical entertainment every night. Most music played in the Kingdom of Swing is, appropriately, swing music, although other forms of jazz and the blues are also performed. Because of its ease to perform, singing is most common in the Kingdom, although some musicians play saxophone, trumpet, guitar, string-bass, or other instruments scavenged from Baltimore's theaters and nightclubs.
Although the Kingdom of Swing's economy functions, fundamentally, on barter, an important difference exists in the Kingdom's economy. Rather than allow caravans and Brahmin to troop through the streets of his city, the High Roller has implemented a system to preserve the "authenticity" of his 1920s domain. Upon entrance to the Kingdom, merchants and citizens willing to exchange goods within its limits check their physical goods and have them exchanged for a roughly equivalent value in Pre-War currency, which is then used to purchase goods within the city limits. They are also given a list of the goods they have exchanged, where they keep track of what they have spent within the city. For merchants only selling one type of good, this is a fairly effective system. Although it puts unnecessary strain on the workers tasked with exchange, cataloging, and storing these goods, this system helps keep the High Roller's vision more or less intact.
However, sometimes, this is simply not feasible, as when a caravan carrying many different types of goods comes through. Instead, these caravans are allowed to trade on the outskirts of town, where the High Roller has conceded that promoting easy trade is more valuable than his peculiar vision. Here, caravans roam between shops, exchanging goods or receiving the Kingdom's money.
In addition to the value placed on it by the nexus of buying and selling within the Kingdom, the dollars used within the Kingdom of Swing are backed by the value of the High Roller's own wealth, the vast collection of salvage, land, and food that his Mob controls. Money used to pay for services is often redeemed for these types of goods, and it is then brought back into circulation to begin the whole process anew.
One other important point about the nature of the Kingdom's economy is this: the High Roller makes sure to prevent any one person or group from seizing control of a sizable amount of the market. His system purposefully makes trading more difficult the more goods one is trading, encouraging a more competitive market in almost all types of goods. When this fails to prevent oligopolies and monopolies from rising up, the High Roller takes more drastic action, using his Mobsters to assassinate merchants who threaten his vision.
The Kingdom of Swing has no formal government system beyond the rules imposed by the High Roller and backed by his Mob. Instead, "law" exists in the form of loose alliances between merchants to share goods or to provide protection for each other. These agreements are frequently broken, as merchants will many times abandon prior agreements in favor of profit. Politics in the Kingdom are a fast and loose affair of backstabbings and back-room agreements between merchants, bosses, and Mobsters, much like politics during the decade that the Kingdom emulates.
The most formal form of law in the Kingdom is the High Roller's, whose use of the Mob to enforce his vision has resulted in a sort of open-market police state. Avaricious merchants are very cautious in taking new deals for fear of attracting too much control of the market and thus attracted the Mob's unwanted attentions.
The High Roller himself is not a single man, but a succession of men, each one being chosen by the last from a group of high-level Mobsters. After being chosen, the new High Roller is indoctrinated into the original's vision, then given control over the Mob and let loose to continue rule of the Kingdom.
The Kingdom exists in a roughly circular pattern, with the Patterson theater at its center. The town proper extends outward from there, with its boundaries at South Linwood Avenue to the west, South Highland Avenue to the east, East Pratt Street to the north, and Fait Avenue to the south. The majority of the Kingdom's attractions and many, many houses are packed into this small area. However, larger portions of the city are considered part of the Kingdom, including a sizable portion of Patterson park, where the Mob grows plants to alleviate the need to trade for food. Whereas the city proper is the idealized 1920s of the High Roller's dreams, the rest of the city, extending out for several more blocks, is much more like the wasteland. The majority of the Mob's presence in the city is in Patterson Park, the city proper, and the National Bohemian brewery and warehouse on Brewer's Hill to the southeast.