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Introduction to Neverwhere

Another reality - another dimension; under, over, and astride our own. This is Neverwhere, the place where things and people forgotten and lost go. If you travel there, beware! It is a journey of no return, for you cannot be of both worlds, and it is easier to get lost than to be found again.

Imagine the world we live in (not too difficult a feat, huh?) We are all living nice, comfortable, well-ordered lives - well, at least a lot of people do, and if you have the time to scavenge the Internet for roleplaying backgrounds, I suppose I can count you in. Take a moment now and turn around, looking at what is right behind you. Then turn back here and describe to yourself what you were seeing. Is that all there was? Maybe there is a bookshelf - do you describe it as such, hoping the word is sufficient? What about the colour? The material? The books in it? There are things you edit out when you take in the world with your senses. Not every speck on that wall over there is important, just the wall itself is. You don't need to describe the title of each book in the shelf, much less the number of pages or the chemical formula of the glue which holds the books together. The important info is that there's a wall, there's a bookshelf, and there are books.

Now look again and try to notice all those things you did not include in your description, things you did not see at first glance. You will find that there is a wealth of detail, useless to the description, but there nevertheless, which you have disregarded.

Neverwhere is part of our reality, but so far removed from our happy lives that we edit it out completely. It is the home of the homeless, beneath our feet and up on the roofs, in subway tunnels, forgotten alleys and everywhere (neverwhere) you are not ready to turn and look. Even if you meet it face to face you do not notice it; you may be puzzled for a moment, but then you turn away and it is gone, vanished, out of sight, out of mind. Do you actually see the derelicts in the streets of your city, the run-down houses and the mountains of garbage? Or do you conveniently look the other way?

That is what Neverwhere is about: the things we do not see.

Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere is set in London. In an interview he said that as a child he used to wonder about the names of underground stations - was there a real Earl at Earl's Court? Was there an Angel in Islington? In Neverwhere, there is. They may be the reason behind the place names or the places may become personified. In Neverwhere, urban legends become true, magic works, and nothing is what you would think it is. There is no need to believe that Neverwhere is restricted to the London area, neatly separating London Above and London Below. Instead, every place or at least every city has its counterpart Neverwhere. While details of London Below will be disclosed here, I do encourage you to find your own place, maybe even your own city, and find out the nature of its Neverwhere regions. Take London Below as a example and work from there.

In Neil Gaiman's novel, a man called Richard Mayhew, who is leading a secure and uneventful life in London, finds out the hard way that there is another London, a London Below, which he would never have dreamed possible. When he enters it, he is lost to London Above, the place he came from. He has to adapt, adopt and improve or die in the process. London Below is, for the most part, below street level, hence the name. It consists of the sewers, maintenance walkways, and, above all, the subway tunnels and stations, most importantly those which were forgotten. There are about fifty subway stations in London which are no longer used today.

In every city you will find locked, rusted metal doors leading who knows where. They may be built into tunnels, houses no-one lives in anymore, and lots of other places. They look like no-one has used them for years. You don't even notice them most of the time. They lead Neverwhere.

Whole societies live in London Below: the Ratspeakers, the Sewer Folk, the Velvets, to name but a few. All of these are outcasts; their way of life runs contrary to the accepted ways of life of London Above, so they became lost and forgotten, ending up in London Below. People, things and even, occasionally, places lost and forgotten turn up eventually in Neverwhere. The Sewer Folk make a living pulling such things and the occasional corpse out of the sewers and offering it for sale on the Floating Market, a kind of bazaar for the people of London Below. Here, these broken and discarded things may find new value; the people living on the underside do not see value in money but in those things they can put to practical use.

Some of the descriptions herein may be spoilers if you want to read the novel/watch the series. If you are going to do either or both, do so first and return later. Things will be clearer then, and you will have tasted the unique atmosphere which I, lacking Mr. Gaiman's talent and not being a native speaker of English, cannot hope to convey in these texts.

I have tried to include all the relevant information given in the novel. I have both the American and the British version which is 2000 words longer and funnier than the American version while it lacks some explanations non-British readers might find useful (such as detailing Oxford Street instead of just dropping the name). Where things were just hinted at, I have made my own conjectures. These are always marked with an asterisk (*) at the beginning of the paragraph.

The quotations in italics are taken from the book.

There is some information about game rules in the text; the rules in question are from my own system GeneSys which will be published on this site soon.

I hope you have as much fun reading and using the material as I have had collecting it!

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