Is Wellstone City still relevant in 2023?

Hey everybody, Kevin here. It’s been a while. Let’s talk a little bit about Wellstone City for a minute. Before we dive too deep on that, let me just state that work is progressing on “Æthermancy,” that the needing-to-be-re titled “Shadow War” involving a Spartan Colony on the bad side of Hades is still percolating, and that “300 Leagues Beneath the Earth” is still getting random notes throughout the day. It’s even fair to say that Camp Wicakini V is in progress, though it’s taking a back seat to everything else (I can’t promise it for Halloween of 2023 so I won’t, but I want to). There’s almost more irons in the fire than there is fire to keep everything hot, so let’s focus on one of my favorite projects of Silver Gryphon Games: Wellstone City.

What is Wellstone City?

The Shining Jewel of the Caribbean it was once called. This fictional city on a fictional island had 400 years of history breathed into it so that it could be used as a spring board for a variety of different settings and historical epochs and technology levels. It was referenced in nearly every work I wrote unless it was wildly inappropriate to do so like Milecastle 42 or Legend of the One-Toes. Even other works joined in the fabric of Wellstone, including a reference to Camp Wicakini in Breaking Murphy.

Wellstone City was designed to be a fictional city run by criminals that decent people still want to live in. It was formed in the 1990’s amid a flurry of neo-noir movies and comics like “Sin City” and “The Matrix.” Movies like “Lock Stock and Two Smokin’ Barrels,” “Smokin’ Aces,” “Last Man Standing” (with Bruce Willis, not Tim Allen), and “Dark City” all pulsed in the creative veins of writing the first version. Quentin Tarantino movies fed into it, especially “Pulp Fiction,” “Reservoir Dogs,” and “From Dusk Till Dawn.”

The fictitious metropolis was there with this living, breathing element that was fueled by updates via PDFs and Facebook and with the mantra that your version of Wellstone isn’t just your own, but it’s everyone’s and all at once. As the modern noir movies filled in with films like “The Boondock Saints,” “Lucky Number Sleven,” the re-imagining of “The Mechanic” and “The Equalizer” movies, and films from across the Pacific like “Raid” and “Old Boy,” the setting got more vibrant. 

Each crime family was taken from real life examples or from a small group of LARPing friends in beautiful downtown Rancho Cordova, California. And it grew. And grew. And other companies asked us to use Wellstone City in cyberpunk settings that they had created, using the events of their universe to shape Wellstone. We looked at Zombacalypse: Wellstone City. We looked at dozens and dozens of different things to do with the city, not just keep trudging along with Silver Gryphon’s well-liked brand of cartoonish ultra violence. It was great.

Is Wellstone City still appropriate?

And then, things happened. The whole world changed. I couldn’t see writing about a fictional world of grift and violence when that’s all I could see in the real world. And that’s lead to a lot of soul searching over six-and-a-half years. The big questions that I keep coming back to are pretty simple, but they’re hard for me to answer.

Does the world of Wellstone, the ultra-violent, crime noir setting, have any place in the modern world and our current levels of social acceptability? 

If it does, how will it resonate with the typical gamer, someone who is between the ages of 18 and 45? Will it attract new people to Silver Gryphon Games?

And then I found my two answers much in the same place that I found the original inspiration for the setting itself: the Deadpool franchise and the John Wick franchise. Those two series show that off beat, off color, ultra-violent, crime noir are still beating hard and fast in the hearts of many gamers and that made me very happy.

But those freakin’ smart phones…

But what of the world of Wellstone itself? It was always a little anachronistic, and in modern times, many of the adventures that are able to be run in Wellstone City are defeated by a smart phone. The main body of Wellstone was written in the late 90’s, or at least that’s when the formative ideas were laid down. The bulk of the writing for it was complete in 2005 with just a few finishing touches in 2006 before release. It’s a sturdy framework, but it’s old. Technology has advanced so far that I don’t think most modern gamers can even resonate with a modern setting that can’t solve most problems with a good smart phone. If the concept of the Wellstone City setting is sound, then the details have to be updated, and updated in a big way.

So we’re going to work on that. We’re going to refresh the out-of-time setting with a slick, modern update. I’m going to work on some new adventures in Wellstone City and try to create a setting that still captures that dark and gritty vibe but allows for modern solutions.

Cellphones, self-driving cars, CCTV systems, Ring doorbells… there is a ton of information available and it’s free for the taking if you know what you’re doing. But all that information doesn’t mean a thing if you bark at the wrong people and they decide to bite back. Never pick a fight with an old gangster and never trust a kid, because in Wellstone City, whatever happens, happens.