Like All Good Neighbors
A Visitor's Guide to Lagos
A Visitor’s Guide To Lagos (annotated ShadowSea Summary)
Today is Sunday, February 7th
Today’s Weather in Lagos: 34 deg C (daytime high)with heavy sustained winds
Lagos is a feral city on the coast of West Africa. The city itself is home to 10–20 million people, most of whom live in conditions that make the Redmond Barrens look luxurious. Immensely powerful and rich warlords rule the city from the secure enclave of Lagos Island. Corporate investment in the city is high, since it is the primary outlet for the oil pumped in the Niger delta and serves as a no-holds-barred playground for everything from cheap consumer goods to black-market bioweapons. Almost any goods with value can be bought or sold in Lagos, be it weapons, metahumans, or technology. With no police force (or city-wide infrastructure), the rich and powerful write their own rules—and the corporations enjoy having no rules at all.
The city is built around large, shallow lagoons of brackish, polluted water. About a quarter of the sprawl area is actually water, and much of the rest of the city is built on a swamp. During the rainy season, streets become waterways and entire neighborhoods are flooded. Homes built over the swamps and lagoons balance precariously on stilts, while wooden or plastic slats connect homes. In the drier areas of the city, homes are often built of cinderblocks, and multi-story apartment complexes are common in the dense slums. Everywhere, people collect
the acidic rainwater on rooftops and in barrels, and many families have rooftop “gardens” of edible fungi and hardy plants. The water from the lagoon, rivers, and streams is too polluted with toxic chemicals and metahuman waste to be drinkable (in fact, just falling into the water can cause a metahuman to become seriously ill). Less than one percent of the population has ccess to clean water (or plumbing), and so sterilized bags of water are common at markets and roadside vendors. Shamans with the sterilize spell are such valuable commodities that gangs and neighborhoods have been known to go to war to acquire one.
Food is another danger; fish from the lagoons can be toxic, and vegetables and fruit are often washed in polluted water. Food-borne illness is rampant, especially amongst visitors. There are few soy or soy-based products, however, and the spicy cooking features fresh fish, Cassava, rice, and yams. Devil rats (or their less dangerous cousins) are also a staple.
In December and February, the strong Harmattan wind blows from the Sahara, bringing a warm, dry period and coating everything in the city with a fine, red dust. There is little to no rain during this time, and drinkable water becomes scarce.
Magic runs through the city, with tribal dibias and olorishas (shamans) holding their societies together or profiting by their powers. Much of the city has a background count, from centuries of metahuman suffering, misery, and overwhelming pollution. Some areas are domains that favor toxic magic, like the dense, polluted slums of Shomolu, while others favor nature magic, such
as the wild, untamed grasslands of Ifako-Ijaye. Dangerous Awakened creatures are drawn to the tainted astral space. Local dibias learn to compensate for the difficulty in drawing mana, but visitors can be caught unaware.
Wireless coverage in the city is provided primarily through a Mesh Network. There are a few areas with reliable wireless coverage (such as Festac Town or Lagos Island). However, since the majority of the population has commlinks (although many are scavenged from corporate recycling programs), a viable mesh network exists. The network is subject to the flows of metahuman traffic, however, and at anytime, coverage could go from strong to non-existent within a few minutes.
While many people have commlinks, almost no one has a bank account (or ID). Instead, most of the
daily financial transactions are done through barter or physical currency. The naira is the common currency for Lagos, and 20 naira are worth approximately 1 nuyen. Rampant forgery makes the paper naira almost worthless, while coins (in amounts up to 500 naira) are slightly better as long as a person verifies the coin is made from real metal. Better yet are hawala tokens,
which are accepted everywhere in the sprawl and are often given a higher value in daily transactions. Hawala tokens generally come in amounts up to 1,000 naira. Most sprawl residents will also accept bartered items in exchange for goods or services.
There are estimates that there are over one hundred different languages spoken in Lagos. Many residents speak a Lagos-specific type of city speak, which combines several tribal languages with English and French. Other major languages are Yoruba and Igbo. While Horizon’s Life-line linguasoft service has Yoruba linguasofts available, there are no linguasofts on the market for the unique Lagosian city speak, Igbo, or any of the other tribal languages. However, between Yoruba, English, and French, most oyibos (foreigners) can make themselves understood, as long as they remember not to speak Yoruba to an Igbo unless they’re spoiling for a fight.
Also see: Hawala