The dock front emerged from a simple yet ancient problem: How do you connect ships and their stuff co dry land as efficiently as possible? The dock front provides a centralized location for ships to launch and land, load and unload cargo, and manage their legal and bureaucratic affairs.
The most prominent feature of a dock front is its docks – the straight physical platforms that provide a means of landing and launching vehicles. In times of old, these were made almost exclusively of wood, while most large modern docks are usually metal and concrete, especially those designed for huge ocean liners, oil tankers, or freighters.
Docks have several features, the extent of which depends on their size. First, docks exist primarily to handle cargo; as such, roads, warehouses, cranes, and lots of burly people are nearby to get goods off and on a ship. The offices and employees necessary to keep track of these shipments are also usually nearby. These buildings are almost always nondescript and Spartan; the sea air plays havoc with any ornamentation, and docks do not depend on foot traffic.
Second, dock fronts exist as a means of permitting and organizing aquatic excursions. In olden times (pulp-era and before), one-way ship-bound travel was much more attractive, but today’s luxury liners and yachts primarily give their occupants a chance to enjoy the sea, depositing its passengers in the same spot they left. These often use the same docks as the cargo vessels, though private docks for the rich are common. Regardless, these areas are often rigged to provide a bit more comfort for passengers, usually with benches, bars, and sometimes duty-free shops.
Finally, most large docks have a governmental authority or liaison to ensure that all security, legal, and tax issues are resolved. The Port Authority wields supreme authority in its domain, and it can ban certain vessels or shippers, or even restrict or close the entire dock. In eras where terrorism is an immediate threat, security systems are much more omnipresent, requiring a Difficult con, security, or sneak check to circumvent. In other eras, docks are much more relaxed and usually the point of entry or egress for criminals, undesirables, or others who exist outside the law; at most a Moderate check is necessary, and most docks are Easy to get into. Of course, these difficulties do not assume the possibility of having help, such as a corrupt insider; such aid would make things much easier .
The dock can exist in almost any era virtually untouched. Any changes would be cosmetic and behind the scenes – inventory controlled by clipboards instead of computers, cranes powered by people instead of diesel, and so on. Likewise the dock front scales trivially to different sizes; two or three docks mean the area can handle at most dozens of ships a day, while hundreds of docks in various sizes mean that thousands of vessels can come and go.
Don’t Miss …
The Midton Harbor was first so dubbed in 1877 and has grown steadily – and profitably – ever since. After the recession of the early 1980s, most of the dock was taken over by investors Dale and Douglas O’Dare. Twin brothers, these 50-year-olds have kept the docks running in full order for decades. Unfortunately, they are at moral extremes; Douglas has made all manner of shady deals and illegal operations, ensuring the docks’ continued contributions to the city’s flow of contraband and other ills. Dale O’Dare, the altruistic multimillionaire, continues to run the dock for all manner of humane purposes and is unaware of his brother’s misdeeds … or of the fact that Douglas often impersonates Dale to further his own goals.
The bulk of the harbor’s commercial docks are allocated according to vessel size and tradition; fishing vessels traditionally use the crane docks to unload, then trade and sell their wares at Fisherman’s Wharf. Mundane docks are numbered, giving them a specific address. Freighters not requiring a crane generally unload on Tillard’s Wharf (named for a regional Civil War hero), while smaller vessels generally use the mini-docks; in particular, Douglas has used the docks between Tillard’s Wharf and Holder’s Marina for illegal activity.
The Port Authority was traditionally weak at Midton Harbor, but recent terrorist events have bolstered its budget and power. Nyokabi Bira, the 33-year-old Kenyan immigrant who heads the Authority, has begun all manner of investigations and increased counterterrorism measures. Her mandate also extends to the Midton Ferry, which transports thousands of passengers daily and is a security nightmare.
Outside of the Port Authority, Holder’s Marina is the only property of note not owned by the O’Dares. These docks harbor the most expensive ships of the city’s elite. Cardamom Holder, the beautiful 27-year- old socialite who inherited the legal rights to the marina, has proven surprisingly curious and competent in the day-to-day affairs of Midton Harbor. Some in the know think this gray-eyed firebrand has her sights on taking control of more of the harbor … although whether this is for common good or her own desires is unknown. She spends her spare at the Norse Yacht Club, where nautically minded millionaires pass their days in its opulence.
Things to See
+ Thick rope or chain wound or tied around posts
+ Life jackets and rings
+ Large, yellow or red metal buoys
+ Heavy metal anchors
+ Yellow or white safety caps
+ Black safety ear protectors (“earmuffs”)
+ Flat pallets constructed of wooden slats or molded from plastic, about one to I .2 meters on each side, sometimes stacked with containers and sometimes stacked on each other
+ Long boards from broken pallets
+ Large metal, plastic, or wooden barrels and crates, empty or filled with transported goods (books, shoes, toys, clothing, grain, oil, wine, etc.)
+ Forklift (see the “Warehouse” entry for details)
+ Huge green, blue, or black, rectangular, metal bins for trash with heavy plastic lids
People to Meet
Most dock employees have 2D in all attributes, although some burly dock workers have up to 1D more in Physique and 1D less in a mental attribute (generally Knowledge); pips in lifting, stamina, and swimming are near-mandatory, while +1D in repair or know-how can help to deal with the myriad of unforeseen problems that can arise. Administrative types may have up to 1D more in mental attributes, at the cost of a physical attribute; +2D or more is likely in skills such as business, languages (for ports with an international presence), security (especially in a setting where terrorism is a valid concern), and one or more social skills (especially command, but charm, intimidation, and persuasion can reflect certain leadership techniques).
Dock Worker: Reflexes 3D, brawling 3D+1, melee combat 3D+1, Coordination 2D, piloting 2D+2, throwing 2D+1, Physique 3D, lifting 3D+2, running 3D+1, stamina 3D+1, swimming 3D+2, Knowledge 2D, business 2D+1, Perception 2D, repair 3D, Presence 2D, intimidation 2D+1, willpower 20+1. Move: 10. Strength Damage: 2D. Body Points: 11. Wound levels: 2.
Things to Do
+ The players’ characters track a major villain to the dock front … shortly before the Annual Boat Show parades downriver! Can the heroes track him down – perhaps by commandeering a ship of their own – and stop him before he slips away?
+ The docks have been sealed off. Is it to keep something from escaping, or something from arriving? And can the heroes crack the mystery before a shipment of necessary vaccine is delayed or rerouted, resulting in unnecessary loss of life?