The first indoor mall began operation in 1954. Prior to that, shopping locales primarily remained in downtown areas; stores opened to people off the street, encouraging them to see product, come in, and shop. The mall reversed this idea. Rather than exposing its stores and product outward, hoping to entice would-be shoppers to stumble into them, it turned its stores inward, creating a shopping experience free of distractions like road traffic and weather. It didn’t matter that people couldn’t see the smaller shops from the outside; people would be drawn to the mall simply for the promise of pleasurable shopping.
This innovative idea – coupled with a 1954 tax law change that encouraged mall construction – led to a retail revolution. Soon malls were popping up everywhere in the burgeoning suburbia, and within a few short years the downtown retail centers had dried up or transformed. Eventually, the mall paved the way for huge specialization stores (focused on electronics, auto parts, home furnishings, or the like) and gargantuan one-stop retail outlets, which continue to dominate the retail landscape today.
Indoor malls have several defining characteristics, all of which contributed to their success. First, all malls have at least one – and often two or more – “anchor” department stores. These large retailers offer a wide range of goods, although al- most all of them devote a large amount of space to women’s apparel, jewelry, cosmetics, and the like. What other products they include depends on the store’s focus and atmosphere. For example, an upscale fashion department store may have nothing but the finest clothing with the latest fashions and the trendiest makeup, while a general-purpose, ”A- to-Z” shop might offer a smattering of everything, from hardware and electronics to clothing and toys … although none of it would past muster at a debutante ball. Many general-purpose department stores also offer services, such as photography studios, optometry, hairstyling, or tuxedo rental. Anchor department stores are the key to the theory of the mall, since they enable smaller shops to “share the wealth” of the larger magnet stores.
Second, many malls are two-story buildings. This enables shoppers to park at one end of the mall, see all the shops on the first floor, go up via escalator and see the second floor shops, then back down another escalator, ending their circuit back where they parked.
Third, malls tend to have atrocious parking, making it difficult to drive in or out, or otherwise maneuver efficiently. This isn’t by design, but rather seems to be a side effect of poor planning; considerable effort and expense go into designing the mall building itself, while parking becomes an afterthought. As a result, any piloting stunts or maneuvers more difficult than mw1dane driving and parking have their difficulty increased by at least +3 and up to +6 for truly atrocious parking lots at summer sidewalk and holiday sales times.
Finally, malls almost always have a firm set of rules and regulations for their retailers. These include codes of cleanliness, required hours of operation, directives toward merchandising displays and signage, and so on. Although these do not have a direct impact on shoppers (beyond generally being designed to provide the best shopping experience possible), these regulations can be used by someone who makes a business or scholar: law roll (ranging from Very Difficult for established, disciplined stores to Moderate for mom-and-pop operations) to find something wrong. This information can be used to get the store in trouble with mall authorities (usually a large fine) or as leverage to get the store to provide a favor.
Beyond the department stores, malls offer a myriad of shops and services. Most stores tend to be targeted toward a specific demographic, such as “trendy teenagers,” “plus-sized women,” “yuppies who cook,” and so on. However, stores that are too specialized often cannot survive, unless profit margins are good; a shop that specializes in imported Asian art and statues may find the markup sufficient despite a small audience, while comic shops have a notoriously difficult time making enough money in malls.
Most malls also have a food court, specializing in quick food to sate shopper’s appetites and alleviate them from the need to leave the building to eat. Food courts are a relatively recent phenomenon, the first one having opened in 1971. In 1976, the first pushcarts and kiosks in the center areas were introduced, to offer truly specialized, targeted, or seasonal merchandise.
With only a few improvements, malls have remained pretty much the same for half a century. Certain types of specialty stores have come and gone – today, cell phone shops are omnipresent while tobacco places are rare – but the basic feel and air-conditioned atmosphere are identical.
Historically speaking, malls cannot exist any time prior to 1954. In fact, their very spirit is an antithesis of many earlier genres; the suburban, “anything-for-sale” atmosphere of a mall stands in stark contrast to a pulp-era’s “make do with what you’ve got” cosmopolitan mindset. Nevertheless, it is possible to adapt this location for some genres.
The single-floor mall pictured is actually not too dissimilar to the old bazaar; simply replace the rigid walls with less-defined boundaries of people offering wares, and change the shops to something appropriate to the time and place: For example, 8- Track’s Music would be a musical instrument vendor, while Rembrandt’s Rawrs and Blades would specialize in edged weapons and tools. In addition, there would be no large department stores; instead, that entire area of the bazaar wold be dived or it might all belong to one person, such as the mysterious Mr. Copperhoff. However, a bazaar with large single-vendor areas would be out of place in most historical European or American settings, and it should be reserved for more exotic locales.
In the near future, malls will probably continue to play an important part in commerce; shops and services will change to reflect this era’s interests, so that a world where e-books have taken off might find the mall’s bookshops replaced with stores selling digital book readers and books on disks or mini-drives. It’s also possible that some innovation might infiltrate near-future retail techniques, such as holographic displays at the stores’ edges or beamed cell-phone text messages advertising deals and specials.
Strip malls are actually older than traditional malls, with some pegging their origination in 1922. Most of the information regarding regular malls applies to them: They exist to draw people in to one or more magnet shops (often a grocery store), and they offer a variety of retail locations. However, they generally do not have the regulations of malls and usually do not require the same level of profitability. Thus goods and services that couldn’t be justified in a mall – dry cleaning, used book stores, drug stores, and the like – are common in strip malls. Since they are open to the world and not air conditioned, they do not generally have food courts, although most have one or more restaurants.
To simulate a strip mall with the accompanying map, simply cut off a handy block of shops and assume the rest is sidewalks and parking. For example, Turow’s along with shops 1 to 4 and 49 to 52 would make a good small shopping center, while adding 36 to 48 and even 30 to 35 would make a truly grandiose strip mall.
|Cost of Item or Service||Difficulty Level|
|Cheap (less than US$20)||Very Easy(VE)|
|Inexpensive (less than US$200)||Easy (E)|
|Nominally expensive (hundreds of dollars)||Moderate (M)|
|Somewhat expensive (a few thousand dollars)||Difficult (D)|
|Expensive (several thousand dollars)||Very Difficult (VD)|
|Very Expensive (tens of thousands of dollars)||Heroic (H)|
Don’t Miss …
The People’s Mall opened in 1956 amid the wave of mall construction, and it remains the only one still in business of the eight malls opened in the area from 1955 to 1965. It, too, had its share of financial difficulties, and during the recession of the late 1970s, it seemed doomed to closure as well. However, it was revitalized in 1980 by Helen Duckworth, a frank- speaking financier with a vision and a plan. To entice shops back into the mall – where, by that time, only nine had remained open – she gave them the option of staying rent-free in exchange for a reasonable percentage of profits; if they proved to be sufficiently profitable, they could switch to a traditional rent structure at any time. In other words, there was no risk to the retailers. This unorthodox approach drew in dozens of new shops, many of which were experimental or unconventional. Some failed, but many did achieve profitability and revitalized both the mall and the area around it.
Today, Duckworth Mall (as it was renamed in 1995) remains a strong force in the area. Although not the largest mall, its retailers and patrons are generally dedicated. However, recently it has come under assault from Internet retailers; the 2000 Christmas was its worst in two decades. Although sales have picked up, Mrs. Duckworth, now 57 years old, still feels pressure to reinvigorate the mall yet again.
The Stores of the Mall
Unless otherwise noted, finding goods in these stores will vary, depending on how specific the need is and how compatible the store is with those needs. This can range from Automatic (finding sneakers in Sportsfeet Center) to Easy (finding a trench coat capable of concealing a shotgun at Jacket-on-the- Cheap) to Difficult (finding apparel suitable for a wedding at EdgEtc. Gothwear) to Very Difficult or above (finding an out-of-print book with a necessary counter-ritual at J.P. Bibliophile). Some tasks should be impossible to even roll, if there’s absolutely no chance a store would carry it (such as arcane Japanese ritual accouterments from Transistorland). What skill is used to find items can vary, although search, persuasion, business, and scholar: malls can all be useful. Prices are rated by difficulties in parentheses.
Turow’s and Copperhoff are the mall’s two department stores. Turow’s focuses on middle-class clothing, cosmetics, furnishing, electronics, and durable goods (E to M for most items), while Copperhoff deals exclusively in upper-middle- class clothes, makeup, jewelry, and other wearables (most items E to D, with +2 difficulty modifier for Funds rolls compared to a similar item at Turow’s).
Apparel and Shoes
Like most malls, there are more clothing shops than any other types (not counting eateries), and they continue to be the most profitable of the non- department store retailers.
Hot Heels remains the only dedicated women’s shoe store in the mall (not counting Women’s Sportsfeet and the department stores). They specialize in alluring but comfortable women’s shoes, including their own “Hot Heels” brand of high- heel shoes for active people (no running penalty for wearing them). The store manager is Eliza Hawking, a 33-year-old snob. All shoes are fairly expensive (E).
Skinny-Phat Gear specializes in hip urban clothes, and the associates can dress someone appropriately for social functions. This can range from a kickin’ outfit (E; no out-of-place penalty to disguise or social rolls in urban situations) to a complete urbanite wardrobe (M; +1 to same rolls). The business is run by Jamila Jackson and her husband, Shawn.
2Kewl Clothing and DNA Jeans are basically the same store, specializing in teen and collegiate fashions (though 2Kewl also markets heavily to preteens). All prices are reasonable (VE to E), though DNA Jeans’ price difficulties are +1 since it’s trendier. Both stores are run by a rotating crop of bored 20-somethings.
Dressed to the Nines Formalwear rents and sells tuxedos. Rentals are affordable (E per day, M per week), while outright purchases are pricey (D). Tuxedos can supply up to +2 bonus in glitzy so- cial situations. The shop is run by Charles Stevens, an 87-year-old man who was here when the mall opened (“Back when it was called ‘Dressed to the Sixes,’ ” he jokes).
Rubenesque Beautywear specializes in plus- sized women’s wear (E) that accentuates larger beauty. It’s run by Holly Alamin, “39 and holding,” who’s also a client.
Jacket-on-the-Cheap specializes in all kinds of jackets (snow, leather, rain, trench coats, etc.) and is run by Dag Dolby, a quiet 54-year-old veteran. All cloth and fabric coats from the “Protective Gear” table are here at their list prices, except Kevlar (VD) and Flak jackets (D), which he keeps in the back. Dag also has a dozen guns and other weapons in his back office, in direct violation of mall rules.
Apparel Magnifique has the most beautiful and expensive clothes in the mall (D; +2 to social rolls where fashion would matter). It’s run by 61-year- old Edna Stoles, a words-can-kill socialite with an icy demeanor and an annual facelift.
Lace Confidence, run by the perky 28-year-old Suzanne Hilles, specializes in beautiful but expensive intimate apparel (E). It also boasts more mirrors and mannequins than any other shop in the mall.
EdgEtc. Gothwear is a shop devoted to alternative and underground lifestyles, mostly revolving around the color black. Shirts with bleak-but-fun- ny sayings (“Hi! Kill me before I kill you!”), piercing apparel, handcuffs, and things with chains and spikes (improvised weaponry up to 1D+1) are all common; prices are all very reasonable (VE to E). It’s run by wry 31-year-old Taki Nakamaru, whose intimacy with alternative and street lifestyles could make her a valuable contact.
Transistorland is an anachronism, specializing in small parts and electronics bits in an era where most folks simply buy new gear when necessary. Still, just about any electrical or computer component can be purchased here, along with simple electronic gear (portable radios, tape recorders, etc.). It’s run by 42-year-old Adam Barry, a depressed man who hates his job.
Home Audio Maestros specializes in home theatre systems, televisions, car stereos, and other large electronic entertainment equipment. Although equipment costs more than normal (+2 to standard prices), the manager, 36-year-old Darrow Stacey, is very knowledgeable (+2 to tech rolls for purchasing the right gear).
The food court was added in 1974, and it has grown into one of the more profitable areas of the mall, despite food being cheap (VE). Unless specified, all employees are the faceless teenagers and 20-somethings.
Mex-To-Go, Sandwichman, World’s Best Burgers, and Big Chicken Little’s are all chain fast-food shops.
Chopstick House, Pita Packers, and Anita Gyro all offer vaguely ethnic food that’s generally healthier than the fast-food alternatives. Skipper’s Island Grill is the eatery of choice for many mallrats, despite the absence of neon and chrome like the more well-funded places. Shaka “Skipper” Marlee, 31 years old, cooks up wonderful Caribbean food. The jerk chicken is a specialty, although long-time fans warn to go easy on the supplied cups of jerk sauce; it could cause blindness if thrown in someone’s eyes!
Original Cinnamon, Smoothie Lovers, Pretzel Pretzel, and Cookies For Dinner! are all set up like traditional over-the-counter eateries, yet offer specialized foods … most of which wouldn’t qualify as complete meals (except some of the smoothies). Anyone who decides to eat a completely unhealthy meal needs to make an Easy stamina roll or be at -1 to all totals until a real meal is eaten.
Deathbed Confections and Carol’s Coffee are two specialty shops customers enter. The former offers chocolates and candy, while the latter offers ground, whole-bean, and fresh-brewed coffee. The amiable Carole Cassidy, 37, actually owns both, and she is also a master chef.
Coast-to-Coast American Grill is the only “real” restaurant at the mall, providing sit-down service in a festive atmosphere. It offers American cuisine. It also has a full bar of alcoholic beverages, which none of the other eateries have.
Games and Hobbies
All these shops are run by 20- and 30-somethings with a passion for their subject. 8-Track’s Music, Admit One Video, Powergamer’s Edge, and T*O*Y*S specialize in music; DVDs and movie paraphernalia; video game hardware plus computer and video games; and toys. T*O*Y*S has very little variety (specializing in current “hot” toys and games), but the other three shops have a wide range. In a pinch, a computer guru could rig the video game systems into something useful ( +4 to tech difficulties).
The Option Vueplex 10 is a 10-screen movie theater that usually devotes most of its screens to the latest big-budget blockbuster (VE per ticket). However, one small screen – dubbed the “dorkatorium” by workers – is devoted to “art films” and other lesser works.
Gifts, Cards, and Hooks
J.P. Bibliophile, a chain bookstore run by 59- year-old Cal Hite, specializes in popular fiction and nonfiction, advice, and bestsellers. However, it also tries to keep at least one of a book on almost any subject, giving the store remarkable breadth if not depth.
Trinity Books and Gifts is a religious shop with affordable offerings (VE to E) both mundane and unusual: Bibles, crosses, plaques, and the like. The proprietor, 24-year-old Mary Reed, is truly devout and will help those in need … especially if the situation involves the sinisterly supernatural.
Finest Figurines, “Because I Care” Cards, and Momily Gifts all specialize in gifts, cards, ornaments, knickknacks, and the like. “Because I Care” is a chain, and fairly lifeless. Momily Gifts consists entirely of homemade wares created by 41-year- old mother Gwenda Gerdiven. Finest Figurines, the most expensive, has many goods involving the phrase “gold-inlayed.”
Elna Silver & Gold and Crown Jewelry both offer fine jewelry. Elna Silver & Gold is the more personable and affordable (E to D); the owner, 51- year-old Elna Crux, believes in selling the right jewelry over the most profitable. Elna also likes to help people and won’t bat an eye for unusual or custom needs. Crown Jewelry is a chain shop, and its managers are very skilled at selling its beautiful, but more expensive, jewelry (M to VD); they are much less helpful.
Hour-Sight Optometry provides standard optometry needs (E to M) and can make a limited selection of cosmetic glasses or contact lenses in a hurry.
Mega Spiff Hair & Nails provides excellent, if expensive (E), haircuts, colorings, perms, manicures, and pedicures. If need be, the salon’s services can be used to provide up to +3 to disguise totals.
Candle Princess and Magnifiscent Perfume are chain stores that both sell somewhat expensive (E) candles and perfumes, respectively.
Whoopie’s Novelties sells mundane and adult novelty items (VE to E), including flash paper, electronic recorders, and itching powder, while The Compleat Gadgeteer offers overpriced gizmos (E to M) that serve a variety of less-than-essential needs (massagers, air purifiers, etc.). Both chain stores are a gadgeteer’s heaven, as many of the items can be incorporated into other plans (up to +3 to tech, con, or know-how rolls, depending on creativity).
It’s Just a Buck! is a chain dollar store. Almost any everyday thing can be found, dirt-cheap (VE). However, the quality often leaves something to be desired. Shutterbug Essentials sells cameras (traditional and computer), film, lenses, accessories, and so on, at the prices listed on the “Gear” table.
Rembrandt’s Razors and Blades sells electric razors, pocket knives, and even display swords and other melee weapons. The knives are combat worthy, but it’s risky to use the ornamental weapons in a fight (weapons break on a Critical Failure and those that aren’t sharpened have damage totals reduced by 5). The Karmic Crystal sells new-age paraphernalia, such as tarot decks, crystal balls, Feng Shui guides, and so on. These can serve as perfect foci for Magic or Psionics effects. The free-love vegan proprietor, 27-year-old Stefan Millar, believes himself to have special powers.
The Cellular Division sells cell phones and cell phone service, including “disposable” cell phones and numbers (E), although their Spartan selection and overbearing sales methods may offend some. Luxury Luggage offers overpriced suitcases and leather goods (E to M). The more expensive goods often have lots of cubbyholes and compartments that can prove ideal for concealment (up to +6 on hide attempts).
All Rooms Furnished, the most recent “magnet” store, displays furniture arranged as full rooms, giving a surreal feeling of actually being in a room as its represented. Each furniture type gets its own display area, so there are several different “bedrooms,” “living rooms,” “recreation rooms,” and so on. The 46- year-old manager, Carter Graves, has an irrational fear that some hoodlums will engage in a firefight or other combat in his beautiful exhibition rooms.
Superjock Gear, a locally owned shop, has equip- ment for almost any sport (VE to M). The owner, 31-year-old Lila Fleur, is eager to help and fancies herself as something of an adventurer; as such, she’s unfazed by oddball requests. (“Best equipment to smash a Zombie’s head? That’d be a Coopertown Slugger bat. Solid maple, that.”)
Women’s Sportfeet and Sportfeet Center are two chain stores that specialize in women’s and men’s (respectively) footwear and sports goods. The shoes range from pricey (E; +1 to running, climbing, jumping, and acrobatics rolls involving feet) to expensive (M; +2 to same rolls).
Things to See
+ Items sold in the stores (see specific store descriptions for ideas)
+ Metal or wooden benches
+ Green tropical plants, a meter or more tall, real or fake, in heavy black or ornamental pots
+ Metal or wooden trash barrels
+ Brochures listing store locations or describing area attractions
+ Pay phones
+ ATM machines
+ In the food court, plastic food trays in brown or red
+ In the food court, round tables with white laminate tops and four metal legs that can fit four people (six if everyone squeezes) at the accompanying plastic-and-metal chairs
People to Meet
Most employees at the mall have 2D in all attributes; some have pips in scholar: (store’s focus). Managers usually have up to ID in business. Many have the Age: Young (RI) disadvantage. Good retailers have up to +2D in charm, con, or persuasion. Additionally, several security guards patrol the complex.
Store Employee: Reflexes 2D, Coordination 2D, Physique 2D, lifting 2D+1, Knowledge 2D, business 2D+2, scholar: (store’s focus) 3D, tech: computers 2D+1, Perception 2D, investigation 2D+1, search 2D+1, Presence 2D, charm 2D+1, willpower 2D+1. Move: 10. Strength Damage: 1D. Body Points: 8. Wound levels: 2.
Things to Do
+ It’s the Saturday before Christmas – the busiest shopping day of the year. The players’ characters learn that one patron’s wrapped package actually contains a bomb, set to go off in one hour. A general alert may cause more panic and destruction than the bomb itself; can they find the bomb before it’s too late?