Topwarp is one of the six warps of the Puzzlebox, an endlessly-refracting work of gears and astrology devoted to the Apollonian impulse: Rules and regulations, often arbitrary, and so many of them that they can't help but become self-conflicting.
If there were an "origin point" in Top, a central point to which everyone in the warp could at least provisionally agree both exists and is important, it would be Compass Tower. By some unspoken agreement, it remains the tallest building in the Warp, visible from almost any rooftop. Even on the cloudiest days, its silhouette looms overhead, its back-lit clock like a watchful eye gazing across the ever-unfolding cityscape. Many have threatened over the ages to build some structure glorifying one House or another that could dwarf the Tower, but to date, all attempts at such a landmark have ended in disaster, both for the structure and for those who've proposed it.
One such story tells of one of the original founders of Mars House, Katerin Wheel, who published a proposal to build an elevator that could reach the heavens, complete with blueprints and the materials research necessary to craft such a contraption, the better to gather stardust from the source. After three months of demolitions and ground-clearing, a prior from a nearby abbey arrived at the proposed construction site and asked the heads of Mars House to reconsider. The prior was rebuffed, and left. Soon after, work crews began reporting seeing other from the Order gathering near the site in larger numbers, pacing around its perimeter in packs. Then, one morning, the site was simply gone. The morning laborers arrived to find all their adamant scaffolding and gossamer cable — as well as the cabin in which Mx. Wheel had been staying while overseeing construction — replaced with several blocks' worth of parkland. Of Katerin, there was no sign and no word. Not even the psychohistorians of Saturn House could explain it. When asked directly, a provost of the Order said only, "we did ask they reconsider."
Outside the Compass Tower and its gardens, if there's an "order," it's really the fractally complex intersection of geography, geometry, and personality. "Neo-Victorian favela" would be the best descriptor of the lay of the land, with buildings on top of buildings in a crazy-quilt pattern, cut through with back alleys and the occasional thoroughfare. The sky ranges from light grey to charcoal, and at night, the sky is lit from below by an endless sea of phlogiston-jet lamps. Steamstacks dot the landscape shooting jets of vapor and soot into the air, and at times the clouds themselves seem to be on fire. Blimps dot the skies, along with autogyros, ornithopters, and the occasional "tamed" dragon. Horse- and other beast-drawn carts roam the streets, interspersed with the rare spell-powered vehicle.
Keeping a commonplace is typical habit, detailing personal observations about the universe. Occasionally someone's commonplace will evolve into a House's codex, either as an addendum to someone else's or as a unique guide to itself. Visitors to Topwarp are, for the sake of politeness, sorted into a "Guest House," unless of course someone wishes to join one of the others.
The key to Topwarp psychology is in the subtle and indirect. As is typified in the books of Austen and Brontë, Topwarp culture is guess culture. You will be expected to osmose the information you need without having to be told, and to synthesize the information you need from the information you receive. No Topwarper would ever nakedly proposition another for sex, but this doesn't mean they may not want it, or even be having it. Decorum, standing, and status are paramount. If you want something, you must find a way to get it without being so blunt as to directly inquire about it.
This isn't to say that you can't ask; a Topwarper will answer a direct question if it would seem more rude to avoid doing so. However, forcing a Topwarper into the zugzwang of having to pick which social rule to violate is a good way to get yourself disinvited from future parties, especially if it can be arranged that said parties will have exactly the sorts of encounters that you were asking about.
Likewise, beware the Topwarper and the grudge. Just as directly asking for something is seen as shockingly bold, no Topwarper would be so crass as to challenge someone who mortally and morally wounded them to a duel. It's much more likely that they'd put a few drops of arsenic in your tea every Thursday for ten years, until you suffer a heart attack, at which point you'll wake up in the local hospital with a note on your bedside apologizing for the inconvenience and stating that now you're even. The Topwarper has learned patience, and will look for the perfect opportunity. They have eternity, and so do you.
Above all else, psychology in Topwarp emphasizes the unremarkable. What's happening right now is normal, no matter how extraordinary. To borrow a fae expression, "there is no blood." It won't matter if you walk into a room covered in the entrails of the damned; or if you have a small pack of gagged, plugged, and blindfolded "pets" on leashes behind you. If you act as though nothing is out of the ordinary, there isn't a Topwarper alive that will remark on it, whatever "it" is. Perhaps they fear retribution if they call attention to it, or perhaps they simply respect your privacy. The Topwarper impulse is to treat all things as circumspect, unless forced to pay attention to it.
Opinions provided by Claver, Mercury House Emotochord Composer and Musical Historian
- Upwarp: It's quite beautiful, but it feels so empty, as though they wanted a garden without any flowers in it. At least the clocks ring on time, though.
- Downwarp: Would it destroy you to expect a bit of polish on your equipment? Your ingenuity is amazing, but have some pride in your work.
- Bottomwarp: Rude, gauche, and lacking any sense of decorum. Revel all you like, but do it somewhere private, for gears' sake.
- Charmwarp: Beautiful parties, right up until the weapons come out. They're so... hot-tempered.
- Strangewarp: Spare me your pre-Fracture nonsense. I have research to do.
Inspiration and Reference