Second City Survival part 2: Chicago Overview

In our first post we introduced the notion of a post-apocalyptic urban sandbox set in Chicago, covering the setting in broad strokes aside from the city of Chicago itself. Let’s handle that today.

Structure of the City

Chicago is divided up into 77 community areas, each comprised of multiple neighborhoods. The community areas have stronger definition than the neighborhoods, so we’ll focus on them as we develop the city’s post-apocalyptic future. This also gives us less work to do.

More broadly, we can divide the city up into four “sides:” North, South, West, and Central. East is Lake Michigan.

Before the apocalypse Chicago boasted a strong light rail system, the ‘El’ or ‘elevated train’ that carried commuters throughout. While it’s certainly possible that the factions within the city might get it up and running again, it is assumed that at the start of the game they have not.

Bringing the el back to life makes for a fine campaign goal, but for now the rails do serve as a possible means of travel for those who want to walk along them.

Speaking of Factions

In the 16 years since the Apocalypse, the most obvious source of factional power are the gangs. Chicago has a lot of gangs. Many of them belong to one of the two prominent gang families, the Folk and the People, but a lot can change, alliances can shift, gangs can die out, new ones can be born. And that’s before the apocalypse.

This gives us free reign to base our fictional future on the modern Chicago street gangs as much or as little as we like.

For our purposes, the gangs will essentially serve as the basic unit of social organization. There are some smaller scavenger families scrabbling among the ruins, but they have little protection – there are no laws, there are no social services, there is no authority to appeal to. Most have accepted a gang’s protection in exchange for labor, if not joining outright.

There are, of course, other factions.

The gangs exist, currently, in the form of a loose alliance, focused on maintaining their own holdings and occasionally raiding one another. Maybe they have some sort of council, or a stronger authority figure holding together their social plan.


The remnants of the Chicago Police Department are the largest gang in the city. They wear gang colors, they protect their brothers, they are not afraid to use force or the threat of force to pursue their goals.

It’s been over a decade and a half. They know that there’s no change coming to the city. But they maintain their moral high-ground as the only legitimate authority in Chicago.

The Company

2034’s Chicago was already pretty cyberpunk, so it’s not entirely unlikely that some corporate entity or another might have its own residential enclave for its employees. This isn’t even unheard of in the city’s history — the Pullman district still bears the name of the Pullman Palace Car Company.

Life in the Corporate Enclave is perhaps the closest to normalcy that can be acquired — they’d have the most resources after the Fall, a hierarchical organization, and perhaps a selection of skilled technical workers.

They’d also have the resentment of the rest of the city and a Feudal attitude towards their employees. After all, it’s not like they have anywhere else to go.

Mapping Chicago

So, with our community areas and social overview we can start making a map of the city. We start with just the community areas.

These will be the basic tiles of our sandbox. Each area will be described, it’ll have its own random encounter table, it’ll have its own resources.

Each will also have a certain amount of influence from the various city factions.

In the future we’ll flesh out some of these districts and the factions that inhabit them, as well as come up with some more defined campaign frameworks to set within our city.

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