Tarkiz – A Democratic City State of the post-Cataclysmic Wasteland

The city of New Tarkiz, built amidst the ruins of Old Tarkiz, is the largest and most sophisticated city in the post-Cataclysm world.  It boasts the only structurally sound bridge across the Great River, and a bustling river trade.  With a population in excess of 10,000, it’s the center for trade, industry, the arts, and especially politics.

Early in its foundation New Tarkiz adopted a democratic form of government, with universal enfranchisement.  However, they also adopted the concept of allowing citizens to sell their voting rights to third parties, usually for enough gold to support a person for the remainder of their lives (which are relatively short, compared to modern lifespans).  The founders quickly realized that voting rights so sold shouldn’t exist in perpetuity…after all, an actual voting citizen stops voting when they die, right?  So they ruled that when a person dies, the voting rights they sold to third parties expire as well.

Unfortunately, when the law was written, there was a huge loophole, to the effect that a person didn’t have to be alive for their voting rights to persist, just ambulatory (i.e. a zombie).  In other words, if you sold your voting rights, when you die you get turned into a zombie so that the faction that owns your vote can continue to use it.  If you’re not overly sentimental about the disposal of your remains, you can make a little extra coin selling your ‘corpse rights’ as well as your enfranchisement.  A quite sophisticated legal and commercial industry has spawned around this practice, to the point where factions even hire bounty hunters to retrieve corpses of citizens who passed away beyond the city’s jurisdiction, so that the bodies may be returned and animated for voter registration.

Over time the practice of matching a deceased’s voting rights to a specific corpse fell out of practice.  Now it is only necessary to make sure there’s at least one zombie for each vote in the faction’s voting bloc.  If the number of zombies in a faction’s stable falls short, their voting bloc is decremented the appropriate amount.  As you can imagine, this leads to a number of shady practices (rife with opportunity for risk-taking murder-hobos).

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The most common shady practice is ‘vote culling.’  Each faction maintains stables of zombies in areas called pens.  By law, zombie pens must be maintained on the far side of the river in the ruins of Old Tarkiz (just in case they zombies bust loose someday).  Each faction sets up an area in the ruins, usually near the river or the main road for quick and easy transportation if necessary.  The pens are always well-guarded, day and night.  Guards usually sit atop the ruined towers of Old Tarkiz, where they can keep good watch without having to mingle with the zombies (which are by no means pacified).  Zombies may be hemmed in by large nets, walls or fences, to keep them from wandering away in the night.

So, to cull votes, factions raid one another’s zombie pens, trying to kill as many ‘voters’ as possible.  Killing guards is technically murder, but you can kill as many zombies as you like.  Vote culling is treated more like a property crime, so perpetrators, if caught, face only mild jail sentences and/or the payment of compensatory fines to the injured parties.  It’s not unheard of for factions to offer large bounties to third parties for zombie heads taken from rival faction’s ‘voters.’

A far more nefarious practice is press-ganging.  Groups of thugs wander the countryside, rounding up any sentient creature that can put an X on a piece of paper, clapping them in chains and dragging them to New Tarkiz.  Once in the city, they’re sworn in as citizens of the city and then tricked into ‘selling’ their voting rights to one faction or another, and sometimes their corpse rights as well.  Usually, the poor suckers don’t even understand what’s going on.  The really shady operators then immediately corpse-ify the new citizens (very illegal practice, but difficult to enforce outside the city gates).  Many small-time companies make good money in this trade, flipping the voting  and corpse rights to the larger factions for a tidy profit.

Zombie-rustling is another criminal practice, highly discouraged by the major voting blocs.  Zombies are marked to identify which faction they’re ‘registered’ with, making rustling very difficult.  But there is opportunity when zombies are being transported, before they’ve been branded.  Officially, zombie-rustlers face public hanging if caught, but in practice they usually just ‘disappear,’ becoming zombie-voters for whichever faction they tried to rustle.

The three largest voting blocs in New Tarkiz are the Purple Scales, the Electrum Saints and the Sapphire Society.  No faction is associated with any particular agenda or ideology, other than money and power.  There are dozens of smaller voting blocs, some allied with the larger factions, others leasing their voting blocs during elections to the highest bidder (run like businesses).

A fourth significant faction is the Upright Citizens Vigilance Committee, which actually owns no votes and, indeed, opposes the entire vote selling system.  The UCVC is technically New Tarkiz’s law enforcement branch and works hard to be a pain in everyone’s ass.  When they find provable infractions of the law, they come down hard.  They only retain their position because each of the main factions find the UCVC to be somewhat useful against the other two factions.  If the UCVC were perceived to be favoring one faction over the others, the other two would immediately combine their vote blocs to remove the UCVC’s law enforcement charter.

Ambitious adventurers of questionable moral standing can find plenty of opportunity navigating New Tarkiz’s complex political field, while those who despise the system might find great satisfaction working with the Upright Citizens Vigilance Committee to smash the city’s corrupt political apparatus.

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