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Cicero - 1920s Noir

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This is a realistic setting, which means no magic, meta-materials, or fantasy races. This has no bearing on the realism of plot contrivances or the natures or reactions of characters. I am basing Cicero off Chicago. I want to take an alt. history slant, where we can reference Chicago's history but also do our own thing rather than follow history's drum beat.

Cicero, Illinois has a history of organized crime dating back to the mid 1800s and was touched by various arms of the American mafia. The time period for this setting ranges from the 1920s to the mid-1930s and stories can place anywhere in this iconic decade-and-a-half. If you're unfamiliar with what this might look like, think Boardwalk Empire or even Chinatown.

Some notable historical events which players can incorporate in their play are:

  1. 1920 - Prohibition is in full swing, making this the year that crime surges through the city. In addition to bootleg liquor and speakeasies, rackeetering increases in popularity and houses of prostitution "spread like wildfire"
  2. 1921 - The Thompson submachine gun / Tommy gun / "Chicago typewriter", becomes the weapon of choice for at least some of the city's mobster gangs (and there are several).
  3. 1923 - Al Capone establishes his headquarters in Lexington Hotel.
  4. 1929 - Eliot Ness returns to Chicago as a Prohibition agent under the Treasury Department and creates the "Untouchables" to try and stop the flow of illegal booze and bring down the Capone empire

Common plots in this genre/time can include:  

  1. Work for a gang, rising up through the ranks to gain power or starting off with power and struggling to keep it
  2. Start an illegal moonshine operation and speakeasy
  3. Work as a police officer, either one that gets caught up in a world of bribery and illegal activities, or one that fights back against it at the risk of everything they have
  4. Be a private detective who takes a case and finds themselves in over their heads
  5. Literary elements for noir often focus on: the anti-hero protagonist and the femme fatale


  • 1913 - Radio. By the '20s there are radio stations with shows and advertising
  • 1913 - Refrigerator. '23 saw Frigidaire introduce the first self-contained unit
  • 1921 - Drive-in restaurants and in '22 convertible cars. in '23 traffic signals
  • 1925 - Television. '28 saw the first experimental broadcast in the US
  • 1927 - Jukebox and democratized music
  • Firearms include: the Tommy gun, shotguns, and semi-automatic pistols



License:  CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 | attribution | Note - image not altered; text is not a contribution to share-alike
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Edited by supernal

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