Providence, RI: A Primer

Providence: The Divine City. When one thinks of great American cities, the capital of Rhode Island is probably not the first place that comes to mind…  if at all. Compared to the many better known cities in the United States, the City of Providence seems to have little that stands out. It isn’t as large as New York City, as populous as Chicago, or as historic as Boston. It isn’t an entertainment giant like Los Angeles, a former industrial hub like Detroit, or a center of politics like Washington D.C. Yet there is an intrinsic, hard-to-define charm about the place; a spirit of contrariness that inspires fierce pride in its residents. Regarded as a bastion of art, culture and academia in New England, Providence has also long been a notorious hotbed of crime and government corruption. As one of the oldest cities in the country, it represents an interesting fusion of modern day sensibilities with vestigial bits of Puritanism and old Yankee culture. Some describe Providence as typical of New England, boasting the sophistication of a big city coupled with the feel of a small town. But for those who look beneath its façade, Providence is a tumultuous place full of violence, magic, and relict strangeness.

Founded by an idealistic Puritan exile named Roger Williams, “Providence Plantations” began as a refuge for those seeking political and religious freedom. Williams’ vision of a haven for nonconformists still survives in some form, even centuries later, as reflected in the city’s underground milieu of supernatural beings and secret societies. The supernaturals of the Divine City are diverse, ranging from Nightbane and Guardians, to Ba’al Minions and vampires, alongside even stranger and rarer things. Providence has a surprisingly large population of non-humans for a city of its size, and no one is quite certain why.

In Nightlord-controlled America, the Divine City is a battlefield where the Hidden War rages on, unnoticed by most of its human residents. Along with the usual problems that afflict a modern city, there are supernatural forces that contend for the city’s soul. In the shadows, crime and poverty exist side-by-side with inhuman beings older than the country itself. The Nightbane and various factions are fighting a street-level war against the Nightlords; one which they are slowly losing. Circumstances are desperate, and hope has become a scarce commodity.

In short, it’s more the Providence of Lovecraft and Poe than Roger Williams.


History

“[…]having made  covenant of peaceable neighborhood  with all the sachems and natives round about us, and having, in a sense of God’s merciful providence unto me in my distress, called the place PROVIDENCE, I desired it might be for a shelter for persons distressed for conscience.”
                                                                                   --- Roger Williams


Roger Williams, a protestant minister and theologian, founded Providence in 1636 after being exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for spreading “dangerous notions.” Williams saw his new settlement as a place for the free exchange of ideas under the protective care of God (hence the nickname “Divine City”). Early Providence attracted the types of people that were decreed to be outcasts in the 17th century: Baptists, Quakers, Mormons, and Jews, as well as freethinkers, radicals, political separatists, and criminals (and even a few supernatural creatures). Williams also befriended the local Narraganset Indian tribe, and it was his efforts that maintained peace between settlers and natives for a time.

Providence was burned to the ground during King Phillip’s War in the late 1600s but was subsequently rebuilt. Fortunately, the city survived intact through all further conflicts and natural disasters, including Queen Anne’s War, the American Revolution, the Dorr Rebellion, and the American Civil War, as well as several devastating fires, floods, and hurricanes. During the Industrial Revolution, Rhode Island became one the most industriaized states in America, with profitable textile, silverware, and jewelry industries “ thanks in large part to the invention of the country’s first textile mill in Pawtucket, RI. Vampires, which had always had a presence in New England, became particularly entrenched during this period.

In the 20th century, Providence was hit hard by the Great Depression and many of its industries closed down. Even after the Depression abated, the city’s economy never quite recovered and many sectors continued to decline. Almost a third of the city’s population moved away to find work. This hardship opened the door for organized crime and widespread government corruption. The Patriarca crime family ruled Providence for several decades, as did the Golden Posse and several nests of vampires.

The 80s and 90s saw the Patriarcas laid low due to internal violence and numerous federal indictments. Providence was revitalized under the direction of Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, who fixed roads and bridges, created parks, beautified the Downtown area, and invested money into the city’s businesses, art scene, and cultural institutions. Thanks to his efforts, Providence experienced an economic and creative renaissance that attracted new jobs, opportunities, and development. Years later, Mayor Cianci would be arrested and imprisoned for racketeering, extortion, and fraud, though many Providentians would continue to regard the man as a hero.

Much like everywhere else, Providence erupted into chaos on Dark Day. When the sun refused to come up and inky blackness swallowed the sky, people lost their collective minds. Fires and rioting swept the city. Panic-stricken parishioners flooded into churches in expectation of Judgement Day. Emergency services were utterly overwhelmed. Monsters walked the streets, and random Providentians underwent seemingly Lovecraftian transformations. Onlookers recorded footage of winged creatures perched atop Downtown skyscrapers, while boaters witnessed piscine humanoids swimming in the Providence River. Rolling blackouts periodically left sections of the city in absolute darkness, with most people having to fend for themselves against looters and worse things.

Order was restored when the sun finally made its return. A semblance of normalcy was re-established, though not entirely. Things were forever changed.


Providence Today

Nearly two decades have passed since Dark Day, but that event left an indelible mark on the city. A few buildings yet bear evidence of the fires and rioting. Bus terminals and train stations still have walls plastered with the faces of the hundreds who mysteriously vanished or lost their lives. The unconfirmed reports of “monsters” haven’t been completely forgotten or dismissed by the populace. Belief in magic and the supernatural, as well as religion and God, is at an all-time high for a liberal New England metropolis. Although most Providentians won’t acknowledge it or discuss it, there is a implicit understanding that something is very wrong with their city.

Providence’s formerly vibrant atmosphere is now an oppressive one. People avoid eye contact and try not to go out after dark. Residents keep their heads down and walk hurriedly to get where they need to go. The old mindset of the New England Puritan has made a comeback in a major way; most residents are distrusting and suspicious of strangers. Crime and gang activity have surged, and disappearances in the middle of the night are not uncommon. The city’s once impressive art installations and murals, erected during Cianci’s Renaissance, are largely gone, replaced by Preserver Party propaganda. Roving “citizen militias,” comprised of militant Preserver Youths, wander the streets of Providence at all hours, often harrassing and roughing up locals with near-impunity. And everyone has learned to fear the authorities: the police, the city government, and especially the NSB.


The Nightlord Presence

As with other cities around the world, the Ba’al and their minions have become firmly entrenched in Providence. Ba’al activities in southern New England (which includes Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut) are overseen by a Night Prince named Lord Kantos (Kahn-tohs). Kantos, in turn, is assumed to take his orders from whichever Nightlord is responsible for the Eastern Seaboard.

Little is known about the Night Prince other than the fact that he is based somewhere in Boston. The Providence Resistance Cell is only aware of him thanks to intelligence shared by its sister cells in Massachusetts. As regional commander, Kantos doesn’t run the day-to-day affairs of Providence’s occupation and only takes a direct hand in major operations. Most of the Ba’al-Zebul’s attention is currently on the troublesome cities of Boston and Hartford, which are bastions of the Resistance. The revolutionary spirit of Colonial New England remains strong in these cradles of liberty.

The Resistance is aware that Rhode Island’s state government is thoroughly infiltrated by the Nightlords. Governor Gina Raimondo, who years ago switched her party affiliation from Democrat to Preserver, has been positively identified as a Nightlord servant; the Resistance believes that the Ba’al replaced the real Raimondo back in 2010. Not surprising to anyone, Governor Raimondo won re-election in the 2018 Midterms.

Rhode Island’s Senators and Representatives in the U.S. Congress are also thought to be monsters, though these suspicions have yet to be substantiated.

It’s common knowledge among Providence’s factions that the Mayor’s Office has been compromised, but less is known about the Ba’al’s degree of influence over other parts of city government. Most Nightbane agree that the Nightlords have infiltrated the city council and police department, and it’s strongly suspected that the PPD Police Chief  and Public Safety Commissioner are both Nightlord servants. The Resistance has also confirmed that several major business leaders and religious figures in the city are Dopplegangers, including noted RI philanthropist Alan Shawn Feinstein and Bishop Thomas Joseph Tobin of the Providence Diocese.

The current Mayor of Providence is a Portuguese-American woman named Antonia Sousa. Sousa won the mayor’s race in 2014 as the Preserver Party candidate, beating out her competitors Jorge Elorza (D) and Buddy Cianci (R) by a landslide. It’s widely known among the city’s supernaturals that she is also a Nightbane.

Sousa’s mayorship has been a brutal one for the factions. Her calls for getting “tough on crime” have been smokescreens designed to conceal the pursuit and murder of rebellious elements in the city, including her fellow Nightbane. Violence and disappearances have escalated under her watch, mostly thanks to to her increased militarization of the Providence police, the appointment of Preserver citizen militias to patrol the city streets, and her invitation to the NSB to send “death squads” into the city (often disguised as military or government personnel). During her time in office, she’s also used her control of the local media to cover up deaths resulting from the nationwide mass poisonings instituted by the Nightlords.

Mayor Sousa is believed to be the highest ranking Nightlord minion in the city (and possibly all of Rhode Island). If true, it would be unusual for the simple fact that she is a Nightbane, and Nightbane (even loyal collaborators) are generally too disliked by the Ba’al to enjoy any sort of promotion or social mobility. Kantos is Sousa’s direct superior, but with the Night Prince focused on conflicts in other cities, she’s effectively had free reign to rule as she sees fit. For the last two years, Sousa has had nearly carte blanche authority over the occupation of Providence, and she’s used the opportunity to make allies and consolidate her power among the Ba’al. She was recently re-elected in 2018.

Several attempts have been made on Mayor Sousa’s life by both the Resistance and Spook Squad; she has managed to survive each and every one. Among the factions, especially the Resistance, she is one of the most hated and reviled individuals in the Divine City. The Nightbane of Providence rightly regard her as a traitor to her species.


The Hidden War

Although the Nightlords are most definitely THE prevailing force in Providence by almost any measure, their degree of control is assymetrical. Their hold on the Divine City has solidified over the years following Dark Day, but it isn’t absolute. In different parts of the city, the Hidden War is being fought more successfully than in others.

Downtown Providence, being the center of government, business, and finance for the city, is tightly controlled by the Nightlords. Most factions have been forced to concede the Downtown area and some of the surrounding neighborhoods. The Ba’al also exercise a major hold over the affluent, academically-inclined East Side of Providence, as well as the middleclass neighboorhoods of the North Side. However, their presence doesn’t go unchallenged, as the East Side is home to the city’s strongest sorcerous orders, and the North Side has a small but persistent infestation of Sanguine Legion vampires.

The western and southern sections of the Divine City are a somewhat different matter. The neighborhoods in these parts of Providence have always been amongst the poorest and most crime-ridden. The Nightlords have found these areas problematic and contentious, to put it lightly. The Providence Resistance has a strong footing in the industrial sectors of the South Side, while Warlord gang members lay claim to the slums of the West Side. Violence, even open fighting in the streets, is known to occur sporadically between Nightlord minions or Preserver Activists and the locals. Despite numerous police raids and NSB death squad purges, the factions operating in these neighborhoods remain rebellious and difficult to subdue.

The Ba’al lose a steady number of minions in the West and South Sides every month; all but the strongest Nightlord servants can expect to have a short expiration date if stationed in these areas. And while this state of affairs serves to give some people hope that the Ba’al can be stopped, the beleagured neighborhoods in question are the worse for wear. The constant fighting with the Nightlords has reduced these already impoverished, dilapidated areas to ruin; the worst neighborhoods of Providence’s West and South Sides look more like war zones than residential districts. Crime, alcoholism, and drug abuse are pervasive among the residents, as is unemployment, disenfranchisement, and suicide. Although the Resistance and the Warlords have managed to stave off Ba’al dominion for now, no one’s delusional enough to believe that this momentum can be sustained forever. Unless things change, the Nightlords will eventually subjugate these neighborhoods, as well.


The Vampires of Providence

Vampires have a long history with the State of Rhode Island. Beginning in the late 1700s (and continuing as late as 1892), reports of vampire activity were widespread in southern New England, which launched several panics that resulted in a large number of vampire hunts and corpse exhumations. A high amount of those cases were concentrated in the backwoods of Rhode Island. There were so many reports of vampires, if fact, that some historians and folklorists even dubbed Rhode Island the “Vampire Capital of America.” And while many of these cases were the products of ignorance and hysteria, a small number of them did involve actual undead.

Large nests of vampires began making serious inroads into Rhode Island some time during the Industrial Revolution. More came with the flood of Irish and Portuguese immigrants that populated the cities of Providence, Boston, Fall River, and New Bedford in the 19th and early 20th centuries. After the 1920s, when Rhode Island was severely weakened by the Great Depression, vampires became truly ambitious and started exerting influence in the city. The undead created mind slaves to gain sway over the city government and the police, even going so far as to “turn” a few prominent businessmen and community leaders. Before the Ba’al’s arrival and the Nightbane population explosion that came with Dark Day, vampires were, by far, the most numerous type of supernatural being in Providence.

In the mid to late 20th century, Providence vampires competed with the Patriarca Crime Family, which also exerted significant influence in the city via extortion, blackmail, and bribery. The Patriarcas managed to hold their own against the undead (though just barely) with their “strega,” who employed Italian witchcraft to keep the vampires in check. The two opposing groups narrowly avoided all-out warfare on several occasions. Each side understood that widespread violence would be counterproductive and risk exposing both parties’ activities. Consequently, Providence’s vampires and mobsters maintained an uneasy coexistence.

Nonetheless, the Patriarcas (perhaps as a final middle finger to their rivals) used their far-reaching connections to let leak to the right organizations that the undead had taken up residence in the Divine City. By the 70s and 80s, Providence saw the arrival of Knights Templar and Demon Hunters, who immediately went to work dispatching vampires in the city’s back alleys. Even a few church-trained vampire slayers were secretly called in by the Providence Diocese. It took time to expunge the vampire presence, but by the 90s, nearly every vampire had been slain or forced out of the Divine City.

Unfortunately, Dark Day and the years that followed have done much to undo the progress of the past. In the chaos of the Ba’al Invasion, vampires have once again inserted themselves into Providence. The heart of the undead infestation seems to be the North Side of the city, among the small businesses and working class households of the northern neighborhoods. Although vampires have been reported in every part of the city, a majority of encounters are in the North Side. No one’s been able to ascertain if the centuries-worth of vampire incursions into Providence are due to several different vampire intelligences, or if they represent the repeated efforts of a single intelligence.

The Nightlords are aware of the vampire presence, and as expected, they take the problem very seriously. Mayor Sousa has taken drastic steps to try and eradicate vampirism from the Divine City. Some local sorcerers are convinced that the Ba’al have used magic to manipulate the weather patterns, creating a higher annual amount of rainfall in order to make Providence as inhospitable as possible. However, Providence’s vampire infestation has proven difficult to neutralize. All it takes is a single vampire escaping destruction, and the entire infestation begins anew. Ba’al attempts to locate North Side nests of sleeping vampires have met with mixed results, and Sousa suspects that the undead may have daytime guardians that help them avoid discovery.

The last few years have seen reports of encounters with organized, tactical groups of vampires, in the form of the Sanguine Legion. Such reports are not just concerning to the Ba’al but the factions, as well. Cautionary stories have circulated about Causticus, the Night Prince of Pittsburgh, and the fate he suffered at the hands of a Master Vampire. Although these rumors are uncorroborated, the Resistance believes them to be true, since they would explain the Ba’al’s bolder-than-usual reaction to Providence’s bloodsuckers.

With the Hidden War becoming more and more desperate, a few Nightbane, notably some of the more militant members of the Resistance, have proposed trying to form an alliance with the undead. The idea being the old adage of “the enemy of my enemy…” Fortunately, this suggestion has been categorically shot down by all of the factions that have discussed it.


Rhode Island at a Glance

Official Name: State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
Nicknames: Little Rhody; Rhody Land; the Ocean State.
State Capital: Providence.
State Abbreviation: RI.
Founded: May 29th, 1790.
Total Area: 1,545 sq mi (Land: 1,045 sq mi; Water: 500 sq mi). The state is 37 miles at its widest point, and 48 miles at its longest point
Mean Elevation: 200 ft.
Highest Natural Point: Jerimoth Hill (812 ft).
Lowest Natural Point: Sea level.
Tidal Coastline: 384 mi.
Population: (c. 2014) 1,051,000. The state’s population has the largest percentage of Italian Americans (19%) and Portuguese Americans (9.7%) of any U.S. state, as well as the largest percentage of Roman Catholics (63%).
Pop. Density: 1,006 per sq mi. Rhode Island is the second most densely populated state in the country (after New Jersey).
Median Household Income: (c. 2014) $54,700.
Major Languages: English, Spanish, and Portuguese are the top three.
Counties: 5 total: Bristol, Kent, Newport, Providence, and Washington.
Cities: 8 total. Central Falls, Cranston, East Providence, Newport, Pawtucket, Providence, Warwick, and Woonsocket.
Towns: 31 total. Barrington, Bristol, Burrillville, Charlestown, Coventry, Cumberland, East Greenwich, Exeter, Foster, Glocester, Hopkinton, Jamestown, Johnston, Lincoln, Little Compton, Middletown, Narragansett, New Shoreham (Block Island), North Kingstown, North Providence, North Smithfield, Portsmouth, Richmond, Scituate, Smithfield, South Kingstown, Tiverton, Warren, West Greenwich, West Warwick, and Westerly.
Bodies of Water: Rhode Island  is home to more than  60 rivers, as well as hundreds of ponds, lakes and reservoirs. The largest inland body of water is Scituate Reservoir, which, along with its tributary reservoirs, supplies drinking water to over 60% of the state’s population (including Providence). Narragansett Bay, the largest estuary in New England, is Rhode Island’s most important natural resource. The Bay opens on to Rhode Island Sound, an Atlantic Ocean strait between Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard. Next to Rhode Island Sound  is Block Island Sound, another strait that extends from Block Island to Long Island Sound. Arms of Narragansett Bay include Mount Hope Bay and Greenwich Bay.
Islands: Rhode Island has more than 30 islands within its territorial waters, the largest of which is Aquidneck Island.
Highways: Rhode Island has 70 numbered routes; three of which are interstate highways (I-95, I-195, and I-295).
Airports: T.F. Green in Warwick (the first state-owned airport in the country); domestic flights only. Rhode Island has no international airport. Most residents resort to using Boston’s Logan Airport for international travel. The state also has a handful of smaller public airports used for general aviation.
Trains: Rhode Island has train stations in Providence (Providence Station), North Kingstown (Wickford Junction), South Kingstown (Kingston Railroad Station), Westerly (Amtrak Station), and Warwick (T.F. Green Airport). Providence, Warwick, and North Kingstown are connected to Boston via an MBTA commuter rail, while an Amtrak rail links Providence to other cities in the Northeast.
Buses: The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) currently has fifty-eight statewide bus routes that service all of Rhode Island’s thirty-nine municipalities except for New Shoreham on Block Island. There are bus transit hubs located in Providence, Pawtucket, and Newport, RI.
Ferries: Private ferry services connect mainland RI with Block Island and other Narragansett Bay islands, as well as ports in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York.
Indigenous Peoples: The Narragansett are a federally recognized tribe with a 1,800 acre reservation in Charlestown, RI.
Demonym: Rhode Islander.
Elected Officials: (c. 2014) Gina Raimondo (Governor, P); Jack Reed (U.S. Senator, P); Sheldon Whitehouse (U.S. Senator, P); David Cicilline (U.S. Representative, P); James Langevin (U.S. Representative, P).
State Symbols: Calamari (State Appetizer), Rhode Island Red (State Bird), Coffee Milk (State Drink), Striped Bass (State Fish), Violet (State Flower), Crescent Park Looff Carousel (State Folk Art), Rhode Island Greening Apple (State Fruit), Bowenite (State Mineral), Cumberlandite (State Rock), Quahog (State Shell), USS Providence (State Ship), “Rhode Island, It’s For Me” (State Song), and Red Maple (State Tree).
State Motto: “Hope.”


Providence at a Glance

Nicknames: The Divine City, the Renaissance City, the Beehive of Industry, and the Creative Capital.
Founded: June, 1636.
Location: Providence County, Rhode Island, United States of America.
Coordinates: 41°49′25″N 71°25′20″W.
Total Area: 20.5 sq mi (Land: 18.5 sq mi; Water: 2.0 sq mi).
Mean Elevation: 75 ft.
Tallest Building: Bank of America Building (428 ft).
Population: (c. 2014) Approximately 183,000.
Pop. Density: 9,891 per sq mi.
Racial Demographics: (c. 2014) Hispanics: 38.1%; Whites: 37.6%; African Americans: 16%; Asians: 6%; Native Americans or Pacific Islanders: 1.3%, and Other: 1%.
Species Demographics: 99.99% of the city’s sapient residents are human; 0.01% of sapient  residents are non-human or only partially human (i.e., Nightbane, Wampyrs, Vampires, Therianthropes, Vaash, Athanatos, Guardians, Nightlord Minions, etc.). This percentage does NOT include ghosts and astral beings.
Religious Demographics: (c. 2014) Non-Religious: 43%; Roman Catholic:  27%; Protestant (various denominations): 23%; Jewish: 1%; and Other: 6%.
Per Capita Income: (c. 2014) $15,525, which is below the national average. 28% of the city’s population lives below the poverty line.
Neighborhoods: 25 total: Blackstone, Charles, College Hill, Downtown, Elmhurst, Elmwood, Federal Hill, Fox Point, Hartford, Hope, Lower South Providence, Manton, Mount Hope, Mount Pleasant, Olneyville, Reservoir, Silverlake, Smith Hill, South Elmwood, Upper South Providence, Valley, Wanskuck, Washington Park, Wayland, and West End.
Highways: Providence serves as a junction for three interstate highways (I-95, I-195, and I-295) and three state highways (Rt. 146, Rt. 6, and Rt. 10). With the exception of I-295, these roadways all meet in Downtown.
Waterways: Providence River, Seekonk River, Woonasquatucket River, Moshassuck River, and West River.
Parks & Recreation: Providence has more than 100 neighborhood parks, sports fields, community gardens, farmer’s markets, conservation areas, and public pools. The largest parks are Roger Williams State Park in South Elmwood and Neutaconkanut Park in Silver Lake.
Demonym: Providentian.
Mayor: (c. 2014) Antonia Sousa (P).
Government: Mayor-Council system.
Motto: “What cheer?”