In 1622, German mercenaries under the leadership of Meinrad Rabe established fortifications on an island, to act as a forward base of operations to combat piracy in the area. Over time the settlement grew, until it was sold to the British in 1666, who Anglicised the name from Rabeburg to the more literal Ravencastle. Because of its location, the city was of strategic importance during the Revolutionary War, and though held by Loyalist and British troops for some time, eventually it fell into Continental hands before the war's end.
When the Civil War broke out, Ravencastle stayed with the Union, despite calls from some of the more privileged members of high society to secede and avoid the war altogether. Colonel Matthias Wurmcroft allowed the use of the island owned by his family to train Union troops. Some years after the war's end, the old training ground was used as the basis for the construction of Wurmcroft Penitentiary, under the instruction of Doctor Thaddeus Wurmcroft, Matthias Wurmcroft's cousin and sole heir to the Wurmcroft holdings.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the traditional criminal gangs were being slowly ousted by the appearance of more coordinated criminal organizations. Ruthless efficiency and businesslike operations were what allowed these organizations to gain influence, but it was the absolute secrecy surrounding the heads that made them infamous. Despite the best intentions of the authorities, their identities were never uncovered, allowing them to rule the underworld in luxury, with the pretence of normal lives.
With corruption spreading through the city, with both politicians and police officers falling into the pocket of the underworld, the first masked vigilantes began to appear in the early 20th century. Operating in the same way as their criminal opponents, hiding their true identities, these mystery men and women utilise the same kind of ruthless methods to crack down on the rampant illegal activities occurring day-to-day in Ravencastle.
The bulk of Ravencastle's population is of German and English descent, often mixed. Lutheran churches are the most common throughout the city, although there is a sizeable Catholic presence in the southern part of the city. The Jewish population is quite large, even considering the city's size, and there are synagogues found all over the city.
The district of New Cairo has most of the city's Muslim immigrants, and while most of the mosques are converted from older buildings, there are several that were custom-built as early as the 18th century. Originally the immigrants were chiefly of Egyptian descent, but in more recent times the range of cultures has expanded.
The southern half of the East Village, separated out by the canal, is also known as Chinatown. A much smaller minority than many others, the residents of Chinatown tend to be insular in nature.
Shipping & import have been the major industries of Ravencastle for two centuries now, situated as it is on the east coast with a wide and well-travelled waterway feeding it. The city has grown rich off the docks, and in recent years the addition of an airfield has enabled the aviation business to prosper. Flights in and out of the city occur every day, including transatlantic flights to Europe, connecting Ravencastle to the old country.
The production of paper has been another of Ravencastle's older industries, mostly having been based in the district now known as Paperville for obvious historic reasons. Because of the paper mills, Ravencastle had some of the first newspapers in the country, a tradition that continues to this day. Publication is now one of the top businesses in the city.
The production of cutting edge pharmaceuticals is a much more recent aspect of industry in the city, but it is by no means a small one. Research laboratories and manufacturing facilities have sprung up in the north of the city, looking to make profit in the medical field. Because of this, other sorts of chemical plants have become more commonplace, adding to the city's smog problem.
In the Foundry district are the city's metalworking plants, which produce large quantities of steel and other alloys for use across the country, but also in the city's own factories. Though the manufacturing industry took quite a hit due to the Great Depression, it has managed to regain some of its former prosperity in recent years.
Road and rail are the principle methods of transportation in modern-day Ravencastle. The construction of the Hawke and Gibson tunnels has reduced the necessary number of ferries to get from the mainland to the two islands, Bailey and Tower. However, the river still sees a lot of traffic even in this day and age.
The rail system links almost all the districts of the city to one another, through overground, elevated, and subterranean routes. The rail even connects to Wurmcroft Penitentiary, allowing for special police trains to bring prisoners in by the carload if necessary, ostensibly for security purposes, but also to intimidate potential career criminals through cramped and unpleasant conditions.
The canal system of Bailey is an intricate network that existed before the introduction of rail, allowing for heavy goods shipments to be transported with ease to and from the docks. Since the establishment of the railway, the canals see less use, but are still common amongst those with less money to burn on railcar space. They are also used with frequency with the police, whose river patrol boats are slim and agile enough to even make their way down the narrowest of the canals.
Besides the music halls, cinemas, clubs, and theatres, Ravencastle's favored form of entertainment is also its principle vice: gambling. The Downs in Collins (found on Tower Island) is the city's sole horse racing course, and the oldest betting establishment. In Longbarrow there is Southbank Park, a greyhound racing track that provides a similar source of entertainment and betting for the masses.
In the last couple of years, a number of penny arcades have sprung up, alongside the more traditional billiard halls. These arcades hold host to many intricately-designed, coin-operated machines that test the player's skill and reflexes, as well as card game tables, making these places quite popular amongst the younger generation.
Baseball is the most common sport in Ravencastle, with two major league teams making their home in the city: the Ravencastle Blackbirds in the East Village, and the Ravencastle Cannons in Ryder Heights. The Bailey Blackbirds in Glass Hill are a minor league team affiliated with the Ravencastle Blackbirds. There is also a college baseball team: the Ravencastle Lions of Ravencastle University in Saxony. All four teams, when they play, prompt a great deal of betting.
There are three major papers in the city of Ravencastle. The first established was the Ravencastle Tribune in 1848, originally something of a small-scale endeavour, but now the major metropolitan newspaper of the city and the surrounding county. The paper's headquarters is the Lowe Building in Midtown, easily recognisable by the reclining stone lions outside the building, which also feature in the paper's ornate header. The Tribune's current owner is Albert Harris Morgenthau, whose family have owned the paper since its foundation, and the current editor-in-chief is the formidable Eliza Jean Palmer.
In 1887 the Evening Echo was established by Paul Dupont Jr., and sold to business mogul Charles William Cavanagh in 1903, who quickly turned it around from an ailing broadsheet into a powerful compact. Because of its small size and late publication, the Echo is most popular amongst commuters returning home at the end of the working day by rail, who find it to be a reasonable size for reading on the train. The paper is still owned by Cavanagh, with editor-in-chief and former amateur boxer Matthew "Saint" Patrick Monaghan. It is based out of the Broxworth Building in Paperville.
The Daily Herald is a relatively new tabloid by comparison to its peers, established in 1919 by G. Kent Scott. More concerned with yellow journalism and sensationalism than integrity, its moral failings have nevertheless netted it a large readership who are eager to read more stories about criminals and vigilantes doing battle in the streets. It makes no secret about offering rewards for tips and information, and resorts to sex and scandal when all else fails. The current editor-in-chief is Alfred Jackson, and the owner still Scott, and its headquarters are located at Berlin Plaza in Paperville.
There are three stations that broadcast within Ravencastle, the oldest of which is WSP (950 kc), dating back to 1921. The other two are WRWK (550 kc) and WRHD (820 kc), established in 1927 and 1931 respectively. While WSP broadcasts from the Kessler Building in Midtown, WRWK and WRHD both broadcast from Cavanagh Tower in the nearby district of Saint Michael.
WSP has its studios at 72 Braun Street, in South Point. WRWK's studios can be found at 118 Sixth Avenue, in Warwick. WRHD is based out of the Mercury Building, in Ryder Heights.
Law & Authority
The current mayor of Ravencastle is Cyril P. Atherton-Stearns (54), with Samuel Braunwald (31) as deputy mayor. Although his administration has been mildly unpopular for the duration, the combined effect of weak rivals and heavy corruption has kept him in office for the past 14 years.
Charlotte Sawyer (29) serves as the district attorney, a recent appointment and one that has gotten quite a buzz around the city, not just because of her young age, but also due to her distaste for corruption and graft. How long she will manage to keep either her job or her integrity remains to be seen.
The Ravencastle Police Department is headed up by Police Commissioner Edward Salvatore Lawrence (48), with other notable members of its upper ranks being Captain Moses Powell (37) of the Masked Crimes Unit, and Chief Coroner Vincent Moncreiffe (63). The Masked Crimes Unit is the only dedicated division for the handling of vigilante activity, although it often hands off its cases to smaller departments if they are considered to be not worth investigating.
For some decades now, the Ravencastle underworld has been in the grip of criminal organizations, each one headed up by a mysterious individual whose true identities have never been revealed. They lead double lives, alternating between their public personas and their foul criminal alter-egos. By wearing masks or disguises, or by simply remaining in the shadows and controlling their operations through a vast number of subordinates, these criminals remain unhindered by the legal authorities. They make Ravencastle the capital city of their empire of crime, spreading their sordid influences out through the country and sometimes abroad to foreign countries.
A large white feather is the calling card of the Albatross, a villain who brokers in debts and blackmail. By controlling people in this way, he can force otherwise innocent citizens into engaging in criminal activity, embezzling or giving up expensive possessions in order to keep themselves safe from his wrath. He hangs around the necks of his victims, often using them to contact others, keeping a large buffer between himself and the crimes he makes them commit.
Unlike many of his fellows, the Albatross prefers to stay strictly behind the scenes and as low-key as possible, quietly amassing wealth and influence to direct the city as he sees fit.
The Crime King
If the rumours are true, there's no crime in Ravencastle that happens without the knowledge of the Crime King. Nor are there any with take place without his permission, some say, although that may be overstating his influence on the city's criminal element. Sufficed to say, he employs a host of petty thugs and other lowlifes, whose continuous petty efforts provide a steady source of income for their felonious monarch.
Each small gang and individual report to enforcers, who themselves report to bosses further up the chain, eventually reaching the ear of the Crime King himself. No low-level purse thief knows the Crime King's identity, or even so much as their boss's superior, keeping a firm and concrete distance between the lower echelons and the more skilled "feudal lords" that are the Crime King's lieutenants.
Anyone who has seen or heard the criminal figure known as Doctor Cuckoo can be sure that their account will never match up with anyone else's. The good Doctor is not only a master of disguise, seemingly able to change height and build to a ridiculous degree, but can also imitate any voice. Man or woman, nobody knows, because Doctor Cuckoo can imitate both. This makes the task of finding out the Doctor's public identity far more difficult than any other, if they even have just one.
Though the great skills of imitation allow Doctor Cuckoo to simply stroll out of banks with other people's money, in more recent years the Doctor has preferred to consolidate more grandiose schemes, stealing priceless works of art, making a fool of millionaires, and generally threatening the stability of the city. It seems that things are little more than a game, or perhaps an experiment, to the Doctor, and they intend to see just how much they can get away with.
Recognisable by a distinctive wheezing laugh, and the appearance of a corpse, the Gravedigger is the most gruesome and frightening underworld figure in Ravencastle. Though the wild white hair and graying flesh is probably just theatrical makeup, the Gravedigger's sinister personality is the real threat. Uncaring and unsympathetic, the Gravedigger has a chilling bodycount to his name, to say nothing of the hitmen and toughs he employs as his "pallbearers". He operates much more out in the open, obviously trusting in his disguise to keep him from recognition, and a well-placed bullet or two if that doesn't work.
The Gravedigger isn't above working with other underworld figures, especially if they need someone well versed in violent crime, but never works for them. He is his own independent force within Ravencastle, and demands a high price for his assistance in any matter, no matter how small. His trademark, besides his corpse-like appearance, is his battered top hat and his shovel, which despite looking old and worn is a dangerous implement, with razor-sharp edges that can take a man's head clean off with a strong enough swing. Typically, though, he carries a Thompson machine gun or a shotgun for more practical killing, saving the shovel for those times when fear is more important than effectiveness.
The unpredictable Professor Thirteen engages in crimes seemingly not for wealth, but for the thrill of the chase and the skill involved. A genius by any measurement, the Professor enacts heists and capers with timing and precision that would make a Swiss watchmaker blush, often seeming to spend more on doing the job itself than would ever be obtained by it. Somehow he manages to continue his sporadic crimes despite this, perhaps spending the time between his elaborate schemes lending his dizzying intellect to the other members of the Ravencastle underworld.
He hides his identity behind a rather structured disguise, consisting of a featureless white mask, a broad-brimmed hat, a high-collared black coat with thirteen brass buttons, and a pair of white gloves. It is a rather striking appearance that he uses to distract and misdirect, much in the manner of a stage magician, making himself the center of attention while his underlings do as instructed. He is also a remarkable competent fighter, preferring a sword cane over firearms, but deadly with both.