The Great Traveling Nowhere Show: Feducci as Mayor

After the utterly bananas beginning, there wasn’t really much to write about except the strange and lazy behavior of the Mayor himself…which the writers themselves would explicitly point out. So there just wasn’t really much original commentary to be done for most of the last year. But now that Feducci’s god awful term is finally over and done with, this seems like the appropriate point for a retrospective. Despite the soaring rhetoric and grand pretensions, the defining feature of this administration is how completely inconsequential it has been. Feducci came, Feducci failed, Feducci hit on a different scheme that has nothing to do with being Mayor of London, Feducci blew up the Mayoral residence for some reason…

Which isn’t to say it wasn’t an active or uninteresting term. This was an administration where the Mayor was constantly besieged by protesters. An administration where the Mayor would ineffectually attempt to instigate violence against his opponents. An administration where the Mayor would hand out bogus titles in exchange for secrets. An administration where Lettice, the Mercy could sneak in and imitate the Mayor, sending out Christmas cards in his name and pilfering his gun collection (I suppose this means that, technically speaking, London has had four Mayors – Jenny, Feducci, Lettice, and the Contrarian).

But let us not forget that Feducci originally ran on the promise of transforming London over the course of his one year term:

A message that was taken up and repeated by his supporters:

[quote=Edward Warren]Citizens, I implore you to choose the candidate who’s plan will touch the most lives! The plan that gives the people the fair chance they need right now! For a better London, for a Fair London, I implore you!

And further emphasized by Feducci in his victory speech:

Yet, none of this happened and June 1895 to June 1896 turned out to be a fairly unexceptional year. All these showy promises to transform London went absolutely nowhere.

[quote=Business and pleasure both]
They say Feducci takes his meals at gambling tables, watching as Londoners cut each other to ribbons or lose everything at roulette. He keeps meticulous notes about each game, and is said to retire to his study to peruse them. But to what end? Is he planning his next moves? They do say he is increasingly furious that the games he arranges mean nothing; that he wants to have already upended the board. They say he is taking the names of London’s deadliest, or at least her luckiest. Perhaps we’ll see in time.[/quote]
We did see in time – and it was all just busywork, an expression of frustration and a substitute for clear ideas. Real revolutions are hard, while taxpayer funded parties that pretend to be revolutions are easy.

A party is all Feducci’s term amounted to in the end: a sort of phantom class war over empty titles and honors, where real talk of social reform was drowned out by bitter aristocrats complaining that their butler was now the duke or whatever of the Prickfinger Wastes, an empty stretch of good for nothing rock. London’s politics were certainly more active and eventful during Feducci’s term, but they were also far less substantive.

One notices the complete absence of the Masters from this picture; they weren’t on Feducci’s mayoral card, they didn’t turn up in any of his festival appearances, and they weren’t at the wedding. In contrast they were everywhere with Jenny. If Jenny was a game piece in their various competing intrigues, then Feducci was a total irrelevance. This is because the bandaged prince fits so neatly within their system for ruling London that they didn’t even have to bother with manipulating him. He’s even furnished the Bazaar with a major love story! What better service could a Mayor provide for them?!

If watching him has taught us anything, it’s that Feducci is skilled at gaining wealth and power, but he doesn’t know what to do with it once acquired. His perfectly organized campaign featured fantastic promises and no realistic plan. His administration was very showy and very incompetent, the only accomplishment being the conversion of Blythenhale into a garish casino/dueling arena and then the conversion of that into a smoking crater. The wedding was a romantic triumph, yet a complete disaster in terms of basic organization (consider how the whole thing could be completely derailed by a single bad hiring decision made by a desperate, overworked subordinate).

The pattern emerges of a man who delights in advancing and amusing himself while actively avoiding any real work. He is never satisfied with what he has; at heart he lives for the high stakes wagers, not the winnings – everything won becomes something to gamble with later. What would he do if he actually managed to become Prester of the 77-Kingdoms? Probably the same thing that happened after he became Mayor of London: boredom, disappointment, and scheming for yet greater things, whatever those were.

The result is gambling and scheming as a sort of perpetual motion machine. Virginia makes clear that she and Feducci were thinking about their latest wager not in terms of years, but centuries:

Naturally very few present day Londoners will actually be around to enjoy the winnings, should Feducci somehow beat the odds, which he probably won’t. But the beauty of this scam is that all present day failures and disappointments can be waved away in the name of the glorious future to come…someday. In the meantime, life in London goes on as usual. This is why, whether the wedding succeeds or fails, it is utterly inconsequential to the city. A lottery ticket whose status won’t be known within your lifetime simply doesn’t matter. Hence why the massive divergence in storylines, a successful wedding or a failed wedding, can be safely allowed.

However, it wouldn’t be entirely true to say that nothing whatsoever has changed in London as a result of Feducci’s term. If you let the marriage succeed, the Captivating Princess and Feducci wile away their time turning the Albion Wing into a giant casino/trophy room at the taxpayer’s expense (Blythenhale, just larger). With the results of his latest grand plan kicked safely into the distant future, one can’t help but notice that the only person potentially enjoying any tangible benefit from Feducci’s term of office is…Feducci himself. This, and his spiteful destruction of Jenny’s former residence, neatly sums up his administration rather well, I think.

At least Jenny’s blatant nest feathering resulted in a school.
edited by Anne Auclair on 7/3/2018

An incisive and thorough analysis, as always. I love reading your posts. ^_^ [li]
I tend to read Feducci’s actions very charitably myself, especially in relation to the Season of Revolutions, and I feel that he really believes that his master plan for control of the Presbyterate (the world?) is what all his work has been leading towards, that it will be worth the sacrifice, that it will satisfy him. I also feel that when he doubts that, it’s because of the kind of unshakable dissatisfaction you describe, the desire to stake it all for something different which seems so often to sabotage him, to destroy what he’s accomplished, and which he seems both to love and to regret. Perhaps, the &quotperpetual motion machine&quot is not a scam. Perhaps it is simply the result of his desires and ambitions dueling dramatically with his most fatal flaw. I don’t know.
Still, this is some truly excellent meta.

Excellent work.
I hope I am not denigrating it when I say that Feducci’s nothingness was obvious from the very beginning. None of that came as a surprise.
A mayor’s influence may be limited, but it can be felt in subtle ways.
I would say the fact that the people voted Contrarian instead of the Princess, was also a result of Feducci’s bluster producing so little. It made magnificent bastards less appealing.

Feducci’s ambitions were grand, and there was little he could do as Mayor to truly advance them.

I voted for Feducci, and an ineffective and meaningless term is even better than I had hoped for when I cast that vote.

I was voting against Fingerkings and the consolidation of law enforcement powers under one individual, and against disruptions to the Spirifage industry. Feducci’s terms resulted in neither the Fingerkings nor the Revolutionaries gaining significant influence, no consolidation of power under any individual, and no changes to the ability of enterprising individuals to offer relief to those in need in exchange for something of dubious value. In other words, everything I wanted.

If the only unintended side-effect is the demolition of one building of historical and cultural significance, then that’s really getting off pretty light!

Status quo will always be in effect where conflicts would require too much to be changed. Jenny couldn’t escape the Masters, Feducci couldn’t change London, and I expect the Contrarian will fail to truly divorce Constables from the Ministry. These things are too grand and sweeping to bet on. Jenny got her school, Feducci got an engagement, and the Contrarian will have his Ball. These are the things we can count on.

Could see him managing to separate the ordinary Constables from the MoPD. Not the Specials, but the regulars.

[quote=Sara Hysaro]Status quo will always be in effect where conflicts would require too much to be changed.[/quote]I’m sorry to re-traumatize people all over again, but the Cheery Man died for some characters as part of a free story. He’s definitely on the list of dramatis personae I wouldn’t have expected to die at all, to say nothing of forking a world. And with his quantum undeath, all reasonable constraints on the status quo have been defenestrated.

What changed with his death? His legacy and influence is still very much there. Only the man is gone.

Plus Feducci and the Princess are married for some but not all. Which is a pity; they would have used their connection (either the breakup or the marriage) so well in the election.

Isn’t he like centuries old? Perhaps a year as a mayor, with wild promises and a complete disregard for due processes, is just a lark for him. Bonus if he can use it to further his grand, multi-century schemes; no big loss (probably) if he can’t; and no other goal, other than to have some bloody fun (figuratively - and literally too, actually) and rustle some feathers in respectable society.

What I’m saying is, you’re completely right, but I wager that’s not some kind of unforeseen failure, but rather exactly as planned. For Feducci at least - for London it’s a different story, but then again nobody expected anything good for the city when he was elected so if anything this is an improvement.

Oh sure, I am not implying he meant his term to be anything else than what it was. I am just pointing out that Failbetter made it clear during the election that his actual plan was to do nothing and have a decadent and fun year for himself.

I would agree except that the Cheery Man was already a nonentity. Siding with or against him early in your career is important since you can lock yourself out of becoming closest to a faction, but after that you never see him again aside from that very story that kills him or his daughter. His death changes nothing. The status quo prevails.

Similarly, there is no way that Jenny, Feducci or any other Mayor can cause dramatic change. Failbetter doesn’t want to rewrite content - and I can’t say I blame them. Letting Jenny open a school is one thing, people can pay fate to get access to it and have a lasting benefit. What if Henry Peppercorn became mayor and part of the Mahogany Hall content was changed? New players would never know the difference, older ones would likely explore the changes and shrug before going back to grinding Making Waves or echoes.

Well, there are ways to change things without demolishing anything major. New carousels, new locations, new -permanent- cards. Some cards nobody likes can get removed from the deck (i.e. Struggling Artist) and in their place you may get a card about Jenny’s new department, for example. Or if the DTC had won, you could get a card for her honey-well. This way you know some people became mayors and left, actually changing something in the Neath. I bet it would make players much more invested, to know that who they voted for would make a difference. Not hard to implement on Failbetter’s part, no big changes to the narrative and status quo (that would be too much work AND it would probably make those who voted differently upset), but new content and a reminder that the mayor does influence the face of London.
edited by Jolanda Swan on 7/4/2018

On the other hand, unless these cards end up profitable a lot of folks would probably be majorly irked by an ever-growing set of new cards being added every year. Unless they made them City Vices cards, I guess. But then they’d have to fit - the honey-well for instance might not have had much to do with city life (which is the central theme of city vices cardS).

Note that I vehemently agree with you; I’m just playing devil’s advocate as to why that might not have been an obvious course of action with no downsides. Even something as simple as a card would require some thought and planning. What would Feducci’s card be, for instance? The fact that he did nothing of substance is the entire point of his term. Perhaps his card could involve gossipping/reminiscing about his outrageous term in a society setting?

This is a good idea! Rummaging through the rubble of Blythendale - or maybe hearing rumours of the Presbyterate. They would demonstrate that Feducci did nothing but his shadow remains.
And Jenny has done enough small things to qualify. You might only draw a Jenny’s school card in Wolfstack, for example, since this is where she did her literacy programme.
There are way too many leftover cards you should stop seeing after a point, (Palace Cellars, Struggling Artist etc)that pop all over London. Replacing them with better cards reminding people of the lore of the Neath - or making sure new players are curious about these people and these events, or even hyped for their first election, could be awesome.

I don’t know. I like what we have now, to be perfectly honest. This year was pretty fun for me, and I’m actually looking forward to the next election for a change. The balance we have now is perfect, I feel, and I enjoy not feeling pressured to pick a good candidate over a narratively compelling one.

Unfortunately, things have stagnated pretty heavily in London, in universe and in narrative. I understand the reasons for it in real England, but I feel like the mayoral term we had with Feducci really encapsulates that feeling. We start off with great expectations of new things coming, that will shock the status quo and make things brand new and exciting. And then… well, we get some new (if meaningless) titles, some small-scale drama that’s pretty self-contained, and more promises of grand things to come that haven’t gone anywhere. Now we have a new mayor with new goals, and with any luck, we’ll see something that surprises us just as much as his victory.

Mayor Jenny’s administration did a number of things actually, but most of her administration’s actions were in the background, more story then gameplay.

[quote=Assist the Mayor]Jenny sets out her scheme: promoting literacy amongst the dockers of London. &quotI want to extend this to all who need it but the dockers are first. Every day, they’re expected to sign contracts they can’t even read.&quot She grimaces, making sure she has an audience; an admirer sighs exaggeratedly at the set of her jaw. &quotMr Fires is the worst, of course.&quot

Over the next few days, you draw up syllabi, scout out suitable schoolrooms and strong-arm teachers. At the end of it all you’ve more than earned that round at the Helmsman.[/quote]

[quote=Investigate the Mayor]The Blythenhale mansion is a constant flurry of activity. Jenny entertains every other evening; balls for society types, half-penny theatre for the common woman. The Mayor has hired out-of-work Wolfstack dockers to renovate the east wing. Once finished, it’ll become the Office for Public Works; Jenny’s former employees stand ready to move in.

Jenny’s work on London proceeds at similar pace. Soup kitchens are already attached to several theatres. Gin houses will be forced to provide beds – within weeks! She’s even organised voluntary glaive training with the sisters.

Your questioning draws attention; a handsome youth in sable-livery approaches you with a smile. &quotThe Masters present a gift. For your continued silence.&quot The diamond gleams long after his smile has faded.[/quote]
The thing was, player characters weren’t directly benefiting from any of these programs. They weren’t an illiterate, underemployed Docker, therefore they didn’t benefit from the literary programs or the public works. They weren’t a starving, drunken, underemployed Bohemians, so they didn’t make use of the theater soup kitchens, gin hall beds, or government jobs. They weren’t the Vake’s usual victims and are pretty formidable in a fight, so they didn’t need glaive training from the Sisterhood.

However, they were recruited to help the Dockers learn and judged worthy of a Master’s bribe. Furthermore, as player characters generally have the skill set to make them good teachers at Jenny’s Finishing School, they ended up doing that. From a game-play prospective this has been pretty big deal - I use the school a lot. And lest we forget, we also got to attend Jenny’s final Mayoral ball, which was a rather graceful exit (and a really big contrast with Feducci, who just sulked in Blythenhale until the votes were counted).

In contrast, Feducci’s administration was all games, protests, frustration, and general mischief, leaving nothing behind but a crater and maybe a marriage or maybe a bad breakup. The mayor’s identity really does seem to matter in terms of mayoral content. It’s just the mayoral content is not that large a part of the overall world.

So, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Contrarian did something big.

Worth pointing out, the writers made an effort this election to throw in little references here and there to current and past politics. Feducci made it legal to vote while drinking/drunk (because of course he did), Jenny is very bitter about the Brass Embassy’s involvement in the 1895 election, the Contrarian calls past mayors ineffectual, the Captivating Princess tells you that Feducci only cares about having fun, and so forth. So we’re starting to acquire a larger political history.
edited by Anne Auclair on 7/5/2018

Had completely forgotten about many of those changes; thank you for that.