The Ankh-Morpork Coat of arms from DiscworldI’ve been thinking about a potential Discworld/ASOIAF crossover for a while now. (the depressing thing is my Muse has been giving me far more material for this than she’s given me for the comicstrip for a while.)  The basic thesis is the city of Ankh-Morpork being ISOTd  (“ISOT”,  for those not into alternate history settings, stands for Island in the Sea of Time after the novel of the same name by S.M Sterling. It’s come to be used by alternate history fans to describe an event where a large number of people, maybe even a city or country (in the original book it was the island of Nantucket) gets magically transported to another time and place and we get to see what they do next) to Westeros. In a fit of Massochism I posted it on the alternate history listserv’s fan page last night.(Quick warning my knowledge of Pratchett is better than my knowledge of Martin so I hope I don’t show bias or gaps in knowledge)

I was briefly tempted to go with the transplanted Ankh-Morpork becoming the “Tenth Free City of Essos” In a way it works better since several of the Free Cities (at least Braavos and Pentos) share Ankh-Morpork’s “point of view” and things are spread out just enough that Ankh-Morpork has a certain level of safety to give them time to get back on their feet, but that isn’t quite as fun. (Besides, I don’t think I know enough material bout the history and politics of Essos for me to do it justice.

However, I was inspired by Poster Jonathan, in February who suggested that an excellent place for Ankh-Morpork to be transported into was the Riverlands… This has possibilities.

A few quick asides before we dive in all the way, several posters were concerned that several characters, especially Lord Vetinari would become Mary Sues in this new setting, and the seven kingdoms would inevitably be transformed into “A Westerosi Economic Union”. While this is certainly a risk, like most ISOTs while the transported polity may be the toughest fish in the pond… it’s a very big pond… and there are a LOT of fish. Vetinari, Vimes, Ridiculy and everyone else will be too busy staying alive. It will be years before anyone has the chance to get creative. Besides, while Vetinari is certainly not an isolationist, he has said on several occasions that he does not want another Morporkian empire.

In order to make this project work, I think it’s important to take Discworld seriously. While the books are indeed comic, they stopped being straight comedy a long time ago and Pratchett can be very serious when he wants to be. Because of this, while I certainly don’t want to abandon a sense of humor if I choose to continue on this project, I need to be sure to itemize everything in the books so I know what the “real” Ankh-Morpork is capable of, and just how would it handle itself when surrounded on all sides by the deadly serious Westerns.

(One last aside, Speaking of Vetinari and I won’t bring it up again, but Charles Dance was as good a Vetinari as that mediocre script allowed. Complaining about the blond hair is like saying Hugh Jackman was too tall to play Wolverine… Admittedly from a fanboy’s perspective, a “Tywin meets Havelock” scene is irresistible … (just like the inevitable misunderstanding Jaime has the first time he meets Boromir in all Game of Thrones/Lord of the Rings crossovers.))

As a starting out point from the Discworld side, I’m planning to use the period between “A Thief of Time” and “Night Watch” as my point of divergence. There are several reasons for this, most obvious one being there’s an event that could be used to transport Ankh-Morpork to the new reality. The other reason is, and feel free to disagree with me, is this is where Terry Pratchett drops all pretenses of Ankh-Morpork being a generic medieval fantasy setting… I think that the Disk’s “modern era” probably begins as early as the Fifth Elephant with the introduction with the Clacks towers, but I like to believe that there’s a few vestigial elements that last just a little longer before any of the really revolutionary elements start. (One small problem with this choice is I might not be able to use Vimes since the “event” throws him into into the past in “Night Watch” and now there won’t be a present day Ankh-Morpork to return to. I’m mostly planning to ignore this detail, but it still feels like cheating.)

One last choice I’m going with is since Pratchett frequently reminds us that Ankh-Morpork is always about two meals away from complete anarchy, I plan to cheat just a little bit and take a lot of the surrounding Sto Plains with them using a circle of about 150 miles with Ankh-Morpork. As far as where this area “lands” I agree with several of the other posters that with the way river Ankh runs through the city and it’s port, the best place to fit Ankh-Morpork into the Riverlands is the Bay of Crabs. This has Ankh-Morpork replacing Saltpans, with Houses Cox, Darry, Mooten, Wode and Roote transported… away. I’ll have to read a little bit more to figure out what the political ramifications of that will be, if I remember correctly only Darry and Mooten have any real clout. Also, if I’m reading the scale on the map correctly, Maidenpool misses the effect by just 25 miles.

So now that we’ve picked a location, when does Ankh-Morpork arrive? While starting our story within the events of Game of Thrones is certainly the easiest way to go, there are so many options. A lot of people like to place their transported characters sometime in Robert’s “Glorious Reign” to give them a “head start”, but I don’t think this is quite as much of an advantage as one would think. The Riverlands were hit hard during Robert’s Rebellion and there are still a lot of Targaryen Sympathizers. Not to mention the Tullys are one of the youngest of the Great Houses after the Tyrells having only been in power since Aegon’s invasion with a lot of the other families more than happy to try and take their place, as we see with the Freys in the events of the book.

I think the upheaval of Ankh-Morpork suddenly appearing just might be the final straw that throws everything into complete chaos.

Considering other eras, The Blackfire Rebellion is very promising. One thing about it that makes it an attractive possibility is Vetinari would be more than happy to play both sides for the advantage of his city. At the moment the biggest thing about it that appeals to me is the thought of Ankh-Morpork appearing in its new location just when Dunk and Egg leave Whitehall heading north, just after the events of The Mystery Knight appeals to me.

The Dance of the Dragons is another interesting possibility. Once again we have a situation where Ankh-Morpork would take full advantage of being a third power in the middle of a civil war, however I think Westeros is slightly more stable than it will be in the time of the Blackfire rebellion and Ankh-Morpork might be something for the two sides to settle their differences over and join forces to attack. Besides, I’m a little reluctant to use this because this is the last time Targaryans have dragons they can use against Ankh-Morpork… but then Ankh-Morpork has experience with dragons. (We know that Valerian dragons are magical, but do they actually feed on magic?)

Of course, the possibilities are endless. Personally, I wouldn’t want to go too far back, due to the lack of text evidence, but I might be tempted to go before Aegon’s conquest, if only because it would be cool to have Vetinari organizing the river lords against the Iron Men.

Finally, now that we have Ankh-Morpork arriving in Westeros, we have to seriously look at what it has and has not. First and foremost it can no longer run on narativium. It has just arrived in a world with a frighteningly different narrative. Also, since it left it’s debtors back on the Disk, Ankh Morpork’s principal traditional weapon, the ability to call in all of its debts no longer applies… at least for now. At this moment, Ankh-Morpork can not rule the Riverlands wholesale.

So What’s left? Ankh-Morpork has a population of at least a million sapients with 50,000 dwarves, trolls (no numbers given but let’s assume 20,000 for now) Humans making up the rest and then one percent of “other” which includes Vampires, Zombies, Were-wolfs, Gnomes, Igors and… others. (For the moment I’ll ignore certain special cases like Susan Sto-Helit and Ron Soak, but I could be convinced otherwise.)

What this means is that before the event, the Riverlands had no real cities. Now it has the biggest one in the seven kingdoms, smellier than Kings Landing, better educated than Oldtown and richer than Lannisport. On top of that, it automatically becomes Westeros’s largest trading port and also the one that is able to capitalize most on trade with the Free Cities being the closest western port to Pentos and Braavos.

For a baseline, we can consider Ankh-Morpork being transported to Westeros the equivalent of an Italian City-State from the seventeenth century transported to a northern feudal setting from the late fifteenth century but of course, that’s just the beginning.

The trick is to sift through the jokes to find the facts. Take the Alchemists’ Guild for example. We hear all the jokes about them blowing up their guild hall, but we look closely at individual members (When they’re not trying to turn lead into gold), most notably Cheery Littlebottom, we see a knowledge of chemistry safely at the same level as the Victorians (not to mention they don’t seem to regard the fact they’ve invented black powder as any big deal)

Ankh-Morpork also has movable type and a rate of literacy that is over fifty percent. (Much better than in Westeros where only a handful of the aristocracy and the Maesters are. For communications, along with the clacks (which at the moment is limited to the area transported, but that can change quickly) Even the city’s decrepit postal system (Moist Von Lipwig won’t be drafted for two books) is still more efficient than Raven messages and the rumor network of Westeros.

Now, for the next year, if the City wants to survive, the biggest question is defense. For a city that relies mainly on “deceit, bribery, and assimilation” Ankh-Morpork is relatively well equipped for defending themselves. We get a glimpse of the armory in “Men at Arms”. Along with a variety of crossbows from a mounted ballista to a Twelve shot bow with a “gravity feed” we are also introduced to a “Klatchien Fire Engine” which is a large mobile flame thrower.

Later in Jingo, we’re given a peek at the catalog of Ankh Morpork’s premier weapons manufacturer, Burleigh & Stronginthearm. It includes such items as “The Great Leveler” A cart-mounted 10 Band 500-pound Crossbow, “The Meteor” an automated throwing star hurler (decapitates at 20 paces) and “the Dervish” a Razor wire bolo.

Keep in mind this is before Lord Vetinari lets Leonard of Quirm out of the tower to help with this emergency.

As for Ankh-Morpork’s actual army, the quick answer is they don’t have one. nobles and knights are expected to raise levies during times of war. Supposedly Ankh-Morpork has had many, though the only one that we hear about in any detail are the events of “Jingo.”

The details are hazy. The only actual veterans we meet are Colin and Nobby (not good examples) and the only “Military Man” we see on a regular basis is Lord Ronald Rust, a pompous arrogant cartoon of an over-entitled aristocrat who excels in throwing his troops away on suicidal charges.

Based on my assumptions about using the 40 years war as a starting point, I can assume that most of the armies of the Sto Plains would be mostly pikemen with a whole lot of archers backing them up.

Another quick thought on Ankh Morpork’s defensive assets that occurred to me was the Assassins’Guild. Yes, once again they’re mostly played for laughs the way they’re obsessed with style over substances, and continually get caught in Vimes’s traps, but the individual assassins that we meet, Pteppic, Teatime, Inigo Skimmer and the rest of the Dark Clerks, 71-Hour Ahmed and, of course, Lord Vetinari are deadly individuals who would certainly be able to outbid the Faceless and Sorrowful Men once word got out.

The one low point in Ankh Morpork’s technical advantage seems to be medicine. Since we’re still using our POT divergence of the Night Watch. Ankh Morpork’s level of medical technology, as far as the text evidence goes, is not much better than the Maesters of Westeros. (Though it’s not clear how much this is just being played for laughs in what was still a parody of a medieval setting and how much of it is being seen through the eyes of cynics like Sir Samuel Vimes) either way at the time of our setting the only good doctors we know of are Dr. James (Doughnut Jimmy) Folsom (who’s actually just a horse doctor though veterinary medicine is going to be an incredible asset where they have just arrived) and Dr. John (Mossy) Lawn. Things only start improving after our point of divergence with Lawn opening the Lady Sybil Free Hospital so we can’t use it quite yet.

On a side note, Igors start immigrating to Ankh-Morpork after the “Fifth Elephant” though at the point of our story there’s no way of knowing if there’s any more than five working within city limits. This gives us a higher level of surgical skill (the rest of what they can do really will depend on how many lightning storms there are in the Riverlands.)

Finally, the biggest problem we have cataloging Ankh Morpork’s tech level is magic. While the rules of magic in Discworld is never consistent, the big question is what gets carried over when the “event” separates the wizards from their source of power. (Admittedly with the exception of the events in “Sourcerer” the wizards are never seen doing much more than fireballs and the occasional transformation and a with a lot of the other magic we see it’s unclear whether it’s the wizards own power or they are channeling the magic of the university.)

The big question, though is what magic technology still works once Ankh-Morpork arrives in Westeros. Right now I’m willing to believe that items like Omniscopes, broomsticks, and HEX are powered by the wizard using them, (ignoring that we’ve had scenes where non magical individuals have been able to steal and use broomsticks) The big question is with magical items that are sold and used by the public like iconographs (cameras) and dis-organizers (sort of a blackberry that can also be used for recording) It’s never completely clear if imps are created by magic for specific functions or whether they’re just another magical Discworld creature that’s captured and trained.

The other question that comes up is the Golems. There’s a lot of technology that’s dependent on a golem just turning a crank or pump indefinitely. Since Golems on the Disk were brought to life by priests I’m not completely sure if they would stop functioning or not once Ankh-Morpork travels to a world with different gods. (Of course, many of the older Golems have outlived the gods that animated them in the first place. )

Finally on the subject of Discworld Dragons, while they have occasionally been used as flamethrowers, rockets and cigarette lighters, for the most part, they’re just bombs waiting to go off, so the less said about them the better.

So now that we have what there is to work with what do we do with it? From Ankh Morpork’s perspective. Vetinari prides himself for never having an actual plans since things change. He’s been seen changing his position multiple times. I think he’d work defensively and not bend the knee to anyone (unless it’s a clever Judo move like his “surrender” in “Jingo”.) While there is something to say for “the best defense is a good offense” especially when from the modern perspective of Ankh-Morpork, Westeros is populated by a bunch of murderous thugs. Though most of the offense that Vetinari would use would be economic. Also once their position has stabilized Vetinari would find alliance with the Free Cities more valuable than with any of the seven kingdoms essentially carving a tenth free city into Westeros.

The other thing that I’m looking forward to playing with, is with the upheaval the Riverlands suffers even in the best of times, it is just one straw away from a populist uprising (as the rise of the Brotherhood Without Banners shows) We never really get any good looks at the perspectives of the Small Folk or tradesmen(besides as victims) but I see some interesting possibilities when they start to hear about this city of cheesemongers. This is especially fascinating because one recurring theme I’ve found in A Song of Ice and Fire is the inability of the Westerosi nobility to think outside of their box let alone even perceive things that function outside of their paradigm. (It is the secret of Littlefinger’s success.) This I think would do far more than anything Ankh Morpork will plan in self defense.

In closing this is beginning to appeal to me the more I think about it. While I’m sure there’s plenty I missed in my initial assessment I think it brings the basic idea of what Ankh Morpork has to survive being dropped right in the middle of the War of Five Kings (yeah, other than the appeal of the Dunk and Egg, I think I’ll go with what I know, feel free to talk me out of it.) Currently I’m thinking of starting my point of divergence right in the middle of Game of Thrones since The Sphere containing Ankh Morpork would appear just south of the Inn at the Crossroads and certainly intersect the Kings Road effecting both Catelyn and Tyrion’s travels. (It briefly occurs to me that Catelyn might be in just the right spot to be transported away but it would be cruel to waste point-of-view characters like that. )

On the subject of point-of-view characters, I want to follow Martin’s example of using well placed people who do not have access to all of the information needed… or if they do, lack the ability to comprehend or process it. Based on that for the Ankh-Morpork side I think I might use Pondor Stibons, who is well placed in the University but has not yet taken over ever administrative post as he does later on. I think I can use Moist Von Lipwig… If he’s not in Ankh-Morpork proper he’s wandering from town to town in the Sto-Plains. Rincewind is tempting and I’m pretty sure he’s safely back in the university at this point, though perhaps he’s too obvious and I’m not sure how useful he would be when I’m not playing this for laughs. Vimes of course, provided he did not get left behind due to the events of “Night Watch”, perhaps someone lower ranking in the watch would be easier.

Tempting as it is, I don’t want to use any “Happy Coincidences”. So, no. Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg did not happen to be visiting (though based on the time I chose there is an argument for Lu-Tse) This means no witches… (I know Pratchett introduces “Urban Witches” in “I Shall Wear Darkness” but I generally consider the Tiffany Aching books a separate continuity, so I’ll ignore them for the time being.)

On the Riverlands side, as I mentioned before Tyrion and Catelyn are in the general vicinity and would have their original stories radically changed. Because of some of my thoughts on how Ankh-Morpork might trigger a rise of the middle class some non-nobility have excellent possibilities. Bronn is in the general vicinity… and Ankh-Morpork will quickly have need of people with his talents… as far as small folk I can use, perhaps Tom Sevenstrings? If push comes to shove I can start making people up… But again that feels like cheating.

I’m sure there’s plenty of things I missed in my general assessment but this idea has really begun to grow on me as I’ve worked on it and I’m really looking forward to what everyone thinks.