Page 8 of 10
Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2015 5:43 pm
Prosperous village of about 1000. Walking along between it and nearby Kerodain for 4-6 hours involves passing at least three crossroads with other highways, and takes you about a fourth of the distance; the two towns are in total about three and a half days away. Reachable by coming up the pike from Riverfort. A pub stands an hour away on the common road, run by a proprieter and his daughter Lindy, who rebuilt their roadhouse after it was destroyed by the hellravens that killed several of his patrons, including an upstanding local named Fergus. The "City" Guard is efficient enough that it's safe for a young woman to walk at night. Citizens of the town proper include the elder Rhodocruxine cleric Jermancian, a caring woman with a poor Will save named Zinnia, and a down-on-his-luck one-eighth-orc fighter named Gresham, who for no particular reason also worships the Ruby Witch.
The "sacred temple of the Blood Mistress" is nothing like the ostentatious houses that sun-worshippers, sacred knights, and other such boastful "Good" types build for their gods; although she is by no means evil, peasants are a superstitious and cowardly lot, especially when it comes to death and magic, both of which She specializes in. Ergo, entry into the windowless, skulls-and-candles-adorned sanctum is by invitation only; the cloister is housed in the basement of a perfectly ordinary-looking and modest domicile nestled amid the residential district, and the high priest lives on the premises and projects a carefully calculated air of banality to discourage inquiries from the actually "normal" into how he spends his time.
Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2015 5:43 pm
City 150 miles from Bho'ath, population roughly 10,000. The seat of the dutchy and the only decent-sized metropolis within 500 miles.
Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2015 5:43 pm
Barely visible from the road between Bho'ath and Kerodain. Dwarves, dragons, and stranger things are said to live there, and the chain forms the Empire's border with Togamin, a nation with a reputation for political saber-rattling and bizarre, often harsh customs which are imposed even on brief visits. The range is most of the reason Togamin isn't actually at war with the Empire, but there are frequent threats of long-range attack, accusations of sabotage, and other such unpleasantness, which are said to be indicative of the Togamin head of state's progressive dementia (a rumor which the nation's diplomats vigorously deny).
As with many mountainous regions, Iskerau is home to dragons of the red and silver species, who fight a constant territorial squabble informed partially by their diametrically opposite alignments. Typically, reds hold the high ground in such struggles, and Iskerau is not an exception; though the peaks are not volcanic, they often smolder in the night with acres of burning conifer timber, as the vain and covetous reds devastate the taiga in order to smoke out forest-villager allies of the more socially adept silvers (who are rumored to breed regularly with the woodsfolk, producing an offshoot race with a scaly plate over their forehead and a talent for psionic abilities...the latter part of the tale is especially odd, given that dragons know virtually nothing of psicraft). Whatever mineral wealth lay within Iskerau's peaks, the dragons have almost certainly exhausted it by the present century; Imperial observers expect the villainous creatures to near-extinct themselves within a few more generations as their dominance makes them complacent and inclines them toward internecine squabbling; the local druidic conclaves, however, warn of dire consequences if their rampage is not stopped before the pine woods are burned into an entirely barren waste, and are not above taking matters into their own hands when they come upon the shamanic "magian" cults who actually worship the great reptiles.
Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2015 5:44 pm
Vincent speaks with a mild Corvallin accent.
Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2015 5:44 pm
A fortress in the Thebos Mountains that guards the Vales of Hammerdown on the northwestern border of the Tradespeak Empire, as well as the roads to the Dwarven kingdom of Bald Mountain. Legend has long held that the Fyertor was actually a dragon keep that was turned over to a human/dragon half-breed. Whatever the truth, the Counts are well known for using dragonic magic in defense of their peculiar section of the Empire.
The Count's allies, the Sylvasetharsai of the Northern Delm, required his help to fight off an invasion of Orc tribes. The ensuing five years of skirmishes and retaliatory raids became known as the Blight War, renowned for the large number of civilian casualties and wanton destruction on both sides of the border.
Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2015 5:45 pm
Contrary to its own terminology, this Imperial name is applied to an entire region in the vicinity of Whiteleaf's north magnetic pole (which is of course not the same as its geographic north pole, and in fact the two are substantially further apart on Terrestra than on Earth), a place where the ambient temperature virtually never rises above freezing, and is usually only a generous handful of Kelvins above absolute zero. The civilization of the Ice Elves is headquartered here, and they of course have their own nomenclature for the area. Lies far north of the Dead Kingdom of Strovaan, which itself is far north of Thuljheim, which in turn is north of "Northumber"; basically, it's the furthest away from civilization and tropical temperatures as you can get without ending up in a complete wasteland of uninhabitable permafrost, although of course most people would say that it is itself sufficiently close to being exactly that.
Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2015 5:46 pm
Region of cold swamps, tiny islands, rocky bluffs, and occasional flooded menehirs, located across the straits from the commercially-prosperous kingdom of Gondur, where Logfort is located, and likewise proximate to Thuljheim, Saxonne, Phrecia, and Dead Verglazvart, with a slightly more remote connection to Radvidva and the Bulgan Kingdoms. Daunloe is all that remains of the once-immense "Daunemarch", a fearsome expanse of kingdoms which stood for Order in the age when the Dchutz, Tanes and Thuljharv raised Chaos on every human-controlled edge of the Inland Sound; though often somewhat draconian in their tactics, in order to stem the tide against the wild men, the Daunes are looked at as having ultimately ensured the survival of civilization. (And so it stings a bit in the hearts of traditionalists, when today's liberal bards often portray Chaos in the noblest of terms, and condemn even the slightest of extreme measures taken by the guardians of Law in those past ages.)
Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2015 5:46 pm
Properly known as Áit Tí Chathail, this Northumbrian border town is the birthplace of the werebear paladin Rian Mac Carthaigh. Though small, this village hosts a temple to the Martyred One.
Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2015 5:46 pm
Northern country, birthplace of Aislin Mac Carthaigh. Home of the "blue mask", whatever it is; only the bitter silences of abused women can speak to its nature.
Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2015 5:46 pm
Jungle region live south of Transylvaine. Theoretically owned by East Cycadria, but unwanted and undeveloped. Has a prestigious name in the dialects of its various primitive inhabitants, but the civilized world as a whole simply calls it the Maze, based on the seeming impossibility of navigating through its dense deciduous tangle.
The Arasowi are one of the hundreds of wood and wild elf tribes inhabiting small regions of the Maze. The tribe's leaders have mingled their blood with the Fey. The Arasowi once had been a strong and independent people; there had been a time when they had guarded the forest by themselves, held off orcish and human incursion with bloody passion. But now, they were nothing.
Another tribe live happy, if stupid, lives in communion with the Teacher-Plants which grow around their home, and produce a Woodling or three every couple of generations.
Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2015 5:47 pm
Rumor has claimed for millenia that the farthest depths of the Underdark contained the kingdom-city-cave of "Xvartalfheim", home of a reclusive but atypically intelligent goblin race called Xvarts. Recent consultations with the Survivor, the goblins' chief god, finally laid this matter to rest; the Communing cleric thought to ask what had never previously occurred to anyone attempting to get yes-or-no answers out of the deity, and confirmed that the word "Zvart" by some spelling) actually referred to a location under a sky of eternal darkness. No-one is entirely sure why the sun never shines upon the coldest and most remote of the Six Dead Kingdoms, although it's generally assumed to be the doing of the terrifying draugr (a supremely powerful version of Wights) who rule over this wasteland of black ice, jagged mountains, and constant, bone-chilling winds. Since the ancient Jarls who command the nomadic Draugr tribes are usually highly accomplished sorcerers, the idea that they could have magically blotted out the Daystar aeons ago seems plausible; a better question might be why the vampiric denizens of neighboring Ostrovanis and more distant Mirchlaza, not to mention the inhabitants of the actual Underdark, are not constantly clamoring to learn how this was done.
Verglazvart is largely unpopulated even by the Draugr, for these ancient warlords are highly territorial and like their privacy; most of the nation's cold expanses are roamed only by caribou and winter wolves. Those who see a cold green witch-fire in the distance are advised to proceed the other way, for the wights love to kill far more than they prefer to talk (at least to outsiders, although it is possible that those wishing to open a dialogue can convince the tribe to grant them a permanent membership, one Energy Draining slam attack at a time). Ancient secrets may be sealed within the well-protected tombs to which the Draugr occasionally retire, having first emerged long after their living ancestors buried them in these monuments to dishonor; the odds that anyone living will gain access to this forgotten lore, however, are worse than those of surviving for 48 hours in this forbidding land with no magic and no clothes (which is a problem that many are said to have encountered, as numerous portals to the Abyss open onto the Verglasian tundra, some from the frosty dominions of cold-hearted archdemons such as Koschei, but ostensibly others from the comfortable-seeming demenes of Frasier Blue or the Succubus Queen, both of whom are thought to have strong conceptual ties to this race of breathstealing traitors).
Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2015 5:47 pm
Has the largest living population of any of the Dead Kingdoms, far outnumbering the undead - but thanks to those rulers, the actually dead are still more numerous. The canals and cenotes of the capital city of Temoctenochtlan hide many bodies and many monstrous secrets of this, one of the worst countries permitted to survive by the Celestials, since the veneer of sacrificial piety that justifies the bloodshed is just barely genuine enough to deserve religious protection. The Mirchlazans teach that discomfort should be endured until it transforms into acceptance, and there's enough logic to that in pragmatic terms that it counts as protected spiritual insight.
Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2015 5:47 pm
A city of women, named in bitter irony.
THE OPTI MUSPRIMI SCHOOL
Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2015 5:48 pm
One of the Sixteen Colleges which are famed throughout the Empire as par excellence sources of arcane lore. Specializes primarily in Transmutation and Abjuration, with a heavy emphasis on magic item creation, specifically armor, traps, and other metalcraft. Heavy dwarf population includes numerous Battlesmiths and Runecasters.
RANGE OF FORBIDDANCE
Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2015 5:48 pm
Relatively temperate mountain chain, separating the Quatrinate Hegemony from the general wilderness of the unclaimed Hinterlands. Said to be haunted, and known to be infested with exceptionally tough monsters. Unbeknowst to anyone, holds the secret stronghold of the Nightsong guild, a clan of stealthy fanatics dedicated to Melisande, the goddess of lies, intrigue, and treachery. While active in far more accessible areas, the guild maintains this retreat for its most clandestine activities, including the protection of its ultimate commanders, as well as the "paradise" where its operatives are brainwashed into their absolute devotion to the guild.
Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2015 5:49 pm
One of the two outlying regions which grew together into the regime that would come to dominate them both, North Cycadria retains a powerful sense of national identity in spite of the White Wizards's dominance. Having no border with the Empire, it maintains no standing army, only a citizen's reserve militia for emergency defense. Coincidental similarities have been observed between the local dialect and that of Dead Mirchlaza, but an actual connection is considered highly unlikely.
The North is one of the relatively few places on Whiteleaf where open chauvinism against females is commonplace and viewed as generally acceptible (East Cycadria is another, although a very different attitude underlies the two versions of sexism and greatly affects how they play out, with upsides and drawbacks on either side but the Eastern version generally tending to seem worse); it is regarded as protected cultural tradition by the Celestials who are responsible for the region, and so it persists, where otherwise it would be subtly scrubbed out of the collective subconscious over a few generations after it was first observed. (This begs the question of how exactly it became a cultural tradition in the first place, naturally; the Celestines were not historically much more tolerant of social injustice than they are today, but lingering gender divides seem to be something of an exception, as they only recently started to be viewed with general disfavor by the broad majority of the world's humanoids.) While founded in chivalry and machismo rather than outright abuse, the local "duelist's code" is often criticized by modern theorists as robbing local women of agency, reducing them to sheltered prizes to be woo'ed with romanticism and fought over by hot-blooded suitors, with an unspoken expectation that she must accept the winner as having won her as well. These attitudes are formalized in perennial tournaments of knighthood and fencing, an expression of the hot-blooded spirit of these swarthy tropical folk, who historically drank wine as though it were water in order to avoid the risk of illness from their unreliable water supply.
Posted: Sat Nov 14, 2015 6:51 pm
Contrary to what Planescape veterans expect, Whiteleaf's cosmology does not include an Outer Plane of Neutrality at all. Instead, the name "The Outlands" is applied to a Prime Material Plane region (specifically located in an inaccessible mountain-ringed bowl, in the back country of the massive province of Susquas
), containing an organic scatter pattern of small isolated villages which loosely approximate the list of Outlands hamlets described in that setting, although they contain no portals leading to the Outer Planes and are only very vaguely, totemically influenced by their dominant setting (eg the town of Curst has no direct connection to Carceri, but its citizens have been used to thinking of their town as a sort of prison or isolation-zone for centuries, the local culture encourages a slightly Chaotic brand of Evil thinking, and the most ruthless and vengeful individual in town has a tendency to gravitate toward the office of Mayor, or some other position as the de-facto ruling power; the details vary and the region may spend decades at a time improving, but eventual backslides are all but inevitable, just as run-downs in the more Good-aspected settings seldom tend to last).
The fact that alignment seems baked into the local reality is hardly surprising, for the vast stretch of wilderness which constitutes the Outlands has long been home to (and takes its name from) the Outland Academy of Moral Relativism - which is one of the legendary Sixteen Schools, the most prestigious places of magical tutelage in the entire Tradespeak Empire. Only five of these institutions even teach clerical magic, and Outland is one of only two which specialize exclusively in the tutelage of divine spellcasters (and rare dabblers in both disciplines); it is the only one which is positively known (by a select few) to have been founded directly by Exemplars from the Outer Planes, thousands upon thousands of years ago, and the imprint they have placed upon the region remains long after it was incorporated into the growing Imperium. The headmaster or headmistress of the Academy, and their spouse (they invariably have one, always of the other gender and of the exact opposite alignment as themself, in order to ever become a candidate for the position), are always referred by the traditional titles of Mister and Missus Outlandish, in lieu of whatever name and designation they previously held.
The original Mrs. Outlandish was a Queen of the Fae, who shocked and appalled her peers by adopting responsibilities in the mortal world, and even more so by marrying a renegade Prince of Devils who became the first Mister Outlandish. Together they founded the Academy, in what was then a totally nondescript hinterland area (later conquered by the "Patrician Kingdom of Susquas", only a short time before it was itself annexed by the Empire); they sent out a call to various wandering souls throughout human lands, abducting them through various applications of magic or simply imbuing them with the urge to make a pilgrimage to the area, and these thousands of firstcomers founded the towns which still dot the area surrounding the Academy. Originally the youth of these towns provided the student body for the school, but only a couple of graduating classes needed to disperse out into the larger world and begin making a name for themselves, spreading around the story of how they developed such a fundamental talent for clerical spellcraft and diplomatic statecraft alike, before new applicants began immigrating to the region. In order to prevent the development of urban blight, the then-regnant Outlandishes (the son of the original couple, and the bride he had chosen from among the third graduating class) instituted strict restrictions against resettlement; the valley's doors were closed except to new students or faculty, who were to have no truck with the still-developing villages. Eventually the restriction was eased slightly, and today it is possible to visit the Outlands towns on various degrees of business, but a division of the School's faculty monitors these travelers and firmly discourages any attempt at putting down roots, except in a tiny handful of select cases.
As to the school itself, it still towers above the forest which fills most of the expansive valley, and would be clearly visible from every point therein, if not for permanent obfuscation wards which prevent this. Those who know where they are going can find it with relative ease, assuming they aren't teleported directly there; invariably they are first admitted through one of eight gates into the central courtyard, where they look up at the same number of massive towers, all decorated in highly ornate and stereotypical fashion. Apart from the courtyard, which is only vaguely a paen to neutrality (and certainly doesn't delve into the subject in detail...a few graduates who lean away from extremism have discussed the idea of creating annexes for Natural and Paradoxical philosophies, or an entirely new school dedicated to teaching the nuances of neutrality, but no such plans have yet come to fruit), every inch of the Academy's buildings is etched, carved, illumined and glamered to serve as an exquisite visual lesson; one cannot so much as step foot into one of the towers without learning profound details about how one particular Alignment Force or Prime Duality affects the world, and the worldview of its adherents.
While the eight Towers (actually more like Wings, since their layout is only partially vertical) are clearly dominated by one particular version of comparative ethics, every student spends roughly equal time in each of them over the course of the eight-year graduating course (which can be as much as doubled in some cases, before the administration finally expels a student that clearly isn't capable of passing). When a class moves into a particular tower, for anywhere from a single period to an entire semester, roughly a third of the students tend to assume a certain degree of dominance and/or laxity, comfortable that they are on their home turf - but it is the opposite third, those who face the most difficult struggle, who receive the bulk of attention from the faculty and assistants. Even the Chaotic Evil membership are actively courted for trustee status (knowing full well that they will abuse their authority to some extent, which the principals seek to carefully predict and curtail to a statistically accepted mean), and whichever class members are appointed as teaching assistants are firmly required to work hand-in-hand with their opposite numbers, ensuring that every student can manage to function in even the most hostile environment. The patience of the faculty is legendary, and no student is permitted to give up on themself; outbursts of temper are taken in stride, and a vast litany of remedial measures are applied as necessary, to ensure that a student in any of his first fifteen years remains on-track for graduation.
Alumni of the Academy are among the most prominent class of Clerics across Whiteleaf who are not associated with any major church (rarely, one does accept a position within some theocracy, but they usually tend to disdain formalized religions as overly-narrow in viewpoint, after the thoroughness of the education they have received). Virtually every former student ends up with an Alignment Domain or two (possibly replacing one or both of these with Devotion Feats, which can also be selected with feat slots, in order to leave the character's selection of an actual Domain up to player choice); they also nearly always put ranks in Diplomacy, and receive a Skill Focus for that Skill as a bonus feat upon graduation. Neither Knowledge: Religion nor Knowledge: the Planes is mandatory, as the purpose of learning about all alignments at the Academy is not to become better conversant with the state of the human soul or with its possible postmortem destinations. Instead, the mission of the school is, and has always been in the millennia since its founding, to enable people to understand one another, to comprehend why different groups view the world in a way contrary to one's own outlook, and to most fully understand the human experience in all its infinite complexity, viewed through the lens of Alignment simply as a way of narrowing and codifying the topic enough to render it comprehensible. (Or so the theory goes, at least; the sixteen-year time limit does prove that these efforts do occasionally fail, although it is a vanishingly rare outcome.)
(The fact that the Cleric class in general does not receive Sense Motive as an in-class skill has always profoundly bothered me, and I am strongly considering allowing an education at this School to grant access to that skill, but it is a radical enough shift away from the traditional class that I must consider it extensively, in order to fully understand the char-op implications, before I formally authorize it.)
Descriptions of the eight towers found here
Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2015 10:22 pm
One of the Six Dead Kingdoms, and the homeland of the Vrolok
race. A rugged land of mountain forests, inhabited by bitterly warring packs of wargs and winter wolves, Ostrovanis is marauded by lycanthropes and stalking abominations, making the survival of civilization a dicey matter outside of fortified towns, connected by roads that are only barely safer than the surrounding darkwood, and often crossing deep ravines or bridging widely separated precipices with little more than rickety planks suspended on slowly fraying rope. Where this situation diverges from the stereotype is that here, the bastions of human safety are not churches, they are the castles of vampiric overlords who jealously guard the human flock on whom they rely for prey; able to feed without killing, but considering themselves absolutely authorized to kill for the sake of imposing order (or simply bringing sadistic warmth to their blackened hearts, possibly bothering to justify the death of a few to better protect the many, but just as often simply doing it because they want
to), the Vrolok see to the health of the people by ruthlessly culling any other threat that endangers them (not only rival monsters but also sources of disease, dangerous radical ideologies, or even a sense of futility and despair which makes the people lose interest in breeding because their lives are empty of joy - in the latter case, even the wickedest vrolok may throw a grandiose fete and shower the people with affection, at least until they forget their cares, relax their guard, and become distracted enough not to notice a few relatives failing to return from the party).
Ostrovanis tells the tale of the first vrolok, a prince who made a great sacrifice to ensure the safety of his people, driving back a force of ruthless conquerors from the far East through the magnificent and terrible power which he could only attain by forfeiting his soul. These stories sometimes stoke enough wonder in dark (and slightly twisted) hearts that the youth of the nation may aspire to become vampires...and some of them do, but seldom do these categories actually overlap. What few suspect is that both the legendary vampiric founder (that is to say, the one who granted undeath to Prince Oestrogot in the first place) and the relentless oriental foe are quite real - the former was of the same breed as the still-ruling overlords of Mirchlaza, whose maniacal reign of blood continues unabated even as the lineage of one of their wayward ancestors has grown positively genteel in its recurrent rapes and murders. And the latter is a threat that was driven back by the fearsome power that the dark conqueror, who is now famous as the nigh-mythical "Easter Goth", unleashed upon them, but which has just about finished licking its wounds after nearly ten millenia. Next time, they will come in far greater force, and by an easier overland route than through the Ostrovan mountains. But come, they shall...
Posted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 1:26 am
A fourth An'schar-le district-city, highest and most expensive of the lot, and an exotic neighborhood even by the standards of same, where lavish gardens are sustained not despite but because of the inhospitable climate, simply to prove how much magic the locals command. Home of "Lord Maerinyon Kethmartret Abdinzoen of the Aquamarine Rose District, First Triune of the house of (translation of a name in High Elven)Distant Infinitude in Crystalline Miniatures Empalmed(end translation)."
Posted: Mon Nov 30, 2015 10:09 pm
Founding province of the Empire, located on the extreme edge of its original territory. Was one of the primary contributers to initial efforts at standardization of Tradespeak; the precursor to today's ILSA was founded herein, but reorganized and relocated into a distinct entity (with stricter rules, founded more in rationalism than dogmatism) after the establishment of the current Capitol region. Has always had a very strong and unorthodox religious tradition, which initially accepted the Common Tongue as having been handed down by the Celestials, but later became highly critical of them and more strongly advocating a deific origin, particularly centered upon the Lawful Neutral deity known as The Industry. Honeybee iconography remains common throughout the large and highly populous province, and it persistently pushes for the weakening of both the Emperor's "Charter of Obligations and Entitlements", the document which sanctions the autocracy while establishing recourses for public grievance, and the highly involved legislative code of the Imperial bureaucracy. In the eyes of stereotypical Exzerri Industrians (the two groups often being thought nigh-synonymous, much to the annoyance of the province's passive-aggressively persecuted "minority", which are actually estimated as constituting roughly 70% of the populace), the correct method of governance is for the populace to be ruled solely by representatives that are elected by a tiered system of lots, a system that they inaccurately refer to as "democracy" (actual democracies are common across Terrestra, especially among nonhuman races of inherently Good or Lawful alignment, although they never prove workable on more than a local scale, due to the limits of communication). Critics point out that nearly every scheme proposed as an "alternative" to the current Empire government includes extensive restrictions, most especially on who exactly should be permitted to vote in this "assembly"; it is often stated as fact that, should the Industrian church get its way, only its own members would be entitled to participate in this "everyone gets their say" system, or at least that enough other groups would be ruled out that followers of Industry and similar faiths would easily predominate, given that their religious commandments include an imperative to breed in vast numbers.
Besides the honeybee, the other primary symbol of Exzeret is a crystal of salt surrounded by water; to make it clear that the province is not yet a functioning theocracy, however close it has perhaps come to that, the provincial flag bears this symbol instead of an insect. Although the province has a broad coastline, its interior is mostly desert, and worse the shoreline contains extensive salt and toxic mineral deposits which contaminate the nearby ocean, rendering it all but uninhabitable by most known thalassic civilizations. For this reason, submarine technology has been researched extensively by the residents, with the assistance of gnomish advisors from outside the Empire; as a result, the Exzeret navy has very few surface ships, but contains the world's largest concentration by far of "submersible barges", most of which seldom actually dive but are instead used for surface patrol. Storms were frequent here in the early days of the Empire, and the high acidity of the water made the swamping of boat decks all but a death sentence for the crew, so the submarines were exclusively predominant for centuries. Eventually, however, the Empire-allied Druidic Conclave altered the local climate to greatly reduce both the violence of storms and the lethality of the water; today, a few traditional ships have been purchased with the Navy's narrowing budget, and the "barges" are increasingly regarded as an embarassing anachronism whose upkeep wastes far too many governmental funds. Much of the political opposition to the Industrian church is founded in criticism of this very issue; the church and the Navy have been in bed together for more than a millenium, but recent developments have finally begun to drive a wedge between them, as the populist church begins to placate widespread public unrest by gutting the military budget.
Posted: Tue Dec 08, 2015 6:58 pm
Inaccessible section of the Heather Plains Alliance
. A place to relax and enjoy good country living...or so the halfling-run Board of Tourism wants people to think, at least.
THE SEVEN HEAVENS
Posted: Fri Dec 11, 2015 2:19 am
Ranked in order of rarefication and increasing virtue. Those who did nothing but live wisely and enjoy the rewards of Prudence climb no higher than the first layer; this includes anyone who repented mostly to escape the Lower Planes, as their good works are acceptable but hardly spectacular, when their motivation was so selfish. Faith is the next rung up; those who genuinely believe in a higher purpose, but don't do more than remain loyal to Good's cause, are slightly better honored. Fortitude is next, then Justice, then Charity; Temperance is close to the summit, as it represents the denial of temptation and the ability to survive contact with it, and at the very pinnacle is Hope, opening the gateway to the still higher realms of Eden and Arcadia. (Not that achieving such heights is by any means necessary to visit those realms, any more than a visitor to the Abyss is trapped there and must climb through all nine Hells to return; at most, these "choke points" are simply a limitation on the establishment of permanent Portals, and most likely only of ones large enough to pass entire armies through.)
* Slightly Lawful and Good: Chaotic Evil creatures suffer -4 on Charisma checks. Other evil or chaotic creatures suffer -2 on these checks.
Posted: Tue Dec 29, 2015 1:53 pm
Originally known as "Free-Sea", with a silent "a" that eventually refused to hold its tongue, this founding province is home to the pre-Imperial tongue of Dchutspeke, which bears such obvious similarities to today's Common Tongue that it's widely suspected the Celestials based their creation off of it. This is ironic, given that the Dchutmen were monsters even by the standards of the day; they terrorized the southern part of the Inland Sound much the way the Thuljarv did its northeast coast, making only the elf-controlled northwestern shore relatively safe. The Dchutz have mellowed out remarkably in the past 2000 years, though, and their modern descendants still predominate in this heartland province, where their thickly accented Common hints at the ancient Father Tongue.
The epic poem "Byolph" is thought to be the first great human work of literature, written in Dchutish and with obvious allusions to features of Phrecian geography; one famous ruin is thought of as being the very "Tanhold" where Lord Wrathgore held court, until the youngest of a lineage of black half-dragons began to terrorize the tribe of Tanes. The titular hero eventually destroyed not only the monster Gongan itself, but also resisted the seductions of its lizard-brained enchantress mother, and finally gave his life to destroy the toxic serpent itself. Rumor persistently claims that the beast's treasure-lair was never found, but the site of its death has been long since destroyed by tourists and rogue treasure-hunters, in spite of the best efforts of archivists and other scholars to preserve it. Thusly, it is beyond unlikely that the treasure still waits to be found...and even more improbable are the conspiratorial whispers which claim that the "cousins" of Gongan still infect Dtchutland to this day, carefully concealing their scales and claws as they seek out hapless breeding partners to help them perpetuate their lineage, while they plot to someday overthrow the Empire that arose out of their homeland.
Posted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 4:36 pm
The only one of the 63 current Imperial provinces which still has a reigning monarch, using a clause in the Empire's charter which permits member-states to retain a feudal authority structure to govern most local matters. In the past as many as half the provinces at once have retained their own kings, lords, exarchs, margraves, Chiefs, Autocrats, Arch-Mayors, State-Guild Chairpersons, or a host of other titled sovereigns. But today, only one such regime survives, due to the intense spiritual traditionalism of the local Shinu-Beeho ethnicity, one of the few recognizably pure racial lineages that still maintains itself amid the ongoing hybridization of Terrestran humanity. (Their continued distinctiveness is mostly a matter of luck; tribes and clans which actively try to keep their bloodline pure almost always fail, as the Celestines have a profound grudge against even the slightest whiff of racially motivated bigotry, and have myriad non-invasive schemes designed to ensure that these populaces' most pedigreed scions, with the highest fecundity and the most influence over their system of governance, regularly fall in love with passing strangers of radically divergent ethnotypes. Tales of this happening are predominant in the popular imagination, and play a large role in the definition of romance; almost no "love at first sight" stories feature a pair of protagonists with the same genetic heritage.)
The state is ostensibly a theocracy, associated with the local tradition of weather-worship and animistic cultivation, although the days in which every ruler was a cleric or druid are long past. A strong undercurrent of spirituality remains in the Shinu-Beeho people (called Shinhob in casual parlance, even though this is a gross mispronunciation; it's rumored that the wooden ancestor statues cry a single tear each night for the disrespect of their descendants, although this has been consistently debunked); despite this tie to their past, they are a very dynamic people who are extremely comfortable adopting modern innovations, and in fact make highly skilled technologists or innovators of divine and sorcerous magic, although they tend to shun wizardry as disrespectful to the "Hidden Folk" who govern the natural order.
Traditionalists call the province Raindawn, a Common transliteration of the original region's original moniker, Mimbre-Gollon; the name Trethneion is an exonym, derived from the originally-disparaging name Trae'sheh-Nyaan (meaning "smelly intruders" or "harbingers of plague", depending on how much vitriol it was hissed with), given to immigrants who slowly began to outnumber the Shinu-Beeho. Despite this population surge, the natives remain firmly entrenched in authority positions even today, and have made concessions to the concerns of more recent arrivals out of fair-minded graciousness, a policy which has so far not been punished by much actual reduction in their dominance. Regardless of whether the parents have any Shinhobi blood, names like Shinade and Showbonn are currently popular among the latest couple of generations, as is replacing the "Sh" with an "X" and/or pronouncing it either "Ch" or "Zh" in any sort of nomenclature; this "culpie" trend (short for "cultural awareness", a deeply inappropriate name for the shallow interest these people take in the Old Ways) is widely bemoaned as annoying, by local purists and visiting outsiders alike.
Not everyone approves of the local political situation; a grassroots organization known as the Citizenship Movement works to promote the idea that the province's status as the last monarchy in the Empire is an embarassing anachronism, and that the populace should call for their ruler to step aside. While the group is entirely peaceful in their activities, it's just a bit suspicious how almost none of their members are of Shinhobi heritage.
The current holder of the title of Regnant is Nadine Qoyaanis, a beautiful and vivacious princess with innate spellcasting abilities and almost pure Shinu-Beeho blood, although she is rather modern in her outlook and has no intention to ensure that her status remains unsullied. She is currently furious more days than not, because the Citizenship Movement have been spreading an insulting nickname for her, a compound word in the Old Tongue which translates to "Queen Dry Creek", a sexually charged pejorative that is all the more infuriating in view of her legendary promiscuity (which ostensibly forms an effort at producing an heir, but gossip around the temple-palace suggests that she gave that up as a lost cause long ago, and is happily using her position and influence just to gain the affections of dozens of the region's most eligible princelings and folk-heroes - many of whom are even younger than herself, and this is all the more reason why the insult stings). In an effort to combat this, she has encouraged the surviving tribal elders to popularize the idea that she's an innate spellcaster (no clarification of whether this is arcane sorcery, druidic or shamanic mysticism, or a Favored Soul of some divinity which decided to trespass against the Old Faith), heightening the anticipation that some lucky guy could knock her up, not only becoming the "first gentleman" of a prosperous nation-state but also getting a natural magician for a son or daughter. Regional bards are encouraged to wax poetic about her beauty, her supposed inheritable powers, and her enviable prowess in the arts of love, in order to help build up her mythic desirability among potentially interested men. Despite her cougarish inclinations, Nadine despises the common word "husband" and refuses to formally marry, even in the Shinu-Beeho tradition (which differs radically from how weddings are practiced across most of the Empire, not least in explicly allowing polygamy; it is a spiritually founded ritual which has almost no economic or legal aspects, and indeed shares little more with conventional marriages than terminology, but as far as she's concerned that's enough).
Posted: Mon Jan 04, 2016 7:34 pm
Modest-sized but densely populated Province at the center of what was once the greatest rival to both the nascent Empire and the much-mightier Cycadrian Dominion (which quietly stopped using that title when it became apparent that they were factually nowhere near as dominant as they believed themselves to be). The name of that ancient nation was different in each of its 200 native languages; a few scornful Cycadrians (and the handful of bigots that survive the Empire's determined efforts at peacefully exterminating them) refer to this historical power as Babbaelon, speaking of it scornfully as a place of degenerate iniquity whose people were savages with barbaric customs, and portray them as viciously attacking frontiersmen who tried to settle in "unclaimed" lands near their habitations. These rumors are almost entirely false; the folk of this vast intertribal alliance often had strong warrior traditions, but they were strongly opposed to unnecessary violence, and in almost all cases the skirmishes they conducted were in retaliation for very aggressive trespasses against the nature sanctuaries they protected, as part of their intense spiritual tradition (founded more in druidic techniques than modern clerical spellcraft, though there were elements of both, and even sorcerers played a role).
The reasons why the ancestor-state dwindled into insignificance, eventually becoming known as Rotenheim in a foreign tongue that had largely replaced its own languages, and being absorbed into the Empire which was the least unpleasant of its encroaching rivals, have little to do with the prejudices of these neighbors. Put simply, they were a bit too peaceful and polite of a society, beautiful but stagnant, and ignorant of the outside world's harshly competition. Other civilizations meeting that definition have managed to survive, but only through the intervention of the Celestial Overwatch's agents, and their aid was spurned by most of the members of the alliance, in large part because it came with an expectation that they would transition away from several cultural traditions that the Celestines looked unfavorably on. (The Archons were particularly critical, since they gravitate more toward a civilized interpretation of what constitutes "right" behavior; the Animal Fathers and Fair Folk were much more nearly in favor of their culture, but only the Aeons fully supported everything they did, and their own definition of ethics prevented them from sticking up for these charges without them explicit requesting it, which the Red-Clay Folk's pride never permitted them to do.) Unable to evolve swiftly enough to keep their edge, their borders shrank with every year as their population fell back to safer lands, unwilling to spite their long-time enemies by destroying the land, and thus leaving it in such pristine shape that the conquerors' hunger was never slaked. Once it became clear they could no longer see to their own defense, they permitted the Imperium to annex them for their own protection, having already been largely infiltrated by its culture and finding it more agreeable than the alternatives.
The name Rotenheim comes from the language of a barbaric tribe of warlords, whose gradual civilization elsewhere hadn't managed to take in this area, and who envied the greater civilization of their neighbors (who they termed the Red Clay People, believing them to be formed out of the muddy and ruddy ground itself; this name the natives also ended up adopting for themselves, though they chose to translate it into Common from the invaders' argot, finding that tongue's word for "clay" too similar to several insulting terms in one or another of their languages). The alliance had originally developed their own version of a Common language, with a unique alphabet
, and developed a number of unique magic items that were used in their various rituals. These can still be recognized by the rune-like markings they bear, although finding anyone who knows what the symbols mean is virtually impossible, as the surviving Red Clay Folk have adopted the Common alphabet in its place. Some scholars mourn for this sort of cultural overwriting, which happens more and more as the Empire's mostly-benevolent rule spreads at an ever-increasing rate. While good enough to unite the many tribes of the People, this language was still too awkward a compromise among wildly divergent tongues which had first formed in isolation, and first the barbarians' speech and later Angelic Saxon proved irresistible in their simple consistency (and lack of baggage associated with ancient inter-tribal grudges; these had never quite died away and had been settled mostly by imposing territorial constraints, which didn't survive as the nation's lands were squeezed ever smaller).