View Full Version : [setting] The Dark Golden Age

2009-06-25, 10:53 AM
The Dark Golden Age

A Serpents and Sewers Setting

The Dark Golden Age is the first setting that is specifically written for the Serpents and Sewers set of homebrew. It is a relatively classic fantasy setting, but unlike most of its kind it does not use Tolkien or the standardized tropes based on his works as a base line. Instead, The Dark Golden Age orientates on classics such as Conan, the Island of Dr. Moreau and Pokémon, combined with a few own ideas and a map stolen from a completely unrelated German browser game, and with a thrown-in minor cataclysm, just for the laughs.

Summary (a setting in 100 words or less)
For centuries, the world was ruled by wizards and spellcasters. But since magic comes in tides, ages of high magic and ages of low magic alternate and the current Age of High magic has come to grinding halt. Old structures of authority around powerful wizard-potentates collapse, and new groups strive for power. The old magocracy makes place for new kingdoms. The mundane majority which was subjugated for centuries rise again and sheds the joke of their former masters, technological developments which were hold back for centuries through the wizard’s dominance blossom up, while the sheer wonder of magic shrivels.

What lies in the Name
To point out the obvious, the Dark Golden Age is a combination of both a Golden Age and a Dark Age. This describes the current historical situation in the setting: The waning presence of magic is a cataclysm, the old order is overthrown and arcane knowledge gathered through centuries is lost, perhaps for ever. At the same time, the vast majority of the simple people has suddenly the chance to make a difference. For centuries, mundane people were a subjugated, marginalized group ruled by powerful wizards and sorcerers who didn’t feel that the life of a non-Gifted measured much. Now, their rule is shaking, and in many parts even broken and any man or woman with the right amount of determination and talent can forge their own fate. In addition, the absolute predominance of magic has pretty much prohibited any form of technological or scientific innovations for centuries. The new age promises an end of the technological and social stagnation, and slowly, new innovations begin to spread.



the same as a download. (http://forum.gondal.de/index.php?page=Attachment&attachmentID=1760&h=3b8ed627dcca461a967defee8f40c2a8eb08c1dc)

2009-06-25, 11:00 AM
The Tides of Magic
In the world of the Dark Golden Age, magic has tides, and waxes and wanes over time. This is a natural phenomenon, like climate changes, and similar to them, the changes appear only slowly and over a very long period of time.
For the last 1000 years, there was a high tide of magic, but eventually, it started to wane. Fewer children with the Gift were born, magic rituals became more and more difficult, and the powerful network of teleportation fields that interconnected the towns and fortresses of the Magocracy began to stutter and travelling by it a perilous task. Facing the end of their era, and effectively the doom of their world, the most potent wizards came together to search a countermeasure against the waning of magic, and in a way they succeeded and failed terribly at the same time. Their spells and rituals could temporarily halt the decrease of the magic level, but in the long run, these very rituals accelerated and aggravated the decrease. The current decline of magic is without example, both in its speed and in the harshness of effects. In the last ten years, there was not a single child which was born with the Gift. The Teleportation network, if it works as all, has become a death trap. Old spells which were meant for all eternity just vanished. And more than one wizard had to learn that his powers were diminished enough to be overthrown by a mob of angry peasants.

Hubris and Faith
During the early days of the magocracy, there was a vast power struggle between an alliance of wizards and several churches and other religious organisations, or basically between the users of arcane and divine magic. As the authority of the wizards during the age if magocracy shows, the faiths lost, and they lost bitterly. Temples were plundered and destroyed, religious texts burned, and there were rigorous witch hunts for clerics, shamans and druids who did not renounced their old beliefs and let the ruling wizards burn out their ability to cast spells. Somehow, the divine traditions survived, but they became rare and well hidden.

2009-06-25, 11:06 AM
The People
There is only one sentient species in the Dark Golden Age which is actually native to Gondal and developed naturally: Humans (http://wiki.faxcelestis.net/index.php?title=Serpents_and_Sewers:_Humans). The other sentient species of Gondal were either created through magical manipulation (so-called vivisectionist magic) or are the descendants of extraplanar travellers.
The vast majority of the population are just humans, with little special about them. A few of them were born with the Gift, allowing them to manipulate magical forces and powers, and in the age of magocracy they became the unchallenged rulers of the land. There are different ethnicities and cultures of humans in Gondal, from the nomadic tribes of the Sakiran Desert to the still intact magocracy of Sabscria, but they all have in common that they are humans.

Beastfolk (http://wiki.faxcelestis.net/index.php?title=Serpents_and_Sewers:_Species_and_T emplates#Beastfolk) are a catch- all term for magically created hybrids from humans and animals; they often combine the features from both parent species. During the magocracy, the creation of beastfolk – or other hybrid monsters – was a leisure time activity of wizards to show their own creativity, talent and ability to create powerful – or at least attractive – creatures for pleasure, warfare or arena combats. The breeding of Beastfolk or other monsters for arena combats was a source of prestige and income, and the frequent arena tournaments were also a way to entertain the mundane masses with bloody spectacles.

Orcs (http://wiki.faxcelestis.net/index.php?title=Serpents_and_Sewers:_Orcs) share a similar origin with beastfolk, but unlike animals, they were created through the combination of very unfortunate humans and Carnage Demons. They were never bred for entertainment purposes, but only for warfare, and in this regard they proved to be too effective and uncontrollable. After a few campaigns, the Orc project was pretty much abandoned, and the remaining Orcs were driven away into the wilderness (like pretty much every magicially created species when they are seen as outdated or unfashionable). Unfortunately, the orcs thrived there and formed several tribes and societies on their own in the High North. Unlike Beastfolk, Orcs can interbreed with humans and create infertile offspring, so-called Half-Orcs (http://wiki.faxcelestis.net/index.php?title=Serpents_and_Sewers:_Half-Orcs).

The Gith were originally transplanar travellers who were unable to leave Gondal on the way they came here – and not even themselves know exactly why. Both the Githyanki (http://wiki.faxcelestis.net/index.php?title=Serpents_and_Sewers:_Githyanki) and Githzerai (http://wiki.faxcelestis.net/index.php?title=Serpents_and_Sewers:_Githzerai) have a culture on their own, and try to protect it from outer influences, but their measures are vastly different. While the Githzerai built monastery fortresses were they retreated and which they leave only rarely, the Githyanki became pretty much mercenaries for the different factions of the magocracy and very exclusive mercenaries at that. Having a Githyanki bodyguard is generally seen as a symbol of high status.

There are also various people with extraplanar (http://wiki.faxcelestis.net/index.php?title=Serpents_and_Sewers:_Species_and_T emplates#Extraplanar) or elemental (http://wiki.faxcelestis.net/index.php?title=Serpents_and_Sewers:_Species_and_T emplates#Elemental) heritage. There were few magocrats who had serious moral issues with summoning slaads, fiends or even celestials and force them and unfortunate yet disposable mundane humans or other creatures to procreate, and the often exotic background was always extremely popular in the arenas, as much as it showed competence in the field of magic, and a certain exclusivity in taste. Nowadays, Planetouched and Genasi have become rare, but there are still a handful of them around.

2009-06-25, 11:07 AM
The World
Actually, the world of the Dark Golden Age in completion is not that relevant. There are other continents apart from Gondal, but with the current stand of naval technology and the practical end of the usability of the Teleportation network makes them inaccessible.

The Continent of Gondal (see the Map (http://forum.gondal.de/index.php?page=Attachment&attachmentID=1760&h=3b8ed627dcca461a967defee8f40c2a8eb08c1dc)) is one of the continents of the World of the Dark Golden Age. The climate reaches from temperate in the South up to cold in the North. North of Sina Gik and Stiqu, the two northernmost political entities in Gondal, is pretty much a vast tundra which eventually becomes a frozen wasteland. The high North was never inhabited by humans, and the few sentient inhabitants that do actually live there are mostly refugees who have found no other place to live.

During the magocracy, life was heavily urbanized. While the cities were huge and under the direct control of the ruling wizards, the rural areas were pretty much wilderness and a dumping ground for dissidents, unfashionable creations of vivisectionist magic and the usual wildlife. Thanks to the Teleportation network, this hinterland was not even relevant for travels. Now, this has changed massively: The infrastructure of the large cities is failing, as it was pretty much built on golem workers, magical supplies (water elementals for the canalisation were a typical example, and when suddenly the water supply broke down and half of the city feared to die from thirst and illnesses, there were riots). In the Dark Golden Age, the outskirts of the once vast cities are abandoned and decaying, while new, smaller settlements for a better survival are formed in the wilderness.

2009-06-25, 01:20 PM
and Pokémon
In what way?

Zeta Kai
2009-06-25, 01:31 PM
Well, this world looks promising. I'll be keeping my eye on this, to be sure.

2009-06-25, 02:30 PM
I'm a sucker for settings of this type. Also, your map looks great.

But how do pokemon fit in?

2009-06-25, 02:39 PM
I'm bored. need some illustrations? like, classes, races or suchmuch?

2009-06-25, 03:50 PM
and Pokémon

In what way?

But how do pokemon fit in?

There are almost uncountable number of monsters in D&D, which have basically no real background, but are pretty much arbitrary heaps of... stuff. There is also no good reason why they arew around (apart from "they are an interesting challenge for the plyers"; I mean a reason within the internal logic of the setting. THere is a standard answer for this in D&D as well: "A wizard did it." Did you ever ask yourself Why the wizard did it? I mean, just look at V's rat about Owlbears and ask yourself how they could get this idea.

The Pokémon connection offers an answer, which makes sense in a way - all these creatures, from Owlbears to Rope Golems and other abstrusities of D&D monstrosities: They were created by bored wizards for arena games. The society of a magocracy as in the days before the Dark Golden Age, there were many bored wizards, and the ideas of large circus games where the different beast master wizards could send their creations in death matches against each other in large arenas, also as a form of entertainment for the hoi polloi. I mean, who wouldn't like to see a combat between a Minotaur Retarius and a Rast? Just think Gladiator and replace Russel Crowe with a charismatic Gnoll. Or just take pokémon and add fatalities. It would be hilarious, especially for a bloodthirsty, Roman-ish audience.

I'm bored. need some illustrations? like, classes, races or suchmuch?

Well, thanks. I have no idea right now, but if I have a good idea for a motive or two, I'll tell ya. And if you're just bored, there is going to be a pbp game based on The Dark Golden Age (and the Serpents and Sewers rules).

2009-06-25, 03:53 PM
i have a suggestion. Magic item: Monster ball.
guess what it contains?

just give the word! my pencil is at the ready!

2009-06-26, 12:29 AM
While I'm not really a fan of Serpents and Sewers (sorry :smallfrown:), I am intrigued by your setting. Oh, and I definitely like the Pokémon idea :smallbiggrin:

2009-06-26, 03:46 AM
While I'm not really a fan of Serpents and Sewers (sorry ), I am intrigued by your setting.

I don't even like everything I write myself.

A small question though - imagine you are a powerful, bored wizard who have way too much time at hand, and the general fashion around you dictates more or less that you spent this time with the creation of animal/human hybrids. What would you try to create? I guess I have covered the standard combinations, but perhaps I hjave overseen an audience favorite...

Frog Dragon
2009-06-26, 04:30 AM
Breed a talking monkey!!!
Seriously. A talking monkey would probably be quite high on a bored wizard's "To experiment" list.

2009-06-26, 05:27 AM
The Realms of the Dark Golden Age
National states and feudal society structures are a pretty novel development, which only ascended after the collapse of the magocracy; the magocracy rule was almost completely focused on large city states, while the region between these cities were just … there, but not really important for the ruling class except as a dumping ground for unwanted projects and dissidents. Through the decline of magic-powered infrastructure, these regions became suddenly much more important and regional authorities appeared – sometimes new rulers crowned themselves after a conquest, others were elected or acclimated by their subjects. Still, settlements and towns are rare and far between, and many of these settlements have to struggle hard for their survival, as food and other resources are hard to get and some of the dumped projects of the magocracy proved to be very effective predators…

2009-06-26, 05:30 AM
Ferono, also called the Great Duchy by its citizens, is the largest and oldest of the new-found realms in Gondal. Ferono was created by the self-proclaimed Grand Duke Averius of Gatei through a tactical alliance and intermarriage with the Tyrant of Launam. Between these two large and powerful city states the Peninsula which forms Ferono was conquered in a few years. Averius was not content with conquest alone, but formed a functional administration out of his new territory through granting yielding opponents their titles and lands, and invested heavily in a new infrastructure, building streets and founded small settlements to reclaim the land, which he granted to his loyal soldiers.
Modern day Ferono is a feudal realm, where small local lords and landed knights rule over most of the country, while the large towns of Gatei in the west of the realm and Launam in the east form parentheses that hold the land together, but also could tear it apart. While the Grand Duke resides in Gatei, and has most of his personal power and retainers in the West of the country, the Launam nobility felt that they came short in the unification wars and that they were betrayed by their Gateian allies. In the East, there are rumors of separation and civil war, and a strong dislike for the ruling class of the Western parts, especially since many of the knights who were granted lands were former commoners who were honored with the lands and titles due to their services in the unification war, and in the more traditional east, they are seen as brutes and upstarts.

Feronians are of average size and stature and have a bronze colored to dark skin and straight black to dark brown hair. In the north and west of the country, in the border regions to Venya and Thur, these traits are a lot less dominant and ‘mutts’ of Feronian, Thurian and Venyaran parents are probably as common as straight Feronians. In the south and east, especially in the Launam territories and the city itself, prejudices against foreigners and those of foreign appearance are much more common and a mixed heritage is often seen as a curse and a sign of inferiority. Humans with plane-touched heritage are not that uncommon in Ferono, especially in the east, where the local magocracy seem to have a certain fascination for these creatures, especially Aasimars. While they are rare among the ruling class even there, they are generally seen as good for the local administration and security, and Aasimar officials, stewards and guardsmen are almost a cliché in Launam.

There are only very few non-humans in Ferono, since the majority were killed or driven away in the unification wars. Beastfolk always had a bad reputation here, because the local magocrats loved to abduct people from the streets and use them for their experiments, which often ended in the creation of new beastfolk, and during the unification wars, several tribes of beastfolk waged a long and brutal guerilla warfare against the troops of Gatei and Launam. The result is, that Beastfolk are tolerated at best in Ferono, and are often treated more like animals than like humans; killing a beastfolk is never considered murder, while people are publicly humiliated and scorned for love affairs with beastfolk.
Orcs on the other hand are so extremely rare in Ferono, that they are most often treated with curiosity and an arguably higher tolerance than further up North. And when Orcs are rare, Half-Orcs are virtually unheard of.
There are two well hidden Githzerai monasteries in the Launam mountains, which are both very small and isolated and keep only minimal contact to the outer world. Githyanki mercenaries on the other hand formed an elite of the Gateian army during the unification wars and are generally considered to be as badass as possible. The Githyanki revel in this reputation and live in highly militarized, traveling mercenary companies in the country, especially in the West, were they thrive in the border skirmishes with the Republic of Thur and Venya (which they often provoke as well, just to have something to do).

The Feronian society consists effectively out of four social classes – the true nobility, which are sworn in to the Grand Duke directly and control the majority of the country, their direct vassals, the knights, whose titles were often granted due to their services in the unification wars, who administrate small territories (often only a single settlement and its environment). The vast majority of the population are the Freemen, who live both in the new-found rural settlements and the large cities as farmers and craftsmen. In Ferono, slavery is a long-standing tradition, but actual slaves are rare and only appear in the households of rich freemen and aristocrats; slavery is often a form of punishment for criminals, who are officially enslaved and marked permanently with a brand sign on their forehead. Other slaves are war captives, but slavery is not inherited in Ferono – the children of slaves are free.

The Feronian society is slightly matriarchic. According to the societal image most Feronians have, men are supposed to work while women are supposed to think, which has led to separate gender roles in the society. Most administrative roles are usually filled by women, while most tasks involving physical labor – including warfare – are seen as the domain of men. These gender roles are not too rigid, and while it is uncommon to see female blacksmiths or male scribes, it is not very scandalizing. It is though very typical for Feronian armies that the command is almost completely female, while the actual core of the army is dominated by men.
In question of inheritance, the sex is normally not considered, and usually the oldest child inherits everything.

Feronian culture is both tolerant and bigot in questions of sexuality – equal sex relationships are openly tolerated (especially between two women. Since the general prejudice in Ferono insists that men are… well a bit dim-witted compared to their sisters and mothers, there is a steady belief among many women that they are too primitive for actually feel true romantic love) and open homosexuality does not include any form of social stigma. On the other hand, sexual relations to non-humans are heavily persecuted and marriage is considered to be extremely important – while it is completely unproblematic to marry the same sex, adultery is seen as a major offense and can be punished with slavery, whereby the betrayed spouse gains the profit from the sale of their former husband or wife.

Ferono is mostly covered by dense deciduous woodlands, and while the soil is fertile, the only noteworthy ore deposits are in the mountains of Launam. Feronian farmers grow mostly wheat and sorghum which forms the base of the daily nourishment. Husbanded animals include pigs, bovines, and mostly sheep.

The Crest of the Great Duchy is the old crest of Gatei - a golden, rampant lion on a blue field.

2009-06-26, 06:28 AM
Venya is the second largest realm after Ferono, but while its eastern neighbor was united through warfare and political maneuvers, Venya formed almost by accident. For a long time, the land that form the modern country of Venya were unclaimed territory with only the large cities of Krapgar and Dabhla as solidly installed local authorities. While Dhabla became a “free city” controlled by a council of local landowners and merchants, Krapgar remains a true magocrat city up until today. The unification wars of the neighbor Ferono led to a large population of war refugees who settled westwards, into the then unclaimed areas of Venya. The different refugee groups – including the majority of Feronian beastfolk – settled in Venya and mixed with the native population of the country. Out of fear of further Feronian expansionism, the different leaders of native tribes, refugee groups and the city representatives came together to form a nation in the so called “Crown Convent”. Unfortunately, the Crown Convent was unable to come to a compromise every relevant group could live with and exists until today. Instead of the monarch the convent wanted to elect, and the constitution it wanted to ratify, a loose alliance of tribes and domains were formed, bound by treaties of
permanent peace and mutual assistance in the case of a war or other catastrophes.This loose alliance became the base for the modern kingdom of Venya. The loose alliance was attractive enough for other members – including the city Krapgar, neighboring settlements and even the local Githzerai monasteries to join the alliance, but the more the Venyaran alliance grew, the more administration and treaties seemed necessary, and after a mere century after the collapse of the local magocracy, Venya had a constitution of some sorts which had grown organically and the Crown Convent – nowadays a nigh permanent legislative institution – elected the nine high judges to control the uphold of the alliance laws and eventually elected the first queen of Venya as well. Since then, Venya is effectively a constitutional monarchy, where the head of state s elected for life by the Crown Convent, even though the compentences of this monarch are so limited that he is often little more than the spokesperson of the Crown Convent.

Venya is an extremely heterogeneous society, since most of the different groups were able to maintain there unique culture up until contemporary times. The central government in Venya is both weak and slow in their decisions, leaving the local domains and their rulers a high degree of autonomy.

True Venyarans are a bit smaller and slighter built than average humans, and have a tanned complexion, which is not as dark as the Feronians, but a lot darker than those of the northern people. But, True Venyarans are not that common in Venya. Especially in the East of the country, where many Feronian refugees settled down during and after the unification wars, a mixture of both ethnics is absolutely common, and likewise in the west, where former border domains of slowly collapsing Sabscria have joined the kingdom.

Venya also features the highest amount of overall Beastfolk population in Gondal. Altogether, the different Beastfolk tribes make up almost a fifth of the overall population, and Beastfolk exist in every social class all over Venya.
Like everywhere in the South, Orcs and Half-Orcs are rare, but the Githzerai who live in the territory joined the alliance early on, and became fully accepted and respected (even though still very exotic) members of the realm. This strong Githzerai influence has also lead to strong prejudices against Githyanki, who are generally associated with Feronian expansionism, cruelty and general obnoxiousness.

While there is no strong super-ordained social structure in the kingdom, there is a broad range of various and often widely different societies within Venya, which make most generalizations about Venyaran culture superfluous and most often inaccurate. Sometimes it seems that the different local communities have nothing but the overall rule through the Crown Convent and a geographical proximity in common. Most of these small communities stay for themselves, and despite the overall rule, feuds between different tribes and people are not very unusually, even though they are strictly forbidden.

Central Venya is a flat grassland and here is also the origin of the probably best horses and horsemen of Gondal. These horsemen are also the source of the most famous Venyarans –the local paladins. These generally highly respected warriors and traveling judges are pretty much the only element of the central government of the kingdoms most Venyarans ever see, and they take their role as peacekeepers – and the only thing Venya has that resembles a standing army - very serious. The paladins are organized in different orders, who all have their seats in the Crown Convent.

Due to the open grassland, cattle husbandry is very common in Venya, and so when the kigdom chose a crest, it became a black bull’s head on a golden field.

2009-06-26, 07:05 AM
Well, thanks. I have no idea right now, but if I have a good idea for a motive or two, I'll tell ya. And if you're just bored, there is going to be a pbp game based on The Dark Golden Age (and the Serpents and Sewers rules).

For reals? I could possibly be into that. When/Where?

2009-06-26, 07:11 AM
A small question though - imagine you are a powerful, bored wizard who have way too much time at hand, and the general fashion around you dictates more or less that you spent this time with the creation of animal/human hybrids. What would you try to create? I guess I have covered the standard combinations, but perhaps I hjave overseen an audience favorite...

Was this an open question? Because if so - Snake People. Ever seen a Snake/Mongoose fight? The ridiculous reflexes and swiftness, combined with venom and being generally pissed off at everything all the time make snakes badass gladiators.

I wouldn't make them with feet, though, like those sissy Yuan-Ti. Human torso, snake below the waist, maybe a little snake-hood action for the head. The scaly hood thing makes them more distinct and flashy in a coliseum setting.

Frog Dragon
2009-06-26, 07:12 AM
Here is the recruitement thread (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=116131).

2009-06-26, 10:04 AM
Whale Islands
The island nation of the Whale Islands has always been somewhat apart from the rest of Gondal. The islanders – calling themselves the Ardyn (“true people”) never were really a part of the magocracy, and some of the more traumatic events of the wizard rule – the pogroms against the clergy, or the massive use of vivisectionist magic for entertainment purposes never took place on the islands.

For more than 3000 years, the Whale Islands are governed by the dynasty of the Gurudu, the Divine Mandate. Even though no member of the Gurudu was ever able to cast even the most simple spell, the dynasty – is seen as directly supported by the gods, and the very thought of raising a hand against them is seen as terrible sacrilege. Indeed, the Gurudu are a dynasty of Aasimar, and can claim to be the descendants of the Heavens, but despite this ancestry and the high regard of the Gurudu, they do not rule the islands outside of the palace city of Phri Val itself. Instead, the islands are ruled by powerful clans, who are officially all subjects to the Gurudu, but in reality, are highly independent and wage nigh endless skirmishes and intrigues against each other. Remarkably, these wars are so ritualized and coordinated around a standardized protocol, that the islands are prospering despite the nigh constant warfare. Attacks against the civil population are heavily shunned upon, battles are pretty much prearranged on neutral grounds, and more often than not, only small token forces of the different clans fight against each other instead of the whole armies.
Unlike to the development on the mainland, the wizards were never separated from their main clans and remained a part of their overall social structure, so that the feudal social order on the Whale Islands did not change, neither during the rise of the magocracy nor during its collapse. Likewise, there never was a purge of the clergy and like their arcane counterparts, priests of the imperial cult – the state religion of the Whale Islands that worship the Celestial Body and the Gurudu as their direct representatives – remained a part of the overall clannish structure of the Whale Islander society.

The life on the Whale islands is almost completely focused on the sea. Fishing – and obviously, whaling – is the most important source of nourishment on the islands, even though they also grow rice and sorghum. All noteworthy settlements on the islands – with the sole exception of the palace of Phri Val itself- are built on the coast, and the Ardyn can easily boast to be the most proficient sailors and navigators in Gondal, if not the whole world. But apart from the sea, the islands are frugal and offer only little natural resources, which explains the other, very unfortunate activities of the clans of the Whale islands: Piracy.

Effectively, it is only a combination of the two things the Ardyn can do best: fighting and sailing. The large war catamarans from the Ardyn, are a feared appearance almost everywhere in the South, and they like to plunder the coastal areas, in the knowledge that there is no match to their naval power. The highly standardized rules of warfare the Ardyn use to keep their internal conflicts as unbloody as possible, are never used when fighting against outsiders, and in this case, the Ardyn can be outright cruel and merciless. They don’t take slaves, but that only means that they don’t take prisoners, either, with one exception – planetouched and those who appear to be planetouched are captured and brought to Phri Val if possible where Aasimars are assimilated into the Gurudu to avoid inbreeding or, even worse, the loss of the Divine Heritage. Other planetouched disappear behind the walls of Phri Val as well, but no one can tell what happens to them. In the last years, the pirate attacks of Whale Island raiders have more and more focused on areas where the Aasimar population is unusually high, and it seems that the capture of new breeding material has become a more important priority for the Gurudu.

The people of the Whale Islands have a dark skin, curly dark hair, and are among the tallest of all human people. They are also easy to recognize by the amount of tattoos they apply to their skins and which show their clan affiliation and social status.
The only non-humans that live on the Whale Islands in significant numbers are a few Selkie colonies which are generally tolerated by the Ardyn, since the Gurudu proclaimed that they were “funny jesters and harbingers of the sea itself”. Apart from that, the Selkies are mostly left alone.

2009-06-27, 05:26 AM
Sabscria is the last realm of Gondal where the old magocratic social has not changed. The towns of Sabscria – the realm has no large cities – are still ruled by wizard councils, the rural areas are still mostly untouched and full of wild and dangerous creatures, and the majority of the population has heard the propaganda of the superiority of the Gifted over mundane people (called “the Soulless” in Sabscria) that they actually started to believe it.
Still, Sabscria face the same problems every magocratic system faced: The magic doesn’t work as effective and easy as before, the old spells that hold up the infrastructure are faltering and sometimes just disappearing and there is a significant lack of young wizards who could follow in the steps of the current generation of magocrats. The rulers of Sabscria have face these problems with a callous but efficient strategy which has become almost synonymous for the country’s ruling class. If spells become harder to cast and maintain, blood magic must fill the gaps, and this requires sacrifices, preferably of sentient creatures. If there are not enough potential Gifted born within the country, Gifted children must be harvested outside of it. Within a few years, Sabscria has turned into a warmongering country that sends war parties hunting for captives to Thur and Venya, and so-called Witch Hunters, small troops under the leadership of a junior wizard which are sent out to find children with potential and bring them to Sabscria.

For the other people outside of the country, the Sabscrians and their warbands seem to be an incarnation of the infernal forces themselves, but in reality, this point of view is overtly simple. The Age of Magocracy has created wonders of knowledge and culture which were unheard of before, and which are rapidly lost throughout Gondal. The only place, where this knowledge and cultural achievements have at least a chance to endure the next century or so is in Sabscria. Pogroms against spellcasters or Beastfolk, which are common place in Ferono and which appear tragically often nearly everywhere else in Gondal are unknown in Sabscria And while the mundane population is pretty much subjugated, their overall life quality is much higher than those of a self-proclaimed “free” dirtfarmer in one of the other realms. You can’t eat freedom, and great gestures and hollow phrases doesn’t make the water supply run.
Sabscrians see themselves as the last guardians of knowledge and beauty in the world, the last people who are willing to make the effort – and the sacrifices which are necessary to preserve the achievements and knowledge of generations. And the hatred of the others doesn’t prove anything but the growth of barbarism and the decline of culture.

Life in Sabscria is peaceful, but monotonous. There are no slaves (or there are almost only slaves, depending on the perspective) and the towns are beautiful, properly maintained and very clean. There are no belts of ruins as around the larger cities like everywhere else. The people of Sabscria – both humans and the numerous Beastfolk – live in predetermined castes, which are also divided into different quarters within a town (with the quarter of the wizards in the centre). Nominally, the different castes are all equal, except the wizard’s caste, but due to the growing military aggression, the warrior caste has become the second most powerful in the realm. The other castes – the craftsmen, farmers, sailors and artists – are still about equal, though.

The normal Sabscrians combine the physical feature of both the people of the North and South – their skin is much lighter than those of Feronian or Venjan stock, but it is also not as pale as the light skin of the Rhyrgians. The hair color is often also quite light, but it is a typical feature of Sabscrian culture to color the hair in the colors of their castes – orange for the craftsmen, green for the farmers, blue for the sailors, yellow for the artists, red for the warriors and metallic silver for the wizards. Everywhere else, these hair colors would be too expensive for the majority of the population, but in Sabscria, colored hair is seen as basic right only the casteless and other scum doesn’t color their hair.

Beastfolk are fully tolerated in Sabscrian society, and are completely integrated into the caste system. Caste membership is much more important than the ethnic background, and the difference between two humans of different castes are usually greater than the differences between humans and beastfolk within the same caste. There are two notable exceptions in the case of the two most numerous beastfolk species though: Gnolls form the backbone of the Sabscrian armies and war parties as well as of the warrior caste, and are highly respected. In Venja and Thur, Gnolls are almost automatically associated with Sabscria, and usually have a pretty bad reputation, but in Sabscria, they are valued members of society, and often more praised than their human comrades. The other exception are the ratlings, which are treated as a plague in Sabscria and not as sentient creatures at all. There is still a bounty on ratling tails, and often, they are killed on sight or captured to fuel blood rituals. Despite this open violence and persecution, the Ratling population in Sabscria seem to be very stable and steadily growing.
Orcs are rare in Sabscria, since the Sabscrian orcs left the land unhindered for Sina Gik. There are a few remaining, but it is an almost negligible minority and the Sabscrian orcs are almost exclusive a part of the Sailor caste.
Githzerai are common in Sabscria, but not a real part of the overall society, The largest of all Githzerai monasteries – Painono – lies within the Sabscrian territory, but both sides treat it more as an independent enclave than a part of the surrounding realm. The Githzerai pay tributes to the Sabscrian magocrats and are therefore left alone.
Gitrhyanki on the other hand are almost unknown in Sabscria; they do not fit into the caste system of the Sabscrian society, and outsiders are not really tolerated much in Sabscria, while the influential warrior caste has massive prejudices against mercenaries of all kinds.

Sabscria produces still a high degree of its raw material through magic, but the manufacturing of these goods are a task of the craftsmen caste. The land of Sabscria is lush and fertile, and the agrarian production is very high – enough to usually export wheat and corn to more frugal places. The most praised product of Sabscria is the Sabscrian silk, the most exclusive and expensive cloth in Gondal. Generally speaking, even the poor in Subscria have access to much better food, shelter and clothing than the vast majority of people elsewhere.

The crest of Sabscria is a golden pentagram surrounded by five smaller, golden pentagrams on a black field.

2009-06-27, 05:44 AM
Painono is the largest and most important monastic fortress of the Githzerai. Here and in the surrounding crater, almost a fifth of this people live, and if there is something like a government of the Githzerai, it is the Council of Elders of Painono. No one really knows how the Painono crater developed, but it is said that the Githzerai mine here for adamantine and other rare metals, and that millenias ago a meteor has hit the land.

Painono is almost exclusive populated by Githzerai, other people are only tolerated as guests for a short time, before they are urged to move on. Since it is the centre of Githzerai culture, pilgrims from other Githzerai monasteries are not rare in Painono, and the library is rumored to be one of the largest in Gondal.

Painono is also one of the most awe-inducing fortresses in Gondal – there are towns which are smaller that the castles and towers of the monastery and it is said that the fortress is as large under ground as it is above; no one has ever tried to siege Painono, but no one would really believe that it would be possible to conquer this fortress.

2009-06-27, 07:16 AM
The Republic of Thur is the central realm of Gondal, and in many ways it was the most typical one as well. The Republic was one of the first domains where the old magocracy was overcome by mundane heroes and warlords, and it was the first ‘real’ nation that was founded in Gondal for a very long time. After he overthrown magocrats were killed or driven away, new rulers came together and formed the Republic, where the different local nobles elected the Archons, the rulers of the land. The glory of Thur was immense, the country led a few border skirmishes and “freed” other neighboring countries from the magrocratic rule and made them a part of the republic – Ustija, Marwe and Teslaya became vassal states of Thur and effectively subjugated marks of the Republic. This expansion ended after the Republic lost two wars in quick succession, at first against the then newly formed Grand Duchy of Ferono and a year later on the western border against the Warrior caste of Sabscria.
These two bitter defeats broke the military backbone of the Republic, and shattered the belief of the ‘newly joined’ countries in the Republic, which lead to the civil wars which are still going on today.
Modern Thur is a country which slowly bleeds out in too many civil wars. The Republic has grown too fast in its expansionist phase and the social and political infrastructure for an empire of this size never existed, and the vassal states on the border of Thur were not able to defeat themselves, granting easy victories which made the Republic and its leaders arrogant – until the Feronian archers and Sabscrian Gnolls taught them humbleness again. Now, the Republic tries to hold its territory together, leads different campaigns against the rebels in Ustija, Marwe and the hinterlands of Teslaya, without achieving more than token successes, while the rebels also seem to be unable to beat the Thurian armies.

While Thur is a republic, the influence of the simple peasants or townsfolk is not greater than in the more feudal countries like Ferono or Venja. The upper class – the so-called achieved men – may participate in the election s of the archons and the local councils, but for the majority of the population, including all womenfolk, this participation is illusory. The achieved men elect a small regional council from their ranks, and every nine years a new council of Archons which rule the Republic as a whole. The nine Archons are elected for nine years, but can only be reelected once.

Thur is also a meritocracy; even the poorest of the poor can climb up into the ranks of the achieved men when they actually achieve something great, and especially the military services are a way to climb up the social ladder, and for many men, the only way at that. This explains the militarism of the Thurian society, because the lower classes in Thur had a genuine interest in warfare, because this was a way for them to improve their social status. The steady interest in military services also lead to a large standing army, and since the Archons often feared that the army could overthrow them and since large groups of bored soldiers are never a good idea, the expansionism of the Archons had inner political reasons as well.
This social model worked well in central Thur, but it never took off in the vassal states, simply because no one in Thur really wanted that the citizens of Teslaya or Ustiya grow to influential in Thurian politics. Over time, even the regional political influence in the Vassal states shifted from the local elites to Thurian satraps who effectively ruled the country and taxes from the vassal states paid for the infrastructure and army of the central Republic.

The rebellion began in Ustija, a grassland region where tribes of horse nomads of Sarikan stock lived. The Archons wanted to force the nomads to settle down and to start grow crops “like civilized people”, but the Ustijan riders refused, and started to fight against the Thurian settlers, administrators and soldiers in their land. This insurrection would probably have been put down in a year or two, but the “Ustijan Mutiny” became a signal for the other vassal state rebels, and soon, the fires of rebellion burnt in Marwe and Teslaya as well. After the military defeats, the once huge Thurian army was unable on all three fronts at the same time, so that every campaign against the rebels in one of the provinces is bought with new rebel successes in the other two.

The current situation is, that the Ustija Fields and Mountains are independent but in name only and the nomads have pretty much ceased to fight, as long as the Republic stands out of their steppe. The western hinterland of Teslaya is a no man’s land, where small warlords, tribal leaders and the occasional Sabscrian war band rule the land, which has heavily devastated by the scorched earth tactics of both rebels and the Thurian army. The large and important city of Teslaya itself is firmly in the hand of the republican forces. In Marwe, the rebels are hard pressed, and the last campaign has pretty much brought an end to rebel activities in West Marwe, while East Marwe remains a rebel stronghold. Even worse, it seems that more than a few rebels have withdrawn into the originally stable and peaceful region of Selma and try to start a new insurrection there as well. The Thurian army is spread thin, and mercenaries are filling the gaps.

The people of Thur are more of northern than of southern stock, and have a much lighter skin and hair color than their southern neighbors, even though there are strong Venjan and Feronian influences in the South of the Republic. Through the expansion, the Republic has become a multi-ethnic country, including not only Thurians, but also people of pretty much every ethnic origin in Gondal.
Beastfolk are not especially liked in Thur, but also not treated with specific intolerance. Like their human neighbors, Beastfolk can become Achieved Men, but their way to get there is actually harder than for human republicans, and in the whole history of Thur, there was exactly one Beastfolk ever who become an Archon – the Raptoran Domian, who was assassinated in office shortly before he could candidate for a second time in office.
The growing demand for mercenaries has lead to growing populations of Orcs and Githyanki in Thur, especially in the border regions and on the rebel fronts. Githzerai on the other hand are not wellcome in Thur, and the Republic actually attacked and destroyed the Githzerai monasteries on its territory.

Women are clearly second class citizen in Thur, and are not allowed to inherit, marry without the consent of their closest male relative or even run a business or join the army. Polygamy is legal and actually common in Thur, but only among the Achieved Men; having many women is a status symbol, as are many children.

2009-07-08, 05:31 AM
Bif Tera
The island nation of Bif Tera (the island’s only city has the same name) has become a refuge for Beast folk of all kinds. During the magocracy, Bif Tera was a prestigious stud for all kinds of magically created creatures for the pleasure and luxury of the rich, who could afford an original Bif Tera beastfolk slave or arena creature. This fired back badly, when the protection spells that kept the breeding pits and barracks of the creations of Bif Tera failed in a spectacular light show, and the numerous creatures of the island quickly overcame their creators and their guardians.
Bif Tera became a sign for the enslaved beastfolk, and their holders as well. Paranoia about further slave rebellions led to a harder situation for many beastfolk, especially the free ones who were felt as a potential threat throughout Gondal – and many of these started an exodus to the island of Bif Tera, hoping for a more tolerant society of their equals.
The result was ambivalent. Bif Tera is one of the few places in Gondal where Beastfolk vastly outnumber humans (Orcs and Gith are pretty much unknown on the island) but without the outer pressure of a large majority, the different tribes of beastmen live pretty much separated from each other and open enmity between different tribes – especially between the numerous catfolk and the other tribes – has become a common appearance. The islands are not very fertile, and the nutrition of the different people is hard work, and hunger and poverty are common problems in Bif Tera. The remaining humans are subjugated and enslaved (if they haven’t fled to the main land) and are treated worse than slaves in Ferono, or anywhere else. There are several vocal leaders of beastfolk tribes on Bif Tera who support a full-blown genocide of the island’s humans, and only their status as valuable property offers a bit of protection.

Bif Tera is heavily divided into several territories, which are often controlled by one “tribe” of Beastfolk. Different beastfolk people have little contact, and normally stay on their own. The island’s only city (which is also named Bif Tera) is a difference though, as here people of all different beast forms live together in closed space. The city is a dangerous place where gang wars and similar conflicts are common and pretty much everyone is armed. The city was once a beautiful and luxury place, but the utter neglect, adaptation to the special needs of the less anthropomorphic beastfolk and the usual conflicts have destroyed many of its parts, even though the old glory is still visible between the shattered glass and blackened walls of Bif Tera.

The vast majority of the Bif Teran people are beastfolk, and every common form of beastfolk live here, including a few highly unusual ones. Planetouched and Genasi bloodlines are also highly common among the Bif Teran beastfolk, an inheritance of the more exclusive breeding. The humans of Bif Tera are of the same stock as the Thurians on the mainland, and the refugees from the island were quickly assimilated into the Republic of Thur, while the remaining humans on the island are subjugated. There are a few gangs of humans in the city of Bif Tera which consist of humans and who do not differ much from the beastfolk gangs in their neighborhood.

Bif Tera is a mostly isolationistic place, and due to the lack of nutrition sources, even foreign beastfolk are not welcome anymore, especially among beastfolk of other design. The island is not a nation, as it completely lacks any form of higher order, or even any internal infrastructure apart from the social order of the different beastfolk tribes and gangs. Nonetheless, the island still have a ring of freedom and utopia to its name among the mainland Beastfolk.

For most of the mainland people who are not Beastfolk dreaming of an utopian place, Bif Tera is a “there be monsters” place and usually, when the island is mentioned, it is described as a mixture of hell on earth and a dire threat for the people of Gondal. Bif Tera is an excuse for pogroms against beastfolk, and through each of these attacks, the idealization of Bif Tera through the victimized beastmen gets new support.

2009-07-08, 05:33 AM
For reasons not known to most people, Rhyrgia has always been the country where the birth rate of Gifted children was much lower than anywhere else in Gondal, which made the country not only very different in its social structure from the “true” magocracies farther in the south and also made the country a playground for smaller intrigues. For centuries, Rhyrghia was a backwater country, its people the butt of jokes for the more powerful city states in the South. Rhyrghia was the country of smelly dirt farmers, delusional warlords, and hedge mages who have troubles to invoke a magic light. More importantly, Rhyrghia remained a country where religious beliefs stayed common while they became stigmatized in the South; Rhyrgia is one of the few places in Gondal where divine spellcasters actually outnumber their arcane counterparts, especially the druid cult and their associated Shapeshifter guardians are more common than anywhere else.

Rhyrghia is a kingdom, ruled by the high king in Qular, but the feudal structure of the country has prevented a strong central power while the local nobles have strong influences at least in their home domains. Nonetheless, many people would argue that the druid cult is the true power in the country and rule it behind the coulisses – and probably more efficient than the aristocratic rule anyway. The more powerful nobles have usually druid counselors and rumors of a “druid conspiracy” which plans to take over the rule of the country.

The vast majority of the Rhyrghian population are simple farmers, and there are few larger settlements. The country has not a very high population density, while the rest of the country is covered with wilderness, but the wild of Rhyrghia lacks many of the larger monsters which are an inheritance of the magocracy, and most of the wildlife are natural creatures, who are neither as dangerous nor as aggressive as the magical beasts which were formed in the laboratories of vivisectionist mages.

Rhyrghians are the humans with the lightest skin and fairest hair in Gondal. They are of average height and stature, and are often described with the moniker “white Rhyrghians” or “Pale Rhyrghians”. In clothes, Rhyrghians have not the resource of bright colors which are common in the south, and therefore, Rhyrghian clothes are often more drab and bland, but woven patterns of differently colored wool are very common.

Generally, Rhyrghia is almost completely inhabited by humans, just because there were never a larger population of Beastfolk to start with. The second largest population are Orcs, the only form of hybrid species that originate in Rhyrghia. Unlike the beastfolk in the South, the orcs and their half-orcish offspring are usually not second-class citizen or subjugated minorities in Rhyrghia, but more an alternative society on their own. While the majority of the human population that usually stays in one place for their whole lifetime, the Rhyrghian Orcs are semi-nomadic travelers and in this function they not only took over the trade within the country, but also the information network. Orkish messengers and heralds are a common stereotype in the Rhyrghian society. Despite their undisputable qualities in this area, the Rhyrghian Orcs are not inclined heavily in the armed forces of many local aristocrats. The more militant Orcs have long left the country, either as mercenaries in the Thurian civil wars, or in the foundation of the nation ofSinal Gik.
Githyanki and Githzerai are both very rare, but the Githyanki enclave in the Calbaken Mines keeps up a friendly relationship to many nobles – and the more important orcish families in the country. The Githyanki also sends out a personal bodyguard for the high king of Rhyrghia and rumors about a Shadow War between the Githyanki and the druids are as persistent as those of the druid conspiracy. There is also one single Githzerai monastery in Rhyrghia, but it is one of the smallest of its kind, and if the Githyanki increase their influence, the few Githzerai here will have to leave the country quickly.

Rhyrghia is a very poor country, and the land is not very fertile, either. Apart from farming and animal husbandry, there is only very little industry or crafts. Rich natural resources are rare, and even the few sources that are in the country are often not achievable, since the powerful druid cult opposes the expansion of the infrastructure into the wild for exploiting these sources.

2009-07-14, 04:31 AM
Sarika and the Sarikan Desert
Sarika is not a nation, but the homeland of the different tribes of the Sarikan people – or at least of the Northern tribes, as there is a smaller tribal population further south in Ustija as well.
Sarika and the Desert are officially a part of the Kingdom of Rhyrghia, but due to the immense sociocultural differences between the Sarikans and the Rhyrghians and the very limited influence of the High King, this affiliation is mostly limited to the official titles and a few tributes the tribesmen pay.
Sarika also features a few of the largest city status of Gondal, but these cities are not a part of their land; these city states are completely independent but form a loose alliance between them, the Eastern League.
But the desert and its surrounding plains are the lands of the Sarikan horsemen and they have kept their culture more or less intact during the magocracy and its aftermath. The Sarikans are a clannish people, and have little intertribal organizations. Each tribe controls a vast area and travel with their herds – mostly cattle, but also a large breed of domesticated ostriches – through their territory. This lifestyle requires vast territory since Sarika is a harsh country, and the desert doesn’t have this name without reason. This need for space often leads to conflicts between different tribes about pasture grounds and water holes, but also with the Rhyrghian farmers or the orkish expansionists from the North. This form of sustenance also limits the size of tribes, and tribes that grow too large have to split up to guarantee its survival. Sometimes, these split tribes start to feud quickly with each other, others form long-going alliances with each other. Only ambivalence between these tribes is rare. In the last years since the territory of the Sarikans grew smaller through an increase of settlers in their traditional homelands, this process doesn’t work as well anymore, because the necessary space for the tribal groups is just not sufficient anymore. Therefore, young Sarikans have begun to migrate southwards and either become assimilated into the societies of Rhyrghia or Thur, or serve as mercenary troops in the Thurian civil war.
The only higher form of organization is the Tribal Council that meets every seven years and debates about topics of importance for all tribes. In rare cases, the Council can elect a Great Chief to unite all tribes under one leader, but in the history of Sabscria, this has only happened a dozen times, and often for a very short time.

Sarikan tribes are bound to travel, and their social order and culture are affected by this. Mobility and the ability to ride are seen as elementary skills, even though the majority of the tribes – the elderly, children and women – do not usually travel on horseback but in the large carriages of the tribes. The Sarikan society is based on strong gender roles – men are hunters, herdsmen and warriors, if needed, women are housekeepers and craftsmen. Despite these traditional roles, both sexes are considered to be equal, and even though tribal chiefs are almost exclusively male, the traditional council of elders who counsel the chief and act as the tribe’s jurisdiction usually consists of as many male and female representatives. In addition, exceptions in the gender roles are usually accepted if the talents or interests of a young man or woman do not cope well with the traditional roles, and while “weaving men” are often mocked, “riding women” are often highly respected and idealized wives. As the old Sarikan saying states, “a husband whose wife rides well is a lucky man.”

Sarika also includes the largest city of Gondal, the metropoplis of Dal Oli and a few other city states, but the Sarikan nomads have little in common with the townsfolk and avoid the towns if possible. A few Sarikan clans have become sedentary and settled down around the towns, but the vast majority do not like the towns much.

In the south, the Sarikans are probably known best – for two of their cultural features – the masks the tribesmen are wearing and the ritual cannibalism the Sarikans are infamous for. The creation of the individual mask of a Sarikan is a part of the coming of age ritual, and the often very colorfully painted masks are meant to show the “true face” of the wearer, which is usually hidden between words and the like. The Sarikans wear these masks – or similar ones they produce when their life radically changes during most important events in their lives, when this is possible. Many outsiders though have the impression that the masks are a permanent item, mostly because the Sarikans rarely deal with outsiders and therefore deem their sheer presence as something special and therefore a mask-worthy event. The Sarikan riders also have another kind of masks, which are worn during raids or warfare. These war masks are often designed to be as gruesome and ugly as possible to intimidate enemies and are often combined with a leather helmet. A well made war mask is not only a ritual item but also protects the face and the skull of its wearer.

The cannibalism is another custom which is often thought typical for the Sarikans and which is often blown out of proportion in the public image. Many tales about the Sarikans speak of an insatiable hunger for human flesh and raiders who attack villages to capture tasty peasants, but the truth is far from these horror stories. Ritual cannibalism is a part of the Sarikan burial ceremony; when a family member or a beloved person dies, a small part of its meat is given to the family and closest friends, to make sure that the dead remains with them for all times. The more famous and more popular a particular Sarikan was, the more people want such a token of remembrance, and the more people come to the burial feast. Often, the rest of the carcass is then grinded and mixed under the food of the tribe’s horses, or scattered on the fields in the case of the few sedentary tribes. For a Sarikan, this is a high praise and form of respect (and a common boast is that too many people to taste will come to someone’s burial) and they rarely if ever take a remembrance from a foreigner. There is only one exception, in warfare. When a Sarikan warrior kills a competent and respectable foe, taking a bit of its blood on the lips is a gesture of greatest respect for the other’s skills and abilities and a gesture that isn’t taken lightly.

The Sarikan tribal lands are not a territory where many non-humans live. In the past, there was a significant orc and half-orc population in the steppe, but in the last decades, they have migrated northwards to Sina Gik. Beastfolk are common in the eastern parts of Sarikan Lands, but the farther west you come, the rarer they get. The largest Beastfolk populations are around the large city states of the east, especially around Sakarat.