View Full Version : More Ravine: *The Iron Tower detailed!

2006-01-21, 05:19 PM
Well. Let's try this again, shall we?

Some of you may remember the campaign setting (Ravine (http://www.giantitp.com/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.pl?board=gaming;action=display;num=1128839571 )) I posted last autumn. I'm nearly ready to run a campaign set in the Alliance, and am looking for help/editors.

You see, the Alliance has always been a bit of a vague hand-waved concept than the flesh-and-blood nation it deserved to be. So, in addition of drawing up some maps (http://reltzik.wikispaces.com/Ravine.Geography) for the setting, I also took the time to flesh out the Alliance.

The campaign will be set on the Northern Frontier (beginning at about the third seige of Jerrain) and I don't anticipate players heading into the Alliance proper for a long time, so I didn't bother figuring out the laws and rulers of particular provinces or where their major cities were or what they were named. I did, though map out the entire Alliance, because geography defines a lot of its culture and politics. I also came up with, if not details, at least a fair summary of the politics and various cultures of the Alliance as a whole. Since culture, religion, politics, and warfare WILL affect the campaign, even in the Frontierlands, they had to be addressed.

When I start the PbP campaign, I'm going to have to cram a lot of this down the throats of the players before they can even make PC backgrounds. Not all of it, no, but I don't know which parts they'll be interested in when coming up with backgrounds. I plan to parse it up and shove it on the wiki, crosslinked, to make that easier. Hopefully that way they won't be bored with the uninteresting parts.

But what I'm looking for from the boardies here is a sounding board. I want to know what sort of information the players will need to know and that I have left out. You see, I'm too familiar with the setting. I wouldn't notice if I forgot to define what "Northwall" meant, because I already know that. Also, the new material has to be skimmed for contradictions... and I wouldn't mind feedback on the material itself.

As for why I started this with "Let's try this again, shall we?", this is my second attempt at making the post. The first was too long for the boards to follow. Ah... oops. Aheh.

2006-01-21, 05:21 PM
World Geography (Abbreviated): The physical geography of the Ravine game setting is dominated by, well, a ravine. (Gasp! Shock!) "Facing escarpments" might be a more accurate term. Its walls run between one and five miles high, and its width varies from twenty five miles at its narrowest to two hundred at its broadest. It runs almost two thousand miles eastwards from the great ocean, and is divided into the Lower (western), Middle, and Upper (eastern) Ravines. The northern of the two facing escarpments is called Northwall, the southern Southwall. The same names apply to the highlands beyond those walls, and both walls are also broken down into Lower, Middle, and Upper.

The Alliance of the Iron Tower (overview):

The Alliance of the Iron Tower is a conglomeration of princedoms, city-states, and other assorted political bodies drawn together by a single religion. Over the past eight centuries, mostly through missionaries and conversion, the religion has assimilated much of the Middle Northwall and forged an empire... almost. It's more of a patchwork than anything that can be properly described as a nation, at least when seen from the inside. From the outside... it is a behemoth, a juggernaut. Its Lesser Conquests of Fateeme (translatable as "holy wars") have established a bridgehead on Southwall and conquered the Middle Ravine, placing them smack center on half the world's trade routes and, incidentally, pissing everyone and their dog off. Their religion is exclusive, calling for forcible conversion, death to anything not human and halfling, and death to all wizards, sorcerors, and adepts.

{Edit: I hate smart quotes.}

2006-01-21, 05:25 PM
Tower Religion:

The religion of the Alliance is known in various languages as the Church of the Four, Church of the Four Goddesses, Church of the Goddesses, Church of the (Iron) Tower, and Church of the Great Pantheon. It is the major unifying force of the Alliance.

Its religious text is a chronicle divided into four books -- Exile, Pilgrimage, Ascension, and Teachings. The first book describes the persecution and exile of the church (or, rather, the cult which eventually became the church) from its homeland, far to the southwest, across the Ravine, by what are now the Dukes of Fer, into the Lower Ravine. The second book describes the patronage of the cult by Saint Ormic to find a new homeland, the journey up the Ravine to Northpass, and the attacks of local barbarians upon the wanderers until they arrived at the Iron Tower. The third book describes an episode purported to have lasted four days, in which Saint Natalia entered the Iron Tower, was given a guided tour up all one hundred of its levels by the spirit of her mother, and eventually met the four representative Goddesses of the Pantheon. (This is the defining moment of the religion, and Saint Natalia is its chief prophetess.) The final book, Teachings, describes Natalia's rule for half a century and the beginning of an assimilation process which would eventually convert all of Middle Northwall.

The faith begins centered around demons. (This concept is poorly defined and usually broadly interpreted -- though it includes the monster type, it isn't limited to it in the least.) Demons are the source of all evil in the world, and delight in tormenting People (another ill-defined concept). They created the world simply to have people to torture, and keep it around for the same purpose. Though technically the Creator-gods, demons are to be fought tooth and nail. In particular, they are blamed for the decadence and persecution described in The Exile. But then the Great Pantheon came to the world to rescue the People. Gods and Goddesses of light, they gave the demons cause to fear. The demons did everything they could to hide both their natures and the Pantheon itself from the People, drawing a veil of deception across minds and souls. As a result, the Pantheon has difficulty telling the difference between People and demons. This is the fault of People, for being sinful and too akin to demons for the distinction to be drawn. People, the Goddesses revealed to Saint Natalia, can overcome this by achieving personal purity (a better-defined concept than others, but still vague) through meditation, worship, personal habits, and so forth. The Great Pantheon awaits in the top fifty floors of the Iron Tower (the physical Iron Tower only has fifty floors; the "High Fifty" refer to a spiritual, heavenly extension that does not exist in the mundane world) for the day when all People achieve purity and they can finally lead forth the souls of the Pure dead to destroy the demons.

Generally, demons are considered to be all the gods not part of the Pantheon, as well as any race save humans and halflings, monsters, disease, aging, and most unpleasant aspects of nature. This view of other races is encapsulated in the languages -- the words for elves, dwarves, and everything else in Trovichen and Alliance Common are actually idioms more accurately translated as elf-demon, dwarf-demon, etc. This belief in the inherently evil and sadistic nature of other races, whatever pleasant masks they may wear to momentarily disguise that nature, and the way the Alliance reacts to it, is responsible for the Tower's well-earned genocidal reputation. Knowingly aiding any demon to the detriment of the Tower is treason to the faith, and it is an article of religious faith that this is how wizards, sorcerers, druids, and adepts acquire their power. Worshippers of other gods are generally excused and pitied for having been tricked by the demons. These are forcibly converted or exiled, but if caught worshipping (or, worse, proselytizing) their old faiths, they are also guilty of treason to the faith. Three religions are exceptions. Halflings worship the Guider and Fouler. Some believe these gods to be unknown members of the Great Pantheon, while others argue that they are names for Kaeleeme and Fateeme, respectively. Either way, such worship is acceptable and proper. Also, worship of King Ormic as a god is common in the Ravine, especially among the Tower's allies in the nobility. The Tower maintains that Ormic was a saint; not a god, but not a demon either. Such worship is frowned on as mildly blasphemous and impure, but nowhere near treason.

Though the Great Pantheon consists of many gods and goddesses, only four are known to mortals. They are: Pareeme, Coreeme, Fateeme, and Kaeleeme.

Pareeme is ruler of the Great Pantheon and overgoddess of all. She is judge, teacher, and ruler, severe but just. Her symbol is a shaft of sunlight in almost any setting, which is abstracted as a diagonal slash of white, yellow, or gold across a dark field.

Coreeme is Pareeme's chosen replacement once the Greater Conquest of Fateeme (the apocalyptic battle against the demons) is concluded. Coreeme governs daily life, particularly the toil and pastimes of average people. She is goddess of the harvest, forge, and healing, and everyday labor. She is also seen as purest of the gods, and most things involving purity fall under her domain. Her symbol is a flame, symbolizing the hearth, the forge fire, the traditional harvest bonfire, the oven, the kiln, the cauterizing brand, the cremation flame, and several others. When an individual who was particularly impure dies, their families will often have the corpse cremated, so that Coreeme purifies him or her in death. This symbolism is also the rationale behind the burning of mages and demons.

Fateeme is the general of the Pantheon, goddess of holy war. She is destined to lead the armies of the dead out from the Tower for the final battle, and in the meantime she blesses the more mundane wars of the Pantheon's adherents, especially the Lesser Conquests of Fateeme which bring more People to the fold and hasten the day of the Greater Conquest. Her weapon of choice is the bastard sword, and her symbol is that same sword held diagonally, hilt down.

Kaereeme is protector of souls and goddess of the dead. Her job is to gather up as many of the dying pure as she can, and save them for the final battle. Demons obscure and snatch away the impure before she can recognize them, and battle her constantly for the ones she does save. She is depicted as warding them off with her symbol, a massive kite shield. Most tomb-stones and burial grounds are marked with kite shields, coffins stamped with their shape, and so forth. She is also depicted as charging forth into wild lands (or into various hells) to save the souls of the dead, and as such is particularly revered by rangers.

2006-01-21, 05:26 PM
Physical Geography of the Alliance: The Middle Northwall is defined by three river systems, all of which run into the Ravine. Each is known by different names in different languages; names given here are in Alliance Common. The western river system is called The Vale, named so by its inhabitants prior to the formation of the Alliance. The middle valley is named for the Mountain Blood River, and is home to the Iron tower. The eastern valley is by far the largest and most important; it is known as the Tradelands, and hooks north, then west past both the Vale and the Mountain Blood Valley. The eastern-most parts of the Tradelands, including a very strategic section of the Trade River, cut outside of Alliance's orders into the Unallied Territories. The part north of the other two rivers is also referred to as the Northlands. All three rivers go into the Ravine; the western two in great waterfalls, and the Pass River through a cut canyon known as the Trade Road or Ravine Road. Though the river itself is unnavigable along this length, an impressive highway has been cut into the banks; Ravine Road (known in the Ravine as North Pass or Iron Pass), is one of only two known routes from the top of the Northwall down into the Ravine. The Middle Ravine itself is also part of the Alliance, and is known as Torrem. Between the Middle and Upper Ravine are the Borderlands; the Alliance lays claim to them, though this claim is hotly contested. To the far north, a fourth river system exists beyond the Tradelands. This is not technically part of Northwall, but is known more generally as the Northern Frontier or Frontierlands. Called the Frontier River, it runs from southwest, in the forests of the Lower Northwall, into the Frontier lands and from there north into uncharted territory.

Political Geography of the Alliance: The Alliance is something of a patchwork chimera, politically. Neither a whole nation nor a collection of independent states, its governance is convoluted to say the least. The Alliance is divided into eleven provinces, governed by Principals, also known as The Princesses (though they are sometimes princes instead, the collective term is still princesses). In addition, five provisional provinces, representing new territory being added, are administrated by Governors. The provinces are the Trovinium (containing the Iron Tower itself), Sanctorum (the founding nation of the Alliance), the Upper and Lower Vale, Bridgehead (encompassing the Bridge of the Heavens as well as the regions at either end of it), the Lower, Middle, and Upper Tradelands, the Lakelands, and the Lower and Upper Northlands. The five provisional territories are the Frontierlands, Upper Torrem, Lower Torrem, Middle Torrem, and the Borderlands. Each province save Sanctorum, the Frontierlands, and Bridgehead breaks down into individual kingdoms, duchies, counties, baronies, and assorted others, which are largely self-governing. The five unallied territories to the east are known as the Moor, the Lakelands, the Riverlands, and the Highlands; that the Lakelands shares its name with a province is more than coincidence; the province was a failed attempt by the Alliance to bring the territory into its fold. The two are normally differentiated as the Lakelands Province versus the Lakelands Territory, the Upper versus the Lower Lakelands, or the Allied versus the Unallied Lakelands.

2006-01-21, 05:28 PM
Government of the Alliance: To the extent that the Alliance has a government, it is the Principals. The Principals are headed by the Empress, who commands the Conquests, personally controls the Provisional Provinces and has some legislative powers. She can personally declare certain activities illegal or undo such declarations. She can also direct the Principals to undertake specific actions, or can undertake them herself as Principal of the Conquest and Provisional Territories. (The Principals, thus, serve as the executive branch of the government, while the Empress is the legislature.) The Principals are chosen from within their provinces according to provincial law, and serve as Electresses for the choosing of a new Empress. The term the Empress serves is set at the time of the vote, though is traditionally five years, and traditionally Empresses are not nominated to successive terms. The votes of the principals are weighted based on their provinces contributions of soldiers, supplies, and money to the Conquests; the more, the better. The Empress gets a vote equal to the largest Principal. The Principal of Torvinium is a special case -- as the personal representative of the Church, she gets a vote equal to the two next largest (not counting the Empress) combined, nominates Empresses and judges, and also chairs sessions of the Principals.

The Church hierarchy is an independent but by no means separate form of government. Both it and the Principals create laws, place demands on citizens, and extract taxes (thought he Church refers to them as tithes). The Church divides into four denominations, one dedicated to each Goddess; the First of Pareeme settles disputes between the three denominations, while the Second of Pareeme traditionally serves as Principal for Trovinium. In addition, three Inquisitions are answerable to the First of Pareeme; one to root out heresy, one to root out treason to the faith, and one to root out demonic infiltrators. Also, the denomination of Fateeme is highly militant and serves as the Church's army.

Further, a number of other independent-yet-parallel bureaucracies have sprung up, often by decree of the Empress, most deriving authority from groups of Principals within their provinces as rulers of their provinces rather than any particular association to the Alliance proper. In particular, the Guardians (a combination police/militia) wield authority in many (but not all) provinces and all the probationary provinces. Unallied territories also lend their support to many of these agencies, giving those agencies (if not the Alliance itself) authority within their borders.

To make this all even more confusing, the bodies aren't nearly as separate as they seem. Most of the clergy of the Denomination of Fateeme are also formal members of the Conquest. Many Principals are also senior officers of the Conquest. Many Principals hold positions in the Church. Many clergy of one denomination hold ranks in another. Most Inquisitors are part of at least two, and often all three, Inquisitions, and many have grants of both secular and eclectic judicial authority. (Due to their indistinct nature, the three Inquisitions are often referred to as The Inquisition, singular.) Most of these people will also hold positions in local governments. While this eases tensions and turf wars between government bodies a great deal, it sometimes leads to difficult situations for individuals, such as when one soldier-priestess outranks another in the hierarchy of the Conquest but is subordinate in the hierarchy of the Denomination of Fateeme. It takes a keen mind to navigate the Alliance's corridors of power.

2006-01-21, 05:29 PM
Culture: Again, the Alliance is very much a patchwork when it comes to culture, and best viewed as the combination of many different cultures.

High (Trovite) Society: This is the closet thing that the Alliance has to a universal culture. Paintings, statuary, opera, fine music, and poetry are common, all with heavy religious themes. Pareeme is marginally favored above others. Participation in the Conquest (particularly as officers), the Church, or government is common and considered a social obligation. Rulers are councils elected by the governed. Families are matriarchal, and women hold a somewhat dominant place in society. Division of labor tends to put men primarily in jobs of travel and warfare, while women tend to fill roles in government, religion, industry, and art; these tendencies are fairly weak, though, and you will find many women in men's roles and many men in women's roles. Nevertheless, women are honored, tend to take the dominant role in relationships, and the victimization of women is almost unheard of. Slavery exists as a holdover of Sanctorum's expansion (conquered men were often enslaved for assimilation), but slaves are respected, treated well, and are generally well-educated. Many slaves come from a long lineage of slaves to a particularly family are extremely loyal to that family; selling a slave is almost unheard of. Slaves are often freed for good service, and are then usually adopted as children by the former master or mistress. Overt manners, courtesy, and emotional control are at a premium (however ready one is to plant a dagger in someone's back... ESPECIALLY if they're ready to plant a dagger in someone's back). Science and philosophy hold pride of place. Clothes are concealing and somewhat lavish, a source of pride and status. Trovite society is most common among the upper class and nobility nearly everywhere in the Alliance and Unallied Territories, especially in all denominations of the Church save Fateeme's, and wields the most influence in the Mountain Blood River Valley (where the culture has spread even to the middle- and much of the lower-class), the Lower Tradelands, and the Unallied Lakelands. It is notably absent in Torrem, the Upper Vale, and the Borderlands. The normal language spoken is Trovichen, the religious tongue derived from the ancient language of Lower Southwall, though most people also know Alliance Common (which is based on Trovichen, Trade Common, Rivos, Gavos, and Southern Fehmic). Most high-ranking clergy come from Trovite backgrounds. Dominant alignment is lawful-good.

Conquest Society: The Conquest is made up of all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds, and that's exactly where they leave their past: In the background. Though most come from the Alliance, a good many come from the Unallied Territories, and some come from Sherem, Jerrain, or parts abroad. The army assimilates all... eventually. It takes time, and those who haven't assimilated are generally viewed as newbies, rookies, and unreliable green troops. (High Society members are viewed particularly askance by the Conquest; call this the "green lieutenant" syndrome, except that many of them enter the Conquest as senior officers. Many others bounce in and out, gaining rank without picking up experience or Conquest customs.) The average conqueror is a veteran, hard-bitten fanatic of the Great Pantheon. The Conquest enjoys a certain reputation, not only in the Alliance, but in the world in general, and the Conquerors do their best to live up to it. Most aren't given to subtleties; the general philosophy is to select a target (usually an obvious one) and hammer away at it with soldiers and more soldiers and more soldiers until it's overcome. The sheer guts and courage this type of warfare entails is a hallmark of the Conquest and considered the most honorable of all traits by its members. The Conquest is extremely egalitarian; though a common soldier is subordinate to a general legally, usually the common soldier is more admired; the general, after all, isn't the first one into the breach. Epic tales, war stories, sports, and war games are the most common form of entertainment. Many Conquest members train first at Military Academies (monk monasteries), where they learn idealized forms of combat; few find this form of combat practical once they join the Conquest, though, and Conquerors wait with exaggerated patience while these rookies get "that Academy crap" out of their system. Fateeme is by far the most popular Goddess, and most priests and priestesses of the Denomination of Fateeme are more Conquest society than Trovite, making them the oddballs within the Church. In strong contrast to high society, manners and reserve are viewed as negative qualities; the ideal Conqueror is blunt and uncouth. While the Conquest itself is a highly ordered venture, individual... opportunism, let's call it, on the part of victorious soldier is treated with respect (though best kept somewhat quiet). Looting, arson, and putting civilians to the sword are all common among the Conquest, particularly if it has just taken a city, though rape is much rarer than in other militaries. About one in five conquerors of any rank is a woman, and they are treated as absolute equals. Many conquerors learn Alliance Common after a while, but most make do with their own tongues; the language barrier is a major problem within the Conquest. Dominant alignment is neutral.

Halfling society: Halflings come from all parts of the Alliance, and most parts of the rest of the world. That's also where they tend to be go. Halflings are itinerant, almost nomadic by nature... putting down roots is just not in their blood. When (temporarily) settled, they live in halfling neighborhoods, cities within cities. Some will stay in place for years, even decades at a time, especially if they become part of the local power or trade structure. Even there, though, they will tend to bounce around from one role to another and take jobs that require travel. Halflings don't have a unifying society so much as a unifying nature. They are inquisitive, friendly, open, and have a more communal than personal sense of property. They also blend well, adopting almost by instinct the habits of those around them. (When in Rome... er, When in Trovichium...) Halfling society is matriarchal to the extent that a husband joins his wife's family; beyond that, they are egalitarian. Halfling society is divided into three great families, the Longshankses, the Swifts, and the Owlkins. This once referred to certain racial distinctions, but intermarriage has so muddied the bloodlines that these traits no longer have anything to do with lineage. They just pop up recessively, left and right, though the Swift traits are the most common. Halflings make excellent merchants and traders... though many they deal with walk away calling them thieves. Halflings worship the Guider and the Fouler, which they assert are a Goddess and God of the Great Pantheon that didn't reveal themselves to Saint Natalia, but which Church doctrine holds are really Kaeleeme and Fateeme, respectively. They speak their own tongue, Vagonich, and also tend to speak Trade Common (an obscure global tongue spoken by travelers, diplomats, merchants, and others who run into the language barrier often). Those in the Alliance usually pick up Alliance Common, that being the most universal tongue. Most halflings will pick up other languages left and right. Halflings tend to be neutral.

The Fehlon: The Fehlon are a people descended from the humans of the Lower Northwall. They are mostly found along the western edge of the Alliance: in the Vale particularly, in the Upper Northlands, and to a much lesser degree in the western Frontierlands. Upper Vale society is almost completely Fehlon-dominated. As hills have divided these three groups, they speak three different languages, known as Southern, Central, and Northern Fehmic. The languages are very similar, all distantly descended of Draconic but with strong Druidic influence. Insults, especially those that accurately identify character flaws or shortcomings on the part of the insulted, hold pride of place among the Fehlon. The harshest affront is taken as constructive criticism with a flourish, and insult-bouts are good natured, insightful, and popular. Taking offense at an insult is taken as a weakness, an indicator of thin-skinned insecurity. The only true insult which can be rendered is politeness, which is seen as an accusation of and condescension to that same thin-skinned weakness. The Fehlon aren't far removed from their pagan traditions. Strictly male-dominated, women are kept in subservient protectorate roles and forbidden to own property. Though they didn't worship any gods and were quite ready to believe in demonic influence, they have a rather unfortunate trend towards animism. Many believe in neutral spirits, neither demon nor Person, that exist throughout nature. Thus their society is much more in harmony with the wild, and they are more prone to coexist with nature than try to tame or conquer it. Oral history, hunting, painting, and gardening are the most common forms of art. The Inquisitions into heresy and treason keep a baleful eye on these people, and from time to time cut a bloody path through their numbers. For all of these reasons, they have never really assimilated well into the Church, and are rather discontent as members of the Alliance. Kaereeme is the favored Goddess of the Fehlon, and rangers are relatively common among them. Rulership tends to be by an oligarchy of elders. Nearly as many Fehlon women as men join the Conquest; the female numbers are bolstered by a chance to improve their place in society, and the male numbers are reduced by Fehlon discontent. Dominant alignment is Chaotic-Neutral.

The Lom: Lomish culture is dominant in the Mountain Blood river valley. The Lom began as barbaric nomads, male-dominant hunter-gatherers with a complex honor system and several inter-tribal feuds. The Book of Pilgrimage describes how they attacked the migrating People at every opportunity, stealing food, horses, women and children. But the Lom held the Iron Tower in awe; they knew that anyone who touched it died (a fact that was verifiably true, up until Saint Natalia's ascension) and that anyone touched by its shadow lost their soul (an utter myth which their descendents scoff at). When they discovered that the People had tamed the Tower, they immediately stopped their attacks, treating the new Trovites with awe and near-worship. Inside of three generations, the entire valley was under Trovite control as the nation called Sanctorum. Inside of two more, the Loms had been largely assimilated. The two lines have intermixed to such a degree that race is no longer meaningful; in terms of blood, the Trovite line has been subsumed by the Lomish. But, for practical purposes, the Lom form the middle and lower classes while the high-society Trovites form the upper class. While high society prefers more... refined pursuits, the Loms tend to be a bit courser, enjoy games, horse racing, and bawdy folk music. Many Loms are slaves to high society, and these slaves see it as a mark of honor; not only are they more valuable to the nobility than free people, but they are well-treated and elevated in status. Many Loms will vie to put their children into slavery, competing with others and even offering money to the potential master or mistress, as the child is then guaranteed an education, good food, medical care, and has a fair chance of becoming noble him- or herself at some point. Loms tend to speak Rivos, the local tongue of the Blood River Valley and a descendent of the Elven language, and they tend to favor Coreeme in their worship. In many ways they are the backbone of the Alliance. They produce the most volunteers to join the Conquest, and are disproportionately represented among the cavalry. Dominant alignment is neutral good. Loms are dominant in the Blood River Valley, but are also well-represented Tradelands and the Frontierlands. Aside from these distinctions, the Loms and high society is indistinct.

The Ga-Verr: The Ga-Verr are the original inhabitants of the lower Northlands. Though the Loms occupied the lower Tradelands during the Pilgrimage, by the time the Trovites came back to the Lower Tradelands the region was somewhat controlled by the Ga-Verr. The Ga-Verr are a peaceful, long-civilized people with a strong halfling influence, inclined towards enterprise, trade, boating, and industry. They speak Gavos, a hybrid of Vagonich, Hintos, and Rivos. Though originally patriarchal, they have been largely assimilated, to the point where they are not that distinguishable (aside from their manner of dress, their passtimes, their distinctive style of music, their...) from the Loms. They are also the least likely to volunteer for the Conquest. The Ga-Verr never really controlled the whole valley; they are dominant in the Northlands (particularly the Lower), Frontierlands, Upper and Central Tradelands, and Upper Lakelands. Unlike Loms and Trovites, they do not regard ranged combat as cowardly, and favor bows in combat. They are a minority in the Lower Tradelands and Lower Lakelands. Ga-Verr tend to favor Coreeme and Pareeme.

The Wild Men: The Wild Men (Umos Hinos in their own tongue, but they always insist on translating the name) come from the open plains (Wildlands) west of the Valley of the Tradelands. They've since moved in to the Tradelands, and their influence keeps most of the Unallied Territories... well, unallied. They are warlike, divisive, highly patriarchal, conniving, conspiratorial, uncouth, autocratic, pagan, highly independent, rebellious... at least, those are their stereotypes. Those that have moved into the Tradelands are now civilized and somewhat (oh so barely) assimilated; they are still heavily patriarchal and more likely to identify with their cousins in the Wildlands than any of the other Alliance peoples. A thin majority have... somewhat... converted to the Great Pantheon, but they are literally minded and refuse to accept the doctrine that mages, other gods, and other races are demons. Most feel favorable towards the elves, and many have elven blood in their veins. Half elves are also common among the Wild Men. The Church has yet to develop a doctrine for half-breeds; it falls upon individual Inquisitors to enact their own policies, which are varied and unpredictable. Wild Men have an openly antagonistic relationship with the Inquisition, which dares not operate openly in their lands but will focus on Wild Men elsewhere in the Alliance. The Wild Men as a group have been even more of a headache to the Empress than the Fehlons; it was only through blatant (and, the courts later determined, illegal) use of the Conquest that the Lower Tradelands are Allied. The Upper Lakelands were formed by a backed coup against the Wild Men (a combination attempt at dynastic usurpation, conflict between the Wild Men and the Ga-Verr, and a war over religious dispute). Though the coup broke off the now-Allied piece of the Lakelands, the Lakelands proper remained independent and even more opposed to the Alliance (whatever its official acceptance of most of the Church's doctrine). The other three Unallied Territories look to the Lakelands for support, alliance, and leadership... when they aren't bickering with each other. Yet despite all this friction, most of the time individual Wild Men get along with individuals from the Alliance. Many Wild Men (and almost as many Wild Women) join the Conquest as individuals, and are among the most ferocious infantry in existence, though they remain discipline problems. Their dominant alignment is chaotic neutral with a tendency towards chaotic evil. They speak Hintos (a derivation of the Elven tongue) and sometimes know Alliance Common. Their favored Goddess is Fateeme.

Umos Fros: The Umos Fros are almost indistinguishable from the Wild Men to third parties (just don't say it where either can hear), except that they are not the least bit assimilated. They brush up against the northeast of the Alliance, and speak a slightly different variation of Elven called Fros. They tend to be more lawful in alignment and more regimented militarily.

The Kork: These people dominate the Frontierlands, though they share territory with the Fehlon to the southwest, the Umos Fros to the east, and the Ga-Verr to the south. Most of them are horsemen, fishers, hunters and trappers along the Frontier River... and also cannibals, though it's not something they seem to do often and never with outsiders. They have taken to Church teachings fairly readily, but are slow to abandon their culture. Patriarchal and nomadic, they aren't much inclined to settle down and farm, partly because the tundra makes for very poor farmland. Horse archery is not so much a sport as a way of life for them. Most have a bit of orc blood in them, and half-orcs are not uncommon. (Again, the Inquisition doesn't quite know what to do with these. Fortunately for either the Kork or the Inquisition, the latter doesn't operate much in the Frontierlands.) They speak Koreck, a derivative of Orc, and most that trade with the Alliance have picked up a bit of Alliance Common. Dominant alignment: Chaotic Good. Favored Goddess: Kaereeme.

The Torremians: Torremians are inhabitants of (surprise!) Torrem (the Middle Ravine), and also the Borderlands. They've also had a social influence on the Lower Tradelands, and many blame some of the troubles caused by the Wild Men on the social influence of the Torremians. The society is one of feudal city-states fighting over choice sections of the countryside. Individuals vary greatly, but most of the lords (who retained their authority following the Conquest) are neutral-evil. They also tend to be petty, conniving idiots. They live extremely patriarchal lives, treating women (and, for that matter, everyone else) as property. Nothing they do to the serfs is technically a crime, unless it's someone else's serf, in which case compensation may be in order. (Technically, they may set limits on their own power. Few do. Fewer obey those limits.) In practice, more than a mile or two from their fastnesses, abusive lords will disappear very, very quickly. The serfs tend to be chaotic-good, and give only token obeisance to their lords and, now, the Alliance. The former have converted to the Church but also worship King Ormic (viewed as a saint by the Church); the latter worship a double-handful of gods, have friendly relationships with dwarves, don't really like anyone telling them what to do in the first place, and have made the Inquisition's life... interesting since their conquest. Since the terms of Torrem's treaty of Alliance place the Lords in charge, with the peasants utterly subservient and under their purview, formally recognizing the circumstances of the serfs and finding a way to bring them into the fold is difficult. Torremians speak Torremic. Some also speak Trade Common, and Alliance Common is starting to catch on. A handful will speak New Derros (Dwarven), Sheremic, or Nommic (Gnomish).

[Edit: I also hate smart apostrophies.]

2006-01-21, 05:33 PM
Enemies of the Alliance:

Elf-Demons: Elf-demons control the Upper Northwall, Upper Southwall, and Upper Ravine. They also wield a great deal of influence over the plains' Wild Men; it isn't uncommon to see elves holding a position of shaman, chief, elder, or champion in their tribes. This is a purposeful strategem; the creation of buffer states is their favored approach of dealing with enemies. Every expedition sent against the elf-demons ends in failure. Their favored strategy is to strike at supply lines, starve the army, and then tear it to pieces by attrition through night raids, hit-and-run tactics, and traps. Their capitol city is on an unassailable lattice, reminiscent of a spider web, suspended over the entire Upper Ravine. This lattice allows free access between Northwall, Southwall, and the Ravine's floor.

Dwarf-Demons: Dwarf-Demons control the Middle Southwall: its surface, and the tunnel network stretching miles below it to connect to the Lower Ravine's floor. They are partial to trade and are... well, surly is putting it mildly. Especially since the Alliance's bold, if somewhat foolhardy, attempt to invade their territory over a century ago. A massive bridge spanning the entire Ravine, called the Bridge of Heavens, was magically constructed from what is now Bridgehead to arrive in the northeast corner of dwarf-demon territory. That turned out to be the easy part, and one of the swiftest deaths a Conqueror can suffer is to be assigned to the other end of the Bridge. The dwarf-demons have yet to retake that spit of land, but venturing any further into their territory is instant death. Some say this is because the magical defenses of the bridge hold them off. More pessimistic souls say that this is simply to draw more soldiers across and to their demise. Dwarf-demons are particularly reviled for their cowardly use of guns.

The Dukes of Fer: These rule what was once the Trovites' homeland on the Lower Southwall. There is no contact with them, but it is the dream of the Trovites to push the Conquest through to retake this nation and liberate it from the evils which drove them out so many centuries ago. It connects to the Lower Ravine by way of the Slave Road.

Gnome-Demons: Found atop Southwall between the dwarf-demons and the elf-demons, gnome-demons don't directly oppose the People, but cause much grief to the Tower in using their gems to buy the services of impure People as lackeys and dupes. Tempted by greed and confused by the Veil of Deception, these People erroneously attack the Conquest. The Conquest loathes fighting People, but are often forced to by the trickery of demons, and hates the demons for this more than anything. The gnome-demons are the epitome of such cowardly tactics.

The Sorcerous Guild: Mages. All of them. Every. Last. One. Soul-traitors, consorters-with-demons. The Guild bends its fell powers to helping weave the Veil of Deception, casting a web of lies concerning the non-existence of mages, to better hide among pure and honest folk. They are under sentence of death whenever identified and so convicted by trial. The preferred method of execution is giving them to Coreeme, in hopes She may salvage something of their souls.

The Order of Lacquer: A society of information gatherers, librarians, scholars, teachers, researchers, and the like, found throughout human (and Elven, Gnomish, and Dwarven lands). Once, they were welcomed in the Alliance, where they founded libraries and universities. Then their connections with the demon-god Undalomar "the Wise" and their alliance with the Sorcerous Guild were discovered, and the Order was banned in Alliance lands. Its property was reclaimed by the various Provinces and its members were forced to either convert or be exiled. Then, during the Conquest of Torrem, the local libraries were torn down and their dangerous books given to Coreeme for purification. This incensed the Order of Lacquer, and ever since they have been organizing as many enemies of the Tower as they can into an anti-Tower alliance.

King Pleidin the Fiery, of Sherem: Claiming to be the reincarnation of Saint Ormic (a blasphemous claim, as Ormic resides in the High Fifty along with all the other pure dead), King Pleidin is working to unite the Lower Ravine in opposition to the Conquest. While "uniting Sherem" rings much like "herding dire cats", he's been more successful than anyone has right to be. He has added significantly to the troubles of assimilating Torrem, launching raids to keep the Conquest off balance. The one time the Conquest actually managed to put together an army against him, he routed the army with few losses. Still, his striking range is limited. He is openly supported by both the Order of Lacquer, the Church of King Ormic, and the dwarf-demons, and is covertly supported by the Sorcerous Guild. Whether he is personally demonic, knowingly consorts with demons, or is just a dupe remains a matter of some debate within the Tower.

Druids: Though based south of the Dukes of Fer and cut off from the rest of the Ravine in national terms, the druids have individually spread throughout all the lands of Ravine. They worship demons without number, demons for every tree and rock and blade of grass, and the Inquisition is extremely frustrated with them... parly because they are fairly often decent, deceived people who know not what they do, but mostly because they are excellent infiltrators and provocateurs that care naught for borders or local governments. They routinely stir up the Fehlons and Wild Men, both of whom shelter them from punishment as if they were their own babes, and have some degree of influence among the Kork.

Prince Flemmet, Drake-Demon, the Beast of Jerrain: Flemmet rebelled against Maret's proper control of the Borderlands when the former joined the Alliance, taking Jerrain, city of dupes, with him; it is the only full city, anywhere, in open rebellion to the tower. Its location perched on the edge of High Lake and the Upper Ravine, the perfect base for an attack against both the gnome-demons and the elf-demons, makes taking it important. The fact that it is also positioned as the perfect base for an assault on the Ravine Road, without which Torrem and the Borderlands would be completely cut off from the rest of the Alliance, makes taking it vital. For these reasons, Jerrain has become the focus of the entire war. Gnome-, elf-, and dwarf-demons have all thrown open support behind it, as have the Order of Lacquer, most of the demon-gods, and many mages. Covertly, the Sorcerous Guild and the Druids also support them, and Flemmet coordinates with Pleidin on the opposite front. The Tower laid siege to the city three times. The first time, logistical troubles and a generally uprising of Torremian serfs forced the Conquest to break the siege and put down the revolt. The second time, a relief force of elf-demons, mages, and the revelation of Flemmet's own demonic nature broke the siege. (Until then, the Tower had assumed he was human.) A third siege has just been laid against Jerrain, and hopefully it will fair better than the last two.

Dragonkin: The Dragonkin are humans of the Lower Southwall that have gone beyond worship of demons. They have attempted to BECOME demons. Claiming drake-demon descent (which manifests in recessive, draconic traits among their ruling class), they then revel in the claim. They enslave the other humans of Lower Northwall, using them as brute labor, working them to death, raping them, killing them for sport, having them kill each other for sport, and then send slaving parties into the Lower Ravine and Alliance Lands for replacements. They are also superb infiltrators and spies, using their largely-human appearance and tendency towards sorcery to sneak into the most secure keeps and listen in on the most private conversations. They Are Up To Something, sitting back and watching, but no one in the Alliance has a clue as to what. Most of their lands are a thick, temperate rain forest that is utterly impossible for the Conquest to move through; reprisals for slaving runs fail just as miserably as rescue missions. Still, there is some good to them. Perhaps the only thing that keeps the Fehlon in the Alliance is that they hate the Dragonkin even more than they hate the Tower. The Dragonkin are also blood-enemies of elf-demons, gnome-demons, dwarf-demons, and druids, killing all of these at any opportunity. The rivalry of the dragonkin and the druids in particular knows no bounds -- in any nation which both operate (and there are few nations where both don't), they will skulk and feint through the shadows, each looking to penetrate the other's disguise and be the first to cut the foe's throat. Though the Tower is always pleased to have its enemies fighting one another, it has put the Alliance in an awkward position. Druids tend to learn of Dragonkin slaving parties in advance and often slip a warning in through their contacts. This not only leaves the Alliance in the druids' debt, but also endears the druids to many of the Alliance's citizens, the Fehlon especially. In the end, the whole mess is all just one more headache which the demons inflict upon the brow of the poor, suffering Tower. Most of the Tower believes that the Dragonkin are beyond redemption, but a few hold that they can be converted and purified.

2006-01-21, 05:35 PM
Standards and Measures: Though many of the individual cultures had their own ways of calculating distance, time, and so forth, the Tower's units are now in use everywhere in the Alliance save Torrem. Distance isn't entirely standardized but works for approximations. Short distance is measured as "arms", which break down into thirty six "knuckles". (These translate out of the language into yards and inches, and the DM may prefer the more familiar terms in gameplay.) Long distances are measured by "marches". The term refers to how far a person can travel in a day and is highly subjective. On open plains following a good road and for a healthy person, it is about twenty miles; in bad weather, difficult terrain, or for someone with a limp it becomes much shorter. Time is standardized by days, which break into the normal twenty-four hours made up of sixty minutes. There is a common calendar, but it is usually discarded in favor of local calendars, of which each culture has one of its own. The official calendar is solar, with a year of four hundred twelve days, and begins with the autumn equinox. Every eight year (leap years) the last day of the year is "leapt over", which is to say skipped. Every eighth leap year is also skipped, meaning multiples of 64 are treated as normal years. Seconds exist, but aren't in common use. Weeks are seven days long. Though originally based on the lunar phases, the present month is an abstraction, and months are twenty six days in length, except for the beginning of a season, when they are twenty five days in length. The Lom, Wild Men, Kork, Halfling, and Umos Fros cultures use lunar calendars instead, which makes conversion... difficult. The standard weight of the Alliance is the Stone, (which translates closely as pounds) and are divided into sixteen pebbles (ounces) or fifty marks. Though Trovite culture's number systems work around base 8 (they count the gaps between fingers, instead of the fingers themselves), all the other cultures work in base 10, as does the Alliance proper. Trovite numbering is positional (like our own Arabic system), but the other cultures and the Alliance proper uses a tally system (similar to Roman Numerals). Even simple multiplication is an extreme effort under the latter system, and this is responsible for a fair part of the Alliance's logistic troubles. Coinage is referred to as marks -- gold marks, silver marks, so forth. The coins are minted by an Alliance agency deriving authority from the individual Principals, and are standardized throughout allied lands. They are designed to be easily cut into halves and quarters, which are referred to as silver halves, gold quarters, and the like, though correct terminology adds the word mark for "copper half-mark", for example. The silver mark weighs a pebble (this is a major source of confusion to outsiders); the other marks are the same size, but different weights. Each mark is officially worth a tenth of the next more valuable mark; ten copper to a silver, ten silver to a gold, ten gold to a platinum.

2006-01-21, 05:38 PM
There. Done. You're all free to post in reply now without fear of interrupting me. Thanks for waiting. Since, you know, you obviously jumped on the thread the moment I started posting, read the whole thing in a matter of seconds, and were just brimming with replies after each post, yet magnanimously restrained yourself for the few minutes I took to post the rest.

2006-01-22, 03:23 PM
{So as to give people more time to read this...}


{I'll try to keep this up on the first page through Monday.}

2006-01-23, 12:08 AM

Two boots should be enough for anyone. I was going to make sure this stayed on the front page through Monday, but I think the time's come to toe the line, get instep, and call it to heel.

2006-01-23, 04:16 AM
I'm gonna read this later when I get the time but WOW that is a lot. Please be patient.