View Full Version : Aztec Morder - Evil, Sacrifices and Silly hats

2009-07-29, 10:38 PM
Ok, since people seemed to like the idea of Aztec Mordor, I present the basics of my setting. My primary intention here was to create a setting of suitable epicness for Book of Exalted Deeds goodies, but i've kept the term Exalted as a generic, so if you want to use the WW Exalted system, just squint.

The Valley:
The World:
Shiel is a world unlike most in the multiverse; the cosmic forces of Good are winning. The reason for this is actually the fault of Evil.

Almost a thousand years ago, in a time when many small kingdoms laid siege to one another and fought great battles over petty prizes, a small group of thinkers sought the power to end wars. They found a power, something to tap, a great ocean of power beyond their reckoning. Like fools, they tapped it.

What these pseudo-divinists had touched was the very essence of Evil itself; that which causes strife, breeds madness and poisons the hearts and bodies of men until they are something else entirely. Their quest to end war with this power led them to unite many of the petty nations into a great empire but all the while, their minds were poisoned by this darkness.

They grew more brutal as they went and soon, members of their order began to rail against one another. Cracks formed in their unity as ambition and drive took over from their previous goals.

Within a year, they had torn the lands to shreds, using magics that were unspeakable and methods that were so base that reality baulked against them. The ground in many places now blooms permanently with a kind of wildflower that is the only thing that can grow in locations that saw such horror. The people call it Perdition, though it is a sweet flower.
In time, men and beast arose from the teeming masses of the fearful. They were willing to stand up to those who held the powers of darkness and so they did; not with force of arms but force of something else.

They were Good. Not always kind, not always selfless, but they were Good. Hundreds of these paragons, backed with ever increasing vigour by the gods of good and many who converted in the hope of avoiding the creeping blackness of raw hate and misery that was creeping across the heavens.
Thousands of these souls died in the years and centuries that followed, but like a body fighting a bacteria, the world began to recover.

A thousand years after it began, the end seemed to be in sight, but one virtually forgotten wielder of the darkness remained and she had a plan.
Within a territory known as 'The Valley,' she intended to become more than a god; she intended to become Evil itself.

The Valley:
The location known as 'The Valley' by those outside and 'The World' by those inside (in regional dialects of course), is technically neither.

The nation (for want of a better word) is an inward sloping basin surrounded by mountains on all sides. The ring they form is almost perfectly circular, save a break in the southwest, the Gate of Damnation.

At the centre of this two hundred mile across basin is a great lake, into which all the myriad small rivers of the land drain into. The waters are still and relatively clear; the strange weather connected to them prevents the waters stagnating.

Upon an island and formation of stilts at the dead centre of the lake is the temple city of Quetzatl, the most noticeable feature of which is the vast ziggurat of the Witch-Queen.

The single most distinctive feature of the region is the weather; it almost never rains directly into the valley during the day, though it falls every night, yet there is a constant swirling cloud about a mile in diameter that remains above the temple city at all times. Every forty or so seconds, a bolt of lightning rises from the ziggurat and strikes the heavens through the eye of the storm. The colour varies from day to day and even from stroke to stroke at times.

The majority of the basin itself is either tight jungle, the kind with dense undergrowth and bamboo thickets rather than true rainforest, humid mangroves or carefully cared for farming land, a patchwork of paddy fields and grain.

Habitation that isn't the city tends to either be right on the lake's edge or at least fifteen miles from it; the lake is too good a food source to pass up but otherwise, people live father away to try to avoid the slave tithes.

The People:
The inhabitants of the Valley are a mixed bunch. Most of the worlds races are found at least to a small extent within the confines of this strange place. The vast majority of the population, however, is either human or orc.

The orcs are found mainly in Quetzatl itself; the young of orcish heritage are taken from their parents and treated well during their training for the military. At the age of fourteen, they are tested; those that pass are inducted into the military's leadership while those that fail are consigned to the slave pits with the majority of the humans.

Quetzatl orcs are renowned for their brutality and hatred. Part of this is because their training teaches them to hate and part of this is the fact that those that are not driven enough are treated far worse than the human slaves in the pens by their more successful orc masters.

Humans in Quetzatl itself are mostly kept in pens in preparation to be sacrificed. In many cases, they were not born there, though the turnover of slaves is so immense that it is perfectly possible for someone to spend their entire life on kitchen duties or temple maintenance without being sacrificed.
Outside of the city, the majority of orcs found are appointed overseers and their small chosen retinues, often made up of paired couples. The temperament of these sheriffs is highly varied, though as their primary form of punishment is to be sent to Quetzatl, they are still feared.

The majority of humans in this land aren't evil. Many of them are bound by very strong bonds of community, though they are horribly distrustful of strangers and would be more than happy to kill you to steel your shoes if it came to it. This attitude is a survival instinct; though their land is suffused by evil [see below], their makeup reacted by displacing and externalising all of their evil tendencies against those outside the clan. Strangers are enemies and possible agents of the Queen.

Habitation is found every few miles down the road. For such a deadly location, the living is pretty good with constant rain and rich soil. The plants may be ugly and their fruit a little bitter but the folk of the valley are masters of spices.

Village Life:
People in the valley live in small wooden houses that are raised from the ground and roofed with a mixture of straw, palm leaves and dung. The other buildings of the village are also noticeably raised from the valley floor, both to protect from the occasional flash floods and the other nasties that dwell on the floor of a jungle environment.

Each house tends to be Spartan inside, though the real trick is the walls. Though such actions are punishable by sacrifice, many of the locals cling to a shred of their original religion and install small golden glyphs dedicated to the sun god in the logs that make up their homes. This is intended to ward off undead, and it certainly works with the stupid ones.

Food, as previously mentioned, is mostly vegetables, though various jungle animals have to be hunted lest they destroy the crops and these are considered a treat. Their meat is usually cured to make a jerky-like substance called powmpowm.

The actual history of the region is not much different from the story that is told by the priests of the Witch-Queen [of Heaven]:

Life before the queen was not all that different from how it is now. The sacrifices were a standard part of life, as was the fear of raids. At the time, they were made to a god by the name of Huitzilopochtli, a vicious god of war and the sun.

One member of the clergy began to rise to prominence. She was beautiful and a gifted caller of divine power but the stories about her differ here. To the priests, she was a divinely inspired being sent by the gods to lead her people to new heights. To history, she was one of the last of a dying breed of Callers to the Dark, a channeller of the of the very essence of Evil, the raw power that underlies the planes of darkness in the great wheel.

She led a great crusade and while she was away, alterations were made to the ziggurat of the temple, basically burying the original in a new, much larger structure designed to retask the wasted power of the sacrifices made upon it.

The work was complete when she returned with more slaves from outside the valley than the people had ever seen and on that day, she bathed for the first time in the blood of a thousand sacrifices.

The reason for this is stated that she is cleansing herself in the leftovers of the god, but in actuality, this power is what has kept her young all this time, the power of unwillingly given blood.

This was about two hundred and fifty years ago. By the time she had returned from her crusade, she had already been joined by the Demonlord, a warlord of massive stature who helped her subjugate the giants, ogres and trolls of the kingdom. She then chose nine further warriors and challenged them to slay and take the skin of the beasts she summoned. They all succeeded and took the skins of devils to adorn themselves. What is not recorded is that the Witch-Queen recreated each of these men to be her unliving, never dying champions.

Since, the valley has become corrupted more and more by the sacrifices, which draw and control the forces of Evil with ever accumulating vigor. Now, despite outside forces having corrupted Huitzilopochtli into something other than he was, a being of actual, if not great, compassion, she is able to fuel her clergy from her own divine seed. Within a few months, her power will be unimaginable.

The Queen herself:
Discussing the queen of Quetzatl is difficult because even when she was a priest, her origins were cloudy. It seems that she was part of the forces of Darklord Harkazoné, one of the fractious leaders of the original group who decided to play for all the marbles. The reason for this supposition is that his defeat by the other darklords would have given her enough time to escape before the forces of Good began to spring up like daisies.

Now, she is seen each day, spending at least an hour at sunset bathing in the Pool of Sacrament, the great pool of sacrificial blood. The only way to sanely describe her is divine; she moves with too much grace for a mortal, is too beautiful for sanity and far, far too strong, both physically and spiritually.
Despite being Evil [the capitol is to ensure that we aren't talking Hitler evil here], she is completely lucid and more or less sane, though it becomes difficult to measure such things when total domination of her plane is within reach.

The hardest thing to grasp with the Queen is, though her behaviour is almost absurdly unpleasant at times, it isn't actually worse than her fellows. She has an advantage in scale rather than viciousness. The ease with which she puts whole tribes of people to death under her watchful eye is not jaded disinterest, it is that her soul has actually lost the need to drown her intrinsic disgust at ending the life of another with pleasure or coldness, in the same way that evil gods stand on a different scale to mortal despots, she holds herself proudly above even these petty sensibilities.

In many ways, she is genuinely beyond good and evil; she is now in the realm of Good and Evil, the balance of that which benefits and that which harms.

The Military:
Given the number of sacrifices made daily, one would be forgiven for thinking that the army of Quetzatl would be small. In truth, it outnumbers the population of the valley several times over.

Stood beneath the lake itself and the many swamps and pools of the valley, are ranks of thousands upon thousands of undead warriors, most created by the queen herself or her high priests. The majority of these soldiers are anointed Legionaries and armed zombies of lesser types. Other creations include skeletal constructs that combine all of the features of both chariots and their horses and the terrifying skeletal archers, whose missed shots are as deadly as their accurate ones.

These soldiers are led into battle and coordinated by the yelled commands of orc officers or those of intelligent undead. Orcs are spread relatively thin, producing elite units and unit commanders; there simply aren't enough to form regiments sufficient to be noticeable in the whole.

The ultimate weapons of the army are the priests of the queen and the Couatls. The priests make the undead soldiers more powerful by their presence and can tap into the elemental evil of the valley to fuel their spells with the will of the Queen. The couatls aren't actually couatls but modified wyvrens created by the queen to serve as figureheads. They are dangerous in their own right and are ridden either by powerful priests or by the various knights of the queen.

The Knights:
The knights are named for the beast they adorn themselves with and are ordered as follows: the Human Knights, the Scale Knights, the Exalted Knights and the Demon Knights.

The Human Knights are the lowest ranked order and consist of all the elite orcs of the kingdom that haven't been promoted higher. To attain this rank, one must slay a human and take his skin.

Scale Knights have successfully slain some form of dragon, usually one of the younger metallic dragons of the forces of the outside. Membership does not require single combat, but they must have led the force and landed the final blow. Scale knights are often mounted on couatls and have a tendency to use powerful bows. Those amongst the order that are Giants are usually masters of throwing rocks from their time hunting the wyrms of the outside.

The Exalted Knights are not Exalted by the gods or even the queen; she reserves such emotion for the demon knights. No, their title is bestowed by the shimmering skin that they adorn themselves with, that of an Exalted champion of Good itself. The greatest generals and warriors without peer, Exalted Knights are a mixed bag, some are even more powerful than the Demon knights.

The final circle consists of nine basically identical beings, individuals who ritually slew demons in single combat at the queen's behest. Each is powerful and in numbers, they seem to become more so. Each has been slain many times but still they remain, eternal servants of the queen.

The apex of the hierarchy, the ultimate leader of the armies of the valley, is the Demonlord. No-one knows of his origin, but his giant golden armoured form and cloak of swirling darkness has been coated in the blood of more heroes that can be counted.

Forlorn Hope:
With all of the gods on a slow backfoot, despite the growing dominance of good in the world, the free peoples began to cast about in search of the cause and the evil.

Knowing that a full assault through the Gates of Death was doomed to failure, the leaders of the nation gathered the entire handful of true Exalted that they could find and split them into small groups. These brave, pure souls agreed readily to sacrifice their lives in a multidirectional assault on the valley through the many less hospitable routes through the mountains.
They knew that it was suicide and they knew that it was the last hope of the world and they knew which they preferred to preserve. One thing that helped balance the minds of these champions was the number of people who volunteered for the equally suicidal feint to allow them access.

More than one hundred thousand free people volunteered for the assault on the Gates of Death to draw the attention of the queen and her more powerful minions to allow the teams to strike deep into the land before they were discovered and hunted in earnest.

Now, only time will tell whether hope and love can be preserved.

The background states that there are multiple teams. Does this mean that the world could be saved without the PCs?
Short answer; no.
Longer answer; the other characters are there for a number of reasons. The most important is for reasons of balance. No matter how powerful the PCs are, were they the only team, they would be rapidly hunted down. They would be pinned in one location by incalculable numbers of undead and then obliterated the moment the Demonlord and some of the high priests showed up. The other teams act as an excuse for the full and crushing might of the armies of the valley to seem a little incompetent as their attention is divided.
Secondly, they act as a useful excuse to introduce new characters. If a new player needs to join the group, have the PCs stumble across him, half dead and babbling. Once they heal him up, the character spins a ripping tale about being part of a group wiped out by superior numbers or simply overpowering foes.
Third, it gives flesh to the setting. If the PCs were genuinely the only Exalted in the setting, it would be a little silly.

Please, feel Free to do as you wish with this, but please, share the good ideas with everyone [especially me]!