Saturday, March 21, 2009

Kingdoms of the Old World

Though the action of the campaign is likely to center on the colonies for a long while, PCs need to come from somewhere. Thus I have cribbed from the story bible of a writing project I am working on to present players some homeland options. Nothing too detailed, but enough, perhaps, to provide some background hooks and context for the factions that may be at work in the New World.

Brussia is a sprawling empire that covers much of the mainland east of the Gaelian Islands. It consists of a number of smaller kingdoms and frontier protectorates which have been assimilated into the dominant Brussian empire over several centuries of aggressive military and economic expansion. The core of the empire is Brussia proper, a mountainous land of deep mountain lakes, forboding forests of fir and black oak, and fertile valleys well-suited for grain crops. The Bern River runs through central Brussia, linking its landlocked towns with the coastal cities.

Brussians are a no-nonsense and law-abiding folk who place great stock in reliability, submission to authority, and attention to detail. Ironically, they are also as a people quite proud and aggressive, and prone to turning on their rulers if not provided constant enemies beyond Brussia’s borders upon which to focus their ire. As a result, Brussia has a long history of attacking its neighbors.

The Periphery Kingdoms
Countering the might of Brussia are a number of smaller neighboring kingdoms. Many of these are little more than fortified city states, but a few span hundreds of miles or several islands. When unified, they pose a significant threat to Brussia’s exposed flanks, but separately only Gaelia, the most powerful of the Periphery Kingdoms, can hope to stand against the might of Brussia’s war rockets and countless soldiers.

Gaelia is a large mountainous island with a rocky coast and a daunting but breathtakingly beautiful interior. Rendered unusually mild due to its exposure to a warm ocean stream striking its western shores, Gaelia is a green lush land dominated by limestone karst towers and ravines, thick tangles of kudzu, various palm plants, and oak and cyprus trees festooned with spanish moss.

Many streams in the interior bubble through gorges and gullies, but few remain above for long, instead gathering in mossy pools before draining back underground. Only as they near the coast do they re-emerge for good, gathering into narrow and fast-moving rivers. Two prominent rivers in Gaelia—the Wheys and the Timberwil, wend their way through the karst towers, linking the lakes and swamps into a single network.

Because communities were quite isolated in the centuries before flight, all Gaelians have a streak of independence and self-reliance. Few of its kings have commanded anything like the raw power of a Brussian kaiser. Until quite recently in its history, in fact, Gaelia was a confederation of citystates and petty kingdoms. To this day, ancient noble families enjoy a certain independence from their liege in the day-to-day affairs of their baronies.

Most of Gaelia’s settlements are along the coasts. The mountainous interior, dominated by the Kirkwall mountain range, is claimed by the clans that once dominated the fertile southern plains. They were driven into less hospitable regions by waves of Braveau raiders and settlers superior in arms and number. Even now, generations later, they have little love for the lowlanders or laws of the king.

The lawless Kirkwall Marches have long been infamous for their highway robbers, sheep thieves, and bordertown raiders, Most of the infamous thieves and adventurers of dubious quality in Gaelian tales are of the Kirkwall clans.

Though they prefer their own culture to that of the dominant Gaelians, they are not backward men, and are quick to adopt new weapons of offense and defense.

The great number of underground streams, eating away at the limestone over the centuries, have impacted the terrain. There are many natural cave networks in the highlands. Several of these have collapsed in broad depressions and flooded, forming broad stretches of swampland.

Iona is a small island off the coast of Gaelia. Sheltered by the Bay of Barclave and outlying islands, it has long served as home to the Gaelian Senshi order. For centuries, the convent was supported by a small village, whose people fish and herd sheep over the island’s rocky interior flatlands.

During the 30 Years War the convent was sacked by Brussian invaders and fortified as a forward base. The convent was rebuilt after the war, but little remains of its wondrous gardens, inspiring stained glass windows or ancient library. The village has not been restored, and the Senshi sisters subside largely on their own efforts and occasional shipments from the mainland.The convent is in decline, but this is largely due to a lack of support from the Gaelian Crown and the collapse of the order’s homeland in Braveau. A recent delegation of Senshi brothers from Sergassio have taken residence at Iona to shore up its flagging economy.

Braveau is a mild land of gently rolling hills and river valleys. To the north and west, the land begins to swell into hillocks and swales that are the precursors of the Vetican Alps. It is known for its fine wines, clockworks, and flower trade.

Braveau was cursed with three generations of inept but well-guarded kings, the last of whom surrendered his army unblooded to Brussia early in the 30 Years War, though his people were eager to fight. He tragically fell down the stairs of the palace soon after, and though rumored to be on the mend, died a few days later in his sleep.

Braveau’s new figurehead ruler, King Alfones, is not popular among the people, and as Brussia tightens its grip, the nobles who remain in power fear open revolt. Two of the King’s forests have burned in recent years.

Vetica is a small land of towering mountains and deep valleys. Its hardy people produce very fine cheeses, leather goods, and wool. They are also excellent miners and breeders—Vetica's powerful and fearless steeds are in high demand among the nobility of neighboring kingdoms.

Because its mountain passes close early each year, Vetica has not yet been absorbed by Brussia. Its robust army may also have something to do with it as well. One of Vetica’s most famous exports are its mercenaries.

The Vetican Alps are the traditional home of the Selvic Gnomes, and they are a common sight in its fellowships and towns. The Senshi Order is headquartered in Vetica. Its retreats are hidden in mountain fasts far from Brussian eyes.

Sergassian League
The Sergassian League is a confederation of trading houses located on a series of island chains in the Sergassio Sea. Caperbaum, Benita, and other port towns were long haven for pirates, drawn to the area due to deep and protected harbors, the ruins of ancient Sûrian ziggurats to build upon, and proximity to shipping lanes.

Grown wealthy due to their successful raiding, the pirate clans gradually transitioned into the more lawful pursuit of trade. They have not yet shaken the black mark of their past deeds, however, and their trade lords are only begrudgingly accepted in polite society.

League towns are colorful settlements of white adobe, blue roofs, and citrus groves. Built on the foundations of ancient Sûr cities, some buildings extend down into underground vaults and galleries craved out of the coral and volcanic bedrock. Not all of the vaults described in surviving scrolls have been found, and it’s said that brass temples dedicated to the malefic jinn still lie beneath the humming markets, filled with cursed gold, the talking Golan metal heads the shadowmages used to communicate with their masters, and fell guardians. The Fellstaff clerical order keeps watch on these ruins and studies its history and artifacts.

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