Sneak Preview – Dremasque

This is a sneak preview of the kingdom of Dremasque. We thought players would be interested in seeing cultures and kingdoms as we work on them. As with all Sneak Previews, details may change over time.

Dremasque

Introduction

The nobles of Dremasque are a sight to behold. To say their clothing is theatrical is an understatement; the Dremas favor intricate, often flowing outfits with rich patterned fabrics that are anything but understated. The most common dress uses bold patterns and colors in designs that evoke perhaps Carnival more than High Court.

Some romantics from far-away lands imagine Dremasque to be a happy kingdom full of celebration that befits the outfits of its nobility. The truth is that the nobles of Dremasque struggle with Madness. Since the inception of the kingdom, the nobles have carried the divine and cursed blood of the dead god Xerelos; a lasting legacy and gift to the living before the Mad God faced his destruction and laughed.

To be a noble of Dremasque is to always search for and strive to maintain Lucidity. The mental task is constant. Nobles seem distracted because they are carrying on two conversations; one to understand meaning as common folk do, and another to listen for signs of Madness in themselves and, by habit, in those around them. This can make the nobles seem enigmatic and not a little bit intense as they scrutinize speech and body language for inconsistencies and illogical clues or signs.

Madness in the nobles of Dremasque is an unnatural curse. It manifests most often as intense, unwarranted raw emotion. Anger, Love, Sorrow, Guilt, Jealousy; the list of emotions is as varied as the nobles themselves. The noble is inundated with this unwanted emotion, and the natural reaction is to project this feeling in their state of Madness onto someone around them.

Succumbing to Madness and projecting this emotion onto another is called Personification. The noble taken by Madness will seek out another and unwillingly attach all that emotion to the unfortunate target. The target is always someone the noble recognizes and knows well; it is virtually unheard of for a noble to personify an individual that they do not know well enough to feel at least a passing emotion towards.

All nobles adopt a focus when they are young; some well-known and comfortable object they can handle and concentrate on to strengthen their Lucidity. Toys, figurines, marbles, gems, rings, and all manner of small, easily carried objects are used. Nobles generally carry their focus everywhere, its touch can help them center and maintain Lucidity.

The nobles of Dremasque fall into three groups. The Delirium Lords take the role of nobles as those of other kingdoms imagine them. They are kings and generals and courtiers. The Joy-Eaters tend to the Madness. When a noble shows signs of Madness, the Joy-Eaters will come and consume the Madness, cleansing the noble and infecting their own Dreams with those dark thoughts. While effective, this eventually fragments and destroys the personality of the Joy-Eater. The final group consists of nobles from the dreaded Black Masque. These assassins hunt both enemies of Dremasque and those nobles who prove too unreliable despite their pursuit of Lucidity.

The common folk are known as the Dust-folk. The wear gray and wear hoods in the presence of the nobles. The Dust-folk of Dremasque are not subject to the Madness; they lack the divine blood that curses the nobility. There are rare cases where Personification has caused a noble to lash out at them, so they have adopted dress and demeanor which allows them to hide their faces and step under the notice of nobles in the event that Madness should take them.

In the earliest days, before the extent of Xerelos’ Gift was known, the Black Masque was formed from common folk who had no noble blood. Their task was to hunt down, and if necessary, capture nobles who had succumbed to Madness. Only in extreme cases were the nobles killed. The nobles that were thought to be susceptible to Xerelos’ Gift were marked by the Black Masque; made to wear bright colors and a mask as a warning to others that they were cursed. The Joy-Eaters would be formed by those who sought to cure them, or at least relieve their Madness.

Other kingdoms were not as understanding. Those inflicted with the Gift of Xerelos were outlawed and hunted and killed. At first the Black Masque protected and hid the nobles, gathering them together in what would eventually be Dremasque. In time these nobles, with the help of the Joy-Eaters, developed the techniques and discipline to maintain Lucidity and fight the oncoming rush of Madness. They would not be hunted like dogs. The nobles trained for war. Dremasque was formed, and the Dremas made examples of the bounty hunters and assassins that sought them out. They embraced these colorful outfits and exaggerated them. Wearing their bright colors was no longer a mark of shame; instead it became a warning, and Dremasque learned that their mad nobles were a threat; both disturbing and threatening.

Costuming

The Delirium Lords are the most numerous of the Dremasque nobles. They favor carnival-like clothing with vivid, brightly colored patterns, wrapping their true natures and emotions in a façade of pageantry. Although their clothes are rich and tend to be flowing, each has a pattern that acts almost as heraldry to them. They enjoy coats and cloaks and surcoats that other nobles might wear, but designed in harlequin fashion. A few Delirium Lords favor patterns of black and white, relying on contrast to warn others of their nature.

The Joy-Eaters stand in stark contrast with their colorful brethren. These lords and ladies dress almost entirely in white. Their outfits are rich and patterned as any noble outfit might be, but they are either entirely drained of color, or their outfits have the palest hint or tracing of subtle color to complement the stark snow-like visage. Even their masks or face-paint are white, though they do sometimes incorporate colorless yet sparkling gems into their outfits.

The Black Masque are the least numerous of the lords and ladies of Dremasque. Although the carry themselves as nobles, the Black Masque are in reality well trained assassins and slayers. The Black Masque dress in rich and patterned clothing that is entirely black, complete with jet black masks or paint to change the features of their faces. Even their patterned clothing is black on black.

The common folk wear gray and generally wear mantled hoods which they keep up to hide their faces from the nobles. It is said that some nobles have enjoyed the services of trusted and beloved servants for years without ever seeing their faces.

Roleplaying

As a noble of Dremasque, you may never succumb to Madness. Nobles have generations worth of training to strengthen their resolve. Lucidity becomes more difficult to maintain, however, if some great and personal tragedy befalls a noble of Dremasque. When there is great and unexpected sorrow or rage, a noble of Dremasque has a harder time maintaining Lucidity. When this happens you have more freedom to dance at the edge of Madness, at least until others try to bring you back from that path.

Personification occurs with other individuals that you know well. Without familiarity, this process doesn’t take place. This means that traveling nobles don’t need to worry, if they succumb to Madness, that they will strike out at strangers. Because of this, nobles who become too close to specific people from other kingdoms will share that fact with a Joy-Eater so steps can be taken if the worst happens.

Noble do not generally fly into Madness with no warning; one or more of these signs precede the grip of Madness:

One sign is Phobia; the noble will show some unusual reservation or concern over something that seems trivial. Some nobles maintain a consistent set of phobia that manifest when they are closer to Madness, while some while have different phobias each time.

Another sign is Fascination; the noble will become irrationally fascinated or interested in some topic, effect, or being and will be distracted by thoughts of this fascination, and attracted to whatever fascinates them.

There is also the sign of Habit; the noble will develop some habit that might not normally be seen. This can be subtle; a facial expression that is used even when the situation doesn’t warrant it; a turn of phrase that is used or even overused in places that seem inappropriate or nonsensical, or the like.

Joy-Eaters

Joy-Eaters seek out those who flirt with Madness, and those who have fallen into that deep pool too fully after some tragedy befalls them. Their goal is to talk down the noble; to help them concentrate on their focus and use whatever personal bonds they have formed to help the noble maintain or renew their own Lucidity.

If that process fails, Joy-Eaters are trained with the ability to consume Madness, drawing it into their dreams and cleansing a noble who has fallen. If a noble makes the roleplaying decision to succumb to Madness, a Joy-Eater can, at great cost to themselves, end that Madness.

If you are playing a Joy-Eater, the vast majority of the time you will use role play to help nobles regain Lucidity. If some tragedy has sent a noble too far into Madness, and your calming words are not working, you can attempt to consume their Madness directly. Once you realize that the Madness is so powerful that the noble is not responding to your efforts, and you have spent at least one minute of role play trying to bring the recipient back towards Lucidity, spend at least 10 additional seconds of focus, talking to the recipient to reach into their mind and their Madness. Meet their gaze and call out “By My Gaze, Imbue Lucidity” to consume the Madness. If the noble you are cleansing role plays the effect and becomes Lucid, then your effort worked but you pay a heavy price. The process of consuming the Madness will, after the event ends, permanently destroy one of your Character Points as your dreams and personality begin to fragment.

If this occurs, submit the process to plot and a brief description of the role play after the event ends. Destroyed character points do not reduce the character point maximum for your character; you can earn them back normally.

If a Joy-Eater consumes too much Madness, their personality will completely unravel. If this happens to you, then you would be asked to redesign your character’s personality and, to an extent, your skill set. You do not lose campaign knowledge, but the emotions involved in your relationships are destroyed, and your memories of friends and enemies becomes vague and dreamlike; lacking any real power over you. Your skills also change; your character points are freed and you re-spend your character points as you see fit to reflect this fracturing.

Some of the most powerful Joy-Eaters can, with great effort, empower those who travel with them to consume Madness for a time without fracturing their own psyche. Although uncommon and expensive to prepare, there have been instances where leaders or teachers among the Joy-Eaters have worked enchantments and empowered Joy-Eater to go forth and fix particularly dire situations.

~ Seek Lucidity always.

~ To be reveal yourself to someone, without the protection of a mask or paint, is rare and intimate.

~ Madness can come at any time. Remember this.

~ If Madness comes seek the White before the Black; the Joy-Eaters will pay the price to restore your Lucidity.

~ Hope the Black never turns its mask to you.

~ Look for Madness, but realize that folk from other kingdoms often carry in their conversations inconsistencies, undue emotion, and fallacies.

~ As a Nobles you already carry divine blood as a curse; do not seek the favor of gods that might be touched by your bloodline.

Religion

The Dust-folk follow a great many religions. Nobles do not follow religions at all; they are cursed by a divine bloodline already and see themselves as too tainted to be touched by divine beings or spirits. Nobles who become practitioners of divine magic must do so in secret; if their devotion is revealed the Black Masque will come for them.

Magic

All manner of Arcane magic is practiced by the folk of Dremasque. Two unusual types of magic are found in Dremasque, however. First some of the common folk and lesser nobles practice an unusual form of tinkering where they create geared toys and devices. Some of these are said to carry magic, though that is rare. Second, the folk of Dremasque have a fondness for porcelain dolls, and almost all alabaster Animus trace their origins to Dremasque.

Society

The nature of the curse of Dremasque dissuades the kingdom from having large noble houses. There have been many houses that have splintered when Madness has caused nobles to split from the house and seek to establish their own house. As a result, there are many small houses in Dremasque, and no large houses.

Dremasque is ruled by an individual called the Harlequin King. The Harlequin King is currently from House Sorrowdance, and has ruled Dremasque for almost a decade. To understand the Harlequin King and his court, one must understand that the Gift of Xerelos is vastly intensified for any who hold this title. As such, there have been many Harlequin Kings and many Harlequin Queens.

The Harlequin King has a large court and is attended by a number of Joy-Eaters. The court also is well attended by the Black Masque, who watch not only the Harlequin King but also guard against Joy-Eaters who have dined too deeply on the King’s Madness. Courtiers from all the houses attend court to settle all manner of slights, oaths, and consequences from nobles who have succumbed to Madness.

There are many houses in attendance, and some of the more notable houses include House Shadowjest, House Felgrin, House Dreadbell, House Foolhardy, House Razorsmile, House Twist, House Venomdove, House Madmantle, House Vertigo, House Indigo, House Carousel, House Bloodpuppet, House Blackjack, and House Killjoke.

The Gift of Xerelos has not only taken root in humans; there are other races in Dremasque, and some houses are almost entirely Elven. House Blackjack, House Carousel and House Dreadbell are ruled by elves. House Bloodpuppet is ruled by Undying nobles and most of their number are some type of Undying.

Regions

The center of Dremasque is dominated by a vast swamp. Strange towers and fortresses rise from its depth, and it is here that the nobles of Dremasque first took refuge and hid from the world. There are many raised pathways and roads made from stone and wood that traverse the swamp and connect the various Houses that dwell in these places. All manner of creatures are said to wander this swamp. Although the lizardfolk of the area maintain a truce with Dremasque, those who wander from the protected roads are fair game for the lizardfolk.

The eastern border of Dremasque rises from the swamp and roads lead to the Webbed Way. This pass through the mountains leads to the Silken Way, and the nobles that enjoy trade can acquire that kingdom’s excellent silk to use in a variety of crafts; from clothing to tents. The western border of Dremasque fades into the Grimleaf, an ancient and dangerous forest.

The southern border of Dremasque rises into rolling hills and has been more recently settled now that Dremasque has the strength to guard against those who seek to kill their nobles. It contains a number of towns nestled in the high hills, and provides a number of good vineyards for making a strong indigo wine that is unique to Dremasque called the Embrace. The wine is prized not only for its taste and potency, but also because it sometimes contains magic.

The northern border of Dremasque fades into broken land and jagged hills that are the home of a number of Hobgoblin clans. Although there is no open warfare between Dremasque and these clan, sometimes the Hobgoblins do venture into the swamps to rob and raid travelers.

It is rumored that those who have become lost in the swamp and lived have seen hidden in its interior a vast tower of crystal, though no one has been able to substantiate this claim or enter this place. Who or what lives in such a place is a mystery.

People

The Harlequin King – he gave up his birth name, as is custom, when he ascended the throne, and as noted above has ruled Dremasque for almost a decade. He favors classic black and white patterns, and his Queen often dresses as his mirror. Proof that the Dremas are often warriors along with everything else, he chooses to lead his elite forces himself, and is a terror on the battlefield.

The Emerald Baroness – Principal Joy Eater to the Harlequin Court. Once a serious woman who was married to her job, over the years she has dined much on Madness and is now one of the court’s silliest gossips. In crisis, however, she has been known to revert to the woman she once was, and carries out her office quite effectively.

Friends of Marjorie – Two siblings, who are almost never seen without the other. One dresses in white and the other black, though those who have known them a long time swear that sometimes they switch. Ruthless hunters both, they are the ones called to find targets that no-one else can seem to find.

Impresario – An elf of House Indigo, Impresario prides themself on acquiring and cultivating the finest talents in Areune, bringing all to Dremasque to amuse the nobles of its court. A mage as well as a musician, Impresario is always travelling in hopes of finding their next great discovery.

Sneak Preview – Winterspire

This is a sneak preview of the kingdom of Winterspire. We thought players would be interested in seeing cultures and kingdoms as we work on them. As with all Sneak Previews, details may change over time.

Winterspire

Introduction

Towering in the center of Winterspire is the Spire of Ice, and the history of the area has revolved around this strange and powerful monolith.  This crystalline obelisk stands in the center of the country, radiating both magic and intense cold. Some types of magic spells and enchantments are enhanced and often changed in its presence. The Spire of Ice also manifests zones of cold and magic in the forests of the land, and those who brave those areas and survive the trials found there can gain magical auras and boons from the Spire. The area has a number of factions that have historically fought over control of the Spire and its environs.

The rulership and safety of Winterspire is largely in the hands of a knightly order called the Knights of Winter. Although the order was formed in response to the raids of the orcs of the region, twenty years ago the knights marched into Winterspire, drove back the orc clans, and took control of the Spire of Ice and the lands around it. The Winterspire King, Kylan Argales, was elevated by the captains of the order and has ruled Winterspire since that war.

The king’s stronghold, the Coruscating Hold, is a fortress of white stone and ice that overlooks the Spire. It is the capital of Winterspire, and it is the home of the Knights of Winter. Although the intense cold of the Spire of Ice prevents the area immediately around it from being fortified or settled, the Knights guard the Spire and the lands around it.

The Snowcrown Elves inhabit the forests east of the great river. Allies of the Knights of Winter, the elves aided the Winterspire King in his war to take the Spire of Ice from the orcs who held the land and drank from its power. They are, these days, few in number but their lords and ladies are allowed to visit the Spire of Ice as they did in the old days. In return for their aid, the Winterspire King proclaimed that all land from the river to the sea would be theirs.

The forests of the north are held by the Frostrime Clan of orcs, the last and strongest clan in Winterspire. The Frostrime Clan once held the Spire of Ice, and grew numerous and powerful enough that their raiding was a serious threat to the southern kingdoms. Although they lost the war with the Knights of Winter and the Snowcrown Elves, the clan was not destroyed but rather driven into the northern forests, sustaining heavy casualties, and away from the Spire of Ice. They have, in the time since the war, built forts and halls in the northern part of Winterspire where they hunt.

The Frostrime orcs have an uneasy truce, for the most part, with the Winterspire King. Old hatreds occasionally flare up as incidents of violence, but there is no ongoing war in Winterspire. As part of the truce the Coruscating Hold will feast with the Frostrime clanlords in some neutral place, but the orcs are not allowed to approach the Spire of Ice and drink in its power as they once did. The Spire of Ice changed the orcs physically and made them stronger, at least for a time, and King Argales is concerned that they would be driven to war once again if they were allowed to draw from the Spire.

Costuming

The Knights of Winter wear white and silver, even when they are armored, and they are generally layered against the cold. Sensible and warm garb of linen, wool, and leather is common, including collared shirts, long surcoats, and cloaks. The original order of knights were drawn from many different countries, so some Knights still favor styles of their original kingdom, though they still tend to wear those styles in whites, greys, and silvers. One common practice the knights have adopted is, not surprisingly, wearing white fur trim. Many of the Knights are heavily armored, although there are some Knights that invoke cold and ice through their weapons and instead armor themselves in magic.

The commonfolk of Winterspire tend to dress in wool and leather during the winter months, and they use simple linen clothing during the summer months if they are far enough away from the Spire of Ice that the seasons turn away from winter.

The Snowcrown elves have been changed by the Spire and its influence on the land. Their skin in more pale that usual, with white or frost gray lips, and their faces are marked with wide white, grey, or silver stripes of ice. Their skin sparkles with ice. They favor long flowing clothes of gray or white, though some will also incorporate light and pale greens, blues, or violets.

The Frostrime orcs are almost all dark or light gray; the Spire has washed the brown or tan from their skin. They wear various combinations of leather, chain mail, and fur over warm linen clothing. They favor natural colors, and many wear white because their environment often favors that color. Their outfits have been described as barbaric or savage looking by visitors. Orc shamans tend to wear robes.

The Frostrime Clan has recently expanded, and now includes among its number many Wolf Shoathri. These newest members were once drawn into the control of a great beast called Kenninir. When that beast, a child of Wyrlok, was slain by one of the warlords of Khoros many of the Shoathri that were once under his control left Khoros and joined the Frostrime.

Roleplaying

As Winterspire:

~ Be wary, for though the wise King Argales has made peace with the orcs, they hunger for the Spire of Ice still. Remember their raids and violent attacks on the southern kingdoms.

~ Be prepared for storms, both from the weather and from the potential enemies around us. We cannot know how long the peace will last, or when the Spire will send down winter storms upon us.

~ When winter comes unexpectedly to the forests nearby lock your doors, and expect any manner of strange creature to be roaming the storms.

As Snowcrown Elves

Like all elves, the Snowcrown Elves were profoundly affected by the Fading, when in ancient days all the elves in the kingdoms of their kind simply disappeared, never to be heard from again. The Snowcrown Elves came before the Spire of Ice and drank its power rather than joining the Faded Elves and forgetting the song of the Faerie Realm.

~ The song of the Faerie Realm has faded from the world. Rather than huddling before the remaining Fae lords and ladies, or becoming one of the Faded Elves, seize your own destiny and drawn on the power of cold and ice by calling on the magic of the Spire of Ice.

~ The war with the Orcs has been long and bitter. Be wary, for they are only driven back and the day will come when they will spill forth once again.

~ Do not forsake or forget the arts of the ancient days. Without our songs and crafts we risk forgetting what it means to be Elven. Whether you practice the way of war or the art of magic, you are remembered by the arts which you preserve.

~ There is a song in the whistling winter winds, if you know how to listen.

As Frostrime Clan Orcs

Since the Sojourn, the Frostrime Orcs have searched for a hunting ground to call their own. The lands of Winterspire have served them well, but as they begin to grow in numbers the northern hunting becomes strained. The shamans still thirst for the cold of the Spire, and in time the Frostrime warchiefs know they will have to either take this land or find a new land to hunt.

~ Respect those with strength and ferocity.

~ Do not show weakness. This land consumes those who are weak.

~ You are Frostrime. Ice and cold are in your nature now.

~ The shamans still dream of the Spire of Ice. The humans and their knights have earned that land through honorable warfare, but if they show weakness they do not deserve that land or the magic of the Spire.

~ The Wolves are now our kin, but there are many mouths to feed and in time the hunts may not be sufficient.

As Frostrime Clan Wolf Shoathri

~ The voice of Wyrlok can enslave you. Beware of any who follow that Beast.

~ The Frostrime Clan took you in. Remember their decision to accept you as kin.

~ Your wild nature demands that you be free.

~ The lone wolf dies too easily. Remember your pack.

Religion

The Pale is common in Winterspire. When the Knights first marched north to stop the Frostrime Clan from raiding, it was thought that perhaps the Spire was some ancient Pale artifact or the remains of a grove. A great many druids traveled with the Knights during the war, and even though they found nothing about the Spire that specifically empowers them or the Grey tree, their influence remains. Other religions can also be found among the people of Winterspire, though it is unusual for the Frostfire Elves to stray from the Pale and follow other paths of religion.

The Frostrime Clan has a number of shamans who act as advisors and aid the clan with magic. Other religions are not forbidden, but they are rare and some of the more brutish shamans question the strength of those of other faiths.

Magic

The Spire of Ice not only radiates cold, but it calls forth ice and cold in the magic of those who dwell in Winterspire. Knights that are Paladins find, after some time, that they call forth ice and cold instead of light when they use their abilities. Those skilled in Primal or Weald magics likewise find that it is easier to use their magic as cold or ice than to call other magical energies.

Society

The royal house of Winterspire and all its noble houses were originally captains and Knights-Errant in the Knights of Winter during the war. The king rules with kind and – most agree – wise words, preferring to seek peace with his enemies and to set aside conflicts rather than starting them. His lords and ladies are all capable in both war and survival, and they meet in the great hall of the Coruscating Keep to advise the king.

The noble families of Winterspire include the royal line of Argales, House Gentris, House Candlos, House Trase, House Dlavric, and House Forlost.

Snowcrown Elves – The war between the Snowcrown Elves and the orcs that came to Winterspire spans centuries, all the way back to an event the elves call the Insurgence, when the orcs came to these lands. The Snowcrown Elves lost their original royal line when the king and his two sons were killed in the war with the Frostrime Clan over one hundred years ago. The war turned against them when a mysterious figure called the White Raven taught the orcs how to draw power directly from the Spire of Ice, and that magic increased the strength of the orcs.

The current Queen is the only heir of the new royal house, House Valais. Queen Selil is young, having originally lost both of her parents before she reached the age of rule. Her mother, Caldisil, was a warrior and mage-scholar, and it is said she found secret knowledge about the Fading. She left Winterspire for, she promised, one moon to pursue the lead. The cycle of the moon came and went, and although her husband and daughter awaited her return she was never seen again. King Felthrim succumbed to a mysterious illness not long after she failed to return, leaving the young Selil unexpectedly on the throne.

Although fewer in number than many cultures, the houses of the Snowcrown elves include the royal house of Valais, House Greenbough, House Farflight, House Ilythis, and House Kellyr.

Frostrime Orcs – The orcs that dwell in Winterspire were once more numerous, and many clans populated the lands. They came to Winterspire during an event the orcs now call the Sojourn, which, if the tales are true, brought the orcs to this land. Their number, and their tendency towards aggression, set them into a long war with the Snowcrown Elves which stood deadlocked for centuries.

The orcs grew in power when a great wizard named the White Raven taught the shaman of the Frostrime Clan to draw magic and strength from the Spire of Ice. With this knowledge the Warlord of the Frostrime, Drucos Thricecut, united the numerous clans under his banner. The orcs grew in power, and not only did they defeat the Snowcrown Elves but they settled the coast and built ships to raid southern shores. The orcs are proud, and although they have a truce with the Knights of Winter, their loss of the war and the magic of the Spire is a sore spot and can still incite individuals to violence.

The current Warlord of the Frostrime Hall is an orc named Gurgas Thricecut. His advisors are all warlords and leaders of their subclans. Many are descendents of the original orc clans that hunted and warred in these lands after the Sojourn. The orcs are loosely organized into smaller clans that claim various territories in the forests and the glacier to the north.

Regions

The central region of Winterspire is the location of the Spire of Ice. The winter season is longer here than even the northern forests, and the area within sight of the Spire knows winter all year round. The Coruscating Hold sits on a ridge overlooking the Spire of Ice, and the entire central region is dotted with human settlements and forts of people living under the Winterspire King.

The river that runs through the eastern part of Winterspire is called the Iceflow, and all the lands east of that belong to the Snowcrown Elves. Allies of the Knights of Winter, the two share an agreement that the elves have a duty to prevent any orcs from building ships or accessing the sea. The orcs raided the southern land by ship, and the knights are not eager to allow them that opportunity.

Forests dominate the northern reaches of Winterspire, and beyond that the towering ice walls of the northern glacier can be seen during the day above the forests. The humans call these northern forests the Orcwood, though the orcs call their forests the Tuskwood because of numerous boar they hunt for food.

People

His Sovereign King Kylan Argales – Also called the Winterspire King, King Kylan is fair to both his people and, when he can use his diplomatic skills, to those who were once his enemies. His wife, Hansea, has blessed him with three children and his young line looks strong.

Sir David Forlost is the king’s first knight. Knight-Vigilant, David is the brother to the Lord of House Forlost and a long-time friend and supporter of the King. Lord David is also perhaps the greatest of the Knights of Winter, and stories say he won six honor duels with orc champions during the war.

Lady Volasa Trase is a wizard and advisor to the king, as well as the head of her house. She has been a powerful mage, although her studies of the Spire of Ice have made it harder for her to use magic spells that do not call upon the elements of winter. This is concerning to both Volasa and the king, and recent discussions have broached the subject of whether she should spend time away from the Spire and the Coruscating Hold.

Her Radiance, Queen Selil Calais is the current queen of the Snowcrown Elves. Although she is surrounded by advisors from the other noble houses of elves, she is said to be headstrong and wise beyond her years.

Warlord Gurgas Thricecut is the leader of the Frostrime Clan of orcs in the north. Once the war leader of all of Winterspire, Gurgas watched his clan as it was routed and denied the Spire by the Knights of Winter. He sometimes attends the shared feastnight with the humans to maintain the truce, but as his orcs once again grow in numbers the northern forests seem a smaller and smaller space for their hunts.

Warlord Denris Whitefang is an advisor to Warlord Thricecut and arguably the strongest of the Wolf Shoathri that have joined the Frostrime Clan. He prefers his animal form and rarely changes to look more human. Denris is not only a warrior of great skill, but he is a skilled shaman as well.

Sneak Preview – Sollos

This is a sneak preview of the Sollos. We thought players would be interested in seeing cultures and kingdoms as we work on them. As with all Sneak Previews, details may change over time.

Sollos

Introduction

The people from Sollos are a reserved folk, both introspective and spiritual. Their silk clothing and robes can make a visual impression that make them stand out from many other kingdoms, and the culture of the people places a great emphasis on the words they say and how they say them. The Sollosir do not like to break their oaths, either deliberately or mistakenly, and this leads them to carefully consider their words.

The most peculiar thing, perhaps, about the Sollosir is that many of them cannot and do not always have a choice of what they will say. The men and women of Sollos live in both the present and the past. The folk of this land sometimes hear echoes of past Sollosir, and when the whispers of the dead become strong enough, those echoes can become fully manifest and take hold of the folk from this land, offering opinions and making decisions for the living.

This process is not random; echoes only manifest in men and women who knew and interacted with that person in the past. It is not enough, it seems, to have spoken with the person whose voice is within the echo. The most powerful manifestations come to people who spent time with the people in the past; traveling, playing, fighting, and seeing the world together.

Echoes only whisper to, and manifest within others who are most like them. Echoes manifest in people who see the world, at least in part, as they did. The most common manifestation comes from the echoes of past relatives. The closer the relative was in demeanor and experience in life, the more likely the echoes will visit the living who survive them.

When an echo fully manifests in the living it takes over. The echo will control the host for some amount of time, making decisions and even offering opinions. The echo, however, has only the memories and talents that it has shared, either in life or during some past manifestation. It cannot recall knowledge or memory unless it has shared those words and scenes with its host.

When you make a character from Sollos, you first choose whether you are susceptible to whispers and Echoes. If your character is not susceptible, then you will understand this process happens to your country folk but you do not experience it. That is perfectly fine.

If you choose that you are susceptible, then you create both your character and the personality of the character who can manifest within you. You must decide on the personality of an Echo that can visit you. While it is possible for people from Sollos to be visited by more than one Echo, we do not recommend it for player characters.

There are restrictions on how Echoes can manifest and what they are capable of when they do.

~ You cannot choose an evil Echo. An Echo can never cause you to perform some act that you would never do, either for emotional or moral reasons. That is not to say that an Echo can’t make rash decisions, or make your life more interesting and complicated. They just don’t have the control over you to make you break your emotional or moral codes.

~ An Echo only remembers talents and experiences that you shared. It can offer insight or perspective; it will never provide additional knowledge or skills. An Echo can, however, use any of your skills and while manifested might choose (if you decide this out of game) to use your skills or items as it sees fit.

~ You can never manifest an Echo to try to end or circumvent a game effect. Echoes are just as affected by game effects as you are. If an Echo would cause some questionable interaction with some specific game effect, then you cannot manifest the Echo until that game effect has been removed or cured.

~ The folk of Aerune have at least some vague understanding of the Sollosir and how Echoes manifest. They hold all folk responsible for their actions, and an Echo that is manifest is no excuse or defense for any action or inaction. The Sollosir know full well that an Echo cannot force someone to truly act against their will.

~ You as the player choose when your Echo becomes manifest, and when it chooses to relinquish its hold on you. Although your friends can certainly convince your Echo to end its manifest, the decision should be made out of game to offer maximum fun for you and your fellow players, and to enrich the shared story. Echoes that are obstinate or annoying will drain the fun from the game for everyone, and we don’t want that.

Not all Echoes are benevolent. There are Echoes that contain whispers of malevolence, and the Sollosir guard against these. These whispers and Echoes can gain enough power to enter the physical world and become Eidolons, appearing as violent or even depraved haunts or spirits. These Echoes, and the Eidolons they can create, have given rise to orders of mystics which work to quiet their whispers, and quell the appearance and destructive purpose of these malevolent spirits.

Malevolent Echoes and even Eidolons can enter and manifest within Sollosir who, through their actions, are rife with Hubris. Acts of Hubris make Sollosir susceptible to Echoes which have become corrupt or evil, and fallen Eidolons that roam the land. It is for this reason that the Sollosir strive to be particularly virtuous, and distrust those who are not.

Players are not generally susceptible to these malevolent spirits, although if a player commits some act of Hubris they might, for a time, be susceptible to these dark Echoes or the Eidolons that roam the land. This might take the form of a Frenzy effect, or in extreme cases the player might become plot controlled for a time. Players of Sollosir characters who commit too many acts of Hubris and become too susceptible to these malevolent entities could potentially be driven to permanent darkness and malevolence and could lose their characters in a manner similar to permanent death.

There are four orders of mystics, and four temples that house them. Each have developed their own method to quiet these malevolent spirits, or to destroy the Eidolons that roam the land. Mystics trained at the Shrine of the Empty Glass use colored glass and mirrors to quiet defeated Eidolons, trapping the Echoes in the glass until they can be cleansed in the temple itself. Mystics of the Shrine of the Bronze Mask wear some form of metal mask to protect them from the strongest of the Eidolons, and concentrate on militant arts to destroy those haunts. Mystics of the Shrine of the Endless Flame purify Echoes and Spirits with fire, although this can cause great pain in the victims. Mystics of the Shrine of the Soothing Rain draw Echoes into liquids they carry, and cleanse those Echoes in the fountains and falls of their shrine.

As a result of all this, the common and noble people of Sollos are, for the most part, virtuous and introspective. That is not to say that common wisdom never fails the folk who dwell here. The land has its share of less virtuous folk. Many who have never heard the Echoes presume they are not susceptible and do not fear any manifest, although violence of wandering Eidolons is always a threat. Sometimes, however, whispers can manifest late in life. These unexpected occurrences serve as a reminder to all folk of this land that it is better to be virtuous in life.

One affectation of the people of Sollos is that many are given, by a member of the noble houses, a title that is usually appended after their name. These titles are considered honorable, though a person might be given a succession of titles throughout their life, each replacing the former. Titles such as “the Wise” or “the Cautious” are common, but more unusual titles like “the Illuminated” or “the Sorrow Drowned” are considered both more interesting and more prestigious. As a result, lords and ladies of the land who are more literate and who have a flair for dramatic language can often gain more power simply because they give out more interesting and sought after titles.

One defining feature of Sollos is that the people trade for lots of silk from their northern neighbor, the Silken Call. This silk has a particularly fine quality and is surprisingly strong, and this means that the people of Sollos use it to craft a large number of goods. They use the silk in clothes, tents, curtains, rope, and other crafts.

Costuming

The Sollosir people favor loose, flowing clothing and many of the nobles use silk to accentuate and decorate their outfits. The Sollosir usually start with a loose shirt that, when worn, is long enough to fall over the thigh. They favor loose trousers either tucked into high boots or gathered at the ankle over low boots or sandals. Low pointed shoes are sometimes worn. Over this simple base layer, they will decorate themselves with long flowing and patterned layers of silk or other rich fabrics. Vests, tunics, surcoats, robes, sashes and other well-tailored over-layers complete the fashion. Women that favor a more traditional look might wear dresses with intricate patterns.

To match these flowing outfits the Sollosir favor similar accessories on the head. Flowing headbands tied in the back, head wraps, long hair scarves, and recently even deep mantled hoods are worn when the weather is foul or the Sollosir does not want to be recognized.

As the months grow colder the Sollosir simply add layers of cotton or silk to stay warm.

Young men and women from the affluent houses of Sollos are encouraged to travel when they have finished training or scholarly pursuits to widen their horizons. As a result, it is not uncommon for individuals from Sollos to favor the dress of other kingdoms and countries so long as it isn’t so decorated that they risk appearing prideful.

Roleplaying

~ Be virtuous, for succumbing to Hubris invites the Echoes of madness and violence.

~ Be aware during negotiations that an Echo can manifest, and might not understand the situation.  Have others present who will recognize this and can take over a conversation or negotiation.

~ Do not let Eidolons linger over your wounded and dead.

~ Be proud of your title. Those who question it are questioning your own honor.

~ Learn the mannerisms of your allies so you can recognize Echoes within them.

Religion

Many of the people of Sollos favor the Celestial Court; it is the most common religion in Sollos. Magi are not uncommon here. Some of the rangers of Moongarden have adopted the Pale religion. Although less common, some folk who have traveled in their youth have encountered and adopted The Woven Faith or have even turned to Shamanism.

Magic

Mystics and Magi are perhaps the most common, although House Zenith has Shadowmancers and practice that type of magic. Otherwise both arcane and divine spellcasters are scattered among the noble houses and the common people.

Society

The common people of Sollos work in villages and farms, providing food and raw materials to the noble houses in exchange for a fair wage. Though the land is divided by rivers that flow towards a great swirling vale in the center of Sollos, the whole of the country is broken and rocky with very little flat land. Although there is a great deal of vegetation, this makes it impossible for traditional farming. Sollos depending on beans and vined fruit because those are the easiest to grow in the terrain. The people of Sollos also have to spend more time traveling, as roads either wind to a fro between rocky hills and canyons, or they go up and down over hills carved with paths or stairs.

There are currently five great noble houses in Sollos, and a number of lesser houses. Each greater house has a lord who holds the title of Sha, which is appended to their personal name when addressing them. Lords of the land use Mir as a title in a similar fashion. These houses rule various parts of the land, with one house dwelling in and tending to a large round structure called the Ancestria. The Ancestria acts as the country’s capital, and the emissaries of the great houses meet here.

As an example, the head of a great house might be called Loros-Sha Ancestria, or simply Loros-Sha. His knight might be called Harrod-Mir Ancestria.

House Ancestria – This house both dwells in and acts as keepers of the Ancestria, a massive round fortress built into the mountainside in northern Sollos. The Ancestria is both the house where nobles gather and policy is made, and the under tombs that hold the ashes of noble lords and ladies after they die. Nobles of House Ancestria tend to be scholars and don’t tend to travel. The house has a large number of Magi who teach the worship of the Celestial Court.

House Highsun – This house has holdings in the south of Sollos, with many of their towers built up the slopes of the mountains. House Highsun is the most militaristic of the noble families, and generally wear long suits of lamellar armor and carry spears and swords. Shields are not uncommon. House Highsun also has the best mines and most skilled smiths in Sollos, although most of the armor is created with silk reinforcement and embellishment. House Highsun holds Tisal and although there is some trade with kingdoms and countries to the south, Highsun still guards against influence from the Commonwealth of Blacktallow. Sollos saw the court of the former Queen Elysia as rife with Hubris, and is cautious as a result even though that queen has been disposed.

House Morningstar – A house with a large number of Eurvein, this house has holdings along the entire northwest region of Sollos. They have mines all along the mountain range where they produce some of the finest gemstones in Aerune. Magi consider these gems to be among the purest in the lands, and favor their use with their divine magic.

House Moongarden – This house holds the lands to the east within Sollos. These rocky lowlands provide the best areas for the vineyards and small gardens that provide food enough for both the people of Sollos and trade with the Silken Call. House Moongarden, as a result, keeps rangers to guard its lands. The rocky, broken terrain forces the gardens and vineyards to be built apart from one another. This makes it easy for hobgoblins to enter the land from the eastern mountains undetected, and bandits to rob the unwary and disappear into the hills and forests of the area.

House Zenith – Holding the lands north of the Ancestria, this house holds Easin and derived much of their wealth from the silk trade with the Silken Call. The nobles of this house are said to be Shadowmancers, and the warriors and scouts prefer to employ subterfuge and stealth over brute force. House Zenith is also known to be less forthcoming than others of Sollos, largely keeping to themselves and their dealings with the Silken Call.

Regions

All of Sollos is a land of broken rock grown over with vegetation. The center of the kingdom was twisted in ages past, and it is now rock basin formed into a large spiral. The rivers that flow into the basin form a similar and unnatural spiral pattern as they flow in a circle around the large basin. The Shrine of Soothing Rain is built on the shore of a lake that is almost perfectly round. All the rivers flow into the lake, and yet somehow it never rises.

The Ancestria is built into the mountainside. What can be seen is a large, circular, pantheon like structure with arched entrances. The upper floors of the Ancestria have halls and offices and it is used as the center of government for Sollos. The undertombs store the ashes of the nobility.

The north of Sollos is broken into a number of canyons, which makes navigating the area cumbersome. The high land over the canyons is surprisingly hard to explore, as House Zenith has hidden most paths or stairs that provide a means of ascension.

The other areas of Sollos are comprised mostly of hard, rocky hills choked with vegetation. The rivers have carved canyons through the land like furrows, and the vales and gardens are typically separated by winding paths.

People

Loros-Sha Ancestria, the Esteemed – The sha of House Ancestria and the high lord of Sollos, Loros-Sha commands three votes on the Council of Nobles. He is old now, and many expect him to step down and leave the seat and title to one of his four sons.

Mariem-Sha Zenith, the Whisper at Dusk – The sha of House Zenith, Mariem-Sha is still young and skilled, it is said, in many arts that exemplify her house. While the members of the house are reserved and rarely speak, she takes visitors directly. There are visits where guests at House Zenith heard only the voice of the Whisper at Dusk.

Master Callaos, the Master of the Pool – The master of the Shrine of the Soothing Rain, Master Callaos spends his days gazing into the Swirling Lake. It is said the master sometimes sees visions in those waters, as did the masters before him.

Master Na’ar, the Scorched – The master of the Endless Flame is also someone who received the cleansing flames as a youth to free him from the madness of a particularly powerful Eidolon. The Scorched still bears the scars of the burning. The Master is less introspective than many mystics, and fights tirelessly against Eidolons and malevolent Echoes with both weapon (he favors a staff) and the magic of fire.

Master Alia, the Reflection of Alkym – Master Alia is the master of the Shrine of the Empty Glass. With this position comes the responsibility of holding Alkym’s Mirror, an ancient artifact that allows her to glimpse Echoes in the world around her. Although she appears youthful, she has actually been the master of the Shrine for many more years than her features might suggest.

Master Aarethen, the Bronze Lion – Master of the Shrine of the Bronze Mask, Master Aarethen is unusual as a master in that he has often sought enlightenment among the beasts of Sollos. He has become akin to them, and he can grow and fight with wicked claws in battle.

 

Sneak Preview – Kyrzenwold

This is a sneak preview of the Kyrzenwold. We thought players would be interested in seeing cultures and kingdoms as we work on them. As with all Sneak Previews, details may change over time.

Kyrzenwold, the Forest of Candles

Introduction

Travelers in Kyrzenwold find themselves tiny figures traversing a landscape at once majestic and sinister. The forests in particular hide all manner of nightmarish enemies that delight in hunting the Gifted Races, and those who travel these lands are often visited by nightmares as they sleep. Some claim that the creatures of Kyrzenwold stalk both the waking and the dreaming realms. Indeed, the creeping fear of beasts that go bump in the night is often real when darkness falls. Nevertheless, a uniquely dedicated group of people have, for hundreds of years, called Kyrzenwold their home. The ambitious and aloof Kyrzenwolders are a group particularly adapted to the difficulties of life in these forested lands.

Everyday life in Kyrzenwold is difficult. The lands are full of dangers, particularly when night descends. The forests often defy attempts to clear them, and their treacherous borders can advance dozens or even hundreds of feet overnight. The creatures that creep out of the woods are difficult to kill; they seem at least somewhat resilient to both weapon strikes and most magical spells. They carry with them a dread that can weaken and panic travelers.

Although spells of Chimera can be effective against the lesser creatures, the salvation of the Kyrzenwolders comes from the very magic that permeates the land. The land is particularly rich with the magical flora and fauna used in alchemy. While some nightmarish creatures seem, at least partially, resilient to many spells and weapon blows used against them, the Kyrzenwolders have found that these creatures have less protection against substances created by alchemists. This has led to not only a higher number of Kyrzenwold alchemists, but a habit among the people of carrying substances to protect and restore themselves.

Although folk from Kyrzenwold follow all manner of occupations, the most iconic, and perhaps important, groups are the Vogel and the Lyrikers. The Vogel are the candle bearing rangers of Kyrzenwold. These rangers travel the paths and roads and visit even remote towns and villages to offer support and council while they hunt the dark creatures that roam the forests. The Lyrikers are leaders and scholars, often alchemists, who gather knowledge and build the library in Ashveil.

Any individual, regardless of background, may attempt to follow these paths, though the trials are rigorous. In general, those of a scholastic pursuit, particularly those with a penchant for alchemy, pursue the path of the Lyriker. Those suited to adventuring in dangerous areas, and coming to know the woods, choose the path of the Vogel. Confining individuals to either “bookish Lyriker” or “Vogel errant” would be a misstep, however: there are tremendously adventurous, action-oriented Lyrikers, and master academic Vogel throughout the recruits. Moreover, while much lauded by the general populace, these occupations are not the only pursuits within Kyrzenwold. After all, the establishment of the Vogel and the Lyrikers is symptomatic of the dangers of Kyrzenwold itself.

The most prominent and oldest of the settlements of this land is Ashveil, the great Library of Kyrzenwold. Hundreds of years ago, the archives of Ashveil held secrets – in tomes, scrolls, and upon stones, knowledge was scribed and stored. For many years this knowledge was gathered from the ruins and forests and hidden places in Kyrzenwold itself, but in time the search for knowledge extended beyond the borders to other lands. The librarians of Ashveil, called Lyrikers, were a quiet and studied people. Highly trained in magical arts, they prided themselves on their dedication to the procurement and storage of all sorts of knowledge. This knowledge, it is said, was kept in the deep labyrinths of Ashveil.

While these labyrinths still exist in Ashveil, the archives do not. It is said that almost the entire library of Ashveil was destroyed hundreds of years ago – an event which is now referred to, in both histories and folktales, as The First Fire. Fables paint this fire as the rageful act of a nightmarish monster; histories, slightly more conservative, detail the First Fire as the maniacal paranoia of a monstrous tyrant. No stories exist, however, that offer much more in the way of detail. Like the ancient magical secrets of Ashveil, the story of the destruction of the Old Archive is long lost.

Nonetheless, Ashveil, and with it Kyrzenwold, has persisted. Some four hundred years ago the Lyrikers joined together once again, and, with a determination born of reflective desperation, began the reconstruction of the knowledge of the destroyed archives. Starting humbly at first, the Lyrikers began collecting all the information they could. They found the ruins of the library itself was infested by nightmarish creatures, but despite the danger they searched its depths for the knowledge that was lost. Seeking to correct what they saw as mistakes of the past, the Lyrikers avoided books and tomes that could easily be destroyed and instead created a series of conjurations within the passages of the Labyrinth to store the knowledge they gathered. To this day the task to reclaim the library is difficult, for the more magic and skill they bring to bear on the creatures that roam these halls, the more resilient those dark creatures become. Many of the deepest halls, and with them the secrets they contain, remain unclaimed.

As the Lyrikers work to restore Ashveil, the halls of lore slowly grow in size. They gradually unfurl into winding expanses of collections, alchemical laboratories, gardens, studies, and conservatories. The once ruined and lonely under halls have become the home to many conjurations that remember all manner of knowledge: theories of the earth and sky, the quiet language of plants, and the properties of the seemingly invisible.

The land itself is named after the Vogel and their efforts to protect the citizenry. The rangers make a habit of using alchemical candles that serve to keep nightmares at bay, both the creatures the stalk the night and the troubling dreams they bring. They are often seen setting out candles along paths, around camps, or in windows to protect those who have been plagued by dangers of the land. The rangers are not trained as guardians, but rather as stalkers and their typical strategy is to protect with candles, and lie in wait to counter strike anything that tries to approach and overcome the wards provided by the alchemical flames. Perhaps the most impressive feat of the Vogel is maintaining the Kyrzenlicht; a winding series of roadways lit by candles that connect the heart of the country.

Costuming

Kyrzenwolder fashion is practical in nature. Fabric is usually dark, and black or rich browns, accented by deep reds, greens, and plums, are common. Such dark materials are practical; they allow individuals to move in the dark easily, and, somewhat more uniquely, are likely to survive discoloration by the random happenings of Ashen Rain.

There is a classic “Kyrzenwold look” that many, Kyrzenwolder or outsider, will readily identify. In traveling gear, long boots, cloaks or greatcoats, tight-fitting trousers, and wide-brimmed hats are very common. Accessories are well-made; leatherware, finely made brooches or necklaces, and personally significant insignia are all frequent. Since many Kyrzenwolders are alchemists, ways to carry flasks and components, such as leather belts and pouches, are often the focal points of an outfit. Women occasionally affix decorative veils to the brims of their hats, so that their faces are fully or partially covered. (However, this is, it’s said, rooted in ancient historical superstition rather than practicality.)

The Lyrikers wear high-necked, longsleeved black robes. Though simple, these close-fitting garments are made of luxuriously soft fabrics; over the top of these robes, the Lyrikers wear sleeveless surcoats, of a deep burgundy, embroidered in silver. Similarly, the Vogel – the candle-bearing rangers of Kyrzenwold – exemplify Kyrzenwold adventuring gear. Dressed simply in greens, browns, and blacks, they are known primarily by their wide-shouldered, nearly architectural cloaks, wide-brimmed black hats, and black-boots. At their necks, simple but obvious, hangs a pendant with the heraldry of their order.

With the introduction of foreign presences, particularly the vibrant colors of Belaingarde, the look of Kyrzenwold clothing is changing slowly but surely. There is, indeed, much more variation among the general population, and a trend towards freewheeling experimentation. In earlier times, full skirts, which are cumbersome in the laboratory, library, and woods equally, were unpopular. Skirts flaring away from the body catch fire, knock over carefully stacked books, and catch snags. With the introduction of Belaingarde fashion, however, more people are wearing full skirts and dresses, but many still prefer narrower garments fitted relatively close to the body, and cut to provide mobility and coverage.

Roleplaying

~ Knowledge should be understood carefully and shared openly. History has shown that an ignorant population is more dangerous than information in the wrong hands. With that being said, everyone has secrets, and, sometimes, those secrets are to be kept.

~ Life is difficult, and that is, more or less, an absolute. In order to deal with this absolute, constant self-improvement is essential.

~ Even in gritty, unthinkable situations, grace, poise, and respect for others are to be considered virtues. It is, however, no shame to be straightforward in your speech: whilst some may think it abrupt, it is often the way to be most efficient in communication.

~ The world, in nature and magic, is telling a story, and you are a part of it. Record things you observe with humility and diligence.

~ There is no such thing as a stupid question: curiosity leads to discovery, and discovery to knowledge. Oftentimes, outsiders find Kyrzenwolders dogged pursuit of information somewhat eccentric; Kyrzenwolders argue that this eccentricity is a gift. Even the newest adventurer has insight to offer to a complicated problem, and Kyrzenwolders will often invite those with “less experience” to share their thoughts on an issue.

~ Fear is a form of respect, and it is wise to fear the dark. Similarly, wariness of outsiders and the unknown is prudent, and communicates your acknowledgment of things you do not understand.

Religion

Many Kyrzenwolders look upon religion with some curiosity and a bit of distance. While they do not doubt its power, they pride themselves on their ability to provide for themselves, and are often wary of those who rely entirely on faith. In ages past, the Pale religion was common and druids used their magic to protect the Gifted Races that traveled here. As the greater creatures of the forests became more and more resilient to their magic, however, that religion began to wane. There are, despite this, followers of the Woven Faith and Wild Ways of the Pale in Kyrzenwold – a small surprise given the dangers of the woods, and the tenacious presence of the Gnorren. There are also a small number of shamans, though the number has declined in recent years. While the majority of the population is less religious than the rest of Aerune, there is a good deal of superstition- folk tales, mundane rituals, and proverbs rule many households. Some cults, secretive in nature, maintain a rather gnarly grasp on some clutches of Kyrzenwold, though pose no danger to themselves nor anyone else.

Regions

Within Kyrzenwold there are four distinct regions; travelers moving between the regions follow the snaking, multi-headed Kerzenlicht – an ephemeral roadway of lighted lanterns, placed by the Vogel.

“Kyrzenwold” is both the name of the country, as well as the name of the huge tract of woods within that region. Kyrzenwolders often refer to the general woods as “The Kyrzenwold,” affording it, perhaps, the vague mystery that it deserves.

The first, and oldest, region is Ashveil, the library and capital city of Kyrzenwold. While those of more urban regions might gape that Ashveil is called an urban center, within Kyrzenwold, it is both densely populated and architecturally built up. Built along the Ashveil Lake, the walled campus of Ashveil contains all the knowledge and learning of Kyrzenwold: headed by the Lyrikers, it is open to any who request and obtain access. It is also the seat of alchemical learning; the sprawling gardens are not merely beautiful sanctuaries, but also experiments in the growth of alchemically useful plants.

Houndfall, a much smaller but equally important region, lies to the north of Ashveil. Houndfall serves as the headquarters for the Vogel. The two main towns of Kyrzenwold, Katzen in the East and Corbynshire in the West, house the majority of the “common” population of Kyrzenwold. Katzen is a bustling, almost cozy town known for its bakeries, leatherworks, fine books, and candle makers. Katzen a town of industry and hospitality, it is often where visitors to Kyrzenwold stay. Corbynshire, the farming center of woodsy Kyrzenwold, is a quieter, somewhat more austere place. The ways of life in Corbynshire, named for the impressive ravens that roost in the trees, are cyclical, guarded, and diligent. Throughout the woods, of course, tiny hamlets cluster: as they are of importance to the larger nation, the Vogel regularly visit these hamlets, checking in on the two or three families that call them home.

Finally, though out of the purview of the Ashveil Lyrikers and the Vogel, is Bruchmoor, the southern swamps. Amidst the murky swampland and gnarled, rotting trees, the wicked Gnorren make their homes. Only the most daring of Vogel enter these lands: the Gnorren, barely human, make travel sure to be deadly.

Society

Both the vast landscape that spreads and divides settlements in Kyrzenwold, and the fact that the people of Kyrzenwold pride themselves on their self-reliance and often resent outside interference, make the region difficult to govern. Settlements are usually governed by a Lord-Mayor or Meister who is bolstered by a Sheriff and their guard. This makes travel difficult, as the fervor in which the various laws are enforced can vary greatly from settlement to settlement.

Despite this, the Lyrikers and the Vogel play in important part in the government of Kyrzenwold. The Lyrikers provide and disseminate a common set of laws which the settlements, for the most part, respect and abide. The Lyrikers will sometimes travel to even remote settlements to bring news and written law to the lords and sheriffs, teach citizenry lore and other knowledge, and offer council to those important members of the town or settlement. The Vogel travel the lands to help keep settlements safe, and they offer additional forces if some area is besieged by the Gnorr or other servants of nightmare.

The Vogel also have the unpleasant task of visiting settlements that have gone rogue. There have been instances when some undesirable or violent force has taken leadership of a remote settlement. Worse, in rare cases settlements have been known to fall entirely to nightmare. When a township or settlement of Kyrzenwold no longer follows or upholds the common law it is left to the Vogel to rectify the situation; even when diplomacy fails.

Kyrzenwold is nothing if not a dangerous place: the entire establishment of the Vogel orients around dealing with the dangers that stalk the woods. The Vogel and Lyrikers are rather quiet about what these dangers specifically are, but any native Kyrzenwolder can speak, if in hushed tones, of the nightmares that wander the woods and the wicked taloned-and-fanged fae that sneak through the twisting dark. While some, unfamiliar with the woods of Kyrzenwold, may shrug these admonitions off as “nothing more than stories,” few can deny the reality of the aberrantly large boar, bear, and stags that threaten hunters and travelers not sure of their footing. Nor can they dismiss the poison plants and sucking mires of the southern swamps that, even passingly, pose a fatal threat to pilgrims. Those who are not native to Kyrzenwold have heard, of course, of the dreadful Gnorren, the fetid Korper, and the fae-blooded Skreig. Only those who have grown up in Kyrzenwold, however, know of their dangers in detail.

People

The following are people generally familiar to Kyrzenwolders, as well as allies of Kryzenwold:

Meister Lyriker Elisabeth Benedikt: The head of Ashveil, Meister Lyriker Elisabeth is relatively new to her position as Meister Lyriker. She comes from a long-line of Meisters, and, indeed, those who have served before her have been well-respected and much-loved. Known as uncommonly intelligent and unusually innovative, the new Meister carries on her shoulders the burden of an ancient family line. Whether or not she can carry such a burden is yet to be seen. Along with Meister Alchemist Andreas Lothar and Meister Richter Aneke Geert, she oversees the people and institutions of Ashveil and the greater Kyrzenwold district. While Meister Alchemist Andreas and Meister Richter Aneke stay within the confines of Ashveil, Meister Lyriker Elisabeth more frequently travels. She is frequently in Belaingarde.

Meister Vogel Schaeffer Edselhardt: The grim, weathered, and taciturn leader of the Vogel, Meister Vogel Schaeffer is withdrawn, awkward, and interested in little more than his job. Luckily, as the veteran leader of the Vogel, he spends the majority of time thinking of nothing but. Meister Vogel Schaeffer leads the patrols of Kyrzenwold, and is the most experienced in matters concerning the Korper (undead).

Meister Vogel Ulriche Lothar: Meister Vogel Schaeffer’s seeming right hand, Meister Vogel Ulriche is reserved, abrupt, and, when called upon to speak, straightforward. Among the Vogel, she is the most expert in matters concerning the Gnorren and chaos magics, and teaches recruits to hunt them specifically.

Meister Vogel Kasper Lichtsheiner: Somewhat more talkative than his colleagues, Meister Vogel Kasper serves as the liaison between Ashveil and Houndfall. He also oversees new recruits. It is said that, while he talks more than either Ulriche or Schaeffer, his strange temper and aloof manner are just as off-putting. Moreover, Meister Vogel Kasper is a devout follower of the Wild Ways: while not unheard of among the Vogel, it is certainly rare. It is said that, were he not the cousin of Meister Lyriker Elisabeth, he might never have received the position. Nevertheless, Meister Vogel Kasper is gifted when it comes to hunting both beasts and wicked Skreig (fae).

Fritzie Diedrich: Just outside of Katzen, deep enough into the woods that one might live privately, Mr. Fritzie Diedrich has set up a home for himself. Fritzie is something of a legend in Kyrzenwold – a man of many talents, he is considered to be the most knowledgeable Kyrzenwolder on matters of the Skreig. Fritzie has, for the 98 years he’s been alive, collected fables of the Skreig, and his home is an open (if cluttered) library for all who may be interested in such things. Despite his refusal to join the Lyrikers or Vogel, Fritzie maintains close working relationships with their orders. It is widely known that the wunderkind Meister Vogel Kasper spent his teenage years studying under Fritzie. All those interested in the Skreig are suggested to start, first, with a polite visit to this wizened scholar. Fritzie is nothing if not eccentric, and Katzen bakers will often report, for instance, that Fritzie will order “a quadruple dozen or so lizard-shaped cakes,” and will then, unceremoniously, dangle these cakes from the branches of trees near the northern gate of Katzen. It is generally assumed such actions have ample reasoning, though this has never been particularly well examined

Costuming Pinterest Boards

Costuming descriptions are great, but we all know how many words a picture is worth. To help inspire folks with visual looks for each of the countries and kingdoms of Madrigal 3, we’ve created a master costuming Pinterest board.
There’s separate sub-boards, so you can see the looks we’re encouraging for each kingdom and only follow the ones that interest you. New boards will be made visible as we release notes on each country.
These are closed boards, which only MadStaff can add pins to, but we’re happy to take suggestions for things to be added.
This is all in addition to the open Madrigal 3 Pinterest board, which is more of a general campaign board. You’re all encouraged to add pictures and links to that one as often as you’d like.
Enjoy!

Sneak Preview – The League of Seven Charters

This is a sneak preview of the League of Seven Charters. We thought players would be interested in seeing cultures and kingdoms as we work on them. As with all Sneak Previews, details may change over time.

The League of Seven Charters

Introduction

It is unlikely that Admiral Alsen Golent appreciates that perhaps his greatest legacy is creating a country and trade power out of the remnants of the very pirates he spent his career hunting on the open seas. There is no denying that the League of Seven Charters would not be a country without him. One does not always have the luxury of choosing their own legacy.

The League consists of seven autonomous city states, each ruled by a former captain of the high seas, a title now called a Sevenfold Seat. While not every captain was bequeathed, in the past, with legal ownership or captainship of their vessel, there is no denying the each of the Sevenfold Seats was earned with money, blood, and maybe not a small amount of treachery.

Despite the past, the Sevenfold Council rules the League and keeps the peace, for the most part, among themselves and the leaguefolk who have taken residence in their cities. The Sevenfold Council convenes twice a month in Travos, with the good Admiral not only sitting at the head of the council table but also acting to broker the peace between the varied and colorful rulers who occupy the Sevenfold Seats.

Formally the High Admiral of the Blacktallow Kingdom, Admiral Alsen fell out of grace when his King was slain and Queen Elysia took power. In her rise to power, the Queen enslaved all free Shoathri; her edict named them no more than beasts and property. Although the Admiral himself escaped, he never forgave the nobles of Blacktallow for falling in line under the Queen’s edicts.

In retaliation, the Admiral essentially stole much of the fleet of Blacktallow, then called a Kingdom, and sailed south away from his former homeland. No small number of Shoathri countrymen and women rallied under his sail, and he landed the fleet in a pirate’s cove on the western edge of the abandoned southern peninsula. There he seized the lawless town that existed in that cove, and founded the first of the Sevenfold Cities, Travos.

From there the Admiral moved up and down the desolate and abandoned peninsula, capturing the fortified towns and forts in those lands. The southern peninsula had suffered a number of misfortunes that had left the area lawless and abandoned by good folk, but the years of hunting pirates gave the Admiral a knowledge of that coast. The Admiral knew he would never hold order over the lawless and wild lands himself. Instead he would impose order and, when he found a Captain strong and intelligent enough to hold an area of this land, he would offer them a seat on his council.

Not everyone was as eager as one might imagine to accept the Admiral’s offer, but his offer was just generous enough and just advantageous enough to prevent the most powerful captains and bandit lords from allying against him. In the end six additional Captains rose from the bloody infighting to become influential enough to claim one of the seats. This is how the Sevenfold Seats came to pass. It has seven seats not because that number held some political or mystical meaning, but rather that was simply the number of rulers strong enough to seize a territory and strike a bargain with Admiral Alsen.

The land of the leaguefolk has a storied history, and the people and tales have always involved the sea. The land is said to be infused with the Sea of Mists, and when the mists rise from the sea the veil between this world and that realm is thin. All manner of things rise up and roam the shores and lands between the city-states. Not only does this make wandering the lands when mists have rolled in dangerous, but it also means that the leaguefolk can’t always count on murder or execution to be the last time they will be forced to deal with an enemy. The Sea of Mists can embrace and even call back within its fog many folk who have called the sea their home.

The seven city-states and council seats include the following:

 

Travos – Travos is the most influential city-state of the League. It is the city where the Sevenfold Council meets, and it is the city that the Admiral has claimed as his own. While Travos is not as big as Majesty, the city is extremely influential and the Admiral imposes a beneficent order on his city and his land. Under the Admiral’s leadership, the city is the safest of the city-states. It is clean and prosperous, and many visitors come to meet with the Admiral on many types of business. It is particularly crowded during the times when the Sevenfold Council meets, and there is a flood of visitors and sailors that keep the constables and city watch extremely busy.

Although the Admiral welcomes anyone to the city if they obey his law and his peace, Travos is mostly populated by Shoathri. The Admiral, and the Shoathri that run the city with him, have a certain intolerance for the uneducated and unrefined. To their sensibilities, it is the wild and savage nature of many of their race that has given rise to the prejudice and misfortunes inflicted upon the Shoathri. As a result, the Shoathri of Travos are extremely careful to maintain the utmost refinement, tact, etiquette, and decorum at all times. Their clothing is well tailored and maintained. Many still adopt the styles from the Commonwealth of Blacktallow, but some adopt the finest formalwear from other lands.

 

Majesty – The largest of the seven city-states, Majesty is a large trade city that accepts all types of ships wishing to trade, including ships outlawed in other countries. Pirates of all types frequent the city, and it can be rough for people unfamiliar with the landscape. The city was rebuilt on top of the gothic ruins of the old Imperium city of Itanor. Although some of the city was ruined during the battle that finally drove the Imperium out of the eastern reaches, in the end the invading army chased the well trained Imperium soldiers west up the river, leaving the city remarkably intact. Majesty is now one of the biggest trade cities on the inner sea, dealing in all manner of goods allowed by the Sevenfold Council.

Although there are many questionable items sold in Majesty, there is no slave trade allowed in the League of Seven Charters. One requirement of the Admiral stipulates that although each City-State is mostly free to write their own charter, each charter has certain shared laws and the first is that slavery is outlawed; all men and women within the League are, barring crime or debt, free.

Majesty is ruled by Lady Faena Bonne. Also called Dread Faena, she has a reputation as a fierce and ruthless pirate, and an even fiercer and more ruthless businesswoman. She runs Majesty efficiently, and gets her cut of all business conducted there. She is so thorough that leaguefolk use “Faena’s cut” as a euphemism for tax or unavoidable business expense. Her former crew serve as her officers and they enlist and pay guards, craftsmen, and other talent as needed.

 

Sol – Sol actually consists of three allied fortresses ruled by Lady Helania Brimgrade, a former noble of Vellingrim. Lady Helania rules it with an iron fist, and brooks no question to her authority or power. Her Charter recognizes the basic tenets laid forth by the Admiral, but from there the Charter contains an extensive set of laws that she enforces within her domain. Lady Brimgrade wields an extremely impressive amount of personal power. Although she is a skilled swordwoman, Lady Brimgrade can also call on powers of both Light and Fire to heal or destroy. Some claim she is one of the Demonbound, but not within earshot of her or her loyal guard. She also has a band of particularly well trained warriors that serve her called the Hellions.

Sol’s fortune comes from a lucrative mining of true elements. The mountain fortresses guard both physical mines in the mountainside that produce True Earth, and fly sails to gather True Air. Some say that the Lady Brimgrade also controls an impossibly deep well of shadow someplace within her domain where she mines or gathers True Void, but this rumor has never been substantiated.

 

Tome – This city-state was constructed by pirates almost a century ago by towing the hulks of captured or damaged ships deep into the marshes that surround the town. The hulks create a sort of makeshift labyrinth, and the citizens have created planked walkways that crisscross in the narrow lanes created between the ships. The center of the city has an ancient tower that acts as the fortified dwelling of the Lord of Tome, Lord Captain Drek Skellig.

Lord Drek Skellig is a were-rat, one who appears to his makeshift pirate court in either human form or rat-form as suits his mood. Drek Skellig is an active pirate, and has gained an impressive fortune; all of it ill gained. Lord Skellig obeys the Admiral’s edicts and includes them in his charter, but his laws are otherwise a constantly changing mish-mash of his emotional shifts and whims. Three times he has been betrayed, and disloyal men and women have attempted to rise up and depose him, and each time he has personally slain those foolish enough to act against him.

One would think with a name like Tome that the city-state might be a place for scholars or at least a place of learning. Nothing could be further from the truth. Lord Drek Skellig has a particular hatred of books and scrolls and other written works. Those who seek his favor will bring him all manner of written knowledge. He pays well for such items, either in treasure or in favor. Lord Skellig is good on his word about rewarding those who bring him written works; it is perhaps the one consistency of his character. Rarer works please him even more. He gathers in his tower these written treasures until his horde has reached sufficient size to please him. When his written horde is large enough he declares a holiday; the Burning Day, and destroys all of them in a large fire on the steps of the tower while the town descends into a drunken and often violent celebration.

 

Floros – The brightly painted city-state of Floros is ruled by Captain and Master Thespian Marsellis Tempestria. Although Master Tempestria has, in public, admitted to engaging in a bit of banditry and piracy in his time, he has retired from those pursuits to act as the Lord Mayor of Floros and to sit on the Sevenfold Council.

Floros was created by Master Tempestria as a hide away and sanctuary for performers and performance artists of all sorts who were persecuted by the strict artistry laws of Vellingrim and, until her recent deposal, Queen Elysia’s Blacktallow throne. Master Tempestria spent the early part of the city-state’s humble beginnings whisking wanted artists away from the coast and out to his then hidden retreat. The city-state has a high population of performers who practice all manner of performance arts.

Lord Marcellis also is the patron for the Lady She’lea’s dueling school, the School of Three Roses. While there may or may not be truth to the rumor that Master Tempestria and Lady She’lea were once lovers, her school, her presence, and her students provide a healthy disincentive to other city-states, pirates, or invaders who might otherwise be tempted to raid Floros and rob it of its meager wealth.

Although Floros has many lesser theatres, it is home of perhaps the greatest and strangest theatre in Aerune; the Theatre Fortuna. The theatre, called both haunted and cursed, brings vision and madness to those brave enough to perform on its stage. Some who perform on its stage are blessed with wondrous magic, and others are swept up in violent tragedy and are slain in some dramatic fashion. Sometimes the theatre itself sweeps all of the participants into some ancient play or story, and other times the drama on stage will involve persona from faraway places. Despite the obvious dangers, would be actors and actresses travel from far away for a chance to perform on the stage and risk death to gain wisdom, or magic, or madness, or all of these.

 

Iovos – This city state is built in the ruins of an ancient Imperium estate, although the whole of the city state has been meticulously rebuilt, decorated and gilded to serve the tastes of its Pirate Lord, Captain Antone Stefolare. The Lord Captain claims to be a descendant of ancient Naporea royalty, and any who question his lineage are subject to his temper and his vengeance. The whole of the city is ruled by “noble” houses, all of which vie for power in Lord Stefolare’s court. Like ancient Naporea, the noble houses that inhabit the city are proud and easily offended so visitors must take care with how they speak in the city.

Iovos boasts two excellent dueling schools; the School of the Five Deflections and the School of the Red Whisper. There is fierce competition between the schools, and that pride has spilled, at times, violently into the streets. The young nobles also quite often find other reasons to become offended on behalf of their houses, and blood can run in the streets when houses clash. Captain Antone finally outlawed dueling when the costs of finding and removing the bodies of young nobles became a concern for both city expense and manpower. Young duelists have, by the day, followed the law but at night masked nobles go forth seeking to satisfy their vendettas and feuds with steel.

Both the School of the Five Deflections and the School of the Red Whisper can agree on one thing though; the School of Three Roses is in all ways inferior to the Iovos schools and any who would suggest otherwise, particular members of that school, would offer grave insult to Iovos, the schools there, and the noble families.

Iovos makes much of its money by hosting a series of city wide celebrations where outsiders are welcome. The number of visitors grows dramatically during these festivals. The nobles travel the streets masked so no one knows them and they are not obliged to defend their honor if a visiting reveler says something that might otherwise be considered offensive. Special guards are hired during this time from the noble houses to keep the peace. Knowing that much of their yearly revenues comes from these festivals, the noble houses take great care to ensure the safety of the visiting guests during this time.

 

Grames – Although Grames itself is nothing more than a large fishing village, it is the home of the Driftwood King and his court. The Driftwood King is said to be a ragged man of the sea, steeped in magic and able to call upon the Sea of Mists itself. The wizards and shaman who serve him dwell in the Caverns of Salt near Grames, and they have all come to learn the magic of the Driftwood King. The Driftwood King claimed a seat on the Sevenfold Council, but his chair often remains empty when the council meets.

The Driftwood King is served by a merchant named Master Theod Heron, who often speaks for the Driftwood King both in Grames and, when he travels to Travos, at the Sevenfold Council. Master Heron accepts requests to meet with the Driftwood King. While the Driftwood King does not often accept invitations or visitors, many who have lost something at sea seek his aid.

Costuming

With such an eclectic array of city-states and leaguefolk, the outfits of this land vary wildly.

Travos folk are very proper and keen to maintain a groomed and proper appearance. Although vests and collars and hats are not uncommon, many tend to favor fashions that were once more common on the high seas. The Shoathri favor all manner of accessories, including hats, coats and cloaks, spectacles, monocles, pipes, canes, and fans.

Most folk, when asked of the League of Seven Charters, think of Majesty and pirates that frequent that city. Majesty displays all manner of pirate dress and affections. Leather armor, tattoos, piercings, wild hair, head scarves and even war paint dominate the fashion. Everyone carries weapons. Some put on airs and wear long coats and tall boots. Not many pirates from Majesty wear flamboyant shirts or sashes. They leave that to Floros.

Floros is a city of performers, and they dress the part even in everyday life. They tend to wear loose and colorful clothes. Vests are a common fashion in Floros; with or without a shirt. Floros wears all manner of flamboyant dress, though they avoid harlequin styles so as not to offend the nobles of Dremasque.

The people of Sol favor subdued colors, with plain and functional clothing that offers an almost military look. Armor and surcoats, like Vellingrim, are common. Only the Hellions and Lady Helania Brimgrade wear red; citizens are not allowed that color. While it is not illegal for visitors to wear red, those who wish to be polite avoid it.

Iovos nobles dress in fineries befitting their noble legacy. They tend to favor darker colors; wines and burgundies, and blacks, and grays trimmed in silver and gold are the fashion of city. Lace collars and cuffs, doublets, and short capes are common. They tend to wear their most elaborate clothing during the festivals, with matching masks to hide their identities.

Leaguefolk that dwell in Tome tend to wear clothing that is functional and somewhat threadbare. They dress like bandits and highwaymen, peasants, pirates, and the like. Some of the wealthier merchants will wear a higher grade of clothing, but clothes do not stay well in the humidity of the marsh and the people often smell and look like they belong in that place.

The servants of the Driftwood King wear robes of gray or green or dark blue. Their clothing is sometimes decorated to look like the sea, and just as often those robes are worn from the salt of the sea and the magic of the Sea of Mists. The other townfolk are mostly fisherfolk and dress in that manner.

Roleplaying

The way you might role play varies greatly depending on the city-state where you spent a majority of your time. You might do your utmost to maintain proper decorum if you hail from Travos, and you might talk with slang and poor speech if you frequent Tome. There are some common themes in the League, however.

~ All folk are free.

~ Watch your back.

~ Charters change.

~ Leadership changes.

~ Your strength is only as strong as your current alliances.

~ Alliances change.

~ Sometimes goods change hands unexpectedly.

~ The other kingdoms want to believe they are more stable than the League but they are wrong.

Religion

All religions are followed or ignored fairly equally in most of the League of Seven Charters. The nobles in Iovos most often favor the Woven Faith. Many performers in Floros have adopted the Celestial Court as their faith.

Magic

Pirates bring lots of different magic to the League of Seven Charters, but the Sea of Mists permeates the land and the servants of the Driftwood King have strong magics when they are practiced in this land.

Society

Despite the extremely varied types of leaguefolk, almost everyone respects the Admiral. He brought together the violent and sometimes murderous exiles and lost folk who previously frequented this land, and that alliance has brought a lot of wealth, both legitimately and illegally, to the leaguefolk.

Regions

The League is a large peninsula south of the Commonwealth of Blacktallow. Each city-state controls the lands around their main city, although not many live outside the cities because the land is dangerous when the Sea of Mists rolls in.

That said, there are three additional towns on islands nearby that are independent of the city-states of the Sevenfold Council.

Flotsam and Jetsam – These towns are out on islands near the League. They predate the Admiral, and have remained independent both because of the sea that separates them from the mainland and the brothers that founded them. Each town is ruled by a Minotaur who tolerates the lost folk and cast aways that hide here from the world. Each town is ruled by one of the brothers; Flotsam by a minotaur named Gorering, and Jetsam by his brother Felhorn.

Breck – A township of undead refugees who have escaped the Sea of Mists and now eke out a miserable existence in the mortal realm, with the constant fear that they will be drawn back into the Sea of Mists by the Captains and the lighthouses found in that realm.

People

The most important personages known in the League of Seven Charters are the lords of the Sevenfold Council, described above.

Sneak Preview – Vellingrim

This is a sneak preview of the kingdom of Vellingrim. We thought players would be interested in seeing cultures and kingdoms as we work on them. As with all Sneak Previews, details may change over time.

Vellingrim

Introduction

There is no mistaking what Vellingrim exemplifies; aggression, arrogance, and wickedness. They seek to conquer and subjugate any and all. Their aggression has been felt by almost every kingdom as Vellingrim has sought new lands to claim as their own. They wage a near constant war with the Commonwealth of Blacktallow and the two kingdoms have bad blood born of centuries of conflict.

Vellingrim appears to be bright, shiny, crisp apple with vibrant red skin. Beneath that skin, it is rotten to the core. For people that have managed to escape, they bear the physical and emotional scars from having lived in such a place. Their experiences have damaged them and many take years to recover if they ever truly do.

Any player characters from Vellingrim are outcasts or escapees. Those who are so steeped in wickedness and hubris as to be a willing participant of such a vile and corrupt kingdom are not viable player characters in a heroic game like Madrigal.

What is said about Vellingrim by its nobles is almost universally disbelieved by outside commoners and nobles alike. The Dukes of Vellingrim speak of a gentle rule, robust economy that favors all, and a concern for the welfare of their people above all else. There are not many outsiders who can dispute this or speak knowledgeably about the kingdom. Not many visitors are allowed to cross the border and very few citizens ever leave even for a short time.

Those who claim to have escaped describe a very different Vellingrim than the nobility. They tell tales of workers of all stripes worked nearly to death to make a living that is still far from comfortable. Those left weak with age, or those injured doing these jobs, live in the gutters begging for kindness from anyone who would offer any. Usually, there are very few. Those who show any martial prowess are conscripted into the army. Any who are perceived to lack the discipline and loyalty to serve in the army are sent to the gladiatorial pits where there is no joy and an eventual death is all-but-guaranteed.

Even more disturbing are the rumors of demon worship and isolated cults all over the kingdom. Some believe these foul dealings and beings have been embraced by and influence the highest nobility of the land. There are even those who whisper that the kingdom and its nobles are devoted to the worship and empowerment of Beleghast.

Costuming

Knightly fashions, and variants of them, are considered high fashion and embraced by all manner of folk in Vellingrim. Tabards, surcoats, and robes are worn by nobles and commoners alike. For those who prefer them, dresses and gowns of the medieval period are also quite common. The Kingdom’s loyal subjects and soldiers often wear dark red trimmed in gold. Nobles dress in dark but bold colors. Each Ducal House and its nobles wear their own colors. Peasants and low-born citizens dress as their coin allows, mimicking some of the knightly fashions, though they usually only wear dark and drab colors avoiding any bold ones.

Billowing cloaks, long leather belts and baldrics, flowing shirts in crisp white or bold colors, tall leather boots, and loose fitting breeches serve as accoutrements to the knightly fashions adorning the bodies of the Vellingrim.

Completing any outfit is a weapon worn in a way that it can be drawn easily and so that it can be seen by any who set eyes upon them. Swords are the current fashion but clubs, falchions, long knives, and other weapons of menacing appearance are also favored.

Roleplaying

~ Always look beneath the surface. You have learned that a beautiful surface can hide great ugliness beneath.

~ Be strong. Strength is the last thing that can be taken from you and with it you are far more likely to hold onto the rest of what you have.

~ There are many things hidden in the world and that ability to hide gives them great power to do harm. Do not suffer those who seek to hide things and be sure secrets come to see the light of day.

~ Everyone needs help from time to time. Without someone helping you, you never would have escaped the misery that was your life in Vellingrim. When someone needs help, be there for them.

Religion

Worship of any other-worldly force is discouraged in Vellingrim. The people are encouraged to have faith in the land, its people, and its rulers. Small churches and temples spring up from time to time but they never seem to have any longevity, losing any active congregations within, at most, a few years.

Rumors of demon worship and a devotion to Beleghast are difficult to confirm as there is no official stance about such things by the nobility.

Magic

Destruction and pain is all the magic of Vellingrim is capable of. It is not enough to rend one’s enemies, you must ensure that their death is as painful as possible to show them and anyone else who dares to stand against Vellingrim, its nobles, and its sorcerers the folly of such an undertaking.

Elemental in nature, Vellingrim’s spells largely calls forth both natural fire and fire from fel places beyond the world.

Society

Much of life in Vellingrim is a reflection of what people see at the top. The kingdom is ruled by the Council of Dukes. The example they set is one that the people of the kingdom follow. Training, study, knowledge, expertise, and hard work are value greatly but so is the ability that, when one’s duty is done, to enjoy the fruits of those labors. Because of this, work being done after night has truly fallen is deeply frowned upon and work will usually only recommence at dawn.

Governance is also a reflection of the council. The Duke’s Council makes all decisions with a majority, despite the even number of them, and nearly all decisions are made unanimously. In fact, the council claims that there has not been a decision made by simple majority in over a century. Merchanting houses, conventions of gentry, village councils, and the like adopt this form of decision making regarding matters of import.

Vellingrim is a meritocracy. There are no hereditary titles. Everyone is equal with an equal chance to rise to the heights of power. Any son or daughter of even a Duke must earn their place and demonstrate they are worthy of it. Although there are bloodlines and families, they can easily lose power if they are seen as weak. There are many stories of the lowest of the low rising to be gentry or knights, though any citizen would be hard pressed to actually come up with a name of someone who did such a thing if pressed for it.

All wealth and resources within a duchy are the duke’s and all those resources belong to the kingdom to be distributed amongst the people. Though much of the wealth is literally handled by the nobles, the dukes and knights assert that nearly all of it flows back down as a reward to the citizens of Vellingrim for their great efforts.

The Deacons of Warmth are an order of esteemed people within the kingdom who have great authority but are not nobles. They answer to the Council of Dukes but to no individual member specifically. Their duty is to be the voice of the people to their nobility. They travel the kingdom, bringing aid and comfort to the people. They also take important missives and requests from the people to the council.

Regions

Vellingrim is covered by lush, green, rolling hills. Fields produce ample yields of crops. Orchards and vineyards dot the land, providing fruit for wines and liquors that are sought the world over. To hear it from diplomats, compassionate rulers oversee the efforts of a well-cared for populace. Nobility and stalwart purpose is mixed with an ability to let their hair down and celebrate the successes of their labor.

The kingdom is split into four roughly even sections by the Wine River that runs north-south and the Soldiers’ Road which runs east-west. Each of these sections is its own duchy ruled over by one of the Dukes of Vellingrim and the nobles and knights who serve His or Her Grace.

Duchy of Red Arch: The nobles and gentry of this duchy are a reflection of their duke. They are known to be men and women that are strong, boisterous, and do not shy away from embracing life and relishing in their success and the fruits of it.  Red Arch has the most lavish parties and social gatherings in the kingdom. They also have the most robust population of gentry. Lastly, they are the envy of the kingdom for sports and boast the most spectacular gladiatorial pits in Vellingrim. They also boast having all the best gladiators, but that claim is met with enthusiastic dissent from the other duchies. Though the Council of Dukes claims that all lands are created equal, it is not hard to see that Red Arch stands out amongst the other three.

Duchy of Deep Furrows:  With some of the most bountiful farmlands in the kingdom, the Deep Furrows boasts huge celebrations around the spring and fall. This duchy is the most populated due to the large numbers of people who work the farms, associated mills, and other industry. A small portion of the volcanic range runs through the corner of the Deep Furrows. There is no significant mining, but the ash that falls there allows them to grow varieties of fruits that can only be grown there and in the Deep Furrows.

Duchy of Gilded Spears: The duchy is known for its spit and polished image, strict rules and customs, and impressive pageantry. Military parades and demonstrations are commonplace in the duchy. Most of the kingdom’s military is drawn from and is ultimately garrisoned there. With such a high percentage of the populace serving or having served in the military the duchy has a very straight laced culture, and even those that do not serve take on that bearing as well as a lot of the slang, customs, and bearing of those in the army. Much of the land is mountainous with significant volcanic activity. Those who are not soldiers work mines dedicated to the excavation of gold, silver, and a wide variety of gems. It is dangerous work. The volcanoes have been known to flow out lava or even erupt. In those cases, great efforts are made to save any and all miners and foremen. The volcanic ash also serves to enrich the soil and there are a few vineyards at the foot of the volcanic range that grow an exotic type of grape.

Duchy of Ash Forge: With a little bit of everything, the duchy has a mix of farming, mining, and industry. It is also one of the only places that an outsider might see Vellingrim, as most of the kingdom’s outside trade originates and terminates here. Rough neighbors, dirty streets, and citizens struggling to get by can be seen in the duchy’s cities, towns, and villages. The nobles lament the corrupting influence of the outside kingdoms as the sole reason for this duchy’s woes, but such words are almost never heard from the duke directly. This duchy often sponsors knightly games and tournaments for entertainment of citizens and visitors alike but also has a vibrant arts community and gladiatorial pits. Despite strict penalties, smugglers frequent this area as the rewards are rich for those lucky or skilled enough to avoid detection.

People

Duke Lothar Gerste of Red Arch – The Duke is known for his fiery personality and dedication to his passions. He is known for making sure his duchy holds the most lavish spectacles, parties, tournaments, and gatherings in the kingdom. He has great support from all corners of the kingdom and is known to be widely loved by the gentry of Vellingrim.

Duke Elisa Mulvar of the Deep Furrows – A serious and aloof figure, the duchess leaves much of the day to day operations of the duchy and its production of food to her knights who work closely with the most esteemed members of the Deacons of Warmth. The duchess is rarely seen outside her holdings. Rumors suggest she is a woman of great scholarly interest and aptitude and that her rituals and magical research are the focus of her days and nights.

Duke Adler Roth of Gilded Spears – If a bard were to sing a song of a beloved, masterful general, the mind would bring forth the image of Duke Roth. Though his bearing is strict and militaristic, he carries himself in a way that shows his love of his men and country. He can often be seen out with his soldiers drilling and preparing to defend Vellingrim. A master strategist, he is also a renowned warrior in his own right. He has a reputation as no-nonsense and is not often seen at court or at the games or parties around the kingdom, instead preferring to spend his time in his duchy and with the army.

Duke Garrit Sankt of Ash Forge – Charismatic and friendly, Duke Sankt is the face of Vellingrim to almost any outsider. He handles almost all matters of trade and takes a very hands on approach. He makes sure he is aware of the comings and goings within his duchy with special attention paid to visitors. He is an enthusiastic supporter of games and sports. He has great personal interest in gladiatorial contests and his known to sponsor several popular and esteemed gladiators. The complexities of numbers and other matters of trade are a particular specialty of his.