Sunday, June 22, 2014

Still More Things…

…that I know about the Middle Sea world.

A rough map of the campaign area. Click to
make bigger. Stonehell might actually be a touch
closer to Hexspire than it is on this map.
The campaign city is Hexspire. It is the largest city of the sorcerer-kings, located at the end of a bay located at the north end of the Giantspine Peninsula, protected from ocean storms by a fairly large harbor island. Being the only major port of the sorcerer-kings outside of the Grand Gulf, a great deal of sea trade passes through Hexspire, and a goodly amount of land trade comes through as well. The city is ruled by a mage whose leadership can best be described as "indifferent". He prefers to leave matters largely to his council of three advisors. Nestled in the foothills on the northern side of the mountains to the north of Hexspire lies Stonehell Dungeon, a prison founded by a previous, mad sorcerer-king of Hexspire. Dug largely by the prisoners themselves, Stonehell is a deep, extensive set of tunnels today. Adventurers come from all over the world for the privilege of delving into Stonehell to recover what treasures they can find, contending with the mad descendents of the original prisoners.

There are cloud castles that float through the skies, mostly inhabited by giants or dragons. There is one cloud city (actually a large village of about 750 inhabitants) populated by winged humans who call themselves "Falinesha", which means "the winged people". The Falinesha of the city in the clouds follow a form of the Denialist Path, though they have no monks. Other Falinesha elsewhere follow the local religion or participate in polytheist sects.

There are roving bands of traveling folk who call themselves "Jrusteli", but are usually called less pleasant names by others. They typically have painted wagons and travel in caravans. They are known for their magical prowess and divinatory skill, but also for being unrepentent thieves. How much of their reputation is actually true is another matter. They are polytheists, but will generally adopt, or pretend to adopt, the religion of whatever region they are in.

In the high mountain country southeast of the salt sea, there lives a group of humans who have lost the ability to perform normal magic (though clerical/druidic magic and illusion are still available to them; they are completely incapable of developing psionic abilities), but gained the occasional ability to manipulate time. These people have a group of elite warriors known as Timelords, which are described in an article in Dragon magazine #65. Religiously, they tend toward the Denialist Path, but there is a strong minority of Fatalists among them. They are staunch allies of the Kzaddich.

On the mountain on the western shore of the Dead Lake (the small body of water to the east of the Long Sea) stands an inaccessible castle. This is the headquarters of a demon-worshiping assassin cult known as the Kindred of Juiblex. In addition to normal men, fighters, magic-users, and thieves, there are known to be at least a few dozen spies (the name for the assassin class in the Middle Sea world) dedicated to assassination. The cult is known to sacrifice humans, and are rumored to practice cannibalism. Cult members are mostly scattered through the cities in the northern parts of the sorcerer-kings' city-states, including Hexspire.

The younger sons of the warrior aristocracy of the Kurai (including the Ardhrikai, Ilyanai, and Dessai), who do not stand to inherit, sometimes join a wolf cult. These are roaming bands of warrior youths that live off the land (and a bit of banditry). They are tolerated because they provide a layer of protection for the borders with no effort from the rulers. It is not uncommon for these cults to be led by a Ranger. Some of the wolf cults take the concept literally, deliberately infecting initiates with lycanthropy - they are usually werewolves, but werebears and wereboars are not uncommon. Members of the wolf cults, especially the lycathropic ones, are prized warriors among the Kurai, though they are treated carefully due to their unpredictability. The Banavai have outlawed the practice, as they consider it to be a perversion of the sacred form granted to humanity by the Four Elemental Gods (or so they say; more likely, it is because the wolf cults never accepted the sacred inviolability of the Tetradic Monasteries).

The Murai have a central temple located on the shores of the small salt sea in their lands. The temple is headed by the Grand Bishop, who maintains control through a hierarchy of Bishops, down to the heads of families who are considered "Family Bishops". In addition to this main hierarchy, there is a system of sending young people on a period of wandering through the various branches, and sometimes out to foreign lands. Those wandering the branches learn more about their people and act to provide enforcement of the laws and moral teachings of the Radiants from a perspective that is not tied in with the social structure of the branch. Those traveling to outside lands have a commission to spread the teachings of the Radiant Church. Most young people will spend time in each of these pursuits. During this period, they wear distinctive clothing, consisting of a patchwork poncho over their normal clothing. The poncho is always made by the women of the family from which the young person comes, and serves as a constant reminder of the love and support given to them by their family.

In addition to the Bishops, Murai branches are run by a (nominally) secular authority known as the Reeve. The branch Reeve has normal authority to enforce the laws of the land and can send a representative, or go himself, to the Great Moot. The Great Moot is where legislation occurs, with the approval of the temple. The youths on their Wander act on the authority of the Temple, and can usually overrule the Reeve if they can support their reasoning. Failing to support their reason for overruling the Reeve results in immediate ending of their Wander and lasting disgrace.

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