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Offline EchoMirage

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Sanctum - A World Beyond its Fate
« on: May 11, 2014, 01:59:16 PM »
Sanctum is a world of a different fate than what the Allfather had intended for it.
Beyond the creatures intended to inhabit it, three mature races in exile have found a haven here - Dwarves, Elves and Dragons.
Their arrival upset the fragile balance, leading to a world in turmoil. Sanctum is a haven, but far from safe.

The setting is intended to accommodate many 'classic' fantasy races, though some are re-imagined.
It is system-independent.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2015, 01:50:27 PM by EchoMirage »
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Re: Sanctum - A World Beyond its Fate
« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2014, 05:18:46 PM »
Watch out. Contains spoilers.

The Age of Divine Discord
The Allfather left Sanctum in the custody of the Bound Gods - divinities that were dependant on their flocks for sustenance, and populated them with the Faithful Races.
Back then, the Gods were one kindred, with natures as diverse as the days in the year - a panopticum of divinity, each with a part of the world to care for, each with his mortal flock.
Their tastes and approaches were as different as their shells, with some preferring to mimic the Allfather's great deeds through creation, some preferring to maintain what he created, and some making room for new growth by tearing down the old.

The Divine Schizm was one of philosophy - the mellower deities of creation and those of order allying against those they deemed unstable, careless, insane or plain destructive. Today, we would call them Demons, yet they are of the same divine seed.
The gods locked away their brethren in the lower realms of Ergamoth and Acheron, to starve, separated from creation forever.
This is one of the Great Secrets. The gods do not want anyone to known that demons are made from the same cloth.

Alas, the outcasts were just forced to adapt, feeding on energies from outside creation, and biding their time.

Systems:
The Faithful Races are all the sapient dwellers of Sanctum, with the exception of the Elves, Dwarves and Dragons.
*All Faithful have souls. These enter the body at conception, and leave with the mortal shell's death.
*Souls pass across the Wheel in the Halls of Rukh, where they rest and are reborn, refreshed.
*All Faithful Races are mortal. Their souls burn too bright for their frail shells, slowly wearing them away until the shell fails.
*The bright fire of the mortals' souls gives of manna, for the gods to feed upon. The mortal subconsciously decides where it ends up; often with the deity he worships.

The Bound Gods come in many guises, but have the following traits in common:
*They require manna to perform miracles, and to live.
*An unfed god weakens, until he becomes a creature of the physical world, and mortal.
*The lowest form of sustenance is blood taken by force; the weakest deities have forgotten their divine nature, and feed on the living. These deities are called the Baali, and even mortals do not know of their divine potential. A Baali who cannot secure regular blood supply will fall into a coma. Baali do not have souls - their souls have become physical. Thus, a god slain in the form of flesh is gone.
This is one of the Great Secrets. The Gods do not want anyone to know that the Baali could ascend to godhood themselves.

The Demons are split in two main camps: Ergamoth and Acheron.
*The Ergamothi are filled with wrath at their exile, and wish nothing more than to lay ruin to the world that was stolen from them.
*To manifest, the Ergamothi must find or create a focus in the physical world, often an artifact or gem. They are then able to project a form forged of magic. The death of this form harms them little - they are stunned, and then they simply will manifest a new one after resting. The destruction of the focus returns them to Ergamoth. The simultaneous death of their body, and destruction of the focus traumatizes them significantly, banishing them to Ergamoth in a weakened state for decades at least.
*The Ergamothi can be summoned, but wish nothing more than to wreak havoc.

*The Acheronians wish to reclaim creation from the usurpers.
*They will either possess a body that is near death close to a rift between the worlds, or are called into a body by a summoner, absorbing the soul in both cases. They can then adapt this body to their needs.
*Acheronians are far more concerned about blending in, learning of the world - all the better to depose the gods.
*Unlike their Ergamothian kin, the body of the Acheronians is truly alive, and they may even breed with mortals.
*Akin to gods, Acheronians care about affection or worship from mortals. Any strong emotion feeds their hunger.

The Age of Exiles
Fleeing from their own ruined world, the Elves and Dwarves arrived in Sanctum in disarray. The Elves soon thrived, but the air was slightly poisonous to the dwarves. This had two effects: Dwarves of later generations were weaker, less regal and noble than their ancestors from the old world; they also had to enter into the Three Ignoble Pacts, which finally allowed them to thrive though.

The exodus was also the time of the Great Elf Treason. Both races were originally extremely long-lived, but still mortal. As the Elves controlled the gate used for their escape, they used it to steal life-force from the Dwarven race as a whole, finally achieving agelessness.
The knowledge of the Great Treason was lost from many tribes of the dwarven race in the wars between the weakened Dwarf folk, and the then-superior Elfkin, and the wars against the gods.
This is one of the Great Secrets. Secret agencies among the Elves aggressively stamp out any information of their treason.

Proud and unbending, the newcomers met with the Gods, yet refused to acknowledge anyone as their superior. Tensions ran high after the first encounter; the Elves soon found that mortals were the key to deicide, and slew countless Gods to carve out the elven kingdoms - Tallarn, Telvanir and Vascaron.
The world was in upheaval as the Elves tore open the gates of the Abyss, according to the adage that the enemy of your enemy is a friend. The deluded mistake was obvious without delay, as the demons wrought great vengeance and destruction upon both sides, obliterating Telvanir, carving a bloody path across Vascaron, and cursing Tallarn to this day.

A desperate alliance of Elves and Gods finally re-sealed the Abyss, though the seal would never again be as firm as when it was wrought the first time - the wiser demons had spent their time during the escape by puncturing the barrier between the worlds with holes and secret paths.

The Elven Schizm occurred at the eve of the War of Ruin, when those that would continue deicide and force their claim upon the world split from their brethren who made peace with the Gods.
Thus, the Dark Elves were born, striving towards the downfall of Gods and all Faithful Races to this day.

Systems:
All Elves are unaging, appearing to be the human equivalent of 25 years old at most.
*All Elves are capable of sorcery.
*All gods of the Elves are in fact exceedingly powerful Elves. Through profound understanding of reality and by acquiring vast power, an Elf can shed the physical body and ascend. Only a few are able of this profound level of understanding. Elven deities take their power directly from the world.
*Elven souls are created at the moment of conception. They can persist after death if their link to the world was close enough, transforming into spirits of nature for example.
*Dark Elves appear similar to their more moderate kin.
*Elves can breed with many mortal races. The newly-sparked Elven soul will consume the mortal soul drawn into the child.
*Elves do not generate manna for deities.

Dwarves are long-lived, but age and become frail still.
*Dwarven souls are created at the moment of conception. Dwarves cannot breed with any other race.
*Dwarves do not generate manna for deities.
*Dwarves worship their great heroes, artisans and ancestors. As long as a Dwarf is remembered by his kin, as long as his creations are used and revered, his spirit is able to aid the Dwarves.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2016, 05:51:50 PM by EchoMirage »
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Re: Sanctum - A World Beyond its Fate
« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2014, 05:36:33 PM »
Lyra
The Lyran Empire, Joint Electorate of Lyra
The self-titled "Bastion of Mankind", "Torch of Civilization", "Bulwark of Progress"

The heart of civilization, at least according to its inhabitants, Lyra lies on the fertile banks of the river Warraine and around the Worldsplit Straits, and has conquered numerous surrounding lands. Today, over 65 million people claim its citizenship, and numerous prosperous cities oversee the lands.
The climate of Lyra is temperate, cool in the northern reaches. All of Lyra is excessively rainy, with heavy snowfall in winter.
Most of the country is accessible via paved roads, winding between intensively cultivated lands.

*Khoratas:
the heart of the Empire, the Pearl of the Warraine is a city housing two million people. As to preserve the fertile black soil of the surrounding lands, the city has been built upwards, higher and higher towards the clouds. The structures at the bottom have long crumbled under the weight of those above. Sunlight and fresh air are in short supply at the lower levels, and the wealthy flock towards the surface, while the masses dwell in the shadow. A crown of this artificial mountain, the royal palace stands proudly at the top, from where the emperor and his wizards oversee the doings in his land, while older palaces lie buried beneath.

*The Heartland:
flat and moist, this is the breadbasket of the realm. The fertile soil and ample rainfall allow two harvests per year, which is necessary to feed the teeming population of the many populous cities dotting the landscape, where the wealthy merchant and citizen class is beginning an intellectual and cultural renaissance.

*The Highlands:
while Lyra lays claim to wide lands, in some areas the control is less tight. One of those are the highlands, where, though they are in the center of the empire, the king rules but the valleys, while independent dwarven cities, small ancient kingdoms, savage orcish tribes and mysterious beings rule the heights.

*The Academies:
Lyra has institutionalized the learning of magic, amongst many other arts. Three academies teach the gifted of the realm, serving the crown, but also fiercely competing and following their own agendas. Proud Annuli Dersa resides on a table mountain in the north, ever rainy and shrouded in mist; Ark-Hellen calls a gargantuan tower its home, secluded in a lush crater; and finally Twycross, a mighty fortress in the midst of a wasteland blasted by magical warfare, pervaded by arcane energies and the stench of the Abyss alike.

*The North:
long winters, seemingly never-ending nights and assaults by the untamed northerners, independent demi-human nations and fierce blizzards take their toll. This is really a place that forges a man into a stronger whole, or breaks him to pieces. Conquered only recently, many northern provinces retain their peculiar culture and nationalist feelings. The magistrates and legions stationed here most frequently consider it a punishment.

*The Colonies:
across the sea, Lyra has either conquered or befriended numerous seashores, and heavy war galleys as well as lumbering merchant vessels, a welcome target for pirates, cross the blue emptiness of the ocean, bringing luxuries, slaves and trophies to sate the hunger of the empire.
The heart of civilization, at least according to its inhabitants, Lyra lies on the fertile banks of the river Warraine, and has conquered numerous surrounding lands. Today, over 65 million people claim its citizenship, and numerous prosperous cities oversee the lands.
Fyndhalor: a Llyndhyran city that was recently conquered by Lyra, the walled port is a constant source of unrest. Unwaveringly loyal to their king, the Llyndhyran 'barbarians' occupy the wits of the governor, lady Ithiria Lilienfeldt, all day, every day. Vexed by taxation by a foreign monarch, the natives rebel incessantly.
Passive resistance, sabotage and outright violence erupt inside the city's walls, while the patrols outside, amongst the hills and farmsteads, fear to travel in units less than fifty strong, lest the highlanders tear them to shreds.
The lady had the natives' priests put to the sword, she had their chieftains dragged off as hostages, but nothing seems to break the will of the blonde giants.
Slowly, she is losing imperial favor as the city's much-wanted iron mines fail to consistently provide the desired ore, while throngs of Llyndhyrans and Dynahyrans gather on the border. Verily, the Lyran army may be the first thing to unite the implacable foes against the threat it presents.
Ungol Mirath, the Broken Mountain: once a dwarven enclave within the borders of Lyra, sovereign yet allied, Ungol-Mirath was taken over when the Lyran king fell too deep in debt to the Dwarven moneylenders to repay. Imperial mages split the mountain open; the legions broke any resistance. Today, the wealth of the hold flows to Lyra, while the Dwarves are in chains, one and all, toiling to repay the 'war crimes'. Lyran criminals too populate the pock-marked landscape, with most sentences handed out by Duke Coburg-Gotha being a term in the mines.
Anelien, the Blissful Bay: as a byproduct of a far larger campaign, the Lyran army annexed Anelien, an elven enclave on te southern Samean coast. The populace, enslaved and outnumbered by the newly-arriving Lyrans, is reduced to high-class servants and entertainment, displaying unearthly swordplay, singing ballads of unmeasurable beauty for unappreciative ears, being degraded by the lust of conquerors and dragged off to serve in Lyra as slaves. To Lyrans, Anelien is a symbol for their love of Elven culture, and generally a high-class place to visit.
Sil Cithandir: a protectorate of Lyra on the border of Arcadizar, the Elven city sided with the known evil in exchange for safety from the zealous theocracy. The prince of Sil Cithandir, Aentherion, is spending most of his time in Khoratas, embroiled in the high game of intrigue and diplomacy, to ensure a viable future for his people.
Gillian's Girdle: a string of islands along the Samean coast houses a bustling port city - both a gate to the riches of Samea, and busy point of commerce. The city itself is swarming with adventurers, scoundrels and pirates, mercenaries, enterpreneurs and merchants, and resonates with languages from all over the world. Lady Lintharis, a Tallarn Elven exile, runs the city for the Emperor with cunning guile and brutal efficiency. Ever desiring of power and status, Lintharis climbs the social ladder ruthlessly - by coin and guile preferrably (such as the marriage to the decadent duchess of Loewenfels), or by dagger and venom (such as the sudden vacancy of the governor's post).

***

The climate of Lyra is temperate, cool in the northern reaches. All of Lyra is excessively rainy, with heavy snowfall in winter.

Most of the country is accessible via paved roads, winding between intensively cultivated lands.

The land is a melting pot of cultures, and such is both their language and the appearance of the people. Lyra is a place of contrast – between the rich and the poor, between the good and the vile and between the different groups inhabiting it. Lyrans place great emphasis on personal freedom and independence, at least as much as they place trust in the gold coin, the most beloved object of many a Lyran.

Culture:
*Family: here it takes whatever form the members agree to live in – extended families are not uncommon, but singles with a child or two can also be encountered. Lyra is a place of endless diversity, and as such all forms of family are found here.
*Marriage and divorce: One can marry whom he wishes to in Lyra, and even interracial or same-sex couples are not unheard of. It is legally not possible to be married to more than one person at once unless certain conditions are met – either one of the partners is declared a concubine/lover, in which case he/she does not share the benefits of being married, such as inheritance if the partner dies, but the children sprung from such an union are all legal in all respects; if one of the partners is declared infertile, he is not counted against the limit, but all children will be attributed to the partner who was declared as fertile; a woman can also be married to a nobleman as a substitute mother, surrendering her children to the true lady, but acquiring temporary status one level lower than the true lady’s that is hers as long as she is married to the lord. Recently, nobles have been taking elven concubines, to gift their successors with an extended lifespan; being a half-elf is also considered fashionable.
Divorce is easy in Lyra, at least nominally. Any priest of the deity under whose patronage the bond was sealed can declare the couple divorced after a brief ceremony. The financial side of the parting is much more complicated and exhausting – it can take months or even years to arrange all financial matters, and this fact alone has prevented many a marriage from being cancelled.
*Adultery: unless the other partner takes offense in the matter, this is not considered a crime. On the other hand, if he does this poses a serious matter, for, depending on the partners’ relationship, the oaths that bind them and the person the deed was committed with, the punishment can turn out serious indeed, most of all if both of the offenders were of much lower social class than the betrayed partner.

*Women as adventurers:
are possible and common in Lyra. If a girl has the stuff for a life on the road, nobody will take offense.

*Government: the government of Lyra is a combination of feudalism and oligarchy. As it is both possible to buy a title using money (quite common) or earn it through great deeds (actually rare), the ranks of nobility welcome many new members on a day-to-day basis. On the other hand, it is possible for a nobleman who has lost his fortune to descend in rank if he cannot back up his claim to nobility with hard cash. Some noble houses are excluded from this rule, mainly those who received their titles as a reward for services to the crown. These houses call themselves the “true nobles” and often bear their coat of arms with great pride despite being firmly held in the grip of poverty.
*Structure: the leaders are selected from the descendants of the deceased or retired leader by a group of four priests and nine other nobles appointed by the former lord. In the case of the descendant to the throne there are sixteen nobles - the heads of the elector houses, while the priests are the heads of their respective churches, additionally the heads of the three wizardly academies, and the Praetor of the most prominent knightly order (who also carries the tie-breaking vote).
If the former lord just abdicated, and himself wishes to vote, he is given two votes.

*Class Structure: at the bottom of the society stand the outlaws – bandits and outcasts. Next come the slaves and serfs, above them the free farmers and craftsmen. Mages are held in high regard, and any official graduate of any of the Lyran academies can gain a noble title simply by asking, being promoted to the status of knight, although he has to maintain it through regular service to the crown, a reason for many mages not to adopt such a title. This sort of title can only be passed on to a descendant who possesses the power of Magery, otherwise it is considered cancelled. Truly powerful mages can rise to the rank of baron or even duke if their service is of sufficient quality. Above the rank of duke is the rank of the elector, and the king sits at the top of the social pyramid.
*Etiquette and its enforcement: The nobility is fascinated by the Elves and their manners, and thus tries to duplicate them – with little success. The code is an elaborate collection of debased Elven rites and social conventions, spiced with native customs, as well as an odd piece or two of unknown origin. While the nobility follows this form of etiquette, the common folk are simply given as much respect as they command. A breach of etiquette in the upper circles will simply earn the culprit a bad reputation amongst his peers, and his company will not be welcome the next time, while a lack of respect can mean your death when dealing with the wrong sort of the common folk.
*Slavery: is common within Lyra – about fifteen percent of the society are slaves. There are many ways one can become a slave – as a result of being captured by the armies of Lyra in wartime, due to unpaid debts or simply being born as the child of a slave. One can also voluntarily sell himself into slavery for a fixed amount of time. Slaves receive as many rights as their owner grants them. While their owner can deal with them pretty much as he desires, others will usually not harm another’s slave – this constitutes damage of private property. A slave can gain freedom if his debts are paid, his contract expires or his owner grants him this privilege.

*Religion: the Lyran mythology believes the world resting upon four pillars, and their gods also number four – Ayatwah, Aataquah, Alivaanah and Avathimanah. Theirs is the power over the elements, and theirs are the character traits and concepts associated with each element: while Fire holds sway over love, chaos and rage, Earth is bound by honor and law, for trust and duty are its second nature. The Air symbolizes freedom, wit and commerce, but also mystery brought on the wings of the wind. Water is the life’s essence, and brings renewal and peace.
While the four powers rarely get involved into the matters, their presence can be felt in times of great turmoil – otherwise their favor or disfavor takes forms too subtle to be easily noticed.
The Lyran faith is tolerant, and thus other religions can coexist in the same area, provided of course they are tolerant themselves.
*Liturgical form: Lyran worship is at least as much a public matter as a private one. The most important ceremonies take place in the street, and the temples are constructed in a way reflecting this – roofs held up high by pillars form the entirety of a temple’s public area. Every four weeks, a ceremony is held at the temples, each of the four weekends belonging to another deity.
While at home, the faithful can also make use of a private shrine, consisting most often of a niche covered by a curtain, where a statuette of the deity is kept.
*Funerary custom: well aware of the dangers of necromancy and grave robbery, the dead are cremated in Lyra, and are not given any grave goods. All that is done in their memory is the construction of a pillar with a statue of the deceased. Nonetheless, there are ancient graveyards, dusty crypts and catacombs laden with bodies and grave goods of all sorts, reminder of a time when the customs of Lyra were quite different – the opulence of the goods discovered within wealthy graves points towards the greatest fear of a member of a society that places utmost importance in worldly belongings: the fear of losing it all when finally death claims you.
*Magic: Lyra is a normal mana area, and thus only mages may cast spells. Mages are highly respected in Lyra, but the concurrence within their ranks is merciless and often violent.

*Art-Graphic and Sculpture: he who can afford it will have his home decorated in some way just to show it – the wealthier the owner, the more elaborate will the artwork decorating the outside as well as the inside of his dwelling will be. Due to the lucrativity of the trade, many talented (and many more untalented) youths will choose the path of the artist. As well as that, many nobles will pursue artistic endeavors in their spare time. As with all other trades, a good artist can make a fortune in Lyra, but many more others fail.
*Music and dance: Lyran music most often makes the use of string instruments and wooden wind instruments. Most often the music is swift and merry, for the people desire it so. Song is most often used as secular entertainment, though at the height of summer, all churches make use of choirs counting hundreds of singers in their greatest ceremony. Dancing is a popular entertainment both amongst commoners and the nobility.
*Sports and games: very popular are horse and chariot races, as well as gladiatorial fights; also, given the nature of the inhabitants of Lyra, just about any game of chance or wit can gain popularity. A favorite are diverse board games, as well as card games of all sorts. Most Lyran inns seem to have at least half of their space dedicated to gambling, and the people gladly use the opportunity.
*Architecture: out of necessity, Lyran architects construct buildings mostly out of stone, for quality wood is not all too common in Lyra, and most of the time it is saved up for internal isolation and furniture. The structures are tall to be able to house many people on a small area, as well as to catch as much sun as possible. Due to the humid climate are all structures equipped with gutters leading to the vast sewer systems – Lyra is the only realm in which the cities are given this luxury on a regular basis – all the water has to go somewhere. As the stone buildings tend to be cold both in the harsh Lyran winter as well as the rainy summer, the architects were forced to become the masters of isolation. The aforementioned facts have other side effects – due to a lack of firewood are oil and coal in great demand, as well as furs for sleeping facilities.
*Cooking: while Lyra has its own rather heavy cuisine, many specialties from other lands can be encountered. The people share a certain fondness for eating out, so that a wide plethora of establishments of various quality, yet generally acceptable prices can be found.
*Clothing: the poor dress in cheap and readily available wool, while the rich wear the most exotic fabrics they can lay their hands on, complemented by furs and jewelry – wealth is a measure for status in Lyra, and jewels are a way of showing off. While in their well-heated homes, many noble ladies can be encountered wearing but a few skimpy patches of fabric along with extensive amounts of jewelry, for the same visual effect as if fully dressed. Those of knightly status wear elaborate coats of arms meant to instantly identify the wearer amongst his peers.
*Food: Lyra is literally covered with vast expanses of wheat, soy and rice fields, as well as grazing grounds for countless different forms of cattle. What the poor man eats reflects this fact – Lyran cooks constantly strive to invent still new kinds of porridge, bread and cakes. Besides these, dairy products are regularly on the menu, as well as the occasional bit of meat or a fish or two. The commoner’s drink is beer or rice wine. The nobles are not so restricted in their choices, and can afford to have their food imported – first of all real wine, as no-one has ever succeeded in cultivating wine in Lyra, for the climate is far too cold.
*Packs and containers: Lyrans use heavy wagons as well as sleds for transportation on land, or simply pack the goods on the backs of beasts of burden. Solid goods are transported in baskets or sacks. For the transportation of fluids, ceramics, glass containers or wineskins are used. As wood is expensive in the central lands, many of the wagons are built of bone, an amazing sight for a foreigner indeed.
*Boats: Lyra does not have many ships. The merchant fleets consist of heavy, broad and stable, yet slow and cumbersome vessels able to bring vast amounts of bulky goods safely to their destination. Most of the vessels are not truly ocean-going, and constrained to the fairly easy travel on the Channel. The war fleet’s numbers are few, but these ships are rightly feared – the steel-plated war galleys are amongst the fastest and fearsome of vessels, as they house three hundred row men each, as well as carrying numerous soldiers armed with heavy crossbows and weapons for close combat. Many heavy siege engines capable of causing utter mayhem on the coast or the decks of enemy ships are mounted on these giants of war.
*Airships: though only in early stages of development, hot air balloons and zeppelin are already in use in Lyra. Though their safety and reliability, as well as cargo capacity, leave much to be desired, they are gaining in popularity rapidly.

*Weapons:
*Missile weapons: both the crossbow and bow are in wide use in Lyra. The come in a variety of shapes and materials – bone, wood and metal are all likely to be encountered. Bows come in all sizes, from the short bow to the composite bow, and so do crossbows: small hand crossbows and titanic ballistae are all very popular. In times of war, every Lyran footman and knight will carry a missile weapon.
*Long swords and short swords are the preferred weapon of the Lyran soldier. Lyran-made steel is not of the highest quality, but the weapons come cheap, and they are quite good at doing their job.
*Other weapons: knights make also use of flails, heavy maces and lances, while the pike and halberd are pretty much popular amongst some foot troops.
*Weaponless combat: your average Lyran will resort to style-less brawling if encountered without a weapon, but this almost never happens – any Lyran, whether beggar or noble, will have hidden daggers, knives, shurikens and stilettos all over him. Thus the fists usually only fly in friendly brawls, for as soon as the fight gets serious, various edged and/or pointed items are drawn.
*Armor: the common Lyran soldier will wear a pot helm and a breastplate – the best compromise between weight, cost and protection. On the other hand, the knight will be encased in solid steel, and his steed will be much like him – clad in armor from head to heels.
*Shields: many Lyran footmen carry medium or large shields, and are highly trained in their use, being able to defend both himself and his peers with his shield.
*Military tactics: Lyra relies on its disciplined legions of countless footmen – after all, what Lyra has in abundance are people – people willing to fight for a copper or simply the joy of it (not that these would not demand pay). A substantial amount of Lyran men have already served in the legions. The footmen are backed up by small contingents of knights and numerous siege engines the men are able to assemble or disassemble in a matter of minutes.

*Economy and Trade:
« Last Edit: August 14, 2015, 01:51:29 PM by EchoMirage »
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Re: Sanctorum - A World Beyond its Fate
« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2014, 04:16:08 PM »
Samea:
Siyel Samaiensirië, The Misty Coast, Witchwood
This land occupies the vast forest expanses and verdant rolling hills in the shadow of the Ironfang mountain range and the banks of the river Xalune that descends from their heights into the fertile lowlands. The climate is temperate to warm; winters see snow only in the country's north and in higher reaches. Precipitation is abundant, giving rise to temperate rainforests.
The country rises from the sea in the east towards the mountains in the west, with numerous rivers flowing in the opposite direction. There are few paved roads and bridges.

The people of Samea are reclusive and highly social at the same time, valuing their privacy and independence greatly. Compared to the average citizen elsewhere, they are enlightened, following philosophies very distant from the concerns of ordinary people, thus earning a reputation as strange fellows.

*Xalune Delta: as the Xalune falls, swift and lively, from the heights of Zharr Naggrund, she is joined by a multitude of other rivers in a flat basin, winding hence and forth before she finally joins the sea. A multitude of hot springs bubble up through her waters, shrouding the delta in a warm haze heavy with the forest's musk. Will-o-Wisp and river faeries call this trackless land their home, along with shape-shifting river drakes, dryads, sapient plants and a variety of were-beasts - swan-folk, dolphin shifters, were-serpents...
Hidden between the river's meanders and tributaries lie strange lakes that do not have a bottom, but two surfaces instead, leading to tiny but truly strange domains.

*The Pool of Rebirth: hollowed out by mountain rivers in the soft limestone of the Tanmi highland, a system of half-submerged caverns and buried streams hides a secret. Whoever enters one of the pools at its heart, dies as soon as his heart sinks beneath the surface. But, if his heart is *right*, he will find himself re-made and reborn, most often in a strange form - often colourful -  in one of the pools fed by the subterranean rivers.
How the pool judges whom to revive and whom just to kill is anybody's guess, as is the form the revived will take.
Few know of its location, fewer still fathom that it is the domain of a dream fae, and by entering and navigating her dreamscapes, the outcome of a bath in the pool can be influenced.

*The Highlands:
Wind-carved stones, bent and perforated peaks and impossibly tall many-trunked trees emerge from an undulating sea of leaves.
Domain of the stalwart Ironwood treefolk, the dragons Glaurung, Gonthiril, Mentharinë and their spawn, the Highlands see encroachment by the dwarves of Zharr Naggrund. Stone, wood, mineral wealth lure them here, and lead to incessant strife. In defiance of the Conclave, the highlanders are searching for outside help to teach the dwarves a lesson they will not forget.

Ecoré:
An independent city on the borders between Lyra, Zharr-Naggrund and Samea, though affiliated with the latter. It is a meeting point for Elves dispersed outside Tallarn, and it is a hotbed of Elven diplomacy and separatist activities. Hence why Ecore is considered fashionable by some parts of Lyran society, and worth stamping out by others. Dwarves are likewise ambivalent, as the city is a hub of commerce, highly profitable, and one of the few places where they actually can get dealings with Elves done - but diplomatic appointments to Ecore are considered a punishment by many a dwaven envoy.

Demography:
Human: 60%
Elven: 9%
Half-Elven: 11%
Small Folk (halflings, gnomes etc.): 6%
Fae: 2%
Fae-Kin and Fae-Blooded: 5%
Treefolk: 1%
Intelligent / Magical Beasts: 3%
Demon-kin: 0.5%
Baali: 0.05%
Others: ~2.5%

*Family: Sameans band into extended family and clan structures, creating an intricate network of family relations.
*Marriage and Divorce: in Samea, the marriage takes the form of a multigenerational bond, where new members who desire to join marry the group as a whole, thus creating a marriage that can last centuries without interruption. It is a great honor for a foreigner to be accepted as an honorary member of such a group.
Divorce is easy – one has just to declare his bonds to a family group severed, and is free of all the bonds. The main consequence is a reputation of faithlessness. His children are retained within the family. Alternatively, a group can declare a member as divorced, yet this is reserved as a punishment for the gravest of offenses.
Adultery is not punished in Samean society – one who wishes to have sexual relations outside of his marriage may do so, yet most people restrict their sexual activities to members of their marriage group - Sameans are well-aware of sexually transmitted diseases, and many marry as virgins.
*Women as adventurers: are possible and common within Samean society.

*Government: Samea is ruled democratically – every family may send a member, most often the wisest and most experienced, to attend at the conclave held every year where the most important matters are discussed. Alternatively, smaller local conclaves can be held to discuss matters of immediate significance. In matters of law and justice, anyone can be elected a judge or jury from the people present, or alternatively all may serve as jury. Likewise, anyone may propose a new law at the annual conclave, which then will be discussed.
*Social rank: Samean society does not know ranks as such – everyone receives the respect he deserves. The only distinction present is between child, adult and elder. To become an adult, one must have reached the puberty and succeed in the rites of passage, a series of trials and tests of prowess, judgment and wit. As few foreigners have passed these rites, they are usually considered children under Samean jurisdiction, and while they will not show this directly, it can be greatly inconvenient at crucial times. This results in mild punishment for foreign offenders unless their crime has been too grave, in which case they are made to succeed in the rites of passage, and judged later.
To be welcomed in the circle of elders, one must have passed beyond the reproductive age, after which the would-be-elder may express his desire, upon which his enlightenment is judged and he finally admitted into the group.
*Etiquette and enforcement: Sameans show a deep respect towards the feelings and wishes of others. Harming someone or his feelings will not cause retribution, but in the future, the friends of the harmed one will not welcome the offender, and the friends of these friends, and their friends, will react the same. Thus, ruthless and rude individuals will soon find their reputation spreads fast in Samea.
*Slavery: this concept is totally unknown within Samean borders, and any slave to cross the border is automatically considered free.

*Religion:
*Cosmology and pantheon: Sameans belief is animistic – everything is considered divine, and thus all daily workings and all crafts involve a strong ritualistic element as well as meditation. They believe in the Tivuin, the primeval life force that pervades all and brings vitality to the land. This belief is reflected in their respect to man, beast and plant alike.
The church of Tivuin is highly tolerant – to the point where the followers of other religions start offending their faith through recklessness towards their sacred object, e.g. just about everything. Missionaries outside of Samea are not given to take offense at every violation of their belief though, as they know others are not enlightened and must be taught first – thus Samean priests are seen as selfless wise benefactors by foreigners.
*Liturgical form: the ceremonies taking place at every full moon, every new moon, midsummer eve and other obscure times as the feast of creation or the mournful eve, consist of music, dance and contests of prowess and art. These feasts take place in hallowed groves and stone circles. In addition to these rites, every follower of Tivuin will seclude himself in contemplation regularly.

*Magic: with most of Samea being a high mana area, anyone can cast spells there. Most inhabitants learn a spell or two, while those who possess Magery learn many more – Magical Aptitude seems very common – approximately one of three Sameans is a mage, albeit mostly only of minor power. Some sources attribute this fact to the strong Elven heritage of Samean people, while others claim it to be a natural response to the high mana surroundings.
*Shamanism: many Samean elders fulfill the role of a shaman, providing spiritual guidance to youngsters and serving as healers and repository of knowledge. They also observe the proper performance of rituals such as the rite of passage. Many secret healing techniques are known to the shamans, and their lore of wondrous elixirs is unsurpassed.
*Funerary custom: the dead are interred in Samea, and many flowers are planted around the site of their final rest, as well as a single tree – it is believed that the soul of the deceased passes to that tree to continue its life in this way. Alternatively, a newborn child can be placed on the grave so that the soul of the deceased may live on within him as a mentor and guide.
The dead are interred extended, with their arms crossed over their chests. No grave goods are buried with them.
It is a grave offense demanding capital punishment to spill blood upon hallowed ground, but harming the soul tree is even worse still.

*Art:
*Graphic and sculpture: Sameans sculpt accompanying deep inner contemplation, so all of their sculptures are truly unique, and manufactured using techniques unknown elsewhere. It is claimed that some legendary heroes have succeeded of weaving song or light into a tangible state. Metal, glass and gems are widely used, but natural materials are not any less popular. Whatever seems as the best medium to the artist will he shape. Samean art tends to be delicate in nature, seeming simple at first but revealing other more complex layers as the observer continues examining it.
Except for the aforementioned personal art, Sameans use art in a religious way, mostly to decorate their worship sites.
*Music and dance: When not working or contemplating, the people of Samea spend their time socializing and dancing. Their musical instruments of choice are the flute, clarinet, horn, bagpipes and a teeming variety of percussion instruments. The dances tend to be swift, and getting even swifter as they progress, but sad ballads are also sung.
*Sports and games: Sameans eschew practicing the hunt as a sport, but it can be found in children’s games in an abstract version. Contests in dancing, acrobatics and gymnastics are very popular, as well as different sports on horseback. Archery competitions are also common and well liked. Other than these Sameans prefer puzzle board games similar to “go” or “domino”. Games are intended strictly as a leisure activity – gambling is unknown in Samea.
*Tattoo, scarification and piercing: has both a religious and social background. Everyone receives his own unique tattoo upon being accepted amongst the adults, and his history of deeds continues to be recorded on his body. A common practice is to interweave warding amulets and talismans with the tattoos. Family affiliation is recorded, as are marriages and any messages or notes the person wishes. By the end of their lives, some Sameans have used up all of the available space on their bodies. In contrast to tattooing, piercing is used for decoration only, but extensively as well.

*Housing: Sameans construct their homes out of living wood – either through careful manipulation while the tree is growing, or through magic later – the use of Plant spells is widespread in Samea. Very often, the home is shaped around a natural spring; sometimes one of the hot springs common in Samea is incorporated. Generally, the tree is not inconvenienced by the people living inside, as the inhabitants take great care not to harm their tree as well as cleaning it of parasites and aiding it with magic. In the high mana field of Samea, trees sometimes develop a consciousness, and it is a very welcome event if such a tree agrees to house a family. Inside, the homes are made more comfortable through the use of furs, woven tapestries and pillows filled with tree wool. A home consists of a large room where the family rests, as well as several small chambers meant for meditation or artistic pursuits, or to be used as storage chambers. The inhabitants sleep either on the floor or in niches about a foot above the ground.
Rarely, but still, Sameans construct structures inside solid rock or built of stone, mostly meant as either places of worship or refuge during times of peril. These will be dominated by tall and delicate pillars and an abundance of gardens and watercourses.
*Clothing: most of the time Sameans wear utilitarian clothing made of leather and fur, or almost nothing at all except a loincloth, their mild climate along with the abundance of hot springs allowing this. The prudishness so common amongst other cultures is unknown in Samea, and there is nothing offensive in going naked, dressed in nothing but tattoos. Nonetheless, almost every Samean has garments made of exotic and colorful materials tucked away somewhere, and should they decide to wear them, they will appear as a flock of paradise birds.
*Cooking and Food: Sameans prefer to cook outside, as not to threaten their trees with fire. Their sustenance is a diet consisting of wild animals, nuts, berries and the fruits of countless wondrous tress that do not exist elsewhere – their existence is allowed by the high mana field and the magic of their caretakers. Some communities keep small herds of small resilient breeds of cattle, mostly those dwelling in higher regions, while swine are sometimes kept in the lower regions. The rivers are abundant with fish, so that these sometimes appear on the menu.
*Packs or containers: goods are stored in ceramic containers or baskets, while fluids are stored in glass, pottery or hollowed-out produce, similar to pumpkins.
*Land transport: horses and other less common riding animals are in wide use, as well as some fabulous beasts – drakes, griffons and giant felines, to name but a few. Rumor has it that there is no beast a Samean cannot tame – greatly exaggerated yet based upon truth, for animal handling has a long tradition there. Goods are carried almost exclusively on the backs of people or animals, because roads are few and far between in Samea.
*Boats: the inhabitants of the coast build light vessels with large triangular sails intended for fishing and trade, not for warfare, yet it seems that the people of Samea have succeeded in taming some beasts of the sea as well.
*Weapons:
*Missile weapons: almost everyone in Samea is skilled with the bow, as training in its use starts at a very early age. Samean fletchery is of prime quality, and so are the archers. The master fletchers use many secret techniques unknown to fletchers elsewhere, creating many rightly feared sorts of arrows and bows of great strength and accuracy.
Besides the bow, javelins are commonly used, yet the degree of craftsmanship used in their making is somewhat lower than that of the bows.
*Melee weapons: most widespread is the Lakkia, a single-bladed lightly curved longsword. The delicate blade in the colors of the midnight sky is a show of accomplished craftsmanship, sometimes besting even that of the Dwarves. Samean blades are much sought after, yet not readily available.
In addition to his sword, a Samean warrior will carry a knife and, should he be mounted, a spear as well.
*Weaponless combat: many Sameans practice a sort of abstract unarmed combat as a form of meditation, and training in weaponless combat as part of their education, helping them understand themselves and others better. Thus, even a seemingly harmless and peaceful Samean can be dangerous if seriously provoked.
*Shields: small wooden or leather shields are sometimes used.
*Armor: most often, Sameans go unarmored or clad in leather, yet in times of great danger will they put on a breast plate or chain shirt, elaborately worked and light yet strong. They never use barding on their horses.
*Samean armies depend on their mobility, and will utilize it to their greatest possible advantage, striking against the flanks and rear of an enemy force, attacking exposed or isolated groups and refusing a direct confrontation until the enemy is tired, hungry and whittled down to manageable numbers. Should they be forced to face the enemy before this happens, they will assault a single spot in his army with all their might, supported by an incessant rain of arrows, trying to grind the enemy to dust in one place and then proceeding to another. Not to be underestimated is also the magical barrage that any Samean military unit can unleash.
Their forces consist mainly of archers and light cavalry, yet fabulous beasts, tree-men and elementals can be brought to bear against an enemy.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2015, 07:28:23 AM by EchoMirage »
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Re: Sanctum - A World Beyond its Fate
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2015, 03:41:09 PM »
Lyndhyre:
Taangant, The Dominion of the Granite Throne, Wet Bear County ("Ourswasrlund", Lyran, derisive)

This land occupies an exposed peninsula in the east of the continent, a country of gentle rolling hills and snow-covered mountain peaks, weather-beaten and under constant assault of the waves. The precipitation is extremely high, giving birth to countless wild mountain streams, ice-cold lakes and raging rivers, deep forests and lush meadows. Every winter holds the land for endless days in its icy grasp, covering the lands in deep snowdrifts. Every spring lets swell the rivers with waters from the thaw, and when summer comes, it is mild and rainy.
The people of Lyndhyre are like the land they inhabit – sometimes harsh yet proud, loyal and bountiful if you manage to make them accept you.

*Sendai
The rainiest place on the continent, Sendai lies at the southernmost tip of Lyndhyre, where storms crash against land that suddenly rises from the waves. To the east lie but a few isles, and a vast ocean expanse. A bustling stop on trading routes between the Lyndhyran east coast, Kashbek, Tallarn and Torre, Sendai is a city of massive low stone houses, with rain-born streams endlessly gurgling towards the harbor. Incessantly, its four lighthouses shine out to the grey sea, to guide ships by night and day.
Giants, largely immune to the weather, find employ as dock workers, merchants often riding on their shoulders to guide the transfer of cargo.
Sendai has some of the cosiest inns on the continent - at least according to soaked sea dogs finally sitting by a fire. While the locals are not to be messed with, they are fairly lenient towards crimes committed elsewhere. Hence, numerous infamous pirates make frequent stops in Sendai, adding to the local colour. Lord Hargan is said to support a few privateers himself.

Rane's Anvil:
A table mountain in the midst of the mountains spanning the length of Lyndhyre, the Anvil can be seen from afar, especially by night. Incessantly, lightning beats into the summit, earthing itself through the exceedingly pure iron deposits. Curiously, some lightning strikes can persist, sometimes lashing the same ferrous rock for an hour.
When singing of weapons of legend, bards are likely to claim they were forged upon Rane's Anvil; lords will claim the same of their family blades.

*Morhold
The northernmost fortress of the realm, this is the place where Lyndhyrans most often clash with their ferocious northern brethren. Both the land route and the safe sea route across the Dagger Straits meet here, so the Morhold bears the brunt of most assaults.
The fortress is built around an ancient shrine, erected by the giants long past. It possesses a peculiar guardian spell - whenever a defender dies, he begins to petrify as his life seeps away, turning fully to stone with the last beat of his heart. With generations of defenders having given their lives on the walls, the fortress is partially composed of erstwhile defenders. The rock of the walls itself remembers being alive, slowly but incessantly growing. The gate is held up by two colossal giants of old; they stood in their place since long before the Lyndhyran ships beached upon these shores, holding aloft a boulder of mysterious stone, the Eye, appearing akin to an immense obsidian. The Eye is embedded in the masonry of the fortress' gate, except for an outward- and a downward-facing facet.
Legend has it that while the king of Lyndhyre is legitimate and has the favour of the giants, the rocks of Morhold will sleep and guard the lands beyond. But should an usurper sit upon the Granite Throne, the dead will emerge from the stone to wrest the crown from his head.

*The Shadow Kingdoms
In a massive exodus from their erstwhile homeland, the ancestors of the Lyndhyrans sailed over the ocean, and fell upon the shores to claim a new homeland. Warring, decadent and fractious, the petty kingdoms of the peninsula fell. Their proud masters were put to the sword, the enslaved populace freed but chased from the fertile lands. The few kingdoms to survive were hidden in remote valleys, and swore allegiance to the Lyndhyran king when discovered. They keep to themselves, shrouded in isolation and mystery; nobody knows how many undiscovered enclaves the labyrinthine mountains hold.
The natives are a peculiar breed, pale with hair and eyes as coal, slender and subdued, so much unlike their conquerors. The nobles are stranger still, marrying only among themselves, and visually distinct from their subjects - tall, regal, with sharp features, often using cosmetic sorcery to acquire hair and eyes of striking colours. All of the nobility are wizards, long-lived keepers of lore ancient and terrible. Hidden and inscrutable, they are bogeymen to the Lyndhyran commoners; tales of their depravities and malevolence are both used to scare disobedient children, and as the foundation of bards' tales.

Demography:
Human (Lyndhyran): 70%
Dwarven: 10%
Orc: 10%
Gnome: 3%
Giant: 3%
Human (native): 3%
Elven: <1%
Baali: ~0.01%

*Family, Marriage and Divorce: the family in Lyndhyre consists of a man, his wife and their children, but most likely a family is also the member of a clan that aids them in times of danger. Clan ties depend upon the conditions under which the marriage has taken place: if marrying a member of a powerful clan, the wife has to bring a large dowry, while if the man marries a daughter of a strong clan, he must let his mettle be tested, and prove his worth by bringing an example of his craft – every man in Lyndhyre will learn a craft. Then both of the partners send negotiators who then agree upon the terms of the marriage.
Marriages in Lyndhyre are for life, the bond being reinforced by a simultaneous oath sworn under the supervision of a priestess of Davia, both sides accepting the enchantment placed upon them. If either partner refuses the spell, he is instantly dismissed in disgrace, and it is possible for a blood feud to be called upon the offender and his clan. Divorce is impossible, though one can adopt a child if his partner proves infertile. Adultery is out of question.
*Women as adventurers: though not often seen, no-one will take offense in such a behavior, but an able adventuring woman might find herself attracting the attention of many suitors.

*Government: is strictly feudal. The king or queen of the Tanelon line is chosen by the ruler of the realm from among his children. Should he be unable to do so, his advisor will do so. If a ruler dies childless, his eldest sibling will take the place. Most often, this sibling will have to be found half way around the world, as the extra siblings will have been sent on quests or married to a foreign ruler, as to prevent backstabbing at home. Given the fertility of the Tanelon line and their potential for being extraordinarily gifted, it is not all too difficult to meet an adventurer with royal blood.
*Social Structure: is feudal – above the commoner stands the knight, the lord, duke and finally king. While it is impossible to buy status, one can be given a title by his superior as a reward for great deeds, but ultimately the king must approve of the rise in status. A new noble is either allowed to become a member of his superior’s clan, or to found a new clan. Some of those present at the time of the great deed will usually want to join the new noble’s clan, and will most often be welcomed, forming the base of the new clan.
*Etiquette: while the social codes governing the behavior of commoner or noble are not very strict, any breach of etiquette might result in a bloodfeud, given the impulsiveness that is a common trait in Lyndhyre. Anyone can be declared an outlaw for his offenses, the most common punishment to prevent a feud. In the case of a very depraved deed, the felon will be handed out to the offended party directly as to restrict the revenge to this one person. But should the party of the offender see him as innocent, a long feud is in the making, stubbornness being another common trait.
*Slavery: is unwelcome in Lyndhyre, and many a slaver has met a fist head-on when trying to sell his wares there. But beware if you would like to raid Lyndhyre to take away its sons and daughters to be sold elsewhere, for instead of fists, you will meet the populace united, brandishing sharp and heavy weapons, like the beloved battleaxe or greatsword so common in this culture.

*Religion: the pantheon consists of three deities, Rane, Raelis and Rukh, along with the three children they sired in times long past with mortal men and women. They are said to have created the world of the remains of the great tree that gave them life.
Rane is a deity of magic, learning and the skies; as a weather god, he understandably is considered first among the gods in storm-lashed Lyndhyre.
His son, Doruth, is the patron of crafts and cities.
Raelis is a goddess of life and nature, agriculture and birth.
Her daughter Davia presides over love and marriage. The current king's line is considered especially blessed by her.
Rukh is the keeper of the laws of the world, and guardian of afterlife, overseeing the Great Wheel and reincarnation.
While the gods manifest at rare occasions, their involvement in everyday matters is subtle yet tangible – all who have married feel the power of the bond they have sworn to Davia, and apparently everyone who has died turns up in Rukh’s halls, even the followers of other religions, according to the reports of those few who have had the privilege of resurrection.
The average believer pays homage to all the deities, though some people feel a stronger affiliation to some specific deity – the others don’t seem to take offense. If one perceives his bonds with one of the deities to be of exceptional strength, he may take up the vows of the order affiliated with the chosen deity, and continue his life in the service of the divine power.
The faith is able to coexist with other churches in peace, unless those try to force their beliefs upon Lyndhyrans, in which case the response will be swift and unpleasant, and in classic Lyndhyre fashion, will include lots of sharp and heavy objects.
*Liturgical form: ceremonies are held in public, but silent conversation with the gods can take place in one’s heart. The ceremonies consist of a long contemplative part when everyone present speaks a prayer to the gods aloud – the prayers spoken are made up on the spot, so that there is an infinite number of prayers. The people pray to the gods upon childbirth, marriage and death of a clan member, as well as at the time of harvest, the first day of winter and the longest winter day. The worship takes place at monumental stone circles or around colossal standing stones erected in secluded places.
*Magic: While Lyndhyre is a normal mana area, mages are uncommon here, but those few that are encountered will be of exceptional power. Magic resistance is commonly encountered though, as well as subconscious forms of anti-magic.
*Funerary custom: the deceased is placed in a tall wooden coffin with their arms by their side, while his relatives sing praises about his deeds and virtues. In summer, the coffin is filled with flowers, while in winter snow is used instead. A priest or close relative will paint the face of the deceased with ritual markings, and place an animal hide covered with prayers on his chest. The grave goods added consist of an elaborately worked cup (though the skull of an enemy is sometimes still used) to be able to drink with the gods, a ring with his name and those of wife and children engraved to remind him of them in the afterlife, as well as several circular metal plates about three inches across, decorated with bone or horn, upon which messages from the living to their dead relative are engraved, this being a form of post-mortem last words.
The coffins are buried upon hallowed ground, and a headstone telling of the deeds of those buried underneath is added. Anyone messing with graves is likely to call the wrath of the whole clan not only upon himself, but also his whole family.

*Graphic art: the people of Lyndhyre excel at metalworking and woodworking. Their homes are decorated with carvings all over, while their items of everyday use show the same degree of effort. Every weapon or tool made in Lyndhyre will be highly decorated and personalized. Most often used are battle motifs and hunt scenes, but nature motifs are also frequently used. Every man takes great pride in the decoration of his home, and it is a great honor to be invited to help to decorate the home of someone else, while bringing a small piece of decoration is a sign of friendship, but beware of bringing a large piece of superior decoration uninvited, for it might be thought of as a gesture of contempt, with a grave insult as an answer.
*Music and dance: stringed instruments have a long tradition in Lyndhyre. Their sound accompanies both the swift and merry dances the people join upon having finished the day’s chores as well as the long, sad ballads the bards of Lyndhyre prefer to sing. The dances are a group event, their most important meaning being the socialising. The figures the dancing throng creates are wonderful indeed if viewed from above, and it is a matter of prestige to have the most accurate and dynamic figure in one of the annual dance contests. It is not uncommon for nobles to join the dance of the common folk, with the nobility being much closer to their subjects in Lyndhyre than, say, Lyra.
*Sports and Games: among all classes, hunting is very popular. Horse races, running and swimming contests, wrestling and pig catching are all highly popular as well, though some foreigners claim that the only true national sport Lyndhyre has is brawling – and indeed, if you are looking for a good brawl, don’t look any further, for every evening, you will have the opportunity to join one or two. Unlike in Lyra, weapons are never drawn during brawls, resolving the fight with naught but his fists being a matter of personal honor. Lyndhyrans claim that it is but a form of entertainment, though some of them think of brawling rather as an art form. From among combat games, axe throwing has a loyal core of followers.
Other games can also be found in Lyndhyre – most common are those where a large number of people can join. In these games, hand-eye coordination is often more important that wit, but their entertainment value is high, especially when you have already drained a few pints of ale.
*Tattoo and scarification: most men and women in Lyndhyre have a tattoo or two, designating them as the members of a clan.

*Housing and architecture: generally, buildings are constructed of roughly hewn natural stone, with the top story or two being constructed of wood. Sometimes a wooden rack is constructed, with the walls being built of a mix of clay and straw. As mentioned before, all wooden parts are elaborately decorated. Roofs are made either of shingles, wood or thatch. Inside, the house is divided into a kitchen, storage room, one large party room and several private rooms that are situated on the upper floors. Stables, chicken coops, kennels and the like are most often placed next to the house and directly connected to the lowest floor. The heating systems distributing warmth all over the house and allowing the inhabitants to survive the long winters are a marvel to behold, with valves to be shut and opened at will and wind-powered fans to distribute the warmth faster.
Due to the long winters, the beds are covered in furs, and heavy blankets as well as pillows stuffed with feathers.
*Cooking and Food: every family cooks for themselves in a separate kitchen inside the house. Lyndhyre is rich in wheat, rye and oat fields, and the people keep lots of livestock. Vegetable plantations are also common. Thus, most of the meals consist of meat with a side dish, but many different kinds of stew are also common. Dumplings are a common side dish.
Beer is the drink of choice when in Lyndhyre - with hundreds of different brands it will satisfy even the most spoilt customer. Mead is also popular, though not half as much as beer. Wine is not common in Lyndhyre, as the weather will not allow cultivating it in most places – only a small country named fittingly the Vinland is shielded from the elements sufficiently for wine to be planted.
*Clothing: whether commoner or noble, the people of Lyndhyre dress in gray wool, furs and long gray cloaks with cowls. Nobles decorate their dresses with one or two pieces of jewelry at most, though some more eccentric of them will import exotic silks or the like. When the weather is pleasant, the people will drop the wool and furs, and dress in light linen decorated with rich embroidery.
Most pieces of clothing will be complemented with a piece of armor or two, and the people only rarely go without a weapon. Wearing armor on a social occasion is not considered a faux pas.
*Packs and containers: Barrels and sacks are most often used, but crates are not uncommon. For storage, barrels are most often used.
*Land transport: wagons are in wide use, but unlike Lyra, here the spoke wheel replaces the older full wheel. Sleds are used in winter.
*Boats: the navy in Lyndhyre uses light galleys with a large rectangular sail and one or two rows of oars. Smaller rowboats, also equipped with a rectangular sail, are used for fishing in the rich coastal waters.

*Weapons:
*Missile Weapons: missile weapons never experienced widespread use in Lyndhyre – bows are made for hunting, and sometimes used in times of war, yet there are no regular units of archers or similar; warriors will pick up a missile weapon mostly during the defense of a fortress. What warriors in Lyndhyre do carry is a few throwing axes each. Actually, most warriors consider the bow or crossbow a girly weapon. Very rarely, throwing spears are used.
*Melee weapons: the arsenal of Lyndhyre shows a lack of fondness for weapons requiring a great deal of finesse – most commonly, huge battleaxes and greatswords are carried into battle, along with heavy mauls and warhammers. Double-bladed battleaxes seem to be the weapon of choice for both footman and cavalryman. Lances, halberds and spears are used rarely, but still are sometimes seen on the field of battle.
*Weaponless combat: If encountered weaponless, the people will invariably resort to their brawling skills, supported with an odd table leg or stool where appropriate.
*Shields: large round wooden or iron shields find widespread use both amongst cavalry and footmen, providing excellent protection against missile fire as well as in close combat.
*Armor: given the tendency of Lyndhyran warriors to use two-handed weapons and to go berserk in the heat of battle, armor is simply a necessity. The choice is usually to go for the heaviest armor available, this means half-plate at least but full plate mail is a much more common sight that anywhere else. Chain mail is considered civilian clothing in Lyndhyre. Due to the possibility of being caught in the midst of a battle or feud, many civilians keep suits of armor in their cabinets or under their beds.
*Tactics: when Lyndhyre marches to war, its armies consist of massed ranks of heavy infantry along with large contingents of knights and other cavalrymen sitting atop heavy warhorses, all clad in shining plate, accompanied by several heavy siege engines. Commoners, who often cannot afford to buy barding for their horses will form units of medium cavalry, still heavily armored yet a little bit faster. In battle, the army will advance towards the enemy in a solid block and will grind him into dust, with the infantry forming the core and cavalry on the flanks. Few opponents can withstand the assault of this mass of steel-clad death.
If the opportunity presents itself, the men of Lyndhyre will march to war accompanied by Dwarves or Giants, as their relations are quite cordial, and their tactics have much in common, as do their enemies.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2015, 10:24:26 AM by EchoMirage »
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Re: Sanctum - A World Beyond its Fate
« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2015, 12:25:13 PM »
Dynahyre:
Dynahyre is a bleak land covered with rocky badlands, black pine forests and deep chasms, along with vast plains of waist-high grass, crushing glaciers and rivers carrying ice floes to the sea. Its people are a rough sort, often crude yet efficient, ruthless in their endeavors, versatile and cunning.

*Gates of Winter
Standing stones at the very edge of the eternal northern ice, the Gates of Winter were carved by builders unknown, long before Dynahyrans set foot in these lands. Though seemingly but a stone gate in the middle of nowhere, icy winds begin to blow from between the monolithic pillars to herald the onslaught of winter. If you listen attentively, you can hear a haunting tune on the wind, the same song that resonates within glaciers as they march southward.

*The Hall of War
In the heart of one of the few stone fortresses of the realm lies a cavernous chamber with excellent acoustic properties. As the winter begins losing its grip, chieftains, mercenary leaders and warriors hungry for plunder and glory gather. Audacious leaders present their plans of raids and expeditions, eager to gain men for their cause. The gathering is a complex affair, with leaders competing for warriors, but also fighters vying to be taken along on expeditions that are likely to return triumphant. The most renowned captains can take their pick of the assembled men. The whole gathering is accompanied by contests of prowess, shows of skill and what may very well amount to bragging competitions, as men lay down proofs of their exploits.

*The Lone Meadhall
On the border between Lyra, Lyndhyre and Dynahyre, there lies an inn, somewhat akin to a small fort. No city is in sight, the roads meeting in front of its gate are only half recognisable, and its surroundings amount to dangerous wilderness. Still, the inn is always alive with laughter, song or the occasional brawl. By some strange twist of fate, adventurers, heroes, princesses that lost their kingdoms, villains down on their luck, and many more find their way to the Meadhall someday. Suffice to say, the inn is a stepping stone to adventure, but you should be wary of offending any of the patrons. They may be made of far tougher stuff than you.

*Illoven Euluin
The Illoven are the remnants of the Elven kingdom of Vascaron, chased to the north by the demon rampage in days of yore. Even before the Dynahyrans, these lands were feral. To survive, the Elves hid, building their abodes in inaccessible locales, and laying spell upon spell, until their tracks were no more.
Deliberately, they weave an enigma around their very existence, so that neither the Dynahyran tribes nor the neighbouring Lyrans are aware of living next to several Elven city-states. When they have to make an appearance, they conceal their nature, having taken up the guise of winter wraiths that deliver dire warnings, or confound would-be explorers with their words.

*Nordan Kahorr
A Dwarven hold has survived all hardships and assaults, and retained its sovereignty in the midst of Dynahyre, defying the human king and his tribes. Its populace is militaristic and pragmatic, and ruthless in their dealings with the Dynahyran tribes, retaliating against every slight, assault and siege a hundredfold.
Most of the tribes give the hold a wide berth. The dwarves meanwhile delve ever deeper and invent contraptions to lay waste to their enemies. Taciturn and stubborn even by dwarven standards, Kahorr dwarves care little for commerce, and even less for visitors. If the have managed to survive unaided for two thousand years, they'll manage well on their own now, thank you.

Demography
Human: 40%
Orc: 25%
Ogres and trolls: 10%
Minotaur: 5%
Mixed heritage (half-orcs, half-ogres, etc.): 10%
Skin-changers: 5%
Elven: 2%
Dwarven: 0.3%

Culture:
*Family: relatives band into large multi-generational extended family groups – thus several single families live together with their children, as well as the grandparents, unmarried uncles and siblings, the group being better able to care for its members if a mishap should befall someone in their harsh surroundings.
*Marriage and Divorce: if a man wants to marry his chosen one, he has to haggle with her father or oldest brother if her father is dead, and purchase her, paying with horses, cattle, slaves or other goods. A man with sufficient wealth can easily purchase several women, though many a daughter of a powerful family or an especially gifted girl may be beyond the means of an ordinary man.
Divorce, though technically impossible, is easy: the man simply has to sell his woman to another man, or sell her into slavery, though he’s walking on thin ice if doing so – if the woman is sold too cheaply or as a slave, her family might take offense. Adultery is unacceptable – if caught both offenders are executed in the most painful way possible unless the woman is unmarried and her father does not take offense.
*Women as adventurers: are very uncommon, as there is no way for an ordinary girl to set course for foreign lands and adventure on her own. One option would be running away, yet the chances of survival are very low in such a case. Another is being sought out and taken away by one of the orders serving directly the king, for these are constantly searching for children magically or otherwise gifted, and will not deprive themselves of a prospective mage due to such a minor cause as gender. Becoming one of such an order is actually the only possible way for a woman to gain status in Dynahyre.

*Government: the government of Dynahyre is a monarchy, with a new king being chosen upon the retirement or death of the former king. Anyone above the age of twenty is applicable for becoming king, but only the bravest and toughest dare, for to be elected, one must pass several trials first – hunting down a mountain yeti, forging his own blade, and fasting for a week in the mountains are the first three, but the final test will separate the chaff from the grain – the contenders for the throne will choose four companions each, and will be released into the vast network of caves, subterranean passages and dungeons called “Kygram e Duabh” – Dormitory of the Silent Ashes. The one who reaches the throne room first is declared king, though at least twice in recorded history, all the candidates for the throne have fallen somewhere deep beneath the earth, and a second run for royalty had to be called, using a new round of contenders.
To remain king, one must pass an annual test of virility by chasing down one of the Brides of Mavrai and taking her against her will – a task only the fittest are able to accomplish with repeated success. The captured maid will become his concubine for one year until the next must be chased down. All children born of such an union are held in high esteem and most likely adopted by an influential family, while the mother will be married to the highest bidder. Should the Bride escape the king though, he will be obliged to retire, while she will gain great prestige within her order.
*Social Rank: slaves and foreigners are at the bottom of the social heap, as the ordinary women who are little more, while above them stands the freeman – most likely a youth of little experience and no significant wealth, owning most likely naught but a set of weapons, a horse and a tent, eager to gain prestige – of course their father could have given them cash instead to buy a woman right away, but in Dynahyre, people are of the opinion that a child should earn what it receives. Prestige is gained by acquiring wealth through trading, a craft or rewards for valor and loyalty from one’s superiors. Above the freemen stand those who have already been successful enough to marry and acquire a solid core of wealth, with them being surpassed by leaders of proven ability and trustworthiness appointed by the king. Near the top of the social ladder lie the three Orders, each one dedicated to one of the deities of their pantheon – the Brides of Mavrai, Margur’s Beastlords and the Red Maidens of Lutwryn. The noble families are second only to the king – backed up with vast wealth and a hereditary title, they are the traditional counterweight to royal power, and ensuring their cooperation is no mean task. They are ranked using the number of horsetails they are allowed to bear on their battle standard – one to four, with four signalizing greatest power and prestige. The farthest one can rise is the royal family, led by the king himself, regardless of who was the family head until then.
The status of a person or whole family is a matter of constant change – if many daughters are born to a pair, they will earn the family wealth, while sons who acquire the respect of their peers through bravery and skill will also bring respect to their family. On the other hand, raising a large number of sons and equipping them for life is by no means easy, and could lead to the bankruptcy of a poor family. The relatives of a king or the member of one of the Orders also rise in status – one could say the social order of Dynahyre is fluent.
*Etiquette and its enforcement: respect is shown towards those of greater status by bowing – the more humility you want to show, the deeper you bow. Kneeling is reserved for slaves. Those of equal status simply nod – if someone of higher status nods to you, it is a telltale sign that you are high in his favor. A further gesture of respect is drawing your blade and resting your hands upon it – this means being ready to fight for your superior. If you offer the blade instead, held in open hands with the palms turned upwards, you are committing yourself into the service of someone whom you wish to be your superior. Alternatively, a person of high status can offer you patronage in exchange for your services by gifting you with a necklace bearing his emblem. A gesture of friendship is being invited to a family’s dining table. There are elaborate rituals concerning the seating around a table or fireplace, where the esteem both sides hold each other in as well as the status and degree of politeness play a role.
As a Dynahyre saying goes, “thou art worth nay more than thy word”, and thus the word of a man who has never betrayed trust is considered sacred, but an oathbreaker will not be welcome anywhere, for he will be branded on his forehead, never to be trusted again – he will not be able to marry any but the lowliest of women, will never receive command of any men or rise in status. Thus, most Dynahyran men will be very cautious about giving their word, but once they do, they will be fiercely true to the terms of the agreement. Note that the word of a foreigner does not have near as much weight as that of a native.
Disputes are settled through agreement or reparations whenever possible, though if the offense is serious enough the dispute will be carried out on the Field of Equals in a formal challenge – either an archery contest, a test on horseback or a formal challenge, where the challenger is given the choice of weapons and the challenged one will choose the kind of armor to be used. These challenges can continue until blood is spilled, one combatant concedes, or to the death of the opponent.
Breaches of etiquette and crimes are punished accordingly to their severity: mild ones can incur loss of face or favor, while severe offenses can lead to maiming, exile or a challenge to a duel.
Note: certain races oppressed or outlawed elsewhere, such as Minotaurs, Ogres and Orcs have the same civilian rights in Dynahyre as humans, as long as they see themselves as a part of the social structure and follow the local customs. Offspring of any of these races and humans is not uncommon in Dynahyre.
*Slavery: about one quarter to one third of the populace of Dynahyre are slaves, deprived of any rights or hope of freedom – they are branded like cattle, and hunted like wild beasts should they try to escape. Yet this is their most likely road to freedom still – if they manage to cross the border to Lyndhyre, they will be free, and often given shelter by the locals just to anger their ancestral enemies. Another possibility is serving one’s master faithfully with freedom being a possible reward in the future, yet this is unlikely – who would willingly give up a slave whose performance greatly pleases him? Thus, it is most unlikely for a slave to gain freedom, yet not unheard of, for some slaves have been freed and even adopted as a reward for rescuing their master from great danger.
The children of slaves are born slaves unless their lord claims them to be his own, in which case they are treated as any other family member.

*Religion and Cosmology: in Dynahyre, three Titans of Ice are worshipped: Mavrai the Black Bull, Margur the Hunter and Lutwryn the Battlerager. They are said to have shaped the world out of the corpse of the primordial frost wyrm Dhyr-Fuldnach they have slain. They drank the blood of the fallen beast, and thus gained its power. Now they rule over the eternal ice that will crush the world should cowards and weaklings overcome the brave and mighty, and then the titans will create the world anew, until all who are weak are weeded out, and only true men prevail.
Mavrai is the Stormlord, and the winds that sweep every winter from the north to cover the world in ice and snow are his, and are meant to test the resolve of his people. Minotaurs are sacred to him, and should he manifest, he will take the shape of a colossal Minotaur with black fur, clad in armor woven of the threads of polar night and brandishing a huge maul. It is him to whom the warriors pray for endurance and resolve. Margur manifests as a huge wolf-man with a silver mane, wielding a long spear. He decides over the success of a hunt or training of an animal, for all beasts are his and only with his permission may a warrior claim them as his own. This results in the men of Dynahyre being often kinder to animals than fellow humans. Sometimes he will bestow the gift of an exceptional animal companion upon a faithful follower. Lutwryn is the master of armed combat, and enjoys nothing more than a full-scale battle, where the weak fall and the mighty are gifted with the laurels of victory (as it is impossible to find a laurel in Dynahyre, a necklace made of skulls of the fallen must suffice).
The gods prefer to get involved indirectly, yet there are reports of a direct manifestation of an avatar. Other than these, the will of the Powers shows itself in various gifts bestowed upon their chosen.
*Liturgical form: a great number of different rites are performed over the course of the year: the blooding is a rite where a man who marries the first time must slay a slave with his bare hands, and drink his blood, as well as painting his sigil with it on the face of his wife. The Chill Run is a feast honoring Margur, where a group of young men gather and feast, and then set out for the ice-covered peaks to capture a Frostgnorm, a ferocious beast resembling the cross between a titanic polar bear and a saber-tooth tiger, all backed up by the temper of a wolverine. Many hunters die in the hunt itself, but many more men let their lives in the subsequent attempts to tame the beast. If one of the hunters finally succeeds at the task, it indicates great favor of Margur, yet if none of the hunters return at all from the hunt for the beast, it is considered a bad omen. In the spring, both men and women are searching for the Flame Blossom, Nathalindë in the Elven tongue, and as soon as one is found, they race to the next holy pillar with it. The first one to reach a particular pillar with a blossom is considered to be blessed for the year to come – the flower is a sign of goodwill of the gods, carrying the message that they are still content with the world, and will not extinguish all life, at least for this one year. Small ceremonies are held whenever a child or foal is born. These as well as marriage ceremonies are held at one of the sacred pillars scattered over the land.
When preparing for war or a hunt, the participants will pray for an insight into future happenings. A sacrifice to the gods will be offered – milk and cheese are minor offerings, while cattle, or rarely children are major sacrifices. Sometimes, an oathbreaker will offer himself as a sacrifice to restore his honor as his dying breath fades away. The sacrifice is slain through dismemberment, and cast into flames. If it burns well, it is accepted by the gods, yet if it does not, or even extinguishes the flame, the event is foreshadowing destruction.
The rituals performed by the common folk are much unlike those taking place in the temples of one of the three orders. The Brides of Mavrai, trained in the arts of stealth and trickery, and often chosen for their potential for magic as well as beauty, perform dance performances lasting for days at the beginning of winter to induce a pleasant mood in their lord. In their temples, several black-furred Minotaurs reside, and it is the duty of the Brides to prepare them for battle as well as appeasing them in all possible ways. At the height of winter, novices advanced enough to become initiates must pass several tests of wit and agility as well as offering themselves to the sacred Minotaurs. Any children sprung from the loins of these fresh initiates will be interpreted as a good omen, raised and introduced into one of the orders as soon as they are deemed ready.
Margur’s chosen will engage in long meditations in solitude with a beast of their choice, trying to attain a stronger connection to the primal spirit within that animal. Other than these, they will engage in public shows where they either bend a ferocious beast to their will, or trick and evade a man-eater until the beast drops out of exhaustion. Other than these rituals, the Beastlords, quite a few of them being natural shapeshifters and others using enchanted skins or magic to do so, stalk the land, guiding lost hunters or testing their mettle and resolve. Sometimes, a shapeshifter will pose as an exceptional animal of its kind, most often horse or other riding beast, to some hero, and if he manages to catch him and stay on his back, the priest will serve him for a year and a day in beast form, but if the hero fails, the priest will laugh in his face and return to his temple, having gained prestige both amongst his peers and in the eyes of his god.
Finally, a grand ritual is held every nine years, where women who are deemed worthy are offered the possibility to commune with Margur through his charges, the beasts kept in each temple – drinking several sacred elixirs and engaging in bestiality with the priests’ charges. Any woman who bears a child with one of the beasts is considered sacred, and kept at the temple, her husband receiving compensation.
The Red Maidens perform their own rituals, consisting mostly of ritual combat where they face each other in a non-lethal engagement, taking various handicaps, such as blindfolding or tying up one arm behind the back. In times of war, the Maidens will march with the army, and then sacrifice dozens of captives on the eve of battle. A curious custom is that any man who had intercourse with one of the Red Maidens will be sacrificed as well. All men in Dynahyre are aware of the fact, yet it occurs over and over again – some of the maidens being so beautiful that they deprive men of any trace of judgment or sense they might have possessed.
*Magic: with Dynahyre being a normal mana area, mage births are not too common. Most of the children who are gifted with some talent are discovered by the priests, and they parents are offered to have the child join an order. Still, some mages are found amongst the common populace, either due to their parents having denied the priestly request, or remaining undetected until their teens. These can then lead an ordinary life.
*Shamanism: a few order members, mainly those having reached old age, do not spend most of their time in a temple, but amongst the common folk, where they observe the correct performance of rituals, act as spiritual guides or healers, and are on the lookout for gifted and exceptional children to be put into service in their temple. The shamans will inhale the vapors set free upon burning sacred herbs, and will let their spirit wander to search for the gifted. With the vapors being toxic, the most common cause of death amongst shamans by far is not enduring the strain the poisons put on their bodies.
*Funerary custom: whenever possible, the dead are cast into glacial chasms or lava pits, their bodies to be seen never again. The only “grave goods” they are given are the skulls of the enemies they have vanquished as well as their hunting trophies. It is considered inviting bad luck if one keeps the trophies belonging to a deceased man, for his spirit might return to haunt the felon to receive what is rightfully his.
If it is impossible to dispose of a body in any of the two aforementioned ways, the corpse will be cremated along with the trophies.

*Art – Graphic and Sculpture: both men and women of Dynahyre are generally highly skilled at leatherworking, creating garments both comfortable and beautiful that keep the wearer warm in all but the most hostile conditions – being water-resistant and almost impervious to wear and tear, a set of clothing will often last longer than its wearer. Various materials are used in their creation, from metal studs and rings to bright ribbons and shining stones, as well as woolen threads colored using pigment acquired from minerals and wild berries. The bridles that adorn a man’s mount show the same degree of craftsmanship, as do his weapon accessories and his tent.
Despite the people’s mostly nomadic nature, the mineral resources the land is highly abundant with are intensively mined, and from the various sorts of metal many works of art that have still practical uses spring – highly decorated blades and pieces of armor, as well as tableware, kettles and tools. Most of these are decorated with war motifs or scenes from the hunt. Sometimes historical events are used as well.
The men like decorating themselves with a variety of claws, teeth, bones and skulls from opponents they have vanquished or animals they hunted down, and the art of carving and preserving those having been honed to the point of perfection in Dynahyre.
*Music and Dance: drums of all sorts form the core of most musical ensembles, while flutes and horns accompany the rhythmic drumming. Rhythm is the most important part of any Dynahyran song, melody being secondary. Drums accompany most religious rituals as well as being used to carry messages over long distances.
Dances performed are either of religious nature and both sexes participate in these, or intended to entertain the men, in which case only the women dance, either in the privacy of their home, or in the public, the latter being used as an opportunity to present one’s daughters to the men and make potential buyers aware of the girls ready to be married. If a man shows serious interest in a girl, he will join the dance briefly and then lead her away from the dance to learn what merits she possesses and then negotiate a price with her father.
*Tattoo and Scarification: are reserved for marking your property as well as for punishment. The cattle, horses and women a man owns will be branded, but a kind husband will let his bride be tattooed instead of inflicting hot irons upon her. Criminals will be branded on their foreheads to display their failings for all to see.
*Architecture: most Dynahyrans live in large portable tents made of hides supported by wooden poles. The size as well as the amount of decoration shows off a man’s wealth. Most often, the tent will be hemispherical in form, and sizeable enough to hide the man’s livestock should a violent storm threaten it. Heaps of furs serve as sleeping facilities.
Still, permanent residences are not unheard of in Dynahyre. Several forts built of roughly hewn stone dot the country, while permanent wooden halls provide meeting places for the different groups. In the proximity of the mines, people live in small wooden homes dug in deep in the ground, most often only the front side showing, as the roof is covered with living grass tiles to provide further isolation.
The city of Fomnir on the ocean coast is much unlike any other structure seen in this land – an entire mountain has been hollowed out, the buildings often hewn out of the rock in one piece. The city still continues to expand as ore is mined.
*Clothing: the people dress in leather and furs regardless of the season. Nobles carry one to four horsetails on the back of their helms or hats. The Brides of Mavrai will dress exclusively in black and silver cloaks, black furs and tight yet unrestrictive clothing of black leather. In contrast to them will the Red Maidens dress shining armor and red cloaks frequently, keeping themselves warm with the furs of crimson wolves, but sometimes wearing red silks and jewelry made of volcanic glass instead.
*Cooking and food: the fireplace lies at the core of every home – that is the place where the family gathers after a day’s work. The diet consists mainly of milk and dairy products, accompanied by wild game or the meat of domestic animals, though it is considered a desperate measure to butcher your own cattle. All the foods are heavily spiced, for Dynahyre is rich in various berries and other spices. In the south of the country, oat is cultivated extensively and distributed to the remote reaches of the country.
Caution is advised when hunting in Dynahyre, for some animals are considered sacred and taboo, to be hunted only after performing certain rituals and asking the gods for permission – most often this taboo applies for wild predators, but certain small colorful birds are also prohibited from being hunted, as well as the silver hind.
*Packs and Containers: most goods are transported in wooden crates, leather sacks and wineskins.
*Fire Making and Fuel: fire is sparked by tossing a piece of a mysterious mineral into the fireplace and waiting a while. Wood and dung serve as fuel.
*Land transport: the people travel on horseback, their possessions loaded onto wagons pulled by horses or cattle. Exceptional individuals high in favor of the gods can be seen riding truly unusual beasts.
*Boats: the ships used for fishing are small rowboats, while war vessels are long ships with a single row of oars and a large rectangular sail.

*Missile weapons: the shortbow and the javelin (to be used with an atlatl) enjoy both a great degree of popularity. Constructed of half a dozen of different kinds of wood, bone and metal, the shortbow, though lacking the punch of his larger brother, is exceptionally accurate, even at long ranges, and can be easily fired from horseback.
*Melee weapons: light curved blades as well as various flails and maces are in wide use, while pole arms are fully unknown and the axe simply a tool and nothing more. The heavy-bladed Lyran or Lyndhyran swords are only rarely used here, the only exception being the Red Maidens.
*Weaponless Combat: while in Dynahyre a man does not go without a weapon if possible at all, they are quite adept at brawling, using dirty tricks to bring an enemy down quickly. For formal contests and duels, wrestling is used (with very few dirty tricks).
*Shields: most often leather shields or small metal bucklers are used, with small shields being already considered almost too heavy to use.
*Armor: trying to find a compromise between weight and protection, the smiths and warriors have settled for lightweight scale and chain mail, with some master smiths being able to create splint mail of exceptional quality. The Red Maidens sometimes use breastplates or corselets, yet the techniques for making these are unknown to most smiths.
*Military Tactics: with most of the warriors mounted on horses or other beasts, and Minotaurs and Ogres being able to cover large distances quickly on foot the army of Dynahyre combines exceptional speed with hard-hitting power. Due to the light armor and the inherent vulnerability of unarmored horses, their staying power in an engagement leaves much to be wished for though, a weakness partially compensated by the endurance of their Orc, Ogre and Minotaur brethren. Still, the army must win swiftly, or the quickly mounting losses will force it to withdraw and engage the enemy with arrows at most.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2015, 06:34:59 PM by EchoMirage »
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Re: Sanctum - A World Beyond its Fate
« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2015, 06:54:08 PM »
So’Lun:
This country is a place of contrast – contrast between the majestic mountains and vast plains, between dry badlands and carefully irrigated terrace plantations where not a square foot of fertile ground remains unused, between the poor commoners living simple and short lives filled with hard work and the nobility that has created a world miraculous yet horrifying at the same time to reside in.
Stretching from the western border of Lyra to the cold waters of the western sea and from the northern glaciers to the borders of Arcadizar in the far south, So’Lun is a vast land, stunningly beautiful yet sending shivers down your spine.

Demography:

Commoners (humans): 90%
Nobles (demon-blooded humans): 5%
Centaurs and other therians: 3%
Aberrations and sapient constructs: 1%
Demons: 0.1%

Culture:
*Family: commoners live in multigenerational families with the grandparents teaching the children, the parent working hard to make a living and the children learning and doing easier jobs. Amongst nobles, it is a wholly different matter: children are raised by the noble house, but since an early age, the upbringing is do-or-die; the struggle for position and power in the house is rivaled only by the competition between the houses.
*Marriage and Divorce: commoners marry for life, and marriages are strictly monogamous. The nobles on the other hand do not marry at all – any relationships lasting only as long as both partners agree. Most of these partnerships are of purely sexual nature and no emotional attachments are formed. Usually, the women initiate a relationship after having found a suitable father for their children. Their choice does not depend as much on status as it does on the perceived virility and fitness of the father-to-be, the degree of his magical talent and the supernatural gifts he displays. On the other hand, most men deny the requests of weak women, not wasting their heritage on those they feel being below their dignity.
*Women as adventurers: are fully feasible in this culture.
*The realm is ruled by the Emperor or Empress, supported by their “loyal” followers. If the ruler is strong, the orders he gives will be carried out with the greatest haste possible, and his word will be considered law. Should the ruler’s power base fade though, he will be ignored and treated with disrespect, and sooner or later someone self-confident or foolish enough will end the Emperor’s life with a dagger or spell, taking his place. No ruler of So’Lun dies of old age.
If the new Emperor can back up his claim with his reputation, armed host and powerful supporters, he can enjoy his post for the time being, though any sign of weakness may present the opportunity for another to take the throne.
*Social rank: at the bottom of the society are the commoners, poor, helpless and oppressed. Slaves can also be so helpless, though they will generally live better than a commoner simply because a noble will treat something he paid for better than a commoner he got for free.
The nobles rule with an iron fist, an ever-changing group of ambitious and cunning people connected with an intricate network of connections, temporary alliances, fake treaties and false non-aggression pacts. Social standing depends only upon personal power and that of one’s allies. Strife, rivalry and backstabbing are on daily order, the nobles battling it out on the backs of their subjects. This results in a grotesque never-ending intrigue where anyone oblivious to the ever-shifting game of alliances, blackmail, bribery and flattery is caught between millstones and run over by the course of events.
*Etiquette and enforcement: if you happen to be a commoner you would do better being utterly polite to any noble you encounter, or else you will be squished like the lowly worm you are.
Amongst the nobles, politeness and cordiality is advised as well. An insulted noble of greater power might have the offender executed, but insulting lower nobles is also to be refrained from, for one never knows whose support he might need in the future. Therefore the nobles show their respect towards others of their kind with gifts of all sorts – artwork, slaves or offers of alliance, while a high-ranking noble might ensure the loyalty of a lowly yet promising noble through offering them a short-term relationship.
*Slavery: is very common in So’Lun – every noble will keep a few slaves for personal entertainment, to do the household chores and tend his weapons and armor. Many other slaves do not belong to any noble in particular but are rather a sort of public property – scribes, the attendants at the public baths or firefighters being amongst those. About 10% of the populace are slaves, yet considering the lack of rights the average peasant has to suffer as well as the many restrictions and orders he must obey, one could say that actually 95% of the society are slaves. In the end, the slaves are those who are better off. There are only two ways for a slave (or commoner, for that matter) to regain his freedom: one is to escape the country and find a place to live elsewhere, the other is being promoted to the rank of noble, though there are pretty few reasons one of the ruling class would do this, exceptional magical talent and supernatural abilities being one of those.
*Religion: Cosmology and pantheon: The cosmos is divided into many different planes of reality, the world as we know it occupying but one of those, the others being home to various other sapient beings. Of those, those referred to using the term “demons” form the core of the So’Lun worship, as they believe these entities must be appeased with rites, prayers and sacrifices else they will tear our plane into shreds.
Various mighty demonic entities are being worshiped, with the most powerful receiving their own temples, while the weaker ones having to share with others. These places are greatly feared by the commoners, as they are those who must bear the toll the faith exacts, and rarely see any benefit except the ominous phrase “Your offering has pleased the lords, and you have been spared - this time”.
On the other hand, the nobles seldom have to suffer the disadvantages of their worship, and sometimes even receive rewards if their patron is content with their performance. These take the form of supernatural allies, knowledge or exceptional abilities integrated into their very being. Sometimes the patron even decides to spend a certain amount time with his follower and aid him in person, as well as enjoying his company. Many a noble indeed dreams of a demonic lover to grant his offspring a perfect heritage to start with.
The So’Lun faith has an extremely aggressive and hostile approach towards other religions – other faiths are considered deluded and unproductive, or even outright heretical, their deities being seen as enemies of order and the world itself. Any other religions are outlawed on So’Lun ground, while the church sends missionaries to other lands to sabotage other churches and acquire followers.
*Liturgical form: sacrifices to the powers are very common, the offerings being cattle or commoners – only in times of direst need will a noble sacrifice his own offspring, yet tricking others into sacrificing an adversary is considered an act of great cunning and not a crime, unless of course the plan fails, in which case brutal repercussions follow.
The sacrificial rites are performed in many different ways according to each power’s demands. Sometimes the offerings are tossed into fiery pits, hung up and left to bleed to death or immersed in pools of caustic slime to be dissolved alive. If the power is present, sometimes many different offerings to be chosen from are brought. If humans are to be offered, they will be forced to dance before their death, or to plead to be the one to have the privilege of being sacrificed.
The lord bringing the offering will use the future victims blood to write litanies to praise the power he serves, and will slay the victim himself.
Regular rites take place at the time of the new moon. Groups of nobles will gather and light large fires beneath the open sky. Each group will torture and humiliate a commoner in various ways while blindfolded commoner musicians accompany the whole spectacle with solemn music. Ritual markings are painted on the ground, the participants and the victim, and if the whole rite is performed well enough, one of the powers will appear to the group that has shown the most ingenuity and inventiveness and tell them words of wisdom, secret information about their enemies or grant a minor boon.
*Magic: With So’Lun being a normal mana zone, only mages can cast spells there, a fact much welcome by the nobility, for virtually all nobles are born mages, those not having magical aptitude dropping to the bottom of the noble society with little chance of passing their genes on to further generations. Amongst the common folk, mage births are rare, and with many able commoner mages being raised to nobility upon the discovery of their talent, this fact is barely surprising. This aids the oppression of the common folk greatly – not only are the nobles trained to become armed killing machines possessing demonic powers and otherworldly allies, but there are no mages amongst the common folk to oppose them.
*Funerary custom: Commoners are buried in humble graves in fetal position dressed in traveling clothes, with a walking stick to their right and a small ceramic dish to their left.
Much unlike their subjects, nobles are preserved after their death in a rectangular container filled with a clear fluid that prevents the body from decaying. The bodies are kept naked within their containers in huge subterranean galleries that are open to any noble who wishes to enter. Each container is accompanied by a brass plaque that speaks of the successes and failures its resident has experienced during his lifetime.
*Art – Graphic and Sculpture: many nobles create art as a form of relaxation from the stress the average noble’s day has in abundance. Commonly found are abstract asymmetrical motifs three-dimensionally interwoven within a half-transparent crystal. Other nobles prefer metal as a medium, creating sculptures of plate and wire or creating more and more kinds of unusual weapons that are finely decorated and beautiful in their deadliness. Some of the most skilled mages prefer plants, animals or people as a medium to be shaped at their will. Amongst those of lesser magical power, creating intricate jewelry with some subtle twists (let your imagination run wild) is a welcome pastime.
Commoners create pottery durable and delicate at the same time as well as providing stone carvings and statues to decorate the homes and temples of the nobility.
An interesting peculiarity is that So’Lun art never depicts intelligent beings or parts of them, but uses abstract symbols for the same effect.
*Music and dance: wind instruments of all sorts are in wide use, regardless of whether made of wood or brass. Music accompanies the nobles for the whole day, performed by talented commoners or slaves. Music also plays an important part in many rituals.
As for song, it is mostly used on religious occasions to entertain nobles, with ballads being most common. Commoners sing a wide variety of work songs to be able to endure the daily labor better. Dance has a strong erotic context in So’Lun, and is a favorite courting ritual.
*Sports and games: hunting, whether wild beasts, commoners or outlaws, is a welcome pastime for many a noble in So’Lun. Amongst nobles who are less paranoid of each other’s motives certain board games that depend on the deception and misdirection of the opponent as well as careful planning are commonly played. Sometimes great arena fights are held, a noble audience numbering thousands attending them. Troves of peasants and beasts fall and their blood turns the sand of the arena into crimson mud, while their masters use the occasion for placing bets, forming new pacts or backstabbing if the circumstances are convenient.
*Tattoo, Scarification and Piercing: several powers demand that their servants are tattooed all over their bodies – some nobles are known to have even the inside of their mouths or nose cavities covered with intricate artwork. Others simply see tattooing as a convenient way to carry amulets of warding on their person all the time with little danger of losing one of the trinkets
*Housing and Architecture: the peasants dwell in tiny thatched adobes along with their livestock. Often some families band together and build several adobes right next to each other as to increase the living space by more than the surface of the dwellings, thus preserving more warmth in winter.
Nobles have taken the phrase “the sky is the limit” to heart, and this is reflected in their residences – tall pagodas and towers surrounding those are very popular, as are extensive fortifications around one’s home. City-dwelling nobles, not able to erect fortifications due to the confined space rely on a carefully planned network of bridges, doors and passages that make assaulting their lofty homes difficult.
The structures are constructed of solid stone, each block perfectly fitted into its neighbor. This fact is even more astounding considering the shapes the blocks and the structures they are constructed of take – the rectangular form encountered elsewhere is eschewed, and triangles, pentagons, hexagons and irregular shapes are used.
The roofs are made of shingles.
*Clothing: peasants dress in wool and linen in summer, donning heavy woolen cloaks when the chill winds start to blow from the north.
The dress of nobles is wholly different indeed. Bred of living tissue using secret techniques, it is perfectly fitted for its wearer, living of his waste products. These dresses come in a variety of shapes and colors, some of them adjusting to every whim of their wearer. Despite of their surprising resilience, the garments are cozy and comfortable, fitting like a second skin. The exact age a dress can reach is unknown, yet given its self-repairing capabilities it could be infinite – unfortunately, many suits are ruined by an unsightly demise of their owner.
*Cooking and food: various crops are planted in So’Lun, wheat, rice and maize amongst them, yet they are mainly intended to feed the masses of commoners. More than four fifths of the livestock kept are intended for the nobles, who require a protein-rich diet that also provides sufficient energy – thus meat is always the main course, while all other foods are intended as side dishes.
So’Lun is also the home of alcoholic, hallucinogenic or stimulating beverages too numerous to count.
*Packs and containers: Glass and clay containers are used to store both fluids and solid goods. To prevent breakage, the fragile containers are placed in wooden crates.
*Fire-making and fuel: magic is the tool of a noble when he feels the need to ignite something – commoners use flints to spark a flame. Purified oil is used for heating, as are wood and coal.
*Land transport and types of mounts: every road in So’Lun bears the marks of the heavy wheels of the oxen-pulled wagons that transport most of the goods in this land. Nobles ride elegant steeds, large quadruped omnivores called ‘garest’, bipedal carnivores by the name of ‘bannadu’ or more exotic mounts they have been gifted with by their masters. With So’Lun being spanned by a network of well-paved roads chariots are a favorite way of travel for some nobles.
*Both the So’Lun war navy and the fishermen travel the sea in ships composed of two connected hulls to provide increased stability. Both of them are propelled by oars, with a large rectangular sail being used to provide additional speed if the wind is favorable.
*Weapons – Missile Weapons: bows and crossbows of all sizes enjoy the same popularity as they do in Lyra. Peasants are forbidden from owning those though, and will use javelins, slings or nets when hunting small game.
Nobles will also have many small throwing weapons concealed on them, darts, knives or shuriken to name but a few. Most often poison will have been applied to the ammunition or blades of any missile weapon that is not used for hunting to bring down the enemy quicker and be able to down him even with an imperfect shot.
*Weapons – Melee: Heavy-bladed broadswords and bastard swords are common amongst the nobility, though their weight requires exceptional strength to wield them properly. While a great majority of the rulers of this land are not inconvenienced by this fact, some prefer to use lighter blades, either to gain an advantage in speed or to entertain themselves. Morning stars and maces are also sometimes seen.
Commoners will carry spears and pole-arms to battle, complemented by short swords for close combat. These weapons are inaccessible to commoners until they are drafted for war service, so that the skill of most of them is poor at best, therefore many of them settle for the staff or some implement of fieldwork they are allowed to bear even at home.
*Weaponless combat: with most weapons prohibited from being owned by commoners, it is barely surprising that those who intend to break the iron grip of nobility try to go without weapons. Three schools are known to exist in the underground of So’Lun, all teaching techniques that emphasize fast striking power. These schools are not accomplished or sophisticated in any sense of these words, as most of those who have achieved some progress live very short lives in the struggle against their masters.
The nobles on the other hand practice weaponless combat more resembling a dance or aerobic until the time has come to strike – this art of weaponless combat has passed the point of perfection and reached the realms of imagination and legend beyond. This, combined with the exceptional strength and agility of its students and the fact that concealable wrist blades are common accessories to most sorts of noble dresses, makes a true noble of So’Lun a fearsome opponent on any field, anytime.
*Shields: shields are made from a variety of materials, ranging from the leather and wood used by the peasants to metal, bone and several exotic materials the shields of the nobility are made of.
*Armor: armor for the nobles is made using the same techniques that allow their clothes to be created, thus producing armor that requires little maintenance, is not vulnerable to rust and many dangerous spells and combines lightness and flexibility with exceptional toughness. If fed well, a suit of armor can keep its wearer warm even in the most adverse conditions, and some suits are rumored to be able to inject various alchemical elixirs into their user.
The peasants will be clad in rags or leather at best, metal or more precious materials being too valuable to be wasted on mere commoners.
*Tactics: the armies of So’Lun will consist of a hard core of nobles mounted on various steeds, several siege engines of unusual yet ingenious design, some supernatural allies such as demons or extraplanar beasts and vast amounts of totally expendable commoners. In battle, the peasants will be used to bog down the enemy while the hosts of nobles will descend upon the opposition in a fury of destruction, tearing up the enemy piece by piece.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2016, 04:24:40 PM by EchoMirage »
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Offline valadaar

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Re: Sanctum - A World Beyond its Fate
« Reply #7 on: December 19, 2016, 12:17:02 PM »
This is an amazing amount of work here. I am in awe.
   
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Offline axlerowes

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Re: Sanctum - A World Beyond its Fate
« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2017, 09:50:31 PM »
This is as complete as many of the published worlds that people have tried to explain to me. This is pretty d**n complete, all you need is a map.

Offline EchoMirage

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Re: Sanctum - A World Beyond its Fate
« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2017, 03:15:49 AM »
I have yet to add:
> Zharr-Naggrund, the home of the Dwarves.
> Arcadizar, the theocratic expansionist empire
> Tallarn, the cursed high elf nation
> Torre, the archipelago of half-elf pirates
> Baicuna, the lizardman homeland

Luckily, I do have something written for most of them already.
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Offline EchoMirage

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Re: Sanctum - A World Beyond its Fate
« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2017, 03:39:41 AM »
Zharr-Naggrund
Everhome, The Roof of the World
Ancient texts speak of a time when the Dwarves dwelt elsewhere, and a truly strange world it was, with thick air, dense mists and little light. Alongside them the Elves lived – in lofty heights above the dwarven abodes. From that place Durandir Voxardent, celebrated as the Second Father, led them through the Void to the place they call home today, where they carved out a safe haven for all times to come. The Kithray mountain range has become their dominion, the heart of dwarvendom in the New World.
Their land has become one with the dwarves, bearing the marks of their passing wherever they went. Their drive to adapt their surroundings has led to a vast network of highways, huge cities, dams and irrigation projects.
The greatest Dwarven realm in the world, Zharr-Naggrund occupies the breath-taking heights of the Kithray mountains and the caverns beneath. From the pinnacle of Taxon Dur to unfathomable depths miles below, the Dwarves have honey-combed the mountains in search of wealth, metal, and a salvation for their race.
The land above is mostly covered with glaciers and forests, with fertile valleys in between. Pastures, terraced fields and small picturesque towns of gnomes, halflings, and humans are sprinkled throughout the realm, huddled in the shadows of peaks and Dwarven monuments.
Impressive it may be, but a significant portion of the realm is still outside Dwarven control - large swathes of the surface are home to feral humanoids and beasts, and some caves that pre-date Dwarven settlement are home to strange things that have never seen the sun, yet grow to like the taste of Dwarf.

Zharr-Naggrund is landlocked; it shares borders with So'Lun to the west and north, Arcadizar in the south, Samea in the east, and Lyra to the north-west.

*Taxon Dur
The highest peak in the known world, Taxon Dur is a frequent stopping point for far-ranging spirits of the air. The Dwarves have built an array within the pinnacle that listens in on the gossip of the passing spirits, and allows the Dwarves to learn their secrets. Due to the incredibly clear air, the Dwarves have also erected large telescopes to gaze upon lands far and wide.

*The Vaults
The Dwarves were much weakened by their passage to Sanctum, yet still saw their share of fighting against deities and demons alike. Those whom they could not truly defeat (or those who were more valuable alive) they incarcerated within Spellsinks, natural anti-magic rock formations found in the Kithrays. Ironically, the Dwarves took up more than their fair share of custodian work, with Elves dumping several uncomfortable prisoners upon them.
The vaults are mostly just locked and guarded, but a few of the prisoners produce exotic substances, or are talkative despite their confinement. So do Dwarven sages often come to converse with Arthenal, the Twisting Life, seeking to work through its mind games and deceptions to kernels of truth within.
Some Vaults are known to have failed, and are declared no-go zones. The status of some distant Vaults is unknown, their custodian orders having fallen silent.

*The Warding Waters
Especially the western side of Zharr Naggrund is quite arid, and water storage for agriculture is of prime importance. Numerous dams were built to hold back the valuable moisture, and dispense it in the time of need. The Warding Waters are a set of dams with an additional purpose - positioned along important access routes to the mountains, they can be used to release floods upon encroaching enemies, or to flood sections of the mines should the Dwarves dig too deep. Finally, dams at the borders can be used to throttle or re-route several rivers; denying water in a time of drought has been enough to force many an enemy into submission.

*Axalorn
The Crown of Flames is a region of lively volcanic activity, the rock beneath riddled with lava flows and highly unstable. In its centre, a rare sight is the citadel of Axalorn, home to a fair number of dragons and numerous draconids. With the Dwarves being unable to approach from below, and exposed to draconic might above ground, the citadel is defiant and unwilling to bow to the Dwarven kings. Instead, its dwellers frequently raid the lands of Zharr-Naggrund for supplies, and return once a defense has been mustered. The Dwarves would lose less if they just bought the dragons off with the very same supplies that get stolen amidst fire and pillage, yet pride forbids this course of action. It is but a consolation prize that the dragons raid their Arcadese and So'Lan neighbours indiscriminately as well.

*Ur-Galla
One of the oldest and holiest of cities in Zharr-Naggrund, Ur-Galla is known for the Breath of Stone. Some strange property of the rocks releases a wondrous quintessence into the air; this miraculous fragrance emboldens the Dwarves, and in fact restores a part of the vitae stolen by Elves during the Great Treason.
Distant Dwarven holds invariably house a large rock taken from Ur-Galla at their core; this continues to exude its wondrous properties, and gradually bestows them upon the surrounding rock. Dwarves from all over the world attend pilgrimages to Ur-Galla to bathe in the original, undiluted Breath of Stone, and reinforce their ties with the homeland. Surface Dwaves will wear talismans of stone on their skin to gain the strength of stone.
Secret: the wondrous properties of the stone at Ur-Galla were bestowed as the result of one of the Three Ignoble Pacts. The charisma penalty that Dwarves suffer in many systems is in fact not caused by the Dwarves' behaviour, but by the subtle demonic taint. Dwarves are simply perceived as worse than they really are. The knowledge of this fact is well-hidden by the Dwarven sages, and known by few (if any) non-Dwarves.

Demography
Dwarves: 66%
Gnomes: 13%
Halflings: 9%
Humans: 7%
Giants: 1%
Slaves (various races): 4%

The numbers of Orcs, Goblins, and other humanoids are not listed here, as they are in fact not part of Zharr-Naggrund.

Culture
*Family, Marriage and Divorce: because males outnumber the females several times, a woman will marry a man and some of his brothers who raise the offspring together. A dwarf will swear allegiance to a clan, each clan calling one of the great figures of dwarven history as its ancestor, and using his name as a second family name. When a woman marries, she is accepted into the clan of her husbands, but only after they have proven themselves worthy, for no marriage can take place without the agreement of the bride’s father. The suitors will have to present tales of their heroism, and let their provess and skill be tested. Often, it takes several years before the father of a highborn girl agrees to marriage.
Marriages are huge public affairs, with trumpeters sounding fanfares from the battlements, and town criers calling to the crowd. Likewise, it is a show of the wealth of the families and clans involved – everyone attending will don the showiest armor, and shower the pair with presents.
The husbands wear decorative plate, while the bride will don a winged helm and a gown of the finest chain mail, fine as silk, the Ara-Niht. This gown will be passed on from the mother to her favorite daughter.
Divorce is impossible according to dwarven law; only death can part a bond.
After birth, the children are kept in a temple to the All-Father for one day, overseen by their mother and several priests, while a Lorekeeper seeks its true name – the name of its soul, a dwarf’s dearest secret he reveals only to the closest friends. The child will remember it when the time is right.
Likewise, he will divine the Drajemra – the True Path – of the child. This is a profession for which the newborn has received blessings by the Ancestors. While it is in no way obligatory to follow the Path, it is believed that doing so brings good luck.
Last, the Lorekeeper will give the child a holy book, the Krommu, in which blessed sigils will be recorded – one at birth, one at the onset of maturity, and others for saintly deeds. The Krommu is worn on a chain around the neck, and one of the most prized possessions. Outcast and clanless dwarves don’t have one – thus losing the book is a sign of shame.
The family raises the children, aided in this endeavor by crèches, where a lorekeeper oversees the youngsters and teaches them what it means to be a dwarf – the lore, tradition, honor and obligations. Older children are apprenticed to relatives, or, less often, friends – it is a gesture of trust to be offered an apprentice, and the father is honored if the child is accepted, shame falls on him if the child is refused.
A dwarf will defend his family and clan with his life, and heed the word of three men – his father, clan head, and the king.
Generally overly protective of the females and offspring, dwarves will often keep strangers from even looking at them. The abuse of children and women is almost unheard of – though youngsters get their share of beating once they are apprenticed.
*Adultery: adultery is a terrible crime amongst the dwarves – the adulterer must face all of the husbands in combat, if they wish so – otherwise he will lose even that tiny rest of honor he had left before.
Rape is one of the most terrible crimes for a dwarf, and the punishment is death and eternal dishonor.

*Government: Zharr-Naggrund is a coalition of city-states, linked by ties of blood, ancient truces and dwarven loyalty. A High King is elected from amongst the rulers of the cities, and all dwarves are supposed to heed his word, yet this is wishful thinking: dwarven towns outside the mountain range sometimes maintain only very loose ties to the homeland, especially if the town does not possess its own Gate, and even in the heartland, dissent can lead to schisms, as demonstrated several times in the past – at one point in dwarven history, there have been three High Kings, vying for the Eternal Throne.
As to maintain good relations, the High King will not interfere with everyday matters of the cities – the king and his councilmen, the heads of the most respected clans, are the real power.
The Clan Heads can trace their lineage directly to the ancestor of the clan in an unbroken line. Most clans restrict their presence to one city, but the largest ones are spread all over the face of the world.
*Class Structure: Despite their traditionalist nature and structured everyday life, a dwarf can rise to almost any position, given sufficient effort and skill.
An important aspect of dwarven mentality is that they consider all honest jobs to be equal in prestige – a great fighter might earn renown, but a master mason’s word will weigh equally. As dwarven society grew, and one individual’s reputation could not reach all corners, so medals, decorative rings, brooches and sigils came to represent a dwarf’s accomplishments – kings and heroes, as well as elder craftsmen, can grant these tokens of honor. They will bear a representation of the achievement, and the name of the one who granted it. Thus, being given a high-ranking medal by a revered king is far more valuable than bearing one from a sovereign whose deeds were little. Also, what medals to wear on official occasions has become an art of its own – minimizing the negative and maximizing the positive reactions of the audience expected.
*Etiquette and its enforcement: Dwarves have a strong sense of propriety, duty and personal honor. The latter is very important to every dwarf – his honor is the most prized aspect, and many who are disgraced end their lives to erase the shame. Staining the honor of another through insults, slander or libeling is unwise, for this will lead to a feud, with the offended dwarf protecting his name. Most dwarves will have nothing to do with dishonorable scum, and the disgraced dwarf has to work hard to restore at least shreds of his dignity, through self-sacrifice and diligence, and one day, he might be considered honorable again, though many manage to redeem themselves only in death, and many others not even then. A few become so crazed and bereft of reason that they are only fit to be used as shock troops, the Warhounds – oblivious to pain and fear.
Dwarven etiquette demands respect to be shown to age and skill, as well as to territory and privacy. Truthfulness is a much-valued virtue – a dwarf will rarely lie, though stubbornly remaining silent, that is a wholly different matter. Priding themselves of honesty in all dealings, dwarves will rarely cheat or betray, and given trust, they do not abuse it. Bargaining hard is considered honest though: while a dwarf will not sell you goods he knows to be flawed, he might ask exorbitant prices for a product he deems to be valuable, especially if he knows you need it desperately and can pay.
*Slavery: Very few dwarves would tolerate being enslaved – either they’d rebel at the first opportunity, or take their lives. Despite this, the dwarves readily take slaves, be it enemies captured during war, or criminals of other races who were caught red-handed; sometimes, those indebted to a dwarf with large sums of money will find themselves dragged off in shackles. Still, Zharr-Naggrund takes little numbers of slaves when compared with other nations.
They are employed only for the most menial of tasks, though treated fairly well. Their owners consider them just tools that must be maintained. Abusing the slaves is considered below anyone’s dignity, thought punishing a disobedient one is seen as a necessity.
Most slaves are used for agriculture, as dwarves generally dislike being above ground for too long.

*Religion: while they acknowledge and honor the spirits of the earth and deities connected to the earth and the crafts, the only religion in Zharr-Naggrund is ancestor worship. Statues of kings and heroes of the past, songs written in their honor and rituals designed to please them are the mainstays of dwarven religious expression. Every dwarf is buried with a metal book telling his tale, and temples hold a niche containing small offerings and a constantly burning flame as a sign that his family has not forgotten. Only when a dwarf’s fire goes out and no one tells of his deeds is he considered truly dead. Up to that point he is considered to be watching over his people. The mightiest of ancestor spirits are reported to have caused miracles of great proportions, while the protection of the smaller ones is considered to be subtler – good luck, so to say.
Most dwarves will have a shrine at home dedicated to the family ancestors, while temples will serve all the deceased dwarves, as places of burial, storage of records and an abode for their spirits. Blessed tools, weapons and pieces of art are hoarded there, as to provide a place where a spirit can rest. A special kind of dwelling are the Durbru, spheres of metal adorned with carvings and prayers, serving this purpose and no other.
On the holidays of the great ancestors and heroes, which differ from city to city, though some are universal, large masses of citizens gather around the monuments and in the temples and celebrate.
All monuments will be colossal and awe-inspiring, thus evoking worship subconsciously, even from strangers, and so will most other structures – all of one’s works are considered a testimony, thus, bridges for example, will bear the names of the architect and the craftsmen, and a dwarf passing them will utter a short prayer of thanks for making such a fine bridge he can use. A great blade that survives ages and is used in countless battles is said to honor a spirit as much as a prayer.
*Liturgical form: every dwarf utters individual prayers to the ancestors after he finishes work. Most often, they consist of praise and thanks, as it is deemed impolite to bother the ancestors with trivial matters. As the saying goes: “The ancestors know best what they have to do.”
Public worship consists of a storyteller reading or chanting a formalized epos, and the gathered faithful joining in on certain passages.
*Funerary custom: the dead are buried in walls near the temple, behind metal doors with their name and profession on them. Rarely will they be given grave gods, except for their medals, and even those will sometimes rather be displayed. The dead dwarf is groomed, and oiled. Priests will carve his history into a plaque below a niche in which his candle is lit, and sing the Chant of Passage until his soul has left the body. Thus, dwarves always try to recover their dead, as to allow their spirits to be freed within safe walls, where their descendants dwell. A spirit still trapped in the dead body is said to be unable to aid his blood.
*Magic: young wizards will be apprenticed to elder spellcasters, to learn the art to aid all. Of honor learn they must and many an oath swear, yet the reward is knowledge deep, the fruit of a long carefully kept tradition. The intuitive and emotional sorcery of the Elves is frowned upon, and methodic learning and the understanding of the fundamental aspects of magic are the ways of the dwarven wizard.
Given the numerous great projects dwarves undertake, it is but natural that early on, their wizards learn to pool their power to accomplish feats impossible for someone acting alone. Thus, their works often have a strong sorcerous aspect – walls reinforced with magic, gates supported by force fields, or furnaces inhabited by fire elementals (those tend to settle in such places on their own volition frequently, though).

*Art-Graphic and Sculpture: mosaics and statues, as well as decorations on tools, weapons, furniture, just about anything, actually, make up the mainstay of dwarven art. It seems to be a fundamental drive, a need, which leads the dwarven craftsman to elaborate and decorate his products without detracting from their functionality. Scenes of legend and lore make up most of the motifs, the rest are abstract patterns. Precious stones and metals are favorite materials, stone for the rest of course.
Though it will have subtler aspects, dwarven art, especially sculpture and architecture, is mostly big. Ostentatious is a term with which you can describe most of the pieces.
*Music and dance: dwarven music is very rhythmic, and quite loud. Heroic epics and tales of great deeds tend to be quite complex, while music meant for entertainment, and work chants, are quite simple and repetitive, with lyrics you can shout, and remember even when drunk.
Feasts are accompanied by dancing and music, with most of the dances being group events, with rings or rows of dancers. The rhythm is especially important, and many dances take place on iron floors. This combined with the traditional iron-shod shoes makes for a loud event.
*Sports and games: while many a foreigner would name brawling and indulging in alcohol as the favorite dwarven pastimes, the truth is different. Many team sports originate from dwarven culture, for example Dragon’s Hoard, where rock balls are tossed onto the playing field in regular intervals, and each team must capture and haul to their home base as many as they can – the game is full-contact, so most players are armored (but then, when are dwarves not armored?). Another one is King of Elements, where players must haul four differently colored balls into the opposing team’s goal area before they score, colored red, blue, white and brown, with the white being light and bouncy, and the brown one quite heavy. Another favorite is simply called ‘Quarter’, played with four goals – if one team manages to score, regardless into which goal, it gains control of the quarter. Once a team controls all four quarters, it wins. Longer matches can require a team to win, say, three times before it is over. The teams are numerous, the ball heavy and the sticks used to propel it through the air quite dangerous. The heavy war maul of the dwarves is actually an adaptation of this sports instrument.
The more contemplative dwarves delight in board games and cards, and betting on it, too. So is chess often played with pieces of precious metal, and if you lose a figure, you must surrender it permanently to your opponent.
*Architecture: think big is the motto here. Dwarves build things to last, and while they last, they might be as well pretty to look at. Circles and octagons are frequently used forms, as well as hexagons. Buildings have a certain robust feel around them, rightly so, because dwarves build most structures also as fortifications. Key elements of buildings feature statues of mighty ancestors or heroes, for this is said to draw the spirit’s protection to the crucial element of the structure. Bridge pillars will regularly be topped with such statues, for example.
A regular element of the underground dwellings is a stone garden with running water.
Residences feature an antechamber for accepting guests – isolated well from the rest of the dwelling, a workshop or forge, and an excessive storage of food and wealth.

*Food: the surface of the land is not especially fertile, being rather rocky and the soil thin. The dwarves have done their best to increase the fertility of the land – terraced fields cover the mountain slopes, huge waterwheels pump water into the heights, and vast water reservoirs serve as backup for periods of drought. Still, dwarves are not the greatest farmers, thus leave much of the fieldwork to slaves or the inhabitants of the small human, gnomish or halfling settlements dotting the landscape.
Underground, fungus farms produce nutritious fungi, or chow for swine. Several plants that require mana currents or heat rather than light for growth are planted as well. Some of the wealthier cities have crafted sunlight enchantments in great caverns, thus allowing crops to grow below ground.
Dwarven food will be nutritious yet heavy, greasy or excessively sweet. Dwarven sweets are known to be especially durable, and sweeter than an angel’s smile.
A specialty of sorts is the rat, which dwarven cooks prepare in hundreds of ways. This is understandable when one considers that the rat is one of the few animals that follow civilization anywhere.
The drinks of choice are beer and mead, very thick and sweet, actually fluid caloric bombs.
*Cooking: dwarves cook either on stoves in their homes, or eat in large communal kitchens placed near the larger manufactures. This is the place where a single dwarf will be dining.
*Clothing: heavy wool, leather and metal are the materials of choice. Apparently as a product of a fundamental need for security, dwarves will don armor regularly, even when no danger is in sight. A chain shirt is considered casual garb. Dwarven clothing will be study, first and foremost, esthetics coming second. The underwear will most often be wool, the higher layers leather, topped with metal.
The only really colorful pieces of garb are the capes, made of wool or flax, with intricate patters woven into them. Some clans also wear colored scarves or sashes.
*Packs and containers: dwarven travelers carry leather backpacks, while goods are stored in barrels, yet most frequent are ceramic and glass containers, for storing both liquids and supplies.

*Boats: a landlocked country, Zharr-Naggrund builds few ships. The few merchant ships they have constructed in neutral dwarven holds near the sea, or in human shipyards, are huge and sturdy with a large carrying capacity, several rows of oars, and heavily plated and armed.
*Airships: a few large zeppelins cruise through the skies above Zharr-Naggrund, used for swift transport of goods and persons, as well as for military operations – bombing runs. The dwarves don’t rely on them, though.
*Land Transport: dwarves prefer to go by foot. Heavy wagons and shaggy ponies are used to transport goods, while Gorgurs (sturdy pachyderms) are employed in battle. In mines, carts on tracks transport ore. This concept has been expanded, and a few railroads already haul large quantities of goods from one city to another.

*Weapons: adaptations of tools are most often used – pickaxes, hammers and mauls are a dwarf’s weapons. Those dwelling in heavily forested areas also use axes. Spears and pikes (collapsible) also see wide use.
*Missile weapons: the crossbow is the Dwarf's missile weapon of choice - underground, the projectile's flat flight trajectory is a boon, and the short limbs of the Dwarves are not suited to larger bows. Various types of crossbow are used, from light repeaters, to heavy winch crossbows, or spring crossbows that look very much like a rifle.
Employing alchemical compounds and bound elementals, Dwarves also developed flame throwers and various hurled explosives, which are especially devastating in the narrow halls of their homes. Certain clans possess the secret to the manufacture of gunpowder weapons, and guard this jealously. The most closely guarded secret are lightning guns, fueled by storm elementals captured when tempests lash the peaks (an understandably dangerous endeavour).
Dwarves employ a wide range of war machines both below and above ground. Below, these include the infamous 'Hedgehog' (a huge crossbow that hurls a hundred bolts at once), flame cannons and huge blunderbusses. Above, these will include early cannon, ballistae, and a variety of catapults.
It is worthy of note that Dwarven war engines will be heavily enchanted, and are also very precise in comparison to their counterparts in other armies. So have Arcadese generals learned long ago that they must abandon their fanciful crests and banners when battling the Dwarves, as 'general sniping' is a favourite pastime of Dwarven war machine crews, and many a battle ended even before it began when a huge boulder squashed the fancy peacock general along with their command staff in the first minute of confrontation.
*Weaponless combat: Dwarves are not fancy about their unarmed combat - they brawl or wrestle. Still, Dwarven brawlers know well how to use their low centre of gravity to throw opponents. Rings that bestow elemental effects upon the wearer's fists are sometimes used as a discreet form of self-defense; less wealthy Dwarves use brass knuckles or iron gauntlets.
*Armor: finely woven chainmail and layered chainmail-lamellar composites are very common. Heavy infantry will wear articulated plate, or, in the case of elite shock troops, articulated plate that is enhanced with enchantments that are otherwise used to animate golems and such; this animated plate enhances the wearer's strength, and carries them to safety should they lose consciousness. Beside steel, a range of exotic metals are used in the making of armour. Being masters of thaumaturgical metallurgy, Dwarves have even invented some metals normally not found in reality. Especially high-grade armour is also heavily enchanted. The general consensus is that Dwarves make the finest armours in the world. This allows them to demand exorbitant prices, though their detractors claim that some magical armours have hidden enchantments that can be used to harm the wearer should the Dwarves wish so (the Dwarves counter that the very same people claim that Dwarven coin is enchanted to vanish from your pockets, especially in pubs and brothels).
*Shields: Large. Sturdy. Shield wall.
*Military tactics: Dwarven tactics focus around their superb heavy infantry, and destructive machinery. They employ armoured wagons to get their infantry into combat faster; they use portable portals to send heavy infantry through; they deploy their heavy infantry through tunnels, via zeppelins, or under the effect of haste spells. Their preferred field of battle is around strongpoints though, where the enemy cannot avoid confronting their stalwart troops. They will soften up the enemy first with war machine fire and various kinds of ambushes, such as collapsing cliffs upon them, prepping the field of battle with explosives, spike pits, or unleashing lava flows. If the enemy army has very specific high-priority targets, such as dragons, demons, or powerful mages, the Dwarves will strive to design devices to obliterate these entities and to demoralise the rest of the army thus. As such, fighting Dwarves is most difficult when they have had time to prepare - in which case they inevitably prepare will.
The disadvantages of Dwarves are their fairly low numbers, and the time it takes to replenish those numbers. Their armies cannot be everywhere at the same time, thus they take great pains to demonstrate irresistible force and utterly dominate an enemy when they can, so that enemies believe that any confrontation with the Dwarves will end this way. Their secretiveness means that enemies rarely know which hold is defenseless while its army is occupied elsewhere, and they do their best to conceal their numbers. The Dwarven vindictiveness is a defensive measure - they place great importance to make an example of their enemies, so that other foes know what lies in store for them should they raise arms against Zharr-Naggrund.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2017, 11:15:14 AM by EchoMirage »
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Re: Sanctum - A World Beyond its Fate
« Reply #11 on: November 16, 2017, 11:28:10 AM »
Arcadizar:
The Arcadese Empire, The Overflowing Grace, The Brightlands, Accra Teindë ("Scorched Earth", Elven, derisive)
Spanning vast expanses of rocky badlands, sun-beaten plains and prairies of blue-green grass, Arcadizar is a deterring land at first sight, yet bountiful if you can wrest its riches from its grasp. It is inhabited by daring and smart people, just the sort it takes to make a good living there. Under their care have cornfields, lush groves and white cities sprung forth amidst the endless expanses of grass in this land where you can ride from dusk until dawn without meeting anyone but the songbirds and wild dogs that howl deep into the night.

*Thoktu Masif
While the empress resides in Arcad Anur, the city of Thoktu Masif is the seat of religious power. The city is surrounded by a deep chasm filled with impenetrable fog and strange noises that are said to be the voices of the condemned; narrow bridges arc across the depth, and it is believed that the unworthy will be thrown off them by high winds, to plummet downwards among the d**ned.
The city is the goal of numerous pilgrimages, and a vast trade booms around supplying their needs. Ironically, this has made the Holy City a hotspot of commerce. Merchants benefit greatly from shipping goods along with pilgrims, for these hire guards to ensure safe passage from all directions.
Religious schools abound in Thoktu Masif, along with other institutions of the faith, such as the embalmer's guild. It also has the highest concentration of Saints; the imposing presence of the masked church officials, as well as tales of their magical abilities, martial prowess and imperviousness to fear, pain, or bribery give pause to all but the most daring of criminals.

*Arcad Anur
The Garden City is a young metropolis, built after the unification of Arcadizar by the first emperor. Carefully planned, the metropolis is regular, built in concentric fortified circles with radiating boulevards. Hidden aqueducts carry water from the surrounding hills to the elevated centre, so that streams radiate out from the palace to supply the city's gardens.
In an effort to centralise the empire, the rulers have moved many institutions to the city, forcibly so if needed. There is an ongoing effort to divert surrounding ley lines to the metropolis as well, with mixed success, and numerous problems arising from their artificial constellation.

*Surxal Heights 
The Arcadese hatred of the supernatural has manifested in the purge of the Surxal heights, a high-mana area on the border to Samea. Previously populated by a diverse assortment of fey creatures, the 'cleansing' has left the land devoid of all supernatural inhabitants. The mana currents have turned chaotic, hostile, and putrid since then, creating malformations and areas where curses roil like dense mist. Suffice to say, the settlement of the heights has failed, and the area is a no-go zone for all but the most hardened of adventurers. The dark elves seem to have taken a liking to it, though.

*The Whispering Vast
A large portion of Arcadizar is desert, or plains, a veritable sea of grass. The land is home to a vast population of diverse ornery herbivores and no less ornery nomads. Even the few scattered woods uproot driven by tree shepherds, and wander off in search of water. There are few permanent places in the Whispering Sea, religious sites, forges, and trading posts. The distances themselves seem blurred, with some trips taking a week, and the return a month.

*The Subterranean Sea
While much of the surface is arid, there water hides in the depths of Arcadizar. One such reservoir is a veritable sea, a mile below the ground, and fifty miles in its greatest extent. Much of it is navigable, and boats cross its waves in search of the strange fish that inhabit the serene waters. Luminiscent funghi and strange plants that need no sunlight grow above and below the sea's surface.
The steps down are worn out by generations of water carriers, bringing up the life-bringing cargo bucket by bucket. Though the Sea is vital to those who can access it, people do go missing on its shores, and some claim to have seen strange structures in the underwater rainbow twilight.

*The Last Temple
The far west of Arcadizar is most inhospitable, parched and incessantly beaten by unnatural rainless storms. In a remote valley lies a temple, barring the sole passage beyond the World's End range. The most dedicated and fanatical priests and saints of Tacontar train and pray there, secluded from the world, and safeguarding terrible secrets no doubt.

Culture
*Form of Family: small families are the norm in Arcadizar, the adults living together with their children. The elders are taken care of by the community by being given jobs that require little physical labor, like teacher, judge, administrator, bookkeeper or librarian.
*Marriage and Divorce: when a woman wishes to marry a man or vice versa, they will have their parents or eldest relatives gather and discuss the whole matter. Facts like education, wealth, behavior and deeds are taken into consideration, and then the gathering decides whether they give the bond their blessing – the marriage can take place whether the blessing is given or not, but it is considered being born under an unfortunate star if the parents disagree. The pair will take some rations and water, mount their lizards and ride off into the plains, not to return for a week. In that time, they, their parents and any children they might already have, as well as their property, is considered sacred, not to be harmed or manipulated in any way if possible at all.
Divorce is possible yet not welcome – divorced people have a much harder time finding a new partner, with neither the parents of the chosen one nor the chosen one placing much trust into the bond. Nonetheless, this obstacle can be overcome if one tries hard enough.
*Women as adventurers: are possible and common in Arcadizar.
*Government and Structure: the land is ruled by an emperor or empress of the royal family, supported by a host of administrators, advisors and bureaucrats too numerous to count. The structure is decentralized, with the low-ranking clerks, officials and civil servants handling most matters of lesser importance, and only decisions of greatest importance having to be decided by the ruler. High-ranking officials, such as district directors, high judges and police commanders are appointed by the ruler in person, while the lesser bureaucracy is employed by the high official. The next ruler is also chosen by the emperor from amongst his children, but should none of those meet the standards, the ruler may designate any of his relatives as the emperor to be – considering the right of the emperor to adopt a child or even adult, anyone could be the next ruler.
*Social Order: The social order is headed by the emperor. Others of the noble family are held in high esteem as well, but not near as much as the emperor – most of their status must still be earned by serving in a prestigious position such as priest, guildmaster or judge. The status of anyone outside the royal family depends on his profession, education and skill – high-ranking officials, expert craftsmen or skilled doctors are held in high esteem, as are successful military generals or great artist. Honest craftsmen and soldiers are given the respect they are due. Slaves receive far better treatment than anywhere else, as the laws regard harming slaves the same way they regard inflicting harm upon a citizen, and it is actually possible for a slave to rise in status if he serves a respected person well or is an expert in his field – a slave of proven ability can occupy a high position within society the same way a citizen can, the slave being a “servant of the people” instead of belonging to a specific person.
It is possible to climb the social ladder in Arcadizar if one tries hard enough – public schools offer free education for any child or youth, and the universities are more than willing to claim an able student as their own. Orphanages and charity care for the unfortunate, while many public services provide comfort and a feeling of safety to the citizens – there are hospitals, libraries and thermals accessible to everyone; other than these, organized groups of firefighters, militia and social workers are on the imperial payroll, and up to date, Arcadizar is the only country to have an organized post service.
To finance all these services, taxes are heavier than elsewhere, and to be paid regularly – tax collectors are on duty all day long.
The only exceptions to the care the throne takes of the average citizen are the barbaric nomads living in the wilder regions of the country who are considered outlaws, and non-humans – every dwarf, elf, goblin etc. is obliged to carry documents on him, and will be checked upon regularly. It is his duty to announce himself to the local authorities when entering or leaving a city, and will find himself generally unwelcome.
*Slavery: about a quarter of the population are slaves. They can be found on all sorts of assignments, and are generally treated well – treating a slave badly is a sign of bad manners, and illegal to boot. Slaves receive a small percentage of their true wages, and can be able to buy themselves free after time. As well as that, an owner can free one of his slaves anytime and continue employing him as a citizen. The demand for new slaves is high and the land wealthy – Arcadizar makes an ideal market for well-behaved and civilized slaves.
*Religion:
*Cosmology and Pantheon: the central figure of Arcadese worship is Tacontar, the lord of light – he is thought to reside in the sky above the globe (the cosmology sees the world as a sphere), watching it with his radiant eyes that are the suns. He stands for truth and enlightment, thus science, knowledge and law are sacred to him. His servants are the Alintar, beings of light and righteousness that bring knowledge and inspiration to the worthy. The world is thought to have been created out of the primordial fire that still glows within humanity and gives them life. Non-humans are though to have sprung from shadow and darkness, and thus are considered cursed and unholy.
Tacontar is the patron of schools and universities, as well as teachers and scientist – his influence is noticeable in his aid to the resourceful as well as on the holy ground where illusion and black magic fail and creatures of shadow suffer.
The priests of the religion are wise men who often serve as teachers and judges, or spiritual leaders in times of war. They often display the gifts of healing, a mighty voice or resistance to magic and supernatural deception – only the most skilled evildoers can fool one of the chosen.
The faith aids its members in many ways – founding and maintaining hospitals, libraries and wandering amongst the people and offering advice on many a field.
The relations of Arcadese belief with other faiths are icy at best – the deities worshipped elsewhere are classified as demons and malevolent shades to be opposed in every way possible. Temples of other religions are outlawed in Arcadizar, and many missionaries are sent to other lands to preach the truth.
*Liturgical Form: every day the faithful are called to prayer – in the morning, at noon and at sunset. They face the sun and sing prayers, accompanied by a preacher on a tall tower that forms the center of every temple. All the faithful stand for a moment with outstretched arms facing the suns, the children being held up high to be able to revel in their glory. Every ten days, a ceremony is held at all the temples where the people are blessed using sun-warmed water and sacred oil. At the height of summer, depth of winter and both equinoxes, great feasts are held to celebrate the never-ending voyage of the suns.
*Magic: Arcadizar is a normal mana area, and thus mages are not uncommon. Most of them are detected at a young age and inscribed in one of the academies to be taught properly and kept away from dangerous knowledge such as necromancy or similar magic – while the arcane arts are held in high esteem, those sorts of magic are strictly forbidden. Mind control and illusion magic is also not commonly taught, and when, then in only to be able to ward against it. Non-human creatures capable of using magic are persecuted, and magical beings hunted; this is likely due to the incessant conflict between Arcadizar and its neighbours - Tallarn, So'Lun and Samea use magic extensively, and are ruthlessly daemonised (easy to do especially with So'Lun).
*Funerary custom: the dead are buried in standing tombs in upright position with their arms to their sides; those of higher social class are embalmed in a process that preserves an almost lifelike likeness. A constantly burning fire and a vigil held in front of the tomb are required for the soul to pass into the afterlife. To ease the voyage that follows the demise, the corpse is given two sun disks made of gold as well as several beautiful jugs and a tome with prayers, maxims and wise sayings. The ground upon which cemeteries lie is considered taboo and nobody is allowed there after sunset except priests and those holding a vigil.
Unbeknown to most, the most heroic dead are embalmed in a different fashion, and infused with strange essences by the priests of Tacontar, returning to a strange unlife as Saints to serve the church.
*Art:
*Graphic art and sculpture: many artists choose to donate one of their works to a temple, or a temple pays the services of a skilled artisan to add a work of art. Temples are demonstratively decorated with statues of scholars, priests and heroes, as well as depictions of great events. The homes of the people are adorned with mural paintings and carved pillars depicting great events in history, and small statues similar to those in the temples. Besides these the art of harnessing water finds many practitioners here – a steam or spring is made to flow in different watercourses, forming a beautiful pattern of currents, sprinkles and gushes from the multitude of pipes, vents and fountains. One art is unique to Arcadizar – the light sculptures consisting of crystals, lenses and mirrors that are ablaze with liquid fire from dawn to dusk.
*Music and song: Arcadese musicians are true masters of the organ, much like the artisans creating these complex instruments. Beautiful und awe-inspiring organs form a centerpiece of many public places like courts or temples, their mighty sound waking the cities and wishing them goodnight.
Except these, the musicians use wind instruments of all sorts. The use of music is frequent both on religious and secular opportunities.
As much as they like to play music the people like to sing – there are songs intended for work, wandering or war – the armies march to war with the sound of battle hymns and heroic epics.
Given this fondness of music, it comes as a surprise but the people of Arcadizar do not dance – the closes thing they do is ritualized combat mounted or on foot that follows a certain pattern and is part of the spring equinox rites.
*Sports and games: races and stylized dueling serve as entertainment, as do many board games with a strong tactical element – people play them in their lunch break, after work or on free days in a garden or seated comfortably with a drink in hand. The people are more than willing to offer lunch or shelter to a master of one of those games in return for a chance to play with him. Often, a whole audience gathers around a game played by true masters and watches in utter silence.
Swimming is also very popular, quite surprising given the nature of the land – many an Arcadese will not miss any chance to go for a swim.
*Tattoo and scarification: are not used in Arcadizar.
*Housing and architecture: dwellings are constructed of polished white stone and roofed with red shingles. Every city will be walled, the tall rectangular houses hidden safely inside. Most homes will have a tiny garden, either on a terrace or in front of it – it is there that guests are welcomed and the meals consumed if the weather allows it. The weather problem is sometimes solved by protecting the garden with a glass roof. Inside, the house will include a hall with pillars and a pool if a spring is nearby, as well as several small sleeping chambers – if possible these will be equipped with a water reservoir and broad beds with cotton pillows and blankets. There will also be a party room and a small shrine. The cities are arranged in a rectangle as well, with a fortified bastion on each corner.
*Food and cooking: the crops planted consist mainly of wheat and corn, and this is reflected on the menu. As most cattle are lizards or bugs, they show up on the table regularly. Hefty drinks resembling coffee or strong tea complement each meal. When the orchards bear fruit, those are a welcome addition to the diet.
The people cook in a separate room in the basement. As befriended families like to dine together, the kitchens will be well stocked at any time, the fire kept burning constantly.
*Clothing: The people will wear white and beige robes with cowls to ward away heat, cold and the wind – should a winter be particularly harsh, which does not happen too often, they will don heavy cloaks. The cowls are not used to conceal one’s identity, but solely against the weather. Lighter robes are worn at home, these made of fine cotton, silk or spider wool. Even at times of war, robes are worn over armor.
*Fire-making techniques and fuel: fire is sparked using sulfur with additives with flint and steel. Most often coal and dung serve as fuel.
*Packs and containers: goods are kept in baskets, sacks, jugs or amphorae. They are transported in the same containers tied to the backs of beasts of burden.
*Land transport and mounts: various lizards are used both as draft and riding animals – small bipedal lizards serve as cavalry mounts, while gigantic six-legged behemoths transport goods, carry troops or pull siege engines. Winged lizards carry messengers between cities, express deliveries to their destinations and scouts in times of war.
*Ships and boats: the vessels used in Arcadizar are long galleys with a single row of oars and three rectangular sails, each fitted to a separate mast. On war vessels, the prow will protrude into a reinforced ram, while all ships will have eyes painted on the sides of their prow and the locked twin rings resembling the suns on their main sail.
*Missile weapons: both hunters and soldiers use composite short bows, javelins, bolas and nets to bring their target down. A variety of explosive and noxious concoctions are sealed in jugs and flung at the enemy. The missile weapons are almost exclusively made of metal – the country is rich in various ores, though the people are not near as much skilled as the dwarves in utilizing these resources. Nonetheless, the javelins and arrows are designed for maximum efficiency and ideal flight attributes.
*Melee weapons: long elegant spears and viciously barbed lances are the weapons of choice for the cavalryman. For close combat, delicate and slightly curved blades are used – their lightness belies flexibility, endurance and a keen edge. The infantry will march to war bearing tall pikes and halberds – the regiments of Arcadizar are renowned for their discipline and thus can utilize these weapons with maximum effect, their ranks seldom falling into disorder.
*Weaponless combat: when unarmed, the people will usually go for the wrestling techniques that are taught as a part of the common education, the skills being honed by army training.
*Shields: a soldier will never go without a resilient round shield made of beetle or lizard hide. These are lightweight and can withstand any but the most powerful blows. Metal shields are considered heavy and cumbersome, and thus find little use.
*Armor: full plate is almost unknown in Arcadizar – light chain mail or scale mail is considered the best option, while some soldiers rather opt for armor made of lizard scale or beetle shells. The regiments of Arcadizar are recognizable on sight due to their traditional pointed helmets with chain links to guard their necks.
*Tactics: the armies of Arcadizar march to war in organized ranks, the infantry blocks being supported by fast and medium cavalry and huge beasts of war mounting howdahs and siege engines. There are as many different tactics for these versatile armies as there are tacticians, and the archives of the war college are full of examples. One can never expect what an Arcadese army will do next, a fact that has brought them many a victory. The Saints will join the most important war efforts; their deathless endurance and unique magics make them the linchpin of the battle formation. On rare occasions, supernatural beings bathed in solar radiance will manifest to aid in battle, usurping command. They are both a blessing and a curse, as they sometimes expect too much of their mortal allies, and judge the unworthy on their side in moments of wrath.
« Last Edit: December 12, 2017, 04:27:12 AM by EchoMirage »
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Offline EchoMirage

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Re: Sanctum - A World Beyond its Fate
« Reply #12 on: December 08, 2017, 08:03:42 AM »
Tallarn

An ancient land of secrets, Tallarn lies in the far south on a peninsula protruding deep into the azure waters of the Tempting Sea. More than a unified land, it is a loose band of Elven cities, each one hidden within its forested valley, on its windy mountaintop, secluded island or the bottom of a deep lake. Not only Elves inhabit the land – many creatures thought to exist only within legend walk under the green boughs here.
When a human witnesses Tallarn, he will feel an almost physical manifestation of the pressure of years that lies upon this land – despite the claims of Lyra, Tallarn is the oldest centre of civilization on the face of the planet, and thus the land is virtually littered with artifacts of bygone ages, ruins whose name no one remembers and magic so old it has a consciousness of its own.

*Tirean Saroth
Upon a surreal peak of hourglass shape, connected to other mountains by impossibly graceful stone bridges, lies the city-fortress of Tirean Saroth. The most famous drake-breeders and sky-knights of Tallarn call its heights their home. Under the patronage of the dragon Karnatha, the Thrice-Broken Crescent, an implacable foe of Arcadizar, the riders have been among the staunchest defenders of the western border, and train incessantly for the day they will strike at the heart of the Empire.
Karnatha has found a way to bestow fragments of his essence upon Elves; inside them, the essence proliferates, gradually turning them into winged amalgams of dragon and elf. It is too early to tell how far the changes will go, given the unlimited Elven lifespan.

*The Mother Lode
An exceptionally powerful ley line nexus lies in a sizeable crater filled with a wondrous botanical garden. Elven housing is unobtrusively hidden inside plants shaped by magic. Here, powerful dreaming is given shape in the form of fey and nature spirits, and talented lucid dreamers strive to manifest benevolent fairy creatures and nature elementals. Using the ley lines, the spirits then disperse throughout the world. Guards along the rim cautiously screen comers, so that someone does not unwittingly create a living nightmare.
Elves may or may not be able to control the spirits that arise from their dreaming, and have them do their bidding.

Culture
*Form of Family: there is no family as such in Tallarn – all of a woman’s children stay with her until maturity, regardless of who their father is, and are released to fend for themselves. The bond between mentor and apprentice fluently replaces that between mother and child, and can last for centuries. The allegiance one chooses is as important as family heritage, as the bonds of fealty are regarded as a very serious matter.
*Marriage and Divorce: the quest for one’s complementing half is extremely difficult in Tallarn, for due to some strange genetical twist, fully 85 percent of all children born are male. This may not be obvious to one not familiar with the Elven populace here, for, due to another freak twist in their heritage and hormone levels, almost one half of the men have a fully female appearance despite being functional males (or, you know, this may be a curse, so deeply ingrained in their being that it can't be simply lifted). The Elves term masculine males Kian, and feminine Kianna, while women are referred to as Aroi.
The man to woman ratio has brought up many courting customs. The woman can take her pick of the males vying for her attention, either through showoffs in one of the many contests held, through gaining reputation and social standing or through direct courting including gifts, art dedicated to the chosen lady and quests performed in her favor.
No formal wedding ceremony takes place when the lady has chosen, and no promises are given – the pair are simply lovers for the next few weeks or a century if their feelings run deep and strong. While nothing prevents the woman from granting her favors to more than one man, this can result in bitter rivalry – there are many ballads speaking of such conflicts in Tallarn. The man is also advised to remain true to his lady, for if he drags another into his life he might lose both.
*Women as adventurers: Given their value to the society and their place within, it is considered highly irresponsible if a woman wanders off to risk her life. If the call of adventure is very strong, a Tallarn woman will often do so abroad.
*Government and Structure: each city is headed by a lord and a lady, thought the two need not to have a relationship. The lord’s strength relies on those who have sworn fealty to him, for they are the strength behind his words – it is considered an honor to serve a renowned lord, while having able and famous followers carries a great deal of prestige. Each year, the lords and ladies gather to discuss the matters of the realm, and elect a chairman for that purpose.
If another individual within a city has a retinue similar in size and power to that of the lord, then the ruler would do better to heed his advice lest his city be consumed by an internal power struggle – more than one city has fallen prey to discord within in the history of Tallarn.
*Social Order: while a man’s standing is derived from his abilities, deeds and his loyal core of supporters, women are exempt from this structure, their place within society largely dependent on the post they occupy, but their prestige rising with the number and standing of men they are courted by. An intricate network of loyalties, favors and intrigue determines the politics, often strongly spiced with pride, anger and lust for power.
Rise or descent in the social order is not uncommon, and as the tides of success and favor come and go, so does the social rank.
The duties of men and women are clearly defined – females will assume administrative, cultural, priestly and educative roles, while the men will take care of the manual labor, like farming or the crafts, and warfare. A few trades, like the magical arts, are open to both genders. To tell the truth, with the way the society shields its females from the outer world and the way the men spend their time with work, one of the many struggles or getting killed in some war or other, it is to be doubted if any change of the roles could take place even if the people of Tallarn desired it.
Despite its long cultural heritage, Tallarn is a nation battling constantly – both within and to the outside, and as such it is harsh to members with disabilities – while those wounded or those of lesser ability are cared for and given a place, and orphans allocated to surrogate mothers, those who are permanently marked, crippled or incurably sick are cast out.
*Slavery: while no slaves are actually held in Tallarn, any war captives, defeated political rivals or unfortunate strangers will be readily sold to the next slave trader.

Religion:
*Cosmology and Pantheon: the Elves believe the world to be a disc surrounded by a titanic wyrm K’leth that bites into its own tail, while the heaven is believed to be held up by five great giants. The gods of the Elves number seven – Raiane the Dawnstar – the creator, Geddain the New Moon – the teacher, Smaointe the Ascendant Luna – the leader, Salumnis the Luna in Harmony – the keeper, Dwaione the Descending Luna – the wayfarer, Rathallian the Eveningstar, the master of the gates, and finally Lacra the Empty Sky, the Mistress of the Beyond.
The Elves are thought to have been led to this world and having to leave again when their time is fulfilled – their entire existence being but a voyage, and their deities reflecting this. They believe that they wander from world to world, their souls being cleansed in the fire of creation upon entry. An interesting fact is that humanity has also a place in Elven belief – they are though of a Children of Lacra, meant to be the keepers of a world when the Elves leave. The idea of humankind and the Elven race being so closely related is confirmed by the ease with which the two races interbreed.
The faith is very tolerant of other faiths, yet the Elves of Tallarn know the others are wrong, but will enlighten the misguided only if asked to. Their relation to the Dwarven religion is different – the Elves believe that what the Dwarves claim the truth to be is also based on facts.
*Liturgical Form: the Elves construct great temples of stone where evergreen plants flourish, eternal flames shed light and warmth, melodically tinkling fountains spew forth sparkling water day and night, and a fresh and gentle breeze tells of distant lands and times to all who want to listen.
All temples are attended by a core of priestesses who bring sacrifices of their own lifeblood, their tears and breath. Ceremonies take place according to the phases of the moon, while a morning and evening ceremony is also held. All prayers are sung, the priesthood and the faithful raising their voices in a harmony that resonates within the temple until the next prayer. Those who want to thank, appease or issue a plea to the gods will also be called to sacrifice a drop of their blood or a tear, and will then sing their prayer, their words repeated by all those who concur.
At birth, every child will receive a unique amulet constructed of a pure elemental matrix – most often living flame, wind or waves encased within pure metal, stone or wood. This amulet will be bound to its owner and accompany him for the rest of his life – only when the owner dies will it be recovered and placed within the vaults of the temple, its form never to be repeated until this cycle is complete.
*Magic: almost every Elf is born with the gift of magic, and many legendary mages are of Elven stock, their lifespan allowing them to study the arts to both breadth and depth.
What makes the mages of Tallarn exceptional is their skill at enchanting areas and creating magical beings – they seem to have found a way to channel power into such projects much faster than human mages deem possible.
Most of Tallarn is a normal mana area, but significant patches of the land are filled with high or even very high mana, but this will invariably strongly aspected (favouring certain kinds of sorcery, and hampering others).
*Funerary custom: the dead are cremated and their ashes strewn into one of the many rivers that thunder towards the ocean from the forested heights. On their way many flowers that the relatives, followers and friends cast into the waters will accompany them. When great heroes and leaders of the people pass away, statues and shrines are erected in their honor, and those who aspire to follow in a great one’s steps will bring offerings to his shrine – the treasures assembled at some of the shrines would make many a human noble fade with envy.

*Graphic Art: as a matter of course, all items used will be finely and decently decorated, bearing motifs of legend and history, abstracted feelings put into shapes or a written piece of music.
The wonder of creation is an art form of its own in Tallarn – mages will use their imagination to give form to ethereally fine butterflies, translucent crystal-clear flowers and songs manifested in elemental flame. Others will invent new forms which to take through magic, or weave garments of mist, water and sunrays, or hew statues of incandescent marble or glass. The latter will depict animals and Elves in their prime – the true marvels of creation, appearing as if frozen still but a moment ago, ready to move anytime again.
*Music and Dance: unlike Elven music elsewhere, in Tallarn it takes a dynamic form – it is swift and lively, and can whip itself up to the heights of dynamism, taking on the appearance of a force of nature of its own – during the many parties, celebrations and feasts that take place, the Elves will often dance with superhuman speed and intensity until exhaustion.
With their dances ranging from swift ones with a strong social context resembling tango to artistic exhibitions with strong elements of acrobatics and martial arts, even the most scholarly of Elves will be in top condition.
*Sports and Games: besides the great game of servitude and dominance, honor and shame, renown and oblivion that is played day and night many pastimes are practiced to fill the unending Elven lives – riding, bull dancing as well as taming or wrestling wild and dangerous creatures of sorcery carry much prestige, but mounted team acrobatics are also practiced for the aesthetic effect.
To sublimate the aggressiveness of the men a wide variety of ritual combat takes place – chases, team games or wrestling contests to name but a few. Marathons taking several days herald the start of every season, usually using the route from one sacred site to another and combining riding, running, swimming and archery, along with having to defeat the guardians of certain crossroads, who can be either fellow Elves or mystic beasts.
Tallarn has also much to offer in the area of board games; yet interesting is the fact that these only come in two varieties – fast-paced and simple, or inhumanly complicated.
*Tattoo and scarification: given the fact that an Elf must run around with a tattoo for a very long time, they will be very picky about the artwork they place on their bodies – most often, being invited to tattoo a person means a direct declaration of love, a love so deep that it should never be forgotten. The body art applied will be highly sophisticated, using different colors and being linked to the muscles in the area to make the tattoo come alive – commonly, magic is used in the making of a tattoo. Jewels are sometimes incorporated into a tattoo.
*Housing and architecture: tall and airy are the cities of this ancient realm, shaped of stone, glass and metal, or from leaf, wood and bone. Old masters put all their skills into building structures with loftier balconies, the most slender bridges and most beautiful fountains. Every building will contain countless plants, seemingly unsupported halls, romantic walkways and many pleasant residential rooms. The abundance and beauty of artwork included in each and every house is unparalleled and unrivaled by any metropolis of the human or Dwarven nations, the Elven artists that make them having reached unfathomable heights of their craft.
*Clothing: two distinct styles of dress can be encountered in Tallarn – one is consciously militaristic, with lots of leather, studs and chain mail or plate, meant to enhance the wearer’s manly appearance. The other style of dress is intended to be airy and comfortable, and looking d**n good besides – light robes of colorful silks in conjunction with jewelry in abundance adorn many an Elf – other choices are feathers or living plants. As the weather is pleasant whether summer heralds its arrival or winter is knocking at the door and almost all Elves are mages anyway, the designers are not forced to make the clothes practical, and most often they don’t. Despite this are garments made in Tallarn greatly sought after, for example in Lyra.

*Cooking: the diet consists mostly of fruit and game, but do not let this mislead you – the Elves of Tallarn are no hunter-gatherers. They tend the herds of their wild stock with great care, and most of the woods around their cities are ancient gardens in fact. It is considered a matter of pride not to have any actual agricultural areas in the vicinity of one’s town and yet enjoy a bountiful harvest. The meals tend to be rather light and very intensive in taste.
*Packs and containers: goods will be kept in glass, clay or porcelain containers, while crates or sacks are used for transport.
*Fire making and fuel: Ignite Fire anyone?
*Land transport and mounts: Tallarn is almost devoid of roads – at least none are apparent to a traveler from foreign lands. Therefore, the lightly built Elven steed is the mount of choice – swift and of sure step, it can carry its owner through the most difficult terrain. Other mounts include giant eagles, felines or wolves, while those who manage to tame one will ride a Pegasus or Griffon. Dragons are said to lie dormant beneath the mountains, and one never knows when one of the ancient beasts allows an Elf to mount it.
The cities are connected by a variety of ways – roads hidden by sorcery, caverns both natural and hewn by hand, or simply by permanent Gates, thus allowing instant and unnoticed transport. Carts and wagons are used rarely.
*Ships and boats: from the docks of Tallarn hail long and slender vessels that seem to ride on the wind, gliding above the ocean waves – this can be explained through their gray hulls and incredible speed, or through the fact that they are heavily enchanted, one and all. Though their highly sophisticated rigging placed on two to seven masts would allow them to cruise against the wind, there is most often no need to – it rarely indeed happens that an Elven vessel does not have a fresh breeze letting it surge forward. Bound water and air elementals as well as weather mages stationed on board ensure that all conditions are optimal.
Should a vessel be designed for war, it will carry a ballista or two, their shots guided by enchantment.

*Missile weapons: the art of making composite bows and compound bows is at its pinnacle in Tallarn. Each bow made is unique, custom-fitted to its user and carefully enchanted – this combined with the skill of their users makes them a deadly weapon indeed, both accurate and powerful. Crossbows are rarely used, but if they are, then an Air Golem enchantment will compensate for the rather lacking strength of their users.
*Melee weapons: long, slender lightly curved blades with a single edge are many a warriors companions for life. The quarterstaff is another commonly used weapon, and, expanding upon its qualities, many kinds of shorter pole-arms and spears have been developed. Like the bows, most swords will fit the wielder’s grip perfectly and be carefully balanced, keen of edge and surprisingly sturdy for their bulk.
*Weaponless combat: while the techniques used resemble dance or meditative training to the untrained eye, with hundreds of years to hone their skills many Elves have become true masters of the martial arts. Many of them deem this more a hobby or sport than anything else, but they can be terrifying opponents when provoked. The martial arts generally emphasize speed over strength and guile over force. All martial arts include training in magic both conventional and specialized for the sole purpose of the art, the latter being always-on spells that increase the user’s performance.
*Shields and Armor: soft leather or serpent hide will be the choice for the huntsman or scout, yet in times of war, chain mail or plate will be used, light as a feather and tougher than dragonscale. Exotic materials will be used in the production of high-end armour; the unique creations of Elven armourers are in high demand, yet not readily available.
*Tactics: The Elves will try to disrupt the enemy with magic first, sabotage and skirmish later. If an enemy should prove truly tentative, they will unleash the heavy cavalry and dragons. Their units are trained to the point of perfection, and coordinated by telepathy. Their military efforts are hampered by rivalries between strong individuals and houses, and the occasional outbreak of armed conflict if discord is strong within the army.
« Last Edit: December 12, 2017, 05:12:39 AM by EchoMirage »
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