So if you're sick to death of worldbuildy campaign notes just go click a cooler looking post on the blogroll
The default assumptions of locales are in Mercia and its offshoot city-states, the triumvirate lands of Queen's Coast, Kings Point, and Prince's Spit, and the beast-haunted realm of Vint-Savoth, with the disparate Beast Islands, sandy and ancient Saresare, and war-torn Yuba being most likely to have regional differences.
That said, much of the setting is lawless wilderness and ruin. The strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must. But kings and adventurers alike would do well to recall- when people strive to dominate each other with cruelty instead of uniting in friendship, the things beyond the reach of light and law stir, and lick their unspeakable lip-analogues in anticipation.
"Empires built on blood end with sharks" -Beast Islander sayingThe Oath of the Skull
Battles shall be overseen by an order of Gravekeepers, clad in patchwork garb of colors of all involved parties, who shall be free to recover bodies and return them to the appropriate side, lest the dread Skull Moon rise and reanimate the unburied dead. Impersonating a Gravekeeper in wartime is a crime worthy of death.
Similarly, actual Gravekeepers who take sides in political conflict lose their 'immunity.'
In Saresare, there are no Gravekeepers, only the Vulch, the somber scavenging vulture-folk, sacred and pariah, who devour the dead, sooth their souls, and fly corpses abandoned in the desert to grave-trees before they are taken by dread Skull.
In Yuba, the Gravekeepers are also priests of the Jackal God, the Heart-Eaters, who seek to take hearts from the dead before disposing of them and are unfazed by the occasional revenant seeking to defend or avenge their hearts.
In the Beast Islands, pretty much all war is exclusively nautical and corpses consigned to the briny deep will be beyond Skull's influence mostly.
|mostly(insert hideous cackling from behind GM's screen here)|
The Oath of the Sun
Any monsters capable of 'spawn cascades' (examples-green slime, lycanthropes, vampires) are forbidden from the battlefield (and everywhere, really) as well as anything else thought to threaten the power of the Sun or humanity at large. Those who utilize such beings or fell powers are referred to as 'Dark Lords' or 'Moon Mad' or 'Yubans' (regardless of actual relation to darkness or moonlight or Yuba, it's just an example of humies lumping together disparate concepts into a single notion of 'the enemy') and can expect every sunlit realm of law to forsake them once word gets out. This is a (relatively) new concept was not always the case, and is why Yuba is such a heck-hole these days and why the Witch-Alf war was so totally out of hand.
In Saresare, this is simply one of many precepts of The Law which exists to provide social cohesion for humanity in the face of annihilating chaos, for while the Law is always around, the same cannot be said of the sun. Saresarens look upon Moonspawn and Darkspawn more fairly than most, for rather than judging the various creatures from beyond the sun by their cosmological light-origin, they judge them by their ability to follow laws and become upstanding citizens. Moons are not particularly subtle entities, nor are their spawn, so the problem of 'apparently law abiding but secretly evil' creatures is not a concern that has much merit to it.
In Yuba this doesn't apply because there's horrible monsters everywhere, especially in governmental positions, and the Yuban people are like 'bite the sun' anyway because they suffered under the 4th sun Riikhus and the 5th sun Helios doesn't even reach the Yuban heartland so Yuba is both in the moonlands, and more favorably inclined towards Moonspawn since the hordes of moon beasts vanquished Mercian and Saresaren occupiers in the intersolar period and accidentally helped Yuba become free again.
The God/Sun/Queen/King/Prince/Hunter/Captain/Qadi/Jackal's MercyNamed based on whatever central body holds the
This is a serious oath to swear, and to accept, and even to refuse, for breaking or refusing it means that those aware of your traitorous/unmerciful ways will never surrender to you, nor accept your surrender, and then you've got 6 morale bandits fighting to the death like berserkers because they expect no mercy from Sir Smitesalot. This goes both ways- a bandit who murdered someone he surrendered to is viewed as irredeemable scum, and an entire settlement that refused to give someone a chance can be branded as a guillotine-happy bunch and stricken from the records of the Tourist's Guild. Naturally, the chance of mercy and the stigma of refusing to grant mercy changes with severity of crime and public opinion.
In Saresare people get very poetic and say things like 'I am your slave!' and 'My life is yours!' but you gotta realize that hyperbole is a whole cultural thing there- it's like when you arrive at a city and the King is like 'visitor i have literally never seen before I shall grant you ONE WISH' and you're supposed to wish for something reasonable that the king can give you to show off their own wealth and munificence without actually straining their hospitality, not be all 'I wish for infinite genies' it's not that kinda wish though I see how you could have gotten confused on account of the distribution of Ifrit on the wandering encounter tables
In the Beast Islands you always have to swear to serve the captain of whoever got you to surrender, which cuts down on piratical mutinies a little at least and gives ships a good rotating cast of scurvy sea dogs. In the absence of a captain you can always swear to serve the home island of whoever defeated you instead of them directly, but you still gotta serve them until such point as you reach that home island, so it's less of a cop-out as you might hope. Some people will let you swear to serve a ship instead of the captain, cuz people do get attached to the things.
In Yuba it's always acceptable to eat your heart instead and you don't get to complain because it's a bit of an honor to be symbolically devoured by the Jackal-God and ensures you a good afterlife/reincarnation gig so long as you like dogs. But yeah, the heart-eating thing is why Yuba was the punching bag of Saresare and Mercia in the age of the Tyrant Sun-God Riikhus. Mercia was mad because noble POWs were sacrificed instead of ransomed, Saresare was mad because the Jackal God was given precedence over mortal Law, just, a diplomatic disaster that turned into crusade to enslave the Jackal God that turned into proxy wars between Saresare and Mercia with Yuba as ground zero that turned into a rogue-agent wizard cold war in the intersolar period between Riikhus and Helios and just, wewza, it was a mess, an absolute mess
The Sanctity of the Soul
Life and death work a little differently in this universe compared to real life. Torching people with fireballs isn't a disgusting war-crime because, well, souls can vacate a body at any time, so people can nope out of painful situations and carry on to the merry afterlife if they decide a body is too painful to live in. Souls and afterlives objectively exist, and can interact with the living (with effort) so murder and pain are of less moral hideousness (from my perspective, at least). That said, there is a connection between the physical and the immaterial, so corpse-mutilation and tomb-robbing are viewed pretty much equivalent to property damage to someone's house.
But souls can be destroyed (or at least the light-soul can be. Scholars are divided on whether the shadow-soul persists eternally in the unknowable Darkness of the world, like a hollow mold waiting to be filled with light and reform). Heleognostic quibbling aside, anything that threatens to trap, destroy, corrupt, etc the soul is super bad news, double-plus forbidden, the living and the dead uniting against the unthinkable horrors of oblivion. (Void Monks will swiftly point out the error in fearing oblivion- after all, you do not fear the years before your existence- why fear nonexistence afterwards?) Fortunately, things that threaten the soul are pretty rare. Undead that seemingly corrupt or devour souls are really probably just inflicting enough pain to cause a soul to give up on a body, then filling the empty vessel with a fragment of their own soul, obedient to the larger whole, or calling in a disease-spirit or something
Saresare has its own stock of mortal psychopomps in the form of the Vulch, and their dead, sung lullabies by the vulture-folk, are among the most peaceful in all the world... but also the most prone to succumbing to Nightmare due to a psychic undertow that afflicts the desert for reasons likely celestial in origin.
The Skeleton War Truce
Some people don't have a community afterlife their souls fit nicely into. No gods, no close friends, no dream-world necropolis reflection of a city-state that they have default dual-citizenship for, not evenn the willingness to subside into a personal solipsistic dreamworld of their own making. Or maybe they could have these things, but they're just too darn stubborn to stay dead (these sorts of undead that rise out of sheer force of will are called Revenants and are low on wacky powers but high on sheer unkillability) Those people are probably gonna end up in the Skeleton War sooner or later, which is where all the skeletons(and ghosts once the elements eventually reclaim the bones) of people with nowhere else to go end up. Bones and shades in the bowels of the earth, scheming and sneaking and carrying on, eyeballing juicy afterlives and mortal affairs like bandits eye juicy but impregnable townships. A thousand ages of vertebrates all mixed up together, every one of them probably a bit of a jerk on account of having nowhere else that will take them, but also being too materialistic to give up on the physical world and not self-actualized enough to create their own dream-realm afterlife.
Dubious speculation on the character of skeletons aside, the truce between the living and dead is thusly- the living do not begrudge the occasional skeleton war recruiter poking around(you can tell one by the silly hat and trumpet), nor do they interfere with netherworld politics, and the dead do not constantly rise to continue to interfere with the politics of the living.
Mercian Ban on Gunpowder and Clockwork
Pushed by dwarf lobbyists, Mercia does not permit anyone but dwarves to utilize these technologies. Possible reasons for this include
- Anti-Dwarf Conspiracy-The bastardly mole-men wish to maintain absolute technological superiority and unassailable position, and gunpowder bombs are the only thing that could breach their mountain homes. They'll sit back and wait until Mercia is weak, distracted with newfangled frivolities like fireworks and watches, then bam! They'll emerge from below and take it all from us!
- Dwarf Official Stance- Ye humans and yer endless wars aren't responsible enough to be trusted with the dangers of the technology, or the cruel destruction it would enable ye to visit upon yourselves over whatever daftness causes you to war among your own kind.We assist what causes are worthy of our assistance, and you should question your own actions before questioning ours.
- Human Nobles Official Stance- It's obvious the dwarves are dealing with troubles of their own deep in depths of stonefast three and need to hoard their most powerful tools. Yet despite this, they have deployed their clerics, war machines, and armaments when the need has come. Besides, guns ARE too dangerous to be entrusted to the masses- just look at the rest of the world, where no noble knights keep the peace, because pirates with cannon and pistol run rampant! Not to mention if Saresarens love rifles, it's practically patriotic to avoid their use at this point.
- The Clockmen Conspiracy- Guns guns guns, that's all everyone thinks about! The real secret is in clockwork! It's unnatural! Probably Alvish! Metal was meant to be wielded by man, not wield itself! Vint has had that giant clocktower for decades and their land is as cursed as Yuba!
(This author would like to note that Vint-Savoth is cursed due to being the grave of the Blood Moon, which perished in the recent intersolar period and if anything, the clocktower is a beacon for justice-loving vigilantes)
The Beast Islands are also quite fond of gunpowder, and create large cannons that are superior to the normal armaments of warships (mounted ballistae and war-wizards). Beast Islander pirates are mostly unbeatable, nautically speaking, save for the similarly armed boats of Queen's Coast, King's Point, and Prince's Spit, who have metal reserves comparable to Mercia but no reservations about having heavily armored knights AND guns.
Vint-Savoth has seized every advantage it can to resist the scourge of beasts that spring forth from the corpse of the Blood Moon, and has clockwork and gunpowder gizmos and weaponry that rival the works of the dwarves themselves, though only in a specialized beast-slaying sense.
Yuba does not much care for guns on account of having great faith in filling ones hand with war-dog leashes, seeing guns, swords, and plate-mail as 'tools of the oppressors,' and finally of valuing stealth greatly in their dark and jungly land wracked by monsters.