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Ish's Bloodwood

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BLOODWOOD

Generations ago, a group of refugees fled a disaster. Exactly what that disaster was is no longer known, the details lost or deliberately forgotten by its survivors. The refugees traveled many difficult miles, across barren and broken terrain, until they found their way to fertile and uninhabited land on the shores of a vast lake. Having found good land, with further passage barred by the impenetrable tangle of an ancient forest, the refugees settled in the shadow of the trees. 

They named both their new town and the nearby forest “Thornwood“ for the many brambles and thickets within the densely packed trees. For some time, all seemed well, though some of the more nervous refugees claimed to have seen movement in the shadows under the trees

Such early misgivings were forgotten as seasons and then years went by. The small band of refugees put down roots, and their numbers grew. As time passed, the need for materials also grew and, as other sources dwindled, the folk eventually decided to clear some land from the Thornwood. In the nights of terror and death that followed, the forest earned its current name: Bloodwood.

There were indeed things in the shadows under the trees - terrible, misshapen things that considered the forest their domain and would brook no invasion of its boundary. Dozens of people died, some torn literally limb from limb, as the creatures exacted their revenge.

A second wave of refugees left the village, fanning out across the region to establish new settlements. Some became farmers; some, miners; others, fisher-folk; some even turned to piracy. Nearly one hundred years later, the events of this time are almost as much a thing of legend as the cataclysm that brought their forebears to this land. Yet even today, few people venture near the Bloodwood… and of the few who do, none return.

“Better to break than to bend.” - Last words of Saint Isolute

Overview
From the first day they saw Ocean Lake, the refugees dubbed their new homeland Lakeshore. The vast body of water is integral to life in the region, not just because it provides both food and a livelihood for many of its human inhabitants, but for a host of other reasons as well. The comparatively warm waters of the lake make the local climate less severe (though rather more prone to rain) than it would otherwise be. The lake also provides reliable, but not too ready, access to outside cultures and goods: “Close enough for trade, but too far for trouble,” as the local saying goes. 

The Lakeshore is an alluvial plain some 50 miles across from north to south and roughly 70 miles from east to west. Most of the plain consists of fertile black earth, well irrigated by the streams and tributaries of two fast-flowing rivers of clear, cold water. The region is bounded to the north and east by broken, rocky terrain, to the west by the tangled expanse of the Bloodwood, and to the south by the vastness of Ocean Lake.

Agriculture, particularly dairy, sheep, or pig farming, as well as fruit and grain crops are common throughout most of the Lakeshore region. The land is less fertile in the extreme north: hunting and foraging play a much greater role in the diet in these regions. Coastal and riverside communities make extensive use of freshwater fish in their diet, of course, as well as shellfish and certain edible sea plants. The fertility of the land, coupled with intensive agricultural practices and the bountiful supply of fish in the rivers and lake, sustains a population of some 40,000 people.

The People of Lakeshore
Although it has been settled for several generations, most of Lakeshore still has something of a frontier attitude, with the peculiar blend of independence and interdependence that entails. A common local adage is “The only crop you can sow on your neighbor’s field is trouble“; folk don’t like interference from outsiders, and expect to be left alone to live their lives how they want. On the other hand, if a family runs into difficulties, there is a strong sense of community as well: Gifts of food, assistance with work, and any other aid possible will flood in for the afflicted folk. Outsiders are generally treated hospitably, though armed travelers will usually be asked to set aside their weapons, especially if they are looking for a meal or shelter. In areas prone to pirate attack, the welcome is generally much more cautious, and armed travelers will be required to hand over their weapons if they do not intend to move on immediately.

Attitudes in certain of the larger settlements, where the communities are not so close-knit, may vary. Any specific variances for these locations are covered in the Places of Note section.
Lakeshore is predominately populated by Humans, although small enclaves of Halflings can be found scattered throughout the region. Dwarven merchants and tradesmen are not commonplace, but not unheard of in the larger towns – especially those with an active mine. Elves are known to live someplace over the mountains far up the Golden River and are not commonly seen in the region, although old wives tales of a hidden elf village someplace in the Golden Wood are something of a cliché and cautionary tale for children: "Stop teasing your little sister of the elves of Golden Wood will get you in the night!"

Lakeshore Atmosphere
Lakeshore’s culture is very much that of a frontier territory. This is reflected, amongst other things, by the lack of a centralized municipal authority. There’s a stubborn streak of independence through most of the local folk, one that’s missing only in some of the larger settlements, where money or military power holds sway. Members of the average Lakeshore family want nothing more than to be left alone to get on with their lives, and they’re willing to fight to hold onto that right, both for themselves and for their neighbors.

The geographic dispersion of Lakeshore’s residents also contributes to the region’s frontier feel. Even the largest settlements comprise at most 2,000 people, and the majority of the land is dotted with individual homesteads or tiny villages with less than a dozen families. These people’s lifestyles also reflect a frontier way of life. Most grow their own food and make their own tools, trading only for those items they cannot provide for themselves. Barter is a common form of trade between ordinary folk, though most will accept coins if they can be convinced of the purity of the metals used. A third factor that reflects the frontier is the lack of an organized transport system. There are perhaps a half dozen formally recognized “roads“ throughout Lakeshore, and these are mostly the simple result of many people following the same routes. Maintenance of proper dirt roads occurs only near the larger towns, with most of the route being marked only by the wagon ruts of prior travelers. Between smaller settlements, there are only tracks and a scattering of small villages. Travelers without a compass or good wilderness skills will frequently need to stop and ask for assistance. 
Perhaps the most important factor of any “frontier,” though, is the sense of danger. Lakeshore can be a dangerous place. There is always the threat of pirates to contend with, as well as dangerous creatures roaming the wilderness. And, of course, lurking in the back of everyone’s mind are the unexplored dangers of the Bloodwood.

Themes and Tone
History and fiction based on the colonization of the Caribbean and North America are a good source of inspiration for establishing the Lakeshore atmosphere, as are tales of the American west. Some possible sources of inspiration might include the tale of the Roanoke colony, the escapades of various pirate captains, or accounts of the various gold rushes. Lakeshore is a small point of civilization on the edge of a vast wild. It is a world of swords and sorcery, piracy and adventure, diplomacy and intrigue, archeology and exploration. It's a world of knights and rogues, scholars and scoundrels, ancient sorcery and lost civilizations, secrets that hide in the shadows and monsters that hide in plain sight.

Swords and Sorcery
In the civilized world across the water knights and huscarls guard the lives of the nobility and the peasantry alike. Lakeshore is a region without nobles or knights, but where virtues of honor, integrity, and fraternity are held in esteem by all free men. It is a land where only the strength of your own arm and a sword as sharp as your wits can protect a man from harm.

In the civilized world across the water ancient orders and organized colleges of the learned control the most powerful force of all – magic. But in Lakeshore, it is a dark magic that pulses in the heart of the forest and in the hearts of some men. While there are a handful of civilized wizards around in the towns, out in the wilds the witches and sorcerers trade with black forces for secrets and power. Some control the weather, others assume the forms of animals, some play with the forces of life itself.

Piracy and Adventure
The waters of Lakeshore are populated with the robbers of the waves. Pirates are drawn to Lakeshore by a common cause: freedom. Freedom from the petty tyranny of aristocrats and kings. Freedom from the shackles of gods and churches. Freedom from greedy land-owners and money lenders. In short, freedom from everything found in the civilized world across the water. Pirates sail where they want, take what they please, and live a life of freedom unknown by any other man in the world across the water.

The people of Lakeshore regard the pirates with a mixture of romance and loathing. The freemen see themselves as bringing civilization to the wilds and have little respect for the reckless, criminal, and violent nature of the pirates. On the other hand, they envy their adventurous spirit, freewheeling lifestyles, and will eagerly trade tales of their daring exploits. Of course, every freeman village on the coast or along the rivers knows that if they lower there guard for a moment, they'll find themselves facing the black flag...

Diplomacy and Intrigue
Lakeshore is an untamed wilderness on the verge of becoming a stable, civilized realm. In a world of empires and kingdoms, it may become the first independent country. Like a swelling tide a new concept – nationalism – is growing in the hearts of the men and women of Lakeshore, and a new kind of conflict – covert warfare – is finding its way into the world. The kings and queens across the water look on Lakeshore with longing, their diplomats dressed in powdered wigs, lace and silk, try to curry favors with Lakeshore's most influential. Of course, if diplomacy fails, there is always the cold steel of the dagger hidden under all that finery.

Archeology and Exploration
All of Lakeshore the ruins of an ancient civilization, lost centuries ago, lie waiting. Hidden beneath thousands of years of old growth forest are the crumbling cities of the Sidhe, beneath the monastery of Saint Isolute lie the vast catacombs of Urheim and the Deeper Darkness beneath. Who knows what ancient treasures remain, unseen by human eyes?

Men who call themselves "archaeologists" are hired by the kings and queens across the water to unearth these treasures and bring them back to noble hands. Daring the perilous ruins, these men and women are all the rage in the noble courts and the subjects of romantic novels back in their homelands. Praised as heroes across the water, but often regarded as troublemakers here, they hope to discover the secrets of the Sidhe, to uncover the origins of Urhiem, or simply to become filthy rich. The wisest among them simply hope to survive...

“'Return with your shield or on it,'  translates into Dwarvish as  'Better a broken ax than a bent knee.'”

Game Styles
Any roleplaying campaign will have a style or “flavor.” This may shift from scenario to scenario – one may be tragic, another comic, another melodramatic, and so on – but it’s usually wise to aim for some consistency, if only so players can create appropriate characters. For example, noble swordsmen and combat mages work well in high fantasy tales of spectacular battles and epic quests, but may be out of place in subtle stories of political intrigue and moral ambiguity, while self-indulgent rogues and whimsically absent-minded scholars, totally appropriate for comic low-fantasy games, may not look quite right in dark, horrific scenarios.

Low Fantasy
As an Earth-like world where magic is fairly well understood and doesn’t seem to have affected the landscape too much, Lakeshore is eminently suited to “Low Fantasy” games. By default, magic is rare and limited to exceptional individuals. For most people living in Chosen Bay or Halsham Ferry or Ardent Weir, the routine concerns of life are much like those of our own world: getting a job, making friends, paying taxes. If people have occasional dealings with magicians or goblins, that makes life more varied, but they don’t see it as truly strange. Likewise for them, adventuring may be a risky career which promises high returns, or an uncomfortable necessity when faced with a war or a monster.

Low Fantasy PCs can have low starting levels and limited access to magic items (which they may still understand and use to full effect). However, it’s also possible to have competent, wealthy, or high-status heroes in such tales, so higher starting levels may be reasonable. It’s not powerful characters as such who break the low fantasy mold, it’s weird ones. A martial artist monk wandering the Earth is a reason-able character for a game about a village which is suffering from troll attacks and an inept local Sheriff; but in a game of social intrigue set in Chosen Bay, he’s just going to confuse the issue. If players want to run a wide range of strange characters, it’s better to opt for sword and sorcery.

Sword-and-Sorcery
The classic “sword-and-sorcery” tales put the swords in the hands of the heroes, who are often barbarian warriors, while keeping magic mysterious and rather sinister – mostly a tool for villains. More sophisticated treatments allow more sorcery on the heroic side, while still keeping it weird and a little bit dubious. The emphasis on action means that PC wizards should wield a few quick, effective offensive and defensive spells, lest they fall to the charge of some pesky barbarian foe. Alternatively, they can be good with a blade, keeping subtle magics as their ace in the hole.

Sword and sorcery is an excellent fir for Lakeshore, as that most of the land remains unexplored, even though much of it is under cultivation the areas more than a day's ride from any manor-town or hamlet is pretty much unmapped; Then there are the deep forests of central Lakeshore, near Golden Wood, and the strange lands to the east and north; and the ultimate in unexplored frontiers, the Bloodwood itself. Barbarian swordsmen in "swords and sorcery" tales need civilizations to visit and plunder, and the decadent empires in the lands across the water are very much part of the style. In fact, "sword-and-sorcery" plots have almost more reason to visit the old world than other genre styles; the attitude is more important than the immediate geography.

The Tslavic steppe-lands are the most likely place for brawny-hewed swordsmen to come from, while the Fingerbones is a land of sulking pirates where insular clans worship the dark god – heroes should visit at least one to tear down a dark idol while misappropriating a sack of gems. Emden Watch produces more sophisticated fighters, with lighter blades and nicer manners, but if they choose to wander the world testing themselves against fell sorcery, that’s fine. Chosen Bay is a real sword-and-sorcery city, with its repressive society and theocratic government just waiting for a rough and ready barbarian to rub them the wrong way. Golden Weir is full of wealthy merchants in dire need of hired guards to protect them against master thieves. The enclave of Stone Cabal, on the other hand, can be recast in "sword-and-sorcery" tales as a much more dangerous locale – a place of power-crazed wizards, fanatical cults, and ruthlessly efficient magics.

Dark Fantasy
“Dark fantasy” is primarily a matter of mood. Magic in this style is especially mysterious and shadowy. It might be limited to NPCs, or PCs might have a few spells as defenses against supernatural evil. Alternately, they might learn magic “to fight fire with fire,” at perpetual risk to their souls.

Lakeshore is a good setting for dark fantasy campaigns, but setting them up requires a degree of judgment. The PCs should start at modest power levels, though not so lowly that they become victims for the first monster or black magician they meet. Nor so high that a single monster or lone sorcerer poses no threat either. Their access to magic may be subject to GM veto. It’s probably important that they have quick wits, and the wisdom to know when to duck or run. Dark fantasy punishes stubborn heroism, though it rewards strong will combined with sensible judgment.

Such games can be set in most parts of Lakeshore, but the GM should portray the setting appropriately. For example, dark fantasy set in Lakeshore should emphasize the shadowy woods filled with unknown creatures and the always lurking threat of the unknown. Villagers huddle in their huts as things circle the fire-light, the half-mad wizards of Stone Cabal squat in their impenetrable tower studying blasphemous tomes. The soldiers and aristocrats of Emden Watch are either arrogant and amoral, locked in a pointless civil war that’s devastating the countryside, or under-powered and uncertain, trying to care for their peasants in the face of unknowable threats from all sides. Ardent Weir is a small city of dark alleys, ruthless assassins, and brutal feuds, and the Tslavic steppes are full of sudden, meaningless death and bloodthirsty barbarians. Chosen Bay represents the darker impulses of religious fanaticism, ruled by hedonistic hypocrites and populated by puritanical zealots.

Mixed Styles
It’s perfectly possible for a campaign to mix and match styles, especially between scenarios. For example, a low fantasy saga might include horrific, downbeat incidents that take it into the realm of dark fantasy, while lighter moments in a sword and sorcery campaign can tip over into comedy. It’s even possible for, say, a high fantasy game to feature moments of low fantasy, when the magic in use is limited and “homely” and the issues at stake are more personal, permitting some low-key character development. This is fine; it gives the game a sense of “light and shade” instead of a flat single-note style.

It’s also entirely possible for a campaign to gradually change from style to style as it goes along. If both the GM and all the players understand that this is what’s happening and agree to the change, this can be a good way to avoid boredom and burnout. By default, Bloodwood is meant to sit somewhere between "sword and sorcery" and "dark fantasy." What follows is a brief overview of the term and how its conceits underpin the game. As the GM you can modify the tone, emphasizing some aspects while downplaying others, but this is what the original idea behind the setting was...

No Unicorns and Rainbows
There are some fantasy settings in which elves ride unicorns, knights take to the air on pegasi, and wise kings with good hearts do what’s best for their people all the time. Bloodwood is not one of them. This is a setting in which the elves and fae are a dying species and pissed off about it, wizards are feared and mistrusted, and every village hides a few dark secrets. The Bloodwood itself, the great evil that may destroy all of Lakeshore, is the direct result of human hubris, not the master plan of some cartoon mad overlord. And evil, since it comes from the hearts of men (and elves and dwarves), can be checked but never defeated forever.

Life Isn’t Fair
Lakeshore is rife with injustice, and your friend today may betray you for a gold coin tomorrow. The PCs must make their own way in the world and watch their backs. They will typically start as nobodies; aspiring adventures with little to their names. They may find trustworthy patrons, but they cannot rely on others to make things right. That is their task, should they choose to take it up. You and your fellow players should be aware though that characters can and will die in a Bloodwood campaign. The PCs may be thrust into situations that are not tailored for their abilities. They may sometimes be outmatched and have to choose discretion over valor. They should not assume that the universe is going to take care of them. They must do it themselves.

Actions Have Consequences
A Bloodwood campaign should be full of choices, some big and some small. Choices, particularly moral choices, matter. And when there doesn’t seem to be a good option that’s when choices matter the most. PCs have free will, but they must be ready to deal with the consequences of their actions. Happy endings are rare. Today’s victory may sow the seeds of tomorrow’s crisis. 

Sometimes Evil Wears a Smile
The Bloodwood and the monsters it spawns are an obvious threat but they are not the only evil at work in Lakeshore. Scheming civic leaders, corrupt merchants, and cunning bandits can be threats every bit as dangerous as an orc. And sometimes the well-dressed people who speak the fairest words are the worst villains of all. Lust, greed, and covetousness drive many to dark deeds, and violence is an all too common tool in even the most civilized of lands.

Raising the Banner of Hope
The world seems beset with darkness and decay, but despite it all there is hope in Lakeshore. There are some good folk, people who care about something other than their own needs and wants. The Player Characters can be heroes and their rise to such stature is what a dark fantasy campaign is all about. At key points in history such champions have raised the banner of hope and driven off the darkness, at least for a time. That is the role of the Player Characters in a Bloodwood campaign.

Suggested Works
The following books, films, and television series are good examples of the "sword and sorcery" meets "dark fantasy” tone intended for Bloodwood:

  • Novels: A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin; The Iron Throne by Simon Hawke; Ill Met in Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber; Ivanhoe by Walter Scott, Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton; and the Brother Cadefael Mysteries series. 
  • Video Games: Dragon Age franchise; Elder Scrolls Oblivion and Skyrim; Thief the Dark Age; and the Diablo franchise.
  • Films: The Lion in Winter, Ladyhawk,  Henry V, Conan the Barbarian, Braveheart, Rob Roy, and Kingdom of Heaven.
  • Television: Vikings, The Last Kingdom, and The Tudors.

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Law and Government
There is no overarching authority for Lakeshore. Law and government are handled individually within each community. The smallest settlements - those of a hundred people or less - usually settle any important matters that arise with a public meeting of all adults. They generally have no organized law enforcement or defenses; each family simply protects itself and looks out for its neighbors as a matter of course. A few such communities are organized enough to have every able bodied adult participate in weapons training once a month or so, but there is rarely anything more formal than this. 

Larger communities generally elect two or more public officials: at minimum, a Sheriff (who may hire assistants) to enforce the laws and preserve order and a Justice to hear and adjudicate upon public or civic disputes. Such communities often maintain a volunteer militia, responsible for dealing with disturbances to the peace or assisting in the event of a threat to lives and property (including such things as fires and flood). Volunteers are generally expected to train once a week. Depending on their community’s resources, they may or may not receive some recompense or tax benefit for their activities. Some of the largest communities use a variety of governmental forms. These communities  are detailed in the next chapter.

Arms and Armor
In most parts of Lakeshore, it is considered perfectly acceptable to carry common weapons or to wear light armor in public. On the other hand, it is considered the height of bad manners to enter another person’s home or business while armed. (Because armor is more difficult to divest, it is sometimes acceptable to wear, depending on the circumstances of the visit.) Most public buildings – such as taverns – have an antechamber near the entrance where weapons can be stored. Most people in Lakeshore will refuse entry to anyone who insists on carrying a weapon into their home or place of business.

Since a dagger or knife may be a useful tool for eating and other non-violent pursuits, a person carrying only one such blade is not generally considered to be “armed” for the purposes of these customs. Carrying more than one would generally be considered to be going armed. Naturally, if a weapon is concealed and other people are not aware of it, it may be carried anywhere. However, most settlements consider any attempt to conceal a weapon to be a sign of ill intent, and this may bring unwanted attention from any local law enforcement if the weapon is noticed.

Attitudes Towards Magic
In general, the people of Lakeshore are distrustful and a little fearful of magic, which they see as a dangerous and unpredictable force, but there is no active persecution. The general attitude is rather like seeing someone juggling knives: there’s a measure of respect for what the person can do, but a natural inclination to take a few steps away in case something goes flying in the wrong direction. 
It is considered very impolite (by spellcasters and non-spellcasters alike) to use magic in someone's home without first asking their permission. It’s somewhat akin to drawing a sword in a stranger’s living room - understandable if you’re being attacked, perhaps, or if the homeowner asks to see the blade for some odd reason, but inappropriate in almost every other situation.

The fact that Wizards are the most commonly encountered practitioners of magic also colors the local attitudes: the strange ritual objects they carry, their odd habits, and the even stranger things that they can do with a few whispered words, have a strong effect on attitudes toward magic.  
All other types of spellcaster – which are far rarer than even Wizards – are regarded with a higher level of suspicion. If a Wizard is someone juggling knives, then an untrained caster, like a Sorcerer, is someone juggling knives that are on fire. Wizards are rare, but Sorcerers and Warlocks  are so rare as to be unheard of to all but the most dedicated of scholars. There are many wandering minstrels and storytellers in Lakeshore, but few have the depth of skill of a true Bard. 
Spellcasters in general are far less common than the other classes, and much more likely to originate from certain locations in the region: most often Stone Cabal, and to a lesser extent Chosen Bay. Wizards in particular are most likely to come from Stone Cabal, which is the only community within Lakeshore where the study of magic is conducted in an organized and thorough manner. 
Druids are almost never seen in large towns and rarely even visit larger villages, and they are usually unique individuals, rather than as organized groups. However, covens of witches (with three to five members) are more common in the wilds or the outskirts of small towns throughout the Lakeshore region. “Witch” is a pejorative folk term that can refer to Druids or  Warlocks. Warlock Covens and Druid Circles tend to avoid Chosen Bay.
Both Clerics and Paladins are known to the people of Lakeshore. Clerics are typically itinerant types, who will travel from town to town in a small area, and hold worship services whenever they are in town. Any of the non-evil gods are respected, but most folk prefer not to bother the gods and hope the favor is returned.

The Landscape of Lakeshore
The Lakeshore region is is an alluvial plain some fifty miles across from north to south and roughly seventy miles from east to west, with agricultural lands surrounding the small towns and hamlets, which served as centers of culture and trade in an otherwise sparsely inhabited wilderness. Although trade and industry are practiced and their is regular traffic and communication between settlements, it isn't as frequent or as safe as in civilized lands. 

Each settlement and town has to be almost self-sufficient in its isolation, especially those furthest north in the vast and rugged lands far away from the shore or navigable rivers.

From the empty foothills abutting the gray mountains in the east, to the dark, craggy peaks of the northern mountains, and the primeval shadow of the Bloodwood on the west, the land is covered in rolling hills and tall grasses, broken up by deep forests and swiftly flowing rivers. The land is covered with trees of the deciduous types – oak, ash, beech, hazel, poplar. These occur sometimes as high-crowned, open forest and sometimes as dense thickets with close undergrowth often broken by swamp or thinning out into clumps of trees dotting grassy clearings. Foresters might hunt wild animals for pelts, but most hunting is limited to small game for food and wood cut for the hearth. But generally, men do not stray far from their settlements too deeply into any of the forests – and no sane man ventures into the Bloodwood.

At night, the towns bar their gates and the small villages will post a young lad to stand sentry in a watchtower. Tall-tales of inhuman monsters, rumors of bandits and thieves, and legends of the restless dead are reason enough to be afraid of the night; Yet, in truth, it is the simple wild animals that are the greatest danger for people of the wilderness. The stag, boar, bear, bison, and (most feared by all) the wolf, are far more mundane than Orcs or Giants yet just as dangerous.

The men of Lakeshore are also vulnerable to the vagaries of climate, weather, disease, and natural disaster. Although the region is on the warm side of temperate (comparable to France or England in our world), the winters can nonetheless be long and brutal. Drought or too-heavy rainfall may spoil a crop, and famine and shortages are a common concern. Floods are disastrous. Epidemic sickness, amongst humans or livestock, could decimate a settlement. 

The Rural Manor-Town System
Low-lying lands with good drainage and river valleys support small villages with surrounding cultivated fields – islands of settlement in the wilderness. These villages are collections of simple timber houses surrounded by cultivated fields and uncleared forest. The migratory settlers of Lakeshore long ago lived in small villages of rough-built huts that were meant to be abandoned at whim. Some Human families and a few clans of nomadic Halflings in the remote northern steppes live in much the same way today.

But the primary model of settlement in Lakeshore today is known as the Manor-Town. A central gathering hall, communal stables and barns, individual workshops, houses, and sometimes a rural church, forming a much more permanent occupation than the hamlets of old. Although based on the feudal estates used across the water these manors are not the property of any lord, but are shared amongst the people of the village. Although since most manor-towns are inhabited by two or three intermarried families, the leader(s) of a manor-town are frequently "first among equals."

The average freeman's house is a sturdy framework of heavy timbers, with a thatched roof and walls of wattle-and-daub or of lighter timber or wicker sealed with clay, depending on local resources. In a more modest frontier manor-town, the rural church and town hall might be larger, but not substantially different in construction; only the wealthiest of manor-towns can afford stone masonry. 

A hamlet's huts might be partitioned into small rooms, but are just as likely single room, with a hole in the roof to permit the smoke from the cook fire to escape. A freeman's house in a manor-town is usually two or three small rooms with a stone hearth and proper chimney. A manor-town's hall is usually more elaborate. Two rows of posts down the central axis of the hall might divide the hall into a central corridor and side aisles, or the roof-supporting timbers might be built into the walls and buttressed by outside braces, freeing the interior space. The timber hall might have a second story, and rooms might be partitioned for privacy.

In a larger manor-town, the hall itself might be only the largest of a complex of buildings, including kitchens, storehouses, and stables, perhaps surrounded by a stockade or arranged around a central courtyard. In addition to the central structures, such a complex would also have barns, raised grain or hay shelters, workshops, and a small chapel. All of this would be inclosed within a wooden palisade and perhaps a defensive ditch. In large towns of Emden Watch and Chosen Bay (the closet Lakeshore has to cities) the town walls and central halls are made of stone... although modest compared to the grand castles and palaces found across the water, they are impressive displays of wealth and power in Lakeshore.

Rural manor-towns have to be self-sufficient; commerce is small in volume and limited to luxuries. Near each freeman's hut is an intensively farmed vegetable garden; father out are the fields where grains are communally grown to provide bread, the staple of the local diet, and there are often orchards to provide fruit. Beer, the chief drink, is brewed from malt made from oats. Grapes and wine are produced in a few areas, especially around Chosen Bay as the people there generally prefer wine to beer. In northern manor-towns, grain is replaced by the humble potato, although it is put to the same uses as animal feed, baked into bread, and distilled into a potent liquor. The few halfling families that haven given up their nomadic ways to become farmers usually grown a local vegitible known as maize. 

In the fallow fields and wastes at the edge of cleared land will graze livestock, such as cattle or pigs. Beyond this lies the untamed plains or uncleared forests, where game birds, fish, rabbits, wild boar, and deer may be hunted with spear and bow; and where honey – the only available sweetener – might be gathered from the wild bees (Although some halflings near Halsham Ferry have begun to experiment with beekeeping). The forests also provide timber for buildings, posts for fences, and fuel for fires. Simple furniture, utensils, and tools are made from forest timber. Sheep provide wool or clothing and cowhide furnishes boots and shoes.

Everyday Life
Since none but the scholars of Stone Cabal posses true, mechanical clocks, the passage of time will instead be marked by candles or by hourglasses, but most usually by sunrise, noon, and sunset. However, the followers of the Church of the Chosen are required to say certain prayers four to six times a day, depending on the season, and have developed very accurate methods for marking the passage of time. Therefore all across Lakeshore, people mark the passing of hours, not as we do today by the clock (with terms such as "ten o'clock” or "five-thirty") but by the Canonical Hours, the names of the different prayers that are said at different times of the day by the faithful of Chosen Bay, even if they themselves don't follow that religion. Next to the name of the Canonical Hour is the approximate time it represents; instead of "at nine o'clock AM," they may say "at tierce."

The Canonical Hours [/u]
Prime (6 AM or sunrise) 
Tierce (9 AM) 
Sext (12 noon) 
Nones (3 PM) 
Vespers (6 PM or sunset) 
Compline (9 PM) 
Matins (12 midnight) 
Lauds (3 AM) 

The following gives an idea of how a day passes in a rural manor-town:

You are awakened by the bells of the  chapel at dawn. You rise from a peasant pallet or a freeman's bed, wash your hands and face, and say a prayer. After dressing, you make a breakfast of bread or porridge. For most of the men it is off it is to work, perhaps to plow the communal field or tend the town's livestock. The women have their household labors, such as sewing or mending clothing or preparing food.
After the noon meal, having finished work in the community fields, the men hurry back to work their own land and to tend their vegetable garden. As night falls, vespers is sung in the chapel, and work ends. It's time for supper: the rich folk light candles, oil lamps, or resin torches, while the poor folk have the light of their hearth fires. By compline, the fire embers are covered, and rich and poor alike are off asleep, several to a pallet or bed, naked between the sheets.

The next day is the same... and so is the next, and the next, and the next.

The Calendar
The calendar is similar to the one used in our world: twelve months, seven days in a week, twenty-four hour days and sixty-second hours. That's where the similarities end.
The days of the week are Suldi, Moddi, Tundi, Weldi, Theldi, Fradi, and Sateldi.
The yearly calendar has been in use since the early  days  of  the mortal reign of Emperor Haelyn.  There  are  twelve months of exactly thirty days each, and five annual holidays. The annual holidays each mark  the  transitions between the four seasons and the first day of the year. The 15th and 30th day of each month are fast days on which no work is to be performed in order to honor and celebrate the creation of the world – these days are usually spent attending temple services or in quiet prayer and then gathering with family and friends for a large meal after sunset. Each month has a "high name" based on an ancient dialect of the Konigreichen language and the names of the great emperors, but  in  Lakeshore almost  everyone uses the common tongue "low names," which are simply the month's numeric designation.

The Calendar Year

  • Holiday: First Day / Annum
  • First Month:  Janus
  • Holiday: Day of All Children / Lux Nativitas
  • Second Month: Februs
  • Third Month: Marantine
  • Fourth Month: Aprordeus
  • Holiday: Summer's Day / Lux Invictus 
  • Fifth Month: Maysar
  • Sixth Month: Junaer
  • Seventh Month: Julius
  • Holiday: Night of the Dead / Nox Mortis
  • Eighth Month: Augustus
  • Ninth Month: Septimus
  • Tenth Month: Octavus
  • Holiday: Night of the Stars/ Nox Astras
  • Eleventh Month: Novus
  • Twelfth Month: Decimus

The Calendar Month

<table>
<tr><th>Suldi</th><th>Moddi</th><th>Tundi</th><th>Weldi</th><th>Theldi</th><th>Fradi</th><th>Satedi</th></tr>
<tr><td> 1</td><td> 2</td><td> 3</td><td> 4</td><td> 5</td><td> 6</td><td> 7</td></tr>
<tr><td> 8</td><td> 9</td><td>10</td><td>11</td><td>12</td><td>13</td><td>14</td></tr>
<tr><td>16</td><td>17</td><td>18</td><td>19</td><td>20</td><td>21</td><td>22</td></tr>
<tr><td>23</td><td>24</td><td>25</td><td>26</td><td>27</td><td>28</td><td>29</td></tr>
</table>

Scholars in Charouse and Brecthon have noticed that the annual holidays seem to be “drifting” from their normal correspondence to the equinox and solstices. Although the cause of this is unknown and proposals to amend the calendar with the creation of a sixth feast day every third year have begun to circulate among some astronomers and other natural philosophers.

Trade and Manufacturing
Trade and manufacturing is sparse in Lakeshore compared to the lands across the water. The lack of an effective government bureaucracy, the lack of any maintained and guarded road networks, and the danger of pirates on the seas and rivers are among the many reasons why commerce in the region is small in volume and limited to luxuries. Life in Lakeshore is predominately rural, and most of the food and products of the manor-town’s workers (woven wool cloth, leather goods, ironware, and so on) are consumed locally. 

The only skilled artisans on smaller manors might be carpenters or blacksmiths. Larger towns with greater populations and wealth can employ blacksmiths, carpenters, masons, goldsmiths, parchment makers, saddlers, harness makers, shoemakers, and other workers with specialized skills.

Local town markets might be held on Fradi, and Sateldi (Fridays or Saturdays), at which time freemen come together to sell surplus farm produce or buy manufactured goods. Each town administers and guards its own markets and collects taxes; these taxes must be carefully balanced, they are a vital source of income for the town but they risk driving away the tradesmen if too high. Local potters, weavers, and smiths will sell their products at the market for eggs or chickens. Trained steel smiths are scarce and as celebrated as wizards, since the virtues of fine steel over common iron are almost magical when it comes to the farm implements your life depends on. In addition to the local artisans and farmers at the fair, itinerant peddlers selling housewares, pottery, or other goods might travel from one market to the next. Important seasonal markets and fairs are associated with major holidays and festivals might last several days and draw visitors from miles around. 

A few professional merchants buy and sell commodities such as wheat, wine, salt, and iron within the region, particularly eager to buy grain cheaply in times of plenty and sell high in times of scarcity. A few trade routes northeast to the dwarves of the mountains and the elves beyond are known, and usually traveled by halfling or dwarven traders. Some trade metal tools and spices for beaver and marten furs with the clans of mountain men in the northern steppes. Commerce with the  lands across the water is intermittent and subject to piracy.

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“We shall never submit to anyone at all, nor ever cleave to any servitude, nor accept favors from anyone.

That favor pleases us best which we win for ourselves with strong arms and honest toil.

Be it in the fields of our farms... or upon the field of battle.”

- Chosen Bay reply to foreign emissary

Places of Note
This section details some of the most notable settlements and landmarks within the Lakeshore region. All of these locations can be found on the map found below.

Ardent Weir
Population: Approximately 700
Dominated by miners, smiths, and other artisans concerned with the working of base metals, Ardent Weir is at the center of a belt of copper, tin, and iron deposits. Many of the weapons and tools used across the Lakeshore are crafted here, or at the very least made with ore from Ardent Weir’s many mines. Ardent Weir is a rough and rambunctious place, with constant soot and dust in the air, and frequent fights in the taverns.

Government: Ardent Weir has both a Sheriff and a Justice. Elections are public, and occur for both positions every two years. All adults have a vote, though many choose not to attend the election meeting. The over-worked Sheriff and his four assistants usually intervene in civil disturbances only if weapons are drawn. Despite the lax law enforcement, those who try to throw their weight around here usually come to a sticky end: Ardent Weir is full of self-reliant folk who know how to swing a pick or a hammer, if not a sword or an ax, and who aren’t afraid to stick up for themselves.

Black River                                                
Running through Ardent Weir and providing power to several water-powered ore grinders, the Black River gets its name from the soot and dust it carries down from the mining town, which turn the waters black-brown in color. This is the only river or stream in the Lakeshore without good supplies of fish: the stocks have been killed by the contaminants in the water.

Bloodwood Forest                                                                            
A dense and tangled mass of thorny bushes and close packed trees, the Bloodwood is an immense forest. Its full size is not known, but it stretches at least 70 miles along the coast of Ocean Lake, which is as far as any boats have bothered to explore. Strange things are known to lurk in the Bloodwood, and people avoid straying too close to it, even at the cost of many extra hours of travel. The only settlement within three miles of the forest’s edge is the grim little town of Thornwood.

Chosen Bay
Population: Approximately 2,000
Founded by refugees from Bloodwood at the time when the forest was first given that name, this is a large settlement comprised largely of adherents to the Church of the Chosen. The majority of non-believers in town dwell within a small community of shipwrights, who make use of the bay’s deep water in the performance of their craft. The Chosen tolerate this community, though they make regular attempts to evangelize the shipwrights. 

By Lakeshore standards, Chosen Bay is a highly regulated community, though enforcement relies more on the strong local sense of community and convention than on any direct pressure from the authorities.

Government: The church provides all authority in the town, and all adults are expected to perform one day’s community service every week, working at the direction of the cardinals. Such service may include labor on public works or service in the town guard, for instance. 

At any given time, roughly one hundred able-bodied adults in the community possess and have received basic training with one or more weapons as part of their community responsibilities, making Chosen Bay largely secure from pirate activities. 

Emden Watch
Population: Approximately 1,200
There was considerable fear, many years ago, among those who fled the slaughter from the Thornwood, that the strange things from the forest would follow them. A small group, led by a young woman named Alia Emden, volunteered to establish a watch post to guard against any such incursion. Eager for protection, several dozen refugees stayed with them.

In the decades since, Emden Watch has become one of the largest towns in Lakeshore. The town sustains the only permanent military force in the region: some two-hundred trained troops, dispersed in four units known as “echelons.“ The nominal function of these troops is to protect the region against the Bloodwood, despite the fact that there are dozens of small settlements now located closer to the forest than this one. In practice, their real role is to keep order in the town and to sustain the power of the handful of upper-class families in the area. 

Government: Originally run as a military camp out of necessity, Emden Watch now has a de facto nobility: The town is divided into four quarters, each of which is administered directly by the hereditary officer of one of the four military echelons. Law enforcement tends to be harsh and arbitrary, conducted by soldiers who are more interested in finding someone to punish than in ensuring they have the right person. More than one local has muttered that Alia Emden would be ashamed of what her home has become… but they mutter it quietly, so as not to be overheard. 

Fenshore                                                                                        
A low-lying region of marshy ground between Black River and the Golden River delta, the Fenshore is dotted with small settlements, most of them populated by fisher-folk who make their livelihood on the Lake. There are also communities of swamp fisher-folk, who use poles to punt their flat-bottomed boats through the shallow delta, where they catch various stream-dwelling fish, gather bird’s eggs, and trap the various small mammals that live in the region. Such folk are usually extremely poor, with few possessions. Pirates sometimes raid these communities. Unlike those settlements along the rest of the coastline, the Fenshore folk usually abandon their homes when they see the pirates coming, being able to pack up their few belongings and take their boats into the delta where the deeper-drafted pirates cannot follow. 

Fingerbones
Population: Approx. 800, see below
Some of those who fled Thornwood years ago could not feel safe until they had left the very shore itself, taking up habitation of the bleak and stony islands known as the Fingerbones. Unfortunately, as the population grew, it quickly became apparent that while there was enough fish for everyone to eat, there were no resources for them to make new buildings, produce large amounts of clothes, or simply to have any variety in their diet. 

By the second generation, the population of the Fingerbones had begun to fight amongst themselves for precious resources. Perhaps they would all have been killed in these internecine squabbles if one of their number had not pointed out that there were other sources of the needed goods. Thus began the history of the Fingerbone Pirates. 

Each island sustains a clan (sometimes two on the largest islands), and each clan maintains a pirate vessel, which sets out two or three times a year to plunder goods and supplies. Such raids are almost always conducted by only a single clan (and thus a single ship), though “fleets” of two or three vessels have been seen from time to time. They conduct raids all along the Ocean Lake shoreline, and may even travel up the Golden River as far as Halsham Ferry. 

Government: Each clan is independent of the others. Generally, authority within each clan rests with the toughest or cleverest warrior, who also captains the ship on its raids. In total, there are approximately 800 people in the Fingerbones, spread across a dozen different clans.

Golden River                                                                                
The largest river in all of Lakeshore, the Golden River sustains several of the largest settlements in the region and is also the principal source of precious metals, being rich in alluvial gold and other valuable substances. 

Golden Weir
Population: Approximately 800 
Founded to take advantage of the alluvial gold in the Golden River, this community is, per capita, the richest town in Lakeshore. Most of the inhabitants are either miners or artisans. There is a sharp social and economic divide between those who own the mines and the craft shops and those they employ, but by the standards of many communities, even the working class in Golden Weir are comfortably well off. 

Government: Although Golden Weir has a Sheriff and a Justice, these positions are appointed rather than elected. Appointments are made by an oligarchic council of the six wealthiest families, who retain their power by ensuring that all the most lucrative work must pass through them. These families effectively run the town, and each maintains small cadres of hired guards to protect them and their property; notably, theft and burglary are subject to unusually harsh penalties in Golden Weir. 

Goldenwood                                                                                    
Goldenwood is the largest forest in Lakeshore (other than the Bloodwood) and the region’s principal source of lumber. A number of people also live within the forest’s confines, hunting and trapping to support their own subsistence. 

Halsham Ferry
Population: Approximately 1,000
For some years, the Golden River was a barrier to overland trade between the eastern and western halves of the greater Lakeshore area. Merchants could bring their goods as far as the river, but getting them across on the small boats available was a time-consuming and expensive process. Halsham Ferry was established as a solution to this problem: The enterprising Dawel Halsham built a large, flat-bottomed ferry capable of carrying an entire loaded wagon without running aground, and charged only a small fee for transit across the water. As merchants flooded to use the new service, a town sprang up to meet their other needs: taverns, hiring halls for guards, entertainments of a many and varied nature, and so on. 

Government: Halsham has an elected Justice and Sheriff. More often than not, one or both positions are filled by a member of the Halsham family (and troublingly, that one person often holds both offices); moreover, the family exercises a strong influence on most other candidates. Elections occur in a public meeting every four years. Anyone who pays the voting toll (1 gp) may cast a vote. Purchasing votes (paying 2-3 gp to get someone to vote for your candidate is a common practice.)

Hidden River                                                                                
So named because its mouth is almost lost in the foliage of the Bloodwood, Hidden River is one of only two waterways known to emerge from within the forest. It has been explored only a mile or so upriver, for no explorer has yet been willing to penetrate more deeply into the forest’s interior. 

Ironreef                                                                                        
This strange collection of jagged metal outcroppings juts out of Ocean Lake to the south of the Bloodwood. How these outcroppings came to be there, and why they do not rust, is unknown. 

Lumberton                                          
Population: Approximately 2,000
This settlement of lumberjacks, carpenters, and other artisans is the largest town in Lakeshore. As its name suggests, Lumberton provides the region with the majority of its bulk timber and lumber needs. This wood all comes from the Goldenwood, Lakeshore’s largest source of lumber - if one does not count the Bloodwood (and no one does). 

Government: The Lumberton council, consisting of three elected representatives, determines and enforces the laws of the town. The most important of these is a vigorous tree-planting and tending initiative: For every tree felled, another must be planted. The lumberjacks and carpenters are well aware that the Goldenwood is the only possible source of their livelihood, and act accordingly.

Ocean Lake                                                                                
The single largest geographical feature of the region, with the possible exception of the Bloodwood, Ocean Lake is a source of trade, food, and livelihood, whether directly or indirectly, for most of the inhabitants of the Lakeshore region. From the eastern edge of the Fenshore to within a few miles of the Bloodwood, the shoreline is dotted with dozens of small fishing thorps and hamlets. These settlements are frequently victimized by the pirates of the Fingerbones, though there are enough communities that each one might be attacked only once every few years. Most try to pay off the pirates with food and goods, but a few of the larger ones fight back… sometimes successfully, more often not. 

Stone Cabal 
Population: Approximately 300
Founded only thirty years ago, Stone Cabal was established as a place of learning by a group of seven scholars. The renown of their academy grew quickly, and Stone Cabal has become a center of learning and study. It houses Lakeshore’s largest library – well over a hundred books! – and anyone who wishes to study the works can do so, for a small contribution. 

Government: Although anyone who wishes to study is permitted access to Stone Cabal, the island is the private estate of the seven original scholars. They levy residence taxes (as well as library fees) in order to finance a small militia force for defense against pirates. There is no permanent Sheriff or Justice; if one is needed, the scholars simply appoint one of their own to the task. 

Thornwood                                                     
Population: Unknown
The first settlement founded in Lakeshore, Thornwood once held nearly two thousand inhabitants. It was all but abandoned during that horrific time when the Bloodwood earned its present name. Folk simply do not travel there now, though persistent rumors circulate to suggest that a handful of inhabitants still remain, either unwilling or unable to leave. 

Thornwood River                                                                          
Though it emerges from the Bloodwood, there appears to be nothing unusual or unnatural about this river. It provides fresh water to Emden Watch and Lumberton, and feeds into the Golden River north of Halsham Ferry.  Although traffic is common enough downriver of Emden Watch, few ply the waters upriver. 

Eastfork                                     
Population: Approximately 600
One of two communities founded in an attempt to undermine Golden Weir’s domination of the precious metals trade, Eastfork is the marginally more successful of the two. The inhabitants pan enough gold and silver out of the river to make their businesses viable, though they produce nothing like the volumes of their down-stream competitor. 

Government: Eastfork elects a Sheriff and a Justice every three years, though the elections are mostly a formality. Both positions are unpaid, and there is rarely more than one candidate. 

Westfork                                         
Population: Approximately 400
Founded at the same time and for the same reason as Eastfork, this community is the less successful of the two. Small amounts of precious metals are panned from the river each year, but most of the community have to farm and hunt in order to make ends meet. 

Government: Westfork elects a Sheriff and a Justice every three years, though the elections are mostly a formality. Both positions are unpaid, and there is rarely more than one candidate.

Places of Lesser Note
The “empty spaces” on the map between the major settlements are in fact anything but empty. Most of Lakeshore is dotted with thorpe and hamlets, usually separated by no more than a few hours’ ride. 

A typical thorp consists of one to three families, each with two to eight members. Usually, the different families in the thorp cooperate to farm crops (or to fish if they have access to a river or the lake). The families are often interrelated by blood or by marriage. New thorps constantly form, or old ones dissolve, as the children of earlier generations strike out on their own, forming new families. The Lakeshore region is dotted with empty or partially empty thorps, which will one day house new residents. 

Honest travelers can usually expect a friendly welcome in most thorps, including a warm meal and a bed in the barn, but such communities usually have little more to offer: they are too small to support stores or produce any goods other than those needed for their own survival. 

When several thorps are in close proximity, or when a group of families are particularly fecund, a hamlet may form. Such communities have sufficient population, usually 20–80 people, to attain a level of permanence. Many have endured for three or four generations, or even since the days of the terrible flight from Thornwood. Some hamlets may also be large enough to support a store, or even an inn, where travelers can get services and goods they need.

Contact with Other Regions
Although remote, Lakeshore is far from completely isolated. Only from the west, where the Bloodwood blocks all passage, do no travelers come. Individuals and small parties of travelers often enter the region from the north or east, while merchants brave weather and pirates to trade on the southern shores throughout the summer months. 

Apart from the mass migration generations ago, the only new settlers to Lakeshore from the civilizations across the water tend to come in small groups. Newcomers are welcomed if they can pull their own weight, those that cannot are rarely anyone's concern for more than the first winter.
 

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“The smartest wolves travel in packs.” - Rjurik Proverb

Humans
Lakeshore is home to a half-dozen demihuman races, but humans are by far the predominate race, although they are not native to the region. In the span of just 200 years, humans have dotted the land with towns and settlements, pushing back the wilderness. The humans of Lakeshore can all trace their ancestry back to civilizations across the water, the majority from five  cultures from the continent of Urmaarc. Lakeshore people are spread across the entire region and the various cultures have begun to merge, through intermarriage and simple cultural drift, but many still maintain their respective heritages and ways of life. 

The Avaleans
The Avalean (AVE-ah-LEE-en) are largest human ethnic group can trace their ancestry to the Triple Kingdom of Avalea, where the three ancient kingdoms of Elaine, Gwendolyn, and Bannock have been ruled by a single monarch for the past century. A small nation, whose survival and influence is owed as much to the political savvy of their King John III as to their elite and rapidly expanding navy. It is for this reason that King John is called "John the Shipwright." 

The Avaleans are a proud people, known best for their relationship to the Sidhelien(SHEE-lin), the grey elves, who once ruled their great empire from the lost city of Tir Bresail said to be hidden somewhere on the island. The Sidhelien are an ancient race long vanished from the lands across the water and the aristocracy of Avalea is of mixed sidhe-blood, in fact the root of the name Avalea, avalien, translates best into the common tongue as "half-blooded" 

The Avaleans are known for their love of storytelling, predisposition for settling disputes through fisticuffs, deep loyalty to their families, and their maverick, independent streak. The Triple Kingdom of Avalea has no standing army nor any tradition of feudal knights, and no hereditary nobility in the common sense. Instead, Avalean society revolves around the clan – large extended families – who have various degrees of interlocking oaths of fealty to one another. The heads of the various families name one of their own to be chieftain; the chiefs of the various clans, in turn, name one of their own to be king or queen. The Avalean place almost no emphasis on gender, men and women can be chiefs, kings, priests, warriors, or any other profession they like. In fact, the Avalean language – like the elvish tongues it descends from – has no gendered pronouns (he or she, him or her) in it naturally, although they have begun to “sneak in” from Charouse.

It is often said that an Avalean has no greater love in his heart than for his clan. The typical Avalean can recite his lineage back to his great grandfather and tell you the stories of each generation. When you insult an Avalean, you insult his entire clan. 

There is an old saying in Avalea: “Your true family extends from your palm to your fingertips.” It's a small memory trick the Avalean use to teach children their lineage. Look at the very tip of your middle finger. That's you. All your siblings occupy that space as well. Now drop down to the second segment of your finger; that's your father and all his siblings. The third segment of your middle finger is your grandfather and all his siblings, and finally, your palm is your great-grandfather. Now, skip over to the tip of your ring finger, that's your cousins. The next segment is your uncle, then your great-uncle, and the palm is your great-grandfather again.

The entire hand is called the derbfine, or “real family.” Of course, there are many derbfine in each clan and similar mnemonic is used to trace the relationship of the derbfine to the patriarch of the clan. There are many derbfine to a clan, just as there are many fingers to the hand, and an Avalean is a part of them all. In one family member accrues a debt, the entire derbfine is accountable for that debt. When a member of the derbfine dies, his wealth is distributed to the entire family. However, a father's children are not a part of his derbfine (he has no place for them on the hand). Each generation begins a new derbfine. Which means that if a son (or daughter) dies the parents inherit nothing, because they are not part of the deceased’s derbfine. The inheritance goes to the deceased's children, or to siblings if there are no children.

Marriage in Avalea is usually a strictly economic affair, with no illusions of love tied into the ritual. Marriage also change's one's derbfine, depending on which side of the union has more money, social standing, or political clout, the husband or the wife will become part of the more prosperous derbfine. The less wealthy partner usually takes on a subservient role in their new derbfine. This change of lineage is signified by wearing a ring with the new clan's name inscribed upon it on one's middle finger – giving the wedding band unique distinction of being the only Avalean fashion adopted by Charouse!

Many Avaleans have settled across the Lakeshore region, but are most commonly found in the area bounded by Ardent Weir to the east, Emden Watch to the west, and on the banks of the Golden River as far north as Golden Weir. They are a minority in Chosen Bay and avoid Fenshore.

The Brechton and Brekmaanjar
The modern Republic of Brecht (brr-ect), is a chain of islands northeast of the Triple Kingdom of Avalea, known for its sea-faring traders and shrewd merchants that ply their wares through the frozen waters to reach foreign ports across the known world. But they have not always been thus, as recently as 100 years ago these islands were still known as the Brechtinnav (BREK-tin-nav), translating literally as “the Broken Coast”, inhabited by the fearsome Breckmaanjar (BREK-maan-yar) raiders. Brechton (brek-ton) is the name now used by the majority of Breckmaanjar society that have turned their back on what they see as an outdated and superstitious heritage in favor of more pragmatic, mercantile society. The Brechton are known throughout the known world as the most successful and ruthless tradesmen and their control of the economy in the civilized lands across the water is in stark contrast to the size of their lands. Brechton coinage, known colloquially as "the Guilder," has revolutionized commerce by creating a stable currency recognized all across the world – even in Lakeshore. The Brechton are the smallest of the five major human ethnic groups in Lakeshore, living primarily in the larger towns, although only in Lumberton and Halsham Ferry do they make up the majority population.
The language of the modern Brechton is one of recent construction, an intentional simplification of the ancient Breckmaanjar runes (which were themselves originally dwarven.) Where ancient breckmaansprek was pictographic, complex, and highly symbolic, Modern Breckmaansprek is phonetic, intuitive, and mathematically precise... especially its numeric system which introduced the “0” to the mathematics of the known world. Due to its intuitive ease and the influence of Brechton merchants, this modern language has spread rapidly through the known world as a trade tongue and is frequently just called "Common" rather then Modern Breckmaansprek.
Fringe communities of Breckmaanjar still exist in remote pockets in the modern Republic of Brecht, but the Breckmaanjar way of life is dying. Many of the Fingerbones pirate communities are, in fact, Breckmaanjar tribes in exile, who try to continue their sea-reaving traditions, cling to their dying language, and still practice the runic magic of their fathers and grandfathers.

La Crieux
South of Avalae across the narrow Straights of Gaulle, to the east of Rjurik and west of Konigreich – and thus the very center of the “known world” is Charouse (char-ooze). Ruled by the Empereur of the West, Louis Pierre Flaubert Alexandre du Charouse, the most powerful monarch in the history of the world. Tall, beautiful, intelligent, elegant, he is the very embodiment of high culture – just ask him.
For every other civilized nation of Urmaarc, Charouse defines fashion, music, art, and entertainment. The greatest courts are in Charouse. The best food is Charousen cuisine. All the nobility wear clothing inspired by Charouse. They build mansions that mimic Charousen palaces. Everything in Charouse is the pinnacle of beauty, refinement, and opulance... for some. While the aristocracy of Charouse banished the word "moderation" from their language generations ago, the peasantry struggle daily to please their landlords and feed themselves.
A man could walk across Charouse for days and see nothing but  farmers' hovels. But when he did come into a city, he would find it a sprawling affair full of grand mansions and dizzying wealth. Metropolitan oases, almost entirely separate from the lands surrounding them.
The peasants of Charouse are a simple lot. They have a minimal education, produce large families, and live quietly respectable lives of toil. Because when they get uppity, they discover the silk glove of the nobility covers an iron fist. A little less than a century ago, there was a massive peasant uprising in the province of la Crieux. Peasant revolts were not unheard of in Charouse, but this one was different. The peasantry of la Crieux (la krewe) were already worse off than the typical peasants, as they mostly belong to the same marginalized ethno-religious minority. Adding to that, a series of bad harvests and five years of conscription to feed the war with Konigreich had left the peasants of Crieux starving, desperate, and trained for war. 

When the rebels seized the home of the Marquis du Crieux and beheaded him in his own rose gardens, the aristocracy panicked and l'Empereur became enraged. He dispatched his armies and his own personal guard to put down the rebellion. Hundreds died in the fighting, thousands more of starvation in the following winter after the army burnt most of their crops. The rebel leaders were executed and their families – wives, children, parents, and even adult male cousins – were exiled. Those who could fled to Avalae, most just crossed the border into Konigreich, but several families made the crossing to Lakeshore. Today, their descendants mostly make their home in the Fenshore, although many more ply the rivers across the region, and many of their young men find steady work in the mines of Eastfork or Westfork or the mills of Lumberton.
The Konigreichen
The people of the Konigreich (CONG-RYE-ek) have always been proud. Proud of their ancestors who carved out the first human kingdoms from the heart of the ancient elven empire, and that their empire lasted for hundreds of years. They are proud of their technology and the products of their labors. They are proud that the history of their people is a series of one valorous deed after another. With the state their country is in today, they might be forgiven for trying to live in the past. 

Located at center of all the human nations in Urmaarc, the Konigreich (literally “king's empire”) has long held critical importance in humanity's wars and politics. But 125 years ago, Emperor Reinhardt XXVI died young and unmarried. The only living member of his bloodline was his younger sister, who had recently married off to the King of Charouse. By the laws of Charouse, King Flaubert was now the ruler of the Konigreich, however, by the ancient laws of the Konigreich itself, unused for generations, it was up to the nine elector-counts to vote for one of their own as Emperor. The War of Succession, better known today as the Hundred-Year War, was begun when the elector-counts tried to exercise their ancient right and King Flaubert objected. As the war ground on for more than a century the actual stakes were forgotten. The sun has set on the Konigreich and risen in Charouse. Now Konigreich is a lonely land of mud and snow, and travelers are well advised to hire an armed guard.

The elector-counts of old now rule their individually counties as more-or-less independent principalities, as likely to be allied with one another as at war. Charouse has forgotten it ever had any interest in the land and l'Empereur ignores the original source of his title. Although the Konigreich lies in ruin, her people are far from beaten. The Konigreichen have more collective combat experience than any other nation. 

Since they have nothing else left to sell, the Konigreichen have begun to sell war. The armies of most civilized lands rely on a Konigreichen adviser for tactics and strategy and Konigreichen mercenaries for blood and steel.  Their military academies are the best in the known world, and someone simply being born a Konigreichen is often seen as a good enough reason to be given leadership of a foreign noble's army. Konigreichen mercenaries often find work as soldiers, bodyguards, or marines defending ships against pirates. Many loyal sons have left their homeland to fight abroad, sending their wages home to their families. Many other Konigreichen have left their homeland for similar reasons, but in nominally more peaceful occupations. Konigreich expatriates can be found throughout Lakeshore, but are concentrated in the southeast along either bank of the Black River, as far north as the twin towns of East Fork and West Fork. The Konigreichen of Lakeshore are known as much for their metal working, mining, and brewing as for their martial prowess.

The Tslav
Occupying the wind-swept lands of northwest Lakeshore, the people known as the Tslav (suh-laav) make their living by hunting, trapping, and herding in the hills and steppes, in much the same way they would have in the vastness of their motherland across the water. The Tslavic people are an oppressed people in their homeland of Rjurik (ra-joo-RICK), despite being the majority population they are ruled over by petty tzars and ruthless boyars, and many continue to emigrate to Lakeshore to this day. The Tslav rely on self-sufficiency to see them through and they place a strong bond on immediate family, having little understanding of the Avalea concept of clans or Breckmaanjar tribes. A Tslav will honor his parents, support their brothers, and defend their children at all cost... but a cousin is essentially a stranger. The Tslav of Lakeshore are still semi-nomadic, living in mobile camps through the summer, but returning to their halls at first snowfall. Hunting parties venture out into the cold as necessary to replenish their larders, but they generally stay put until the first snow melt of spring. 

Each community of Tslav is represented by an elder, but the true leaders of the Tslav are their priests. The Tslavic faith is persecuted in their homeland, but is openly practiced in Lakeshore. 

Halflings
Most humans in Lakeshore see the halflings as harmless, kindly folk, and in truth, most of them truly are. But the halflings were the original inhabitants of the Lakeshore region when humans first arrived and they harbor many hidden secrets. Most men assume that the name halfling refers to their stature, but never wonder why they would use the name amongst themselves. In truth, the name was conferred upon them centuries ago by the dwarves, as the halflings were once creatures who could pass freely between this world and the Shadow World. The oral histories of the halflings, rarely shared with outsiders, say that at a critical point in their history, they fled their homes in that twilight world to escape some unspeakable horror. To this day, some among them retain unusual powers of perception that non-halflings cannot understand.

Halflings are found in Lakeshore and nowhere else in the known world. They no longer have much culture of their own, instead they've adopted the cultures of whatever human or dwarven communities they live in or near. Thus there are "Avalean halflings," Brechton halflings," and so forth, all across the region. It's not unusual to see halflings walking the streets of Lumberton, mimicking the lives of the humans around them, nor is it out of the ordinary to see a "dwarvish halfling" plying merchandise in the markets of the Vosfasts. 

The one area of foreign culture which the Halflings never adopt is religion. The Halflings follow no gods at all, instead those few among them that retain their ancient connection to the Shadow World guide their people in the proper methods for appeasing the spirit world, foresee on behalf of their farmers the best times to sew or to reap, and conduct other secret rites that no non-halflings are allowed to witness.

Dwarves
The dwarves found in the Lakeshore region do not hail from the lands claimed by humanity, but from deep within the mountains that surround it to the north and east. The dwarves of these mountains call themselves Vos, and are a strong, enduring fold who enjoy hard living and hard work. They are filled with an irrepressible store of good cheer and song. Though like dwarves found across the known world they still honor their primordial responsibility of keeping the orogs – goblinoids – in check under the mountains, they prefer to lead lives of building and making, not warring.
Like all dwarven kingdoms, the lands of the Vos are organized around their vosfasts, a word that translates into common as both "home," "city-state," and "clan." A dwarf's loyalty is to his vosfast first and to the High King of the Vos second. The leadership of each vosfast, in turn, first serve their people, and swear fealty to the dwarven king secondarily. The dwarven High King must therefore be an adept negotiator and a shrewd politician to keep his people together.

Dwarves lean the arts of war at an early age as a part of their self-appointed duty of containing the orogs in the caverns under the mountains. The orogs and the dwarves have been at war longer than any nation of men has possessed writing, indeed the beginnings of the war are hazy even to the dwarves themselves. It has simply always been thus, and while the orogs grow more numerous and brutal with each passing generation, the dwarves have become that much better in the science of warfare to control the orog menace. This is part of the reason that the Vos prefer not to deal with outsiders – visitors distract the sentries.

As well as being skilled fighters, the dwarves of the Lakeshore region are also excellent miners and smith. Each fast mines materials of all sorts, but each fast specializes in working with only a certain one. Thus one Vosfast may specialize in gem-craft and yet desire a specific ore, its neighbor may have abundant ore and little skill in finishing gems, thus the vosfasts trade amongst themselves for both raw materials and in finished goods. With the coming of humans to Lakeshore the Vos have begun to send merchants into the lowlands to trade with them.

Elves
Although all are simply called elves by most men, the elves call themselves the Sidhe (SHEE) and divide themselves into the Sidhelien (SHEE-leen / "grey elves"), Sidheelie (SHEE-el-lee / "wood elves"), and Sidheilee (SHEE-eye-lee "dark elves"). There also exist the myriad creatures known as avalien (av-ah-leen / "half elves"), who range in appearance from almost identical to standard elven-kind to radically different. The Sidhe are a beautiful but dangerous folk, and humans are well advised to stay away from elf-claimed woods or mountains. The Sidhelien are the near-immortal ruling caste, and are incredibly rare; the Sidheelie seem to be the commoners and the ones most likely to interact with mankind; and the Sidheilee, the fearsome dark elves, seem to be a warrior-caste - the only interaction a human is likely to have with a dark elf is in battle.

The Sidhelien, while so civilized that their music can bring tears to the eyes of the roughest Tslav barbarian, also have a core of cruelty. Having lived in this world for thousands of years, at a minimum, they have had to learn to deal harshly with the many brutal orog races. In addition, everything they built in the past has come crashing down around them since the “recent” emergence of humans. (About one thousand years ago, roughly two wood elf generations.)

Thus, most grey elves harbor deep hatred in their hearts for those who they feel have dispossessed them. This extended to humans, demihumans, humanoids, and whomever else stands in the way of the elven dominion.

Some Sidhelien take a more philosophical view of the situation, seeing the humans as a catalyst in elven evolution. These elves look to the humans for ways to improve their own race and look for ways that men may be improved by adopting elvish ways. These Sidhelien have even "adopted" a small portion of humanity as a "test" of this theory - as a result of this "ongoing project," the history and culture of Avalae has been forever influenced. The humans, of course, remain completely unaware of this influence.
The Sidhelien were once led by their Queen in who held court in Tir Bresail. But there has not been a true queen in generations and thus elven society, as a whole, is currently fractured from a single global dominion into many small local ones. Every last one of the thousand or so immortal Sidhelien has his own independent fiefdom and each elven settlement now has its own version of the original Sidhelien Court, but none match the glories of the true court of Tir Bresail. Most Sidhelien hope to reunite the elven lands someday to recapture the beauty and grace of the past. Elven rulers vary from court to court, and as goes the rulers so goes the people of that nation. The court of Prince Tuarhievel favors bold warriors, while that of Prince Sielwode prefers pacifist scholars, still another may be hold cunning merchants and skilled craftsmen in the highest esteem, and so forth. Thus, if the elves are ever to reunite, they must learn to blend their values and tastes.

Other Demihumans
Gnomes, Half-Elves, Dragonborn, and Tieflings exist in the lands across the water, but no more than a handful of individuals of these races has ever visited Lakeshore. None call it home.

Orogs
The collective name given to the races of Orcs, Goblins, Hobgoblins and their kin. Considered the enemies of all the "civilized" peoples.

Other Creatures

The Lakeshore region is home to more than just human beings and their demihuman neighbors. Many legendary creatures known to the civilizations across water can be found here as well: trolls, ogres, orcs, even giants. Some are strangers on those shores and unique to these untamed lands: halflings, merfolk, treants. Then there are those creatures that were thought extinct or mythological across the water, but have proven frightfully real dangers here: dragons.

Faun (Beastmen)
Faun are strange, animal/man hybrid creatures that seem to sense wounded creatures from miles away. They prefer to feed on still-living flesh, but are usually too weak to capture it themselves, so they feast on animals that have injured themselves. As a faun feeds it gets stronger, swifter, and more ravenous, making a herd of beastmen in a "feeding frenzy" quite terrible to behold. These creatures make no distinction between wounded animals and wounded humans. Often, battlefield hospitals must be guarded at night, for faun have been known to slip inside and attack the wounded men. Most soldiers are terrified of being found in a weakened state by a faun, and a herd following an army are seen as a very bad omen. 

Ghosts (Specters)
Ghosts are the lingering spirits of the departed. Often wandering the places they died, ghosts usually look exactly as they did at the instant of death. This means that they might be carrying their head around if they had it lopped off by an executioner, or their clothing might be forever stained with blood. Some ghosts are believed to interfere with certain types of magic in their vicinity. For instance, a ghost once known to haunt a castle in Bannock could prevent illusions from working near him. A few Crieux families claim to be able to catch ghosts in mirrors (a very specialized and rare talent) and many nobles in Charouse use these capture souls for ghastly entertainment at their lavish parties.

Nökk (Nixie)
Nökk are a type of avalien or minor sidhe water-faeries, that were most commonly found in the Konigreich, which is wear they earned their best-known name. However nökk are also known by other names, depending on where it lives. The fossegrim (waterfall goblin) dwells behind the roaring falls so common in the mountainous country of Rjurik, and is the name for those nökk found in rivers there. Those known by the Brechton as backahast (goblin horse) tend to spend most of their time in horse form. The nökk found in Avalea, called nixie, are legendary keepers of secrets.

A nökk is a solitary being, there seldom being more than one to a body of water or stretch of river.  Each individual nökk possess the power to charm its victims, although a potential victim of sound mind and strong will can resist. The nökk also possesses the power to change shape into a horse and will often use this form to lure the unwary onto its back. Once mounted the nökk attempts to carry its victim below the water, there to drown their helpless victim.

Another significant power of the nökk is its fine musical skill. The nökk is an expert with instruments. It is said that many a skilled bard learned at the feet of a nökk, after presenting the proper gift to the creature. So talented is the nökk in music that it can cast a charm with it's playing. Those who fail to resist are drawn into uncontrollable dancing which must be sustained until the music stops playing. 

Those nökk encountered are always male and they do not stray far from their waters. 

Redcaps (Brownies)
This creature is another avalien or minor sidhe, known as redcaps or brownies by the Avalean or sometimes a tomte in Charouse. The mood of such a creature can usually be identified by his cap, which is normally a woody brown but will be stained blood-red if they are offended and aim to cause mischief. Wise farmers leave this little creature alone, hoping that he will bring the homestead good luck. The brownie possesses one power. If pleased or offended, the brownie can change a man's luck. He can bestow good or bad luck or he can take these away. Brownies seldom make physical attacks, the threat of bad luck usually being sufficient to protect them. So long as he is treated well and respected, the brownie improves the fortunes of the farmer and his family. If harassed or bothered too much, a redcap will simply leave the farm, after he has caused some mischief. 

Some brownie do not attach themselves to a farm but are instead found on ships. These are known as kabbelgatt by the Breckmaanjar and greatly feared by them – a kabbelgatt cannot be drowned, they say, while a man most certainly can should bad luck befall his ship. Others are found in villages or towns where their influence is limited to the house only, not the farm, these are known as tomte by the urban peasants of Charouse. All serve the same function as farm brownies, bringing good fortune to their charge and seeing to little details. They can be offended as easily as their rural cousins, but if a family earns their respect they will sometimes perform incredible tasks for them – one popular story tells of the kindly shoemaker who honored and protected the tomte that lived in his shop found a new pair of fine, spider-silk slippers left in his shop window every night for a week, all of which were sold to l'Emperor himself!

The Sending (Revenant)
The Sending is a powerful type of undead invoked by certain evil wizards. These wizards dispatch their sendings out into the world to carry out their wicked commands. Sendings have the same abilities and powers as revenants. However, whereas a revenant seeks revenge on its killer, the sending's target is whomever its evil master commands it to attack. Thus the sending's paralytic power is effective against whomever tries to oppose it, not just a single person (as is the case with a revenant). 

The process of creating a sending is an evil and dark secret. Those wizards capable of this deed have independently researched the necessary spell or spells to perform the task. 

Skogsrå (Nymph) 
The Skogsrå is a wild and dangerous, yet potentially helpful, type of sidhe that seems to be unique to Lakeshore. In appearance, it is similar to other nymphs, taking the form of a beautiful maiden. First named by the Tslav settlers, the Skogsrå lives in the deep forest where Tslavic hunters sometimes travel. Unlike the nymph, the Skogsrå does not have the power to blind or kill. Instead, it can charm males if it so desires. Those so enchanted are led into the deepest parts of the forest and are seldom seen again. Fortunately, the Skogsrå reserves this punishment for those who displease her. 
The Skogsrå can also polymorph herself to appear as a man's wife or lover. She takes great interest in men and sometimes even visits hunters in their own domain for her pleasure. If not displeased, she can bestow the gift of hunting skill on her paramour. As long as he remains silent, the hunter will always have success in the hunt. He will always come across game and enjoys an advantage on his weapon's accuracy when hunting. (This boon does not extend to combat.) Should a man foolishly boast of his fortune or reveal his tryst, he will be cursed with bad luck. Little game will he ever find and he will suffer a disadvantage to his weapon skill when hunting. 

Skogsrå are neutral and even sometimes evil. While they may reward those they like, it is dangerous to seek these creatures out. Few can say what pleases such creatures. They can be angered by the slightest thing, so much so that only a fool or a hero would welcome the attentions of their kind.

Sjorå (Mermaid)
The sjorå are a type of merfolk, although those encountered are almost always female. Unlike mermaids, sjorå can be found in almost any body of water, fresh or salt. Sjorå choose to have little traffic with humans, but on occasion make their presence known. Those sailors and fishermen who treat them with kindness and respect are apt to be rewarded. A sjorå knows of impending storms and can warn sailors to shore. Like the skogsrå, the sjorå can grant sailors success at fishing, guaranteeing they will have a good catch whenever they cast their nets in the sjorå's waters. Unlike the skogsrå , the sjorå will rarely inflict bad luck on sailors that  offend them... they just kill them.
 

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“The Pride of the Giants has brought them to doom;
The Ghosts, full of Envy, lurk near in the gloom;
The Greed of the Goblins drives them to kill;
The Gluttonous Faun on flesh has his fill;
A Lust for the Nymphs brings a man's death;
The Revenant steals a Slothful man's breath;
The Wrath of the Dragon roars from its den;
But a man without Sin is a king amongst men.”
Chosen Bay nursery rhyme, used to teach the Seven Sins.

Local Lakeshore Religions

The original refugees who entered Lakeshore did not have a single, strongly held faith, and there are many different religious beliefs in the area. Dedication to most such faiths is casual rather than fanatical; outside of attending certain annual festivals and making an offering or two for a good harvest or success for their business, most folk prefer not to bother the gods and hope the favor is returned. The most widespread or widely known religions of Lakeshore include the following:

The Church of the Chosen
One of the few evangelical faiths in the Lakeshore region, the Church of the Chosen was founded during the terrible nights leading to the exodus from Thornwood. The Chosen believe that the original refugees were guided to Lakeshore for some divine purpose, but that this task was forgotten or ignored when the settlement at Thornwood was founded. They see what happened at Thornwood as a divine punishment for this failure. The original adherents of this belief founded a new settlement at Chosen Bay, which remains to this day a highly religious (and some would say “superstitious”) settlement. They regularly send out the brightest and bravest to spread the message of their faith to the rest of humanity. Those who remain in Chosen Bay dedicate themselves to study and prayer in hopes of rediscovering the forgotten purpose for which the refugees were originally brought to the Lakeshore. 

Organization: Centralized and hierarchical. Adherents (lay folk) make up the majority of the followers, with priests and arch-priests above them and a council of four cardinals as the final authority. All ecumenical decisions are made by the cardinals, who must agree unanimously for a ruling to be final. Members of both genders may become clergy, though the ratio of men to women is currently about three to one.


The Harvest Mother
Usually depicted as a matronly figure with hands full of bundled wheat, the Harvest Mother of today is actually an amalgamation of several fertility and agricultural deities once worshiped by some of the original refugees combined with aspects of the native Halflings' seasonal rituals. Her faith is common in farming communities across the region (except around Chosen Bay). The faith is closely associated in many people’s minds with the wild festivals held in her honor on the solstices and equinoxes of each year. 

Most of the religious ordinances of this faith relate specifically to offerings, ceremonies, and practices required to curry the Harvest Mother’s favor. These rituals are numerous, even though the Mother is generally seen as a beneficent figure. Injunctions on moral or ethical behavior are minimal, though most of the clergy encourage honesty, integrity, and industry in their followers, believing quite practically that a busy and contented community is vital to a good harvest.

Organization: Highly localized. Most villages and towns in the Lakeshore area have their own unique interpretation of this faith, with minor dogmatic variations. Lay followers rarely concern themselves with such details. Clergy from different areas consider themselves part of the same faith, but enjoy spirited discussions on dogma. No formal hierarchy exists within the clergy, with only the position of Pastor being recognized, but particularly wise or well-known pastors are generally accorded informal seniority by their compatriots. Members of both genders may become clergy, though significantly more are female than male. 

The Lake God
References to the “God in the Lake” appear in records almost as soon as the refugees arrived in Lakeshore. Whether this was an existing faith that was transplanted to the area or a wholly new phenomenon is not known, but there are many testaments to eerie lights beneath the waves, waters that abruptly boil with steam before cooling once more, and strange music heard by fisher-folk as they ply their trade. The Lake God remains popular with anyone who earns a living from the waters of Ocean Lake, including fisher-folk and pirates alike. A wild and capricious force, the Lake God must be appeased with regular offerings in exchange for the bounty he provides from the lake and rivers. All offerings must come from the land (precious metals are favored), for to make an offering that originated in the water would be merely to return what was already the God’s to begin with - a terrible insult to the God. 

Organization: Localized, informal, and somewhat isolationist. Variations in specific beliefs exist from village to village, and sometimes even from fishing boat to fishing boat. Specific local superstitions are common and jealously maintained. No formal priests are appointed; all rituals required to appease the Lake God are conducted while afloat, by either the captain or the first mate of the vessel. 

The Theomatists
Originating in Stone Cabal, and only slowly becoming known in other communities, the Theomatic School believes in a divine force that created and sustains all reality, but rejects any anthropomorphism of that force. They scoff at the idea of human-seeming gods, and believe instead that humans are tiny parts of the divine force that have become separated from the whole, and thus diminished. They seek to “rediscover their connection” with the force, believing that if they do, they will shake off their physical forms and return to their true place in the universe. It is not uncommon for Theomatic scholars to study the magic of spiritualism as part of their search. 

Organization: Highly individualistic and egalitarian. Most Theomatic scholars would reject the idea that they were part of an organized religion at all. Research is conducted independently, though many scholars correspond via messenger, or gather in small discussion groups if they are geographically close. Personal rivalries between individual scholars are not uncommon, and may become quite heated, particularly as there is no formal means of resolution.

The Monastery of St. Isolute
Although it has been said that there were no humans in the Lakeshore region prior to the arrival of the original refugees that is not, in the strictest sense, true. As the first generation of settlers came to explore the craggy foothills of mountains north of Lakeshore, they discovered an isolated monastery, inhabited by a silent order of human monks, drawn from dozens of different nationalities. How they came to be here the monks did not reveal. Only that the founder of their order had "shown them the road" that brought them here long ago.

The monks of Saint Isolute (popularly called “the Gray Monks,” after the color of their habits, or "the Silents" due to their vows of silences) are a Lawful order that lives to emulate the life of their founder, St. Isolute, a man who undertook devotions, good works, and scholarship in equal measure, thereby winning them the esteem and affection of the common folk throughout the world. So zealous was Isolute in defending the world against the depredations of Chaos that he established a monastery upon the crags of Urheim, under which existed a series of caves that not only spawned foul aberrations but whose supernatural taint drew monsters and evil men alike to itself.

The monks valiantly undertook a generations-long project of cleansing Urheim of its contagion by venturing deep into its subterranean recesses to confront its denizens with holiness, magic, and steel. As part of their plan, they worked the very stone itself, giving it a Lawful pattern and sanctifying it in the name of St. Isolute. Slowly but surely, despite the cost to themselves, the Gray Monks did more than just contain Chaos; they pushed it back, defeating it in its very lair, and in the process amassing items of mysterious origins and magical potency, along with other treasures, all of which they either put to good use or stored away, less they fall into the wrong hands.

While the monastery stood strong, it was a beacon of light in a darkened world. Pilgrims flocked to it in order to venerate the memory of the saint in whose name the monks labored and to gain spiritual edification from their example. Novices regularly entered the monastery, swelling their numbers and ensuring that Law carried the day in battle beneath Urheim. Many warriors pledged themselves to the monks and joined them in their great task, which further strengthened their cause and led some to believe that the Chaos beneath Urheim might finally be defeated for all time.

Alas, the taint of Chaos touches all things, even a bastion of Law, such as the monastery of St. Isolute. After several centuries and a succession of weak abbots, the Gray Monks grew indulgent, preferring wealth and influence to wisdom and piety. Slowly, the blasphemous spawn of Urheim reclaimed the caves as their own, pushing the monks out and reversing the hard-won victories of the centuries. Rather than fight them, as had their predecessors, the monks simply warded the entrance to the underworld and settled into a comfortable laxity. No longer exemplars of law and goodness, the wealth of the monastery aroused the envy of barbarian warlords, who eventually sacked it, putting the remaining monks to the sword, and seizing their treasures. Greedy though they were, these raiders knew well enough than to disturb Urheim, leaving it safely warded by the holy magic of St. Isolute.

Chaos still issues its siren call, drawing evil beings, both human and otherwise, to Urheim. Rumors have spread that someone — or something — has found a way to enter the hidden caves once more, seeking both the wealth and evil power they reputedly hold. If true, the darkness the Gray Monks once fought could escape its prison and pour out across the land, heralding a terrible future...


Urmaarc Pantheon
The Urmaarc Pantheon is not the same as it was a millennia ago. The new gods were once mortals who ascended to the heavens after their deaths at the Battle of Mount Desimaar. Their essences imbued by the faith of hundreds of champions and thousands of common soldiers. After their mortal life ended, they rose to the heavens in a glorious divine ascension. Once there, they overthrew the old gods and established themselves

At first, the new gods worked closely together, but as the centuries passed, rivalries and arguments have divided the pantheon. Wars and feuds between their followers naturally ensued. History and politics has increased or decreased the prestige and well-being of their temples. Despite these rifts, all the gods of the new pantheon have held fast to one firm pact: Never again shall the gods battle each other in physical form. Even Azrai, the infamous Poisoner of Words, holds to this covenant.

Haelyn
God of Nobility, The Lawmaker, Patron of the Konigreich

Alignment:    Lawful Good
Worshipers:    Any Lawful or Any Good
Domains:    War, Leadership
Symbol:    Sword and Sunburst
Colors:    Red, Orange, and Gold

Haelyn (hey-LIN) is the ruler of the gods, the lord of courage, justice, and chivalry, and the patron of kings and warriors. In his mortal life, Haelyn was  the leader of the ancient tribes from which the modern Konigreichen descend. He was the champion of his tribe and over a period of twelve years, united a dozen tribes of early humanity under his authority, craving out the first human empire in the known world. 

Priests of Haelyn are the most powerful clergy in the Konigreich and have great influence in Rjurik and among the Breckmaanjar. Traditionally, they are advisers to kings and guardians of the investiture of regency. Large temples are often bases for legions of temple soldiers led by paladins. Haelyn's paladins are recognized as knights in all civilized lands. In Konigreich and Rjurik they still have the legal power to execute justice as they see fit. 

The church of Haelyn has fallen on hard times, much of its temporal power was tied directly to the power of the Konigreich. As that once proud empire has crumbled, Haelyn's church has waned. The Charousse have little love for the patron of their defeated foe and his worship is all but banned, some factions within l'Empereur's court are pushing for just that. Instead, l'Empereur seems content to tax the church exorbitantly and cease their lands for failure to pay. 

The modern Republic of Brecht still respects Haelyn, but apart from the few Breckmaanjar hold-outs, their is little need for a god of warfare and kingship by the republican bankers and independent merchants. The Avalea have never had much to do with him.

  • Uphold the highest standards of righteousness and justice.
  • Serve the people, honor your superiors, and defend the social order.
  • Be ever vigilant against immorality and corruption. Oppose chaos on all fronts.

Elrik
Father of the Forests, The Old Soul, Patron of Rjurik

Alignment:    Neutral
Worshipers:    Any Neutral
Domains:    Nature, Tempest
Symbol:    Oak Tree
Colors:    Brown, Orange, and Wood

Elrik (el-RICK) is the guardian of the wilderness, the protector of the forest, and the patron of animals. He does not oppose human logging or hunting, but it is his law that no one shall take more than he needs or more than the land can bear to lose. Elrik was a Rjurik warrior who resisted the early expansion of Haelyn's empire, and he still considers the Rjurik to be his people. Elrick is rumored to walk the forests of the world in the guise of an old man with bark-rough skin, stone teeth, and a green mossy tongue. It is said that no natural animal can be driven to attack him and he speak prophecy.

Elrik's priests are druids, not clerics. The have only ever built temples in Rjurik and only in that old kingdom do they have any hierarchy, in other lands the druids band together in lose organizations known as circles. Most Rjurik and Tslavs consider the druidic faith of Elrik to be the only religion worth following. Worship of Elrick is unknown amongst the upper-classes of Charousse, but most of the peasantry pays him the utmost respect.

  • Protect the wild places of the world from destruction and overuse. Likewise, protect civilization from disaster and famine. Seek equilibrium between the needs of man and the health of the land.
  • Do not fear nor misunderstand the savagery of nature, red in tooth and claw. The predator and the prey are always seeking balance.
  • Seek to emulate Elrik's mortal enlightenment by bringing reason, instinct, and emotion into balance within yourself and your community.

Cuiraécen
God of Battle, The Prince of Storms, Haelyn's Champion, Patron of Warriors

Alignment:    Chaotic Good
Worshipers:    Any Nonlawful
Domains:    Tempest, War
Symbol:    Sword and Lightning
Colors:    Red, Orange, and Steel

Cuiraécen (koo-RAY-ken) is the god of storms and conflict, but he is perceived as a force for change and good rather than destruction. He is the eldest son of Haelyn and the sea-goddess Nesirie. Cuiraécen is the patron of young and reckless warriors everywhere who plunge boldly into battle in search of personal glory and honor. In legends he acts as his father's champion and herald, going wherever his father sends him.

Cuiraécen's temple is important in the Konigreich, but is relatively small elsewhere. A lesser deity, most of his worship is actually conducted by clerics of Haelyn, although he has some priests of his own. The faith is popular among soldiers everywhere and one order of chivalry in Charousse is still able to muster nearly a hundred elite Knights-Templar, although they are no longer has highly esteemed socially as they were a century ago. 

Cuiraécen has more paladins than priests, and far more lay worshipers than clergy. As an organization, Cuiraécen's temple is essentially indistinguishable from Haelyn's.

  • Be strong, but use your strength to defend not dominate.
  • Be brave, but do not confuse caution for coward.
  • Prove your strength and bravery, by winning glory and renown in battle.

Nesirie
Goddess of the Sea, Lady of Mourning, Patron of Charousse

Alignment:    Neutral Good
Worshipers:    Any 
Domains:    Tempest, Death
Symbol:    Waves and Trident
Colors:    Blue, White, and Pearl

Nesirie (neh-SEE-ree) is the patroness of mariners and explorers, the oceans, and all who know grief. The first and most beloved wife of Haelyn, in her mortal days, is was Nesirie who washed his body, wrapped it in a shroud, and carried him into his watery grave beneath the Straits of Gaulle.  

Nesirie was a princess amongst the eastern tribes from which modern Charousse descends and the last to join Haelyn's empire. Nesirie's faith is a minor one, but it is popular with folk who live on or near the sea as well as individuals who feel they've suffered great losses in life. Few of Nesirie's priests are interested in political power, although she is officially the patron of Charousse. Nesirie's few paladins are always female and have usually experienced a great tragedy.

The folk religion of the God in the Lake is unique to Lakeshore, adherents of Nesirie's faith would consider it a false belief (at best) or completely heretical (at worst).

  • Allievate suffering wherever you find it.
  • Seek out new ideas, new inventions, new lands to inhabit, new wilderness to conquer. Build machines, build cities, build empires.
  • Work with others to achieve your goals. Voluntary cooperation is always stronger than the disjointed efforts of lone individuals or the half-hearted labors of the conscripted.

Ruornil
God of the Moon, The Silver Prince, Patron of Magic

Alignment:    Lawful Neutral 
Worshipers:    Any
Domains:    None 
Symbol:    Crescent Moon and Stars
Colors:    Blue, White, and Silver

Ruornil (roo-ORN-ill) is the god of magic - the guardian of the world's arcane forces and places of mystical power. Rournil was a mortal human who gave wise counsel to Haelyn, some say he had been the warlord's tutor in his youth. After Haelyn had established his empire, Azrai swayed Haelyn against Rournil and encouraged war against the elves: When Haelyn and most of his followers perished at Deismaar, Ruornil confronted Azrai in a magical duel that is said to have shaken the stars from the sky. All human spellcasters acknowledge Ruornil's power, even if they do not worship him.

Woodsmen, astrologers, and wizards revere Ruornil, but no clerics or paladins of this reclusive power exist, his priesthood is made up of wizards and scholars. His few temples are usually places of enchantment hidden in the forests and dells of the wilderness of the known world, but in Charousse, a few temples take interest in political power and concerns. His priesthood has a long and bitter rivalry with the cult of Azrai, continuing the feud their patrons had in life.

  • Accumulate, preserve, and distribute knowledge in all forms. Pursue education, build libraries, and seek out lost and ancient lore.
  • Share your knowledge wisely. Keep no secrets, but share dangerous truths only with those able to understand them.
  • Be watchful at all times for the followers of Azrai, who seek to pervert knowledge and spread falsehoods. Oppose their schemes, unmask their secrets, and expose their shadowy plots with the light of truth.

Sarimie

Goddess of Wealth, Lady of Fortune, Patron of Modern Brecht

Alignment:    Chaotic Neutral 
Worshipers:    Any 
Domains:    Trickery, Knowledge
Symbol:    Scales and Coins
Colors:    Grey, Tan, and Copper

Sarimie (sara-MEE-ee) has taken Cuiraécen's role as the patroness of the Brecht. She was the wife of Rournil and the goddess of commerce, wealth, and both good and ill fortune.  Sarimie embodies the adage that a man makes his own luck; she rewards diligence and hard work, but she occasionally smiles on the fool. 

Among the Breckmaanjar, it is believed that she is present whenever men gamble at long odds or for great stakes; the people of the modern Brecht say that no odds are longer than their republican government and no stakes can be greater than their economic plans. Outside of Brecht, Sarimie is revered by all merchants, rogues, and gamblers. Any who call on Lady Luck are actually invoking Sarimie's attention, although it is unwise to do so if you are cheating or thieving, as Sarimie is known to bestow misfortune on scofflaws. 

Her temples are common in all major cities or important trade town, her priesthood carries the most importance in Brecht, although the Brecht aren't very religious. Her clergy often work as officials of commerce and trade.

  • Seek new horizons, new experiences, and new opportunity.
  • Opportunity, plus instinct, equals profit.
  • Seek your own goals, your destiny is yours alone.

Avlana
Goddess of the Sun, Lady of Reason, Patron of the Crieux

Alignment:    Neutral 
Worshipers:    Any 
Domains:    Light, Life, Knowledge
Symbol:    Rising Sun or Setting Sun (La Crieux only)
Colors:    Yellow, Orange, and Bronze

Avlana (ave-LAN-ah) is the wife of Elrik, the patroness of the Crieux, and as the goddess of the sun and reason, the counterpart to the mysterious moon god Rournil. The Konigreichen once worshiped a single deity, Sol Invictus, the unconquered sun. But after Haelyn and his followers ascended, Haelyn once again conquered the unconquerable, founding a divine empire just as he had a mortal one. Haelyn smashed the bronze chariot that Sol had driven across the sky each day, unwittingly plunging the mortal world into darkness. Avlana was the first of the new gods to return to the mortal world, where she found her people freezing in the dark. She remade the shards of the bronze chariot into a mirror, which reflects the light of Haelyn's palace into the world.

Avlana's temple is predominant in Charousse. Her priests are sages and teachers; a temple of Avlana often resembles library more so than a house of worship. Avalana's paladins seek out those who misuse magic. Amongst the the Crieux, Avlana is said to have been the matriarch of their tribe, indeed some amongst the Crieux possess odd magics using mirrors. 

  • Cultivate reason and logic in all mankind.
  • Defend the light of life against the darkness of death.
  • Any problem can be overcome through patience, reasoning, and education.

Eloé
Goddess of Night, Sister of Thieves, Patron of Jesters, Patron of Thieves

Alignment:    Neutral Evil
Worshipers:    Any Nonlawful
Domains:    Trickery
Symbol:    Black Dagger
Colors:    Green, Black, and Iron

Eloé (el-OH-ee) is the daughter of Sarimie and Rournil, and beloved companion of Léira. She was born after Deismaar, the first new god to be born divine, and became the lady of thieves, deceit, and stealth. She is generally not a malicious power, but she is capricious and selfish; she loves to embarrass or trick her enemies, sometimes with lethal results.

Eloé is said to live in every shadow and to hear all words whispered in secret. She is said to roam the world in darkness, always staying an hour ahead of the dawn, to aid rogues and thieves engaged in underhanded doings, simply to spite her mother. Few honest folk worship Eloé, but every rogue knows of the Sister of Thieves and seeks her blessing before setting to work. 

Only a few small shrines are scatted through the larger cities of Rjurik and Brecht (usually tucked into a shadowy corner near a temple to Sarimie). However, a sorority of female warriors in Rjurik reveres her as their secret leader.

  • Bring down the proud who try to cast off the chains of fate. Punish hubris where you find it.
  • Dance in the shadows, avoiding the blinding light of law and the utter darkness of chaos.
  • Hold no pity for the dead, death is the natural end to life. 

Léira
Goddess of Fire, Lady of Love, Patron of Artists, Patron of Musicians

Alignment:    Neutral Good
Worshipers:    Any Nonevil
Domains:    Light
Symbol:    A Burning Harp
Colors:    Orange, Yellow, and Brass

Léira (lee-EAR-ah),  the daughter of Elrik and Avlana, first appeared after Deismaar. She is a fiery goddess of beauty and love, and patroness of the arts. She is said to be fast friends with Eloé. She is not jealous or vain, and freely rewards any who create beauty regardless of whether they worship her. However, Léira can be moved to heated anger by any who deny love or who delight in destroying things of beauty. Legends tell that from time to time, Léira has appeared in disguise to arrange lover's trysts or to help an artist complete a work. She must travel in disguise, because it is said she is so beautiful any mortal that looks upon her is struck blind.

Few temples are devoted to Léira's worship, but many people who worship other gods call on her for help in matters of romance. Her priests tend to be wandering courtiers and advisers, and are as likely to be bards as clerics. Usually they will ally themselves, temporarily, with established temples of other gods (especially Avlana) and conduct worship services therein.

  • Bring Léira's light into places of darkness, showing kindness, mercy, and compassion.
  • Cultivate beauty in all that you do, whether you are raising a crop, raising a statute, or raising a child.
  • Thwarrt the followers of Balnecht at every opportunity.

Kriestal
Goddess of Winter, The White Witch, Patron of Rjurik

Alignment:    Lawful Evil
Worshipers:    Any Nongood
Domains:    Tempest, Nature
Symbol:    A White Hand
Colors:    Grey, White, and Glass

Kriestal (kree-STALL) was Azrai's right-hand, whom after the ascension, gained dominion over cruelty, despair, and cold. She delighted in the darkness caused by the overthrow of Sol Invictus and despises Avlana's Mirror. Kriestal is loathed by most of the known world, but seen as the guardian of the Rjurik's nobility, many of whom can trace their lineage back to her mortal life. To the Rjurik, Kriestal stands for strength through hardship and tests her people with harsh winters and savage conflict to weed out the weak. The boyars of Rjurik pray to Kriestal for her blessing, the rest of the world pray to their gods for protection against her.

Kriestal isn't openly worshiped outside of Rjurik, although the Breckmaanjar respect and fear her. Her grandest temple is found only steps away from the tzar's palace in Rjurik's capital, but the priests there acknowledge Kriestal's most favored are to be found living amongst the hermits of the wilderness among the Tslavs. These white witches are rarely seen in civilized lands, but they command great influence in Rjurik society and use their powers to test the strength of Rjurik warriors.

  • Meet adversity with stoicism and tenacity.
  • Demonstrate your loyalty to your family, your leaders, and your people.
  • As fire tests the purity of metal, cold tests the purity of man. Suffer not the fragile and impure to live, for the unfit few only endanger the greater whole.

Balnecht
God of Terror, Prince of Strife, Patron of Betrayal
Alignment:    Neutral Evil
Worshipers:    Any Nongood
Domains:    War, Trickery
Symbol:    Crossed Axes
Colors:    Grey, Blue, and Bone

Balnecht (ball-NECT) was the champion of Azrai and the warlord who led his army to turn on Haelyn at Desimaar at his dark lady's command. Balnecht personally slew Haelyn, but was cut down by the high king at the same moment. Elevating the betrayer to the ranks of godhood. Balnecht embodies the belief that might makes right; those who follow him believe that strength and savagery are all a true warrior needs. Balnecht delights in bloodletting and is said to hover always over the field of battle.

Balnecht isn't openly worshiped anywhere, but his cultists are everywhere. It's not unusual for his worshipers to hold command in militaries, instigating blood-feuds or pushing their rulers into wars in order to please Balnecht. 

A priest of Balnecht can never back down from a battle and prove that he is fit to serve his god by showing strength and blood-lust. Priests who show any sign of weakness are usually assassinated by their own underlings, for nothing pleases Balnecht more than betrayal.

  • The ends always justify the means.

Azrai
Goddess of Undeath, Poisoner of Words, Patron of Chaos

Alignment:    Chaotic Evil
Worshipers:    Any Evil
Domains:    Leadership, Death
Symbol:    None
Colors:    Black, Grey, and Obsidian

In her mortal life, Azrai (AS-rye) was a warlock in service of the Great Old Ones, who used her beauty and wisdom to manipulate Haelyn. Turning him against the counsel of Rournil, seducing him away from Nesirie's bed, and maneuvering him into the disastrous war against the elves. The slaughter of the Sidhelien - the immortal rulers of the elves - and the death of so many soldiers on both sides was intended as a blood sacrifice to the Great Old Ones: freeing them from their extra-dimensional imprisonment and elevating Azrai to godhood alongside them. Azrai's mad scheme was discovered by Rournil at the eleventh hour, but Haelyn's armies had already marched into the field at Desimaar. Rournil and Azrai fought in a magical battle that is said to have regained the very stars in the sky, but while they fought, Balnecht and Kriestal fulfilled their part of the plan. 

Haelyn and most of his followers died, as did dozens of Sidhelien and hundreds of mortal elves. In the wake of the destruction, Azrai gained her accession to godhood, but so did Haelyn and his court. The Great Old Ones remained locked away, and the newly divine Haelyn soon conquered the heavens installing his court as the new gods of the world. Azrai was cast out of the heavens and into the underworld, where she rules over the dead whose sins in life where too great to be allowed into the heavens.

Azrai has become the queen-mother of an entire pantheon of dark gods: Maglubiyet, the goblin god; Grumish, the orc god; Baphomet, lord of the minotaurs; Teenoghu, the king of gnolls; and Kostchtchie, patron of the ice giants. Monstrous shamans of these races exist, but are extremely rare in the known world. Secret cults devoted to Azrai are occasionally uncovered in civilized lands, but generally her priests operate alone or in mentor-student pairs. Adherents must operate in secrecy, for her cult is illegal in Avalae, Charousse, the Kongreich, Rjurik, and the Old Dragon Empire. Only in Helås may she be venerated openly.

  • Serve Azrai and you may live forever; Oppose Her and you will be destroyed.

The Eternal
Alignment:    Neutral
Worshipers:    Any (Mostly Non-Human)
Domains:    Any
Symbol:    Empty Space; Unbroken Circles; Lemniscate 
Colors:    White

The religions of most of the demihuman races, while distinct, are all based on the shared concept of the Eternal. This is envisioned as a vast, perfect consciousness, omnipresent and unchanging. The worshiper’s goal is to understand it, emulate it, and eventually become one with it. Non-sapient beings like animals, plants, and rocks are also slowly ascending to the Eternal in their own way. Indeed, their lack of conscious choice makes it easier for them, and thus the elves revere trees; the dwarves reverse stone; and the gnomes, animals. As the universe grows naturally out of primal chaos, the Eternal is seen as both the prime creative power in the universe and as its emerging unity. Eventually, all will become the Eternal.

Wood Elves: The Sidheelie, or wood elves, worship the Eternal as it is found in animals and plants, particularly trees. The arboreal qualities they revere are slow growth, silence, endurance, living within life’s cycles, and the ability to stand firm against troubles but to bend before breaking. Elves also respect the interconnect-ed web of ecology and strive to find their proper place in it. Most elven homes are living shelters formed from carefully tended trees and brush. They do their best to take only what they need. Indeed, most of what they consider “sinful” behavior revolves around waste. Immoral acts such as unnecessary deforestation, murder, and sloth are all defined in terms of waste. Thus it’s no surprise that elves and orcs don’t get along.

Elves don’t have organized religion and churches; nor do they usually proselytize. Those who have come closest to the Eternal sometimes serve as guides, advisers, and ritual leaders for others. They are called Anchaliel in Elvish and are almost always powerful spellcasters with a deep understanding of trees. Many humans refer to them as “dryads,” and the elves don’t seem to mind. While anchaliel are the closest thing elves have to priests, they are in no way necessary to elven worship of the Eternal. A solitary elf who never sees a dryad can be extremely pious.

Elves find most human religious doctrines horribly constrictive. While a handful of wood elves have converted to human religions, very few have adopted the pantheon as a whole. Elrik and Ruornil's teaching are much more compatible with their culture. Conversely, a significant number of humans from the Triple Kingdom of Avalea worship the gods of the mainstream pantheon and a whole host of druidic nature spirits, this unique folk religion descends from the elven concept of the Eternal filtered into a human frame of reference.

Dark Elves: The elven word Sidheilee translates roughly as “Defenders of the Shaded Woodlands” or “Guardians in Shadow,” and indeed thousands of years ago the dark elves began as nothing more than a group of elven commoners devoted to defending the immortal Sidhelien against orogs, but over the centuries their spiritual views have diverged from the mainstream wood elves. The dark elves believe in using magic to improve on nature, guiding it actively toward union with the Eternal. Most wood elves consider this perverted and dangerous. Plants and wildlife near dark elven villages are often visibly altered, even monstrous to outsiders’ eyes. They sometimes use these creations for defense.  Anchaliel of this stripe are extremely dangerous.

Grey Elves: The near-immortal Sidhelien are too few and too individualized to have a standard approach to how they view the Eternal. Most hold views that are essentially similar to the mainstream Sidheelie view; a few others actively involved the "project" in Avalea have actual come to adopt the local folk religion; and, most dangerous of all, are the Sidhelien that have adopted (or encouraged) the twisted views of the dark elves.

Dwarves: Dwarves worship the Eternal in stone and metal. Like the elves, they practice patience and endurance. If a marble column can bear a mountain for centuries without complaint, a dwarf can endure hardships just as stoically. However, they don’t believe in quietly swaying aside from great troubles. “Return with your shield or on it” translates into Dwarvish as “Better a broken ax than a bent knee.” They also don’t regard life as cyclical, but rather as a series of small, gradual changes toward an ideal state.

Dwarves seek spiritual perfection in their craft. Creating things that endure is good. If elves despise waste, dwarves hate pointless destruction. The two are not the same thing; dwarven woodworkers will carve away nine-tenths of a block of wood to get the ax-handle they need, enhancing its value as they do so. 

Dwarves see the Eternal in the materials under their hands. A craftsman’s product should be functional and beautiful, but most of all it should last. The great dwarven halls are as much shrines as they are homes, for every arch and column embodies the Eternal.

In dwarven culture, both civic leaders and master craftsmen fill priestly roles. The leaders perform ritual duties and officiate at weddings and similar ceremonies. The master crafts- men provide moral and spiritual guidance. Creating a whole and sound adult dwarf from the fresh ore of a newborn is seen as requiring skills very like those of metalworkers and stone-carvers.

Few dwarves adopt human religions. Of those who do, most become devotees of Cuiraécen or Haelyn. They admire the Church of Haelyn’s structure and tradition, and any religion whose holy city is in the middle of a mountain range can’t be all bad.

Gnomes: The gnome religion is something of a synthesis of elven and dwarven beliefs. Like the elves, they seek the Eternal in nature, but like dwarves, they believe it is in perfecting their skills that they improve and approach perfection themselves. For gnomes, these skills involve farming and raising livestock. A bountiful crop, healthy animals, and strong children are visible signs of the ideal spiritual life. Gnomes respect awareness of one’s home and surroundings; they also respond well to those who understand that small changes, not great remaking, are all that is needed to make nature’s bounty one’s own. Gnomes rarely live among humans and none are known to have converted to the human pantheon, gnomes living among dwarves usually hold closer to the dwarven approach to the Eternal.

Orogs: Orcs and their kin believe the Eternal is out to destroy them. It’s obviously much stronger than they are and sends storms, diseases, and enemies. Worse, it is by definition impossible to destroy the Eternal, and thus no orc can ever control it. The idea that emulating the Eternal is the  point of life falls on deaf ears – to orcs, the struggle is never the point. Victory is, and victory means destroying things before someone else does, the Eternal or otherwise. What little formal religion orcs have is mostly a series of warnings: “The world is out to get you! Get it first!”

Legendary orc heroes are seen as having betrayed, out-smarted, or out-fought the Eternal; orc wizards claim they can wrest power from it. Orcs and goblinoids living in or near human lands have turned to  worshiping members of that pantheon, usually Balneckt or Azrai, or one of Azrai's many foul children, although they never abandon their fear of the Eternal.
 

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“May your cup always be full and your hands never be empty.” – Traditional Tslavic Parting

Economics and Technology

Economics of Lakeshore
The people of Lakeshore use many different ways to settle business transactions – so many, in fact, that it could become quite confusing in a campaign. For simplicity, these are reduced to three methods: debts of honor, barter, and coin

A debt of honor is fairly simple and straight-forward: I do something for you, and someday you will repay me by doing something equivalent for me. This concept applies to all all human and dwarven cultures, although it goes by different names. Obviously, this type of arrangement is only made between people who trust each other or have no other choice. 

For barter the people of Lakeshore have a variety of useful goods that could be exchanged. These include cattle, sheep, land, ships, fish, and a whole variety of other goods. Bartering relies on the intrinsic skill of the buyer and seller, so here is no absolute value for a cow, for example. However, as a rough guideline, players can simply look up the gold piece cost in the standard equipment charts. The final value is dependent on roleplaying and haggling skills. Payment in kind is similar to barter, but usually only happens between trading partners that have a long relationship with each other. The village cobbler might have accepted ten chickens for a pair of shoes from his neighbor so many times that the two no longer even discuss the matter, the "price" is known to both.

Finally, the people of Lakeshore also use coin for trade. Mints were established by kings and queens in all the civilized lands across the water and these produce a variety of gold and silver coins. Although by tradition these coins were all supposed to be the same size and weight, in actual practice they vary greatly. Silver dirhams from Rjurik weighed more than the couronne d'argent coins of Charouse. The same mint might lower the weight of its own coins if the king needed more money. Scoundrels and thieves would "shave" silver coins, literally cutting away a bit of the precious metal to melt down and thus lowering the coin's value. 

Because of all this, the only way to use coins was to weigh them and price everything to according to weight, not number of coins. Traveling merchants carried collapsible scales for just this purpose, every craftsman's shop had a scale of its own, and dishonest merchants make use of rigged scales. Paying by weight did have the additional advantage that a man or woman could wear their wealth as silver jewelry, a practice still common amongst the Tslav and Brekmaanjar. Men and women commonly wore silver armbands, often in the pattern of coiled snakes or dragons. Then, when money was needed, a portion of the armband could be cut off and weighed as payment. These armbands and other silver ornaments were called "hack-silver," since they were literally chopped to pieces.

This has all changed quite rapidly in the lands across the water with the rise of the modern Brechton. Initially, the Brechton guilds created a system of paper credit vouchers to be used in lieu of currency. These Guild Points were each originally valued against a certain percentage of the issuing guild's annual profits and were intended to allow high level exchange between the guilds. However, the "guilder," as the vouchers came to be called, became more useful to merchants than local coined money and the Mercantile League saw an opportunity. They issued paper money, based on the funds of the League, and set a standard value guaranteed never to change. It was a risky maneuver but one that put the world's economy into Brechton hands.

Now the guilder is the most popular form of currency in the world. It has yet to be officially recognized by the princes of the Konigreichen, but its use is widespread in their lands. The Tsar of Rjurik has officially banned the currency. The Konigreich is home to numerous silver mines and its princes have a vested interest in keeping the world economy on a silver standard, leading to smoldering trade war between the Konigreichen and Brechton... but given the sorry state of the Konigreich in modern times, it is a trade war the Konigreichen are unlikely to win. The Tsar of Rjurik seems to have no reason to reject the guilder save for sheer stubbornness, but as the whole economy of Rjurik is a pittance to any one of Brechton's ten largest guilds, so the League doesn’t see much point in contesting the issue directly. Either the Rjurik will come around or they will be left even further in the past. 

Use of the guilder in Lakeshore is uncommon, simply because most people don't have much need for hard currency, but almost every shopkeeper or craftsman will accept it, especially in the larger coastal towns, as the guilder is the preferred means of exchange with traveling merchants. 

Weapons, Armour, and Equipment
In general, all of the weapons, armor, and non-magical equipment in the Dungeons & Dragons game is available in Lakeshore. However, not all equipment is available everywhere. For example, in the civilization across the water only the Rjurik show a preference for curved swords, so scimitars and sabres are typically only sold in Rjurik cities. The Lakeshore region itself is a remote and sparsely populated region, so certain advanced items are unavailable simply because there is no one able to produce them locally. For example, while almost any blacksmith can forge an iron axe or repaid a chain mail shirt, there is presently no one in the region with the skills to forge a steel longsword or craft a suit of plate armor.

Starting characters can purchase any standard items, as it can be assumed they had the time and resources to have either traveled to a region where they could be found or, most likely, obtained them from a traveling merchant. Perhaps the items were part of an inheritance? Adventurers depend on all kinds of equipment, rations, and devices of convenience, and necessity. The equipment lists for the D&D game is fairly broad, but if a question arises about the kinds of technology available, use the following approximations:

  • The Brechtons, Charouse, Konigreichen, and most Dwarves use Early Renaissance technology.
  • The Avaleans, Crieux, Rjurik, Halflings, and most Elves use roughly High Medieval technology.
  • The Brekmaanjar, Tslav, Giants, and Orogs all make use of Early Medieval levels of technology.
  • Sea-faring vessels for all cultures are roughly on par with that of the Vikings (Avalean, Brechtons, and Brekmaanjar) or Early Medieval mainland Europe (everybody else).
  • Firearms and black powder are unknown.

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Transportation

Canoe: [ 15 GP ] A small, sleek, and slender boat which originated among the native halflings of Lakeshore but has since spread back across the seas into the rest of the known world. Canoes can very in length quite a bit, anywhere between six to fifteen feet, but are very rarely more than three to five feet wide. Driven by oars and capable of being crewed by only a single, skilled man, the canoe is fairly seaworthy for its size but is rarely seen far from the coast. For travel on inland rivers and lakes, it is unmatched.

Coaster: [ 5,000 GP ] Also called a round ship, this is a small merchant ship of Charouse origin that hugs the coasts. This is a sailing ship, fitted with two masts and triangular sails. The average size is 60 to 70 feet long and 20 feet wide. The rudder hangs from one side. The crew is twenty to thirty men, and the cargo capacity is about 100 tons. Normally there is a small sterncastle. A coaster is slow and not tremendously seaworthy, but can carry large amounts of cargo with smaller crews than galleys.

Cog: [ 10,000 GP ] This ship is a larger, improved version of the coaster recently developed in Avalea, able to make ventures into the open sea. Like the coaster, it is a sailing ship with one or two masts, but the cog employs square sails. It is about 75 to 90 feet long and 20 feet wide. The crew is only eighteen to twenty men. There is normally one deck and forecastle and sterncastle. The cargo capacities of cogs vary greatly, but the average is 100 to 200 tons.

Drakkar: [ 25,000 GP ] The largest of the Brekmaanjar longships is known as a drakkar or dragonship. Built for war, this ship stretches about 100 feet in length. Although a single mast can be raised, oars provide the main source of power. The crew of sixty to eight men rows, one man to an oar. Up to 160 additional men can be carried for boarding and raiding. Due to its great size, a drakkar is not very seaworthy. This and the fact there is no space on board for many supplies (certainly not enough for 240 men!) nor sleeping quarters keep the drakkar close to the coast where it can put in for the night. Because of its cost and limited use, a drakkar is usually built by kings and warlords and is not used for the mundane task of shipping cargo, with the decline in Brekmaanjar culture in modern times the drakkar have all but vanished from the seas... to the relief of coastal communities everywhere.

Faering: [ 80 GP ] This is a small (20' by 4'), sleek, sturdy boat fitted with four oars. It carries no sail. The boat can carry a crew of four to six and their gear. In the hands of good oarsmen, the faering can make speeds up to 200' per round. The faering is sometimes used as a ship's boat, towed behind or stored aboard a longship.

Knarr: [ 3,000 GP ] This small ship of Brekmaanjar origin is now the most common cargo ship in the known world. It is 50 to 75 feet long and 15 to 20 feet wide. It has a single mast and a square sail. In times of poor wind or when traveling up river, a few oars at the bow and stern can provide more power. The crew ranges from eight to fifteen men. The cargo capacity is small, anywhere from 10 to 50 tons. The ship is, however, quite seaworthy and can be used to make long sea voyages (although  uncomfortable). Its flat bottom makes it useful for sailing up rivers and estuaries, and it can be beached safely and easily.

Longship: [ 10,000 GP ] This is the standard Brekmaanjar warship, although it is used by every human nation. It is more substantial than the knarr but not nearly as massive as the drakkar. An average longship is 75 feet long with 20 to 25 oars per side. Each oar is worked by a single man for a total crew of forty to fifty men. There is also a single mast and a square sail. In addition to the crew, the ship can carry 120 to 150 men. Longships can be used for shipping, but its cargo capacity is only about 50 tons. It is, however, fairly seaworthy and can sail across the open sea when necessary.

Sexaering: [ 3,000 GP ] The sexaering is a small fishing boat, approximately 40 feet long. The vessel is equipped with six oars and a small mast. It normally carries six to ten comfortably, but may load up to thirty if needed. Cargo capacity is about two tons. A common working ship found on the coasts, although seaworthy, sailors do not sail it out into the open seas.

Other Equipment
Bearing Dial: [ 1 SP ] This simple device looks something like a top, and is an important aid for navigation. It is a flat wooden disk with a handle on the bottom and a pin and pointer on the top. Around the edge of the dial are markings for the different directions. To use the bearing dial, one takes a sighting on the rising sun aligning the east marking on the dial. He can then set the pointer to any other direction and thus show his new heading. While a seemingly simple device, the bearing dial was a great advance in ocean navigation and the secret to Brekmaanjar success for centuries.
 

Navigation and Ocean Voyages
Navigation is no mean feat in the world of Bloodwood. North-South isn't a big problem; all you do is wait until the stars come out, find Elrik's Eye (the North Star), and figure out how far off the horizon it is. If it's overhead, you're at the North Pole. (You're probably also quite lost.) If it's on the horizon, you're at the equator. Halfway up, and you're on the 45th Parallel. Easy. Any idiot could do it.

Unless that idiot is south of the equator... Elrik's Eye cannot be seen and if you stray too far south, all the stars become strange. Thankfully, as everyone knows, there's nothing much interesting south of the equator. Just the empty deserts of the Old Dragon Empire in the old world and the barbaric, orc-infested Dakana in the new world. Everyone knows this.

East-West, however, is the real tricky part. You see, there's no equivalent of Elrik's Eye to tell you how far east or west you are. You could go by the Sun, if you knew what time zone you were in: Every hour earlier is 15° west; every hour later is 15° east; the Sun moves 360° every 24-hours... One full day. If you have the Sun directly overhead and your wristwatch (set to "home port standard time") is reading 11:00 AM, you know that you're 15° West of home. 

That seems pretty simply too, right? There's a catch: your wristwatch hasn't been invented yet. Sure, clocks exist, but they're either water-clocks, based on a constant stream of flowing water, or based on pendulum mechanisms. Neither of which like being on board pitching, yawing, rocking ships. Furthermore, a clock can be set pretty accurately when it does not get exposed to large variations in temperature and humidity, but those also tend to vary when you're going a thousand miles over the sea. A practical watch that overcomes all of these difficulties won't be possible for centuries. So there's no watch and consequently no easy longitude determination.

There is one other method for determining longitude: "Ruornil's Way," also known as the lunar distance method. It involves parallax of the moon (which is much like our own) against the stars, and hours of math after you make your measurements. This method is popular only with people who know how to pronounce "ephemerides," which leaves out the vast majority of working seafarers! Furthermore, even a mathematically-minded scholar isn't useful during storm season: if you can't see the stars, you can't navigate by them.

Thus sea captains have a problem. Without a reliable tool to tell him what time it is at home, he has to fall back on other methods to determine longitude. The most common method is "dead reckoning," which works like this: "We went about 70 miles north-northwest today, I reckon." The bearing dial of the Brekmaanjar allows a captain to take a sighting on the rising sun, aligning the east marking on the dial and setting his new heading. By comparing today's reading to yesterday's, Brekmaanjar captains would estimate their East-West position with much more accuracy. Although it still required a good deal of "reckoning," the bearing dial was a great advance in ocean navigation and the secret to Brekmaanjar success for centuries. However, neither dead reckoning nor the bearing dial are totally reliable... and that lack of reliability is responsible for almost all of the world's maps. Captains were guessing where they were, and when they got home, they told the mapmakers "It looked sort of like this." The mapmakers took their best guesses from a bunch of sea-stories and filled in the blank areas with fiddly scroll-work and "Here Be Dragons."

Captains don't have to just blindly guess at their ship's speed, (of course, seasoned captains are often very good at intuiting their ship's performance). The standard method for determining speed involves a high-tech piece of equipment known as a "log." The log is dumped over the side, and the ship's speed is estimated by how quickly it retreats from the floating log. The captain then uses this speed estimate to figure out how far he's gone.

Ocean navigation is much more difficult than coastal navigation, especially a mapped coast. Coastal maps are pretty good, because seafaring types have been drawing them since they first started stretching hide over logs. Coastal maps of the old world are especially accurate, having been refined and cross-referenced for centuries. But even in the colonized areas of the new world, coastal maps tend to be good. A captain with a practiced eye can sail along a coastline and retire to his cabin to draw a reasonably accurate map. It's those weeks on end with no land in sight that tend to make features difficult to locate.

Then there are currents. In our world, the most well known is the Gulf Current: it takes warm water from the Gulf of Mexico and runs it across the Atlantic Ocean to dump it next to Europe, turns back around to grab cold water from the southern reaches of the Arctic Ocean, and dumps those along the coast of New England. Thus, while Rome and New York City are at roughly the same latitude, no one ever says, "Gee, its cold this winter. Let's go someplace warm and sunny for a few weeks, like Boston." There are many currents in the oceans of the world of Bloodwood, and they are extremely difficult to map. After all, you're under sail anyway, so you're already moving in the water: how are you going to tell that the water you're moving in is also going somewhere? Answer: you aren't. Not to any degree of accuracy anyway.

Seafarers in the Old World have long known about two large currents: the Helån Current of the Central Sea moves in a counter-clockwise direction, bringing warm water from the northern shores of the Old Dragon Empire up toward Helås, through the broken islands of Desimaar, across to the southern shores of Charousse, and back again. This makes Charousse prime wine growing country and enables brisk trade between Helås and Zarak. It is also responsible for the ever-shifting, trackless sands of the Dune Sea. The Navnjar Current is a direct analog of the Gulf Current, spanning the Great Ocean between the Old World and the New World. Warm waters from the equatorial coast of Dakana and New Paix flow towards Alhazif, cool as the turn north towards Avalae, pick up sub-arctic cold water as they turn northeast and return towards Groenheim and Alfheim. 

Things change, as the so often do, when magic comes into the equation. With spellcasters of appropriate power able to overcome the limitations of distance by means of teleportation or telepathy. Theoretically, a wizard on the deck of a ship in the middle of the Great Ocean could simply "bampf" from ship to shore. Because, he knows it to be noon aboard his ship and three o'clock back in Charousse, he knows his longitude: 45° West. Because of this, any nation with a sufficient number of sufficiently skilled wizards in its employ should have the most accurate maps in the world... and that's why none of them do. Spellcasters of any sort are a rare bunch, the few wizards with the skill to pull off this trick usually have no desire to do so. Once you've reached the point in your arcane studies where you can travel across oceans in a blink, you usually have other concerns.

The major demihuman civilizations, as always, view things quite differently than the humans. The dwarves have no interest whatsoever in sailing, those few vosfasts found near water may have rowboats and barges, but that's about it. When dwarves wish to make great journeys between distance vosfasts they travel overland  – or more accurately: under-land! The dwarves has extensive and supremely detailed maps of underground passages, cavern systems, and have even built great subterranean roadways linking most of their holdings. It is quite possible for a dwarf to travel from the Altma Mountains near Caithness, to the Chareux Mountains in central Charousse, on to the Northern Barrier Mountains of Lakeshore, and back again. Such a journey would take a decade or more, but given the dwavern lifespan and worldview this isn't too different from the year or more a human might spend on distant ocean crossing. Gnomes usually follow the dwarven approach to travel, although the few that leave Nibelungen usually don't venture outside of the Kongreichen or Charousse.

The elves take quite the opposite approach to the dwarves. Where a dwarf sees no great hardship in spending months walking from one vosfast to the next, the elves can virtually dance from the court of one Sidhelien to another via powerful teleportation magics known as fey circles. The immortal Sidhelien are almost all powerful spellcasters, by human understanding, and several have spent millennia pursuing their arcane studies. Even the mortal Sidheelie live for centuries longer than humanity, so many wood elves are quite accomplished weavers of magic as well. Needless to say, where these fey circles may be found, where they each lead, and how to safely walk them are closely guarded secrets. Any human foolish enough to try to cross a fey circle without the consent of a Sidhelien is likely to find a cohort of dark elves waiting for him on the other side. The Sidheilee never forgive such trespass.

Halflings are only found in the New World and always within a few hundred miles of the Lakeshore region. The nomadic halflings travel on land by foot or dog, and on the rivers and lakes by canoe or raft. They simply aren't numerous enough to need to expand to lands beyond Lakeshore. However, halflings are a nomadic people by culture and personal inclination. Dozens, if not hundreds, of individual halflings have found their way back to the civilizations across the water aboard human vessels. The ability of gregarious halflings to assimilate into local cultures and their own skills as sailors and travelers make them quite popular among human seafarers. A tradition is starting to take hold that having a halfling as part on your crew is a lucky charm.

Orcs, goblins, and their kin are too fractured to make any blanket statements. Those that dwell in the mountains and subterranean depths usually stick to the same caverns and dwarven roadways as their ancient enemy. Surface dwelling orcs and goblins tend to stay within a few hundred miles of home; those few tribes that have taken to regular seafaring usually stay close to shore. To the orcs' way of thinking, the sea is a powerful avatar of the Eternal: endless, vast, and hostile. Successful orc sea captains are legendary amongst their people for their courage: they trod upon the very face of the great enemy.

But, as all sailors know: an error in navigation are only one way to become lost at sea.
 

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Titles and Nobility

The feudal system used Charouse, the Kongreich, Rjurik, and Helas traces its roots to the oaths, traditions, and practices that predate the first human empire. Upon Haelyn's unification of Urmaac and his coronation as Emperor, he worked with his closest advisors Ruornil and Azrai, to codify these customs into formal laws. Over the centuries, local variations have taken hold, and will be discussed below, but first here's how the system generally works.

Lifetime peerages are created by the sovereign and expire upon the recipient's death, although usually if a lifetime peer's wife survives her husband, she will keep her courtesy title and status until they too pass into the next world. Blood peerages, on the other hand, are inherited and pass down to the oldest son.

Lifetime peerages are almost always knighthoods. They give the peer the right to tax a small parcel of land, such as a manor-town, but not ownership over that land. Therefore, a man given the title of "Knight of Modèle" may tax the town of Modèle, but does not own it.

Blood peerages, on the other hand, own land as well as tax it. For this reason they are also known as landed lords. Not even the sovereign can revoke a landed lord's title (although he can take away certain privileges, such as a position in parliament). They only way a blood peerage can be lost is if the lord is found guilty of treason against the crown in a court of law.

Squires

A squire is not truly a title of peerage and they are not created by the sovereign. Rather, a squire is the direct vassal of a knight and it is the knight which bestows the title. A squire owns no land, has no vassals of his own, and his title is not inherited by his children. Technically, a squire is a commoner, however due to his close relationship with the knight he owes fealty too it is unwise to treat a squire as such. In practice, there are generally three types of squires: pre-teen and teenage sons of peers who are "knights in training" and likely to receive a title of their own one day; commoners with great expertise in some area of service to their lord are created as “court squires,” and often exercise great authority in their lord’s name, such as castellans and envoys; and lastly, the so called "courtesy squires," commoners who have amassed enough wealth and influence to sway a knight into granting them a title to enhance their status.

Knights

Knights are a special case in noble status. The title "knight" makes a man noble, but also provides other benefits. When a man earns the title, he earns the right to "bear arms and mete justice." "Mete justice" is a tricky term, theoretically, all knights have an obligation to uphold Haelyn's Law, making them akin to freelance lawmen anywhere in the Old World. In practice, most civilized lands have Sheriffs to deal with common criminals and Justices to conduct trials. Thus, in practice knight's authority to act as an enforcer of the law is limited to his own holdings, if he bothers to exercise it at all.

A knight's social rank depends upon which lord he swears fealty to. If a knight swears fealty to the king, his status is nominally right below his. If a knight swears fealty to a duke, his status is right below the duke's, and so on. Of course, politics and personal charisma can blur these lines... The most influential knight of a baron may have more power than the weakest knight of his king, despite their formal positions. These are tricky waters that skilled courtesans navigate with the same deft hand as a Breckmaanjar captain navigating a stormy sea.

Paladins in the service of the Church of Haelyn are a notable exception to all of this, as they owe fealty directly to the god and not to any mortal peer. In Konigreich and Rjurik they still have the legal power to execute justice as they see fit, although politics have made the matter more complicated in Charouse.

Counts

Counts hold large sections of land, comprising several manor-towns and the roads and fields between them. They are beholden to the dukes above them and serve as governors for the communities beneath them. The power and prestige of counts varies widely, depending largely upon the value of the lands they hold. There are currently seventy-two counts in Charousse, some of whom rival barons in wealth and prestige and others who are barely more wealthy than the manor-town knights beneath them. Rjurik is divided into over a hundred counties, although the number of boyars (the local name for this title) is usually less, as marriages, warfare, and political maneuvering can see one boyar ruling multiple holdings. The Konigreich consists of only thirteen counties, each far larger than their counterparts in other countries with a proportional increase in income.

Barons

The title "baron" usually indicates a lord who owes fealty to the king. All barons lay claim to cities that have grown too populous and too wealthy to be left in the hands of a count or duke. Because a baron owes fealty to the king and not a count or duke (see below), many complicated political issues involve competitions between various peers to win a key baron's favor. Because a new barony is created by severing a portion of a existing peer's holdings, the creation of a new baron is always subject to fierce politicking by all parties.

Dukes

Dukes were the kings and tribal chieftains that swore fealty to Haelyn during his unification of the first human empire. After the king, they are the most powerful nobles in the feudal hierarchy. The title isn't used in Charouse, since the two ancient dukedoms in that kingdom intermarried centuries ago. Technically, l'Empereur holds both dukedoms as part of his lengthy string of styles and honors. Rjurik once had five dukes (locally known as tsars), but four of the five turned on the fifth shortly after Haelyn's ascension and the Tslavic blood peerage was wiped out in the ensuing civil war. The Konigreich has the nine oldest duchies, each ruled by a duke descended from Haelyn's own tribesmen and known locally as an elector-count. Ancient tradition held that these nine men would gather to vote for one of their own as Emperor upon the death of the current one. But centuries of failure to exercise that right led to its atrophy and caused the succession crisis that sparked the Hundred-Year War.

Avalon

As is generally the case, things are done differently in the Triple Kingdom of Avalea which ignores the common feudal traditions of the continent and has no hereditary nobility per se. Instead, Avalean society revolves around the clan – large extended families – who owe various degrees of fealty to one another. The heads of the various families within the clan name one of their own to be chieftain; the clan chieftains, in turn, name one of their own to be king or queen.

The three ancient kingdoms of Elaine, Gwendolyn, and Bannock have spent most of their history fiercely independent of one another. However, a century ago, all three were unified under King Ulster the Uniter and have been ruled by a single monarch ever since. However, the long independence of the three ancient kingdoms does mean that old oaths of fealty, longstanding grudges, and simple geography sees that the clans from any one old kingdom still tend to operate somewhat separate from the other two.

King John III, also known as "John the Shipwright," is the current and much loved king of the Triple Kingdom of Avalea. Below him, stand the collected clan chiefs. As a rough rule of thumb, most clan chiefs are on equal footing to the social rank of a baron or count. However, the various clans of old Elaine, Gwendolyn, and Bannock tend to form coalitions amongst themselves and usually one clan chief from each bloc will be seen as a "first amongst equals" and wield social power more in keeping with a duke.

The lands belonging to each clan are managed communally, with each family within the clan owning its own holdings and tithing to the crown rather than being taxed by it. This means that none of the Triple Kingdoms ever developed a tradition of knighthood. However, ancient honor codes, dueling, and a desire to avoid intra-clan warfare have led to the development of single combat between champions of various families. This eventual spread to inter-clan warfare, with each belligerent clan sending a single champion to decide the matter in single combat. In time, these champions became respected for the individual martial prowess and seen as a warrior elite in all arenas of war, not just duels. A familial champion is usually the bravest warrior in a family and given roughly the same social status as a squire, in turn a clan's champion will be the most skilled of these and given the respect due a knight. Most Avaleans will understand a foreign knight as being the champion of a foreign clan and expect him to behave accordingly.

Brechton

In the ancient days, the Breckmaanjar system was simplicity itself. Large extended families formed clans, in much the same way as Avalea, but these clans were bound together mostly because of family ties and geography, rather than because of oaths of fealty or vassalage. Any man who could get others to follow him - be it through strength of arms, acts of cunning, or sheer charisma - was the leader of those men. Clans would often pool their resources to build and maintain a single warship, commanded by whichever warrior amongst them could get the most others to follow him. The Breckmaanjar had no kings, no knights, and no titles per se. The oldest men and women in a given village or clan were turned to for advice and wisdom, the bravest and fiercest of their young men were turned to for leadership in warfare and raiding, the most skilled and cunning of their women were looked to for guidance in areas of commerce and resource management.

Naturally, this history has had a huge influence on the republican ideals of the modern Brechton. The government of the modern Brechton is organized in much the same way as their individual merchant guilds, only writ large. Each guild is made up of merchants who practice a common trade and all guild members from a given locale are represented by one of their own number who sits on a board which steers the guild. These guilds are each represented by two or three representatives elected by their membership and sent to congress. The modern Brechton rely on a standing army of paid professionals, raised by the mercenary guilds, but under such long term contracts they are essentially a national army.

Old Dragon Empire

The Old Dragon Empire is the general purpose term used by the Haelynian (i.e. all humans from Urmaarc) to describe the inhabitants of the southern Alfara since the time of the Reconquest. A complete lack of knowledge of the region means they had no idea of (or interest in) the actual political structures they were attacking. The Old Dragon Empire is comprised of desert-dwelling tribes of humans who call themselves Juksel, the human mountain tribes known as Paynim, urbanized human subjects of the Alhazif, Zarak, and Sahud Caliphates, and the noble families of Dragonborn standing above all.

Throughout the many wars between the Old Dragon Empire and the Haelynians, the Caliphs are unlikely to take the field, though Juksel chiefs are expected to lead personally their tribes. War efforts were much more likely to be led by a regional or city governor, known as Emirs, dragonborn of noble birth and probably of the same house as his Caliph. Like their Haelynian counterparts, these Emirs have the same social standing as counts and barons, and will have trained extensively for war.

Replacing the knightly-class at the military elite are Ghuls, slave-soldiers owned by the Caliphs and trained by the Emirs to a high degree of proficiency. They were initially recruited from Helån tribes and were often born worshipping the Haelynian pantheon. These well drilled mounted warriors are equally adept with sword, spear, and bow. They are intensely loyal to their masters and may occasionally rise to senior positions in the establishment, despite their origins.

The rough equivalent of knights as a social class are the vast numbers of Dragonborn that hold no other title. Simply being born with the blood of the dragon is enough to separate one from the unblooded masses. Humans who can trace their bloodlines back far enough to prove draconic bloodlines have roughly the same social standing as squires.



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FACTIONS

FACTION RANKS

<table>
<th>Renown </th><th> Order of the Rose</th><th> Church of the Chosen</th><th> Crownless Kings</th><th> East Urheim Company    </th></tr>
<td>1    </td><td> Benefactor/Squire</td><td> Adherent     </td><td> Pawn    </td><td> Associate        </td></tr>
<td>3    </td><td> Knight        </td><td> Chosen        </td><td> Knight    </td><td> Stakeholder        </td></tr>
<td>10    </td><td> Captain        </td><td> Priest        </td><td> Rook    </td><td> Scholar            </td></tr>
<td>25    </td><td> Master        </td><td> Arch-Priest    </td><td> Bishop    </td><td> Provost            </td></tr>
<td>50    </td><td> Grand Master    </td><td> Cardinal    </td><td> King    </td><td> Chancellor         </td></tr>
</table>

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Order of the Rose
Formally known as the Free Chivalric Order of the White Rose, this "gentleman's society" is devoted to meting out justice, righting wrongs, and protecting those who cannot protect themselves. Many knights are fifth or sixth sons of noble lords with few prospects. They join the White Rose in order to gain a reputation for themselves or to attract the wandering eye of rich noble daughters... Yet, many of the order's members (and historically many of its most famous past leaders) have come from common stock. Membership is not limited by accident of birth.

There are many chapter-houses of the Order scattered across the Old World, and their doors are open to any who hold a membership. Some noblemen purchase nominal memberships in order to support the Order's cause, but mostly so they can add the prestige of membership to their other titles. Those with heavy purses may purchase honorary positions, but may not refer to themselves as a Knight. Instead they are called "Benefactors," though they are treated with high regard by the Knights they support. Joining the Order proper is no easy task. Those who wish to earn the title of Knight must undergo three years of service to the Order, three of the hardest years of their lives. Squires must serve the White Rose without question, venturing on quests and duties that, it would seem, only a madman would undertake. However, if they prove themselves worthy, they are allowed to wear the Seal of the White Rose and call themselves Knight.

The Order is highly structured, with Knights gaining position and favor within the organization through acts of extraordinary valor, great courage, and selfless generosity. The Order is also apolitical and neutral, in order to preserve its uniquely international privileges. If a member is called upon by their rightful sovereign to make war upon another member, both are expected to officially resign from the Order for the duration of the conflict.

Motto: "Virtue. Valor. Victory."

Ideals: Civilization, Order, Justice

Beliefs:

  •   Virtue: Never lie; Never break your word once given; Never take advantage of someone weaker.
  •   Valor: Protect the weak and innocent; uphold the ideals of chivalry.
  •   Victory: Always avenge an insult to your honor; Never show cowardice.

Goals: Although many of the honorary Benefactor members treat the Order as a social club, the true Knights' ideology is one of old-fashioned chivalry, and its members pride themselves on their ingenuity and incorruptibility. 

Typical Quests: Securing an artifact that could cause massive destruction in the wrong hands; Investigating crimes against the downtrodden and powerless the local authorities don't have time or resources for; Thwarting the machinations of an evil spell-caster. 

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Crownless Kings
The Crownless Kings is an organization that could only have begun in Lakeshore. Not only are the people of Lakeshore living life in an untamed land, but quite unlike the other colonies of the New Word they are doing so without any ties to the kings, princes, emperors, or any other power structures entrenched in the civilizations across the water. Men and women from a half-dozen realms live side-by-side in peace, when they very well could have been enemies back home simply because they were subjects to some king or some prince with a feud with some other duke or baron.

The Crownless Kings have come to believe that laws were created by the weak to protect themselves from the willful. In other words, positions of authority were created by those who did not have the ability to lead by example alone; it is only the costume of aristocracy that gives the weak authority, not any kind of quality of character.

The purpose of the Crownless Kings is to liberate all people from the illusion of authority and to teach that the only true authority comes from within. The gods provided each man and woman with an inner voice of ethics, to guide them toward enlightenment. Power corrupts, and absolute power causes the corrupt to seek to undermine the individual's voice, to replace ethics with tradition.

While the Crownless Kings are united in philosophy, they are divided by purpose and method. Some believe that violence is the tool of the weak and use only nonviolent means to accomplish their goals. Others will use whatever means necessary to overthrow authority. Some seek to spread their revolution back to the lands across the water, others focus only on keeping Lakeshore free. When operating at any level beyond drunken rants in the local tavern, the Crownless Kings must necessarily operate in secret. To that end they have developed into a decentralized network of like-minded scholars and rabble rousers. Distant members or remote cells communicate with each other by private letters, using chess-pieces in lieu of formal titles.

Motto: "Every Man a King."

Ideals: Freedom, Dynamism, Change

Beliefs:

  •   No one should be powerless.
  •   Power corrupts. The greater the power, the greater the corruption.
  •   Every person has limitless potential, anything can be accomplished if given the opportunity and determination.

Goals: Promote fairness and equality. Thwart tyrants and oppose any government or group that grows too powerful. Aid the oppressed and aid each other. 

Typical Quests: Covertly determining the true intentions of an ambitious political figure; Smuggling a fugitive scholar or rabblerouser to safety; Leading a group of former serfs or excaped slaves to a new home on the frontier. 

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East Urhiem Company
Founded twenty years ago by an Avalean chieftain named Cameron MacCormick, the East Urhiem Company has been at the forefront of archaeological research and exploration of the new world almost since its first day. They have unearthed sites of Sidhe cities, cataloged nearly a hundred individual magical artifacts, and maintain the largest library of maps in Urmaarc. Members openly display their affiliation with the explorer's society, wearing pins and rings that display the fishtail griffon with pride. The society has captured the imagination of the public; plays and songs have been written about society members and their adventures.

MacCormick founded the company to discourage "diggers" - untrained men and women raiding ancient ruins, stealing the artifacts to sell to nobles. The East Urhiem Company was chartered in Avalea under the authority of King John the Shipbuilder. MacCormick was much concerned with categorizing and studying artifacts than in selling them, and persuaded the king of the importance of learning about the world's history objectively and scientifically. The East Urheim Company explores the ancient ruins, collecting and cataloging what they find in the hopes of learning more about man's place in the scheme of things. However not every member lives up to MacCormick's ideals and there exists a distinct rift between the Company's scholarly academic members and its front-line field explorers. From the security of their universities and libraries, it is very easy for the scholars to speak about "knowledge being its own reward," but many the men digging in the caves hope to be rewarded in gold. Although officially against the rules, some trade in artifacts still occurs, but profit-driven members of the society usually make money more honestly, as map-makers, wilderness guides, land speculators, and treasure hunters. 

With their royal charter, the East Urhiem Company has exclusive rights within the territory that Avalea claims in the new world. But the lands are vast, the explorers are few, and the king's court is far across the water. Rival diggers, pirates, and other merchant companies are as much a threat to these explorers as the natural hazards of the wilds and the arcane dangers of the ruins.

Motto:    "Knowledge Is Its Own Reward." - Official Motto / "...But We Also Accept Coin." - Unofficial Addendum

Ideals:     Profit, Knowledge, Exploration

Beliefs:

  •  One can never have too much information or knowledge.
  •  The abuse of magic - magical items in particular - must be closely monitored.
  •  There's no shame in honestly acquired profit. The promise of a hard coin is a better motivator than empty appeals to spirituality, monarchy, or ideology.

Goals: Gather information about the world, both its ancient past and its modern geography. Earn a healthy profit for the company and one's self.

Typical Quests: Mapping a newly discovered island; Discovering the origins of a cursed artifact and how to destroy it; Establish a secure trade route between a dwarven vosfast and a human town.

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Church of the Chosen

One of the few evangelical faiths in the Lakeshore region, the Church of the Chosen was founded during the exodus from Thornwood. They see what happened at Thornwood as a divine punishment. Chosen Bay, remains to this day a highly religious and regulated settlement. The Church regularly sends out proselytizers to spread the message of their faith to the rest of humanity. Those who remain in Chosen Bay dedicate themselves to study and prayer. The teachings of the Church emphasize that mortals are sinful creatures, who will be punished in this life and the next unless they learn to lead a life without sin. The only sure path away from the the Sinful Multitudes into the ranks of the Chosen Few is through obedience to the Church.

Centralized and hierarchical. Adherents (lay folk) make up the majority of the followers, with priests and arch-priests above them and a council of four cardinals as the final authority. All ecumenical decisions are made by the cardinals, who must agree unanimously for a ruling to be final. Members of both genders may become clergy, though the ratio of men to women is currently about three to one.

Religious rites of the Church of the Chosen blend public worship ceremonies with those of a mystery cult. Adherents gather weekly for sermons and prayers led by priests; the priests and arch-priests gather in public multiple times each day to pray and chant in the town's central temple, Chosen House; Once each month, the arch-priests and cardinals gather in private for a ceremony that is kept from all outsiders. Only as a worshiper advances in standing within the Church are the secrets of its teaching revealed.

Motto:    "The man without sin is king amongst men." 

Ideals:     Obedience, Purity, Faith

Beliefs:

  •   The Chosen Few will be rewarded, the Sinful Multitudes will be punished.
  •   The needs of the Chosen Few outweigh the needs of the Sinful Multitudes. 
  •   Obey your superiors in the Church without question and without failure.

Goals: Spread the message of their faith to the rest of humanity. Protect Chosen Bay and ensure its continued rise in prosperity. 

Typical Quests: Gather information about threats to the community; Protect an evangelical priest on a journey to a distant settlement; Transport a message or a package for one of the cardinals (without looking at the contents).

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The whole point of posting this publicly is to get feedback. 

One critique that I’ll head off right now is that, yes, I do have maps. They’re stuck on a laptop that needs repair. But they do exist.

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Urmaac Mythology

Brothers will fight 
and kill each other, 
sisters' children 
will defile kinship. 
It is harsh in the world, 
whoredom rife 
— an axe age, a sword age — 
— shields are riven — 
— a wind age, a wolf age — 
before the world goes headlong. 
No man will have
mercy on another.

The Origin of the World

Before there was sea, or soil, or sky, or any warmth, there was only the gaping abyss of Neamhní. This chaos of perfect silence and darkness lay between the land of the everburning fire, Tír Tine; the land of endless ice, Tír Oighir; the land of unceasing wind, Tír Gaoth; and the land of the unclimbable mountain, Tír Salachar

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Frost from Oighir and billowing flames from Tine crept toward each other until they met in Neamhní. Amid the hissing and sputtering, the fire melted the ice, and the drops formed themselves into Chwythu ("The Roar"), the first of the godlike but destructive Primordials. Chwythu had no body, no form, and no structure... only a voice. While it slept, it dreamt, and while it dreamt it roared more Primordials into existence. These Primordials began to dance around the slumbering form of their progenitor: Azathoth, Shub-Niggurath; Yog-Sothoth; Nyarlathotep; and dozens of other alien Primordials.

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Warm winds from Gaoth and rich soil from Salachar also met in Neamhní. Sprouting from the soil and nurtured by the winds, a great tree Amhrán (“Song”), emerged. She nourished the Primodrials with her fruit, and they, in turn, spat out the seeds onto the ice and the soil, scattered them into the winds, or even tossed them into the fire. Her seed slowly took root as Athair, the first of the Óir tribe of gods. Athair adopted two of the other seeds as a son named Mac and a daughter named Óire. Mac and Óire, in turn, would become the parents of many other gods. 

Mac and his sons slew Athair and set about constructing the world from his corpse. They fashioned the oceans from his blood, the soil from his skin and muscles, vegetation from his hair, clouds from his brains, and the sky from his skull. Four of Mac's sons, the great Titans, traveled to the four most distant points of Tine, Oighir, Gaoth, and Salachar, where they hold Athair’s skull aloft above the earth.

The gods eventually formed the first humans, a man and a woman: Gasúr and Cailín, from a branch and a flower taken from Amhrán. Then the Óir built a great fence around their dwelling-place, Domhain, to protect them from the Primordials.

Gasúr and Cailín had many children, some of whom took wives and husbands from among the Óir, others whom married amongst themselves. All these children would eventually become the ancestors of all the great tribes of Humanity.

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The Origin of the New Gods

Gasúr and Cailín were not the first creations of the Óir. Before they made humanity from the branch and the flower of Amhrán, they also created a rache of servants from her leaves and named them the Sidhe. The Sidhe were one with the world of Domhain and they rejoiced in its bounty. But the Sidhe were lonely, and wanted other intelligent creatures to keep them company. So Mac called on Síoraí, his faithful old smith, and asked him to create someone to trade with the Sidhelien. Síoraí agreed and created some of his people, the Dwarves, to live on Domhain. Dwarves lived in mountains, and the Sidhelien in woods of a small continent on Urmaac. They often traded and exchanged art and culture, living in peace and happiness for ages.

But when there is nothing wrong, there are evil forces that try to make something wrong. Evil spawn of the Primordials, the demons and devils discovered the world of Domhain crept into it through the cracks and joints in the great wall. Through their machination and corrupting influence did the evil races such as Orcs, Goblins, and similar come into being. For a long time Sidhelien and Dwarves fought against these minions of evil, but they couldn't hold them back forever. It was the children of Gasúr and Cailín, the race of Humanity, that turned the tide and restored the balance between good and evil to Domhain.

Ardrí, the oldest son of Gasúr and Cailín, was the most warlike of all their children. He spent a lot of time fighting evil creatures with Sidhe armies. Banríon was their oldest daughter. Unlike her older brother, she was calm and calculating, always trying to prevent him from charging into his death. Ciúin was a quiet girl, always residing near the seacoast, trying to spend as much time in water as she could. Trádáilindulged in trade and often traveled between the realms of Sidhe and Dwarves, bringing high-quality goods back with each her journey. Crann was the most friendly with Sidhe, and spent most of his time in the woods, enjoying the creations of his father. Draíocht was interested in magic and nothing else. He spent a lot of time communing with Amhrán, learning the words of her great songs.

The family lived in happiness, but everything comes to an end. Jealous of their happiness, a powerful devil known as Asmodeus came to the world, trying to take it from the Oír. Ardrí expelled Asmodeus from the world, but not before the devil managed to do what he came for. Cailín was afflicted with a deadly hellish disease, and not even the gods could help her. Overwhelmed with thoughts of revenge, Gasúr left his world and went into Neamhní, searching for Asmodeus, trying to find and destroy him on his home plane, once and for all the times. Asmodeus could not hide long and was soon discovered and destroyed in a fierce battle.

Gasúr tried to take Asmodeus's devilish heart from his corpse, but to his surprise failed to find it. Then Asmodeus's spirit rose from his smashed body, roaring with evil laughter. He told Gasúr that he encased his heart in the center of the world and that it can never be removed without destroying Domhain itself.

Desperate, Gasúr captured Asmodeus's spirit and took him to Mac and Óire. After a long time of pondering, Mac and Óire decided that they could not destroy their creation just to undo Asmodeus. Instead, they and the other Óir gods decided to sacrifice themselves and turn this world into an eternal prison for Asmodeus.

Using the energy of their own divine essence, the Óire erased all memories from Asmodeus, putting him into ages-long sleep. Their energy almost gone, the instructed Gasúr, Cailín, and their children to take care of the world, and to help Asmodeus become a force for good once he reawakened. Finally, they erased all knowledge of gods from the minds of thier beloved servants the Sidhe and the Dwarves.

With the Óire gone and Asmodeus in sleep, Gasúr, Cailín, and their children rose to godhood and created their own peoples. Ardrí created the Konig, a warlike people like himself. Trádáil created the Breckmaanjar, a nation of wanderers and traders. Crann created his Rjur who lived in the wildlands as one with the nature, such like his father's Sidhe, yet in a way unique to Humans. Ciúin created Char, seafaring people who kept eye on the horizons.

Draíocht was against the idea of creating another race from the beginning, but did so when the majority decided that it should be done. He created the Aval and gave them the least lands in Urmaac, some tiny islands none of his siblings wanted, and never paid much attention to them.

These tribes lived in peace and happiness until Asmodeus awakened, and some time after that event. Ages after he was imprisoned, the former devil awoke as a young deity, knowing nothing of the universe and secrets of good and evil. The other gods accepted him into their ranks, teaching him of all they knew. Even Draíocht was delighted with his eagerness to learn.

However, happy times lasted short, as always. Young Asmodeus noticed that other gods had their people while he didn't. For the first time he felt jealousy, a thing new to him, a thing he could not learn from his tutors. With jealousy, came the memories of jealousy he felt towards Domhain, and then the other memories slowly started coming back one by one. However, he didn't confront his enemy's children immediately. He learned more, regaining his power. He created his own people, the Helån, who grew to match those of Ardrí. 

In his power, he foresaw the events that would lead to the Battle of Mount Deismaar and his own destruction. So, when he discovered the way out of Domhain, he kept waiting for the battle, planning to escape in the last moments and let the other gods destroy themselves. He whispered lies and half-truths into the heart of one of his mortal servants, Azrai. Azrai, in turn, used her beauty and wisdom to manipulate Haelyn, the great heir to the tribe of Ardrí... and their battle would eventually reshape the world.

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Theme: Order from Chaos

Thematically, Chwythu is the personification of the chaos before creation, which is also depicted as the impersonal void of Neamhní. Both Chwythu and Neamhní are ways of talking about limitless potential that isn’t actualized, that hasn’t yet become the particular things that we find in the world around us. This is why the humans describe it as a void. It is nothingness. But it nevertheless contains the basic stuff out of which the all things are made – the four elements which create the Primodrials and the primal matter of Athair’s body, which the gods tear apart to craft the world.

It’s extremely fitting for Chwythu to be the progenitor of the Primordials. For they are the forces of formless chaos, who are always threatening to corrupt and ultimately overturn the gods’ created order. But the Primordials are more than just forces of destruction. 

This also explains why Chwythu is depicted as a hermaphrodite who can reproduce on its own asexually. Differentiation, including sexual differentiation, didn’t exist yet. The gods had to create that as part of their task of giving differentiated forms to what had previously been formless and undifferentiated.

Chwythu’s name provides an additional – and rather poetic – instantiation of this role as the personification of primordial chaos. Recall that Chwythu’s name means “Roar”. The scream, the wordless voice, is the raw material from which words are made. But the wordless voice of Chwythu can only create the chaotic terrors of the Primordials. Amhrán, who's name means song, comes from the same source, but she is the source of the gods of order. Metaphorically speaking, she is making words out of a scream.

By taking formless matter – represented by Athair’s body – and giving it form, the gods were, metaphorically speaking, making words out of a scream.

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Theme: Centrality of Conflict

Humans of Urmaac are famed for their eagerness for battle. It should come as little surprise, therefore, that conflict is such a central theme in their creation myth – and that conflict is itself a generative force.

Chwythu is born from the strife between fire and ice. Likewise, Amhrán is born from the cooperation of warmth and rich soil. We can surmise that that particular opposition would have had a special poignancy for people living what was more or less a subsistence lifestyle in the cold lands of far northern Urmaac. 

In order for the gods to fashion the world, they must first slay Athair. This is the first intentional taking of a life in the universe, and it’s performed by the gods themselves. It isn’t presented as a crime or a sin, as in the Biblical myth of Cain and Abel. Rather, it’s a good and even sacred task. This isn’t to say that the Urmaac valorize killing as such; they distinguish between lawful and appropriate killing and unlawful and inappropriate killing. But they embrace what they see as the necessity of having a warlike approach to life, for the sake of accomplishing great deeds that bring honor and renown to one’s name.


 

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1 hour ago, generalripphook said:

My first question, what is the scale of everything? Is this setting a snapshot of the whole world? Also in which direction would the weather move? 

This is a bit of a pain in the butt, since I cannot find any of the maps I made. 

The main focus of the setting (i.e., where I always have the players start out and do most of their adventuring in) is the Lakeshore region. This are is about 3,500-4000 square miles and is the only area of the planet that I've mapped on in enough detail to have specific towns, villages, and so forth named. Lakeshore has a climate and ecology that's about the same as northern France or southern Britain (only with the occasional Owlbear).

The planet itself is approximately Earth-sized and Earth-shaped, because why re-invent the wheel? The weather patterns, tides, currents, and so forth also follow a more or less Earth-like pattern. I do have this stuff mapped out, its just annoying as heck that I cannot get at the files.

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