Crossroads of Chaos

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Insomnant, Dec 29, 2015.

    • Premise: In a medieval fantasy setting, the world roils under the oppressive weight of an uneasy peace maintained by force. There was is little room for heroics but much need for manual labor and skilled craftsman. But for those whose trade was war, or whose hearts yearn for glory, the prospects are bleak. Or they were... before a new, pressing threat emerged to endanger the world once more.

      Content Warning (open)
      This roleplay has no triggers because this isn't Tumblr, but this game will have mature content including (but not limited to): graphic depictions of violence, death/undeath, verbal rudeness, magic control advocates, magician's rights advocates, partaking of drugs and alcohol, discrimination (both the fantastical and mundane variety), general kinkiness, specific kinkiness, card games, dancing, sarcasm, multiculturalism, large words, etc.

      Plausible Deniability (open)
      As this is a fantasy game that relies on fantasy tropes, I feel I should state that any resemblance or similarity to anything else is purely coincidental as this entire post (as with all my posts) was composed by drunkenly throwing thousands of darts one at a time at a wall covered by random punctuation and every word in the English language nerve found degree rice cable (editor's note: and the process was working so well up to that point!)

      Disclaimer on Morality (open)
      In this setting, good and evil are moral judgements, not classifications. There are no races that are inherently evil, there are no organizations or (as a general rule) individuals whose goals are to do evil things for evil’s sake. People do commit terrible atrocities to be sure, but they believe their actions are necessary and justified, at least within their own perspectives and mental/cultural framework. There are creatures and monsters whose actions are unavoidably harmful of course, but I’m saying that ‘being evil’ is extremely rare as a person or group’s motivation behind the things they do.

      That being said, depending on the perspective of a character or group, the actions or demeanor of another group or person or creature can certainly be said to be evil. That’s the point of moral judgements; they are labels, not aspirations.

      This is a work in progress! I'll post up a roleplaying ad when I've got it ready for recruiting.

      • Our story begins in the city of Atherston, in the nation of Medhas, on the continent-world of Aethus.

        This world is a diverse one of many different peoples and creatures, home to humans as well as nonhumans recognizable from myth and legend. The savage, green-skinned orcs; the slender, aloof elves; the short, stocky dwarves; the human-animal hybrid beastkin; the enormous, secluded giants; the cutthroat, secretive dark elves- and more- all call Aethus home and seek to make it a hospitable place for their race. As a result of many different perspectives amongst peoples competing for limited land and resources, conflict has been inevitable, and the history of Aethus is thus replete with war.

        But right now, an uneasy peace reigns. It is one maintained by the sword and the noose, and resentment runs high among the people in spite of the offiical message of alliance.

        Nowhere is this more clear than on the streets of Atherston, where brief but tense fights break out only to be fiercely stifled by the militant city guard. Or at the gates of Atherston, where to this day a rotting body hangs, its hands severed and jaw shattered, and the signs nailed above and below the corpse read: "He who shall spread hate, his words are as venom and his life is thus forfeit"

        Every day it seems, another town crier or street corner proselytizer is hauled away by men in platemail, never to be seen again, while many a crime goes unreported due to fear of ridicule, reprisal- or worse.

        In this building tension, something seemed set to break. And break it did, though not in the way everyone suspected. In the last month, a series of alarming missives began filtering in: Plague had broken out in Medhas, spreading with alarming virulence and striking down the stout and frail alike. And the victims of this disease soon rose from their deathbeds, set on consuming the flesh of those still living. Surely this is the work of dark magic, a necromancer no doubt to blame for such blasphemy, and so the world has need of those who would fight once more.

        The call went out in Atherston and all throughout Medhas, as well as a plea to its allies: Gather your heroes, your brave, your strong. Ready your blades and don your armor. A dark cloud threatens our nation, and indeed all of Aethus. The time for boldness has come, who will rise to the challenges of this trying era?
      • Terrain Map

        Political Map
      • To understand the origin of the diverse metropolis that is Atherston, one first needs to know of the Rorani Alliance. Sixteen years ago, emissaries met on the Rorani Plateau, seeking to end a conflict that had lasted eleven long years- the Clash of Three Races. The high elves, the dwarves, and the human nation of Medhas all agreed to work together to rebuild their war-torn societies. The elves and dwarves maintained their traditional forest and mountain homes respectively, but the human capital of Atherston was chosen as the location for the unified city of the future, a shining beacon of cooperation and friendship.

        And so they rebuilt the ruined buildings and increased the city’s reach, and expanded the keep that sat above the city commons into the glorious Coalition Citadel where representatives from all the races of the alliance meet once a week to discuss the issues and concerns of their constituency. Over time the prosperity of this bustling population center attracted other races who came forward to join the alliance, sometimes as an organized group with a representative to join the Council, sometimes as a single family or lone individual looking to make a living in the increasingly diverse populace of this social experiment.

      • The city itself is divided into two very different parts:

        The Radiant Sector- having developed around the central Citadel- is raised above the rest of the city, overlooking the crowded housing and commercial zones of the Unity Mesa below. It is separated by an inner wall that could be used as a defensive barrier in a siege, with three large gates manned by the city guard, screening any entrants to ensure they have legitimate business in the Radiant Sector. This area is home to the most wealthy and connected of Midmen, and also houses a large number of high elves who help advise those who run the city and enact policy. The technology built into the Radiant Sector is some of the most advanced in Aethus, with Essence-powered ascension platforms and elementally controlled heating and cooling systems ensuring that the air in the buildings remains a pleasant temperature all year long. They have the finest conjured water for drinking and sanitation purposes, magical light fixtures for nighttime illumination, as well as artificial hot springs for rejuvenating bathing.

        The Unity Mesa is the majority of the city, where most of its population lives and where business of all sorts is conducted. It has a flourishing market area where farmers, merchants, and artisans of all sorts can rent a booth and peddle their wares on the grounds, along with larger, permanent stores set up in buildings on either side of the enormous courtyard. There is an entertainment area with many a brothel, tavern, and gaming den, all built around a giant central amphitheater for hosting dramatic performances, traveling circuses, gladiatorial contests, and any other large scale recreational events. Despite the apparent wealth of the city, the Unity Mesa lacks most of the technological innovations of the Radiant Sector, as citizens must use stairways or ladders to traverse different levels, the streets are lit by torches at night, and flowing water is only available in some of the newer parts of the city where it relies on a series of channels, troughs, and pipes to deliver water from higher up to destinations below through the use of gravity. The rest of the city has to fetch water from wells.
        Population Breakdown (open)

        Radiant Sector Total: ~8,110
        Humans: ~3,500
        High Elves ~2,800
        Beastkin: ~720
        Wood Elves: ~450
        Dwarves: ~360
        Others: ~280

        Unity Mesa Total: ~239,400
        Humans: ~120,000
        Orcs: ~31,000
        Dark Elves: ~23,000
        Beastkin: ~20,400
        Dwarves: ~16,000
        Half-Orcs: ~11,500
        Wood Elves: ~11,000
        Goblins: ~10,100
        Half-Elves: ~2,700
        Half-Giants: ~2,100
        High Elves: ~1,200
        Others: ~400

      • There are several organizations that play a prominent political role in the daily operation of Atherston aside from the Coalition Council, and they could prove a helpful sponsor for any aspiring hero- as well as a potentially dangerous opponent.

        The Salbourne Trading House is one of two major merchant guilds operating out of Atherston. They operate primarily to the North and the West, exchanging goods with the dwarves as well as arranging trade with the orcs and Northmen when possible. Because of this, most of their goods are simple but strong.

        Midbridge Merchant Company is the other merchant guild and is in direct competition with Salbourne for much of the business in Atherston. Their trade routes extend to the South and Southwest, all the way through dark elf, wood elf, and high elf territory. As such, their ornate merchandise tends to be largely elven in origin.

        The Assembly of Diviners is a magical group whose members focus mostly on the school of Revelation, seeking to practice and improve their ability to predict the future and reveal the secrets of the past. As a result they often provide services to the general populace as fortune tellers or investigators. A few of their members also know and study a little into Conjuration as part of their divination methods, and knowledge of Obfuscation is not difficult to encounter, as it is used to assist with the practice of revealing that which is hidden.

        The Elemental Scholastic Guild of Atherston is the other main magical group in Atherston, and they like to think of themselves as the more intellectually focused of the two. They study the magical elements and how they interact, refining their theories of the composition of the world. Their magic is mostly centered on Evocation and- to a slightly lesser degree- Alteration, but there are some there who study Restoration quite vigorously… mostly to help with accidental injuries sustained in Evocation experiments.

        The Phoenix Organization is a secretive order that has been outlawed by the Council, which insists that they are traitors working for the Kingdom of Norlánda seeking to stir up hatred and strife. Their stated goal is to restore a refuge for humanity and to make Atherston- and by extension all of Medhas- a safer place for the human race.

        The Moriancabri Agricultural Guild is another secretive group, a mix of magical researchers, farmers, agricultural good providers, and merchants who keep their business practices very quiet so as not to lose their competitive edge. They make sure the whole of Atherston gets fed and their coffers filled, all with a shocking degree of efficiency. The high population density of the city would not be possible without them. Their magic focuses on Alteration and Restoration, with a bit of Divination and Conjuration, though they rarely offer their knowledge to the general public.

        The Free Battalion of Humans and Beastkin, more frequently known as The Ironclaw Battalion, and (dismissively) called Men and Beasts, they are a group of mercenaries who- as the name implies- mostly recruit humans (Midmen and Northmen alike) and beastkin (usually from Felari and Canari packs though they do take others as well). They are known for being particularly savage in their fighting methods, of taking little or no quarter and being effective hunters/trackers. They accept jobs small and large, dispatching as few as a squad of mercenaries or as many as the entire battalion depending on the pay and magnitude of the request.

        The Ventorian Guard is a mercenary company that consists primarily of Midmen who once served in the army of Medhas. Their founders were from the town of Ventor who- after the Rorani alliance and the official dissolution of the army- refused to join the various city guards that sprang up at the major cities to fill the void and maintain order. Instead, they formed their own private military unit and offer their services to those who can pay for them, but they like to state that they only accept jobs that help Medhas and the Midmen. Whether they stick to those principles is often a matter of how much money is on the line, and how hard-pressed they are for funds at the time.

        The Belferese Company, also called the Jagged Edge is a loosely affiliated group of sellswords, professional murderers, and other criminals for hire. They began as an attempt by a Midman captain to form an orc fighting unit for fending off Northmen raids, but when he and several other officers died in a fire defending a fort, his undisciplined troops went rogue, some returning to Atherston to sell their combat skills and lust for violence, while others remained on the roads to resort to banditry. They open their doors mainly for orcs and dark elves, but anyone who proves themselves brutal enough as well as a competent fighter are welcome into their cutthroat group. Due to the constant scrutiny of the City Guard, discretion and stealth are emphasized to new recruits in their training, so as to not draw attention to the Company when carrying out their less-than-legal jobs.

      Magic in Aethus
      There are two types of magic in the world, though there have been many varied methods that the races and organizations of the world have devised in order to utilize that magic. The two kinds of magic are Order and Chaos, though these terms refer to the metaphysical sense of the words. This is not the forces of obsessive compulsion versus randomness, but rather the rules of existence versus the complete disorder of nonexistence.

      • Ordered, complex systems naturally form islands of metaphysical stability represented as shards of stored magical potential energy. This ordered magic can be found in living creatures which naturally generate it as they grow and develop. In sentient beings this reservoir of energy is divided into two portions: the lower Essence and the higher Anima. Nonsentient creatures possess only the Essence and not the Anima.

        Essence, also called ‘Breath,’ is a store of the energy of life. It is a combination of physical stamina and emotional drive and can be relatively quickly depleted and replenished. Upon death, the Essence of a being usually dissipates into the surrounding environment but there are several events that can interfere with that. When the normal dissipation process is prevented, a creature’s Essence can be stored artificially for future use, or possibly even manifest as a roaming hungry ghost. In nature, shards of Essence can be found deep underground where geological shifting has caused landscapes laden with historical loss of life to become sunk under many layers of rock and dirt.

        Meanwhile the Anima is the animating principles of a sentient creature, and its presence is what separates humans, orcs, elves, dragons, and all the other advanced races from simple animals. It is a culmination of the personality and knowledge and wisdom a person accumulates during their life. Upon death, a person’s Anima invariably disappears. Some believe it returns to the Heavenly Realm, perhaps to be reanimated, maybe to experience eternal punishment or reward for their life actions, no one is really sure. All that is known is that the higher soul vanishes upon death, and no attempts at capturing or tracking the Anima have been successful to date.
      • The opposite of order is of course chaos, as ordered systems only exist by their differentiation from disorder. Chaos magic is much more difficult for mortal mind to comprehend as it represents the total breakdown of the very rules that make life and sentience possible. In metaphysical terms, Chaos is the undoing of any semblance of order; its power comes from beyond the island of stability that is Aethus which is inherently abhorrent to the unfettered madness of Chaos. As a result, dabbling with Chaos magic almost invariably results in insanity, mutation, illness, death, or worse. Needless to say, the study or practice of it is outlawed by every society and race, on top of being simply impractical for people to pursue due to its deleterious effects.

      Humans are the most numerous race although not by as much of a margin as they used to be due to the wars of recent memory. Humans tend to be adaptable perhaps more than any other race, as they dive headfirst into attempting every trade and skill, often managing some success, albeit often clumsily. They are decent architects with wood and stone, they are competent blacksmiths with varied qualities of steel, and their approaches to magic- though often very blunt and heavy-handed, are rigorous and effective.

      Several centuries ago the race of men was faced with a quandary. Their contact with other races that employed differing forms of government prompted a difficult question: was the status quo worth maintaining? Was the system of monarchy the best method of ruling their expanding nation? Many felt the answer was 'no,' and they fought for social and political change with a fervor that the ruling regime was simply not prepared to handle. As a result, human civilization was split into two halves.

      The Northmen are the humans who live in the nation of Norlánda. They speak Norlansk.

      • In the face of such a vitriolic uprising and fearing retribution, the forces still loyal to their leader fled the country. Kongerek Haraldssen rallied his bannermen and lead the four faithful houses in a mass migration across rough terrain into the rugged northern frontier. Their numbers diminished by the thousands along the way as civilians died from thirst and exposure, and soldiers were killed fending off dangerous beasts and defending against harrying attacks from the rear by the rebellion they were escaping. It was only the sheer determination of their kongerek that kept them together during their first brutal winter, and it was that same force of will that made them spread across the entire stretch of territory now known as Norlánda, assimilating or subjugating the beastkin, giants, and wildlings they encountered along the way.

      • As a result of their harsh environment, survival of the fittest is the way of Norlándian society. They have a fiercely warlike culture that emphasizes courage and strength over safety and comfort. Young boys frequently undergo a trial before being considered men, be it one of surviving in the most inhospitable parts of the north or taking on a fierce creature in combat. Exceedingly rare is the woman who will attempt and succeed at such a trial, but the ones who do are seen as the equals of men who have passed the trials as well. Those who do pass the trials are known as the Førstemenn and are permitted to take on a chosen name that signifies their deeds, such as Wolfskull, Orcbane, Wyvernheart, Icediver, Ironskin, Gåstolslayer etc. The majority of women and the men who cannot pass the trials are scouted thoroughly for any sort of useful skill or natural talent. Those who are found capable are called Annenmenn and can still play an important role in Norlándian society as artisans and craftsmen. Everyone else is delegated to the second lowest position in society (above slaves and criminals, called Søppel) known as Arbeidemenn and tasked with ranching, hunting, fishing, domestic responsibilities, agricultural cultivation, and other 'unskilled' labor. There is room for mobility between the 'classes' as it is based on actions and ability, so Arbeidemenn can train in a skill and become an Annenmenn after passing the evaluation, or even join the Førstemenn upon completing a sufficient trial.

        Northmen society places great emphasis on usefulness and utility, above all else. Animals viewed as important to their survival, like domesticated wolves, horses, bulls, etc. are treated with respect, often almost as part of the family. And speaking of family, the Northmen do not form lifelong monogamous pairs but instead associate in communities where the stronger males have fairly open sexual access for reproduction. Due to the bitterly cold climates of their northern territory, recreational sex is not very common. There is no major taboo against male homosexual relations, but there is a mild disdain for those who engage in it as they are seen as being unable to successfully compete for access to women. The development of this practice likely explains how the crossbreeding between the early Northmen and the giants, wildlings, and beastkin began.

      • The Northmen are humans with fair skin and muscular frames. Their integration of giants, wildlings, and beastkin (mostly wolf canari) combined with centuries of life in the frigid North has made the rugged and strong, standing taller than the Midmen at an average height of 6' for males, 5'6" for females. The language they speak is known as Norlansk, and is distantly based on Midtongue with quite a few influences from the brief emphatic outbursts of the wildlings as well as the growling and howling of the canari.

      • The Northmen have no unified religion, but many of them worship or venerate what they see as the embodiment of their virtues. These vary from region to region, but the most agreed upon pantheon includes:

        • Hunter’s Perceptiveness
        • Warrior’s Intensity
        • Sleeper’s Rest
        • Artisan’s Focus
        • Leader’s Authority
        • Laborer’s Persistence

        These are not actual gods, but rather are seen as personifications of the strengths of their society. Likewise, magical application tends to fall under the purview of one of these respected principles.

      • The Northmen do not place too much stock on the opinions of other races. Most of their interactions are with the Midmen of Medhas and the orcs across the sea. The former of the two chased them out of their ancestral home, so quite a bit of animosity was present between the two from the start, and it only grew as the two nations fought during multiple periods of war ranging from quick but savage border conflicts to an all-out invasion to reclaim Medhas that ended in military disaster. As for the orcs, considering that they are more than happy to fight with outsiders and conduct pillaging raids of their own, the majority of contact with them leads to bloodshed, and yet the Northmen do admire the ferocity of orcish warriors. Even their limited interaction with the dwarves has left them with a respect for the skill of dwarven craftsmen. As a result of their meritocratic society, the Northmen do allow some limited immigration, permitting skilled outsiders to enter Norlánda, albeit in carefully controlled numbers and with required societal integration.


      The Midmen are the humans who live in the nation of Medhas. Their language is referred to as Middletongue and is the most commonly spoken language on Aethus.

      • The history books are suspiciously silent about the source of the sudden popular uprising that overtook Medhas two and a half centuries ago, but they are quite clear about the decades of turmoil that followed. The Midmen fell into a cyclical story of progress, complacency, corruption, and subjugation. They went through multiple types of government ranging from timocracy to oligarchy to autocracy to representative democracy to theocracy, with several several run-ins with destructive yet cathartic anarchy. Each style of government would last for a year or several decades, but in the end they would fall. And as they came and went, so too did the wars with other races. At first the orcs were the main target of aggression, then the wildling tribes, the beastkin packs, the nomadic giants, the invading Northmen, and later on even the dwarves and elves bore the brunt of their aggression. All of this was the result of a dangerous rate of population expansion that constantly pushed the borders of their unstable nation ever outward.

        The latest war was the largest one Aethus had ever seen. It began 25 years ago when a human mining crew pushed too deeply into the Ondureska Mountain range and inadvertently collapsed a tunnel onto some dwarves who happened to live there. Tensions had already been high, as the dwarves saw the humans as encroaching on their land, and the complete lack of compassion for the deceased dwarves along with the refusal to take responsibility on the part of the humans sparked a scuffle... that became a battle... which began a war. The elves attempted to mediate a peace, but anti-nonhuman sentient was running high in the Midmen, and they were suspicious of those efforts, derailing any progress toward a less destructive form of conflict resolution. Then when the shooting and rhetoric had reached a peak, violence broke out between the human and dwarven delegates, and the elves responded with frightening brutality against those who would violate the sacred right of sanctity during negotiations. The slaughtering of their diplomat was seen as an act of aggression by the Midmen and soon Medhas was fighting a war on two fronts.

        Recognizing their need for allies in such a lopsided conflict, the current government decided to "invite" two orc clans to integrate with their society, levying them into combat and forcing them to work on barricades and fortifications. The former proved easier than the later, as orcs have a bloodlust for battle anyway, but with sufficient gifts to the orcs' chiefs they managed to secure the greenskins' obedience. Still, even with such aid Medhas only managed to hold their own against their enemies. Campaigns were waged, battles won and lost, territory captured and surrendered. For nearly eleven years this continued until- at last- the three factions came to the table to discuss ending the madness that had caused so much bloodshed. The rest, as they say, is history. (See the Rorani Alliance section above to read what happened next)

      • As it stands today, the society of Medhas is a melting pot of many different cultures- except perhaps for that of the Midmen. After so many wars, it has been frequently suggested that the Midmen are a dangerously bloodthirsty people, and their culture is one focused on domination and conquest. Because of this, there is much emphasis on elvish, orcish, dwarvish, and even dark elf culture, cuisine, art, architecture, and religion, while any pride in Medhas or the ways of the Midmen is seen as antiquated at best, or hateful and potentially violent at worst. This includes worshiping the previous gods that the Medhas revered. About the only thing still permitted is the language of Middletongue, and this is largely because the other races had already adopted it as their common language for international trade and diplomacy.

        The Midmen are currently undergoing a painful transition period from the mores of their previous era into a new, inclusive society. Their past culture placed much importance on strong family units with plentiful children so as to fill Medhas and grow its borders, as well as provide enough able bodies to serve in the military. But now those expansionist ideals are dead, and the society has been manipulated to shift its views in this age of continental peace and inclusion. Interracial relationships have been heavily encouraged, with human-orc and human-dark elf romances being the subject of several popular theatrical performances. Add to this a decreased emphasis on the importance of children and greater availability herbal contraceptives, and the end result is that the Midmen birth rate has been greatly declining- along with an increase in hybrids in the past couple decades.

      • Midmen are a bit shorter than their northern relatives, standing 5'10" for males, 5'4" for females on average. They have more varied hair colors and skin shades: white, blond, brown, red, and black are all normal hair colors, and skin ranges from brown to tan to fair.

      • The old gods have been declared dead, their temples and statues torn down and prayer or sacrifice to them is forbidden. But some still worship anyway, either alone or in secretive groups. Their religion evolved over time, incorporating new gods and merging older ones into a single deity, but these were the primary five being worshiped before the Rorani Alliance was formed:

        • The Wise Lord, the ruler of the Heavens, He Who Knows All, he is the patron god of anyone who wields authority over another and helps with determining the best course of action
        • The Heavenly Provider, a humble goddess with a fickle mood but an underlying sympathy for humans, she is the patron god of farmers and shepherds, with dominion over plants, animal life, and the weather, and occasionally healing as well
        • The Gentle Lover, described as a hermaphroditic god(dess) with an androgynous body, full breasts, and both sets of genitals, s/he is the god(dess) of fertility and childbearing, and frequently also the arts, homemaking/hospitality and rarely healing/recovery too
        • The Silent Watcher, the one who determines the character of a person's soul upon death, and decides their afterlife. It is depicted as a robed shadow or a cloaked skeleton and is said to be omniscient, frequently used to scare children into behaving
        • The Eternal Traveler, a vagabond dressed in rags, sometimes claimed to be capable of appearing as either gender (though not both simultaneously like the Gentle Lover), but is most often referred to as masculine. He is the patron god of trailblazing, as well as any who find themselves on the road, or without a home

      • Fortunately for the Midmen, their understanding of magic was entirely divorced from their religious beliefs. Their research into the arcane had established what they believed to be the elements that made up the world, both seen and unseen. These elements were:

        • Aether- light, heat, movement, sound, birth, day
        • Void- dark, cold, stillness, silence, death, night
        • Fire- flame, changing, angry, summer
        • Earth- solid, static, stoic, autumn,
        • Water- liquid, flowing, adaptable, winter
        • Air- gas, wild, uncontrolled, spring

        The Midmen developed six schools of magic to allow them to access and harness these elements:

        • Revelation- Using magic (usually fire and void) to ascertain knowledge or truth
        • Alteration- Using magic to modify the physical qualities of an object
        • Restoration- Using magic (usually water and aether) to heal or repair, returning objects to a state of wholeness
        • Evocation- Using magic to manifest elemental energies into the world
        • Obfuscation- Using magic (usually air and void) to hide the truth of things
        • Conjuration- Using magic (usually earth and aether) to manifest physical objects into the world

      • The Midmen have an interesting history every other nation of Aethus. They've been at war with each of them at one point or another, some more distantly, some more recently, and the general attitude toward other races is largely based off of that history. That being said, the Midmen are currently undergoing what could be labeled as 'enforced acceptance' in a top-down imposition of diplomatic policy. While grudges and bad blood for previous loss of life still fester in the populace, acting upon that animosity has been met with increasingly iron-fisted punishment, especially in the last few years. Whether this is having the intended effect of improving the regard of the Midmen for other races is highly varied, as some have embraced the mandated social framework while others are becoming more and more rebellious against it, and add the oppression to the list of grievances against the other races that they view as responsible for their predicament.

        The one exception to this artificial congeniality is the Northmen, who are still viewed as hostile combatants and potential invaders, and are frequently used as a justification for the unpleasantness foisted upon the general public. The effectiveness of this has been limited, as the majority of conflict between the people of Norlánda and Medhas has been petty border squabbles as of late. The last major war between the two ended 80 years ago with the deployment of a massive magical attack against the Northmen that left an entire county of Norlánda a blasted desolate wasteland.

      These stout ‘Mountain Men’ dwell in subterranean cities, traveling via vast tunnel networks and mining out huge swaths of stone under the surface. They are the deepest-dwelling race and also one of the hardiest, and are notorious for their love of alcohol.

      • Oral tradition and petroglyphs tell of the first dwarves, created by Krossag Skyforge, the blacksmith of the gods. He hewed stone from the mountain and carved out hollows in the shapes of his children, then filled those molds with molten lava. And when the lava had hardened he chiseled away the stone and there stood the Twelve Dwarven Ancestors from whom all future dwarfs were born. They studied in the shadow of the mountain that had birthed them, under the tutelage of their god until his intervention was noticed by the other gods, who forbade him from further direct involvement. The god of the sea sent a monsoon to try and wash away Skyforge's children, but the dwarves were too stubborn to die, and they tunneled into the mountain to live within it instead, founding the subterranean nation of Tringaer and establishing the Twelve Great Halls.

        There are other stories told, of different varieties of dwarves, ones whose composition was more rock than flesh, whose voices were a cascade of tumbling gravel, and whose eyes glowed like orange and red magma. There are hushed whispers that the goblins were once dwarves, who were tricked by a manipulative fallen god with promises of great wealth, but his power twisted them into wicked, deceitful creatures. There is even a heretical rumor that the dwarves were actually created by a powerful high elven lord to serve as his shock troopers and bodyguards- but that his creations got away from him and gained independence, but bringing this up to any self-respecting dwarf is a sure way to find oneself on the receiving end of an axe attack!

        Regardless of where they came from, dwarves have lived beneath Aethus for as long as anyone can remember. Their nation of Tringaer is divided into powerful, allied city-states, a dozen different underground mega cities known as the Great Halls around their central cavernous chambers. They are connected by networks of wide tunnels and narrow passageways and subterranean rivers, interspersed by smaller towns and settlements in whatever chasms or cliffs there are to inhabit. This has naturally limited their interaction with other races, as only a small minority of dwarves leave their stony domain to enter the land under the sky, be it for trade, exploration, or as exile. Likewise, few are the outsiders who have been welcome within their realm and not in any great numbers. Until the Clash of Three Races, the dwarves had not been involved in any extended conflict with outsiders aside from numerous yet infrequent clashes with goblins, as well as the occasional orc incursion or dark elf raid. Instead, much of their adversity has come from natural disasters, internal conflict between the great dwarven houses, and the ever present threat of monsters that dwell in the deeps- clashes with the arachnari beastkin as well as attacks from giant scorpions, enormous burrowing magma serpents, and the rare cave dragon.

      • Dwarves are shorter than humans, with males standing 4'7" on average and females standing 4'4" on average. They tend to weigh close to the same as humans though thanks to their heavy builds and strong bones. Dwarves also have significantly more facial hair, as even most of their women grow beards and mustaches, though usually shorter and thinner than the beards of the men. The men tend to let theirs grow out and decorate them in braids and with jewelry while the women's beards are kept sleek and short. The native dwarf language is Stonespeak, so called because the blunt, blusterous language is believed by the dwarves to consist of the Words of Creation, which called forth the mountains from the ground and split Aethus to form the rivers and oceans. It is a long-winded language however, requiring substantial time to communicate complex ideas, which historically made dwarves quite curt in their speech, and also lead to the current situation where pretty much every dwarf also learns the language of Middletongue to speak not only to the other races but also amongst themselves. When they do speak Middletongue it is with a heavy accent that those from Earth would recognize as 'Scottish'.

        Dwarven society is highly focused on self-actualization through the creation of some sort of a lasting legacy. Those who perform valiantly in combat, who make great sacrifices the good of others, who conquer dangerous foes- their tales are told and retold throughout generations and their deeds depicted in magnificent carvings. Speaking of which, the arts of sculpting, carving, engraving, and especially blacksmithing are all seen as means of attaining immortality in the form of a physical legacy that can be admired for centuries to come. There is as much pride in a blacksmith whose sword is used to fell a dragon as there is for the warrior holding that sword. Because of this, many dwarven hunters and soldiers are also craftsman in their own right, though few achieve the level of skill that a dedicated artisan can reach from a lifetime of practice and experience.

        Another major tenet of dwarven values is an emphasis on honor and honesty. This is a carryover from when their only communication was in Stonespeak, but words are seen as having immense weight and power by the dwarves. As a result, when a dwarf gives his word it is seen as binding, and anyone who breaks his word or worse- knowingly lies- is subject to varying degrees of scorn, ostracization, and possibly even banishment, depending on the severity of the transgression.

      • The dwarves have an interesting relationship with religion. They call themselves the 'Children of Skyforge,' both as a race and as practitioners of their religion, as the two are practically inextricable- to varying degrees depending on the region of Tringaer and the individual dwarf. But what is most curious is that they actually observe an entire pantheon comprised of many gods who reside over a wide variety of domains... and yet they primarily focus on and worship just the one. In fact, they actually see the majority of the gods as arrogant assholes (the Stonespeak word for 'god' means 'yoke' or 'burden'), with their capricious whims dictating all hardship and disaster and suffering.

        But they do worship Krossag Skyforge, Krossag being the Stonespeak word for 'Maker'- they see him as their racial patron god. Some sects of their religion believe that Krossag still lives among them as a dwarf, taking on the identity of great heroes, leaders, or master smiths throughout the ages. Others think that Krossag returned to the Celestial Forge but that he still looks out for them from his Heavenly perch, sneaking them assistance and energy in times of need. A third sect holds to the idea that Krossag gave his life for the dwarven race to help them survive in spite of the heavenly persecution, sacrificing himself to hold off the rage of the other gods.

      • Dwarven magic tends to be focused on the the art of smithing, most often taking the form of enchanted runes embedded into arms and armor. Even their elemental system is based around the method of crafting metal items:

        • Rock- Raw potential. Rock is brought up from the ground containing ore, and used to shape the furnace that holds the fire, so it represents possibilities and latent capability.
        • Fire- Purifying energy. Fire heats the rock and melts metal, making it soft and malleable for forging so it represents change and gaining strength from adversity.
        • Wood- The source of strength. Wood is the handle of the tools as well as the fuel used for the fire, so it represents foundation and nourishment.
        • Wind- Skillful expression. Wind is used to manage the fire, carefully raising and lowering the temperature to the right range, so it represents control and expertise.
        • Metal- The final product. Metal is both the hammer and anvil, and the sword or armor that is shaped by them, so it represents creativity and production.
        • Water- The end of the process. Water extinguishes the fire and quenches metal, so it represents finality and conclusion.

        It is jokingly said (not in the presence of any particularly philosophical dwarves, of course) that the seventh element in the dwarven Elemental system is Alcohol, which unites all six others and gives them purpose.

      • Dwarven application of magic is almost never focused on outward displays of flashy energy and effect, but rather is heavily focused on the lifelong goal of improvement and mastery. Magical abilities are thus often concentrated by the application of mystic runes, be they carved in stone, etched in steel, inscribed on wood, tattooed or branded on flesh, or engraved on leather.

        When imbued with Essence in this way by a craftsdwarf, an item or structure can be given a magical effect by the runes that mark it, even when wielded or worn or occupied by someone without any magical talent. However, some runes can be granted in such a way that they can be altered on the go by the one who created them or another versed in the art of enchanting who knows the runic language.

        Runes tend to be grouped together based on their purpose, into eight main categories:

        • Victory Runes- Combat, used on both armor and weapons to keep one safe and ensure an opponent's defeat, respectively
        • Ale Runes- Sustenance, used on mugs, casks, and waterskins to make their contents safe to drink, magically nourishing, or provide other positive effects
        • Pillar Runes- Solidity, used on structures, bridges, tunnels, anything that might collapse, to provide it stability and durability
        • Root Runes- Healing, used on wounds and severed limbs, to accelerate healing and initiate regeneration
        • Speech Runes- Presentation, used on amulets and jewelry, to increase one's ability to communicate ideas and persuade the minds of listeners, as well as translate to other languages
        • Thought Runes- Intellect, used on caps, crowns, helms, hoods, etc. to improve one's wit and memory and increase the ability to focus
        • Truth Runes- Divination, used on ceramic tiles, bone fragments, or cards to determine likely outcomes
        • Worm Runes- Necromancy, used on gravestones, tomb monuments, urns, and memorial statues to commune with the spirits of the dead

      • The dwarves have very few outright enemies, but they are at odds with several races. They do not get along well with orcs or dark elves, the former being close enough to take out their overflowing aggression on the dwarves, and the latter harboring a deep-seated hatred for the dwarves' violent treatment of the arachnari that the dark elves worship. Dwarves also fought with the Midmen and the high/wood elves in the Clash of the Three Races and as such there is still some lingering resentment and mistrust for those three groups, but the relationship is gradually improving as more and more positive experiences add up. Though more so for the Midmen than the elves, as the dwarves tend to view elves as haughty and condescending, judgemental of their mining and industry.

        Dwarves do get along well with the Northmen, respecting their virtues and tenacity. And they relate well to some beastkin packs and even the giants, though that most often means a mutual understanding from a distance with the rare exception of trade.

      Collectively called the 'greenskins,' orcs, goblins, and ogres share the same swath of land on Aethus, likely because all three have- until recently- not been welcome in the nations of the other races. Orcs and ogres are derided as brutish and crude, while goblins are scorned as backstabbers and tricksters. The three thus made uneasy allies in the area known only as 'orc territory' in the west of Aethus, as the greenskins never got around to establishing a capital to make themselves a proper nation.



      In the south lie the three kingdoms of elves. Believed to have come to Aethus from another world across the southern sea, the elves seem aloof and alien to the other races. They are characterized by a slender grace and physical beauty, and their thought processes can sometimes seem almost impossible to understand.

      There are three varieties of elves, though none are alive today who would be old enough to know if their race was already divided before they appeared in Aethus, or if the split came later. The history is incomplete and inconsistent, leaving much to speculation beyond a half millennium ago.
      High Elves

      Wood Elves

      Dark Elves

      The living aren't the only ones who populate Aethus, as threat of the reanimated dead looms large over the land. For the most part, the undead are encountered in small groups, often in caves or tombs or dungeons. But sometimes they wander, for one reason or another, and can cause mayhem on the roads or in small villages. Knowing the different types of undead an adventurer might encounter during his travels can be the difference between life and unlife!

      Known as Igjengåstol in Norlánsk and as Wights to the dwarves, revenants are the frozen undead in the North. They are formed when a corpse is exposed to the screaming winds that howl in from the Ice Plains, regardless of whether it has been buried or rests on the surface. Their bodies are desiccated corpses, dried out and frozen. They move stiffly but with a supernatural strength, and don’t react to any damage or wounds including severing limbs or decapitation- the removed parts continue to move on their own. The only way to kill them is fire or acid as they appear untouched by the decaying touch of time.
      Hungry/Angry Ghosts

      Also called Wraiths (when spawned from high/wood elves), Specters, Ghasts, or Phantoms (subterranean ghosts, frequently dwarf or dark elf in origin), these are the lower souls of people who die with intense anger or hatred in their hearts- usually in large numbers at the same time in close proximity, twisting their Essence into a roiling miasma of negativity. Hungry ghosts appear in the form of a semi-solid cloud of manifested darkness, frequently with piercing glowing eyes. They attempt to kill or drain the energy of the living, sometimes slowly over time, sometimes all at once in a violent outburst if they have the power to do so. When isolated they go dormant, gradually dissipating into the environment- but they can be awoken by emotions, especially negative ones, and as they feed off that energy they regain the ability to manifest and attack the living who prevent their Essence from finally resting.

      Called Shadows (by the dwarves), Death-Shadows (by the dark elves), Lost Souls (by the elves), Sorrowful Ghosts, or Ancestral Spirits (by the orcs). When some particularly powerful or emotionally-driven individuals die without giving in to aggression or harboring hatred in their hearts, their lower souls can wind up imprinted with a facsimile of their upper soul before it leaves, and this semblance of sentience binds the lower soul, preventing it from dispersing as normal. A shade created like this can find itself wandering adrift in a world it is no longer truly a part of, incorporeal and invisible to most. Some shades wind up as slaves to those who practice dark arts, while others engage in predatory possession in order to continue their previous goals. Still others ally themselves with a mortal, exchanging their assistance for some sort of service that they feel would put their spirit at ease.

      Hardly a ‘race,’ a lich is an individual who attempts to gain immortality by sacrificing his or her life by artificially creating the conditions that form a shade. Through intensive magical preparation and exhaustive arcane ritual, they seek to encapsulate the likeness of their own upper soul into a stable Anima shard. From there they can then possess a designated body- sometimes their own, sometimes a captive, sometimes a construct made of flesh or metal or both. Very few have ever succeeded in achieving lichdom, with the last one- the Corpse-King- having been destroyed 45 years ago. They can only be defeated by destroying their Anima shard, as otherwise killing their physical body can allow them to simply find a new one.

      Or ghūls to the dark elves, who first discovered them and continue to experience the most encounters in their lands. No one is quite sure where ghouls come from, though some theorize that they form from the corpse of a cannibal whose taste for flesh has grown too great for even death to end. Others believe that ghouls are the reanimated bodies of particularly violent murderers who are driven into restlessness by the spirits of their victims still haunting them. Another theory is that ghouls are the reanimated victims of another ghoul that did not get a chance to eat their prey, thus propagating their species… though this does not address where the first ghoul came from. Regardless, they are universally agreed to be a serious threat due to their surprisingly cunning ability to disguise themselves and concoct stories in order to lure unwary people- especially children- into the desert or abandoned places to slay and devour them. They appear as monstrous humanoids with spindly limbs and are frequently hunchbacked, their flesh rotted and jaw hanging wide- teeth jutting out. But when clad in the usual desert robes of the southern lands they can be difficult to recognize. One must take great care to listen for a rasping, gravelly voice.

      Also called Fellmen, Gravespawn, Rotwalkers, Mindless Eaters, and many other names, the plagueborn are, at their core, animated, decomposing corpses. They may be the result of the dark magic of a necromancer commanding the dead to do his bidding, or the manifestation of evil spirits into a repulsive physical form, or the victims of a virulent plague that has slain them only to make them rise once more. Whatever the case, the plagueborn have no semblance of intelligence, mindlessly biting and clawing any alive that they come across. In the cases of disease-caused plagueborn, those who are bitten or scratched may fall ill and die before joining their ranks. Even being around one is dangerous as the caustic smell they emit can infect those who breathe too much of it in. The best way to defeat the plagueborn is with fire as the gasses they put off are quite flammable, but causing enough damage to the plagueborn's body can make it collapse into a quivering pile of limbs and viscera.

    • This is a work in progress, please ignore for now!
    #1 Insomnant, Dec 29, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 5, 2016