The Illustrious Houses Book One: House of Cards

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    The Illustrious Houses

    Book One
    House of Cards


    War rages to the north. Border skirmishes and tense alliances, petty politics, and noble schemes litter the map of Noroth. In the Kingdom of Barrivin, walled and protected Mountainshore, seat of the kingdom, is not as safe as it seems. Behind its walls, noble and royal factions plot and scheme, thieves lurk in the shadows, and politics holds influence everywhere from the richest family to the poorest street rat.

    It is here that the Council of Nobles convenes, courtiers and representatives coming together to make important decisions and advise King Adlise. Within the castle’s fortified walls, they meet, their own politics and allegiances influencing the advice they give, the way they interact, who they will support and who they will stab in the back. In this nest of vipers, even the kind must put on a cold front and do what is best for their people, for themselves, and for Barrivin.

    But an important vote is coming up, one that will determine whether the world ignites in war beyond just Hearthbrin, if the minor border skirmishes will become true battles, and if friends and brothers will fight against one another. But certain factions would like others out of the picture.

    You play a noble of the unofficially named “United Front” faction. Your faction is pushing for peace and unity of world powers, especially within the kingdom, rather than war. You may have many reasons for this, from a love for peace to a believe that it will strengthen your region’s economy. You potentially may not even believe in the faction’s desires, instead putting on a front due to the pressure of neighboring regions or for other reasons. This is up to you.


    1) Your characters all have at least a passing acquaintance, and probably more, with one another.
    2) You are all courtiers. This means you are all nobility in attendance at the royal court of King Adlise. You may choose to be a member of the council-- generally a Count or Countess or better (Margrave/Margravine or Duke/Duchess or Archduke/Archduchess)-- or an attendant of a higher ranked noble.
    3) Do not expect to stay in the city the entire time. Things are going to get interesting fairly quickly.
    4) You are all members of the United Front faction which supports a united kingdom and, eventually, united world. Keep this in mind when creating a character. While some scheming is allowed, most people should be playing someone who supports the faction ideals.
    5) You will be doing some mild worldbuilding in this. I expect you to work with me on this to ensure that the regions you build fit in the world as it sits. As we go, I will be providing more information on the world of Noroth. You aren’t expected to delve into extreme worldbuilding, but please be able to tell me a bit about the region your noble hails from.
    6) Use common sense and research when designing your region. Remember that margraves typically rule border regions and thus have a great many soldiers and knights, for instance.
    7) If you wish to have a deep interconnecting plot with another player’s character, be sure to tell me so I can work it into the story.
    8) This will be a collaborative story but I have the final say in what goes. If you have a good storyarc idea, please run it by me! If you are feeling you aren’t getting enough attention, tell me. Also, please don’t introduce plots that will nullify the main storyline.
    9) Please ask questions! I have many notes that are not yet cleaned up/fleshed out and questions help me flesh things out so you have a fuller world to play in. They also help you interact realistically with the world.
    10) Keep in mind, you are a noble and may not be equipped to deal with everything an adventurer or street scoundrel is.
    11) Unless you have a really good reason, you will be playing a human.


    1) Use the OOC forum for discussion so that others can see your questions.
    2) Yes, there is magic in this game. Use common sense and don’t be an overpowered jerk.
    3) No non-courtier characters.
    4) If you join, please post regularly. If you cannot, let me know. Anyone who doesn’t post regularly or is judged to be holding the plot up will have their character fall into my control until they can return and post.
    5) Behave, be nice, don’t godmod, use common sense, yadda yadda yadda.
    6) I reserve the right to alter these rules if necessary and if it appears that people are lacking in common sense.

    Noroth Summary (open)


    The world of Noroth is an intricate place, full of many peoples trying to live in various states of war and harmony. Four major continents and a handful of large islands dominate the world along with five oceans.

    Geography and inhabitants

    The four major continents of Noroth are:
    Barrivin- Home to humans, elves, dwarves, “good” fae, gnomes, and werecreatures. This mountainous continent has many coastal inlets and steep valleys. The peoples here are more political, though they will declare war if needed. It is situated in the northeast portion of the map.
    Irrishkin- Home to insectoids, goblins of various sorts, humans, centaurs, and giants. This continent is varied, going from heavy plains to swamps to steep mountains and sheer cliffs. The peoples here range from warlords to tribal. It is situated on the southwest portion of the map.
    Hearthbrin- Home to gnolls, kobolds, owlbears, Catfiends, and merfolk just off the shores. This continent is cool, with long, hard winters and mild summers. It is situated on the extreme northwest portion of the map. This wild northern wilderness is difficult to survive in. The merfolk care little for ground dwellers except as a chance meal, gnolls, kobolds, and owlbears tend toward violence, and the tribal Catfiends (who look like a cross between a cougar and a komodo dragon) dislike anyone intruding upon them in the name of progress.
    Dashkos- Home to fae, elves, and centaurs. This continent is pleasantly tropical with volcanic ranges and black sand beaches. It is in the extreme east just south of the equator. Each of the peoples who have moved to this paradise live by their own rules, common towns for nonnative species being cutthroat and often controlled by the black market and pirates.


    Magic is varied, anything from light and life magic to necromancy. There are so many schools of magic that they will be detailed in sections where they are most prevalent. The biggest schools of magic are Fae Sorcery, Life Magic, and the Holy Arts.


    The dominant religion of Noroth is that of the Sun Lord and the Moon Maiden. Hailing from the Gold World, the Sun Lord and Moon Maiden are great dragon gods who have taken on the burden of caring for the mortal world. While there are many other dragon gods, only a few deal specifically with the races of Noroth. The Sun Lord and Moon Maiden are the masters of Light and the Tides. Dealing directly with them or even one of their mortal dragon emissaries is dangerous and as likely to land you on a deadly mission as it is to grant you a boon.

    There are many other demigods and tribal deities that interact with the species of Noroth; these will be discussed in the various regions and peoples sections.


    Politics vary by region. The world is in a constant state of change with borders being rewritten by geographic shifts, war, intrigue, marriage, and betrayal.

    Barrivin Summary (open)


    The continent of Barrivin is mountainous. It ranges from high peaks to lush, fertile farmland valleys. Rivers scrawl along Barrivin like lazy snakes and the entire continent is known for being lush, green, and dangerous. The major human kingdom exists on Barrivin, and though it holds territories on other continents, it’s predominant territory is the Eastern mountain ranges of Barrivin. The kingdom itself is Barrivin Kingdom, and the seat of the Kingdom is Mountainshore. The elves also hold a large amount of land, though they consider themselves stewards and not owners. Their capitol city, The Star Dome, is a lush forest situated around the edge of a crater lake. Dwarves and gnomes make their homes under and on (respectively) the many high mountains of Barrivin, while the fae come and go as they please, though they favor the elven kept lands more than those of other races. Were creatures, tainted by an evil fae curse gone awry, roam the lands, more beast than man and hungry for flesh. Hollow Vale is located on Barrivin, in the eastern third of the continent. There are enemies to the kingdom along the eastern shore and scattered in pockets through the continent.

    Mountainshore Layout (open)


    Mountainshore is a large, walled city high in the mountains on the eastern shore of Barrivin. It is considered the seat of the kingdom and is ruled by a council of nobles, though the lands surrounding the city fall into the Duchy of Veritas. Canals run through the city and sewers run beneath it.

    The keep itself is nestled up against treacherous cliffs whose stone is held in place by a magic field. It is located in the south of the city. The keep is not only guarded by knights and guardsmen, but by aerial guard on flying horses and by court magicians.

    The city district surrounding the keep is high class, filled with city residences for courtiers, lodging for visiting dignitaries, and high end restaurants, clothiers, and other sellers beloved of nobility. It is well maintained and is generally referred to as the Court District.

    In the easternmost part of town, curving along the edge of the city, is the Guild District. Here, most major trade in nonperishable goods and services occurs. It is also the home to the city supported guild halls. While they were once uniform to reflect a sense of equality between the guilds, each hall has been modified, added onto, and changed to reflect the guild within.

    The southern central portion of town just north of the Court District is home to the Marketplace District. This is where perishable goods, trinkets, guild affiliated shops, and any reputable salesperson find themselves. Those without guild affiliation or marketing in less reputable goods and services should find a place elsewhere in town. (Note: The Guild of Whores and Courtesans is a legitimate guild but not all who practice these services are allied with them. The same goes for the Guild of Garden Witches.)
    The southern western district is the Barracks District. Here, soldiers and knights live and train while in town. Blacksmiths, tanners, and ferriers can be found here in addition to in the guild district. There is also a large plot of farmland here within the walls that is kept specifically for training of mounts including both winged and normal horses, elven vine stallions, and the occasional elephant, among other specialty mounts.

    The center of town houses the prison tower, which extends below and aboveground and houses dangerous criminals. Across the canal from this tower is the jail, which houses lesser criminals, drunkards, and layabouts. This district is unnamed but referred to in unsavory company as the Dog’s Whip, The House, and Theif’s End. The prison guards have their own small live in house nearby. It is in slight disrepair.

    The main gate faces west, and the district around it is, aside from the guard barracks, general housing and those businesses that can’t afford guild dues. It is a general mixed living area, mostly human but with other races mingled in. The northernmost portion of this district, known as the Commons, is a shanty town of those who just can’t afford actual housing. Though there are often priests and mages here trying to make a difference, the problem seems ongoing.

    The northernmost portion of town abuts a shallow cave system and has been adopted by rogues and thieves and other necessary ne’erdowells. Occasionally, the city forces will raid the area, but it is generally accepted that these sort of scoundrels (especially the assassins and black market) are needed and, so long as they leave the rest of the town’s people alone, they are generally allowed to do as they please in the Dark District. It is here that the only two official guilds outside of the Guild District are housed: The Thieves Guild (otherwise known as the House of Acquisition and Redistribution of Goods and Coin) and the Assassin’s Roost. The latter is known to exist, though no one really knows where in the caves it is or who actually goes there. It is rumored that there are so many royal spies in this district that half the time, they wind up spying on each other.

    The Public District is just to the north of the center of town, but south of the Dark District. Here, various pubs, restaurants, and inns exist, as well as yet more non guild affiliated shops. Oddly enough, most of the pubs and inns exist as part of the Tavernkeep’s guild.

    To the west of town, there are a series of portals that lead down the mountainside to the military and civilian docks. Both portals and bay are highly guarded, with guard barracks just off the docks and a lighthouse and watchhouse situated on a manmade island 300 yards offshore. The fisherman’s guild has a receiving warehouse just to the north of the docks.

    The Other Worlds (open)

    THE OTHER WORLDS (You will not be playing in these, but your magic is drawn from them)

    The black world- A parallel world of shadows that is a warped reflection of Noroth and used by practitioners of shadow and stealth magic. Home to the Demigod Veil. It is not an evil world, just one of stealth, subtlety, and whispered songs. Thieves and shadow mages both draw their magics from here. Invisibility is an oft bestowed power from this realm with shadow walking being rarer. Other powers include shadow form (ephemeral form), evasive shadows (harder to hit), and Fleeting Shadows (quicker than usual at casting or fighting).

    The grey world- The world of the dead, ghosts, spirits, and necromantic magic. Used both by shamans doing ancestral work and necromancers raising the dead. It is a neutrally aligned world and is a place to go before reincarnation. Home to the Demigod Shroud. This world is dangerous as the lure of peace can captivate the spirit worker and pull her in if she is not careful, causing dangerous illness or death.

    The green world- A parallel world of fae and wild magic used by those who practice sorcery or faerie magics. Home to the demigoddess Blaze and the demigod Ash. This world is a lush and magical paradise and almost every action is magical. Fae who choose to leave give up the majority of their powers while in Noroth or other realms and only regain them upon returning for a full 24 hours. Sorcery, wizardry, and bardsong draw their powers from this realm.

    The blue world- A parallel world of questions and answers along with dreams and prophecy. Using the blue world can lead to madness if overdone. Home to the divine prophet Argaras, who was once a seer of great skill as a mortal before his apotheosis. Any magic to do with prophecy, pre or retro cognition, dreaming and prophecy comes from this world. Many wizards work both with green and blue magic.

    The gold world- A parallel world of dragons, light and blessings, beautiful but dangerous as the energies tend to burn through one if overused. Used to a lesser degree by clerics and those who channel holy magic, to a greater degree by those who use straight life magic. Home to the Sun Lord and Moon Maiden and the Dragon Council. This world’s magic can be addicting and beautiful and deadly even as it heals.

    The violet world- a parallel world of excess, where debauchery, pestilence, gluttony, disease, and indulgence run wild. This magic must be harnessed very carefully so as to only gain the boosts one wishes. Used by divine whores, blight doctors, vermin masters, etc. Home to the demigoddess Indulgia, this world is a constant temptation for sinners and the weak willed. It is not evil, however, and some such as divine whores provide a great service with its magic.

    The red world- a parallel world of ingenuity and war and darker creatures such as demons and will sprites as well as divine protectors who war constantly with the darker influences. Used by battle mages and clerics as well as both holy and unholy leaders alike. It is also a world of invention and the better war machine. Home to the demon prince Varin and the archangel Victoria. Magic of the red world is damaging and warlike. Some wizards even embrace this magic and become war sorcerers or the like.

    Your magic may overlap several worlds. Even those with no magic sometimes have allegiance. There are theories that berserkers draw strength from the red world, for instance. A thief bard will have black and green magic. Items can be imbued with other worldly magic, as well, so keep that in mind.

    World Events (open)

    World Events Summary:
    War against the mad priest Abarad Hesta rages in Hearthbrin, the continent to the north.
    Political machinations go on between border towns in the Mark of Cailthanas, and there was a recent explosion in the town of Hollow Vale.
    Skirmishes between the Goblinoids and the Elven/human settlements on Irrishkin make settling there a dangerous prospect.

    Peerage Rank:
    Talents and Gifts:
    Important Gear and Holdings:
    Secret alliances:
    Attendants: (These are minor NPCs under your control. They shouldn’t have any major impact on the plot but can do things to help your characters. It is up to you how loyal they are. You do not have to have attendants, but you MAY have up to three and they cannot be peerage level. Don’t count general servants under this category, only NPCs with specialties.)
    Short description of your home region: