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Venezuela-inspired campaign setting for generically dungeoncrawlish RPG
This is a placeholder post.
I got Storm to consult a bunch of ideas I've had for a while, I'm gonna post them here. The general idea is rather low-fantasy-ish, wizards and mystics in reasonable amounts but no epic powers or magitek. My chief source of inspiration was the history of Latin American wars of independence, though I'm not making a claim to stay 100% true to the roots of the idea; Storm claims not to mind.
Descendants of enslaved elves still live around the city to this day.
For a good while, plunder flowed through the city almost like the river did. It is not so today, the elves retreated deep into the jungle but by then the city had been already established itself. No longer a mere port for plunder, it grew enough to sustain its own weight, sprawled from along the seashore towards the hillsides and halted in its growth not even by the earthquake.
On high, there's the high city. There, where the weather is mild and sickness does not reach, the aristocrats' palaces are located. Chief among them is the Vice-Regent's, although you'll be likelier to met the one back across the sea, in Metropole. There also the cathedral-monastery stands, as splendid as the place demands. Nobles dwelling here rarely if ever leave for lower parts of town. To and from their country estates, they pass on quickly, in fumes of imported scents, windows of their carriages covered tightly. Finally, there are barracks of the regential garrison. If the colonials are to be kept under control, the soldiers must come from Metropole, and if they come from there, they need to be safe from sickness. Soldiers don't leave except on patrols, so as not to bother the high society with their commoner baseness. The Metropole demands that all gunpowder in colonies be kept tightly under watch, and muskets allowed only on exception. The garrison is one of two such places in the city, the other the fort at the cove.
Down below, there is the middle city. The cathedral-monastery of the high city is but the new edifice; the old and original one is here, and the second lies in ruins. The locals draw much pride from their primacy. Most of them are craftsmen, clerks, writers-for-hire, ones who work skilled trades and not merely by their muscles, a lot better than low city rabble. Here does the sickness strike at times, but most who live here have already suffered it. Monks of the monasteries cater to those who need. Life is not bad in the middle city. And yet, it is not good. People chafe under high city rule. Why, they ask, must they require a permit for something as simple as putting print-blocks to paper? Why does it matter where your ancestors came from, and who they were in Metropole? Why not a master craftsman should be asked how to regulate their craft, or if it should be at all? These questions are passed without answer within middle city salons.
Between the middle city, rising where the hills gain steepness, and the wharves reaching out into the sea, and deep towards the long-abandoned old ruined city, sprawls though the low city, the city's waste bin and its driving force. People, frog people, half-elves and all manner of mixed folk live all side-by-side on jobs ranging from loading and unloading ships, through hauling goods up and down the hill, to selling their labor to one or another manufacture opening up nearby in hopes of avoiding the doom that befell previous ones, or simply fishing and farming for sustenance wherever a convenient spot could be found. Low city taverns are not a place for the faint of heart, nor for the slow of the knife-draw. For the locals, throwing knives and dancing the machete dance are peaceful ways to pass the time. Those unwary may end on the wrong side of the blade in a dark closed alley, or hauled aboard a ship and forced into piracy. Still, life goes, and when a gunboat arrives from upriver, it is the low city that's first to the spoils.
I kinda want to make ganarte now.
(What's ganarte? Anyways, my hunch is it's nothing I should advise against making, so do go ahead.)
I guess I'm gonna post as far as I have ideas and then let you know what else I'd post if I knew how to pull it off. Or, perhaps, in the meantime you will come up with something cooler.
(edit reason: typo)
The city grew, but it also moved, torn from its roots by river and sea and very ground. The old city lies in ruins over the riverbanks as a memory of the city's past, still inhabited, but only barely. Shacks of the poor, easiest to rebuild, litter the riverbanks providing shelter to those who would or could not make their living in the city proper. Some of them are leprous or mad, others criminal or undesired, others yet simply too poor even for low city. This is a dangerous place to sail, for more than one vessel was rushed in the dark from ashore, its crew unable to defend itself against the assailants' knives. Even pirates, though they hold themselves a better sort than this shore-scum, know well to be wary.
Ruins of buildings on higher ground rarely host long-time residents, but for a thief or a thug, a burglar, a revolutionary or a heretic, even the occasional bandit despite them striking out in the countryside around and never within the city, there are hideouts a-plenty. Meetings happen in secret here when city is not safe, in the dark, for a light could be spotted. Though most was scoured clean, scavengers still wander in search of any remaining wealth forgotten or lost when the old city was abandoned.
High up on the hillsides, there are ruined palaces of the better folk, much as they stand today in the high city. This is the only part of the old city that the new still holds claim to, as the nobles do often not wish to part with their estates, even in ruin. Liveried men armed with swords and spears and even muskets stand guard over the estates. Crumbled walls are repaired. And yet, for many it is easier to come here than be brazen enough to steal in the high city itself. Wealth here is lesser, but there it still is, for many of the estates were opulent enough that their owners would rather not bother moving it whole. Instead, it remains here, to no use but employment of guards and enjoyment of thieves.
I'm thinking on how to work in your ideas into my notes. So far so big changes, gonna type all I have come up with and we'll see.
I don't have my notes at hand, so this will be half-improvised:
The river is the chief way inland. Granted, all who have a horse can ride out into the plains, but there's few roads there, and not good for hauling goods in their bulk that can not move on their own. Thus, the river. Plantations dot the banks, where the land is good and forces under the Vice-Regent near, much as they do along the sea coast itself. They form societies of their own, each reaching out only for craftsmanship that it does not produce on the spot. Slaves toil in the fields, be it sugar, or mushrooms, or rubber, or indigo. Time has passed since the last slave-hauler to arrive with replacements for the dead, but the living's lot is little better for it. Shipments of goods leave for the city every now and then, to be carried back to Metropole. Masters of the estates live lavish lives off the trade, whether or not they stay there.
Small towns lie on the river a day or two of sailing apart from each other, serving as marketplaces and supplies of skilled labor to the plantations. The locals vary, some of them a mix as diverse as the low city, others the remainder of a long-past military garrison or an elven village that cast its lot with the invaders, but altogether they are much similar to each other. In between, there are villages of the native frog people, groups of stilt houses standing on water where its depth is low, with flooded rooms and storages below. Rarely hostile, they live by themselves or hire themselves out to the townsfolk. Though they pay their homages of fish and river produce when time comes, many are there who see it wise to still remember their darts and their poisons.
Further upstream, the jungle grows thick. Towns and plantations trickle down to almost none, save perhaps for those driven by folly more than sense, and only the bass twangs of stringed instruments of frogs roll over the waters. Frog people do still live out there indeed, for this land used to be theirs, but even their villages grow scarce, and reliant on older ways which those living downriver do not openly follow. Be it even a heavy river gunboat, laden with armor, its flame-cannons at the ready, a ship no longer means safety. In the water, there dwell creatures that even these measures not always keep at bay, for alligators, and constrictor snakes, and the fish too sometimes strike at a ship itself. On the banks, jaguars and snakes and creatures not yet named await a chance to snatch prey. And yet, the jungle receded once, before fire and a greed beyond its dangers.
The river is not mapped in full. Who knows what lies at its source.
The elves once lived in cities of gold, glimmers of light in the jungle from which they ventured forth, to exchange goods with frog people and other inhabitants of this land, and to gather tribute. Elven kings covered themselves in golden dust in elaborate rituals which they designed perhaps less to honor their gods than to demostrate their own kingship. Nobles wore intricate cloaks, woven from feathers which the craftsmen had plucked from jungle birds without doing them harm. Trees around the cities twisted into shapes of their devising to complement the angles of stone- and goldwork. Animals living nearby behaved like humble guests awed by their presence.
Once they learned of them from the frogs, first encounters with the explorers were peaceful. But this would not last, for too many had been blinded by the luster of gold. The elves tried to talk, tried to buy them off, and finally, tried to fight. Elven warriors donned jaguar-man forms, followed into combat by their parrot minions. Clubs of stone and blades of sharp glass were drawn. Bows were strung with weaves of fiber and magic. One by one, they fell against iron and fire and smoke.
Soon, many cities lay in ruins, gold plates torn off and the rest left for the forest overgrowth. Its people were driven in bounds towards the coast. Trees no longer minded the buildings, animals no longer made their nests outside. Some still visit them, in search of any wealth overlooked by frenzies of plunder, or wisdom generations late.
The elves retreated, though, not surrendered themselves. Deeper yet in the jungle and upon mesas unreachable by walk, cities still might stand. Rumors abound of an occasional glimpse of gold far between the trees, of unusual stalking jaguars whose eyes seemed to tellers of the tales oddly to follow them. The elves knew to contain damage, they had to contain themselves. Some even visit the colonials, sometimes not pretending to come from a conquered village nearby, never revealing where they really came from.
The plains spread to the south and east of the colonial capital. It is a vast region of tropical grassland, though mostly unsuited for grand plantations of the kind which covers the waterfront, and therefore long overlooked. Few roads cross it, and travel to the interior is done more often by river. Early explorers found them passable in dry season, as long as horses were readied and water prepared, but uninteresting, for there was little of note there save for the roaming native centaur tribes. In wet season, they often found the plains covered in water high enough that no place was left to set up a camp, and so they shunned them. Those who came after them were not interested, for there was little gold to plunder in the plains.
However, at some point cattle was let loose on the plains, and it took well to its new home. Overlooked by those in search for riches, they developed a wealth of their own. Cattle lives in vast herds there, halfway feral, and often hunted rather than butchered at pens. Though there are towns, they are smaller than those on the rivers, local fulcrums of trade in meat and skins which had grown around the herds. Villages dot the land where the land is favourable and conditions good, and great landowners see more profit in peonage than in meat. Elsewhere, it is open plains.
A hardy people developed to match the land, as well. Many of them are, by law, slaves. Most of them do not care. They live on horseback, mingling with the centaurs of the plains as if they, too, were part-horse themselves; in turn, many of the centaurs have also taken to pastoral life, so much that in some places there's only a slimmest difference between a centaur and a rider. In their manors, great landowners claim to own the land they ride upon, send out survey teams to produce maps and erect mounds to mark boundaries of their domains. For now, folk of the plains responds to their demands. Time will tell how soon will they realize landowners would respond to theirs.
Of all regions of the colony, the plains may well be where the magic flows free-est; if not, surely it does most overtly. It is said that there are many witches amongst the plainsfolk. A woman keeping many candles may just need them for lighting, but beware one who seemingly has more. Men of the plains do not always stay faithful, but the women know many curses for this and any other occasion. But they also know how to ward against the immaterial, for they are not the only vengeful creatures that roam the plains.
Of the rough riders of the plains, those for whom to not answer to anyone is not yet enough, many take to brigandry. They gather in warbands, roam in search of wealthy travellers and shipments of goods lacking in guard, strike at outlying villages where they may force the locals into ransoms or simply rob with impunity, local militias stretched thin or too weak to stop them. There are parts of the colony where a punitive operation by Vice-Regent's forces is long overdue. But for some, even this may not be enough, as amongst the brigands there are those who seem at supernatural ease, spoken of in fear as not mere men. Rumours abound. Tales are told of brigand bands who strike only in the deep of night, in dark which no fires can dispel, of raiders who are unbested in arms and impervious to bullets, whose heads reveal horns when their hats are torn off, whose terrifying visages are glimpsed for a mere moment for what they truly are rather than man-faces they appear. The Vice-Regency dismisses these tales, as it does most calls for help. The Assembly is more concerned, though it is people's beliefs which often matter to them more. But out on the plains, they are still told, and in these tales these are called the Hell Riders.
I have some notes left, so that should be a few posts more before I run out of stuff to write. Tried to work in some of the ideas Storm gave me, not really succeeded at it. I take it as my fault. But, sooner or later I'm gonna try to procure some sort of 1d10 encounters, and some of that should end up there.
The jungle spreads to the south of the plains, and to the west. Though the river crosses the plains too, for them it is not the only way inland as it is known for other regions. But even so, the jungle rises around the river like a canyon of green, and travellers only travel easy between one and the other bank. All those who wish to enter the green must either sneak in or fight against it.
On every edge of the jungle, there are lumber camps, for trees themselves are wealth. Tropical wood is shipped back to Metropole, where cabinet-makers prize it highly. Cheaper varieties, those not deemed worthy of attention by highborn customers of the master crafters, provide construction materials for people of the colonies; the nobles of the colonies benefit from wood trade, but wood they live with they import back from Metropole. On the land so carved from the jungle, be it suitable, plantations flourish. Sometimes, especially near the river, where the travel is easy, the wood is merely a side gain, else the plantations are. Every now and then, though, one falters for want of fertile soil, or fertile soul. Often it is only the lord of the manor who returns to the city, his failure a ground for good-natured jest in the high city. The middle city sometimes asks for the left behind, in angry letters that struggle to see print and editorials from the underground. The low city does not.
These are those who fight against.
Those who wish to go further in, must sneak. It brings rewards, too. Those who avoid dangers are first to the riches. Diamonds and golden sand. Rare plants, selling well for medicines of the body and the soul. Wild rubber, drawn from the trees unplanted by men, farmed like wild honey by woodsmen inured to danger. Sometimes, what had remained of the expeditions of the past, from items demanded by noble descendants of the conquering parties, wishing to claim ancestors' fame for themselves, to items which are not yet ruined by the jungle and may still sell for a good price. And finally, there are the manhunters, the slavecatchers, the inquisitors, the magistrates, the trackers. They enter the woods in search of others, whoever they might have been and for what reason they had been there first.
The dangers are many. The first of them, and the foremost for all the newly arrived, is sickness. The coast had found a way to live with it; in the jungle, it thrives in many forms. The second, the animals, from the swarming bees, and the spiders, and insects which carry venoms and poisons, and against which the trespassers must maintain watch, to those which do not merely threat, but actively predate. The jaguars, and crocodiles, and snakes, and others yet which eye the sneaking-in for as much wealth as they are looking for. Third danger comes from the sirens of the woods; some lure men deep into the forest, from which they never return, others guard their lakes, filled ever more with riches of those lured into its depths who have instead come to plunder from those who had tried before, and forest spirits guard their groves and trees against those who did not know well to placate them. The last of the dangers is the people, and the frog people, and the elves, who do not wish others to tread in their domain. For those, too, claim the jungle.
These may be those to sneak in, but there is, indeed, a reason beyond wealth.
For some, the jungle offers wealth, but for others refuge. The elves knew it first, as do those of the frogs who chose to remain. Some of the descentants of those who were conquered chose to reclaim it, too. Soon others have learned it as well. It is said the elves keep distance from all others to come after them, but who can know the truth of these sayings; for many of thus escaped are half-elves themselves, and they may yet find back their way into elfdom. Deep in the jungle, there are villages, where former slaves craft vows not to allow themselves to be captured again. Knives are sharpened and poisons distilled. Drums beat. By moonlight, sacred concoctions are brewed by secret recipes to bring forth the wisdom of visions, and spirits, which the outsiders take much care to guard against, here are called forth to help keep watch. Heretics looking to escape religious authorities, criminals in hiding from secular ones, failed and would-be revolutionaries wishing to avoid either also brave the dangers, sometimes carving out of the jungle little villages of their own, building up bases of support, others or at other times simply learning to live in the woods alone. And it also happens that some of them, rather than merely hide, stay in constant contact with the outside world, the jungle a cover for raids against the colonial society. Those are either the least brave, or the most daredevil.
The colony is partially separated in two by a mountain range which, going further south beyond the colonial borders, reaches only ever higher. Here, it is not yet as tall, but it provides an obstacle and a boon to transport, in varying ways at the same time. As the elevation rises, the woods grow thinner and trees shorter, until they stop altogether. It is a cold clime, the more so when contrasted with hot humidity below. If a road is run through high meadows, it provides for a convenient route for those willing to pass it, but only in a few places it can be followed smoothly. In some places, rope pulleys and bridges allow for contact over gorges and between peaks. Small shrines to all kind of saints and deities and spirits of the land dot the fog-covered landscape, enough to serve as a guiding measure for travellers.
People who live here are not as numerous as those in territories to the south, beyond the borders, but are a faithful and honest lot, ready to work hard, some of them native, many other recent arrivals. The former live mostly off animal husbandry, not cattle as upon the plains, but woolen animals, and travel often between the peaks alongside their herds. Of the rest, many hail not from warm Metropole, but other nations, lying further where the weather is harsher and the soils less forgiving, for whom mountains resemble home more than ever would the lowlands. The Vice-regents encourage this, in hope that loyalty the arrivals provide will be unmarred by ties to natives and other colonials. Often, they receive it.
There is a wealth to develop for sure, for the mountains hide ores much desired by industry, even when they are not of precious metals. By official policy, cheap land is offered for those who would come and develop it. Indeed, small settlements abound, of which some, where the native people were accommodated, look as a lively eclectic mix of the local and the distant, many as if the viewer was suddenly transported thousands of miles away. More often than not though, and not without quiet approval of officials up to the Vice-Regent himself, these grants of land seem to go to those who are great landowners already, of both the colonies and Metropole. Sometimes it is only then re-sold or lent out, for the settlers to learn of it only after their arrival. But it also happens that a merchant company opts to settle the land up in their own fashion. Towns spring up built according to the plans of company engineers, only then to be settled by hired laborers.
The newcomers are not all menial labor, though. Mavericks come of curiosity, refugees arrive to leave their old life behind. There are educated people amongst them, doctors to administer to the crowds, experts to study the land. A traveller in remote corners may stumble upon a study of a wizard from a distant land, wishing to find privacy in remoteness and peace to research upon domains which others would prefer left be.
On the western side, the mountains roll down back into the jungle, lower and swampier than it was to the east. There, though, is a boon less common on higher ground, for the swamps abound in tar pits. But the western regions are their own thing.
ribbitribbing sort of joke hidden in here.
The coast is shielded by many islands, of which most are too small to be discussed on their own. In some places, they obstruct the way towards the mainland, elsewhere they provide a measure of protection, against both the storms that strike the coast and the sea monsters, to whom open seas appear a preferred environment. These waters are sailed by fishermen, often from native villages plying their trade only slightly changed by the arrival of the colonists; trader ships and treasure fleets carrying away the colonial goods back to Metropole or bringing in luxuries, troops, and basic utilities not produced in the colonies for want of materials or legal permits, often with a local pilot at the helm anyway to best avoid the dangers; and finally, frequented by pirates.
For the islands at the coast merely herald those further out in the sea. Out there, a multitude of islands large and small rise from the waters. Colonial powers variously claim and fight for them in an eternal struggle for control of trade routes and national prestige alike, and amongst them swarms a multitude of pirates and freebooters, in nominal allegiance to either power or plying the seas independently of any, benefitting from and preying on the trade. They deserve to be spoken of separately.
Once the mainland is reached, often the first sight will not be the beaches, but the mangroves obstructing the sight and complicating the passages; of inhabited polaces, one may encounter a stilt-mounted settlement of frogs, or a village of natives or colonials, who more likely than not diffuse among each other freely here, or a small colonial town or a minor plantation if the conditions are favorable. Pirates are an enduring threat here, perhaps more than seasonal storms which often do too destroy livelihoods and lives, for neither Vice-Regency nor Metropole does always have warships at hand to spare for patrols. Towns thus exist where they are easily defendable, or hard to reach, or when the wealth of the town has not yet raised the interests of the sea. Plantations, alike, have arisen where the good they produce takes too much bulk space to be a worthwhile plunder, or if their absentee lords can write off the losses as acceptable part of the enterprise. The latter is more common.
On the other hand however, proximity to the scum of the sea creates an opportunity for smuggling, for export fees are high and restrictions on import many. The authorities fight it, but patrols aren't always frequent. For many though, this is by design, as a good few colonial fortunes have grown out of illegal trade. Woe to them, if a vessel of Metropole catches up and her captain is incorruptible; in any other case, the only trader in smuggled goods who needs to fear is the one who lacks contacts in the high city. Nevertheless, the middle city owes much to smuggling, as do all its alikes, but it imports where the high city exports. It is a rare printing shop, a library, or an industrial enterprise, which does not benefit from contraband wares. Almost all muskets in the colony which are not in high city's hands came from smugglers' holds.
As a result of these tribulations, there is only one truly large city in the colony, guarded by star-forts to fend off piracy and nested in an estuarial bay where trade ever flows and conditions are safe. But if there was one to rival it, it would be the western city.
The mountains and jungles divide the colony, but before the land on the other side becomes too distant for the Vice-Regent to maintain control, there is a caldera set between the mountains close and unbroken jungle on the far side where an odd sort of town has arisen. Frogs live there in great numbers. Against threats coming from the open sea, it is shielded by a narrow strait, and a lightning storm which seems to have broken out shortly after the arrival of the first explorers, to the bafflement of scholars of mundane and arcane alike. A traveller to pass by boat through both - for indeed, to arrive at the western city, any route but by boat would be an excess of labor and time - would enter a maze of mangroves opening into a large, lake-like basin, then to see how the stilt-houses of the frogs coalesce into a settlement of a clearly urban nature. This, rightly, is the western city of the colony, in submission to the Vice-Regents, yet aside in many ways. The city itself was founded by settlers, but these early ones had more in common with recent migrations than with the settled folk of the colony, though by now that would be hard to tell. Even frog people here are not like those further east, urban, and boastful, and rash, instead of rural and composed. There is no star-fort to protect the city, and some of these traits have been surmised a result of that, a need to stay on the lookout and a readiness for combat. Perhaps, for these issues are always much debated.
The city lives off trade, and much of it is a typical trade of plantation wares, and some of the produce of the mines which lie closer to this side of the mountains, but not all, for there is great wealth in the tar, and oil, and pitch. Swamps around the lake abound in tar pits, and the oils secreting from below the ground are drawn out by buckets and by hand-pumps. With so many crafts drawing benefit from it, the demand for rock oil is always high, and the oil flows through the city in open drains, from the pits to the distilleries and to the port itself. The locals often find uses for it that elsewhere would demand for a different kind of oil or fat, and the city is lit with rock oil lamps. For now, the export fees are paid.
The apartness protects from the wider colonial politics, but a sense of coming change is in the air. Already the tar pits are beginning to see visits from foreign mining experts, ever more frequent, and agents of companies owning the mines uphill are flocking to them. Miners from abroad, or even just from the mining towns of the mountains, are supplanting the locals in the pits, methods ever much distinct to the old way are suggested to improve the production. For now, it is gradual, but a sense remains that the standard operating modes are about to change.
So, I've wanted to drop a post on religion, but also not make this religion just a Generic Fantasy Religion With Catholic Trappings. But man, was it hard to write, not because of lack of ideas or inspirations - I had a bit of a picture - but because I could barely find some time to get in the mood to finally write down the post. And as I want to drop in this this one before the rest I have planned, it holds them all back.
The crown may rule the land through the Vice-Regent and great landowners may hold the titles to it, but they both pay their respect to the Universal Assembly. When first explorers arrived upon soon-to-be colonial shores, they carried with them members of the official structures of the Assembly, and when the city grew, the cathedral was among the first stone buildings to rise.
Today, the Assembly remains looming over colonial society. Its missions and monasteries guide the daily life of many native settlements and outlying towns, cathedrals dominate the cityscape. Its ecclesiarchs remain an important voice among colonials even when surrounded by their lay siblings and cousins, who just as well know the game of politics and court posts, for even if the hierarchy is settled by money and influence they speak with authority beyond their personal importance.
The Assembly shares its teachings of enlightenment with other faiths - in fact, it grew out of a tradition of enlightenment which it, indeed, universalized - but the structures it developed are its own. According to the Assembly, self-attempted enlightenment is possible, but highly unlikely, and wont to result in harm to self and others, while contained traditions such as the one which gave it life fail to provide enlightenment to any but a small handful at a time. For all these reasons, it instead demands to submit to a hierarchic collective based on regular meetings which can supply lessons and practices in due time, to a largest possible number of people. This way, it claims, everyone in the Assembly can take their first steps on the path at a safe pace, and those willing to devote themselves fully to it can join one of many monastic communities. This, as well, leads the Assembly to spread over the world, its missions and monasteries footholds after which the rest of the structure follows.
Needless to say, many contend its claim. Competing traditions continuously arise, most based upon the notion that the ecclesiastical structure that the Assembly maintains is, in fact, unnecessary to achieve enlightenment. Of these, some merely build independent structures of their own, others retain basic structural trappings, and else entirely do away with anything but intimately personal meditation in order to understand the hidden meanings underneath the basic texts and founding principles. Beyond the sea, the Assembly maintains specialized investigators to limit the impact of these deviant teachings. In the colonies, it is still spread too thinly for their efforts to succeed by much, which in turn incites many of these dissidents to come. Even in the capital, they can only keep a tight hold over the high and the middle city.
Of the other colonial powers, sometimes they stay true to the Assembly as well, and sometimes they do not, standing for one or another of these dissident paths. It still informs the game of politics between powers, even in the colonies, where such issues of importance have, until recently, not normally reached.
Eh, you know what? Have it. It's not even done in full, but this thread's been too long without an update.
Also, since I already brought it up again, the name is
ripped offlifted wholesale from a single source. It's pretty obscure, you've probably never heard of it.
The Universal Assembly, and neither are its alike but different competitors, is not the only religion to be found in the colonies. The high church of the Assembly only holds fast among the well-established in colonial society. The further one is from those reaches, the likelier it is to pay spiritual tributes to others.
Back in Metropole, faiths and traditions which grew forth independently to the Assembly were largely uprooted or forced into hiding. The Assembly, though it is rarely in direct contradiction, claims a universality that leaves them no place. Some traditions still do carry on there, isolated from general society by choice or by landscape. In the colonies, some of these did arrive along with the colonials, their carriers seeking respite from persecution, a safe haven, or most simply along with no concerns of that kind. As in Metropole though, the practitioners for the mosr part keep to themselves, resigning themselves to their quarters in cities or to small towns or villages where and when the Vice-Regents saw themselves in the mood to grant them a right to self-rule.
However, of these paths the most common to the colonials are those which are native, whether or not they existed before the conquest, for some arose only after it happened.
The first of those is the spirit-faith of the elves, if it may be called so, for the elves lived along the spirits of the land and the animals of the wild. In the hidden cities, it can be surmised they still do; in villages of peons it is rarely so, for the conquered have conceded their loss and joined the Assembly, or made a show of joining. The Assembly, though the spirits do not deny it, demands that they are not worshipped, the act of which the elves seem to have never actually done. Among some, the dissidents or in secret in the know, this is held to be a political issue, a result of an unspoken deal between the Assembly and the conquerors which eases control over the subjugated in exchange for spread.
The frog people are admitted some leeway in their beliefs. Though teachings of the Assembly spread among them to a wide popularity, they often add to it their old ways. Many quietly pay homages to the spirits of the land and waters, and as long as they are not overt with it much, they are not met with reprimand. In the older days, frogs engaged in acts of animal sacrifice, often of their prey caught live with help of their poisons. As one moves further from the centers of Assembly power in the towns, it is likelier that they still do, ensuring pacts with and favour of spiritual and elemental entities that the well-being of their communities much depends on. Many a frog would admit to a belief in doctrines of the Assembly, but only a rare one would as well profess independence from the moods of the supranatural. And in distant villages in the far reaches of the river, where only the bravest explorers and sturdiest gunboat crews reach, the victims of their sacrifices are rumoured to extend to the sentients. On occasion they are asked, the frogs deny these slanders vehemently.
The slaves brought from afar to work on plantations tend to be a mixed lot. Those who arrived recently often hold on to their beliefs despite the pressures of both the drivers and the Assembly. Old survivors and their descendants may as well, or let the pressures have some measure of an effect. Since they rarely all belong to the same people, even on a single plantation, even the original forms forms of worship are by necessity merging together.
For most others, the half-elves, peons, natives, and the inhabitants of the low city as well, the ways they follow are often mixed in a fashion that often leaves little to discern where Assembly doctrines end and others begin. The Great Enlightened of the Assembly mingle with pagan deities. Spirits mingle with folk heroes. Devils receive worship on par with great persons of the past. A shrine by the road built in full accordance to Assembly canons might be actually devoted to a locally notorious thug with a reputation for charitable impulses. A leader of the community may receive fruit offerings and incense smoke by his beneficiaries regardless of his overall standing and reputation in society at large. Spirits of the land might be assumed to be manifestation of regionally popular Great Enlightened. Miraculous powers of bird-speech and shapeshifting are attributed to those who in all respects were known as perfectly mundane. As the chief religious authority in the colony, the Assembly, usually unintentionally and in spite of attempts to curb it, provides forms of communal religious life which are often copied by those syncretic traditions. A traveller from the city might venture out into the region expecting to find cathedrals of the Assembly only to encounter a procession of dancing devils.
Where this tradition came from, nobody is quite sure, for at the beginning it could have arisen from customs of any of the ways the colony has brought together, be it a procession of the Assembly or dances of the natives, or beliefs of the frogs. Regardless of origin, the basic form of the tradition, for variations are many, remains mostly solid: a group of dancers dressed as devils maintain a celebrant procession. Beyond that, details such as membership of the procession, a reason to celebrate, ways to disguise, vary. They may, and this is most commonly delivered explanation, for it grants them a cautious acceptance from the authorities, celebrate a holy day of the Assembly. They may erect a temporary monument of a devil they claim to worship or follow in its footsteps. They may steal or demand gifts from the gathered people. They may be persecuted by authorities, or protected by custom from persecution by authorities who would much wish to persecute them, consist of poor and downtrodden who take it as a rare chance to stand up, or persons of standing themselves who see it as their honor and privilege. They may deliver much-demanded justice under the guise of devils, when the perpetrator of a crime is otherwise protected by legal authorities, by law or by custom. They may be led by a genuine devil whose hellish identity is obscured by a crude mask, making the real to look fake, and a surrounding mass of like-dressed co-dancers.
damn, it's enough, I've been writing it for too long by much, everything worked to interrupt me
Beyond the sea lies Metropole. It's an ancient kingdom boasting a long history rich in memorable events of every kind there is, of ups and downs, ignoble treasons and heroic selflessnesses, missed opportunities, golden ages, glorious victories, harrowing defeats. None of that matters in the colonies, save for one thing, for the conquest. Its fortune is now tied to the wealth brought forth from the colonies, and the colonies' own fortunes are tied to it. But they may not forever be so.
Metropole is not the only kingdom out there. It's surrounded by a slew of others, all different, yet so much like each other. Kings compete against each other for an objective which is never made all clear. Colonies and countries are little more than mere pawns and tokens to be used or bargained for in this undending game of power and prestige. The royal courts, of which those of colonial Vice-Regents are pale simulacrums, swarm with nobles and great commoners vying for positions and basking in royal splendor, competing for favor of their suzerains. Top-ranking officials of the Universal Assembly variably use, help, and squabble with the kings for their own interests, for great powers all nominally follow its teachings, and masses certainly do, yet it could seem differences in doctrine which rile them up are merely an outgrowth of national policies.
Things may be changing, though. There are rumours, slipping into colonies through royal sailors' infrequent shore leaves and smuggled leaflets. But it would require much more than just a change in discourse for a real change to affect the colonies as well.
The great powers all have them, for sure. All are maintained as pawns against each other, for matters of prestige and trade, and the latter is why there are trade and import laws imposed upon the colonies, all to the benefit of smugglers and pirates. To the north, the ocean bears many islands variously owned by one or another power, used as plantations and power bases, but the competition is harsh, and conditions cruel, and many slip through the cracks. Entire islands turn into pirate bases only to be conquered by yet another power a mere few years later, sending forth a wave of sea reavers in search of new places to hide or plunder. The plantation and mine owners drive their slaves to death, knowing that under such risks, only in this way they may turn a profit off their investments.
There is an island which used to be a supplier of saltpeter and sulphur to the entire archipelago, and exported back over the ocean lines for much profit. For some reason, birds from all around the sea came to roost here. The piles they left over centuries on the mountainous coasts was a greater wealth than any cash-crop plantation that could take hold there. Sulphurous springs found in the island's interior invited to set up powder mills yet more, iron seams called for blacksmiths. Soon, though the island lacked a good port, and so all trade had to pass through a small, secluded cove, slaves were worked hard for either. They did so, until they chose no more. Now, the island is written off, spoken of in tones hushed by memory of terrors, and a different flag flies over the cliffs. A black one, with a cannon over crossed chains. Ships steer clear of the island, for there are no warning shots. The island's forts are watchful, its cannons do not want for powder, and its people do not waver for mercy. It is rumoured, though, the locals might stay their hands, if the right offer is given. A pound of powder for each ten slaves set free. A cannon for a governor dead. A crate of pistols for a plantation burned to the ground. Time will see if there is one to give it. The guns of the island reach far. All that needs to be done is to come close enough to be heard.
Regardless, however, of the importance of ocean trade routes and wealth brought by the island plantations, as one would expect, most of the colonial territory is located on the mainland. There are many colonies, for sure, under the rule of most of the great powers, sometimes in loose contact with each other, but more often separated by natural boundaries. The jungle is vast, and passable virtually but for the rivers, but they follow their own routes. The mountains are high and rugged. The maritime trade, one which could develop in avoidance of such barriers, is held back by laws erected in their stead. In capitals beyond the sea, the kings do not mind that the proceeds of their colonial subjects flow back to the home country, rather than spread amongst their fellows a valley apart. Colonies which pay allegiance to the same kings, speak the same language, are nonetheless not spared these ordinances.
The colony neighbours some of these other colonies. Although there is a measure of contact in spite of barriers, for at least the legal ones can sometimes be dismissed, the laws still demand that it is routed through Metropole; with the colonies of other powers, of course, they demand no contact is kept at all. There no overland routes, or next to none, and major settlements are far apart even in the best of cases. Trade is sparse between them. They are all unique in their traits and local conditions, but as long as they are driven by plantation and resource economies under their respective Vice-Regencies, by most ways of approaching their situation, they do not differ by much from each other.
The neighbour to the south, where the land is not as good for plantations, does, however, differ in many enough ways to note. It is mountainous, and dry, and conditions there are no good for growing cash crops, although native farming traditions have proven well productive even past the conquest. There is silver, though, as the gold was in the jungle, but unlike it remained as the gold was picked to the last piece, and silver it was to bring the elves living there woe. They fared no better than their brethren to the north, unprepared for what was to come, incredulous to believe terrible news brought by the runners over, now left in disuse, the single ridge-along road linking these two of their domains. Stones of their fortresses' walls were cast aside, peaktop temples pillaged and broken, no longer to hail the forces of sun and death and lightning, valley recluses torn and left for pig farmers to house their herds where elven kings once dwelt and hosted their courts. Thus, the Vice-Regency of the Mountains rests now upon silver to ship back to Metropole, for little else the conquerors saw once blinded by the luster. Those whose fathers have come from Metropole are rare, and stay on the coast, where a good port city was built for them to enjoy the riches of the land. They are a proud people, perhaps helped with the spirit of the old elven pride, for in their hearts they see themselves as the elven kings' rightful successors, much as they would loath to admit in the open. They, in turn, see the colonials to their north as gauche.
As they do so, in the pleasant capital on the coast, further back from the sea the silver is mined. There are many of them who toil, natives, elves, half-elves, whether driven from villages to do their part, or choosing so on their own accord on a chance it is better still than what little subsistence is provided for them. They are free, or half-free, peons and serfs rather than slaves, but many slaves fare better. Rockfalls take their lives; mercury takes their health; new laws of the land and missionaries of the Assembly take their old customs. Some make do. Others grumble.
The Vice-Regents of the Mountains claim all is under their control, or barring that their boot; that there most certainly are no hidden cities high in the mountains, where only elves know how to dwell for long unsuccumbing to thin air, and old mummified lords of ages past were drawn from their tombs to rule in their killed descendants' stead. The locals are not biding their time, as the mountaintop bases gather strength; that none of those who flee settled life go upwards, wishing for their herbal remedies to keep them walking until they reach their aims, or gather in bands to assault remote outposts. Those of purest elven blood do not wish to cleanse the land of the invaders' taint. Surely, there was the occasional rebellion; a normal occurence, and each such time easily put down with hardly a disruption to mining outputs, as far as the Vice-Regents are concerned.
Such are the surroundings. If anything was to happen in any one of the colonies, the others would be drawn into it, and soon the powers as well. The powers play their own game, though. A change, once forced through, would need a hero to ride it to the end, lest it falls back towards the old track.
The last sentence is intentionally cheesy because it's supposed to appeal to the player, you know, a player character insert, lol, who am I kidding, it's never gonna be what I would like it to be.
If you wish, you can modify the list: change the roll to a 1d20 or greater and alter the probabilities of different outcomes. The Crown, the Assembly, and the landowners own most of the land anyway.
This is the first of my intended series of 1d10 of whatever posts.
I go a 1! The royalty it is, could've been worse (maybe), I wonder how much adventuring you(r character) gotta do to be able to afford to purchase your own land.
Depends on the game, but the way I see it in this case, somewhere between "not that much" and "unless you want more than a shack and a vegetable garden". Also, the kinda-sorta-implied-intended-end-game is breaking off from the home country, so if
the game master is lenientyou play your cards right...
I'm gonna do a 1d10 things that might happen in [location]. If you have any opinion on what [location] would be fun to go first, go ahead and tell me!
What's been going on in the jungle recently (1d10)?
What's been going on in the mountains recently (1d10)?
Something like this; I have a feeling it could be better. I can still add any ideas to come.
I had in my notes several different iterations of a hostile animal, but two should be enough.
Note to self: the high city should probably be renamed the upper city. Or do you guys think it doesn't sound better?
Well then I guess I have some more ideas to stuff this little project with.
Upper city sounds more hipster and so I'm voting for that one.
because at this point I'm not yet sure ifthough probably preceded by the ruined old city, and then... uh. I guess that'd be the time for character classes? I dunno. (I mean, I said I intend it to be a D&D derivative, so, classes are expected, but there are D&D derivatives out there which don't. I guess I'll copy the preferences of folks I'm ripping offinspired by.)
What's been going on in the middle city recently (1d10)?
By one Arturo Michelena, on some sort of legal license I would have to research if I want to use it. Would probably want to use it. Could be a decent first page.
(Wikipedia link here.)