Kingdoms and Powers
Often disparaged as the ‘Peasant’s Nation’, Aldan is the largest island of the Dark Moon Islands chain, off the west coast of Thalladar. It is so called because its collection of small, ramshackle kingdoms does not have a very extensive aristocracy, mainly the few earls, almost monarchs in their own right, who serve the petty kings; the thanes who hold free land under the earls; and the cnichts, the freeholder farmer-warriors who form the bulk of the armies. The bulk of the kingdoms are peasants, and since Aldan was only an outpost of Malabar at its height, it has no nobility to make claim or pretense to Malabarese descent. Currently, there are 16 kingdoms of varying size on the islands. At times, they pay nominal homage to a High King, but the last High King, Aelfric the Wary, perished twenty years ago during the war between the Nhord and Aldan, and no one lesser king has amassed enough power to claim the vacant High Kingship. Aldan is notable that they are one of the few nations with no serfdom, and the free peasants may bear any arms. The language is Western Common, and the religion is the Palladian Church and Jorick the Bear God of the North.
Amaalqaart was a mercantile trading empire that occupied the northern coast of Seros. It was overwhelmed by the Serpentine Empire during its dark resurgence, which wrested all of Amaalqaart’s south western possessions away. Three centuries later, Malabar conquered what remained of Amaalqaart, and the survivors fled to found Ghol, Sheshan, and Sallatrix. Amaalqaart was noted for its veneration of Malkoth the Golden Spider, god of wealth, and for its sacrifices of the first born children of each family to the Temple of the Spider. The ruins of Amaalqaart city are currently occupied by Khoresh. It is believed that the Khoreshti priesthood is searching for something in the extensive ruins of the city.
Ar-Tirian is called the Fair Realm, because it possesses great natural beauty, abundant resources, and a substantial population of half elves. After the fall of Malabar, the High Elven Court of Caer Syrin decided to set up a buffer state on the main continent, part of a long term plan to contain both the goblinoid aggression of Rhash-Akhar, and a resurgence of the Sea Trolls. A group of the High Elven nobility set up a court among the primitive human tribes remaining in what once was Galandar, a province of Malabar, and instead of ignoring them, began to introduce them to civilization. The result is Ar-Tirian, a free kingdom that blends elven and human cultures. It has an extensive court of half elven nobles, and is composed mainly of small communities of humans and half elves, with a scattering of elves and halflings. It is notable for not having serfdom, and for an extensive free peasant militia. Its Queen is the half elven Galandrea the Fair, the Queen of the Rosewood Throne, its capital is Caer Tirian, and its languages are elven and Western common. Its religion is the Elven gods, with a small minority of Jorick and Palladian Church worshippers.
The Black Kingdoms
South of Khoresh are many small to mid sized kingdoms, populated by various tribes of dark skinned humans collectively referred to as Punic. The kingdom most known is Ophir, once an outpost of Khoresh, and now independent, with a half Khoreshite aristocracy ruling over a Punic lower caste. They are know for their heavy spearmen, who fight with the asagi, a short stabbing spear, much in the manner of Western swordsmen, their bare back light cavalry, and their more traditional light spearmen, who defend against cavalry. Their languages are Late Khoresh and Punic. Their religion is the Blood Red Serpent Zhath, one of the Seven Gods of Darkness, among the upper classes, while the lower class venerate Djalla the Blood Witch and Amaan the White Ape, two other of the 7 Gods of Darkness.
The Bloodstained Empire of Azathal
In the aftermath of the Hellwars, the Bright Lords imposed their own religion and will upon the world, chaining it in laws designed to regulate every aspect of society. They waged a crusade of genocide against the brutal orcs and goblinoids, and began forming protectorates over the dwarves and Halflings. When they turned their attention to the chaotic elves, the Elven Kingdoms under their High Kings opposed them, only to be crushed. The surviving elven leaders then made a fateful decision. They contacted the Lords of the Abyss, the chaotic demons who served the Seven Gods of Darkness, for aid against the forces of order. The demons granted aid, and in the Demon Wars crushed the Radiant Imperium, slew the Sun Emperor, and drove the Bright Lords into exile beyond the world.
Having saved the world from the tyranny of order, the now corrupted elves set up a Demonic Empire, devoted to chaos, evil, and the absolute indulgence of their whims. Egged on by their demonic masters, they enslaved who they wanted, looted what they wanted, and destroyed what they wanted. Their empire became the mightiest power on the planet, one built on arcane and martial prowess, and absolute power. The elves live in magnificent, dark spired cities of breathtaking architecture located on the main continent of Azathal, tended by slaves of all races. Dwarves do all manual and craftwork, humans farm, Halflings are domestic servants, and orcs and goblinoids serve in the armies. No race under their rule is allowed religion, wealth, or, except for the slave warriors, arms. They are even forbidden to use any metal other than copper or bronze.
After twenty thousand years of rule, the blood elves are indolent, isolated, and more entertained by their court maneuverings among the great houses than by engaging in open warfare anymore. The blood elves ignore what happens on the fringe of their empire, and only rouse themselves when something threatens their dominance, like the Naga Wars, or Malabar’s attempts to woo the Dark Gods, or Lord Isen’s attempt to summon the elemental lords. They brood over the world like gods; vain, chaotic, whimsical gods. Emperor Amanathar X Malakhathos is the current ruler, having occupied the Blood Throne for 500 years. The capital is Khaal Mathkhar, the language is Blood Elven, and the religion is the Church of Darkness.
The Bright Lords
Thalladar was a normal world, inhabited by elves, dwarves, Halflings, orcs, and humans, until a war split the Heavens. The Seven Gods of Light cast out the Seven Fallen Gods into the Abyss, polarizing the world into good and evil. The conflict surged back and forth for millennia, with each race taking sides, until the Bright Lords, the celestial descendents of the angelic servants of the 7 Gods and humans, forged an order and an empire that routed the Hellspawn, their half demon opposites. They formed a theocracy, with their mightiest priest elected as Sun Emperor, holder of the sacred burning celestial banners of the sun goddess Solistra, and set about formulating how to bring peace and order to the world.
In the aftermath of the Hellwars, the Bright Lords imposed their own religion and will upon the world, chaining it in laws designed to regulate every aspect of society. They waged a crusade of genocide against the brutal orcs and goblinoids, and began forming protectorates over the dwarves and Halflings. When they turned their attention to the chaotic elves, the Elven Kingdoms under their High Kings opposed them, only to be crushed. The surviving elven leaders then made a fateful decision. They contacted the Lords of the Abyss, the chaotic demons, for aid against the forces of order. The demons granted aid, and in the Demon Wars crushed the Radiant Imperium, slew the last Sun Emperor Sariel’arash, and drove the Bright Lords into exile beyond the world.
Now, the Bright Lords are but a faint memory, their remnants exiled in the Astral Plane, where they plot to regain their freedom and try to restore order to the world. In this, they are not always aided by their own gods, for several of the 7 Gods of Light feel that the Bright Lords take order too far, and do not pay enough heed to good. Even within the Palladian Church, only the enigmatic White Monks of Absalom, an order of paladins and monks, aid the cause of the Bright Lords. Within their own order, there is starting to grow a division, with those who prefer order more and more seeking aid from the followers of Jhamun, while those who prefer good seek to redeem themselves in the eyes of the Gods of Light.(The Bright Lords use the half-celestial template.)
Caliphate of Shahharzhad
The dominant kingdom of the near eastern continent of Zhamash, the Caliphate is a religious autocracy, dedicate to the worship of Jhamun, the Veiled God of Balance. Jhamun was the fifteenth god of the old pantheon, and when the Godswar began, he alone refused to choose sides, preferring to uphold the balance. He sent the first of his Veiled Prophets to the tribes of the area that would become the Caliphate, where the Veiled Prophets led the tribes to victory over the various petty kingdoms in the area. In the years after, the Caliphate expanded to become the dominant power of the Near East, becoming a fierce rival of Khoresh and Malabar. With Malabar wiped out by the sea trolls, Shahharzhad is now concentrating on defeating Khoresh to become the dominant human power, bringing Jhamun’s plan to exile the other gods and spread balance across the world to fruition.
Shahharzhad is ruled by a Caliph, a divinely appointed ruler, chosen by the Veiled Priesthood. The current ruler is Caliph Akamar III, a taciturn religious fanatic determined to destroy Khoresh and it’s worship of the Dark Gods. The Caliphate is a very controlled society, with the alima, the religious judges, enforcing ishara, the religious law of Jhamun, aided by the mutaqqa, the religious police. Jhamun’s twin emphasis on order and balance ensures that every aspect of life is strictly regulated and defined, with the law binding everyone. Other religions are tolerated if they pay a special tax. The capital is Shahharzhad, the language is Mitani, and the religion is the Faith of Jhamun.
The Dark Kingdom of Great Khoresh
Great Khoresh is one of the oldest human kingdoms, having existed in one form or another for ten thousand years. It shows influences from both the Blood Elves, as well as the Naga in its dark, many columned temples and mysterious pyramids. It is a religious autocracy, much like Shahharzhad, except that the Seven Gods of Darkness are worshipped. The pharaohs are in theory absolute rulers, but in actuality they spend much of their time in the royal capital of Kharkhemesh, enjoying their decadent pleasure palaces, while the priesthood controls the administration of the country from the religious capital of Khoreshti. Khoreshites are well known through out the world as slavers, and their black hulled heavy war galleys are usually given a wide berth.
Khoresh is involved in a great struggle with Shahharzhad over the control of the East and South, a religious war that seems to never end. Against Shahharzhad’s paladins, priests, and summoning sorcerers, Khoresh sends its necromancers, wizards, and slave warriors. So far, the two powers are matched evenly, and no end to the conflict is in sight. The current ruler, Pharaoh Kethmekt V is a young, hedonistic man who enjoys his harem and lotus pollen, leaving the affairs of state to Amaas Rhaum, High Priest of the Church of the Dark Gods, Khaul Sehkmat, Chief Wizard and Lord of the Dark Circle, and Herak Khet, Chief General. These three scheme against each other as well as Shahharzhad, and their schemes usually are fatal to their minions. The language is Late Khoresh, and the religion is the Dark Church.
The dwarven kingdom in the frozen lands of the North, though not as large as Krak Khazal, it is still the most powerful dwarven kingdom in the world. Many dwarves, all trained as battle hardened warriors, live in the mountains of Dun Mohr, in interconnected tunnel-cities. Their ruler, the North King Ironhand VIII is a suspicious isolationist, and he only trades with dwarves or the few human traders from Aldan allowed in the village of Icemist at the base of Mount Mohr.
The Elemental Templars of Zhuran
The Templars are an organization of warrior-sorcerers that serve the Elemental Gods. They control the mountains and deserts of Zhuran, holding off both Shahharzhad and Khoresh. They have fierce warriors and masters of elemental magic, having alliances with the Jann. Like their gods, they are more concerned with the natural world than with the politics of the secular world. They have only interfered with the rest of the world when Lord Isen used the Four Orbs of Elemental Power to command them to follow him in his mad crusade against Khoresh and Shahharzhad, seeking to conquer all of the Eastern continent of Soran. After their defeat by the combined might of Khoresh and Shahharzhad, aided secretly by the Blood Elves who were threatened enough by the thought of the Elemental Gods being unbound to act, the Templars were able to withdraw the bulk of their strength, thanks to the efforts of Prince Kallan Bloodshadow, the Blood Elf leader of Lord Isen’s Iron Fleet, and now remain secure again in their mountain and desert fastness. Their language is Zhuran, their capital is the Temple City of Kandahar, and their religion is the Elemental Gods.
The Elvensong Isles
The home of the High Elves are the fertile, pleasant Elvensong Isles. Here the last of the High Elves were driven by the Blood Elves, and they have built up a new kingdom, albeit one that is a pale shadow of their former power before the Bright Lords and the Blood Elves. Their islands are a confederation of small kingdoms, united under a High King. They live in cities that are marvels of magical construction, and their armies of mithril clad warriors and puissant wizards are enough to give most human kingdoms pause before trifling with them.
All this power, of course, means nothing to their cousins the Blood Elves, who could swat them like flies, but instead take perverse pleasure in letting the High Elves survive, so they can contemplate how helpless they are, and how much total failures they have become. This serves to give the High Elves a grim purpose, to try and convince the Seven Gods of Light to ally with the elf gods and again intervene in the world against their outcast brethren, even if it costs the High Elves their existence. This lends them a serene, fatalistic sensibility, one which is reflected in the attitude of the Silvertree Court, and the Silver King Eletheniel the Wise, which is a perpetual ball masque of intrigues and tales of daring. Few humans are allowed here, after the Isles skirmished with Malabar at its height. The capital is Caer Syrin, the language is Elven, and the religion is the elven gods.
Forest Realm of Sidhe Taran
The second grouping of elves is located in the vast forests of Sidhe Taran, located to the East, past Ostgaard. Here lies the confederation of kingdoms known as Sidhe Taran, under the druids of the Greenwood Path. When the ancient elves were overrun by the Bright Lords, the few survivors fractured. Some chose to flee, hoping to find a place beyond the reach of the Bright Lords, while others chose to ally with the Bright Lords’ enemies, the Lords of the Abyss. Those who fled first stopped at the Elvensong Isles, where they began setting up a new society, one of cities and arcane magic, ruled by wizards. This upset many of the traditionally minded elves, who felt that such a society was too close to that of the Blood Elves, and sure to attract their ire.
These dissidents chose to keep fleeing East, until they came to the vast forests of Eastern Thalladar. There they formed small communities ruled by druids and sorcerers, channeling the elemental power of the earth to defend them. They live a pastoral life, in harmony with nature, and warring with the goblinoids of Rhash-Akhar. Their ruler, The Lord of the Darkwood Throne, is Lord Sarathel Sardion, a mighty ranger/druid who advocates that elves avoid other societies. This isolationism is often tested sorely by the incursions of the orc ravagers of Rhash-Akhar. The capital is Sael Athar, the language is elven, and the religion is the elven deities.
Ghol is one of the wealthiest, most populous kingdoms of the world, for all that its inhabitants never see the sun. Located throughout Mount Ghol, it was founded by refugees from ancient Amaalqaart, the ancient human empire on Seros that was conquered by the Serpentine Empire. In Ghol, they made a fortress that even the Sea Trolls could not reach, tunneling under the mountain to create a vast city of cavern gardens, mines, and forges. They interbred dwarven and human slaves to produce an underclass called the Sub-men to do all manual labor in Ghol, while the aristocrats kept themselves pure by breeding only among themselves.
The mines under Mount Ghol are so rich and deep that it has rendered Ghol mighty and wealthy. Even Malabar could do no more than use its alchemical might to compel Ghol to become a client state, rather than annexing Ghol outright. Once Malabar fell to the Sea Trolls, Ghol quietly resumed its independence, under the Court of Masques, the Lords of the Noble Houses, who choose one of their number to be the King of Masques, who conceals himself behind a mask and conducts all business in secret.
After years of inbreeding, the Gholish resemble two separate races. The Sub-men are brutish, squat, and powerful, with sallow skin that burns under sunlight, and white, pupil-less eyes that are blinded by light. The Nobles are tall, slender, and pale, and suffer the same sunlight induced effects as the Sub-men. The Gholish are callow observers in world affairs, preferring to be left alone and to trade. Since their mountain is one vast fortress that thwarted even the Sea Trolls, no one has any enthusiasm for conquering them. They trade mainly with Khoresh for slaves, and with the Serpentine Empire for food. Their trade with the west since the decline of Malabar has been limited, since the west has little to offer save food and slaves, which are more easily obtainable elsewhere. The Capital is Ghol, the Language is Gholish, and the religion is the Dark Church, preferably Malkoth, the Golden Spider.(Ghol Sub-men use the Dark Creeper stats, while Ghol Nobility use the Dark Stalker stats.)
The lands between the Naga Empire and old realms of Amaalqaart consists of league after league of dry desert, leading to a vast savanna, until finally the jungles of the Naga are reached. The inhabitants of the desert are the fierce tribes of Hakhem. They are nomads, riding camels and horses, and when not raiding each other or the few remaining cities of the coastal areas, they raid the black tribes of the savanna for slaves that they sell to Khoresht and Ghol. They were used as mercenaries by Amaalqaart, and they are distantly related to the people of that lost empire, speaking a language that is a descendent of Old Amaalqaartish. They worship the Dark Gods, particularly Gorath, the Destroyer of Cities.
The largest kingdom of dwarves on Thalladar. It occupies the lands between what was old Malabar, and the vast reaches of the forests of Sidhe Taran. Its
ruler the Iron King Haakon Sternhelm, is one of the most wealthy and powerful on Thalladar, and he influences markets and decisions across the continent.
Unlike their kin in Dun Mohr, the dwarves of Krak Khazal welcome outsiders, and have an extensive foreign quarters in the under mountain stronghold. They
maintain good relations with their kin in Dun Mohr, but despite Krak Khazal’s efforts at diplomacy, the North King is wary of any outsiders, remembering
past differences with Malabar as well as the Nhord, who will war with the dwarves as often as they ally with them against the giants.
Empire of Kharazumi
Located in the jungles of the same name, this is the ancient land of the Rakshasa, ancient rivals of the Blood Elves. Worshipers of the Primal Gods, the evil Rakshasa rival the Blood Elves and Naga in their veneration of evil. Like the Naga, they at first resisted the Blood Elves when the rulers of the Blood Stained Empire rose in power following their pacts with the Gods of Darkness, and like them they received a harsh rebuke that wrecked their empire. The Rakshasa slowly rebuilt, and began to conquer the nearby islands kingdoms of the humans, making them slaves.
Now, the Rakshasa stand as a power again, dominating the eastern continents. Their sub-continent is a lush jungle realm, rich in spices and silks, as well as minerals, surrounded by island chains of humans used as slaves and ruled over by the Rakshasa nobility. The Rakshasa use humans as slave labor, warriors, and as food, raising humans on farms for sustenance. Their capital of Rashimi is a vast city of breath taking architectural beauty, with huge stretches of parks and trees, statues and fountains, with a modern aqueduct system. The Rakshasa aristocracy, silk clad warriors, sorcerers, and clerics, do no work of their own, being indolent and decadent, engaged in horrific sybarite depravities of all types, while scheming against each other in the Blood Jade Court, before the Red Jade Throne of Emperor Akitsuka the Pale Death.
The Rakshasa, proud and arrogant, are gathering strength to challenge the Blood Elves again. Their warriors scour the world for heroes, encouraging them secretly to great deeds. When the heroes become powerful enough, they are kidnapped and brought back to Rashimi, where they are converted into powerful undead champions to serve the Rakshasa Emperor in the upcoming conflict. The capital is Rashimi, the language is Rakshasa, and the religion is the Primal Gods.
Empire of Malabar
Once the most powerful empire of the West, the Malabarese were humans from the city-state of Malabar who followed the Blood Elf example and made pacts and bonds with the Seven Gods of Darkness, filling their blood with demonic taint. Once Malabar was merely one of a number of small kingdoms along the westernmost peninsula on the Outer Sea. Alessandro Sarathos, one of the most powerful nobles of the realm, was a powerful warlock and devotee of the Dark Gods. He formed a cult of fellow demon worshipping nobles, and they overthrew King Ricius and sacrificed him and his family to seal their pact with the Dark Gods for power.
Infused with this unholy power, and ruled by a half demon aristocracy of sorcerers and warlocks, they embarked on a era of conquest, backed by armies and navies equipped with alchemical weapons, armor, and items that made them invincible. They overthrew the Old Empire of Soryn, which worshipped Solistra, and attempted to eradicate worship of the Seven Gods of Light as well. They conquered Amaalqaart, and dominated much of the coast of the Inner Sea, and the hinterlands of the continent. Only Dark Khoresh and Shahharzhad could resist Malabar, and the three powers became locked in a cycle of never ending conflict for dominance. Despite the endemic warfare, Malabar thrived, and like their Blood Elf icons, the Malabarese grew wealthy, powerful, and cruel.
After 700 years of rising power, Malabar finally foundered when the Blood Elves, realizing that the fickle Gods of Darkness might eventually favor Malabar over themselves, decided to end the problem before it began. Mighty spells unleashed the slumbering kraken, and their sea troll hordes, from beneath the sea, and this unstoppable tide of bloodshed and slaughter surged over the Naga, Sallatrix, and eventually Malabar. The Malabarese military, long indolent and used to its superiority, used to being solely an occupation force and not an instrument of conquest, was overwhelmed by numbers and went down in bloody defeat. All the coastal provinces were sacked and raped, and Malabar itself finally sacked, in a week long terror of blood that left most of the nobility, along with Emperor Nostromus X Zanathos, dead. The sea trolls then finally were sated, and returned under the sea to sleep again, leaving behind a West devoid of major cities, with two thirds of its population dead.
Malabar struggled along for another 135 years, its capital moved to the inland fortress-city of Zalumbra, under the Arakos dynasty. Without its legions, capital, or arcane might, Malabar slowly bled out. It grudging yielded its outer provinces to wave after wave of attacks from the barbarian hordes that lurked on the northern and north eastern edges of the empire, notably the Ostenhorde and the Masrovya, while in the East Shahharzhad and Dark Khoresh engulfed the eastern provinces. With the empire gutted out, though, it was inevitable that Malabar finally fell as the hordes of barbarians and uprisings of subject peoples annihilated her remaining armies one by one, her remaining cities set ablaze, and Zalumbra set to the sword and torch, putting a final end to Malabar’s reign.
In the 500 years since Malabar’s destruction, its influence is still felt throughout the remnants of the West. Malabarese is still the main basis of Common, used as the lingua franca, and High Malabarese is still the language of the educated and aristocracy, with the Palladian Church’s liturgy written in Malabarese, and it is also the international language of diplomacy throughout the West. The new, semi-barbarian nations of the West, Ostgaard, Salambar, Salassar, Tarakos, Nyrese, and Rivos all are ruled by aristocrats who compare degrees of descent from Malabar as a badge of superiority and right to rule.
The ruins of Malabar itself still stand, extensively covering the island it is on, in the center of the Malassar river, and extending onto both banks. The ruins still smoke from fires at the alchemical forges, and the palaces of the city still hold vast wealth that attracts adventurers to loot it, despite the magical beasts and other monsters that populate the ruins. The capital of Malabar was Malabar, the language was Malabarese, both the High and Vulgar variants, and the religion was the Seven Gods of Darkness, through the Church of the Black Altar.
Malabarese alchemy on weapons gives a +1 Alchemical bonus to hit and damage, as well as reducing DR by one point. On armor, it gives +1 Alchemical bonus to AC, increases maximum Dex bonus by one, and gives DR 1/-, which is immune to alchemical bonuses that reduce DR. Malabarese alchemy can also be used to give weapons an elemental attack or a bane effect. This does only 1d6 of damage and is not considered a magical effect. It does not count towards the weapons total value if magical effects are put on it, and magical effects stack with it. It can also be used to create potions that give a +2 stat bonus to any stat. This is an alchemical bonus, and only one alchemical bonus may be in effect on the use at any one time. This bonus stacks with magical bonuses to stats. Alchemy can also create healing potions that heal 3d6 or give the imbiber Fast Heal 1 for several rounds.
Those of Malabarese descent use the feat Malabarese Blood to represent their fiendish arcane heritage, while the few remaining Malabarese pure bloods are tieflings.
Located in what was the northern-central provinces of Malabar, Nyrese is a vast feudal monarchy, where the great Dukes, the most powerful aristocrats of the lands, rule as semi-independent lords, bound together only by culture, religion, and their feudal ties to the Nyresian King, who rules from Nys, the capital city located on the site of a former Malabarese city. Nyrese’s noble houses pride themselves on their descent from Malabar, despite a serious amount of barbarian blood mixed in with it, and they determine status by how much Malabarese blood one can claim, while their private armies engage in incessant internal warfare and brigandage. The current monarch, King Tancred II of the Sauvaugne dynasty, is trying to increase his control over the great Dukes, but even though he is supported by the Palladian Church, the dukes are resisting, and civil war is almost endemic. The language is Nyrese, the capital is Nys, the Dreaming City, and the religion is the Palladian Church, under Cardinal Lazar, though many noble houses worship the Gods of Darkness in secret, usually through the veneration of the forbidden scriptures of the old Malabarese Church of the Black Altar.
Located on the shores of the frozen wastes of the northern continent of Frisia, Nhord is a loose confederation of human settlements, led by nobles called Jarls, who sometimes swear allegiance to one King of all Nhordheim, but more often squabble among themselves. They are subject to constant raids by the White Orcs and the frost giants of the far north, and a large portion of their people have orcish and giant blood. The Nhord are known to be very warlike and their longships raid far south and east, but never west, towards the Blood Elves. Currently, there is no King of all Nhordheim, the last one, Ivar Bloodbeard the Old, perished in a frost giant invasion thirty years ago, and no Jarl has enough power to declare himself king. The capital, such as it is, is the port town of Sveaholdt. The language is Nhordish, and the religion is split between Jorick the Bear God, and Krahkal, the Snow Beast.
An island archipelago located in the middle of the southern ocean, south of the Serpentine Empire, Ophan is not so much a nation as a region. It is composed of hundred of small settlements of fishermen and farmers scattered across a hundred small islands, none of which have a government more complicated than a head man or chief. Their islands produce pearls, white, black, and blue, as well as dyes, spices, and exotic woods, all in high demand elsewhere, but the voyage is so far and danger fraught that few traders attempt it. The language is Ophan, and the religion is the worship of the Elemental Gods.
Located on what was Malabar’s north-eastern provinces and beyond, Ostgaard is a ramshackle kingdom founded by the invading Ostenhorde barbarians. Ostgaard
is a collection of small states, free cities, and principalities of varying size that in theory holds their ultimate allegiance to the Ostenkaiser, the
Eastern Emperor. It is a nation in name only, with many regional cultures stretching from the borders with Nyrese all the way to the Great Steppes. The
bulk of its peasantry are serfs, ruled over by a cruel, warlike nobility that fights each other as much as they do Nyrese, the orcs, goblins, and wood
elves. The current Ostenkaiser, Otto the Fat, is more interested in crushing his rival, the Archduke Leopold the Cunning rather than in governing his
realm. The capital is Ostenburg, the language is Common and Osten, the religion is the Palladian Church, under Cardinal Ulfric, but Jorick the Bear God is
also worshipped among the peasantry. Like Nyrese, quite a few of the nobility venerate the Dark Gods in secret.
The Radiant Imperium
The ancient empire of the Bright Lords, the Radiant Imperium was at its start a shining beacon of good, law, justice, and hope. Founded by the part celestial descendents of the angels of the Gods of Light, the Bright Lords, united under the banner of their supreme cleric, the Sun Emperor, drove out the Hellspawn, the demonic descendents of the Dark Gods, only to find themselves overthrown by the Blood Elves when the Radiant Imperium and the Sun Empress Beth’Ariel I’s genocidal war against chaos divided the Gods of Light, leading to their defeat by the Dark Gods. Now, almost nothing remains of the Radiant Imperium. Their fabled floating cities of glass and steel all came crashing into ruin, with none left. The only traces of their culture remains in the remnants of the Empire of Soryn, where those with celestial blood can still be found and the Church of the Sun Triumphant still survives.
The mighty goblinoid empire of Rhash-Akhar stands astride the vast forests and mountains of the north east, beyond the borders of Ostgaard. It is the greatest humanoid empire on the planet, home to vast hordes of goblin priests, orc warriors, and a militant hobgoblin aristocracy. They worship the Dark Gods, finding in them the ideal expression of their militant ideology of conquest. If left alone, they might even one day be able to challenge the Blood Elves for supremacy, though it is believed that, just as with Malabar, the Blood Elves would act long before that juncture is reached. The hobgoblin Iron Emperor Jhashka Darkskull the Mighty continues to act as though his people will succeed, and they are a constant threat to any nation around them, notably Ostgaard and the Wood Elves of Sidhe Taran. The capital is the fortress city of Rhashak, the languages are goblin and orcish, and the religion is the Bloodthirsty Temple of the Dark Gods.
The first conquest of Malabar, once the first Emperor Alessandro I Sarathos Maximus unified the fractious nobility and imposed his will on his own empire. Rivos was overrun almost overnight by Malabar’s alchemically equipped legions, and remained secure as the wealthiest agricultural province of the Empire until the sea trolls overwhelmed Malabar. The sea trolls ravaged Rivos, killing most of its inhabitants, weakening Malabar’s hold, and when the Ostenhorde finally swept through the area, the remaining inhabitants rose up, joining and intermingling with the Ostenhorde. Now, Rivos again has it independence, but it is now a poor land of fractious nobles of Malabarese descent who quarrel constantly with each other and their king. Most of its population was killed by the sea trolls, and its fertile fields now lay fallow, and its once proud cities are monster haunted ruins.
King Milos II Vaios is trying to restore order to his turbulent realm, and to that end he is taking a two pronged approach, He is cultivating and financing the Palladian Church as the sole religion of Rivos, under Cardinal Santiago, while also attracting adventurers to clean out the many ruins in his kingdom of their monstrous inhabitants. This makes Rivos a hot bed of intrigue and adventure, attracting merchants, spies, and adventurers from across the continent to try and make their fortune. It also makes Rivos a target for the neighboring powers of Salambar, Sallatrix, and Nyrese and their intrigues. The capital is Rivos, the language Western Common, and the religion is the Palladian Church.
Another early conquest of Malabar is Salambar. Located to the east of Malabar, Salambar is a large rocky peninsula inhabited by a people linguistically related to Malabar. It has traditionally been a society grouped into city states and leagues of city states, and their quarrelsome relationship rendered them unable to cooperate against Malabar’s ruthless efficiency and alchemy, becoming absorbed into the growing empire and remaining once of the core provinces for centuries. When the Sea Troll hordes rolled over Malabar, they made it as far as Salambar before their blood lust receded, and they withdrew to the ocean depths again, leaving coastal Salambar wrecked, but the hinterland intact.
In the aftermath, Salambar has again devolved into a land of small and midsized states, centered around the few cities left in the West. They constantly fight and scheme against each other, and their wealth in trade with the East has made them the richest western region. The Salambarese still have a sizable amount of Malabarese blood in them, and they tend to be cultured, vengeful, indolent, and murderous like the Malabarese. Nominally, Salambar is united in the Salambarese League, which is led by an elected Doge, chosen from among the various rulers of the city states by the nobility, along with a Senate, but mostly they go their own ways, unless profit or revenge is to be had. Doge Guajardo of Kybidos prefers it that way, as he keeps everyone scheming against each other and continues to profit from trade and extortion.
Salambar’s language is Salambarese, though the upper classes use High Malabarese. Their religion is the Palladian Church, though several strong temples of Solistra exist in the larger cities, remnants of the Old Empire of Soryn. The Dark Gods are also worshipped by many nobles, and the ancient Malabarese Church of the Dark still functions here. The capital changes when a new Doge is elected, and the current capital is the vast trade port city of Kybidos.
The vilest nation of the west is Sallatrix. It was once a colony of Amaalqaart, conquered by Malabar and turned into the largest trade port of the West, dominating the Sallustan Isles. When the Sea Trolls drowned Malabar in blood, the islands became devastated, with a shell shocked aristocracy hiding in the ruins of their former homes. They survived only by ruthlessly driving out the masses of the poor to be devoured by the Sea Trolls, sparing themselves. Afterwards, they began rebuilding their kingdom, using their rare spices, incense, and sandalwood resources for financing.
Sallatrix is now a society tainted not only by Malabar’s demonic blood, but by Sea Troll blood as well, making them horrible, reptilian mockeries of humans, with inhuman appetites. Only the Sallatrix aristocrats are free, all others on the island are slaves who are kept in line by troglodyte slave warriors. The Sallatrix are a female dominated society, with the Matrons of the Great Houses forming a High Council that rules collectively. They are rapacious slave traders and raiders, paying well for humans who work for them and serve as food for their vast appetites. They pay premium prices for halflings, whom they consider a delicacy. All nations of the west and east hate and fear them, but since the introduction of Sea Troll blood into Sallatrix, all are wary of attacking it, since that may anger and reawaken the Sea Trolls to avenge their kin.
The language of Sallatrix is High Malabarese, and its religion is the worship of the Dark Gods. Its capital is Sallatrix, City of the Slave Lords. The Sallatrix themselves are troglodytes now, though the upper aristocracy often has the half troll or half demon template as well.
The trade port of Salassar is located at the mouth of the Malassar River, only a few scant miles downriver from the ruins of Malabar. It was once the main port for Malabar, but with the destruction of the Empire, Salassar was forced on its own. It too suffered at the hands of the Sea Trolls, but after the departure of their hordes, many refugees fled to Salassar, hoping to find a better life and some protection. They found neither, but they remained and instead helped build Salassar into one of the most thriving communities of the West.
Salassar is a port city, and it makes a good portion of its wealth simply by transporting goods up and down the Malassar river from the inland towns, where they can be shipped by sea to Aldan, Nyrese, and points north. Salassar also makes quite a bit of coin from adventurers, who flock to the city to loot the plentiful Malabarese ruins in the area.
Salassar is situated among the lagoons of the Malassar River’s mouth, and it has the nick name of the Island City. It is a republic, ruled by city council composed of the heads of the various guilds and trading houses, with an elected Prefect, currently Lazlo Orsini the Merchant Prince. The religion is open, with any gods except the Primal Gods being worshipped, and western common and vulgar Malabarese are the primary languages.
A horde of orcs who dwell on the fringes of civilization in the East, along the Trackless Steppes. They are noted for their many half orc leaders, whereas in other, more traditional orcish societies, half orcs are shunned as bastards. The Scarlet Horde buys large quantities of human slaves, as part of an extensive half orc breeding program under their new Khan, Rhaghar Bloodwrath. Though many orcish traditionalists despise him and his strategy, no one can deny that the Horde is better led and better organized than any other orcish kingdom.
The Serpentine Empire
In the ancient days, twenty thousand years ago when the Blood Elves of Azathal first rose to the heights of their power, the serpentine Naga challenged them. The Naga’s dark elemental magics, while powerful, were no match for the demon powered magic of the Blood Elves, who destroyed the Naga’s Coiled Empire and almost wiped them out. Satisfied that any would be rival would heed the lesson of the Naga, the Blood Elves left, leaving the few surviving Naga hiding in the ruins of their jungle temples and cities. 10,000 years later, the remaining Naga crept out of their hiding holes to discover the Blood Elves distracted by their war with the Rakshasa Empire of Kharazumi, and that primitive human tribes had settled in the area that the Naga had once ruled.
The Naga dominated the weak, primitive humans, interbreeding with them to produce the Yuan Ti, half human, half serpent beings, masters of dark blood and elemental magics. Hoping the Blood Elves would weaken themselves against the Rakshasa, the Naga began building a new empire, the Serpentine Empire, to be the instrument of their revenge. For another five thousand years they built their empire, Naga rulers, a Yuan Ti aristocracy and priesthood, lizard folk warriors, and human commoners, into a power. The Serpentine Empire warred with the arcane, magical Empire of Malabar, fighting for dominance in the Salladine Archipelago, sharpening their skills until they would be ready to take on the Blood Elves again.
Unfortunately, the hordes of the Sea Trolls under the sea troll deep shamans and krakens were unleashed by the Blood Elf Emperor Khamathar XII Archetorus, and it surged over the central and southern continents. Despite their military might and divine prowess, the Serpentine Empire was driven back in a tide of blood that rolled over their cities and continued north to Malabar, destroying that empire as well. The reduced Naga fumed and cursed the Dark Gods who favored the Blood Elves, redoubled their veneration of the Primal Gods who favored them, and began to slowly rebuild their shattered empire with serpentine patience.
Now, the Serpentine Empire, after 500 years of quiet ruin, has managed to at least reclaim most of the old territory, though most of it is ruined cities hidden in the thick jungles. The bitter Naga now contend with the Slumber, the periods of deep sleep that plagues them after great exertions, forcing them to dream upon their past glories and past wrongs. This leaves most of the day to day functions of their empire to the decadent Yuan Ti, who would rather pass their times in imitating their slumbering Naga overlord’s cruelty and decadence, than in seeking to expand the empire. All the current Naga Serpent King Kurathkhemes XV the Red Scaled Warlord has been able to accomplish in his own battle against Slumber is to conquer the savage jungle orc, gorrilon, and goblin tribes to the south, and the gnoll tribes of the deserts to the east, bringing them into the empire as shock troops.
The capital of the Serpentine Empire is the slumbering, half ruined jungle city of Szath-Malar. Its language is Ophidian, and its religion is the worship of the Primal Gods. (Nagas use all the standard Naga types, and the Yuan-ti use all Yuan-ti templates.)
The island nation of Sheshan is located on the long chain of islands of the same name, which run along the Eastern edge of the Inner Sea, and is the leading trade nation of the Near East, providing a variety of goods from as far away as the Northern Steppes to Dark Khoresh and Shahharzhad. It has changed hands repeatedly over the years, and as a result its culture is a blend of Soryn, Malabar, Dark Khoresh, and Shahharzhad influences. The Khedive of Sheshan in theory rules absolutely, but the great trade houses, each run by a different family, influence his government through his viziers, one from each house. Much of the trade of the East is transported by Sheshan vessels. Sheshan has an entirely mercenary army, called the Janissaries, as the Khedive doesn’t trust his subjects to be under arms, as the mix of cultures in Sheshan produces a volatile mix of murderous family, commercial, and cultural conflicts that always hover on the edge of civil war. The current Khedive is Umar-urash V, a corpulent, scheming man who approves any type of commerce as long as he gets his share of the wealth. Sheshan has no official religion, and any temple may set up, as long as they pay a share of their tithes to the Royal government.
The dominant power of the Middle East is the vast nation of Sirahjistan. It stretches from the Eastern border of Shahharzhad, along the edge of the desert of Red Shadows, to the vast mountain chain of the Rumelyas, centering on the huge sub-continent of Azaam, bordered on the south by a vast arc of an archipelago called Sri-Vishaam, with its Eastern frontier being the vast jungles of Chaam. It is a well populated land, source of trade with the mysterious Eastern empire of Menkuo, wealthy, rich in many natural resources as well as exotic spices and goods. It has a rigid caste system set up, and is actually composed of many small and medium sized kingdoms, ruled by Rajas, who in turn obey the semi-divine Maharaja. The current Maharaja is Chandar Khobad the Golden, who dwells in the Palace-City of Tharshi, along the Holy River Daro. The Kingdom is very powerful and dominant in its area, and has little desire to expand. The bulk of its vast army is used to prevent rebellions, or to guard the northern and eastern borders against the fierce tribes who inhabit those areas. They maintain good relations and trade with Shahharzhad, though Shahharzhad’s attempts at religious conversions are starting to wear thin. The religion of Sirahjistan is a pantheon of the children of Solistra, led primarily by Serath the White Knight and Salarani the Rose Goddess. The border areas with Shahharzhad are heavily influences by Jhamun’s religion, and the Seven Gods of Darkness are also venerated by many, especially the upper castes. The language is Sirahj.
Slave Warriors of Karak
Karak is a small nation located along the southern sea, south of Dark Khoresh. It consist primarily of the walled city of Karak itself, a vast, fortified urban area, surrounded by oasis farms. It has little value beyond its location as a trade port, other than its infamous slave warriors, the Mamluks. These are children taken from the black tribes south of Dark Khoresh and desert tribes from the East, raised under rigid discipline until there are a fierce, disciplined fighting machine. The Kheshak of Karak sells these and other slaves throughout the East, being Sallatrix’s eastern competitors. Following Lord Isen’s purchase of all available slave warriors, and his defeat, Karak’s fortunes have fallen fairly low. It will be years before she has enough slave warriors trained to make a profit, and as a result, they have been hard pressed to keep their independence.
Often called the Old Empire, it dominated the northern and eastern shores of the Inner Sea, as well as the many island archipelagos. It was founded by a young woman named Inrani, a young priestess who found an ancient Bright Lord text of Solistra’s doctrine. She was enamored of the text and translated it, becoming the first cleric of Solistra in millennia. She converted many to the old faith of the Sun Goddess, and led them to drive out Dark Khoresh and the goblins from the north and eastern Inner Sea, and she set up a theological empire that lasted 1200 years until it was overthrown by the rising Empire of Malabar.
Now, only a small collection of nations clinging to the shores of the Inner Sea venerate Solistra, and keep the flickering flame of her worship and the Soryn culture alive. The language was Sorynyi, the capital city was Soryn, and the religion was the worship of Solistra. Due to the favor Solistra showed the Old Empire, Aasimar are sometimes born there, bearing the golden eyes of the favored of Solistra. Such individuals often become great religious heroes, if they are not hunted to death by the Malabarese influenced Cult of Shadows.
Empire of Sardios
When Malabar was shattered finally by the barbarian invasions after the Sea Troll hordes wrecked it, her Eastern holdings clung on around the fortress city of Sardios. From there, a Malabarese aristocracy ruled over a Sorynite population. Shahharzhad and Dark Khoresh both pushed the Sardians out of their Near Eastern provinces, then fell to warring between themselves, leaving Sardios to recover in what was left to it. Now Sardios holds the northeastern part of the Inner Sea, ruled by an Autocrator, and a Malabarese nobility. However, the Sorynite population grows ever more restive, even to the point of forcing the Empire to allow the worship of Solistra openly, alongside the Dark Faith. The aristocracy so mistrusts the population, which sees them as invading outsiders still, that the army is composed entirely of non-Sorynite mercenaries, which lead to intrigues all throughout the Chalconite Court of Empress Jasthina XII Maladrakos. The capital is Sardios, and Eastern Common is the main language, though Malabarese is spoken among the aristocracy and Sorynyi among the commoners. The official religion is the Church of the Black Sun, bastion of the Gods of Darkness in the East, though underground shrines to the Palladian gods, Solistra, Salarani, and Jhamun thrive among the non-Malabarese nobility.
After Malabar’s destruction, a large group of survivors fled to the southern shore of the Inner Sea. There, they settled in at the site of the ancient Amaalqaarti city of Ma’al Tarak, renaming it Tarakos and settling in. As a natural harbor between Ghol and Dark Khoresh, as well as possessing expansive salt flats left over from an ancient shoreline, Tarakos became very wealthy, almost obscenely so. The ancient strain of Amaalqaarti blood in the aristocracy thrived, and interbred with the Malabarese strain, produced a thriving merchant culture. It also produced a level of decadence that would have made old Malabar blush. Anything and everything may be had for a price in Tarakos, and the level of law is a practical minimum necessary for keeping society ordered. Wealth is the great factor in the society of the Grand Republic of Tarakos, with different laws governing any given class depending on their wealth. Wealth is the great virtue in Tarakos, and poverty is the greatest sin. Tarak is governed by the Grand Despot, elected by the Assembly of Oligarchs. The current ruler is Grand Despot Milos Jhamash-ti, an oily, fat drug peddler who rules by bribery and assassination. The capital is Tarakos, and Western Common is the most common language, though many others are spoken among the polyglot population, with Malabarese being a favorite among the oligarchs. The religion is the Gods of Darkness, though there is no organized church, just individual temples, and Malkoth the Golden Spider and Hajan the Crimson Seductress are favored by many. The Palladian and Solistran churches are outright banned and persecuted, as is the faith of Jhamun.
Tavas is an outpost of ancient Amaalqaart that was taken over by Dark Khoresh after Amaalqaart fell. It dominates a natural harbor along the shores of far eastern shores of the Inner Sea, and is the most important tradeport of Dark Khoresh. Inhabitants of many nations crowd the port, as it is the only place in Dark Khoresh that foreigners are allowed to live unmolested, provided they obey, and they bring wealth into the hands of the kingdom. The Khedive of Tavas is one of the most important and powerful officials in Dark Khoresh, and the position is a reward to one of the powerful Khoreshti families who control the city. The current Khedive is Anma Khareshti, and she keeps control by using her share of the wealth that passes through Tavas to bribe the Royal Court, though the Triumvirate of Amaas Rhaum, High Priest of the Church of the Dark Gods, Khaul Sehkmat, Chief Wizard and Lord of the Dark Circle, and Herak Khet, Chief General frighten her.
Ullithar, located along a peninsula of the Frisian continent, was the farthest northern outpost of Malabar at its height, a snow bound fortress city placed to contain raids from the Frost Giants and White Orcs. It would have passed into memory as merely another far flung outpost of a fallen empire, if the Ullitharians hadn’t tried to re-establish an empire from it. For 130 years the Blood Elves allowed the Ullitharians the illusion that they could salvage some of their lost glory and power from their bastion on the edge of the arctic wastes, before influencing the Nhord, Frost Giants and White Orcs to fall upon Ullithar and ravage it. Now, all that remains are well preserved ruins, frozen in the ice of the glacier that Blood Elven magic caused to flow over the city. Adventurers often seek the ruins, searching for the magical and mundane treasures frozen within, but few return and those who do speak of the city as a vast, frozen tomb, populated with undead, as well as marauding Ice Trolls, Frost Giants, and raiding parties of White Orcs. Ullithar’s language was High Malabarese, and its religion the worship of the Dark Gods.
A large trade city located on the East coast of the southern continent, Zanzibaal is a might trade power. Its population is a polyglot of Puntic, Sirahji, Amaalqaarti, and Khoreshti peoples. It is the center of a prosperous trade Empire, and its King, Ketesho Uteshti Uulundi the Mighty is a wealthy, powerful monarch. Zanzibaal trade caravans carry ivory, emeralds, gold, and slaves across Soros, mainly to Dark Khoresh and Ghol, while their fleets of triremes and quadremes carry goods and slaves to kingdoms further South, to the legendary Isles of Spice and Silk to the East, and even with the Serpentine Empire.. The language is Khoreshti, and the religion is the Dark Gods, with Zhath the Blood red Serpent and Malkoth the Golden Spider being particularly venerated.
The southernmost Malabarese city, located along the massive Mambassa River, was once the largest non-Naga City on the southern continent. Now, like Malabar itself, it is mostly ruins. A portion of the City survives, with a sizable yuan-ti population mixed with the former black slaves of the Malabarese and a nobility that clings to its faint Malabarese bloodline for authority. Its ruler, Zanios VI Kombassar is a yuan-ti who also boasts Malabarese blood. He constantly schemes and counter schemes against his own nobles, and seeks any bit of ancient arcane knowledge to aid him in staying ruler and in expanding his empire. The city survives by trading with Zhumbashti up the river, the Naga city of Szabazius to the south, and Sallatrix to the north. The language is Common, old Malabarese, and the Serpent Tongue. The religion is the worship of the Dark Gods, especially Zhath the Blood Red Serpent.
A former Khoreshti trading city located among the black kingdoms, along the Mambassa river. Like many of the vast fringe territories once held by Dark Khoresh it gained its independence as the tide of Dark Khoresh withdrew as the war with Malabar and Shahharzhad heated up. At one point Amaalqaart ruled it, the Malabar seized it, until it too was forced to withdraw. Now, its nobility boasts of Khoreshti, Amaalqaarti, or Malabarese blood as it claim to power, causing various factions to vie for control of the city. Zhumbashti is an elective kingdom, governed by a Council of Elders, led by an elective monarch. The current is Queen Zembalaya, a deceptively beautiful woman who hides a great deal of cunning and cruelty to control her fractious kingdom. She plays her Elders against each other and takes advantage of the hate between the pure Puntic lower castes against the mixed blood middle classes and the pure blooded upper classes. She relies entirely on a mercenary army to protect her, composed of Puntic spearmen and Asagi men, Hakhemesh horsemen, and Nubian archers. She doesn’t trust any military force in the hands of her nobles other than their traditional charioteers, so they can’t challenge her militarily. The city itself is very wealthy from trading goods all along the river, as well as gold and diamond deposits, along with ivory and slaves which they trade via caravan to Khoresh and Ghol. The language is Common, with a mix of Amaalqaarti, Khoreshti, and Malabarese among the nobles. The religion is the worship of the Dark Gods.