The Settled Peoples

September 20th, 2014

dwarves_with_tea

Relating almost entirely to the situation and typical attitudes of the people of Cach and its satellite city-states.

The people of the city states think themselves civilized, the masters of their surroundings and bringers of order and prosperity to an unruly world. And with good reason. Their walls are tall and strong, their fields and fishing fleets are bountiful, their mines are rich and deep. The markets and caravans make all available in plenty to those with the means to buy. Meanwhile the barbarians nomads and hill-people scrabble by desperately in squalor and ignorance, binding themselves to fickle sprites and pixies and what-have-you. It is no wonder that they envy the comfort and wealth of the cities. That they have not abandoned their foolish, crass ways and accepted proper culture and laws is truly a tragedy.

Cachic society is diverse, with several distinct races living side by side under common principles of mutual tolerance and support. Healthy rivalries between craftsmen, families, mercenary companies, and cities result in a noisy but functional meritocracy of sorts. Social mobility between classes is somewhat rare due to the various native gifts of the laboring poor, the artisan, the lesser gentry and high nobles, but within these rough strata competition is nearly constant and excellence finds itself rewarded. The incompetent and unlucky must sometimes serve as motivational examples, ground up and spat out by the process as cautionary tales. In the past sixty years or so a shift towards the creations of guilds with legal monopolies over specific fields has taken root in Cach itself, providing some protection and structure not previously seen. This dismays some of the more conservative citizenry who prefer motivations of personal ambition, family, and state to remain dominant forces.

The exertion of military power is handled at three scales: the mercenary company, the house armsmen, and the state militia. Mercenary companies are entities created through legal contract, with charters filed in the public records of the city they operate out of. Individual soldiers, officers, and other agents enter into contracts with the company just as the company enters into contracts with patrons. Companies range in size from banner of less than ten to entire battalions of three hundred or more. A mercenary company will typically operate until the retirement or death of its captain, sometimes re-incorporating under new leadership under a new charter. House armsmen are gentry and nobles loyal to a particular noble house that can be called upon to fight for the interests of that house. Some will participate personally, some hire mercenaries to accompany them, and others send mercenaries in their stead. An ambitious gentleman will almost always personally serve in conflicts as a matter of reputation. The state militia is almost always a hodgepodge of house armsmen and a few mercenary companies under long-term garrison contracts. The cities of Cach, Hamza, and Sergeli maintain standing military fleets crewed by such mercenaries with local gentry serving as officers.

Dwarves - Few in number, the Dwarves are perhaps the most insular of the civilized folk. Over the generations they have gravitated toward each other, their nobles feuding almost exclusively with each other until only a single noble line, House Binici, remains. The common Dwarves tend to live and work in the same neighborhoods as each other, and primarily stick to the cities of Bektemir and Cach. Dwarves can be found elsewhere during their professional lives, but nearly all of them raise their children in the Dwarven enclaves. House Binici holds a disproportionate number of seats in the Cachic Council of Elders, in part due to simple Dwarven longevity and in part due to centuries of skillful political maneuvering and alliances that last entire generations for the shorter-lived people.

Halflings - The Cachic city-states are positively overrun with Halflings. They work the fields, staff the shops and bureaucracies, fill the slums, work the manufactories, and generally the salt of the earth citizenry that keep everything working. Halfling politicians have somewhat less influence than the sheer number of their people would suggest. This is largely due to an inclusive attitude among the Halflings regarding the other civilized races; they don’t much care if their leaders are from some other race. They have five major noble houses scattered across the civilized lands, with sixteen seats on the Cachic Council of Elders. They are not known to vote as a bloc.

Humans - Less numerous than the Halflings but nearly as ubiquitous, Humans play a similar role in Cachic society. Individual Humans are somewhat more likely to indulge in ambition and great endeavors than their smaller counterparts. They currently have seven major noble houses with a massive twenty-four seats on the Cachic Council of Elders. The interests of their houses are diverse and often in conflict internally and against each other. Even individual noble families, particularly Houses Yilmaz and Uzun, don’t vote as a bloc, with split votes being the norm. Perhaps for this very reason is is common to see a Human as Lord High Executioner; it is typically expected that a Human will put his ideals and personal interests before that of nepotism.

Tieflings - More numerous than the Dwarves, but only just, the Tieflings have a particular rapport with the infernal forces that make magic broadly available to the settled peoples. Tiefling children are raised with expectations of becoming merchants, cult functionaries, or politically active in some way. The great House Kasabian of Cach, with its nine seats in the Council of Elders, is a Tiefling family renowned for its cunning use of alliances and favors. Many prominent Warlocks and Paladins have been Tieflings, with several of today’s most influential and popular cults being run by both common-born and noble horned men and women.


The Great Peoples

September 11th, 2014

kazakh_eagle_hunter
For use in a Dungeons & Dragons setting largely devoid of “monstrous humanoid” races. Due to a surplus of civilized noble races in the Player’s Handbook, half have been designated as less-civilized exotic people to fill the role of the menacing Other.

Before the first foundation stone was laid on Burkant Hill, before the sedentary folk of Cach or Abadan set sail to clear the forests and terrace the hills and harness the rivers, the lands were already long peopled. Four great tribes have lived here since the gods first set the sun and moon alight. They are people slow to change but quick to move on, abiding by ancient traditions. The sedentary folk of the cities erect their walls and think themselves civilized, building their society around stone and industry and coercion. The Great Peoples, though they vary greatly in their appearance and history and particular customs, build theirs upon family, honor, and hospitality, pillars far more durable.

Each of the Peoples organize themselves very loosely, largely by extended family, with no formal governments at all. Trade is largely done with neither currency nor barter, with most goods trading hands in the form of gifts between households and an informal credit and debt system. Between different Peoples and the sedentary folk barter and coin are common. Raiding between Peoples and families for livestock, goods, and women is common enough to form a continuous tradition of warrior culture stretching back thousands of years. Rarely these raids escalate to full-blown wars over territory. Casualties are typically minor, as the Peoples have nomadic tendencies and will generally withdraw when faced with overwhelming odds. In this way their lands have been gradually ceded in the face of the city-builders.

The names for each of the Peoples here are those used for diplomatic and legal purposes in Cach. Each has its own language, in which the word for themselves is translated roughly to “the true people” or “the great people.”

Dragonborn
The Dragonborn range primarily to the South, migrating North in the late spring to bring their herds out of the parched savanna, then returning just after the monsoons pass. They are perhaps the most exotic of the Peoples, dwelling briefly and rarely encamping in one place for more than a week. They tend to flocks of domesticated drakes, and often have access to goods hailing from distant lands. Their prolonged absences from territory they consider theirs can lead to misunderstandings and friction with homesteaders and expansionist city-builders. Dragonborn men and women dress very conservatively, veiling themselves when visiting or entertaining outsiders. They segregate between genders almost continuously.

Elves
The Elves hold a large portion of the Northern lands, dwelling in the forests and hills. Not as nomadic as the Dragonborn, not as settled as the Gnomes, Elven families move their homes to follow the growing cycle of plants they cultivate, sowing crops one season then leaving for months at a time before returning. A typical Elven family will rotate between five or six locations over a cycle of three years. They sometimes keep horses, but are most famous for their tame elk, which their warriors ride on raids but are never used for plowing.

Gnomes
Gnomes are the most settled of the Peoples. It is thought they were once city-builders themselves, or were wholly subjugated to some long-lost city-building race. Their oral tradition tells of a great immortal tyrant that was slain, his temple ruined and his followers put to the axe. The location of such a temple is unknown, for the Gnomes have lived in small mountain villages for as long as any other People can remember. Gnomish families are reckoned matrilineally and raiding for brides is rare. Gnomish settlements are strongly averse to interacting with other Peoples or city-building folk. Whenever the location of one of their villages is known to non-Gnomes, the people will almost immediately take up the debate to either silence the interlopers or move. Approaching a Gnomish settlement is extremely hazardous. Gnomes subsist on hunting, gathering, and small-scale gardening.

Orcs
These are the most physically imposing and least refined of the Peoples, in the eyes of city-builders. Raids between Orcish families are common, and trade with them is somewhat hazardous, as they have a long history of deciding (after the fact) that they have been cheated or disrespected in some way by a deal. This often leads to a surprising retaliatory attack, with dozens of fearsome Orcs on their Terror Birds pouring out of the hills, howling as if possessed. The Orcish diet relies heavily on hunting, supplemented by foraged vegetation. The needlework on Orcish textiles is world-reknown, with many brave merchants having made fortunes and lost their lives trading dyes and thread to secure samples for wealthy patrons.

Orcs as presented here use the rules for Half-Orcs found in the Player’s Handbook. Their Terror Birds are Axebeaks, as presented in the Monster Manual. Subraces are considered part of the same tribe, though of different family lineage.


Cach

September 1st, 2014

burkant_citadel

The Bottomless City, the Eternal Colony, the Red Jewel, and a dozen other appellations apply to the city of Cach. The original census records and founding charter were lost long ago when the city was sacked, but legend has it Cach was the result of five separate settlements colonized by ancient civilizations beyond the Great Sea. All five were wracked by famine, plague, hostile natives, and ravenous monsters until only a few dozen survivors remained. They banded together atop Burkant Hill, where they erected a sturdy rampart, drove a well deep into the earth, and clung together for dear life. Half of them died during the first five years, but nearly twelve hundred years later their desperate fort has grown into a mighty citadel overlooking a vast, dense city with sturdy walls, fearsome armies, and a bustling port.

The city states of Bektemir, Hamza, Mirobod, and Sergeli were all originally outposts of Cach that have since won for themselves political independence. The nobles of Cach have a long history of infighting, and many of its Lord Mayors have spent their entire reigns focusing their attention inward. This leaves its satellite cities to their own devices. While now fiercely independent, these smaller states look to Cach as an economic and cultural center, and each maintains active embassies here.

Cach is situated around a hill overlooking Olmazar bay. An artificial harbor and series of lighthouses provide shelter for a fishing fleet and trade ships carrying exotic goods and passengers from far-flung lands. Canals cut across the delta plain of the Green River and through massive locks that double as the Northwest gates in the city walls. The inland hills are extensively terraced and irrigated by massive screw-pumps. The Cachic justice system and armies provide a steady supply of laborers for the great locks and pumps. Hundreds of craftsmen and professionals ply their trade inside the city walls, operating mostly from small shops; there are no large-scale manufactories.

cach

The national defenses consist of a fleet of mothballed war galleys and the Mayor’s Guard. Individual noble houses maintain their own cadres of soldiers. Technically only the Mayor’s Guard are allowed to bear military arms in public places, but entire neighborhoods fall within the property boundaries of some houses, and are heavily patrolled by private armies. There are currently two mercenary companies under contract with the Lord Mayor. A special dispensation exempts members of these companies from the city’s arcane and sometimes draconian sumptuary laws. The Lord Mayor is elected to a twelve year term by a congregation of representatives of the founding families. It is widely believed that the bona fides of many of these electors are the result of fabrications and that nearly all of their loyalties are bought and paid for by a deep and broad network of special favors, blackmail, and bald-faced cronyism. It is considered extremely uncouth for an elector to ever stop backing a Lord Mayor he has previously voted for; the elections are nearly always a formality, the results known long in advance.

The city-state Abadan lies roughly one hundred thirty miles north by northeast along the coast, connected by caravan roads and sea lanes. The nation of Konjikala is a hundred miles south, separated by the Leviathan Channel. Sea trade between these three is frequent, and each has been known to raise massive navies for use against each other. Konjikala recently lost a war against Abadan and is burdened with reparations and tribute. Their official delegation to Cach goes to great lengths to conceal how thin their budget has stretched.