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Author Topic: DnD setting notes - The Prime Material  (Read 3513 times)
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Snakes in the Tiki Lounge

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« on: 25 March 2009, 16:42:58 »

The setting I am using for the Keep on the Shadowfell campaign is a custom one which I am still putting together. As such, anything I write here is subject to change, or might not even be true. Smiley

Part 1 - Cosmology and The World Itself.

Cosmology - Depending upon who you ask, you will get a different 'creation' story of the world. The Gods warring with Titanic elemental horrors called Primordials is a common Human conceit, but the nature of the commonly accepted Pantheon of Gods (Detailed below, perhaps) makes this seem unlikely somehow. The more learned scholars are more likely to have strongly held opinions, considering themselves to know exactly where the world came from. Some of the most respected Scholars in the human city of Lakath estimate the age of the world and the universe to be about 20,000 years old.

This is complicated by the fact that the Anciet Red Dragon, currently for want of a better description residing in the city claims to know of several creatures existent in the world that are currently several times that age, and still quite healthy. Of course, no-one would dare call the Red Queen of Lakath a lier, so for the most part, the common people are healthily sceptical of such dates.

The Shape of things - There are several schools of thought on the arrangement of both the various neighboring-planes and the Real World itself. The Human scholars have, after extensive travels, expeditions and the construction of three priceless and titantic telescopes, concluded that the World is a sphere, and that all things upon it are clearly held down by the rotation of the sphere as it spins about it's axis. The Sun, they say, rotates about the 'Planet' as does the Moon, which is further away, but much more massive than the Sun, being as it is supposed, the world's dead twin.

Those few Dwarves who live in Lakath alongside their scholarly human neighbors poor nothing but scorn upon this concept, pointing out that everything would slip off, or we'd get dizzy. They put forth the idea that the world is flat, with definate edges. Humans refer to this rather dismissively as the Tea-Cake-World theory, with everything sat ontop of a big square slice, with all the mineral resources of creation underneath waiting to be recovered. This bares some relation to the favoured theory of the Eldarin, who put the World as a disk upon the back of a giant turtle, but the Dwarves hold that beneath the world is an endless, icy ocean, which the world is loose and floating in. This, they say, is where the water comes from, to replace that which has run off the edge.

« Last Edit: 08 September 2011, 03:38:57 by Snakes in the Tiki Lounge » Logged
Snakes in the Tiki Lounge

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« Reply #1 on: 25 March 2009, 17:14:01 »

Part 2 - Gods, Demons, Elder Spirits and the Celestial Tarot.

The Difference between Gods and Demons - Across the peoples of the world, the difference between a true God and an entity of immense otherworldly power is an accepted fact of existence. If you saught an explanation of exactly what that difference involved, you would be much harder pushed to find a single, confident answer. They are different, in the sense that they just are, that's all.

Powerful, godlike beings and creatures exist on all of the known planes of existence. The Arch-Fey of the Feywild, the Demon Princes of the Abyss, and various lesser-known horrors of the shadowfell, they all boast beings of immense age and godlike power. Indeed, it is claimed that certain of the younger gods fear beings that hail even from the prime matirial plane itself, such as the eldest of dragons.

The Celestial Tarot -
For what it's worth, the concensus on whether a being has acheived 'True' Godhood revolves around the Grand Celestial Tarot, the Astral Thrones and the Four Elemental Houses.  These are a series of Demi-Planes and partially-seperated Domains, hidden throughout both the Astral Sea, the Elemental Chaos, and the mundane planes themselves.

They are impossibly ancient. Of all the Gods and Devils in hell, none recall their construction. Only Death, perhaps, may have some inkling, but if the Eldest God knows anything at all about them, he is not apparently keen to share.
The Thrones and to an extent the Houses, seem to possess both a power and a will seperate to that of their current occupant. Many of them are vacant, and at times a God or faction of Gods will seek out and sieze a new throne, effectively ascending further. Unlike the Gods themselves, the Thrones and Houses very definately have themed qualities or desires, and it is quite accepted that a God who inhabits a Throne long enough will being to take on the properties of it, before long.

A God who holds commands such a celestial stronghold has much greater power than one who does not, and the commonly accepted 'Pantheon' of both Humankind and most similar beings revolves around the possession of such things.

The Rising and Falling of Gods - All things die. Even the Gods, all save Death itself, who has inhabited the 'Greater' throne of Death since before time, it is said. In laymans terms, the Death God is an over-deity, to whom all must submit, and to whom all bow save the Fool, the only other being of even remotely comparable age*. Death has existed before any living creature or species alive today, before, it is said, the world existed in it's current form. Death is, however, a completely distant creature for the most part. On such rare, mythic occaisions that he has been defied, he is more likely to choose a champion to enact his vengeance or will, rather than directly intervein.

One such occaision is rumoured to involve the 'creation myth' of the Shader-Kai. The story claims that they found some way to break themselves from Death's great Wheel, sundering themselves and their mighty Shadow-Empire from his grasp. Death sent a Champion, a Warrior Queen, to break their empire and drive them to their doom for their hubris. She did just that, according to the Doom-Song of the Shader-Kai, single handedly, crushing their people utterly and subjecting them once more to Deaths rule. The myths are hazy, but it is widely believed that although the 'Champion of Death' is said to die in the final, cataclysmic battle with the Shadow Emperor, she was to infact become the Raven Queen, who largely Rules the Shadowfell and the remnant of the Shader-Kai from the icy realm of Letherna, where some say the Lesser Throne of Death lies.

No one knows what makes a mortal rise to Godhood, but it is widely accepted to be possible. Within the living memory of some fey creatures, the ranks of the Gods have changed greatly.

The Elder Spirits and the Things Outside - The wisest scholars of the Eldarin, sharing their knowledge with such few Deva's as will talk of such things, claim that there are beings in existence, or perhaps were such beings, as made the Gods themselves Tremble. Some identify these as the Primordials, the Titans of Myth, who waged war across the Matirial world and it's twins at the dawn of known time. Others put the creatures as existing seperately, externally. They link these beings to the Abherrations of the world, known to few outside the most learned circles, who often lurk beneath. These powerful, alien entities warp the very fabric of reality around them. What but Gods and Demons of such an impossible nature as these lesser horrors could explain fear in the eyes of the mightiest of gods?
Snakes in the Tiki Lounge

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« Reply #2 on: 25 March 2009, 18:09:17 »

Part 3 - The Ruined City, the Megapolis of Lakath

Section A; A Breif History

Lakath has always had a bad reputation. 'Lakath the Wicked', it is known as, though few understand how true the name is. It was not founded by the old Nerathi Empire, infact it predates it. It is claimed by some, that it was originally founded by a survivor of the Turathi Highborn, a distant fortress of old Bael Turath. Certainly, the Fortress Palace that sits to this day upon the Island in the Bay, seat of Lakathian power, is an imposing sight. It grew slowly about this well defended Castle, till Walls were, by necessity, constructed about the small town that had grown up on the banks of the bay. Bridges were constructed to link the fortress to it's town, and it flourished as a small independant city-state, deriving might from military prowess and rumours of dark magic.

The City eventually fell to the ruthlessly expending young human Empire, Nerath. The Emperor, legend has it, made the City his capitol  for the space of three months, before the unwholesome nature of his new palace drove him mad. He dove to his death in the bay. His heir removed the capitol to it's original home, and raised in his place a vassal-king from his trusted leutenants, to rule Lakath. To keep the King Honest, he tied his position and his power to the Noblemen to whom he gifted the lands surrounding lakath itself. They were to provide the defense of the city, it's military, all save one Duke, who would instead set a force of Theif-Takers, Spies and Inquisitors to Watch the often untrustworthy folk of Lakath.

Over the following centuries, the City expanded time and again, becoming a major naval player and economic powerhouse due to it's fabulous docks and industrial quarters. The Kings, often accussed of being a little unhinged, peppered plans for the expansion of the city with religious observances and the grandest scheme of Cathedral-Building any human city had ever known.(See Religion for further details.)

Growing in stages, the city came to form two semi-circular onion-halves, with walled districts built inside successively larger outer-walls, on both sides of the bay. The Imposing form of the Island Fortress, all but impregnable, at it's dark heart.

Section B; An Overview

The City of Lakath is dead. To all intents and purposes, it fell as a city when the last King of Nerath itself died in a self-destructive crusade against the Gnoll's. The moment he died, his fragile and faltering Empire fell. Whole cities whiped off the map in the space of months, in a decade the Empire was a fast fading memory. But being the sheer size that she was, the death of Lakath is to be a hideously prolonged one.

Currently, Humanity actually controls and inhabits less than a third of the City's actual bulk, mainly to the center and north of the City, clustering about the River-Side, the Island-Castle of the King of Lakath, and the northern walls. The portion east of the River and the Bay is completely lost to wilderness and worse. It is dangerous enough to all but dissuade even the most fearless of tomb-robbers to leave it to rot, as the forests consume and cover it. The south western district of the city has been seized and fortified by a small but growing force of Goblins. Their crude wooden pallisades stretching across previously urbane, wealthy streets. They have made a sizeable fortress out of what was once one of the most privaledged seafront regions. Between the beating heart of human-held Lakath and the Goblin Fortress, lies a vast no-mans land of urban wasteland.

Portions of the Southernmost area of the city, itself built across various hilly structures, have subsided in the last hundred years or so, for reasons unknown. In particular, an area that had always been particularly famed for it's steep incline and low-lying location, like a dent in the face of the map, sunk even further during a particularly note-worthy earthquake. When the carnage ended, the area had been partially flooded by sea-water, and remains so to this day.

Deep within this wasteland, somewhat north of the sunken district and beneath the tallest and finest tower in the entire city, is the Lair of the creature possibly responsible for maintaining this uneasy peace, albeit through sheer terror. The Cities eldest resident is a Dragon. An Ancient Wyrm, dubbed by most 'The Red Queen', due to the Dragon's largely unchallenged belief that the city is, infact, now hers to do with as she wishes. Both Goblins and Humans do largely as they wish inside of their own territory, maintaining the seperate facades of 'tolerating' the existence of the other, and 'welcoming and tolerating' the presence of the Dragon.

In truth, it is only because such a being of near godlike power and stupendous age has claimed the corpse of Lakath (And it's not inconsiderable matirial and magical riches, which still cheifly reside scattered throughout the no-mans lands), that the city has not been destroyed completely, or taken by one of the regions few remaining military powers, such as the Dwarven Republic to the north and east, or the cities old foe, the Elves of the forests far to the west.

The 'King' of Lakath is a tenuous position. Technically, with the Nerath Empire no longer in existence, any legal justification has ceased to be relevant. However, the same legal documents that justify the king's rule, justify the positions of privaledge held by the Grand Dukes, and also prop up the majority of the city's ailing legal system. If one such strut were removed, the city would soon descend into chaos.
As it is, the king rules by military force, and his tenuous legal stalemate, the current king being the petty and self-interested descendant of the old Vassal Kings. The Dukes and King operate under the legal assumption that although there is no legal and current ruler of the Nerath Empire, the City of Lekath, as it still stands, is itself part of that empire, and so as long as it stands, they serve the Nerathi Empereror despite the fact that one has not been crowned in one hundred years. Should someone rightly claim the crown of Nerath, they would, of course swear fealty...

Section C; Religion

Lakath is a pantheistic culture. Though it could be described as a 'Point of Light' in the dark of the Wilderness, (Or more appropriately, several points of light), it is not as such, a place with a good and wholesome reputation. Part of this comes from the celestial inclusionism that has defined Lakathian culture for thousands of years. The Kings of the Nerathi Empire, and their vassal-kings of the city Lakath, were wary of the power of the Gods. Over the course of it's expansion, and it's hundreds of years of existence, the Kings of Lakath have diligently made sure that the known Thrones and all four major Houses are represented inside the City. Grand Cathedrals were constructed at bankrupcy inducing cost, to each main throne and even several of the currently vacant ones. Those Gods as had significant followings, or significantly powerful followings already made sure that such projects were both successfull and grand. The Cathedrals became entire districts, and emeshed themselves in the fabric of Lakath's very existence. Although Gods both Good and Evil are, in essence, given a home in the Megapolis of Lakath, they were required, reguardless of their deities reputation or goals, to contribute and co-exist, under threat from the King of Nerath himself.

As a result, two main things happened; Firstly, any reputation that Lakath had left was forever destroyed, and secondly, the Churches did indeed learn to co-exist, even forming a grand council, drawn from their respective leaders. In moder day Lakath, the remains of this council are in truth one of the cheif powers, as each Cathedral District still under human control is, essentially, a small conclave or state within. If a citizan of Lakath knows how to read, or write, or has any chance of medical care, it is because of the Churches.
And it is important to note, that some of the least likely are the most philanthropically active. In particular, the Cathedral of the Devil is a mighty power-center in modern Lakath, and it's Philanthropic enterprises, though they often have a cost attatched, are both reliable and sorely required. Cultists of Vecna, a god of secrets above all, are the main faction responsible for preserving and recovering the writings and lore of old-lakath, before rot and ruin can destroy it forever. For a fee (Often paid in the form of secrets and services, rather than coin), the general public is occaisionally allowed entry to their grand library.
And those lucky enough to live inside one of the Cathedral districts can count on much better equiped, much better disciplined security. Though in theory the city is defended by the current 'King', and policed by theif-catchers and beat-pounders of the watch, the private-armies of the Cathedrals are much better capable of maintaining security and order, in their own manner.
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