Book of Black Ravens
Cultures and Kingdoms
The starting city for this campaign, all characters should have at least a loose connection to Great Harbor. Originally founded as a fishing village, Great Harbor grew rapidly as it the A’bul Empire closed the Eastern overland trade routes, leaving Great Harbor as one of the only paths for merchants to reach the Inner Sea and, by extension, the outside world. As the Wild Nations grew, so too did Great Harbor, only now it is beginning to run into serious border disputes with nearby neighbors.
Great Harbor is a large, cosmopolitan city, with all races and classes present and no one race really dominating. The Mayor of Great Harbor is currently an Elf, but anti-Dynastic sentiment has been running high recently, and the next Tribunal will almost certainly result in his removal from office. Although there is no formal nobility in Great Harbor, the merchants form a powerful and moneyed political force and most Tribunes are the sons and daughters of wealthy merchants. A few others are the children of Crafters, military commanders, or wizards, and once every few years a fisherman gets his daughter in on the force of popularity and tradition.
The Wild Nations are a disparate group of kingdoms, duchies, and city-states. Dozens of scattered warlords and self-styled kings rule petty kingdoms. Although the specific cultures and traditions vary widely, as a rule semi-barbaric feudalism mixed with a recent influx of Dynastic knowledge is the dominant social state. This influx has led to improved metallurgy and stronger fortifications, an increase in warfare and the slow gradual kingdom building of small states conquering or marrying their neighbors. This has reduced the Wild Nations from hundreds of individual states to dozens, and led to gradually increasing differences in the cultures of neighboring kingdoms.
The Great Elven Dynasty, to the Far East, is ruled by Emperor Wan Zhe. Although Dynastic culture was once rare and exotic, the Tribute ships scattered across world brought it with them, and Dynastic culture is now integrating everywhere, bringing with it silk and spices, ancient wisdom and modern metallurgy. Their sword masters are renowned, and monks have become a common sight in villages and cities alike.
The A’bul Empire is the strongest force on the world stage, rivaled only by the Eastern Dynasty. Engaged in long running warfare with the Citadels and occasionally fighting off yet another horde from the steppes, the A’bul Empire has been gradually expanding, taking a kingdom here and a Citadel there, winning most wars they engage in and never losing territory. Formed of The Alliance between the Orc nation and the haphazard Hobgoblin and Bugbear tribes, the A’bul spreads their unique culture by blood and by money, with a mercantile force nearly as powerful as their vast armies. Their single greatest weakness is the lack of a navy, as most Orcs and almost all goblinfolk fear the open water.
The Steppes are a vast, uncitied wild land, filled with hundreds of tribes, almost all of them Human. Nomadic and warring, they spar with each other constantly. Horses and archery are part of everyday life. Every few decades a great chieftain will arise, uniting anywhere from a dozen to a hundred tribes under a single banner. They ride out and conquer all that lays before them before disintegrating into disparate clans and melting away. A violent churning sea of grass and humanity, only the merchants of A’bul dare to voyage across the steppes, and they go in mighty caravans armed to the teeth.
Throughout the world, small tribes have gathered in villages and holdfasts, forming a group of disparate tribes. Criminals are sent to serve life sentences in these penal colonies, lepers seek out solace from their isolation, and the impoverished find warm beds and open arms. The Penitents have strict rules, including codes of nonviolence, morality, dress, behavior, and service to others. They enforce these with magic and, often, pacts with outsiders. Tieflings are common among the Penitents, and most of the leadership are Tieflings.
Home of the Dragonborn, the [Citadels]] are a string of castles and fortresses, connected underground through a series of guarded tunnels through the mountains. With a strictly stratified caste system, social mobility is rare and most adventurers are either part of a family who adventure or are literal outcasts. Soldiers, merchants, sailors, and scouts could also adventure without straying too far from their traditional caste roles. The Citadels and the A’bul are engaged in nearly constant warfare, but the Citadels are protected from the human hordes by a wall of massive mountains.
Located in the vast and tractless desert, the holdfasts are hidden from view. Shrouded in secrecy, hidden by cliffs, bluffs, drifting sands and vast, powerful illusions, legends of the holdfasts are many but the truth is known to few. Only halflings are given permission to pass freely, and even they must know the secret routes and hidden keys to the Holdfasts. Distrusting of outsiders and willing to let strangers die of thirst in the desert, the only way to enter a holdfast and return is to become a true ally of a powerful halfling merchant.