A Bit of Background
This is the world of Heiven (HAY-ven). Heiven is a roughly Earth shaped orb in “fantasy space” (which is to say Spelljammer isn’t out of the question). Most of the denizens of Heiven consider the world to be “round”. It sports a cosmology that puts it in the same cosmology as Forgotten Realms, meaning that any of the gods, beings, and background of ForgottenRealms that you want to “import” for convenience are fine.
There are some aspects of Heiven that are unique to most fantasy settings:
All of the spectrum of sexual personalities are represented. Gay, Straight, Queer, Asexual, Omnisexual, multisexual, it’s all there. People are okay with this.
Skin color is broad spectrum among all the humanoid races as well from dark-dark to pale and freckly. People are okay with this too. Random Hair/Eye Tables
Occasionally things are born with unusual secondary colors or traits (a bright green Ox for instance or funny colored eyes (like red in humans)). People might remark on it as unusual but they won’t think it’s a sign of anything particularly evil or magical. Nobody would blink twice at someone with naturally blue hair.
Casual (actual) racism is pretty rampant. Microagressions and racial slurs are common when one race refers to another. This is WAY more common in rural areas where races don’t mingle much than it is in more urban areas (where someone is likely to call you out for doing it). Racial slurs are the quickest way to mark yourself as “common”, “lowbrow”, “ignorant”, etc.
- Halflings = Pecks
- Dwarves = Beardies, Squats
- Dragonborns = Sliggers, Slithers, and “Lizardmen” (they hate this one).
- Elves = Slants, Faebies
- Humans = Humie, Slags (the most common), Bunnies (as in “they breed like”), Snackables (referencing the fact that there is almost no monster that will refuse to eat a Human)
- Tiefling = Demonblood, Devilblood, Soulless
- Gnomes = Tinkers, Handymen, Mudfoots (this seems to be a Halfling and Dwarf thing)
- Orcs = Uglies, Tuskers, Greenies (although Orcs include green in their color spectrum, it isn’t universal)
Clothing, makeup, hairstyles, tattoos, and fashion is a lot closer to modern styles than medieval ones. There are Goths, Twee Hipsters, Bowler hats, Brimmed caps (like a baseball hat), Fedoras, Lolita girls, Business suits, ties, bowties, duster jackets, leather fetish gear, Scene girls, greasers, jocks, preps, nerds, ravers, furries, …
…but no Cosplay. That would be weird.
In cities, metal plays a huge part in the construction of things moreso than wood and natural materials. While the average village will look like a 18th century painting with thatched roofs and plaster and beam (or log) houses, a city will have tall (up to 7 or 8 story! but usually around 4-5 story) buildings with iron grillwork balconies and glass windows.
Carts will be made from wood but have metal wheels and axles (banded with tooled leather to smooth the ride). Roads will be made from poured cement or gravel embedded in thick asphalt . Horses , oxen, and mules are still the primary propulsion but magic-powered vehicles aren’t unheard of.
There is some technology. It’s about as sophisticated as the late renaissance up through the age of Enlightenment (1650s to the 1780s). But it isn’t quite up to the Industrial Revolution. The catalyst to keep them from progressing much further seems to be magic. Basically the things that make industrialization attractive are easier with magic. So travel, manufacturing, automation, and such are handled with magic in most cases.
Slavery is something that only goblinoids (and evil people) practice. Slavery among the ‘humanoid’ races is considered unthinkable (a hold-over from when the days when all humanoids/goblinoids were slaves to the Dervan).
The Gunslinger class is available to all races. Firearms are available to all players as weapons.
A little history
Thousands of years ago there was a huge magical empire called “The Dervan Age”. The Dervan were beings of unimaginable power and ability and they ruled the “lower races” as the called them. The Dervan were universal, they ruled a single nation that spanned the globe.
The Dervan were humanoid with sandy-colored skin and were completely hairless. They had completely black eyes and no secondary sexual characteristics (there may have only been a single Dervan gender, it isn’t known). Slavery was common in the form of indenture but many of the lower races were also free. Generational Slavery did not seem to be well-supported.
The story goes that the various races are all breeding variations of the original root breed (which, depending on the race of the person you are asking, could vary widely). In a way, it explains why half-breeds are possible between most of the races. About the only thing anyone agrees on is that Humans are the youngest “breed” and that everything else came before them.
People still claim that have “Dervan blood” (especially Royals and Nobles) although there is no verified “half-Dervan” in any of the history…Although the Dervan looked Human (mostly), they were incompatible).
The Fall of the Dervan
The Last Emperor of the Dervan was named Kar-Vallin Jakur and was born more than 2000 years ago.
Kar-Vellin sought to become a God as the Dervan had managed to conquer everything on the Heiven. This would place him above the “common” Dervan and make him superior. To accomplish this he made pacts, bargains and deals with beings from beyond. His plan was very successful. By the standards of the Dervan he was a God.
But the Dervan weren’t keen on being subjected (they were silly like that) and so a series of Dervan clans and heroes managed to destroy Kar-Vellin. This example of overthrowing an overlord, combined with the collapse of the ruling structure of the Dervan allowed the common races to overthrow the Dervan and hunt them to extinction (supposedly…more on that later).
The last known Dervan was killed 700 years ago and his corpse was mounted as a trophy in Irontown Museum.
The Rise of The Gomman Dynasty
The Gomman Dynasty began with Gomman I who founded Irontown in the first days of the fall of the Dervan. Irontown was a rough place and Gomman I managed to both centralize his power, protect innocents, and establish a rule in very trying circumstances.
Gomman I is credited with founding the “guild” system. Any group can register as a “guild” subject to the local authority. They then become Militia for that local authority. Local authorities are then part of a municipal authority (Usually the largest local town and again, registered via pacts) which report to the … you get the idea. Back then Gomman I was the Municipal Authority. It worked up from there.
The current calendar date is rendered from the date he declared that Irontown was the seat of a new kingdom (The Iron Land). The current year is 2015 AD (After Dervan).
The current monarch is Fredrich IV (born Brevard Korvais…Korvais being the Ruling family’s name) a genderqueer fop who seems more interested in exploring his own interests than ruling. His half-sister Henrea Levard is a Half-Elf recognised bastard who makes all the decisions.
Most of our adventures will be set in The Iron Land.
Steel is easy to make and good steel is stronger than iron. But being able to work with large sheets of steel of good quality is hard. But the technology exists to work with cast iron on a big scale. Iron is very plentiful in the mountains north of Irontown and the dwarves there consider it to be a largely waste metal. They use what they need and discard the rest.
Initially Dwarves let the humans just take what they wanted from the slag heaps on the sides of the mountains. but now they sell it to the humans of Irontown (in the form of Pig Iron). It is usually taken upriver (on the Iron River, duh) to Irontown where it is taken to the foundry where dwarves, human, dragonborn, and gnomes melt it, cast it, reheat it (to set it) in blast furnaces and distribute it (as plate iron (more common but more brittle) or wrought iron (more expensive but purer))
An iron piece is worth the same as a copper in The Iron Lands. Most Iron kingdoms coins have an iron ‘bit’ (usually a pentagon shaped “rivet”) stamped into the silver or gold. This makes them weigh the same as the global standard coins but be slightly less actual gold or silver. If the bit is in place, however, they are gladly accepted equally. This also means that they can be separated out from ‘pure’ coins by using a magnet.
Most buildings have iron columns that support them, many have iron floors and copper-sheeted roofs. Protective stone walls have heavy iron plates bolted to them on the outside face. Older buildings are often decorated with elaborate cast-iron facings. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cast-iron_architecture
On many homes, people paint the iron (both to protect it and to make it less dark) in bright colors. Irontown is actually very colorful. Only the gothic black iron Palace is dark and foreboding. Iron grillwork is used as fences, wall-toppers, railings on balconies, and gateways.
Ironclad doors aren’t uncommon. Nor are iron grillworks, Iron furnaces, Iron stoves, Iron cookware, Iron furniture (generally for outdoor use), Iron is heavily used in ornamentation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ironwork
Many people have an iron cistern on their roof to catch fresh rainwater to use for bathing, cleaning and watering plants. Fresh water is usually plumbed from the city but it is metered and using too much is expensive. Virtually every house and building has indoor plumbing and sewage (iron pipes, naturally). The few that do not are generally very old stone houses—although a lot have been retro-fitted.
The most common type of iron used is cast iron (pig iron), but it somewhat brittle (and partially why Irontown is crumbling), but there is a new process that while it costs more is really superior called wrought Iron. Currently it is fashionable among the wealthy to have wrought iron facades and structures in your home (probably because the old cast iron bits corroded or cracked). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wrought_iron
Anything that was built prior to about 1780 in our world is reasonable game (1750 would be better). Steam engines exist, but they are a curiosity not a tool. The current thinking is that it can be used for pumping or possibly boring. The “aha” moment hasn’t arrived for them since magic is usually easier and less dangerous/expensive.
This world is not quite to an Industrial Revolution but is more accurately on the verse of one. Understandably their iron-making tech is a little more in advance of the other technology (textiles, for instance). Other kingdoms, however, may be ahead of The Iron Land in that department.
Things you can find: Mechanical clocks and pocket watches, Precision measuring tools, Cannons/Muskets, Lightning rods (essential in Irontown!), Eyeglasses (precision grinding!), mercury thermometers, clockwork spring-operated devices, electroplating, simple rockets, Large sailing vessels (like Man-o-war and Brigantines…Pirate-type ships), Moveable type, Printed books, reservoir pens (expensive!), mechanical calculator, grinder organ
THE IRON LANDS
Most of the game-play is centered on the Iron Lands. They are modeled (loosely) after late-renaissance France.
The Iron Land is roughly the same size, geographically, as Egypt (or Texas if you prefer).
There are several well-made ‘hard’ roads for travel supported by a good network of dirt roads. Travel by river is common and cheap. Coach hire is also common but slightly more expensive.
The Climate of the Iron Lands
…is roughly that of the Texas or South Australia. It is largely dry, but good water management has allowed them to leverage the relatively warm climate to prevent it from becoming too arid. The area between the High Road, Hebrin Tor, Walker and Jorrem is almost all agricultural. They grow crops most year round (taking a break only during the relatively mild winter). Farther north, as the altitude increases, the climate becomes cooler and dryer.
The mountains are fairly rocky and snow-covered well into spring and sometimes summer. The tree-line is somewhere between 5000 and 6000 feet. The highest peak is [insert name here] at 8,751 ft. (in the Freewilds most likely)
There are lots of ice-cold lakes and rivers with spectacular falls and dangerous rapids. There are also lots of well-traveled trails. The mountain environment isn’t half as dangerous as the denizens.
The Blasted Plains are arid, rocky and inhospitable. They are a rainshadow desert climate despite a river running through them. They only record a few rainfalls a year (totalling under 9” usually). During the summer they are very dangerous. In places the altitude is actually below sea level (only a few feet, but still). The name comes from the strange crater-like holes that expose the bedrock and in which nothing grows. Their appearance has never been adequately explained.
There is a section of virgin hardwood forest called the “Greensward” and it is considered “protected” by an independant guild (unregistered) of Druids and Rangers and it is home to a variety of wild creatures. This is partially why the road that leads through it is considered such a great place to smuggle goods.
The West coast of The Iron land is rocky and virtually beachless. Where there is beach it is usually going to be mostly pebbles and shells.
The East coast, on the other hand is warm and sunny and generally sandy until you get north of [someplace] (the upper ⅓ of the map). However, the occasional rock outcropping is not uncommon.
Irontown is at the more-or-less center of The Iron Land. It has long been the largest and most advanced city in this part of the world. It is built as a series of concentric walled rings the outermost of which is pentagonal. The innermost ring is the home of the Palace of the Monarch. It is a metal-clad edifice that looks like a cathedral mated with an iron-picket fence. Very gothic.
Successive rings are a series of social strata. Nobles, The Wealthy, The Middle Class, Merchants and Working Folk, and outside the wall are miles of sprawling agricultural areas.
Irontown sits only a few miles below the intersection of the Iron River and the Coal River. The Iron River continues UNDER & AROUND Irontown (it used to be through) and emerges on the other side filthy and polluted where it flows to the sea. It is still used to transport goods to the rest of The Iron Land however.
Irontown sits on a huge labyrinth of passageways, catacombs and dungeons delving ways that has built up over the years.
Many of the passageways are literally made of iron plates and supports that is rusting and so they may collapse at any instant. Pipes and passageways abound.
Many of the buildings above have iron sub-structures and so building collapse is no uncommon (meaning there are people to rescue, subterranean caverns to explore, uncovered relics to find, etc.
The Iron river flows deep beneath Irontown where sewage and waste flow down through the substructure to to the river. The river itself flows continuously although it is rumored that there are amphibious creatures that live down there too (Lizardfolk? Kuo-Toa? Bueller?)
The underground system is the best way to move between the sections of the city without seeing the city guard. Although the guard does have places down here that they patrol, it isn’t as easy to guard choke points in the wall like it is above.
Irontown is like a medieval 1920’s Chicago or New York in tone. Guildmasters are Mob Bosses and the top of the stack is the Registrar. The Monarch is kind of above all of this but his half-sister is aware of the problem and is not afraid to try to work around it using the more honest guilds.
Irontown is corrupt. From the guild masters who basically run things to the Guild Registrar who calls the shots. Most people recognise that 1) The Monarch is useless. 2) His sister is keeping this from being complete criminal anarchy. 3) While many guilds are corrupt not all of them are, and most folks can point out the good ones from the bad ones.
Things everyone talks about:
The city is falling down. Something crumbles (building street, wall section, etc) every day. There is always a work crew within earshot repairing something.
Someone they know got beat up/harassed/arrested/bullied by the City Guild (and they happily point to the bad guards).
Someone they know was helped by a neighbor (and they’ll gladly point to the helpful people)
The Monarch is ______ (fill in the blank) but his sister is all right she did ____________(something good) recently.
Theres a stink coming up from the undercity
___________ is in _____________ guild (if you are looking for a way to find a particular guild). It is literally 6 degrees – roll a d4 and thats how many people you’ll have to ask to reach any guild.
Palace Guard (who work for Henrea who is also their guildmaster)
Emperor’s Personal Musketeer Guard (He has a master of the guard who is guildmaster)
Bankers Guild (A Banker can be trusted to both hold valuables and return said valuables on demand without question. There may be fees, but they’ll be up-front.)
Priestly guilds – While it might be wise to suspect guilds of evil or chaotic deities they’ll still be acting within the interests of their God which should be pretty obvious. Most healing orders are separate guilds within the temple guilds
Constable’s Guild (These guys solve crimes)
Chef’s Guild (It is considered good practice to have a cook from the Chef’s guild)
Most adventuring guilds
Merchants Guilds (These are broken into Grocers, Jewelers, Armorers, Blacksmiths, Ironmongers, etc.) – for the most part these are benign and while people might suspect the carpet guild of price fixing or something like that…its mostly harmless.
City Guard (These guys maintain the peace. A lot of the guard seem to have mixed loyalties)
Porter’s Union (These guys haul freight within the city)
Chevaliers (This a guild of noble armored knights. They are all over the map as far as alignment and poorly organized)
Caravan’s Guild (Covers shipping of goods and also people. They tend to be somewhat unreliable as things fall off their wagons frequently)
Plumbing Guild (While they do maintain the undercity there is a lot of ‘looking the other way for a small fee’ going on. They are keeping a lot of secrets.)
Spy Guild (yes, they are registered) – no one is sure who these guys work for or whether they are working for themselves
North of The Iron Land is Yellin.
Yellin is a separated from the Iron lands by the Freewilds. Those areas are full of independent and stubborn people who are basically a lot of busybodies who would love to get in a fight with an honest raiding army. Yellin is modeled after The Bavarian?austrian/Bohemian empire of the 17th century.
Yellin maintains a sort of uneasy truce with The Iron Land. However, spies travel those northern roads a lot.
The mountains north of The Iron Land are called the Freewilds:
These are modeled loosely after the Norse lands (Netherlands, Dutch, Swiss, Swedish) of the late 16th Century.
Deep Ore Delve (Dwarven City)
The Vale of Ralinor (Gnomish/Dwarvish/Human Settlement)
Clan of The Savage Claw (Orc tribes)
South of the Orn Kingdom is The Jakuran Theocracy.
Very loosely based on Spain/Italy and the remains of the Holy Roman Empire of the late 17th century
The Jakuran Theocracy worships the god that Kar-Vallin Jakur supposedly became. Their leaders are all clerics (of some sort) that have spells and no other religions or religious expression is allowed. Clerics of other deities are forbidden to enter The Theocracy unless they renounce using any of their divine abilities.
Because they follow the old Dervan system, the priesthood is treated as Dervan themselves. All other “lower races” are subservient to the,. And while they are largely benign, they do not distinguish between people traveling in the Theocracy from people who live there.
Because they venerate Dervan culture, they are always keen to acquire artifacts from the old Dervan Empire. This seems to be the major point of trade between The Iron Land and the JT. The border is carefully patrolled (on the IK side by the Jakuran Border Patrol Guild (JPBG) and the Most Holy Order of The Iron Land Border Knights (MHOotIKBK) on the other). Neither side is really very friendly to the other.
There is no physical barrier other than at roads and the Iron River, but both sides have set traps and snares to catch those trying to circumvent the border checks where any religious items, clerics, history books (the JT has it’s own history, thank you), or Dervan Artifacts (which you must have proof you own it — a guild receipt will do) will be confiscated.
The Island of Xerthenappe (shur-deh-NAH-fay) The larger of two islands northwest of The Iron Land. It is an independent island (and so considered part of the Freewilds), but it enjoys a very benign relationship with The Iron Land. It is modeled on Wales and has elements of English culture (minus the Empire mentality). It is considered a nice place to visit. There’s a lot of magic there, and many many elves and half-elves live there and on the nearby island of Kblle (sometimes written Klue in common) (Klway). They have a native tongue that is weird and hard to use, but musical to listen to. town named Yotheathe (yaw-deh-AH-deh)
th = d pp = F —e = ay o = aw a = ah er = ur
x = sh n = n e— = eh ll = w i = ee k = k
b = l
Not Shown on the Map
Southwest is a “Ottoman/Turkish” empire (sort of an Al Qadim setting). http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?358985-Al-Qadim-Land-of-Fate-%285e-conversion%29
West over the seas is a Maztika setting which is much more primitive having reverted after the fall of the Dervan.
Far to the east is an oriental setting that more resembles Japan than China (where you can have Oriental Adventures-style adventures set in Kara-Tur (or equivalent))
South is a dark continent with a setting similar to Jakandor which was a large part of the Dervan empire but also reverted to savagery after the fall. http://www.tsrinfo.net/archive/od/legend.htm
I’m holding off on a “grand world map” until I need it. The map will expand as we fill in more details.
NOTES & INSPIRATION
The tone I am shooting for is late Renaissance Europe. Read the Baroque Cycle books by Neal Stephenson for a good flavor.
Europe in the late 18th century particularly the Hapsburg Empire which is the model for the Gomman Dynasty
For an overview of the type of things that has lead to the Freewilds research the Eighty Years War
Naarden, Netherlands: https://firstname.lastname@example.org,5.160224,2619m/data=1e3
Irontown is about four times this size. But this is good to see how the moats and earthworks are set up. The Google street-view shows you that you can’t actually see the earthworks from inside the town, but only if you go up onto the defensive bastions.