Atheria: The Barbarian Lands

   For today, it’s the next bit in the Introduction to Atheria series – a quick-start guide to the Barbarian Lands.

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   The Barbarian Lands are infused with totemistic magic – a power which infuses those born there with animalistic abilities and instincts even as it twists their forms into those of anthropomorphic beasts. While the local tribes – each following a different totem – accept this as entirely normal, it places them among the most inhuman groups on Atheria – and leaves them incapable of maintaining anything past a tribal civilization.
   Given that these characteristics will “infect” anyone born there – and that, unless the parents have joined an established tribe with a specific totem, the child will get one at random (this is often a disaster: many totems have no tribes because the characteristics they bestow are unsuitable for survival) – attempts to conquer the Barbarian Lands always end up collapsing. You have to import all your administrators and upper-level types and none of them can have a family there.
   Left to themselves, the Barbarians tend to remain split up into their various tribes – Horse, Red Fox, Black Bear, Auroch, Raccoon, etc, etc, etc. More common totems may be followed by a number of tribes, each of whom will recognize a vague fellowship with each other, but they just don’t organize themselves on a larger scale. The social patterns of each tribe are strongly influenced by the totem they follow as well: Bear tribesmen tend to scatter their households over an area and turn each into a small fortress, Horse tribesmen tend to be polygamous and send the young men out raiding until they manage to successfully challenge for position, Raccoon tribes are noted for their sociability and thieving ways (which they do not recognize as any kind of offense), and so on. Intertribal marriages are fairly common: the children take the totem of whichever tribe they’re born and raised in. Children born outside the tribe may take after a parents totem, but often get one at random – again, often a tragedy.
   The vast majority of the successful tribes have mammalian totems (a very few have two or more), although a few have reptilian, avian, or monstrous totems. There don’t seem to be any successful tribes with insect, plant, amphibian, fish, or other outre’ totems, although there are some tales (usually horror stories – or at least sad ones) of the occasional “wild child” with such a totem. They’re apparently just too alien.
   Occasionally a child is born with the Dragon totem, regardless of what his or her normal totem would have been. Such individuals only appear every few centuries at most, and usually unite the tribes under their leadership for a generation.   Unsurprisingly, the Barbarian Lands have no common system of currency. While gold and silver are used, they’re typically valued by weight, with relatively little value placed on form and artistic merit. Certain other lightweight goods – notably dyes, colorful beadwork, exotic feathers, scents, and amber (used by powerful shamans to store magic) – are also highly valued and serve as a de facto currency. For those interested in trading in such commodities, it’s worth noting that Barbarian senses often vary from the human norm. By outsider’s standards they may prefer foul scents, garish, bland, or oddly-combined colors, and very strange food. The barbarian lands usually export furs, lumber, berries, saps, plant extracts, small amounts of raw metals, and other products of the wild forests, as well as a fair number of slaves, either the result of inter-tribal raids and battles or – for tribes such as the Horse and Hyena tribes – individuals who lost out in dominance-squabbles.

   While all the tribes recognize the power of The Dragon and The Namer or “The Great Spirit”, most of the religious observations are directed towards the tribal totem(s) and occasionally towards other powerful local spirits. The details are normally left up to the shamans (usually witches – but the occasional tribal sorcerer can be frighteningly powerful). There have been occasional attempts to introduce the worship of the Imperial Gods, but they’re usually seen as simply another layer of spirits between the local totems and The Dragon and The Great Spirit, and thus the domain of shamans and other magical specialists. Actual religious rituals call for prayers and invocations before important activities, regular festivals on tribal holy days, and purifications. Shamans often go on vision-quests, but most tribe members leave such things to them. There is no hard-and-fast rule however; individual members of the tribes may dabble in magic if they happen to have a talent that way – it’s just that little formal education is available, hence only the more intuitive magical systems are at all common.
   Barbarian Sorcerers are rightly feared. Unlike most other realms, the barbarians revere as well as fear The Dragon, and so have little compunction about drawing on the blood of the Dragon to reduce the effective level of their spells. Just as importantly, given the physical enhancements of their totemistic birthright, they often have plenty of attribute points to spare for such purposes.

   The Barbarian tribes place a good deal of stress on honor and keeping promises, as well as a loose tradition of hospitality, but their “legal system” is primarily the province of their shamans, chieftains, and tribal councils. There really is no reliable form of inter-tribal “law” and non-barbarian outsiders have even less in the way of “legal rights” than other barbarians – although the armies of the Imperium command some respect. Most intertribal conflicts, and not a few within the tribes, are settled by a contest of champions. Depending on the stakes losers may (most commonly) be simply humiliated (and more-or-less battered), enslaved, or (relatively rarely) slain. Intertribal raiding for loot, slaves, and glory is relatively common. Semi-arranged “raids” to “abduct” potential marriage partners are extremely common between reasonably friendly tribes, but lead to intertribal squabbles when something (all too frequently) goes wrong.

   The creatures of the barbarian lands tend to be larger, faster, stronger, tougher, and far more cunning than those encountered elsewhere. It’s not too uncommon for – say – a bear to lay a false trail, double back, and ambush an unwary hunter. The dividing line between animals and humans is thin in the barbarian lands: a very cunning animal here may well be as clever as a stupid human. The larger beasts have even been known to maintain grudges, and to hunt down those who have injured them or their offspring.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 24: The Evil Grand Vizier

   With the group still in Londinium, and with the Power Filtering Rooms (at least that was what the sign on the door said they were) throughly mined, Marty, Smoke, Arkus, Kevin, and Kevin’s Thralls, continued on through the tunnels under the Crystal Palace while Jarvian bombarded the city. They’d be deep inside the Ministry of Magic soon enough.

   The stairs they found went both up and down. Down was glowing. Probably that “Sunwell” thing, but worth a quick look.

   The staircase spiraled downwards for several hundred feet, its structure slowly shifting from finely cut stonework to decorative brass. Eventually it opened into an enormous, and apparently sunlit, cavern. There were trees, grass, small animals, and the usual signs of intensive gardening. The light was coming from a large golden lake with immense amounts of power stored in it. There had to be some really massive inscriptions holding that back – but it didn’t seem likely that there would be any way to modify them without blowing themselves up even if they weren’t protected.

   Besides, the place was either a dimensional pocket or big enough to underlay most of Londinium. It was big enough for lots of golem-things, luncheon pagodas, and a small forest. Well, as Kevin noted “Of course, we’re in no shape to fight the golems, we don’t know what we’d be messing with, and we might destroy the entire city. Other than that, no problem!”

   Fortunately, the Golems took them for students and gave them the tour.

   Apparently stability had been a primary concern with the Wells, which was why such care was taken to filter the power feeds and remove any extraneous impurities from the incoming power. Once the power was added to the well, the system became relatively stable and self-sustaining.

   If the power flow was disrupted somehow the Well itself would remain stable and self-sustaining – although if the power flow was stopped up somewhere and allowed to collect, then the new collection point would become highly unstable without proper conditioning. If the power flow was completely shut off at the source then the Well would stop growing, but there would be no adverse effects. Construction had begun on the minor wells some 250 years ago, but the Primary had only been constructed recently, since it placed greater demands on the minor Wells – and each Well represented a different type of energy from among those that made up the world around them.

   All of which was interesting, but not especially useful. It also only left them about half an hour, plus boil time, before the explosions. All the inscriptions would be buried deep and well-protected, not to mention possibly being far too disruptive to disturb. If here were any critical points, vulnerabilities, or ways to pull power out they weren’t visible from the tour. Doing anything like that would be a major project. Oh well. Time to head on upstairs.

   Back upstairs, it looked like they’d gotten into the gardens, where the horrific monsters were said to roam. Blast: they’d been hoping to bypass that part.

   Meanwhile Jarvian had switched to hit-and-run tactics – helped by a bit of Illusion courtesy of his assistant Jaiden – to deal with the major artillery emplacements and steam tanks. Fortunately, most of the military had been well away from the city, so it was mostly the fixed stuff – and the local targeting systems sucked.

   Back at the Ministry, the group was lucky enough to find one of their targets – Magus Hutchins – out having a lunch break.

   Oddly enough, he didn’t put up that much of a fight. OK, Marty was grabbing him while Kevin and the Thralls tangled him up – and incinerated his clothing to get rid of any talismans, sigils, or inscriptions he was carrying – but he was supposed to be a top member of the guild. He should have been able to put up a better fight – but he seemed to be pretty resigned. He even offered to let them all back out peacefully since the Minister’s “pets” had an annoying tendency to slaughter anything they considered an intruder, very keen senses, were imports from another world, and were nigh invulnerable to anything the mages could throw at them. Unless they had something bigger than that, he recommended getting out of there.

   Still, if they were crazy enough to keep going, the Minister should be in the central compound of the main garden.

   The group considered… Hutchins was on the list, and had been cooperating in stealing children’s souls and melting their bodies down into ectoplasm, letting the employees die of radiation poisoning, and so on. They didn’t feel much compunction, although he had been tolerably “friendly” as far as the local mages went. No one really had any good binding effects available. It looked like there were minor charms on him, plus a huge infusion from the Sunwell (that’d probably make him tough to kill until it wore off), but nothing more. Still, none of them really liked slitting the throats of people who were tied up. At the moment he fell into the category of “Impediment”, since it was pretty obvious that the Minister wouldn’t give a damn about “hostages”.

   He seemed sane enough in some ways. OK, he’d tossed all scruples in favor of survival – but he wasn’t the first. The Minister had been having trouble with “The Outsider” (a.k.a “Nexus” and “The Other“), a creature with a vast ability to shape reality which had been wandering around killing mages and officials. They’d been unable to stop it; it’s magics were just too strong. The Minister had bargained with another extradimensional entity – Merlin – for help. She’d listened to his promises of power and salvation and willing liquidated her entire organization and thrown out all reason in favor of following the plans Merlin porovided – a way to create a power well capable of focusing the energy we needed to fight the Outsider. Hutchins had wanted to run, but between the Minister and The Outsider, that usually resulted in death.

   Well, he seemed sane enough (Kevin was a damned good psychologist). He was pretty obviously addicted to the Sunwell though. It seemed that the last time he’d faced The Outsider he’d been stripped of all ability to generate his own magics. He needed the energies of the Sunwell to even light a candle anymore. Kevin knew some people who needed advice about magic though – and Hutchins could use an offworld job. The House of Roses wanted to check his sanity first – but were open to the offers. Opening (and resealing) a portal right at the spot was risky – there were extradimensional beings involved – but what were they going to do with him otherwise? He hadn’t been any good at self-defense when he had his inscriptions and sunwell link. They shipped him off to Crusader. It was an easy link anyway – remarkably easy as it turned out. The local reality was either really conducive to gates or was under a lot of stress to be that thin.

   The Minister – an old lady – was relaxing with her bodyguards. They decided to talk first.

   Things went downhill quickly enough: the Minister was quite crazy – and her two bodyguards seemed to be absolutely loyal. As for the Minister – “Ha, weaklings, all of them. Too scared to do what needs to be done to save their home and it’s people. Too scared of what lies within themselves to seek the power they need to survive.” “Whether it is that everyone lacks vision or is too timid or stupid matters not to me. They either need to stand out of the way of those with the plans and the power to implement those plans or perish.”. Oh well. Apparently anyone who didn’t agree with her was automatically unworthy of consideration and should be honored to be used in any way she wished.

   Kevin was of the opinion that you couldn’t really change realities from the outside: all you could do is split off your own version. If there was a threat to this reality, it could only be coming from someone in it who refused to accept it the way it was. Now who did that look like here? The woman couldn’t even see that it wasn’t working. Reality wasn’t nder threat: just the local power structure.

   “Just the local power structure” indeed, it is that power structure that gives our very society shape and laws that govern it. Take that away and there will be nothing let of us.”

   That was almost enough to make the group feel sorry for her. Was that really all the identity she had? Still, the Minister’s “Logic” was making Marty yearn for the Trojan possum committee back in Battling Business World.

   Still, she then set her bodyguards on them. Her choice…

   The bodyguards started off with throwing massive objects and assaulting Marty. Kevin started off with augmenting Marty with a short-term armor-construct (which promptly too a beating) and trying to drain the Minister and her constructs a bit. It actually worked on the constructs somewhat – but was nowhere near enough. The Thralls shot up the Minister a bit too, but it only annoyed her. Arxus got really lucky though, and knocked her momentarily unconscious – giving Marty enough time to decapitate her. The bodyguards promptly went limp and slumped to the floor; evidenly she’d been controlling them directly. It didn’t seem like she’d had any clones, soulbindings, or any other arrangements to come back: it looked like she’d never really considered the possibility of being defeated.

   The bodyguards were alive, but soulless and not human. They looked like a local adaption of the Praetorian technology, probably grown from samples brought back through the gate. Not much in the way of minds or motivations though.

   There really didn’t seem to be anybody else around – although the sounds of fighting (and more plumes of smoke) were coming from outside the crystal palace. Jarvain had taken out a sizable number of the fixed emplacements and most of the available local troops were busy trying to stop him – although he was having to fall back for longer and longer periods. Even with a constant supply of mending spells, the Mirage was just taking too much damage. Some systems were too complex for simple mending spells to fix – and artillery hits usually blew away some unrecoverable mass. Jaiden couldn’t do anything about either, which meant that his capabilities were steadily degrading. Pretty soon he’d have to park the Mirage, leave Jaiden to do what longer-term repairs she could, and head in personally if he wanted to do any more damage – or work with the local military. They should be coming in fairly soon (hopefully as allies).

   Back with the rest of the group, they were considering: they’d had a target list of four mages, the Minister, six subordinates, and the two bodyguards. They’d taken out one mage, the minister, and the bodyguards. Three of the mages had been working on defenses (and Jarvain), and might or might not be in trouble. Where the hell were all the employees?

   Well, the Minister had been a control freak – and had been killing employees who tried to get away from her. There had to be some mystical links or methods of tracking them around.

   There was a scrying pool with appropriate talismans in the next room. So; two of the remaining mages were already dead – fighting with Jarian, the Family, and the Military (they apparently had some of the faster scouts in now), and the last one was cornered. Of the six ministry guys they had… one floating facedown in the waters of the Sunwell, one dissolving screaming under a desk, one being grabbed by a big blue hand, two dead in the fighting, and one blocked (a wise choice, unless he or she was dead behind wards or spells which hadn’t gone down yet). It looked like the assassination mission was winding down. Had the woman been crazy enough to have a “take them all with me” effect set up, was it just bad luck, or was it “The Outsider” (presuming that such a being even existed except – possibly – as a mask for Merlin)?

   Well, time to see what they could loot and pillage – probably starting with the bodyguards if they were salvageable. Marty was sorry that modern cameras didn’t work (that headshot had been pretty sweet), but Kevin assured him that between illusions, divinations, and modern computers, they could do a virtually perfect reconstruction.

   4 CP all around

Realms of Atheria: Chelm

   Today it’s Chelm, one of the lands with a really poor reputation in the rest of the world – known for it’s treachery, poisons, creation of undead, enslavement of souls, and many other practices that no right-minded individual would put up with – unless, of course, they happened to be from Chelm.

   Chelm (Blood or Shadow/Darkness Birthright) actually consists of two entangled lands – one dominated by blood magic and the other by darkness magic. Oddly, unlike the reasonably well-defined boundaries of most magical realms, the borders of blood and night ebb and flow on a daily basis, leaving hidden pools of magic and wells of energy scattered across the forest landscape. Combined with the natural dangerous, plant and animal hazards, and horrific parasites of the savannas and tropical rain forests which cover the country, these scattered areas of magic form a lethal maze where even the natives move with caution.
   The people of Chelm are divided into numerous tribes, each of which occupies anywhere from one to a dozen or so small villages. Villages belonging to a particular tribe usually cooperate, but travelers from other tribes are regarded with suspicion and caution. Outsiders are generally regarded as potential prey. Emigrants from Chelm are usually either relatively weak – and wanting to get out while they can – or are seeking to further their own ambitions. The latter are responsible for much of the poor reputation of the people of Chelm throughout the rest of the world.
   Natives of Chelm may be attuned to either the magics of Blood or Darkness. They may buy Well-Off in their own exotic form of Wealth for 3 CP, Affluent for 6 CP, and Wealthy for 12 CP. In either case the effects are normally cumulative, although – as always – modifiers of the same type do not stack.  

   Currency: The “finances” of Chelm are based on the ownership of Rekorathi – curiously carved stelae set up in the most dangerous areas of the country. Their value is determined by the number of people who died – and who’s life essences were absorbed by the stone – in erecting them and by the number of people who have been sacrificed there since. When an owner dies outside of Chelm, or without having designated a proper heir, their share of ownership returns to the stone, and can be claimed by anyone who travels to the stone, deciphers it’s carvings, and enacts the ritual they describe.
Such “wealth” has its usual effects – albeit provided by the enslaved spirits of the dead* rather than by focusing natural magic. It is difficult to add “treasure” to your store however: the journey to make additional sacrifices is never easy.
   Chelm exports rare woods, toxins, spices, beastmasters and tamed beasts, and the precious metals and gems which it places relatively little value on. In return it mostly imports slaves (many of whom are sacrificed to further empower Rekorathi), tools, cloth, and wine. Slaves with an Order birthright are especially valued since they’re such good assistants.
   *The dead need fetishes – the equivalent of normal Charms and Talismans – to focus their power through and need bodies of some sort (deceased human, reasonably-sized animal, or constructed) to manifest through as servants. If “slain”, they’re banished back to the Rekorathi for a lunar month. While they’re easier to “replace” than normal servants, and can be called up on a moments notice, they’re vulnerable to turning, dismissal, and warding magic. Few of them seem to mind very much: the “afterlife” of the Rekorathi usually consists of a cluster of comfortable villages with bountiful supplies of food and beer, where the inhabitants can relax, study, and amuse themselves. While they may be called on occasionally for direct assistance, they’re usually only called on for the trickle of Mana and Power which empowers their “owners” fetishes / charms and talismans – a service which is barely even noticeable.

   Religion: The people of Chelm believe that it is only by the power of the shadowy God of Secrets, Embodiment of the Sheltering Night, Lord of the Infinite Darkness (under a variety of names), that reality remains shielded from the direct notice of The Dragon – who would otherwise surely consume, and once more make an undifferentiated, unnamed, part of itself, all the worlds. In his honor are secrets kept, goals accomplished through stealth, and hidden rituals enacted. His wife, the Goddess of Blood, is the Namer, and Mother of All Things. From her all things are born, and to her all things return in the end to be born again. To emulate and honor her her worshipers shed blood and suffer pain as she sheds blood and suffers pain to give life to the universe. To ease her suffering they seek to extend the time between rebirths – binding spirits into Rekorathi (or journeying to one to join the spirits already within as they approach the end of their lives), experimenting with life-extending elixirs, and creating or becoming sentient undead.

   Legal Notes: While each tribe has it’s own – savagely self-centered – traditions, outsiders are most hindered by the fact that most of them (in honor of the Lord of Night) are never spoken of save in secret rituals. Few of the tribes are overtly hostile – if only because they’re occupied by their internal intrigues – but all of them harbor secret resentments and grudges against the other tribes and are extremely suspicious of strangers. Many youngsters are secretly magically dominated by their elders or contemporaries.

   Local creatures invariably come in two variants: those born with Shadow powers and those born with Blood powers. In general, those with shadow powers are stealthy, difficult to detect, possess the ability to see in the dark, and – quite often – are capable of generating illusions to confuse predators or distract prey. Some of the most powerful, such as the Shadow Tigers, are capable of creating quasi-real duplicates of themselves of shadow-stuff. Similarly, Blood Tigers are capable of tracking down any target – or relatives thereof – who’s blood they’ve tasted (leading to occasional attempts to domesticate them as hunting aides), can poison or weaken their prey, and heal themselves by drawing blood from their targets. Much of the plant life is affected as well. Many of the more common plants in the jungle produce powerful drugs, whether of darkness-related varieties, such as narcotics and hallucinogens, or blood-related types, such as toxins and metabolic modifiers.

Overview of Atheria

   Today, it’s an overview of the (known and nearby-unknown) World of Atheria.

   Actually, this represents rather more information than will be available to any single character: the outer magical domains (shown in blue), quite a lot of the more distant political groupings (shown in red), and a many of the major geographical features (in black), are terra incognita to characters from more than a domain or two away. However, given that players tend to make characters from all over the place, the players might as well take a look at the entire layout – even if they will have to download the file to make out most of the labels.

   Unfortunately, map-making is not a well-developed art throughout most of Atheria (and this map shows realm relationships rather than topography in any case). The Alarian Imperium and HuSung have excellent maps of their own territories, and fairly good ones of the areas for a hundred miles or so past their borders. There, are, however, difficulties with many of the other realms.

   The Alarian Imperium has excellent (and rarely-needed) maps of it’s own territories and passable ones for the border regions, as well as maps showing a fair chunk of Parack, the Trackless Forest / Parliament of Trees, and many of the major features of the Barbarian Lands, the Mri Desert, and the nearer segments of the Great Northern Barrens. Unfortunately, the territories of the various barbarian tribes change constantly and have few notable locations outside of a few tradecities. There isn’t much of anything in the Mri Desert to map outside of a few stable watering holes and landmarks – and little reason to bother anyway, since the place is infested with nomads and bandits. The Trackless Forest, Parliament of Trees, and Great Northern Barrens are mapable – if only because there is very little to show – but they’re also implacably hostile. Parack is battered by storms and erosion, as well as being populated by an impossibly insular people, but is tolerably well mapped.

   Unfortunately, elsewhere there are difficulties. Dernmarik, Senthar, and Nial are full of spatial distortions, areas that appear and disappear, and similar problems – making serious mapping near-impossible. The Mri desert is populated by bandits and nomads and has few landmarks to work with. The areas about the gulf of Irudan and the Sea of Jade change constantly. The realm of Dreams is pretty much unmappable by definition. Chelm is infested with hideous toxins and extraordinarily dangerous creatures – and its inherent darkness magic blocks attempts at divination. So do the magics of the Warding domain – and the Imperium has not even determined if there IS anything past that, much less made an attempt to map it.

   HuSung has good maps as well, and has extended them well into the great savannah – although they find the quarrelsome tribes there hardly worth dealing with. The Twisted Peaks resist both gravity and erosion, and hence are both near-impassable and a refuge for refugees escaping troubles in HuSung. Their experiences with the Forest Domain, Chelm, and the Great Northern Barrens mirror those of the Imperium – and explorations into the metaphysical realms off their coastline have proven confusing.

   It’s worth nothing that quite a few theoretically-possible birthrights have not yet been seen in the game. Some are generally lethal: even if anyone was likely to be born in the realm of Destruction, Transformation, or Dream, they are not likely to survive the experience – or at least not as anything recognizably human. Others have simply never come up.

Atherian Ritual Magic

   First up for today, it’s a brief discussion on the Ritual Magic of Atheria – where every knowledge skill carries with it a certain amount of magical lore. In a world founded on magic, it’s hard to avoid it.

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   Knowledge is power.

   This is more literally true in worlds of fantasy, where magic is both an ambient force and one of the foundations of the universe. In such worlds, the distinction between mechanism, art, and magic is thin indeed. In a world of enchantment (and often of poorly-defined physics), who can say how much of the strength of steel is due to metallurgy and how much to the occult skills of the refiner and the smith? How much to the blessing on the forge or to communing with the spirits of the metal? How much to traditional charms, and how much to the blade channeling the fighting spirit of the wielder? How many legendary blades have failed to strike true – or even broken – in the hands of those unfit to wield them? How many have grown strong with history, blood, and victory, drawing power from the achievements of their wielders? Are illnesses cured by herbs, by the sacred symbols traced upon the skin, by the prayers and incantations of the physician, or by the combination of those things in an appropriate magical ritual?

   On Atheria, where matter is little more than an illusion cast upon a seething sea of magical energy, the truth very, very, often comes down on the side of magical ritual – and knowledge is very literally power.

   In the Atheria setting, all knowledge skills can be used to enact magical rituals. Unfortunately, even on Atheria, there are limitations. Lesser rituals – those with a DC of 10 or less – can be attempted by anyone who finds and follows the directions. Enacting a more powerful ritual – that is, any ritual with a DC above 10 – requires either having committed that specific ritual to memory (which provides a +5 bonus to performing it and raises the DC limit to 15) or acquiring the Ritual Magic Feat/Ability, which allows you to create your own rituals and removes the DC limitation entirely. At least as importantly, rituals require the use of appropriate knowledge skills, as shown by the sample common rituals provided below. Finally, at often most limitingly, they require the appropriate supplies and materials – although most of the lesser, common, rituals don’t require very much. Other advanced talents include reducing the amount of materials required, being able to perform rituals more quickly than usual, and being able to reduce the magical disturbances (and thus the amount of unwanted attention) that powerful rituals produce. Unfortunately, magic is always a bit unpredictable: the operator must always roll when performing a ritual – and always fails on a “1”.

  • Common Knowledge/Arcana rituals include View the Hidden (reveals magical auras, DC 5), Phantom Lights (DC 10), Offering (DC10), The Revelations of the Fey (analyzes magic, DC 15), Speak with Local Spirits (DC 20), Casting the Circle (enhances other magics, DC 25), and Create Orichalcum (more or less liquified or solidified magical energy, at DC 40 or so).
  • Common Knowledge/Architecture and Engineering rituals include Insulate, Clear Drains, and Drawing the Wind (improves the functioning of chimneys, all DC 5), Household Blessing (protects against a wide variety of minor misfortunes, DC 10), Gaze of the Earthborn (evaluates the foundations and stability of a structure, DC 15), Lay Cornerstone (helps bind a building together, DC 20), Reinforce Walls (makes the walls of a fortress mildly resistant to magic, DC 25), and many more.
  • Common Knowledge/Geography rituals include Dowsing for Water (DC 5), base Metals (DC 10), or even for Gems and Precious Metals (DC 15). Since Geography includes the magical energies of the environment, it’s important for locating the shifting boundaries between the various realms (DC 10), useful in setting up warnings and traps against foes, and in many other practical fields.
  • Common Knowledge/History rituals including evaluating relics (dating them is DC 5, determining basic information about their origin is DC 10, details about their origin is DC 15, and a detailed history since they were created is DC 25), determining how someone died (DC 10), postcognition (DC 20+), repairing damaged items,
  • Common Knowledge/Local rituals cover finding paths (DC 5-15 depending on whether you’re looking for human routes, animal routes, or intentionally-hidden routes), predicting the weather (DC 5 for short-term, 10 for a week or so, 15 for a few weeks), finding good fishing spots (DC 5), spreading rumors via mysterious means (DC 15), translating ancient inscriptions (DC 20), and Legend Lore (DC 30).
  • Common Knowledge/Nature rituals include blessing the fields (DC 5), checking the edibility of plants and fungi (DC 5), keeping domestic animals from straying (DC 10), contacting the local fey (DC 10, but dangerous), requesting (not controlling) weather (DC 15), healing effects (DC varies), binding an animal spirit to someone to grant them totemistic powers (DC 35), and detecting the presence of extradimensional beings and other disturbances.
  • Common Knowledge/Nobility and Royalty rituals include parentage tests (DC 5), addressing a large group clearly (DC 5), the marriage ritual (DC 10), administering oaths of office and appointing people (DC 15), Oathbinding (DC 20), crowning a king (DC 25 to create a mystical link to the land), and determining bloodlines (DC 15 to 40, depending on how far back you’re going),
  • Common Knowledge/Religion rituals include the Ritual of Naming (DC 0), Sacrifice (DC 5), Burial (DC 5), Cleansing (DC 10), Drawing down the Dark (calls on a Lesser Dark Lord, DC 10), Chelmian Spiritbinding (binds the spirit of a ritual victim to a Chelmian stelea, DC 15), Ordination (dedicates an acolyte to the service of a god), and Gate of Light or Darkness (DC 10). Rituals such as Creating Undead, Raising the Dead, and similar stunts are far, far, more difficult.
  • Common Knowledge/The Planes rituals include detecting dimensional energies (DC 10), distant visions (DC 5 to 25, depending on the degree of control desired), tapping into the power of the Dragon (gaining Mana, DC 30), stabilizing dimensional pathways (DC 25), summoning demons (DC 5 to 50, depending on the power level desired), and sealing dimensional rifts (DC 40). In general, dimensional magic rituals aren’t very useful to amateur ritualists.

The Alarian Imperium

   For today, it’s the start of a series of introductory articles on major countries and social groups of the Atheria campaign, since we may be rotating back to it relatively shortly.

   The Alarian Imperium (Order Birthright) controls most of the fertile territories around the Sea of Jade and – currently – extends it’s outlying borders slightly past most of the natural barriers it reaches. While there have been times when the Imperium ruled much of the known world, the last such great push reached its peak some 510 years ago and collapsed again within a century. The Imperium’s trade routes and houses still weave a net that reaches hundreds or thousands of miles beyond it’s borders however, and it remains the cultural center of much of the known world. 

   Thanks to the lands infusion with the power of Order, the Imperial Legions – and the 24 million people of the Imperium proper – remain the best organized, most productive, and most stable population in the world. They produce most of the finest tools and products, surplus food, and luxury items.  Unfortunately, with their static society and rigid social distinctions, in return they mostly take slaves – and tend to regard the rest of the people of Atheria as barbarians.

   The society of the Imperium is built around the Emperor – who controls the flow of magic to the imperial generals and to the patricians of the 43 great Gens (a sort of a cross between political parties, districts, and clans). A fallen emperor is always replaced swiftly, since without him the magic of the empire soon falters. The patricians, in turn, channel the magic to the patriarchs of the great houses which lead the Gens, who channel it to their agents and those commoners who have taken on the obligations of the Client-Patron relationship. Similarly, the Generals channel magical power down through the ranks to empower their warriors. Even many of the imperial slaves share in that power – eventually. In any case, superiors have a tremendous amount of authority over those below them.

   Sadly for the usual dreams of an extended empire, while the Imperium itself is supremely stable – due to the ordering effect of the realms natural magic, the hierarchy it imposes, and the fact that the upper levels of the hierarchy can simply cut off the flow of magic to disobedient subordinates – those same effects require most of its rulers to remain at home, making attempts to administer the provinces effectively increasingly difficult – or impossible – when the empire is at its most far-flung.

   While barter is common, the imperial coinage system is widely considered one of the best – and the most reliable – in the world. The Imperium mints copper Ri, silver Ri’el, and golden Auri, in denominations of 1, 5, 20, and 50-unit coins and a strict ratio of 10,000 Ri to 100 Ri’el to 1 Auri. While the smaller denominations, especially of the Ri and Ri’el are relatively thin, the imperium uses talismanic striking-presses which imbue their coins with impressive durability – and makes them very hard to duplicate. The imperium also uses letters of credit and has a relatively advanced banking system. It must be noted that, under imperial law, excessive debt normally leads to enslavement. For comparison, the standard weekly wage for a Laborer is 10 Ri.

   Officially, the religious basis of the Imperium is the worship of the Emperor, who is (at least nominally) in charge of the activities of priests and a hierarchy of spirits throughout the empire. Unfortunately, thanks to the imperial urge to incorporate and organize every local spirit, the honored ancestors of the great houses, and every cult into the official faith, any form of “theology” is pretty vague. Those priests who actually draw power from a spirit generally do so as a result of independent pacts with local entities. The ancestors do supposedly offer occasional advice to the emperor and the leaders of the gens.

   The imperium recognizes children as adults at 16 and actually have some fairly strict rules governing the legal rights of younger children. Unfortunately, such laws do not apply to those below the citizen class. The social classes – the Imperial Household, the Sethari (the heads of the Gen), the Citizens, Resident Aliens, the Robati (semi-citizens, who can gain additional rights by becoming clients of a patron), Bondsmen, and Slaves all have their own privileges – or lack thereof. Trivial crimes are dealt with by fines (or enslavement if no payment is forthcoming). Minor crimes are dealt with by enslavement or physical punishments/mutilations. Major crimes are punishable by death, in a wide variety of ingenious forms. Leaders are usually punished for the misbehavior of their subordinates as well, but such punishments are generally reduced by one level. Physical punishments are normally public, and are usually presented as a part of the Imperial Games.
   The people of many other nations regard the Imperium as decadent.

   Major Cities of the Imperium include Atine (the capital, said to hold nearly 750,000 people), Mark, Elidium, Kosari, Varid, Dolsec, Harvari, and Jaysum (Provincial Capitals).

   The people of the Imperium speak Havril, a tougue which has remained essentially unchanged for many centuries. For conveniences sake, Havril names can be drawn from classical latin sources..

Link Updates

   First off for today, the index pages and index sub-pages have been updated again (and I’ve made sure that it went through properly this time). I’ve also put in a subpage navigation menu at the top of the general index page. With any luck that will help people find what they want.