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..