Alaria and Rome, Part One

   Due to some player requests, today it’s some additional information on the Alarian Imperium. It looks like most of the action is going to be set in its vicinity for some time, so the various institutions and social factors to be found there are likely to be important. 

   While the Alarian Imperium does resemble the Roman Empire in a variety of ways, there are some fundamental differences – and those are probably the easiest place to start talking about it.

   (1) The Imperium began as a defensive alliance, organized by one (now deified) man, rather than by conquering the neighbors. Carius Antonius, with control of the magic of the realm as an unmatched resource, simply bribed everyone else in into joining – offering health, wealth, peace, security, good weather, organization, magical conveniences, and the military superiority needed to beat off attacks from the neighbors in exchange for giving up some local autonomy.

   Still, despite this relatively peaceful beginning, the people of the Imperium are human, and they do tend to assault the neighbors at times.

  • The Imperium periodically seizes portions of the Barbarian Lands and usually maintains official control of a selection of roads and trading posts extending well into the territory. That’s partially for trade and defense purposes, partially because the Imperium finds the entire area impossibly disorganized, and – of course – partially for slaves and loot.
  • Officially the Imperium claims several hundred miles of the Trackless Forest and Parliament of Trees. In practice, there are a farms just across the border – and farmers who either walk back and forth if their farms are nearby or visit their wives periodically – and a few lonely outposts of slaves and opportunists working as loggers, charcoal burners, turpentine makers, paper makers, and miners (where any mines have not long since been worked out) deeper in the forest. Sadly, such outposts are periodically wiped out by vicious plants and animals.
  • The border with Chelm tends to be heavily guarded, but stable. It isn’t worth trying to hold Chelmian territory so – save for the occasional retaliatory raid – Chelm tends to be left alone save for the maintenance of a few roads and trade outposts which extend twenty or thirty miles past the border – and which also serve to funnel Chelmian attackers into the waiting border legions.
  • The Imperium officially claims a fair chunk of the Mri Desert, but – not unexpectedly – finds little there of worth. A few small oasis-towns do claim the formal benefits (being able to get troops sent to protect them from bandits) of being a part of the Imperium, but otherwise the area is simply patrolled to keep down the bandits and raiders.
  • Dernmarik (or whatever the place is calling itself these days) has been the principle focus of imperial attempts to expand for many centuries. It’s apparently perpetually-renewing mines and natural resources are a considerable temptation to a realm which has been exploiting the same mines, forests, and waters for seven thousand years. Unfortunately, while a fair chunk of the border reaches has traditionally accepted Imperial rule, attempts to push past that point keep running into great tracts of wilderness that appear and disappear – on some notorious occasions taking entire legions along – enemy reinforcements that appear from nowhere, assorted heroes, and other menaces.

   (2) There never was a “King” or a “Republic”. The position of Emperor carries a great deal of power – the Emperor controls the flow of magic throughout the land, can influence the spirits of the land, waters, and air within the domain of Order, functions as the head of the imperial religion, has limited veto powers as the First Speaker of the Senate, and invariably has major personal magical abilities – but he or she is closer to a chief executive than to an autocrat.

   (3) The Senate originally consisted of the assorted rulers of the various city-states that united under Carius – a collection of clan chiefs, plutocrats, hereditary nobles, elected rulers, powerful warriors, priests, and mages, guildmasters, and major landowners – all entitled “Sethari”, and mostly holding their offices for life or until they opt to retire. Carius later added “Magistrates” from a variety of popular Assemblys; basically directly-elected representatives of the population. Today, the Senate includes:

   The Sethari…

  • The Heads of the 43 great Gens (Clans) and their assistants. These are, of course, selected, and sometimes replaced by, the Gens according to their own traditions. The Gens were originally mostly regional, and usually still dominate a few of their original regions, but the members of the various Gens are scattered across the empire now.
  • A few of the wealthiest men in the Empire. Some senate seats are reserved for men of wealth – and it is possible for citizens to simply purchase a Senate seat from the Imperium. The seats reserved for the wealthiest men of the Imperium change with their fortunes, purchased seats are good for the life of the buyer.
  • A modest selection of Hereditary Sethari– the heirs of major nobles, ancient dictators, and similar figures from the time of Carius. In many cases these seats are now their holders sole remaining claim to power or influence.
  • The Silent Seatsare reserved for the heads of lost Gen, the heirs of lost noble bloodlines, and similar groups. They are normally unoccupied although, on rare occasions, the imperium-born child of an ambassador with the appropriate ancient connections has been allowed to occupy them. In theory, any deceased emperor may opt to occupy one of the Silent Seats at will, in practice this very rarely happens.
  • A selection of the major landowners. Unfortunately, while possessions outside of Alaria do count, their “value” is accounted to be only 10% of the worth of a similar property within the Imperium.
  • A selection of the most powerful mages and adventurers of the Imperium. Like the seats of the plutocrats and major landowners, the seats occupied by those with major personal powers are subject to change with the fortunes of their holders. Unlike the plutocrats and major landowners, this is relatively rare. Displacing someone who currently holds one of these seats is quite a project.
  • The Hierarchs of the major Priestly Orders (Including the speakers for the Fey and Gods). Some of these are elected by the priesthoods, some are chosen by the entities they serve, and some are simply the senior or highest-ranking priests of a particular order.

   …and The Magistrates:

  • The Representatives of the Outlying Provinces (If any): These may be elected if the area in question is sufficiently well organized, otherwise they are appointed from among likely prospects or Imperial Inspectors. Areas outside the order domain are normally unrepresented otherwise.
  • The Representatives of the Major Guilds, and the Assembleys (and any other recognized major political groupings). There are currently 62 recognized political groups, including particular areas, interests, and other citizen groups.
  • The Imperators who represent the Legions. Oddly enough, the Imperators are chosen by a direct vote of the legionnaires; they may or may not actually hold military rank.

   The senate controls taxation and the treasury, appoints ambassadors and legion commanders, regulates admission to itself (thus regulating the number of Magistrates and the official recognition of various groups), (very very rarely) grants full citizenship to someone without the full Order birthright, declares offensive wars (the Emperor or the Legion Commanders may declare defensive campaigns), and legislates. Unsurprisingly, quite a few functions are handled by committees and appointed officers.

   Each member of the Senate is permitted a modest number of personal bodyguards, enjoys immunity to a wide variety of taxes, obligations, and charges, draws a substantial salary, and can channel the magic of Order to large numbers of outsiders – including those who possess other birthrights, a privilege which extends to the immediate subordinates of the Senate (the Family Councils below the heads of the Gen, the Legion Commanders and appointed Generals, and to the Governors of cities and provinces).

   (4) The Legal System is a maze. Rather than being imposed from above based on the laws of a relatively small city, it’s been assembled from the laws of a hundred smaller domains and has been complicated by seven thousand years of precedents, rules, decisions, and regulations.

   In general, groups and areas tend to be responsible for their internal affairs within the larger framework of Imperial Law – which tends to concern itself with (1) trade, (2) major crimes, and (3) the organization of the Imperium. The Legions deal with military offenses, the priests deal with religious offenses, the rulers of cities with civic matters, and so on. There is an appeals system, but the number of available appeals is based on citizenship status.

  • The Sethari are the highest social stratum of the empire. Originally limited to sitting Senators, the Emperor, and his Family, the Sethari has expanded to include the immediate families of all sitting Senators and major officials appointed by the Senate, such as Governors and Legion Commanders. In theory, everyone of the Sethari rank is equal. In practice, the Emperor overshadows everyone, the status of Senators and the (slightly lesser) status of their Families varies with how secure their seat is, and the status of elected members, such as the Magistrates, takes an automatic hit. Membership in the Sethari requires an innate Order Birthright and carries the right to act as a Judge in cases falling under your jurisdiction, the right to appeal to the Emperor if accused of some crime against the empire, the authority to call on the services of various officials and the legions, immunity to a variety of taxes or being drafted into imperial service (even in emergencies), and immunity to a wide variety of local laws and regulations. Still, there are only a few thousand Sethari out of the nearly 24,000,000 in the Imperium as a whole – a negligible percentage for all their influence.
  • Citizens must have either a full Order Birthright OR a special vote of recognition from the Senate OR 30 years of loyal service in the Imperial Legions. Only Citizens and Sethari can be voted into Magisterial positions, manage businesses or own lands across more than one province, be placed in command of Imperial Legions, appeal legal decisions which go against them to their Senator, petition to form a new Assembly, have recognized marriage rights (marriages with the lower classes offer few rights), or study at the Imperial Academies (non-citizens may teach or serve there, depending on their special talents). They are exempt from forced service except during major emergencies, may freely sign up with the Imperial Legions, may make at least two appeals in legal cases – one on their own behalf and one if their Family thinks it worth it – and pay considerably less in the way of taxes and fees than the lower classes. In general, the offspring of Junior Sethari, Citizens, and Robati are automatically Citizens as long as they possess the Order Birthright an manage not to get into trouble (usually about 20%) or be sold as children (many are, especially among the Robati). Offspring with non-order Birthrights are Robati. In theory all Citizens are equal. In practice, they tend to be divided up by their level of wealth and influence. About 20% of the people of the Imperium are Citizens.
  • Robati are probationary citizens, and aren’t as limited a group as the Sethari and the Citizens. They include individuals with non-order birthrights and imperial patrons (such as most of the residents of the Imperium-dominated and -run borders with the Dimensional Magic domain), the recognized offspring of Slaves by Citizens (provided that they have Order Birthrights), freed slaves with Order Birthrights, and freed slaves with other Birthrights and Imperial Patrons. Robati may freely sign up for the Imperial Legions or enter Imperial Service, may appeal a legal decision which goes against them once, and may own lands or run businesses which extend across multiple cities within a province. About 35% of the people in the Imperium are Robati, mostly due to Citizens fooling about with Slaves and the border provinces.
  • Bondsmen include two basic groups – visiting aliens (including merchants and ambassadors from other realms) who are permitted into the Imperium under Bond for good behavior, residents with non-order Birthrights and no Patrons (such immigrants are generally hoping that their offspring will enter the Citizen class), those who’s births or positions are uncertain, and freed Slaves with no Patrons. Socially, they’re all in a similar position – under suspicion on general principles. Those who take up permanent residence in the Imperium are normally placed under the supervision of one of the Legions. Visitors are normally monitored by the bureaucracy and by the Legions (if necessary). In general, Bondsmen are relatively rare, making up only about 5% of the people of the Imperium – many of those make up the underclasses of the major cities or the unreported offspring of slaves and Robati from near the borders who – technically – should be slaves, and would be if they officially existed. Robati CAN sign up with the Imperial Legions given the permission of the local Legion Commander. They may also own lands, properties, and businesses, but only within the bounds of a single city or district.
  • Slaves make up about 40% of the population of the Imperium. They’re property, like any other piece of livestock. There are some laws against excessive cruelty, and against separating mothers from young children, and similar restrictions, although most of them (save for the general restrictions on selling slaves to Chelm) are simply adopted from restrictions the Fey imposed on the treatment of ordinary domestic animals. The Imperium has had quite a few slave uprisings, but generally has crushed (and severely punished) them with ease. Their masters ability to cut off the flow of order magic to them means that the Imperial side is invariably far better equipped, organized, and powerful – especially since slaves usually aren’t given advanced combat or magical training. Common sources for Slaves include the offspring of Slaves, kids who are sold as slaves by their parents or guardians (it is generally prohibited for a Citizen to sell his or her offspring into slavery unless they get the permission of a family head, but Robati and Bondsmen may usually do so freely), of Slaves and Robati, or of Slaves and Citizen or Sethari parents who don’t acknowledge their offspring (fathers often don’t, mothers almost always do), Dernmarik, the Barbarian Lands, petty criminals, and any children of citizens (or even Sethari) who prove overly disruptive. Slavery isn’t necessarily all that bad; most slaves can afford to use a charm or two of their own, live reasonably comfortably, accumulate funds and even own other slaves (although not land), and may even be able to buy themselves free given time. Slavery in the Empire is often more comfortable, and almost invariably more secure, than freedom outside it Individuals past early childhood who are demoted into slavery within the Empire are traditionally brutalized during the process (used as concubines and/or castrated if male, simply to drive it home that their bodies no longer belong to them), but Order-augmented charms can readily repair such injuries if their masters permit them to use them.

   Chelmians are not normally welcome in the Imperium, even as slaves.

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4 Responses

  1. So, the Imperium claims large tracts of land in multiple areas that it does not actually rule, administrate, patrol, or otherwise really have that much to do with, nor can it really, outside of possibly taking a bit of the profits from the people who live there. Sounds… exploitable.

    What are the Speakers for the Fey like? (Sounds interesting.)

    (“Assemblies”.)

    Nice summary.

  2. Well, claiming chunks of the Mri Desert is like claiming chunks of the Sahara: all of it officially belongs to someone, but in most cases that’s just a line on a map. They do patrol it the nearer sections (mostly with local Legionnaires with the Sun Birthright), but that’s just to keep the bandits well away from the border.

    As far as the Trackless Forest / Parliment of Trees goes, that’s mostly a formality: the place is virtually uninhabited because humans generally cannot successfully reproduce there. The first-generation kids are plants and second-generation kids are simply absorbed into the forest.

    The Speakers for the Fey are mostly simply priests of the orders that serve the Lesser and Greater Fey. A few of them do have mental links with their patrons, and can act as mediators and translators for them.

  3. Still exploitable. Of course it’s not easy- anything worthwhile rarely is. When I think of something I’ll bring it up.

    Hmm, fairly vague on the Speakers. You’re tempting me to make another character, but I will refuse (unless I can make an NPC, and I’ve already got several).

  4. Well, you’re perfectly welcome to make NPC’s. They’d probably get tweaked a bit, but so do most player characters.

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