Atheria: Marriage Edition!

Atheria: Marriage Edition!

Love and Marriage throughout the world of Atheria

This little post mentions a few ideas about the Atheria campaign setting. It’s not officially approved yet, but hopefully some players may find it interesting enough to comment on. I definitely took more liberties with settings we weren’t familiar with than the areas we’ve visited repeatedly.

Dernmarik (Dimension)

The nature of Dernmarik’s attunement means they have a tendency to get the spouses they want. Reality warping is a subtle but powerful art. Of course, this also makes life remarkably interesting. Getting what you want, for the young, usually means adventure, drama, and excitement – none of which are very conducive to sensible relationships of any form. And no amount of wish fulfillment can forever stop reality from intruding.

Fortunately, most sane ladies and gentlemen settle down as they approach age thirty, and begin having families and raising them, voluntarily subjecting themselves to children who somehow keep finding hidden candy, manage to escape the most heavily locked bedrooms, and generally repay the parents for their own childhoods. Familial bliss, or at least as much as people can attain, tends to follow.

All in all, married life in Dernarik isn’t bad at all, but divorce can happen. A nation of reality shapers is going to have some things go wrong. The trouble is that it’s not necessarily a legal process. If, in a fit of anger, you declare that you, “Never want to see” someone again – you might get your wish. They might suffer a fatal accident, or simply be dragged by circumstance away forever if you keep on wanting that. Perhaps worse is what occurs when both spouses want to leave. The marriage itself can literally be written out of history, as everyone slowly forgets. Hopefully at least one of the parents remembers the children, but at least half the time a new lost orphan, with vague memories of the past, wanders the land, forever searching for something that should never have been lost – at least until they get collected by a new family who suits them.

Don’t forget that the sons and daughters of Dernmarik can’t entirely control their reality shaping. A few of the wiser ones might – but most will shape themselves into trouble at some point. Their power is all the more dangerous because it’s impossible to say how it works. Most people simply think of Dernarik as a land where people are supremely lucky, not realizing how that luck comes about. Dermarik’s own don’t think of it at all, simply considering it the natural order. Remember than a Dernmarik character can have a happy accident once a day, or a major stroke of luck every week, starting almost from birth.

Alaran Imperium (Order)

The great thing about living in a land of supreme order is that everything – every part of life, is just as orderly. While love may not come into pubic matters very much, the Alarians do enjoy very clear expectations in life, including marriage and child-rearing.

Courtship is a legal and semi-public process, involving negotiation and contracts for anyone of some class. Since its your assets and social station which matter, this applies to merchants, nobles, and well-off soldiers or farmers. The poorer classes, though well-off by the standards of most races, have much simpler if no less straightforward marriages.

Marital life is quite simple in any case. Marriage is a contractual obligation, and strong social standards apply. While discretion exists, the Imperium isn’t a very secretive society, and it’s hard for couples to really hide messy private lives or cheating. Further, with such obvious public standards, offenders face social disapproval which can matter more than legal sanction. Of course, given the aforementioned contractual nature of marriage, legal sanctions may exist too!

It’s worth noting that – in a world where disease is essentially non-existent and where contraceptive amulets are available and effective, “cheating” usually refers to producing a child with someone, not to casual flings – especially with slaves. -Thoth

Divorce is quite uncommon among most classes (the exception being higher nobles, who often use marriages to establish social ties). Like marriage, it is a legal process, and as embarrassing and problematic as bankruptcy – not fatal, and the repercussions may years, but ultimately recuperable.

Chelm (Darkness/Blood)

Of all the attunements, Chelm has the most “normal” marriage, being a tribalistic people. Marriage processes vary from tribe to tribe, but they rarely have overly-complex traditions. However, some commonalities do exist in most of the tribes there. First, marriages and most courtship take place in secret, or at least discretely. The people of Chelm consider it extremely dangerous to allow anyone to know about a new relationship. Only once the marriage has been safely enacted is it publicly revealed. To do otherwise invites curses and wicked spirits, although why this might be so or whether this is actually true is another question entirely.

Divorce can be problematic for the tribe as well as the unlucky couple. Most tribes believe that breaking such a bond invites dangerous spiritual enemies, and therefore it must be done with considerable care. Divorcing couples enact a complicated set of rituals and separate slowly and surely. Of course, since tribes are small and close-knit, divorce isn’t terribly common anyway.

Barbarian (Totem)

Innate to the totem attunement is the concept of public demonstrations of self-worth. Any barbarian, of any variety, from any tribe, has an internal need to prove themselves worthy. Yes, individuals vary in the way and degree, and tribes and breeds have their customs, but everyone must pay some attention to their public persona. In a way, barbarian tribe have even more developed concern of reputation and public image than the high cultures of the Empire.

The consequences for love lives comes in because marriage tends to occur between people of similar social prestige and ambition. Passion may not have anything to do with it; and it creates some… unpleasant social tensions when manifestly incompatible people end up together solely because they have similar fame. Secret love affairs and adultery are common ways to get around this for those who can manage to swing them. Unfortunately, the consequences of that has included blood feuds, war, or in lesser cases long-standing grudges and violence.

Divorce is unknown – but murder isn’t. it’s not so much that they can’t understand the concept, but that breaking a marriage by “legal” means would be a massive insult and spark a terrible blood feud. As a result, it’s much more socially acceptable to kill your spouse, or arrange such an end, than to end things legally. While Barbarians would never talk about matters like that, they would all agree this is a more respectable and honorable solution. Of course, murder still gets punished if caught – there’s no change there.

HuSung Empire (Elemental)

As with most aspects of life in HuSung, marriage is a product of the seasons and spirits. Even the poorest village boasts a part-time diviner, whose work involves using the elements to predict what the coming year holds. Many families also use ancient calenders or rituals to determine the proper days for planting or markets.

Marriage is no different. People marry certain individuals to balance out family bloodlines, gain favor with the mystical forces, or please the spirits. The criteria for these matches include native attunements (as everyone has a pair of elemental specialties), place of origin, birthmarks or physical features, ancestry, and much more. That, of course, doesn’t exclude the more mundane elements of status, character, and wealth. Indeed, it’s hardly uncommon for families to reject local prospects and seek far and wide for suitable suitors. Family connections are vital in choosing the right spouse, and marriages tend to be arranged several years before it is consider the “proper” time for marriage.

HuSung marriage is a world of even clearer expectations than Order marriages. Everything is known and harmonious. Everything must be done properly, as ancient tradition commands. This does make it quite obvious what everyone involved must do in their lives. Even the flaws of the marriage must be dealt with graciously – but this need not pleasant. The husband who knows about his cheating wife must act in accordance with the land and the spirit world, and if that means he suffers through life in silence, so be it. Or another might be driven to murder his wife and desecrate her body for the exact same offense, simply because the Harmony demanded it.

The Harmony, a living, powerful force, has no human scruples. And though it may demand that people do terrible deeds, it has no compunction about equally terrible punishment for those same deeds. Some do ignore the Harmony, and this carries its own risks; freedom carries an awful price itself. most don’t even notice the Harmony, though they may invoke it as a philosophical or religious concept. This does not mean the Harmony fails to notice them in return, though fortunately most have fairly dull destinies.

Divorce, like everything else, is a matter of family connections, and has little to do with personal reasons. In fact, personal dissatisfaction rarely comes into play, unless the problem becomes so huge as to cause an inter-family insult. Rather, changing family ties or allegiances within the larger social system might tear a family apart, if the heads of the clan decide on it. This rarely happens among commoners, but is all-too common among wealthy and powerful families.

Dain Peninsula (Divination)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, divination specialists rarely find themselves surprised, by marriage or anything else. The ability to peer into the future, however limited, smooths over a great many of the troubles of life.

Most Divination attuned people know pretty who they’ll wed long before it happens, along with a great deal of what else will happen in their lives. They might not know all the details (like names and faces), but they can make a pretty good educated guess by combining the results of their inquiries with personal experience.

After all, it doesn’t take much in a small, isolated land to guess whom you may live with when you see your best possible match is a red-headed girl with a love of romance novels. There simply aren’t that many possible mistakes to make. Furthermore, even if one individual did get confused (“Wait, both of you love romance novels!? I never would have guessed.”), the others wouldn’t and things will rapidly sort themselves out. As such, marriage is more of a formality, simply describing what everyone knew beforehand.

For better or for worse, life is equally dull in the same way. Couples decide in advance when children would be most convenient and simply have them at those times. They know what the children will likely break or when they could get in trouble, and take steps to prevent anything unpleasant. Since they have a good idea of the results of any course of action, they don’t commonly face any drama or excitement.

Exceptions exist. Some individuals simply refuse to follow their visions, and deliberately or accidentally screw things up. Even Divination specialists get things wrong from time to time. Numerous tales and stories reflect the often-uncomfortable relationship they have with the future, seeing one thing, wanting another, and find themselves living in a third reality neither here nor there. Marriage follows this, too. People make stupid choices, and sometimes even the wisest ones aren’t conflict-free.

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Federation-Apocalypse Session 172a – The Wheel of Incarnations

Elminster

What do you mean "I'm not the star of this episode"?!? Are you MAD!?!

Marty, meanwhile, had fully activated both his multipresence and multitracking powers – and was more than a bit overwhelmed. Sure, the multi-tracking let him pay ATTENTION to all of those inputs at once, but the conflicting identities were quite another matter. And Kevin seemed to run it all smoothly…

No. He didn’t, did he? It was like that time in Inversion; the world had given him the identity it needed – and had sent him to where it needed him to be. When he’d no longer been needed, it had… thrown him out. Kevin… flickered from one identity to the next like a movie shifting scenes, flowing into the mold of each identity like mercury – and he didn’t even see anything wrong with that.

Was there anything left of the boys personality except that iron determination to adhere to his promises? Even his hobbies seemed to be facets of particular identities or of the drives he’d been burdened with.

Ah well! At the moment there were too many distractions to worry too much about THAT – and he hadn’t yet decided what he could do about it anyway!

His first identity was in the Green Galaxies, where a gravitational step-function limited the size of stars, arranged them into interlocking grids – and formed living dyson spheres of air and water around them. Marty had always enjoyed a quiet tropical vacation – and, this way, he could be on one all the time!

And that was… wow. It was even neater now! His mathematical powers let him genuinely appreciate what he was seeing – and the sheer scale was awesome. Even if you could only really used an average of a hundred miles or so out of the thickness of the spheres for living space (and it might be more) and used a 1 AU standard, that was still some 43,474,579,056,000,000,000 cubic miles of living space around each of this particular galaxies 12,182,000,000,000 stars…

With a mere turn of his head – a glance around the particular living dyson sphere he happened to be occupying – he could see as much thriving life as the fifty billion planets of the entire Core galaxy supported.

The makers here had dreamed very, very, large indeed.

And – as the quintessential Mary rose up again – he realized that this particular biosphere was all HIS. More room to kick back in – and hold wild parties – than he could ever need!

Marty leaned back to relax, idly catching drops of fermented nectar to sip from one of the fifty-foot flowers while watching a swarm of beautiful hundred-foot butterflies sipping from them.

Marty left Marty to enjoy his vacation with his complete attention while he shifted his… drat it! This called for an entirely new vocabulary!

Over in Faerun, things were busy. The Waterdeep Amarant Solutions office had been busy… Marty hadn’t been there – but now that he was, he knew what his local bardic identity had been up to while he wasn’t in it. One of the dark gods – Bane again most likely – had somehow stolen the dragon portfolio from Set, as he had stolen it from another god before him, and was now stirring up a dragon war across the Sword Coast. Many chromatic dragons, and not a few of the weaker-willed metallics, had rallied to the “cause” of loot.

 There had been an early strike on Shadowdale and Elminsters tower. The tower had been reduced to rubble, but neither Elminster nor his library and gear was found in mess afterwards. Marty’s local identity had been one of the scouts and messengers who’d braved the trip through enemy territory to search for him.

Marty had to grin at that. The old codger had probably done some divination and teleported to one of his other strongholds.

Waterdeep -his current location – was, of course, at the center of things again. In the Realms it was something of a tradition. There had been a couple of attacks, but – so far – the Guild Mages had kept the damage from going past the superficial level. On the other hand, many of the evil creatures of the wilderness were rallying behind the dragon leadership at the moment.

There was also a baby waiting for him; she’d been dropped with the Thralls a few hours ago; the message to him about it was still in channels.

Oh. OH. That was definitely something notable there! She wasn’t a half-dark elf though… She was human. Apparently the mother was a young female bard who’d used a bit of magic to get the pregnancy over with quickly. After all, there was a war on!

Her name was Syrlinell – and her mother had left a note saying that, since she’d had the baby, she was being pursued by some unpleasant mages. Ergo, she’d left the baby with the agents who specialized in bodyguard and protective services and who seemed to serve Marty. She might not be up to dealing with the child, but would rather not see her snatched by some cult or other.

He had to admit that she was a smart woman. Sadly, she really hadn’t left much information about the mages – but apparently she didn’t have much.

Marty was making sure that his new daughter was well-fed, had clean swaddling, and had a good dose of cuddling, and was issuing orders to get her safely to Kadia afterwards when she looked at him with her glowing violet eyes…

Whaaa….?

That was a rather supernatural trait! What was… Oops! Since he was manifesting as a local god, however minor, that made little Syrlinell her a demigoddess, and (by default) his local high priestess. No wonder nasty people had been after her! Especially with the Godswar heating up again!

And no wonder the mother (What HAD her name been?) Hadn’t felt up to dealing with an infant demigoddess.

Well! His first divine baby! He got her some silken swaddling and smartclothes.

The thralls weren’t for baby demigoddesses though. They know about normal and anthro babies, and werewolf babies, and dragon hatchlings – but were fairly sure that demigoddesses might have a bit of a learning curve!

(Marty) “Well, she looks like a normal baby other than the demigoddess part. I guess just watch out for sudden magic outbursts and let me know when they happen.”

Oh dear! It looked like natural chaos magic for the baby… That was going to complicate things!

He got her out of the war zone, and away from her pursuers.

He supposed he’d have to take some Thralls and get involved in the dragon war – but, for the moment, until he got used to handling so many situations at once, it would be best to hold off on that until he got used to handling multiple roles at the same time.

He left himself to investigate – and to look for spots where he and a dozen or so thralls could have an impact – and turned his attention elsewhere.

He really did need to find out what was wrong with Kevin – and this multipresence thing made keeping an eye on what the boy was up to really difficult!

Huh. Budding God and Mentor to an Adolescent Lord of Darkness. That future would never have occured to him a year ago… No wonder Gelman was so nervous! He wouldn’t have trusted himself back then with a beer run!

Aaarrrgghhhh… With all of them active at the same time, his various identities all had their own perspectives on each other and himself! And it was hard to argue when the people with the opinions were all you!

In the Dragon Empire he was an adult Green Dragon with a small holding – a dozen or so slaves (not counting some hatchling slaves that had belonged to a couple of them before they challenged him and lost), eight wives/concubines, and thirty-four young offspring. The Dragon Emperor had issued a decree requiring that all hatchlings be sent to Ailill’s school for testing.

He didn’t like that at all! Despite his natural draconic urge to just let the kids sink or swim on their own! That meant that his less competent (sigh… at least 20% or so) kids were at serious risk of winding up as slaves or pets before they even got out of the nest!

Still, he had six months on that before the scheduling for his sector came up… The decree recognized both the limitations of transport and of the testing facilities.

He evaluated where his weaker kids were in terms of strengths and weaknesses – and spent a fair sum on crash courses and the like for them, to give them one last chance to improve. With any luck, he could get almost all of them to pass – unless one or two were really hopeless or badly fouled up the tests.

Still, at least he could get those back by just paying the testing fee up front instead of having it be a percentage of the failures.

Wait a moment… He quite clearly remembered claiming his territory, defeating and enslaving his challengers (weird; no matter how much his dragon-self savored those memories of battle, triumph, and the ensuing enslavements, his human side made those memories a distinctly guilty pleasure), claiming his concubines, and siring his children.

Yet his human self didn’t remember ever actually visiting in his dragon-ID to do any of that in the first place. The instincts, memories, territory, ten-year-old kids, and defeated enemies (with their own memories of the battles) had all… come with the identity.

That was SO WEIRD.

Reality – at least once you reached the power levels he and Kevin were working on – was a lot more malleable than he ever thought it was before he started traveling. It might only be real HERE – but here it was indeed real, and with multiple identities active, he was in both realities at once.

A certain level of disorientation seemed to come with this power – at least as long as you didn’t just go with the flow and let the local identities more or less run themselves while you… whatever “you” meant in this situation – jumped from channel to channel in your own mind.

This was going to take some time getting used to

Still. He was NOT just a dragon! He was going to make sure that most of his kids at least passed, and set aside money for the ones who looked hopeless… Hey! He could just have the Thralls running the school ship them to Kadia if they washed out and put them into Kevin’s “get dragon’s souls” program. That way he could introduce them to all the other kids too!

By the time he was done with all of THAT, he had a challenger.

Oh of COURSE. That was pretty much one of the iconic features of this universe! You took up a draconic ID, things came to fight you.

Fortunately, he had an arena dedicated for the purpose!

Wait, he did? Oh, of COURSE he did!

He’d have to visit the school when he took the kids up; the Thralls would easily recognize him.

It was a semi-natural cavern system. A full formal battlefield would be a bit above his current station.

It was a young adult green named “Kruath” who wanted to take over his holdings and concubines and enslave Marty and his offspring…

Boy was THIS kid in for a shock! Hm… It looked like he had some slaves and concubines of his own to put up for stakes along with himself! That was even better! Soon they would be his as well!

Marty decided to toy with the kid a bit, and let him show him what he had before his victory celebration. Reacting a little quicker than his challenger, he slipped into a side tunnel rather than moving directly to the attack!

The youngster muttered something about “Chicken!” and breathed a blast – which split up into a dozen hawklike elemental spirits and zoomed down the tunnel after Marty!

That was pretty good! And showed originality! But wouldn’t he be immune to another green’s breath? What did the boy think he was up to?

Marty gave the kid the first one, just to see what he thought he was doing – but managed to dodge most of the others.

Ah! He was having them combust – well, they were made of highly-active chlorine gas – and thus blow up doing physical and fire damage instead of chemical damage, thus bypassing Marty’s natural immunity! They hit fairly hard too! That was very clever! He’d say that… against a single target, who failed to dodge enough, they might even be more effective than the basic breath weapon – and they could be sent out to hunt people down! No wonder the kid had some slaves of his own already!

He might want to learn that trick himself!

Fortunately, he was tougher than a normal adult green!

Using actual weapons in a dominance duel was considered extremely cheesy at best – dragons were supposed to fight with their breath, natural weapons, and magic – but his claws made quite serviceable knives…

He popped out a few moments later to hit the kid with a stunning blow – mostly as a prelude to using his own breath – but the kid had another batch of breath-elementals circling around him, and he had to dodge some more.

Ouch! He let his healing powers handle what got through his defenses – but the kid readily resisted his stunning fist, and struck back with his own Crushing attack.

That hurt! Still easily within what his healing powers could handle, but the kid was doing very well for a youngster!

Hm… At the moment the youngster seemed to be willing to make it a slugging match for at least a few rounds – almost like he was stalling. Ambushes were pretty unlikely, but he could be working on some really big effect. After all, the stakes were pretty high!

He hit the kid with a powerful euphoric effect with his pleasure magic – THAT would spoil his concentration if it worked (although he did make it non-addictive though, to spare later awkwardness) – and the kid failed to resist it.

Bad luck for him! For his lapse in willpower he got mauled… It was easy enough to lay him out (this was a dominance duel! The kid was of little use dead, save for being sold for magical components) during the brief period when he was unable to defend himself!

That had been rather invigorating! And fun! And now there would be more fun! And information!

He called in the servants and had them stick him in the dungeon – which was just beneath the arena for ease of access.

They took him away and restrained him properly.

Marty took care to be there when the kid woke up.

(Marty) “Not a bad trick with the hawks, kid. Too bad I’m trickier.”

The kid flexed against the restraints – but they were quite solid and professional. After that, he just gritted his teeth and looked sullen. He couldn’t really talk though the anti-breath-weapon muzzle anyway.

(Marty) “Yeah… I made sure those don’t break. So you’re stuck. Now then… what were you stalling for?”

Marty launched a telepathic probe, keeping his own mental defenses up.

Ah, that was simple enough. The youngster had invented some good tricks revolving around animating his breath and changing it in various ways – but he could only do it every few rounds. He just needed to stall a little longer to pull off another fancy trick. He’d been… going to animate his breath as a major elemental, which would have held Marty to be pummeled with crushing blows for as long as it could – and would THEN explode.

That WAS pretty good! And it looked like he’d developed it entirely on his own!

Not that it did him much good now…

Marty hesitated… It would be a lot of fun – at least as a dragon – to go with the social norm and the basic challenge-bet, take everything the kid had, and turn him painfully into a harem guard to go with the six harem guards the kid had owned and the four concubines he’d had. He “remembered” the pleasure of doing that to other losers “before”.

The youngster’s mind was fairly open – after all, he had no reason to resist – and he was expecting the procedure to start as soon as his new master was done gloating.

But to the human side at the back of his mind, even some of the restraints on the youngster – never mind the implements – were downright embarrassing.

No. He wasn’t letting a dragon-identity take him QUITE that far – at least not in the first day or two! He was going to show some leniency, since this one had something interesting to “offer”!

(Marty) “Mwahaha! Tell you what, kid. You teach me to do those breath tricks, and I let you keep your manhood and your favorite concubine and slave. You’re still not going to be a free man, though. Deal?”

The boy nodded without hesitation – albeit with considerable astonishment.

(Marty) “You have something worth offering me. But one betrayal, and you’re GOING TO GET IT.”

He used Kevin’s dragon-slave conditioning technology with a few functions turned off?

The dragon part of Marty enjoyed that a lot – while the human part still felt a bit guilty.

On the other hand, he was QUITE serious about taking those few concessions away if the kid screwed up. There were things you just couldn’t tolerate!

As it turned out, the kid hadn’t had all THAT much personal wealth other than a few smaller holdings – but Marty had endless cash reserves to draw on anyway.

He stuck the kid in his newly-established magical research department (the kid must have a good understanding of that if he was already able to manipulate his breath weapon like that) and got his three new concubines and new slaves set up. The new concubines were young adults – a little younger than he was as a dragon, but (at eighty years or so ) older than he was as a human (which was also a little odd).

Hmm. He’d have to start improving the holding! It wasn’t all that impressive at the moment… Maybe add in a traditional waterfall to hide the arena entrance, and traps in case some defeated challenger didn’t accept his fate?

Oh wow… He was really starting to understand the appeal of this for Kevin. Being a dragon came with some powerful instincts and a LOT of appealing factors! The combat, and defeating a challenger, were both as much fun as the concubines! Dragons seemed to be built for that…

He hang out with the concubines for a bit – then shifted his attention before the identities hold got too strong.

It was no wonder that Kevin – as an inexperienced teenager – had gotten caught up in a dragon identity! They were positively ADDICTIVE!

He switched his… not his attention, but perhaps his focus?… back to the Green Galaxies.