Author Topic: Player's Guide to Scaladoun  (Read 1842 times)

The Dan

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Player's Guide to Scaladoun
« on: July 07, 2013, 06:27:29 PM »
Player's Guide to the Bloody Borderlands




There are really two rival lands here, washing back and forth over each other like tides upon a bloody shore. Pelosia calls this place the Margomarissi (‘northern borderland’). The Dummonii name it more poetically: Scaladoun, the Vale of Woe.

‘Land of Red Ruin’ is its other name. Ruin of fields, of men, of reputations. Caught between glowering, grumbling nations the landscape has been blighted by centuries of greed, hatred, and death. Both sides claim it as their own, neither will give it up but neither side has men enough to enforce victory. It’s a generations-long conflict; sometimes a cold war, often hot. It is home to peace-makers and war mongers; to marching legionaries, scalping savages and rabble-rousing druids, flocked to by mercenaries from across the world: Both sides use proxy forces to bolster their own - colourful bajo swordsmen and rune-casters, mercenary axemen from the White Lands and Randish pikes;  criminals, crusaders and bandits of all stripes... They call this place 'Paradise'.

Here an adventurer can earn fame, fortune and power (but more often just an early grave) fighting with the Free Companies; leading partisans or partisan-hunters, bandits or peacekeepers, or exploiting the opportunities of war and trade and espionage between the two great nations of the West. The land is infamous for its mercenaries, and the mercenaries infamous for their crimes and fickle loyalty. Nevertheless, they are indispensable. A necessary evil.


Quote
Where blood is spilled we hurry
When gold is gone we do not tarry
We drink and kill and wench aplenty
Hail the cursed mercenary!

- Song of the Free Companies


The Lay of the Land

Flanked by reedy swamps, the wide River of Drowned Swords runs sluggishly between the science and civilisation of Pelosia and the wild mystical lands of barbarian Dummonii. At one side dry and dusty grasslands, on the other deep forest. On both banks, war. Its source is high mountains, its terminus the Endless Sea. It almost a quarter the width of the continent.

War has shifted the border back and forth for generations, leaving both sides with bloody vendettas and justifiable claims to the land. Most people regard the River of Drowned Swords to be the true border, whatever the powers that be have decreed. Certainly each nation holds their own side more firmly, but cross regularly into enemy territory.

The Pelosians currently have the upper hand: They’ve controlled the Margomarissi for a hundred years, digging in and fortifying. The Dummonii fight back with sabotage, raids and rebellion; Pelosia replies with more troops and more brutal methods of control. Contrary to the popular perception however, there are peaceful people trying to survive on both sides of the divide. Sadly, there are many more haters and warmongers: Most loathed are the inquisition and elite harmosti  legions of Pelosia, and the Dummonii Scalpers (raiders devoted to war and the forest’s most violent gods), but there's also unscrupulous mercenaries and assassins; escape slaves, criminals and heretics, also plague the area (not to mention troublesome spies and merchants). The Margomarissi is paradoxically home to both the most dedicated peace-makers and the most hard-line warmongers.

Keeping the peace is a dangerous occupation, with enemies on both sides regardless of your nationality.

The area is temperate and bountiful when its fields aren't burning, renowned for rich red earth and crimson flowers – coloured by the rust of swallowed blades and many gallons of blood spilled here over the years. The land varies greatly depending which side of the river you're on.


The Pelosian Side

Pelosia has cleared the south as much as possible, making way for legion camps and the vast farms needed to feed them. Roads new and old crisscross the grassland, but the wilderness is also dotted with megali and other ancient ruins, dating back to the Daemon Age. Every crossroads has a checkpoint, and tall watchtowers regularly loom up from the savannah. Soldiers are suspicious; peasants fearful, merchants well-armed; the legions suppress any hint of rebellion, and spies for both sides lurk beneath the awnings of every taverna (or so it’s said). Papers are required for travel and frequently checked; the least suspicion can be cause for delays, incarceration, and sometimes summary execution. There are relatively few citizens here, but the state has ‘encouraged’ many lowlifes and ne’er-do-wells to make a new life on the border.

After the vast farms and ranches, ‘baggage towns’ are the most common feature; mustering points for legionaries and those that serve their needs. Many sprang up around military camps. Others took over existing villages, or are permanently occupied by Pelosian forces.


Quote
Oh I away to the north have gone.
The priests say we will not be long
My father says I must stay till its done
My soldier';s oath says never to run
With shield on my arm and Pelo my aid
The old debt shall in blood be paid

- Marching Song of the Pelosian Legion


The Dummonii Side

North of the Drowned Swords, the land couldn’t be more different. Scattered copses of marsh trees soon give way to the forest proper.  There’s little sign of cultivation except the overgrown remains of old farms and villas. The Dummonii prefer their battlegrounds as wild as possible.

Druids work tirelessly to make the land inhospitable to invaders ‐‐ a natural maze of thorns and nettles that suits their skill in skirmish‐ warfare. Rusting helmets and swords dangle from the trees, mementoes of Pelosian defeats. Shrines to the Great Mother are hidden in forest clearings, guarded by carved statues and sacrifices to her most violent children, the war gods of Dummonii: Cróga Boldly, Naul the Deadsitter; Lady Silvermane and Mháthair Mharú; Twisted Ikjash and Grandfather Vraag. More secret shrines, places of ancient power, are guarded by warrior‐druids and summoned beasts.

Fortified camps and hidden tree houses dot the forest, temporary home to the tribes that rotate through the region on their yearly progress. An influx of adventurers, mercenaries and eager young patriots swell their numbers, and it often seems to the Pelosians that every tree conceals a bow or rark knife lurking in ambush. The towns of Pile-of-Bones and Bowbreaker’s Lament are the largest settlements near the river, where wounded are tended, plans laid, and raiders gather before heading south.


The Spears of Stone

Head east upriver, and the land rises. The red clay peters out and the River of Drowned Swords gets a little narrower and considerably faster. Jagged rocks break its surface and the waters foam. Soon hills and then mountains rise up beneath the trees. Their slopes are jagged, like giant flint arrowheads. These are the Spears of Stone - ancient mountains, dangerous but profitable.

As turbulent as the Margomarissi, the Stone Spears add danger from hostile terrain, escaped servilles, and a‐political bandits. The mountains are rich in gold and silver, attracting countless adventures. Creatures from the Dark Garden also sometime plague the valleys, especially vraag packs from their namesake pass further north… and much, much worse things from the Garden’s verdant depths.

Although less infamous for partisans than the lowlands, the mountains are refuge for escaped serviles, heretics, and other prisoners. Often escapees from the region’s penal mines, the bandit gangs they form pray on merchant caravans and silver convoys heading southwest.

Life is cheap here but iron, alchemical elements, precious metals and jewels all fetch a good price in the heartlands. Mines are worked by tough men who double as caravan guards. Throughout the region, gangs control dirty little towns where gold and silver nuggets pay for meagre pleasures and rough drink ‐‐ lawless places that answer only the bare needs of survival and demands for bribes from local garrisons. Men of every nationality always keep their weapons within easy reach.

Quote
If my heart still beat, I would love you
But now I must take bow and pursue
If I still had a tongue, I could sing out
But I'm silent now, giving no war shout
If I were still a farmer, I might sow
But all I've left is reaping now

- Ballad of the Scalpers
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« Last Edit: July 08, 2013, 08:54:34 PM by The Dan »
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

The Dan

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Re: Player's Guide to Scaladoun
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2013, 06:27:54 PM »
Mazarantiom [PELOSIAN]

One of the eight huge ‘founder cities’ of Pelosia, Mazaraina’s chosen metropolis guards the wide estuary where the River of Drowned Swords meets the Endless Sea. As befits a city founded by the acolyte known as the Girder of Armour, Mazarantiom is famous for its ‘guardsmiths’ (master armourers) and shrines where war gear is blessed by her priesthood. Since the Bellam Accords, the fighting priestesses of the Girder have had to lay down most of their arms - but her shieldmaidens still accompany pilgrims on the road, albeit armed now with only staves, slings, and hunting bows… at least in theory.

Mazarantiom is starting point for countless legionaries, colonists, missionaries and merchant caravans heading out into the Margomarissi. Descent against the campaigns and conversion of the heathen is not tolerated, although agitators and prints still appear when things go badly for the Theocracy.


Solius-About-The-Mountain [PELOSIAN]

The city of Solius‐about‐the‐Mountains spirals around a flattened mountaintop like a coiled serpent with its tail dangling down. Full of prospectors, adventurers, bandits and partisans, it’s not a refined locale; the taverns of its profaneriom are notorious for their cheap hard liquor, drugs, and rough entertainment.

The Dummonii call Solius Fehg Faern Dru (’wicked stone serpent’) and say the city’s spiralling bulwarks were once the coils of a gydracis of epic proportions, turned to stone by a druids – something they’ll one day undo and the city will be destroyed. Interestingly, the Pelosians tell a somewhat similar tale; of a daemonic serpent that laired beneath in the mountains, petrified by the prayers of Solius.


Fortress of the Fat Corbie [DUMMONII]

Fat Corbie was once a Pelosian castle, lynchpin of countless offensives into the forest. A square, squat, ugly building bedecked in rusting iron spikes, it fell only through treachery, stealth, and heathen magic ‐‐ and the Pelosians are determined to get it back.

It’s a costly fortress to hold. Each year, countless warriors perish for sake of its impregnable walls. The castle has changed hands so often that vast flocks of its namesake carrion-eaters always surround it, hoping for a feast. They’re rarely hungry for long.


Tuthom-Pothrie: A Town Divided

Tuthom-Pothrie is de facto capitol of the marchlands. Centre of cross-border trade, diplomacy, and espionage, this newborn town straddles both the river and the political and cultural divide. Like the borderlands itself, the south bank is mainly Pelosian and the northern largely Dummonii. The two harlves are connected by shifting community of ferries, pontoon bridges, and platforms anchored to a long sandbar in the centre of the river.

Once just another baggage town, an important merchant enclave has grown up here because both sides seem committed to making it work. Trade continues even in war, and here Pelosian ranchers have a safe route to drive vast herds of herba and homorn north, while their counterparts have a rich market for amber, herbs, and skins. An easy way to slip from one nation to the other is appreciated by other people too.


« Last Edit: July 08, 2013, 08:31:43 PM by The Dan »
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

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Re: Player's Guide to Scaladoun
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2013, 09:06:51 PM »
The Hospices of the Grey Order of Benestius



The Grey Hospices of the Order of Benestius have been a feature of Pelosian roads for three hundred years. Dedicated to healing the sick and providing hospitality to the penniless and pilgrims alike, the order's small waystations and hostels are a common sight at crossroads far from town or farmstead. By tradition, visiting Numare feed the more needy (and in some places, bathe them or do other chores on their behalf). Some hospices have become fashionable, and grown in stature to virtual palaces (comparatively). Most however, remain humble hearths and common rooms at the roadside.

The Grey Order do not charge for their services, but a donation is certainly expected of any visiting Numare.
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

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Re: Player's Guide to Scaladoun
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2013, 09:15:58 PM »
Maidens Play



Swollen by tributaries, the River of Drowned Swords runs quick and foams as it crashes through a rocky array of black stones. The rapids of Maidens Play are a common hindrance to river travel, which usually involves portage of vessels. It is here that the great river ceases to be the myriad maiden goddesses of the Go-Leor , and become the deep-minded and oft-treacherous Bádh Fola ("She Who Drowns Swords").
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

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Re: Player's Guide to Scaladoun
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2014, 08:03:08 PM »
The Order of Mazaraina

The Holy Order of Sanctus Mazaraina,
Dame of the Bloody Widows, Girder of Armour; the watchful One, Lady of Defenders and Mother of Sacred Vengeance.




Heraldry: A black anvil bearing the cruciform sun of the Theos in gold, above a white shield containing a red droplet of blood, upon a crimson field.

Mazaraina was a widow who forged armour for the warriors of Pelo, so that no more wives would know the loss of their husbands to the righteous cause. While black Florenta watches over the grieving, Mazaraina is Sanctus of women who take up arms in place of their dead kin, and of women more generally, especially such mysteries as fertility and childbirth. Armourers pray to her, as do those besieged or otherwise in need of defence, and in recent years  her clergy are often called upon by people in desperate straits - making her something of a patron saint of lost causes. During the War of Thirteen Kings, she slew the daemon prince Azghul-Luhgza in the name of the husband it had murdered many years before, and so Mazaraina is often called upon to intercede with the Theos in the name of justice or righteous revenge.

More women than men join her order, but there is no bias or proscription against male clergy. Mazarites may even marry, but may not remarry after the death of their spouse. Mazaraina's priesthood is said to dispense conjugal solace to faithful widows and widowers, sometimes regarded harshly by other sects as religious prostitution. There are occasional salatious rumours of sapphic orgies, strenuously denied by the sect.

Red is her colour and blood is her favoured sacrament, both as offering, omen, or when shed to defence of Pelo's Way (by default she is the Sanctus who watches over dead soldiers and others who die in service to the Consumatus). Many offerings are made with blood sacrifice, and those with stigmata are highly honoured.

The order's flagellants are mildly notorious, with something of a reputation as religious mercenaries, prepared to scourge their flesh to lend weight to a ritual or religious argument, as well as selling penances and performing public punishments and executions. "Blood for sin!" is there motto.

Her fighting order is made up of female warriors, known as the Bloody Widows.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2014, 08:11:18 PM by The Dan »
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

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Re: Player's Guide to Scaladoun
« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2014, 08:07:48 PM »
The Legend of Sargace the Bloody


Sargace 'the Sanguine'
(as depicted in the temple of Tuthom)

The legend of Sargace goes something like this: In the ancient bloody days, after the fall of the Thirteen Kings but before the Redeemer had unified what would one day be Pelosia, the Dummonii border was ruled by a black magician who called himself Sargace the Sanguine, or Sargace the Wise. History knows him as Sargace the Bloody, a despot whose power enslaved many of the former kings' daemons, pressing them to service in a brutal inhuman army.

From his baroque court in the Valley Maldetto, the legend says he ruled for a hundred years and enslaved half the lands from the Stonespear Mountains to the sea. Infamous from the massed wealth seized from of his tyranised sujects, its whispered that his vaults also contained countless daemonic artefacts, plundered from the ruins of Agray - among them an Eye of the Prince (although likely this is mere rumour) and a black staff 'of ungodly daemonic steel, black as Abysm' with which he could goad and lash even the most powerful of daemons.

It was the first Knight-Proscriptors that brought him down, champions of the new 'Pelosian' church, aided by the faith and magic of the Theos. While the armies of the newly risen city-states of Solius and Mazarantium made war upon his profane armies, a small band of knights and excorcists breached his palace walls. They slew Sargace and his debauched human and inhuman courtiers. Freed from their bindings by his death, the daemons of Sargace were dispatched in one of the last great battles of the Banishing. His corpse was burned to ashes and his palace torn to the ground, although his infamous red staff, icon of his power, was never found.

The defeat of Sargace is commemorated in a statue within the Tuthom, showing the Proscriptor Knight Ser Virin Tuthom himself, leader of the crusade after whom the town was named, piercing the heart of Sargace in battle.
 

The Dummonii version of this tale is largely similar, though of course it paints all Pelosians as bloody-handed marauders and worshippers of the Dorchada (corrupt spirits of the deep shadows, not born of Dummonii). It speaks of Sargace as an  ioctha ('mercenary shaman' is the best translation) and a summoner of evil spirits, who enslaved the Red Homorn of War and broke the Yellow Horn of the Golden Homorn and so claimed its powers of prosperity.

They insist that the destruction of Sargace was not the deed of Pelo's followers but a sworn band of Dummonii heroes lead by shamans and warrior spirits of the Creidh. The power and prosperity of the town's current Dummonii chief and clan (the Kawing Thorn) is said to begin among that noble band, and for generations the broken horn of the Golden Homorn has been kept in pious safe-keeping in the clan's sacred hearth.

Just like their southern neighbours, to this day the Dummonii claim that  the shadows of the Valley Maldetto are evil and taboo.
« Last Edit: April 09, 2014, 10:19:19 PM by The Dan »
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.