Friday, August 26, 2011

7K - Setting Primer for the Seven Kingdoms

I noticed that I do not actually have a good overview of the Seven Kingdoms setting. The one that does exist at the beginning of the blog is outdated and incorrect. I do think that I need a single post that I can point people to for a quick introductory lesson. Here it is:

In 25 Words or Less

Superhero rebels in a swashbuckling world fight an undead emperor.

Because you know I can't be that terse, here is a slightly longer elevator pitch.  Fifty years ago, the Lich Lord Acnev used his undead armies to conquer the Seven Kingdoms.  Today, a few select individuals, gifted with unusual abilities, have decided to fight back.  Rapiers and repartee are paired with flight and forcefields to win the day against dark magic and darker politics.

History of the World

The known world is actually fairly small.  The Seven Kingdoms ring the Bay of Ser Syrthio, a body of water approximately the size of the Black Sea.  To the north, beyond the Lohe Selg mountain range, lie frozen tundras and icy seas.  To the east lies the great Oceanus (which has no other name, because there is no other ocean), a body of water that stretches farther than anyone has dared sail.  To the west lies a vast desert and scrubland, which is nearly uninhabitable.  No soul in recorded history has ever crossed the desert and returned.  To the south lies the Sea of Storms, a stretch of water that is filled with rocky islands, strong currents, and unpredictable weather.  The occasional ship does cross the Sea of Storms from the mysterious lands to the south, but not enough to be considered "trade."

Since time immemorial, the people of the Seven Kingdoms have worked, played, lived, loved, and lost within these borders.  The Seven Kingdoms themselves have existed in more-or-less their current configuration for at least five hundred years (much like the major nations of Europe tend to revert to Spain, France, Italy, Germany, etc., even though their actual borders may shift, and one nation may conquer another for a time).

Fifty years ago, a necromancer in the ever-ambitious kingdom of Is-Ka'ander came to power.  He is known as the Lich Lord Acnev.  He and his followers raised great armies of undead warriors, sending them forth to conquer the other nations (as Is-Ka'ander tries to do at least once a century).  A combination of sound strategies and implacable troops gave the Iskandrian troops the edge, and the other Kingdoms eventually had no choice but to bend a knee to the Emperor of the Dead.

The magical universities of the kingdom of Linnea had magi known as merlanes.  These wizards specialized in creating new creatures, through cross-breeding, mutation, and direct manipulation.  The Queen of Linnea demanded a miracle, and the merlanes delivered.  Through their magics, they were able to cross humans with various animals to create legions of fanatical monsters, known collectively as "goblins", to counter the relentless armies of the dead.

Eventually, though, even Linnea was to fall.  In addition to its armies of goblins, it was protected by a powerful artifact known as the Cudowny Crystal.  Through powerful magic, a daring strike at the palace, and a foul betrayal, the forces of Acnev were able to kill Queen Arabella and shatter the Cudowny Crystal.  Robbed of both leadership and protection, the armies of Linnea soon folded, solidifying the Empire. 

The Cudowny Crystal, though, seems not to have lost all of its magic.  Certain children, primarily of Linnean descent, have begun in recent years to demonstrate remarkable talents.  They are like magi who know only a single spell, but need neither years of study nor hours of ritual to accomplish the effect.  These Shardlings, as they are known, now form the core of the rebellion against Acnev.

The Shardlings, of course, have been declared illegal.  So have the remains of the goblin armies, and the merlanes, and many others who opposed Acnev.  The rebels were torn between a need to make dramatic strikes against the Imperial forces, and a need to avoid being arrested.  They began to wear masks when operating.  Those masks soon developed into full-blown costumes.  The rebels would refer to one another by code names, such as Phalanx, The Martyr, and Maverick.

For Further Important Details

Here are links to a couple other important posts on the setting:
Who are these Seven Kingdoms, anyway?
Heraldry of the Seven Kindgoms
Sexuality in the Seven Kingdoms
The races you can run
Magical items in the Seven Kingdoms

A Couple Final Notes

First, I need to mention that, yes, I know that Game of Thrones uses the term "Seven Kingdoms".  I came up with the term before the first GoT novel was published.  I have never read any of the novels, nor seen the TV show.  It's a fairly generic title, and so not particularly surprising that it would have been used elsewhere.  I'm vaguely annoyed at the muddling the name creates, and have considered changing the name of the setting.  I haven't decided on a good new name, though.

Of course, I also find it personally amusing that so many swashbuckling settings use the number seven.  When I first started the Seven Kingdoms, it was supposed to be high fantasy, not swashbuckling.  It drifted over the years.  When Chad Underkoffler released Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies, I noticed the pattern of three of my favorite settings being S7S, 7K, and of course 7th Sea.  I wonder if it's pure coincidence.

The setting is littered with in-jokes and references.  Most of them will only be appreciated by a small handful of people (like the eternal conflict between Tsoi and Arras).  There are some elements that I have shamelessly ripped off from other places (like, oh, Acnev himself).  Also, I have recently discovered the greatest tool ever for naming things in a setting - Google Translate.  Some of the names are terribly boring and mundane descriptors that I ran through the translator until I found a language that made them sound cool.


  1. I use 'Many Kingdoms' for a campaign setting I've had around for a while (somebody dropped an empire and it shattered, but 'Shattered Empire' was already in use, I think).

    Using Google Translate for naming is a really interesting idea, I'll have to try it. I imagine you get names that are fairly consistent in sound and feel, and that always adds to verisimilitude.

  2. I think 'Shattered Empire' is actually used in more than one product already. It's kind of the problem with names that are evocative combinations of common nouns. They're just really good names, and lots of people will think of them.

    Oddly enough, one of the ways that Google Translate helps me is breaking up my consistency. Left to my own devices, most of my names end up sounding very, very similar. By mixing in some Slavic and Arabic sounds into the Gaelic and French sounds I fall back on, it sounds much more like the world is a melting pot of many different cultures.

  3. That was my conclusion regarding 'Shattered Empire' -- really good name, someone else got it first. I was talking with my boss about building a website for recipes, somewhat creative commons endeavor like wikipedi... 'Recipedia'! What a great name!

    There are at least four different domains and sites with that name.

    As for Google Translate providing same or different-sounding names, on reconsideration that makes sense. I'd be inclined to use one language for each major area or culture. Each then should end up with similar-sounding names, while moving to another area should give different-sounding names.

    In an old campaign of mine the PCs ended up visiting three different cities. They started in Northport (semi-'English' culture), visited Ter Liatri (capital of the empire than assimilated the 'English'; passing through Ter Lionne and Ter Visea) and went (on another mission) to Trollskov (very Russian-stereotype).

    A tool that lets me easily build things that sound similar, in different groups? Awesome idea.

  4. Thank you. You may feel free to use the idea, royalty free. Because I am kind and benevolent.

    One of the other advantages to Google Translate is that you can hide lots of clues and in-jokes in plain sight. One of the names above gives an important clue about the history of the region that has shaped a lot of the setting. One of the names in the post detailing the Kingdoms serves as a reminder to me of the culture, because I remember what the word translates as.