Thursday, April 27, 2017

Living With a Compromise

Our next series of word comes from Brittany Balcom. This is the kind of set that I really anticipated being a problem. They aren't instantly evocative, they don't make good names, and they tend to function better on the personal scale than the setting scale.

Coordination, manufacture, insubordination, envy, solace, fecundity, compromise

Given that Brittany is a huge GoT fan, and I haven't done epic fantasy yet, I decided to give it a go. Given the vast array of D&D worlds and fantasy novels out there, epic fantasy also has a really deep well to draw from, which gave me a bit of a crutch when dealing with a tricky set.

It turns out to have been far too effective of a crutch. After a slow start, I had all seven words incorporated at the macro level of the setting. There still wasn't enough setting to really play in. I had races and gods, but very little for characters to interact with. So I doubled down on the challenge. I kept the macro level, gave myself another 24 hours, and used the same set of words to build the micro level.

I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out, though it still needs more fleshing out and much better organization.

(Editor's note: Keen-eyed followers may spot that there was considerably more than 48 hours before the last post and this. Part of this is because I didn't work on the challenge over the weekend. Part is because I had a rough week at work and didn't get the post typed up. You'll just have to trust me that I didn't abuse the rules here.)

In the beginning, the universe was simply divided between the Four Elements, Earth, Air, Water, and Fire. The four gods battled amongst themselves for supremacy, but each was the others' equal. After a time, a compromise was reached: In the center of the universe a world would be created; the world would be made up of equal parts of each element. And thus would their battle be decided.

This world, called by us Mundus, was peopled first with the titans. They towered twenty feet tall, and had awesome powers. Their powers were so awesome, in fact, that they no longer felt that they needed to obey their gods. The gods were dismayed by their insubordination, and attempted to strike them down. But the titans were too strong, and displaced the original creators. They became the gods that we know today. In some strange corners of the world, you can still find ruins from the time of the titans, and even some of the strange and gigantic creatures that lived alongside them.

After the titans ascended, the world entered the Age of Dragons. Dragons, as you know, are great flying lizards, possessed of terrible strength and potent magics. Like the titans before them, they became filled with envy of the gods above. The dragons, however, fared poorly. The new gods drove the dragons back to earth. As punishment for their sins, their eggs all began to hatch terrible new monsters instead of baby dragons. The dragons were forced to retreat to the high peaks of the Fellswept Mountains to find solace from their fearsome brood. There they reside to this day, still doing penance.

The Third Age rose, the Age of Humanity. Having learned their lesson, the gods this time chose to craft a race that could not challenge them. Humans, though, had one advantage over all the other races, and that was coordination. Not in the sense of agility (though they are highly nimble), but in their ability to join forces with each other to build something far greater than the sum of its parts. Kingdoms and empires rose that even the titans could not have conceived of. But through it all, the humans have remained humble, giving up proper respect and obeisance to the gods.

Alongside humanity, and closely resembling them, are the dwarves. The dwarves live deep in mountain holds, mining out precious metals and fashioning them into intricate machines. However, a secret that very few outsiders know is that dwarves aren't merely dedicated to manufacture, they are born of it. People assume that they have never seen a dwarven woman or child because they are safely hidden in the mountains. The truth is that there are no women or children. The dwarves are built from the bones of the mountains they reside in, with their souls resident in special gems they install in their chests behind their great beards. Dwarves will go to extraordinary lengths to recover the bodies of their fallen, because those gems can be put into new bodies and returned to life.

The fourth race of mortals are the goblins. Where exactly the goblins came from is a mystery. Some say a mad wizard created them as cheap labor or disposable troops. Others say that this is what happens when farmers get a little too friendly with their livestock. And, of course, many claim that they are a people that were cursed by the gods for one slight or another. They come in a bewildering array of shapes, sizes, and colors, but nearly always look like a human with various animal bits mixed in. The animal bits do not seem to breed true, though. A goblin that looks like a dog on two legs could mate with a goblin with a snake head and give birth to a creature that looks human from the waist up and donkey from the waist down. The one trait that is constant across all goblins, though, is their sheer fecundity. They easily outbreed humans, and often outbreed prey animals in their habitat. There are frequent tales of goblin girls being born already pregnant, though that is clearly an exaggeration. Probably.


The recent history of Mundus has been one of strife. Fifty years ago, there were eight great kingdoms in the world. After four decades of the Great War, there are five. War, famine, and plague have combined to reduce the human population by half. The Great War did not end by any sort of grand heroic gesture, but simply by utter exhaustion causing the troops to grind to a halt.

The Kingdom of Epifrenne was one of the fatalities of the Great War. It's capital city, Duchamps, was laid waste by dark magics. The River Aarne, which runs from the Fellswept Mountains down to the Grantham Bayou before emptying into the sea, was fouled and tainted, and its water is undrinkable. The Kingdom of Carioc, one of the victorious kingdoms, chose to relocate their goblin shock troops to the Grantham Bayou and simply abandon them there rather than find homes for them among the humans. These factors make for a large swath of undesirable land at the intersection of three surviving kingdoms. Rather than fight to the death over a prize no one wanted, the Treaty of Arden-Tuille declared that this area shall never again have a king, nor shall it bear a name, nor shall it be recognized by any other nation. This no man's land has since been called The Compromise.

However, of course, the population of lost Epifrenne did not simply vanish because some treaty declared them homeless. Most have died, or have found homes in other kingdoms. But a hardy few cling to the land. An old town has become their de facto capital, as the largest settlement in The Compromise. This town has been surrounded by a palisade and manned with troops, keeping the residents safe. As such, the residents refer to this town as Solace.

The leader of Solace is Niklaus Trague. Trague was once a soldier in the Batremian army. But as the Treaty was being negotiated and the armies called back home, Trague's commanding officer ordered him to lay waste to a temple that was known to house a great treasure. He refused. The officer accused him of gross insubordination and had him stripped of his rank and privileges. Not being satisfied, he ordered Trague into exile. The officer was stunned, however, when Trague's entire company showed more loyalty to their sergeant than to the greedy noble who had punished him. They stripped off their uniforms, picked up their packs, and strode off after Trague into the wilderness. Eight years later, Trague has settled in Solace, and his company serves as the city watch and guards the city from goblin raiders. Trague is well known for having the charisma, cunning, and convictions needed to be a leader of men. In addition to wielding the influence of his small army, he has proven himself extremely capable of setting up a new government in Solace.

The first thing Trague realized is that a land in which the orchards had been burned and the fields salted wasn't going to grow rich on agriculture. The key to any wealth Solace might build was going be from what it could manufacture. As such, he turned to the Guildmistresses to form a ruling council of Solace. (Epifrenne had a long tradition of the men being in charge of agriculture, war, and law, but the women being in charge of the guilds.) The Guilds would manufacture whatever they could, especially using raw materials that were easy to acquire in the area.

While the two most powerful Guildmistresses, the Weavers and Masons, fully support Trague, there is a faction that is filled with envy over his power and popularity. They do not dare oppose him openly, but are constantly looking for ways to undermine his influence. The Mistress of the Jeweller's Guild, Dame Allemande, is the ringleader of this opposition group.

Trague has struck another deal in an attempt to heal the land. He has commissioned the building of a temple to Mizzebranche, the goddess of fertility and fecundity. A new priest, Eckard Finnian, has already arrived in town to oversee the construction and consecration of the temple. Trague's hope is that by gaining the attention of the goddess, she will bless the surrounding area with blossoming life.

Solace does have one nearly unique resource, which is the nearby ruins of Duchamps. Hidden somewhere in the castle there are the treasures of the old kingdom. Even without that, there is a wealth of cut stone and other materials that could be plundered and used for building in Solace. But most importantly, the residual dark magics have enchanted many otherwise mundane objects there, though not always in beneficial ways. Unfortunately, the dead still walk the halls and streets there, making any forays very risky. Trague has charged Dame Keerthistle, the Mistress of the Mage's Guild, with the coordination of adventurers looking for plunder and glory there. Any adventurers who bypass this coordination are refused any services within Solace, from inn rooms to healing.

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