When asked which quality defines a human, the inevitable answer i always get is that we are adaptable to almost everything. But is this true i ask? When faced with the neverending jungles of the Eternal forests or the Evergreen Peninsula and their mile high trees ,it is the elves that excel in an environment that basically screams "Adapt or die". Not the humans. No, i Say. We excel at something else: We excel at forcing the environment to adapt to us. If one believes the elven tales, the tunnels that make up the upper underdark were once dug by the roots of worldtrees, and not by Drow or Duergar, and that would mean that once the world was covered in them. But it is the regions in which humans set foot, in which humans reign, which keep the least of these majestic trees. And our relationshipto the Fae? Humans mainly see it as a tool. Elves think differently, as do gnomes. To them its part of their life, necessary even for the conception of children, just as it seems to be for a majority of other lifeforms on our world. At the same time their magical use of it is much less invasive. It is not a coincidence that the druidic tradition originated with the elves. We however, with the arcane traditions, are versed to use and exploit it, we have a knack for finding and sensing it, but we are otherwise in no way bound to it. A human could live his whole life without ever casting a spell. And many do. Our dependence on magic is entirely chosen out of covenience. It is an addiction more than a necessity. So is this our defining trait? That we form our surrounding without giving back? That we take and give nothing in return? Does this mean that the elves are right? That we weren't created as Ardus last and most noble race, to one day be its inevitable rulers, as the church tells me in many of its sermons? That we rather came from someplace else? Some place without Fae and without balance? That in the end we are nothing but a parasite? But if so... how did we come here if no magic brought us over? Riddle over Riddle hidden inside an conumdrum. "
Three things burned themselves irrevocably into the mind of the young wolven that was Cronn, and he never got rid of them lateron. There was the sight of his twin sister as she was bound, gagged and carried away for a sinister purpose at the hand of these human barbarians. There was the sight of the woman that was his mother once, lying dead in the snow which was reddened by her own blood, her hand still clenching about the sword, and there was the gnashing sound, as the head of the wolven alpha, his father, if his mother was right, was chopped off by Courgan swords, and fell into the snow. All this had happened, because he was taking his watch not seriously. Because he fell asleep... Because the warning sound of his horn came much too late... The Courgan Barbarians, savages which were worshipping dark gods from the beginning of time, were infamous for their twisted rituals, and their habit to sacrifice their captives in bloody ceremonies. This was what they had in mind for his sister, Cronn knew it. They captured him to another end.. They were planning to eat him... Cronn knew the stories. They thought he was still unconscious from the blow... But they were in for a surprise, Cronn thought, as his hand reached out through the wooden bars of his cage, for his mothers sword...
The ship slowly turned while it entered the harbor of Panacost. After aproximately 4 month at sea, making the long but profitable traderoute between Xandattaway and her homecity, Captain Castra was looking forward to finally see her husband again. He was a master craftsman, and how often did she remember asking him to become her ships carpenter, and homeschool their daughter on board, yet the elven side of his ancestry always won. He stayed... she sailed. She had able men on board... able in more than one regard... but she nevertheless never gave in to more than casual flirting. However... now that her ship finally approached the docks of her home harbor... she felt her heart aching. She was torn between her two husbands... The Inner Sea, which, after a few weeks on land would inevitably call her back again, and Danion, her half elven mate, who was sweet and trustworthy, but obviously not made to share this... other love. This evening she would ask him a last time. She would pose the question as an ultimatum. Either he came with her... or... Then she saw him. On the dock, with her daughter, who reliably watchted out for her mothers ship return every day. They waved their arms and smiled, and tears welled up in Captain Castra's eyes. "Well..." she thought... "probably not this evening... or the next even. But one day...one day... she would have to decide..."
Biological TraitsOnce human slaves, dwarves evolved in the mines of Xandattaway and the Slaver Cities in the second age. Their build is stocky and usually denser than a humans. Although the cliché keeps popping up, dwarves do not all have facial hair. Having beards or being clean shaven is up to the preference of the respective dwarf. Dwarven females show as much body hair as human females. The typical dwarf ranges in height from 4 feet (120 cm) to 5 feet (150 cm). Dwarves age similar to humans, and have a similar life expectancy. They are hardy people though and can handle pysical stress and even trauma better than humans. For more information about dwarves see here: Descendent from Culmerians and Aesgardians , the goliaths evolved by adapting to the harsh and unforgiving climate in the Hammer of Ice. Their size ranges from 7 feet (215 cm ) to 8 feet (245 cm) and thus they usually tower over their human brethren. Goliath skin is extremely tough and usually whitish pale or grey, helping them camouflage in the snowy heights they call home. Goliaths share territory with culmerian or aesgardian tribes and get along so well with them, that singular goliaths can even be considered part them. Goliaths have noticeable bony supraorbital ridges above eyes, which are usually of clear blue, greenish or red color. Hair growth corresponds to that of standard humans although a little more intense on arms, legs and torso to protect them from the cold. More information on Goliaths can be found here:
Genetics and Reproduction
Humans and their descendent subraces, the dwarves, and goliaths, for the purpose of this article furthermore only referred to as humans, belong to the seeding genotype, just like Wolven and Yuan-Ti and a good quarter of species which live on Ardu. This gives them two ways of procreation, the so called seedbirth, which is unique to creatures of the seeding genotype, and the faebirth.
The SeedbirthAll human males, provided they are healthy, are able to create seed, which, when injected into the sex of a human female during intercourse, can fertilize her and sire a child. This seems to be possible only at a certain timewindow per month, during which the human female is fertile, usually about 10 to 16 days after the human woman has had her period. Unlike the Faebirth, this way of procreation is entirely independent of the actual will to procreate: There are known incidents of pregnancies, where both parents believably affirm to not have intended to sire a child, which, with a Faebirth would be impossible. For this way of procreation to work, both partners must be human or of human subrace (humans, dwarven or goliath) or be at least partly human halfbreed. The conception of halfbreeds with other races via seedbirth is not possible, not even with other species of the seeding genotype, like Wolven or Yuan-Ti.
The FaebirthJust like any living being on Ardu, humans produce fae. This personal fae, also called Ki by some monks, plays a central role for the conception via faebirth: During the act, if triggered by the will to procreate, the personal fae of both partners join, sample genes of both partners and create a new life in the female body. The will that drives this process is usually the will of both, however, if the will of one partner is strong enough, or enhanced by magical means, the singular intention of one partner might suffice to trigger the process. This, however, is considered a crime by most human, dwarven and goliath societies. For this way of procreation to work, both partners must have at least comparably complex thought processes, as the personal fae of both partners must interact with each other, and thus needs enough structure to work on. If the minds of both partners are self conscious, a bridging between species is possible. As such, half breeds between almost all self-conscious creatures on Ardu, yet also with pure fae creatures, like demons from the counterrealm, are a possibility. An exception to this rule are the Yuan-Ti and Saurians. Halfbreeds which are half Yuan-Ti or Saurian are not possible, because of the severed connection both races have to the Fae, leaving them unable to conceive via faebirth.
Cultural ReceptionIf both partners are human or of a human subrace and the female was fertile during conception, the distinction between pregnancy via faebirth and pregnancy via seedbirth is possible only by magical means. The gestation period in both cases is 9 months. The gestation period of halfbreeds varies depending on the races involved. Finding out if a child was conceived out of Seedbirth or Faebirth after birth is impossible. Children out of faebirth are called "faeborn". Due to the lack of distinguishing features to tell both ways of conception apart, if both parents were of a human subrace, human societies rarely care if a purely human child was born from seedbirth or from faebirth, and, just like with the different skin colors, there is few racism in this regard. Basically because why get all stirred up about it, while the guy sitting next to you has fur, protruding fangs and claws big enough to tear your head off. If you decide to be racist, there are bigger fish to fry. There are trends however, over the course of history, there have been humans especially in Haven, or in countries otherwise strongly connected to the Church of the Creator, who considered seedborn humans more pure. This is because they believe that seedbirth was a gift by the Creator especially given to keep the Humans independent of the Fae. Other cultures by contrast see a special blessing in faeborn children, for they argue that they are the result of a conscious decision and conception via "the soul" of their parents. Anyway, in all cases, there are always people and agitators trying to gain power by exploiting such trends, in the past and in the present. The cultural reception of Halfbreeds varies from country to country, and like common racism, the acceptance usually depends on the prevalence of a specific species in a certain region. Havenians and strong believers in the Creator specifically have problems with halfbreeds between species, which are solely able to procreate via faebirth, as they are even departing further from the Creators plan. But they accept half human halbreeds as a way for elves, gelfs and other beings which are only able to procreate via faebirth, to become part of that plan again. The fact that all half-human halfbreeds are able to procreate via seedbirth too, supports this belief. The followers of the Creator insist however, that halfbred children must be raised with the humans, in order to not allow the other half to become dominant for purposes of further faebirth procreation. In regions which are at war with members of certain species, halfbreeds with that kind of species are usually not well regarded, and object of mockery and mistrust. This often doesn't even end with the conclusion of said conflicts, such that, for example halfelven in Caldaven still face a hard time, even after years of peace with the Norn, and this also erodes the position of Conn Benn Calad, the King who is partly elf (although half-Eadun and not -Norn). Halffiends or Halffey are generally not well regarded anywhere in the human world, and subject to heavy psychological and even physical cruelty, such that they best hide their fiendish nature, if possible. The argument, that there are whole halffiend populations possible, due to the retained seedbirth capacity inherited from their human parents, such that halffiends could very well be several generations off from the original fiend, is oftentimes not even considered. Instead people tend to judge them simply by the "where smoke is, there is fire" absolute. An exception to this may be Soth, where demonology, at least if paid, is an allowed branch of magic. Hence halffiends, even though not "common", can be seen here more often than elsewhere. Weyland and Reach also seem to have a somewhat lax stand on the topic. And the Bandit Kingdoms take anyone anyhow, if he can hold a sword. For further general information regarding Procreation and Halfbreeds see also:
Geographic Origin and Distribution
Humans are dominant in all countries around the Inner sea, in Soth, The Bandit Kingdoms, Weyland, Lamaria and Reach. However, barbarian human tribes can be found almost everywhere in the world.
Perception and Sensory Capabilities
Humans, by their dreams, have a strong connection to the Fae and the counterrealm, and partially enter it while dreaming. This is, however, not a nice experience, and usually the source of nightmares, which become more frequent, the thinner the Veil between physical world and counterrealm is. This could include regions of old magic or the thirteen magic towers for example. It leads to a definitve rise in consumption of sleep drugs in these places, provided humans live there, or at least have to sleep there.
Civilization and Culture
Human dominated regions and countriesHaven
HavenAllegedly the Realm in which the Creator created the humans, and self proclaimed center of human civilization. Momentarily ruled by King Morius Randon, who himself got his power imparted on him from the Primarch of the Church of the Creator, it is, technically, a Monarchy, but actually, due to the power of the Church, a Theocracy. The State religion of Haven is the Church of the Creator, and no other religion is allowed in Haven,not even in private. The posession of shrines, statues or any other relic of other faiths is strictly forbidden and is considered heresy. The Leader of the Church these days is Primarch Simion Merenthis, a middle aged man, who leads it from his seat in High Haven, the city widely considered to be the center of the faith in the the Creator. Magic in Haven is strictly regulated by the Church and strictly controlled by the Inquisition, which is momentarily led by High Inquisitor Talieous Gray, and has its seat in Bayestril. Despite the fact that it has once been founded by the Church, the Sentry, while tolerated, is not allowed to operate in Haven, but rather expected to share all of its knowledge with The Inquisition, and then leave it to them to do the job. The country of Haven is also home to the Seat of Shadows in Bannishold, a Monastery whose monks follow the Path of Shadows, and who, despite their name, are not allied with the Shadow that lies beyond the mountainrange of the Dragon Teeth, but rather remain to be its worst enemy. Using their own understanding of night and darkness, these monks fight the Plague wherever possible. Deeply connected with Church of the Creator, the shadow monks are well trained in subterfuge, investigation and assassination, and are well regarded all over the human world for their talent to find Plaguebeasts and bring them to justice, yet also as agents and spies against the Norn or other enemies if necessary. Of all human countries, Haven has the biggest population of Eadun elves, largely due to the Silverwoods being situated here, yet also because of them being accepted by church edict as full members of the human society with almost all jobs but that of the Primarch and the High Inquisitor open to them. Whereas other regions in the world still have problems accepting elves without bias, mostly because of the aeon old conflict between humans and elves, they are well regarded in Haven. At least in theory.
CulmeriaSomewhat stuck in the ways of their ancestors, Culmeria is and has been over the ages, more a loose confederation of barbarian tribes rather than a kingdom. Once at good standing with Haven and valued allies in the Crusade against the Slaver cities, the relation has grown a little more sour now. Many barbarian tribes have found their way back from the church to the believes they held before being "civilized" by the Great Human Empire in the 4th Age, interpreting the fourth and fifth Shadowwar as their gods punishment for betraying them. Culmeria also is home to the most goliath tribes. Largely the goliaths live in the rocky and quite uninhabited north of Culmeria, although some find their way south to the more "civilized" parts at the Caerloch or in Dun Cuatha. Having segregated from culmerians in ages past, goliaths have become their own kin, yet the relationship with the culmerians is a friendly one, and some goliaths are part of human tribes and vice versa. Seeing a goliath fight next to a culmerian berserker in battle is not a strange sight to see, be it because both goliaths and culmerians value similar things, or be it because their gods also remained largely the same, such that a proper basis for understanding is given.
AesgardSimilar as Culmeria, the inhabitants of Aesgard have forsaken the Church during the Dark Times, and returned to their orignal "heretic" beliefs. They are at better standing with Haven, as they at least allow human clerics of the Church to preach and set up shop in their cities, yet they keep an eye on them, and hold them off all secular positions. Somehow Aesgardians and their oskrajan neighbors have managed to keep most of their shipbuilding expertise during the dark ages, or at least recover some of it during the last centuries. The sea plays a major role in their beliefs, not unsurprisingly, as almost all of their major cities, except Adaskyr, are coastal cities. Unlike oskrajans, who today use their knowledge and expertise mainly for trade, they still are fearsome pirates, and the rallying cry "Aesgardians!!!" is something that shakes coastal villagers from all around the inner sea to the bones, once it is heard. Not a Monarchy, unlike Oskraja, it is a confederacy of tribes just like the culmerians.
Oskraja500 Years ago, Vars "the Red" of Novodan, unified the different tribes in Oskraja under his rule, and converted back to the belief in the Creator. He established the Church of the Creator in Oskraja and was able to extend the territory under his rule further west, until finally falling to an infection, which was brought upon him by a wound he took from aesgardian swords in the battle for Levisjor. Although his children were much less warmongering, backed by the Church, they still managed to stabilze the kingdom under their rule and established continuous trade with Haven. Today Oskraja holds protected traderoutes with all northern coastal cities in Haven, yet also with the coastal cities of Aquira and Caldaven and creates most of its wealth through trade.
CaldavenCaldaven is a Monarchy ruled by the half-eadun king Conn Benn Calad. Sharing almost the complete east border with the Norn empire of Cun Moragh Norn, the realm of Caldaven has, in the course of its history, clashed with the Elves quite often. Although a peace stands now for ten years already, thanks in no small part to King Conn himself, mistrust against the pointy eared "bastards" is usual among the common folk. The reign of the king over the different cities is loose, yet the cold climate, the constant threat of Norn and plague incursions have exerted enough pressure to form the people into a tight knit community. Caldavians are used to harsh climate and honor strength. Warriors are well regarded and Caldaven remains strongly bound by the traditions of chivalry. The Caldavians mainly follow the Faith of the Seven, even though the Church of the Creator has gained in influence again in the last decades. King Conn however has made sure that no secular power falls into the laps of any of the religions, something which greatly helped to broker the truce with the Norn, who are deeply distrustful of the Church. The Tower of Caldaven, which is located in Amn, is ruled by the Oromi (actually Sand) Headmistress Ashar Nirudi, and although the Church of the Creator has sent several demands to empower at least the Sentry, King Conn has refrained from doing so, referring to hints of a possible involvement of the Sentry, and by that extend probably even the Church of the Creator, in a coup to dethrone the King several years ago. Although it could never be proven conclusivly, the Sentinels of Amn are thus left to a counseling role, and will stay that way for the foreseeable future. With the Shearwind Monastery, Caldaven also houses one of the four great monasteries that exist on Ardu. The Monks of the Shearwind monastery practice the monastic tradition of the Way of the Four Elements, and have proven to be a valuable ally in battle but, in peace times, also to be a skilled negotiator between Caldaven and Cun Moragh Norn.
AquiraThe Kingdom of Aquira is governed by queen Alithabeta Cuantra of Krynn. Being located in the northern temperate zone of Ardu and being equipped with a lot of developed, arable land, it is, together with Odhal and The Emerald Coast, the breadbasket of the human countries east of the Inner Sea. The country provides the majority of grain for itself and it's neighboring countries. The main religion of Aquira is the Faith of the Seven, and whereas the Church of the Creator has managed to gain a considerable influence in Caldaven again, it didn't gain more than a foothold in Aquira. Aquira is also called "The Riverlands", because of the many rivers, which irrigate this fertile landscape and the comparably flat topology of rolling hills, that are blazing in the rich yellow of ripe wheat every Harvestmoon. Far from being a "defenseless patch of farmers", as it is sometimes called by its more warriorlike northern neighbors, Aquira can afford to hold the second largest army east of the Inner sea, mainly stationed at its eastern border, usually around the former Norn city of Narketta, which Aquira has held now for over 10 years in an uneasy peace with its Norn neighbors.
The Emerald CoastA lose confederacy of citystates, The Emerald Coast is one of the oldest human-settled regions in the world. With its slightly warmer climate it has become famous for its cuisine, it's exquisite wines and its fruits. Due to its central location, it has also become the maritime trading hub of the east and there is no city around the Inner Sea which does not send ships on a regular basis to at least one of the enormous harbors. Governed not by a king, but by a council of trading guilds, trade has become the major income of the region and has led to an immense wealth, that also supports a little standing army, which is big enough anyway to prevent the Coast from incursions of jealous eastern neighbors. Once one of the centers of faith in the Creator, according to the records of R'hyll, the people of the Emerald Coast favor another church now. Although belief in the Creator is not frowned upon, the main faith at the Emerald Coast is the Faith of the Seven, which has led to a good relationship with Aquira and a somewhat strained relationship with Odhal in the east. Another feature of the Emerald Coast is it's art and artisanship, which is not only one of it's most sought after exports, but also a distinguishing feature of the coast itself. It is said for example, that the beauty of the temples of the Seven in Xandattaway even rivals the beauty of the temple of the Creator in High Haven.
OdhalThe Kingdom of Odhal is almost landlocked. With the city of Fyorin, it has one major harbor, yet the illustrous city of Xandattaway is only a day or two by ship away, promising bigger riches to captains who make their way there with their freight. Despite this, the country of Odhal could be quite prosperous. Being one of the breadbaskets in the east, they provide food for the dwarves, who in exchange provide metal of high quality, which the Odhali can then again sell to the People of the Emerald Coast, or the Aquirans, who need good steel for their standing army. They literally sit in the middle of people who need things from each other. Odhal is not prosperous though. Mismanaged by King Alistaiir Stendal IV of Alivin, weak king in a long line of weak kings, Odhal has seen better days. The Odhali, firm believers in the Church of the Creator, have the reputation of being of a cool and subservient temperament, and the Stendal family, which provided the line of sovereigns now for over ten generations, had managed to diverge the anger of the populace towards the more prosperous western and northern neighbors for several times, be it by exploiting envy, or by arguing against the "heresy" that is the "Cult" of the Seven, which is dominant in those countries. Yet although it has worked more than once in the past, the Odhali seem to have awoken, and although the royal family manages to hold onto the power still, by mere might and almost dictatorial style, who knows for how long this will last? Although most nobles don't speak out directly against their liege yet, they are well aware that the "abdication" of the throne by one family, could very well mean the rise of another. And which noble is without ambition?
UlthweJust like in Odhal, the main religion in Ulthwe is the faith in the Creator. For almost a century, Ultwhe had been a stabilizing factor in the politics of its northern neighbor, supporting the royal family to uphold their rule over the Odhali. Over this time, Ulthwe did profit quite well from the weakness of the Odhali sovereigns, such that some might call the ulthweyan support corruption, whereas the Ulthwe themselves called it: "Upholding the order." The common religion and its overall situation on the east coast of the Inner sea also gave both countries a unique negotiation basis towards the Church, by arguing that losing one of both countries could mean losing the whole east coast of the Inner Sea to the Faith of the Seven. This ensured the enduring support of the Church for the Houses Estian in Ulthwe and Stendal in Odhal. This time is over though. It ended with the death of Arames Estian III and his wife Cumetra Estian, last king and queen of Ulthwe, and allegedly victims to a poison attack. Having sired only two young twin daughters, Cathane and Emonara Estian, who were barely 12 years old and thus still unfit to be married according to Ulthweyan law, the king had no direct successor, leaving the throne to his brother Calastes. Knowing full well, that he would hold this power only until Cathane, the slightly older twin, would be old enough to find a spouse for herself, he immediatly executed his own wife on charges which many to this day assume to be made up, although such could never be proven. In utter disregard of the law, he then married Cathane, while throwing Emonara, the younger sister, in jail, for the crime of claiming that she were the real Cathane, and thus trying to "steal" the throne. Like many others, the young general Oturo Inesta assumed foul play though. He freed the allegedly younger sister from her prison only a few months later, and fled with her to Arcas, where he staged a rebellion in the name of the "real" Cathane, thus starting the Ulthweyan civil war. Soon though, the once "simple" clash between two aspirants for the throne, called the "Sister War" by the population of Ulthwe, although it is unclear how much part the young girls even had in its course, might grow even more complicated: Both "Cathanes" have grown to be old enough to be properly married soon. And while the one in Ulth is "stuck" in the marriage with her uncle Calastes already, Cathane of Arcas isn't married yet. And although everyone expects her to take the hand of her valiant saviour General Oturo, it is yet unclear is she will do so. And what will happen if she doesn't...
OromOver the ages, Orom has seen many empires, which ruled over it for a time, before returning it to it's natural state, namely a loose collection of Citystates, that bow locally to the person who at any given time exerts the most power, be it secular, magical or ecclesiastic. One could argue that this is basically a scale model of monarchy anyway, and indeed the Oromi have a concept for inherited feudalistic power, yet it is not always easy to figure out who the person is that truly holds the reigns. Power in Orom comes from strength, wits and uninhibited ambition. And it is in constant flow. The region of Orom stretches over a vast area, but this must not fool anybody about it's true size. Life in Orom happens around the Rivers and Oases, whereas few souls can actually be found wandering the ocean of dunes and rocks which part the fertile riverbanks. An exception are the mysterious Sand People, who call themselves Farukh, and the occasional foolish and mostly inexperienced merchants, who risk their lives to save some time and lead their caravans on the direct way through the arid wastes, whereas the wise and patient would choose the the ancient, and even occassionaly mended, net of streets or rivers that connects the cities of Orom. Whereas the Cityleague of Eridu has grown into an, albeit lose, federation of cities, and the Emerald Coast is governed by trading guilds, which at least share the same interests, Orom's citystates are independent and often quite different from each other. The region around the Legacy Waters for example, including Marduk, Kesh, Cephra and Apis. Although it may have fallen under the rule of God-King Thophis I of Marduk, the people whisper that the true power lies with a group of priests who worship an unforgiving snake god, and who control the King or at least the fate of his kingdom by secret means. Further south, in the three cities around the lake of Khos, namely Khophar, Khopesh and Khoram, a fishercult has developed, which worships "the Deep One", a deity that allegedly lives deep beneath Lake Khos, and provides the fishermen with rich and plentiful catches, and occassional finds of gold in their nets. Although the cult has gained quite some following, the power over Khophar, Khopesh and Khoram remains safely in the hands of the secular leaders though: The Council of Khophar, and the godkings of Khoram and Khopesh. At least so it seems. And these are but a few of the cities in Orom.
The Summer Isles
"The way of Magic holds no honor. Honor lies in the way of inner perfection" Inscripture on the silken throne in TaerunThe realm of The Summer Isles, or Yarun as it is called by those those who live here, is divided into sixteen districts. The society of the Summer People is a strict feudalism. Each district is governed and protected by a Korro and his warriors, who then again owe allegiance to the Emperor, called the Dai, who sits on his throne in Taerun. Today though, for the first time in history, it is a Daia who leads this traditionally very patriarchal country, Daia Kimai Raava The Summer People, or Yarukai, as they call themselves in their own tongue, have learned to deeply distrust arcane magic over the ages. According to a law which is older than even the Yarukai remember themselves, all those who follow this path must leave the island, and choose an exile on R'hyll or in any other Tower who takes them, regardless if it is their own choosing to become wizards, or it was chosen for them by fate, like it is with the sorcerors. In the eyes of the Summer People, wizards and other arcane casters take from fae what does not belong to them, when they work their magic, and thus they further inequality, which the world answers with the Plague and other terrors. Not all magic is of ill reputation though. The miracles of clerics are well regarded, as their power comes from the deities, and is thus not stolen, but freely given. Because to its nature of taking only a wielders personal fae, or Ki as the monks call it, another well regarded form of "magic" is the art of the Order of the Cloven Veil, a monk order that resides on the Summer Isles and which follows the Path of the Weapon. Unlike the other monk orders, the weaponmonks, or Kensei as the Yarukai call them, are not living a reclusive life in a remote monastery, but are instead an active part of the Yarun military. Most live all over the country and teach their art in military Dojos to future soldiers of the respective Korro. Some choose a nomadic lifestyle and wander through the country, to teach to those, who can't effort an expensive warrior training. Due to these traditions, many people on the Summer Isles are now able to defend themselves quite well, with or without a weapon, which somehow mitigates the lack of access, which the Summer Isles have to arcane magic. The dominant religion on the Summer Isles is a variant of the Faith of the Seven. The Yarukai have never stopped to also believe in certain local or minor spirits, of which today the Seven are just considered the most powerful and influential. As such the Church, which does away with such "superstition" by worshiping one creator and nothing else, has not gained a lot of ground on the Isles, after it allegedly lost it during the Dark Times centuries ago.
R'hyllDepending on the context, the name R'hyll can mean either the island, the only city on it, or the Tower, which stands in the city center. Although the average population density of arcane spellcasters in relation to the rest of the inhabitants is incredibly high, by far not all citizens of the city are of the spellcasting profession. The wizards, as well as the Sentry, who watches over them, have to eat and also live somewhere. This requires the presence of peasants, artisans and carpenters, which then again want to live themselves. Thus every profession which is necessary in a working city is also present in/on R'hyll. Despite the Name "Island of the Wizards" bringing up notions of flying rocks with buildings on top and continuous displays of magical craftsmanship, nothing could be further from the truth. The Tower of R'hyll is and has remained firmly in the hand of the Sentry since the foundation of that organization, and thus the whole place reminds more at a boot camp for arcanists, rather than "a place of wonder". The first disappointment for those who come here to study. Not without reason though. Being a place where young wizards cross over to the counterrealm once a year in a dark ritual that marks their graduation, the veil between the world of Ardu and the counterrealm is extremely thin on the island, more so even, than with other Towers all over the world. Not all students come back from this venture, not as themselves that is, and those who don't, become possessed by fiendish creatures and turn into plaguefiends, who urge to tear that veil down even further, unless the Sentry takes them down beforehand. In order to withstand the temptations of the counterrealm, wizards are taught restraint and control over their ambition, and urged to display frugality.Thus everyone here knows that magic is serious business and all wizards hold on to the, sentry enforced, rule that it shall only be used in serious or dire circumstances. Occasionally magic does bleed through into the everyday life of more common people though, yet it is uncaring at best, and most often not entirely beneficial to those who live here. Hence all this, the plague definitely claims its share on the island. Therefore, baseline fear about what could happen lurks always in the backround, and combined with the natural scarcity of vegetation and the dreariness on the island, this sometimes leads to a subdued atmosphere all over the city. Which is not uncommon in Towers, yet usually restricted to them. Those who seek respite from it, find it in religion. R'hyll, has become a melting pot for all cultures on Ardu, and holds temples for many major religions, be it the Church of the Creator, the Faith of the Seven, or the Gaea Pantheon which is worshipped in Weyland. Like every major official decision on the island, it is up to the Sentry to decide, which faith may set up temples, and which doesn't. The "Hand of Soth" for example is not present or even allowed on Rhyll, as is the Snake Cult of Marduk. But not for lack of trying. Another missing "major" religion is the Oromi Creationism, but this more because of it's own restraint to build temples at all, rather than a sentinel's judgement.
Cityleague of EriduThe Cityleague of Eridu is a loose confederation of citystates comprising the cities of Eridu, Uruk, Thessa, Silas, Karnak, Anu'Atum, Enkh, Lir, Ankila, Inkidu and Olat-by-the-Shadow. Although they also claim the region between the citystates, this claim is contested by barbarian tribes, monstrous creatures and the Hand of Soth, which rules the country of Soth and which remains in a constant state of war with the cityleague. Founded originally by the rebels which drove back the Hand of Soth, this struggle remains to the very day, and although it once may have been the only thread which kept the cityleague from dissolving, today trade and cultural exchange have helped stabilze the league, and mitigate the differences. Differences which are yet present though, in culture, law, habit and often in religion too, as each city decides for itself which religions it allows and which it doesn't. Eridani, once the dialect spoken around Eridu and Uruk, has been established as lingua franca in the league, and is next to Common, the major spoken tongue. The league is governed by a council of city representatives, theoretically all equal before the law, yet, among them, the representative of Eridu often take on the role of a primus inter paris, a first among equals, due to the role the city played in the liberation of the region from the Hand of Soth. Because once Haven had failed to intervene on behalf of the people, when the Hand of Soth had taken control over the region, and continued to fail them long into the rebellion, the Church of the Creator, while still important, has somewhat fallen from grace with the Eridani. A lapse from which the local Churchr still struggles to recover It made way for other religions though, like the Faith of the Seven, the Weylandian pantheon or local faiths which have risen to some prominence over the last century. This has led to eridan cities having by far the most temples in the world, rivaled only by R'hyll. The specific distribution over all faiths differs from city to city, because it is the sovereigns and councils of the respective cities, who decide about who might build a temple, and who doesn't. Due to its history with the Hand of Soth, corruption by clerical officials is considered a grave offense and is usually punishable by death of the respective cleric, and, in the worst case, even the revocation of the permission for his religion to practice in that city. Or any city of the league, if the offense was grave enough. The instituion tasked with watching over this is the Sentry. While originally only meant to hunt down plaguebeasts and unregistered mageusers, the eridani took advantage of it's inherent religious autonomy and neutrality, which comes from the fact that it is comprised of representatives of all religions. So the Eridani tasked it to also look out for ecclesiastic corruption. Although the Church of the Creator, and several Sentry representatives of other countries, have formally objected to this practice, the cityleague answers this with the hint, that the mages of Soth are arcanists as well as priests, to a "god" whose teachings most religions should consider heretic. Thus the Eridani keep the practice and refer to its success: It has effectively prevented several cults from just "buying" their way into eridan cities in the past. At least, as far as all officials know that is... The Hand of Soth is of course forbidden in any city of the league. Helping them or working for them is considered treason and punishable by death. Despite the violent past of the region, or probably even because of it, the monks of the Tranquil Soul, which follow the Way of Tranquility, have founded their Deepmarrow Monastery between the jagged spires of the Spine, reachable only by a narrow and difficult path and overlooking the dunes of the Sea of Sand in the east, and the Plain of Eridu in the west. These monks, with their healing hands, have adapted a stance of complete political neutrality, which, in the past, has led to conflict with some local sovereigns, after treating sothian and eridani soldiers with equal care. Yet the services of the monks are valuable enough, not to risk them for political questions.
Not a religion hunh? Yeah... Bite me! They have temples? Check. They take sacrifices? Check. Sometimes even bloody sacrifices? Doublecheck. From my point of view this "Sothianism" or how you would call it, is more religious than any other major faith. Well... okay... You get your wonders immediately and without praying, if the price is right. But the people do that on their own. Not the people with the money though. Those who cannot pay. They pray that it's not them who are to be sacrificed... But i didn't say that, you hear me? Heard in a Tavern in CargadOnce having ruled over the Plain of Eridu and the Southern Steppes, the "Empire of Soth" is a shadow of its former self. Officially ruled by Queen Ophira Nidal of Soth-Kessuth, everyone knows that this is a mere charade and the true power is held by the wizard priests of the Hand of Soth, whose members prefer to work in secret, and thus remain unknown. A bitter lesson learned during the eridan insurgence. The official state "religion" of Soth is the Sothianism, although other religions are not forbidden. On the contrary, they are deliberately allowed and even encouraged. This practice did help keeping the Cult out of sight of the Church of the Creator and even the Sentry for centuries. Even today there are factions in the Church and the Sentry which argue that the Cult is harmless, and that its philosophy, if true, could even help in the fight against the Plague. The Sothianism does not bother itself with creation myths, or what the purpose of humans is. It merely teaches that magic is deliberately a zero sum game, and that, if the price which was given once a spell is cast, matches the effect in value, then the magic will have no ill side effect. The source of this magic they call Soth, a word from an ancient dialect, which was spoken during the Anu'Atum Empire, and whose translation is lost to the ages. And where some believers apply human attributes to this source, worshipping it like a deity in itself, others treat it as a mere natural law to heed when performing their rituals. It is the Eridani, and their experience with the cult, which casts some shadow on this harmless picture. According to historic records, the eridani rebels, which once freed their cities from the cult, compared it to being strangled with a silken glove. On the surface soft and smooth, it yet robs you of all your breath until you wish you would die. And it does not grant you this mercy. Whereas other wizards keep composure about which spells to work, and which rather not, Sothians do not show such restraint. If the price is right, everything is in reach, even demonology and blackest magic craft. In their minds It is just another tool for those who can afford it, and corruption follows it in it's wake. Oddest of all, it seems to work though and bring magic without repercussions in reach of at least the rich, who abuse this privilege profoundly. But even if the cult were right, and the magic worked in the name of Soth does not take from the fae in measures undue enough to elicit plague occurences, then the question remains: Where does the magic come from? And where do the things, the lifes and sometimes even souls, go, which are sacrificed for the power to work a spell? Those, who are not belonging to the fortunate upper circle, which has access to enough ressources to work any spell its members want, hold their mouths shut about theories in this regard. There is a slight paranoia, a doubt over every dialogue in Soth. Because who knows who belongs to the Hand, and who doesn't? People have died, only because they critized a noble in a private round in a tavern.... In gruesome and unnatural ways.... Or so the urban legends goes. There is a Wizards Tower in Soth-Kessuth, yet the power of the Sentry is a shadow of what it is supposed to be. Greatly restricted by the law, the Sentry here is merely a group of monster hunters, tasked to bring down plaguebeasts when they, albeit rarely, occur, or mere executioners to kill the plaguefiends which are the inevitable result of the demonologic practice. Thus it is said that they are henchman to the mages, where they should be their masters... but never in public of course. All Sothian cities today lie by the Restless Sea and with Soth-Kessuth, Soth even holds the largest harbor at the Restless Sea, a relic from the time when it was still known as Akura. From here Soth does trade with Weyland and Lamaria, but Saurian ships from the cities of No-Karssa, U-Thissca, Xothal or Axca-Thur have also been seen already.
The Bandit Kingdoms
Phanzach... never will you see a worse hive of scum and villainy... stay alert, and watch your purse... I wonder who is sitting on the Driftwood throne these days. Sardon Malthus the legendary Bard, towards his companions, as they first pass through one of the tunnels, that connect the city with the surrounding djungleThe founding fathers of the Bandit Kingdoms were the losers of the Eridani Insurgence. It were former nobles and collaborateurs or just people who chose the wrong side, when the people of what is today the Cityleague of Eridu rose up against the Sothians and threw them out. Having fallen from grace and fortune, they first fled southward towards Soth-Kessuth and Nedha, but were as welcome as anyone in Soth can be, who has everything taken from him. Without their ressources, they soon found themselves at the bottom of the same merciless society that they once ruled, or at least made profit of. Knowing well, how bad, and also short, the life in Soth for those who have nothing could be, they turned eastwards, and settled in what today are The Bandit Kingdoms, to begin a new life. Today they call themselves the Unfettered. Not used to "proper" work though, many of them then became pirates, bandits or warlords and thus the reason for the name of the region. The region is divided into multiple different "kingdoms", each sparsely populated, except the region around Phanzach, yet caught in a constant fight for territory, riches or influence, with shifting alliances and no clear jurisdiction. Because of this, the Bandit Kingdoms have become a safe haven for those who seek shelter from the law, be it in Soth or anywhere in the world, and a place to "work" for everyone who knows how to use a sword.
WeylandOver the Dark Times, Weyland and Reach were separated from the other contries. Once they were a bastion of faith in the creator, even though, due to the distance, very independent in their interpretation of the faith. That is, if the records of R'hyll are to be believed, which is something that the Weylandians are seriously doubting. According to Weylandian belief, it is Weyland, where the civilization started and those who come over the Restless Sea are the lost tribes, who now find their way back. As this is in direct contradiction with the lore of the Church of the Creator, specifically that the first humans came from Haven, the Church has not an easy stance with the Empire of Weyland, which is ruled today by Emperor Gard Stormhammer, a bear of a man and physically impressive even for his advanced age. Also, by edict of House Stormhammer, despite everyone being allowed to follow his personal faith in private and even create small shrines, Weylands state religion and, without exception, the only religion permitted to build temples, is the faith of the six gods: Gaea, Advar, Istara, Garun, Tarkas and Morha. With the tower of Audelver, Weyland also has one of the youngest wizard towers, older only than the one in Rimmersgard. After decades of Weylandian resistance, the permission was finally given a little over two hundred years ago, under the condition that the Sentry would be under direct control of the crown. Because of this law, and the distance between Weyland and other human countries, the Sentry in Weyland did, over time, turn from a superficially independent organization into just another, albeit specialized, royal guard, which today is directly accountable to the emperor for its work to hunt down plaguefiends and -beasts. Weylands nobility belongs to a strict feudalistic society, at whose heart lies a kratocratic meritocracy nevertheless. It is not unheard of, that House Stormhammer replaces those it sees unfit with more capable leaders, and so weylandian nobles are always looking for ways to prove their worth. Usually they find plenty of chance to do so with the neighbors of Weyland: Southeast lies Lamaria, with which Weyland remains in war since, as the Weylandians put it, it finished its descent towards corruption, by officially allying itself with the Saurian Empire, and trying to invade those rests of Weyland, which were not yet in the hands of the Yuan-Ti. Fortunately, the attempt failed, yet left both countries in deep unreconcileable animosity. At the northern borders of Weyland, those who are not protected by the mountainrange of the Black Crowns that is, occasional orc warbands or wolven tribes contest the Weylandian strength. Slavery is not forbidden, yet just recently Emperor Stormhammer released a codex, to which slave owners have to adhere in order to protect their slaves from exploitation. Hence slaves in Weyland are better off, than anywhere else, where slavery persists. This edict, while very unpopular with slave owners, has left him politically spoken in a somewhat exposed position. No one can say why he introduced it, as he is also not the kind of person who explains himself to everyone. Officially, the majority of nobles stands behind him though, but it is unclear if this is by heart, or by fear, and how long this loyality will last.
LamariaAlthough humans are still the dominating species in Lamaria in numbers, the influence of the Yuan-Tiover the politics of Lamaria is strong and direct enough to justify the question, if it still constitutes a human realm or just a vassal state to the Saurian Empire. As the Lizardmen of the Saurian Empire also seem to be a mere slave caste to their Yuan-Ti rulers, the question even arises, if both the Saurian empire andLamaria are not just two expressions of one Yuan-Ti empire. Once part of Weyland and weylandian, that had spread east up to the Saurian swamps, were looking towards other gods and other possibilities. In the region of what today is Lamaria, the Yuan-Ti, once the acrimonious enemy of the regional humans, began to spread their philosophy. Indeed weylandian sages had already discovered that the Saurian empire had few, if any problems with plaguebeasts, and had always related this to the general cold heartedness of the Yuan-Ti. Although the Snakepeople seemed to know how to cast magic, by performing the correct gestures to wield the fae at least, their access to the counterrealm was cut of, due to their specific, emotionless nature. And with it they had lost their suceptibility to turn into plaguebeasts. When the Yuan-Ti disclosed to the weylandians, that once their ancestors were human too, and that there exists an ancient ritual which allowed for humans to gain this immunity, only by shedding off what once was human and being reborn as a Yuan-Ti, emotionless and without a conscience on which old sins or old pains could weigh, the question, if this was worth it, tore the old Weyland apart. Many of those who sought this knowledge, and the peace of mind they promised themselves from it, went eastwards, closer to the Saurian Empire, from which the Yuan-Ti hailed, whereas those who feared it, went westwards and resettled in what today remains of Weyland. Today the Yuan-Ti make up the ruling caste not only of the Saurian Empire, but also of large parts of Lamaria. The dominant religion in both regions is the philosophy of the Great World Snake, which lives behind the cosmic veil and provides magic for its followers, if they are just willing to provide the appropriate sacrifices as payment, a philosophy oddly similar to the Sothianism as many sages have pointed out. Whereas those who are still human in Lamaria, and thus represent lower castes of the society, follow this religion devoutly and almost slavishly, their Yuan-Ti rulers handle it more as a philosophy, as they, due to their nature, are unable to feel the necessary feelings anyhow. Where the human followers believe and hope to join the Yuan-Ti ranks some day, they "know from fact", that their magic comes from this entity, and also that one day the World Snake will break through the cosmic veil, leave its prison from begin of time, and devour the plague and the humans and the elves and all and everything which is not of Yuan-Ti nature. And they don't care. Can't for once and wouldn't anyhow. If they are right or not, no one can say. But better hope not.
ReachThe people of Reach have been said to have adapted more from the wolven, than they ever inherited from their human ancestors, altbough this sentiment disregards the fact, that the conflicts, which the small Kingdom of Reach fights, are not entirely with the wolven. The borders of Reach are contested by elves, wolven and orcs in equal measure, yet the wolven are the most prominent due to their constant and endureing presence in the wolven forests, which bear this name not without reason. This constant struggle forged hardened warriors with a no nonsense attitude, and citizens of Reach learn to defend themselves already at young age. Despite the constant conflict for ressources, the humans of Reach have found a begrudging respect for their wolven, elven, and occassionally even their orcish opponents,who, in return, have found the same respect for the Reachers, as they call themselves. A respect that does not necessarily extend to humans of other cultures though. This respect originates not only from respect of martial provess though. Once, the legend goes, during the Dark Times, the people of Reach played a critical part in the forging of an alliance between humans, elven, wolven and even orcs to fight the plague that spilled out of the underdark. Variants of this legend allegedly exist with some norn, wolven and orcish tribes too. They also say, that the last draconic plaguefiend found its end in the Ocean of Grass under the swords of the joint forces of all four races. Although a Kingdom in name, Reach is not feudalistc, but a strict meritocracy. Just like their long time wolven adversaries, the "king" is only elected during war time, by the chiefs of the six regions of Reach, who, if no war is going on, can even be challenged and replaced themself, given the concession of those they govern. Reach had tried for other styles of govenment, but the environment was too hard and unforgiving for those to work. In Reach every citizen knows, that in order for Reach to endure, the best must reign. The main religion of Reach is the faith in the six gods, as it is present in Weyland too, yet with the difference that the people of Reach, just like the wolven, do not actively worship Gaea, the Goddess of unforgiving nature, even though they consider her highest of the six, a central role which she does not even hold in Weyland. Being extremely pragmatic, and having a strong social taboo towards arcane magic, which was born from their experience during the Dark Times, the Reachers did not object when a tower was built and a Sentry founded to control the Plague. They had something similar in place already, although they had left it in the responsibilty of their elected leaders to fight the plague. Thus when the Sentry came, the Chiefs of Reach limited its influence to this job and this job only, and subjugated the organization to their control or, in times of war, that of the King. There have been attempts of the Church of the Creator to convert the people of Reach to the faith of the Creator, yet they usually fizzle with the pragmatic and almost atheistic attitude of Reachers, who believe that the power of the gods in our world is limited anyhow, and even consider it desirable, as it elevates the attitude to go and seek luck for oneself by ones own power, as Gaea demands it. An all seeing and all knowing creator does not fit into this corset.
Religious OrganizationsThe Church of the Creator
The [Church of the Creator]The Church of the Creator, also called "The Church" for short, is one of the few organizations, which over the centuries influenced almost every human being. According to church lore, it was founded by a person whose name is lost to the aeons, and who became thus only known as "the Founder". He, then again later, turned into one of the Church's worst enemy, a Plaguefiend who is known under names like "the Doombringer", "the Shadowdealer", "the Corruptor", "the Hunter" or "the Nameless one" to name just a few. And he is said to still reside in, or under, the impervious forest of "the Shadow". The Church of the Creator is, and has been since its founding, one of the, if not the major faction, which has put its efforts into fighting the Plague and everything that threatens the human dominance in its area of influence. It is also, as one of the major religions, at least known in all human kingdoms. The faith states, that it was The Creator, also called the Maker, the Builder, or the Worldsmith (by the dwarves), who created the world and seeded all life on it. Also named the Church of the Creator and his Aspects, this name comes from the clerics which, albeit preying to the Creator when working their wonders, are yet human and thus unable to fully grasp the might and glory of the Creator. For this reason they can only channel that part of his might, which they understand most: the so called aspect. There are seven aspects which a cleric can channel, and they are called: The Father, The Mother, The Warrior, the Trickster, the Sage, the Mistress and the Stranger, and each of these aspects also provides different ways of channeling, meaning different spells and wonders which can be worked in the creators name. Over the time of his service, the cleric determines, and sometimes even reevaluates, which aspect of the Creator matches his personality best, and which he thus wishes to channel. Note that no believer of the Creator actively worships these aspects on their own. All worship goes to the Creator and it is the Creator who answers the prayers and not one of the aspects. This differentiates the Church of the Creator from the Faith of the Seven, which, according to church lore at least, has done away with the idea of a central creator, and attributed personalities to the seven aspects, turning them into gods in their own right.
the Church separates into two wings, one of them, which is led by the Primarch in High Haven, follows the, as they call it, "Vitas Contemplativa". The other one, the so called Inquisition, which is led by the High Inquisitor in Bayestril, follows what they call the "Vitas activa". Whereas the institution in High Haven defines and interprets the will of The Creator, thus functioning as a spiritual center and a clerical legislative, the Inquisition hunts down plaguebeasts and heretics and, although subordinated to the Primarch, generally functions as the executive and judicative branch. Once a purely human organization, today Church of the Creator also employs Eadun elves, even though the office of the High Inquisitor and the Primarch are still beyond the grasp of elven or halfelven, and purely reserved to be taken by humans. Once the central and only religion of the humans in the world and spiritual anchor for the human empire in the fourth age, at least if one follows what is written in the Records of R'hyll, it has lost much of its influence. Yet it slowly, but steadily, attempts to return to this former glory. Attempts in which it proves to not be squeamish, at least according to those, who claim to have witnessed some of them.
Player Tip:PHB = Players Handbook, XGE = Xanathars Guide to Everything, UA = Unearthed Arcana When choosing to play a Cleric of the Church, the possible domains are: Light (PHB), Protection (UA), Life (PHB), Nature (PHB), War (PHB), Tempest (PHB), Knowledge (PHB), Trickery (PHB), Forge (XGE) and Grave (XGE) which all follow the official Rules as present in the respective publications. They divide onto the different aspects as follows: Light, Protection: Father Life, Nature: Mother War, Tempest : Warrior Knowlegde, Trickery: Trickster Knowledge, Forge: Sage Life, Trickery: Mistress Life, Grave: Stranger
The Faith of the SevenThe Faith of the Seven is the dominant religion in Caldaven, Aquira, at the Emerald Coast and on the Summer Isles. Its patheon, also called the Seven, consists of: The Father, the Mother, The Warrior(usually male, but female in Aquira and Caldaven), The Trickster, The Sage, The Mistress and The Unknown (also called the Stranger.) The Father and head of the Pantheon is a god of Light and Protection. The Mother, also called the Earth- or Lifemother, is the goddess of life, nature, family and fertility, although she shares the last two of her domains with the Mistress. The Warrior is the god (or goddess) of war and storm, the Trickster is the god of trickery and trade, the Sage is the god of knowledge and craftsmanship and the Mistress represents carnal love and joy, but also fertility and family. At last the Unknown, or Stranger, is the god (or goddess) of the thin veil that diverges life from death,and the one who watches over the transition. Due to the similarity which the Seven share with the aspects of the Creator, as they are channeled by its clerics, the Church of the Creator argues, based on the records of R'hyll, that the faith in the Seven is at worst a heresy, due to it not worshipping the creator as one, and at best just a confession which should return to the original beliefs. The Church of the Seven doubts the credibility of the records though, and argues that the Church of the Creator is itself a mere confession of the Faith of the Seven, and should do away with the odd concept of having only one demiurg who built the world, which is yet split apart and can't be understood on its own. The Faith of the Seven is by far less organized and centralistic than the Church of the Creator, and although the central faith with seven gods and their respective domains remains the same, their depictions, sexes and sometimes even names change. Temples at the Emerald Coast for example depict the Warrior as a brawny, tall man with long raven hair, who wields the lightning spear in one hand and the sword of war in the other, while usually standing on a pile of skulls. Compare to this the regions of Aquira and Caldaven, who assign his job to an amazon woman, with flame red hair, who wields a longsword and sends lightning and hail from her longbow. Also in Caldaven, The Stranger, which is usually male in other countries, is depicted as a skinny, pale female behind a mask and called the Queen of Ravens.
Player Tip:PHB = Players Handbook, XGE = Xanathars Guide to Everything, UA = Unearthed Arcana When choosing to play a Cleric of the Seven, the possible domains are: Light (PHB), Protection (UA), Life (PHB), Nature (PHB), War (PHB), Tempest (PHB), Knowledge (PHB), Trickery (PHB), Forge (XGE) and Grave (XGE) which all follow the official Rules as present in the respective publications. They divide onto the different gods as follows: Light, Protection: Father Life, Nature: Mother War, Tempest : Warrior Knowlegde, Trickery: Trickster Knowledge, Forge: Sage Life, Trickery: Mistress Life, Grave: Stranger
The Oromi CreationismAlthough it is a common misconception in other regions of the world, not all religions in Orom are frightening cults that demand human sacrifices. Only a few decades ago a variant of the faith of the Creator arose in Bundur, far in the east of Orom. Most likely influenced by dwarven traders which hailed from Ix in Um-Kal, the young faith has yet managed to withstand attempts of the Church to assmilate it, because, although the followers of this young religion stand out as particularly peaceful and agreeable, they yet insist firmly that their god, who they believe created everything, and The Creator which Church of the Creator worships, are not the same entity. On the contrary, many church missionaries, who went to Bundur and later also Esis, found a kind of piece in this belief, which they claim they hadn't found in their own religion for a long time, and thus they converted. Even the attempts of the Church to confine the faith to Bundur and Esis have proven unsuccessful, for it had also found a home with some tribes of the nomadic Farukhi Sand People, who, after they visited Bundur, then carried it into the world. Today followers of this faith, although they usually keep it secret, can be found all over Orom and in the southern parts of Ulthwe and Um-Kal. The Oromi, actually Farukhi, Headmistress of the Tower of Amn, Ashar Nirudi herself, also follows it, and some say that this may have been one of the reasons why she was put in charge of the tower by King Conn Benn Calad, who learned to deeply distrust the Church of the Creator.
The Church of the Gaea PantheonThe Pantheon of Six, also called the Gaea Pantheon, is the dominant religion in Weyland and Reach, and at least accepted faith in several southern cities of the cityleague of Eridu. The six gods worshipped are Gaea, the Earthmother, which represents unforgiving nature, life and fertility; Advar, the god of strength, of war and deceit; Garun, the hunter and protector, yet also the god of storm and ice (at least in Reach, where they know the frost as a terrible force of nature) ; Tarkas, volcanic god of fire, the artisans and the forge; Istara, goddess of carnal and romantic love, joy, but also hearth and family; and Morha, the goddess of night and death, but also secrets. The Church of the Gaea Pantheon in Weyland is ruled by a conclave of six high clerics, one for each god, and the king as the voice of the people. This religious council meets once every 7 Days and decides over all religious matters in Weyland. The King however has the right to veto decisions made by the conclave. Because Reach misses a central government, this system does not work for them. Seeing the faith as an effective bond between the Territories and measure to minimize conflict, Reach recognized the importance of a central institution to at least keep the faith uniform. So it settled for another solution. Every year each of the territories sends one elected godspeaker, how the clerics are called in Reach, to Rimmersgard. Each year one of a different god. As Gaea is not offcially worshipped in Reach, the district, whose turn it would be to send a godspeaker of Gaea, sends an elected representative of the people of Reach instead. The resulting "Council of Rimmersgard", where the conclave meets, then decides all religious matters which would affect more than one territory. This is a relative new system though, and leaves the chieftains, who only elect a king during wartime, and not a permanent one, with inhibited power over the decisions of the conclave. Eventually the tensions that arise from this conflict will have to be solved, as Reachers value their freedom, and won't allow for an unbalanced system to stand. Thus, most likely it is only a question of time until Reach will have to elect a permanent king... or until the different territories work themselves into the ground, about the question who of the chieftains should take up the mantle.
Player Tip:PHB = Players Handbook, XGE = Xanathars Guide to Everything, UA = Unearthed Arcana When choosing to play a Cleric of the Pantheon of Six, the possible domains are: Light (PHB), Protection (UA), Life (PHB), Nature (PHB), War (PHB), Tempest (PHB), Knowledge (PHB), Trickery (PHB), Forge (XGE) and Grave (XGE) which all follow the official Rules as present in the respective publications. Note that Gaea is not worshipped by the people of Reach. Although they believe in her as the highest of the six, they consider temples to the god of unforgiving nature dangerous, an attitude which they share with the wolven. They divide onto the different gods as follows: Life, Nature: Gaea Protection, Nature, Tempest: Garun War, Trickery: Advar Forge, Light, Knowledge: Tarkas Life, Trickery: Istara Life, Grave, Knowledge: Morha
Non-Religious organizationsThe Sentry
The SentryOnce the Sentry was founded by Touran III, Church Primarch of the Church of the Creator of that time, in order to establish an independent organization to hunt plaguebeasts and apostate magicwielders, with the hope that the influence of the Church, and the prowess of The Inquisition in the very same task, would allow for a measure of control about said organization, while at the same time establishing it also in regions which did not follow the Church. Only one of these hopes came to fruition though. Today the Sentry is at least present in all human countries, yet, due to its nature, bound to follow local laws regarding the Sentry at any given time. Because of this the rights and duties of the Sentry can differ strongly from chapter to chapter and region to region. Seen as a loadbearing column of society in some regions, and barely as useful mercenaries in other, they at least face no major antagonism, like the Inquisition and the Church does sometimes, due to their religious baggage. This can lead to conflict, especially if the rights of Sentinels, as the members of the Sentry are called, differ and the responsibilities thus become unclear. As long as no harm is done, the sovereigns and judges of the different countries seldom care, that a plaguebeast was hunted down, yet the situation quickly becomes complicated, when chapters of different towers approach the same problem with different legal backgrounds. Like for example with a cleric who wielded his magic in a region where his god was considered heresy, yet now resides in one where it isn't. The original task, and official duty of the Sentry however, is to fight the Plague, or hunt so called "apostate" magicwielders, like unlicensed wizards or bards, uncontrolled sorcerors, or generally druids and warlocks. Important to the task of the Sentry are the so called Towers, where Wizards, Bards and Sorcerors can either learn their craft or at least learn to control their gift. Here the Sentry, while also teaching about the dangers of magic, also fulfills the duty to be present at the exams, which either condemns the respective soul of the magicwielder to an eternity in the hell of the counterrealm, in which case it is the duty of the Sentinels to kill the plaguefiend that inevitably arises from the possessed body of the poor student, or to be legal witnesses to the successful banishment of the magic wielders "Nemesis fiend", and thus the passing of the exam. These towers also work as official bases of the Sentry, although they usually own more, yet those are spread out all over the respective country.
The Hand of SothAlthough many Eridani claim that the Hand of Soth is a cult, or at least a sect, the Hand, or rather its official representatives, insist time and time again, that is is a mere philosophy. They say the word Soth itself is only the word for Source of Magic in the tongue of the lost empire of Anu'Atum. Which does not prevent the Hand of Soth to open temples in Soth's name, yet they explicity state that the sacrifices brought there are donations to the organization, and only taken to Soth, if they are part of a magic ritual. The Hand of Soth believes that in order to wield magic without unforeseen repercussions, one has to "pay the price" which means, pay the effect of a spell with something that makes up for the worth of the spell, to keep a balance. What sounds relatively harmelss as a philosophy at first, had once managed to become one of the major sources of corruption in the Southern steppes and the Plain of Eridu. The initiated of the Hand were the only ones, who could determine the value of a magic service, so they were also the only ones who could determine the price that had to be payed, leaving them, as a result, to be the only ones allowed to work magic at all. This is how it has been in the Empire of Soth before the Eridani rebellion, and this is how it is still today in what remains of it. If it was this central role, and the benefits that came with it, what corrupted them, or if they were corrupt to begin with is unknown. Although most who live in Soth today call the whole organization the Hand of Soth, they yet know that the true Hand of Soth is a secret organization which consists of those wizards, who work the requested magic after the price was payed, and their agents who keep the organization running. Because the identity of these persons remains unknown to the public, and is a closely guarded secret, many Sothians fear to speak out publicly against the Hand though, and do so rarely even in private, because who knows if the husband or wife, the friend or colleague is not one of these agents...
Major Language Groups and Dialects
Humans usually speak Common and the tongue of the region in which they grew up. Common is a trading language that has evolved around the inner sea. It has borrowings from almost all cultures which circle the Sea, and also some sprinkles of weylandian, elvish, wolven, gelf and draconic. Next to Common there exist: Aesgardian; Aquiran; Caldavian; Culmerian; Eridani; Havenian; Odhali; Oromi, also called Sand, spoken by the Sand People and in Orom; Oskrajan; Coastal, which is spoken at the Emerald Coast; Sothian; Yarun, also called Summer, spoken on The Summer Isles; Ulthwe and Weylandian, which is spoken in Weyland, Lamaria and Reach.
The Shadow WarsAlso known under the name Scourges, Blights or Banetimes, the shadow wars are recurring events in Ardus history. According to church scripture, they happen when the darkness anywhere in the world cannot hold the vile evil that was collected over centuries (usually in the underdark) anymore, making it spill over under the leadership of particularly powerful plaguefiends. Then the countrysides are roamed by plaguebeasts, and humanity must stand together to face them. And while most of these Scourges are local, on rare ocassion whole countries are affected, and this is when a Scourge turns into another Shadow War, named after the region, from which the endless flood of plaguebeasts sprung, when it happened for the first time. Over the history of Ardu, the world has seen five of these Shadow wars, but there are voices that a sixth is upon Ardu, as all times of peace and prosperity must come to an end, and this last time of peace, which we are experiencing, has been long already. But there are always people that preach that the end of the world is nigh... that doesn't mean they are automatcally right.
Early HistoryThe History of the Humans goes back before the Cataclysm, this devastating war between humans and elves, which was fought in the Name of the Creator and which, according to legend, reformed Ardu. Written tomes of this time are scarce and indecipherable and even the most legendstones do not go back this far, for they were created later, except probably those scarce ones, which only legend tells about, and which defy all magical analysis. The little we know, we know largely from the Records of R'hyll, yet what is written was already legend when it was put down on paper, and, given that these are sources of the Church of the Creator, by far not everyone accepts the authority of the records as truth. It is said the war of the Cataclysm waged for ages, and that it brought upon the world the goblins, the wolven, the orcs and the scourge of the Plague. It is said that it destroyed the paradise that Ardu once was and cost the humans their most valued leader: The Founder, who had become the Founder of the Church of the Creator, after the Creator spoke to him and explained to him the role of the humans in his world. Allegedly, the Founder, whose actual name is lost from all scripture, became the very first victim of the Plague and turned into its most important agent: the Plaguefiend known as the Doombringer, which, according to legend, rules the region known as "The Shadow" to this very day, and remains the unending source of its darkness... According to human and eadun legend the Plague was a measure concoted by some Norn elves and a gelf called Gremm, in order to control the Founder. Yet the experiment failed, and they infected themselves too and became the very first drow and the very first gremlin. What followed was the Cataclysm, when humanity retaliated for the loss...
The first Kingdoms.Though unknown for how long after the cataclysm, the first human Kingdoms arose at about the same time in several places around the Inner sea, with the oldest being the kingdom of Haven in the southwest of the Inner sea and the kingdom of Sumara, which span the Summer Isles, the southern parts of The Emerald Coast, and also some parts of Odhal and Ulthwe, in the east. Although the first kingdoms, they remained by far not the largest. Settlements in the plain of Eridu soon led to the formation of the Empire of Anu'Atum, which spun from The Thash in the west to the Daggerpeaks in the East, encompassing what is today the Cityleague of Eridu, Soth, the Sea of Sands and Orom. With Anu Atum as it's capitol, it was a realm of black wizardry and dark magic, pacts and corruption, and oftentimes clashed with the forces of Haven and Sumara, which tried to hold it's corruption at bay.
The first Shadow WarThen came the first Shadow War, and from the region which is now known only as "the Shadow", came the flood of plaguebeasts that had assembled over centuries in the dark heart of that impervious forest. The Empire of Anu'Atum was hit hardest, with Haven a close second. Only by alliances of what once were bitter enemies, it was possible to hold the flood at bay. And while Haven stood steadfast, until the last Plaguebeasts of this massive scourge vanished, the Shadow War had left the Empire of Anu'Atum in tatters. Once a breeding ground for atheism, sorcery and demonology, these practices were soon outlawed, and magic became as strictly regulated by the Church as it had been in Haven. In order to control the flow of magic even further, and thus inhibit the creation of Plaguefiends, the Church of the Creator ordered the construction of the "Towers", places where men could be taught the art of magic, without falling for its darker side. One tower was erected in the City of Eru, which was the capitol of Haven at that time, and which stood, where today stands High Haven. Another tower was built in Eridu, which at that time was the de facto capitol of what remained of the Empire of Anu'Atum in the west, and what would, aeons later, become the Cityleague of Eridu. The third Tower was built in Xandattaway, which, even back then, was already the largest city of the world, the capitol of Sumara, and known under this name. Meanwhile the wolven vanished from the human countries, and found their new home in a large forest in the northwest of Ardu, and it should take a long time until the path of human and wolvenkin would cross again.
The ExpanseA time of relative peace followed, and humanity began to prosper again. Fighting skirmishes with the elves, who had lost most of their hometrees during the cataclysm, and hadn't been spared from the Shadow War either, the human grip about the control around the Inner sea grew firmer, even tough many secrets of the arcane arts and the sciences had been lost to the wind of change that had been brought about by the Cataclysm and the first Shadow War. Somewhere north of Haven and the Inner sea, in the region of what today is called Culmeria, Aesgard or Oskraja, Human barbarian tribes, which lived there since probably even the time before the catalysm, banded together for survival. Albeit, for the time remaining just a lose association of barbaric tribes, with barely a few "cities" that didn't earn this name, they still managed to hold their ground against the settlers which pressed northward from Haven. Guided by remorseless gods, which took no interest in the dealings of mortals, these barbarians became the great next enemy that Haven and the "civilized" nations faced, not just at their borders, but also on sea, as these "barbarians" proved to be formidable shipwrights, which produced fast and agile attackships, that became the means for raids all around the Inner sea. But not all dealings between "civilized" humans and "barbaric north men" were martial in nature. Sailing over the Wintersea from what today is Oskraja and Aesgard, the ships of the "barbarians" arrived in a region that had been claimed by settlers who had wandered northward from Sumara. Yet instead of waging war against each other, both groups joined and stood together to fight the Elves of the Long Forest and the Forests around the Moonlake, using the superior ships of the Northmen to their advantage to lend aid quickly to all settlements with access to open sea, thus creating a foothold in what was once the elven stronghold of the north, and erecting the first settlements in what would later become the realms of Caldaven and Aquira. At the same time, east of the Sea of Sand, what did remain of the old Empire of Anu'Atum, fell apart and became a collection of citystates, ruled by godkings, and still somewhat bound in its old ways of dark wizardry and corruption. West of the Sea of Sand the cities of Cargad and Akura (today Soth-Kessuth) became the first human harbors at the Restless Sea. Also, first mentions of goliaths and dwarves date back to this time, and whereas goliaths first appeared as children of culmerian and aesgardian barbarians, dwarves once were the descendants of those human prisoners who worked and lived in the mining cities, which fed the prosperity of Xandattaway and the other citystates, which around this time grew and prospered in the east and southeast of the Inner Sea, and which soon became known as the Slaver cities, with Xandattaway their capitol. In order to have access to cheap labor, these cities did not only force their prisoners to work in the mines and to defend them against the underdark, but also extended this sentence to their children, their childrens children and all their descendants which were about to come. Therefore, after centuries of slavery, a new slave race, born in the mines and perfectly adapted to the subterranean environment, had evolved. The new race was battle hardened by their fight against Drow and Illithids from the underdark, formidable craftsman and weaponsmiths, excellent miners, and equipped with a deep hate for the citystates of what once had been Sumara. But even though the dwarves, as they were called, burned for the chance to rebel, they were also trained in patience by their centuries long slavery and thus they knew their time would come, and so they waited for the perfect time to strike. Meanwhile the Church of the Creator had lost influence in the Slaver cities, the decline driven by Slaver city aristocrats with the desire to further their own power over the Slaver empire which was growing in place of what had been Sumara once. Originally indifferent about Xandattaway and the other Slaver cities, and even their attitude towards slaves, it was when Xandattaway abandoned the law that mages were to be taught in the tower only, and only under supervision of the Church of the Creator, that the Church declared a holy crusade against the Slaver cities. This was the moment the dwarves had been waiting for, and the great dwarven rebellion started. Knowing that alone it would lack the manpower to fight the massive empire which had emerged in the east, Haven allied with the barbaric human tribes that had troubled the coasts of the Inner sea for so long, in a peace brokered by those humans, who were settling in what later would be Caldaven and Acquira. Xandattaway and the other Slaver cities got caught in a perfect storm, between a rebellion and a war brought to them over the Inner sea. The Coalition of Slaver City states, in its prime including The Summer Isles, Xandattaway and the regions we today call Odhal, Ulthwe and Orom, ...disintegrated. And while around them the world sunk into chaos, freed from their slavery by wild north men and warriors that were wearing the crest of the creators church, the dwarves left their subterannean prison cities , and wandered further eastward, in the great dwarven trek, until they reached the Anvil of Storms and founded the dwarven Kingdom of Kal. And then the Second Shadow war broke lose.
The Second Shadow WarToday still church historians argue, if the dwarven rebellion was what sparked the second Shadow War, now that the dwarven mining cities were not sitting on top of the underdark like a plug anymore, finally allowing its denizens to spill out, or if it would have happened anyway. However, pouring into a world that was just recovering from a large conflict, the humans were hopelessly unprepared for the flood of plaguebeasts from the underdark. Also known as the "Great Scourge", it took almost a century and all efforts of what once had been enemies to quell the second Shadow War. In exchange for independence of Kal and the law that, in cities that remained under the protection of the Church, no child could ever be held responsible for the crimes of its parents, even the dwarves of Kal finally joined the human forces, and fought back the monstrous tide. And so it was done, but at great cost to the whole world.
The Seven Towers, the Norn Rebellion and the third Shadow WarIt took several centuries for the world to recover from the Great Scourge, which had hit all races equally, and yet the conflict for territory and ressources between humans and elves continued. Tired by the constant war between their kin, several tribes of elves around the Moonlake left the few remaining hometrees in the region and settled for an armistice. Meeting with the humans in Amn, the biggest and most central human settlement in the northeast of Ardu during this time, the Ead-uru, as they called themselves, which means "True elves" in the common tongue, signed a peace treaty. They did so of course much to the chagrin of the regional Norn, who couldn't disagree more. Not strong enough in number anymore to pose a threat to the humans of Caldaven, these Norn had to flee eastward and join other Norn tribes, which, although helpful at first, couldn't sustain the sudden inrush of refugees, mainly because of their worse access to ressource, which again came from their pariah status in the elven society. Looking for help with the Sitha elves, their pleas fell of deaf ears though. Even worse: Instead the Sitha of the North even decided to cull the numbers of Norn, which they feared would now be numerous enough to overthrow the power on the few hometrees, which were left standing in the north after the cataclysm. Successful at first, the Sitha of the North thus sowed the seedling of their own downfall. The Norn tribes didn't forget and began to tie connections with other Norn tribes: In the forests of the north at first, and later all over the world, when they took inspiration from the human Church of the Creator, even despite it having been an enemy deeply despised by the Norn. The Church at that time had begun to resettle the Ead-Uru all around the world, to proselytize other elves to the idea of "joining" the humans and adapting a more "human" style of life. The Norn planned to do something similar, but for their own cause. Pretending to be Ead-Uru themselves, the Norn used the established human network of trade routes, streets and ocean routes to spread the word about the idea of a concerted Norn rebellion with their kin, a rebellion which would first overthrow the Sitha, and then, from the captured world trees, allow them to strike back at their original enemy: the humans. And while the human attempt to "resocialize" legions of elves as Ead-Uru was not very successful, many Norn around the world were all too eager to join the rebellion against the Sitha, which sat atop the world trees, enjoying the fruits of the labor, which Norn had to carry out to protect those very trees from humans, drow and all the other threats. But for a time this all happened in secrecy, thus the human kingdoms prospered. In order to get a better control over the creation of plaguefiends, and thus hopefully prevent or at least delay future Shadow Wars, the Church ordered the tower of Xandattaway to be rebuilt. More towers were built in Amn, Krynn and Akura (today Soth-Kessuth). Moreover the old church law was reinstated which demanded that all children exhibiting uncontrolled magical talent were to be brought to the towers and taught there, with the failure to do so being punishable by death. As the Summer Isles, hit extremely hard by the Great Scourge, and now governed independently from any mainland, had outlawed magic altogether, a last, a seventh tower was built on the Island of R'hyll. To this day, if children exhibit magical talent on the Summer Isles, they are sent to R'hyll and forbidden to ever return to their home. On the Summer Isles, "Good Luck on R'hyll" is still an often used saying if one wants to say "I never want to see you again". At the same time, while the human realms prospered and the first human settlers sailed westwards from Akura or Cargad to settle in the regions we call Weyland and Lamaria today, the Norn knitted their web of connections tighter and tighter, taking their time to ensure their victory, once their rebellion was about to start. And they would have succeeded if...
The Third Shadow Warwouldn't have broken out. The Norn Rebellion was in high gear already, as drow and plaguebeasts swarmed out of the underdark, forcing the Norn to diverge their strength between the need to protect the world trees, which they were eager to conquer, and the very act of conquering them. In the very east of Ardu, mainly in the area that today is the Realm of Cun Moragh Norn, where their network was the strongest, the Norn succeeded, yet in all other regions, the rebellion failed, and left the Norn who lived there worse off than before. At the same time humans and Ead-uru fought side by side and, strengthened by a strong church and trained wizards, drove back the flood of plaguebeasts much more easily than in the last war, thus leaving them much better off to further their goals, after the third shadow war was over, whereas the Norn rebellion had left Norn and Sitha weakened.
The last ExpanseThis led to the last expanse. Humanity finally took control over the region around the Inner sea and forged it into one giant empire. What today covers Haven, Culmeria, Aesgard, Oskraja, Caldaven, Aquira, The Emerald Coast, The Summer Isles, Odhal, Ulthwe, Orom, The Sea of Sand, the Cityleague of Eridu and Soth-Kessuth, fell under one rule and one church: The Ring Empire, also called the "Holy Empire of Humans by grace of the Creator" The Dwarven Kingdom of Kal allied itself with the Ring Empire and expaned eastward until clashing with the forces of Cun Moragh Norn, which had become a recieving pond for all those Norn who fled there in the great Norn Exodus that followed the third Shadow War. The Ead-uru, or Eadun how they called themselves now, as their language slowly began to change, were given the fiefdom of Silverwood, which, although it today is its own Kingdom, otherwise remained of largely the same size, and to this day is the only elven Kingdom "accepted" by humans, whereas Cun Moragh Norn remains independent by its own strength and the inability of the humans to purge it from the map... Weyland and Reach While all this happened, the human settlers in Weyland and Lamaria (at this time only known as Weyland) came into contact with something called Yuan-Ti, a race that hadn't been seen since the cataclysm, and whose origins remained shrouded in darkness, even though some claim that the Yuan-Ti, or Snake People, had been humans once. Ruling as some form of aristocracy over lizardpeole who called themself Saurians, they were able to stop the human expansion towards the east, partly due to the Saurian Swamp, to which they, due to their half lizard nature , were much better adapted, and partly due to some inexpliccable resistance against magic, which some human mages have related to their cold and calculating nature, while other blame unholy rituals to unforgiving gods as a reason. Meanwhile, in the north of what today remains of Weyland, the settlers encountered two other races: The Wolven, which roamed the Ocean of Grass, and the Orcs, something no human being had seen before. While the Wolven were coming from the north of the grass ocean, the Orcs were coming from a region in its east, yet they both claimed it as their hunting ground. First under the impression that the wolven were a race of lycanthropes, and thus an evil unto the Creator, the, by nature of its distance to the mother organisation, rather independent Church of Weyland declared a crusade onto the wolven. It took the settlers of Weyland almost a generation until a sage from Haven, which had come to Deephaven, realized that these were indeed wolven, a legendary race that had vanished after the cataclysm, and which had now been rediscovered, and not some odd form of lycanthropes. And even then it took a lot of convincing, as the settlers, and also the clerics of Weyland, had witnessed firsthand what the wolven could do, with the primal and warriorlike nature of the race not helping the matter. At this time the damage had been done already, and a longstanding feud between humans and wolven for ressources had begun, which the orcs used to further their own presence in the Ocean of Grass, something which they keep a hold on till this very day. Although their presence is of course not as dominant as their control over the, aptly named, Orc Plains, it is yet still sizeable, and today there are much more encounters between orcs and humans of Weyland than there are with wolven. While the presence of wolven in the southern Ocean of Grass was comparatively scarce though, the newly founded colonial cities of Newhaven, Rimmersgard and Redwatch had much bigger problems with them, mostly because the chosen home of the wolven, The Wolven Forests, were so close. Additionally, when the Church ended at least the ecclesiastically sanctioned crusade, the colonial cities didn't listen. Being used to wolven raids, and seeing the worst that wolven could be, the colonies decided to continue the fight, eventually leading to the separation of the colonies from the rest of Weyland and the foundation of Reach, which, even though it didn't grow since its foundation, also didn't lose much of its territory. Up to today the population of Reach is battle hardened, not just by the fight against wolven, but also against those elven which inhabit parts of the wolven forests and the orcs which slowly gained more and more foothold in the Ocean of Grass, even though their presence is contested. Many Weylandians say that the humans of Reach took over more attributes from what they fought, than what they kept from their human ancestors. A sentiment which someone, who was born in Reach, will most likely confirm with a gruff gesture, and then let it stand. The Gnomes Just a few years before Reach separated from Weyland, another race that was believed lost, was rediscovered. Digging their mines deeper and deeper into the Dragon Stones, the miners of Havenfinally opened what was the underground realm of the Gelfs: The Undermoutain, a place which the Gelfs dug to protect themselves from the terrible Cataclysm, sealing it off not only from the upper world, but also the underdark beneath, not only by stoneshaping, but also by powerful illusions. There were little, but well hidden presences of Gelfs (or Gnomes, how they were called by the northmen, a term that later stuck with the rest of the humans) in what today is Culmeria, Aesgard or Oskraja , yet they were more fables or elements of fairytales in culmerian or aesgardian stories, rather than anything else and protected themselves with powerful illusions. Like this the elusive race had managed to steal itself away from human perception for aeons and over the course of three shadow wars. But that came to an end when the Undermountain was opened up. After the first contact with the humans, the once dreaded enemy, proceeded rather peacefully, much to the surprise of the Gelfs, slowly more and more of the hidden Gelf tribes dropped the illusions that protected their villages. Beginning in what is called Culmeria today, the region closest to the Realm of the Undermountain, it continued in Aesgard and parts of Oskraja, earning these regions and the Undermountain the name "The Gnome Lands" today, even though Gelfs could practically be found all over northern Ardu. There are even other presences of Gelfs in the world, yet these are to be found in the Frozen Thrones, Cun Moragh Norn or other places where there are no humans, and thus the humans are not aware of many of them to this very day.
DM-Tip:Not all hideouts of Gelfs have been opened, and there may very well be another underground kingdom which no one knows about, or villages hidden by masterful illusions, whose inhabitants still believe that the cataclysm is ongoing, while they were tucked away in places no one ever looked at.
The Dark Times: The Fourth and fifth Shadow War"The Terrible". "The long Dread". "The Dragon Scourge", "The second Cataclysm". All these are names given to the fourth Shadow War. Having grown complacent, now that the human realms were prospering so well, the humans were not prepared. Neither was any of the other races.The long time of peace had eased all into the thought that probably there would never be another Scourge again. But there was, and this time it was concerted. Also called "The war of the five Dragons" it was led, for the first time, by Plaguefiends that were not human once. What remains today of the church chronicles of that time, tells this legend: It was the Doombringer who corrupted the five dragons and turned them into terrible monstrosities, who then struck in concert at several parts of the world, leading armies that poured from the underdark, while he stood back and watched. Noone knows today, for how long the fourth Shadow war waged. Some say it was for a millennium, some say it was only for a few, albeit terrible, years. Little has been kept from this time, or even the time that followed the war. Human cities were left in ruin and had to be rebuilt, much knowledge, arcane or scientifical, painfully regained after the Cataclysm, was lost again. What once was an empire, collapsed, and left unorganized citystates, which struggled along to regain their former glory. The old Weyland broke apart into the new Weyland and Lamaria, where the people had allied themselves with the Yuan-Ti to survive the Dragon Scourge, while in the process learning about sinister pacts that could be used to diminish the influence of magic or even the Plague... but at a price. Reduced to the size it is today, the Kingdom of Haven rode out the storm, and so did its central faith: Almost all of the seven towers, except the one on R'hyll, were destroyed, as were many temples of the Creator all over the world. But the Church survived by virtue of their followers holding on to their belief. What followed is only known as the Dark Times, called this due to the little that is known about it by any sage. For how long this age lasted is unknown, but it ended in the fifth Shadow war, of which we know even less, as so many sources contradict each other, and all record of it is oral. Over Time it has become custom to not only refer to the time between the fourth and fifth Shadow war as the Dark Times, but to the whole time period, including the wars. It suffices to say that the fifth Shadow War was a terrible kick, for what already lay on the floor cringing, and the legend goes that only the concerted effort of all races on Ardu, of Humans, Wolven, Goliaths, Dwarves, Elves and Gnomes was able to end it. But this is legend, and no one knows if it is true.
The sixth ageThe Church of the Creator in the sixth age The Church survived, as did records about the earlier ages in vaults deep under the tower of R'hyll, which had somehow managed to weather through the Dark Times. These records, and the faith that had survived by oral tradition, became a seedling from which the Church could grow anew. Over a time that now lasts almost a millennium, fortunately undisturbed by major scourges, this seedling grew. Nevertheless the Church of the Creator is still a far cry from the power it once held during the age of the Human Empire, if the records of R'hyll are to be believed. Meanwhile other religions have arisen all over the world. Sometimes these are mere confessions of the Church, variants, like the one in which the aspects of the creator are worshipped as singuar entities and gods themselves, or the dwarven one that worships the singlular creator entity called Worldsmith. Sometimes regions have fallen back into the heretic beliefs they held before the Church proselytized them ages ago and sometimes entirely new deities arose, like in Soth or in the vast reaches of Orom. In Haven, once the center of the human empire and the church influence, if the records of R'hyll are correct, the Church regained the status of a state religion again, and outlawed all other religions. The City of High Haven was built on the ruins of Eru and became Haven capitol. And today it is the center of the Church on Ardu. In Um-Kal (New Kal) which was founded in the remains of the old dwarven realm of Kal after the 5.th Shadow War, the church regained something akin to this status too, although it should be mentioned, that there are little to no dwarven heretics, and as such that the church power is even less contested there, than it is in Haven. The dwarves, allegedly freed ages ago by the swords of crusaders who wore the church crest, had always been devote followers of the creator, although they worship him under the name "the Worldsmith". In Odhal and Ulthwe, largely due to the influence of the dwarves, the Church has kept a strong foothold. Here the church's power, although dominant, is contested by other faiths. There is the The Faith of the Seven, which the Church argues to be a mere confession, and which did away with the idea of a central creator, to replace it with deities that are strikingly similar to the Creators aspects. It has taken root mainly in the Emerald Coast, on the Summer Isles, in Aquira and Caldaven, but believers which hail from there crossed the border to Odhal and Ulthwe and tried to spread it, with varying degree of success. There are also cults of other deities, some mere sects, some already proper cults, which originated in Orom and other places of the southern hemisphere, yet their influence remained to be minor, compared to the Church. The last Realm in which the Church has "kept" a strong stance, is the Oskrajan Union. After Vars "the Red" of Novodan consolidated the different tribes of Oskraja under his rule several hundred years ago, he joined the Church, became a believer and allowed the Church to proselytize. And although the clerics in oskrajan temples claim, that it was entirely because of an intense religious experience that he did all this, there are also voices that say it was because he, rightfully, assumed, that it was easier to keep the power, when the subjects of his rule were also under the tutelage of a centralistic faith. Be it as it may have been, Oskraja today is a powerful ally to Haven, as much as it is a valued trading partner. Yet, although the Church is by far the most influential faith in Oskraja and despite Haven having tried to push for it, Oskraja resisted all attempts to enable the Church as the singularly allowed religion, mainly because the diligent merchants of Oskraja feared to lose too much trade with its other partners like Caldaven and Aquira for example. The Faith of the Seven Although announced to be a mere variant of the real faith by the Church of the Creator, the Faith of the Seven turns this argumentation upside down and identifies itself to be the original belief, while at the same time it considers the Church of the Creator the derivative, which simply refuses to acknowledge the fact, that the aspects which are channeled by its clerics are a mere representation of proper gods, and not parts of a single union. Thus followers of The Seven also do not acknowledge the authority of the Records of Rhyll. After, and probably already during the dark times already, the Faith of the Seven had become a dominant faith in Caldaven, Aquira, the Emerald Coast and on the Summer Isles. Followers of the Seven believe in seven distinct deities to govern the fate of men. These are : The Father, the Mother, the Warrior (usually male, but female in Caldaven and Aquira), the Trickster, the Sage, the Mistress and the Unknown or Stranger (also named the Queen of Ravens in Caldaven, not to be confounded with the Morragan in Culmeria, who also bears this name and who fulfills a similar function in some of the tribal culmerian pantheons, but usually doubles as a goddess of war). Because of the obvious similarities of these gods to the seven Aspects of the Creator, the conclusion that boths faiths share the same root seems self explanatory. Both churches do not disagree. They disagree though, which faith is original, and which preaches the truth. The Faith of the Seven however, despite these similarities, is entirely independent from the Church of the Creator, governs itself, and makes no effort to give up this autonomy, an issue that had fueled many clashes between the cults in the past centuries, and which to this day see's to at least continuing animosities. Over the last fifty years or so, the Church of the Creator and the Faith of the Seven managed to hold an almost ecumenical peace that belies the violence of the past. The Temples of the Seven for example have even begun to also allow small shrines for the Creator, so visitors can pray. An act of peace between the "confessions" which unexpectetly only brought more believers into their flock, instead of losing them. However, there are rumours that part of this politic is due to corruption with the purpose to one day reintegrate the Faith of the Seven into the Church of the Creator. So, not everything is as it seems. According to officials of both faiths, it grumbles beneath the peaceful surface, and it is just a matter of time, until this tension releases. The Towers All of the towers that existed according to the records of R'hyll, except the tower of R'hyll itself, were destroyed during the Dark Times. Once founded by the Church, if one believes the records, with the single purpose to figure out those mages, who can withstand the corruption by the Fae, and to root out the others to prevent further plaguefiends, the Church was looking to rebuild them as soon as she could. The world had changed though, and where once a few words of the Primarch may have sufficed to bend kings from all over the world, other religions had risen now, and other sovereigns were in power. Yet the need to control the arcane traditions remained. A solution to this dilemma came rather unexpected, when the church actually lost (or gather gave up) part of it's power during the Insurgence of R'hyll. Many students in R'hyll came from the Summer Isles and were thus believers in the Seven. They were in no way content with the fact that those who judged them were Templars of the Church of the Creator who hailed from a completely different country. Accusations of favoritism in favor of those who came from Haven arose, and grew more and more acute, and the fact that the verdict of a Templars could actually cost a student his life only worsened the situation. The actual incident, which fired up the insurgence is lost to history, yet after the uprising was beaten down brutally by the Templars, the Church Primarch Touran III. of High Haven recognized a chance to reestablish the idea of the towers again. Pretending to heed the demands of the mages and their students on R'hyll, Touran III. established a new organization which was dubbed "The Sentry". Sentinels, as was the name of those who served this organization, were tasked to bring corrupted mages and other plaguebeasts to justice, just as the templars had been before. Yet, whereas templars had to be devout followers of the Creator, the Sentry allowed for followers of every faith to join their ranks. Naturally many of those, who had been templars before, joined the Sentry, as did inquisitors, ensuring the further influence of the Church on this organization. This initial boost of influence of the Church didn't last though, as more and more followers of other gods joined and turned the organization into something that today operates independently of the Church, even though their goals are still mostly aligned. The goal of Touran III, to establish an organization which, although independent of the church, shared her goals, thus proved successful and opened options to reestablish the idea of the Towers in regions that were much more distrustful of the church. Today only one tower, the one in High Haven, which is also the first one that was built after the end of Dark Times, is still directly controlled by Templars of the church. After the initial insurgence, It took only one generation until R'hyll segregated and declared independence from Haven alltogether, becoming what today is called the island of mages, accepting students from all over the world, and luring them with the reputation that it is the oldest of all institutions. Other Towers, soon dubbed "Watchtowers" or "Sentryspires" by the populace, were erected. Today there are 13 Watchtowers, standing in: High Haven, R'hyll, Xandattaway, Eridu, Soth-Kessuth, Amn, Krynn, Ulth, Tenetty, Novodan, Audelver, Rimmersgard and, although not technically a "Tower", in the dwarven city of Tso-Kal. Who holds sway over the Towers, and how, differs from tower to tower though. Although many sovereigns value the efforts of the Sentry, or the Church for that matter to inhibit the Plague, they do not trust the organization enough to leave it in their hands completely. Usually the structures which govern the towers reflect the structures which govern the region. In Tenetty for example, Templars and Inquisitors of the Church of the Creator are at the same time members of the Sentry, thus entirely disrespecting the premise of independence which the Sentry should uphold. They sit on a Guard Council together with representatives of the crown, who are in the same conflict of interest, yet no one seems to care. At the same time In Amn, much to the chagrin of the Sentry itself (and also the Church of the Creator), the Sentinels only takes a counceling role for the Headmistress, who decides all matters and who is implemented by the King. This is rather new though, and a precautionary measure, as there was the attempt of a coup several years ago, by people which were discontent with King Conn's politics regarding the Norn. Although it could never be proven conclusively, there where hints that the Sentry, and probably even the Church was involved, thus their power was, for the time, constricted substantially. Soth and the Cityleague of Eridu. It was about 400 Years ago, the towers had just been rebuilt, but the Church was still struggling to regain its power all over the world. A cultlike group of mages, calling themselves "The Hand of Soth", who believed that magic could be used without inhibition, if only for every magical act an appropriate price was paid, spread their teachings in the area of what today is the Cityleague of Eridu. The region had been plagued by several shadowwars, and barely managed to survive, thus arcane magic in all its forms was outlawed, just as it is still on the Summer Isles today. The rulers of the independent citystates were eager at first to confront the cult, but the promise of power that came with their teachings, namely that magic could be harmless if only the price was paid, corrupted them. One city after the other fell to the cult that worshiped the entity called Soth, the ever watchful source of arcane magic, which although it demanded recompensation, would grant power freely if the recompensation was given. And as always, rich people had many things to give, and many things to gain. Magic, once disallowed in Eridu, became a tool of the powerful, or those who could afford it, and before they even realized it, the power had been snatched by the mages, for soon they were the real hand that controlled the cities out of the shadow. Almost openly they overtook Akura, an important Harbor, for it was one of the few that lay on the other side of the continent. They renamed the city Soth-Kessuth, "House of Soth" in the arcane language, but not before ridding the Sentry of the Akuran Tower of its power, by virtue of a decree of the Akuran council, which they controlled. To this day it remains unclear why Haven didn't react. Some say that the Church feared to lose all influence with the towers, even the little it held through her strong connection with the Sentry, and this has become the official explanation. Some, more cynical voices though, argue that the Church was actually interested, if bargaining with magic would solve the problem of the Plague, and thus let the "Hand of Soth" reign freely. Be it as it has been, "The Hand of Soth" ruled over the Southern plains and the Plain of Eridu for over 300 Years, by mundane means through a corrupt elite, and by magical means that did not even shy away from (although hidden) demonology. Then, about hundred years ago, the Eridan Rebellion began. Allying the cities in a common Cityleague, the Insurgents, despite all that stood against them, drove back the influence of the "Hand of Soth" into the borders which Soth holds today. Yet the conflict endures till today. Weyland and Reach in the sixth age The regions of Weyland and Reach, by virtue of the distance to all other human countries, had always been independent, but when the contact to the other realms withered during the Dark Times, they became even more so. The Church, once an anchor of stability, changed and gave way to other religions which incorporated elements of elven, wolven and even orcish believes. Instead of one creator, the Weylandians prey to six gods today: Gaea, the Earthmother and source of everything; Advar, the Warrior and god of strength and guile; Istara, the mistress and goddess of carnal and romantic love, joy, and family; Garun the hunter, protector and god of nature and weather; Tarkas the smith, and volcanic god of fire, artisanship and the forge and Morha, the goddess of night, death and secrets. Although followers of the Creator or other religions are not unwelcome, as is the Sentry, the Weylandian have developed a strong allergy against everything that threatens their independence, and thus also keep the missionary efforts at bay, by disallowing the construction of temples or the holding of masses for any other god than the six. Personal trinkets and shrines are allowed though.
The Founder:Founder of the Church of the Creator who later became the very first Plaguefiend, said to haunt the Forests and Underdark in the region of the Shadow still. A major antagonist for everything the Church of the Creator stands for, and its declared Archenemy.
Conn Benn Calad:Contemporary Halfelven (-Eadun) King of Caldaven, under whose rule an armistice between Norn and Humans had been brokered (and as of today, kept)
Primarch Touran III:Once Primarch of the Church of the Creator, who founded the Sentry.
Vars, the Red of NovodanKing of the Oskrajans, who unified the different tribes under one King and thus became the founding father of Oskraja.
Vasha Twice-Orphaned"Barbarian Queen" of the Culmerians, who managed to hold off the Havenians from reclaiming their territory lost after the "Dark Times"
Draman CulAccording to legend the name of the legendary human ankilan captian, who first managed to sail the currents and shallows south of the Evergeen Penisnula, thus opening the way for settlers to Weyland.
Common Myths and Legends
Creation Myth and Cataclysm (Church of the Creator)In the beginning the world was empty and dark, and the creator made the sun, and the moon, which at that time was still whole, and lit them up. Thus day and night were separated, and he saw the world was missing life. The Creator gave some of his Fae, and planted it as a seedling into the dead world. And as life gives birth to Fae and Fae gives birth to life, soon the world filled with life until it was teeming with it. But it was chaos, ever overgrowing each other, devouring each other and returning to the formlessness from which ever new creatures arose and to which they fell back. And the fae nourished life, and life nourished the fae, and thus the circle couldn't be broken. And the Creator realized, that in order for the world to have structure, it needed a mind, just as he remembered himself into existence in every moment. But there were no minds on Ardu who would remember how everything was supposed to look like, and thus nothing to remind Ardu's Fae of it. And thus the Creator made the humans, and gave them rememberance about how everything was supposed to look and be, and then he planted them on the world. And around the humans, the world solidified, and gained structure. And the elves and the gnomes found form, and they became conscious like the humans, but their minds were unschooled and thus they couldn't remember correctly, hence in their presence the life took forms the Creator didn't desire, even they themself. And so the Creator gave the humans the ability for seedbirth, in oder to make their forms independent of the Fae when they beget. And he gave it to all beings which were to his liking, and spared all those who weren't. And then he chose a simple human man, who was yet of strong mind and soul, and spoke to him, and ordered him to teach to all beings in the world about the Creator's vision for the way Ardu should be, such that finally the world and its Fae could remember itself into the existence the Creator had planned for it. And this man became the Founder of the Church of the Creator. Yet, when the humans, under the Founders guidance, peacefully approached the the elves and gnomes, they didn't want to learn, and they preferred their own skewed memory before the vision of the Creator. Then the Norn created the Plague and infected the Founder in order to discredit his words in the eyes of his brethren, and thus began the first War and the Cataclysm.
- Genetic Descendants
- 70 years
- Average Height
- 1.50 to 2.00 m
- Average Weight
- 55 - 90 kg
- Average Physique
- The average physique of a human can differ greatly. Praising themselves to be the most adaptable and versatile of all races (be it now true or not), humans literally come in all sizes if one counts their dwarven and goliath descendents. But even the humans themselves cover a lot of ground. In a race so variant, the very term "average" physique loses its meaning. The average human is nothing if not versatile.
- Body Tint, Colouring and Marking
- Skincolor: Humans come in all kinds of skincolors taken from a palette that runs from a whitish rose with the humans that live in the northern parts of Ardu over light earthen and ochre tones in Cityleague of Eridu, Soth and Lamaria to the deep dark brown of many citizens of Orom. Other markings are usually tribal or the result of tattoos, an art form which injects small beads of color under the skin to form a permanent picture. Eye Color: Eye colors vary from light blue, grey and green, usually found more often in the north, to deep brown or sometimes even black pupils which are dominant in the south. Hair color While in southern countries like Cityleague of Eridu and Orom black hair is dominant, with but a few fairer brown tones in between, variation tends to grow once one wanders north. Here one can find all kinds of brownish, blonde and rarely, reddish tones, with blonde and red hair usually occurring more often the further north one goes, and red hair most often, yet not exclusively found with Aesgardians (although blond is still dominant.)
- Related Ethnicities
- Generalist: You gain proficiency in a skill of your choice
- Skilled in many things: You gain proficiency in another skill or toolset of your choice
- One of a feather: Whenever you interact with another representative of your own culture (language you chose besides common) or reside in a region where your culture is dominant, you get advantage on all Charisma based ability checks
- Fae connection: Your mind is strongly connected to the Fae, granting you an instinct about its presence. Whenever you like, you can roll on perception to detect the presence of magic. The DM must tell you if magic is present where you are looking for it. However, once a long rest, in regions in which the Veil between physical world and counterrealm must be considered thin (at DM's discretion), the DM can demand you to roll a d20. On a 1 you connect through your dreams with the Fae and suffer nightmares, preventing you from fully recovering. This night you get only half the hit points back, which you would get normally
Languages. Common and a language of your choice