Monday, September 28, 2009

The Lands of Ara: Brief Area Descriptions

What follows are brief descriptions of each of the 11 Lands of Ara, intended to help players decide where their characters will come from. For more detailed descriptions of these areas, see my forthcoming profiles of each region.

Noffel is by far the oldest Arandish kingdom, renowned in Ara for its excellence in fishing and swordsmanship. There is a mandatory military term for all Noffellian youths of both genders, and nearly everyone in the kingdom is exposed to sword use long before reaching adventuring age. Arcane magic use is all but outlawed in Noffel and magic-users are shunned by most Noffellians. Though the rare Noffellian has strayed from tradition and turned to the ways of magic (and always leaves Noffel to do so), most characters raised in Noffel tend to be fighters of some sort, usually swordspersons.

With twice the land area yet half the population of Noffel, the northeastern kingdom of Telengard is a vast expanse of wasted flatlands and harsh eastern mountain slopes that has never quite recovered from the ravages of the Old War. Most Telengardians are sheepherders, miners (some working for the dwarves of neighboring Gannar) or mercenaries, the latter typically venturing south into Delzar to fight on the Mizarian frontier. The major towns and villages of Telengard are walled, and most traffic in and out of the lonely kingdom moves along the northern trade routes. Telengardian characters tend to be lean, cautious and tough, respecting individual strength of character more than political power or wealth.

[Note: I am aware that the name Telengard also refers to an old-school fantasy video game created by Avalon Hill games; this Arandish kingdom is in fact named in homage to that classic game, which I used to play on my Commodore 64.]

Unlike its less fortunate eastern neighbor, the kingdom of Achelon [pronounced ACK-el-on] has seen many decades of reparation and growth since the Old War. Due to prosperous trade with its southern neighbors, Noffel and the Free City of Kaladar, Achelon is presently one of the largest and strongest kingdoms in Ara. The castle of the Queen of Achelon is located in the southern half of the realm, and this region is more politically stable than the north. Southern Achelonians, being from the more “citified” regions, have every opportunity open to them. They are traders, farmers, merchants, militiamen, magicians, thieves, politicians—you name it. In the north, looser government control combined with greater monster-related threats keep the region in upheaval. Local barons have the run of the land, and while the Endyn Trade Route (the major north-south roadway) is kept relatively safe by the landholders bordering it, beyond the road, and especially in the wildernesses of the far north, wild and dangerous beings hold sway. Northern Achelonians favor heavy projectile and melee weapons like long bows and two-handed swords, weapons that deter the kinds of large monsters that dwell in the region.

The Western Lands are a loose confederation of independently held baronies and smaller land holdings that blur into the wilds of northern Achelon to the east and stretch toward the coastal Grey Mountains to the west. These are frontier states, untamed and raggedly governed. There is no central reigning power, only individual territories overseen by barons and baronesses ruling more or less as they please. Most of the barons wish to keep it this way, though there are a few individuals who believe it would benefit the region to unify into one realm. Characters from the Western Lands can be of any adventuring class they please, depending upon the specific characteristics of the barony they come from. In forthcoming posts I will provide more detailed descriptions of some of the individual baronies of this area, and I encourage players and referees to flesh out these lands to fit into your own adventure campaigns. Feel free to make up your own baronies and territories as you see fit, for this is a wild area ripe with possibilities.

Originally populated by Telengardian refugees from the Old War, the kingdom of Delzar has flourished in the intervening generations into a region of agricultural, economic and intellectual abundance. Southern border disputes with the aggressive Mizarian people are an ever-present threat to the peace and prosperity of Delzar. Like their Telengardian forebears, southern Delzarians tend to be stolid, bitter and strong-willed, and can apply themselves to nearly any profession. Many southern Delzarians of both genders choose to enlist in the King’s Militia, joining in the defense of the southern frontier against the unified clans of Mizar. In the north, meanwhile, there thrives a strong and diverse arts community, and Delzar is famous for having some of the most skilled craftspeople in Ara. Northern Delzar is an enlightened and progressive region where dwarves, rodians, and even some civilized ogres (!) are found living amongst humans in positions of authority and respect.

Even before the commencement of the recent territorial conflicts with Delzar, the horse-raising clans of Mizar [pronounced MY-zar] were fighting to maintain their borders. The second-largest Arandish nation in terms of both land area and population, Mizar is situated just north of a huge expanse of hilly plains inhabited by nomadic, predatory hill trolls, against which the southern Mizarian clans maintain a constant vigil. Trollish raids take their toll on Mizar’s population, and it is largely due to this constant loss of valuable human resources, as well as the lack of centralized leadership, that the more numerous Mizarian clan forces do not overwhelm the Delzarian army to the north. Mizarian characters are almost always fighters, and are always proficient horsemen. Northern Mizarians tend to hate Delzarians and take the conflict with Delzar to be of paramount importance. Southern Mizarian clanspeople have little interest in the battle with Delzar, denouncing it as a war without honor, and would much prefer to fight amongst themselves (a passionate interest for most Mizarians), fend off marauding hill trolls, or venture abroad to find opportunities for true glory. Characters of other nationalities are warned not to insult the name or reputation of a Mizarian’s clan, nor to challenge a Mizarian to any sort of contest or duel on horseback—the Mizarian rider is the most skilled and dangerous on Ara.

Due to its rather secluded position in a southern valley between the steep Farnian Mountains, the often-snowy reaches of Minoch [pronounced MY-nock] have remained largely unexplored by the people of the other Arandish realms. In fact, to many natives of Ara, Minoch seems nothing more than a road that winds up and over the steep mountains that separate the Free City of Kaladar from the eastern plains of Mizar and Delzar. Minoch is a harsh land, teeming with wild creatures of all descriptions (including the dreaded rock troll) and extreme weather conditions—some areas of Minoch are snowbound for over seven months of each year. Minochian characters are skilled, quiet and capable, and have a tendency toward pragmatism that can make them seem guarded and at times insensitive. Minochians may be of any adventuring class.

A great center of trade and commerce even before it became an independent city-state, The Free City of Kaladar is known throughout Ara as the place where anything can be bought, traded, hired, sold, or stolen. Characters raised here can be literally anything they want. Every accepted form of human magic has at least a small guild within the walls of the free city. Many practitioners of alternative and forbidden forms of magic are rumored to dwell here also. Kaladar has a large and well-trained City Guard, and that fact, combined with its location on an island between two great and rapid-flowing rivers, makes Kaladar essentially impenetrable and unassailable. There is a governing merchant prince who presides over the affairs of the city.

Originally a southern duchy of Noffel in the elder days, Blint is a rural kingdom largely populated by farmers, peasants and craftsmen. A native of Blint can end up doing whatever he wants as an adventurer, but the actual adventuring skills available here are likely to be more physical and nature-intensive than scholarly or urban. Blint supports no magical guilds, though as is often the case in remote areas, humans here can obtain basic magical instruction from magicians who live here. Blintians, known as proficient spearmen and archers, are fiercely proud of their militia, which ultimately owes its allegiance to the High Senate of Noffel. This creates simultaneous feelings of fellowship and rivalry between Noffellian and Blintian warriors. Culturally speaking, Noffellians have a tendency to view Blint as an uncivilized backwater of Noffel. Blintians resent this stereotype and attempt to disprove it when encountering natives of Noffel and other kingdoms.

Gannar: The dwarves of the eastern mountains are the discoverers and sole producers of the strongest metal known on Ara: dwarven steel. These mountainous dwarven lands, of which Gannar is the main city and trade center, are famous for iron mining and craftsmanship of metals and precious stones. The dwarves of Gannar are largely self-sustaining, raising sheep, mountain goats and various subterranean fungi for wool and consumables.

Suhl: It is known to most rodians that their race originated in the elder days when the Arandish sorceress Awra was travelling the known world increasing her knowledge and magical power. On a rounding of the southern tip of Rakar’s Peninsula aboard a Noffellian sailing ship, a storm struck which threatened to sink Awra’s vessel. The crew weathered the storm, but the ship was irreparably damaged, and drifted for weeks. Many died by starvation. To save herself and the ship, Awra used her powers to magically meld the surviving Noffellian sailors with onboard rats, thinking thereby to create beings that could better survive the ravages of being cast adrift at sea. Miraculously, the newly created beings made landfall on a forested island a few weeks later. Educated and enculturated into their new island life by Awra herself, the race prospered and grew, and in time the island was named Suhl. Able seamen and infamous pirates, rodians first came to Ara many generations ago, establishing colonies (and large cities) along the west coast of Ara, north of Noffel. Unfortunately, this is land that the elves of Aldoria also consider to be theirs, and a bloody conflict has raged there for some years now. Many rodians therefore hate elves, considering them to be dispassionate murderers of countless numbers of their brethren. Suhlians have also made contact with the kingdoms of Noffel, Blint, and Kaladar via the southern seaway on the Bay of Noffel, and a prosperous trade has grown between the rodians and these Arandish nations. Rodians can be almost any adventuring type they wish, though they are lovers of ships and sea travel, and usually favor the cutlass or the duelling rapier as a primary weapon.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome. I really like what you are doing here!

    You can't trust that Rodian!