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The Empire of the Dragon God

The Empire of the Dragon God

Postby camocoffey » Tue Jun 06, 2017 5:42 am

I started running a Conan-style sword and sorcery campaign a few months ago, with a homebrew setting...

The Empire of the Dragon God

Ath Kesh is the capital city of Athia, one of the provinces of the Dragon Empire, whose influence extends from the Bright Desert to the far south and the northern Frostlands. To the west is the Great Sea and the Sunset Archipelago; and to the east, beyond the high peaks of the Dragon’s Jaw range, the Vastness extends beyond all charts. Their peoples (the Dust Nomads, Ice Raiders, Storm Pirates, and Horse Khans) resist all conquering with a fierce determination. The fiercely religious (read: psychotically ignorant) priests of the Dragon God believe that the Vastness is really a blasted wasteland, scorched dry by the World Dragon’s last burning breath. Attempts to disavow this, such as presenting them with an actual Horse Khan warrior, are severely reprimanded; people have been executed for less.

The Empire’s name, and that of its cities, basically means “Authority”; Ath Kesh is essentially “The Authority of Fire”, for the Dragon God’s breath, but also the immolation spells of the Thirteen, the city’s notoriously merciless guardians. Other cities have similar derivations; Ath Varl is “The Authority of Teeth”, for the Dragon’s God’s bite, but also the Knights Valiant, an order of paladins who patrol the Empire’s northern borders.

The world is basically Ancient Europe, from Turkey to Finland, but the Mediterranean extends far north, effectively splitting Europe in half along the Danube. The various lands of Western Europe are colloquially known as the Kingdoms; though only a few are actually monarchies, most of the region is a congress of city states separated by dangerous wilderness. The Dragon Empire meets the Kingdoms at the Arctic wastelands but otherwise all contact between them is across the Great Sea. Ath Kesh is basically Constantinople, but on the west bank of the Bosporus, rather than the east.

The Thirteen are a group of sorcerers who watch over the city - literally "over" it, as they ride flying discs, to give them a good vantage point. The Scholarium train sorcerers for the Empire; some of these are taught just a couple of spells, including Enchant, and are then instructed to make several magical items at the cost of their permanent Magic Points, before promptly retiring; for this service, they are given a very generous pension and a permanent bodyguard. The enchanters include a condition into their devices that they fail upon death. The bodyguard is instructed to kill his enchanter if necessary; and protect him at all times otherwise. Because of their wealthy lifestyle, it is quite a common profession for poorer nobles' third or fourth sons and daughters.

Other than the Thirteen, and a massive standing army, there is very little law enforcement in Ath Kesh. The people are expected to police themselves, which is preferable to any judgment from the Thirteen. A criminal's family is responsible for his actions, and entire communities have been wiped out for the sake of a murderer escaping justice.

NB: The Thirteen have been stolen shamelessly from the Secret Lords, in the D&D Waterdeep setting.

Cults, Factions and Brotherhoods, etc.:

• The Dragon God (a Theist Cult - the Emperor is actually powerful enough to grant his worshippers magic)
• The Scholarium (a Sorcery School, whose most powerful members join the Thirteen, while some retire early as Enchanters)
• The Sword Brothers of the Immaculate Cut (a martial dojo dedicated to the perfect draw and strike; some are Mystics but most are just well-trained swordsmen)
• The Silent Oracles of the High Wall (this monastery is halfway up an almost impassable cliff, somewhere in the eastern mountains)

The city also hosts dozens of merchant, adventurer, slaver, and thief guilds.

Time:

The Dragon Empire maintains an increasingly inaccurate religious calendar of thirteen months, named for the thirteen dragons of legend; but almost everyone has adopted the Western Kingdoms’ much more straightforward twelve month solar calendar: Fore-Spring, High Spring, Aft-Spring, etc. The Kingdoms’ temperate climate terms aren’t terribly significant in the arid Empire; their seasons proceed: Birth, Growth, Strength, and Death; this last more for the post-harvest wars than for any severe winter chill; drought is the bigger killer. The Growth and Strength seasons are punishingly hot and punctuated by powerful storms; characters in heavy armour will require more frequent fatigue checks: CON - IP for #seconds of heavy activity.

Magic:

The Meditation skill is required to recover Magic Points at all efficiently. Without it, magicians can usually recover MPs only at ceremonial occasions, and so cast only one or two spells per year. Any student of a magical tradition may study Meditation as one of their Professional Skills, and it is added to each tradition’s suite of career skills, for the purposes of advancing in rank. Magicians who know the skill at all can recover their full MPs over the course of a year, with no ritual required. A successful Meditation roll allows a starting magician to recover MPs over a month; or in a week, on a critical success. Initiates or equivalent learn the secrets to recover MPs in a week; or in a single day with a critical check. Acolytes can exceed their POW in MPs (through other sources such as Sacrifice, etc.), to not more than double POW. Priests have no limits at all to their MPs. Recovery of personal Magic Points can never exceed current POW.

Ceremonial casting is available - increasing the casting time of spells allows an easier check (RQ6 p172, first option).

The Folk Magic skill is fairly widely known, but very few known many spells at all; adult citizens typically know a single Folk Magic spell, generally relating to their occupation; which they cast only very infrequently, for the reasons detailed above.

Animism is taught by a few primitive cults, usually dedicated to spirits of places or cult beasts rather than ancestors. The Great Vulture of Ath Kesh, for example, can be summoned; Old Mule is the spirit of the main highway, between Ath Kesh and Ath Varl.

There are two principal schools of Mysticism: the Sword Brothers within the city, and a cult of seekers, psychics and hermits, who live in a secret place in the mountains, halfway up a cliff.

Sorcery is feared and despised by all but the elite, whom most Sorcerers serve. The Scholarium trains its students eventually to the ranks of the Thirteen, though some are pensioned at a young age to be court enchanters. There are probably a dozen factions within the Scholarium, each with their own secrets and grimoires.

Most Theists in Ath Kesh worship the Dragon God, but there are many other deities available. Despite the large collection of typically evil and/or destructive gods that may be served, only the Shackled God is actually prohibited; he teaches his followers about rebellion and individual freedom, which would destabilise an Empire dependent upon slavery.

The Silent Oracles of the High Wall

• Restrictions: may not speak (any conversation costs 1 MP)
• Skills: Lore (Philosophy), Meditation, Mysticism (Silent Oracle), Perception, Willpower
• Talents: Augment Willpower, Invoke Astral Projection, Invoke Denial (Sleep), Invoke Divination*, Invoke Immunity (Falling), Invoke Spirit Sense, Invoke Telepathy
• Charms: Avert, Omen, Witchsight
• Gifts: (Disciple) Wellspring, (Master) Oracle, (Sage) Sense Parallels

Invoke Divination: This grants the mystic a vision of the future regarding a specified question. This vision may take up to a week to arrive, depending on the import of the enquiry. The mystic cannot recover her MPs until the time of the vision has transpired; so the Oracles very rarely provide insight into the distant future.

Invoke Telepathy: The mystic may transmit her thoughts to a targeted individual (Resist: Willpower) and/or to anyone who has also invoked this talent. Telepathy does not involve language, so deceit is impossible; an Oracle could tell a lie of omission, but even that would be difficult.

The Sword Brothers of the Immaculate Cut

• Restrictions: may use bladed weapons only
• Skills: Acrobatics, Sword Saint (Daredevil), Dance, Evade, Meditation, Mysticism (Sword Brother)
• Talents: Augment Endurance, Invoke Arrowcut, Invoke Awareness, Invoke Aura (Mastery), Enhance Action Points, Enhance Healing Rate, Enhance Initiative
• Charms: Bladesharp, Heal, Mobility
• Gifts: (Disciple) Alacrity, (Master) Resilience, (Sage) Resurrection

Encounters:

Chaos at the Temple

The Temple to the Oracle is being attacked by a group of religious warriors, the Scimitars of Law who are proclaiming the Savant (their High Priest) a Chaotic. The heroes step in to keep the peace but get embroiled in the fighting. Amongst the engagements, the group must stop a defender running up the steps to set off a signal flare, because no-one ever wants the Thirteen involved in any disputes; they must avoid an attack from a siege ballista firing a dozen bolts at once; and they must protect a group of innocents fleeing the conflict. Eventually, the Savant will show himself; he wears only a loincloth and sandals, his eyes have been gouged from his sockets, and he it looks as though he is covered in monstrous-looking warts all over his body -- but these are soon revealed all to be eyes! The attackers were right: he is tainted by Chaos!
camocoffey
 
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