Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Dark Domain

Sure it's evil, but they got stuff everybody else wants. YARRR!

Some say that the Dogwa is a demon lord that managed to get himself shat out of hell and closed the sphincter behind him. Others say that he is a cambion that rose to power in the volcanic region in the northern part of the Dark Domain and carved himself an empire with heavy use of sorcerous power. Still others say he was entirely human and became corrupted by demonic rituals.

Regardless of his origins, the Dogwa rules the Dark Domain with an iron fist and an open palm. He wields absolute control over the interior, but recognizes the power of trade as influence over his troublesome neighbors. The Domain exports ebony, gemstones, glasswork (especially obsidian), and spices. All the best spices seem to come from the Dark Domain (all the best poisons as well, go figure). Due to the political climate east of the Domain, Dark spices bring a high price in Dule, the Redlands, and especially the Whitelands (where use of Dark spice is frowned upon).

After the drubbing the Redlander navy visited upon it, the Dark navy never regained its former imposing military might. However, it regained much influence by keeping the trade lanes open and safe for ALL merchant ships with legitimate trade. The Dogwa welcomes ships of all nations that wish to do business in his ports... provided they give the Dark navy no reason to think they're spies (or pirates). It's an open secret that each Dark captain has his own arrangements with dock masters and merchant captains, and many have grown rich by acting as a middleman/racketeer. Any ship approaching a Dark port must expect to be searched, and would be wise to have a hefty bribe on hand to ensure favor with whatever Dark Domain warship happens upon them.

As one might expect, the Dark Domain is teeming with orcs, goblins, gnolls, and other humanoids. Despite this, humans make up close to half of the population (supporting the theory that the Dogwa himself is/was human), and it's mostly humans that do the building and farming. It is also said that the Dogwa is friendly with Drow and Druergar, but since the seas boiled the underworld races have been largely silent and unseen.

The Whitelands

Imagine if Byzantium had conquered Africa by using an Orthodox crusade. Then have a great flood wipe out most of civilization. The Whitelands is the society that rises from the watery ruin.

The Whitelands has been ruled by the Ijabul family for ten thousand years by divine right... or so the faith preaches. It's unlikely that any dynasty survived the Drowning of the World. Historians and sages of other nations place the Ijabul dynasty somewhere between six hundred and eight hundred years old--a respectable age for a mostly human nation.

The faith also preaches that the Queen and the Theologists rule the Whitelands in "a harmony that shines like a sun spirit upon lesser peoples." What's closer to reality is that each Queen carves out what power she may from the ruling religious council (called the Theologists). Daughters of the Queen are taught statecraft at an early age, and those that can't or won't learn it well become puppets of the Theologists. At least twice in recorded history, the Whitelands has come to civil war due to disputes between Highcastle and the Theocratic Manse.

There was nearly a third civil war during the Red King's Turning, when Queen Tiombe decided to accept the Red King's trade offer and let Redlander merchants into Whitelander ports. Tiombe outmaneuvered the theocrats in an epic struggle of statecraft that would no doubt be legendary... if anyone left alive from that time would relate the details. The defeat still rankles the Theocrats, who managed to strengthen the ban on Dark Domain goods. The current penalty for any Whitelander doing direct trade with any Dark merchants ranges from excommunication and imprisonment, to banishment, to being stripped of all worldly goods and titles.

Despite it's hand in politics, the Church of Heironius has a strong presence in the daily life of all Whitelanders, and more Whitelanders hear the call to paladinhood than the people of any other nation. Nearly every ship in the Whitelander navy boasts at least one paladin on board.

The Whitelands gets its name not from the people (who are dark-skinned), but from it's white sand beaches and ivory trade. They also export many types of exotic fruit, and fish that can only be found in one of their interior freshwater lakes and rivers.

While the population is mostly human, a great many elves and dwarves make their home in the Whitelands. Most are descendants of refugees from the Red King's age of madness

The Redlands

Take ancient Rome, Ireland, and Scotland, throw them together in a martini shaker and plunk the whole mess down with the Dark Domain to the west and Duleander to the east. Sprinkle liberally with ironwood forests, rich farmland, and copper mines. Add a human population that is for the most part fat and happy, and you have the Redlands as it is today.

As it is now, it was before, but it was not always so. Nearly 300 years ago, King Davan IV took the throne after his elder brother Buin was assassinated. Even then Davan was a powerful wizard, but with the resources of a prosperous nation at his command, he grew into something monstrous.

During the early years of his immortal reign, the Redlands came to be called such because of the blood spilt there, not the copper exported or the color of its citizens hair. Davan would suffer no other wizard to live in his kingdom, so they quietly vanished. Then the temples of light were deemed traitorous, and while he could not exterminate the good faiths, they were forced underground.

Next, the elves and dwarves fell under the baleful eye of the Defiler (as the Red King came to be known), and those that were not butchered in their homes or on the field of battle fled the land. Curiously, haflings and gnomes were left unmolested, but most nonhuman folk fled the land after the elf/dwarf slaughter. Regardless, to this day there is a small gnomish community on an island not 20 miles from Duirport (the capital of the Redlands) that completely escaped the Defiler's wrath.

After the Redlands was brought completely under his domination, the Defiler turned his attention to the Free Islands to the west. He made an unholy pact with the Dogwa across the sea, and they crushed the feeble opposition offered by the once-free island nations and divided their riches up.

It looked as if the Whitelands would fall to darkness then, since they were weakened by a civil war and would be easy pickings for the combined might of the Redlands and Dark Domain. But suddenly, inexplicably, the Red King renounced evil and turned on the Dogwa. In an epic saga that became known as the Red King's Turning, he mustered what allies that were desperate enough to take his hand and swept across the Archipelago to the very shores of the Dark Domain, where his army crushed the forces of the Dogwa, who fled from the battle after being defeated by the Red King and a group of warriors specially trained in demon-slaying.

Since then the Red King has worked tirelessly to erase the evil stain of his previous works, and invites all manner of wizards, bards, and free thinkers to his land. Many go, and many do not. For if he Turned once, what would prevent him from Turning again?

The Uncharted Archipelago

It was nearly 200 years ago when the Red King declared that he was no longer evil and began calling the Dogwa his enemy. Until then, the sea between the Redlands and the Dark Domain was held in an iron grip by the navies of each nation. During the Redemption War (as they call it in this part of the world) the Red King broke the power of the Dogwa's navy and freed most of the island nations that made up the Archipelago.

While most of the newly freed city-states remained friendly to one nation or the other, they weren't neccesarily friendly with each other. Petty border wars plagued the next century until finally settling into the political climate we have today: hundreds of island nations vying for economic control of the many shipping lanes to the Redlands, Dark Domain, and the Whitelands.

If you hadn't guessed already, the whole sea is a haven for pirates. Many city-states boast a "navy" that's little more than a few barely controlled privateers, while others pay a "protection" fee to one band of scalawags or another. Some nations are even cities sprung up around strongholds of pirates that have enjoyed a successful career and decided to retire.

It's called "uncharted" because no matter how well a sailor knows the waters, there's always something that will surprise him. Mysterious islands that appear where there was only deep water before, whirlpools, sea monsters, coral reefs, and changing currents are only a few of the factors that will send an unwary mariner to Davy Jone's locker.

Monday, September 11, 2006



YARRR! The Bloody Cutlass set sail with our ragtag band of would-be pirate heroes. All the party found themselves aboard a pirate ship owned by Captain Shanahan, sailing the seas of the Uncharted Archipelago.

The first notable encounter was with Zakhi, the Dead Pirate--so called because he sails with a crew made up entirely of the Undead. Bruuuahahahah! Spooky! Shanahan ordered battlestations when Zakhi was sighted but gave no aggressive action. Zakhi was allowed to board with a passenger in tow--a live Redlander girl, no more than eight summers old. Zakhi handed her over to Shanahan, saying "One such as this has no place aboard the Sunrise." Several Cutlass crewmembers noted "fresh" walking corpses at the ready amongst Zakhi's crew--perhaps the girl's parents?

Zakhi left without further incident, although Shanahan kept battlestations at the ready until the sails of the Sunrise were no longer visible.

The girl--whom the crew took to calling "Newt" for some reason--provided somewhat of her story to Shanahan after a few days. Near as he could tell, her family was part of a treasure hunting expedition that ran afoul of hostile natives. Shanahan displayed a high knowledge of the local waters and ordered a heading unfamiliar to any crewmember (that's why he's the Captain, godsdammit! ARRRR!).

Within a day Squee sighted a volcanic island that showed signs of native orcish activity through a spyglass. Shanahan ordered a boarding party to the longboats and it wasn't long before they were hip-deep in orc entrails! YARRR! Shanahan's fighting prowess was shown then... any orc within reach of his rapier died gurgling. The man had to climb over heaps of entrail-wearing entrail-leaking corpses just to make the next unfortunate savage leak his entrails.

The boarding party soon discovered the underground warren of the orc tribe. Shanahan ordered a group of scalawags down one corridor and took the bulk of the party down a more used path.

Of course, our story focuses on the seemingly less fortunate scalawags. While wandering rough-hewn moist tunnels and fighting tribal warriors, they came upon a goblin named Dingbat lurking in secret passages. Dingbat hated the Cult of the Squid God, and gleefully offered to take the party to a secret passage that lead to the High Priest and his entourage.
The party followed Dingbat's passage and came upon an unholy scene: the High Priest was summoning the Squid God into the world! Ick! Even as they watched, slimy tentacles were bursting from the abdomen of a sacrifice--more tentacles than an orcish body could contain!

There was a tense discussion of tactics and then a surprise attack on the unholy savages. Were it not for the chaotic nature of squid gods, the fight may have gone in a different direction... but once the Priest's concentration was broken, the squid god began devouring it's own followers! Without the High Priest to chant the summoning spell, the portal to Chaos was broken and our pirate heroes were able to loot the swag of the High Priest.