Thursday, April 25, 2013

ACKS Campaign Setting - The Corrin Empire

Continent Map. 24 miles per hex. Click to enlarge.

It's been a little quiet here over the past week as I prepped for my new ACKS game. I thought it might be interesting to share the results, both in terms of general interest and as a resource for my campaign.

Starting Points

Unlike most fantasy RPG settings, ACKS does not have a pseudo-medieval setting as its default setting. Rather it is set in a period called "Late Antiquity", a period more commonly referred to as the Dark Ages. The Roman Empire had fallen - at least the western half of it had. The eastern half endured for another millennia, with its periods of growth and decline - at one point managing to reconquer much of the western empire. New nations came into existence, though it should be noted our idea of a nation is a rather new one. 

For my setting I am making my Roman analogue the Corrin Empire. It still exists, though in a much reduced form. Several of the nations on the map nominally owe it allegiance though in practice they are self-governing. To the west (off the map) is another half of the empire, still enduring, inspired by the Byzantine Empire. The name is inspired by its similarity to the city of Corinth and the planet Corrin of the Dune series. 

Geographically I'm inspired by a combination of the Mediterranean region and the Great Lakes region of North America. On the southern continent is the breadbasket of the Empire, a narrow fertile strip around a river within a vast desert. (This may sound familiar - Robert E. Howard made his inspirations obvious and I think that's a good policy.)

Geography

There are a few things I wanted to accomplish with the geography of the area.
Niagara Escarpment
Creative Commons, Photo by Devastator
  • Some rough terrain - good for borders as well as for nasty critters to dwell in.
  • A southern continent with a vast desert - good for Egyptian-inspired adventures.
  • Lots of coastal region for some seafaring adventures.
  • An inland freshwater sea. If you look close you'll see an escarpment to the northwest. This separates two areas of different elevations. It's based on the Niagara Escarpment found in North America. Niagara Falls is formed by the Niagara River going over the Escarpment. 

Cultures

It's a human world. There are demi-humans (primarily elves and dwarfs) and beastmen (orcs, goblins, and the like) but they are not assimilated. Demi-humans can be found in human cities but they tend to dwell in segregated ghettos. It is more like Middle Earth than the Forgotten Realms in terms of relations among species.

Elves are strongly influenced by their fae heritage. Their otherworldliness can be disturbing to humans. Ages ago, a branch of Elvenkind, the Zaharan, ruled a vast and cruel empire out of the southern continent. They are rarely seen today but the memory of them makes Elves in general distrusted.

Dwarfs are a bit more welcome but are a dwindling race. Their love of gold, silver, and mithril attracted the attention of beastmen, dragons, and demons who coveted their wealth. Many former Dwarfholds are now ruled by beastmen.

The Corrin Empire is cosmopolitan. Though trade has diminished over the years, they are made up people of a variety of appearances and religious beliefs. In historic Late Antiquity slavery was not as prevalent as it was in the glory days of the Roman Empire but it was still practiced. It is much the same in the Corrin Empire. Moreover a number of people are in virtual slavery, tied to their land.

To the east is the Rus Coast. The people there are akin to our world's Vikings. They are renowned for their seamanship and are feared for their coastal raiding. At the height of the Empire they would not have been able to strike as easily as they do. They also occasionally carry their ships over the mountains and raid on the rivers and great lakes.

The Empire was invaded over a century ago from the north by a variety of "barbarians", many of whom now rule over lands of the Empire. They are generically referred to as the Northmen (a term which sometimes includes the Rus) and their cultures are based on Native North American, Mongol, and Germanic cultures (typically not all at once...) In the northern nations the Corrin and Northmen cultures have intermixed.

Religion

One thing I like about the D&D Eberron setting is it has a variety of faiths. The clerics all have powers but they tend not to have any definitive knowledge of the divine. They have their religion, they have their clerical abilities, but their deities do not directly speak to them nor can they be 100% certain of the source of their powers or divine messages. If you've ever read the Dresden Files there is an agnostic Knight of the Cross, a clearly Christian knighthood with swords incorporating pieces of the true cross. When asked about how he can be agnostic, he replies "as far as he knows the angels who communicate with me might actually be advanced aliens." But regardless of the source of his power he figures it provides him an opportunity to do good work.

There is also the idea of good and evil... Pretty much most people believe themselves to be "good". In ACKS the main conflict is between Law and Chaos. Law is representative of civilization. A Lawful person wants to preserve civilization - he might want to change it, possibly quite a bit, but he views it as a good thing and is willing to fight for it. Lawful people and nations can very easily go to war with each other. Chaos wants to tear down civilization - this isn't so much "and then remake it" but rather tear it apart. A Chaotic character would love the fall of the Roman Empire and its fragmentation into lots of tiny petty states. Most people are Neutral -they probably like civilization just fine but aren't obsessed or willing to risk their lives for it. 

With that in mind I've developed the following religions for the area.

Animism

Spirit worship. Practiced by a number of civilized folks on the fringes of the Empire as well as by many beastmen. Followers of Animism can be of any alignment. (And would also have some druid-type followers as well).

Ancestor Worship

Not too big a faith in this area, but it is known in distant lands there are people who revere their ancestors for guidance and intervention.

The Lawgiver

This is the official religion of the empire. It's inspired by Zoroastrianism as well as the worship of the Seven/The New Gods in "A Song of Ice and Fire". In both these faiths, real and fictional, there is an idea of a main, true god (or "God") and various aspects. To quote the ASOIAF wiki "The Faith worships the Seven, a single deity with seven aspects or faces, each representing a different virtue. Worshipers pray to specific aspects of the Seven for help and guidance depending on their need". In Zoroastrianism there is the concept of Amesha Spenta, the six divine sparks of Ahura Mazda. This tends to be a mysterious and muddy as Christian doctrine on the nature of the Holy Trinity. Clerics of this faith would ideally be Lawful but it is certain there'd be a number of Neutral and even some Chaotic.

Elder Gods

This is for your Call of Cthulhu type primordial beings. Extremely difficult if not impossible to understand, its clerics are almost always Chaotic and tend to organize themselves into cults. A good place for insane folks who want to end of the world.

Personal Deities/Demons

 There are a number of beings, some of which actually demonstrably exist, that are worshiped as gods. These are often very local in nature, though there are some demons like your Orcus or Demogorgon who get widespread worship. Followers of the Lawgiver would view these folks as mistaken in their worship, not recognizing they are actually worshiping an aspect of the Lawgiver (this tends to lead to a lot of preaching but not so much in the way of religious wars, as the Empire has too many practitioners of this). The Rus are big on this, though being pragmatists some Rus also subscribe to other beliefs. By Crom, Conan would appreciate this attitude.


Nations

I've only developed capsule views on nations - my goal is to paint them in broad brushes and only detail what is needed.
  • Corrin Empire - Similar to the late Roman Empire. Its former capital, the city of Corrin, has been sacked several times. Its population is a fraction of the the great metropolis it once was. It is ruled by a descendent of a Northman and daughter of the last of the "classic" Emperors.
  • Prefecture of Esterlyn - Though geographically isolated, by mountains, Esterlyn is a very wealthy nation due to its trade with the Dwarfs of the Mithril Halls and with the Free Cities. It is nominally part of the Corrin Empire but it holds much of the debt of the Empire putting the Empire in no position to control it.
  • Diocese on Manhatpau - Also nominally part of the Corirn Empire, Manhatpau is ruled by a descendent of one of the great leaders of the Northmen raiders. The rulers of Manhatpau hold a grudge that they do not rule the Empire and have built up a military that rivals that of Corrin. They have delved into forbidden magics and are rumored to have made alliances with beastmen tribes. 
  • Kingdom of Tullachia - "Liberated" from the Corrin Empire 200 years ago by the Tullach Northmen tribe, Tullachia jealously guards its independence. It has developed a powerful navy and merchant fleet. It is allied with Esterlyn.
  • Rus Coast - Viking cultures. The Rus are master seamen, traders, and raiders. Though renowned for their "Viking" raids they more commonly engage in trade.
  • Free Cities - City is a glorified term for most of these, the Free Cities is an area of small domains, petty warlords, and vicious beastmen. The lords of the Free Cities are often traders and piratess and the cities themselves are often targets themselves of their neighbors and the Rus.
  • Principality of Coravia - A frontier Northmen nation along the Great Lakes, frequently threatened by beastmen.
  • Diocese of Skanadario - Another frontier nation along the Great Lakes. It is inhabited by a mix of Northmen and Corrin. It is renowned for its Dwarf-built (and maintained) canal which bypasses the Mahatgo Falls, allowing inland trade all the way to oceans. It is coveted by Manhatpau. Though a part of the Empire, distance makes this more a nominal thing.
  • Mithril Halls - Several Dwarfholds are found here, along with several conquered holdings ruled by dragons or beastmen - or worse.
  • Elphame - A real somewhat contiguous with the realm of the fairy, the largest known settlement of elves. Uninvited visitors often meet bizarre and tragic ends.

Wilderness and Borderlands

Much of the map is not part of any nation. North of Corrin is a broken former par of the Empire, ruined in battle and magic over a century ago in battle between the Empire and Northmen. It is now inhabited by madmen, beastmen, and treasure hinters. Other wilds are home to nomadic Beastmen and Northmen, with many ruins of a more glorious age. There are older ruins dating back to the era of Zaharan Empire


Starting Area

The campaign will open in the Diocese of Skanadario, an area I am in the process of detailing. I am inspired by the Grand Duchy of Karameikos from the old D&D Basic and Expert games. It is a borderland region, not fully under the control of its leaders.

2 comments:

  1. I've noticed several more "human-oriented" sword & sorcery type RPGs lately: ACKS, AS&AH, Crypts and Things...I'd really like to try one out.

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  2. Any chance of a Hexographer players map? Being able to put notes in hexes is cool as a DM but I want to try it as a player.

    Warren

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