Wednesday, April 18, 2012

K is for Kheldaria

Hi - Apologies, but I've had a strange day, so here's something pasted in that I wrote up not too long ago, concerning the largest empire in the campaign world. Few links and no pictures... Normal service will resume later...

Every FRPG world needs a home base, a ‘normal’ civilisation that other, more exotic, interesting, or outlandish features can be compared to. If the entire setting is gonzo, then it can be hard to maintain the believability in the long term, and these features can fade into the background. And I’m also more interested in a low fantasy, reasonably grounded in reality type of setting. The PC’s aren’t automatically shiny paradigms of hope and piety, nor are they crippled rat catchers living in sewers. They muddle along somewhere in the middle, scoring the odd treasure, spending or loosing it quickly, and always not having quite enough to get them exactly where they think they want to be.

So I’ve based most adventures in this world, or at least started them, on the edges of the biggest kingdom in existence. The edges are where conflicts and adventures occur, but some information on the kingdom that provides the law, order and tax collection services the PCs love so much is required.

Therefore, we have a historically divided but recently united kingdom, seeking to be a worthy successor to the semi-mythical First Empire that fell some 3000 years ago.

Kheldaria is big, and the helpful tables in ACK tell me that to support a population of about 5,000,000 people (that’s one million families) it needs to be 125,000 square miles, or about the size of Montana, apparently. That has just under a million people, according to Wikipedia, so Kheldaria is more hospitable, or at least, more densely settled than Montana. Also, it doesn't have Buffalo.

It’s a fertile land, sprawling across the largest area of flat land on the map (that isn’t desert or tundra) and quite central. It’s roughly U shaped, and bordered by the Star Cairns Mountain Range to the east, beyond which lies various other kingdoms, and by the loosely settled forests and tundra of Komesh to the north. The curving Komari River borders it to the west, and curves around to form the southern boundary as well. To the west lies land claimed by the Free City of Stalish, and ancient ruins, including the Barrowdowns and the Road of Skulls, and passes to the coastal cities and lands over the young, high mountains named the Crystal Peaks. The south holds the Dunish Moors and the Whorim tribespeoples, with the Three Cities of the Shadowed Plain, the city of Zheckia and it’s dark library, and Sto’nat, City of Blood. Beyond this is the Bay of Sykath, leading to The Painted Sea, and the warring Southern Kingdoms.

This area was one of the first conquered by the First Empire in ancient times, and was their main food production area, exporting grain and meat to feed the Great Cities to the west. In the years since, many of their exposed ruins have been occupied, torn down, or had the building stones reused for newer structures.

Under the First Empire, two peoples inhabited the region. The drier, hillier western areas were settled with the Baulti, a dark haired, shorter, agile and sharp people, with faintly copper skins, while the original inhabitants, the Andui of the flat, well watered eastern region were taller and wider, predominately blond, and hard working.

With the fall of the First Empire, the land was torn by battles between minor nobles, bandit kings and mercenaries, and splintered into hundreds of minor opposing kingdoms. The population suffered and declined, with great losses due to battles, starvation and disease. The Baulti found themselves pushed further to the west, and suffered restrictions in eastern areas.

After two millennia of this continual destruction, eight major kingdoms or states emerged from the chaos. Shortly after, a great leader arose, and, although failing to conquer all, his daughter, and then her son continued the work of bringing all under their banner, through sword or diplomacy. And so, from this hundred year struggle, the Kingdom of Kheldaria rose, with King Mortos Yagamoth its first ruler.

These eight kingdoms were retained as the first Duchies, awarded to the long time supporters of this first ruling line. As this rose in eastern lands, they tended to be dominated by Andui peoples, which has created limited conflict to this day with the Baulti. These Duchies are further divided into Baronies and Holdings, with a roughly feudal structure of accountability.

Tordath, city of the home province of the ruling line, was rebuilt as a capital city, and much development of the eastern and southern lands occurred.

Kingdoms and their rulers don’t stay settled for long, as human history shows (look up any of the Royals during the middle ages, and you’ll see enough inspiration for any number of games)

Some 400 ya, a major battle with the Thyredian Empire, a battle with a mageocracy in the far north-east occurred. Although the battle was drawn, the King of the time was slain, leaving a 2 year old heir behind. This resulted in a change of the power structure, with the Dukes gaining more authority to manage themselves, creating almost autonomous states overseen by the Prince.

The current royal family came into power three generations (90 years) ago, when the father of the first new king, Karlhem, a minor noble in Byrthyn and cousin to the royal line, rebelled against an inept king. It was a swift coup in the Capital, but defeating royalist forces in distant areas took several decades, and it was his daughter Alaras who was crowned Queen.

Alaras’s reign was marked by ongoing minor rebellions by loyalists to the old crown, and the need to re-establish relations, both political and financial, with the Duchies. Her son and successor, Deurwin, set a militant tone, and required the Duchies to recruit units for royal use. The famed Golden Company of Helvan, and the Black Dragons of Torath were formerly established at this time, but were formed mostly of veterans of the overthrow.

King Germain (50) and Queen Leonia (42) have ruled for the last twenty years, as Duerwin did not step down until a fall from a horse crippled him. Germain is a scholar-knight, and clever rather than strong.

He has blunted the powers of the Duchies by requiring them to each raise and outfit a 5,000 strong guard force, and then assigned these to a distant province as royal guards, commanded by loyal officers. This has created a strong guard that owes loyalty to his men rather than their distant and unreachable homeland, reduces the possibility of lax smuggling and tax collection due to family and other connections, and gets the different parts of his empire actually mingling. It also redirects funds that the Dukes may be tempted to use raising forces against his rule.

Queen Leonia is a priestess of the Lady, a common vocation for the partners of recent kings of Kheldaria. She is a capable ruler herself, and has personally stared down several diplomats or Dukes in the past. Being associated with a deity whose worshippers have been rumoured to include assassins has undoubtedly helped.

They have three children, all potential sources of adventure;

Elean (24) – a standard princess, engaged in court life and intrigue, but rumoured to be seeking training as an enchantress.
Tayne (22) – this strapping lad has just been confirmed as a Knight of Torath’s City Guard, and is looking forward to hunting bandits or whatever they do.
Lisle (19) – the youngest is quite magically talented, and is officially apprenticed to her grandfather, Ane de Brissac, father of Leonia, a talented Storm-mage.

That's all for part 1 - no doubt, there will be more in the fullness of time...


  1. i can totally imagine this as a fantasy novel:)
    Happy A-Zing!

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