Open Development 12: The League of Flouriey: The City States (RoL)

The League of Flouriey– a union of merchant city states rising from the ashes of the Carmatellian Blood Empire, it is ruled by pale nobles who trade with blood and threatened by shadowy beings of forgotten origin.


 

Once there was an empire.

In its hubris, it wished to learn the secrets of life and death, and how to transcend them both. Under the guidance of its wizard lords, it turned to the place now known as Carmatellia, starting all sorts of twisted experiments meant to unlock the secrets for immortal life. All kinds of abominations were birthed in those early days, until a breakthrough was gained in one, dark midnight. Using their great sorceries, the wizard lords has opened a chasm to a dark place, and made a bargain with the denizens to learn to control the boundary between light and darkness.

Once there was an empire, yet is here no more.

While the empire fell from grace, the people of Carmatellia started to rise. Keeping the bargain with the darkness, Carmatellia maintained its power, establishing a new empire from the ashes of the old one- the Carmatellian Blood Empire. While it was nothing but a pale shadow of the fallen empire, Carmatellia was stable while the rest of Antharia fell into ruin. Using the secret blood magics and other powers they learned from the darkness and gained from the books of the dead wizard lords, the Blood Empire has started to spread, conquering the fractured city states which surrounded it. There, it discovered earlier, abandoned experiments and projects done by the dead empire. Some of those projects, it feared, and destroyed their petty rulers and burned them to the ground. Some of those projects disgusted it, and it broke their cities and sent them out to the wilderness, so they won’t defile its beautiful streets and shinning towers. And in some of those projects, it found Kindred.

They weren’t perfect- but they were close. Close enough, at least. Teaching them some of the secrets it learned from the darkness of the chasm, they became much closer to each other- blood was mixed with blood, and strange beings became familiar. Slowly, the five Royal Clans came to be, governed by the Imperial Clan of Carmatellia. However, as the power of Carmatellia waxed, their duty to the darkness waned. The bargain was neglected, strained, and eventually, broken, as the Carmatellia forgot its ancient debt, and worshiped its own image in a shattered mirror.

The pact was broken- and the darkness was free.

The Year of Shadows came upon the Blood Empire, and Carmatellia was no more- only ruins were left behind. Every kin to the Imperial Clan, alive or dead, was eaten by the darkness, and black wings covered the skies, bringing an eternal night which was lite only by golden, star like eyes. With the fall of Carmatellia, the other Clans had to to adapt- or follow their fall to the grave. The Imperial Legions were shattered, leaving the city states defenseless. The Seers of Vinducti have already fallen from grace, hosting more charlatans than actual prophets, and they were banished from the cities for their failure at predicting the tragedy. A new system was established- each of the great cities gained some sort of independence, bound by certain treaties and contracts signed with blood. The Blood Courts were formed in order to govern the relationships between the city states. The Church of the Night replaced the old faith of the Seers, following the teachings of Auvirtus the Night God. Peace was gained. The Draconic Order of the Mysteries was created to maintain investigation of Lauresthenian relics and ruins. The League of Flouriey was born.

On the surface, at least.

The coalition which makes Flouriey is strong- while each of the city states is weak on its own, together they are able to stop the spreading efforts of Mekhtath and Namedra, or the constant invasions done by Marthe’s adventurers of Inthalu’s barbarians. They are united- but only the paper. Behind the scenes, the tension among the city states rise, as the merchant princes start to struggle over supremacy. The Courts and the Church share power and responsibility before their people, yet fight over control in the back streets. The Cult of the Crone keeps drawing believers , preforming ceremonies which the Church finds as abominable before their god. The loyalists of the Burning Rose challenge the rule of the Blood Courts, a union of radicals and revolutionaries which only agree on the fact that the system is flawed, and needs to be replace. And no one really understands what the Order of Mysteries wants- and as such, no one trusts them.

And in the middle of it all, the ruins of what was once Carmatellia stand still. The chasm is still open, and the darkness is still hungry. It stands as an eternal reminder for Flouriey’s past- and what may become of it in the future, if it were not careful.

The darkness is here- and it won’t leave until its due will be paid in full.

The Great Five

While officially all the city states of Flouriey have equal vote, power and independence, the five great merchant cities are the de facto rulers of the League, dictating their will through the Blood Courts thanks to them hosting the five Royal Clans, as they were elevated by Carmatellia and the darkness. Among those five cities, three are in fact foreigners, being conquered ages ago from the neighboring nations in the years following the fall of Lauresthenia. Two, however, were the closest to old Carmatellia- and as such they both look down on the other three cities, while despising each other more than any other. The cities are Venverta, Ganrugl, Daventa, Tham’Khat and Nosforo.

Among the five cities, Venverta is the youngest- and was, in fact, an experiment done by Carmatellia in the same way Carmatellia was an experiment preformed by Lauresthenia, being an attempt by the Blood Empire at inducing vampirism upon mortals without the requirement of the Embrace. As such, the Royal Clan of Venverta sees itself as the rightful heir to the Blood Empire, and aims as disbanding Flouriey and annex the rest of the city states under its rule. In fact, inside the Clan itself, the Lords believe themselves to be the most perfect vampires of them all, the Carmatellians included. After all, Carmatellia were the most perfect creation of the Blood Lords of legend, and even they were created by the assistance of the darkness. The Venverta, however, were created through a perfection of the old process, without the direct help of the shadows in the chasm. As such, the Venverta see themselves as kings and rulers- and they even see their own detachment as an expression of their superior nature compared to mortals and other vampires. The Crimson Palace, there the Council of Blood Courts is gathered and oaths are sworn, is established in Venverta’s heart- an eternal reminder of who is the league’s true rulers.

Ganrugl, like Venverta, was one of the two original surviving Carmatellian cities. However, just as Venverta is the youngest, Gangrul is the oldest. Being created as the first experiment preformed by Lauresthenia, the results were, as you may expect, quit terrifying. Instead of immortality, the test subjects burst into sentient pools of blood, which moved quickly to devour the living and take their forms as their own. Horrified by their own creations, the Blood Lords abandoned the project and fled the city, leaving the things to die on their own. While they should have died by all chances, just as the bloody beasts has started die and rot away, a dark figure showed before them- she taught them the secrets of form and shape, of life and blood. She taught them how to make more of their own without decomposing their own child, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the blood. In return, they have started to worship her as a goddess- and when Carmatellia conquered Ganrugl millennia later, they saw in its denizens as kindred, unaware of their own, bloody nature. Among the five city states, the Clan of Ganrugl is the most independent one- it tried to rebel against Carmatellia more than once (yet with no success), and even tonight many in the Clan keep on demanding to free themselves from Flouriey’s coalition. Explorers by nature, Ganrugl is responsible for most of the expansion journeys of the league, and is the first one to both trade and battle the people of Inthalu, as they are the closest great city to the spirit plains. The Church is quit displeased with Ganrugl- the people of the city only pay lips service to the faith of the Night God, for the old religion of the Crone is still strong in their hearts. Most of the worship is preformed in the ancient gardens of the city, where plants are fed with blood bear strange fruits and blossom with toxic flowers, and beasts of the wild or from bygone ages roam freely, preserved with the gifts of vitae. For centuries the Church has tried to push the other cities to call for a crusade against Ganrugl for their heretic faith, yet their efforts never bare fruit, and probably never would. The Road Watch’s headquarters sits in the city, and no one dares to be on the Watch’s bad side.

Daventa was the first city to be conquered outside of Flouriey’s domain. Sitting on a crossroad between Orphis, Graikhus and the infernal Falurata, Daventa was ruled by a powerful blood cult, and its prostitute priestesses invoked a myriad of strange demon gods and horror deities. As a city dedicated to the pleasures of flesh and spirit, it had no chance against Carmatellia’s might, and it fell to its grip as a ripe fruit. During the Blood Empire’s rule, Daventa was allowed to maintain its native religion, even though that many have embraced the faith of the Seers or even started worshiping the darkness as whole. With the empire’s fall and the rise of the church, the blood cult was finally broken- even though many of its faithful have escaped either to the arms of the growing Cult of the Crone or became the foundation for the Godless Ones. However, most of Daventa didn’t took the blow too hard- they played the Blood Courts with a natural talent, and while they accepted the word of the Night God, Daventa hasn’t abandoned its sins- it just learned to hide them better. Blood cults turned into brothels, and all forms of pleasure could be found within its walls. While all the cities pride themselves as merchant cities, Daventa is undoubtedly the best in the trade, sitting in the crossroad of a number of great nations. Everything could be bought and sold in the famed city, from spices through slaves and up to magical reagents. Daventa is also the most open city for new ideas and faiths- the faithful of the Night pray in their churches while the followers of the Cult and the Mysteries hide in its sewers. Politicians of the Blood Courts arrange contracts in its halls, while rebels of the Burning Rose exchange their ideas in its back allies. In fact, Daventa has hardly changed under Carmatellia’s rule- with the exception of one thing. Not again it will be found defenseless and open for invasion. The Noble Order of the Lily was created from the ruins of the Imperial Legions, and in its heart the Ministry of Coins could be found- holding in its hands the wealth of the whole nation.

Tam’Khat was originally a part of Mekhtath’s territory. A small city dedicated for investigating the occult secrets of the world, most believe it was not, in fact, a part of the Carmatellia experiment, and was actually a deviation from the experiment toward what would become the Mekhtath project, serving as its “first draft” by using the material gained from the earlier experiment. Whatever the case, when first discovered by Carmatellia’s conquest the vampires of Tam’Khat were quit different than those the Blood Empire were used to. While many of Carmatellia’s vampires were scared by the strange undead and wanted to purge them (as they did before), some among the Order of Mysteries wanted to use them as a test subject for a “new experiemt”- that is, if they could use the same secrets they gained in order to “advance” Tam’Khat’s denizens into a more “perfected form”. Thankfully, the experiment worked- and Tam’Khat was spared from the destruction, something beneficial not only for its denizens, but also for the empire as whole. As it was discovered, the vampires of Tam’Khat are tuned to the world beyond, and have a natural knack for discovering new occult secrets. For that reason, the Draconic Order has moved its Tower of Mysteries to the city, making it into a research facility dedicated to understanding and further perfecting the vampire state into new heights. The Church is also strong in Tam’Khat, and many whisper that its so called “holy magic” was in truth gained from the first Tam’Khat vampires, who offered it to the followers of the Night God in exchange for some forgotten favor. Temples and cathedrals fill the city, some of them new but the most are former pagan sites of worship re-dedicated for the faith of the Church. In general, Tam’Khat is a city of secrets, both occult and mundane, and many are willing to pay in order to hire the services of Tam’Khat spy or assassin. While most of its vampire population has accepted the new Embrace, some still prefer to follow the old ways, giving life to corpses- an act forbidden by the Church, for it rise unholy ghosts which are bent for vengeance.

Unlike its sibling cities, Nosforo is a terrible to behold. It has no shining towers like Venverta has, no primal beauty as could be found in the gardens of Ganrugl, no exotic charm as Daventa glorifies itself in and no magnificent shrines as Tam’Khat decorates itself with. No, Nosforo is a burrow, a network of caves and tunnels connected together, as Lauresthenian slaves hollowed mountain Jakart for reasons long forgotten. Originally a part of Orphis, Nosforo is a place of terror and nightmares, as unseen monsters lurk in the shadows of the caves. For many years, either through the works of a strange blood magic or perhaps due the connection of the city of the Underworld, the city was simply ignored by Carmatellia- it was not even written in the earliest maps, and the mountain was not even given a name. Considered as a place of bad luck by the villages around it, it was left alone for many years- until Carmatellia has decided that it shall not be challenged by nightmares and horror stories, and sent its legions to investigate the mountain. To their surprise, not only that the legions never came back- but they have even forgotten that they ever existed, with the exception of the emperor. Confused, he turned to the Seers, which used their own magic to shatter the protection which guarded the Jakart- and made the emperor furious for the fact that such a small place has manged to challenge its rule. The next time, the emperor sent the full strength of the Imperial Legions to crush the city- only to discover its terrified denizens and its undead boogeymen all lying in dirt, begging for mercy. Thanks to the success of the Tam’Khat experiment, the emperor has decided to give the city to the Order in order to attempt and advance the ugly beings into an “acceptable level”- yet after one hundred years, the Order gave up on the project. Unlike the other experiments, the vampires of Nosforo never had a method for the Embrace- instead, they rose spontaneously from those who died in the caves of Jakart, beings which were more of a dream than reality and more dead than alive. The research has only allowed them to Embrace in a proper way, and could not have minimized the strange mutations which were inflicted upon those who joined the Clan. The Order, however, never admitted its failure- both out of pride and out of mercy to the Nosforo. After all, if the Order were to officially admit they were not Kindred, Carmatellia would call a purge upon them all. After its conquest, Carmatellia has practically forgotten about Nosforo, preferring to ignore those whom they considered as no better than worms- yet the dead of Nosforo were quick to seize the opportunity to leave their mountain city, becoming a major power within the empire’s criminal underworld. With Carmatellia’s fall, the Nosforo were quick to re-organize the collection of gangs and criminals into a working network, absorbing many of the former Imperial Legions soldiers and creating the base for the future Road Watch- and even though Ganrugl has since took command over the organization, most of its members come from the mountain city. In addition for that political change, religions upheavals also took place within Nosforo- Auvirtus first revealed itself within Jakart’s tunnels before Saint Hasmarus, and while Tam’Khat fancy itself with its temples, the great cathedral of Saint Juvius the Martyr in heart of the Church, where the High Priest of the Night and his Council of Archbishops decided on matters of faith and pray upon the altar where the Nigh God incarnated. Songs of prayer echo through the tunnels, and pilgrims through all of Flouriey came to witness the hidden miracles of the Church. And so, without anyone noticing. Nosforo has turned from a cursed and forgotten place to the undead heart of the official religion of the nation- and by doing so, one of the greatest powers in the league. That may have surprise the historians, but not the people of Nosforo. They have long knew that you never see the monsters, until it is too late.

Flouriey’s Small Cities

Many other small cities exist within the league. Some are purely human settlements, which are practically powerless before the five Royal Clans and are controlled through Blood Vassals or serve as social experiments for Fire Rose loyalists. Others were some of Lauresthenia’s failed experiments, later purged by the Blood Empire’s crusade against non-Kindred vampires. Few, however, have survived the purges- either by going into hiding and lowering profile, or by never falling before the Blood Empire. Untouched by the secrets of the darkness and the experiments of the Draconic Order, they are far from being considered as “Kindred”- but they could be. All they have to do is show themselves useful to the league, and allow themselves to be changed by the efforts of the Order. Whether they can- or want to- do so is an all other different question.

Deep in the jungles of Xichutal, the Teomeracatol the Obsidian City stands hidden. The Imperial Legions, with all of their might, have never dared to venture so deep into the jungles, where strange beings lurked, hungry for the blood of Carmatellian soldiers. The rise and fall of the Blood Empire barely influenced Teomeracatol, and its existence came to the league only a few years ago, as rangers of the Road Watch has managed to enter into the heart of Xichutal- and return alive. In Teomeracatol, sacrifice is seen as the highest of values- its human denizens go into the forest, hunt for the wild men which live in the forests and fear Teomeracatol’s Jaguar Warriors. Annual war games are practiced among the different tribes and families of the city- where the losers are left to rot in the sun and feed the monsters of the night, and the winners gain the right to be sacrificed for the bloody gods of Teomeracatol. Tomerecatol’s priests are chosen among those who give the highest sacrifices for Cultizcapo the Black God and his brood- becoming breath drinking witches which worship the god of death and overseer his sacred ceremonies. Made mostly out of women, the vampires of the Obsidian City are more human than those of Flouriey- but still access certain rites, unique for the worshipers of the Taemuziqaiti, the Thousand Hungry Gods. As long as they were detached from the world, deep in their forest, Teomeracatol could have practiced its faith undisturbed- but with its discovery, it is only a matter of time before an invasion would take place. Already now, the Church push the Blood Courts to declare a crusade, and the Ministry of Coins and the Road Watch start fantasying about the wonders hidden in the unholy place. Worse- what would happen when Teomeracatol would discover that its god-monsters are not the all mighty world rulers they claim to be? What would happen, when they’ll discover that the world is much wider than their forest, and that everything their gods and priests has told them was, in fact, a lie?

Between Daventa and the ruins of Carmatellia, Formeas sits in silence. The Beautiful City adores it own image, following an old religion dedicated for the gods of fertility and beauty. Their prime goddess, Bellasas, is seen as the mother of the world, the most beautiful being which was ever birthed. Hundreds of years under Flourieyan occupation has turned their religion into syncretistic, marrying Bellasas the Beautiful with Auvirtus the Night God, making it an haven for Crone cultists. Formeas’s ideal of beauty, however, seems to be different than that of the rest of Flouriey- it sees beauty in curved, large bodies. Their statues represent fat, nude idols, painted with bright colours. Surprisingly, the vast majority of the city state are quite thin- they are not beautiful enough, they say, and the children of the goddess judge them as unworthy of their beauty. While most of the outsiders treat it is nothing but a eccentricity of Formeas and nothing more, and choose instead to enjoy its beautiful palaces and gardens, the worshipers of the Crone know the truth- that the gods of Formeas live beneath the city, beings of corrupted fertility which feed upon the dreams and self loath of their people. They hid in there since the rule of the Blood Empire, and if nothing would disturb them they have no plans on changing it.

Far from Formeas, in the desert of Al-Zaab where the grand city of Nodem once stood, nomad tribes travel circling the Sultanate of Jabriz. Thanks to the hazardous conditions, very few of Flouriey’s people have reached that far into the desert, even though the Road Watch has Embraced enough of the desert dwellers in order to learn the secrets of crossing Al-Zaab and allowing trade between the league and the sultanate. Jabriz, the Capital of the Desert, serves as an oasis in the middle of Al- Zaab- no war is allowed between its bronze walls, and no blood is allowed to be spilled. It is ruled by its mighty desert sorcerers, which serve as advisers to the mortal sultan. The sorcerers of Jabriz, however, hide secrets of their own- at night, they scavenge over the cemeteries and feed upon the dead, for it is a long tradition within the city to leave their lost loved ones exposed to feed the desert. Jabriz is a very mystical city, where magical powers grant status and place in society, and lacking it sends people to the slums. Protected by the desert, Jabriz has never came to know that the powers of its sorcerers falls far behind the blood magics of the Royal Clans- but now they know, and they want the secrets of the blood for themselves, no matter what the price may be.

Far at the east, sitting near river Gasish which flows around Jakart, Chan-Dei could be found. The Library City is famous through all of Flouriey for its obsession for knowledge and its detailed, high quality books. Knowledge is power, after all, and in Chan-Dei it is truer than the usual. Scholarship equals status inside the walls of the Library City, and tests examining the skills and knowledge of its citizens, both living and dead, are conducted daily. Two castes stand in the head of Chan-Dei- the pure caste and the librarian caste. The pure caste lives a perfect, abstinent life, chosen from childhood by the librarian caste through the ceremonial rite of passage. Unlike the rest of Chan-Dei’s people, the pure caste lives in perfect solitude, not speaking with anyone but the librarians and each other, while they wear heavy, white robes which cover their body and faces. All of them are vegans, and they are forbidden from learning how to read or leave the city’s walls. Touching others not of their caste is forbidden, and all but one third of the pure must remain virgins (for the lineage must be continued, after all). Breaking any of those rules would be punished by death. The librarian caste are the vampire rulers of Cha-Dei’s- the masters of knowledge who swear to protect the books and go like hidden ghosts between its shelves. They are aware of occult secrets forgotten by all since the time of Lauresthenia. Every five years, or every time one of the librarians find their early finale death, a scholar of great renown is chosen among the people of Chan-Dei, as well as one of the pure. Through a dark ceremony, the pure is sacrificed and their heart is removed, and used to replace the one of the chosen librarians. During the Carmatellian conquest, the vampires of Chan-Dei have used their ghostly nature to hide from the purge, and used the pure caste as the official rulers of the city state- but after the fall and the establishment of Flouriey, their existence was discovered by the vampires of Nosforo and Tam’Khat. Seeing interest in the great collection of Chan-Dei, the Order has offered them to help advance their Clan and join the ranks of the Kindred. Some of the young members of the librarians have accepted the offer, but the elders are reluctant- the social order of Chan-Dei has been built around the complex method of the Embrace, and who knows what would happen of the city’s sacred libraries if it were to fall? On the other hand, how could the small city even reject the offer against one of the greatest forces of Antharia?

While many things have changed since the fall of Carmatellia and the rise of Flouriey, the hate toward Mangardella remained as strong as ever. Sitting on a lone island in the Great Osferus Sea, the city is well famed as a place of forbidden delights and dark magics which would cause Daventa to look like a saint. Ruled by dread blood witches, the Blood Empire waged countless wars against the island kingdom- yet Mangardella stood strong, spreading over the near islands and becoming a powerful sea force. Piracy and smuggling were always concerned connected to the Mangardellans, and the horror stories with the empire talked about heads which detach from their bodies and devour babies. While one could think of it as a mere propaganda meant to justify the political struggle, in the case of Mangardella the rumors are right. Many outlaws, heretics and other people hunted by Carmatellia, and later, Flouriey, have found a safe haven in Mangardella’s reaches- at least, as long as they follow the selfish, arbitrary will of the blood witches. The dread effects of the plague called the Wasting and the enchanting songs of the witches have made Mangardella a dangerous place to live in, but the rare spices and the opportunities to gain rare merchandise at low price has always lured sailors to try their luck in the kingdom, but even if they were to survive Mangardella, the dangers are not over yet- for by law, if one were to be caught returning from the island kingdom to the continent, they are to be immediately executed. The Blood Courts are fearful of the Wasting, and will take no chances at stopping its spread into the league.

Ruined, Lost and Fallen

Not all of Lauresthenia’s projects have survived to the modern era. Some have been hunted down and destroyed by the purges of the Blood Empire. Others were brought to self destruct, or went down due to a war between the city states. Some whisper that the vampires of those lost cities are not truly gone- they are simply hiding in the shadows, waiting to strike back and avenge their fall against the league. Most ignore those conspiracy theories and urban legends- those clans are fallen, destroyed and shattered together with their own cities. All that is left behind are ruins of the past and few notes in history. They are gone, forgotten and forsaken.

The other option would be too terrifying to consider, after all.

Carmatellia is gone, eaten by the darkness which gave birth to it. The perfect experiment, the outcome of years of research all dedicated toward creating the perfect vampires- gone, shattered, deader than dead as the terrible Year of Shadows came upon the land. No one dears to visit the ruined palaces and fallen shrines, which once were the pride of the nation. People whisper that the place is cursed, and that the shadows which brought the Blood Empire’s fall still lurk within the ruins, hungry and furious for the debt which is was not paid. In the heart of the cursed city, a chasm is open- those who dared to venture into the city (and returned) say that the chasm is so deep, and it is impossible to see its bottom. Rocks thrown into it have never made a sound, and those who tried to enter the pit itself have either escaped after a few seconds in the chocking darkness, or went lost and were never seen again. In Carmatellia, there is a constant feeling that the shadows are watching you, and even though years has passed since its fall, clouds still cover the sun and no moss or fungi have grew to cover the ruins, which stand like bare, broken bonds stained with blood- like an eternal monument for Carmatellia’s fall. Like a requiem for an empire.

Once, in the desert of Al-Zaab, Nodem stood proud. Its walls were decorated with gold, its towers shinning with silver. It was a prosperous city- but a sinful one, too. The only law was the will of its council of five kings, and its religion was based around demon worshiping and blood sacrifices. No sin was punished within Nodem, and no will was denied. Believing itself to be the most perfect creation of the legendary Blood Lords, the Clan of Nodem celebrated in the blood of their people, beasts turning into men turning into beasts again. Diablerie was common path to power, and the kings fed upon the souls of their children over and over again. When Carmatellia discovered the city’s many sins, it was disgusted and sent its legions to erase the accursed city from the face of earth. In their hubris, the five kings welcomed the attack- but even under the threat of war, they kept plotting against each other, stabbing each other in the back and not answering each others requests for help. While it once ruled upon a wide area and population, the inherit lack of faith between the kings brought to their downfall- for the armies of Carmatellia were unified in goal and vision. Marching to the city, their laid siege against its walls, and let its denizens to turn upon each other. The mortals of Nodem never even had the chance to starve, as the already frenzied vampires of the city turned upon them, only to later turn upon each other, drinking the heart blood and the souls of their kin. In seven days, the siege was over- and Nodem was burned to the ground, its ruins are covered by the drifting sands. However, some whisper that it was not the end for Nodem’s legacy- that the five kings, feeding upon the blood of their children, have managed to escape the doomed city, and now travel Antharia in search for redemption, or vengeance. Others say that three of Nodem’s princes, which were destined to be sacrificed to city’s demon gods in exchange for victory in battle, have made a pact with a demon darker than any other to escape the city- or perhaps they were saved by the graces of the Night God, or the Crone, or some other power yet unknown. Some even believe Nodem to be merely a legend- a cautionary tale about the dangers at succumbing to your own Beast, and why one should follow the values of the Night God. The truth, however, is buried beneath the sands of Al-Zaab, and if anyone knows it, they ain’t telling.

If one dares to go north enough, to the snow lands which hide beyond Ganrugl, they could find the abandoned ruins which once were Marovikh, the Winter City. Found in a frozen desolation, the Clan of Marovikh was a noble one, which knew how to survive with limited resources and took care of their human citizens- more out of need than compassion. Deep was their sleep in the summer, sending them to their graves for months as their blood grew thick in the cold weather, creating some sort of compact between the vampire leader and the human leader. In their solitude, their made Marovikh into the most beautiful city they could have imagine, a fantasy realm shaped from silver and crystal. Stories have been told through the Blood Empire about the hidden diamond which Marovikh was, and its was granted the status of a Royal Clan, a status which Nosforo was yet to gain due to their “incomplete nature”. However, for reasons lost in the fog of ages, an ages old feud went between Ganrugl and the Winter City. As long as Carmatellia stood strong, it restrained Ganrugl’s blood lust and Marovikh’s cold enmity. Yet, as the Blood Empire fell, Gangrul used the opportunity and sent its armies against its ages old rival, before the news about the ruin would come to the Winter City. Seeing the coming armies, Marovikh first believed that the Imperial Legions would come to their help, and prepared for a long siege- but as the weeks went on and the summer grew closer, fear started to sip into the ice cold hearts of the clan. In order to withstand the numbers, the Marovikh has started to Embrace en masses, sending troop after troop to their death against the fangs of the Ganrugl. At first, their blood spawned vampires- but as the summer came close and their blood lost its potency, hordes of hungry revenants were all that was left to send against their enemies. In their panic, they have tried to devour their own blood, forcing the city into chaos- through which, the compact with the mortal king of the city was broken. One night, just as the Ganrugl planned for another battle, a scream of terror filled the air. That night, no attack has came from Marovikh’s walls, even when the sunrise came close and closer. Suspecting a trap of some kind, the Ganrugl went to examine the city- only to find it abandoned, empty from both the living and the dead- except of the royal palace. There, they found the grave of the Winter King open, his eyes close as if in torpor- and his chest cut wide open and his heart missing. Claiming the city cursed and damned, the Ganrugl burned the palace and left Marovikh behind- vowing to never step in it ever again. Whatever happened that fateful night, and why the Winter City truly fell to ruin, is unknown even to this day.

Optional Material: Stranger Cities (homebrew material)

Near the ruins which were once Marovikh, the city of Einregett still stands- even though its is far fallen from grace. Once, it was a proud land of warriors, which knew no fear or will other than battle. Only the strongest would survive in Einregett, for even in birth the costume was to let the young to fight for their own, and watch of the dead could dig themselves out of the grave by their own hands through the frozen ground. Driven for battle and battle only, Einregett was built as a fortress, and its cold heart rulers had the ability to read their enemy’s weaknesses and secrets with nothing but a glance. Many times Carmatellia has tried to conquer the city, but the long winters and the nihilistic, near suicidal nature of its denizens made the task practically impossible, until a cold, unofficial peace took place between the sides. Ironically to a culture of warriors, Einregett fell not because of war, but because of peace- travelling all the way from the south, the Tam’Khat saw interest in the city’s denizens- for they shared many similarities with the Tam’Khat themselves, as they Embraced from the dead, had an empty heart and eyes which could see better than the most. Slowly, the Tam’Khat slithered their way into the city, being too weak in the eyes of the Einregett to serve as worthy opponents to their powers. There, by abusing the inherit lack of care of the Einhregett Clan, the Tam’Khat slowly made themselves a power behind the throne- and then, the power upon the throne. The bred the Clan according to their own plans and experiments, and subsumed the competitor’s cold blood, leaving only a single bloodline which even lost its own fangs. Tonight, Einhregett is a Tam’Khat city in all but the name, and the true Einregett Clan is lost.. at least, that’s what the Tam’Khat say. those who dare to inspect the subject even further are rarely seen again.

South to Tam’Khat, on the other side of the Ungtam river and deep within the jungles of Khormeh, Muvrum is cloaked by its own shadows. There, strange vampires live beneath the trees- the so called “kings of the wilderness” by their own tongue, and primitive and primal by the rest of Flouriey. Carmatellia has never tried to conquer Muvrum- officially, they claimed them to be nothing more than savages, who were not worthy of sending their armies against them. Unofficially, stories tell about it being an outcome of their bargain with the darkness, who wanted the City of Shadows to stay alone, untouched and untainted by the Blood Empire. While it is called as primitive by the people of Flouriey, it is only because most of them have never ventured that far into the forest- for Muvrum is a great city, with a sophisticated culture and technology. Muvrum’s culture is based, first and foremost, around the hunt- both among the living and the dead. The hunters serve as the city’s elite, who worship a series of beast totems for their blessing, with the dread Lightning Bird standing as the highest. In addition to those, the vampires of Muvrum learn to worship their own elders as incarnation of the Lightning Bird- and for a good reason. Each of Muvrum carries a small chick of the totem in their heart- a small shadow, which whispers in their heart and serves them as both a familiar and adviser. That shadow bird, or sitri as it is called, is the core of the Muvrum vampire- they can teach them strange blood magics and grant them powers known only to the children of the darkness. Through them, they feed, and through them, they Embrace. Being the greatest among hunters, the vampires should be the kings of Muvrum- but they aren’t. After all, how would a lion rule over the deer if not by the hunt? The elder shadow casters of Muvrum forbid the young ones from interacting with the living unless they hunt them, and their commands are absolute, as their sitri are greater than any other but Lightning Bird herself. Lately, however, things have changed- Tam’Khat has decided to cross the river, and others, both living and dead, came after them as the Road Watch started to build the ways. Those strangers are not a part of Muvrum’s complicated society- and as such, no rule forbids against interacting with them. The shadow casters have, at first, arrange the early death of any such invader- but as the existence of Muvrum became known by Flouriey the practice stopped. After all, they can’t pose as a threat against the league, or it would destroy them. On the other hand, they can’t allow the young ones to talk with the strangers- for if they’ll discover the ability to Embrace without their sitri, Lightning Bird would lose its hold over the Clan- and as terrible as the anger of Flouriey may be, the anger of the shadow goddess would be far, far worse.

Standing in the crossroad between Flouriey, Inthalu and Orphis, Kulvera is a small, barely noticeable city state. More of a collection of villages than anything else, Kulvera is a strange place, where the real and imaginary often slip through one another. Its people follow countless different superstitions, afraid of offending the gods and the dead by their actions. Ghosts and spirits haunt Kulvera, as the boundary between the worlds is much weaker in the place where the occult energies of the two spiritual nations meet. Drive by fear, Kulvera’s shamans serve as both the city’s saviors and feared outcasts. Only they can commune with the spirits through song and dance, to either calm them or send them against their offenders. Every time a god becomes mad, or an ancestor lose his calm, the villagers turn to the shamans to help- and they would do, for a price, paid in blood. They, who strand on the crossroad between the living, the dead, and the divine serve as the backbone of Kulvera’s society, and without them the people of the land would be long devoured by the unseen beasts which lurk beyond the senses. Most of Kulvera’s dead belong to a priesthood called the House of Blooming Trees- a local religion which collects the multitude of complex rites, bargains, and bans of the land’s spirits, and turned them into a system meant to make sure all of the powers that be are satisfied. While they are spiritual in nature, Carmatellia have recognized them as Kindred, even if not a Royal Clan by nature, and its Seers have came many time to the land in order to learn the ways of the unseen world, and discover what insight does the world beyond has to share with its the world of flesh. Still, the contact between the Blood Empire and Kulvera was detached at best, and its fall had almost no impact upon the city. When the league was established and the faith of Auvirtus the Night God became the official religion, the Church has demanded to submit Kulvera to its will and clean it from its false faith- yet, the Blood Courts objected. They recognized the importance of Kulvera’s faith at quieting the spirits, and destroying the faith would mean angering thousands of ancient, godlike beings which would seek retribution against the nation. While the Church claimed that the Courts have no authority of religious matters, the Blood Courts mentioned that the survival of Flouriey was a political matter, and that if they can battle the shades of Kulvera without their soldiers, they are pleased to do so. That settled the subject- but the Church has never forgot the case when its will was defied, and officially have declared the House of Blooming Trees an heresy, even though that no one dares to enter Kulvera and purge it away. Still, if the Blood Courts would show weakness, or if a need would turn up, the Church won’t hesitate at using the opportunity to burn Kulvera to the ground, and they keep on pushing toward that action whenever they can. Still, for now, Kulvera is safe.

For now


 

And wow! that was much more work than I thought it would be! Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading the first RoL OD post! The next one would be about Flouriey’s politics and religion, and (hopefully) also antagonists and minor splats. See you next time!

Chapter 31: Fires of Hell (infernal splats)

“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”- 

Dante, the Divine Comedy

Welcome to Hell.

It’s a nice place, when you think about that- the winters are not that bad, for example. The bureaucracy is a bitch, but isn’t it always the case? Yeah, you’ll have to deal with all of the torment and suffering thing which is going on, but once you get used to it, and you have an eternity to do so, it could actually be kinda fun. The great thing is that in Hell, nothing is forbidden- as long as you are strong enough to claim what you want, of course. No desire is unfulfilled, no passion is barred. Everything is available to you- a perfect freedom, which eventually feels so hollow that you must make other people to sin just as you did, just so that you will feel that your passion means something.

Hell loves you, no matter how fallen or broken you are.

Even if you are a monster.

I’m not talking only about human monsters- of course Hell would love those (even though I would argue that some of those, such as Slashers, would probably be too Abyssal in mind to be loved by Hell. When you can’t recognize your sin, do you even sin?). What I’m talking about is outright monsters- vampires, were-beasts, witches and other twisted beings. As long as they can whisper to them, make them lose their path and draw them to the depths of Hell, Inferno can love them. Even non human- related monsters can be loved: spirits are Wounded by the Lords of Vice, ghosts hear whispers in their mind to become independent, dreams become real as Hell gives desires will of their own. Only those who are fallen by themselves- such as the strix or the horrors of the Abyss- or too perfect to be touched- such Supernal beings and the angels of the Machine- are protected from Inferno’s maddening whispers. Only those who can recognize their own sins are open to Hell’s call, and discover that sometimes, you can fall so low that you’ll never, ever, rise again.

As such, it should come as no surprise that Hell has developed its ways at infecting supernatural beings. From corrupted cults and occult orders up to twisted creations birthed and powered by Hell’s own flames and brimstone, Inferno have twisted and tainted the supernatural again and again and again. It wounded the Shadow, it polluted the Astral and even managed to burn the world of the dead. No matter who or what you are, Inferno is waiting for you to break down, to fall so low that all sounds vanish in a perfect silence- and then, it starts whispering. Listen to the whispers, and they will lead you to the promised land- a place where you’ll finally be free, a place you’ll call home.

In this blog post, we are going to explore those hell cults and demon spawn. For each of them, I’m going to present both a an infernal y-splat or social group, and a x-splat or a variant template, or something in between. Of course, you may ask yourself why you should want to play such monsters- but the answer is really simple, and made out of two parts. The first is discovering what “evil” means- how far you are willing to go, and what can you learn of yourself from the experience. The second would be that not all of those poor souls are evil. Some are desperate, and simply have no other option and decide to choose what seems to be the lesser of two (or more) evils. Others don’t know any other way, and when they do they may even decide to rebel against their own forefathers and find a new place for themselves in the world. And few, few truly believe they are doing the right thing, that what they are doing is not evil, but who they are, and what they are destined to be. That they are creating a new Heaven upon earth, without recognizing the Hell which burns behind them. The road to Hell is paved in good intentions, after all- and at the time, adding to the infernal flames the warmth of nuclear fires may have seemed like a good idea. too bad no one checked who was the one to whisper it in their ears.

And now, let’s go to the splats themselves, shall we?

Vampire– thankfully, Requiem has already provided us with an excellent, infernal Covenant: Belial’s Brood. While there are certain suggestions at changing the Brood into a strix-cult, I like the infernal emphasis better. As the Brood is yet to show up in 2e, I think that we could use the infernal interpretation until proven otherwise. At the worst case scenario, we could always devise a new Covenant- I think about adapting the Aharanite version of VII into a “not explicitly VII” version called the Blood of Ahran, which would have a focus as inquisitors and demon hunters which invoke the demon Shaddad for their help.

As for the Variant/Clan version, I think that an “Infernal Clan” actually sits well in Requiem’s themes. Archdemons can make vampires just like anyone else. While the Akhud may fulfill that niche, I think that something a bit more.. diabolical could be appropriate. What if instead of a Beast, the members of that Clan would have a demon in their hearts? What if instead of a dirge, those vampires would be bound by vice? More than that- as the Daeva are the Clan of serpents and tempters, perhaps we could explore that theme even more deeply using them- either as a “corrupted” version of the Daeva or, perhaps, their “proto Version”, just as the Hollow are the Mekhet, and the Pijavica may be the Gangrel.

Werewolf– again, Forsaken has saved us some work by presenting the Bale Hounds. More than that, we are going to get a 2e update for them in the upcoming Night Horrors book! Woot woot! As it may give a deeper view of Wounded spirits and their Maeljin masters, we can all agree how excited we are toward that book.

As for the other Splat, I’m not sure an “infernal auspices” would work- perhaps the Blood Moon one, but still, not good enough. Instead, we do have an alternative First Change which may be connected to Inferno, written by Chris Allen. Still, what I suggest is instead of directly using it, use it as an inspiration, and build upon an older 1e material- the Balam Colop. Originally in Blasphemies (I think), those werejaguars are said to be formed from jaguars which ate the hearts of humans sacrificed by the Aztec. Personally, I don’t like that origin story (I feel like it is a bit too one dimensional. Good for a Monster of the Week kind of thing, not an actual new splat). Instead, we could use them as the “chosen of the Maeljin”, shapeshifters birthed through sin and vice, showing up first in the Aztec Empire through some vary wrong bargains with the Lords of Vice as a Uratha mockery. Tying them to Inferno won’t be that hard, but they should have some redeeming qualities so you won’t end up playing a freaking monster.

If we were top consider other Shapeshifters, I think that the Baal Haddad and the Unclean has the greatest potential. The Baal Haddad already take a part of my “Molochite Mythos”, and as such presenting them an infernal, Moloch worshiping version could show itself cool. The Unclean have been connected to chthonic worlds through the Hell Cults, but I think that the plain old Underworld makes more sense for them than the actual inferno.. unless we also include the larvae. Now, that has some potential.

Mage– while a fully infernal Order is out of the picture, having a small Nameless Order does sound like a good idea. I did wrote once an infernal Ministry for Seers (called the Ministry of Tartarus), but having a full Order could be cool. Perhaps something in the style of a semi-Goetic cult, which, unlike the two goetic legacies, seeks to summon demons and find them “proper vessels”. Making them the regular demon worshipers has its charm, as Inferno is kind of simple in nature (you are evil, no excuses are needed), but we could give them some depth by connecting them as a terribly misguided cult which believe that, following gnostic traditions, believed that achieving Ascension could only be done by testing their own weaknesses and becoming immune to them by indulging them. That didn’t worked, unfortunately- but it doesn’t stop them from believing it did. That’s what their demons tell them, after all.

Now, making an whole new “Infernal Path” is out of the picture. It doesn’t make any sense, and would require too much work. But perhaps we could make a some sort of “alternative Awakening” done by Hell instead- people who sign Faustian bargains with Hell in exchange for wisdom is something we see again and again in folklore, after all. It could be the standard version, were people believe they would be granted Awakening, but get instead a cheap mimicry which shows only Hell *(and an infernal Watchtower) or perhaps, by taking inspiration from the mortal instruments, they could work as a demonic “Proximi” lineage, which can do some strange magics thanks to an ancient bargain with a demon, but has never produced an Awakened from its rank (even though that stories about a “Watchtower cloaked with smoke and flame” are told about in the family).

Promethean– well, here things become really interesting. Promethean, the game which is connected the most to divinity, with the Principle and burning angels and redemption, could make an interesting contrast with the old biblical demonic vice. While I am yet to write it, I have tinkered for awhile about a new “broken” Refinement called Sulfurous- the Refinement of Vice. Like Centimani, going to Sulfurous is considered going out of the Pilgrimage (so no fear of becoming Petrificati), even though it has its own twist- instead of accepting your own monstrosity, Sulfurous is about accepting your divinity. It teach you to believe the Promethean state as an exalted state, something that puts you above humanity. The world dies beneath you because it can not withstand your awesome presence, humanity hates you because they instinctively fear your power. You should make mankind to submit to you, to use them for your expense, and be worshiped as a god upon earth. Let other Created chase the lower fate of becoming humans- you have a much greater fate. You are not human, and never were human. You are above them, and as such you should use them to fulfill every twisted desire you ever had in your heart, until your fire will burn your mortal coil and you’ll rise as a god. The fact that it is an utter lie never seemed to bother anyone.

As for a Lineage, I have once worked on something I actually kind of proud of- the Baalim. Instead of being born from the Divine Fire, the Baalim are created by the fires of Inferno, even though that most of them are not aware of the difference. On the surface, they are just like any other promethean- a dead body brought to life through an act which invokes the powers of the world. But when you look at the details, you notice that there are some… terrifying differences between the Idols and the rest of the Created. Made to serve as idols and faces for the gods, the Baalim as general follow Sulfurous, even though some brave souls go to the quest in an attempt to gain a New Dawn. If it is possible for the spawn of hell to be greeted to heaven is yet unknown. While they are not finished, I am waiting for the Tormented in order to see how the Zeka are going to be treated (as they seem to have unique, variant features to them), and decide if I’ll settle for something in their style, or will make a more variant template.

Changeling– So what is the big difference between faeries and demons? Not much, as it seems. One of the versions for the Gentry’s existence is that they are the third Choir of heaven, which neither rebelled or supported against God. As such, they are bound by their words- being in a distance of a single lie from hell’s eternal punishment. They haven’t committed any sin, and as such escaped Inferno. They left God’s care, and as such they are not accepted in Heaven’s gates. Is that story true? Who knows- but it makes a good base to build about for infernal splats. As for the Court of Hell, I’ll think about them as some sort of infiltrators- they are a Court without a Freehold, which swarm their way into the heart of other Freeholds, feeding on their protection like parasites. Hell stands for them against the Fae, granting them protection- as long as they’ll betray their own friends to the Keepers. The Gentry get toys, Hell get treachery and souls, the Court gets freedom- everyone wins! Bet the changelings, of course.

As for the Infernal Seeming- do you know that they say that the Faerie Queen pays a tithe to Hell? What if among 10 stolen children, one is given to Hell as a part of a Pledge as old as the world. Most of those Lost are never found again, suffering for all eternity in the flames of Inferno as it delights in their pain- but one out of ten escapes- or, perhaps, is freed. It is a part of the pledge, too, and we all know that Hell respects its bargains. Those poor souls are scarred more or less the same way as their Fae siblings, but their experience was quite different. They see the marks of Hell everywhere they look, and hear the whispers of demons as they try to lure them to Hell’s warm embrace- and this time, by their own accord. After all, the pain of stolen souls is much less satisfying than that of willing ones, and Hell doesn’t give anything unless it would gain ten times more of the deal.

Hunter– well, I must say that here I officially have little to nothing to add. With the Lucifuge as an infernal conspiracy, the L’Enfant Diabolique as an infernal cabal, and my own infernal homebrew for hunter (the Heirs of the Crown, the Cult of Moloch and the gran project called the Strains of the Cursed Blood), the best that I could suggest would be turning the Lucifuge into a proper template as some sort of a variant. That saves a lot of work, thankfully.

Geist– Now, the Underworld is a broken, terrible, hellish place- but it is not Hell. Hell is terrible by its own right- but when having to choose between being slowly eaten by the Bellow and finding a way out in the form of Hell’s endless pain and suffering, you shouldn’t be surprised that at least some ghosts chose the other way. The way I see it, larvae, the infernal ghosts, are those ghosts which found their own way out by going even deeper than most ghosts usually do (metaphysically. Usually, they don’t search for Hell as much as it finds them). They gain a certain awareness to their state, which the lacked before, and are able to rise in Ranks beyond their regular limits. In exchange for their freedom, Hell clutch at their Essence- and one day, it would devour them whole and take them to a place of eternal torment, but for now they are free. Considering the way Archetypes and Krewes work, I’m kinda divided between making something in the style of the Court of Hell (that is, making a global krewe which kinda breaks the rules by acting as a collection of Hell cults which work in order to advance Hell into the Underworld, believing it to be a better alternative as a form of a weird, upside down Catabasis), or by making an whole new Archetype which advance Hell’s agenda by granting the dead the freedom they deserve (as inspired by my discussion in the Ghosts are People thread).

As for the other splat, I think that a variant would work better than an “infernal Burden”. The concept is quit simple, actually- larvae Bound instead of geist Bound. Now, the larvae is much more possessive, corrupted and aggressive than the average geist, leading it to constantly tempt the Bound to further damn itself and go down to inferno’s clutches. Instead of helping ghosts, those Bound are tempted to damn them and spread inferno’s evil taint. Tyranny is not an option for them, and Synergy is a dangerous path for those who wish to understand the devil. And who knows? Perhaps there is no larvae inside their brains. Perhaps there is only a Whisperer, which corrupts their own, bound ghosts, and slowly leads them to the slippery slope to Hell.

Mummy– in a world of harsh laws and harsher punishment, Inferno represents the pleasure in transgression while being aware that you sin. In a world of divine hierarchy and tyranny of judgement, Inferno is freedom and the ability to shape your own place in the world through brute force and desire. In a world decided by a starry fate and the hunger of oblivion, Inferno is escape, a new fate burned by your own bloody hands as you laugh in the face of the Devourer, which can’t eat what is already eaten. Guild splat wise, I really don’t think that making a new, infernal Guild is either appropriate or that it will be accepted well in the fandom. However, we should remember that in the original myth, Shaddad was Irem’s king- and in the CofD, Shaddad is, in fact, a demon. What I have in mind is allowing the Arisen to change not their Guild- but their Judge. Shaddad is the “43rd Judge”, a false Judge which tricks the Arisen to switch their allegiance to him. He is an heresy, perhaps as old as the Nameless Empire itself, even though that it claims to be a “fallen Judge, banished by his siblings from the rule of Heaven”. Is Shaddad speaking the truth? Could he be a silver of Sutekh’s essence, a shard of Divine Will finding solace in Inferno? Or is he a liar, as all demons are? Whatever the truth may be, the Arisen do have hazy memories of such an heresy- or something similar enough- during the age of Irem, and those who abandon their Judge and pledge loyalty to the demon find new and addictive power in their hands, one which has no laws- other than serving your own, dark will.

As for an X-splat, again, the Deathless are ancient creatures. Having them sacrificing parts of their Pillars to hell sounds a bit too much like the Shuankshen, which I prefer to avoid. Perhaps some sort of a Lifeless mimicry would be appropriate, either as a result of a messed up Twice Arisen (like my idea for the Hery Seshta, but with a different twist), or perhaps as some sort of “false mummies” made by demons trying to replicate the Rite, only to create something don’t even they can control, and are sorry for the miserable attempt.

Demon– When demons meet demons, ha? We already have at least one infernal-unchained interaction in Night Horrors, as the Mayor made a pact with a certain demon, which taught her something or two about what “Hell” actually means. I must say that I’m reeeeeeeeeeally tempted to make a new “Satanic Agenda”, even though I believe that an Agency would be the more logical way to integrate Inferno into Demon’s setting. The Tempters seems to cover most of Inferno’s themes in Demon- so what about some sort of “Unchained Hellfire Cult/Club” which are bound by some semi-mythical figure (I’ll go with calling that demon Mephistopheles) which they believe would grant them power to withstand the Machine and disrupt its Infrastructures for their own benefit. Why would that ancient devil would help the Unchained and what is its endgame are unknown- but we can be sure it won’t end up well.

As for a variant/ Incarnation- the most logical way to go would be for Angels who Fell because of Whisperers. However, that feels like it would go against the themes of both books- forcing Angels to Fall is against Demon’s themes, as it is an act of free will and choice, usually (there is the whole Satan Signal, and while the Cryptid option is kinda nice, I can accept it well into my headcanon, so I go with the “Satan Free Radio” option instead), and Whisperers corrupting Angels is something which Inferno outright states to be impossible (sure, Inferno treated angels as creatures of Virtue and not the Divine Machinery, but I think it is still appropriate). However, we do have another option- Exiles. Exiles are trapped by their own Parameters, preforming a mission no one cares about anymore with no way out, while still being aware of their helplessness. Doing otherwise would put the Exile in a risk of becoming a Silver- which is really not a good thing. But what if there is a why out? What if a voice starts whispering in their mind, telling them that it is not yet too late, that they still have a way to Fall from grace without corruption, a way to become human and not the Machine’s slaves, a way to find their own Hell. All they have to do, is sign the dotted line, and listen to the voice in their mind. Don’t worry- all will be ok. Hell know its own, after all.

Beast– Ah, Beasts and Infernals. Both creatures of twisted desires and unbound passion- but where the Begotten wish to teach humanity lessons, Inferno just toys with its food for the pure fun. The Beast is an external experience- you go out and teach lessons, you come and find a family, you are Devoured by an horror from a world of dreams and feed by enforcing fears upon the world. Inferno is an internal experience- everything you do, you do for yourself, your own evil thoughts take over your body and whisper to you at night, you go through a self exploration journey where you learn how far you can fall, and whether or not you will break under the pressure. And the surface, Beasts and Infernals should be the best friends- but when you look at the powers which moves them, we can see that they probably despise each other, with the Begotten seeing the Infernals as some sort of infection upon the Dream, and the Infernals thinking about Beasts as fools who can’t embrace the truth of the world, that there are no lessons to teach. In the Primordial Dream, there is no sin- only hunger exist, and the myth of monsters and heroes. Inferno, which feeds upon vice and loves humanity, would probably see Beasts as competition and best, and enemies at worst.

But every family has its conflicts,, you know?

The thing about Beasts is that they have no real social structure/splat. While I could probably devise an “Hunger for Sin”, it feels like it would be too close for the Hunger for Transgression which we got at the Player’s Guide. I think that instead, some Kinship Nightmares related to Inferno and its denizens would make a good substitution, with perhaps some in depth investigation of how Inferno manifest itself inside a Beast’s Lair, with a few actual Gates of Hell if not a Malus Loci birthed inside of it, and how its side effects on the Horror which decides to sleep with the devil. Now, as for the other splat, I’m thinking more of treating it as a variant template than a new Family- that is, taking my idea for the Celebrants which I detailed in Chapter 27. That is, a literal invasion of Inferno into the Primordial Dream, with its Horror like denizens and how they form their own “Devouring” upon dreams. The Demon City travels through the Dream with song and dance, and when it comes even the mightiest of dragons would bow their head before its infernal glory.

Conjurer– And of course, I could I finish a blog post without some selfish promotion, right? 😛 Now, as you may have guessed/ read in the game’s previous incarnations, the Shattered have some strange ties to the Abyss- the Playground and the Void are actually the same thing, and while mages have a certain understanding of the blackest void, conjurers are actually a part of that dimensions of antinomian nightmares. As such, we can be sure that the conjurers and Inferno do not go along- Hell and the Void despise each other in ways we can’t even comprehend. The Playground hates the world, being a Lie which damage its perfect, endless possibilities. The world exist, while the Abyss doesn’t, and as such the Void wants to replace what that is with what could have been. From the Shattered’s point of view, it relates to the original Shattering, which happened as the Toymaker took over the Abyss and forced its will on the Playground, creating a new timeline, and turning the older order, the older reality, into a time which never was- the Time Not. Inferno, on the other hand, loves this world- it is a damaged, broken, fallen world, full of sins and vice. It accept the world as is- no need to replace or change anything. This world is perfect, as damaged as it may be, and we are all beautiful in its eyes. We just need to embrace our own inner darkness, and accept that we are not perfect- more than that, we should celebrate our broken nature. We are perfect as we are, and pain and pleasure are both worthy to indulge in.

Now, in Conjurer, like most of the other games, we have two splats- Heart and House. Heart is your X-splat, and describes the reason for why did you broke time, and defines the type of Functions you have the greatest affinity with (Host, Sublime, Aggressive, Sphere and Abyssal). House is your y-plat, which gives you a special House Function which can be powered only by Tokens and a Style, which describes the medium you use in order to work Fluctuations (painting, sculpture, song, dance and acting). More details about those splats will be given in a future Open Development post. Now, considering that Inferno is unbound by the Marionette Syndrome (which is a property of the Lower Depths as whole), it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some of the Shattered may search for an escape from the Toymaker in the lower planes of existence. Houses, as general, are ruled by a mysterious Monarch- so it shouldn’t take too much for an archdemon to mask itself as a Monarch, even though that their inability to maintain the Syndrome should be problematic for any demon who would make such an attempt, as the Syndrome is what that binds the House together. Perhaps some sort of a rebellion movement would make a better alternative- a movement which works to depose of the Houses and their Monarchs and replace them with the “ultimate freedom” of Hell. I think that such a concept could actually be some really cool addition for Conjurer’s setting- even though that getting to close to Hell’s influence tends to make the Toys act funny and unstable. After all, you mix two forces of creation which despise each other into a single vessel. Don’t be surprised if the whole thing would blow up.

As for a Heart/variant splat, I’m not sure I can see how an “Infernal Heart” could exist- but I think I have something else in mind. What if certain conjurers sacrifice their Heart- that is, their very reason to exist- to Hell? That would practically also take away their Toy, as well as any connection they establish with the Marionette Syndrome. Hell, of course, will give them something else in exchange- perhaps an actual, Toy-like demon to serve as their familiar? the ability to bins and possess the souls and fates of others? An whole world of horrors born from their own vices and hate against the world? So many options, so many cool things we could do.

 

 

And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed those infernal creations, and if there is one which excites you especially, let me know so I’ll start writing them! See you next time!

Open Development 11: Ruins of Lauresthenia (shard)

So, every once and awhile, I’m doing some cleanup on my computer and find some nice notes I wrote sometime long ago. The fun thing is that unlike finding the paintings you drew when you were a child, which always cause you to think “what the hell was wrong with me when I thought the damn thing was pretty?”, those notes are usually quite cool, ranging from concepts I’ve had for hunter organizations to whole writeups for CofD things.

This gem is of the later.

Mirrors is one of my favorite books. It is the CofD’s Unearthed Arcana, something which allows you to hack the setting and remake it in your own image. I mean, the way I see it, D&D’s greatest strength is that the mechanics are not directly tied to a certain setting. That not only allows the game designers to come up with new ideas for new settings, which are left on a superficial level while allowing the DM and players to personally explore those worlds, but also allows the DM the perfect freedom at creating new worlds, and examining how those general mechanics (meaning, magic, classes and races) work in each new setting. And then, of course, you have whole books which explore and offer new mechanics and hacks for you to use.

Now, I must say that the strong focus the CofD (and other White Wolf/Onyx Path) games has on a specific setting has benefits of their own. Also, with the example settings thing which is going with 2e, the CofD took an important step toward encouraging ST creativity and world building by showing that the supernatural society around the world is far from a unified and homogeneous entity, and that each specific setting could have its own quirks and unique features. However, the concept of Shards was the most extreme- and, IMO, the most successful- attempt at allowing a ST freedom at world building. For a change, we were introduced with an wholly new worlds, which allowed us to explore the themes and concepts introduced in the different gamelines through different lens and genres. We had a post apocalyptic world, space opera, cyberpunk, biblical world.. and fantasy.

We are going to talk about the fantasy.

Now, Woundgate is a great setting. It gives us a dark fantasy world, with all kind of strange, non human races and a new template in the form of the Dark Heroes. However, while Woundgate went far, I’ve kinda felt that it didn’t went far enough. Sure, they had to wrap up three different shards in a single chapter, so the wordcount wasn’t on their favor, but it always kinda felt to me that they could have went a bit further, a bit deeper, show a different world with a much more D&D style fantasy- some sort of a mirror to D&D’s Ravenloft, where instead of going from an high fantasy setting into a Gothic horror one, we move from the horror to a perfect, pulpy fantasy. Or, at the very least, an Exalted style world, of different countries and nations which wage war against each other, powered by supernatural powers and have their magics exist on the open, as a perfectly normal part of the world.

That’s what I decided to do.

I have tried to make a fantasy setting for the CofD a number of time- but each time I’ve got a bit bored. As such, I was happy to find those notes, as I really do like what I wrote in there, and I hope you’ll feel the same. As there are few other notes for other kinds of projects, I’m going to use the next following weeks in order to present what I’ve found and allow you to decide what you would like to see more- like, for now, you have my First Temple Dark Era, Conjurer, and now, this new fantasy Shard.

I’m happy to present to you- Ruins of Lauresthenia

 


 

Welcome to the land of Antharia.

Once, it was ruled by Lauresthenia- a great empire, full of wonder and terror. Under the reign of its emperors, the people of Antharia has prospered, enjoying a golden age. Holding magical powers never seen before or since, the wizard- lords navigated the empire, experimenting on the very foundations of the world to craft servants and soldiers, infrastructures and relics and even universes inside of universes, enslaving the powers of the land to their will. Nothing could have stood before the vast empire, and it looked like that golden age would carry on forever and ever.

But there are some rules of nature which can not be defied, not matter how strong and powerful one may be- that which rise, must fall, for example.

And the empire, indeed fell, taking all of Antharia with it. No one knows why Lauresthenia collapsed- only that one day, fire engulfed the imperial palace, leaving no survivors of the royal line. Soon after, the magics and sorceries which held the wonders of the empire failed, and the terrors which it enslaved were free to roam- doing with the people of the Antharia as they please. The dark ages came upon the land, and the wonders of Lauresthenia were left to rot and rust.

But what that fall may rise again. That’s a law of nature, too.

For hundreds of years the chaos ruled Antharia- but slowly, and surely, the people of the land has risen from the dark ages. Nations were founded by brave and powerful people, who managed to utilize Lauresthenian technology to ward of the darkness. Some has succeeded for no more than a few years. Others left a legacy to be proud of. Eventually, Antharia has managed to move out of its dark ages, reaching some sort of status quo- the darkness was still there, but it was held in bay. The people of Antharia has accepted it- and some, have even learned to embrace it.

Tonight, Antharia is a far from being a unified land- its proud nations stand alone, each on its own. Interaction between the many kingdoms and theocracies, such as war or trade, do happen- but the people of the land are suspicious of each other, preferring to close their doors and windows and pretend they have gained even a glimpse of the fallen empire glory. After all, Lauresthenia is a far memory, and when the shadows are deep enough and the they squeeze their eyes before the mirror, they could imagine that their reflection is, perhaps, the one of the empire’s old majesty.

But the ruins of Lauresthenia lurk still, buried and forgotten, waiting to remind the world what how wonderful the empire really was.

And how terrifying, of course.

The Nations of Antharia

Among the many nations of Antharia, ten are the most prominent ones, and are known by all through the continent-

The League of Flouriey– a union of merchant city states rising from the ashes of the Carmatellian Blood Empire, it is ruled by pale nobles who trade with blood and threatened by shadowy beings of forgotten origin.

The Inthalu Wolf Tribes– considered to be savages by most of Antharia’s civilization, the tribes follow animistic faith and serves the gods of the hunt and the moon, lead by shapeshifting heroes and divided by the death of a god.

The Dual Monarchy of Atnsetra– a mageocracy divided between the rule of the Council of Ten Ministries and the Five Points Society, when each side demands control over the five Sorcerer Watchtowers of the land.

The Desolation of Graikhus– made out of scattered villages and small cities, the land itself dies under the experiments of the land’s Flame Alchemists and their roaming creations.

The Kingdom of Diwyn– a realm found in the depths of the Aluvirian Forest, its people are protected from the dread fey gods of the forest with nothing more than contracts and oaths forged ages ago.

The Republic of Marthe– a young democracy no more than a dozen of years old, it is ruled by strong adventurer guilds devoted to dive into the wilderness and challenge the darkness on their own terms.

The Necropolis of Orphis– ruled by necromancers and mediums and populated by both the living and the dead, the nation is found under the constant threat of sinking to the Great Bellow.

The Tyranny of Mekhtath– controlled by a puppet king and manipulated by dozens of cults of artifice and death, the theocracy enforce its harsh laws for the fear of the Roaming Stars Rebellion and other heresies.

The Theocracy of Namedra– the most technologically advanced civilization in Antharia, the whole nation is practically controlled by a powerful Lauresthenian relic which produce its own agents to serve it.. unless they betray their own mission.

The Forbidden Land of Ankarda– a collection of clans found in the Primordial Lands, they worship the monsters of legend as they lead them to attack other nations, teaching them the truth about their so called “civilization”.

 

Example Lauresthenian Ruin: the Weeping Idol

Taking the form of a winged, androgynous humanoid, the Idol looks as if it is made out of white marble. A closer inspection, however, shows that the material is not stone, metal or any other known form of matter. In fact, it looks almost organic- which could explain the tormented look on the statue’s face.. and why it constantly cries.

Whatever its source may be, it is undoubtedly a useful relic- by drinking the Idol’s tears, one could replenish their Willpower pool (or, in the case of supernatural beings, their supernatural energy pool). However, the same magic which silence the Idol’s screams carries to its tears- enforcing upon anyone who drink them the Mute Condition. The Condition is resolved after two hours per Willpower point (or equivalent) regained through the tears, and the Idol’s benefit could not be used again for the next 24 hours or as long as the Condition is in effect, whatever the longer.

 


 

And that’s it! Please, feel free to say if you want to see more of Lauresthenia’s ruin, and if so, what exactly you would want to see!