Shattered Kingdoms Primer
Role-Playing in Dark Times of Discord
by Charles Warrington
The Shattered Kingdoms as they are now known were once a grand Empire that slowly wasted away into obscurity, Many of the old cities are abandoned but still exist in addition to the numerous feats of engineering that enabled that Empire to grow so large and powerful. Many no longer work at optimal capacity or at all being merely broken edifices reminding the world of its former glory. Still the Kingdoms (Shards in common slang) that control them have a significant advantage (morale, economic, strategic) and would fight to the end to protect it from raiders.
Many of the other races were lost after the Empire fell, the Elves are lost (or far away deep in The Green) but their blood lives on in many isolated forest communities where their children with humans continue to thrive. The Rukesh, mysterious underground dwellers famed for bringing the worst creatures imaginable to the surface have not been seen for three hundred years but some of their abominations still walk the surface. The Goblins (Greens) exist as roaming bands of scavengers, occasionally they grow to large a nuisance to require intervention but most of the time they are harmless to established settlements.
Magic as it once was seems to have been lost from the world but there are dark rumors of ancient evils that might be bringing it back in nightmarish ways. Many common folk still believe in it no matter how much The Church of Eternal Illumination tries to convince them otherwise. Many still seek out witches, druids, and soothsayers and many isolated communities continue to preserve a shamanistic tradition.
The Land of Rakirs has a twisted and broken existence as the people who live on it, the realm is broken in many places forming jagged mountains and deep crags complete with a dense ancient forest covering much of the mountains and eastern borderlands. Its occupants live primarily on the coastal plains with a more distributed population on the plains (which is mostly cleared forest that originally occupied that land). To the south is the Whitestone Mountains which have long isolated these lands from the greater continent, to the East lies the Deep Green (an ancient growth deciduous forest), and the North and Western lands border the Ocean. Additionally numerous smaller mountain ranges, valleys, canyons, and hills
This unique environment has led to numerous factions divided by geological features which has forced most communities to be entirely self-sufficient. The environment is unfriendly for trade being a labyrinth of mountains and crags surrounded by forests which hide all manner of unsavory characters waiting to catch travelers on the old Imperial roads unawares. The Hobgoblin lands are equally treacherous with dark hills closer to the Deep Green riddled with caves filled with goblins and inhabited by monstrous and wild creatures. Farther on is dry grassland overgrown with thorny plants tangling vines, and an occasional springs which are typically occupied by herdsmen. Past that is the rocky barren hills of the Wilskorne where ancient beasts still roam freely as few hobgoblins venture there except on mining expeditions.
The Shards are always at each other throats economically, politically, and militarily, originally they were city-states with control over their surrounding territories. Among their leaders are hereditary nobles who maintained control over their Fiefs during the decline of the Empire, Warlords seizing control of territory with vast or simply effective armies, and Merchant Lords who wield influence rather than weapons although they may call upon some of the finest mercenaries in the land should the need arise. Their territories are as diverse as they come but all have something that made them useful to the Shard Lords even if it required some investment. Many lands do not even feel the touch of a Shard Lord these Free Provinces are relatively peaceful for it but have no support if something terrible occurs to them and some petty Lords look enviously towards them seeking a way to expand their influence and wealth.
Life in the Shattered Kingdoms is fairly plain and uneventful unless you are on the front lines for the latest round of inter-Shard conflict. The people of these kingdoms eat whatever is available (Seaside towns use seafood, forest border towns eat berries and the like, and everyone eats bread and meat while drinking sweet ales) to them and dress according to the local climate (which is mainly temperate with some Warm and Cold climates at the far borders of the region). The most common form of dress is a single piece dress for women and trousers with a tunic for men, all wear boots or sandals. Many villages are small and run by a local council or a minor noble appointed by the ruling nobility who is given strict marching orders by the Lord to achieve a particular talks.
Unfortunately the Golden Confederation is just as cut-throat as the Shattered Kingdoms, each one of the Guardianships is ruled by a ruthless leader who seeks the best of their subjects and exiling or executing troublemakers. They control their lands with an intensely disciplined and professional military utilizing the old Imperial roads to transverse the lands. Hobgoblins have advanced supply routes and trade networks with the various Forts (as their cities are known) and numerous Free Cities to the North and South of their lands but heavily guard their Western Border with the Deep Green and White River Pass (The widest and flattest pass through the Whitestone Mountains). They feel intense kinship along Clan and Regional lines and this has caused no end of trouble for those few clans that feel they must unite in order to expand their claims and population to a point where they could not be defeated.
Life in the Golden Confederation is very ordered the local settlements (holds) are controlled by a commanding noble who likely holds military rank. Hobgoblin Holds are purpose built and have strong ties to their local Fort receiving shipments of goods and shipping food and items in return. They have ample salt supplies from their environment which they use to cure most of their food which makes it last longer on the road. Their diet contains much more meat than a normal humans would due to their preference to herd animals and hunt the Deep Green and their drink of choice is wine rather than ale (some of which is quite good but most tastes like vinegar). Hobgoblin men and women both wear robes with numerous sashes which they find ways to individualize using distinct patterns and sometimes bizarre and clashing color schemes.
War is the same for both sides almost all of them are heavily reliant of infantry armed with primarily polearms and minimal armor. This is driven primarily by economy more than anything else, Steel is expensive. The main sources for Iron are located in the North or deep in the Whitestone Mountains and are strategically important, According to rumors Hobs have been prospecting the Slickstone Mountains for Iron ore. Most armies are composed of conscripts that have been trained for two weekends a month by their Lord’s Men-at-Arms (Professional Soldiers) or Retained Mercenaries and thus don’t utilize anything resembling complex tactics or techniques.
Just as lethal as war is trade, which is done primarily by journeyman craftsman and traveling merchants and is rife with difficulty. Everything from Western Rakirs treacherous terrain, Eastern Rakirs Warm, Dry Plains, and the numerous highwaymen that haunt the old Imperial roads that everyone uses to get anywhere in the settled regions of the continent. These highwaymen and goblin scavengers are the biggest threats in most of Rakirs and as long as they don’t attract enough attention for the local Lords to dispatch a lance of soldiers or a bounty hunter to kill you.
Most trade is done locally and many craftsman have long waiting periods for their goods and are eager to acquire journeymen and apprentices to meet demand. Being a wandering journeyman is a rewarding profession but many settle down eventually. Only a few wanderers do it for more than a few years to gain proficiency and take over their master’s shop or work alongside their son(s) for their working years folding themselves into the local community. Many tradesman tell their journey tales at the local alehouse and have inspired many adventurers to seek out fame and glory in far away lands. More commonly though many villagers never go more than a week’s distance from their birthplace unless they are on pilgrimage.
The Church of Eternal Illumination (Illuminants, CEI) is a philosophical path based on service to a higher power and selfless sacrifice on the part of its followers it only honors the dead who have given all and asked for nothing in return. It doesn’t preach mindless devotion to the cause though as challenges of faith are necessary for spiritual enlightenment and many of their greatest heroes left the Path of Illumination for darker ways before turning back. These histories are encased in the Codex Illuminatis which all pilgrims and followers of the church carry with them at all times and many memorize its core stories. Other stories encased within are more open to interpretation as to the true nature of their characters but these to are meant to forward a self-examination to find where on the Path you are. The Church’s Heart lays in Radiata Civi which is located near the ancient imperial capital of Renston now abandoned except for scavengers seeking lost valuables within its walls all others left after the Empire fell.
The Way of Wargesh is a much more authoritarian religion and uses a solid framework of which to base The Law (as the Wargeshi holy book is called). The Law requires that every one of its followers pledge to uphold The Code (Honor, Duty, Family, Community, etc…) to the fullest ability. This is why the Hobgoblins utilize truly heinous punishments for those who violate their laws (which are based on The Code) as they are not only criminals but heretics and many hobgoblins have left their native lands choosing voluntary self-exile or seeking out quests that would bring back their lost honor.
Thousands of Hobs over the ages have died in foolhardy missions to reclaim their honor that their bones litter some of the legendary places in Rakirs. The Wargesh himself was The Warrior King that united the Goblin races eons ago under one banner in which all their people fought as one, as such Hobs have begun to treat their fellow goblins as equals in most matters even if they are greens or blue (while Hobs are yellow-brown) although these other clans are rarely elevated to command positions being support and infantry for the more tactical hobgoblins to order around. The Wargesh has no set shrines or temples being spread by hobgoblin missionaries to even some of the most remote goblin clans deep in the Wilskorne.
Humans – Standard Homo-Sapiens, wide diversity of physical features but mountain folk are typically shorter and stout (from to much ale and mutton) while plains dwellers are tall and thin (from to much grain).
Elf-blooded (Half-Elf) – Elf-blooded individuals have elfin features but they are much harder to recognize than a pure blooded elf would be. They exhibit more finesse and grace than an average human and have a greater sense for the forest around them. It seems that some of their elf blood gives them a variety of innate abilities that are beyond human kin.
Goblins (Greens) – These goblins are green-skinned creatures more akin to scavengers than actual being able to hunt or gather sufficient food for themselves. As such they live in small bands most of the time congregating several times a year when food is nearby. They are quick learners though if none to bright and if raised in a more civilized setting make decent craftsman whose work is typically below standard but sufficient for most common tasks.
Norkers (Blues) – Norkers are are brutal race of goblins that survive as scavengers, their most common purpose is that of infantry for the hobgoblin armies. They are the most mystically inclined and follow their shamans mindlessly and have wicked attitudes. Their skin and claws are built for war and they constantly fight one another for dominance behaving more like wild dogs than intelligent creatures.
Hobgoblins (Yellow-Brown) – Hobgoblins are the least numerous of the goblinkin but they are the smartest and most adaptable. Early on they made their fortune on their vast herds but were massively disadvantaged compared to the material strength of the human empires. Now that is slowly changing as Hobgoblins improve their technical skill they are on the rise and eager to expand their territory throughout the Golden Plains and eventually all the way to the borders of the Deep Green and Frostrock Ridge.