Dynn stands out among the Kingdoms. Most kings, even in this age of prophets, disdain religion. They hold themselves as the protectors, punishers, and judges of all. They need no “divine right” to justify their power. The screams of the madfire victims outside the city walls after a plague year do that perfectly well.
But Dynn is different. Dynn’s king is also a prophet of the High God.
The High God’s cathedrals rise in cities all across the Claw. Cities compete to be known as the home of the tallest cathedral, or the city with the most intricate cathedral stained glass, or the city with the largest sanctuary. Not Dynn. Dynn competes to be the kingdom with the most witches burned.
Geographically, Dynn is located in the mountains of the central peninsula of the Claw, just south of the Free Road and the western edge of Windhover Valley. Though Dynn is landlocked, a network of underground rivers flows out from it beneath the mountains, under other kingdoms, eventually surfacing in the littoral east of the Sea of Princes. These underground rivers, which may run for hundreds of miles, are full of smugglers, zealots, traders, and chimeras.
Politically, Dynn is unique. The prophet-king has declared that magic is blasphemy, as it tampers with the High God’s plan. Of course, the prophet-king himself is the High God’s plan, so he wields magic. But no one else, noble or commoner, is allowed even so much as a Ceremony. Not that they want it: the populace of Dynn is at least as anti-magic as the prophet-king himself. Bonfires burn high on street corners, in amphitheaters, and at crossroads every night. Many nights they stay empty, waiting for a spellcaster; many other nights the fires are full. The cheers reverberate off the heavens every time one more witch screams her last. There are even hymns in Dynn that are composed to be sung to the background crackle of a witch’s burning. Rumors abound, of course. Some say that the prophet-king is developing a new school of magic that feeds on the souls of the spellbound that he burns in his fires. Others say that he is impotent with magic, and that he takes out his frustrations by denying his subjects even the rough attentions that the kingsmen wizards of other kingdoms mete out.
Whatever the explanation, Dynn is haunted. The Inquisition meets all travelers at the border and hounds them throughout their stay. At night, the travelers say, when the bonfires blaze up and the purging begins again, the madness of an entire kingdom is almost palpable.
Here are two of the stats for Dynn.
Economy: The economy of Dynn is strong. Its people work with zeal. Still, the lack of magic hurts. Engineering items and alchemy items are -1 wealth level; magic items are +7 wealth level; others are unchanged.
Culture. Any spellbound creature in Dynn takes 1 mood damage per day. Dynn values engineering (6) and any character with an engineer level gains a reputation of 6 as an engineer, if he chooses to make himself known, while in Dynn. Finally, Dynn loves mob rule, so anyone who participates in a mob action gains 1 mood.
There are two races of trolls in the Kingdoms, the rain trolls and the newcomers, the seradynn. Trolls are elegant and quite humanlike in appearance. The only difference is the troll’s racial adaptation to magic. Here’s an example of it from the rulebook, describing how the seradynn came to the Kingdoms forty-eight years ago.
“The first discovery took place aboard the Windsnare. The discovery was a troll foot, wrapped in cheesecloth, in a crate of bacon forks destined for the table of a tycoon of far Oryn-ja. The stevedore who unwrapped the foot did not know what to make of it. Contrastingly, the foot knew exactly what to make of itself. Namely, a new troll. It twitched out of the shocked stevedore’s hand and began an awkward toe-crawl toward a pottery crate. Out of that crate flopped a troll leg. The foot and leg attached. Then they knee-hiked to a wine barrel, where a one-armed torso groped over the rim and assembled itself with the foot-leg. And so on. Other stevedores watched troll bodies reform all across the Windsnare.
“The same events played out everywhere in the harbor of far Oryn-ja that day. And in Syrbizond, and in Muda-tarsk, and even in Dar Sint Hy, Breaker of Men. No troll had any memory of home.”
The origin of the seradynn remains a mystery. Forty-eight years have passed, and many are still waiting for the other foot to fall. Why are they here? Where did they come from? Prevailing opinion in the Kingdoms says that the seradynn were running from someone. Certainly their flight was desperate, if that is the case.
The seradynn racial abilities are: +1 magic. Any time you gain a talent, you can choose to take a magic talent, regardless of the options listed.
Seradynn also gain the troll regeneration ability: You can regenerate your body score once per season. There are other details to help this run smoothly (how you can divide it up, time limits, what body parts can be regenerated, damage sources that prevent regeneration) but that’s the main idea.
The Sealed Kingdom
This is what happened in the Deep of 1604, when the summer lay slumped on the kingdoms like a dragon slain on a cave floor, and the wheat was dry in the field.
There were four traders. A father, a mother, a son Josef who was old enough to know that he wanted more out of the summer but not old enough to know what, and a daughter Elaine, who was old enough to know that her brother was hurting but not old enough to know why. As was the parents' custom when passing this way, they stopped near the Sealed Kingdom to teach their children fear.
"Nothing passes through these walls. No one knows who sealed the kingdom, or when it was sealed, or how.
"You have seen men impaled like street decorations in Azenahal. You have seen Queen Sophia erase her courtiers' memories of children, loves, youth and leave only pain. You have heard the screams of the sinful in Queensport, the roar of the dragons in Rithaign, and the chants of the witch-hunting mobs in night-cursed Dynn. But this place, this Sealed Kingdom, is the place that men avoid."
They turned to leave. Josef was old enough to know why the kingdom must have been sealed. Kings are jealous. They do not allow interference with their magic. This one was more successful than most in isolating himself and his subjects. That was all. But Josef was not old enough to ignore it.
He looked back.
And saw a paper flutter over the edge of the wall.
It was a scroll sheet that landed on daisies wilting in the heat. Josef turned his horse and was reading the message before his parents noticed his absence.
"What does it mean?" he asked when his family came to him.
There was handwriting on the paper. It read, "Please help me find spells. Sara Holshomb."
The mother caught her breath and looked away. The father shook his head. Elaine did not read yet, but she put her hand on her brother's arm and played with the creases in the leather. The only sound was the easy sweep of the wind on the dry fields.
After some time, the father said, "We have miles to go, yet." And the family of traders moved on.
This time, Josef did not turn back. He had learned fear.
That is what happened in the Deep of 1604, when the summer lay slumped on the kingdoms like a dragon slain on a cave floor, and the sun blackened the daisies from the center outward.
Preview Kingdom: Akra
I hope you enjoyed the piece of fiction up above there. That is actually something that was up on the old site, but I thought I would put it up again since the Sealed Kingdom is just to the west of Akra.
Akra dominates the center of the westernmost peninsula of the Claw, the three vast peninsulas that stretch like a dragon’s talon from the northern mountains to the southern seas.
It is a conflicted kingdom, both idolizing and demonizing beauty, peering into the future but standing in the past. The eastern shores boast two cities, Rithaign and East Fire, where zeppelins float over travertine spires and merchant ships from across the known world drop anchor. The western woods hide villages where deaf-mutes are held for experiments designed by royalty and farms where children are born to serfdom, work, and die without traveling farther than the nearest hamlet.
In this kingdom, beauty breeds lust and shame; wealth is mother to risk; and love is father to fear.
Statistics for a kingdom in SK include its economy, noble houses, leading organizations, military, arcana, spellbound density, culture, and its ceremony. Let’s take a look at just a few of these statistics for Akra. Keep in mind that, as with histories and skills last week, this is far from complete. More statistics and details – many, many more – await in the final book.
Economy. The economy of Akra runs at +1 in the eastern cities and -2 in the western hinterlands. Among other effects, the economy number is subtracted from an item’s wealth level to find the item’s local price. The engineering limit is 15, which places Akra at the forefront of engineering knowledge and allows construction of zeppelins, cannon, and even prototype submersibles.
Noble houses. There are over a dozen major noble houses active at the Akran royal court. The king, Raoul Nentarsce the Boneless, has ruled for decades, and the Nentarscian house has been in the ascendancy for as many years. The Nentarsce house characteristics are Scope 16, Efficiency 10, Force 14, Shadow 12, and Arcana 15. The full game gives more information on noble houses including the noble house’s holdings, forces, and research.
Culture. Akra values beauty (6), denouncing beauty (6), and loyalty (4). Anyone with a history involving any of these gains a reputation equal to the number above while in Akra. Existing reputations involving the above qualities are increased by a like amount.
Ceremony. Every kingdom has its own ceremony. It is a source of pride, and it is the one form of magic that no kingdom save night-haunted Dynn denies to its subjects. The ceremony is a minor form of social magic that yields portents, omens, and augurs. In Marnh, people pair up on the shore to throw stones into the sea and read the future in the ripples that radiate. In the Grenmarch, the participants take turns shoving bare forearms into the knotholes of a bluewood log. What waits in the hole – anything from a lethal spike slug to wood chips to a bag of suns – determines the outcome of the ceremony. In Akra, the ceremony is called the Rose Ceremony. One celebrant begins by setting out wine and offering a rose to her partner. Her partner may then drink the wine or rip a petal, thorn, or leaf from the rose. Each round, a portent is possible: the wine curdles, wind stirs the rose petals into a dancing figure that soon collapses, or a thorn pricks a thumb, drawing blood. The characters can continue with the ceremony until a portent arises to their liking, but each round that they continue, the odds of a disastrous result increase. The rulebook provides a chart for each Kingdom’s ceremony, along with the potential readings, interpretations, boons and curses.
That's going to have to do it for this week's preview. Make sure you check over on the Game page for some info about the magic rules. More to come soon!
Race Preview: Prince and Princess of Wolves
Now let’s take a look at one of the races from the game. The Kingdoms are very human-centered. There are only humans and trolls, and the trolls look mostly human. Skin tone changes and occasional small horns or antlers are the only phenotypic differences. Trolls are called trolls because of their regenerative abilities.
There are, however, four human "races" and two troll.
One of the human races in the game is actually just a normal human baby that has been abandoned to the wild. Why would a mother do this? If you lived in the Kingdoms, you wouldn’t have to ask. Kings are not kind to children. Children dream, and hope, and love. The kings teach them how wrong this is, how unbridled inspirations can have disastrous consequences. Their lessons are not gentle. They are wicked enough that a tradition has developed, fervently denounced by the monarchies, that if the stars are the right color, and the season is right, then when a mother lays her babe down on a bed of moss and ferns in the forest, or rubbish in the alley, magic can save the child. The tradition says that a pack of wolves, or perhaps wild dogs, awakens to intelligence, and runs with the child, keeping it safe from kings and cruelty.
Then, when the child comes to maturity…
“And then the child leaves the pack. Often many years have passed, and he is now a man. At night, he jogs over manicured lawns and scampers over city walls. He is coming back. Some come back wild, some angry, some hurt. Some come back to the very house they were born in; others come back to villages and cities they have never seen before. They are never the same. They always come back missing the pieces left with the wolves and carrying the pieces the wolves are missing. There are sorrowful howls in the forest where the child has left.
From there, stories diverge. Some princes of wolves are able to masquerade in society; happy in some fashion for decades. Others return to their packs after tasting and despising society. Some take the time before returning to the woods to break their mothers’ hearts, cruelly and at length. And there are a very few who successfully coexist with both their wolf family and their human family, new or old.”
The racial abilities for a wolf child are:
When a prince of wolves uses an inspiration with a chase action or with a combat maneuver that involves movement, he gains one extra range increment in the chase or moves one extra area in combat.
A prince of wolves gains two bonus points in one Inspiration he has that involves his pack or his human family. This does not count toward the normal limit on inspiration points (ie, the character’s heart score).
More Setting Info
The Kingdoms are held spellbound by monarchs, enthralled on the brink of an enlighentment that may never come.
This is a world where kingsmen drag poets and bakers and farmers away in the middle of the night.
This is a world where a wizard can drain the capacity for love from a child and store it in a flask on a shelf.
This is a world where zeppelins float over the cities on the anniversaries of saints' days, patrolling the populace, the decks of the airships bristling with archers.
This is a world where an age of enlightenment and an age of darkness are both at hand. Which hand will you take?
Over to the right, you can find a link to a setting info post that I made in the forums a while back. It also touches on a few other topics, including the roles of inspirations and magic in the world.