Background Information

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National Relations

Chorach opened its borders to the outside world nearly 200 years ago, and in the time since has carefully restricted all contact between foreigners and its own people. The city of Shanur is the one point of exchange allowed by the Eternals.

For most of that time, a great deal of favored status was enjoyed by the merchants and representatives of the Tarsuli Republic, the first mainland nation to open contact with Chorach. Tarsuli merchants were allotted the largest portions of docking space, and until relatively recently (forty years ago) treaties between the two nations taxed non-Tarsuli goods at a prohibitive rate. The expiration of those treaties, however, have allowed competitors to get their feet in the door, and Tarsuli representatives are now fighting a vicious diplomatic rearguard action in an attempt to retain their lion's share of trading rights.

Trade

As a long-isolated island nation, Chorach has much to gain from trade with the mainland. Technological and magical innovations common in the Republic and Quno were unheard of here when Shanur was opened, and the trade in such devices is still brisk. Arachs are unknown on the island; the beasts themselves are sometimes brought over at great expense, but their silk fills many a ship's hold. Tarsuli iron and cloth, Cedenian wine, silver from the Emerald Imperium, Drazadi metal- and stonework, and more all fill the harbor of Shanur. The ships themselves occasionally form a medium of exchange, for one way in which Chorachi technology lags the most behind that of the mainland is in the art of shipbuilding.

In return, the mainland gains access to the seemingly endless mineral wealth of Chorach. Gems, copper, and gold are wrenched out of mines deep in the island's interior, and brought to the docks on the backs of innumerable konids. Chorachi silk and coffee are considered to be among the best in the world; though only available in small quantities, they fetch far higher prices than domestic equivalents on the mainland. Chorach is also one of the two chief sources of glass in Ferath (the other being Emerald), in the form of obsidian quarried from its many volcanoes.

Current Events

This is the situation into which you're heading. The reasons for your doing so are hopefully set forth below.

Troubling News

The tight restrictions placed upon trade by both Tarsul and Chorach provides ample incentive for smuggling. The act of docking at Shanur and unloading a ship's cargo carries with it a dozen taxes, fees, and duties, as well as an onerous burden of time: the docks of the Foreigner's Quarter are packed to capacity, and incoming ships might wait days or weeks for the right to dock and unload.

The outlying portions of the harbor are therefore aswarm with small boats (invariably piloted by Chorachis, according to local law) hired to transfer passengers and customs officials from the smaller docks to the waiting merchant ships. In all this busyness, it is not uncommon for surprisingly large portions of cargo to have been found "lost at sea" when the ship finally docks.

This smuggling is particularly rife among non-Republic ships, for whom a smaller portion of the docks are reserved, and who must therefore pay higher fees and wait longer to unload. A peculiar dichotomy has arisen: Republic officials lobby strongly for the Governor to step up enforcement against their Imperial and Cedenian competitors, while at the same time turning a blind eye to the illicit profits of their countrymen. Many line their own pockets with bribes, and occasionally the confiscated contents of ships whose captains did not bribe freely enough.

It has become the opinion of certain influential Senators that the worst of these excesses are incarnated in the person of the current Magistrate of Docks, one Maurus Vitus. Vitus is one of the most powerful Republic men in Shanur, second only to the ambassador himself, Praetor Caius Acilius. Vitus' power has allowed him to amass a considerable fortune, both for himself and a number of high-ranking friends in both Shanur and Takalamon.

This conspiracy is deep-rooted, and if revealed incautiously could shatter the delicate balance of power in Chorach. Vitus' smuggling ring is operating with the tacit approval of the Tarsuli government, a fact that will not escape the Chorachi leadership if it is brought to their attention. At the same time, competition from non-Republic traders is at an all time high. Vitus' discretion cannot be counted on: already he flouts dozens of Republic edicts for his own profit, and he is rumored to have highly placed friends in the Emerald Imperium's own embassy. Even the praetor-ambassador is suspect, as it seems rather unlikely that so large an operation could be carried out without his knowledge.

So far from Takalamon, it is exceedingly difficult for the ordinary limbs of government to act effectively. To this end, the Senate's Treasury Council has taken matters into its own hands. You are a small group of Republic agents, hand-picked for skill at arms and statecraft to investigate the Magistrate of Docks. Your highest-ranking member has been given extraordinary powers, in the form of secret papers granting him temporary Praetorial rank in the pursuit of this investigation. You are even now en route to Shanur, in the guise of new additions to the Embassy staff.

Is it a coincidence that this is a wholly Senatorial investigation? For both Vitus and Caius come from families with longtime Assembly connections, commoners made wealthy in the centuries since the ancient civil war that transformed Empire into Republic. Their appointments, 10 and 17 years ago respectively, were contentious, pushed through in the end by the Assembly's readiness to stonewall all other candidates. They have many enemies in the Senate, such as the influential Senator Anaxagoras Marcus II.

At such a crucial moment, the fate of the Republic itself can be determined by the actions of a few.

(By no means do I expect yourselves, or your patrons, to necessarily be politically allied with the Senators behind your mission. Any number of reasons might be devised for even their enemies to be given such a task).

Portents

Matters of a more esoteric sort may also be coming to a head.

Six weeks ago, the House of Ark, Shanur's highest temple, closed its doors. The priests have barred entry to all but their own number and the Eternals. It is said that a bright comet burned in the sky over Chorach for three days before the great bronze doors were shut, and that in its light the priests read terrible omens.

No other temple in Shanur has done so, even the many lesser temples to the Chorachi god of knowledge and magic. The priests of the latter remain silent, but many others have claimed that no such revelation was given to them by their own deities.

Crowds have clamored at the doors ever since, to no avail. The high priestess Jendai has spoken to them several times in the ensuing weeks: the first time the day after the temple was sealed, and the latest four days ago. Each time she urged trust in the will of the gods, and told the people that her priests were engaged in potent rituals to divine and carry out that will. Thus the closing of a house that had stood open for as long as the eldest of them had been alive.

These words did little to calm the mob. The mood in Shanur's streets is uneasy. Rumor flies thick and fast, and the Governor's men have been occupied with hunting down the sedition such rumor breeds. It is said that Eternals have been sighted going about the city in great numbers, alone or in small groups but either way without their customary entourages of guards and servants. But the Voice of Chorach has remained silent to date, giving no hint of the true purpose of the island's masters - it is not certain whether she is even in the city.

The Governor has spoken out against this fear and unrest, calling on the priests to speak with secular leaders if their fears have any grounding. Priests of other orders snigger and accuse the priests of Ark of having fallen victim to the blindness of their deity. Some go so far as to accuse them of sowing panic for their own gain.

But not far south of the city, the hallowed peak Mur Desher is smoking for the first time in eighty years. It has not truly erupted for centuries, but in this time of ill omen that fear underlies the tense mood of the city like banked coals.

What did Ark see, with his eyes that perceive nothing that is mundane but all that is mystical? What message was revealed to his priests to make them take such drastic action? If there is any truth to the words of the priests, others will have noticed their own signs and portents. They will find their way to Chorach over hundreds of miles of ocean and jungle, to find the truth of these events and help or hinder them as their own creeds dictate.

What force is stirring in the veiled depths of Chorach?

References

Character Creation

Finally, at last, I reveal character creation guidelines for the game. Do what you wish with these for now; characters won't be finalized until the beginning of the first session, when we'll have a chance to discuss in person and as a group everyone's key motivations and skills.

Rules

  • Everything in the 3.5 PHB and DMG is usable, as is the contents of http://www.d20srd.org
  • Everything on this wiki is usable, but subject to revision and updating.
  • Spells from the Spell Compendium might be allowed, subject to a case-by-case review.
  • The default answer to all other sources is 'no'. If there's something you really want to do with a feat or prestige class that is impossible to do with standard stuff, we'll talk.
  • Experience will basically be given out for advancing goals, rather than for killing monsters/disarming traps/other standard challenges.
    • Some will be handed out for the "party mission", whatever it happens to be at the time.
    • Resolving a conflict of Belief, internal or external, will be rewarded. I'll intentionally introduce some of these, but I look forward to players gunning for this reward themselves.
    • At least one of your Beliefs should encode a major personal goal. Decisively ending pursuit of this goal, whether by success or failure, will get you XP. Achieving that goal will get you more.
    • If any character is rendered nonplayable (by death or plot retirement), you can start the next session with a new character with an equivalent XP total, including the reward for accomplishing any of the above by your death.
  • Raising of the dead will be rarer; you may assume the spells raise dead and reincarnate do not exist. In return, I'll be exercising some degree of DM fudging to keep you from being rendered dead out of total randomness (crippling injuries with long recovery times that magic can help only somewhat may be substituted).

Stats

  • Level is 3rd. You each start with 4,500 XP. You're all skilled representatives of various nations, organizations, and forces, but aren't quite heroic - yet.
    • If you're playing an ECL+1 race (deep dwarf or mist elf), remember that you start at 2nd class level instead.
  • Abilities will be generated by a point buy system, because it's nice and straightforward. Each score starts at a minimum of 7, and you have 33 35 points to distribute among them as you will (on a one-for-one basis, max 18 of course). Apply any racial modifiers thereafter.
    • If a significant number of people would prefer it, we can instead roll for scores during the first session.
  • Starting Hit Points: As normal, you get max for 1st level. For your additional starting levels, take the following:
    • d4: 3
    • d6: 4
    • d8: 5
    • d10: 6
    • d12: 8
  • Equipment
    • In the past, I've used nonstandard money for Ferath games, as it seems to give the world's economy a better feel overall. To avoid confusion, I will almost always speak in terms of Ferath currency when giving amounts; if I must do otherwise, I will refer to 'standard gp', 'standard sp', etc. If people find this too confusing, I'll drop the system entirely.
    • Each of you has immediate access to 4,000 sp (4,000 standard gp) worth of starting equipment. Anything mundane from this wiki or the PHB (subject to the modified price list) is valid, as is anything magical from the DMG. How you acquired these items is up to you: they may have been bought, inherited, issued, stolen, gifted, borrowed, etc. You can leave however much of that you want in the form of ready cash.
    • Independently of the above, decide broadly how wealthy you and/or your family are back home, and what form that wealth takes. Do you own land, and do you farm it yourselves or rent it out to others? Livestock? Are you poor vagabonds? Wealthy merchants? Impoverished nobility? Minor royalty? The son of the Consul? As all of you are far from home, your starting equipment represents only what you have on hand; the rest of your resources may or may not be available at various times in the course of the game.
    • As described above, one of the Tarsuli characters will have something special: a set of documents granting you the rank of praetor by Senate appointment - that rank essentially empowers you to speak for the Senate as a whole within the bounds of your responsibilities (the investigation, in this case). This is an extraordinary step for the Treasury Council to take, and not to be used lightly - but if shown, they will allow you to command any Tarsuli citizen in Shanur short of the Ambassador himself, who would have to treat you as an equal. But recall that this power is dependent on the Senate's influence, and the capitol is a long way off. This item will be given to whichever Tarsuli character has the highest military rank, and the papers will be in that character's name.
    • If you desire the addition of another Plot Device to the party's arsenal, it may be possible, but is subject to the unanimous approval of the group.

Beliefs and Background

  • Draw up two or three Burning Wheel-style Beliefs for your character.
    • At least one should encode some long-term goal.
    • At least one should provide a (possibly oblique) reason for you being in Chorach, and interested in at least one of the background plots provided.
  • Otherwise, provide as much or as little background as you feel like; you may freely add to it later. Questions you might consider:
    • Where have you traveled?
    • Whom do you serve, and would you willingly die for them? Would you instead live in shame to save them?
    • Who are your family, where are they from, and what is their social status?
    • What groups (races, cultures, professions, organizations) do you particularly hate, fear, or love?
    • Who are your friends, and would you willingly die for them?
    • Who are your enemies, and would you willingly die fighting them?
    • Is your name famous (or infamous) among any particular circles?
    • What are you willing to kill for?
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