Saturday, March 21, 2020

The World of Mother Stole Fire

This one was made with Azgaar's Fantasy Map Generator

This map has been in my head for a very long time. That's to be expected, because what sort of self-respecting D&D referee doesn't have a half-plotted, never-started fantasy novel out there?

This one is mine. A place of my own. A daydream that has been the friend of my waking hours for many years, forever changing, subsuming new ideas until I can no longer tell when and where the junctions were made. My notes are both expansive and mostly out of date.

The map itself is unfinished, and shows only a third of one continent and none of what lies to the west and south of the Mare. It is the most well-defined region, however - while the rest of the world is mostly settled down in relation to its components, I've yet to solidify the shape. It's all a bunch of labeled blobs. The shape of this region could use more work as well: the other version looks more like this, which I like a bit more from a shape perspective. Less like the Mediterranean, it's got better coastlines (because it's a collage I made of normal maps).

***
There are some things to know about the world beforehand.

The Plague Years - An apocalyptic global pandemic that, among other things ended the Second Empire and ushered in the beginning of the modern era.  

The Three Empires - The first was Darvatius', when he conquered the world and destroyed it all. That is ancient history.

The second is the Tlanic: militant sun-worshipers that managed to control much of the eastern continent and several overseas colonies. The last emperor, considered the living embodiment of the sun god, died during an eclipse just as the Plague Years began.

The third is more potential than actual. It is, depending on whom you ask, either Hespir or Draga, if it exists at all.

The Four Families

  • Homini - Idaltu, Neandr, Altai, Flores, Manu, Lilu.These six classical peoples are still useful in a general categorical sense, but people being people they are not accurate to the cumulative lived experience of millennia of intermingling.
    •  Possessors of the Crown of Fire, that which makes and fuels gods.
  • Cetacea - Dolphins, porpoises and whales. Some enterprising wizards have developed mechanical suits for them to walk about on land, but these are still rare.
    •  Possessors of the Riddle of the Deeps, which they have remained tight-lipped about.
  • Elephants - Plains, jungle, mammoths, mastodons, and pygmies on certain Belt islands
    •  Possessors of the Earthsong, an ultrasonic ancestral memory.
  • Corvids - Crows, ravens, magpies, and the occasional parrot.
    • Possessors of the Murder of All Crows, a hidden parliament where all corvids may slip off to when out of sight. They hire out their services as message-carriers for secrets and carrion - most folks keep a jar of pickled sheep's eyes on hand for payment.

Other Thinking Beings

  • Octopi - The "Fifth Family". Octopi are clearly intelligent, but have never shown anyimpulse to communicate with humanity or anyone else, despite attempts by wizards and scholars to breach the communication barrier.
  • Homunculi / Half-Men - An alchemical creation animated by arcane fire. Their skin is hairless, thick, and grey, similar to that of an elephant. The most common body forms are humanoid, equine, and some that appear like giant dragonflies. Universal among forms is the lack of a head - the animating fire is open to the air above the stump of the neck. They are a Bensaeili creation.
  • Devils - Not to be confused with demons, devils are humans who have had their hearts removed via metaphysical surgery. This completely eliminates their empathy, but leaves behind a legal/economic/bureaucratic savant. Anyone dealing with devils must keep them bound by complex layers of strictures, separated from the general population, and secure their hearts to maintain long-term control.The Dispaterian origin of the procedure is clear to everyone. Tanniclen maintains a larger-than-comfortable corps of devil-bureaucrats.
  • The Ape-Men -The great apes do not possess the Crown of Fire and have only limited skills with human languages, but they are still considered members of family Homini and afforded the honors of such. Most of them live in the wilderness of Old Acephavara, Reniriya, or the Belt.

A note on names: I have kept the names of peoples as they were before I began the merge into MsF - as the traits are the same as in the blog posts about them, I am treating them as regional names (a solution of which I am actually quite fond of)

The dayrdan are neandr, the buruq are altai, and the lilifio are hauflin.

Geography

Two continents bracket the Mare Interregnum, nearly enclosing it. They don't have names yet. Beyond them there is the Antipodic Ocean, and if there are lands to be found there, their names are secret.

The Dayr

The lands north of the mountains (themselves also called the Dayr, or the Dayrmont). Pine forests, tundra, glaciers. Home of dayrdan, mammoths, black amazons, the Wendish. The air is clear here. Clean. Cold. Keep an eye out for Mundo.

Wend - An isolationist city-state of gleaming white towers. The inhabitants have skin the color of milk, tinged with blue where it would flush pink on another, with eyes like ice and translucent hair as brittle as crystal - they have claimed to descend from unknown Atri-Thul in the uttermost north.

Tin Jacobstown - Once a coastal shantytown, now chief of the prospecting and whaling towns in the Dayr. The compact with Orca grants the inhabitants special dispensation to hunt whales, an act that would be unthinkable elsewhere. It is considered as the northernmost point of civilization that is still culturally linked to the city-states south of the mountains, and so has become synonymous with the hinterlands.

The Wall of Rhavian - An ancient structure blocking off access to a small, mist-shrouded peninsula. The Folk that live beyond have barred all access since the days of Darvatius, and the only humans to have passed over in either direction were the men of the Androgons, and they migrated to the south and east after their crossing.

Urukhá, Akká, Hrunná - "The Three Sisters" of the dayrdan keeps and the oldest continually inhabited settlements on the continent.

The White Pine Confederation

A longstanding set of common laws and peace agreements between local townships and nations that has bounced back and revitalized to fill the gap left after the Plague Years. The city-states in the region are considered the roots of both classical and modern democratic-humanist governance.

Bensael - A thriving city-state formed by an alliance between the remnants of six northern nations, refugees from the Low Countries and across the Mare, the former Imperial provincial capital, the Olen river dolphins, hespermontane elephant herds and the Murder of All Crows. The city is diverse and vibrant, and has only grown more so thanks to subsequent immigration waves (most recently refugees from Pelai across the Mare) and a robust system of public services. Bensael has become a primary cultural power on the continent, and its influence can be felt all the way from Wend to Kara Koren.

Tanniclen - The old imperial city within Bensael proper: wizards' towers and the tightly-clustered manors of the (terrifyingly inbred and honestly quite puglike) leftover aristocracy. In exchange for the arcane and economic aid it provided during the founding years, the Old City is permitted its own laws and governance as a separate polity - it has no representation in local consensus councils and only one seat when an All-Thing is called. It is ruled by the Black Queen and White Queen, seemingly-immortal sorceress sisters(?).

Orlei - A major cultural center with storied traditions in the arts, sciences, and philosophies. It is the only state in the region to have maintained a hereditary monarchy after the Plague Years, though the role is now almost entirely ceremonial. It was from the townships around the city that the sable Maid gathered her first supporters in her war against Hell.

Russet Country - The hill country to the east of Bensael and north of Orlei. Known mostly for a preponderance of goblin warrens and Folk stones, mining townships, the Knights of Autumn, and a very strong witching tradition.

Lilu-Yoya - Chief expansion of the lilu onto the surface (Though the the earthquake that opened the Two-Faced City up to the sky left them little choice), and now treated as synonymous with them. It is the epicenter of the lilu diaspora, the home of the lilu republican movement, its matriarchs were the first to make contact with other world powers...technically true, if one ignores all the smaller instances that have filled up the years. No matter. Given its position, Lilu-Yoya controls passage through the Allecanth Mountains and it consistently has allied with Bensael over Draga despite the matriarchs' distaste for Bensaili civil liberties - Draga-style austerity is the less appealing by far. 

The NSR

The Necromantic Socialist Republic was born out of the trauma of the Plague Years and the war with Hell as an experiment in utopia. If the dead so outnumber the living, and the dead have no use for their bones, is it not the greater honor for the dead to be of use to their descendants in death? Likewise death had proven itself the great power of the world, and so to give it honor is sensible. The inhabitants want for little, for the dead provide for them - all that is asked of them is their bones.

Di Valeo - Cultural center of the NSR, rebuilt by the hands of the undead after its complete destruction during the war. Despite all the efforts of the necromancer-architects, there is a certain feeling of loss that cannot be shaken, for before the war it had been the most beautiful city in the world. The great cathedral here, dedicated to Ama Adimatha in her aspect of the Lady of Sorrows and her Stillborn, is an ossuary. With painstaking care the necromancers have inscribed each skull with its appropriate name.

The Low Countries

The city-states here share a great deal culturally with those in the north and the east, but the proximity to Dis has led to integration of some hellish aspects - demon engines, infernal architecture, the rusting hulks of Dispaterian war machines. Demons and their hunters are common here.

Bhyor - "In Bhyor there is the House of Sin" goes the story. A vast iron cube nestled in the branches of the gargantuan petrified tree that sits atop the sharp stone outcropping in the bay. Low whitewashed houses with blue mosaic facades and empty doors. The House had been part of a tradition, where those guilty of heinous crimes would willingly choose to enter and never return, to clean the guilt of the many. Everyone knows now of how the sacrifices grew more and more frequent, until one warm night in late summer the entire population got up from their beds, walked along that narrow bridge, up the thin stone steps, and stepped through the black mouth of the House. No one goes to Bhyor anymore.

Dis - Hell is an emergent phenomenon. Provided with a suitable host civilization, it will slough forth in the same form that it always has - the smoke-wreathed towers, the shit-filled gutters, the blood red stone, the hive of the dead-already, the singularity of human suffering. While this incarnation of Dis still stands, it has been hobbled for the time. The blackened fields of craters and trenches and rust-hollowed war machines that surround its pitted walls remain the site of the greatest accomplishment in human history - had Darvatius not taken to the field himself, or if there had been a single spare hour, the Maid's army could have torn the black iron gates from their settings and struck at the heart of Moloch itself. 

Draga

The northern capital of the Second Empire, now its own independent state. A dour, puritanical place filled with dour, puritanical people, run by only the dourest and most puritanical theocratic oligarchs. It does not claim direct Imperial political lineage, having always been a rival to the southern provinces even before the collapse. It has a complicated relationship with Bensael, who serves as its common rival and erstwhile ally and whose diverse social democracy is diametrically opposed to the authoritarianism found here. The northern variant of the Imperial Church (that is, the surviving branch) is henotheist bordering on monotheism, centered around a distant and terrible solar deity-judge.

The Dragon Republics - Fourteen city-states built atop what is, as best as archaeologists can tell, the kernel that first formed Darvatius' empire. An economic powerhouse thanks to their elaborate system of guilds and banks. While on paper the Republics follow the Imperial Church, sects of dragon-worship are an open secret among them - even their longtime ally Draga gives them arm's length when the political situation is inflamed (and it often is). There are some who believe that the next emergence of Dis will be here.

Temiskyra

Capital city of the amazons, situated at the mouth of the Thermodon where it empties into the sea. Triremes with horsehead prows ply the waters of the Blackwine. Cavalry patrols ride up and down the roads to Kara Koren. Children play in the agora under the bronze eyes of the colossal statue of Tabiti Hipparctrix Hodegetria. Old women still tell the story of how the statue stepped off its pedestal, spear in hand, and waded out into the harbor to fight off the Tlanic navy during the Plague Years. Because of its location, the city sits on a vital artery between the Mare Interregnum and Kara Koren, a state that has permitted its independence despite its neighbors.

The Magelands

Magic flows on the breeze, heavy and sweet as honey. suffusing every breath and cell and thought. The grass is greener here; the sky is bluer. stones are no longer bound by the shackle of gravity, trees pull up their roots, form and purpose lose their concrete boundaries, time and space unspool their tangled knots. It is intoxicating. It will bind you to itself until you are so filled with the freedom it offers that you are wiped clean and made a part of it.

Mund - A fortress city in the midst of the Magelands. A brutalist arcology packed tight with tens of thousands of people who attempt to resist the power of the Magelands through the mindless repetition of enforced hivelike normalcy. Total denial of the life beyond. Sterile. Eternal. Their border wall crumbles after generations of neglect and retreat to Mund.

Kara Koren 

Wide open plains, rolling off into the horizon. The buruq make their home here, their semi-nomadic bands cycling between the small cities on the rivers and lakes and the open prairie. Vast herds of bison, antelope, camels, horses and wild boar can be found here. It is likewise home to the largest population of elephants on the eastern continent.

The Hollowhorn - A long-extinct volcano, rising snow-capped and solitary above the plains. It is a sacred place for the buruq, where their nations gather for jubilee festivals and the practice of peaceful politics in neutral territory. The permanent residents consist mostly of a council of Greyhair'd who have rescinded their tribal membership to act as impartial arbiters. They likewise act as the keepers of the Last King - the last surviving true dragon, who sleeps away the ages in a cave deep within the mountain.

Olabeth

The heart of the Second Empire has been reduced to a decaying, sickness-stricken land. The Plague is still here, seeped deep into the soil and water. Impenetrable swamps and dark forest filled with misshapen, monstrous creatures render crossing the territory by land near impossible. There are still human inhabitants, but they have been changed so completely and severed so utterly from the rest of the world that they are left to their own devices.

Tlan - A metropolis reclaimed by nature. some folks will talk of treasure that remains hidden there, but nearly all was looted during the collapse and any that remains is hardly worth the danger of an expedition into Olabeth. From the harbor, one can still see the gleaming golden dome of the solar tabernaculum where the sacrifices were held.

The Old Imperial Heartland - As the Second Empire collapsed, the aristocracy made a mad dash to secure their holdings in the east. While some of the governors and generals were able to maintain a sense of order and continuity, disease and famine swiftly ended their attempts. Centuries later, the Heartland is a feral wilderness filled with squabbling warlords and the ruins they inhabit. The wars between them are unending, and the region in its entirety has been written off as unmappable - no border lasts long enough for the map to reach publication.

Ool

Mangrove swamps and mudflats choked with the thousand-thousand varieties of the bright red panacea flower. Broiling heat. Drowning humidity. Complete isolation. The great ceramic domes and minarets of the Petal Houses are the only signs of habitation along the whole of the river, save for a few desperate villages hiding from the Houses' security forces.

Mouth of Ool - The only access in or out of Ool and the only permitted source of panacea potion. As far into Ool as most outsiders are allowed, and likely as far as anyone would want to go. The harbor which dominates the city is overseen by the white-robed eunuchs that act as the Houses' proxy guild. Visitors often report a feeling of constant surveillance, which longtime residents and guild-members will confirm as being entirely correct and rational.

Llaphedon

Every mushroom grove found elsewhere in the world can trace its origin back to this island. Hairless, blueish-skinned Llaphedoniks sell mushroom ale and woven mycelium crafts to visitors in the ports. Deep in the fungal jungle live the mushroom men, who carry the memories of generations past and build a ziggurat to ends unknown.

Old Acephavara

Acehpavara is a paradox - by all accounts it should have and did destroy itself without the aid of the Plague - through economic catastrophe, incestuous political corruption, and arcanonuclear war - yet it survived all of that and the disease. Not in any compatible state to the empire that was once rival of Tlan, but the city still stands, the state still functions. still, it is Old Acephavara - history has passed it by. The cities that were once under its control have sprung up to outshine it in the modern day.

Meredat - Home to the main means of reaching the Moon, the ship Diamondwing captained by the archmage Balathrysti.

Janashkut - A potent strain of ghoul-leprosy is endemic to the region. Over the centuries, the oldest sections of the city have been sealed off and abandoned, forming the infamous labyrinthine leper districts, as new constructions are built on the border.

Vanidyos - Current chief of the Acephavaran city-states, Vanidyan society actually precedes Acephavaran by some time. Aspects of this that were passed on and remain strong include the city's multitude of martial arts traditions, potently-spiced cuisine (A favorite of the city's very large lilu population), the black-lead musical tradition, skeleton iconography long before the NSR made it cool, and the unique-to-the-city gods The Headless One and The Heart and Bones.

The Belt of Fire

A chain of tropical volcanic islands that stretch across the Mare Interregnum from Vanidyos to Pelai. The main artery of trade between the eastern and western continents, seconded only by the Qaare-Bensael corridor in the north. Home to dozens of lilifio nations, many of them nautical and migratory.

Distant Lands and Parts Unknown


The map does not extend forever, and there are lands beyond its borders whose inhabitants have made their case in clarity to remain undisturbed.

Ghan - East beyond Kara Koren. A hilly, arid land. True desert. Difficult to navigate. Ancient irrigation canals lined with fields of coffee and barley make a grid of the rivers. Clay brick towers offer sky funerals to the vultures. Shrines to the Bull that Carries the Sky rise at crossroads

Reniriya - South of Vanidyos and Old Acephavara. Hot. Wet. Rainforest, mostly. Carnivorous plants. They are not fond of cities here. Beautiful ceramics occasionally traded for necessary goods. Hot air balloons bobbing above the canopy, pulled down to safety when it rains. Tokens of firefly spirits. High fluidity in family structure and gender expression. Devotional cannabis and dreamworld pantheons.

The Trailwards - A chain of islands south and east of Reniriya. Pa'O Pa'O is among them. Known to the outside world mostly for pearl diving and masked wrestlers.

Notes

  • The White Pine Confederation is a pretty blatant nod to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) - this is because I think it's rad.
  • Bensael itself is an obvious appeal to the author situation.
  • The Sable Maid is absolutely supposed to be a mashup of Joan of Arc and Fingolfin, I regret fucking nothing.
  • Let this be my manifesto that the four core fantasy species should be humans, elephants, dolphins and crows, on the grounds that treating them more like people is long, long overdue.
  • Before today I had no idea what the cetacean gift was going to be and I am still uncertain about it.
  • This map already has errors in it, namely that:
    • Temiskyra should probably be south of it's current location. Or something needs to be there, it's very awkward and empty.
    • I'm not super happy with Hespir's location, it might get moved westward across the Mare.
    • The location of the Old Acephavaran capital is missing, it should be towards the point of the horn. 
    • Bhyor and the Wall of Ravian are not on the map. 
    • Draga is both the name of the country and of its capital, the latter of which is not shown. 
And there you go: life is rough right now and bound to get rougher, so I thought it'd be a good time to share something that brings me joy in the hope it might bring you some as well.

I will accept any and all questions.

13 comments:

  1. I'll put it this way: one of the notebooks I had to dig up for this post was so old that it had a Chuck Norris joke on the cover.

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  2. Awesome, I’ve always loved seeing setting maps (I think I can blame Tolkien for that one). I like the notes section, it’s always good to see what places are inspired by.
    In the setting I’m noodling away at right now (James, Jam, Marcus and Matt, if you’re reading this, I might be running shortly) I’ve got vaguely Gallic people heavily influenced by vaguely Japanese/Imperial German foreigners with shellmets, shell-helmets.

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  3. Very, very good! I love maps of fantastical places, and this one (though unfinished) is one of the better ones! I really want to map out a world I've been thinking about recently, but I have no idea where to start learning to map!

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    1. Map making usually boils down into "I have a shape I want to fill in" or "I have the contents and need to find a shape."

      For the first, I recommend just playing around with Azgaar's or just cobbling together pre-existing coastlines (I used snazzymaps) until you get something you like.

      For the latter, just grab a scrap of paper and write down place names in relation to each other. You can use this as a basis of where things like mountains and rivers go and from there you can sketch out coastlines.

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  4. delightful paracosm

    neat to see how all the bits and pieces over the years fit together

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  5. Proposed Ceteca Gifts/Riddle of the Depths Ideas:
    -The Leviathan and/or the Kraken (It seems somehow fitting to the slightly alien nature of the deeps that, while everyone else is 'oh we have a secret pocket dimenson/secret to bringing gods/ancestral memory' the Ceteca just go 'We have Great-Great-Great-Grandpappy')
    -Sub-Proposal: The Leviathan Tune, a haunting melody capable of stirring that most Ancient of creatures to life. A few bars can cause tides to change. A verse can cause tsunamis. The full song has never been performed, and would require a grand choir of cetecans to finish.

    -The Secret to Deep Speech (as per your earlier post about magic languages, partially inspired by the Mowager from Endless Legend)

    -The Sea More Sunless: A portal to the depths of deep space/the astral sea, where ceteceans can swim as if through water (Inspired by sunless seas/skies)

    -The Sunken City: The former home of ... something. No one's quite sure. The ruins don't seem fit to contain any man, beast, or God that's known. No spell or divination has revealed its past. At the center is a great stone sarcophagus, sealed by chains and the weight of the ocean. The chains have, after uncounted aeons, finally begun to rust. (Is it really a Deep Sea Fantasy if i dont at least TRY for a fantasy R'leyh)


    I really, REALLY like the idea of each species having a separate gift. I hope my random rambles are helpful or spark a bit of inspiration- deep sea sentient fantasy species are just super cool.

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  6. Is there a post where you've talked about the gifts of the four peoples previously? Evocative stuff!

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    1. There isn't, though I had considered it.

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  7. Fucking Brilliant.

    Cetaceans can see the the aetherial, the astral, and the otherwise unseen ... simultaneously,

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  8. That was a lovely read. Thank you!

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  9. All whales are Elsewhales, able to traverse the cosmos on a whim.

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  10. I can't see the hexes, but I can feel them.

    This is good stuff; which part are you going to write about next?

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    Replies
    1. Don't know! Could be backgrounds, could be revised map, could be more map, could be straight up short stories.

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