Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Beyond the Crystal Frontier - A Gazetteer of the World

Fabulation, Tall Tales, & Lies.

The gem robbers and drifters of the Crystal Frontier come from every corner of the world, but they are often reluctant to speak of their homelands. It is difficult to learn much in the heat, dust, and desperation. Too many fear their own past: crimes committed, families abandoned, gods profaned, and lives failed. Others simply do not care to remember, living in the present, or in dreams of a future after some final big score. More have lost their memories to drink, lotus, chagga, mad weed, crystal poisoning, or sorrow. Perhaps it is simply the nature of places and times … they race towards change, but even unchanging each looks very different from the vantage point of a different life.

Information about the world beyond the Frontier is always vague, conditional, and disputed. Everyone knows that the Bull Kingdom is ruled by the Warlock King.  That to the South and West it builds his armies. Everyone knows that the port city of Aurum Ferro over the Maiden Tomb mountains is one of the great trade hubs of the world. Everyone has a different idea what all that might mean and everything else, all the detail and nuance is rumor and insinuation.

This doesn’t concern most people, who see five days or fifty miles travel as an epic journey. The roads are dangerous, and strange lands worse still — unknowns, filled with odd people and odd custom. Maps, while common enough in the past are no longer reliable, and the majority of travelers use only itineraries, lists of points along the road. The best itineraries mention rivers to be crossed, landmarks sighted, and the direction of roads ... but the majority are simple lists of easily memorized and often incorrect place names.

Inset is a newer map of the world, allegedly copied from the floor of the Library of Honorable Shipmen in the Capital of the Successor Empire. None have heard of the library, but the Capital has thousands of genteel ruins full of hidden knowledge. More detailed information is also available - usually in the rambling of drunks or from rag paper pamphlets sold for pennies and written with an eye towards the sensational.

1D8 Rumors About the Bull Kingdom
Moebius Drew One or Two Castles
The Bull Kingdom is to the South and West of the Crystal Frontier. Its capital is the great island city of Matricex, or “The City of Orchards” as it is called in the Kingdom’s popular romantic operas. Despite its youth, the Bull Kingdom is a powerful and growing ”Resurgent Kingdom”, led by its Warlock King and his court of sorcerers. While the land is ancient, the Kingdom was carved out from the Imperial Dependency of Kosse Sildar only 60 years ago when its ancient “Silver Princesses” and their military matriarchy were extinguished and overthrown in violent revolutionary upheaval.

1. The Warlock King is a horrific tyrant who rules through fear and dark demon pacts. He turns his enemies and allies alike into demon hosts and murders thousands a day in sacrifices to the Kings of Hell!

2. The Warlock King is a philosopher who cares deeply for the nation. He ended land indenture and opened the military, church, government and sorcerers’ cabal to all. Yes, there were excesses in the past, but the King did not order the massacres and has always regretted them.

3. The mountaineers are still loyal to Kosse Sildar and a secret Princess reigns among their villages, they are not bandits — they are soldiers in a long war to return the Bull Kingdom to just rule.

4. The Bull Kingdom is a place of ancient chivalry, and takes honor seriously. Even the bandits and farmers believe in the code of the duel, the freedom of honorable persons, and standing by one’s word.

5. Magic is tightly regulated in the Bull Kingdom. Wizards and sorcerers must register and pay a bond price. Foreign practitioners risk having their spellbooks confiscated or worse if they are found without a permit.

6. The Kingdom is regimented like an army camp and the Warlock King’s armies are growing each year, he may have given each of his subjects freedoms and universal rights, but he’s also given them a soldier’s pack and a pike.

7. The peasants' ancient gods, The Red Bull of the Earth and the Honeyed Goddess are worshiped again! In the Bull Kingdom, Kosse Sildar’s Earth Serpent is not forbidden, but her church wanes.

8. Demon hosts haunt the Bull Kingdom’s hills, both remnants of the war and escaped from the King’s dungeons. It is always hiring monster hunters and knights errant to hunt them, but is a wild and harsh land without real governance.

1D8 Rumors About the Pyre Coast
Roger Dean
A narrow strip of Terra Nullis beyond Umber Havens. Nominally an Imperial holding it is a blasted land of fry hills that acts as a buffer between the Empire and the breakaway Maritime Province. It is notable as the abandoned battlefields of its Southern reaches are the desolation of Zubrab, a gigantic Sanguine Wyrm.

1. The Pyre Coast is a land out of time, broken, rocky and poor, inhabited only by goat herds with stone tools. Add the wreckage of a sorcerous war and a plague of wyrms and it is nearly as cursed and inhospitable as the ruined Heart Provinces.

Zubrab, the Everhungering Wind is a dragon of war, a bloody red wyrm birthed by human conflict, like all wyrms, a curse of the gods. Its desolation swarms with his hideous spawn, some almost as big as their parent. Yet the wyrm also calls to men and women maddened by war, and they flock to Zubrab’s lands. Beware of Red Riders, as they know only cruelty and violence.

3. The coast itself may be ruined, home to furtive herders, but the Pyre Sea is dotted with island ports, where trade flourishes: whalers, fishing fleets, smugglers and the privateers of several nations dart among its islands, all prey to sanguine sea wyrms spawned from Zubrab.

4. The drowned city of Angel Reef, once a wonder of floating squares and delicate spires that climbed from the warm blue sea, was destroyed by the Maratime’s. The wreck that remains, sunken or awash, ghost haunted and home to sea worms is one of the richest ruins in the world.

5. An island in the Pyre Sea is home to a tribe of sorcerous sports: golden skinned, 7’ Giant who heal wounds at an unnatural rate. These people live in hidden splendor surrounded by the luxuries of the old Empire. They seek guides for an embassy to the Capital — they wish to state their obvious perfection and assume the Imperial throne, as is clearly their due.

6. Ruins older than the Empire cover the coast, many carved into the likeness of birds and men. Most are empty, but some few still hold hidden caches of ancient gold.

7. There is something older than humanity asleep beneath the Pyre Coast, some spirit of wilderness and primeval power. It will never wake, but it stirs and dreams now, and its dreams hunt the coast, fel beasts that devour flesh and soul.

8. The people of the coast itself — skin clad, flint armed goatherds, are angry and tired. There are more of them then one expects and they have a leader in the sorcerer Nine Horn, called the Ibex King. A red harvest is coming.

Old Games

Let’s talk about old tabletop roleplaying games - specifically the kind of games played in the 1980’s and recently depicted in the nostalgia...