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The Turakian Age is Seriously Underrated


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Presumably, a raft or small rowboat could travel along any river.  The question is, which rivers (and which parts of rivers) are deep and wide enough for large ships to navigate - for major trade, holding large amounts of cargo, not just one or two farmers/rangers/craftsmen bringing their wares into town on a raft that would otherwise fit on a single cart over land.  Or for war, a large number of soldiers would not likely be transported in ones and twos and threes in small paddled crafts.

 

The the Ordring River from the Ettinstone to Lake Beralka, and the Loskell, from the Ettinstone to Aarn, are navigable by large ships.  And the thick line on the map of the Whitburn River implies that large ships can sail up it at least as far as Tashorn, and beyond that.  The text says that the Dragonsmoke River is navigable (by ship) all the way up to Londregos.

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While I haven't found any specific measurements of width or depth of rivers in The Turakian Age, several bridges are mentioned which span rivers large enough to be shown and named on the geographic maps. The major city of Anlar Tel, in the Sirrenic Empire, has bridges crossing the Dessira River in three places, and the Phayros in one. The Esseth River is bridged at Athford, Mezendria. The Mahauldrian Bridge crosses the Otilda River at Thault, capital of Eldrasan. While the Vladryan Bridge spans the Allern River between Thurgandia and the Mhendarian Palatinate, and is major enough to itself be shown on the map. The Vladryan Bridge was in use at least as far back as the Drakine Wars during the First Epoch, and figured in a few notable historical events described in the text.

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I know ships are supposed to be able to sail between the legs of the Avalar at the River Gate to enter the city. Wonder what that view's like... :blink:

 

The map of Aarn on TA p. 57 shows two bridges over the Loskell River, but the only docks displayed are on the Bay of Aarn, suggesting that river vessels can either pass under the bridges to get to the docks, or the bridges can be raised. However, we aren't told how big the vessels traveling the river can be.

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So where ever there are bridges, there will be roads leading to and away from them, and then probably other roads (or at least well used trails and paths) connecting up to those roads, "leading" travelers to the bridge and the way to cross the river. No one is going to build a bridge if people can't easily get to it and find in, or if it isn't along a well use travel route. 

 

Also, the Hargeshite Empire is basically cut in half (length-wise) by a massive river (and then even into 4th or 6th by smaller (but also still massive) rivers). So we must assume that there are numerous bridges crossing those rivers to allow travel, troop movements, etc... within the Empire. 

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And anywhere where there's a city on one side of the river, even if there are no bridges, someone will have a boat that can take you across.  And if it's daytime, and you're on the opposite side of the river, you can probably yell loud enough to get someone's attention to give you a ride.  There will probably be people making use of the river all day long that can see and hear you.

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I wanted to finish my discussion of a suggested campaign setting with a survey of the vast Valician Hills. Extending nearly 1,200 miles, the Hills are one of the major geographic features separating the Westerlands from Mhorecia. They're bounded by the Shaanda River valley, the eastern end of the Snowthorn Mountains, the Gorthundan Steppes, and the kingdoms of Valicia, Tyrandium, and Thalera-Saar, all of whom control portions of the Hills. However, the deeper Hills appear to remain under control of the "hill-folk" (or "Valici" as I named them on an earlier post), who are implied on TA p. 79 as being divided into "tribes."

 

The Valician Hills are repeatedly described as too rough, rocky, wild, and inhospitable for agriculture or large communities. Orcs and other "monsters" are also said to "haunt" the Hills (p. 194 -- more on that below). It's likely that the hill-folk live in relatively isolated, fortified villages, and subsist on hunting and herding sheep and goats. TA p. 80 asserts that the terrain makes it "impossible" to take an army into the Hills, which is one reason why they remain free. However, at the dawn of the First Epoch Ordon led his followers, ancestors of the Westerlanders, across the Hills and into the Westerlands (p. 8). The infamous Ulg-hroi chieftain Angaroth the Defiler, during his epic campaign of murder, pillage, and desecration, took his horde through the Hills "with greater speed than anyone could imagine" (p. 19). That would seem to imply that passes and trails suitable for both men and horses exist through the Valician Hills, known to locals who might be persuaded to guide travelers; or perhaps discoverable by magic (Angaroth was secretly aided by Kal-Turak himself -- see p. 280).

 

The deeper Hills shelter a mysterious coven of powerful witches, led by "the half-Mhorecian half-Gorthunda woman D'yos." Their agenda is unknown, and deliberately kept vague in the TA source book, making them suitable for whatever malevolent or benevolent intent a GM would want to use them for. (See pp. 194 and 289 for more on the Coven of D'yos.) Historically, the Valician Hills were home to the Ulronai until they were defeated and cursed to roam the world by the Lord of the Graven Spear (p. 14). It's possible that relics of the Ulronai could still be found there, including the secrets of their Warrior-Magic, and enchanted artifacts; perhaps even the sword of their legendary progenitor, Ulro, unaccounted for since he died slaying the Demon of the Moon (p. 30). The northern Hills are also where the founder of the kingdom of Thalera-Saar, Vulthar Zond, found "a large lump of star-iron" (i.e. meteoric metal which in eras of high ambient magic possesses great supernatural properties), from which he forged the magical weapons which aided his rise to power (see p. 280). It may be that more of the valuable mineral remains.

 

Perhaps the most notable thing about the Valician Hills is that they rest above one of the largest contiguous regions of the Sunless Realms beneath Ambrethel (TA p. 160). That's probably the source of the Orcs and monsters sometimes plaguing the region. The Hills would be a suitable setting for any subterranean adventures adapted from or inspired by D&D's Underdark. Any of the known power players from the Sunless Realms could become recurring foes for PC heroes from the surrounding lands: Dark Elves, Dark Dwarves, Migdalars, Serpent Men, and so on. However, if one wanted a singular nemesis for the heroes, I would suggest Salgrith the Blindwyrm (TA p. 289), a blind dragon of great physical and magical power adapted to life in the lightless underground, and "one of the most feared denizens of the Sunless Realms." Salgrith is given no backstory or location for his lair, so beneath the Valician Hills is as likely as anywhere else. If a Game Master decided his blinding was caused by someone from the PCs' base of operations in the region, Salgrith would have motivation to send his minions in revenge, leading to a final subterranean confrontation.

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This talk of rivers gives me a nostalgic inspiration for a campaign that use magical riverboats to travel up and down one of the largest rivers.

 

I could see it done as a type of magical steam tech using fire elementals to heat water that runs a steam engine.

 

Life along such a river could be quite interesting, kind of a fantasy version of a Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn setting with magic. 

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The dwarves use fire, and some even use fire elementals, to power their boats and keep them warm, as they journey hundreds of miles along underground mountain rivers from city to city and kingdom to kingdom inside the massive mountain chains they call home. 

 

The elves (and some swamp dwelling lizard folk) use water elementals to push and pull their boats up and down rivers in their kingdoms. The boats basically "ride" atop the river elemental as it moves under the captain's command. 

 

The people of the great plains use wind elemntals to keep their boat's sails filled with constant air as they travel up and down the great rivers of their nation. 

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That reminds me, TA has true desert nomads, the Dahganir who roam the Hargeshite Devastation, and whose brief description on TA p. 102 makes them sound like Bedouin analogues. (The one Dahganir written up in Nobles, Knights, And Necromancers, "Kashai Jahhar," also seems consistent with that analogy.) But while both sources imply the nomads hold the Devastation for themselves and don't suffer outsiders gladly, the map on p. 100 shows there are several significant locations bordering it that are only accessible via that desert, i.e. the Sindi Pass into Sorinsarsoun (as well as the Vuranese Pass), and the Dwarven kingdoms of Gabanaldazar and Gunru. That would justify the Dhaganir being defined for game purposes as important trading middlemen, bringing their own and Vashkhoran goods to those lands, and carrying their foreign products back for themselves or to trade to the Vashkhorans. And whenever you have members of an insular people being exposed to other lands with different cultures and attractions, you have potential inspiration for one of them to sample more of the wider world.

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In an earlier post I mentioned that I had inserted a couple of kingdoms of Mer-Folk to Ambrethel in places I thought they would logically fit. One of those places matched very naturally with details from the text and map, while another IMO adds some adventure potential for peregrinating PCs. Neither realm requires any modifications to the rest of the setting background.

 

TA p. 118 states that the inhabitants of the city of Hruumiel, the chief port of the slave-trading state of Talarshand, "have formed an alliance with a nearby kingdom of mer-folk to protect them and their shipping from Sharthak raiders; in exchange they give the mer-folk much gold, and many other goods besides that cannot be made underwater." (See map of Vornakkia p. 106.) I noticed on that map that the Harfang Reefs almost completely enclose a large region of the sea between them and the southern coast of the Vornakkian Peninsula. That seemed like an appropriate place for the Kingdom of Harfang; the Mer-Folk have fortified the reefs for defense against the Sharthak, and built their towns on the relatively shallow sea floor. The city of Imlag, which the Talarshandi conquered, is on that coast. My head-canon is that the Imlagians had a cooperative relationship with the Mer-Folk, and after the city's conquest the latter harassed Talarshand's shipping in retaliation, until the Talarshandi struck their current deal.

 

The map of the Eastern Westerlands on TA p. 74 notes the presence of two fair-sized islands south of Tornathia, Trogen and Orindon. The Encyclopaedia Turakiana says no more of them than that they exist; but I couldn't help noting on the overall map of Ambrethel on pp. 49 and 162, that those islands are on a direct line between Tornathia and the northern peninsula of Keshman, and thus represent the shortest sailing route between the continent of Arduna and the Kumasian sub-continent. Logically control of those islands would be of significant strategic value, but since none of the land-based realms claim them I thought it would be interesting if the Mer-Folk did.

 

In my addition to the setting, the Mer-Folk have settled between and around Orindon and Trogen, digging their habitations into the sea-mounts forming the islands to make them defensible from Sharthak raids. They charge a toll from all ships passing through their waters, attacking and if necessary even scuttling any ships that don't pay. The Mer-Folk have leased land on the islands to the major trading nations of the region -- Aarn, Besruhan, Keshman, and the Tornathian League -- to establish trading posts. Each post numbers roughly 10,000 permanent inhabitants, under an appointed Governor. The trading posts are the point of contact for trade with the Mer-Folk, resupply and repair of ships, and ports for the warships each nation stations there to protect its interests.

 

No small amount of intrigue occurs between the four posts, as each realm vies to promote their own positions and undercut their rivals. In spite of the islands' strategic importance, they're considered a backwater as far as government postings go. The role of Governor generally goes either to some young diplomat looking to make a name for himself and rise to a more prestigious position, or older ones shuffled off here until retirement when out of favor at court. Thus the governorship fluctuates between periods of intense activity and apathy. For the most part the locals run their own affairs and ignore their Governors. They know any given Governor won't stay long and won't bring any lasting change.

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On 12/9/2019 at 2:48 PM, Lord Liaden said:

I think it helps if you're actually already a god, like Kilbern. Or else really famous for a really, really long time. ;)

 

OTOH there are analogues to real people in the dimension of Babylon, from John Kennedy to Elvis Presley, formed out of the massed human psyche. Although they aren't gods.

I’ve been skulking this thread, and am coming late to it, so forgive my tardiness for this comment. Thomas Carlyle wrote a book called Heroes and Hero Worship discussing how fame can lead to this sort of level of “worship.” The first chapter is a discussion of how Odin rose from a historical figure to actually become a god, and it is fascinating. 
 

I never really enjoyed the deities and similar stuff in fantasy because it always seemed a little (a lot?) contrived. The idea of a God’s power depending upon worshipers seemed kinda cheesy and paradoxical to me because why would anyone worship a god who is not yet powerful, and how could a god become powerful if he does not yet have worshipers?! But Carlyle at least helped me make sense of it for the first time in my life. 

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In the real world the gods of myth were attempts to anthropomorphize the randomness of the world and the forces of nature. If they were essentially persons, that made them understandable, and therefore open to persuasion not to hurt us and maybe help us. That gave people a sense of control in the face of the world's chaos. (Let's just avoid whether this process applies to modern religions.) :angel:

 

If we accept the Hero Universe's premise that gods are brought into existence out of massed human belief, then worship precedes the god. People don't worship a god because it shows up and demonstrates why it should be worshiped; worship is a people's psychological need, and the god is simply that need manifested. But once it exists, a god would be expected to promote its own following, which gives it tangible rewards.

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1 minute ago, Lord Liaden said:

If we accept the Hero Universe's premise that gods are brought into existence out of massed human belief, then worship precedes the god. People don't worship a god because it shows up and demonstrates why it should be worshiped; worship is a people's emotional need, and the god is simply that need manifested. But once it exists, a god would be expected to promote its own following, which gives it tangible rewards.


Which of course begs the question: what are they worshiping as a group if there is not yet something to worship? At least in my understanding, worship actually needs an object of worship. Maybe I’m trying to make too much sense out of a fictional notion . . . ?

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For practical purposes the same question could be asked of modern religions. While they have a God or gods with identified names and attributes, the vast majority of their worshipers never encounter them personally, nor anything that can be definitively attributed to their direct intervention. It is their belief, their faith, that God exists and that It responds to them, despite the absence of proof.

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2 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

I never really enjoyed the deities and similar stuff in fantasy because it always seemed a little (a lot?) contrived. The idea of a God’s power depending upon worshipers seemed kinda cheesy and paradoxical to me because why would anyone worship a god who is not yet powerful, and how could a god become powerful if he does not yet have worshipers?! But Carlyle at least helped me make sense of it for the first time in my life. 

Agreed.  I've always hated the idea that a god's power comes from worshipers.  There's an inherent contradiction:  If the gods created the world and the people in it, but they only get their power from the people who worship them, then how did they have the power to create the world and the people in the first place?  And if the majority of people worship the good gods, then the good gods will be vastly more powerful than the evil gods.  There would be no evil gods eventually, because they'd lose power whenever people stopped worshipping them.  Mere mortals could effectively remove all evil influences in the world by simply not worshipping evil gods.

 

But there's absolutely no reason why any given fantasy world's gods have to work that way.  And I'm sure there are plenty of examples in fantasy literature and historical mythology where this isn't the case.  Where the gods have power because they are gods, regardless of whether they are worshipped, or how many people worship them.

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Absolutely. In many faiths worship, sacrifice, edifices in honor of the gods, were calculated attempts to please and flatter the gods so as to get on their good side. :D

 

OTOH there are religions like the Meso-American traditions, in which sacrifice was seen as literally feeding the gods, sustaining them so that they could continue to sustain the world. In that sense humanity had a direct and active responsibility toward maintaining the cosmic order.

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