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Lord Liaden

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  1. Speaking of the Vornakkian Peninsula, one of my additions to the setting was the invention of a new city-state on the coast of the Peninsula between Sargyl's Maze and the Living Statues. Per my original history, Sargyllium was founded by the legendary pirate Sargyl. Noting the lack of a dedicated large port providing access from the rest of Arduna to the rich Vornakkian cities of Eltirian, Halathaloorm, and Kurum-Sathiri, Sargyl saw an opportunity to establish himself as the middleman for traders to and from those states. He and other pirate captains he recruited seized a large coastal town with a natural deep-water harbor, and with his new slave laborers and Dwarven engineers hired with pirate gold, built on the site a stoutly-fortified city with first-rate harborage. Sargyl's fleet soon brought the remaining settlements on its strip of coast under his sway, and made certain that merchants landing there were funneled to Sargyllium to do business. Sargyl and his successors took the title of Prince, since Sargyl claimed to have been a nyasar of Khirkovy driven from his land by a usurping rival. In succeeding centuries Sargyllium has prospered, growing well beyond its initial defensive wall, and building the strongest fleet on the Peninsula. Two other factors have helped the city-state thrive. The Princes of Sargyllium inherited Sargyl's charts of the labyrinthine Maze of islands that bears his name, allowing his ships to successfully pursue the pirates who continue to hide among them. Those pirate captains have learned it's healthier to refrain from attacking ships bearing Sargyllium's flag. The rulers of the city-state have also secretly made pact with the dreaded Sharthak (shark-men) who frequent the Vornakkian Gulf, bribing them with much treasure not only to leave Sargyllium's merchant vessels (mostly) unmolested, but to attack vessels of competitors from other states. (Were this arrangement to become known to the wider world, the consequences for Sargyllium would be severe.) Sargyllium's society reflects its piratical heritage. Its noble class is descended from Sargyl and the captains who followed him, who control all commerce in the city-state and take a "cut" of all transactions (minus the Prince's share). All nobles have their own private mercenary guard and armed vessels; the Prince is typically the noble with the most wealth and the strongest following, but all of the nobility constantly scheme to supplant him, as well as each other. Sargyllian society is almost openly corrupt. Bribery, blackmail, extortion, and assassination are common from lowest to highest level, and ruling dynasties rarely last past the second generation. However, the Prince and nobles are careful never to let their rivalries and racketeering become so open, extreme, or violent as to affect the flow of business. The Sargyllians follow no particular religion, but the High Church, Hargeshism, and the Eltiriani pantheon are the most widespread faiths, accounting for most of the populace. Due to the importance of trade to their state, the gods of wealth from each of the three religions are particularly venerated. Many Sargyllians propitiate all three in hope of reward, referring to them as, "the Golden Trinity." Among the nobility, the cult of the Sharthak god Shatharak has a secret but significant following. Many Sargyllian nobles appreciate the Great Devourer's ruthless, predatory nature, and even practice human sacrifice to gain his favor.
  2. There are certainly roads one can assume exist, even if they're not noted as such on the map. The only reference to a specific road I can remember in the source book is between Zhor Cacimar in the Vornakkian Peninsula, and its port city of Ulugysha. (reference p. 120, and map p. 106)
  3. AFAICT there are no roads on the maps of Ambrethel -- all those labeled lines are rivers. And while many of them start in mountain ranges, and the ranges often have rivers that start on either side, I've yet to find one that passes completely through a mountain range. The Shaanda River doesn't; it follows the long valley bounded by the Drakine Mountains and Valician Hills, which are separate geologic features. But as Steve Long pointed out in his text from the Fantasy Hero genre book(s), for most civilizations during their history, rivers are roads. They provide quicker, easier, and (relatively) safer transportation, and very often formed the unifying factor between communities. They also make for an easily-defined border between political entities, and that frequently applies to Ambrethel.
  4. Interesting thing about state legislatures... an awful lot happens there that affects citizens, but people tend to pay much more attention to what's happening at the federal level. John Oliver broadcast an interesting examination of them on his "Last Week Tonight" show. It's dated, but I doubt the situation has changed that much.
  5. Fine and sensible reasoning, Phil. And perhaps Aarn as well, given that this proposed city would be trying to cut into their trade. Although to be honest, it probably wouldn't be much competition for Aarn. Verlichtenheim (which the Encyclopaedia Turakiana declares a city, even though it's shown as a castle on the map) and Sollare are the only settlements on the Ordring which might benefit from a diversion of trade. Aarn's market will always be much bigger. It would require less magic for the Verlichteners to just build a canal around the Ettinstone and its attendant obstacles, to facilitate traveling further up the Ordring. An actual city might not be necessary or desirable -- at most a town to maintain the canal and provision the sailors.
  6. It startled me too when I read it. Although on reflection, considering his father fought in WW I, it really shouldn't. As a rather, um, unorthodox memorial (potentially NSFW due to language):
  7. Thank you for asking about this and prompting me to re-examine the evidence, because I now believe you're right. TA p. 67 states that the city of Banska-Morav, on the Beralkan coast of the kingdom of Szarvasia, occupies several islands in "the Ordring Delta." Deltas form at the mouths of rivers, so the Ordring River must flow into Lake Beralka. Hence your outline of the Ordring's course is the most logical: headwaters in the Thurisian Mountains, flows east while branching off into the Bernina and Loskell rivers, absorbs the Tarnwater south of the Nagyrian Mountains, turns north and empties into Lake Beralka; leaving the Shaanda River as the lake's only major drainage. But IMHO it would make the most sense for merchant boats to be able to sail the Loskell and Ordring Rivers all the way between Aarn and Lake Beralka. While the description of Aarn's landscape downplays trade to and from the lake, Aarn and the rivers are the only water access between Beralka and the Sea of Storms/southern coast of Arduna, which has to be economically important. Between that, Aarn's proximity to the High Pass to Tornathia, and it being the only deep-water port between Bellinberg and Tatha Gorel, there would be enough mercantile traffic and stimulus for it to grow to be the largest city in the world. BTW I always wondered why no city had grown up around the Ettinstone. My personal explanation is that the site is sacred to the Druids, like other notable natural formations. If it's so big that it actually blocks water traffic, I would just move it to where the Ordring branches into the Bernina.
  8. You are unquestionably correct. I certainly didn't mean to imply that early civilizations were invariably smarter in this regard than us. Stupid in the human race is another constant. But there are lots of other examples, one of my favorites being the Inca irrigation system (partly because my mother was from Peru): https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/farming-like-the-incas-70263217/ One of my takeaways from such examples is that while most of our predecessors had nothing like our empirical methodology, they often had it all over us in trial-and-error practical experience of what worked, building on lessons from centuries of experimentation.
  9. Owl at the top center: "Why does he always do that next to my ear..."
  10. Heh, yeah, I noticed much the same thing on the map for the Talislanta setting. The Inland Sea, in the Quan Empire, has three outflows to the ocean around the continent... but no inflows shown. Years after the setting was first published, a book in the Cyclopedia Talislanta series focused on the Quan Empire finally offered the explanation that the Inland Sea was fed by underground springs.
  11. I would dispute the premise that "humans" are inherently so limited in our time frame. Our Western civilization has become used to taking a short-term view, expecting rapid results, quick gratification, and frequent turnover; but many other cultures throughout history planned for sustainability for centuries, even millennia. OTOH our risk-assessment mechanism isn't very sound. We tend to assume risky things we've done in the past without immediate bad consequences are inherently safe. That's why we keep settling near volcanoes, on earthquake zones and flood planes. "Hey, it didn't erupt since my great-grandfather's day, it's not going to during mine. And even if it does, how bad could it be?"
  12. The entire Beralka-Shaanda-Mhorec water system appears in function comparable to the Mediterranean Sea, in that its facilitation of travel and trade has created a vast economically and culturally integrated region. It also strongly reminds me of the Nyr Dyv in the world of Greyhawk, albeit both inland seas are much larger.
  13. I've found that rigid morality and insecurity often go hand-in-hand.
  14. I agree that the paths of rivers on the TA maps can sometimes get a little convoluted, particularly the Tarnwater et al in the Eastern Westerlands, as you note. In the case of the Shaanda River, TA p. 80 clearly states that it flows from Lake Beralka to the Sea of Mhorec. That's consistent with a few features of geography I try to keep in mind when deciphering these river directions: usually rivers flow from higher ground to lower ground, and from smaller bodies of water to larger ones. So, all the rivers shown with one end in mountains or hills can be presumed to flow from that end. Those rules suggest that Beralka has two outflows, one via the Shaanda River to Mhorec, the other the Ordring River, which merges with the Tarnwater and later the River Loskell, before finally emptying into the Sea of Storms. OTOH the Sea of Mhorec appears to drain only via the Larnaca River, into the Gulf of Velkara and thence the Khelvarian Ocean. Lake Kalkana in Mitharia does indeed look to empty via the Chatac River into the Jade Sea, and the long Dialoso River to the Uncharted Seas. I don't think there's any hard-and-fast rule about how many outflows a lake can have, though. I believe it depends on the local geography, the size of the lake and how much inflow it has. Mhorec, Beralka and Kalkana are all huge by modern standards, with multiple major rivers draining into them. By my measurements and research, the Sea of Mhorec has more than half the surface area of the Mediterranean Sea. Lake Beralka is comparable to the Caspian Sea, modern Earth's largest "lake." Lake Kalkana is more than twice the area of Earth's next-largest lake by area, Lake Superior; and is said to be notably deep. (BTW mad props to Steve Long for coming up with the dizzyingly vast array of names for places on these maps.)
  15. Agreed, and I apologize if I gave the impression I was lumping all of them together. But speaking generally, I stand by my original assertion.
  16. It seems the only thing making these avowed gun-rights activists politically active is any perceived infringement on the Second Amendment. Boys, if you don't stand up for all other citizens' rights, by the time the government actually comes to take your guns away you'll already have lost everything worth fighting for.
  17. Hence why my reply to armory started by telling him he made a "Good point," and finished my reference to Venom (because the trailer cited it as well) with, "whatever you think of that it did make a pile of money." So, if you and I have split that hair sufficiently finely, what say we chalk it up to interpretation and move on?
  18. Thank you for all that salient input, Dean. It was my hope in collating this setting info and ideas that they'd be a springboard for other GMs. In that vein, I'd like to continue my discussion from this post of my suggestion for a campaign location in Ambrethel, this time focusing on the Shaanda River and areas immediately adjacent to it. There are several details in the source book that are easy to overlook. Geographic details would be easiest to follow on the map of the Eastern Westerlands on TA p. 74. Again, anyone thinking of playing in a game set here should probably skip over this post. Despite the heavy mercantile traffic along the Shaanda, no major city has grown to take advantage of it. Most people attribute that to the rugged landscape of the river valley, sandwiched between the Valician Hills and the Drakine Mountains. But TA p. 284 reveals another, more insidious reason. After the slaying of the Spearlord the shattered shards of the Graven Spear fell into the river, which has been "poisoned" ever since, bringing ill luck to the Shaanda settlements, as well as attracting dangerous monsters to them, so that none of them can grow very large. Finding and removing any or all of the shards could remove that curse and bring enhanced prosperity to the region. OTOH a shard would likely grant malevolent powers to its holder, and gathering them all might allow the reconstruction of one of the most potent and sinister magic weapons in history. Two pairs of kingdoms share either end of the Shaanda River, one on each side: the Drakine realms of Basidrun and Seldrion, and the human kingdoms of Tyrandium and Valicia. The specific adventure potential in each realm is described in their individual entries; but there's particularly interesting stuff going on toward the end of the river at Lake Beralka. For one, the ruined former Drakine city of Chonath, sacked and abandoned during the Drakine Wars (p. 75), is now only frequented by Goblins inhabiting the area, and other "monsters." Chonath was once home to powerful wizards, and adventurers sometimes brave its dangers in search of magical treasures. One particularly potent artifact, the so-called Dragon-God Staff, is said to be able to summon and control dragons, but has never been found. Recovering the Staff could become a priority for several realms in the Westerlands and Mhorecia facing looming threats from dragons: Khirkovy (p. 63 sidebar), Szarvasia (pp. 282-83), and the Sirrenic Empire (p. 84, "The Desolation Of Skarm"). The map on p. 74 appears to show Chonath sitting in a valley on the Shaanda River side of the Drakine Mountains, which is at one end of a pass through the mountains leading into southern Basidrun and its border with Vendrigal. If Chonath could be reclaimed and that pass made safe for travel, it would open a direct land connection between the Shaanda and the heart of the Drakine Realms. That's a prospect the Syndics of Chiref -- the mercantile oligarchy ruling Basidrun -- would doubtlessly pay much gold to bring about. The Beralka end of the river terminates in a large, unnamed swamp, inhabited by Ran-tari (frog people). Basidrun and Valicia both claim the swamp for its obvious strategic value, and have fought each other for control of it. It could make for a poignant scenario if Ran-tari refugees from their latest conflict start making their way down the Shaanda River, begging the city inhabitants for help defending their homes. (But the Ran-tari might not be such innocent victims, at least not any more -- see below.) Basidrun has attempted to drain the swamp by magic so they can claim the land (I would expect Valicia to have tried that as well), but the Ran-tari "have thwarted their efforts with powerful counter-magics" (p. 75). I have to wonder where the shamans of the Ran-tari obtained such potent magic. It's possible one of those shards of the Graven Spear ended up in their hands, bringing with it implicit attendant negative effects. It's also possible the obstacle has nothing to do with the Ran-tari. Sargelioth Zir, the capital city of the Lord of the Graven Spear, was raised by his magic from the waters of Lake Beralka not far from the mouth of the Shaanda River. With the Spearlord's death the city collapsed beneath the waves. (See TA p. 15.) Its malignant influence could be affecting the spells to drain the swamp; and perhaps even corrupting the Ran-tari dwelling there. Ending that influence is only one of the possible reasons why adventurers might seek out the sunken remains of the Spearlord's probably demon-haunted city. Although not stated anywhere, it's my theory that the swamp was actually created by earthquakes and floods from the fall of Sargelioth Zir. That disaster would undoubtedly had destroyed any settlements in the area. Given the value of control of the mouth of the Shaanda River, it's very possible a Drakine city could once have stood there, likely a rich one. An abandoned city full of treasure, lost in a big swamp full of humanoids with a siege mentality... 'nuff said. When I next return to this subject, I intend to outline the adventure potential in the vast Valician Hills abutting the Shaanda River.
  19. The reaction of the two Barrys to realizing they were feeling up each other's suits was too cute. Can I just say I'm tired of Tyler Hoechlin's Superman needing to be rescued? I hope he gets to be more effective in his own new series. The setup for the change in Supergirl's part of the world looks very intriguing. Clearly Jon Cryer's Lex Luthor will be an ongoing feature of the series. Of course he's still a villain, but it appears that in this time line he hasn't been publicly exposed as such yet. That makes him a far more subtle and insidious threat. It also implies a major change in Kara's relationship with Lena Luthor, assuming she still has one.
  20. At first glance I thought that was a painting by a pre-schooler.
  21. At no point did I assert that Marvel and Sony creatives were on par. I only referred to Venom because many people obviously liked that movie, and it was all Sony's, so it makes good sense for them to brag about that in the Morbius trailer.
  22. The old way of doing things in government in the United States was well thought-out for two-and-a-half centuries ago, and stood the test of time remarkably well; but it's becoming clear that it's no longer adequate for the world we live in today, which the Founding Fathers could never have imagined. If America is to thrive through the current century, some bold actions to change the system may prove necessary.
  23. Yes. Even if what you say turns out to be true (and I'm not convinced that's inevitable, or universal), you have to fight the battles in front of you, and deal with later ones when you can actually come to grips with them.
  24. Jeez, I was watching a discussion of the Highlander series on YouTube just a few hours ago. I think that makes this news sting even more.
  25. Good point. Although to be fair, Sony did have a lot of input on their priorities for Spider-Man: Homecoming, which Kevin Feige credits with ultimately making that a better movie. Venom was all Sony's, though, and whatever you think of that it did make a pile of money.
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