A peek at work on the "World Guide"

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    • A peek at work on the "World Guide"

      Hello folks!

      As many of you may already know, now that we've published our latest "Magic and Martial Arts" hardcover, we are now moving on to editing and adding new content to the existing draft of our up-and-coming "World Guide"! IN several other threads and conversations, I've already shared snippets and even entire PDFs of "World Guide" content in its current, "finished-looking", but actually unedited form... These tid-bits get shared from time to time to help answer questions about certain aspects of the world of Dárdünah.

      In this thread, however, we'll be sharing not only progress made on those older existing sections we've already shared, but also examples of some of the newer things we're working on as we continue to expand the scope of our "World Guide" for the sake of eventual publish! PLEASE NOTE: Anything we share here is still very much a work in progress, and should by no means be considered "final"... You'll probably find all kinds of inconsistency and errors, but please know that we share this simply to give you a taste of things to come, and maybe even things you might enjoy incorporating into your games now... Just remember, anything you use could change before final publish...


      Scottie ^^
    • Here's a section we're working on right now, which we plan to add to the current manuscript soon! The business of agriculture is something that has been largely glossed over in Shard, but is certainly something important to consider when beginning to detail aspects of our game-world's Commerce and Trade... Here's a little taste of our notes for this section so far!

      Agriculture in Dárdünah

      Agricultural Trade – Agricultural trade is a complex system of diverse businesses run by Trade Caste merchants and farm owners, commanded by the Sunborn lords, vassals, and land owners in every nation, who work with the Low Caste farmers and general laborers to supply (through locality-based trade and transportation) most of the food and agricultural goods consumed by the world's population. Roughly 75% of the population of Dárdünah are engaged, in some way, in the agricultural trade (with variances of this percentage in each country based on land fertility, the nature of the local terrain as relates to crop growth, and the abundance of existing “wild” food sources). Only subsistence farmers (those who survive on what they grow) and hunter-gatherers (rare in this world because of the difference in civilization development compared to that on Earth) can be considered outside the scope of Dárdünah’s common agriculture trade, established in the earliest days spoken of in the Partakám.

      Being a part of this trade business includes breeding, crop production and distribution, creation of farm equipment and tools, processing, seed supply, and the transportation and sales of such goods and endeavors at all Caste levels except that of the Holy Caste (in general, with perhaps the exception of blessings and ceremonies pertaining to agricultural luck and bounty). Except for luxury foods and agricultural products considered “exotic” in nature (and those capable of remaining fresh and consumable after long journeys) most jánah prefer to eat foods and use agricultural goods which are grown or farmed relatively close to the places of sale and preparation, taking great local pride in sharing such produce with visiting guests.

      Produce and goods from the food trade are often sold in various general markets and samüts (gatherings of specific categories of merchants) in cities. Usually such goods and produce are sold by Trade Caste merchants who buy, trade, or engage in auction for local Low Caste farmers’ supplies. In some cases, Low Caste farmers are given leave to sell in some Trade Caste merchant’s name as part of a true “farmers' market”, though dalán are handled by the Low Caste at a very rudimentary level in urban regions, and usually not at all in rural areas. In more rural areas, Low Caste farmers merely trade their wares and produce for other goods at a local level. Such markets may be indoors or outdoors and typically consisting of booths, tables, or stands where farmers sell fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and sometimes prepared foods and beverages. During harvest seasons such markets take on the air of festivals.

      Agriculture – Agriculture is the cultivation of land and breeding of animals and plants to provide food, fiber, medicinal plants and other products to sustain and enhance life. Most of the trade of these staples happen in and around the local areas of production and represent the local economy and its needs, and rarely gets traded outside the environments of the largest village, town, or city in that area. Only in cases where such goods would be seen as “exotic” (and thus more valuable), and capable of surviving travel, would they be traded to locales outside of that region.
      There are many types of farming equipment that have been developed over time, from hand tools to suthra-drawn plows, and the countless kinds of farm implements such suthra might tow or operate. (Diverse arrays of equipment have historically been used in farming, and it would be interesting to define those that characters might “encounter” for the sake of plotline in the variety of campaigns that could be run. To do this effectively, we’d need to stick a fork in the extent to which such technology may have developed on Dárdünah.)
      • Grain Farming – Grain is a grass widely cultivated for its seed, the varieties of which are used to produce foods that are Dárdüni-wide staples. Dárdüni wheat, barley, millet, sorghum, tef, rice, and other grains are grown throughout the world. Breads, pastas, cereals, and many other products are created with such produce. Similar grains would also be raised for the production of beers and other such beverages.
      • Vegetable Farming – Vegetable farming is the growing of vegetables for jánah consumption. Gourds, fungi of all sizes, edible roots, tubers, savory fruits, beans, herbs, leafy vegetable clusters, and a variety of other produce fall into this category. The practice has been recorded since the earliest days depicted in the Partakám, with families growing vegetables for their own consumption or to trade locally.

      Suthra Husbandry – Suthra husbandry is the branch of agriculture concerned with suthra that are raised for meat, silk fiber, milk-like secretions, eggs, and other products. It includes day-to-day care, selective breeding, and the raising of livestock. Livestock are domesticated suthra raised in an agricultural setting for all the commodities mentioned above as well as for labor in the form of beasts of burden and mounts. The term is sometimes used to refer solely to those that are bred for meat consumption, while other times it refers to farm-raised creatures used for a variety of suthra-based products. In addition to the regional differences found when comparing the same general types of suthra livestock raised all over the world, there may also be individual forms of livestock unique to certain climates, environments, and even particular countries of Dárdünah.
      • Dairy Farming – Dairy farming is a class of agriculture engaged in the raising of livestock specifically used for the production of suthra milk (mostly from dudha or chinti, but also potentially from other Dárdüni suthra as well), which is harvested and processed for eventual sale of dairy products. There are additionally businesses established just for the processing of suthra milk for direct jánah consumption and use. Separate businesses would exist for the creation and sale of byproducts of this class of agriculture, such as cheese, yoghurt, and other dairy-based products.
      • Dudha Herding – The stocky dudha have been raised for meat and herded by Low Caste farmers and herders for many millennia, and either traded locally in rural areas, or sold to Trade Caste merchants and High Caste Sunborn for private ranches and breeding on enclosed estates. Besides being common sources of meat, they are also raised for a milk they produce, as well as being used for plow beasts and beasts of burden in general. They are sometimes used to bear goods along trade routes in various climes, and to pull carts upon streets and barges along rivers and placid lake and sea coasts.
      • Güle Farming – Güle farming is the process of raising domesticated güle (and various similar suthra breeds) for the purpose of farming meat or suthra eggs for food. These suthra are farmed in great numbers.
      • Ithani Farming – Ithani farming is the raising and breeding of domestic ithani as livestock and is a branch of suthra husbandry. Ithani are farmed principally to be eaten or sometimes shelled for use in armor making. Ithani are amenable to many different styles of farming.
      • Beekeeping – Beekeeping is the maintenance of bee colonies, commonly in hives made by jánah. Most such bees have stings, but other honey-producing stingless bees are also kept.
      • Asivam Tending – Asivam breeding and tending is quite common throughout the world, as these large grub-like suthra are prized for their soft and succulent meat, as well as the semi-alcoholic sweet syrup produced in their bodies. Unless being kept by the farmer for butchery, asivam are usually sold directly to the places of business that use them for their syrup, where they are kept on bar or table tops and squeezed to express. Asivam syrup does not keep well and tastes best when consumed just after extraction.

      Horticulture – Horticulture has been defined as the culture of plants for food, comfort, and beauty. A more precise definition can be given as "The cultivation, processing, and sale of fruits, nuts, vegetables, ornamental plants and flowers, as well as many additional services". This differs from general agriculture in that it is the culture of plants for the sake of “luxury consumption”, as opposed to doing so for “staple” needs. Though some of these kinds of produce are too delicate for long travel, many of these goods are often traded more commonly outside of the local area in which they are produced and are often preserved in some still-valuable form for the sake of trade to very distant regions. See Flora, page XX of the World Guide, for more examples.
      • Sugar Farming – The production of sugar is generally seen as a local luxury, though it is sometimes part of import and export in the case of “exotic” varieties. There are two distinct types of sugar production in Dárdünah, sugar cane farming and sugar beet farming. Sugar cane is represented by several species of tall, thick, fibrous, perennial grasses native to the warm temperate to tropical regions of Dárdünah and used for sugar production. A sugar beet is a plant whose root contains a high concentration of sugary pulps which can be refined into raw sugars of various qualities and flavors. Both are grown to support the refinement of sugar in businesses owned largely by Sunborn and managed by Trade Caste merchants, and are either traded locally (in the case of the freshly-harvested plants themselves), or to distant lands (in the case of the processed sugars and pulp preserves).
      • Incense Farming – Certain Dárdüni plants are specially grown for their use as aromatics and incense, and are considered luxury items though they are used by all castes. Plants farmed for use in creating incenses differ from blossom farming in that they are not necessarily farmed for their beauty, though vibrant colors after processing are often preferred. Additionally, plants farmed for incense production are often dried, powdered, or otherwise processed in a way that allows them to be stored and shipped with little worry for spoilage, thus making them a valuable trade item over great distances. (examples to follow?)
      • Blossom Farming – There are a variety of blossoming plants (sometimes grown for their fruit as well) farmed both for their beauty as well as their use in rituals, festivals, perfumes, oils, and unguents. Public and private architecture is often festooned with cut blossoms arranged in vases, strung on garlands, scattered as petals, powdered for colorful dusts, and even pulverized for use in food and cosmetics. Like incense farming, blossom farming produces luxury items that are used by all castes. Due to the delicate nature of fresh blossoms, however, their trade is often limited to local areas. (examples to follow?)
      • Nut Farming – There are a variety of plants that produce edible nuts and seeds farmed on Dárdünah, grown to produce luxury foods and other products. Plants of this kind include those grown in arbors and fields, used to create such products such as whole (shelled and unshelled) seeds and nuts for direct consumption, roasted and flavored varieties both sweet and savory, pastes and “butters” made with the “meat” and edible oils of the nuts and seeds, and even dyes, inks, beautiful filler material used in amber-casting, and even fuels used to create exotic ceramics. Most products created as a result of this type of farming keep well over time, and are a favored export to far ports of call. (examples to follow?)
      • Fruit Farming – There are a variety of fruiting plants farmed on Dárdünah (sometimes also cultivated for their blossoms), grown to produce luxury items and dishes. Plants of this kind include those grown in both orchards and vineyards, producing delicious fruits and grapes to produce all manner of sought-after foods and beverages. Though many fruits are dried and preserved in different ways for distant travel, and of course wines and other beverages are specifically made to be stored for long periods, most fresh fruits and their products are traded locally due to their delicacy and potential for spoilage. (examples to follow?)
      • Spice Farming – Across all of Dárdünah spices are in high demand, and though they are seen as a luxury in general, there are few households that lack access to at least some variety of preferred local spices. Aromatic, spicy hot, or pungent, spices are used to flavor and sometimes preserve food and beverages. Spices are made from the seed, seed-pod, bark, root, essential oils, or even pollen of plants. They typically have a long shelf life, making them easy to export and import across borders into distant lands. Examples include Amnoli Bittersweet, Bakári Pepperberry, ground Spicebark from the crimson spice trees of Kütta, Pükharaji Fire Flower renowned for its sweet and pungent pollen, and so many others. (do these examples match the data from the Trade Goods Map?)
      • Herb Farming – Herbs, like spices, are also in high demand on Dárdünah for the sake of producing fine foods and consumables of many kinds. Herbal plants are grown and harvested for their leaves and stems, which are either sold fresh from local farms, or are processed and dried in some cases for shipping, though much of their robust flavor is lost with their juices. They typically have shorter shelf-lives than spices, making them more difficult and expensive to ship. As such, local dishes anywhere have a provincial quality of taste linked to the unique variety of freshly available herbs in the area. (examples to follow?)

      Aquaculture – Aquaculture, also known as water-farming, is the farming of fish, crustaceans, mollusks, aquatic plants, algae, and other organisms. Aquaculture involves cultivating freshwater and saltwater populations under controlled conditions, and can be contrasted with commercial fishing, which is the harvesting of wild fish.
      • Fish Farming – Dárdünah has a variety of creatures recognizable as “fish”. Generally, fish farming is achieved by raising fish in a fishery. A fishery is a Dárdüni business engaged in raising or harvesting fish contained by some means within a confined and controlled area or environment. Examples of these might be found along the coasts and shores of oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers.
      • Seaweed Farming – Salty seaweed is used in a variety of both staple and exotic foods enjoyed across Dárdünah and can be dried and packed easily for foreign trade, since there are “exotic’ differences in the flavors of seaweed depending upon the region in which they are grown. Most such seaweed is cultivated in the shallow waters near the coast, by farmers that stay near their crops while living in stilted villages raised directly above the water.
      • Kekra Farming – Kekra are small, shelled suthra that live in both the salty oceans as well as the fresh waters across all of Dárdünah. They are usually caught in the wild using trawling nets by fishers for their meat, but they are sometimes farmed by coastal communities in contained hatcheries. It is somewhat of an acquired taste, as their flesh (cooked or raw) has an oily, cloying quality.
    • Wow! This was a tasty bit of information to share and I can think of many players who will be eager to put what you wrote into play as soon as they have the opportunity. It truly has been one of my greatest pleasures to work along side Scott Jones, Andrew Bowman and all the other people who have had a hand in helping this dream to become a reality. I can only hope that all those who have joined our role-playing family will have as much fun and excitement as we have enjoyed as they release their imaginations and allow the fantasy to take them to a world of adventure as it serves to strengthen friendships and provide a wonderful reason to gather in the name of good fun.
    • Here's a bit of a section in the "Countries and Cultures" chapter we're working on, where we describe each of the countries from the perspective of one of the scholars from the Academy of Nilám... One of the first countries to be re-worked and expanded upon is Bakári! Again, remember, none of this has been fully edited yet! ^^ Check it out and see what you think!:


      Bakári – Isvarate, southern land of verdant deltas.

      Ruler: The Isvar Mabrahlan, male Clydesdale stallion.

      Ruling Class: Mainly ungulates (hoofed creatures), though due to rulership carrying through extended familial ties, this may sometimes vary.

      Cultural Paradigm: A combination of North African culture steeped in ritual, with the visual qualities of old royal Ethiopia tempered with a Turkish influence.

      Jánah Type: Mainly ungulates with very little variety of other types of jenu except for felines, very few Paksin and some Sarpah.

      Introduction, Geography, and Resources
      The southern isvarate of Bakári, resting like a gaudy pendant in the bosom formed by the ample Gulfs of Bhütai and Atüpahn, enjoys the cooler winds of Shahad which blow west across the Svandahn Ocean to bring lush moisture to its lower eastern half. West of the Uttara Mountains, the rich and grassy rolling steppes of northern Bakári extend into drier, warmer climes as they merge with the scrub deserts near the borders of Sustrum. South of the river Katür and the southern spur of the mountains, the prairies of central Bakári give way to more verdant forests of tall, slim, and very aromatic Takasála trees, which tower over more squat and spiny thick-leafed growth, and as one gets closer to the deltas of the south, a variety of large ground-ferns, the more soft-leaved ambertrees, and an abundance of rich herbal underbrush. Many of the spices used for cooking, pungent coffee beans, and the aromatic incenses that are popular in the southern Bhütai nations, such as Magár, Dar-Purám, and even Ishpüria, come from Bakári. Wine is also a popular export of the nation, and has been traded as far away as Amnol, Kütta, and even Háthiyar.

      Bakári wealth flows from its pure, cool waters, with sources falling not only from the gentle rains that sail across the eastern ocean, but also from the cascading streams and rivers of its mineral-rich crystal mountains. These watercourses pour into Bakári’s many shining lakes, or are fed by countless tributaries before broadening into rich deltas and placid estuaries. Along the routes that entwine these sparkling features can be found the numerous agrarian settlements, private estates, and thriving cities which enjoy the trade that comes from access to such bounty. The rivers of Bakári, they say, are far better than any routes on land for ferrying travelers to and from the nation’s best sites, since these scenic, watery courses connect all their main cities, and garish barges abound for both commerce and luxury.

      The Capitol
      Bakári’s grand capital of Vitna is set next to shining Lake Gyána, near the tip of the southern mountain spur, and serves as the richest cultural well for those who want to immerse themselves in the impressive visuals of Bakári society. Every aspect of Vitna’s art and architecture captures the soul of Bakari’s traditions. This is a city of incredible vistas, and its concentric rings are each upraised, one above the other, with the spiky towers and fang-like crenellations of its splendid temples and palaces looking out from the highest point in all directions. To the northwest the amber grasses of the nearby prairies and distant steppes seem to merge into the sky above. To the northeast the rosy crystalline peaks of the Uttara Mountains rise majestically to catch the light of the suns. To the southeast lay the largest of Bakári’s southern lakes collectively known as the Three Sisters, beyond which stretches the lush, moss-green and sapphire tapestry of the great Khajaana Forest. And finally, to the southwest lay the vastness of the emerald Svandahn Ocean, which spans as far as the eye can see as it wraps lovingly around all of Bakári before blending into the waters of the two great gulfs on either side.

      Though the capital is a grand sight to behold, one of the isvar’s traditionally favorite abodes is his summer home, the Palace of the Hundred Steps, which lies at the mouth of the Basi River, along the southern coast in the cosmopolitan city of Nesued, on a peninsula overlooking the glittering Svandahn Ocean. A glowing alabaster shrine was long ago erected within the palace to glorify the birthplace of the Blessed Twins who brought an end to the demonic tyrant Ad´hitúmus at the close of the Twilight Wars more than a thousand years before. At the beginning of the month of Akuvára on the first day of summer before the height of Díshjulum, the Rainy Season, holy pilgrimages are undertaken from all across the southern world to celebrate their coming. And though only a select few are allowed to visit the shrine itself, nestled as it is within the heart of the palace, thousands of jánah gather outside to cast libations into the ocean from a grand open-air temple fashioned of the greenest rare marble. These festivities mark the beginning of a week-long revelry known as the Feast of the Seas, where chants and prayers are sung to the devah Hröpa, Lord of all waters, and to Sianáthe his mate, Lady of the deep, thanking them for bringing the mother of the Twins to their shores safely, and for the bounty that continues to spring from the foamy Svandahn.

      Cultural Proclivities
      Situated as it is at the southernmost tip of central Dardunah, the nation of Bakari narrowly escaped the depredations of Visedharah during the last hundred years of the Wars of Twilight. Their ancient culture was untouched, their government avoided the turmoils of invasion, and once the battles along their northern border were won, their nation as a whole thanked the Devah for their blessings, and learned from the experiences of those lands that weren’t so lucky. As a result, the people of Bakari tend to exhibit great pride in their older traditional values, carried smoothly over from time-honored past to present, that are both conservative and modest. In Bakari it is especially important to be polite and respectful, and the Bakari generally pride themselves as a culture of hospitality, as can be experienced in their traditional coffee ceremony. Greetings are very important and nothing to be rushed through, and it is quite appropriate to ask about how those you meet may be doing, about their spouses, their children, etc. Asking about work is less common, but that depends largely on what caste, social standing within that caste, or personal background the janah has.

      However, when engaging with others in Bakari it is important to remember that there are clear cultural distinctions made even outside of differences in Caste. These distinctions become matters of pride within Bakari communities of all sizes and levels of affluence, and failing to acknowledge them can be insulting. These distinctions are often referred to in ways that are less “adversarial” than they are “competitive” concerning the personal honor they attribute to their community or social group’s way of life. This can be observed between urban and rural dwellers, between the rich and the poor, between the elderly and the young, between highland populations and lowland populations, between the residents of one city compared to another, and even between villages who depend on planting as a way of life versus those who tend suthra. Such distinctions are often displayed using specific titles and honorifics when addressing members of a distinct social group, even within one’s own caste.

      As a reflection of the Bakari mindset concerning cultural and communal distinction within their borders, most Bakari citizens take great pride in the quality of their own area’s laws, traditions, intrigues, and local politics. Because of this there are political overtones to most aspects of life in Bakari and therefore, politics is a common subject of discussion in private circles. However, one should be very careful as opinions can be quite strong, and there are risks involved in talking in public about one’s political views. As a general rule, a stranger should wisely strive to be a good listener. Ask only a few broad questions or make comments about Bakari politics if you really know the janah, or are quite familiar with the polite politics of a particular area. Though members of a community may offer up tidbits to a visiting guest, it is unwise to pry. Most locals assume regional politics shouldn’t involve foreigners, and it is risky to take sides even as a casual observer, unless one really knows what is going on.

      This same mentality generally applies to personal and working relationships as well, and for the same reasons. Although a janah from Bakari might readily express an idea or opinion on some matter pertaining to the ways of another social grouping, they would be much more reserved in expressing an opinion about an individual person, especially a negative opinion. When visiting Bakari, discovering someone’s true feelings about you is a challenge. Bakari natives tend to hide their true feelings, especially in public circumstances. This is, again, a symptom of the importance of politeness in their society. If someone of Bakari heritage feels a need to express a strong opinion about someone else, it would be shared with others, but rarely directly with the person under discussion. Alternatively, they might make some cryptic remark that could be interpreted in various ways, thus ensuring that no direct offence can easily be taken. Foreigners rarely have a sense of the intrigues that go on in Bakari societies, partly because it is deliberately hidden, and partly because they don’t fully understand the local dialect or cultural distinctions.

      Though the Bakari people pride themselves as a culture of hospitality, as mentioned earlier, it is their own local culture’s form of hospitality that they are most proud of. As such, and due to their somewhat competitive natures, Bakari hosts making themselves busy warmly hosting strangers in their land or local region may simultaneously have little interest in (or even hidden disdain for) the traditions of foreign hospitality, etiquette, and proper form embraced by foreigners or members of different communities, including those currently being hosted. When in more comfortable circumstances of privacy or lowered inhibitions, especially when honor is in no real danger of being lost, a Bakari host may even openly express contempt for ways of those outside of their community, though they will still attempt polite care not to directly insult their guest.

      Bakari natives certainly make assumptions that visitors to their land should do their best to conform to their laws and traditions. However, this can sometimes be confusing for unwary foreign travellers, and even to outsider janah from one community within Bakari compared to those of another, primarily due to the societal distinctions made between the various communities and the competitive way they compare one another and the way they live their lives. As such, laws and traditions, as ancient and treasured as they may be in Bakari, can vary significantly depending upon these regional and communal distinctions. Though many general national laws and traditions are shared across all regions of Bakari, some behavior that might deeply insult one community may simply incite laughter and mere derision in another. Likewise a local law in one area, if broken, might result in only a fine, while in a neighboring region the punishment could be a brutal public caning. In either case, members of each community may, behind closed doors, have plenty to say about how the other community’s ways are inferior to their own.

      Despite the many differences found between these varying regional and communal traditions, the societal importance of politeness does create a number of common considerations found throughout the nation. An excellent example of this is the kind of care that is taken when it comes to a Bakari native’s treatment of time and punctuality, though expectations vary significantly depending on the specific circumstances. Generally speaking, there is a good deal of respect and value for others’ time, although not necessarily the same value that one might place upon one’s own schedule. When some timing is agreed to, it is usually understood to be precisely at that time or on that date.

      However, most Bakari folk appreciate the difficult circumstances that many janah live under, and that cases of a loved-one’s tragedy, honor-bound loyalties, and even difficulties of transportation might override some recent or lesser agreement. To a Bakari native it’s quite understandable that a janah might miss some commitment due to a funeral, a sick child, etc. This doesn’t mean they don’t feel bad missing their engagement, it merely means that many personal issues must take precedence, especially when it deals with family. It is for this reason that great pride and joy is taken concerning children of all Castes. Even in largely stoic circumstances formality may be set aside for a bit, such that even high-caste janah pause to enjoy the presence of lesser-caste children.

      This is not to say the Bakari do not take their commitments seriously. They take pride in whatever they do, but they also want to be paid well, recognized for their work, and trusted. Trust is a prominent factor in the communities of Bakari, and its people often compete in their various endeavors to earn the trust of those they serve, assuming they will be rewarded for their good works. In an environment where there is mutual trust, the Bakari feel motivated to compete honestly with one another, seeking opportunity for personal and professional growth and enrichment. They are most pleased when duties are clearly delineated and authority given to those who have proven their merits among their peers. Those in authority gently encourage such honest competition, and reward those whose skills shine in comparison to others.

      A Brief History
      The small southern Isvarate of Bakári has been blessed in many ways throughout its history. For over six thousand years this tiny nation has grown without conflict, untouched even during the terrible Wars of Twilight when, on the verge of invasion, the legendary Talons of Kramah routed the demonic forces of Visedhárah at Bakári’s very borders, before pushing further north to deal with the menace in Magár. Legends say that these Talons had been drawn to the shores of Bakári by visions and prophecies of the blessed birth that had occurred in the Palace of the Hundred Steps. In these visions the Talons were instrumental in ensuring the safety of the newborn Blessed Twins by helping defend Bakári’s northern borders, and driving the nightmarish armies of the north out of Magár.

      Several months before, a strange white vajrah with unique features who spoke a bizarre and unknown tongue was washed ashore upon a small, tattered boat during a terrible storm. It was said that she could perform miracles, and indeed they had never seen such an abundant spring planting till she had arrived. She had come to their land very pregnant, and had been taken in by the kind isvar Jhirrúd and his family, who had seen firsthand the many wonders that seemed within her power. She learned very few of their words, but before what was proving to be a difficult birth she told the isvar that though terror had come to strike at their northern borders, they should not despair. For though she was soon to dance at the Edge of Heaven, she would leave in his care her precious gifts that would one day bring true peace to all of Dárdünah. Soon after, she died while giving birth to her children; beautiful twins pearl-white like their mother, one a male lion, the other a female fox. And even at their birth, it is said, their eyes shone with divine wisdom, as if the spirits of Kramah and Krilárah themselves rested within their breasts.

      Having helped save Bakári, and while beginning the years-long campaign to liberate Magár, the two Talons spoke to Jhirrúd about the importance of the Twins, and the role they would eventually play according to prophecy. There was a place, they said, near the Crimson Wastes of western Amnol, where the revered monks of a secluded sect of Mahists could train them to use the blessed powers that would eventually manifest within them. According to all historical writings Isvar Jhirrúd himself, having raised the infant Twins in his own household, personally escorted them by skyship to the far desert near Ajibadh where he left them in the care of those who would secret them away to the monastery at the edge of the vast red sands.

      Nearly twenty years later, as the allied armies gathered near the city of Hadrah and prepared for a final march northward to defeat Adhitúmuss, an entourage of Bakári warriors escorted the Divine Twins, now fully grown, to join in this historic battle as prophesied by the Talons of Kramah. Impressive tales of Aytáhti the lion warrior, and his sister Ambhánu the fox sir’hibas had spread throughout the south, and in that great and last battle against the Isvar of Suffering, the legions of Bakari would fight at their side. This penultimate honor, as part of the final epic of the Twilight Wars, is a great source of Bakari’s pride. So, too, is the millennia of peace that the nation has enjoyed since that ancient time.

      Features of Current Times
      If there can be said to be any trace of barbarism or violence in the present day within Bakári’s lands, it would be the Scourge; wandering bands of desperate bandits, thieves, and raiders who ply the wastes and hidden oases of Bakári’s far northwestern shrub-deserts just south of the Sustrümi border. These jánah, a mixture of Paksin, some Sarpah, and a few Vajrah, are composed primarily of outlaws and even outcasts of society from Magár, southern Sustrüm, but especially from the wandering Bhatükar tribes of Amnol, who hurl their societal offenders into the deep deserts, if they are not killed outright. The disfavored jánah who survive such an ordeal sometimes swell the ranks of the Scourge raiders, who range across the vast, burning swath of sands all the way from eastern Amnol through southern Sustrüm, western Magár, and northern Bakári, robbing the caravans of merchants, and waylaying unfortunate travelers.

      Murder and enslavement often go hand-in-hand with theft, and there are many tales of entire caravans vanishing utterly from their route, never to be seen again. Because of this threat there are few Bakári settlements north of the capital Vitna except for a crystal-mining colony in the Uttara Mountains and several small fishing villages at the edges of the Three Brothers, the large emerald lakes in the northwestern steppes. There are no trade routes that pass beyond these lakes, since there are rumors of a great tent city used by the Scourge set near and around the Bahina River, which flows from the mountains in the wilds less than a day’s travel by skyship north of the Sustrümi border. This tent city often moves, it is said, to avoid the occasional patrolling vessels of the Whispering Fleet, and sometimes finds its way beyond the borders and into Bakári lands, where the ships will not pass.

      As is evident, this nation is a land of natural contrasts, from its dangerous and barren northwestern steppes, to its vast and fertile southeast full of forests, numerous rivers, and glittering lakes. The Bakari Highlands surrounding the southern edge of the lower Uttara mountain spur are some of the most populated and prosperous mountainous areas in the world, and with very little conflict or invasion for many thousands of years even its most ancient monuments remain a well-preserved reminder of its colorful past and continuing rich culture. Like Dar-Puram, Bakari represents one of the few nations untouched by the depredations of the Wars of Twilight, and there are many who claim that visiting Bakari provides the wise traveller with the opportunity to experience a Dárdüni nation essentially as pure as it must have been having emerged with grace from the Time of Enlightenment.
    • Here's a fun set of info meant for the eventual Appendices of the World Guide, discussing rules for players (and their GMs) who want to invent new and exciting things for their personal Shard RPG campaigns! Tacked onto it is also a little bit more about skyships, including a set of diagrams showing details on all the decks of a typical privateer-style ship... Fun stuff!

      Remember, all of this is still considered "unedited" right now, and may change a bite here and there for the final publication...


      Scottie ^^

      Inventions and Skyships.pdf
    • Here's a work-in-progress painting from a friend of mine, Richard Fox, which we will be using for the very first image, of our very first chapter in the "World Guide", which we're madly trying to finish so we can have it by Gen Con of 2020! Here's the bit of text that accompanies it! Enjoy!

      "My name is Rakúlna, Sunborn and Master of the Scrolls at the Academy of Nilám in Hanálu. It is with great honor that I bring my brush to parchment on this the first day of Yauvánu at the beginning of the beloved Festival of Flowers, in the thousand and eighth cycle of Edü since the Wars of Twilight. I write at the request of my students, in whom I have much invested pride, and for the sake of those who may read these works, so that they may understand the passion with which we, the scholars of Dárdünah, present the precious knowledge we have gained to the seekers of enlightenment and truth."

    • Here we have another wonderfully-evocative work by Richard Fox, which will be the opening image for the World Guide's chapter on "Commerce", depicting a busy little corner of a marketplace. Here's the bit of text that accompanies it! Enjoy!

      "Trade and commerce on Dárdünah has been the lifeblood of its many cultures since the most ancient times, keeping the wheels of government, society, and even faith continuously turning. There is a certain energy that seems to pervade places where money and goods constantly trade hands, and there are fewer areas of more rural or urban excitement than a thriving marketplace or bazaar catering to the seething masses of buyers, merchants, and artisans. Ships of the sea and sky, and caravans passing across the plains or the burning deserts, convey a constant stream of wealth and trade-goods to every end of the known world. Those willing to travel to exotic places will always find their wares welcome in the many ports of call that grace countries both large and small. I am Rakúlna, Master of the Scrolls and headmaster of the Academy of Nilám. This is my song of nine decades, having traveled the world to sample its wares. See, too, the work of my student Inkhévi, whose writings describe the Merchants’ Circles of most cities within her treatise on Society, Politics, and Religion."

    • Since I have read a few interesting recent posts concerning Amnol, I figured I'd include a "yet-to-be-edited" sneak peak of Amnol's entry into the World Guide!


      Amnol – Amín, land of the red deserts.

      Ruler: The Aminar Pradhiman, male Grey-white goshawk.

      Ruling Class: Birds of different kinds, but especially birds of prey.

      Cultural Paradigm: Arabic/Persian with a great deal of Bedouin-like tribes that wander the wastes, yet pay allegiance to a single seat of power. There are many Arabic/Egyptian influences in visual style.

      Jánah Type: Mainly birds and reptiles in recent years, but in general desert dwelling creatures of all kinds.

      Introduction, Geography, and Resources

      The Amín of Amnol lies at the southwestern tip of the western subcontinent of Dárdünah. It is a harsh land of shrub-deserts and burning sands, divided only by tall, smoking mountains and extremely shallow, slow-moving rivers. In all of the world it is unique in that Amnol hosts the only two known red deserts, places rich in a variety of minerals and crystals that can be found nowhere else. In the most traditional of Spiral Arenas, the red sands (or the dyes derived from them), which are used to create the Holy Spiral symbols laid out atop the white or tan arena sands, are imported from these red deserts. Additionally, only these red sands harbor nests of the small, stinging suthra known as Chattabalu, which are used by sunborn to create their living weapons called “hive grenades”. In northeast Amnol, west of the Khunamani Mountains, lay the Crimson Wastes, a place steeped in ancient legends of forgotten cities and haunted oases, where mysterious ascetic priests and wandering hermits seek the type of solace that only such a desert can provide. And in southern Amnol, west of the Alasvadah Mountains, stretches an expanse known as the Scarlet Desert, just east of the city of Zanu, source of the red sapphires that are used to make the dalán coinage of this realm. These deserts, it is believed, derive their reddish hue from strange dust-laden winds that blow from the glass volcanoes forever rumbling within the nearby mountains. Few jánah travel very far into either of these wastes for fear of being poisoned by such strange environments and the creatures and plants that survive within them.

      Even beyond the edges of the red deserts, Amnol is an amin of unforgiving, stark landscapes. Over half the land scorching yellow sand, often sculpted by lashing winds into mighty dunes, stretches as far as the eye can see, and though it has its share of rivers, they flow either as deadly rapids through steep canyons near the foothills and plateaus near the mountains of their birth, or as wide, hot, and sluggish waterways that slowly wind their path through the deep deserts and shrubby plains. Despite the harsh environment, the shrub deserts of Amnol are rich in spices, oils, and chemicals for valah-craft, making it a treasure that provides its people with fairly robust trade. Rich coffees and teas, favored locally and abroad, are cultivated in these areas, especially on farming settlements found near the more verdant edges of rivers. Even the endless sands of the open deserts offer the hardy and resourceful craft-workers of Amnol resources by which they ply their trades. Many varieties of commonly-traded crystals come from mines dug down into those crystalline sands, or are excavated from the desert’s mountainous edges. The sands themselves, rich in minerals, are used to create fine works of glass artistry from central and southwestern Amnol. Intricately delicate and colorful blown-glass bottles, sculpted figurines, and smoky hematite mirrors from cities such as Nar-Harix, Ajibadh, Barüd, and Zanu are sold locally and get shipped far and wide to ports of call across the entire world.

      There are three great provinces of Amnol; two in the north, and one in the south, separated by the chaotic sprawl of the Alasvadah Mountains. The northwestern province of Svíhari, west of the Parhnu River that flows from the Khunamani Mountains, is a vast tract of pale desert (named after the province itself) spreading across the Sapheda River to the western shrub deserts of the Tumulan Coast. It is known not only for hosting the nation’s capital, rich in textiles and dyestuffs from the west as well as the crystals and chemicals mined from the mountains, but also the tent-dwelling Bhatükar tribes who trade and hunt in the deeper deserts, and are known for their fine riding beasts, scented oils, and the foreign slaves they take from northern raids.

      East of the river Parhnu lay the northeastern province of Muhháv, which hosts the major coastal trading port city of Barüd. To the east, this province shares a narrow border with the Sustrüm Amin, and though there are no currently open hostilities between the two nations, this small border sometimes shifts positions as mining colonies of rare crystals are established in the nearby foothills and valleys of the southern Khunamani mountain range. Initially protected by a vanguard of their nation’s soldiers, each established colony risks capture, enslavement, and sometimes death once their own soldiers depart in groups with outgoing shipments, leaving the laborers and their families open to attack from foreign, armed mining forays intent on establishing digs within the somewhat vague borderlands’ more valuable areas of contention. Aside from these rare crystal mines, this province deals primarily in dyes, chemicals, and common crystals from the nearby fringes of the Crimson Wastes, spices and salts from coastal dunes, salted fish from the Gulf of Atüpahn, and even hides, shells, and oils derived from creatures harvested from its southern coasts east of the Peaks of Alasvadah.

      Southwest of those mountains is the southern province of Tanküm. It is known for the oils, crystal, and dyes harvested from the edges of the Scarlet Desert near the city of Zanu, spices and chemicals from the southern shrub-desert of Sátwala south of the river Ksikal, and a particularly tasty breed of butter-flavored fish known as kunín caught off the coast south of Dijuma near the mouth of the Kürze River. Notable as well is the western coastal trade city of Jodun, which is taxed both by the capital city Nar-Harix in the northwestern province based on its sale of slaves taken in raids by the Bhatükar tribes along the southern borders of Rákbar, and by Zanu as head of the Tanküm province for the southern trade-goods it profits from selling. As a “gateway” between both provinces economically, Jodun also spreads out on either side of the verdant mouth of the short Kurhaj River, which acts as a border between the provinces, flowing west to the ocean from the northern tip of the Alasvadah range.

      The Capital
      Amnol’s capital of Nar-Harix lies just to the northeast of the Alasvadah Mountains where the north-flowing Sapheda River is joined by the waters of the Parhnu, which flows southwest from the Khunamani Mountains. Vast white and yellow marble, granite, and sandstone shrines and temples adorn the banks of the river here, and all along its winding path northward and to the east. Minarets of dazzling rose quartz crown the great temple of Kiráh in the capital, and the ruby spires of the Aminar’s palace give testament to his wealth and power. These edifices mirror the beauty of the red-hued peaks of the mountains to the south, where barges travelling up and down the river ferry strong laborers and slaves from distant crystal mines, along with the valuable cargo they produce.

      Though the innermost holy circle of the city rests with beautiful symmetry inside the walled circle of the royal compound, both these sectors exist at the western edge of the city in general, nearest to the banks of the Sapheda. The rest of the ringed city walls, surrounding the sectors for nobles, commerce, and housing for laborers, flow from the great temple and royal palace toward the east, creating three large crescents as opposed to the concentric rings such city sectors normally occupy. From the direction of Ajibadh and Barud, and across the waters of the Parhnu upon a majestic bridge called Yatnariti’s Arch, stretches the wide Path of Kirah, the great trade road of the capital city. This resplendent avenue passes through villages and farmlands outside the city walls before entering Nar-Harix through the city’s Grand Gate, where it divides either side of first the Commons’ Crescent, then the Merchants’ Crescent, then lastly the Nobles’ Crescent, before entering the Royal Gate into the properties of the Aminar and the compound of the Temple of Kirah.

      Outside the capital’s walls, beside oases to the north and nestled along the green edge of the Parhnu River to the east, rustic farming villages and smaller towns that craft textiles and dyes, plus the chemicals used to create them, take advantage of trade between the capital and the larger population centers of Ajibadh and Barüd in the northeast. Though most well-to-do Amnoli citizens prefer to wear the fine, light silks acquired by privateers and Bhatükar raids from southern Rákbar, they prefer to walk upon the beautifully colorful rugs woven of the rough-spun textiles produced in, and sold by the crafty merchants hailing from, these smaller villages. Nobles and nomads alike treasure the rugs, tents, and colorful fabrics created in this region, which can often be found as trade-goods making their way to distant lands.

      Just to the north of the capital and west of the river, set to face the rising suns, are the ancient monuments of the early days of Amnol’s glory, the impressive step pyramids of Amaráta and the various obelisks, pillars, and statuesque monoliths of the Purvaja necropolis, where the very ancient dead of Amnoli sunborn have been mummified and interred, and the noble dead of recent ages have been cremated and their ashes enshrined for over seven thousand years, since the rise of the first Dynasties during the Time of Enlightenment. Even the wandering Bhatükar tribes pilgrimage southward to attend the Feast of Mürtyu in celebration of the lives of their ancestors held at the shrines of Purvaja. Villages outside the western walls of Nar-Harix are filled with those whose livelihoods stem from labors done in support and maintenance of the necropolis and its monuments, as well as the festivals and holy ceremonies performed there. Less than a day southwest across the desert sands from the tombs of Purvaja are several active quarries which supply stone and crystal used to maintain its structural wonders.

      Cultural Proclivities
      Despite its daunting nature as an ancient Amin, at a local and personal level it is easy to appreciate and find friends among the Amnoli. Most travelers find them to be warm and generous people, helpful and life loving, who enjoy welcoming jánah from other cultures. Their hospitality is unequalled, compared to many other nations of Dardunah. The amin itself is the size of Bakari, Magar, Tishinia, and Gilarhi combined, and is a large and well-developed nation with a broadly-diverse population of generally congenial janah. Many restaurants, teahouses, and bathhouses remain open until dawn, with patrons enjoying the comfort and relative safety of even the rowdiest of their urban environments. City streets remain busy with families, even with small children, long after midnight most evenings, especially in summer. There is also a dizzying array of merchants, huge market areas, inns and caravanserais, stunning art, great and unique museums, beautiful mosques, temples and monasteries, and Amnoli architecture dating back thousands of years.

      Contesting amins such as Rakbar and Sustrum often exaggerate the negatives found in Amnol’s cultural past, providing a distorted and even somewhat hostile image of Amnoli people and events. Especially in recent years, due to population growth and expansion of the Bhatükar tribes and their more frequent raids beyond Amnol’s northern borders into Rákbar, tales of the nation told among those from their neighboring western amins and isvarates are sometimes dominated by violence and fringe extremism. Most such acts of aggression are largely concentrated in a broad strip of land straddling the northern border, and comprising less than five percent of Amnol as a whole.

      It should be mentioned, however, that the Amnoli people are proudly nationalistic, having an equally-powerful sense of self, with personal honor being of foremost importance. This is followed by close familial ties, and then followed by loyalty to one’s community and nation as a whole. There is a famous Amnoli quote; “Me against my brother, my brother and I against my cousin, my cousin and I against the tribe, and my tribe and I against outsiders.”. This holds especially true among the populace in the more rural environments of Amnol. Although not mentioned explicitly in the hierarchy of identity, they are nearly unwavering in their allegiance to the Amin, especially in matters concerning their rivalry with Rákbar.

      Amnol being an amin, and thus ruled primarily by the military might of the aminar (as opposed to the power and influence of Clans and Houses, as it is with the isvarates of the east), has a somewhat “looser” interpretation of caste when it comes to how people are treated. Wealth, who you know, and relations with jánah in important positions, matter very much in Amnol. They can make one’s life easier or harder, and certainly reflect upon one’s status and reputation. The gap between classes is quite visible, which sometimes contributes to a more precarious situation regarding levels of petty crime against those of apparent wealth, and outbursts of anger from the poor against the upper class.

      As a result, rigid laws and societal rules demand a great number of obeisances to show deference to those of higher caste, and even of higher wealth and position within one’s own caste. Acts against those of higher status invoke harsh punishments and steep fines, which could include public whippings, imprisonment, becoming a pauper, losing a limb, enslavement, and even death and dismemberment. Of course, in Amnol, there are laws and traditions that apply to everyone, even those of influential status, but it is well known that those of higher means will likely pay for their crimes in dalán rather than with the skin of their own hide. The people of Amnol do not see this as a corruption of justice, but instead as an opportunity for the perpetrators to truly make amends for what they have done by increasing the status of their victim through wealth, while suffering the punishment of their own monetary loss. Those without possession or crystal coin often pay with their limbs, their lives, or by being made a slave.

      Despite the tight social rules, the Amnoli are more likely to risk generating offense as compared to the people of other nations. In part, there is a tradition of action, especially amongst the wandering tribes, and that it is better to ask forgiveness, or pay a price for one’s actions, than to make no decision at all. This factor feeds into the understanding that the people of Amnol tend to be somewhat competitive, especially when it comes to impressing the head of one’s family, or simply showing one’s prowess, honor, or quality compared to more distant relatives or neighbors. This healthy competition is seldom allowed to get out of hand. Anything that could destroy cohesion of the family or jeopardize the solidarity of the Clan, Tribe, or House is carefully controlled.

      The people of Amnol take the honor of a promise very seriously, but strive to balance keeping their word, and keeping their complex set of codes concerning tribal and familial honor intact. Promises made to strangers often lose out to promises made to those more familiar to them, as their social rules demand, and especially if an Amnoli’s sense of self-worth and social status is at stake. While social mobility is somewhat limited in Amnol, unless wealth is attained that can secure sufficient influence, the competitive aspect of the culture places an emphasis on, and motivation for, doing that next meaningful thing. A baker must bake. A carver must carve. Those who do nothing are nothing. As such, though the rituals pertaining to one’s rise into adulthood as a member of one’s caste are certainly meaningful, even greater emphasis is placed on the ceremonies and acts of the Pratháma-Jaya (the “First Victory”), detailed later as an important Rite of Passage.

      Though they are quite welcoming and generous hosts, the Amnoli are renowned for their direct honesty towards strangers, to the point of coming across as rude. They assume you do not know their ways or the rules of an area, and view this honesty as a complement to their own hospitality. A stranger may be unfamiliar kin, and such explicit honesty will quickly reveal any connection. The Amnoli are tolerant of foreigners being different than themselves, but will have no problem letting visitors to Amnol know, directly to their faces, how some things are or are not done in their land. Amongst themselves, however, especially when communicating with people of higher social status, there is a more subtle deference and indirect deflection towards preserving face and maintaining honor.

      A Brief History
      Long before the Wars of Twilight, which would cause one of the most notable changes in the size and nature of ancient Amnol, many great dynasties rose to prominence during the Time of Enlightenment. Among those ancient dynasties was the ill-fated, and some would say cursed, dynasty of the Line of Jañusár, once a powerful ruling Clan of Amnol for over two thousand years. All the glories created by that noble Line would come crashing to the ground during the bitter Age of Heroes over a thousand years ago. The noted Amnoli scholar Habidha, who now dances at the Edge of Heaven, penned many scrolls about that Age, and of the terrible Twilight Wars which nearly overtook the world and succeeded in tearing Amnol apart. But the millenia that preceded it, which define the epoch known as the Time of Enlightenment, are testament to Amnol’s ancient glories long before it became a mighty Amin.

      During the early millennia of the Time of Enlightenment the Paksin clans of the nation that would eventually call itself Amnol settled throughout the middle and southern regions of the western landmass of Dárdünah. Other Paksin Clans, more suited to the climates of the dense tropical jungles, settled to the north and west of them, between the coasts of the Tumulan ocean and the forbidding mountains of Kthah. This set the stage for thousands of years of smouldering rivalry that would last to the present day between the amins of Amnol and Rakbar.

      In those earliest days of Amnol’s distant past, more than four thousand years before the beginning of the Heroic Age, the tribes of Purvaja settled along the banks of the north-flowing Sapheda River within sight of the mighty Alasvadah Mountains, just past the junction where the holy waters of the river Parhnu join the Sapheda after a long and winding journey across the desert from the Khunamani range hundreds of miles to the northeast. They believed that both ranges of mountains reached high up to the Edge of Heaven itself, and that the Khunamani Mountains acted as the stairs by which souls returning to the Great Cycle of Life and Death would journey back into the world. The Parhnu River would carry these souls south toward the Sapheda, and where the waters mixed, these duhama would join with those born from those ancient tribes.

      It was here, by the hands of the ancient Purvaja peoples, that the first mud bricks of the city of Nar-Harix were laid. Just beyond the junction of those rivers it was believed that, when life was at its end, the souls of the dead would find on the opposite banks of the Sapheda the “Path of Ascension” leading toward the distant mountains of the south. Here, where the tribes built the earliest monuments of their necropolis, these spirits would begin their mystic pilgrimage across the sands to the base of the highest peaks of the Alasvadah, rising again toward the Veils of Dream and the arms of the waiting Devah to hear their judgment from the very beak of blessed Murtyu.

      Within that ancient necropolis, less than two-thousand years later, the ruling clan of Amaráta would build the first of its wondrous and gleaming step pyramids, which would in turn lead to the digging of vast mountain quarries and the discovery of the uses of sky crystals as a means of revolutionary travel across the face of the known world. The prolific people of Amnol then spread toward the east, into the deserts south of the Sea of Vigára, and then northward on either side of the sea into the unexplored thornbrush and tropical scrub wastes of what would eventually become Sustrüm. This impressive expansion, and the riches that flowed from it, gave rise to the great Jañusár Dynasty and the building of the new Amnoli capital of Jañusárimun, nestled in a verdant valley on the steppes west of the Shadyakhav Mountains.

      All these impressive things, however, would come to be overshadowed later by the tumultuously damaging multi-national conflicts that defined the next Age as the northern Sarpah began their conquests. In the decade or so following the days when the invading Visedi armies marched forth from the demonic fortress-cities toward northern Rákbar and Old Amnol, the mystic elders of the wandering bats of Klin made a pact with the leaders of those nations. If the magics learned long before, when the Paksin and Sarpah conspired together in powerful rituals, were shared with them, the Klin would add their own magic to help those nations battle the Visedi invaders. In return, both Rákbar and Amnol would cede lands to the Klin to make a new home for themselves in both nations. Though the Rákbarani seemed to do well under this pact, the Amnoli had far less success, and with eventual loss of the cities of Ekapa and Magambi, Amnol’s aminar Dak’sikhür, an aged peacock who was the current head of the Line of Jañusár, attempted to attack Jiranugarum the “Rotting City” and failed.

      Though rumors flew that the aminar himself died during that horrific battle, he returned to Amnol soon after and declared that a treaty of peace had been forged with Adhi’tummus, the former sorcerer lord in charge of the Visedi armies, recently declaring himself aminar of Visedharah after the recent death of the old ruler. A dark alliance was then made between Amnol and the Visedi, allowing the northern Sarpah armies to march through Amnol and capture Magar. It is well known that in those following years Amnol’s aminar became more and more corrupt, engaging in all manner of vile blood sports and atrocities aimed chiefly at prisoners of war taken from Magar and enslaved for the pleasures of the invading Sarpah and Amnoli Paksin alike. Many scholars agree that this corruption was evidence that the aminar had fallen victim to Adhi’tummus’ evil power, and become host to one of his demon servants. Eventually a Vajrah arena slave named Sejurna, a black panther said to come originally from Tishinian royal stock, raised a Vajrah slave rebellion against the demon-corrupted ruler of Amnol with the help of the Talon of Kramah known as Kahraman, slew Dak’sikhür, and ended the dynasty of Jañusár forever.

      After the Amnoli capital had been retaken, the liberating armies continued northward to reclaim Distya, then travel to aid Tishinia, while the remaining Vajrah of lower castes rose up against the largely Paksin higher castes to assume positions of power. This was a dark time for many of the ancient eastern Paksin Clans and Houses of Old Amnol, who were seen as pawns used by the northern invaders to allow unfettered access to the south. Many Paksin had fled into western Amnol to escape both the earlier influence of the Visedi as well as the later caste rebellions, abandoning what had once been primarily Paksin holdings. Considered cursed by the terrible atrocities of the aminar, even the former Amnoli capital of Jañusárimun was eventually abandoned. After the Siege of Jirñanúgarrüm, which signalled the end of the Twilight Wars and the Heroic Age, Kahraman and Sejurna return to unify the formerly subjugated Vajrah peoples into a new nation they name Sustrüm, thus laying claim to the northeast half of Amnol as a whole.

      In the west, after the fall of the Jañusár Dynasty, the rival Royal Line of Hal-Amekh claimed a new seat of power for Amnol in the old capital city of Nar-Harix, consolidating its power and the remaining lands of Amnol by demarcating a new eastern border near the southern tip of the Khunamani Mountains. Despite this loss of territory, it was seen as an inevitable circumstance in the wake of the terrible corruption wrought by the Visedi depravations, and an alliance was formed with the new nation of Sustrüm to help secure Amnol’s borders against Rákbar, who began eyeing the now weaker Amnol as an easy target. Since this overture came at a time of growing tensions between the recently-expanding Sustrüm and the covetous Rakbarani, the Sutrumi gladly embraced this alliance with Amnol, and over fifty years of friendship blossomed between the newest leaders of both nations.

      Those who have read the Histories written by the Nilami scholar Buvérah can find more explicit and sorrowful details there pertaining to Amnol, but the Heroic Age meant more to Amnol than mere destruction and sorrow. Rising from those conflicts came the first of the nation’s proud martial arts, from the Eye of the Blessed style stemming from legends about a highly secretive sect of desert warrior mángai charged with protecting an ancient holy artifact that none dared gaze upon, to the practitioners of the thousand year old Heaven’s Sword Style who believe that their weapons take on a soul of their own that merges with that of their wielder to display the miraculous blessings of Kiráh himself.

      Even in recent centuries Amnol has continued adding to the rich martial traditions of the world. As examples, the mountain temple of Kirah’s Creche east of the city of Dijuma known for its legendary skill at capturing and training the krátellah for which the renowned Krátellah Style was named nearly two-hundred years ago, or the rare moment of Paksin solidarity when a group of Paksin priests from both Rákbar and Amnol gathered together less than a century and a half ago to develop the Diamond Feather Style showcasing the martial arts prowess of both nations.

      Features of Current Times
      Unfortunately, the Amín of Amnol has a recent history of bad relations with Rákbar, with whom it has gone to war several times since the end of the Twilight Wars, mainly due to aggression from the Amnoli side. The northern wandering Bhatükar tribes of Amnol, inspired by the harsh and unforgiving terrain that lay between the Amnoli capital and the northern borders, have often sought to push upward into Rákbar to claim the more fertile regions of the southern jungles, especially near the coast. They claim that these verdant lands once belonged to their forebears during the Time of Enlightenment over three thousand cycles ago.

      The wandering tribes are known for their well-maintained cavalry, and extremely fine breeds of chinti and other riding beasts that come from the private stock of these nomads. The raiding warrior bands of the Bhatükar are often composed of jenu such as desert snakes, beaded lizards, and a mix of other desert Sarpah and hardier Paksin, and are known for their ferocity and skill in the saddle. They continue to act as the private armies of the hetman chieftains who rule the northern wanderers, and have always banded together to combat common foes in the name of their country and Aminar.

      Recently, with the Sustrümi seemingly fancying themselves wiser and more deserving of power than the rest of the world, Amnol’s views of them have cooled significantly since the last of the historical towers and palaces of the Old Amnoli Paksin were torn down in Sustrüm and rebuilt in honor of Kramah and the new, primarily feline Vajrah aristocracy merely four centuries ago. These days, Amnol reaches out more and more in friendship toward the many diverse isvarates of the east, not only for lucrative trade in general, but for the sake of specific alliances that might help secure their own future as a world power.
    • The mention of a 'butter flavored fish' reminded me Overly Sarcastic Productions did another video on Hinduism specifically Krishna youtube.com/watch?v=x837yDfcyho&t=288s
      Thinking about an earlier post about thinking about what I learned about Krishna caused me to realize no one mentioned a Devah inspired by Vishnu (Kramah is inspired by Shiva the Destroyer) But I kind of realized the Blessed Twins are kind of the equivalent to Krishna in their context

      The post was edited 1 time, last by Teenage Mutant Sarpah ().

    • We generally try to avoid indicating that any of our Devah are specifically meant to represent any of the particular Hindu gods themselves, merely out of respect for their religion, but it would be difficult to avoid similarities entirely, mainly because all divinities essentially represent elements of societal constructs that reflect general spirituality, human consciousness, thought and emotion, and of course ethical paths and reactions.

      Hopefully you found this little teaser interesting!
    • For a more somber and melancholy view into the dangers of the world of the Shards RPG, here we have a heartbreaking watercolor piece by the wonderful contributing artist Matt Spencer! Here we see the terrible effects of one of the more deadly mineral toxins. A sad fate indeed!

      Djinmür Dust – A type of rare lethal systemic toxin, naturally occurring as a crumbly mineral deposit that has the deceptive look of a powdery brown spice (like cinnamon) when finely ground. Miners excavating crystal first discovered this poison accidentally, not realizing what was causing their terrible “Scarlet Curse”. It is tasteless, and harmless if ingested; its sinister nature only becomes evident if inhaled. Each tiny fragment of this dust is actually a fragile, living crystal, whose growth is eventually activated by any moist conditions combined with temperatures as warm, or warmer than, a living body. If swallowed, the digestive system will quickly break these crystals down, like salt, but if breathed in by a hapless victim, the crystals will lodge in the lungs and some will eventually work their way into the bloodstream. Once there, the dust’s chemical composition begins to thin the blood and acts as a detriment to coagulation. Simultaneously, these tiny crystals grow into shapes resembling extremely sharp, miniature caltrops, causing the bloody destruction of the tissues of the lungs, the slow laceration of arterial walls, and eventually some amount of damage to most internal organs. The initial effects begin to manifest within an hour or so of inhalation, with the potential for death after days or weeks of suffering. Unless steps are taken to arrest the growth of the crystals entirely, death is always the result. Attempting to heal without performing these proper steps merely delays the inevitable.