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Tylion's opinion of Alphatia and Stonewall as a case-study

by James Ruhland

Well, whether we like it or not, we also have to admit that in most of "KW Mystara" folks don't have it nearly as bad as in IRL medieval kingdoms (serfdom's right out in Karameikos, Darokin doesn't have serfs. I guess there might be serfs in Glantri. No serfs in Thyatis but there are lots of slaves. Seemingly no serfs in Minrothad, Ierendi, or the Five Shires. All the Northman Kingdoms except Ostland got rid of Thralldom, and Ostland did during the post-WotI era also, to "become a modern nation"). So to the degree to which Alphatia is more realistically like IRL medieval nations they're *unlike* the rest of Mystara.

Not that I'm saying I mind that from a gaming standpoint - quite the opposite, indeed. But from an "IC standpoint" of someone who's in the Mystaran universe observing Mystaran places, Alphatia seems like a "throwback to an earlier era" (so does Thyatis, too, though IMO to a bit lesser degree in some ways - the highly developed magical talents "offset" this otherwise backward condition, though, in Alphatia).

But anyhow, time to compare Alphatia by another measure, and that is to compare it of itself, without reference to outside "measurements."

Here's what a prominent noted Alphatian says of the status of non-spellcasting Alphatians, in his "own words" -

". . .here, in Alphatian lands, do you know what you are?" His expression turned serious, unfriendly. "You are the spittle on the sidewalk. You do not rule any person or any land. You do not know the ways of magic. You serve another. This makes you a servant by rank -- you rate barely ahead of a slave, for all the Princess lets you dress nicely."

He goes on to say, later on the same page:

". . .This is not any land you know. Learn its ways and you may have more power than you have ever conceived. Fail -- or annoy those who would help you -- and the best you can hope for, the most merciful fate, is to serve those who have power, to serve and drudge until the miserable end of your miserable life."

("Terari", aka Tylion IV, who would know about Alphatia).

DotE, Player's Guide to Alphatia, p.3.

Now, Tylion IV is, to me, one of the more sympathetic of Alphatian characters. He doesn't pull any punches here or try to paint a pretty picture of what life is like in Alphatia: either you have power and rule, in which case your life is unimaginably good, or you don't, in which case you're not given any consideration or respect, you're gutterspit (and that's if you're lucky. Imagine what it's like if you're not lucky, if you don't end up with "the best you can hope for, the most merciful fate"?)

Now lets look at the quite instructive population distribution on the Alphatian continent. I originally wrote the below in a message I sent to someone via private mail, but I'd like to share it here, too, with some minor edits:

Stonewall is a useful benchmark against which to compare the rest of Alphatia, because I'd think that it would be one of the more "popular" Kingdoms among those who like the kinder, gentler side of Alphatia, plus it's inarguably one of the more important of the Kingdoms - but I've always been struck by the apparent lack of interest in it by those who like a more "benign" Alphatia: for instance, almost no "fan-related" material has been created for Stonewall (checking Stan's webpages, there's nothing that describes Stonewall in any way). I don't know, but it's *possibly* this way because putting a stronger emphasis on Stonewall tends to highlight just how unenlightened the other Kingdoms might be.

Stonewall's the smallest Kingdom in geographic size, by far, on the Alphatian mainland (it covers less than 1% of the area of Alphatia! Actually, a little over 00.8% of the total land area of Alphatia), and yet, post WotI, it has over 25% of the mainland's population (and, even pre-WotI, it was still over 20% of the population)! That's a higher population density than in the Thyatian mainland! It's capital is the largest city in Alphatia. Why do so many people live in this one area, which doesn't seem all that good, geographically and climate-wise. The best climate in Alphatia is probably in the south and around the Aaslan Gulf, which is sheltered from storms, and Stonewall sits in a rocky, hilly area that probably doesn't have *nearly* the best agricultural land in Alphatia - which, again, is probably in the southern and central parts of Alphatia - Haven, Veritloch except the swamps, and the vast plains of the southeastern Kingdoms. Stonewall is hilly, rocky, probably swept by frigid storms coming out of Norwold, and isolated by a mountain range that forms a stone wall between it and the rest of Alphatia. Why do so many people live in Stonewall compared to the other Alphatian kingdoms?

Veritloch's high pre-WotI population can be explained by the presence of the Imperial government and the population needed to support it, feed it, etc. But Stonewall doesn't have that administrative function, and the functions Stonewall performs for the Empire can be done almost anywhere, and wouldn't fully explain the extreme population density of that Kingdom.

IMO, there's a very good answer, but it doesn't speak well of conditions in most of Alphatia for "average normal persons". The sparse description of Stonewall in the DM Sourcebook provides the explanation - laws here are even-handed, discrimination against non-mages is absent except among "non-natives" of Stonewall. The description of it in the "Player's Guide to Alphatia" makes it sound almost like a Thyatian dominion (friendly to fighters and thieves, large number of clerical orders, etc.) - note that the mages of Alphatia seem to avoid living in this place, but it seems anyone else who *can* move, moves here - to the point where the place is over-crowded, especially compared to the sparsely-inhabited remainder of Alphatia (post-WotI population density in the Alphatian Continent as a whole is 2.58 persons per square mile. Population density in Stonewall is over 30 times higher, at a whopping 83.94 persons per square mile.

Population density of Alphatia minus Stonewall and its population is 1.92 persons per square mile - so this means that Stonewall really has a population density over 40 times higher than the rest of the Alphatian continent). Mundaners who can seem to go to Stonewall ASAP, despite the over-crowding. Could it be to escape harsh conditions in the rest of Alphatia?

Conversely, from the point of view of the bulk (99.2% by land area) of Alphatia, Stonewall is very a-typical of Alphatia, and has been "contained" in the smallest, most isolated part of Alphatia (cut off from the rest by the large range of the Keothar Mountans), like its under some sort of quarantine, and seems unliked by the mages who rule Alphatia (few of them live there because few of them like how things are run in Stonewall). Seems like a potential hotbed of friction, almost.