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Revised Alphatian Councilby Jeff Daly
THE COUNCIL'S PURPOSE AND DUTIES
The Council exists to provide wisdom, advice, and pressure to the Imperial crown. They serve as a balance to the power of the Emperor and seek to insure that another Alphaks never happens again. Historically they have tended to simply nod distractedly at any obvious heir apparent the old Emperor chooses...but if the heir apparent is a vegetable, a nut, or a fruit there is a good chance of the Council declaring a lack of faith in the heir in question. This can result in the Council throwing backing to another candidate, or even the council splitting among several candidates.
In the latter case, a slew of duels and backstabs can be expected for the next several months. While backstabbing is illegal, the tools (thieves and warriors) are often discernible and therefore it is an ancient honoured practice that continues despite all illegality. Of course, the problem with duelling is that the duelling mage could actually die...not to mention the fact that the Council members are never allowed (by strict law and tradition) to become Emperor. Thus the reason for backing some foolish young mage who will then be beholden to a group of Council members or even the council entire.
While an Emperor reigns securely, one can expect the Council to be engaging in giving him advice and support. But as soon as he takes ill or a disfavoured war begins, or anything else that could cause a sudden vacuum of power, the Council politics heat up.
The Council began with 50 wizards during the travelling time of the Alphatians. They were, even then, known as "The Thousand Wizards of the Empire of Air". This way, an emissary to an established world had something impressive to say every time he began negotiations.
After the Landfall on Mystara, the 50 wizards decided an emperor was needed to properly run Alphatia. After much arguing and duelling, it was decided the strong "Kerothar" would rule, and that the "Thousand Wizards" would continue to watch him and make sure his power was balanced by their own.
Over time, power has moved from one to another to varying degrees. A recent Emperor (Circa AY800 and sometimes called "Mulfian the Foolish") decided to expand the council to demonstrate the might of Alphatia. He sent messengers to every corner of the empire to locate likely candidates for council ship.
The loyalties of the individual Councillors are often divided in many ways. In no particular order, they may be:
1) Loyalty to the Council as a whole
2) Loyalty to the Empire as a whole
3) Loyalty to himself
4) Loyalty to his family
5) Loyalty to the Empress
6) Loyalty to the nature of magic
7) Loyalty to an Immortal
These three loyalties conflict in varying degrees among the council members.
Duelling is a popular sport among the Councillors. In extreme cases it allows a Councillor to get rid of an enemy Councillor and in ultra extreme cases it allows the Council to remove the Emperor.
A councillor can get rid of another councillor through a duel. He cannot just simply kill his enemy, he has to go through the strict traditions of a duel.
Now, the harpies could rid themselves of the pesky nixies by killing them all?
Yes. However, this is a risky tactic because the method of picking a new Councillor does not guarantee that the new Councillor will be placed in a position that is better than the old...or favourable to the other Councillor.
When can a Councillor challenge the Emperor?
The easy answer is "anytime he wants". However, in practice, a wise councillor will consider the relative strength of the Emperor, and the overall feelings of the rest of the council. A well loved Emperor may find that he needs fight none of the challenges as hundreds of Councillors take up the challenge for him. In the end, this produces a cutthroat political situation in which Councillors and the Emperor are constantly weighing their support and considering who their allies might or might not be. A very Machiavellian situation...
THE APPOINTING OF NEW COUNCILLORS
A candidate for the Council must, of course, first step forward. He must be an archmage (in D&D terms he must be 36th level). A Time of Grace is granted to any 36th level wizard who steps forward and declares himself. During this time, no hand may move against him on threat of censure. But the time only lasts until the next moon...
Circles and Spheres is a strategy game played by the upper crust of Alphatia. It teaches certain aspects of Alphatian culture and power structure, as well as provides a method for new candidates to prove themselves worthy of inclusion in the Grand Council.
It involves 10 players with 10 pieces each (While the pieces may be divided among a smaller number of players, to receive the full effect, most mages agree that 10 is the proper number). Each player manoeuvres his pieces on a multi-level board which consists of many tiered paths that run in circles. Capturing, alliances, and power-ups provide a player with enough strength to win the game.
In the Council's version of the game, the position of the players' piece at the end, decides which division of the Council the player goes to. The player has to do passingly well to be included in the Council.
Unknown to many, the game actually is an abstract representation of the astrology system of the Alphatians.
In addition to new members, a Council member may challenge another for a better seat, or a new member may challenge an existing member at the end of his term. Terms for Councillors last for 10 years.
ASTROLOGICAL SIGNS AND SIGNIFICANCE
In Alphatian astrology there are 12 astrological symbols...
The Flows of the Naga are in charge of prophecy and astrology. They determine whether a particular circle is in a particular constellation. They give yearly summations and keep everyone up to date. Magical spells insure their word is true.
The DM may choose, or roll a d12 for each circle to determine which constellation they are in. This means that indeed, all circles could (though unlikely in the extreme) be in the same constellation. Each member also has a particular position in the constellation and each constellation has a "lead star". This star is used to determine who is the head of that particular circle for the year (roll d100).
Each constellation has a certain meaning and power associated with it. They are, above, in a particular order with the best being first.
So from year to year a circle's power can change along with whatever other political/power struggles are going on. A system of power determination is given further down...but for now, details on the constellations:
The Star--mages in the Star have an increased die to fireballs and meteor storms. The star is very special as it has significance to the Imperial crown.
The Sphinx--Alphatia's national symbol. A symbol of wisdom and arcane knowledge. Those in this constellation have an increased ability to research and an increased wisdom.
The Wand--significant to military operations. The Wand gives mages an increase to tactical thinking.
The Staff--Increased ability to find things that were lost
The Mind--Increased protection versus mind control
The Overlord--influence over underlings
The Woman-Mages tend to act a bit more absentminded beneath this constellation.
The Elephant-Mages lose a spell choice in each level.
The Wart--disease and plague. Each mage in this sphere has an increased chance of picking up an ailment...possibly even a disfiguring one.
The Phaseworm-Mages find themselves under a clumsy effect.
The Hawk--Thyatis' national symbol. This one is an especially despised symbol. All magic use is gone, but physical prowess goes up a notch (one rank higher on the to hit tables). Ew, ick!
The Dove--Any mages in this circle are not able to make any sort of power/political moves during the month. Breaking this taboo carries serious consequences.
In addition to the constellation, there are other celestial movements that can affect a Councillor.
Marfud's Comet-Doubles any effect from a constellation The Great Grey Cloud-Halves any effect from a constellation The Red Star = -15 to Power Tally
THE GAINING AND TALLYING OF POWER
A Councillor's influence may be tallied in the following manner:
+1 to +9 for every spell in spellbook (determined by level)
+1 for each minor magic item owned
+2 for each major magic item owned
+5 for each artifact owned
+10 for each "place of power" controlled
+1 to 12 for the particular astrological sign
-1 for every duel fought in the last 5 years
-15 for being under the Red Star's Influence
So what do the councillors do when they are not plotting against each other and the Emperor?
But seriously, the 1000 councillors are divided into 10 smaller chunks (circles) of around 100 each. Each has a particular "job" which is done in terms of more or less efficiency...
1) The Claws of the Dragon--This group of mages actively seeks out those individuals who are non-magical, and yet pose a significant threat. Or at the very least get under someone's skin to a great enough degree as to warrant such scrutiny. Thincol of Thyatis would be the obvious example, a slightly more subtle example would be "King" Ericall of Norwold and Lord Zaar of Helskir.
2) The Teeth of the Vampire--These actively seek out power sources that will be of benefit to the empire as a whole. It is common for mages to find and jealously guard such places as ancient altars and gates and to keep them secret until they can be used to most advantage. This circle is intended to find some of these places for the use of the empire itself. You can imagine what problems corruption can lead to in this circle...
3) The Book of the Centaur--These are the mages most inclined toward educating the young/indoctrinating the young/or receiving tenure as the case may be. They seek out the magically capable children of nobles, slaves, or commoners, and they insure the proper training is given. Also they provide inspection of the school systems and make sure they are up to par.
4) The Talons of the Unicorn--The primary, unofficial, motto of this circle is "let there be no plots but those of the council!" They seek out all insurrectionists and take the appropriate steps...
5) The Cadre of the Harpy--Study weather, weather magics, and keep an eye on climatic changes in Alphatia.
6) The Conjurations of the Lich--Similar to the Harpy, they inspect all official facilities, including federal and local institutions. More importantly, their goal is the development of natural resources, the application of building codes governing proper urbanisation, upkeep, as well as the preservation of the land's beauty and the world's marvels. This would go as far as promoting the arts as well.
7) The Eyes of the Medusa-- In charge of studying the magics of other countries and importing new ways of doing magic.
8) The Hooves of the Gorgon-- In charge of military magics. This is as opposed to the Magist of War who is appointed by the Emperor and is the direct leader of the military strength of Alphatia. This sub-council studies defensive magics and new ways of building up military strength through magic.
9) The Levitators of the Beholder--In charge of Trade magics
10) The Flows of the Naga--In charge of inspecting strange new magics. In addition they are directly responsible for promoting magic-use in general, and the superiority of wizards as a social caste. They also promote a code of spellcasting, which changes from generation to generation depending on the winds of social taste at the time, that supports good manners and good form (artistic and elegance in spellcasting), in addition to investigating strange new magics.
All councillors bear wands that have their title and office spelled out clearly in runes. Also there are special rings which give access to certain vaults...
An example of how the Flows of the Naga might be further divided...
Their jurisdiction would of course be any new gates that pop up, old ones that are known, and the creation of new gates.
Second: "New" magic/spheres
This one would cover spells discovered that were hitherto unknown, as well as magic items. Anytime a new method or spell is discovered, they are on top of it.
This group promotes the development of new magic spells and items and "imports" magic from other realms. They also provide a "code" of manners regarding spellcasting, that changes every 10 years.
Always need to keep an eye on planar infestations.
Same with dimensions.
There is an unsubstantiated rumour of a 5th element that corresponds to Entropy. Anything that is blown on the winds of gossip is investigated by these guys...kind of like an x-files group...
Their jurisdiction is Immortal magic, especially artifacts. They sometimes come into conflict with the Tenth...
Magic that is uncovered from ancient civilisations or rediscovered from the "old world".
These are many and usually indecipherable till the time they are needed.
Whole libraries are filled with flowing, rhyming, senseless texts.
These are the fellows who proclaim whether a given text is true prophecy or not. They are also in charge of seeing to it that the proper prophecies get fulfilled...
TAXES AND PAYING FOR THE MONSTER
Are there any internal feuds between the various ministries? How is the monstrous machine funded? To they levy taxes or do the wizards simply pay for their own expenses there? Is there a Council's Guard or some sort of military unit in charge of guarding the Council's many buildings and escorting its illustrious members wherever they go?
Taxes in Alphatia are fairly low, at least as compared to Known World countries. Mainly the government gets its money from the various kingdoms, which in turn get their money through trade taxes and rental taxes, two taxes which are fairly easy to slip under the noses of the mage business owners who see it as "cost of doing business". On the mainland, taxes are collected by an office set up by the Emperor. They employ obsidian golems to do the actual collecting.
Colonies of Alphatia pay a heavy cost for Alphatian protection, and yet, the total revenues gained from the colonies do not really go very far toward offsetting the cost of the government.
Most of the really huge magical projects are funded either by a kingdom or by the Empire at large. The Council Members receive a generous pay check, as does the Emperor. Keep in mind also, that the Council Members often have an estate with slave labourers generating money for themselves and the Emperor has the "Imperial Kingdom" plus whatever other Kingdoms he may control.
EMPRESS ERIADNA THE WISE
In recent years, the reign of Tylion IV almost came to a tragic end as even Council members were ready to duel him without even finding a suitable candidate first. Then his daughter surprised all by stepping up and taking the throne before any hasty machinations could ensue. Needless to say, most Council members view Eriadna with a mixture of hate and fear. Her actions were completely unexpected, as she had been viewed prior to be irresponsible and self indulgent. Now they know not what to make of her.
She is feared, because of her wisdom and seeming integrity. Many of the Councillors don't understand why she took the considerable risk of stepping into a potentially hot situation. She could have been duelled by the dozen or so councillors who were already itching for a fight.
But the calm, strong, manner in which she came forward, frightened many of the formerly angry councillors. It took much of the wind out of their complaints.
Yet why did she do it?
She stood to gain hardly anything. It was altogether likely the council could have put aside the emperor and she could have stepped forward then as the likeliest heir.
Instead this woman, who had shown no real motivation or desire before, stepped forward at that crucial moment and diffused the whole situation.
It was not the safest move, though it ended up being rather politically sound.
The hatred stems from those councillors who suddenly found a gremlin in their best built machinations.
Even for an Alphatian, Eriadna's move seemed chaotic.
Did she do it because she loved her father, loved the empire, or because she was a politically astute person?
This is up to the individual campaign