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Here's something else. Some of you may remember a discussion we had about the Confederated Kingdom of Niscosenia, a survival of Lhomarrian culture on the surface world. Bruce jumped in, we linked it to the Earthshakers, and I had started to compose a supplement or long article detailing the setting. I wasn't able to do anything after that first burst of work ten years ago, but in the spirit of the season, and of the discussions about the MMB, I thought I'd share it. I may still pick this up.
Again, aside from notations as to who said what, this is exactly as it was cut and pasted into my HD.
The Confederated Kingdom of Niscoseniaby Geoff Gander and Bruce Heard
The Confederated Kingdom of Niscosenia is loosely based on a sort of Greek-Phoenician style city-state. Niscosenia the city is of course the capital, but the remainder of the kingdom is an agglomeration of city-states, duchies, baronies, and the like. They pay fealty to the king out of historical ties, and because he controls several Lhomarrian relics (which help safeguard the nation), but not much else. Most often, it is only in times of great need that Niscosenia will act in a unified manner.
The Niscosenians are on friendly terms with the nearby gnomish kingdoms, trading goods with each other, and there are legends of an ogre-like people (the N'djatwa, in fact) living over the Diamond Ring mountains to the west. No one who ventured over the mountains ever came back, though, and as a result these lands are considered forbidden.
Nearby forests, to the south and southwest, are believed to contain benevolent forest spirits, but again, no one has proved this yet. It is known that no evil creatures, or people, who enter those woods ever return.
Towards the rolling hills, forests, and mountains to the southeast, is the Realm of the Earthshakers, which is hinted at in tavern rumours in the larger cities of the Known World, though largely dismissed as fiction. This land is known by Niscosenia, but few people go there, unwilling as they are to be destroyed by the "feuding mobile cities" - those mobile cities of the warring gnomes, always in search of the legendary substances known as “Everglow”.
Generally, though, Niscosenia has little to do with the outside world. Sometimes regions within the confederacy will fight each other on occasion, or some monster will rampage northwards from the frozen wastelands to the south of the imposing Vulcanian Line, but this is more than enough to keep the small nation busy. There are also humanoid tribes living in the nearby mountains, to the west and north, giving cause for intermittent wars, but these happen very rarely. When they do, however, large portions of Niscosenia usually suffer the brunt of the fighting.
Contrary to popular opinion in the Known World, “earthshakers” are not always anthropomorphic (i.e.: human-shaped). Those found in the Lost Valley region often do not even remotely resemble anything human, or humanoid. In most cases, the feuding gnomish earthshakers are mobile cities - large towns or small cities mounted on legs, wheels, or other means of locomotion, and armed with various weapons to destroy their opponents.
A traveller first entering this forsaken land of madness would be puzzled by the huge piles of debris encountered sometimes in the plains. Bizarre masses of crumbled houses and metal girders, unrecognisable charred debris, craters, and miniature skeletal remains. This destruction is the result of the never-ending quest for “Everglow”, the fuel that powers most of the gnomish Earthshakers. Never available in large amounts, Everglow is only found near active volcanos, and as a result those battles for control over this power supply are the most violent.
Everglow is a black ore that is very rare. What makes Everglow so special is that it is a natural battery for thermal power. Developing deep in volcanic shafts, Everglow absorbs the ambient heat present in those hellish environments, until it begins to radiate a heat of its own. Burning one fist-sized lump provides enough energy to power a modern steam locomotive for two hours. The Earthshakers, being much larger, need much larger amounts. As mentioned above, Everglow is a very rare substance - no more than a kilogram has ever been found in one place. Thus, the search for deposits of this substance is a constant one, and caches of it recovered from defeated Earthshakers are considered priceless.
Everglow is called “Sabilyan” in Niscosenian - derived loosely from the ancient Lhomarrian word, Xerbrulon, for a rock blown out of a volcano.
That's exactly what I was thinking about -- you gave it a name: black ore. I love it! Let's use this! I could see some perky foreigners with their flying ships jumping into the fray, trying to get their hands on the stuff as well. They'd be more like nuisances, no more than buzzards waiting for an abandoned carcass to plunder, fleeing as soon as a live fortress approaches. The thing that's neat about black ore is that it could be regularly produced inside volcanoes, but slowly enough that it remains rare and valuable. Of course, Earthshakers cannot enter volcano craters, so landing parties are sent instead. Ambushes and sudden volcano eruptions are but two of many other dangers awaiting them. Perhaps black ore is somehow related to fire elementals (some primitive form of progeny in the process of transforming itself), which in turn makes those who steal the black ore and drain its "heat" (lifeforce) appear more like murderers... enter the fire mages from Ierendi or Flaemish Glantrians who learn about this shameful practice via their own
gate to the Plane of Fire... but hey, that's another story. Never mind. - Bruce
Little "earthshakers" (as the name implies) would be the size of a large giant of some kind. You go up from there, including the occasional mammoth earthshaker the size of a entire city. It's no skin off anyone's nose because they're limited to the region of Vulcania for the reasons we discussed in that thread, and nobody really lives nearby. (Naval gnomish dreadnoughts anyone?) - Bruce
Vulcanian Village -- Version II [by Bruce]
First contact... a traveller approaches a small fortified village in Vulcania. A white cloud rises from a unique chimney in its centre. An armoured shutter creaks open when the visitor reaches the gate. Light filters in, revealing the large nose of a warrior who otherwise remains in the dark. He hails, "Who goes there?"
The visitor responds, "Jubal Mashgizmop! I have precious, unique, and needful things..."
"Eh?" ponders the sentry. "Read the sign on the gate, stranger. No peddlers! We have all the needful things we need!"
"But wait..." continues the visitor. He hops off his wagon and flings open a large chest. "Look here, my good person. I have this wondrous device, handmade from Highforge, a marvellous land far beyond the northern horizons! It assembles in a snap... yes sirrrreee!"
The sentry cuts him short and bluntly adds, "Begone!"
Holding a flexible pipe connected to a box, the visitor turns a crank on the box. The contraption emits a bizarre humming sound.
"Surely, I can't permit you to miss the opportunity of a lifetime! Look here, my good person! Behold this unique Highforge Wonder as it sucks the rats and other pests right out of your dungeons and into this reinforced holding box!"
Suddenly, the armoured shutter slams shut. A deep rumbling sound rises from inside the village as its occupants bark a continuous stream of orders. White smoke pours out of the chimney and suddenly the visitor drops his contraption, staring at a most horrifying sight. The entire village lifts up into the air, standing on two enormous legs. Jets of steam come out of vents in legs, hissing loudly, as the village suddenly approaches the visitor. His horses bolt and gallop in the opposite direction. The hapless merchant turns away and runs for his life. The monstrous village pursues him as an enormous hose hanging from a crane extends from the village. With a loud humming sound, it sucks in the terrified visitor who disappears inside... - Bruce
Wind Galleys [by Bruce]
When you mention Phoenicians, I can't help but see in my mind their neat-looking merchant galleys. I'm thinking that perhaps the Lhomarrians are developing their own style of land-ships, something similar to the Hollow World's Nithian barges or Jabba-the-Hut's barge. These are galleys capable of hovering a few feet over the ground -- perhaps as the result of one of the those Lhomarrian relics (maybe not... but the idea sounds interesting enough). I would make them sea-worthy too, just in case -- an advantage compared to other air ships in the Known World(*).
The "wind-galleys" could hover, as I said, just a few feet over a flat or slightly inclined surface, so they could travel plains, deserts, and even seas (with some risk because of the storms). As their name implies, their motive power is wind alone, or wooden poles (replacing the oars) giving the galleys a weird centipede-like look. The wind-galleys would not be able to hover above trees, cities, or excessively broken terrain, so that terrain feature still remain relevant and retains some tactical value. Major mountains would remain impassable to the wind barges, but not deserts, rivers, or lakes. After some time there could be Lhomarrian traders regularly visiting the remnants of the Milenian Empire, and even some places in Brun (found colonies, trading posts, etc). Hovering galleys would also be useful in keeping at bay those thousands of simbasta that may object to the Lhomarrians passing through their lands.
(*) Picture this -- a strange, foreign-looking galley approaches Thyatis City. After the customary inspection, the merchant galley is permitted entry into the port. It sails up the Mesonian River, and finally hovers out of the river and onto the shore, causing panic among the travellers on the embankments. It casually sails on and takes a tour of the main avenues of the capital...)
I guess that would be a bit too conspicuous, not to mention visiting Heldannic Knights showing sudden concern for this distant visitor. - Bruce
Now, as for the motive power, Lhomarrian artifacts are logical, and we can easily say that they were just so darned powerful that this allows almost global coverage, though perhaps speed declines as the distance from the artifact increases. The HK would just love to know about this, and find out how it works.
As it stands right now, according to my timeline, Niscosenia has entered another stage of growth. The time is nigh for wind galleys to head for the coast, skim the seas, and head outwards in search of new lands to explore (the Lhomarrian sense of wanderlust being relatively undiminished once the essential needs of defence and survival are taken care of).
Within a few years (say, 1020 or so), northern Davania might be rediscovered, and with it the remnants of old Milenia, the rakasta tribes, and possibly the HK fortress of Vanya's Rest!
Who knows, maybe during some earlier period of prosperity some explorers set out in their wind galleys and founded an enclave somewhere, and are now rediscovered?
Regardless, I'm sure the locals (i.e.: southern Davania) should have legends of "ships that float as birds glide".
And then, in AC 1030 or so....Brun is visited, unless some boisterous, uncivilised northerner gets to Niscosenia first - which is likely.
Overall, way cool! I think I'll use this, if you don't mind...
Go right ahead, man! - Bruce
How do the wind-galleys levitate then? I thought it was the artifact providing lift but not the motive power (hence the name "wind-galley"). Either way, I like the idea of decreasing speed as the galleys reach the far limits of the artifact's range. Maybe this particular artifact is one of the progeny of the Heldannic Artifact of Law.
Wind Galleys - History [my thoughts]
Neat! This could certainly work, and it would explain how communications are so quick among the city-states of Niscosenia - rapid messenger services! I would say that this is a development after the Sinking of Lhomarr, though. At that time, the Lhomarrians were *just* getting into the Iron Age, and perhaps some enterprising young mage, then living in an obscure farming colony (i.e.: the Lost valley region), came up with this neat idea.
After the Sinking, the widely separated holdings of the Empire began to drift apart, and some began warring upon each other (cf - my timeline). Thanks to the wonderful innovation of Niscossian of Jurandis, though, many southern dependencies were able to maintain their links through trade.
Large colonies, such as Erkalion on the coast (whose ruins stand today), tried to dominate the inland realms as best it could, but the wind ships saved the day on numerous occasions.
Despite this, and other, innovations, the pressures of refugees, barbarians, and other ills soon finished off the work of the Outer Beings, as, one by one, the colonies of Lhomarr faded away - save a few fragments..
..one of which was the Lost Valley region.
Works for me! Now we may have an explanation for those strange grooves cut through the forests of Davania. They are the wind-galley's highways to other nations and places of business. Only one leads toward the land of the Earthshakers. - Bruce