Atlas Rules Resources Adventures Stories FAQ Search Links
The Great Land Rush of Norwoldby Simone Neri from Threshold Magazine issue 7
The Great Land Rush of Norwold
by Simone Neri (Zendrolion)
Springtime in Alpha!
The 21st of Thaumont 1002 AC1 is nearing, and the city of Alpha prepares for the famous two-weeks long Spring Fair, the great festival taking place in the capital of the young Kingdom of Norwold each year. People from all over the region of the Great Bay attend the fair, as the city - still experiencing the late thaw - is adorned with colorful flowers, garlands, and lights, making Alpha the most sought out destination of merchants from all over the north, trading the most exotic merchandise brought from throughout the Known World and Alphatia, with raw materials from Norwold. These are two weeks of bustling in Alpha, with merchants, simple local traders, and farmers crowding the streets, and incessant arrivals of ships in the port. Additionally, one can find jugglers and thespians entertaining bystanders, cutpurses lurking about for easy pickings among alleyways, adventurers and mercenaries seeking out patrons, and knights eager for the joust, among noblemen and courtiers attending feasts beset with intrigue.
But this year’s Spring Fair commemorates much more. In the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the Kingdom of Norwold, King Ericall decreed the start of the Great Land Rush, an ambitious program of colonization devised for the near wilderness land he rules. A land-grabbing opportunity for all sorts of characters from across the Known World and the Alphatian Empire, undoubtedly bringing many more people than is usual to Alpha.
In the first part of this article, we will take a look at the procedures and events regarding the Great Land Rush, as well as learning how the Kingdom of Norwold is organized from an institutional point of view, and what sets it apart from its mother empire. In the next issue, we will get to know some of the most important political players in the Norwold stage, that is the members of the royal court and the dominion rulers already in place before the AC 1002.
The Great Land Rush
King Ericall was granted the crown of Norwold in 992 AC, at least in name. He effectively controls only the Alphan Peninsula and a few lands along the Great Bay and Norwold’s eastern coast - the rest defies Ericall’s rule. The halfling Shire of Leeha was independent as it always had been, King Yarrvik of Oceansend refused to acknowledge the king’s authority, and the human, humanoid, dwarven, and elven tribes and clans scattered all over the interior ignored the king’s claim over their ancestral territories. Ericall was disappointed when he realized how little he controlled of his realm’s land. Thus, he devised a grand colonization plan to tame the wilderness and establish Alpha’s effective control over the whole kingdom.
The king has been preparing his realm for the Great Land Rush since two years ago. Ericall wants to attract new, enthusiastic, trusted, and brave characters who may consider settling the wilderness of Norwold as the opportunity of their life. If deemed worthy, the king will grant them lands within his kingdom, alongside a nobility rank. Ericall’s wish is to make the deal advantageous for valorous commoner adventurers, members of the lesser gentry and aristocracy, younger sons and daughters of noble families with no chance to inherit ancestral lands, and people barred from reaching the upper classes by their country’s customs or laws (such as mainland Alphatia or Glantri).
King Ericall ensured that word of the Great Land Rush and of the opportunities provided by his realm reached all the corners of the surrounding lands, instructing messengers and heralds to spread the news abroad, and also sending special representatives to chosen famous adventurers and characters the king has heard about, and who in his opinion would be intrigued by the offer. It’s about two years since Ericall started to publicize the event, and now the king is ready to gather the fruits of his work.
Running the Land Grants
In the first few days of the Spring Fair, King Ericall - assisted by his closest advisors, Count Beriak of Draken and the wizard Madiera - will meet privately with each one of the characters who attend the festival in Alpha and show interest in claiming a dominion. The meeting will mostly concern the candidate’s motivations, expectations, and future plans for his dominion should he or she get one; if the candidate has some proposal for the king (i.e. gifts of money, troops, magical items, or whatever), this is the moment to put those things to fruition. The king will also make clear what he does expect from the deal - utter loyalty, regular payment of taxes (albeit with a two-years exemption if the candidate gets a dominion in a wilderness area), and assurance that the candidate has nothing to do with Thyatis and that empire’s allies.
Beriak and Madiera will speak little, but will not use mind-reading or other divination spells during the meetings; instead, they will gather opinions about the candidates which they will discuss with Ericall later, reserving the right to use those spells during the next few days on the claimants they found less convincing or openly suspect.
During the meeting the king will also ask each character in which area of the Kingdom of Norwold he or she would like to establish his or her dominion; the king will take note of their choice. Their wish might not correspond to what they will get, but will be useful for Ericall and his advisors to get an idea of how the prospecting lords will be spread among his lands.
The king will work hard to meet most of the claimants in the first week of the Spring Fair, in fact, during the second week Ericall’s attention will switch to the tournament which will take place in Alpha. The tournament will feature a grand joust, melee fights, arcane magic contests, wrestling matches, archery and shooting contests, and other minor competitions in which knights, adventurers, and claimants can test their mettle and valor. The king expects each claimant to take part in at least one of the competitions; he will carefully watch the claimants’ behavior in the contests, not only from the point of martial prowess, but also from that of personal honor, courtesy, and unselfishness.
During the course of the tournament competitions the claimants, as well as many other adventurers and knights who came to participate but who will not ask the king for a dominion, will be hosted at the Royal Palace, where banquets, celebrations (with magical fireworks!), aristocratic entertainments (display of magic arts, recitation of poems, concerts, drama, and gambling), and balls will go on for the whole length of the festival.
The tournament and the stay at the Royal Palace, with all the connected social events, should be the time for each claimant to get to know some of the fellow would-be lords, the members of the royal court, and any other relevant NPC the DM would like to throw in. Friendships, alliances, rivalries, enmities, and hatreds will be born in this context. Also, this will be a time of harsh intrigue and subtlety, during which each claimant will try to get the eye of the king, of his advisors, and of potential allies, to gather information about the other claimants, and to put eventual enemies and rivals in bad light; how each claimant will achieve this depends on his or her own personality and goals, but the whole process is likely to include secret agreements, deception, bribes, blackmails, and unscrupulous use of spells - even if plots including open violence will be avoided in this phase as too risky.
The King’s Favor Rating
As a DM, you could have great fun in roleplaying the Spring Fair events and tournament, but you may have to focus on some of the numerous characters present at best, limiting actual roleplaying to a handful of the events and NPCs who are of any interest for the player characters. To speed up the whole process and determine how each claimant performed in the competitions, you may use the King’s Favor Rating system presented here.
The King’s Favor Rating measures how favorable an impression each claimant made upon King Ericall and his staff during the whole two weeks of the Spring Fair - including the initial meeting, the tournament, and the social events. Basically, higher the rating is, better are the claimant’s chances to get a dominion and to choose its location before the others.
The King’s Favor is made up of various factors which produce Favor Points, calculated as follows.
Each claimant who has reached at least 15th-level - or the maximum level allowed for his or her class (such as 10th-level for the Elf class, for example) if that is lower than fifteenth - scores a number of Favor Points equal to his level; demihuman characters get an additional Favor Point for every Attack Rank they have achieved beyond the first (A for the Halfling class, C for the Dwarf and Elf class). Characters below 15th-level score 0 Favor Points for reputation if they are lower than 9th-level, and their level minus eight in Favor Points if their level falls between 9th and 14th.
Two: Private Dealings with the King
Each claimant adds together his or her ability modifiers for Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma, and scores the result in Favor Points.
Then make a normal reaction roll adding as usual the character’s Charisma modifier and - only if the character appears as a human or elf female - a further modifier due to the character’s appearance (according to her description), as follows: +0 if she is attractive or pretty, +1 if she is good-looking, comely, or beautiful, +2 if she is very beautiful or gorgeous.
Compare the modified reaction roll result with the following table to see how many additional Favor Points the claimant scores (or loses):
Modified Reaction Roll Result
3 or less
Lose 3 Favor Points
Lose 1 Favor Point
Gain 2 Favor Points
12 or more
Gain 5 Favor Points
Lastly, if the claimant has some further leverage to get the favor or the attention of the king, he or she gets some bonus points. Leverage means gifts (money, magic items) or interesting prospects which may open up thanks to the claimant (i.e. ready-to-use or cheap mercenary troops, trade routes to be opened, alliances or agreements with foreign powers to be signed, the support of a powerful church, and so on).
As a DM, you will have to evaluate how favorable is the leverage proposed for the king, founding the decision on certainty, actual usefulness, risk, and readiness of the thing offered or promised; in the end, you should assign a number of additional Favor Points ranging from 1 to 5, with 1 being an interesting prospect which is risky or unlikely to succeed, and 5 a very useful, cheap, and ready-to-use thing.
Regarding gifts, use this rule of thumb: for every 15,000 gp in cash (money, gems, jewelry) or for every 15,000 gp of a magic item’s enchantment cost, the claimant gains 1 additional Favor Point. As you may see, gifts repay less than other leverages in terms of favor from the king, as Ericall does not want to give the impression that his favor goes to the claimants who bribe him.
Three: The Tournament
The claimants will have to enter at least one of the competitions of the tournament to gain additional favor from the king. Indeed, the claimants who choose not to take part in any of the tournament’s competitions lose 5 Favor Points.
Competitions include the joust (classical knight vs knight with lances and heavy armor on horseback), the melee list (single one vs one foot combat, any melee weapon and armor allowed), the shooting list (participants shoot with bow or crossbow at targets set at various distances), the wrestling list (single one vs one foot combat, unarmed and unarmored), and the arcane competition (a match in which magic-users challenge each other to display their most powerful or spectacular spells). Using magic items of any sort in any of the competitions is forbidden and considered extremely unfair (should a character be discovered while using some, he or she will be thrown out of the tournament and will suffer a ten-points loss in Favor Points); in case a character does not have normal gear available, the tournament’s organizers will provide him or her with what is needed.
To see how a claimant performs in a competition, he or she must roll 1d20 and add the modifiers found in the table below by crossing his class with the competition he or she chose (always round fractions up). When an ability score is featured, add that score’s modifier to the roll; when multiple abilities are listed, separated by an ‘or’, it means that the character may choose which one of them to use for the roll.
Standard demihuman classes (Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling) use the Fighter column, counting each Attack Rank achieved beyond the first as an additional level.2 Elves can also take part in the Arcane competition (without counting Attack Ranks, obviously). However, Dwarves and halflings cannot take part in the joust, and suffer respectively a -1 and a -4 penalty to the roll for the wrestling list. The DM should use these guidelines to determine how each of the non-standard classes - if featured among the claimants - rolls for its performance.
Also, a participant gets a +1 bonus on the die roll for each Weapon Mastery rank attained beyond Basic in a weapon appropriate to the competition (lance for the joust, a close-combat weapon for the melee, bow or crossbow for the shooting list, and an unarmed combat style for the wrestling competition).3 If an NPC’s Weapon Masteries are not listed but the character’s description mentions he or she can use a certain weapon with a given degree of skill, the DM should anyway assign him or her a bonus ranging from +1 to +4.
A character who gets a modified result lower than 10 in any one competition loses 1 Favor Point; if he gets a natural 1 on the d20 roll, this is an automatic failure (regardless of the modifier) and he loses an additional 2 Favor Points (for a total of 3). If the claimant’s modified result is 15 or more, the character gets a number of Favor Points equal to (modified roll - 14).
Each claimant may take part in one or more competitions, but will get Favor Points only for the one in which he obtains the better results. On the other hand, loss of Favor Points for all competitions are cumulative - making participation in all available competitions risky at best..
⅓ level + Int
⅓ level +
Str or Dex
¼ level +
Str, Dex or Con
⅓ level + 2 + Str, Dex or Con
⅕ level - 1 + Str, Dex or Con
¼ level + Str, Dex or Con
⅓ level + Dex
¼ level + Dex
¼ level + Str
⅓ level + Str
⅕ level - 1 + Str
¼ level + Str
* In order to participate to the joust, a character must be able to ride a horse, wear heavy armor and shield, and wield a lance.
** Unless the Cleric is allowed to use lances (such as clerics of Vanya); in this case, the character can take part in the joust, using as modifier on the roll (¼ level + Str or Dex).
§ In order to take part in the shooting competition, a character must be able to use to some degree a bow or a crossbow of some type.
# Unless the Cleric is allowed to use bows or crossbows (such as clerics of Karaash); in this case, the character can take part in the shooting competition, using as modifier on the roll (¼ level + Dex).
Of course the DM is free to add other modifiers he sees fit due to the character’s description or skills. For example, a knight with a very high score in the Riding (Horses) General Skill might get a further bonus of the roll for the joust.
Four: Social Events
Finally, a claimant’s skill in getting along with important people, members of the court, and potential allies, in dodging rivalries and enmities, and in showing oneself’s social etiquette, courtesy, culture, and grace will constitute a part of King Ericall’s final opinion about him or her.
Each claimants again gains (or loses) a number of Favor Points equal to his or her Intelligence and Wisdom modifiers. Moreover, each one gains (or loses) a number of Favor Points equal to his full Charisma score minus 11. Any character (regardless of gender) with a human- or elven-like appearance also gains (or loses) a number of Favor Points dependant on his appearance, as follows (refer to the character’s description to adjudicate the claimant’s appearance):
Handsome, beautiful, good-looking, comely
Very beautiful, very handsome, gorgeous
During this step, the claimants will also be subject to magical and non-magical secret scrutiny by Beriak, Madiera, and the king’s other advisors. If a claimant is hiding some secrets which could damage his reputation in front of Ericall, he or she will have to do a saving throw vs Spells, using his Wisdom modifier as usual as well as bonuses due to magic items or other special abilities. If the claimant’s save fails, his innermost secrets will not have been fully discovered, but he or she will have drawn on himself some suspicion; in this case, the claimant will lose 1d4+1 Favor Points.
Totalling the Results
Once the claimant has passed through the four steps, it is time to total all the Favor Points he or she has received during the previous phases. The king will consider a claimant worthy to receive a dominion from him if he has at least totalled 15 Favor Points; claimants earning a lower number of Favor Points will politely be informed after the end of the festival by one of the king’s advisors that His Majesty has deemed him or her still unsuited to rule a dominion. The claimants who have totalled 15 or more Favor Points will instead be summoned one at a time by the king - starting with the claimant who got the highest Favor Point total and going down from him or her - and allowed to choose a dominion in his Kingdom of Norwold, in the area they wish (see the next paragraph). If two or more candidates have got the same number of Favor Points, the king will choose as first the claimant who earned the higher number of Favor Points in the individual four steps of the preceding process, in this order:
(a) the tournament;
(b) private dealings with the king;
(d) social events.
If two claimants are still drawing after confronting what they earned in (d), choose randomly among them who gets the first choice for a dominion.
Example: At the end of Step 4, Fergus the Justifier and Bardeen Longwalker have the same number of Favor Points, that is 21. The king looks at their performance in the tournament, and sees that both took part in the joust, scoring the same amount of Favor Points (six). Then, Ericall considers the private dealings he had with both, and sees that Bardeen got 3 Favor Points and Fergus only 2 - so the king allows Bardeen to choose his dominion before Fergus, who goes after him.
Choosing a Location
After the choice order has been determined according to the abovementioned four steps, King Ericall will proceed to award dominions to the claimants who have gathered the due amount of Favor Points during the Spring Fair.
King Ericall’s officers have never done a complete survey of the lands which fall within the borders of their liege’s kingdom; what kind and number of actual resources are to be found in the most remote corners of the Kingdom of Norwold is something which is up to a claimant to discover.
The king’s officers simply marked out a series of dominion borders on their own copy of the official map of Norwold. In game terms, each dominion includes an average of three 24-mile hexes on the Norwold map included in this article. All the domain’s hexes must rest inside the borders of the Kingdom of Norwold featured in the map, and no hex may be found inside the borders of one of the independent realms (such as Oceansend, Littonia or Leeha) or of one of the fiefs already in existence before the Great Land Rush. They can, however, be found over one of the northernmost hexes whose control is contested by the Kingdom of Kaarjala.4
Image: The provinces of the Kingdom of Norwold
Allow each claimant to pick one of the domains, centered on one of the available hexes featured on the map (we will call this the “core” hex), and then to choose another two hexes around it; each additional chosen hex must be adjacent to the “core” hex. Royal officers have ascertained (most often guessed) that each hex may harbor two-three resources on average; when the claimant rolls 1d10 per hex to determine its resources,5 he or she might come up with less or more actual resources, depending on the result of the dice rolls.6
Finishing Up the Details
At the end of this process you should have your 24-mile per hex map of Norwold dotted with newly-established dominions. Likely, you will end up having some areas clustered with new dominions, and some areas mostly devoid of it. There is nothing wrong with this - King Ericall knows that some regions of his kingdom are more sought after than others, so he expects having more dominions along the eastern coast and the Great Bay than in the interior between the Final Range and the great lakes, or in the cold lands north of the Great Bay.
Also, make sure that hatreds and enmities develop between characters and NPC claimants over dominions coveted by both, as well as a wish for revenge on the part of those NPCs (if any) who were excluded by the king from the choice of a dominion due to their poor performance during the Spring Fair - such characters will certainly cause trouble against the king and his loyal vassals in the near future.
The Kingdom of Norwold
King Ericall has ruled for ten years, a large stretch of this vast and wilderness subcontinent. In those ten years, Ericall has gathered a number of advisors and bureaucrats to help him manage the burden of ruling this huge and diverse land, divided by massive geographical barriers - the powerful rivers, the deep forests, the highest mountains, and the cold tundras. Despite the king’s efforts, however, his success in this process has been partial at best - also due to the young Ericall’s naivety, idealism, and lack of experience.
The official borders of the Kingdom of Norwold are shown in the accompanying map, above, alongside independent realms found within or at the borders of the kingdom, the borders of the kingdom’s provinces, and those of existing fiefs before the Great Land Rush.
The Independent Realms
Ericall’s military and financial weakness is one of the main reasons behind his lack of control over his kingdom. Since his mother, Empress Eriadna, gave Norwold the status of an autonomous kingdom within the empire and withdrew the few Alphatian troops stationed there, the chance to keep full control over the small realms of the region - who were grudgingly accepting the Alphatian protectorate - has slipped out of Ericall’s hands.
Among the small realms which do not acknowledge Ericall’s authority as King of Norwold is the King of Oceansend, Yarrvik the Just, ruler of this proud city - a flourishing trade hub in the north as well as a mighty fortress. The city is allied with the Stormhaven clans of dwarves who dwell in the Ironroot Mountains to the west, and many demihumans (dwarves, elves, and halflings) live within its walls. Yarrvik might even swear fealty to Ericall, if Eriadna’s son allowed him to keep his title of king - but Ericall has no intention to do so, thus Yarrvik continues to make a show of listening to Thyatian proposals of alliance.
In the western Great Bay, the allied halfling clans who make up the Shire of Leeha, at the mouth of the great White Bear River, politely ignore Ericall’s claim over the region. They are friendly toward the newly-arrived foreign humans and willing to trade with them, or even to ally with them against a greater threat (humanoids and giants included), but want to preserve their independence.
North of the Great Bay, the small but ancient Kingdom of Littonia lies on Norwold’s eastern coast. The current Littonian king, Uldis VI, is considered nothing more than a barbarian leader and thus of little importance by the Alphatian Empire and to a lesser extent by Ericall as well. Uldis VI has no intention of giving up his independence to Ericall, and the latter resents the presence of another ruler defying his authority, but at the moment he is not willing to send a military expedition to claim Littonia. Littonia is also plagued by raiders and fishermen foraying into Littonian waters from Qeodhar, and Uldis might find an ally in Ericall if the Kingdom of Norwold was threatened by the northern island realm as well.
At the far northern border of the Kingdom of Norwold, the Kingdom of Kaarjala lays, nestled in the Autuasmaa Plain between the great rivers, the southernmost of which is called Landsplit River in official court records. Ericall consider the northern kingdom, ruled by King Kaarlo Taavinen, a barbarian realm and has entertained himself with the idea of asking him to swear fealty to the crown of Norwold - but has not made any formal advance in that direction. The fact that Kaarjala’s borders encompass the northernmost part of Ericall’s claim on Norwold does not make things easier; Ericall, in fact, will not abstain from sending there those among the claimants who will ask to set their dominions near the northern border.
Lastly, on the northern tip of the Isle of Dawn, the Kingdom of Helskir is found, ruled by King Eruul Zaar, a former governor of the town of Helskir who in the past years turned it into a bustling trade city. Control of Helskir was granted by Empress Eriadna to Ericall back in 992 AC, and Zaar has harbored resentment against Ericall and Alphatia ever since - to the point that a few years ago (999 AC), after the city had seen its share of battles between Alphatia and Thyatis to win its control, Eruul declared Helskir’s independence from Norwold and both empires. Since then, the Strait of Helskir has been unsafe for Alphatian and Norwold ships, but Eruul’s recent approaches with Thyatis has hampered any attempt to retake the city through military means.
Of course this does not mean that the rest of the Kingdom of Norwold is controlled by the king, quite the contrary. The realms mentioned above are those which are acknowledged as such by Ericall’s court, but there are plenty of demihuman clans (mostly elves and some dwarves), human and humanoid tribes who have not even heard about Ericall, let alone submitted to his rule.
The Government of Norwold
King Ericall rules his vast kingdom from the marvellous Royal Palace, in the heart of the city of Alpha, in the Great Bay. He is advised by a collegial body, the Royal Council, which is a group of trusted individuals who help the king take important decisions; the Council customarily includes a selection of the king’s closest familiars (the queen, adult sons, siblings, and so on, but even trusted friends) and the top-ranking officers of the realm (see below), but since admission to the Council stems from the king’s will, the crown can virtually call anyone to become a member of the Council. Usually the Royal Council should include between six and twelve members. The Council is also charged with assuming the regency of the realm should the king die prematurely leaving behind an heir too young to rule.
Decisions taken by the king and by the Royal Council are effectively carried out by the Crown Officers, who act as a sort of ministers, each with its own field of action. These officers, in order of descending rank, are:
The Lord High Steward is considered the king’s closest advisor and the most powerful man of the court after the king himself; the High Steward has a number of duties, which range from acting as deputy of the king when the monarch is not present, to heading the travelling magistrates of Norwold. In modern terms, the High Steward acts both as a minister of the Interior and of Justice. The Governors of the kingdom’s provinces also report to the High Steward.
The Lord High Chancellor oversees all the correspondence to and from the crown, both with the kingdom’s lords and with foreign powers, and is the keeper of the royal seal which is used to sign (and validate) all official documents and decrees; emissaries and ambassadors sent on missions by the crown also report to the High Chancellor.
The Lord High General is the supreme chief of the army of Norwold, who advises the king on all things regarding the military; the king is indeed the supreme commander of the realm’s army, and can choose to lead the army himself on the battlefield - but if he does not, supreme command goes to the High General.
The Lord High Admiral leads Norwold’s fleet during wars and is the supreme commander of the navy; the kingdom’s navy at the moment is small, but is tasked with the challenging duty of protecting the Great Bay (the key to the capital city) and the Strait of Helskir (the “door” to the Alphatian Sea).
The Lord High Treasurer manages the kingdom’s treasury and is responsible for all financial issues involving the king’s household or the kingdom as a whole; handling the payment of debts, enforcing the crown’s credits, and tax collection are among his duties. Provincial reeves and provosts answer to him.
The five Lords listed above are known as the “Great Officers” and are also usually included among the Royal Council’s members. They also automatically receive the rank of lords in the Norwold hierarchy (see below).
Below them are the “Lesser Officers”, a number of still important functionaries who originates directly from the crown, but hold a lower rank than the five above. Among the Lesser Officers are worth mentioning the Captain of the Knight Protectors (the king’s bodyguard) , the Master of the King’s Horse, the Royal Chaplain, the Court Magist, the Master of the Royal Palace, and the Governors of the Provinces.
Each of the Great and Lesser Officers is flanked by one or more deputies and, especially for administrative roles, by a staff of lower officers and by a small chancery. Most of these offices would usually be filled by landed nobles, but in Ericall’s young kingdom most dominion rulers have to oversee the management of their lands and have little spare time to devote to court duties; thus, Ericall’s staff includes also some individuals belonging to the gentry or to the lesser aristocracy.
A word must be spent about the Governors of the Provinces; these individuals are appointed by the king and tasked with the government of one of the vast provinces in which the Kingdom of Norwold is divided. A Governor has duties which are both civil - such as overseeing the construction and maintenance of the province’s roads, bridges, mills, docks, and public buildings -, juridical - he heads the province’s court (an appeal court which ranks above the dominion rulers’ own courts) and sheriffs who administer the king’s law -, and military - the organization of the province’s levy, the recruitment of the provincial army, and coordination of the individual dominion rulers’ armies. Various officers appointed by the crown flank and help the Governor in his duties: a chief magistrate and the sheriffs for juridical duties, a reeve and the provosts for tax collection. Each Governor usually has also a personal staff of his own, or more commonly - if he is also a local dominion ruler - has his dominion’s staff double as the Governor’s.
A Governor might theoretically not even be a dominion ruler, but the current state of things in Norwold usually requires that Ericall appoint as Governor of a Province its most faithful, important, or powerful dominion ruler. Unfortunately, as most of Norwold is still a wilderness land, a number of Provinces (those marked with an asterisk in the table below) are actually only borders drawn on a map, with the title of their Governor being an empty one, and in such cases the governorship is temporarily held by one of Ericall’s officers since there are no suitable or available dominion rulers there. Some areas are so remote and uninhabited that a Governor was never appointed for them. Of course, this state of things is likely to change some time after the Great Land Rush - or so Ericall hopes - also depending on how the current temporary governors will have performed.
Currently, there are nineteen provinces (in addition to the Royal Estate, which encompasses the Peninsula of Alpha), whose borders are featured on the map included in this article, above. Their governors are:7
Coast of Rebirth*
Isles of the Strand
Tralkar Fenn, Count of Hulgarholm
Lernal ‘the Swill’, Duke of Landfall
Beriak Alanira, Count of Draken
Theobold Redbeard, Count of Lighthall
Kerik, Count of Therimar
A Note About Status, Slavery, and Marriage
The first thing an Alphatian will note upon arriving in Norwold is that, well, Norwold is not Alphatia. In Norwold magic-users are only given a vague respect due to their alleged powers, and non-spellcasters are much more numerous than spellcasters in the aristocracy; the king himself - as well as most of his noblemen - is unable to learn magic. This means also that an Alphatian wizard in Norwold had better not treat every commoner (i.e non-noble) as trash or a slave, as often happens in Alphatia.
Rank and Status in Norwold
Regarding status, the noble ranks currently recognized by the Norwold law are the following:
Style of Address
Who May Grant It
Your (Royal) Majesty
The Alphatian Emperor
Your Lordship/ Ladyship
King, Duke, Count
King, Duke, Count, Baron
King, Duke, Count, Baron
King, Duke, Count, Baron
Currently, before the Land Rush, Norwold features only one duke (Landfall), four counts (Draken, Hulgarholm, Lighthall, and Therimar), and two barons (Khemyr and Nevoshed). The other three domains (Hastamal, Noskien, and Somyra) are lordships. To be added to these numbers are the Vatski principalities - two of which rank as full counties, while the other three - which are allies of the Kingdom of Norwold, and not vassals of it - are considered mere lordships.
Lord is a catch-all rank for whichever title of lesser nobility might be granted by the king or one of his noblemen of baron of higher rank - titles such as jarl, baronet, and the like fall into this category; the title of lord may or may not come with some lands, and in the latter case it is not hereditary and assigned to important officers or ministers of the crown or of a landed nobleman.
The crown’s Great Officers automatically receive the rank of lords, but are addressed as “Your Excellency” in account for their political role. The Lesser Officers are usually granted the title of lords as well, but they keep their normal style of address.
Knight is a non-hereditary title of lesser nobility granted to those who show unquestionable loyalty, honor, virtue, or performed relevant deeds for the crown or the kingdom, and possess good fighting abilities (battle spellcasting included). It is the lowest order of nobility, which is usually granted by the king or by one of his noblemen to individuals who performed well on the battlefield or did some special service for them. Anyway, a knight who does not possess some deal of battlefield skills will be looked down upon by other knights. Often, the rank of knight is associated with membership in a knightly order (currently the crown supports only one such order, the Knight Protectors - i.e. the bodyguards of the king - but new orders may be created in the near future by the king or by one of his noblemen).
King Ericall is a good man and sincerely believes that random ability to learn magic should not hamper a worthy person’s social rise - in his opinion, a nobleman is such because of his or her own virtues and merits (or because of those of his or her ancestors). Thus, an Alphatian aristocrat (i.e. a spellcaster) in Norwold could expect to be treated with the respect due to a non-landed lord in most populous areas where the Alphatian culture is dominant (like Alpha), but only as a particularly wise or skilled commoner in other places. On the other hand, an Alphatian lord would receive the treatment due to a baron. Exceptions exist - e.g. powerful Alphatian lords might be considered counts or even dukes in the Norwold hierarchy.
Slavery in the Kingdom
For the same reason, Ericall frowns upon slavery - he has seen the misery of the slave class in Alphatia, and does not want something like that going on in his realm. Nevertheless, Alphatians are not the only ones to have slaves, since slave-owning is a practice deeply-rooted in the culture of Thyatians and northern peoples: Northmen, Heldanners, Vatski, and the barbarian peoples of Norwold all keep slaves, thralls or serfs in one way or another. Ericall would have liked to outlaw slavery, but his councillors warned him that in a young kingdom such sudden changes might result in great troubles, and advised him to wait; also, slave labor might turn useful in the improvement of Norwold’s infrastructures in the near future, and the trade of slaves taken from defeated barbarian tribes might also bring some riches to Alpha’s coffers. At last, the warning of Empress Eriadna herself made Ericall ultimately recede from his goal.
Ericall has nevertheless copied part of the Thyatian slavery laws, and outlawed the mistreatment and killing of slaves, introduced a series of laws to protect slaves from their owners, and does not permit the employment of slaves for court service in the Royal Palace as well as in every office directly dependent from the crown. Individual lords behave as they prefer about the latter point, but the king will not look kindly on anyone among his noblemen who makes large use of slaves or habitually practices slave trade; the king tolerates the enslavement of war prisoners, but will rather ask a ransom for them as first choice. This obsession for slavery, anyway, is only another example of the king’s idealized approach to ruling; in fact, while it is true that slavery in Norwold has existed since ancient times, at present the slavery issue is definitely not a major one (like it is in Alphatia), as the northern thrall-keeping practice is quite different from outright Alphatian slavery, and most Alphatian lords coming from the mainland will likely have a handful of household slaves only, and not a large number of farm-slaves like in their homeland.
The Marriage Issue
A last thing has to be noted about marriage. Each of Norwold’s different peoples has its own custom for marriage and family-raising; only the Alphatians among the known peoples do not recognize marriage as a social institution. Other peoples see the social anarchy produced by their custom as decadent and debauched. To put himself in a better light before his subjects, Ericall decided to distance his kingdom from its mother empire over the issue of marriage as well, and even decided he himself would marry in the near future.
Ericall introduced the institution of marriage into the Norwold law, as well as regulations regarding the reciprocal obligations between the bride and the groom, succession, and the maintenance of children. The marriage law introduced the concept that only children born in a married couple can apply to receive a part of their parents’ inheritance; other children are considered illegitimate and a special permission of the king is required if a parent wants to pass his or her inheritance to such children. Regarding succession, the law states that the parents’ inheritance goes to the children; the parents can divide the inheritance among the living legitimate children as they see fit, with the clause that at least one-twentieth of the inheritance must go to each one of them (male or female it does not matter) and that noble titles and the lands eventually associated with them cannot be split among heirs. Anyway, the choice of the son or daughter that will inherit a noble title (and lands) is free - the parents are not bound to choose the firstborn.
In order for the law to apply to the native peoples of the kingdom’s borderlands and to overcome cultural boundaries, the king’s law applies its definition of marriage (with all its obligations and regulations) to any heterosexual couple where both partners have affirmed their status as husband and wife. As the Alphatians living in Norwold in most cases had already informally adopted some marriage practices due to their integration with the native peoples, Ericall’s law has at the moment little effect on the habits of the Alphatians coming from the mainland - unless they want to make children with a partner who is a native of Norwold: in this case the mate is likely to ask the would-be partner to marry him or her according to Norwold law, in order to share the same obligations toward children and succession.
1 The month and day of the Spring Fair was taken from module CM1 Test of the Warlords; even if the spring equinox in the Known World is celebrated on the 1st of Thaumont, the Fair celebrates the actual coming of the spring season, and so it is likely held toward the end of the first spring month (in the last two weeks, to be precise). The year 1002 AC was chosen becouse the events of CM1 happen ten years after Ericall took the throne in Alpha; this way, the Great Land Rush is conveniently set in the future compared to 1000 AC (the time in which the GAZ series is set), allowing for a still-wilderness Norwold in the latter year and for eventual PCs to take part to the land-grabbing event. Note that setting the Great Land Rush in 1002 AC causes an irremediable inconsistency with the canon timing of module M5 Talons of Night, during which the Pharaoh Ramenhotep XXIII of Thothia dies and is replaced by his son Ramenhotep XXIV, who is crowned in 1002 AC according to the Joshuan’s Almanac & Book of Facts. M5, however, should be set at least some years after the end of CM1, when the PCs have become well-established lords of Norwold and the region has already been a battleground between the empires of Thyatis and Alphatia. The only way to reconcile the two modules would be moving one of the two dates - Ramenhotep XXIV’s ascension in the future, or the Great Land Rush back before 1000 AC. In this article I made the former choice, thus allowing DMs who set their campaign in 1000 AC to use the material presented here without any need of change.
2 Non-standard demihuman classes have multiple abilities, but those who can cast spells from a divine sources - just like Clerics - cannot take part in the Arcane competition. For other competitions, Halfling Masters (from GAZ8 The Five Shires) and Dwarf Clerics (from GAZ6 The Dwarves of Rockhome) use the rule as given above; Elf Wizards (from GAZ5 The Elves of Alfheim) use the Fighter column up to 10th-level, and this is the best bonus they can get for combat abilities - a 16th-level Elf Wizard still gets the bonus of a 10th-level Elf (and he does not get the bonus for Attack Rank, either). Other non-standard demihuman classes should be assigned by the DM a bonus accordingly to their fighting abilities.
3 If Weapon Mastery rules are not used in the campaign, simply add a further +2 bonus to a roll for the joust and shooting competitions if the participant belongs to the Fighter class.
4 These are the areas overshadowed in red in the uppermost part of the map.
5 As per BECMI dominion rules; see Rules Cyclopedia, page 40.
6 CM1 Test of the Warlords describes a different way to determine a dominion’s size and number of resources, which follows these steps: (a) roll 1d6+6 to determine the total number of resources found in each dominion; (b) choose one hex of the 24-miles per hex map of Norwold; (c) roll for resources using the standard 1d10 method; (d) if the result is less than the number of total resources you got on step (a), choose an adjacent hex and repeat this process until you have got at least 7 resources; in no way can a dominion get more than the number of resources determined in step (a). This method is as good as any, but I would suggest to use the alternative method described in the article, because the CM1 method assumes that the king already made a general survey of the resources found in each hex (which is quite unlikely) or that the land granted by the king will be adjusted in size according to what the claimant finds in his newly-assigned domain (also unlikely, as the king wants colonization to start as soon as possible, and this process would cause a big delay).
7 These characters will be described in the second part of this article, featured in the next issue of “Threshold”.