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Truth About Alphatia

compiled by James Ruhland

DotE on Alphatia, both in the sections biased in *favour* of it (the Player's Guide; and looking at these quotes, if this is the best they can say about their own country. . .), and in the impartial DM's section:

Unless otherwise noted, these are from DotE's Player's Guide to Alphatia:

"Yes, you are nothing in that land unless you possess magical knowledge" (p.2)

"They treat their slaves as we treat our convicts, and treat their freemen as we treat our slaves. They are often a cruel people." (p.2)

"As for the darker stories. . .such things are not uncommon. However, in a land as lawless as this (lawless, that is, for the ruling class), you will find magicians who practice every sort of evil."

"Any nobleman with whom you dine and chat in light-hearted merriment today might tomorrow fly away to his hidden palace in the depths of the Blackheart Forest to practice the most grisly sort of magical experimentation." (p.2)

"Justice and goodness, especially toward those who wield no magic, are not important to them." (p.2)

Also read fully and understand the second "What Everyone Knows about Alphatia", which confirms the impression the first gives.

Two things to note about these quotes: 1) Before you dismiss them as the statements of characters, ask if you'd do the same regarding the "What Everyone Knows about Thyatis" statements. Plus, later materiel doesn't imply these impressions are incorrect, just perhaps somewhat overstated - but not inaccurate or wrong.

2) My, those ignorant barbarians *do* notice the society of Alphatia, and go on about it at some length. . .they don't just stand in collective awe of Alphatian splendour.

Ok, so lets partially ignore Note #1, and recognise that these are outsiders talking about Alphatia. Their impressions might not be 100% accurate, even if one must grant that they get the general flavour correct. What does an "insider" have to say about Alphatia? Lets listen in on one of Alphatia's biggest "insiders", Tylion/"Terari". If anyone would know Alphatia well, it would be him:

"But here , in Alphatian lands, do you know what you are? . . .you are the spittle on the sidewalk. . .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." (p.3)

"Lets". How nice.

Tylion/"Terari" goes on: "This is not any land you know. Learn its ways, and you may have more power than you have ever conceived of. Fail - or annoy those who would help you - and the best you can hope for, the most merciful fate, is to drudge until the miserable end of your miserable life." (p.3)

Ok, but what does Tylion/"Terari" *REALLY* think of Alphatia? For that, lets turn to his description in the DM Sourcebook:

"He has grown thoughtful and introspective enough that he perceives flaws in the Alphatian way of life, and is no longer disparaging of non-magic-users." (p.53, DMSB).

Flaws, eh?

Back to the Player's Guide:

"The True History of our beloved Empire. . .is not always a happy one. Accompanying our great achievements is a chronicle of disaster, treachery, and struggles for power." (p.4)

Ahh, so the Thyatians don't have a monopoly on treachery after all, eh?

"Oh, there were some human settlements - quickly conquered, their populations absorbed into the new Empire as slaves." (p.4)

"Magic alone couldn't bring the Alphatians all the riches they wanted. . .so they conquered other peoples and forced them to send tribute." (p.5)

"The Alphatians took gold mined from the mountains of Thyatis, herd-beasts and crops raised by the Thyatians, and the stout ships and seafaring knowledge developed by the Thyatians." (p.6)

1) The Thyatians had better shipbuilding and seafaring knowledge than the Alphatians, who the Alphatians learned from. So clearly the "teaching" thing wasn't all one way.

2) Aside from that, sounds a lot like Esterhold to me. Lovely people, those Alphatians. How admirable.

"With the aid of a warrior (a wretch unacquainted with magic)."

Nice attitude towards non-spellcasters. If you think they just express that towards non-Alphatian non-spellcasters, then read on.

"Even so, the new Empire of Thyatis, under Emperor Zendrolion and later under Empress Valentia, recovered much more quickly from the war and prospered much sooner." (p.7)

What's that about Alphatian superiority over others in all areas?

"The pathetic Thyatian habit of extending full citizenship to anyone who could speak his name endeared that empire's ways to much of the island's population, making Alphatian conquest there difficult." (p.7)

1) Does that sound like life is better in Alphatia, if the population prefers Thyatis?

2) Lovely respect for people expressed again.

"High-ranking members of the non-magical gentry tend to be treated more fairly and even-handedly here [in Greenspur] than in Aasla and Sundsvall." (p.9)

Oh, so you mean they *aren't* treated fairly and even-handedly in Haven or Veritloch? What about Arogansa, perhaps they are treated well there. . .Ok, maybe not. But what about Trollhattan? Perhaps they're treated fairly in Trollhattan. Lets see:

Trollhattan: "All non-magic-users must belong to the household of a magic-user or cleric. . .or be prey for magical experiments (or food for captured beasts)."

Ok, perhaps not. That sounds even worse than in most of Alphatia.

Lets check Stonewall:

"Draco. This is perhaps the only city in Alphatia friendly to Fighters and Thieves. Fighters are tolerated and more or less fairly treated in Greenspur, and Thieves can be found aplenty in some outlying areas - but only Draco *likes* these sort of people." (p.9)

"Non-magic-users are still limited to Gentry status, but they aren't oppressed here." (p.9)

Which is what sets Stonewall apart and makes it unique/unlike other Alphatian Kingdoms. Contradicting attempts to generalise Stonewall's attitude to all of Alphatia.

Ok, so just why *did* the Alphatians invite the Dwarves, Gnomes, and Halflings to come live in Alphatia? Was it open-minded tolerance?

Stoutfellow: "The Alphatians like to have master craftsmen working for them; its easier than learning crafts-mastery yourself." (p.9)

1) Ahh, so *that's* why they gave them their own ghetto. 2) Real dedicated to self-improvement and skilfulness, those Alphatians.

Moving on:

Ambur: "Its not enough just to be a magic-user in Ambur: you must also be an actor, playwright, or stage director to be a celebrity here."

Oh, so you can't just be a good commoner actor, playwright, or stage director: you must still be a magic-user first.

Southeastern Alphatia: "Its here that one finds the many greenhouses, public or hidden, where plants such as the intoxicating zzonga-fruit are grown." (p.10)

"Its a warm and lazy country (lazy for the rulers; of course the non-magical working class must work as hard here as anyplace else) full of small, pretty cities and hard-working peasants." (p.10)

Central Alphatia: "Monsters and lawless men roam the thick woods, and no wanderer - other than a high-powered adventurer - is safe here." (p.10)

Ah, so that's what the new Capital Kingdom is like.

Bellissaria: "That region [Surshield] is sparsely occupied by a few Wizards (and their servant-communities)." (p.11)

"Norwold is not actively seeking independence, but would welcome it if it came." (p.11)

Such loyal devotion the Alphatian Empire inspires.

Next section: "Galatia didn't think about that very long. 'Why, I'd appoint others to do all the work of administering the dominion while I kept to my own pursuits.'

Tylion/"Terari": 'What if these others are untrustworthy?"

Galatia: "They'd better not be! If I am so powerful, I can read their minds and *charm* their spirits and wipe them away if they betray me.'

Terari: 'Good'."

Makes the Alphatian ruling style sound like that of Bond movie villains...

"Obviously not *all* Alphatians share this attitude. Many, especially those who have spent years adventuring out in the world (and have been exposed to many other cultures), may think and act differently - they may respect non-spellusers, may execute their responsibilities quickly and without reservation. But they are in the distinct minority." (p.13)

"So the estate of a mighty wizard may have numerous family members with magical ability. .. and scores of non-magical servants and slaves." (p.14)

"Wealthier commoners (Gentry and Freeman level) wear clothing in much the same style. . .but Alphatian sumptuary laws declare that only Aristocrats and higher classes may wear spider-silk in Alphatia. . .so lower-class *Kiharas*. . .are made of other materials, chiefly Bellissarian cotton." (p.14)

I don't know of any other Mystaran nation with such restrictive laws, but alone I guess that's not so bad. What else does it say?

"Servants and Slaves wear their hair as dictated to them. For most, it is cut short. It is a sign of favour to let a Servant or Slave grow his hair longer." (p.14)

Interesting that Servants and Slaves are treated identically. So, does that sound just like life for most commoners in Karameikos, or Darokin, or Minrothad, or Ierendi, or (dare I say it), even Thyatis? Well, what else does it say?

"Slaves and Servants eat what they are allotted, which usually isn't much." (p.14)

Same pairing, Slaves and Servants in the same breath. Doesn't sound like the standard of living for most Alphatians is higher than elsewhere by that quote, either, btw. Together the above three quotes start to paint quite a picture of life in Alphatia at the low end, for the non-Aristocrat. . .

Moving on, I said we'd get to Art in Alphatia again, and here we are: "Some Display Artists really are geniuses, or at least creative technicians; many, however, are deluded, egotistical, talents elitists who believe they are beautifying the world when instead they are wasting magical energy on purulent trash." (p.15)

Ahh, so *that's* what the Beautification Project has produced. Alphatian cities, festooned with "art" like that, must be a wonder to behold. Perhaps we should include some details?

Moving on, I'll be kind and simply skip over the description of Social Classes in Alphatia, especially the Slave and Servant Classes.

Lets go instead to "Fighters" on that same page: "If he can do so, he can become a King of a nation of the Empire. . .but will still more or less be counted as a commoner when on continental Alphatia." (p.17)

Not even as a Lord? My, what respect and regard this King earns through his or her service to the Empire.

"Shamans and Wiccas, when tolerated (such as Trollhattan), bear the rank of Aristocrat." (p.18)

So that means they aren't Aristocrats everywhere in Alphatia.

We'll do the same thing, more or less, with the Law section as we did with the Social Class section, and be generous and largely skip over it, with the exception of noting the crime of "insolence", which isn't a crime in, say, Minrothad or Thyatis or Milenia (but I think it is in the Azcan Empire). Oh, and I'll note here that slaves who attempt to escape in Alphatia are executed by Imperial Law, while in Thyatis that is merely a Lesser Charge.

Those Open-Minded Alphatians: "Within Alphatia and Bellissaria, few commoners and no nobles will suffer to have other languages spoken to them." (p.26)

Galatia speaking to Tylion/"Terari" again:

Galatia: "I *intend* to accomplish things, to create garments that will some day be looked upon as works of art, to go places and do things. . .and though I haven't done that so far, these servants kowtow to me as though I were a returning hero. They do the same to old Master Phileret, for all that he slurps zzonga-juice and whiles the whole day away in a drunken stupor." (p.27)

Terari, to Galatia: "A pity your sort of ambition isn't more widespread. . ." (p.27)

Meritocracy in Alphatia? (Oh, remind me if Mariella is a meritocrat or not; she's Gentry, I believe. By dint of her own skill, no doubt. Puh-leeze).

How about those magical items, used to make life easier and more productive in Alphatia. Is that's true? Lets check the "tale of the tape":

"These things cost a lot of money to make, and are often some wizards whimsical idea translated into reality - meaning they often have little practical usefulness, and cost fortunes which could have been used to improve the lot of one's vassals, servants, lands, and country. Truthfully, now, having a mansion that rolls around on wheels is interesting, but doesn't much advance the cause of humanity. "But this fact doesn't even occur to these wizards." (p.30)

So in Alphatia they waste money that could be used to improve the lot of the nation, while in Thyatis they at least provide a bread dole.

Lets now move on to the DotE DMSB. We'll do what we did with the Social Classes and the Laws, and skip page 2, even though it could be mined for rich quotes about Alphatia, some good but many bad.

Arogansa: "Slaves and commoners may not even address aristocrats unless first recognised by them, under a penalty of twenty lashes. . ." (p.44)

"At dusk, when the tourists go home, hordes of worker-slaves are released to clean the place up, all night long. . ." (p.44)

What's up with that "released"? They're kept caged during the day, like animals?

Lets skip Blackrock; too easy, like Social Classes and Law and Page 2 DotE DMSB.

We'll skip Shraek in Blackrock, too. Same reason.

Floating Ar: "Most communities are built atop the floating islands, and so the non-spell-casting human serfs are that much more dependent upon their spell-casting rulers."

Serfs, eh? I hear tell Stefan doesn't allow Serfdom in Karameikos. "that much more" is also telling - implies not that the commoners are independent of their spellcasting Overlords in the other Kingdoms, but just that they are kept *more* under the thumb of them here.

Greenspur: "Every sentient creature is supposed to carry papers of identification indicating his name, origin, current employment, and (if an outsider) how long his visit may last." (p.45)

So much for "freedom", sounds like the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

But at least they apply the laws fairly, which is more than one can say about the other Alphatian Kingdoms. Still, a "fair" application of Alphatia's legal code. . .well, lets just say it leaves a lot to be desired.

Haven: "There are no large, flat surfaces (such as a building or city walls) totally bare of some sort of art; the whole kingdom, especially the capital city of Aasla, reeks with colour." (p.45)

Sounds tasteful. . .ug, get me a bucket. I can't imagine anyone'd be awed by such a gauche spectacle, but they might be stupefied by it.

Stonewall: What should I say about Stonewall, except to note in passing that it is largely ignored by most fans of Alphatia. And why? Two reasons: 1) it probably isn't "magical" enough for their tastes. 2) Stonewall stands in the way of "generalising" a romanticised view of Alphatia to cover the entire Empire, because the things that make Stonewall stand out as unique are the very things that those who are fans of Alphatia want to imagine the *entire* Empire being like - no oppression, treats everyone fairly, opportunity for everyone everywhere. Noticing Stonewall makes that impossible, because Stonewall is special in Alphatia in how it differs from the other Kingdoms in treatment of non-spellcasters/commoners. Not that life is perfect in Stonewall - it's sort of like Karameikos or Thyatis (shock). So most fans of Alphatia treat it the same way as the Alphatians of the Isle of Dawn (p.36)treat things they don't want to face, by "not seeing it."

Oh, a note on p.37: Slavery is not to be romanticised, but lets note that the worst-treated slaves aren't in Thyatis, as we've already noted, but in Alphatia (and the worst of all in Esterhold). "a small portion" of the Thyatian slave population might save to buy his or her freedom - but that possibility is not available to Alphatian slaves.

And we've already plenty of quotes (above) on the status and lifestyle of slaves in Alphatia, that one hardly needs to be admonished to not romanticise *their* lives.

Sundsvall in Veritloch: "In wealthier areas, the streets are kept meticulously clean by slave workers. In lower-income areas, the city takes on a decidedly more shabby experience." (p.47)

Sounds like "untouchables" in Shahjapur, and in these kind of pre-modern conditions, such a job is rife with disease and possibilities for infection.

I guess it *does* beat out the mines of Esterhold, though. Mine slavery is the worst of all.

We've already covered the Tylion IV quote, regarding his perception of how perfect (or imperfect) the Alphatian way of life is, so we'll move on.

Pegataurs? "Pegataurs were created from the unholy bonding of Pegasi and Shiye elves." (p.56)

Isn't that special.

Zzonga? "In the Alphatian Empire, there are many zzonga-addicts. They waste all their money acquiring the stuff; under its effects, they cannot work."

Alphatia? "It's a land of chaos and great opportunity - for spell-casters (magic-users, clerics, and elves). Non-spellcasters can make good lives here, too, but usually must be friends with aristocrats who will protect them." (p.59)

How wonderful for them. A dream come true.

"Fighters, thieves, dwarves, and halflings are Commoners in Alphatian society, and that can be a difficult thing to handle." (p.59)

"In general, they are not being continually and cruelly discriminated against - they just can't achieve most higher social classes, and have to be careful of their manners around NPC aristocrats they don't know well." (p.59)

Again, only in places like the Azcan Empire does the description have to re-assure people that it's possible to play in the area without being totally ground-down. One doesn't have to say that with respect to adventuring in, say, Karameikos or the Five Shires or Milenia or. . .the list goes on. Why not? Because it's simply a given that one wouldn't get the impression of continual oppression in those areas to the point that PCs have to be specifically excluded from some of the worst aspects of the social arrangement so that they can adventure there.

Other Territories (since this has an impact on how to perceive life in Alphatia generally).

The Alatians: "These islands were settled by non-magical Alphatians who wanted to make their lives away from the tyranny of Alphatian nobles -and they did." (p.61)

The tyranny of Alphatian nobles driving people to get away from the Alphatian mainland doesn't make it sound like it's such a wonderful place for the non-magical Alphatians. Note that the Player's Guide to Thyatis says much the same thing about the settlement of Ochalea.

Note also that Bellissaria, the place most akin to continental Alphatia, was also largely settled by people with less magical ability per the PWAs. The same factor at work?

So, what drives Alphatian expansion and colonisation? The desire to get away from the dang place (as Ericall did, despite being, for a commoner in Alphatia, fairly well off since he's the son of the Empress and all, his life couldn't have been as bad as that of most commoner Alphatians).

Does that sound like life in continental Alphatia for commoners is to be preferred over anyplace else?

Isle of Dawn: "They don't have the mainland Alphatian's attitude that non-spellcasters are commoners and unworthy - just that they're limited." (p.70)

Ok, so that clarifies for us what the mainland Alphatian's attitude is towards non-spellcasters.

Life in Alphatia, pleasant for non-spellcasters if they're rich, like elsewhere? Lets ask Ericall: ". . .and was the object of ridicule by Eriadna's magic-using children." "Ericall foolishly gave in to Lernal's pleas for a dominion because he knew what it felt like to be a non-magical noble's son in Alphatia. . ." (p.76)

So, even if you're prominent, a member of the Imperial Family even, but can't cast spells, then life in Alphatia is. . . .crap.


LOL. No, no. Like Blackheart, P.2 DotE DMSB, the Laws, and the description of the Social Classes, this one's just too easy a target, I am merciful and shall skip over it.

Qeodhar: "Unfortunately for his plan, the Alphatians have no respect for non-spellcasters. . .his efforts to develop a 'dashing manner' have been regarded as insolence and arrogance." (p.80)

The Yannivey Chain "When the Alphatians came, most Yanifey tribes were subjugated, their warriors turned into slaves of the Empire." (p.81)