Saturday, 11 August 2012

Shanthopal: Background to the Golden City

First mentioned in this thread, here is some more information on the campaign milieu I am devising for my home game.  Thoughts and comments are greatly appreciated!


Long before the Earth was dying, but long after the younger kingdoms had passed, the Great Powers returned to our world, and magic flourished once more.  Harken now to the tales of the Golden City of Shanthopal, the Ancient Earth itself, and the Great Powers who shape her destiny.

Know that the Earth has gone through a great many Ages, where either Law and Technology are ascendant, or the Chaos of unbridled Magic holds sway.  At this time, an uneasy balance between Law and Chaos exists, and it is for this reason that the Great Powers of the world are again abroad.  They seek to sway the balance to their side, or maintain it, according to their nature.

Fell beasts and spells even more fell are abroad in the world, and working artefacts of the Old Science still can be found within hidden places.  The fabled Blue Star which follows the moon, according to the philosophers of Kulku Mara, the Dwindling God, was once built and inhabited by mortal men.  The way to this aethereal bastion may yet be found, it is supposed, within the Golden City itself.

For central now to all the realms of men is Golden Shanthopal, the City at the Crossroads, where the markets of the world meet.

From the East, caravans brave the Golian Waste to bring spices, silks, and jade from the City-States of the Rudhara and the even more distant Empire of Kathur-Leung and Isles of Ama-Ko.

To the North, beyond the fertile fields and villages that feed Golden Shanthopal, frown the grim and forbidding mountains known as the Ibetayas.  The hidden valleys and high reaches of the Ibetayan Range are feared to hide many things, including the buried fortress of the secretive Magicians Oblique, the whisper of whose name brings fear to the lowland people.

To the West stretch the nations of Mêdterra until one reaches the utmost north and west, were barbarian tribes hold sway:   Hugrovania, Troyous, Morrosia, Aquitainia, and Virulanis.

Across the Vilaymer Sea to the South lay the nations of Djinnaq, Mohurdistan, Tigrippis, and Old Ægyptus, where the Pharaohs of Sun and Moon have held sway in the Lower and Upper Valleys since the Age of Beasts Reborn.  And, beyond the Sea of Powder, South and West, lie the nations of Zukulu, Kemolya, and Nubaris, and the vast perfumed Jungles of Æfrik and Oataxa.

Within Golden Shanthopal, many gods hold sway, and many temples compete.

Officially, those who dwell herein worship of the Nine Gods of Shanthopal, who are said to inhabit tombs in the inner precinct of a massive arched sanctuary on the Avenue of Idols, but in practice They are largely ignored, save on Tithing Day.   The Nine can be called upon by Their priesthood to defend the city, but Their price is high – sometimes higher than the price of those they would be called against, for the Nine prefer Their long dreams to the hard reality of Shanthopal.  Indeed, it has been more than a century since the Nine have walked (unless rumours of Their sleepwalking in the catacombs beneath the city be true), and then They took the High Prelate and his Nine Cardinals for the audacity in calling upon them against what, in Their view, was but a minor threat.

Golden Shanthopal is riddled with tunnels and chambers below its streets.  The Catacombs of Shanthopal are of two types:  Temple Catacombs, for the internment of priests, and the Public Catacombs, which predate even the Old Cemetery, and have few direct access points now to the city above.  The best known entrance to the Public Catacombs are the great doors (locked and heavily fortified) in Charnel Park.

Charnel Park is where the dead were burned by the thousands during the Boneplague.  Its soil is rich and fertile due to the ashes spread there, but what grows there is not always perfectly natural and canny, and weird things are said to sometimes go abroad there at night.  On a night of the new moon, would-be wizards or elves may meditate in Charnel Park to make contact with Bān-Scyga, the disease spirit which caused the Boneplague centuries ago.

Many of the powerful families of Shanthopal have crypts dedicated to their ancestors.  Most of these have surface levels, accessed either on private estate grounds or in the Old Cemetery.  There are few family crypts in the New Cemetery, as there are few who have come into the requisite level of power and wealth since the New Cemetery was founded.

The older, larger, and/or more influential the family, the larger the crypt extends, both on the surface and below.  Usually, this also means that there are better locks, more traps, etc., as well.  Where family crypts connect to the underworld, there are usually strongly built locked doors to allow access; these are intentionally built to allow the family to go below for whatever purposes they may have.

Thieves, smugglers, cultists, the wealthy, the secretive, and the paranoid have created tunnels beneath the Golden City, to allow for secret exit and entry into homes or businesses…or even secret temples and spaces to gather unseen.

The city of Shanthopal has been built and rebuilt over the centuries, and events have buried whole streets and buildings.  In some cases, portions of these streets are still open, and buildings can be reached through them.  A building in one partially-open street might allow, through another door, egress to another portion of semi-collapsed streets.

The easiest-to-reach portions of buried streets are the courts of beggars, but other streets remain the haunt of lingering dead things that mock the daily activities of the living, or creatures that have crawled up from below.  Among the un-dead are the dapper ghouls of the dread Boneknapper’s Guild, which collects and polishes bones, and uses human kneecaps for money.

In addition, as the mortal population of the Earth has dwindled in these later days, in many places there are blocks of ruined buildings, some of which have become tenanted by other things.  The greatest region of these ruins, the mist-haunted Quarter of Uneven Dusk, is not entered by most folk after the hours of darkness.

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