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7Hex Dragons: Political Geography
The current campaign is in an area of Cidri that is bounded by the Backbone Mountains to the West, the Gargoyle Mountains and Karlyd Tundra to the North, and the Ocean of the Rising Sun to the East. To the South is the Great Marsh and a Reptile Man Kingdom that has not been crossed very far to map (though it is known that a few hundred miles south of the Reptile Man Kingdom is a desert of some length). The total area of known civilization is about 1100 miles North to South and 740 miles East to west. I only have a hand drawn map that I will try to scan in soon.
Pre-recorded history: Most of what is currently the Imperial Sorcerers was once dominated by Orcs, but they have been in steady decline for over 1200 years. The mounted nomads traveling up from the South fleeing the encroaching desert and the Reptile Men who came with it, killed many and pushed them north and east as they feared riding mounts and did not have good tactics to defeat them. Many of the nomads settled down in the fertile steppe to a more agricultural/manorial life (like Thur and the Duchy of Bronar). The orc quarrels amongst the various tribes was exploited by the dwarves of the Backbone Mountains and was highly costly to the orc population as the dwarves picked one tribe to help defeat the others. They had some freedom in the Kirean Kingdom, but it collapsed and became even too evil for them. They are now stuck in a small portion of the borderlands, south of the WildWood and east of the Duchy, and additionally have small populations of workers/mercinaries in a few cities of the IS, a pale shadow of the tens of thousands that once dominated the area. Most of the elves of the area came from across the Ocean of the Rising Sun, but have not flourished here as they were not accepted by the orcs or Kireans, and the coast has had a fair bit of pirates and political instability with the collapse of Gleremere. The dwarves claim to have been here since before recorded history. The major areas of this part of Cidri are:
The Imperial Sorcerers - This is by far the largest of the political entities and is comparable to the Roman Empire in the early days of the Caesars or the Byzantines in their mightiest around 900AD (under the Basils). They have successfully overrun their neighbouring city-states and cover about 30% of the map. Going from the Northern boundary of the Great Swamp in the south, to the Backbone mountains to the west, the Ocean to the East and up the middle of the Steppe about 440 miles north of the Great Marsh. They have also extended just west of the Backbone Mountains. Total population is just over two million. They are more economically advanced than anyone else and have a fairly high level of culture and architecture.
The Duchy of Mt. Bronar - The Duchy is a recent coalition of smaller feudal estates and many temple based barbarian communities that have bonded into a mutual protection society in the face of the expanding Sorcerers Empire. It occupies the North West corner of the map, bounded to the West by the Backbone mountains, to the North by the Gargoyle Mountains, to the East by the Wildlands and to the south by the Borderlands. The Arch-Duke of Mt. Bronar was the instigator and main influence in creating the Duchy. He has a secret alliance with a pod of Dragons that live in the mountains to the north of Mt. Bronar and with one of the tribes of Gargoyles who live north of the High Plains in the Gargoyle Mountains. Militarily the Duchy is outmatched by the IS, but can field a big, unpredictable enough army to make the IS wait until the perfect opportunity and public sentiment is for a protracted series of castle sieges after the initial army is defeated in the field. Population of the whole Duchy is hard to estimate, but probably in the 800,000 - 850,000 range with 150,000 in the city (and immediate environs) of Mt. Bronar alone. Much of the economy outside ka'Han and Bronar is manorial, thus not very efficient. The Arch-Duke is trying to increase crop production/productivity to help with military matters. ka'Han leads the way and offers help to manors to increase their wealth and ability to free peasants up for combat training and/or arms production.
High Plains Barbarians - The Barbarians (so labeled by the encroaching nomads who held those who are poor equestrians to be of low civilization) were hunter-gatherers with the beginnings of settled agriculture starting when the technologically superior nomads rolled north and either softly dominated them or pushed the more militant tribes east. Earliest recorded history says they followed the herds of Elk and caribou in the forests at the base of the Gargoyle Mountains. They traditionally lived in mobile yurt like structures that they packed up on pack animals to follow the herds. Many would park their yurts on the steppe just south of the forest to do some very basic farming for a few months in the late spring to late summer. Currently their transition to temple based agriculture is well on its way as the rural population greatly outnumbers the mobile forest dwellers. They are likely the oldest human population in this part of Cidri, though the origins of the humans of the Kirean Kingdom are not entirely known. While their religions show a great similarity pointing to early common origins, there is some differences now between the eastern and western tribes. The eastern tribes were in the shadow of the Kirean Kingdom and the resulting demonic devastation. As such they are more superstitious and a bit more reclusive. They have adapted some of the military tactics of the Kingdom in the face of occasional demon excursions. The western tribes have had to react to more nomad incursions (for instance adapting their boar spears to a phalanx type formation to fight the mounted nomads). They are more agricultural and hospitable.
The Borderlands - The Borderlands is the area north of the Imperial Sorcerers, but south and west of the Duchy (not including the Wildlands). The Imperial Sorcerers have stopped moving into this area temporarily as they are pursuing a more subtle strategy in the face of the formation of the Duchy. Additionally they are expending resources in building the Army of the West and small fortifications West of the Backbone Mountains to explore the Western Scrubland in the rainshadow of the Backbone mountains (and working on finding ways to divert more mountain snow run-off to the West to cultivate more land. The Borderlands are a series of small Manors and Feudal estates that are very old. Crosshaven, the town where the Borderlands Campaign starts, is here and there is much trade between the IS, the Duchy, Centaurs and Dwarves that crosses the Borderlands. To the far west are the remnants of the nomadic tribes that once occupied the entire Steppe, but have been defeated and pushed back towards the mountain passes by the IS. Some of them are escaping over the mountains to the plains to the west. To the south east of the borderlands (south and west of Gleremere) are tribes of orcs who spend a good bit of their time engagin in petty squables amongst themselves, and some known hymenopteran hives (who feed on stray orcs, travelers, etc). South of the Wildwood are the Centaurs. The coast is dotted with several small fishing villages, a few small feudal estates and one significant ruin (the ruin of Gleremere).
Gleremere used to be the coastal trading center for the area, with ships going to the Wildlands to the north and Dar Miralo to the south. Gleremere was known for it's ship wrights, fishing proficiency and petty nobles. They also housed an old line of excellent glassmakers who traded in glass of all kinds from fishing floats to stained glass for baronies along the coast and as far west as Delpan and Naroth. The mages there were influenced by the local glassblowers and invented the Iris Glass Jewels, Mirage Staff and Soul Mirrors. Glass being most helpful in mind control and illusion spells, they became a feared and sought after group. Their politics were already (in)famous as the various noble houses angled for acendancy and their spy network reached into the IS, Thur and Bronar. Their use of illusionary glass magnified those issues and they started to tear themselves apart. They were renowned swordsman (if for no other reason than politically motivated duels were quite common) and their razor sharp, tough and nimble glass swords were quite lethal. Gleremere began to decline 400 years ago as Dar Miralo took over most of the trade to the south and the Wildwood limited trade to the north. The resulting economic slump brought the city to near civil war with daily skirmishes and (literal and figurative) saber-rattling. People started fleeing to the IS or setting up manorial estates in the eastern Borderlands where the Eastern Barbarian Tribes were sparse or amenable to the settlement. The greatly reduced and weakened city constantly at war with itself was sacked 300 years ago or so by pirates related to the remnants of Cartoque's Fleet, seeing a wealthy but depeleted city ripe for the picking. A virulent plague broke out in the chaos after the city was sacked, and it was abandoned. It has remained largely uninhabited due to the prevalence of undead (especially vampires), pirates, bandits and two largish hymenopteran hives who live on the outskirts. Bands of hardened bandits, bounty hunters, rough tinkers and others wanting privacy more than safely populate the outer fringes of the ruined city (away from the hymenopteron hives). Adventurers will make excursions into the ruin to find hidden magical Gleremere glass and to prove their valor. Gleremere is a pivotal city for the Imperial Mapping Campaign and the IS is interested in exploring and mapping the ruin for multiple reasons (cleaning it up and settling it as a beach head into the Borderlands, recovering the mind control magics there and understanding the odd traffic that passes through there). There are a few Manorial families in the Borderlands that are decendants and have memories of the granduer of Gleremere and want to repopulate, but don't have the resources to do so (but that doesn't stop them from trying to get the Duchy to help in exchange for alliance!). The Enforcer Necromancers held Gleremere to be a hostile territory (no Necromancer Brotherhoods were allowed) due to all the dabbling with Unwilling Returns (See the Soul Mirror and Ghost Ship Glass Float).
There is a colony of sea elves 50 miles north of the ruin of Gleremere in a lightly fortified harbour, that is their outpost on the mainlands. They are around 5-and-a-half feet tall, slight of build and light-to-medium brown skinned with bright blue/green eyes and light brown hair. They live on islands several hundred miles off of the coast and keep a small fortress and trading post here. Staffed by about 300-600 elves (depending how many ships are in the small harbor), either merchants, mariners or military (both magical and mundane), they trade with the local farmers and merchants from the borderlands and a few IS caravans. They bring some magic items, wood working (the islands are rich in forests and elves are excellent foresters and woodworkers), bows, good rope and fish in exchange for some iron implements and weapons, tar and farm produce. They also send ships as far south as Dar Miralo on occasion and offer to carry goods along the coast to some of the smaller villages. Several elves became interested in the history of Kirean Kingdom and their Calamity after dealing with the Centaur Rangers. They have started a few small colonies in the far western edge of the WildWood and help patrol the edge of the Wildlands with the Centaurs. A few young, adventurous elves from the islands join them every year as the lure of exotic lands and adventure bring more to see for themselves. Some think the Centaurs and Elves are culturally merging.
The Wildlands - The Wildlands are the ruins of an ancient Assyrian-like society who was devastated some 1,000 years ago by an explosion of Winged Shadow Demons. It is East of the Duchy and the borderlands and extends into the Gargoyle Mountains, with the capital Kirea Atlon, at the foot of Mt. Kira. This mountain, like Mt. Bronar, radiates a certain magic. Even 1000 years after the explosion, it is still a source of disease, demons, undead and desperate bandits/fugitives. There are several ruins in the Wild Wood, the Rocky Falls and the Grey Marsh. The marsh itself was created in the destruction of the Kirean Empire with the lava flows from Mt. Kira and the Winged Shadow Demons making the flatlands bog-like and disease ridden. To the South of the Wildlands is a hardy tribe of Centaurs who live, farm and patrol the southern border of the Wildlands. They are closely allied (some even say culturally merging) with some elves who have taken up abode in the far east of the Wildwoods and together they patrol the wood. They have become excellent Rangers and live a dangerous life. Many groups (Combat Necromancers, the Duchy, the IS, various Barons, the Dwarves, etc) send their elite to train with the Elves and Centaurs to become scouts, rangers and healers. The trainees bring goods the centaurs don't make themselves (i.e. they farm their own food and have smiths for implements and some weapons, but need more advanced armour, advanced Mage training, etc). The Centaurs are honoured where ever they go, even by those who are not fond of the race in general. They get their advanced arms and most of their armor from the Dwarves of Backbone Mountain, but some from ka'Han too. The dwarves send candidates for their elite teams to train with the Centaurs and bring arms and special armour with them in exchange for the training. The IS is not entirely pleased with this arrangement, but it is certainly not worth stopping and angering the Dwarves, the respected Centaurs (whose patrolling does benefit the IS) or the Borderland population whom they are trying to woo to their side. The Centaurs are officially neutral in the Duchy/IS conflict but prefer to deal with the Borderland Barons for the few things they need. If push came to shove they would side with the Duchy whom they correctly deem would more likely let them live unhindered. They would come in force to try to broker a peace settlement if the IS and Duchy got so far as to field armies. They then would have to decide to either stay out or back the Duchy (with most likely fighting with the Duchy, but a strong contingent thinks they can leverage the might and knowledge of the IS to help in their containment of the Wildlands without sacrificing their culture and autonomy).
Backbone Mountains - The Backbone Mountains form the practical western boundary of this part of Cidri (the IS has put a few small fortifications on the other side and the Dwarves have explored a bit to the west, but the plains to the west are hardly populated and a harsh scrub land (from the rain shadow of the Mountains). The Mountains have been inhabited by the (Tokien-esque) Dwarves of Grellmore since recorded history. The far southern border of the Dwarven territory is the Great Lake, a huge underground lake fed by the snows on the mountain tops. It is home to at least one krakken amongst other denizens. South of the Great Lake are the Southern Tunnels which are home to a variety of underground nasties (apep, spiders, poisonus fungi, hydras, etc). The hazardous "Southern Tunnels" do offer a semi-secret route for the Dwarves to deliver arms, weapons and advanced tools to the Reptile Man Kingdom with out crossing through IS patroled roads. Also in some shallow caves near the suface of the southern section of the Mountains are a clan of kobolds under the direction of a powerful Shadow Wight (well, powerful for a shadow wight). The IS knows the Reptile Men are getting Dwarven arms, but are unsure of whether there is a secret trade route or the dwarves have set up shop in the Kingdom itself. They are investigating but don't want to anger both the Dwarves and the Reptile Men and are doing it clandestinely.
Western Scrubland To the West of the Backbone mountains lies the Western Scrublands. This is essentially unexplored. The Dwarves have done some exploration, but abandoned it as unprofitable. The IS is looking to establish a string of small fortifications and see what potential there is there. It is a desert scrub, under the rain shadow of the backbone mountains. There is no organized societies here. Some of the mounted nomads from the Steppe have come here and learned to live farther west, the largest group of Dragonnewts lives in the western mountains and foothills of the backbone mountains and have wells and some agriculture in the northern Scrublands. This has gone undiscovered as the IS and Dwarves did not go that far north and the Dragons protect them from the few nomadic tribes that trekked north to find more water.
Gargoyle Mountains - The Gargoyle Mountains are the Northern Range of Mountains. There are six or seven tribes of Gargoyles, numbering between 400 and 4,000 each. They have mostly dominated the section of the mountain range stretching from just east of the Wildland for about 270 miles, running out most other intelligent inhabitants and have been there since recorded history. There are the occasional Gryphon and Dragon nests, and the Gargoyles have not been able to chase off a few giants familes. The Gargoyles are feuding amongst themselves more of late, creating unstable borders where other creatures can start to dwell (a clan of mountain trolls, etc). Very few attempts have been made to take the mountains (the Kireans made a small attempt to secure their northern border by driving one clan of gargoyles west, but were beaten back when other clans came to their defense). The Gargoyles feud with some of the northern high plains barbarian tribes who trespass over their mountains to make Vision Quests in and through the mountains. They leave the Karlydians to their north alone and are left alone by them.
The Karlyd Tundra - The inhabitants of the northern tundra are a mystery, few survive crossing the steep mountains, fewer survive the gargoyle patrols and almost no one survives the inhabitants of Karlyd. They are masters of ice and have tamed polar bears for pets and ride creatures that look like very large white musk oxen (larger than a draft horse, smaller than an elephant, with currly horns and thick fleeces though surprisingly fast, if not exactly agile, for their bulk). The residents are silent, practically invisible in the tundra and lethal. They are humanoid, but could be human/elf/half-elf or something else. They "forge" ice implements with processes that are entirely unknown. Only one has been recovered, the Frost Star . They distrust and are generally hostile to Dragons, Dragonnewts, Salamanders and other fire creatures. They have elusive mages that employ strange icy magics and are masters of evading detection and scrying. They dress in fur trimmed hides and use ice forged spiked maces in close combat and specially designed spiked bolas that are attached to the Karlydian Oxen so they bind and drag enemies (up to 4 at a time, the Rams are very strong). The sign of royalty is to weild the ceremonial Ice Flail (whirling it in fast circles casts a 3 hex frost cloud, in addition to all the properties of the Frost Star). Crystal Balls and other scrying magics give little information on the sparse tribes. The Duke of Bronar is arranging passage for a diplomatic mission to the Karlyd tundra with the large tribe of Gargoyles that he has an alliance with (in exchange for working with the northern high plains barbarian tribes to stay out and for guarantees to protect them against bladder hunters). He is hoping to sound the Karlyd residents out as allies and maybe exchange magics (especially the anti-scrying ones since the IS has such good Crytal Balls!). I did have one character play an egnigmatic character from the Karlyd Tundra on a drop in basis, lots of fun (wielded a Frost Star, Bolas, Move Silent, Spying, Tracking and had a few Ice/Detection spells: Frost Cloud, Anti-Detection). To the North of the Tundra are the Frozen Wastes. They are incredibly hostile and unstable glaciers that crash and move making footing treacherous and lethal and map making useless. There are few creatures here, but a large band of Ice Dragons live up here and hunt what is available in the oceans and the Wastes, but also along the northern edge of the tundra. The Karlydians have to fight them off every summer as they come for their annual feeding. The tundra is quite fertile for the short growing season and many creatures come to the northern tundra to feed on the lush grasses that sprout up. The Ice Dragons feed on heards of elk, musk oxen, reindeer, snow wolves, caribou, etc. The Yeti live up here and have developed a keen sense of the moving glaciers and move from glacier to glacier with a strange and intuitive knowledge of when one is going to collapse or become unstable. They use crude tools and can carve out ice caves and feed on fish, plants and the small rodents that burrow under the ice. They are scared to the point of superstition of the Ice Dragons such as their intelligence allows.
The Great Marsh - A huge long humid bog marking the Southern Border of the IS and the Northern Border of the small Reptile Men Kingdom. It is not particularly evil, just unpleasant and dangerous enough with natural creatures. There is a tribe of primitive humans in the swamp who have some very limited magical ability who are essentially undiscovered and remain so due to their ability with the animal life to form a protective barrier of deadly snakes and other odd bog creatures (like Kraken and the Tentacled Swamp creatures from Master of the Amulets).
Thurlid's Bane (The Dread Forest) - The forest at the base of the Southern Range is a wood that has a few outlets to the wild Southern Tunnels. This is one of the exits where the Dwarven caravans exit the tunnels and work their way to the Reptile Man Kingdom. Thurlid died here exploring to the southwest and it has had it's name and reputation cemented in the memory of Thur ever since. For all that it is not half as bad as the Wildwood, some nasties do creep out of the tunnels and take up abode there for a time, some Trolls live permanently in the far northern tip and the trees seem to have some vague sentience about them. On one occasion scouts making sure there no one was around to see them exit the tunnels with their Dwarven cargo, found a small contingent of squires proving their bravery (see below), they ambushed them and made it look like an animal attack. Some Kobolds do a little bit of hunting in the far east of the wood when winters are bad. Thur never claimed domain over the Forest, thinking them cursed and the IS has not pushed in that direction yet, seeing no profit in it (until they realize that is part of the underground Dwarven trade route!). The occasional Knight of one of the Orders will go into the woods for a day to prove his mettle and only a very few have entirely disappeared. Most come back with few compelling tales, and a few flee some undead or Trollish activity. Rumors of Apeps abound but no group has been able to verify they are there.
Kingdom of Reptile Men - Fairly unknown group. I treat them as Spartan-like (though less interested in territory than honour). I have the occasional emmisaries going to the Dwarves, Dar Karador, Thur and even Mt. Bronar and make them an impressive lot of quick, hulking warriors. It is a small Kingdom (maybe 50,000 population (not including slaves) over 3 keep-cities, with 22,000 trained for combat, male and female) with some smithy, a copper mine (which they use for trade and daily implements), some farming and much hunting. They have an alliance with the Dwarves in exchange for construction, arms and armour they provide warriors to guard caravans, copper, and some durable foodstuffs. This alliance is clandestine and the Dwarves deliver the goods through secret tunnels in the mountains that lead far south. They make use of much slave labour (some 15,000 or so, they don't include them in population figures) for "dishonourable" jobs (working in the Fields, cleaning, mining). They ride Saurians in combat, throw javelins and charge attack with Halberd/PoleAx/Trident. They are civilized in many ways, with elaborate rules of conduct, but it is alien to most other humanoids. They always want magic items that increase their ability to see in the dark (so they can travel great distances day and night to surprise their foes before they can form up) and better weapons and armour. The are ruled by a King who is chosen via a duel to the death from the core clan armies. Two are chosen through odd negotiations and duels (though not to the death) that outsiders have trouble comprehending. Once chosen they are put in an area and given choice of any basic non-polearm weapon. There they fight to the death, winner is king, the loser is buried with honors.
Ocean of the Rising Sun - With the exception of the Sea
Elves that have an outpost near Gleremere, the residents of this part
of Cidri are not robust mariners. The IS has always been a strong
infantry/land based power (though note
was beginning to explore what lay out in the Ocean, but never quite
had the financing to outfit big expeditions and were crushed by their
own internal politics and pirate raids, though they were the ones who
ran into the elves and started that trade relationship. There are no
other major land masses to the east for several hundred miles. The Sea
Elves may know but guard their maps jealously and will not say what is
outside of their archipelago.