Character Background for "New Year" mini-campaign
Players will be single citizens of the Two-Suns alliance.
Campaign year is the first year of the Home cycle in the fifth great cycle, henceforth 5 Home 1. (This is approximately 1515 AD on Earth.) This marks the passing from one 452-year great cycle to the next.
For approximately 700 years (900 Earth years) Rikchik civilization was in the "Golden Age." This was the age of magic, faeries, dragons, and legends. (In these enlightened days, of course, no one believes a word of it.) No offensive technology existed that could defeat a walled city, so major wars were not possible. Trade wars and political intrigues continued to take place, but soldiers existed only to repel wild animals and bandits. The two main achievements of the Golden Age were the invention of the Holy Language and the universal acceptance and regularization of the religion of the Seven Gods.
Near the beginning of 4 Chaos (about 64 years ago) the independent city-state of Many-Fruit discovered the technology of Displacement, a powerful offensive weapon. They began to use threats of their "secret superweapon" in trade disputes. The other political powers sent spies to attempt to discover the secret. Eventually one succeeded.
In 4 Chaos 17, trade negotiations between the cities of Yellow-Door and West-Crystal were unexpectedly resolved by West-Crystal's use of displacement devices. The "Sack of Yellow-Door" was followed shortly by West-Crystal's conquest of many southern cities, and by Many-Fruit's release of displacement technology to the world at large. West-Crystal and its subject cities became the Bright-Sword Empire and the northern cities formed the Two-Suns Alliance as a protective measure.
Since then, there has been a period of nervous peace between the two powers, interrupted by occasional skirmishes. Many-Fruit has managed to maintain its independence, primarily due to its defensive location and its technological superiority.
The Two-Suns Alliance is one of two large political bodies between the Red Mountains and the east coast of the Known Lands. To the north lies the Polar Wastes, and to the south lies the Bright-Sword Empire. Life in Two-Suns is mostly peaceful, though there is a continual hint of paranoia in the air. People still farm and trade as they used to, but more people are living close to the major cities, fearing that towns and villages will not be sufficiently defended in a war. The profession of soldier has become both more common and more prestigious.
Two-Suns consists of five city-states and many smaller towns. Each city is ruled by a ducal family, who owe allegiance to the royal family. Towns are ruled by a mayoral family who owe allegiance to the nearest ducal one.
- The capital city of the Two-Suns Alliance, Box-Fire houses the royal family as well as the local ducal family. It is sited at an old crossroads in the center of the plains, giving it a moderate climate. It is the largest city in the world, and is consequently a destination for artists and thinkers, rivaled only by Many-Fruit.
- Standing near the foothills of the Red Mountains, Blue-Sky trades with the western towns and the Cloud-Fire cities on the other side of the mountains. It is a trading center for stone and metal, and is well known for the quality of its repulsion vehicles and airships.
- In the cold northern plains, winter temperatures get as low as 40°F. Consequently, few rikchiks are willing to live any farther north than Bright-Grass, which sits in the plains' center. Its citizens are known for their hardiness and stubbornness.
- A coastal city in a world without significant sea trade, the city of Glass-Beach is nonetheless rather wealthy for two reasons: the beauty of its beaches and the demand for its salt.
- Rock-Fruit is only a few days' travel from the Bright-Sword Empire. It is also only a few days' travel from the independent city-state of Many-Fruit. Unsurprisingly, it is well-known for both its scientists and the size of its standing army.
Just south of Two-Suns lies the Bright-Sword Empire. To the east and south of Bright-Sword is the ocean, and to the west is the Wealthy River. Bright-Sword is ruled by the ducal family of West-Crystal. The original ducal families of the other cities have either sworn allegiance to the West-Crystal family, or have been deposed and replaced with relative families of the West-Crystal family.
Life in Bright-Sword is mostly peaceful, though there is much conflict between the original culture of each city and the imposed West-Crystal culture. Many people do not trust the ruling families. Only police and soldiers are allowed to have displacement devices. Some suppression of bards and storytellers was attempted a number of years ago, but was met with such resistance that it was abandoned.
The fact that Many-Fruit has been able to maintain its independence is primarily due to its excellent defensive position (inside a meteor crater, surrounded by mountains) and its advanced technology. It is home to the greatest schools in the world, and does its best to attract scholars from all over the Known Lands. It is a representative democracy, though of course only families can vote.
Life in Many-Fruit is focused on knowledge. Scientists are very careful about discussing their research, fearing spies from other nations. Use of the world language is not as common in everyday life as it is elsewhere.
Many-Fruit is the name of both the nation and the city. The nation claims the 4 Walk (120 mile) radius circle around the city as its territory, plus ocean access. (This is approximately the size of Pennsylvania or Bulgaria.)
To the west of the Red Mountains, the Cloud-Fire cities are slowly expanding into the savage northwestern lands. South of them, by the Angry Hills, the Grass-Crawler cities are doing the same into the southern lands.
The savage lands to the west are mostly unknown. The rikchiks living there have strange customs and have refused to be annexed by their civilized neighbors. Some small islands have been found in the ocean to the east, but no other continents are known.
Generally, technology is at a late medieval stage. Power is still supplied primarily by rikchik labor, occasionally supplemented by sail or gravity. The wheel is still unknown, but the pulley is a new development that has greatly eased the operation of repulsion-carts. The formerly scientifically unexplained sense of emotion-sight is finally yielding to philosophy and experimentation. Religious texts and classic stories are becoming more available as books, thanks to a new technique of inking carved plates and applying them to pages. All but the extremely uneducated can be expected to sign, read, and write the world-language, though skill levels vary.
The most significant technological change, of course, is Displacement. This is a chemical process in which 3 stones of certain form and substance, placed in a row, become a particle beam on contact, consuming two of the stones. The discovery and understanding of this has revolutionized rikchik warfare. City walls are no longer impregnable fortresses. Soldiers have a powerful fallback weapon. Non-combatants cannot be assured of their safety. As discussed above, this was the impetus for the formation of nations where there were once loose alliances of city-states. Though full-scale war has yet to break out, many believe it is only a matter of time. Such people find solace in philosophies as diverse as nihilism, millenialism, and militarism (or at least their nearest rikchik equivalents).
Note: This background is deliberately vague. As players, you have a large role in world-creation. If you want to know what people in Glass-Beach are like, have your character come from there and let me know what your neighbors talked about. You don't need to know what I've decided the world is like you can tell me. This is a time of major change; the future will be a result of your actions and reactions.
That said, please let me know if you have any questions or need something fleshed out.