Of Poets, Fools and Madmen. . .
Conceptual Intro – Panisadore
Panisadore is a fairly homogeneous world on the surface of things, with many layers of complex and interwoven history, variety and intrigue. Things aren’t necessarily as they appear when that appearance can be shaped in many different ways by one’s background and experiences. . . The world that I’ve imagined for this setting is very “political” on a number of levels, from the macro cosmic interplay of the deities to the microcosmic conniving of many of the guilds. Since story is largely character driven this may or may not be readily apparent in play, but offers a coherence to the larger story arcs and events that shape them. I’ve taken primarily a top-down approach, starting with the deities, races and general cultures to create a framework and leaving large portions of the map rather vague for now. Character concepts remain initially more fluid as there is more room to play with them, open spaces in which they can fit. The overall cultural milieu has a vaguely Asian feel to it – Taoist and Buddhist influences are, I think, easily recognized, especially around the equator. The major power in that region is the Malenorian_Empire – a large nation of islands similar in many ways to (the worst aspects of) Feudal Japan coupled with the (again, worst) Imperialist ambitions and naval power of the height of the British Empire and displaying a cultural arrogance even greater than both combined. However, I’m not trying to recreate Asia – it’s not an Oriental Adventures setting. Actually, I’ve wondered for a long time what would have happened had the Dharma spread westward rather than eastward. . . The Deities of Panisadore are very attentive and the interactions of the various Churches, Orders_and_Societies, both public and secretive, play a significant role in the world.
Geographically the planet is dominated by two circumpolar continents which come very close together along approximately 1/4 of the equator on one side of the world, leaving a huge, single ocean. Since the known world can be readily (albeit slowly) circumnavigated by simply following the coastline, the ocean remains largely unexplored and uncharted. While it might be possible via a variety of magical means, to conduct a comprehensive survey and mapping of the ocean would be rather prohibitively time consuming and exhausting. Consequently it either has never been attempted or remains a closely guarded secret of any who may have done so. It is known that various oceanic Fehladurh and Khurorkh territories exist but their locations are uncertain to all but a few. Given the unity of the landmass coupled with ten thousand years of history since the last glacial period, inhabitants of Panisadore are unusually aware and knowledgeable regarding world geography for a setting of this technology level. As a result it is not uncommon for the more educated to think, plan and act in global terms. It also means that there is an unusually high degree of worldwide consistency between many social structures and phenomena such as religions and their associated churches and orders, guilds, international power groups, etc.
Current Climate Patterns
Circling binary stars, the planet is currently quite warm, leaving inhabitable, albeit cold, glaciated polar regions, but no ice caps. Seafaring and river traffic are major elements of travel and commerce. Because of the axial tilt of the planet is less than that of Earth the temperate zones are broader than those on Earth. The tropical parallels and the ant/arctic circles are proportionally narrower as well. The equatorial tropics are actually hotter than Earth, imposing some limitations on armor wear – only the acclimatized can reasonably wear medium weight armors. As the predominant cultures in the region are primarily seafaring, this poses little practical difficulty. Truly “arctic” climates occur only at higher altitudes in the mountainous polar regions. While the overall planetary climate is much warmer than would be considered the norm, the population is by and large acclimatized to the regions in which they live so this only imposes survival rules issues in a few specific cases – whereas someone from another planet would encounter difficulties in most of the world. The commonly used calendar reflects seasonal patterns in the more temperate regions.
The remembered (largely oral) history of the elves (Fehladurh) and orcs (Khurorkh), collectively referred to in their own languages as The Kith and Dashin’s First Children, extends roughly 100 thousand years into the past (AFS: Age of the First Suns, both now long forgotten), when both suns were visible. Since this time there have been two ice ages. Sometime late in the first of these, the two races engaged in the centuries long Kith War. By the end of that the other races had grown notably more populous – dwarves (Rimenosha), gnomes (Benaedresha) and halflings (Surenashi) emerging from their original subterranean homes and humans (Malenosha) gradually grew more prolific in their equatorial havens largely separate from the Kith. The histories of these latter races only extend to this time (AOS: Age of the Old Sun, Thelema,) that of the Malenosha being particularly vague in this respect. Malenoshan accounts of their origins, the Age of the Old Sun, and its subsequent disappearance and ice age are quite minimal and conflicting. Most simply agree that sometime in the immeasurable past there were originally two suns, followed by a time of extreme cold and hardship when there was only one (the larger, reddish) sun (Salistreah), and their histories proper begin with the appearance of the (ANS: Age of the) New Sun, Jessanak. No mention of a previous ice age or age of the First Suns exist. When the New Sun emerged he revealed himself to the struggling humans near the equator as a new God of Order, offering to teach them new ways and guide them upon a path to greatness. It is from their connection to the two solar deities that humans have become known as the Malenosha, meaning the Children of the Sun.
I am leaving the world open to the possibility of most races, cultures and professions players wish to explore with the exception of those specific to other settings, e.g., Kender, Warforged, etc. The six primary races already mentioned are detailed separately on their own linked pages. These PC races are pretty much as per standard, but include a lawful good orc race – the Khurorkh, commonly called Red Orcs. (Think Taoist-Rasta’-Klingons.) Their relationship to the standard monstrous (Grey Orc/Pahrorkh)) race can be viewed as rather closely analogous to that of Elves and Drow (Gauredurh, or Druewenh), particularly as both Pahrorkh and Guaredurh came to be as results of the Kith Wars. Each display distinct, although related, Languages and notable cultural differences in values, perspective, behavior and external distinctions of religious practice, favored technologies and arms and fighting styles. All of the above (at the very least) can interbreed. Halfbreeds among them range from extremely populous to unheard of and explicitly taboo between Fehladurh and Khurorkh. At the other end of the spectrum, it is common knowledge that the Benaedresha originated as the offspring of Rimenoshan and Surenashin intermarriage in the ancient past while both races still dwelt underground. The Rimenosa originally lived deep in the Underdark and the Surenashi lived much closer to the surface (where the Rimenosha now live). Among the subterranean races, the Rimenosha found the Surenashi to be the most (pretty much only,) honest and trustworthy of their neighbors. (This actually says quite a lot about life in the Underdark and those who dwell there. . .) Over centuries those clans among both races which concerned themselves with subterranean trade and economics intermarried more and more frequently, resulting in what became a distinct hybrid race which conducted virtually all commerce between the two and dwelling happily among both. When all three were driven upwards by the incursions of Garuedurh and Pahrorkh who had been forced to withdraw from the surface by their losses in the Kith War, the relationships remained unchanged and even expanded to include aspects of their relationships with the surface races. At this time Beneadresha are the preeminent traders of Panisadore, with gnomoi merchant houses and interests present in virtually every city of every race upon the planet. It is hardly surprising that Delatrian, the God of Trade, is a gnome.
Panisadorean races have varying interrelationships. Humans and gnomes are the most socially integrated, intermingling in nearly all social classes and professions. Gnomes do tend to predominate in certain areas – primarily mercantile while humans tend to be most numerous in scholastic fields (particularly theoretical or “pure” research). Dwarves are often found below human/gnomoi urban settlements – dwelling semi-segregated by preference of habitat but cooperative and integrated in common endeavors, essentially “twin cities” governed separately but sharing resources with citizens of one participating in many activities/functions of the other. Elves are pretty separatist in most regions while halflings and Khurorkh tend to remain rather mobile and relationships show more regional variance. Khurorkh tend to establish temporary settlements (for a few generations, roughly a century) on the edges of other races’ territories, usually interposing themselves between such and Pahrorkh settlements, and so will usually have favorable relationships with their neighbors. Their enclaves are also frequently found in humagnomio cities as racial ghettos (in the original sense of the word).
Regional attitudes vary from these norms – Malenorian extreme prejudice toward Khurorkh in particular and attitude of racial supremacy in general being the most obvious example. Human prejudice also appears in other regions to varying degrees toward the Burrowing Races as a whole as well as specific ones. Gnomes at times are stereotyped much as Jews where they clearly dominate much of the business and finance, halflings facing distrust and persecution very like the gypsies in Europe and dwarves simply culturally misunderstood, disdained as pacifists and perverts (for those who can remember “dirty hippy pinko-commie queers”) at least in part because of their residential segregation and autonomy. Terms such as “halfer,” “footer,” “stump” and “rain barrel” can be heard in at least a few human mouths in any city. Reversed prejudice is most common among halflings (who encounter the most bigotry globally speaking) toward the “Tall Folk” (mainly human), although gnomes often view humans in general as rather thriftless dreamers who can’t seem to stick to anything. Dwarves consider them rather childish and prone to violence, characterizing humans as behaving like bullies when there’s no one to put them in check – the Malenorian Empire again being the most obvious example. Elves and Khurorkh also tend to perceive humans as rather immature (esp. elves), at least in part for historical reasons.
Elven/Khurorkh relations are the most universally formalized due to the ancient Kith War. The two races never fully rebuilt their original close friendship, but are determined not to repeat their mistakes. Consequently they make a point of sharing counsel between secular social/political entities and their various spiritual/religious orders, churches and other institutions are explicitly open to all and integrated (making them the de facto primary channel of communication between the two). While some display certain cultural preferences and racial perspectives (reflected in imbalances among their numbers) cross-training is a norm which many teachers (virtually all monastic prefects,) of both races view as vital to their students’ spiritual development. As such, masters of either race can often be found teaching in the churches, orders and training halls of the other.
The elves as a whole tend to view themselves as culturally superior to the other races. They’re acutely aware of the difference in perspective which their longevity produces and perceive correctly that other races are unable to grasp “the long view” so inherently obvious to them. On the other hand, they’re just as acutely aware of how this causes them to be viewed by others and the problems it creates. As a result they tend to keep their distance, maintaining a “hands off” policy in the affairs of other races, while trying to ensure that those who choose to can seek their guidance. Vagueness and the non-committal are hallmarks of elven diplomacy, coupled with oblique, almost riddling suggestions of various (even contradictory) points of view intended to lead others to reach similar conclusions on their own. Some recognize the reasons and intention behind this while others find it confusing, condescending and ultimately infuriating. The fact that elves tend to simply shrug, replying “So it is,” to this only tends to compound the problem, a fact which the elves likewise recognize and react to in the same fashion, seeing little else they can do under the circumstances. The elven propensity to respond to any perceived slight regarding their honor and intentions with a dueling challenge however causes others to at least pause and consider their interactions and motives very carefully.
Most significant conflict in the world arises from nationalism and/or religion rather than explicitly racial tensions and as a result can at times cut across racial lines entirely when arising between more integrated societies. Other races however tend to display a reluctance toward making war upon members of their own race which humans don’t seem to share. (As a people, dwarves adamantly refuse to do so, although individual exceptions may occur, particularly among outcasts.) Khurorkh (esp. mercenary) units are the most willing among non-humans to take opposing sides in a conflict but in doing so also demand a high (formal) standard of honor and respect in the terms of engagement. If these are not met, or are subsequently abandoned, Khurorkh units of both sides will cease all participation and withdraw.
Magic and Related Abilities
Magic is common, particularly at the lower levels, becoming increasingly rare with power and complexity along a sharply falling curve. (This is especially true regarding items.) In many ways, magic is essentially the technology of Panisadore – providing solutions to many problems and concerns which have been addressed mechanically on Earth. However, since those solutions cannot be mass produced, they have not had the industrial effect upon society that physical technologies have here. Given that there are far fewer opportunities for large scale production of industrial goods the guilds have been able to maintain their monopolies over traditional trades and expand them to include related industrial products. (Copper sheeting is a good example of this – the presses and production being part of the charters held by the Coppersmiths Guilds.) Magic itself is rather closely held and controlled by related guilds as well, serving to reinforce rather than corrupt this fundamental building block of most large-scale societies. Little distinction is made between magic, psionics, the ki-based abilities of monks and similar abilities. All of them are considered simply different ways of channeling and shaping the same fundamental force of nature personified by Wu-Jai. Magic and psionics are able to partially counter and affect each other, but function in enough of a different fashion that neither ability can fully affect the other the way they do with regard to abilities of the same type. Ki is viewed as a manifestation of magical force so uniquely individual that very little can affect it.
Effects on Reality of the Fundamental Existence of Magic as a Force of Nature (i.e., Narrative Causality)
In the broader scope, of which the above is just notes on particular cases, the very existence of magic as a fundamental, pervasive and active force of nature in the world implies that it, like all other such forces, displays certain unique patterns of manifestation and activity in the world inherent to its nature. Narrative Causality describes the agent of this manifestation in that, as Joseph Campbell and indigenous peoples everywhere have known, stories have a life of their own which serves to shape our reality. The natural and spontaneous action of magic upon this “life of a story” then causes the effect of a story to shape reality in a much greater, obvious and far more immediate display of its life. Sufficient certainty in the “truth” of a story can actually make the story “come true” and things therefor must happen in a particular fashion simply because “that’s how the story goes”. All of this is entirely Terry Pratchet, but here it’s a little more significant, yet rarely recognized and little understood facet of the very gritty nature of reality (or gritty reality of nature, depending on whether you see Dashin and Wu Jai as Good or Neutral). It’s very real, and when recognized and understood actually constitutes a form/technique of magical usage on a scope exponentially greater than any of the others. Oddly, both it’s most common and it’s most powerful effects tend to manifest when it is neither recognized nor understood by those participating in the story! All that is necessary is sufficient conviction, or blind faith if you will, that it’s blatantly obvious to even the most casual observer that the effects are simply “how these things work.” In these cases then, whoever has actually prompted the effects, upon perceiving their expectations validated are not surprised by them since they already knew damn well that things couldn’t happen in other way. Therefore they likewise have absolutely no clue that they have had any hand at all in causing the outcomes, nor would they believe that such was even possible. The catch of course is that recognizing and understanding this process as being a law of nature is actually counter-productive in attempting to consciously shape and utilize this force to produce a desired outcome. Desire really neither helps nor hinders the process; there’s nothing right or wrong with wanting the story to go as its supposed to. In fact strength/force of desire or will have no effect on the process or outcome at all. The difficulty lies in being aware of the fact that they are consciously and deliberately trying to shape reality along a specific course. Knowing that it is your intent to influence things toward a particular outcome carries with it the awareness that the story can go some other way. If it couldn’t your belief can no more influence the outcome than your desire or will. In short, you don’t need to do anything and there is in fact nothing that you can do anyway. It follows then that if you’re trying to influence the outcome then you do not actually have the conviction and certainty that the outcome absolutely must occur regardless of what anyone does. At that point it’s extremely difficult to make yourself believe anything which you evidently know isn’t really true. As Surnest would say, “Galenar of course is utterly clueless, but he’s sweet and we love him anyway.” Among dwarven monks and clerics of the Clans of Will this concept has being causing quite a stir over the last century or two in looking at how it relates to their own conceptions of The Great Matrix and the Will of the World.
Social Structures and Technology
Many societal (social, political and business) patterns, institutions and activities show a great deal of sophistication which we might consider modern, such as forms of government, information brokering, legal contracting and subcontracting, tax structures and methods, etc. Movable type is thousands of years old, printing very commonplace and overall literacy and general scholarship resulting from it are comparable to that in Earth’s northern hemisphere prior to the Industrial Revolution. Certain physical technologies are likewise unusually advanced, notably ship design and construction, both in terms of larger, more efficient and seaworthy hulls and even more in material and efficiency of sail, producing highly advanced rigs in the absence of the development of internal combustion engines. (TL4+3)(These are actually in some ways more advanced than they ever were on earth – continuing on for centuries beyond the highest degree of development reached before the technologies were replaced here.) Additionally, fairly advanced LTR: Lighter-Than-Air craft (aerodynamic balloons and dirigibles) are used, though very uncommon as they rely upon magic for propulsion and maneuverability beyond wind dependency. Other light weight, magic driven aircraft are known, but extremely rare. All together however, these demonstrate significant understanding of hydro- and aerodynamic principles. Biology and Medicine are also far more advanced than other technologies might seem to warrant, reflecting centuries of dedicated observation, enhanced by optical technologies, of anatomies, germ theory, disease and epidemiology, inheritance of genetic traits, etc. (TL5+ magic). Metallurgy shows a remarkable range in sophistication, advancing significantly in terms of general applied chemistry (refining techniques and alloys) but lagging in fields of manufacture and production dependent upon industrial machinery.Other links from here: