Narutaki recently spoke about our up coming Dungeons & Dragons (the 3.5 edition if you were so curious) game so I decided to throw in my two cents about the world of Atman before we started the game proper. I figured a little background on the world would make anything I posted make a little bit more sense.
I could just spew out a litany of fact about the world in a PowerPoint presentation but that is hardly any fun. So I decided to talk about the world though an in-game letter that will hopefully be slightly more engaging.
As a side note I had the character writing the letter use the titles of everyone involved partially because he is part of an organization that uses code names and partially to prevent some of the players who read the blog from being inadvertently spoiled.
While my lessons are often a bit unusual I will say at first I was slightly taken aback by my assignment this season. The question was simple. “What is the world like?” But the answer is complex. I thought long and hard on the nature of his koan. What am I supposed to take away from this assignment? A greater understanding of the world I have neglected due to my studies? A call to notice the subtle trends I may have missed brewing in the world? A lesson in humility that comes with comprehending the true scope of the world? A call to action to rouse me from my routine? A pause for simple reflection for reflections sake? All of these things? None of these things?
I’m not actually sure of the reason. So I have decided to tackle the question directly. Hopefully I will wander upon the answer in my meanderings through this question. I do not think I will directly hit the bulls-eye of enlightenment but I hope to at least graze the target in my blindness.
I must add before I answer that I greatly appreciate the ability to ask questions such as these. Despite the rather unsavory nature of many of the people in our little school I appreciate the atmosphere of enthusiastic and unlimited pursuit of learning we are afforded. So many schools of magic are about retaining secrets and restricting questions. A place where teachers can be questioned is a rare and precious commodity in any place of academia. When the mystical arts are involved this is true 100 fold.
But lets us start at the top and work our way down. It seems as good a way as any. The most commonly used name for the world is Atman. Every country has their own name for our home each steeped in its own history and dogma. But Atman is what we call our little world here in the Free States and therefore it is the name you will hear anyone use in mixed company.
I have always felt the world is a strange place. But I suppose that is what makes life so invigorating for scholars such as ourselves. It also makes it very deadly to scholars such as ourselves in return. Many oddities, organizations, and individuals wish their secrets to remain their own. And they will leave a train of blood as long Ceannai river to keep it that way.
As far as I know there are six great powers in the world. First and foremost is the Elvin nation of Go Brath. The second would be underground Dwarven Empire of the Guang Dynasty. Third and forth are the Humans united under the Holy Yevvietai Church and the Orcs centered around the Seat of Sardes. Playing all sides against the middle are the Free States. And last is the mysterious Kida in Ikattha Karana.
There might be other major players I am unaware of. Being a member of the magical community I am well aware of various conspiracy theories ranging from the slightly plausible to outrageously fantastical. Everything from the Seat of Sardes having a secret order of assassins to usher in their long awaited heir to the throne to a fantastic “reverse Empire” that exists in the center of Atman. Wizards and sorcerers tend to be a paranoid lot so its always hard to sort through what is a legitimate avenue investigation and what is the work of a fevered brain.
For now I will concentrate on what I am mostly assured to be true. Anything more than idle speculation about the “true” workings of the world tend to lead our lot down a dark path.
I mentioned the elves first because if I had to pick the nation that had the best chance of taking of the world it would Go Brath. Their Crann Nollag trees are a unique resource whose unparalleled magical absorption properties let their wood be crafted into magical artifacts of amazing potency. That alone would be a grand advantage but they have even even more potent blessing from the Goddess. Eight immortal Elvin gods of magic, called the Princes of Mana (be they male or female), sit at the head of eight powerful families. Their magic dwarfs the power of even the most learned archmagus.They control fundamental forces with the casual effort one would put into breathing or eating.
This advantage alone would probably have an Elvin King on the throne of a kingdom that encompassed all of Atman if any two of the God of Magic could work with each other. But instead the pretty scheming Princes spend their time undermining each others rule turning their own country into a chess board they seem almost incapable of seeing beyond. Perhaps some kindly angel of the Goddess has seen to occupy these devils with each other lest they turn their attention to the rest of the world.
If one were to chose the second most important nation in the world in would be the Guang Dynasty. The Dwarves there mine their scared metals to build fantastical inventions that when combined with Dwarven sorcery make wonders beyond that could not even imagined by other nations. I have heard tales of machines that fly like magic carpets, soldiers who fight inside golems, and even trivial devices like a kitchen that will make its owner breakfast. They even have fantastic gardens and endless fields in their great underground cities. But all their technological advances is what lets them hold back the truly frightening THINGS that luck under the surface of this world. The fact that the insanely powerful elves live to the south of them and the mysterious Kida block them in from the East and West mean they have little room to expand as well.
Their expansion efforts have also been halted as they were the Chensha Dynasty until 50 years ago when Xuan Guang took the throne after killing the former Shogun and Emperor. For most races 50 years is a decent amount of time but for a Dwarf is is practically last week. So the full effect of this radical change by the Will of Heaven has yet to be seen. But it has meant the the Dynasty has been looking much more internally than it has in centuries. One wonders what will change once things are more settled in the Guang Dynasty. Xuan Guang is a hungry ruler and his has the military stratagem to see those dreams realized.
The Holy Yevvietai Church and The Seat of Sardes are almost impossible to mention separately. They are like two eternally bickering brothers. They both worship the same Goddess although they have massive differences in the particulars of her worship. So their theological differences have led to nasty wars that have a particular unsavory nature that can only appear when the divine is involved ironically as that is. But woe be to the fool is comes between these two brothers. When an outside attacks either nation the other will rush to its aid without hesitation. If only that cooperation could last outside of times of crisis.
The Holy Yevvietai Church believes the Goddess has given custodianship of Atman to the faithful and therefore their church is the supreme power on the Earth. The Orcs on the other hand feel that the spirits are the divine messengers of the Goddess and their orders are holy writ. So the Holy Yevvietai Church lives under a strict theocracy that suffers no heresy and hunts it down any hints of dissension with a dogmatic reverence.
The Seat of Sardes on the other hand feels the spirits are divine messengers of the Goddess making their judgements absolute. In the Kingdom of the Orcs spirits live among the people almost like a ruling class. They determine everything from what you do for a living to often who you marry.
In both countries those who conform are greatly rewarded and those who stick out are beaten down hard.
I myself was chosen by the spirits to be a wizard so it is not as if I left my home because I felt the spirits of my town had chosen poorly. But the stifling atmosphere was unbearable. My countrymen accept answers without question. The spirits are often correct but they are hardly flawless. Also their correct answers are not always the only correct answers. Anyone who has played riddle games will tell you that there is the answer the person giving the riddle expects to hear as well as a multitude of other answers that are true answers. And the growth gained from choosing incorrect answers is an experience in itself that can teach as much as a prefect answer if your mind has been trained to process failure correctly. I left my home so my mind could be free and my soul could follow.
Which leads me to the last quantifiable major power in the Free States. A loose mishmash of almost any imaginable form of government, economics, and race. Their only uniting factor is no state here bows their head to the other five major powers. The city of Crossroads acts as the closest thing to a capital the area could have. It is mostly the center because of its prime location as both a center of trade and of resources on the island. Also in such a chaotic country it is one of the few constant fixtures in the landscape giving it a weight of authority many states do not have.
The fae run rampant in the country as well. Wyld zone there these marauders from maelstrom that is fairy land are far too common. A frequently asked question is the country a nexus of flux because the fae are so common or is it the fae are epidemic because they are drawn to the inherent anarchy of the land? I feel solving that puzzle is a key to understanding both the fae and the Free States.
The last power I could mention is Ikattha Karana. I don’t bring them up last because they are the least powerful. For all I know they could be a fearsome sleeping giant. In truth I don’t know much at all about them. The fact that I know that the insect races there call themselves the Kida as a whole puts me ahead of the game in the study of Ikattha Karana. Most scholars even just call the place the Bug Empire with those icky bug people.
Ikattha Karana seems content to remain mostly isolationist and the rest of the world seems to be content to leave it that way. There are tales of mysterious magics, strange gods, and inhuman fighting styles but separating fact from fiction is nearly impossible.
I have always been tempted to visit the north most continent but I risk my life enough just living in Crossroads. I’m not sure I feel up to the task of visiting such a dangerous unknown. But I have heard that Ikattha Karana is a land of many spiritual wonders from pilgrims that have ventured there. But for every tale of a wonderful land of holy enlightenment I hear I can tell you and equally bone chilling tale of demonic nightmares.
That is the world in a nutshell. But those are the broadest of broad strokes. Any of the countries I mentioned is far more complex than my simple somewhat stereotyping overviews could provide. A Elvin salty sea dog from Smaragaid has about as much in common with a sycophant noble from Lugdunum as I do with berskerer from Miles Militis. In many way the only way to know any of these area is to see them first hand. But I am far more the homebody scholar than the questing adventurer despite the amount of globetrotting I have done due to circumstances of my life.
I hope that answers your question to some degree. If nothing else it has gotten me to start questions why I believe the things I do about the world as a whole.
Enclosed in this scroll should be my paper on “The Effects of Mana Injection in Ruby Soma Infused Ley Lines” as well as my notes on “Mental Interferences on 3X x 7Y Illusionary Matrices” plus the three papers I borrowed from your personal library last season.
I hope this letter find you well and that your research is fruitful and rewarding,
Your faithful student