View Full Version : [City] Kheimurgan, 'the weeping sore' (Completed)
07-01-2005, 06:48 PM
City of KHEIMURGAN
Stats: Large City
ADULT POPULATION: circa 17,000-22,000
DEMOGRAPHICS: Owing to the very unique nature of Kheimurgan, it is very difficult to quote statistics like these with great accuracy (hence the vague figure mentioned in the population count). Its population is constantly shifting as adventurers - of all species and nations - seeking either fortune or knowledge arrive and depart, and virtually all of Kheimurgan's industry exists solely to support them. Seeing as Kheimurgan exists in a human Kingdom, however, it can be generally assumed that the majority of the Kingdom's inhabitants are of a rarity. Northern Mountain Dwarves form the next sizeable population wedge - however, as they keep themselves confined to their fort, their numbers (speculated to be around a thousand strong) have little bearing on the city around them. An entire gamut of other races can feature should the D.M. so desire them to.
Colloquial names: "The Weeping Sore"; "Blasted Lands"; "The Fallen Ground"; "The Pit of Deviancy"; "Hellhole"
Introduction: As you gradually count the milestones on the worn road which approaches the notorious bounds of Kheimurgan, you can sense... something. Not quite a presence, but an... influence, something which is charged with potency and emotion but is in itself inert. It is something barely tangible, something which just about nudges itself across the farthest penumbra of your appreciation. It becomes all the more noticebale and aggravating because of this, like some vague smear of colour which continually flits and flutters about your peripheral vision and which you can never, infuriatingly, fix your gaze upon.
As the miles through this margina heath and pastureland plod by, however, the anonymous force gradually condenses and coagulates into something more solid and definable - however, it is debateable whether this is an improvement, for it warps from a distracting irritant to a cumbersome, onerous, disheartening leaden weight pressing down upon your consciousness. It is not dreadful, but it does undeniably exert on your mind a grim, forbidding, oppressive character.
Each step towards the city amplifies this force yet further, until it seems as if the very atmosphere is saturated with this muggy, suffocating power. You have to squint to penetrate a haze that seems to materialise upon your retinas; The air seems to be charged and electric, crackling across your hairs and sending shivers of goosepimples through even the hardiest members of your party; and, even though it is the height of noon, above the stunted and blasted towers of the approaching Kheimurgan a starless dusk is messily streaked and stained upon what should be a lustrous, flawless, aquamarine sky.
Eventually, a coppery tang flares within your nostrils and arcs across your tongue, and you come to realise that this place - every speck of gravel, every blade of grass - is drenched in magic.
Despite this long, arduous manner of the city introducting itself - or perhaps because of it - the actual outskirts of Kheimurgan itself almost ambushes you (speaking figuratively). It only takes one step to traverse from empty fields of tough, abrasive bracken to be suddenly devoured by a dense, foetid, congested and wholly unorganised sprawl of ramashackle shanties which seem to have exploded out of the ground - and, you later learn, this is very much the case.
The 'streets' (more unoccupied spaces between each knot of basic construction, but they are described as such for want of a better term) are absolutely choked with life of all manner of forms, species and dress, seeming to hail from the farthest and most obscure regions of the world. They form a bustling, thriving throng that you almost need to fight your way through in order to make progress - and, remarkably, you observe that almost all of these people are adventurers and those that provide for them - there seems to be nothing in the manner of a normal civilian population here.
Every so often, you can see the proud, stern, resolute and upright form of a tall, strongly-built human paladin bedecked in the icons of devotion to St. Cuthbert, striding, withering everything around him with firey gazes of unmasked loathing, unmitigated contempt, and unadulterated disgust. *And, despite the congested nature of this city, each one has a wide circle of unoccupied earth following him as he marches - *do these holy figures emit an aura of peace and serenity, or is it merely that others shrink from them in trepidation?
And beyond this shanty-town buffer, the charred ruins of Kheimurgan's Old City beckons, daring adventurers to come and claim its terrible secrets and promises of fabulous magic-infused wealth...
07-06-2005, 04:35 PM
History of the City:
"I, the Majestic King Rann Corant, third of that name and twentieth of that family, lord of our most blessed lands, do hereby request and require of my subjects who represent the Colleges of Magic that they construct an abode for Truth and a repository for Knowledge. This monument to Learning is to be sculpted from the Kingdom's beauteous stone and fertile loams with aesthetics edify the laudable concepts to which they are dedicated, and it falls upon the Colleges of Magic to honour the King's will that these palaces shall further and improve the condition of commendable Scholarship in his domain and that the practice of Magic and Wizardliness can evolve and develop so as to better glorify the achievements of its inhabitants."
So runs the preamble to the Royal Charter for the foundation of the city of Kheimurgan that was scribed by King Rann III, in the twelth generation prior to the "Dawn of Faith" and the deposition of the so-called "Benighted Kings" that officially-sanctioned history has caricatured him, and his predecessors and successors alike, as. When applying his seal to this document, King Rann knew that he had penned something quite momentous. It would represent a great shift in his Kingdom's population, as no other city had been artificially founded before in its history; it also represented the successful absolute entrenchment of the increasingly influential Colleges of Magic (which represented the collective interests of the Kingdom's wizards) into the political establishment and the final admission of their respectability. In some ways, King Rann suspected that he compromising his right to rule, something that had proved truefor as time passed he and his issue would find themselves becoming increasingly dependent on the world-warping abilities of the Kheimurgan wizards to effect the changes they desired, and they found out that the Wizards charged a considerable fee. However, King Rann III had no idea just how critical his concession to allow the wizards to build a home for themselves would be... for Kheimurgan would indirectly become the entity that would poison the blue blood of royalty and shatter millenia of continuity.
The wizards, delighted with the terms of the King's agreement with them, set about constructing their edifice to themselves with pride and a not inconsiderable amount of gutso. They were charged - some might say intoxicated - with the excitement and sense of strength that the Royal Charter had granted them, and everything about the architecture and planning of Kheimurgan was intended as a showcase of their unassailable power. The Wizardly University they established in order to inculcate more of the Kingdom into their expanding faction was deliberately sited in the most unproductive county of the land, an unbecoming smear of sparsely-populated heath far removed from population centres or natural resources, so that the wizards could prove that they did not need to bend the knee to the petty concerns of wider economics and material logic in order to flourish. The University itself was a veritable forest of tremendous stone towers - each and every one fashioned through magical means to the very last brick and drop of grout. Also, the wizards deliberately invented the name "Kheimurgan". It has no special meaning and is just an agglomeration to syllables to form nothing except gibberish - it just amused the senior wizards who settled on it to see other 'mundane' scholars puzzle over the non-existent etymology.
And, indeed, the wizards transformed Kheimurgan into a phenomenal demonstration of their genuinely immense talent. The propitious nature of their arcane and mesmerising powers resulted in boons of food, water and material which enabled Kheimurgan to expand into a genuine metropolis, becoming one of the largest cities on the continent boasting a population of more than a hundred thousand men and their families. Kheimurgan, despite being deposited in the midst of the Kingdom's worst land, was veritably a city-state enjoying almost complete autarky.
The fabulous wealth that welled up like an ethereal spring from Kheimurgan was a great asset to the Kingdom and greatly contributed to its prosperity and international standing, but this eminence came at a price. It did, eventually, result in the political ascendancy of the Wizards that King Rann III had sensed with foreboding trepidation. Their abilities enabled them to veritably throttle royal patronage, disrupting the natural order of client and patron in Court that had been practiced by nobles for millenia by ensuring that all of the important offices of government were reserved for wizards alone. Rann III's successors, needing to keep the wizards satisfied in order to ensure their fearsome magicks weren't turned against the Kingdom instead of supporting it, were impotent to prevent their sovereignty being inexorably eroded as the wizards made greater and greater provisions for themselves, until they, tragically and involuntarily, were reduced to veritable clients of the Wizardly University.
The dominance of the Wizards did not go unchallenged - the nobility loathed its displacement, and the Wizards also attracted the opprobrium of the Kingdom's religion - the Church of St. Cuthbert, the universal faith to which all of the Kingdom, lords and subjects alike, subscribed to. St. Cuthbert is a rigid, stern, unyeilding god who insists upon submission to and acceptance of the immanent nature of Law. St. Cuthbert's Law is regular, exacting, constant, rational and immutable, both in ethics and in nature - and as such, the clergy were in immediate conflict with the wizards whose ability to mould reality into new, discordant shapes on a whim, was a complete antithesis to the religion's tenets. The priests of St. Cuthbert lambasted the Wizards as execrable heretics and meddlesome fools who were defying the Law which ordained a particular state for Creation, and so would come to suffer for their wanton vandalism of reality, and the clergy also saw themselves as the fount of the Kingdom's ordered government and resented the wizards for interfering with their own power. The Wizards simply scorned the clergy as blinkered and crotchety men who impeded progress and retarded the wizard's own personal enrichment. This impasse proved unbreakable, and as time passed the animosity between the Church of St. Cuthbert and Kheimurgan's Wizardly University only amplified.
The tortured politics that Kheimurgan's foundation created came to a head suddenly and unexpectedly, but its ramifications - or, it is perhaps more appropriate to say, fallout - proved to be dramatic.
The first tremblings and rumbling of impending disaster transpired a few years before the critical event occured. Far removed from Kheimurgan, the mountains which form the Kingdom's northern border are populated by several independent but closely-knit dwarven Thanedoms that inhabit labyrinthe Strongholds deep within the mountains themselves. One of the Strongholds, Zakan-a-Kazar, had (unusually for dwarves), founded an institution similar to the Wizardly University of Kheimurgan in an attempt for the Dwarves to discover the intricacy of magic for themselves. This was never to be, however, as this foundation proved to be Zakam-a-Kazar's undoing. From the vaults of the Stronghold erupted a ferocious, horrendous, and appallingly destructive concussion of immense destruction. Zakam-a-Kazar was completely obliterated as a wall of boiling, relentless magical fire streaked down every corridor, fumed in every mine shaft and exploded into every hall, and the mountain in which it resided was transformed into a volcano as it quaked, shuddered, contorted, warped, shifted and bled torrents of lava, made molten by the immense heat of the magical catastrophe. The entire mass of the mountain collapsed into itself in a thunderous cacophony, leaving only a stunted caldera, burnt into a forbidding pitch by the ferocity of the destruction, and the entire population of Zakam-a-Kazar was reduced to a thin layer of calcium beaneath it.
Whilst such a ferocious event occuring on the Kingdom's borders naturally caused disquiet, the Men of the Kingdom weren't inclined to mourn Zakam-a-Kazar at all, for relations between the northern Dwarves and humanity were divided severely on racial and ethnic grounds and frosty at the best of times. The wizards of Kheimurgan, though, were substantially perturbed - just what had the Dwarves of Zakam-a-Kazar been dabbling with to incite such an unprecedented paroxysm of magical force? A faculty was immediately established to investigate the circumstances of Zakam-a-Kazar, and their investigation into the complex issue continued without abatement for four years (their task was made quite diffiuclt given the fact that a lot of the evidence died with the Stronghold).
A few weeks before the second disaster struck, emanations and rumours from Kheimurgan suggested that the Wizards, for the first time in generations, were consternated - even worried. Their studies seemed to have chanced across a source of absolutely immense power, and more disconcertingly seemed to indicate the hand of other third parties about its discovery and control.
The wizards were never able to publish their findings. The end of Kheimurgan was swift, immediate, brutal and absolute. With no semblance of a warning a flare of brilliance howled a universe-shuddering shriek of agonised, tormented cosmic grief above even the tallest towers of the Wizardly University. An instant later, and nothing was left of Kheimurgan save a dirty plain of ash and an atmosphere wailing with the energies which destroyed it.
The Church of St. Cuthbert, the enemies of the wizards for so long, saw its chance and (not even paused or buffeted by the catastrophe and the demise of hundreds of thousands) quickly went into motion. Whilst the royalty and nobility were stunned and appalled by the death of so many subjects, the clergy of St. Cuthbert embarked upon a ferocious, withering campaign of impassion, hellfire preaching.
The substance of their argument was as follows: The death of Kheimurgan was the reassertion of divine supremacy - the wizards' magicks had broken celestial Law, and St. Cuthbert had judged them and found the wizards wanting. Their Guilt resulted in Punishment, and the prolonged, widespread and wilful nature of their heinous apostasy from St. Cuthbert's Law necessitated a travesty of the scale of Kheimurgan's fall. But the administration of Judgement was not complete - in order to ensure that the tragedy would never transpire again, however, the Kingdom needed to be absolutely purged and cleansed of the wizards' baleful and malignant influence - to ensure Law could be observed, the Church of St. Cuthbert needed to rule over the royal government, tarnished, disgraced and rotted through as it was by the wizards.
Whether this was genuine religious conviction or a shamelessly opportunistic coup d'état, a right action or a wrong one, wasn't relevant - the fact of the matter remained that the Church of St Cuthbert was prepared to act quickly. With astonishing speed, across the length and breadth of the entire Kingdom, the institutions of government - tithe barns, courthouses, turnpike gates, noble palaces, local treasuries - were being occupied by detachments of tight, devout, firey Church zealots. The common populace was thrown into confusion - did they follow their King or their religion? - and this enabled the Church to bring the entire domain under its heel with only limited resistance. Within barely a fortnight, the Church of St. Cuthbert was ready to proclaim a "Dawn of Faith" and the progression of the Kingdom into a new, enlightened era where the truth of Law would be truly recognised.
The Kingdom has been a troubled land ever since that tumultuous time of the Church's revolution. It is a Kingdom only in name - the Church has dominant authority over all. There have been Kings since the "Dawn of Faith", but they have been no more than the puppets of the Church's Eminent Arbitrators and Doctrineers. This theocratic government is immensely unpopular - the revolution was a sectional one, not a popular one, and whilst the common populace is St. Cuthbertian, the rigidity of Law it espouses bred a strong traditionalism throughout society that was horrified and revulsed by the Church's radical action. This was turned into naked hostility and disgust when the Church grossly overstepped the mark by killing the reigning king at the time of Kheimurgan's fall, Ormand V - many saw this as blatant and inexcusable hypocrisy, as the Church claimed to be representing Law but savagely and murderously trespassed pure and majestic royal blood which was sanctified by that very same Law! In order to safeguard the holy era it sees itself as overseeing against this groundswell of resentment, then, the Church of St. Cuthbert has seen necessary to introduce a severe martial code throughout the Kingdom, imposing troubles upon all.
The pallor that hangs over the Kingdom is the pallor that hangs over Kheimurgan, for the latter created the former, and the ashen lands of the wasted city are a scar and a blight upon the land. Many who visit Kheimurgan now seem only to wish to strip it of the wealth of its magical residue, but there are some who want to learn about what caused the terrible fall of this once vibrant metropolis - whether any changes they effect in Kheimurgan will affect the Kingdom again is something your adventurers can decide...
Physical Description: Prior to its destruction, Kheimurgan was a thriving metropolis and one of the largest cities on the continent, based around the magnificent wizardly university that founded it and from whose propitiousness the entire gargantuan city was able to function even in what was very marginal land with little by the way of local resources (a deliberate choice by the wizardly faculty in order to showcase their power). The terrible cataclysm which claimed it, though, has resulted in the emergence of an urban abcess which is barely recognisable. The new Kheimurgan can be divided into several distinctive sectors.
OUTSKIRT SHANTY-TOWNS - these are the inhabited areas of Kheimurgan, that have clustered up against the edge of the devastated zone (which, mysteriously , is almost exactly congruent with the original city limits - the surrounding countryside was scarcely singed). There are two separate settlements - spreading out from the south-western and south-eastern borders of the Old City respectively - but at the phenomenal rate of expansion it is likely that they shall link up into a single entity before long.
The shanty-towns were established as adventurers from all over the world were attracted to the ruined Kheimurgan, drawn by promises of magical wealth that has condensed amongst the ashes of the Old City following the disaster, causing a sprawl of temporary dwellings to nigh-instantly mushroom into existence as parties of adventurers needed bases from which they could prospect into the magic-charged realm of insanity. There are few permanent structures, with those that do exist being heavy, solid, stone creations (to resist the pressure of the tumour-like shanty expansion) and invariably either shrines to St. Cuthbert or the storehouses of the few commercial enterprises that 'enjoy' a permanent base here. Many of these permanent dwellings also double-up as the secret base of operations for Monarchist groups operating against the Theocrats in Kheimurgan, as they're the only places where you can expect any semblance of privacy.
The Bastion of the Dwarven Explorers' Guild, an impressive and redoubtable stone fort, is located in the south-eastern shanty-town.
The Theocrat faction which officially controls Kheimurgan resents the random, disordered, disrespectful, crude and rude nature of the shanties, but the simple fact that they're there makes it difficult for the Theocrats to reform them. They also know that it is wise not to aggravate their residents, because it in these shanty-towns that the vital supply routes to the Basilica of the Merciful Redemptorist, the Path of Justice (from the south-west) and the Road of Dignity (from the south-east) begin.
Both shanties are densely populated and you can expect a heavy, excitable crowd wherever you go.
THE "OLD CITY" - The Old City's dimensions are defined by the extent of the original Kheimurgan before the eldrtich catastrophe claimed it. Once an amazingly large and bright metropolis of what was thought to be phenomenally more than a hundred thousand adult inhabitants, it is now a black land of despair, which seems to labour in perpetual dusk regardless of whether it is day or night. The keen, discerning eye might, with a massive amount of effort, discern indications of old street patterns, but the entire Old City is now nothing except blanket devastation. The ground is pumice, ash, and fused glass - the magic even warped the city's geography, so that hills and dips have been created on what was once a level plain to no comprehensible pattern. The occasional standing ruin is either a hollow, burnt-out shell or just imprint of foundations. Sometimes, the ragged stump of what was once a wizardly tower can be seen pointing purposelessly towards the blank, imperturable, starless sky.
The Old City is a uniformly bleak, desolate, harrowing and unappealing legacy of a terrible and incomprehensible travesty - and it is not merely disheartening but dangerous as it is the abode for the brutal, animalistic Spawn (see below). There is nothing here to attract anyone except the hope of immense riches if you uncover something that has become infused by magic.
THE BASILICA OF THE MERCIFUL REDEMPTORIST - situated on an artificial plateau deep within the infernal, twisted and vile lands of the Old City, the Basilica of the Merciful Redemptorist is a proud, bold, defiant and pious assertion of the Church of St. Cuthbert's determination to extend the supreme holy Law to everyone and everything in the world, even the most dreadful and forsaken lands. The Basilica is not so much a place of worship as a fortress, with massively thick walls and impressively large proportions, whose architecture is designed specifically to withstand both storming and seiges - a necessity, seeing as the Basilica is subjected to regular assaults by screeching mobs of Spawn lusting for flesh and blood to feast upon.
The Basilica is garrisoned by the Order of the Blessed Malleus, a sect of the Church of St. Cuthbert which is passionately infused with crusading zeal, and is an army of 'knights templar' in all but name, being composed almost entirely of paladins. Their faith is famously unshakable, and their determination to export it to the benighted is emphatically asserted with the force with which they apply their warhammers to the skulls of obstinate unbelievers. As such, they're the ideal candidates to sally forth and purge the Old City of the Spawn infestation when prolonged exposure to the horrors that dwell in the Old City might drive less committed men insane.
Visitors to the Basilica will be given rations and a cot to sleep in - but first they must show their strength by producing body parts (not every mutant has a head...) of the Spawn they have slain on the journey along the roads towards it. These are then burnt in a consecrated fire. The Order of the Blessed Malleus, however, has no truck with unbelievers - anyone who shows any outward sign of devotion to another god will be thrown out to the Spawn without compunction.
It is an ambition of the Monarchists to somehow demolish or at least compromise the Basilica - to successfully achieve this would be a superb propoganda triumph for the Monarchist cause as they could exhibit how the relentless grasp of St. Cuthbert, which has dominated the kingdom to the exclusion of all others for five generations, is finally slipping.
The Basilica is also where this city's Monument is situated - the titanic statue that is the Icon of Malleus Triumphant.
THE VOID - the Wizardly University which enabled Kheimurgan to arise was the epicentre of the immolating tsunami of broiling magical flame which anniliated the city. It is difficult to furnish much description of what resides there now because no-one has seen it. People who venture there never return; those who attempt to scry it from afar with clairvoyance and similar spells are instantly reduced to gibbering, mindless wrecks; those who attempt to fly over it will abruptly plummet to their deaths; it is even completely opaque when observed from other planes. It is, quite literally, "Terror Incognita", and hence its name. What forces and creatures could possibly operate there can only be speculated at, and even the hardiest of adventurers would never countenance a suicide mission there. If you were to successfully return from an expedition to the Void, you would surley be the highest of Epic heroes.
Monument: Kheimurgan's grandest monument is the Icon of Malleus Triumphant, a statue of truly titanic proportions. Situated outside the Basilica of the Merciful Redemptorist, facing towards the direction of the Void, the Icon is a statue of the Blessed Malleus, the Order of the Blessed Malleus's founder and patron worthy, garbed in full battle-dress, raising his holy warhammer to the heavens and gazing with a stony, defiant, inflexible gaze to castigate and condemn the miserable ruins of the Old City. It is a feat of sculpture, as tall as the great fortress behind it, and inlaid with chapters withdrawn from the holy books of the Word of Law, Spirit of Law, Ledger of Judgements and Expressions of Divinity. Its structure is strengthed by prayer-magic to resist Spawn attacks. It is a great inspiration to the paladins of the Order of the Blessed Malleus who inhabit the Basilica, as their gruelling defence against the Spawn calls on them for such endurance and redoubtability as that demonstrated by the Icon.
(Continued In Reply #4)
07-06-2005, 07:52 PM
Adventuring in Kheimurgan
Power Struggles: An inhabitant of Kheimurgan may be identified as being an adherent to one of four separate factions.
MONARCHISTS - as the Church of St. Cuthbert maintains a large presence in Kheimurgan in the fight against the foul and nefarious mutants that infest the devastated Old City, it is inevitable that those opposed to the iron fist with which it has ruled the kingdom ever since the "Dawn of Belief" (which the fall of Kheimurgan instigated) would also congregate here.
This faction is very amorphous and subdivided into a large number of individual groups with differing objectives and competing agendas, and infighting between them is not unheard of. They range from magocrats which wish to revert to the pre-Dawn status quo of the King being a client of the wizards instead of the priests; True monarchists who wish to effect a restoration where the King is unfettered by dependence on the capricious whims of anyone else; and the general disaffected - both noblemen and commoners alike - who have been hard done by the new order and simply wish to wreak as much havoc on it as possible by way of revenge. All of these groups (which are invariably sponsored by nobles acting covertly against the religion which disenfranchised them) are referred to collectively as Monarchists.
The Monarchists may fairly frequently quarrel amongst themselves but their unifying factor is determined opposition to the Church of St. Cuthbert's political throttling of the kingdom. As such, they can be relied upon to club together when it comes to making an overt attack on the Church's interests. The Monarchists are an underground faction and they do not advertise themselves openly - however, they can depend upon a large proportion of grassroots support as the population of the kingdom is firmly traditionalist and so the Church's revolution was never popular.
Monarchists are generally more preoccupied with confounding the Theocrats than deciphering the mysteries of what destroyed Kheimurgan. As Kheimurgan housed what was once perhaps the greatest Wizard's University on the continent, though, magic users amongst them will take a secondary interest in it.
Note that although the Monarchists are opposed to a religious instituion they emphatically are not atheists. There are a few obsessive atheists amongst their ranks, but most are actually St. Cuthbertians themselves who believe that the Church has grossly and appallingly overstepped itself by overthrowing royal government.
Alignment is Anything Not Evil.
THEOCRATS - the official rulers of Kheimurgan, the devotees of St. Cuthbert, their agents, and those who support the faith are collectively described as Theocrats. Unlike the Monarchists, Theocrats are a tightly unfied group, as befits a faith which decress adherence to Law as a cardinal tenet. All Theocrats - even adventurers who are just in the faction's employ - are expected to abide by the principles of St. Cuthbert to the letter and spirit, with no exceptions. Any deviation from this for whatever reason will result in the subject's immediate expulsion and become a target for all other faithful Theocrats. All adherents of St. Cuthbert are welcome in the Theocrats, but those who subscribe to the Order of the Blessed Malleus, who control the city's Basilica, have superiority. *
The Theocrats' seat of power is the Basilica of the Merciful Redemptorist. As this is an enclave situated deep in the blasted Old City, from which the paladins of the Order of the Blessed Malleus conducts regular sallies to cut down the Spawn which rove the ruinous lands about it, the faction's presence in the outskirt shanty-towns is limited. Even so, each Theocrat knows that he has the full force of the mighty Church of St. Cuthbert - and the vindictive and hawkish Order of the Blessed Malleus - behind him, and so do others. When a dispute arises in the outskirts, then, more often than not people will defer to any Theocrats involved.
Theocrats tend to be dismissive of those of the Dwarven Explorers' Guild - they see divine justice as being the power which destroyed Kheimurgan, and any attempt to find an alternative explanation is futile - but are content to leave them alone. They will ruthlessly prosecute the capture and execution of any confirmed "heretical" Monarchist.
The Theocrats take a dim view of all magic which does not proceed from their god. Their attitude to wizards and sorcerors, whatever their identity, will be markedly hostile.
Alignment is Lawful Neutral.
SQUATTERS/DWARVEN EXPLORERS' GUILD - There is a sizeable community of dwarves inhabiting their own great, private stone bastion in the south-eastern shanty-town of Kheimurgan. The Dwarven Thanedoms in the northern mountains drew many parallels between the fall of Kheimurgan and the devastation of the Stronghold of Zakam-a-Kazar, which was destroyed in a magical cataclysm in similar circumstances to Kheimurgan only a few years before the latter suffered its ignoble demise. As such, it was ordained by a convention of the Thanes and Guilds that an expedition would be sent to Kheimurgan to investigate the ruinous city and see if any clues as to what was the cause of the twin tragedies could be elucidiated from the magic-saturated ruins.
The Dwarves remain in their bastion, only emerging to venture into the Old City in the hazardous attempt to collect evidence. Their reluctance to mingle is derived in part from the racial tension that exists between the northern dwarves and the race of Man which inhabits the kingdom - "Squatters" is a derogatory and offensive term coined to describe both the Dwarven physique and their 'invasion' of Kheimurgan.
Dwarves will keep themselves to themselves and refuse to interact with others or involve themselves in the Monarchist-Theocrat conflict. If a party of them is encountered in the Old City, they will actively seek to disengage from you as quickly as possible. If, then, the Dwarves actually seek your help you know it is a matter of extreme seriousness.
Alignment is Lawful Good.
SPAWN - these are the hapless and unfortunate former inhabitants of Kheimurgan. The atrocious concentration of magical force which consumed the city killed almost all of the population - the lucky ones! Those who survived were mutated beyond all recognition into nauseating travesties of their former selves. They now rove randomly throughout the ruins of the city in packs, ravenously savaging and devouring anyhting they come across (and that includes each other). They will not discriminate - Evil characters will be fed upon with as much gleeful relish as Good ones.
Curiously, regardless of how many of them are killed, their number never seems to weaken. Comprehending why this is so could be the key to unravelling the mystery of what destroyed Kheimurgan.
Alignment is Chaotic Evil.
Special Rules Concerning Kheimurgan:
THE COPPERY TANG OF UNDILUTED POWER: Kheimurgan was ravaged by a magical cataclysm, and the presence of that force remains awesomely powerful even today. The air is charged with eldritch potency. As such, spellcasters receive an automatic +2 bonus to any concentration checks needed when casting spells, as the magic is so immanent that it readily springs to the caster's hands. However, this presents a danger in the Old City, where the power is even more highly concentrated. Every time a spell is cast in the Old City, the caster must roll a D12. On a roll of 1, the spell's energies have ignited the air about him and he receives D6+1 hitpoints damage.
AN UNEARTHLY BOUNTY: In order to maintain the flavour of Kheimurgan, Dungeon Masters are advised to make magical items easier to find in the Old City - and more commonly available for purchase in the shanty-towns - than would be expected elsewhere in the world. The magic that saturates Kheimurgan has charged many of the artefacts that survived the original cataclysm with ethereal potency, so much so that even the earth quails with power. This is not to say that adventurers can just find a +5 Peripat Of Wisdom just nonchalantly hung off a gatepost - magical items should only emerge after rummaging through a burnt-out manor house or exploring a mine that was dug by previous adventurers only to be overwhelmed by the Spawn - but the Dungeon Master will be expected to include fairly strong magical items as common rewards. If the Dungeon Master is uncomfortable with this, he can substitute Mana Stones (see below) for most of the prizes to be found in the Old City
MANA STONES: Mana Stones are a special item unique to the Old City of Kheimurgan. The cataclysm which devoured the city was of such strength and intensity that it charged the very environment with magic. A large proportion of this simmers as "background radiation", as detailed above, but the weird energies have caused some to condense into a solid form, fusing with the ash and rock of the ruined city to produce Mana Stones. A Mana Stone is a fist-sized, irregularly-faceted crystalline lump that glows with a phosphorescent hue, and they are widely scattered about Kheimurgan. They are also very valuable, being prized by magic-users throughout the entire world.
I have deliberately decided not to specify rules for Mana Stones, due to the diversity of functions to which they can be employed and the potential imbalance they could introduce. I trust Dungeon Masters to modify their worth, abilities and the number of charges they can be used for, appropriate to their circumstances of their own quests and campaigns. I would suggest that Mana Stones be able to be used to improve the efficacy of spells (such as promoting a "Cure Moderate Wounds" to a "Cure Serious Wounds" even though the spell-caster can only cast the former), fortify weapons into magic items (e.g. change a longsword into a +1 longsword which inflicts fire damage), act like "wands" which contain spells of their own, or be thrown and shattered to relese their energies destructively like magical grenades.
1 - "UNRIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION"-As you enter the south-eastern shanty-town, you find it in a state of peculiarly agitated unrest, instead of the heat and bustle that is commonly associated with this sweltering collision of life, and the atmosphere has subject to tension far beyond the persistent taste of Kheimurgan's magical overspill. Even the horrendous stink that you associate with shanty-towns seems to have been quelled by this new development. Forging further into the agglomeration of unkempt buildings, you discover this frosty atmosphere to melt... but not into joviality, but barely-suppressed rage and anger. the sounds become not the usual deafening but reassuringly benign hubbub of men going about their business, but ravenous baying for bloody revenge - The fort of the Dwarven Explorers' Guild has been surrounded by a ring of steel as hundreds of adventurers, have laid something of a seige against its occupants, who have blockaded themselves inside evenmore effectively than their withdrawn and asocial nature has done so in the past.
It doesn't take many inquiries to find this stand-off's cause... you make the startling discovery that a party of Dwarves returning from an expedition to the Old City went upon a sudden, appallingly destructive rampage, smashing property and butchering dozens in a senseless, insane cavort of mad, purposeless destrucion until they were finally brought down. Now, the population of Kheimurgan wants to exact an uncompromising and final penalty on the other Dwarves.
Seeing as this is unprecedented activity for the Dwarven Explorers' Guild , and that it occured to a party of Dwarves returning from the Evil-stricken Old City, it's patently obvious to you that something happened to the *perpetrators in it to cause such a tragedy - but in the heightened emotion of the crisis, and given the fact thot the Men of the kingdom have borne a long-standing resentment of the northern mountain Dwarves, people have decided to overlook this. The situation seems to be rapdily swelling up to a violent eruption as the order of the Blessed Malleus has accused the Dwarven Explorers' Guild of Most Heinous Disruptrion of Congenial Order, and is mustering its paladins to storm the Dwarves' citadel.
This situation could have far-reaching repercussions. The Dwarves are hardy creatures and any attempt to fight them will undoubtably result in a massacre for both belligerents - for all you know, they could be burrowing underneath their fort now to surprise their beseigers with rear assaults, or they might possess secret devices which would annihilate assailants, or be using some method to request help from their homeland, and the attackers have the wrath of a god, numbers and ruthless *determination to prevail on their side. Furthermore, the Dwarven Explorers' Guild is a major venture supported by the Thanes of the northern mountains, and to act against the Guild would shatter political relations between the Kingdom and the allied Thanedoms, and possibly even incite general war.
Were the original party of Dwarves which sparked off this crisis possessed by a new form of Spawn? Were they being manipulated by a party which would stand to gain from a war and the potential riches or destitution it could *bestow or inflict on each opposing force? Or is it possible that those Dwarves honestly and voluntarily caused such a travesty? You are in a party of adventurers - executing feats of derring-do in the midst of a crisis is your profession. Can you avert the catastrophe brewing in Kheimurgan...?
2 - "BETWEEN A ROCK...": Shortly after arriving in the shanties of Kheimurgan, your party is relaxing and recovering from its long journey in the outskirt shanty-towns in one of the few stonebuilt permanent buildings - this one is a large inn - that grace and redeem what is otherwise an unbecoming smudge on the earth.
As you settle down to some drinks, however, the peace is rather abruptly and cinematically shattered as windows and doors erupt inwards in a dreadful, whirling, furious hurriicane of lacerating wood splinters and glass shrapnel. Before you know what is happening, an entire host of the Order of the Blessed Malleus is forcing their way in, condemning the establishment as a refuge for a Monarchist group, and hence it is "Damned" and requiring a rather ominously-enunciated "Purification". The Theocrats are correct - other, previously placid and nondescript, patrons of the inn are revealed to be Monarchists as they unleash a variety of deadly concealed weapons to repel the assailants. Caught in the middle, your party is forced to defend itself against both belligerents, and eventually forcing your way out of the congested melée, you see the leader of the Monarchist group based in the inn fleeing into the one place where he'll be difficult to track - the Old City!
You are rapidly required to retreat into the Old City yourself, as you've been identified as complciit in the escape of the Monarchists and so as "corrupt" as they are, and a fearsome force of paladins begins converging on your area.
Trapped in the harrowing and infernal insane realm of the Old City, then, with limited supplies, you are left with an uncomfortable quandary. Do you simply care for your own skin and hope the wild twists and turns and marauding Spawn of the Old City will assist you in eluding pursuing Theocrats, and make as quick an exit from Kheimurgan as possible? Do you find the Monarchists who also fled and deliver them to the Theocrats as an expression of redeeming penitence? Or do you find the monarchists and assist their own escape, so earning respect with an organisation that has covert stations across the entire Kingdom... assuming that they'll listen to you after the damage you inflicted on them when trying to escape from the inn, of course?
Just don't spend so long mulling ovfer the problem that a pack of Spawn acquire your scent...
3 - "A QUESTION OF FAITH": An arduous and sustained period of labour and struggle on the part of Rex Aeterna, one of the largest Monarchist groups (of the "True Monarchist" sub-faction), has borne incfredible fruit - they have successfully converted a senior monsignor [N.B. Clergy rank higher than a priest] of St. Cuthbert to their cause - and of the insurmountably devout Order of the Blessed Malleus, no less! He is ready to publicly complain that the supremacy of the Church of St. Cuthbert ever since the fall of Kheimurgan and the "Dawn of Belief" is hypocritical, for whilst their religion is devoted to strict observance of Law, they trespassed that very tenet by arbitrarily overthrowing the "Benighted" pre-Dawn kings, and that the Church must accept the sanctified nature of royal government if the St. Cuthbertians are not to be heretical themselves!
The Order of the Blessed Malleus, however, has become aware of the unorthodox doctrine germinating within this monsignor, and is preparing to arrest him quietly and deport him to an isolated hermitage-monastery where those with doubts about their faith can reassess them - for the rest of their lives...
The Monarchists of Rex Aeterna, attracted to your party by its renowned reputation, recruit your services as bodyguards for the monsignor as they attempt to secretly spiirt him out of Kheimurgan. The only problem is is that he's based in the Basilica of the Merciful Redemptorist...
Can you successfully extract the monsignor from the formidable Basilica and transport him through the troubled lands of Kheimurgan to a Rex Aeterna safe house in another metropolis without bringing the entire Order of the Blessed Malleus down on your heads?
4 - "GRAVEL TRAWLERS": This is a *straightforward, unassuming and basic style of quest that the D.M. can adopt if his group are growing weary of deciphering the manifold intircacies and peering through the silken cloaks of duplicity that characterise elaborate and devious Machieveillian conspiracies, and just want a period where they can relax and flex their muscles with some simple dungeon crawling. It is naught save a combat-oriented kick-in-the-door-style textbook dungeon-crawling treasure hunt. Your party, seeking fortune, enters the Old City in an expedition to uncover the magic-infused items that festoon the blasted and ashen expanse, which can potentially reap immense rewards but necessitates, of course, your ability to fend off repeated packs of ravenous Swarm.
5 - "THE SHROUD OF LIES": Wizards, whatever their allegience or creed, have all taken a great interest in the troubled history of Kheimurgan. The city housed what was once one of the greatest Wizardly Universities across the entire known world, and the eruption of power which ravaged the metropolis proceeded from it - and, of course, what was once the University is now the inscrutable Void. Given all of this, it is only natural for wizards to be interested in how devastation on such scale could have been wreaked, and Kheimurgan, along with the Stronghold of Zakam-a-Kazar which suffered from a similar calamity, are matters of intensive study by magicians the world over. Magical institutions fund a substantial number of expeditions to Kheimurgan.
The relationship between the wizards of the Kingdom and the Theocrats is strained at best. The Theocrats have now occupied the position of power the wizards once held, and the hostility between the two groups isn't hidden - indeed, many "magocrats" are part of the Monarchist insurrection against the Theocrats. However, one wizard is so dedicated to finding out the truth of what happened at Kheimurgan, in exclusion to all other partisan concerns, that he's actively joined the ranks of the Theocrats and become one of their most faithful members, simply so that he can facilitate his study with the Church of St. Cuthbert's support instead of suppression.
After years of laborious and painstaking academic investigation, this wizard claims to have made a phenomenal discovery - he has developed a technique which will neutralise the immanent magic of Kheimurgan! This might rid the city of the Spawn, or even quell and open up The Void so that for the first time in generations the Wizardly University may be explored and the cause for Kheimurgan's fall discovered. The wizard is immediately ushered to the Basilica of the Merciful Redemptorist by his Theocrat minders, where he prepares to cast a spell that could enlighten the past and change the future...
Something goes wrong. No sooner has the Wizard begun to summon the concentration required for this massive expression of magic, when an appalling travesty occurs. The hapless wizard and most of the occupants of the Basilica are instantaeneously immolated as a multi-hued cloud of broiling, seething, shrieking magical energy billows out of him and blasts a hideously large proportion of the Basilica to smitereens, sending entire wings crashing down. Most disturbingly, the terrible event is exactly like a reduced version of the original catastrophe...
You arrive in Kheimurgan shortly after this event, to find the shanty-towns in a state of utter pandaemonium. The fireball could be seen for miles around, and it's induced a tremendous panic. People are dashing in every direction, some making a quick getaway, others girding their armour and dashing into the Old City to see what action is brewing. You're accosted by a Paladin - struggling to present the imperturable arbitrator of Law he is and not descned into into a babbling wreck - who's urging adventurers to assist in the defence of the badly-damaged Basilica, which is currently being assaulted by what seems to be every last Spawn in the Old City!
Accepting, you assist in beating the Spawn away from the beleaguered survivors in a large, tumultuous combat session. But a mystery remains in that massive chunk gouged out of the Basilica once you've sheathed your sword. What caused this terrible event? Was the spell too powerful for the wizard to control? Was it a backlash of the background magical force? Did Monarchist wizards interfere with the spell, seeing as the faction is always eager to see harm done to the Theocrats? Or is something more sinister and secret at hand, an influence which incited the original cataclysm and does not wish its stain to be removed...?
07-07-2005, 07:54 PM
Well, since no one else has commented on this amazing piece of work yet (shame on all 100+ of you who've read it already), I'll add my two cents:
Wow! This city is stupendously spiffy.
I love the intro too, very provocative. You're an excellent writer. Even though it's a long post, I was pulled right in to all the interesting, living details rather than being tempted to skim. Good work.
07-16-2005, 07:56 AM
Background information CONTINUED
Arts and Culture: Kheimurgan has little in the way of arts and culture - the shanty towns are purely utilitarian entities with little concern for it. What art the city can tout is situated within the Basilica of the Merciful Redemptorist, taking the form of religiously-oriented tapestries and statues exulting St. Cuthbert and his Blessed Adjudicators.
Economics: The barren Old City of Kheimurgan, predictably, has no economy. The weft and weave of the shanty-towns, however, is much more varied and interesting...
ECONOMIC MODEL: The shanty-towns of the periphery operate on a basis of what is technically laissez-faire, but in practice is very much anarchic. This is to be expected, given the completely unorganised and random nature with which the shanties mushroomed into existence. If you encounter someone with something you need, if you meet their price, you obtain it - or they could abscond with your fee, if that's the way the cookie crumbles. Such is life - if you don't like it, you can clear out. The prolificacy of traders, however, also results in intense competition which can actually aid in reducing the fees that you'd have to pay for goods - even high-level magic items - on the normal market.
REGULATION OF ECONOMY: Attempts by the city's Theocrats to formally regulate the irregular economy of the shanties have all met with signal failure, much to their chagrin. However, they are not completely impotent - St. Cuthbert is a god of Law above all else, and so traders tend to refrain from turf wars with commercial rivals for fear of it becoming public and ending up on the receiving end of the god's and his servants' wrath. It must also be recalled that the Church of St. Cuthbert controls the entire Kingdom, not just Kheimurgan - traders know this, and whilst it would not intimidate the small figures who are just attempting to make a fast gp by flogging off random objects plucked from disreputable corners.
NATURAL RESOURCES: As will be developed and explained further below, Kheimurgan is wholly and utterly incapable of achieving a status of autarky, being almost wholly devoid of natural resources. It is surrounded by marginal heath that extends for at least fifty miles in every compass point, which only supports limited pasture. On the very fringes of the shanty-towns the industry of this envrionment can be found, with a few abbatoirs and small, manual textile producers, invariably being old farms that were consumed by the expanding sprawl of the shanty-towns. The meat and clothing these enterprises generate remains only for internal consumption - it does not generate sufficient volumes for export.
IMPORTS: Commerce is actually quite a potent force in the shanty-towns of Kheimurgan - the city had little by the way of natural resources when it was first built, being deliberately sited in what was very much a wilderness area of heath which could only support limited sheep pasture, and as a consequence virtually everything needs to be imported if it is to sustain itself. This even applies to water - there are no rivers in the vicinity of Kheimurgan and deep wells are located considerably outside its bounds (to avoid the risk of ingesting magic-contaminated substances with results potentially as harrowing as the Spawn). As such, even the Order of the Blessed Malleus is dependent upon the traders who bring in vital supplies that fill empty bellies, moisturise parched throats and sharpen blunted swords. Despite this tremendous power, though, traders continue to remain politically neutral due to the strength of the Theocrats outside Kheimurgan as iterated in the "Regulation of Economy" sub-section above.
Prior to the Fall of Kheimurgan, magic conjuration aupplied every necessity the residents required but of course that is no longer an option.
EXPORTS: The Old City is regularly trawled over by adventurers of all kinds seeking fortune by uncovering some precious item that has been infused with the tremendous magic that saturates the area. This may include genuine magical items that somehow survived the horrendous inferno of the city's original fall, or more commonly the strange creation, unique to Kheimurgan, that is the "Mana Stone" - the very earth being infused with brimming, potent, and crackling edlritch potential. For rules about Mana Stones, see "Special Rules Concerning Kheimurgan" in the "Adventuring in Kheimurgan" section.
COMMERCIAL INSTITUTIONS: The shifting and temporary nature of the shanty-towns' population means that commerical enterprises are similarly temporary and are most likely to have moved out and new traders entered with each of your party's visits to Kheimurgan. However, there are a number of businesses which have moved against this trend and successfully established permanent residence and have survived in the financially cut-throat world, by means of their reputation for reliability and confidence in an unpredictable city, or their ability to fall back on outside commitments.
Religion: The condition of religion in Kheimurgan is rather straightforward to describe. As would be expected of the theocracy that kingdom has now become (and especially because Kheimurgan is now the principal base of one of the most zealous, strident and militant of the faith's holy orders), the devotees of St. Cuthbert hold unyielding and absolute dominance amongst the living population of Kheimurgan. Visitors to the city who subscribe to different ethical doctrines and theological tenets to those of St. Cuthbert are tolerated, but if they desire to avoid trouble (and, given the strength of St. Cuthbert, most do) then they conceal all outward exhibitions of their incompatible faith.
And as for the horrfic, malignant and hideous creatures that stalk the bleak, ashen lands of the magic-ravaged old precincts of Kheimurgan... well, who could possibly decipher what misshapen, corrupt, gruesome, aberrant and deviant monstrosities even think, let alone believe in?
07-31-2005, 09:46 PM
It's finally complete! Apologies for this entry being somewhat last-minute, but I hope you all find it an enthralling read and a fertile loam in which to germinate your adventures! *:)
Comments & Criticism are always welcome.
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