How does one begin to describe something that is endless? It is easy to point to a specific place in a cycle and say 'there, that is where it begins,' but it does not fully explain it. One could say that a day starts when the sun rises, and it becomes night when it falls, but one has to remember that the moon went down before the sun rose, and the sun rose before that moon, and so on and so forth into eternity.
It is simple to begin with Kalah. Kalah is the immediate, the physical world, the nurturer and creator of life. She encompasses the world, defines daily being. The sky, the earth, the rain- all of it belongs to Kalah, who breathes life into the dust and sand, and sustains all life until its end.
But yet, one might also begin with Rahk. Distant as he is, Rahk is a ruler as well, creator and leader of a world just as great as Kalah's. Life cannot see it, for life is incomplete, but beyond the world, beyond life, there is Rahk's domain. Death, the spirit- ra, the indefinable aspect that makes up personality and consciousness- are of Rahk's domain. When the dead pass beyond, Rahk takes them into his land until they must pass into life once more.
Rahk and Kalah are the focal points of the cycle- as the moon heralds the night, and the sun heralds the day, so does Rahk herald death and Kalah life: however, the celestial bodies must have a path to traverse, and that path is the embodiment of the cycle and the state of in between. Day and night are not always clearly defined, and neither is the physical and spiritual.
Ishaman, ruler of the way, possessor of magic and flame, rules the in between, existing as a balance and center to the eternal cycle of Kalah and Rahk. When one dies, Ishaman guides them to Rahk's Beyond, and when a spirit becomes restless, Ishaman brings them back to Kalah's care. Ishaman is the place in between, allowing two to become one.
This is the foundation of existence. Though one passes through life, they will pass through death- though one passes through death, they will again pass through life. There is no beginning or end, only one side to a spinning coin. In the heart of Kalah's world, in the midst of the hot desert sands, this is the underlying principle that guides the people, though they may focus on their life for now, the ka, that is the gift of Kalah, the body and energy that separates them from the dead.
* *** *
The following list is of all the terminology one might need to make sense of the setting (and use in it).
Abdos: a nation that is the focus of the campaign setting, based in a desert territory.
Badri: one of the three outland tribes. The Badri migrate across the north near the spirit boundary.
deben: a weight of copper, silver, or gold used to determine price (or as currency). Ten copper deben are seen to be worth one silver deben, and ten silver deben are worth one gold.
Divine Adoratrice: The title of the chief priestess in Kalah's temple. Often stated as Divine Adoratrice of Kalah.
domas amat: necromancers in the worship of Ishaman, who perform the ceremonial cremations of the dead.
Gezri: one of the three outland tribes. The gezri are a sedentary tribe, east of the Lower River.
Great Fire: a massive fire said to have been created by Ishaman that swept across Abdos, destroying a great deal of civilization as it was known. The southern part of Abdos was once populated heavily, but that area was entirely wiped out.
habt: the title of a priest or priestess.
hatya: undead servant raised by one of the nomarchs, or the pharaoh. They serve as viziers, and possess knowledge of their past lives (most often as a nomarch or pharaoh).
High Realm: the northern portion of Abdos which is most connected with Kalah. Bounded by the Spirit Boundary and the majority of the Upper River.
ish: the spark of magic which users of True Magic possess. Gift of Ishaman.
Ishaman: the deity of in between, the path, magic, fire, and ish. Seen as both male and female.
ka: the body and life force granted to the living in Kalah's world. Gift of Kalah.
Kalah: The female deity of life, the physical world, the elements, and of ka.
kalehk: the descendents of Kalah's spirits who live among humans.
kerheb: the title of a priest or priestess, either in charge of rituals and ceremonies, or records and histories. These are higher ranking priests.
kit: one tenth of a deben, more commonly used as currency than deben due to easier transport and lower weight.
Low Realm: Southern portion of Abdos, between the lower river and the Place of Truth. Related to Rahk.
Lower River: the entirety of the southern river in Abdos.
Mid Realm: Central portion of Abdos, bounded by the Upper and Lower Rivers.
Naqa: one of the three outland tribes. Worshipers of Ishaman who migrate between the low and upper rivers.
nomarch: the title used by the thirty governors of the thirty nomes, who are appointed by the pharaoh.
nome: one of thirty districts the nation is divided into.
outcaste: a stereotypical user of true magic and ish.
outland tribes: three tribes on the edge of civilization, who stay away from the river based cities. Also known as the three tribes. Each of the three tribes may be made up of a number of small tribes.
pharaoh: ruler of the thirty nomarchs and all of Abdos, appointed by the god Rahk.
ra: the soul and personality that passes on after death to Rahk's realm. Gift of Rahk.
Rahk: the male deity of the afterlife, spiritual, ra, and god of authority. Chief of the Triad.
Returned: Undead created by Rahk in order to achieve some special task.
spirit: a divine servant of one of the Triad.
spirit boundary: a magical series of obelisks that separates Abdos from northern regions, where spirits dwell.
Triad: the three gods, Kalah, Rahk, and Ishaman.
true magic: magic powered by ish, which neither needs to be granted or approved by another source.
Upper River: the entirety of the northern river in Abdos.
* *** *
An excerpt from the Scroll of Ancients, written by Manes, kerheb of Kalah.
History today is imprecise. Reliable records from past centuries are few, and written history is mostly fiction written by merchants seeking gold deben or political influence. The rare honest attempts are incomplete and lacking in substance because of the deficit of knowledge to be found about our past.
However, with the blessing of the Divine Adoratrice of Kalah, I was able to utilize the great temple library, and gather what remnants of history remain there. Over time I traveled to the three tribes and spoke with their leaders and learned what I could from their oral traditions of history. The necromancers, of course, had records that proved useful as well- cross referencing dates of death with records from the temple allows for more precise dating.
Perhaps most beneficial and surprising, however, were the contributions of the hatya, whose knowledge of past times is unmatched. Blessings of the Triad on the nomarch patrons who allowed me access to them. Their help has been invaluable.
With their help, a little more will be known of the time before the Great Fire...
FE: 'First Era.' Measured backwards like BC.
PF: 'Post Fire'
Unknown: the Triad forms the world from chaos and creates civilization. The cycle of life and death begins. FE 10000: First major settlements are being built along the Lower and Upper Rivers. FE 6000: Most major animals have been domesticated. FE 3500: Large scale societies begin forming. FE 3250: Pharaoh Abdos names his city after himself. FE 3225: Abdos dies, having conquered most of the area around the Lower River. The name 'Abdos' remains the name of the territory. FE 3100: The Abdos territory spreads to the Upper River, and continues growing until the area is engulfed. FE 3000: Magic is introduced to the world for the first time. Powerful Outcastes are the most common users of magic, though others begin researching and learning spirit and soul magic. FE 2000: The society of domas amat is formed, and Ishaman's necromancers become formal practitioners of soul magic. FE 1800: Spirit magic becomes more wide spread and formalized. FE 1325: The temple of Kalah becomes the recognized institution of spirit magic. FE 1275: The nomarchs and pharaoh are granted power to create the hatya. FE 500: There is a large increase in the number of outcastes in society. FE 400: A number of major cities are assaulted by the outcastes. A large number of people move back to a tribal lifestyle. FE 300: Outcastes go back to their normal proportions. FE 100: The three tribes have formed. FE 45: Ateb becomes Pharaoh. FE 35: A seer and prophet declaims Pharaoh Ateb, and is executed. FE 33: The spirits begin constructing the spirit boundary, without explanation. Humans in the north are driven into Abdos. FE 25: The spirit boundary is completed. FE 0: The Great Fire scours across Abdos, turning the southern forest to ash and devastating civilization. Ateb's remaining years of life and rule are cut short by the fire, along with most of his nomarchs. PF 50: The tribes are the main form of civilization. PF 150: Some groups have split off from the tribes and begun resettling near the rivers. PF 335: The spirit boundary begins failing. Gaps are found, and ancient spirits are seen in Abdos once more. PF 350: Large scale cities have been rebuilt and populated. Government is largely restored. Campaign setting begins.
The deities and spirits in Abdos are numerous, and all of them receive some form of respect.
It probably goes without saying that the deities are very important; however, in Triad the deities are far more important than normal. The deities in this setting determine a great deal of the conflict and power struggles that occur, and each one of them rules over a great deal and has a large amount of sway.
Yet the deities, for the most part, follow some rules- they rarely, if ever, intercede directly, usually working through the spirits or their worshipers instead. Ishaman has been the deity to most break this rule, introducing magic and bringing about the Great Fire.
It should also be noted that deities are not merely thought of as superhumans- even if a human achieved deific levels of power, they would not be a deity. The deities have no true forms- their statues and depictions are more for the convenience of humankind than to truly show them. The idea that things were at some point created, or simply began, is also a convenience- it is more a metaphor that represents the power of the deities, and allows someone to conceive of them on some level. The deities are said to be infinite, and their cycle and power has always existed- they never began, they always were. What is more, deities do not simply rule over their respective domains: they embody them as well. Kalah doesn't just have control over the earth and sky, but is them. To speak of deities is to speak of the basic aspects of the universe...
* *** *
Kalah is the world. Her body makes up the earth, the deserts her skin, the mountains her bones, and the waters and vapors her shining hair. To worship Kalah is to worship the elements, and revere all of existence, from the rocks and soil beneath one's feet, to the clouds stretching high above. She is the earth mother, who provides for her children simply by being. Life flows from her and returns to her, the blessing of 'ka,' the body and the life force which is within all living things, is her breath and blood, her gift to all mankind and beings that walk the earth.
The three elements- earth, water, and air- are the main aspects of Kalah. She is the ground, the sea, and the wind. The citizens of Abdos recognize here, and consider their land to be the heart of her wondrous form, for why else would she look down on them with such love and kindness? It is undeniable that in some way they have her favor, which she gives to them gladly.
In the service of Kalah are all living beings- though those who serve her directly are the animals and the tahkta. Tahkta are spiritual animals, sometimes taking the forms of huge monsters, hybrids between human and animals, or simply the natural forces that work across Kalah's vast body. Under her loving eye, they go about the tasks she has set for them as best they can, working to respect and tend to the earth, and aid humanity in various ways.
Those who focus on Kalah's loving nature will sometimes be disappointed, however. Just because Kalah is loving does not always mean she is kind- she does what is best for nature and her children, even if it is painful or harsh at times. While she is the goddess of abundance, fertility, and the harvest, it is crucial to recall that she is also the deity of scouring storms, the merciless heat and cold of the desert, and the ravenous flooding river. Though she keeps the balance of nature in this way, it is said she cries at how she sometimes has to harm her children; the rain is thought to be her tears, particularly when they precede or follow natural disasters.
Still, Kalah is the most loved of all the deities. She is immediate, and she is caring even in her harshest moments, for she does it all out of love for her numerous children. Even her cruelest storms provide water, and the most dangerous floods make the soil fertile once more. She is worshiped as the goddess of fertility, and her numerous temples emphasize her role as a goddess of fertility, the harvest, and gardening. She is heavily worshiped, almost to the exclusion of other deities, among farmers, who depend on her generosity for their next harvest.
Travelers also worship Kalah- for though Ishaman is the patron deity of the traveler, while in Abdos it is Kalah's domain they traverse. Whether they are pilgrims, sailors, or messengers, travelers pray to Kalah for protection from her creatures, and for easy journey across her lands. The pious are also encouraged to treat any horses and camels they use well, as the animals are Kalah's children, just as they are. Each animal is the master of some and the servant of others- it is the way of life in Abdos- but Kalah teaches to pay respect in taking what one needs from the other species that populate the earth.
While Ishaman and Rahk often quarrel, Kalah tends to remain separate from them, not weighing in or resisting the efforts of either side. Her focus is on the land, and all the people who live in it. In her opinion, the need to rule and control is not most important- but the assurance that all are well. In this devotion to the world, and all her children, Kalah becomes the most loved and worshiped of all the deities.
Rahk is the ruler, presiding over his fellow deities and possessing the most authority and say over all that happens. Thus it is from Rahk that all political power and sway flows, and to him that the nomarchs and pharaohs owe their respects and prayers. To worship Rahk is to worship the structure of the world, acknowledging and respecting the hierarchy that he has set in place; for while Kalah possesses power over life and the body, from Rahk man is gifted with 'ra,' the essence of personality and identity, the force to which all things must bow.
As the progenitor of ra, Rahk resides over the underworld and afterlife- for while the gift of ka will eventually fade away, ra is eternal. He calls ra back to him as it breaks from Kalah's realm and power, and those souls draw to his side as they await rebirth once more, reflecting and brooding over all their past lives. According to how they proved themselves, Rahk may strengthen or weaken the power of their ra, and thus give them a differing level of authority in their next life. However, Rahk does not judge by means of morals- but instead of how their use of authority improved the wealth, hierarchy, and power of Abdos. Thus, while benevolent men can easily garner favor, clever and cruel men can profit as well, as long as they do not harm Abdos in general in the process.
Thus, Rahk is revered as a stern and coldly calculating god, whose impersonal nature allows him to see past suffering towards what he believes is the greater good. He is respected for his keen intellect and powerful personality which give him his rule over the other deities, and all of Abdos.
While Kalah is seen as the earth itself, Rahk does not embody the underworld. Instead, Rahk is the embodiment of authority, and thus in some ways is a much more human figure. To speak with authority and power, to sway with logic and force of personality is to bring forth Rahk and his essence. He is the deity of the dead- but that is secondary to his status as the ruler of all.
Though all things serve Rahk, particularly among his servants are the living nobility. Nomarchs and pharaohs all serve Rahk, attempting to further Abdos in all ways they can. Should they displease Rahk too greatly, he will remove his blessing from them, and their nobility will pass on. Disputes over nobility occur, but often they are solved by priests, or the obvious flowing of Rahk's power to whom he sides with, typically through the means of other servants, such as spirits.
His more direct servants are undead and demonic spirits. To the citizens of Abdos, demons are potent spirits that embody the power of death, authority, and personality. In them flows undeniable power that serves the will of Rahk when he will not move his hand directly. Demons are typically known as such by their strange and monstrous shapes, and various white markings which identify how much Rahk has invested in them; Rahk's spirits are placed into a strict hierarchy, far more rigid than any seen among man. Oaths have special power when made on or by them, and lesser demons will immediately become subservient to their superiors when they appear.
Not all undead are direct servants of Rahk, but Rahk will sometimes use the power of ra to revive one who should be long dead, in order to serve for specific tasks, usually related to the person chosen for it. A strong pharaoh killed in battle by a cowardly usurper might be raised to claim his vengeance, deposing the usurper and clearing the throne for a more worthy ruler. More commonly, Rahk allows his power to be used by the rulers, who can summon strong rulers from ages past as hatya.
Rahk quarrels heavily with Ishaman, often attempting to assert his sovereignty and authority. Rahk asserts that as he is the chief, and ruler of the fate of the soul, Ishaman should be more respectful and receptive to his wishes...
Ice and deep cold are symbols of Rahk's power, and thus snow and hail, when they are seen, are thought to be signs of his favor or displeasure.
Ishaman is the bridge between all things- understanding of what is, what was, and what will be. Ishaman is power and knowledge, magic and fire. To define Ishaman is to define knowing itself, to define emotion and passion. This deity is the link between physical and spiritual, and that which makes all possible. To worship Ishaman is to worship capability, to revere action and understanding, and the power to move forwards and change.
While Kalah rules the world, and Rahk the underworld, Ishaman rules the way in between, which is represented by the place beyond the air and clouds, the starry cosmos and heavens. Both male and female, between life and death- not the goal or the state of rest, Ishaman links all things. Yet, Ishaman is apart from those things- while Kalah grants the gift of ka, and Rahk grants ra, Ishaman refuses to give away the gift of ish. The ability to link their two gifts, to call on the power of magic, goes mostly unknown in the world. Only a select few gain this ability, at Ishaman's discretion.
The reason behind this, it is said, is that Ishaman quarrels with Rahk. The deity of magic refuses to accept Rahk as ruler of deities and creation- instead, Ishaman argues that she should be in charge. Only one who knows both sides of an issue can remain balanced and fair. A mediator is best fit to move the pieces without ruining them in some manner. In his eyes, Ishaman believes that Kalah and Rahk should rule their two different aspects, and Ishaman should preside over them. Yet this is not so- and in order to cede less mastery of herself to Rahk, Ishaman does not give away ish to those he rules over.
Ishaman's servants, therefore, are the strong willed spirits known as asceb, who bow only to Ishaman and those who can prove themselves as greater in power. The asceb are often the most powerful of spirits, however, possessed of great magics and supernatural abilities granted to them by Ishaman so that they might defy authority and bring change. Among the asceb are a number of heavenly bodies, notably including the sun and moon.
Because of the wildness of his servants, and the power Ishaman wields and her defiance of Rahk, on top of not granting most people ish, Ishaman is held in awe and fear, seen as a wild force that cannot be trusted, but that can uproot everything and change it all on a whim. The actions and power of those granted ish typically enforces this view of Ishaman- as such, Ishaman receives steady, if not loving or pious worship. When one wishes power and the ability to do something, they pray to Ishaman.
Ishaman is worshiped, therefore, by magicians. From her flows all arts of magic. When one wishes understanding, the use the arts of divination, or beg Ishaman for knowledge. Yet, as the deity of the path and in between, Ishaman is also worshiped by those desiring change, those who are uncertain, and travelers, who are all within his realm.
Particularly, Ishaman is worshiped by the domas amat, and prayed to when people die. To pass from Kalah's world to Rahk's requires passing through Ishaman's realm- and being reborn requires it as well. Thus, birth and death, midwives and necromancers, are all within Ishaman's purview and nature. The necromancers, however, are most known and respected, calling on Ishaman to grant them the ability to traverse between life and death, and performing rituals in her name as they perform ceremonial funerals to send the dead to the afterlife.
Fire is the symbol of Ishaman's power, and thus cremation is the most practiced funeral rite. Fire represents all that Ishaman stands for, particularly power, and so even the other deities use it as a sign of the divine. Ishaman's fire, however, is golden and none other than Ishaman himself, or a servant in his name, can wield golden fire. To attempt to bypass this using trickery will almost certainly incur Ishaman's wrath.
* *** *
The Nadha are only one of the many varieties of spirits known in Abdos
Spirits are the divine emissaries of the deities, and as such, their powers, appearance, and natures different greatly from deity to deity (and even within the services of each deity, as they manage different aspects of their rule and will).
The most known (not necessarily the most common) spirits are listed below (excluding the sphinx, chimera, and griffin, which can easily be found in other places):
The apetkh are the serpents of Kalah, in every shape and form. Some are simply great, coiling snakes, others stand like men, while some slither through the air as if it were water. They are Kalah's guardians, protecting trails and glades, and mines rich with ore. To go into Kalah's sacred domains without her blessing is to risk the wrath of a guardian apetkh, whose bite is to be feared by any man.
Bastians appear as a cat would, but are said to protect against disease and vermin, preventing crops from being destroyed, and livestock from harm. They are of the tahkta, Kalah's servants, and small shrines to Kalah and her feline servants often appear in the home of farmers, with a small gift of milk or fish sometimes being put out in the hopes of pleasing the bastians.
Very rarely, a bastian will take on the form of a great cat (such as a lion) to protect those in the service or interests of Kalah.
These spirits are the six armed, fire wielding servants of Ishaman. Most of them dwell beyond the spirit boundary, but a few have entered into Abdos, some even gaining worshipers. They tend to vary in power and appearance, but in general they have extreme potency with magic and physical combat, and serve any of Ishaman's wide range of interests.
Haduat are the most common form of demon, and are notable for the fact that they (rather ironically) have no common form. The usual myth behind their varied and grotesque appearances is that Rahk shaped them from those pieces left over from the rest of creation, though the truth of the legend is uncertain. The haduat are often simply referred to just as demons, as usually one can simply assume any given demon is a haduat due to how many there are.
A strange combination of a hippopotamus and the crocodile, the hemait are dangerous creatures of the waterways, devouring the unworthy and wicked who cross their paths. They guard nothing in particular, and will sometimes turn on the innocent when they hunger.
These shapeshifting birds hide among other flocks, watching everything in the name of Kalah. They possess the gift of speech, and those who desire knowledge and information will sometimes seek out the hieres, attempting to draw them out with riddles and clever puzzles, which they find hard to resist. The hieres, for this reason, will sometimes be found in the company of a sphinx.
Most undead are created by the power of ra sustaining the body and life force that is ka. However, ra that is not directed in the correct ways, or is not strong enough to sustain ka, can still exist in Kalah's realm. It exists on its own, pushing forwards a body that is entirely dead and devoid of ka, or simply creating its own, more insubstantial form. This type of being is known as 'lifeless.'
These genie and mermaid-like spirits are beautiful women made of the water and vapor they spring from. They often appear in an oasis, or in rivers- typically areas with pristine and desired water.
They are spirits of music and creativity, and those of strong will and mind who hear the nadha will have their craft blessed... but the weak man may languish under the nadha's spell, wasting away as they watch and listen, or drowning in an attempt to join them.
Wertep are ephemeral demons of the chilly underworld, the enforcers of Rahk's authority. Those that perform extreme acts of heresy, or greatly threaten the sovereignty of the pharaoh (not necessarily the pharaoh himself) may find that they encounter the wertep, which protect Rahk's interests. They are great figures of tattered shadow, and can drain life and warmth with even the smallest touch.
Wisps are lesser servants of Rahk, taking the form of glowing currents of cold air. They guard and watch over graveyards, and sometimes serve as messengers and spies for nomarchs and pharaohs.
* *** *
Pakest, the spirit of the herd animals, sometimes appears as a human woman.
Not all spirits are common. Indeed, many are unique entities treated as minor deities in their own right, and are worshiped and given sacrifices- though not as often as the three main deities are. Typically, these unique spirits are worshiped by those who have something specific they need to ask for. Below are some of the most important of these spirits.
Spirit of nobility. While her premise is simple, Akhent is a powerful demon who enforces the rulership of Rahk and the current pharaoh, as well as the nomarchs. Akhent is not worshiped by many, but the nobility worship her with extreme fervency, so that she might keep them in her favor and stave off rebellions against them.
Atnos is a spirit in the service of Ishaman, and manifests as the sun. Atnos is Ishaman's handmaiden and right hand guardian, tasked with bearing the fire of Ishaman until it is needed. Along with her twin, Atnos patrols the Pathway, guarding it from those who would use it poorly or wander unknowingly into it. It is said that Atnos brings souls back into Kalah's realm with the dawn.
Son of Kalah, Hapthet is seen as a farmer, and rules over the element of earth under the eye of his mother. Hapthet is smiling and hardworking, set to his task, and yet friendly to all who seek him out. Hapthet is worshiped sometimes by farmers who wish to emulate him, and the more generous and genuinely pious farmers will sometimes find themselves rewarded in small, quiet ways.
One of the Tahkta, Naulat represents the element of water, and through that he often recieves worship. Naulat is thought to take many shapes, but is most often represented by a crocodile, sometimes humanoid, sometimes fully animal. Naulat is a fierce guardian, protective, yet generous, quick to anger and yet also jealously devoted to his people. His whimsical and emotional nature ensure that people constantly pay respect to him, but his largesse and protectiveness make him worshiped more honestly.
The spirit embodying ka, the life force, and herd animals. She is particularly worshiped by the outland tribes, who tend to keep large herds of sheep and cattle. Pakest particularly represents the animals killed for sacrifices and food, for her nature is to give forth abundant life, being reborn after each death, and giving new life through it. Pakest embodies abundant life, and takes soon to be reborn souls from Atnos. She is worshiped by the outland tribes, shepherds, and all those with livestock, and typically appears as a woman with cow horns, or may take the form of any herd animal or simply a human woman.
Ptaten is the councilor of Rahk, the spirit who presides over the hatya, and possesses the urn from which Rahk dispenses the blessing of ra. Ptaten is said to keep records of all the dead, and every misdeed and heroics they did in life, though Rahk is the only one to see them. Ptaten is widely known, but rarely worshiped, though a few Hatya pay respects to him.
Tawera is Atnos's twin, who manifests as the moon, serving at Ishaman's left hand. Tawera is seen to be more clever and less dependable than Atnos, but due to her intelligence she keeps the lore and secrets of magic safe for Ishaman. Tawera is worshiped by the domas amat as she presides over magic and specifically leads spirits to the Underworld, taking them away as she leaves the sky. As Tawera draws newly dead souls from Pakest, Tawera also has a faint association with butchers and cooks.
Unet is inexplicable and unknowable. Servant of Kalah, Unet is in charge of the skies and air, the wind and storm. Next to none worship Unet, for she heeds no prayers and desires none, instead simply bending the wind as she wills it. Sometimes there are those who inexplicably garner her favor- most often among the outland tribes- and they pray to and worship her, even wield the sky as her servant, but such people are rare. Some claim Unet is not a true spirit at all, nor one of the tahkta, but few have an explanation ready as to what her true nature is.
Fire is the sign of the divine, especially when seen in magic.
Magic is not something wielded by humans. Magic is created through the connection between ka and ra- the physical world and the eternal will. Thus, the ability to create magic requires the blessing of Ishaman, the third piece that humanity was meant to be bestowed, but never was: ish. Without it, humanity is only capable of acts of ra or ka, not the combination of the two.
However, mankind has learned ways to bypass this difficulty. Spirits are not bound by the same rules as humanity, and a talented and learned man can bend spirits to their will and make pacts with them, gaining their powers for their own use. With practice, one can learn the art of spirit binding, and draw powers from the spirits- drawing on the connection of all life.
But just as all things are connected by life, so are they connected after death, by Ra. The underworld is a gathering of all that has ever been- by suspending one's life temporarily, they can send their soul to the underworld, and gain boons from their journey there. Ancient artifacts and powers of great heroes and monsters can be granted to them. These practioners are known as soul magi, capable of reaching into the underworld to borrow its power.
Yet both of these ways are a reliance on others, and are not truly magic. The spirit binder relies on spirits, and the soul magus relies on the underworld. They are considered magic for their passage into Ishaman's territory- for the connection between things, even if it is between all living things, or the dead- is still the power of Ishaman. What is more, it is Ishaman who knew the arts- he who kept the names of the spirits, she who knew the rituals to bind them. The soul magi mimic Ishaman, passing between life and death as the god does.
However... magic still exists. There are rare people that Ishaman blesses with ish, granting them the power to join ra and ka, bringing together spiritual and material. They rely on no one else for their power, and have few limitations on their arts. While a spirit binder must use rituals and charms, a true mage needs nothing but will. While a soul magi travels back and forth between the underworld, the true mage summons his power from within himself.
* *** *
A spirit binder uses a ritual to summon a spirit.
Spirit binding is mainly the realm of priests of Kalah, and Kalah's temple. The reasons for this are simple. First, the greatest number of spirits known in Abdos are tahkta- the servants of Kalah. To be a spirit binder means having great familiarity with the tahkta, and thus one learns of Kalah as well. Second, spirit binding emphasizes ka, the connection between two living things- though ra normally emphasizes social control, it is ka that allows a spirit and a human to be bound so closely, one sharing power with another. Third, and perhaps most important, is that Kalah's temple has become the authority on spirit binding. It is from her temple that most spirit binders originate. Still, none forget that it was Ishaman who brought this art to mankind.
There are two main methods of spirit binding- the first, and most common, is to simply bind a spirit to oneself. Using spirit binding, one learns how to bind a spirit to their will until they complete specific task, at which point the spirit goes free. While it is not necessary to gain the approval of the spirit one binds, most often spirit binders are taught to sacrifice to and revere the spirits, granting them boons in exchange for service. What is more, most of those spirits whose names are known have made a deal with Kalah's temple, allowing spirit binders to summon them in exchange for regular sacrifices and aid. Thus, most spirit binders need not pay a price whenever they summon a spirit- the spirit is simply fulfilling their duty to Kalah's temple.
Those who abuse spirits by disregarding their desires and binding them against their will are considered heretical by Kalah's temple. Spirits abused in this way will most likely contact the temple, who will in return hunt down the people who abused their magic in this way. Thus, it is ensured that most spirit binders respect the spirits that serve them.
Still, some dislike the traditional method of spirit binding, arguing that it is too easy to take control, and that it should not be risked. They present and use a second method, which creates a much deeper bond between spirit binder and spirit. They invite the spirits within their own body, joining them together. The spirit experiences life and promotes their own agendas, while the spirit binder gains the power of the bound spirit. Still, this method has its limitations- only a few spirits are willing to join in this way, and it is taxing on body and mind to join with a spirit- meaning that only the most proficient can summon more than one at a time. This method is most often found amongst the Badri tribe, though Kalah's temple has a number of practitioners as well.
* *** *
A soul magi borrows great artifacts from the underworld.
The underworld is a spiritual repository, in which resides the souls and spiritual nature of all that has died and passed on. To be a soul magi is to learn to walk the path of Ishaman- to travel between the realm of the living and dead. Soul magic, while drawing on and emphasizing the power of ra, is Ishaman's territory as it deals with the transition and connection between the living and the dead. Some claim it as the magic of Rahk, but for the most part, these people are ignored.
To use soul magic, one learns to put themselves into a trance and suspend their connection to life, weakening it to a tiny thread. Without being fully bound to life, they are capable of passing on to the underworld, in which they find the spiritual remnants of all things. With the blessings of the dead souls and demons, they may remove the concepts of certain artifacts and abilities and bring them back to reality as they strengthen the power of their connection to life once more.
Much like spirit binding, it is theoretically unnecessary to gain the approval of souls and demons to remove certain artifacts and powers- but it is seen as theft. In doing this, one places themselves in opposition to the souls of the dead and the demonic guardians. Those who go too far will find themselves hunted down by demons, undead, and practitioners of soul magic who respect the underworld.
Most often, people do not do such a foolish thing. The great majority of soul magi are taught by the domas amat- necromancers in the service of Ishaman. The domas amat teach respect of the dead and demons, and those they think would abuse soul magic, they refuse to teach. As such, it is mostly assured that those who use soul magic are those who will revere the dead and those that protect them.
Yet even those with darker intentions may find what they need in the underworld. Not all those who reside there are heroes, and not all artifacts and deeds are renowned for their virtue. A clever soul magi knows where to find those who will welcome and arm one with a less noble cause.
* *** *
True magic has few limitations, and its users are greatly feared.
While spirit binding and soul magic are methods taught by Ishaman, neither are the true domain of Ishaman. The real gift of Ishaman, and Ishaman alone, is ish, which connects the physical- ka, and the spiritual- ra. With the power of ish, one is not limited by the separation of consciousness and physical nature- the two are combined, and allow the use of true magic. Unlike spirit binding and soul magic, it does not require borrowing of power- the magic comes from within. It does not rely on respect of others, and it has far fewer limitations.
It is a common misconception, however, to think that true magic is wholly unlimited. True magic derives from the combination of body and mind, and it is easy to see how the bodies and minds of people differ. Thus, true magic flows from the talents and strengths of the individual. An wielder of true magic will use their magic as an extension of the skills and talent they already possess, and will have difficulty using it in other ways. With training and focus, they can learn other arts- but this signifies them changing themselves, not bypassing the limitations of true magic.
But beyond the limitations of talent and skill, there is little to stop true magic. The wielders of it are far more gifted than the common man, and can constantly perform magic, requiring no permission or rituals.
Those granted with true magic, because of madness or because they are overwhelmed with their power, sometimes do inexplicable and sometimes terrible things. Combined with their great power and lack of limitations, this means that the users of true magic are greatly feared, most of them known as the outcastes. Separated from society, cast out of traditional roles, the outcaste has no expectations, but neither are they granted respect, except through fear. Most of the true mages manage to keep sanity, and others hide their abilities, but still, they are known as divinely touched madmen.
* *** *
Other Supernatural Arts
A small handbook on a form of divination.
While there are only three formally recognized magics, there are a number of supernatural skills and methods that can be learned by those that live in Abdos. Most prominent among these are the forms of divination- divination can be used to tell the future, or to divine a deity's intent. Most forms are meant to determine the latter- geomancy (the study of the way thrown earth and soil lands), extispicy (the reading of entrails), and pyromancy (gazing into fires to see shapes and visions) being the most common of these. Others include the study of clouds, water, ashes, and bones. To tell the future, most resort to Astrology, as the stars and moon are Ishaman's servants who have incredible knowledge, even of what is to come.
There are also those who practice oneiromancy, the study of dreams, and even oracles who experience sudden visions or bouts of prophecy. The veracity of these is questionable, but it is undeniable that many true prophecies and visions occur, even if not all of them are.
Other people are blessed by certain spirits and gain strange powers- Unet, the tahkta of air, for example, has been known to grant some people control over the sky and wind. However, these people are extraordinarily rare, and most are dismissed as rumors and even superstition. Most of those who are indeed real do not have power that compares to that of a trained spirit binder or soul magi, let alone a practitioner of true magic.
It is also known that some elaborate rituals can have effects, when correctly and precisely performed. Some attribute their success to the work of spirits who are appeased by the rituals, though others believe they are something to themselves. Still, very few rituals are known, and it is rare that a single person has even heard of more than one true ritual, let alone mastered one.
Other forms of supernatural powers may be out there, but few know of them, and only spirit binding and soul magic are widely taught and formalized. Most of the known alternate supernatural arts can be found practiced among the outland tribes.
Though spirits, monsters and animals all roam Kalah's realm, and are known in Abdos, only three categories of beings contain the balance of ra and ka, and have the ability to gain the blessing of ish. These beings are set apart from the others, for it is they who can wield the powers of magic, and are responsible for continuing the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Without them, Kalah's land would overflow, Ishaman's pathway would be untraveled, and Rahk's underworld would stagnate. As such, while the rest of the world is tended to, the center of attention is on these three. The deities cultivate their worship and lives jealously, and the spirits swirl around them, attempting to serve the interest of their gods as best they can.
These three types of being are humans, kalehk, and undead. Kalehk are descendants of the tahkta, humanoid beings who reflect spiritual heritage and are associated with Kalah. Humans are versatile and skilled, understanding and working with the world around them, neither as natural as the kalehk or as stagnate as the undead. Undead are filled with the potency of ra, forcing their bodies onwards after they should have expired. In them is great strength of will and purpose, as well as knowledge of past ages.
Though the denizens of Abdos sometimes quarrel amongst each other, in them resides a balance of the skills that can further the world.
* *** *
Humans have not only survived, but learned to thrive in the nation of Abdos.
Humans are the most common species in Abdos by far, and by their hands lasting settlements have been created, and cities populated. By the magic if Ishaman, humans were created from the dust of Kalah's body, rising up as the firstborn of all beings. To them, all the deities granted their gifts- Kalah granted them fertility, and the knowledge of agriculture. Ishaman gifted them with knowledge, learning, language, and trade, while Rahk granted them the power of authority.
Perhaps it is because of their firstborn status, that they have come to dominate society. Certainly it is true that humans are among the vast majority of nobility- and that humans alone have possessed the powerful titles of Divine Adoratrice, pharaoh, and nomarch. While ra has been given to kalehk and undead as well, in practice, it is the humans that rule.
Even among the humans there are subdivisions, however. Few rise to the rank of noble that were not born to it, and before the Great Fire, there was a strictly enforced caste system. Not only was it socially enforced, but magically. With the blessings of Rahk, magi in the distant past devised a grand ritual that divided humans into six castes that not only designated them as having certain levels in society, but confined them to the skills and talents that their caste was to utilize.
After the Great Fire, it was found that the caste system was broken. Scholars and philosophers now theorize that in the wake of the Great Fire, mankind dropped the pretenses of caste in order to ensure survival; farmers led those that would follow, and nobles hunted for their food. With this defiant and widespread act, the effects of the ritual were diluted and warped. Others suggest that the magic of the Great Fire itself somehow scoured it from humanity.
Either way, many humans are now born without caste, while others find the remnants of that ancient ritual clinging to them, shaping them so that they are most skilled in certain areas. However, due to the confusion of the broken ritual and the aftermath of the Great Fire, the caste system no longer exists in society, only in magic and memory. A man designated as a laborer could conceivably become a noble, while a noble might work as an inventor and scholar.
Humans born without castes have the innate versatility and skills granted to them by Ishaman. They are capable of learning and doing anything that is required of them, and are far more swift to pick up new skills than those around them who possess castes. Casteless humans are now the majority, and they can be found in every part of civilization.
However, it is usually found that the casteless cannot master skills to the extent that those with a caste can. For this reason, some casteless envy those who do possess a caste, feeling displaced when they cannot attain the title of master smith merely because of the way they were born.
Castes take the human potential, gathering it up and narrowing it into one direction. The 'cast,' as they are colloquially known, sacrifice their versatility in exchange for mastery of a single aspect which corresponds to the caste they were once supposed to fall into.
The six castes include the warrior, messenger, laborer, scholar, magi, and nobility. Each caste is broader than its name implies, though their skills are narrow enough for those within them to realize that they are not nearly as versatile as the casteless. Some of the cast envy the casteless, who do not know the restraints of having such specific talents, and can master anything they might enjoy- while the cast struggle with anything outside of their limited skill set. Others, however, recognize their talents and focus on them, setting aside anything else as they strive to be the best at what was granted to them.
Warriors are not necessarily skilled at warfare, but generally blessed with extraordinary strength. They were used as miners and stone haulers as well men at arms. Messengers are nimble and quick, meant to work as spies, acrobats, messengers, guides, and assassins. Their ability for stealth and speed set them apart. Laborers are enduring and hard working, capable of pushing past the limits of other humans and toiling for hours and days on end. They mostly made up the farmers and general labor, and were least respected of the castes. Scholars are intelligent and clever, having vast ability for learning data and facts and putting them together in new ways. They hoarded knowledge and worked as teachers and inventors. Magi are wise and comprehending, understanding the world and the best ways to act. They served as advisers, magicians, and priests. Nobility are blessed most by Rahk, having utmost authority and the power of ra. They led armies, and ruled as nomarchs and pharaohs, and many still do.
* *** *
The kalehk are tied to the natural realm, and sometimes serve as spiritual advisers and leaders.
Sometime after the humans came into being, the three deities created the spirits to assist them. Spirits lingered on the fringe of society, not quite a part of it, but not apart from it either. Some of the tahkta, in particular, became fascinated by it, their interest growing as it civilization became more complex. Eventually, these tahkta integrated with society, walking among the people and working alongside them rather than distantly granting favors and protection.
As this merging become more obvious and accepted, the blessing that Rahk granted to civilization began to affect them. It worked within them, gathering and becoming more potent with each passing generation, until finally it became clear that they were possessed of a primitive form of ra. After deliberation, the three deities came to the agreement that they were worthy of truly possessing ka, ra, and potentially ish, and with the next generation, the kalehk were born.
Descendants of spirits, yet no longer spirits themselves, the kalehk are still outsiders in ways. The most human of them pass through society peacefully, though they have marked difficulty rising to positions of authority within the most urban areas. Among the various outland tribes- specifically the Badri- the kalehk find themselves more welcomed, and even respected and raised the positions of leaders and elders. However, for the kalehk dwelling in the cities, their difficulty in competing with humans can become frustrating.
There are sometime clashes between kalehk and humans, particularly if the humans in question are particularly elitist and speciesist, or the kalehk possess particular virulent feelings about the inequalities. Other kalehk have learned to stay quiet about the issue, while those further from civilization typically do not even care. So far, the kalehk have not mobilized in numbers in an attempt to gain equality, and because they do not reproduce as quickly as humans, nor are as numerous in the first place, it is unlikely that an uprising will occur any time soon.
What is more, the kalehk have difficulty even recognizing themselves as a single group. Many kalehk have pack instincts, and beyond that, three distinctly different types of kalehk exist, subdividing an already small group. The most well known kalehk are known as 'civil kalehk,' and appear mostly human, only differing in that they have animal heads and perhaps a few other small signs of their heritage. Kalah's Chosen, more commonly known as 'feral kalehk' (though some object to this title), vary wildly in form, possessing a greater animalistic heritage than the civil kalehk. Lastly, the spirit born do not resemble other kalehk at all, as they have elemental heritage as opposed to the animal heritage of other kalehk.
Civil kalehk are thought to be the most numerous of kalehk, and certainly are the most well known. They are often seen and mostly accepted within city life. In appearance, the civil kalehk are humans with animal heads, sometimes with the coloring of their skin changed, more or less hair than normal, or scales adding more hints to their heritage. Typically, civil kalehk have the heads of jackals and cats, though snakes, crocodiles, owls, cranes and other animals are not unknown.
Though their heritage shows only lightly in their appearance, the civil kalehk have found that their connection to spirits, in combination with their balanced ra and ka, have allowed them a mastery of supernatural arts. Civil kalehk possess a variety of unusual abilities that few outside their species can replicate. What is more, they possess the ability to communicate with animals, if only in a rudimentary fashion.
Sometimes, civil kalehk are viewed with envy by other kalehk, and are termed as 'weak blooded.' Other times, their abilities are seen with respect, or they are treated as distant cousins. As kalehk are few and far between, and the varying types of kalehk tend not to meet due to different lifestyles, kalehk only have stereotypical images of their brethren.
More often known as 'feral kalehk,' these kalehk are far more tied to their heritage than the civil kalehk are. While civil kalehk only display animal heads and a few cosmetic changes, Kalah's Chosen can possess a huge variety of differences. They may have wings, claws, poisonous stings, fins, gills, and even more vestiges of their tahkta origins- though none of them possess aspects from more than one animal. Crocodiles, snakes, and cranes are the most common animals for the kalehk to emulate, though they are capable of having ties to jackals and cats like the civil kalehk, and any other beasts common to Abdos.
However, though they are capable of body, Kalah's Chosen do not show the same aptitude with supernatural arts as the civil kalehk do. They can speak with animals, but this is more a byproduct of their animalistic natures. It is theorized that the increased tie to their spiritual heritage has somewhat diluted the tie between their ra and ka- and while this does not disadvantage them in other areas, it prevents them from utilizing that connection as capably as civil kalehk do.
Feral kalehk are regarded as savage brutes by other kalehk, and society in general, and unfortunately for reasons that have at least some basis in fact. They rarely fit in to anything other than packs of other feral kalehk, though a number of Kalah's Chosen show more wisdom and capability to interact with civilization than their fellows. Again, however, the stereotypes tend to be all people know of the feral kalehk.
In contrast to civil and feral kalehk, spirit born do not have ties to animals, but to elements. Thus, they are often not recognized as kalehk at all, especially since they are the most rare form of kalehk. Spirit born take the shape of unusual looking humanoids, made of the element their ancestors sprang from. Some spirit born move in strangely fluid ways, almost appearing to be made of liquid, while others appear to have veins of metal in clay-like flesh. As they can also manifest a number of supernatural powers in relation to their element, spirit born are quite often mistaken for lesser spirits. Each spirit born has slight control over the elements, though mostly their powers are born of body, much like feral kalehk.
As they are so rare and different, spirit born are marked as strangers, greeted either with awe or suspicion by those who know little of them (which is the majority of the population). Powerful spirit born attempt to take advantage of this by proclaiming themselves as true spirits who demand worship; other spirit born simply attempt to live their lives as normally as they can, often isolated from other beings.
* *** *
The undead are driven by the potency of their ra, which allows them to extend their lives.
The undead have existed for a long time- ever since the first humans were granted the power of ra. It was found that those who were most blessed in terms of ra could extend their lifespans, using the mastery of ra to overcome the limitations of ka. In essence, this power stems from the fact that ra is the eternal component of the soul which grants mastery over all things, which is connected to the ka granted by Kalah. Under the appropriate circumstances, one possessed of powerful ra can master their ka, keeping the connection to it intact even when ka begins to falter, thus allowing a being to continue on in a body that should be dead.
However, this method does not mean they are truly dead; the ra sustains the ka, even though the life flow of ka has been exhausted. With time and practice, undead can even use the innate and eternal power of ra to rejuvenate their ka, preventing their flesh from rotting away and withering, though they cannot fully restore themselves to life. Still, the most vain undead are difficult to even distinguish from a normal human.
The undead condition drastically changes the mind and body. The hold of the caste system snaps, the versatility of humanity is withdrawn and replaced with a more strong willed and focused outlook. For the kalehk, their spiritual connections to life break, and the blessings of their animal heritage recede as their life energy is depleted. The undead are their own kind, and only a few vestiges of their former heritage remain.
Typically, only humans are capable of becoming undead. Kalehk have too predominate of life force and ka, and rarely can master the connection between ra and ka required to obtain the undead condition. Those kalehk who do attempt and manage to become undead are almost always civil kalehk- Kalah's chosen and the spirit born have a weakened tie to their ra, which prevents all but the most talented from becoming undead. The rareness of non-human undead is increased by the fact that the most common undead- the hatya- are only created from the ra and souls of former nomarchs and pharaohs. As no kalehk have achieved those titles, the ranks of the hatya remain entirely human.
Still, even human undead are rare. The mastery it takes to overcome ka is not often found, and the hatya are highly limited in number. A few have returned as undead by the blessing of Rahk, typically granted by one of his demonic spirits, but such occasions are few and far between. Combined with the fact that the undead are just as vulnerable as other beings to death (if not by aging and toxins), and that it is considered socially and morally unacceptable to linger as undead for too long (as this subverts the natural cycle of life, death, and rebirth), the population of undead is kept at lower numbers.
Created by nomarchs and pharaohs, the hatya were once nomarchs and pharaohs themselves. By the blessing of Rahk, the nomarchs can summon the souls of their predecessors from the underworld to serve as their advisers and councilors. Each nomarch is fated to return as a hatya, unless they earn Rahk's displeasure, or are disgraced in some way. Being a hatya is a duty- for as they had authority in life, it is their fate to serve those who have authority once they pass on. Still, many hatya relish their return, using their new chance at life to throw themselves into the politics of Abdos once more.
Not all hatya serve directly as advisers. Each nomarch can create thirty advisers, and the pharaoh himself can create ninety. A nomarch rarely needs thirty advisers, and so hatya can have certain duties delegated to them. Many nomarchs who do not actually reside in their nomes, for example, delegate the overseeing of their nome to one of their hatya (typically a less favored one, who will leap at the chance to get away, and will not be missed by the nomarch). Other hatya serve as representatives of their nomarch, permanently residing in important areas, while others serve as teachers and scholars for certain subjects that the nomarch is interested in. A few hatya have either escaped all their duties, or have had no specific tasks placed upon them, and thus are free to live as they wish.
It is important to note that only nine hundred and ninety hatya can exist at one time. As already stated, nomarchs can create thirty hatya, and pharaohs can create ninety- however, the ability is not tied to the nomarch as a person, but to the nomarch title. As such, nomarchs and pharaohs inherit hatya with their title, and cannot create thirty brand new hatya. This rule makes things difficult for hatya sometimes, as new nobles may not wish to associate with colleagues of their predecessors. On rare occasions, nobility will attempt to eliminate any hatya who were loyal to the previous nomarch or pharaoh. In these situations, hatya will often attempt to flee and rebel, removing themselves and thus denying the nomarch guidance and the ability to create a new hatya.
Often, someone dies, leaving tasks and goals unfinished, revenge not taken and children uncared for. Most often, they must learn to let go of this as they enter the afterlife, but sometimes they are granted a second chance at completing these tasks. A number of more powerful demons in the service of Rahk are allowed to revive the dead for this purpose, giving them a divine blessing and the goal they much achieve. Typically, they are righting some wrong that occurred- or will occur- from their death, specifically relating to the domain of Rahk. For example, a strong noble usurped by an undeserving weakling might be returned as an undead in order to depose their usurper and clear the way for a stronger ruler.
These undead are known as the Returned, and are held in awe by those who know who they are. Their power is sanctioned by Rahk, and given to them to carry out a divine task- thus, people rightly see them as agents of the divine. Typically, once they've carried out their task, Rahk returns them to the underworld, but a few are granted extra time, though rarely more than the span of a second lifetime.
Sometimes the Returned rebel, and refuse to complete their assigned task. Typically this ends with the blessing given to them being revoked, but a few learn to maintain the undead condition without the blessing. This is generally regarded as heresy, so these rebels may find themselves plagued by demons and heroes attempting to set things right.
Unlike the hatya and the Returned, the Willed are not created by outward forces, but instead create themselves. With rituals, concentration, and natural talent, a being may focus the power of their ra and take control of their ka without outside intercession. Such willpower is extraordinary, however, and is rarely found outside of the most potent and desperate individuals. What is more, the Willed are often regarded with unease, as they're seen to subvert the natural cycle- they're encouraged not to use their abilities to linger too long.
Because the Willed never experience a truth death- unlike the hatya or Returned, they typically manage to keep much many more vestiges of their prior species. Humans continue to have a spark of their versatility, and kalehk keep a few vestiges of their heritage- but the nature of undeath still marks them, changing their nature in ways; and often the Willed are strange to begin with, which pushes them towards the desire to become undead.
Most who attempt to become Willed fail, and waste their lives attempting to achieve a goal that they do not have the power to reach. These people are seen with pity and revulsion- those who succeed are quietly regarded with fear and are seen as heretics for their self-removal from the cycle of life and death.
Most of the world goes unknown to Abdos, as they are caught between mountains, magical boundaries, and stretches of sea. However, their nation is vast in its own right, and is subdivided into many pieces. First and foremost, the nation of Abdos is divided into three subsections- High Realm, Mid Realm, and Low Realm. High realm constitutes the section between the spirit boundary and the Upper River, while Low Realm is formed by the border between the lower river and the eastern mountains. Between these two is Mid Realm, where most people now live.
Abdos is a widely barren land, the wind drying as it passes over the mountains. Sands cover it much of Abdos, forming vast deserts- however, along the Upper and Lower rivers a great deal of fertile soil can be found, so major civilizations congregate in these areas. The northern most parts of High Realm, specifically along the spirit boundary, also hold fertile and forested jungles, adding a bit of diversity to the desolate landscape. Within the eastern section of mid realm, a more gentle area can be found, rolling hills with long grass, and of course, along the west and east coasts the giant mountains form, their cold and snowy peaks far different from the dry sands below.
While Kalah holds sway over the earth and all of Abdos, each of these realms is tied to one of the deities in some way. High realm is most fertile and is possessed by Kalah, mid realm is where Ishaman's power is most concentrated, and the low realm was once the wealthy and powerful domain of Rahk where the pharaohs ruled from. However, since the great fire, Low Realm has become much less desirable, and fewer live there.
Cities and settlements tend to congregate around the rivers and mountains, where trade and water supplies are more certain. However, areas along the more fertile north and the southern coast are also inhabited, and the outland tribes can often be found drawing life from the deepest parts of the desert land. What is more, at least a few settlements are assured to be dotted across the land, for each of the three realms are divided into ten nomes, which are ruled by the nomarchs. Without people in their nome, the nomarchs would have little power, and so in each part of the nation there are people attempting to wrest some resource or benefit from the land.
The nomarchs, however are sometimes given rule over nomes that are extremely far from the capital city of Koptkos, or find their nomes otherwise unsuitable to live in or actually rule. The practice of ignoring a territory and possessing the power of nomarch only in title is somewhat accepted, though attempting to take hold of a territory and convert it into something more useful can be met with greater approval, while ignoring a more useful territory is frowned on. Nomarchs in charge of territories traditionally ignored are often accorded less power.
Due to the great fire, a number of ruins scatter the land, many likely uninvestigated. Some of these ruins, however, have been taken advantage of. The great city of Koptkos is built on the ruins of an ancient city once ravaged by the fires, for example.
Map of Abdos:
Click for larger image.
* *** *
The mountains near the spirit boundary are home to many secrets.
A fertile land which most expresses the life and elements of Kalah, the High Realm is also home to the spirit boundary, which cuts all the way across the continent from the western mountains to the eastern. The closer one gets to the spirit boundary, the more fertile the land becomes, but fear of the more violent spirits, as well as the displeasure of more civilized spirits who wish to keep to themselves beyond the spirit boundary, keep most relatively far from its borders, working with slightly less fertile land in exchange for greater safety.
High Realm also contains the majority of the Upper River, and a number of significant settlements and cities are strewn across it, the most notable of which is Badarit, named after the Badri tribe whose descendants settled it. Badarit benefits from the fertile soil near the river delta, and also has some control of trade along the Upper River, but most importantly, Badarit is the home of the Divine Adoratrice; the temple at Badarit, therefore, is the center of all worship directed to Kalah, and contains the great libraries, as well as a large number of spirit binders. Badarit has become a representative of the best of what High Realm has to offer- fertile lands, trade, and the blessings of Kalah.
The outland tribes collectively known as the Badri also roam in the High Realm, within the western areas where the land is most fertile, yet close enough to the spirit boundary and far enough from the rivers to dissuade the creation of settlements. The Badri are nomadic animal herders, focusing on the worship of Kalah as they raise their sheep, staying apart from the main of civilization.
Generally speaking, High Realm contains the most natural growth in terms of vegetation and life. The west, especially along the mountains, contain forests and jungles, as well as hills and plains.
The spirit boundary is a strange, faded translucent curtain of red magic formed by the spirits to disconnect themselves from the citizens of Abdos before the great fire. Attempting to cross the boundary results in a sensation not unlike trying to bring two opposing magnets together, which gradually increases until it is impossible to progress further. Not all spirits fled beyond the boundary, but enough left to where the sudden return of the spirits across the boundary has become notable. It is known that there are now gaps or methods that can be used to pass the boundary, but the specifics are not widely known.
Those who have studied the spirit boundary (mostly spirit binders from the temple of Kalah) are aware that it is made with magic that only the most powerful of spirits can replicate. Their attempts to understand or manipulate it have largely failed, and study of it was discarded until more recent times, when it began failing and showing gaps and weaknesses.
With the failing of the spirit boundary, rumors of evil monsters and magics have begun to spread, though the learned dismiss these. It is most likely that they stem from encounters with violent or misunderstood spirits, combined with superstition and general lack of understanding of spirits (as they have only so recently returned). However, the rumors persist most insistently among those who trade with the Badri tribes, and the Badri themselves.
Badarit is a wealthy city, well protected and nicely situated at the split of the upper river, where it can take advantage of all the settlements below and above it. It is a more recently created city, not founded on the ruins of an old city like many others are. Still, its growth has been rapid- trade with the badri tribes and interactions with newly returned spirits, as well as the trade it gains from the river, have allowed it expand faster than any other area.
Besides trade, Badarit benefits from the presence of the Divine Adoratrice and the chief temple of Kalah. Many pilgrims make a journey to Badarit to seek blessings from Kalah, or to see the wonders of her greatest temple- and others to make their way to the Divine Adoratrice that she may bestow her wisdom on them. What is more, the temple serves as a center for those who practice spirit magic. Its relative proximity to the spirit boundary, and its position in Kalah's land, as well as the substantial library within the temple make it a prime location to learn of spirit magic as well as practice it. Those interested in spirit magic almost always find themselves traveling to Badarit at some point.
Farming is the primary trade of Badarit. The fertile lands surrounding it, as well as the blessings of Kalah and her temple, allow bountiful harvests unmatched by any other city. The farmers near Badarit are highly respected, and often recieve the attentions and blessings of the Divine Adoratrice.
The city makes up its own nome, and the nomarch who rules it has a great deal of prestige and pomp. However, it also comes with a number of responsibilities and ties that other nomarchs do not have to deal with- due to the presence of Kalah's temple, the nomarch in charge of Badarit must pay increased respects to Kalah and her temple, and must always keep in mind the will of temple. This either leads to nomarchs that are loyal to the Divine Adoratrice, or frequent clashes between temple and nomarch, which typically ends poorly for the nomarch, due to the high standing of the temple.
Typically a number of nomarchs in charge of High Realm nomes congregate in Badarit, leaving trusted assistants to rule more closely over their specific territories. Living in Badarit allows them easy access to Koptkos, which is down river, while allowing them to be relatively close to their territories. Those in charge of more western nomes are less frequently seen in Badarit, though those in charge of nomes in the far west, close to the spirit boundaries, or areas that the Badri frequent, often ignore their territories and reside in Badarit.
The Badri are the most well known of the three outland tribes, mostly because of the frequency with which they trade with Badarit, and because Badarit contains so many descendents of the Badri. Servants of Kalah, the Badri are well versed in old tales involving the spirits, particularly the tahkta. The kalehk are common among them, and interactions with spirits come with such frequency that many learn the arts of spirit magic among the Badri. The proximity to the spirit boundary have made such things more known to the Badri, and even children of the Badri may possess knowledge of spirits unknown in other areas.
A nomadic people, the Badri possess little that cannot be instantly packed away and easily brought with them. They herd small, sturdy goats and sheep and live in areas that they have prepared centuries before, or reside in tents. Typically the Badri migrate in the west according to various traditions and situations- though many of the Badri travel to Badarit for the harvest season to share in the celebrations and rituals that are performed by the Divine Adoratrice.
It is said that the Badri are the oldest tribe, and certainly they possess a great deal of knowledge. The High Realm was least affected by the Great Fire, and as the Badri have always resided in High Realm, they were least affected by the Great Fire. They know of history that has been lost in other areas, and their wise men and women keep scrolls and oral traditions that pass down this knowledge to prevent it from being lost.
* *** *
The domas amat make their home in the Place of Truth, within Mid Realm.
As one goes further south in Abdos, they will find themselves in Mid Realm. Though still under the rule and sway of Kalah, Mid Realm is most representative of Ishaman, as it is the area between High and Low realm. Before the Great Fire, Mid Realm was mostly populated by traders and travelers, and its greatest claim was the Place of Truth, the tomb of pharaohs and nomarchs kept by the domas amat. However, when the fire devastated Low Realm, it destroyed much of that land's potential, and many of the survivors migrated to Mid Realm.
Koptkos, a city along the Upper River, is now the capital city from which the pharaoh rules. Koptkos is relatively close to the fertile lands of High Realm, has swift access to most major settlements, and can keep in contact with Badarit and the Divine Adoratrice, making it an ideal capital city. Routes have also been established between Koptkos and the Place of Truth, so that place of importance is connected to it as well.
Mid Realm is the most stable of Abdos- while it does not have the same fertility as High Realm, it also does not have to deal with the spirit boundary, nor the difficulties the surging waters that the northernmost Upper River present. In contrast to Low Realm, it has enough to support itself, and is less of a ruinous landscape- yet it still has access to the Lower River when needed.
The rolling hills of eastern Mid Realm represent it best- containing life, yet without extraordinary bursts of it. It yields reliable harvests, but is not capable of producing an abundance. The mountains are good for mining, and the desert is not entirely barren, containing many forms of life in its alternately sandy and rocky terrain.
Almost undeniably the place of most importance in Mid Realm, Koptkos is the capital city of Abdos, and the throne from which the pharaoh rules. It is a sprawling city built on the ruins of a metropolis settled before the great fire, and because of this possesses many wonders and much art that cannot be seen elsewhere in Abdos. It is a center of trade and politics, and its libraries and places of learning compete even with those of Badarit's temple of Kalah.
Koptkos, like Badarit, is its own nome with a nomarch appointed to it, though they are much more subservient to the pharaoh's will due to their proximity. Furthermore, it also attracts those nomarchs who do not lay full claim to their land. Many nomarchs who preside over Mid and Low Realm come to make their homes in Koptkos. This cements its status as the most political city, and as a side effect, it means that Koptkos has the densest population of hatya of any other area. The presence of the pharaoh and many nomarchs insures that almost three hundred hatya reside in Koptkos at one time. Their knowledge fills the libraries and draws scholars and philosophers.
Koptkos has a large portion of its layout devoted to shrines and temples, particularly those devoted to Rahk and Kalah. The former because Koptkos is a center of undead and rulers, and the latter because none can deny the sway of Kalah in the living realm- no matter how many aspects of other gods present themselves in certain places. While those two gods are most focused on, however, Ishaman is presented as well, as well as smaller shrines for hundreds of different spirits.
Wealth primarily comes to Koptkos through heavy trade and taxes. The latter is again a reminder of how important Koptkos is politically. Nomarchs and the pharaoh take taxes from all over Abdos to funnel it into Koptkos's economy, and the city shows it. Nowhere is more wealthy than Koptkos.
Rahk's blessing hangs over the city, and because of it, all things are ordered and know their place, but even the lowliest peasant of Koptkos is more commanding and wise in leadership because of Rahk's influence. Those who truly belong to Koptkos show it in their actions, and gain respect for it (though not all that live there are so tied to the place).
While not as large as Koptkos or Badarit, the city of Tentakh, located where the Upper River begins to end, still garners a good deal of trade and attention. Though Koptkos is the capital of Abdos, some refer to Tentakh as the capital of Mid Realm, for it is most representative of what Mid Realm is- stable, but transitory, the midway point between the other two realms.
Tentakh not only lies at the end of the Upper River, but at the midway point between Koptkos and the Place of Truth. It began as a small way point where travelers could pause and rest, and exchange their boats for camels or horses that would take them to the Place of Truth, but slowly grew because of the number of traveling visitors it receives.
Tentakh, therefore, is most known for its animals- specifically horses and camels. They are said to breed the fastest and strongest, and anyone possessing a true Tentakh steed has the best money can buy.
Lastly, Tentakh is a ceremonial pausing point for the pharaoh's funeral procession. When a pharaoh dies, they are taken from Koptkos to the Place of Truth. Tentakh is seen as a sort of transition, where the pharaoh's spirit becomes less attached to the body.
Place of Truth
A tomb, a place of worship, and a place of learning- the Place of Truth is where the domas amat reside. While Koptkos is the capital, and Tentakh is representative of Mid Realm, the Place of Truth is the lasting heart of the land. It is devoted to Ishaman, and has existed for time past remembering, guarded over as a place of respect to Ishaman, Rahk, and the deceased pharaohs and nomarchs. This location is a vast and ancient tomb at a valley at the foot of a mountain, located purposefully at the border between Mid Realm and Low Realm.
The Place of Truth is the center for all learning in soul magic, much like Badarit is the center for spirit magic. It is there that they keep records of the dead their interactions with them, and the domas amat travel to Rahk's underworld almost daily. Those who learn soul magic, almost without exception, come from the domas amat in the Place of Truth. Any among the domas amat are taught in the Place of Truth, if only for a few years.
It is not surprising that the Place of Truth is surrounded by a settlement of a substantial size. Once it was a city, and the size and architecture indicates such, but there are not enough people to populate it. Because of that, it can support and tend to visiting royalty, and is an impressive site, if not the most populous one. It gains a good deal of its income through tourism and tithes in respect to the dead, thus it is a solemn and yet active place, garnering respect and awe.
To the west of the Place of Truth, just above the Lower River, are the tribes collectively known as the Naqa, one of the three outland tribes. Like the Badri, the Naqa are nomadic, but their migrations are carefully planned, more about tradition and rites than moving about needfully. The Naqa have series of caves and tunneled dwellings which they travel between, using the stars to guide them through the days ahead.
Not all of the Naqa follow these rites, however. Some are more mobile, like their Badri cousins, and travel about freely with tents and livestock. These are the Naqa that most know of- traveling like gypsies, using their talents with divination to earn their keep. Divination is a talent among the Naqa- they are followers of Ishaman, and keep their eyes on the night skies, and so they are familiar with the stars and the portents they tell. Astrology is not the only art they practice, of course- also common are fire gazing and prophecy.
Other than those gypsies who trade and use their magic for their living, the Naqa tend to be hunters who also have a good eye for herbs and plants. They raise horses and also suppliment their supplies with herded livestock, though there is less emphasis on livestock than with the Badri. Above all, the Naqa are hunter-gatherers with a good knowledge of the land they travel, and so they use that knowledge to survive.
* *** *
Low Realm is filled with old and forgotten ruins.
Low Realm was once more lively, thriving along ports and within a more fertile area like that could be found in High Realm, but over three hundred years ago, it was consumed with the power of the Great Fire. The fire swept across the land without regard for what it consumed, leaving the Low Realm a desolate wasteland. Few now live here, and those that do work hard and gain little.
Most of those that do live in the Low Realm either live along the southern parts of the Lower River, or along the east and southern most coast, where the stubborn, rocky land is most fertile, though even that land pales in comparison to what can be found in Mid Realm, let alone High Realm. It is easiest for those in Low Realm to survive by a combination of farming as much as possible, and emphasizing fishing along the rivers and coast. Livestock is less often seen in Low Realm, though the Gezri tribes are known for the cattle that they keep.
Typically those who come to Low Realm do not come for long term, but venture here in search of the treasures left behind by those who died in the Great Fire. Ruins scatter the landscape of the land, many undiscovered and waiting to be pilfered. Many find it now fitting that a realm filled with the dead and their remains is the area that Rahk is most attuned to, though this speculation is only voiced by those who are arrogant, blunt, or lacking in piety, for it is said Rahk still angers over the dead land that once was the home of kings.
For, as Low Realm was once tied to Rahk, it was also tied to nobility- the nomarchs and pharaohs. The city now known as Ateb's Fall was the capital of all Abdos, and the nobility ruled here from the glittering coasts and wide views off the Lower River. Now only dust and ruins remain, as well as glittering treasures for those who dare venture out to find them.
Once known as Askha, Ateb's Fall was the capital city that Ateb ruled from before the Great Fire destroyed Low Realm, and ended his life. Once a celebration of the greatest that all Abdos had to offer, Ateb's Fall is now a sprawling ruin covered by sand and dust. While many have picked over it, there are places still waiting to be discovered, having been long forgotten in the depths of the city's workings, buried far beneath the scoured desert.
Superstition, along with a healthy respect accorded to the place by the domas amat, keep Ateb's Fall abandoned. It is believed that to build there will inevitably bring a collapse, and living there will bring premature death. While it is unknown if a curse resides there, a few confirmed rumors float about that the place is possessed by the restless dead, ghosts and unearthly spirits haunting it- tied there through the torment and massive death that once swept across it.
Some speak of rebuilding there, discarding the superstitions and amassing the power of the domas amat to put the wandering spirits to rest, but so far these have only been words. None have actually dared to come in force and attempt to resettle. At least for now, Ateb's Fall remains the home of the dead, and a site visited only by a few brave explorers and looters.
In the eastern section of Low Realm, slightly west of the coast and south of the Place of Truth, dwell the Gezri tribes. The Gezri, the third of the outland tribes, are a sedentary people who raise cattle and work on more primitive farms and gardens. Difficult life in the Low Realm have given the Gezri a certain stubbornness and determination, and those who meet the Gezri marvel at their drive, and the hard work they constantly expect of themselves. Where so many others have failed, the Gezri have wrenched an existence from the ground, claiming the arid plains of Low Realm as their own.
The Gezri profit from trade, enticing others with the metals from their mines, and scavenged relics from the ruins that abound in the place they've chosen to live. However, the Gezri are respectful of the ruins, and have many small rites and rules for when they go to remove artifacts, many of which are handed down by the domas amat, who they most frequently trade with. The Place of Truth is relatively nearby to the Gezri, and so trade has been established between the Gezri and the domas amat. Because of this, the Gezri tribe knows a little of soul magic, though it is often mixed in with a number of strange superstitions and skills passed down by their mystics.
Because of the domas amat, and their ventures into the ruins, the Gezri are knowledgeable about Rahk, the underworld, and undead, so they practice their own forms of magic and respect. Yet the witchcraft of the Gezri is little known, and so what powers they have in this area go mostly unnoticed and remain localized. However, these things have intrigued a few of the domas amat, who study and live among the Gezri from time to time.
* *** *
Outside of Abdos
Few go far from the coast of Abdos.
There are places outside of Abdos that could be traveled to- over the mountains, off the southern coast, and now, beyond the gaps in the spirit boundary- but since the Great Fire, people have simply been trying to rebuild their own. It is known that there are islands off the southern coast, but most are uninhabited and full of hostile animals, while traversing the mountains and building ships on the other side would require much work that a reviving civilization does not possess.
The spirit boundary, on the other hand, has only been down for fifteen years now, and still only a few know how to get past it. Knowing it is breaking is one thing- getting beyond it is another. Still, from ancient texts and maps, as well as well traveled and talkative spirits, much is theorized and vaguely known about what lies beyond the boundary. This direction is the one folk most desire to travel in, but as of yet is the most difficult one to progress in.
For now, Abdos is enough, and the people are content to live their lives in their own land. But perhaps soon, now that life is reaching a climax once more, they will turn their eyes to what lies beyond their borders.
Abdos has a great deal of cultural and societal growth, and thus contains a number of proud institutions and organizations that trace their history back generations- many even from before the great fire. There are temples and cults to different gods and spirits, many tribes and magical practices.
The most powerful and notable organizations are those based around the most powerful gods, spirits, and people. The deities bless those that worship them, and religion draws many people's interest. For this reason, the Temple of Kalah is the foremost among all organizations, and was the first of them to be created. However, there are many other organizations that need to be noted and respected within Abdos.
* *** *
Cult of the Red
The Cult of the Red is known for their unrestrained use of fire.
The Cult of the Red is a relatively new organization, but one that has gained notice and infamy all the same. Very little is known about it, but what is known has captured the attention of the entire nation. The Cult of the Red is made up rebellious undead- specifically the hatya. Having turned against their duties, the Cult of the Red wages a guerrilla war against society, implementing fire as their chief weapon. Their obsession with fire has led people to believe they are devoted to Ishaman in some way, though no confirmation of this fact has emerged.
Despite their low numbers, the Cult has already garnered a fearsome reputation, and the power they wield is such that many suspect they have outcastes and other users of true magic on their side- for how else could they achieve the things they do? They have raided towns and villages and burnt sacred sites down to the ground, overcoming many armed soldiers with very few forces at all- it is believed to only contain rebellious undead, after all, and there are few enough undead, much fewer those with reason and power enough to rebel.
The Cult seems mostly focused in mid realm, though there are no known headquarters or locations they are based in. The majority of their attacks have occurred there, however, and have slowly progressed towards the more inhabited cities. Only time will tell what they do next.
* *** *
The demon hunters are a fearsome group allied with the underworld.
The demon hunters are enforcers of the will of Rahk- more specifically the will of his demons. The name of the organization is misleading, however, for demon hunters do not hunt demons, but rather hunt for demons, searching out those who have committed crimes against Rahk and the underworld. Soul magi who have abused their power, rebellious undead, corrupt nobles- all of these are targets of the demon hunters. This organization formed approximately 150 PF, created with the blessing of Rahk, and under the watchful eye of a number of Wertep.
Among the demon hunters are some of the most feared and renowned experts of war and combat that have ever been known. To be accepted into the ranks of the demon hunters implies that one is a powerful combatant. Still, the demon hunters are wise, and employ all kinds of people- spirit binders and soul magi having an integral part in the hierarchy, as they have contact with demons and the dead, who can easily report any wrong doing that has occurred. They also have a fairly well kept spy network.
Yet, the most important thing about the demon hunters is their alliance with the demons. Many demon hunters employ forms of spirit binding specifically customized to best work with demons, meaning that they can draw on the power of the underworld. Even those unable to use magic are sometimes assisted by demons intent on dealing with heretics and targets of the demon hunters. To be a mark of the demon hunters is to be marked by the underworld.
The demon hunters are an independent organization based in Koptkos, but often work closely with the nomarchs and pharaohs, who fund them. Sometimes, the demon hunters will even act as guards and mercenaries for certain nobility. They maintain that they do so in order to help maintain order and the will of Rahk, but some whisper that the demon hunters are really too closely tied to the nobility- bribed to overlook certain corrupt dealings or to help them gain authority they normally wouldn't have.
* *** *
A necromancer of the domas amat.
The domas amat are the necromancers, keepers of the tombs and the Place of Truth where the urns of the powerful pharaohs are kept. They are the undisputed masters of soul magic, capable of communicating with the underworld and all those who have passed on. They keep records of all the dead, and perform the ceremonial cremations, and have done so past remembering, only preceded by the Temple of Kalah.
As the masters of soul magic, the domas amat are primarily worshipers of Ishaman. They learn of the asceb, Ishaman's rituals, and revere the symbol of fire with which they perform the cremations. Many of the domas amat are also skilled in astrology, and worship the twin spirits, Atnos and Tawera. There are two small cults within the domas amat devoted to these two spirits- the cult of Atnos is charged with the protection of the tombs and the domas amat. The cult of Tawera serves as the librarians, keeping all the knowledge of the domas amat.
There are places where the domas amat can be found across Abdos, chiefly located in the major cities. However, most of the domas amat live in the Place of Truth, gathering there to share knowledge and duties. The Place of Truth has always been associated with the domas amat, and when people need their assistance, that is usually they location they go to.
* *** *
Eye of the Moon
One of Tawera's servants communicates with the souls of ancestors.
The Eye of the Moon is an organization devoted to the study and practice of divination and a number of other rare supernatural arts, specifically astrology and oracular occurrences in visions, prophecies, and dreams. They name themselves in reference Tawera, the moon spirit, and offer her regular sacrifices and worship. However, worship of Tawera is not their main focus.
More than anyone else, the Eye of the Moon has learned about the arts of divination. They have members constantly seeking out new methods among the outland tribes and studying and experimenting with what they already know. But what they are most known for is not their study, but their practice of divination. Their oracles and diviners are sought out by hundreds of people seeking to learn of their fate and future, of the will of the deities and spirits, and of things they cannot find out without resort to more supernatural powers.
Chief among the diviners of the Eye of the Moon is the Speaker for the Stars. She resides east of Tentakh, in the mountains. Each Speaker for the Stars is a master of several kinds of divination, but most often has the power of oracular prophecy, combined with the understanding of astrology. The Speaker for the Stars is rarely wrong in her prophecies, and some debate if she is ever wrong at all.
The Eye of the Moon has no formal building or location, though they often meet in Tentakh and at the home of the Speaker for the Stars. Still, a member of the organization can be found almost anywhere in Abdos.
* *** *
Temple of Kalah
The temple of Kalah is the oldest and most revered organization.
The Temple of Kalah is the most renowned and powerful organization in Abdos. It contains thousands of priests and hundreds of temples spread across the entire nation, and it possesses power rivaled only by the nobility. Almost every citizen goes at least occasionally to Kalah's temple to make sacrifices and to offer up worship and prayers to the goddess and ask boons of her and her servants. Farming families tend to visit regularly, at least once every week.
There is no one thing that the Temple of Kalah is deemed best at, if worship of Kalah is discounted. Their grand libraries are unmatched by any others, their knowledge of spirit binding is phenomenal, their work in the community and harvest is nothing less than dedicated, and they have hundreds of wandering priests seeking out new learning and problems within the world.
Priests in Kalah's temple are not aloof and sedentary, but instead travelers and workers. Every priest of Kalah goes on many pilgrimages in their lifetime, and the harvest season is a practiced ritual of aiding the community in harvesting and preparing food for the seasons ahead. A worshiper of Kalah who cannot use their hands is like a musician incapable of making music. As such, almost every devotee of Kalah is schooled in humility and self sufficiency.
In spite of their humility, or perhaps because of it, the Temple of Kalah has great authority. They act as impartial judges, coordinators of the community, and voices for the people. In particular, the head of the temple (the Divine Adoratrice of Kalah) is capable of negotiating with and questioning the Pharaoh himself without being questioned; for Kalah is life, and while one still lives, Kalah (and thus those that speak for her) still has authority over them.
While temples to Kalah, or at least small shrines, can be found in every city and village, the first and foremost temple is found in Badarit, where the Divine Adoratrice can be found.
The intention of separating mechanics from campaign setting is so that it can be adapted to any system one might desire to use it with. However, my personal intention is to use the Triad setting with Dungeons and Dragons 3.5, with a number of notable modifications. These modifications are listed below, and any DM is free to use them should they desire, or ignore them if they wish to use other rules.
Some classes simply do not work with the triad campaign setting, as they offend the innate rules of the setting- namely low magic, vagueness of alignment. These classes become banned; however, banned classes can be exempted from their status if variants are used to remove and replace objectionable mechanics.
-All standard divine and arcane casting classes. This includes casting classes that do not have full progression, such as Paladin, Ranger, Bard, and Duskblade, as well as full progression classes like Beguilers, Clerics, Dread Necromancers, Sorcerers, Wizards, and Wu Jen.
-Heavily alignment based classes. This includes classes with abilities and fluff heavily focused around alignment, such as Blackguard, Crusader, Paladin, and Soulborn.
Classes with an alignment requirement that has no mechanical bearing on their featurres, such as Barbarian, have their requirement removed, and can change alignment freely without issue.
The Incarnate class is exempted from this rule, as it has been given alternate features (See below).
-Magic item based classes. This does not mean classes based on faux magic items (such as Incarnum or Soulknife), but instead ones heavily based on true magic items that require XP to create such as Artificer and Kensai.
-Other banned classes: Monk, Samurai (from Complete Warrior), psionic classes that use the power mechanic, and Monk.
Magic Related Classes
The setting's three types of magic are related to the following classes:
Spirit Magic: Factotum, Binder, and potentially Dragon Shaman.
The theme of spirit magic is limited calling of various effects. Factotum achieves this through limited casting, which simulates the method of binding a spirit through truenaming, while the Binder represents the method of calling spirits to oneself.
All spirit magic classes have Knowledge (nature) as a class skill.
Soul Magic: Incarnum based classes.
The theme of Soul Magic is the ability to draw weapons, armor, and items from nothing.
All soul magic classes have Knowledge (astrology) and Knowledge (underworld) as class skills.
True Magic: Warlock, Swordsage, and potentially Dragonfire Adept.
The theme of True Magic is flashy, instant abilities which can be used at will and without much limitation.
Note that these lists are not set in stone (though the True Magic set is more inflexible), and other classes could be used to replicate the various forms of magic- or classes already in the lists could be tweaked and used in other ways.
Classes referred as 'potential' classes could be used, but are less desirable in terms of flavor and mechanics for the theme attempting to be presented. Work is required to use them well for their places.
Lose aura, Detect Opposition, Incarnum Radiance, and Share Incarnum radiance. (True Incarnation does not grant alignment subtype)
Gain 1 free incarnum feat per 3 levels, and at first level (All feats in MoI count as incarnum feats for this feature).
4+int skill points per level.
Lose deceive item, imbue item, and fiendish resilience.
Gain: Increased Invocation progression. Warlocks have a number of invocations equal to their class level.
Eldritch blast deals 1d6 damage +1d6 damage each odd level thereafter.
At fourth level and each four levels thereafter, they may take a reserve feat, or the extra invocation feat.
You may invest into Incarnum feats as you would invest into a soulmeld. Disregard the limitations of "once per day" and "once the amount of essentia invested is chosen, it cannot be altered and remains invested for 24 hours."
However, Incarnum feats no longer grant one bonus essentia per feat selected.
The follow Incarnum feats can no longer be selected: Azure Toughness, Healing Soul, Incarnum Resistance, and Soulsight.
Item Creation Feats
Item Creation Feats no longer exist.
Reserve feats are now available to anyone.
The requirements of Reserve feats are replaced with level requirements. The level requirement correlates to what level a wizard would need to be to cast the appropriate level spell. For example, reserve feats requiring the ability to cast first level spells are available at level one. Second level spells requirements are replaced by a requirement of third level. Third level spells are replaced by 5th level, and so on.
Reserve feats no longer grant bonuses to caster levels.
For the purposes of a reserve feat, a character is considered to have the an appropriate spell prepared, of a level equal to one third their HD. Reserve feats have no minimum 'spell level' required to create an effect. Their casting stat (and the one used for reserve feat saving throws) is their highest mental ability score.
Note: Reserve feats, while mechanically available to anyone, best represent the abilities of True Magic, or the innate magical talents of Civil Kalehk. There are very few other uses for them which would be appropriate.
Benefit: You add two additional essentia to your essentia pool.
Special: You can take this feat more than once, gaining an additional two essentia each time.
Benefit: You learn one additional invocation from your invocation list of a grade equal to or lower than the highest grade of invocation you know. Alternately, you may choose an invocation from any invocation list of a grade up to one lower than the highest grade of invocation you know.
Special: You can gain this feat multiple times. Each time, you gain one extra invocation in the same manner as described above.
Face of Ra
Prerequisite: Sustained subtype, 15 Charisma
Benefit: You gain the ability to change your appearance at will, as if using the disguise self spell, but only while in youor normal form. This affects your body, but not your possessions. It is not an illusory effect, but a minor physical alteration of the your appearance within the limits described for the spell. This is a supernatural ability that takes a full-round action.
Font of Inspiration
Prerequisites: Must have Inspiration as a class feature.
Benefits: When you take this feat, you gain 2 extra inspiration points.
Special: You can take this feat multiple times. Each time, you gain 2 extra inspiration points. However, you may not gain more than double your base inspiration point total with this feat.
Power of the Cast
Prerequisites: Must be a Cast Human
Benefit: You gain +2 to the ability score related to your caste.
Power of the Casteless
Prerequisites: Must be a Casteless Human
Benefit: As a full-round action, you may add temporary skill ranks equal to one fourth your maximum ranks (rounded down) to any skill. These ranks stack with your current ranks, but you may not exceed your maximum skill ranks in this way. You may only add these temporary ranks to one skill at a time.
As written, however, all creatures without a constitution score who take meldshaper levels gain this feat for free, and need not meet the prerequisites.
Kalah, the tahkta, spirit magic, ka, animals, weather, and plants
Rahk, undead, ra, soul magic, the dead, burial ceremonies
Rituals, prophecy, charms, divination, superstitions, legends and myth
The following languages are used in Abdos:
Badri tribe, and some traders in High Realm. Sometimes spoken by spirits.
High and Mid Realm cities and settlements. Naqa tribe.
Gezri tribe, and others in Low Realm.
Asceb, worshipers of Ishaman, necromancers, prophets.
Merchants, traders, and others along the Lower River.
Tahkta, spirit binders.
The dead, undead, necromancers, nobility, ancient texts.
Low Realm Coastline. Spirits associated with water.
Each character begins play with Common and one other free language. This replaces the usual rules.
Despite their fluff difference, Cast and Casteless humans have no innate mechanical difference, though which they are can determine what bonus feat they have access to (see Feats above). This is in part because the caste magic is breaking down, and in part because nothing really determines the full potential of a Cast or Casteless human, which of the two they are really just determines what they are more inclined towards or capable of- it is the inherent talent that is determined, not their training. Therefore, Cast humans will likely be more focused and potent in one area, and Casteless humans will likely be more skilled in many... but exceptions are indeed possible.
The undead presented as basic player races in Triad are not the kind of creatures most people picture when they think of undead. Though they have moved beyond their allotted time span, they are extending their lives in an unusual way- rather than simply forcing shambling bodies on with magic, they exert their spiritual force, ra, over their physical force, ka. While similar, the effect is distinct in that their life has not fully departed. In many ways they are indeed dead, but they only remain because their life is not completely gone. Hence the distinction between the basic player races (Hatya, Willed, and Returned), and the Lifeless spirits (who exist purely as ra, their ka having been restored to Kalah).
As such, a new subtype is introduced in Triad. Sustained Subtype
This subtype applies only to undead. Undead with the Sustained subtype have the following differences from other undead:
-Sustained undead have a constitution score.
-Sustained undead are affected by mind-influencing effects.
-Sustained undead are not immune to critical hits, nonlethal damage, stunning, ability damage and drain, death effects, and energy drain.
-Sustained undead are subject to fortitude saves that would affect creatures, and are subject to any other effects that can target living creatures.
-Sustained undead are affected by positive and negative energy effects as if they were alive, though they take only half damage from negative energy.
-Sustained undead are not affected by Turning and Rebuking.
-Sustained undead with at least 13 Charisma have the supernatural ability to increase or decrease their apparent age, and even rot away most of their flesh to create a skeletal form. This process is slow, however, and takes place over the course of one hour, though they may begin the process at any time as a free action, and do not need to concentrate on it.
Medium: As Medium creatures, hatya have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
Hatya base land speed is 30 feet.
Ancient Lore: A hatya may make a special bardic knowledge check with a bonus equal to their HD + Intelligence modifier to see whether they know some relevant information about local notable people, legendary items, or noteworthy places with significant historical background or weight. Ancient Lore reveals no information on recent subjects. (If the hatya has 5 or more ranks in Knowledge (history), they gain a +2 bonus on this check.)
+2 racial bonus on Diplomacy and Sense Motive checks.
By meditating for ten minutes, a hatya may receive the benefits of an augury.
+2 Wisdom, -2 Constitution
Medium: As Medium creatures, willed have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
Willed base land speed is 30 feet.
Willed automatically gain the Face of Ra feat, but must meet the prerequisites to utilize it.
Wealth and Magic Items
Magic items are just not something this setting, or its mechanics, are set up well for.
There are no spellcasters who can create items, and those objects of power that DO exist are closer to artifacts- legendary and rare, and not something that every character will have if they are to be effective. The idea is that magical items are special in Triad, not something to be relied on.
However, unfortunate as it may be in some respects, most characters in D&D will find items nearly essential to perform as expected. Therefore, I suggest this fix:
A character now has "virtual" wealth. They may spend this wealth when they level up, or during acceptable moments of downtime, plot relevant moments, or other times as determined by the DM. When a character levels up, they gain virtual wealth equal to the amount on the recommended wealth by level table for their level, subtracted by the amount of virtual wealth they've already spent. Unspent virtual wealth does not carry over to the next level, however (thereby assuring that you will always have an appropriate amount of wealth for your level).
You may use virtual wealth to improve upon 'items' you already have, following the normal rules for upgrading (example, upgrading a +3 cloak of resistance to a +5 cloak of resistance).
Virtual wealth may be spent to acquire all approved magical items as "Virtual Items" with the following additions and exceptions-
1) Virtual items need not follow body slot limitations, and therefore you may benefit from multiple cloaks, boots, or other such items at the same time.
2) Virtual items do not manifest as physical objects, and therefore they cannot be targeted by sunder attempts, or be stolen by grapple attempts or in any other manner.
3) If paid for with a +10% extra cost in virtual wealth, virtual items are not magical. They may not be dispelled or suppressed by antimagic type effects.
4) Players may not purchase Virtual Items with a finite number of charges (items that recharge each day are acceptable).
5) You may purchase weapon enhancements, by the normal pricing, and these enhancements will apply to any weapon you wield. If you purchase two separate sets of weapon enhancements (as if purchasing two weapons), you may switch between the sets as a swift action. You may also choose to apply the different sets to different weapons that you hold.
For example, a player may decide to purchase a +3 Flaming set of enhancements for 32,000 virtual gold. He may then apply these enhancements to any weapon he wields, or even multiple weapons at once. He may later choose to upgrade the set to +4 Flaming for 18,000 gold, just as if he were upgrading a normal weapon. However, he might also choose to by a separate set, such as +1 Ghost Touch, which would cost 8,000. He could not apply +1 Ghost Touch and +3 Flaming to the same weapon, though he could switch between the two as a swift action, or apply +1 Ghost Touch to a scimitar in his right hand, and a dagger in his left hand.
Weapon enhancements purchased this way apply to natural weapons and unarmed strikes.
6) You may purchase armor enhancements by the normal pricing, which work similarly to weapon enhancements. You may purchase armor enhancements as normal, and switch between different sets of armor enhancements as a swift action. In addition, you may also purchase sets of shield enhancements and benefit from them at the same time (and way) as armor enhancements.
You may benefit from armor enhancements while not wearing armor, and are treated as having a base armor class of 0 for determining total armor bonus. Further, you may also benefit from shield enhancements while not using a shield- however, if you do this, you must keep one hand free to defend yourself with, as if you were wielding one. You may not use two handed weapons, or hold items in both hands. A hand used to create somatic components (or similar effects) does not count as a free hand for that round.
Magical effects and powers obtained in this way should be explainable as extensions of the character's skills and powers as developed in their backstory and through the game session. One character might describe their Cloak of Resistance as being the protection of the spirits they've befriended, while another might simply say their character is hardier due to intense training.
Alignment does not exist. If something a character needs or wants has some sort of alignment basis, swap it out for a variant ability, find another way to get rid of it, or ask the DM for a replacement or recommendations.
-Devoted spirit maneuvers.
-Azure Toughness, Healing Soul, Incarnum Resistance, and Soulsight (not so much for brokenness as incompatibility with the system and some edits.)
Outside of dangerous or strenuous encounters, characters regain one tenth of their total HP per minute.
Casters only need to spend one hour resting to prepare new spells, melds, or relevant powers. Binders may spend one hour resting to end their current pact and make way for a new one.
There is no XP penalty for multiclassing.
Q: Three elements? Why isn't fire an element?
Because that's overdone. Furthermore, using it as a symbol for Ishaman and magic helps enforce the idea of them being dangerous and powerful- but to do that, it needs to not be an element, as elements are the property of Kalah, while magic is the property of Ishaman.
Plus, it has always just seemed out of place among the other elements. It is a chemical reaction, while the others are much closer to physical states- so I emphasized the idea of solid, liquid, and gas as elements, while removing fire to be a divine symbol.
Q: Why remove alignments?
The alignment system really makes things too black and white. It doesn't necessarily have to be that way, but you work against it not to do it that way- and it automatically makes some acts evil and some not. It gives a set sort of morality, which isn't necessarily even clearly defined (which makes having a set morality even more difficult).
Triad is meant to be less morally, ethically, and philosophically clear. There are many different views and ideas that one can take about different acts, and no one can really claim to no what is right or not- thus, the alignment system needed to be removed.
Q: No traditional casting? What?
It promotes the more unusual systems in an attempt to bring a different and more unique view of magic to the fore, as well as having the benefit of cutting down on some of the most unbalanced parts of the game. Plus, the reliance on spellbooks and spells per day has always annoyed me. I'm trying to move most classes away from reliance on 'per day' abilities. Heroes shouldn't have to pause every few minutes to rest to regain their power- they should be able to keep going on and beyond the points most people can.
So the idea is to revive magic with new ideas and move away from the annoying daily limitations.
Q: Why is monk banned?
Because I dislike that class and think it is poorly made mechanically (also, it has many key abilities limited 'per day,' which I emphasized before I wanted to work around).
Q: Also, did you put monk on the banned list twice on purpose?
Q: Why aren't there mechanics for the different spirits?
Despite them being original monsters, I have no intention of making set mechanics for them. Part of what I perceive as the difficulty of D&D is the lack of purely DM knowledge. For Players to know everything sometimes makes it difficult to build suspense and keep mystery- so the monsters aren't given stats.
Most of the monsters presented, however, have more or less clear connections to standard D&D monsters, so one can merely use their stats for new creatures.
Credits and Thanks
Thanks to Krimm Blackleaf for assistance and an example to follow for organization and needed topics.
Thanks to Fax Celestis and SweetRein for variousrules and homebrew that I utilized (either wholesale or in inspiration).
Thanks to Dirk Kris, Jacklu, Neon Knight, and Sophistemon for encouragement and constant interest.
And of course, thanks to Rich Burlew, for both this site and the numerous articles on world creation (and that very handy diplomacy variant).
Also, practitioners of true magic are quite rare. I don't have specific numbers, but most people aren't going to know someone who uses it, except through rumors.
Spirit binding is much more common, with soul magic being a little less common. Most people will probably know of at least one spirit binder- more if they live in Badarit or somewhere with a prominent temple to Kalah.
Very nice stuff! I can't wait to read through it all.
Originally Posted by Vael
Plus, it has always just seemed out of place among the other elements. It is a chemical reaction, while the others are much closer to physical states- so I emphasized the idea of solid, liquid, and gas as elements, while removing fire to be a divine symbol.
Except fire is plasma, which is a gas that has a proportion of its particles ionized. It has properties distinct from all three other states of matter, though, so it is counted as a fourth state. Not bagging on your choice to exclude fire from the list of elements, but it is a physical state of matter.
Very nice stuff! I can't wait to read through it all.
Except fire is plasma, which is a gas that has a proportion of its particles ionized. It has properties distinct from all three other states of matter, though, so it is counted as a fourth state. Not bagging on your choice to exclude fire from the list of elements, but it is a physical state of matter.
Fire on its own is not actually plasma, unless it reaches a sufficiently high temperature, in which case the gases that the fire reaction creates (Usually CO2 and water) may become plasma. Fire itself is just a rapid chemical reaction.
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Except fire is plasma, which is a gas that has a proportion of its particles ionized. It has properties distinct from all three other states of matter, though, so it is counted as a fourth state. Not bagging on your choice to exclude fire from the list of elements, but it is a physical state of matter.
Last I checked, fire is not plasma. Fire is a distinct phenomena composed of a number of different things- now, if fire produces hot enough gases, it may produce plasma. But fire is not plasma in and of itself.
Although, wind itself is just a movement of air particles, not a state of matter. And both earth and water are solids and liquids, respectively, but they're not the only solids and liquids. You just applied the element to the state of matter that seemed to fit. No reason fire can't be applied to plasma. Like you said, burn hot enough and it does produce plasma anyway, so there's no reason the classical element cannot be applied to the state of matter.
Of course, this discussion is pointless anyway since you won't and shouldn't make any changes based on it. I'm just being silly, making elements line up with states of matter.
I've completed the work on the Racial mechanics I wanted to do (namely editing the Undead a bit), but I'm still working on Backgrounds. I'd like to come up with quite a few more- suggestions would be very welcome.