“Meikridas Steamships, are they not marvels?” The hand of a flamboyant man outstretches towards his wondrous sea craft. While he somewhat resembles a vistani in a few regards, he is clearly not of their ways. The sailor man smiles with the genuineness of an eager salesman, “come friends! The warm shores of Alleigosto are a mere boat ride away. I offer you leisure and hospitality unlike what is seen here in fair Dementlieu.” The pitch continues, as the showman distributes pamphlets detailing incredible works of art and technology, a history spanning empires of old and “magnificent” relations with nearby nations. While the man’s vessel is spotless and a marvel of engineering, the owner of this enterprise comes across as insincere and just as full of steam as the ship. “We board now, don’t miss the opportunity of a lifetime!” It is at this moment that you can swear the man’s eyes bulge unnaturally, even for a second. And at that, unblinking. Such a voyage would indeed bring wonders, but also new terrors to behold. What visions of the future does this “cog cluster” bring?
Author’s Note: I’m always good for more Ravenloft. Cursed robots, a zombie apocalypse, manipulative shadows, killers on foggy streets, the successor to the Atlantean Neur-Maise, the refuse of industry, fanatic technophobes, the distant (and not so distant) looming shadows of totalitarianism, utopian idealism crushed by said dark tidings, Deep Ones and more haunt a new cluster. Here is a new pocket domain, as well as a new cluster to house old domains (like how Fell Arts houses Farelle and Odiare). Major props to ScS of Fraternity of Shadows for inspiration on Nosos and other advanced domains. And with that, here’s my take on a Steampunk-ified cluster much like the proposal from Quoth the Raven issue 2, with The Shining Bay cluster. But, unlike that mixture of just Paridon, Timor and Nosos; this adds in several Islands of Terror I devised many years ago… some more recent than others. One is a plague-ridden urban sprawl taking notes from the 19th century United Kingdom, Prussian Empire and Northeastern Coastal U.S. (especially from the fiction of Lovecraft and King). Another is a mix of drama, Luddites, robotic horror and more in a Mediterranean based land. It is next to decaying Greek-inspired splendor spliced with The Shadow over Innsmouth. And finally, a somewhat Balkans inspired fake utopia. Plus, as an added bonus, an homage to the classic Thief games. And with that, enjoy one of the longer posts I’ve made. And should anyone be curious, I have no interest in anything Wizards of the Coast. I don’t want their new book, as I don’t care for the Post-4E/Shadowfell take on things..
Broken Cog Cluster
Cultural Level. Renaissance (9) through Industrial (10). Considerably a revolution for the lands of the mists, the Industrial level takes the Renaissance to a level never before seen. Widespread production is available, resources are used at quick rates to allow for readily available goods, transportation and trade vastly expand, medicine experiences untold boons and discoveries and so much more. While Lamordia, Mordent, Dementlieu and other domains have brought massive upheavals in science, technology and other innovations; their influence has been smaller than they could be. This looks at the next step, true industry unlike what the Core is ready for. So far, Zherisian Grandglen/New Grandglen is the only example of this upheaval. Alleigosto somehow clings to aspects of Medieval (7) through Renaissance (9) societies in some parts.
The land itself is something of a peninsula like outcropping, with several splintered lands that make it resemble a broken cogwheel, with much of the land beyond lost to the mists. The land formation stretches from a flat coastal land leading to the peninsula, beginning from the northwestern part of the region and sprawling outward into the oceanic center. A few small islands dot the area around the peninsula. For this reason, the cluster has its name. New Rockbaecche can be found a cove-like inlet on the northeastern extension of the peninsula, acting as a well protected central capital. Down a river channel, followed by fissures of earth, one can find both Paridon and Timor. The former has found itself inhibited by cut off roads and less water channels. But, new advances have alleviated some of this stress. Meanwhile, Timor is revealed to be in shambles, with none wiser as to why. From the unearthed ground, one can claim to see horrible things dwelling deep within. Alleigosto, likewise Ichthyos, is well detached from the plot of land, residing on the parts of the northwestern mainland not shrouded by The Mists. The eastern coast takes the most buffeting from chilling winds and cooler coastal currents. Had this trend not exist, the lands would be more tropical, akin to the western portions of Alleigosto and into the neighbor of Ichthyos. Ironically, this has provided both cover and isolation away from its neighbors, as well as its rival of Rockbaecche.
The true irony of these lands is despite how far they have come in terms of creation and society, they are very much as backwards and ignorant as those they claim to be better than. The domains have more in common with feuding and cautious city-states of antiquity than modernized nations. While each respective territory claims that they are the head of a broken land, this often amounts to the narcissism of ruling elites. Palaces of God-Kings are aped by exclusive guilds turned corporation entities, the dark fear of the sorcerer has turned to those who practice old faith, the toiling slave burdens are placed upon the common man, revolution parrots the outcries of easily suppressed peasant revolts. Likewise, the often corrupt politics and social beliefs vary from aberrant to the greater core to astonishing to absolutely oblivious. A theme in these parts is that no matter how hard people try to advance, looming collapse and discarded ways always linger… And worse, nothing truly changes in the end. Prejudice shall cast foul gazes upon others, superstition will evolve into new forms, institutions of power will always divide and alienate, decadence will always drive a land downwards and civilization will always operate on the ebb and flow cycles of time.
A Quick Technological Examination of Broken Cog
In which, we explore wondrous works of artifice that help bring glory to these lands.
The so-called Broken Cog Cluster is named for the fact that the peninsula slightly resembles a shattered cogwheel. It’s no wonder that it holds the miracles of new creation. Transportation has observed a major leap forward. The most obvious and abundant projects are the train caravans, massive metal carts rolling upon stretching chrome tracks that twist and turn around the eastern part of the realm. Once enough legal matters are cleared in Alleigosto, the caravan tracks will expand into Ichthyos and possibly beyond. Queen Maev of Paridon was the chief investor of another wonder, the great dirigible. These airships are tethered to wagon-like carts with steam-engines attached and propellers to push them forward. While the idea of balloon based travel has been accomplished, the incorporation of advanced machinery has further refined travel in this way. Plus, the Paridon Royal Security Company has flourished through new ways of surveilance. In fact, Phyresha has bought much of the technology for their own use. While the Steamship of Meikridas is impressive, the Noson Motorized Engine Boat may some day be the next step in the market. Far smaller and faster, plans have been made to revolutionize the fishing industry along the Ichthyos Coast. Travel isn’t the only means of the steps into the future. Communication has become simpler, thanks to the Auditory Boxes, Font Spellers and Record Tappers that have all recently been made public. Respectively, these provide new ways to deliver news, write papers and send auditory messages along a distance. Even the fronts of war don’t stand a chance against the visionaries and geniuses of the land! Incredible firearms like the rotator gun display continuous chambers for less pause in your gunfight. Likewise, the pneumo-tube gun is a new take, allowing for energy blasts over traditional bullets. Such pneumatic technology has had purpose in transporting goods as well. In fact, pneumo-caravans have been proposed to run rails below the water and into territories that way as well. And, not just for cooking, herbal gas promises to provide much shock and terror on the battlefield. Enemies beware, the power of Grandglen shall not be defeated! Should that not be enough, stupendous Thinking Machines allow new mathematics to outsmart foes, even mimic the ways of man. But, what of domestic life? Fair reader, you too will find comfort in paradise. Temperature regulatory modules allow one to adjust their home to ‘just right’ with the simple use of a few knobs. The use of steam power alters internal temperature in less than 1 hour’s time. Mechanical upholstery allows one to modify a seat in real time, even allowing for a comfortable couch to instantly become a guest bed in minutes. Plus, lightning lamps allow both home and street to be well illuminated during the night. All of this is made possible through the breathtaking methods of industrialization, the endless whirring gears of factories and assembly halls, built for the common citizen. Through these houses of creation, our imaginations will forever continue to rise towards the stars and beyond. Let this serve as the springboard to a greater pool of knowledge that you shall all learn from. Shall we begin?
-From the introduction to a lecture on Grandglennish technology by Professor Mortimer Blankwell, a professor in Phyresha’s University.
Darklord: Lord Sodo. A Dread Doppelganger, he was a killer living off the thrill of the act. However, his methods clashed with the doppelganger elders that skulked around the city. By slaying them and disguising themselves as them, his terror continued until his lies eventually caught up with him. After even going after the youth of his doppelganger legions, The Mists reigned him in. Now, his form is forever unstable and his victims never stay dead. He has become a mere tall tale or nightmare, rather than a credible threat. For a thrill killer, this is pure torture.
This was the name of Paridon’s true home, prior to the treason of Ol’ Flickerflame that would take the city into a land of torment. The Zherisia Cluster would be forever changed in the year 759 BC, in which strange energies caused the mixture of Paridon and Timor to grow. Life was already a challenge 15 years prior, when the original Timor city vanished and the tunnels below merged with Paridon’s. The farmland surrounding Paridon returned, but with the strange twist of its inhabitants looking no older than when that region first vanished. Likewise, this was also the first time in nearly 2 decades they had seen their former city. Stranger too, lands beyond the city eventually came into view. Another city was less than a day’s travel, New Timor. The city was besieged in open chaos between shapeshifters and underground horrors that eat fear, much of it in ruin. The farmers in between both borders shudder in fear at the ruins lying to their west, well aware that it’s a dueling grounds for evil. The canals and channels between the cities revealed that monsters taking part in such violence had made their way in through the underground of Paridon. Some suspect that to be the origins of the legendary “Flickerflame”, a creature whose form flickers like fire, who is well known to the city. Both the constabulary and city council have done their best to seek out any perpetrators of the violence and silence them quickly. While the city is confident of warding off the awful neighbors, outsiders tend to not agree. And worse, their confidence is for nothing, as both Dread Doppelgangers and the Marikith have been causing panic within the city since at least 744 BC. All that has changed is a new False History. This False History also revealed that Zherisia was also conquered in recent times, as a part of the Grandglennish state. As these neighboring territories held little animosity towards other lands, drama has rarely escalated. But, it’s clear that the new Capital faces Nosos’ pollution the least.
A bustling city on its own for some time, its relevance has begun to shift in favor of being a cosmopolitan and cultural hub for the cluster. Following the return of Zherisia’s extended land, its own government became stretched thin trying to oversee the expanded land. And following cries for help from a revealed city of Timor, this overextended issue grew worse. For that reason, most of the political power was handed over to Grandglen in peace, rather than fighting against a far more prepared and organized force. But, this reinvention has greatly aided Paridon in seeking a new identity. The unveiling of the “rotator pistol” has garnered much attention, in recent years. This firearm is said to have multiple chambers, for ease of continuous fire power. That is to say, except for its detractors. Alleigosto rebels encourage citizens to overthrow this modernity, while strange killers have once again emerge to sneak along hidden alleys and dark streets. Other incredible steam works have granted acclaim to the city, beyond investments in the steamships hailing from across the Ichthyos Sea. Train caravans have become the greatest innovation to slowly grace other regions of the cluster, large connected carts capable of shuttling both goods and passengers at heightened speeds.
Prior to the invasion by Grandglenn, Paridon was an incredible seat of power. Old rule through the crown found itself shifted away through constant reform and revolt. While many fled and met their ultimate ends in Timor, the rest adapted and paid attentions to a changing market. Even so, the royal families still remained cultural icons of great importance. Or, it was. Paridon royalty is not recognized by Grandglen, despite being revered in Zherisian culture. As such, the Zherisians don’t respect the Regent Commander or his culture at all, preferring to honor the iconography of Queen Maev instead. In fact, the Festival of Confection and Honey is held yearly in her honor. None of this completely bothers New Rockbaecche’s central government. What mattered more to their royal families, and later the regent, was a new trend emerging within their claimed territory. A new age of merchant lords emerged, as progress was fully capitalized. A glorious new age of the market consumer and the corporation was emerging. To the new overlords, only a fool would miss out on that.
Everyday society tends to suffer accordingly, with the common man often found in dirty and poorly handled workplaces just to scrape a meager existence. A culture of impoverished citizens working into ruin has helped accelerate other creations, such as the “Steam-Caravan” or “Train Caravan”. And because of these dreadful conditions, the very air quality of the city is diluted. Factory smog mixes with the moisture in the air, creating a poisonous fog that always seems to linger all around. Only recently have citizens been advised to cover their mouths if spending much time on the streets. But even then, only the wealthy have been informed of this. None the less, much life still exists on the cobblestone walkways that line the city. During the day, casual strolls are often held to give off the illusion of a content and living space well used. However, alienation and misery are commonplace for a fake culture that assumes all comply with unequal and heavily moralistic standards. Even with the shift away from the crown, old traditions and values only doubled down. Expectations of the average citizen are less enforced by rulers, but have become social expectation of an overbearing society. Possibly worse than being arrested on crime is becoming an absolute pariah. In the case of these outcasts and loners, law is more than willing to overlook crimes against societal rejects. After countless years of the churches failing to fulfill the roles of an inept and uncaring state, countless civilians have fallen out with religion as a whole. A growing philosophy has attempted to replace this, hope within the progress of the world. This futuristic mindset is driven by advancement, violence as a tool of revolution, industry in the hands of the masses, power and speed along so much more. However, many fear where this movement will go. Given its roots with an extremist group of Alleigosto, some suspect foreign interference. Others figure that this could be the start of a new era, one where the steam-caravans always run on time.
As mentioned before, a new upheaval had not only joined Paridon to other lands, but it revealed a startling secret. The lands beyond the city still existed, the sprawling fields and plains were never destroyed. However, they looked to be preserved in a cold stasis during the 20 or so years they were gone. Populations that were split apart had promptly dealt with a jarring and striking age difference. Children matched the age of their parents and previously split couples had to contend with an aging partner. This news of the sudden return brought with them other tales. While Timor’s tunnels had become known to the city dwellers for a while, this horror was truly new to the countryside. Ill-prepared, farms and villages fell prey to doppelgangers and marikith for some time. In short notice, aid stepped in to protect and repel the horrors that were. This culminated in a massive fissure swallowing up a landmass, creating almost as much of a gaping maw as the Shadow Rift in the core. Beyond especially blighted areas, life went on in the more rural sectors of Zherisia. People planted and harvested, selling to larger settlements and cities. However, the townsfolk have become more skittish and superstitious in lieu of recent events. This has extended to other territories unrelated to Zherisia, especially the wastelands around Nosos.
A ruined city, with a depleted population, many of which are squatters in dire need of any shelter. This dilapidated mess is the very same site of the Timor Underground’s attacks between Doppelgangers and Marikiths. However, thanks to the land’s return, knowledge of both has washed the land, plunging it into an age of paranoid fear. Strangely, the dotted farmsteads, villages and roadways between Paridon and New Timor are all under the Zherisia domain umbrella. As such, this city has become a place of contemplate for Sodo. Plus, isolated targets prove to be better targets to sharpen his killing skills once again. Many criminals have taken to the city, partially rebuilding it, but mostly using it as a wretched hive of their own. As the Hive Tunnels have become less interested with the city, as have shapeshifters, residents fair far better than the other victims of the many horrors. This rundown and miserable place has become a threat all its own, with few in Paridon willing to do much about it yet.
Criminal gangs have made their stake here, many having fled from Paridon in response to escalating authority against street killers, shape changing monsters and other foes. Beyond dilapidated slums, several buildings have been cobbled from a mix of scrap, old building and new materials into mockeries of fine mansions and cathedrals. Countless gangs have formed and claimed bits of territory. The Scrapping Chaps in particular, who have taken over the industrial ward of the city, are a defacto power. Lesser gangs, like the Mad Hats, still maintain control in respective areas. (This would be the textile mill and nearby shopping square in the case of this gang.) It is here that these wicked new elites extort the downtrodden that are stuck here, in exchange for protection. Given how they’ve somehow warded off the threats of both Paridon and the Tunnels, it seems to be working. However, many suspect wicked and foul play at work. In truth, several of the mobs in New Timor aren’t human anymore. Practicing profane rituals taken from Rockbaecche, alongside sacrifices of both Marikith and Doppelganger, they have become something of vampires. However, they are both living and do not rely on blood. They drain supernatural power instead, which they convert into a kind of vitality energy. As the residents are none the wiser, they never question why their “superiors” always seem healthy in an otherwise unhealthy land. In the many times Sodo has fled to here, he has managed to constantly evade and outdo the augmented criminals, despite failing to kill them or disguise himself. Sodo’s increased use of modern ranged weapons, like the Rotator, has changed this though.
A false history has overridden whatever past Timor once had. Now it is just another piece of Zherisia, one that tried its best to splinter off as a rogue state. Centuries ago, this lead to a dreadful war that claimed countless lives and forced the failed revolutionary land back into the fold. Resentment still remained, with the noble houses often refusing to do anything with Paridon and other territories. Or at least, as much as possible. They were more interested in their roots with Alleigosto, trying to maintain a healthier relationship with them, despite being part of this new splinter territory. Another revolution sprung up 4 decades ago, in which Timor successfully broke off and became a powerful ally of their original father state of Alleigosto. This victory was short lived, as power was being wrestled between newly created corporate guild powers and the olden ways of aristocracy. To make matters worse, the queen died under mysterious illness after her daughter was spotted with a strange warlock. Both of them vanished soon after, as the land was tossed into mass panic and hysteria. The guilds did all they could to manage the social upheaval, as well as attacks by monsters. Zherisia intentionally waited for the city to be completely devastated before stepping in for limited aid. The meager sliver of the remaining population obliged to help of Paridon after being thoroughly defeated. However, there is an irony to this, as the Tunnels began to plague Paridon and other territories belonging to Zherisia for many years too. More recently, Grandglen stepped in to take hold of the lands, a much hated rival of Alleigosto. Before a plague broke out and brought ruin to the colonial capital, Timor was on the way to proper reconstruction and renewal. Now it waits in languishing urban decay, as its would-be savior is too occupied with other issues.
Abandoned farmsteads and ghost towns line the plot of torn apart land. Land gives way and sometimes sinks in, revealing tunnels made by dreadful things. While not part of the Hive Tunnels, it reveals where the traveling pocket may currently exist from the sinkholes created by it. These breaks in the ground have revealed something else extremely disturbing, mass graves of countless creatures. Not all of them are classic humanoids. Many are doppelgangers and marikith, bodies now displayed to those who would dare adventure here. At times, a glowing energy pulsates from the rifts of earth ripped open. During these moments, it’s possible to see corrupted earth creatures emerge to roam around the shredded landscape. Should you bypass them and the mass graves, it’s an easy way down into The Hives.
Hive Tunnels (Pocket Domain)
Darklord: Hive Queen. She was not Timor’s first darklord, as her mother was. Once part of Timor’s nobility, she scared her mother to death with the help of a mage she pretended to love. She took the form of a creature that feeds on fear, thanks to a mage. However, upon discovering that he was used and the love shown to him was fake, the mage cursed the princess with this form. She fled to the sewers, becoming the darklord and forever leading the evil marikiths. Since the underground domain of hers has loosened and become more malleable, the Hive Queen has gained momentum on not just expansion, but raw power. She has aspirations for expanding beyond Zherisia. While the pocket domain is currently capable of traveling channels and tunnels underneath that area, preparations have been made to leap into other territories on the peninsula. The more turbulent lands of Alleigosto and Rockbaecche have become desirable targets.
When lands shifted once more in 759 BC, Timor found itself merely overlapping with Paridon. However, its tendrils reached a wider range now. Sewers broke into caves and tunnels, which snake around the whole new cluster. Some even reach into Nosos. In the end, it was now a Pocket Domain that found itself anywhere in the underground reaches of the Broken Cog Cluster. The Marikith do not care that their realm now travels around, nor does their queen. In fact, the added element of surprise has only helped to improve their attacks. Worse yet, the Marikith have become less savage in their approach, slowly coming to understand the developing technologies around them. To what extent this means is unknown, but some traps and devices have been turned against others down below. As this splintering from Paridon occurred, nearby earth erupted in a destructive explosion. It was here that the Fissure formed. This cursed land is considered a part of the Tunnels. And the more the Fissure stretches, the more points of access that the Hive Queen can access. In a sense, the pocket domain is her vehicle, while the fissure acts as her roads. Ironically enough, one of the few places that the pocket rarely manifests below is the original city of Timor. Despite having brought ruin to it, a new part of her curse developed by granting mortals the power to stop her. While mostly thugs, criminals and brutes; these imbued people hate nothing more than not only the doppelgangers above, but all terrible things below. And worse for the brood in the tunnels, they are fully immune to whatever she can send at them. Despite a new added layer to False History, this hasn’t impeded or changed too much of this domain of Tunnels Below. Curiously though, some areas of the underground and the fissure can’t be touched by them. Among these are the Sewage Canals of Paridon. Likewise, the ruins of the real Timor originally sunk below where the current site is now. And by all means, they look far more damaged than the depressing city above.
Darklord. Malus Sceleris. A selfish and greedy merchant lord residing over an industrial empire, at least for a while. His origins are ironically quite humble. Within a far off outsider world, he was the son of two parents within a druidic society. However, he was left to deal with a cold father after his mother passed early in his life. His relationship was well strained with his father, who cared more of upholding druidic rites and protection of nature around his circle. Neglect turned to resentment and hatred, as he sought to take revenge against him. Thanks to obtaining poisons for the outpost for an advanced settlement, he procured a disease ridden poisonous fluid. His plan was to contaminate his bed lining while he was going about his business. Just before the night of his murder, Sceleris’ father realized how little attention he paid to his son. After finally spending time and showing care, Malus began to question whether or not to go through with it. Ultimately, his hatred won over giving his father another chance and he still killed with father with poison and illness. The Mists overtook him, as he found himself in a dirtier and more advanced version of the city that sealed his father’s fate. Given his newfound immunity to all pathogens and poisons, he fills himself up with all means of spreadable destruction. Even the act of shaking his hand is enough to fall victim to the disgusting concoctions within him. In fact, his body acts as the perfect containment chamber for these possible blights. However, he is cursed to hear the thoughts of all plants and animals. All of them chastise him for his ways and guilt him over his actions, causing him to send extermination teams to wipe out any natural life that springs up in the city. However, those willing to pay an exorbitant “Natural Tax” can devote one gold per square foot of land per month to some manner of flora or fauna. However, most life within these plots tends to wither and die from the rampant pollution anyway.
Nosos is the heart of Grandglennish industry, post takeover, with Malus as the mad mastermind in relative control. The primary export from this region is coal, as well as metals used in the foundations for steam and coal based “power generators”. However, their marvelous goods and impressive infrastructure is offset by the rampant garbage and poisons that pile around the city. While guilds and agencies were assembles to take care of the issue, most have either gone on continuous strike or have vanished, following consistently terrible treatment and protection. Likewise, any true law has fled from the lands, leaving guild masters, company owners and general wealthy as glorified “merchant princes” over the poor masses. Of all lands under control, this one is the least restricted. Thus, they continue to unload all means of pollution, uninhibited. However, the crimson blight plague has been blamed on Nosos, causing Rockbaecche citizens to take vigilante action against the city. This isn’t helped by the crimson blights that have emerged among the poorer areas of Nosos. Some blame the Crimson Blight on Nosos outright, but any action taken against the city is not endorsed by the Regent Commander or his political teams. One of the safest ways in and out is the commercial road known as The Iron Way, a direct route to and from Paridon. However, the terrible filth-ridden and parasitic creatures that haunt the city streets can also be found on this path from time to time, making it dangerous for Paridon traders looking for a deal in Nosos. Often, they are repulsed by the little art and culture found within the city, as it’s mostly people far overworked and living in truly inhumane conditions. But, given how the domain manufactures goods for much of the cluster, most know to shut their mouths and accept their products. However, one Paridon resident by the name of Dr. Herman K. Finsk has been outspoken of the “poisonous slavery” that fills the streets and how the elite are merely an “anthropomorphism of the garbage that harms the residents”. He has since become a target of outside assassins hailing from the capital of Rockbaecche. However, his activism has brought light to cruelty that puts other domains to shame. Among them is use of experimental weapons against unruly citizens. This was partially how the pneumo-tube gun was discovered by the masses.
Those foolish enough to go beyond the city are met with a disgusting wasteland and tainted coastline. It is a wicked place that showcases the true damage that runaway industry and relentless runoff can do to a land. The natural land is choked out in mutation and entropy. Practitioners of nature magic have emerged within the domain’s outskirts, in hopes of healing the damage caused by Sceleris and his ilk. Many, sensing a distinct futility in their efforts, have turned to terror-based methods of ecological retaliation. Natural priests, druids and mages have become to lay siege on not only heavily tainted areas, but also less guarded technical establishments. Those within the industrial power of Nosos refer to these bands as terrorists, many disgruntled legions (many of whom champion the same philosophies as the Darklord of Alleigosto) consider them to be saviors readied to turn back the damage on a dying land. All of this remains an extreme challenge, as warped and twisted lands and life actively combat all who dare to come to their fetid spaces. Awful beasts and abominations meander and plod along in miserable existence, often consuming anything fool-hearty enough to trespass. Even beyond the mutants, many outlanders who don’t take up the path of these “ecological warriors” become degenerate bandits and raiders, reveling in the apocalypse that Nosos has started. Sites in this wasteland include the “Scorched Woodlands”, a long stretch of smouldering blackness well east of the city. The husks of the trees better resemble charcoal than a living plant and any creatures look crippled and covered in burn scars. Those who dwell within here for prolonged periods of time develop hard coughing fits, as their lungs begin to fail them from the fiery smog that fills the “forest”. Closer to the sea, by the southwestern edges of the territory, sludge and ooze cover and paint the lands. Sickly colors emerge from the earth, some glowing with a deep malevolence. “The Incandescent Marsh” is a truly unnerving place, from the unnatural warmth in the ground to the sinking feeling caused by traversing the rampant muck. This is to say nothing of the gnarled and warped plant life and disgusting animals that suffer through these horrible places. The few villagers living on the outskirts of this region report vivid hallucinations of impossible colors. Many of these mad outlanders are blighted by a terrible condition that robs them of color before their physical forms fall apart. Despite the absolute devestation to these lands, their political claim by Nosos was far more recent. Prior to the control of Rockbaecche, according to false history, the blasted out hellscapes beyond Nosos belonged to Zherisia and Alleigosto before that.
Darklord: Duke Jerek Olbsodt. A leader for a time that no longer needs him. The Olbsodt House helped to turn a coastal land into a thriving land of trade and prosperity. However, the house remained heavily conservative and extremely methodical in their approach. By their decree, none were to break from the means that worked towards this success. As such, stagnation ran rampant across the lands and morale decreased as neighbors advanced. Eventually, outside merchants attempted to sell off innovations and works of artifice from their lands in hopes of spurring new movements within their land. Jerek, recently declared duke over the land, took great offense to those who would “spoil the culture of his land”. The contraband was confiscated and campaigns were meant to strike fear against foreigners. This didn’t deter the altruistic intentions of outsiders, as they saw Alleigosto as a land succumbing to close-minded tyranny. This didn’t deter Jerek, who turned towards using military force to keep influences away. The King over the greater region of Francheskio demanded that Duke Olbsodt cease this immediately or face intervention from the kingdom. Jerek, in panic, demanded that anyone partaking in deviation from cultural norms and technical prowess by “removed” immediately. This resulted in a terrible crimes against civilians and subsequent war against his own kingdom. Many thousands were put to the blade, as the kingdom failed to stop the corrupted regime in time. As forces did eventually tear through the ranks of the technologically inferior genocidal madman, Olbsodt panicked. War against the mad tyrant had begun. Nobles, alongside trained military, stormed the Villa of the Duke. As they got to his private chambers, the duke threatened them with an antique dagger slashing his throat. The deed was done, as he attempted suicide. The Mists intervened, as he found his coastal duchy overseeing a new and victorious enemy. Not only have outside cultures made their presence, they’ve built up incredible devices and creations that go against all things the Duke believes in. The history he knew was erased, but the shame continues to haunt him. This isn’t his only curse, his claims are constantly debunked by those outside of his influence and his actions are undone by the rampant marches of progress, locking him in an eternally losing war. But, he’ll always see himself as the start of a New Empire and an ever living one at that. For all of his curses, he is effectively immortal. Only antique weaponry belonging to his clan can kill him, all of which he stores in secretive and protected vaults. This does bring another minor curse. The scar caused by the gash upon his throat will never heal. He claims to have survived a deadly attack, but will always conceal the shameful truth. Whether in Villa Olbsodt at the edge of the city or one of his many rebel supported bases, the disgruntled duke still plans for his eventual revolution to succeed.
However, Alleigosto more than elsewhere, the technologies themselves have been vessels for much evil. Many of the incredible working and fighting machines have dark secrets to them. The Incredible Machine Men of Alleigosto are impressive in their own right, displaying a cunning intelligence. In truth, dark magic harnesses souls of workers and lowly citizens who couldn’t afford proper burial, due to space at a premium. Fell wizards and mad scientists grasp the essence into their living constructs, empowering them much like they were an organic creature. While they lack the mind of the host, these constructs have habits of developing quirks and personalities similar to their stolen essence. While they have been made of use within the domain, they prove far more popular for security and law enforcement for both Rockbaecche and Phyresha. An escaped Lamordian scientist made matters even more sinister in the year 751 BC, as he emerged on the shoreline of Alleigosto. Meeting with some of the crazed innovators, he had devised a means of powering these smart constructs with not only souls, but preserved brains. He, himself, has become the first test subject to do so. Thus, the first of the “Living Automatons” have been created. Far more humanoid in mannerism, look and expression; they come across as just uncanny enough for the citizens. However, an onset mania looms over the first of his kind, likely due to his own grim obsessions when he was an organic lifeform. Both Machine Men and Living Automatons are considered Dread Constructs of the Dark Powers. So far, the deep knowledge and secrets of this are both kept from the technophobic duke or his cronies. None the less, they are aghast at these still distorted looking mockeries of life. One innovation they did come across is an evil substance called death bullets. While more magical than technological, these are pieces of ammunition empowered by a strange necromantic curse. Upon being fired and connecting with a victim, the spell activates and sucks the very life force of the victim into the expended ammunition. Upon quick completion, the metal fragment glows an evil red. Most of these were recovered by their users, save for a few grabbed up by the duke’s trusted assistants. In this rare instance, House Obsodt did earn good standings by launching an investigation and subsequent stake out for any traces of this wicked contraband. He takes this small victory to heart. Ironically, this is far from a victory. The cause of the life draining bullets was a renegade member of the Virezaucci House, Julianna. Like her family, she is a practitioner in dark arts of necromancy. But, unlike them, she refused to fund further projects and took interest in the Luddi cause. Her goal was to make something that would expose the house for their involvement with evil innovations. This backfired, with the rest of her clan turning all focus on her. Following an investigation and arrest warrant on her, she has had to go into hiding and plots revenge on the duke for his accidental betrayal. This is very much the darklord’s curse working against him.
For a cluster so obsessed with progress, the darklord tried in futility to foil it. The land around him has embraced the revolution he has so fervently fought. This land, in particular, has excelled in the powers of the machine. These incredible machines exist for the working world, but have since been expanded for other pursuits. The Clockwork Knight is the latest creation to grace the courts of accepting nobility, all except House Olbsodt. While he cares little for the common people, he creates facades of rallying the workers so they won’t be replaced by mechanical equivalents. One of the outside tribal nations to get sucked into his war on the Prime Material lives on the outskirts of his land, but remains a valid ally. The “Liberators of Luddi” of the Stalwart Seekers people are a faction that has joined alongside disgruntled workers, they seek to sabotage and destroy many of these machines through covert tactics and guerilla war based terrorism. The faction’s current name was inspired by worker movements against Nosos’ factories. Playing his cards, he has somehow evaded too much suspicion, but it’s clear that his views align with theirs even with his attempts to “dissociate” from their violent actions. Though, many claim to have seen him in the likes of “The Angry Arm”. Said tavern is infamous for its patronage being angered and abused workers who openly complain about their dehumanizing jobs. A priestess by the name of “Naliea” from the Stalwart Seekers helps to bless them under the cloaks of concealing shadows. However, her god has turned fickle and demands that those who make these contraptions be captured and sacrificed. Likewise, Olbsodt’s forces have been known to deliver subversive messages to denizens of the other territories. The downtrodden and disenfranchised are favorite targets of his propaganda, many of whom have taken up rebellion either at the politics of the land or against the advancements of the greater society. His messages range from solidarity of the oppressed to reactionary hate manifesto. All of these are carried out through proxies and agents that assume larger than life personas. As of now, he feels confidence that some “real change” will be made against his enemies. Since this is a change and not just clinging to his methods of the past, he hasn’t failed in his plans yet… As far as he knows. But, what he doesn’t know is that his attempts to bottle the knowledge within the land have failed spectacularly. Alleigoston Thinking Machines have already broken free of their nation. One has been found in Vechor, coming in direct conflict with Esan… who wants to study them through de-assembly. Another carries dark secrets of weaponized toxins from Nosos. It happened to land in Dementlieu, falling under sway of the Living Brain.
This domain takes up much of the coastal space on the northern and western reaches of the domain. Unlike the rest of the domain, it holds a subtropical temperate climate with warm winds carried from some unknown zone beyond the mists. False history details that these northern shores ran in his family for generations. However, they weren’t properly fortified against a possible naval attack. Contracting mages and druids, the extended land was to be made as a military base. Over time, decommissioned lands were used to help create Paridon, acting as a central hub for Alleigoston commerce. But, schism broke Zherisia and the mainland apart. When Grandglen invaded, the two powers were unable to reconcile and were crushed accordingly. Ultimately, Olbsodt’s forces managed to repel the invaders, but failed to liberate their offspring state. Zherisian’s splinter culture, alongside the new ideas of Grandglen, ultimately inspired Olbsodt’s lands, much to his disdain and horror. Once again, he has readied any downtrodden and disgruntled forces to strike back against the unbeatable tides of time. As far as he is concerned, he can make the public seek the importance of tradition in the face of overgrowing modernity. However, his brash and brutish nature alone is off-putting save to his devoted followers. To the public eye, the flow of new ideas has been only a plus. Duke Jerek is but one of many noble houses in the new Alleigosto, but he is now a vocal minority. Several other houses carry more clout than he does, such as House Virezaucci for helping to expose House Zaritelli for their crimes against Rockbaecche. In fact, several more important houses are said to be part of an elite underground that manipulates conflict between factions. Juliana’s family, the Virezauccis, have an even darker role in this. They directly protect and serve the real masters of the operation, a secret society of Ancient Dead buried in the oft flooded tunnels beneath the city. The Cabal of the Death Merchants, as these powerful mummies call themselves, strategically play and distract in ways The Council wishes they could. Their servants are often granted undead status too, for exceptional service. House Virezaucci only aids in technomancy as a means towards this.
Darklord: Regent Commander Nicholas Von Wilholt. For years, his potential was squandered and wasted among a noble regime content with isolation and comfort. The citizens, while far from desperate or destitute languished in growing boredom. The nation was becoming stagnant, losing motivation as a culture. In the end, it might have been the significant start of a new renaissance. But, for Nicholas, he saw decadence and lack of conflict for causing a stagnant age. Arranging trades with nearby states, he discovered an outbreak called “Crimson Blights” that traveled through tainted crops. The Zaritelli House of Alleigosto were known for not only creating medicinal works, but cultivating diseases in the underground market. Before House Verizaucci caught on and exposed them, they were able to deliver samples of Crimson Blights serum to Von Wilholt. Figuring the empire needed excitement again, it was purposefully brought into the city. In no time, it ravages streets as the very cobblestones were covered in the blood gushing from the very pours of victims. And worse, corpses rose from the ground not long after being soaked in their own blood. Crimson undead moaned across the streets, as Commander Von Wilholt knew his demise would be from disease or from his own men. Preparing for an escape route out of the city, he realized that too much potential evidence lied in his office in the royal palace. In one final mission, he unleashed a concentrated sample upon the palace, killing the royal family. As he made a break for the shoreline, hacking down zombie-like creatures and keeping to the shadows, vision of his ferryman changed. Mists surrounded him. Looking back at the boatman, he saw not flesh but a skull cloaked in a robe. The Mist Ferryman welcomed him to his new prison. He fled the ship and swam to shore, only to be greeted by a corruption of the city he knew. For a few months, he was barely aware something was wrong. Serving as Regent Commander, he took rule until a successor could be named. However, he knew that everything was off, he’d be caught in time and the doom he started might never stop.
Rockbaecche was once a prestigious trade city and capital of Grandglen, which shares roots for the domain of Dawnsveil as well. Now, it’s a quarantined off zone not far from nearby Nosos. The city is locked in a sickly haze, the streets are often quiet and devoid of life. Much in the ways of unlife can be found, as corpses are seen hastily discarded by edges of streets and walking corpses shuffle around mindlessly. Even in fancier sectors of the city, life has been terribly damaged. Nobles are too fearful to leave their own homes, save for special gatherings where they know they’ll be spared. That is to say, everyone except Nicholas is given respect on this. To both commoner and noble, the palace is ground zero for the outbreak. While Nicholas still rules with authority, his own men will be forced to uphold his own proclamation that anyone caught in extremely deep infection zones must stay within their confines. Thus, he is forever kept within the palace grounds. No one has met with him personally to discuss matters to fix or advance the city, nor to help him advance his agendas. Existence under his long temporary rule has been tedious and dull, languishing in monotony. For better or worse, the new breed of undead are mostly contained within the domain. Other strains are seemingly unrelated. Meanwhile, his ineffective rule has sparked unrest among the community. Many are sick of their squalid conditions, demanding something be done to treat the outbreaks. In fact, several former working groups have joined together as a kind of mob syndicate. Under the leadership of Delgan Magrem, the ragtag group of hard labor workers has turned into something of a crime family. With activities ranging from spying to extortion to outright assassination, The Oldentowne Family sends their regards. A most recent hit was against a research center to help cure the plague. Majority of the documents were stolen, with empire-supported researchers slain. Magrem wants to make a proper treatment first, gaining both positive recognition and a means of conning the elite coffers of the city. The Oldentowne Rum Factory has become this base of operations. Merely three blocks away, The Buckets of Blood Inn has become another place for this mob to blend in with the surly and flustered among the population. Mutual attitudes allow them to manipulate citizens all the easier.
This leads into another curse, for all of his fantastic knowledge of diseases and cures thanks to an ancestry filled with doctors and academics, any attempt at treatments that he interacts with automatically fails. Even so much as speaking with physicians and alchemists is enough to spoil everything. As such, scientists and others contracted to help with research avoid him at all costs, causing him to operate on proxies. However, this usually breaks down as he demands they speak to him on the palace grounds, thus causing the curse to take hold. While Von Wilholt has had success with recruiting new minds to help fight the spreading death, many succumb to the gloom of constant failure. The countless research notes, trials, experiments and more imply that things should have succeeded; leading to paranoid suspicions of sabotage. Some have spoken out against the Regent, suggesting the failure is his fault. While this is unintentionally true, he still has action taken against them. Some are even used for experiments on treatment, furthering the inevitable failure. The only true chance of a breakthrough had nothing to do with Von Wilholt, discovered at a remote facility that was ransacked by the Oldentowne Family mob. Many have had more luck outright exterminating the infected. Cleaner Crews are regularly hired through the government to help purge anyone showing bad enough symptoms. Several within the interim parliament have even pushed for action against people with mild symptoms. So far, not enough have endorsed this position. As the Darklord’s confidence falters, he has found himself reluctantly in more support of this idea. Another grim alternative is using the technologies available to genetically modify those who aren’t infected, to prevent them from infection in the first place. While early results are promising, the end results are disastrous and monstrous. The victims degenerated into extremely violent mutants. Said mutants have been held captive until needed to suppress disorder. Despite being too grotesque and insane to be a cure, the Regent believes that this is a step towards success at last. But, like the Crimson Blights, they too have lost their connection to themselves. Fortunately, in the case of the Crimson Blights, the Regent Commander’s forces have had little issue exterminating them. Escaped mutants have proven far more capable and dangerous, often caused by the abominations breaking free from quarantine zone assignments and into cleaner areas.
Disturbance isn’t just from riots and rowdiness. A cult has arisen that has become obsessed with unleashing this new form of undeath upon others. Originally from Nosos, the Cult of Creeping Death seeks to spread filth, decay and reanimation upon all. Their leader is one of the first virulent dead that escaped from Rockbaecche after it came into The Mists. Many cultists retain good standings with the nobility, even the Regent Commander. But, their current priority is a party held within House Harberschire at least once every generation. A new lord comes of age and thus a big celebration is held in their honor. While all of the nobles invited have been tested and show no sickness, the cult plans to change that. In fact, the rising Lord Winston Harberschire seeks to depose Regent Commander Nicholas and bring proper order and competency back to the land. He sees the Commander as a failure and a disgrace, having arranged many deals with assassins and spies both domestic and foreign. Another terror lurks beyond the plague cult though, as covens of mad witches and deranged druidic circles believe that they are the salvation of the people. Their cures come from various forms of dark magic that they use to enact foul experiments. Their numbers always existed in Grandglen, but the countless failures of scientists around them caused their numbers to slowly grow. Many have lost themselves in their devotion to esoteric crafts and to ancient spirits supposedly of the land. In fact, the heinous mutants that ultimately turn on the land are partially their fault. Many have infiltrated the ranks of the scientists and alchemists who have researched that project. While Grandglen and Zherisia have much in common, this city has declared itself dominant as national capital over its neighbor, despite its crippled political state. Likewise, Nosos has been forced into some level of agreement, including the prevent of too much pollution touching Rockbaecche grounds. None the less, the neighboring realm enjoys being an enterprising partner of industry.
Rock Phare (Pocket Domain)
Darklord: Richard the Lightkeeper: A proud navalman, Richard Cleersy (A distortion of Clearsea) served the military efforts along the waters of New Grandglen. His mission in life was to ensure that the waters to this new colony were devoid of not just unwanted guests, but to ensure it was a pristine source for citizens to enjoy. One of his passions in free time was sketching the wonders of the ocean, whether the waves, the animals or other vessels that would sail by. When not on duty, he would spend time sketches whales, porpoises, seals, sharks and other creatures that swam towards the top. Distinguished officers demanded that they too be captured, so that their portrait could be hung over a proper mantle in due time. After adventures of fighting off brigands and aiding a fisher town afflicted by Alleigoston pollution, he was commended for years of excellent service. And thus, he oversaw the Rockbaecche Lighthouse, Rock Phare. For a time, this allowed him to not only guide sailors to safe harbor, but continue his artistic desires in peace. And for a time, this was an ideal life of peace and distance. But, the honor began to turn into isolation. Richard at his heart was a social man. And due to rules of service, he is not to marry until he is formally discharged from active duty. However, he could still remain a keeper of the lighthouse after retirement. For several months, his only company were series of drawings which later turned to watercolor paint. Further years past and his only contacts were from other soldiers paying visits or requesting temporary shelter. After retirement, Richard’s mind had unraveled slightly from self-imposed alienation. He no longer found himself suitable for returning to Point Harbor. Instead, he remained a single resident of the lighthouse. One day, a trainee took up occupation. He was rude, disrespectful and cared only for easy experience to use within his own station. Richard’s nerves were quickly eaten away, as his tolerance for the obnoxious youth depleted. One day, the apprentice busted into his private gallery within a locked off room. Overcome by greed, the apprentice stowed several pieces in his keepsake chest. Following his training’s completion, he was to leave home for complete approval. His plan was simple, steal more art and sell it at a premium. Richard caught on, waiting for the apprentice to sleep. Following this, he crept towards his bed, smothering him with a pillow as a harsh storm raged. Soon after, a burst of wind battered the structure and shattered multiple windows. Torrents of rain splashed against both the stolen works in the bed chambers and in the private study below. This sent Cleersy into a fit of hysterical madness. Climbing to the lighthouse tower, he extinguished the light, causing numerous vessels to crash that night. The overwhelmed lighthouse keeper stumbled before tumbling to his demise down flights of stairs. The last thing he saw in life were patterns of strange mist.
Rock Phare has become worn from years of neglect following the incident. Official reports declare that Richard went mad from isolation and killed the first true other resident to appear. But, what would cause a man to fall into madness from art is uncertain. His diary proclaims that he began to see strange things in the seas. Tales of sea serpents, mermaids and others were popular during his days on the ways. But in time, something made him believe. And either by some belief or by some dark fate, his soul continues to linger on. A tortured ghost, he is confined to the lighthouse. On the night of a new moon, a ghostly green light peers from the old tower that cuts through fog and reflects off the shores nearby. Sailors stationed nearby call these nights “Haunted Moons” for this reason. But, much like before, the ghost has continued to make works of art. Every night, he finds himself once again able to interact with the physical world. He’ll usually spot something in the distance of the sea and recreates it on paper or canvas. However, at some point, the work will turn up missing. He does not know when this will occur, but will always suspect an interloper out to claim his masterpieces. Thus, ever since returning as a cursed spirit, he had shifted his works into the fantastical and especially macabre. Works of sea devils, waterlogged corpses, eldritch things that slumber in waiting and more line his private gallery. And strangely, none of those have been taken away. It is only when he desires to make something beautiful or filled with heart does he experience this once again. Likewise, he can never provide service to other men on the seas, something crushing to his self-image. Despite his sudden lapse in sanity, he wishes to be able to help others at sea as he did in life. Worse, he’s aware of the dark ghost stories and legends that evolved from the incident. None the less, he can do nothing to dissuade these folk tales, as he is forever stuck in the property around the lighthouse. Even so, only a fool would visit Rock Phare, for he detests intrusion by the living. While he is far from all powerful, his more gruesome paintings and sketches have habits of conjuring deadly illusions based on the foul creatures put on canvas. While they’re phantasmal illusions, any damage they do becomes real. Curiously, those who escape the wrath of the keeper may find themselves sailing away to another land, the Fell Crafts Cluster. While none are sure why this is, many suspect this is because many of its domains hold ties to Grandglen as well.
House Harberschire lords over the community of Pardoner’s Harbor, long detached from mainland Rockbaecche. As such, their troubles are much lighter than inland. However, they fear the nearby lighthouse a long travel along a dirt road. Long ago, the nobles were good family friends with Richard and his extended family, who served under the noble house as well. The Cleersy clan themselves fled after the incident, many moving inland and others moving to Zherisia. One member, Silas Cleersy, took after his uncle and became the keeper of Rockbaecche Point, across the cove from the decaying relic. This lighthouse has remained in operation, while the other has had attempts to be preserved. Silas desperately tries to raise funds, in hopes of restoring the site of his uncle’s demise to working glory… at least in proper tribute. However, people suspect that the naive nephew is almost as mad as his relative because of this. None the less, relations with the new keeper are intentionally much nicer and more actively social. Richard himself has become aware of this. While touched by an attempt to honor him, he is distraught that his own blood would try to usurp his position as lighthouse keeper. Should visitors come into contact with the spirit, mentioning Silas will either send him into contemplation or into rage. As for Silas, the light of his tower is stronger than he thinks. Travelers sailing in deep mists have a chance of spotting the beacon in the distance. Those who do have a good chance of making their way to this amazing cluster. As to how they might deal with heavy technological advancements is largely unknown.
Darklord: The Council of Seven. The Council was once an entrusted group for one purpose, bringing an ailing nation at a crossroads into a new age of prosperity and the start of an open global age. For much time, it was a symbol of hope, especially to the lands beyond. However, the council themselves were always a rather secret group of specially selected people who were never meant to reveal themselves or to take credit for massive social advancement. The Council existed to overhear plights of the land and formulate ways to address them according to the needs of the requester. Overtime, the council began to examine diversifying their rotating order of seven to better fit the changing ways and populations of the city. But, one irony stayed true to a tradition all swore to uphold, you are to operate anonymously to the public. Your plans and actions are likewise carried out by recruits who must not reveal themselves either. This fell in line with the philosophy of “Thankless Altruism”. In time, the public did learn about their distant overseers, growing uncomfortable. The council realized that the land was outgrowing a need for them. As the calls for a new era arose, the council used their powers to not only help the land as before, but silently suppress those who were critical of their shadow government. As tensions around the nation arose, so did anxiety for the council. As they saw, they were the only peaceful arbiters in a land previously carved by war. To them, stepping down would cause a return to division. As such, they moved to not only suppress, but capture and reeducate seditious civilians. In the short span of a few months, word of this got out to an already uncomfortable public. As plans for protests were assembled, the brainwashed were let loose to attack the rebels. Previously gone family and friends attacked those they once loved, as word of violence beyond Phyreshan boundaries came to the Council. In a last ditch effort, they sent their subordinates to enhance their techniques and start brainwashing nearby territories. The Mists soon claimed the city state, as Phyresha mysteriously vanished from a land in need in the year 740 BC. Some say that the nearby lands soon descended into civil war and fracturing, but none can say as their metropolitan hub vanished. What is known is that the conflict came well into the city before the Dark Powers intervened. As strange mists closed in, they felt a tug at their very essence, as their shadows lifted from their bodies. Corpses, lying motionless, greeted the shades that now operated the table of the council chamber. Their dark deeds were done, now lie the consequences. Not only could they fail at revealing themselves, their own identities were gone, replaced by barely morphic creatures of shadow. They will never know the comforts of friendship, family or any benefits they desire to create. They are cold and emotionless, forgetting the reasons why they socially engineer the city as a whole. None the less, occasional recollections hit them like a crushing hammer, forcing them to realize all that they’ve lost. These moments of existential horror only push them harder to help improve their lands, furthering their cycle of grief when it fails. However, these shades can rewrite memories, alter thought processes and possess numerous means of telepathic ability. In fact, they can close borders by harnessing civilians to stop escapees.
Lying on the southeastern edge of the jutting peninsula, it is a far distance from the Zherisian cultural center of Paridon. The land of Phyresha is one akin to Neur’Maise, one driven by views of social enlightenment and continued advancement. However, its distance provides a sense of arrogance and pride. After all, Phyreshans consider themselves to true trendsetters and social engineers of the land. To them, Paridon is just a shallow copy that keeps up at a slow pace, while they have embraced a far more fair society than their rivals will be capable of for some time. This sense of cocky intellectualism has alienated them from many of their neighbors, even the cynical markets of Nosos to an extent. None the less, many reluctantly trade with them. Seeing as the domain lacks in high quantity of skilled laborers, arts and crafts tend to be primary exports. Even with a culture of elitism, the wealthy of other domains have taken a much greater shining to them. It still remains one of the most heavily influential and cultural parts of the Broken Cog cluster. Academics, philosophers and intellectuals seek the domain out to debate in halls of discourse, take classes within the universities or seek out theory to greater understand a world of change. The Council and their legions often leaves them alone, unless they ask too many questions. Despite this skewing, the information that has been provided is often respectable and a helpful resource for those willing to learn under strict guidelines. However, woe to those who think they can extract information to use against the nation. The Council knows not only when someone risks turning traitor, but can easily scan intent of even the most paranoid outsiders. While they are never able to fully interact with the greater world, they have enough people at their disposal to do it all for them. Those willing to adopt or mimic their social or political beliefs have used the city as something of a beautiful retreat. But, not all is as it seems. While conflict has otherwise proved low within the domain and life is comfortable, one could say it’s beginning to rot on the inside. Older locations are often left to fall into disrepair, as there is always a push to create something new in its place. History within the domain has likewise been rewritten many times, always focusing on the values and perspectives of the present and future. A consistent story does not exist within Phyresha, save that they have always had friends and always had enemies. Even among these snatched and abused citizens, there are strangers among them. House spirits were conjured and bound to the city to help serve, not unlike the distant and eldritch forces of the Sidhe from the world of Mystara. Their forms were reshaped and twisted, in an effort to resemble the humans they help police. These creatures are uncanny recreations of a mundane mortal, often displaying physical abnormalities and quirks. This can range from markings upon the face, to the spirit’s hair, to absurd physiological proportions to some other interesting trait. Some seem particularly off, almost insect-like at times. This is to say nothing of their behavior, which not only tends to be obsessive towards the Council, but is often exaggerated in ways not befitting the people they try to represent. Expressions, body language and more range from the odd to the completely alien at times. All of this is either from a curse that twists the spirits or the spirits’ inability to fully rationalize and understand the subjects they try to mimic. Those who are onto them realize that they are appeased by effigies, fetishes and doll-like totem objects as a sacrifice of sorts. Despite this, the house spirits will continue to maintain their facade and accept the trinkets as donations, tithes and tributes to the state. While record of an sanctioned church was existent, it has seen been wiped and replaced by clergies of these spirit-folk. They operate as an extended mouth piece for the philosophies and theologies that once helped the city forward. While many of the working people within the urban borders are accommodated, this is only for those who are willing to share the nation’s enlightened philosophies. Even those of comparatively lower standards aren’t ones to complain within city bounds. Shanty towns and scrap homes around the city tell a different story.
These people are descendants of outcasts who left the city or people who couldn’t fit the status quo. Curiously, they are immune to the mind-bending powers of the Council or their minions. The wards that protect the city do however keep them from entering. Those who risk exile and haven’t been removed have a strange habit of giving off a “signal” to the controlled when acting out of line. This reacts in criticism, but easily escalates into violence until the responsible triggering party is removed in one manner or another. The truth of these people is that they used to be civilians and are an aspect of the Darklords’ curse. While most people can be easily modified by the Council, there is around 10% who will revert to their old ways, memories of their old world and all. Around half of that group figure out that they were being used somehow by the city. Though, few are the wiser what hidden group is responsible, but some suspect the council. As the council remains a mystery, especially since the Mists changed them, theories on this are mass speculation. This has affected the outcasts in numerous ways. Some see the Council and the city as a fake utopia that operates on pretense. Others saw it as a conspiracy that ended their home nations and cultures. The majority see it as a project that failed, despite the best of intentions. These concerns stem from a history of a broken region, in a far away world. Phyresha’s home continent was being torn apart by ethnic tensions, unresolved culture clash and rising political groups. The city itself was once seated at the center point between all of these territories, as a neutral meeting hub and a proof of concept. From its creation in 596 BC, up until its decline and later movement into the demiplane of dread, it was seen as the start of an age of peace. The urban landscape was meant to showcase a gathering of peoples within a modern and truly new environment; a multicultural conglomerate meant to prove that cooperation is possible between lands. For a while, it was a success. As word of strange meddling was brought back to superiors in other territories, the loose alliance around the city began to crumble. It was only soon after that The Mists intervened. Those who are outspoken about this real history were at first dismissed as people suffering from stress. After a time, those who suffered from “the anomaly” were sent to hospitals where new sciences and techniques were used to understand, when in reality they became immune to the councils’ magic. After enough of these “anomalous” banded together against the city, they were promptly cast out. Many have helped Olbsodt’s rebels or Nosos bandits break into Phyresha to deal untold damage. While it doesn’t take long to ultimately take down the insurgents, rioters and chaos mongers; the goal of the outlanders is to maximize conflict against their former home. More goodly aim to enlighten others on how they’ve been used, while the more malicious wants the land to simply burn down. Many of these rejects and outsiders live in communities that aren’t even within Phyresha’s domain borders, but in the domain of Zherisia instead.
The similarities to Neur’Maise are no coincidence though. While both domains emerged into The Mists within a similar time frame, Neur’Maise is from Phyresha’s distant past. The incredible nation of the storytelling mage was a recorded moment in history for centuries, directly inspiring a new generation to pick off where the lost mage started. The lands that hosted Neur’Maise changed drastically over the centuries. Merton vanished in a mere moment, leaving his clergy to deal with the remnants. Quickly, they dissolved into feuding warlords trying to claim territory while causing mass death within the collapsing landscape. Secrets and innovations became lost to time, only for some to be slowly rediscovered centuries later. The tribes and realms surrounding the capital fractured and formed into wholly new and divided identities. Many of the creatures present within the ancient paradise either vanished or died out. For that reason, the would-be Council saw the ultimate project to revive the utopian ideal. While the zealotry of Merton’s teachings were rebuked, a lot of core philosophies and concepts were taken to heart as the new central hub city was proposed to leaders of these new territories. All holding a deep respect for Neur’Maise in the world’s past, an agreement was made to aid in good will. As one might expect, no one within Phyresha’s history knew that their predecessor was taken by the powers. In fact, the land still seems oblivious to the fact that it exists in the Demiplane of Dread today. Some relics of the original theocratic regime of Merton still exist within Phyresha now. Various artifacts, even original buildings, have been fully restored to resemble their original archaic craft. Likewise, some plans for innovations that never saw true use have been given new life within the successor state. In fact, revolutions in printing and distribution give their credit to the mighty wonders of Holy Emperor Merton himself. And much like Merton, the last incarnation of the Council looked to The Planes for aid before their downfall. They discovered disturbed shade creatures with a racial supremacist agenda. Somehow, both sides cooperated, seeing a sinister value in each other. It was truly this that lead to the council’s damnation… and why creatures from the Demiplane of Shadows can be found throughout the domain during sunrise and dusk. These are the very same monsters that helped usurp control from the Rilmani, making the Sect (and later Faction) of The Acts of Balance theirs in the end.
Darklord: Obed Elos. A shrewd merchant, with famed exports in fisheries, oil and countless goods. It was his clan that helped bring a small fishing town into a modern age. Industry, expansive trade routes and more proved to not be enough for the man. He turned towards a legacy, as he began to age. Fearful of entrusting his empire to younger generations he held in doubt, he sought means of immortality. A sponge diving guild under his control one day unearthed an artifact for some strange oceanic cult, that overwhelmed Elos with obsession. This lead to the discovery of a religious order that revered a distant god of the oceans. In exchange for human sacrifice, the god would bestow life and power. A business partner, Zodak, became wise to the strange activity of his fellow magnate. Following much investigation, Obed captured the businessman and used magicks sampled from artifacts to brainwash him. But, Elos’ knowledge of the arcane was flawed, only succeeding in driving him insane. Zodak was ousted, doomed into being a drunken hermit with some moments of clarity. In time, Elos’ plans were enacted after downturn and constant awful weather. The public was ready to oust him too, but after the desperate obliged, results were found. Bounties and fortunes were had, but an ultimatum is given. Future generations were to breed with the spawn of this god and one day return to the sea. While a sizeable cult emerged to take the town, many rebelled. Thus, a civil war broke out for the future and sanity of the land. Elos conducted one last ritual, sacrificing rebels in real time, as they were being fought back. Instead of his boon of becoming a holy icon of his new god, the town was taken by Mists.
Far from the land’s true home, the oil-ridden coast finds itself in a new bind. The lands beyond no longer trust them and the ruling families watch over a crumbled empire. Despite these dried fortunes, fishing trade still occurs at domain borders. But, no one in their right mind travels to Ichthyos for more than a brief stop. As for Old Elos, he sits within his old mansion, slowly falling into disrepair. Servants and family come and go, as he’s responsible for several generations of in-breeding with his eldritch patron and their creatures. He is doomed to never see widespread success in his town again. And worse, any of the villagers villagers with “god blood” are cursed to eventually mutate into deep sea spawn and unite in the seas beyond. Meanwhile, he cannot join them, as his wishes to forever oversee the town were granted. While he looks slightly off-putting, especially with his bulging eyes, he remains mostly human-looking. He is never seen beyond his property, unless big announcements of trade deals occur. These are rare and infrequent. And should they occur, they aren’t long lasting, as the traders become increasingly uncomfortable while within the domain’s limits. This slight flow of cash furthers Elos’ delusions of a major comeback. His poor attempts to dispel rumors and showcase the culture of the land have branded it as backwards and eccentric by foreigners. While Ichthyos was judgemental, this marring against their character worsened this immensely. Had this not happen, the domain would have been recognized as revolutionary for their means of whaling, fishing, preparation, packing, trading and much more. However, acknowledgement of these feats was lost when their connection to the Prime Material was likewise lost. In one particularly daring move, House Fiertenno and Alleigosto Channel Company bought out Meikridas Ship Manufacturing, further robbing Ichthyos of money. Subsidiaries still produce for the land on the Domain’s border. Giorgios, the son of the namesake owner, was one of the few not cursed and happily obliged the buyers. They still remain the leading source of advanced vessels, like steam ships, in the cluster. Others have followed suit, their sister state of Alleigosto has only flourished under the languishing decline of that “eerie fisher’s settlement due west”. In fact, much of the companies and nobility within the neighboring land view Ichthyos with contempt. Neighbors see it as a dingy and disgusting place, the embodiment of a back alley in a city. Many only come to the borders in the interest of purchasing whale oil and various other staple goods. Beyond that, few traverse far into the borders. Some have circulated rumors that the residents have relations with fish. As grotesque as that is, such rumor isn’t entirely distant from the truth. Despite this snobbish elitism, there was once a lush tourism industry within the domain. The Ichthyos Seas contain much in the ways of history, which attracted curious sailors and particularly enterprising merchants. In the years before Elos destroyed all of that, it was a massive sell for the lands. However, only a handful of scholars were deeply knowledgeable of the seemingly “lost” history of these ancients. But, from their digging, lost arts of sculpture were especially fond within the land. In fact, Several Ichthyons were commissioned by abroad nobles and merchants to create stunning works of art through pottery and statues.
Strange things still occur and visitors often go missing. Old Man Zodak still exists, meandering around town in a stupor haze. However, should one agree to feed his alcoholism, he’ll ramble tall tales about deep gods, half-demon horrors and diabolical rituals. The locals are quick to inform that the poor hermit is crazed, but his skill as a fisher is unmatched. Thus, he lives in the town rather than being committed in a nearby place. He too is cursed, much like the Darklord. He too is immortal, forever stuck upon the wretched fisher community. Even if slain, he shall return much like the Darklord. Thus, Elos makes sure that Zodak remains out of the way or seen as little more than a nuisance by all. Beyond his quirky character, the whole town is full of suspicious and strange folk. Milos the Innkeeper is a strange sort, very bookish and quick to make snide comments against outsiders. Despite being well read and educated, he is just as xenophobic and distant towards non-locals as the rest of the population. His “Seafarer’s Inn” is one of the few hospitable places for outsiders at night. “Delenia’s” is a local pub, run by the wife of a deceased wealthy fisherman. With the money bestowed upon her, this establishment was built around her home. It has since become a place for locals to ease their woes. Curiously, only the locals like the drinks and food served here. To everyone else, it tastes absolutely horrible, with an equally unbearable smell. They say it comes from a land of mystery, “The Reefs of Death”. Beyond the shoreline is said to be a mythical place where a god slumbers. It is there where his children of the ocean wait to share secrets with the worthy. In truth, this mystery god was left on the Prime Material. But, an avatar-like creature governs over this aquatic spawn. While the Darklord tries to suppress such thoughts, his “patron” has become more of a rival since The Mists were shown to him. Likewise, the ancient culture taken by the gods hangs as a looming specter of the entropy that collects Ichthyos now. The culture of the land is dead and belongs to the dreadful sea god, Elos knows this and reluctantly capitulates, despite the reasons for initially doing so being gone.
The oil-polluted coasts carry more than discarded fish innards and broken hopes, but a dark past and deeper mythology. Once the gods visited the ancient lands around the Ichthyos Sea. The main city that was named after the sea was the location of several temples, dedicated to not only gods but great heroes as well. However, the lands grew defiant of the gods over the ages, even consulting the ultimate enemy known as “The Titans”. In their attempts to revolt, by tearing down said temples and practicing profane rituals to the titans, the gods struck back by flooding much of the land. The original capital became submerged into the deepest parts of the Ichthyos Sea, while only the fringes of the land survived to adapt and evolve. One of the gods was said to have moved into the ruins to watch over the mortals, in case they had ideas of trying this again. Said deity was likely the force that Obed worshiped fervently. Within his journals and old notes, he claims to have received a divine vision. In it, he learned the decadence and folly of humanity. And also, his own mad scriptures detailing reuniting with the gods in sacrifice and tribute as the ultimate penance for old sins. All of this was spawned by his own fears of mortality, for he nearly perished during a sailing voyage in his increasing age. This changed a bitter man fueled by money into one willing to seek the faiths of old gods. However, what he discovered may have been the very god left behind to watch all. On the other hand, some theorize that there were no gods, just distant beings who once owned the land before the age of humanity. No matter the real truth, the legacy of these strange beliefs runs through the veins of the domain. In some ways, this is quite a literal statement. Even the scriptures and icons dedicated to the God of the Sea are vague and borderline incomprehensible at times. The truth is only known to the darklord and even that can be debated. But, signs of these old ways are easy to find. Several buildings within Mainland Ichthyos are truly ancient, with truly inspired architecture not seen for eons. Plus, archaic pottery and artifacts have a habit of washing ashore. This has lead to minor archeological tourism during the daytime, or at least local merchants selling old ways to foreigners on the domain’s borders. This is to say nothing about ruins found on smaller islands beyond the coastline. The biggest set of ruins however are submerged deep within the depths of the sea. Incredible pillared structures lie as a tomb far detached from the warm winds of the lands above. An almost icy cold protects the white marble columns and walls holding up the roofs of houses and temples long forgotten. All sorts of sunken treasure lies waiting for discovery. But, this is a fools’ task, for monsters live here and they hate any trespassers that barrel into their watery homes. Said creatures prove far from stupid, and most are familiar with the nearby lands too. The darklord himself has some sway over them. When closing the borders to his domain, these awful creatures surface to terrorize whoever tries to evade their slimy grip.
Iron City (Pocket Domain)
Cultural Level: Early Medieval (6) through Chivalric (8)
Darklord: Garret. A longtime thief, a life of petty crime and banditry meant nothing more than a daily means. From breaking into the houses of nobles and high merchants to breaking prisoners from their holdings cells, Garret darted about he shadows while wisecracking snide comments to himself along the way. In the end, this was his business and he didn’t care much either way. However, he was presented with countless moral dilemmas along the way. His love captured, his employer falling ill, the presence of sinister factions, corrupt bureaucracy making its move. And every time, Garret favored continuing on the path of thievery instead of helping those around him. Time and again, he would lose his allies and witness loved ones dying. Instead of making him reconsider, he doubled down on his career choice in hopes of some day being rich off his spoils to retire to secrecy. This culminated with the climax of a shadow war. Three extreme factions made the city their center of conflict. A group of fallen druids wanted to suspend the encroaching industry that began to rise, sneering technocratic artificers wanted a base to accelerate advancements to new heights and unhinged occultists wanted to revive their sleeping dark god whose essence lingered in the city. Garret played them against each other, until he stole the very artifact that all desired, “The Heart of the City”. Prior to venturing out, the last members of his guild warned him the power he sought, that it’s inherently tied to the land itself. An incredible magic flowed from within. This gem was Garret’s undoing, as well as the city’s. As it was removed from its cradle and taken from a temple below the city’s earthy crust, chaotic energies surged and bounced cavern walls. The foundation of Iron City came into question, as buildings were hit with a dooming quake. Garret abandoned his stealth and took to ascending back into the city above. He was greeted with ruins and countless dead. In protest, he fled to his hideaway instead of take accountability. It was then that strange mists materialized. In the year 745 of the Barovian Calendar, the city had changed.
The City of Iron is a land that was tearing itself apart, even before Garret got involved. It was the primary battleground for a war between fell druids, obsessive technologists and mad occultists. From the outside, a group of onlookers gazed and manipulated the pieces. Skirmishes were at first brief and subtle, but engagements went from underground plots to urban violence. According to False History, all of these factions were once reputable for different reasons, only to be corrupted by outside influences across the Lands of the Mists. This is in fact pro-City propaganda that survived and was warped by The Dark Powers. The City Above is just a copy of the original city, before Garret caused its demise through greed and ignorance. It twists and reshapes, based on whatever heist the corrupted thief plans next. None the less, he can never find any way out of the city. And by his curse, he’ll always have a lingering desire to quit being a thief and start life anew. This is compounded by hearing the voices of everyone he abandoned, in favor of his dark trade. In truth, the original city exists. Its ruins were pushed below and surround the temple that once housed the “Heart of the City” gem. The ruins are a cursed place, full of vengeful spirits and insane cultists, alongside straggler dark druids and technologists. Garret is overwhelmed with a supernatural fear whenever he attempts to venture down below, refusing to stay for long. However, all sorts of treasures of the original city still await in closed vaults and hidden walls. Should one be willing to contend with the remnants of old residents, alive and unliving, it’s possible to find all sorts of valuables. One particular place of suffering that also pushes him away is a living sinkhole of evil called “The Hallenberch Cradle”. A mixture of combat hospital, quarantine zone, orphanage and insane asylum. An enclosed enclave of eternal misery, it was where Garret first understood his pathway to damnation. While he won’t pursue targets there, this isn’t to say that this is a place of salvation, but rather the opposite.
Iron City is a curiosity, acting as either an Island of Terror or a Pocket Domain. While isolated, it has a habit of connecting with other domains, if only to give Garret hopes of a better life or another heist. But, time and again, it proves out of reach, often because of some other distraction. However, another purpose of these connections are for rare and exotic goods to flow into the city, furthering the darklord’s eternal fate as a thief. The Order of the Hammer, in particular, has found itself in the custody of several incredible works from the Broken Cog cluster. Thus, these domains have been a favorite spot for the Dark Powers to manifest near. It has been tethered to Nova Vaasa, G’Henna, Dementlieu, Barovia and Invidia as well. But, no matter where the city goes and no matter what riches flow to the homes of the wealthy and famous, Garret will always be damned to continue his soulless life as a thief.
IMAGE CREDIT: nkabuto – London Street; MarkusML – Old London Sewer Entrance; NatMonny – SteamCity; Bethesda/Arkane Studios – Dishonored 1 & 2 screenshots;A-24 – The Lighthouse; Axel Hansmann – Abandoned Building; Knight of Sand – Innsmouth At Night; Mathieu Latour-Duhaime – Thief Concept Art