Sunday, September 10, 2017

Background Solutions: The Elves

As the Swords of Stock leave Tailimisia behind, encamped on the step of a feral, juvenile, white dragon, the question remains: what will become of the roiling civil conflict threatening to boil over in Aita Valmindene?

Since the city is a capital of the largest and oldest elvish kingdom, the chance that other powerful adventurers will be drawn into the conflict in the Swords' vacuum is quite high: let's say, something like 80%.

The composition of the city must be determined, in terms of active adventuring parties, but the highest-level and most likely replacements are the White Chalice, an all-elf part who began in the city of the white walls and have recently returned to it. The Crossed Pikes, a notoriously unpleasant party who slew one of the dragon princelings of Sylvasil for the old ruler of the elves, are also present, but have been hired by the troublemaking Prince Leofrysn.

With a simple table, we can discover how well the situation turned out in the absence of the Swords.


1-2. Very Poorly
3-4. Poorly
5-6. Stalemate
7-8. Well
9-10. Very Well

We can add a +1 bonus to the roll because of the skill and cunning of the White Chalice, but whatever is going on in Aita Valmindene will remain a secret until the rumors percolate into Stock and the Reach.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Postmodern Materialism

Although materialism has more or less taken hold in the various disciplines as the theory de rigeur,
there is a misunderstanding about postmodernism prevalent in circles that identify as "Orthodox Marxist" in which it is believed to be a rejection entirely of the material viewpoint. It is not, but it is necessary to reconcile the old Marxist doctrine of historical materialism with the postmodern understanding of mediated semiosis; that is, the world is composed of material objects, but those objects cannot be experienced except through a shared social reality, which relies on mediated understandings.

When we talk about materialism and substrate, we must be careful to recognize that social mediators, by which I mean the mental constructs that determine how we understand our interaction with the semi-fictive, unmediated, "real" world, are themselves part of a decent material analysis. We must examine the mental structures that our interactions with the world as material for consideration. Attitudes, mores, etc., are not idealism in Marx's terms, but are rather actual moving parts of the social order. Gramsci recognized this, and the rejection of the so-called Orthodox Marxists that the hegemonic thought-systems constitute a separate and discreet material basis for understanding history is a paucity in the thought of the circles that reject postmodernism wholesale, as a project.

While it remains fundamentally true that material conditions shape ideas, it is also true that ideological formations in return shape material conditions by shaping the ways in which societies can permissibly or even conceptually interact with them. Thus, the change in material reality is typified not solely by a base-superstructure pyramid, but rather a reflux feedback, in which ideological formations in the superstructure are projected downwards onto the base. The one is conditioned on the other, with the base forming the necessarily a priori and fundamental bedrock of ideological formation.

Thus, we may dismiss the simple bourgeois ideology of the "freedom of the press" as being not grounded in material reality, being idealistic. However, the manner in which this idealism is deployed in defense of the material reality (that freedom of the press in a bourgeois democracy is nothing more or less than the freedom of the wealthy to make use of the press as an organ of policy), it is a material fact that we must grapple with in our analysis. The way social behavior is shaped by this ideology is itself part of a new material basis.

What is ideology, then, and idealism, if we reduce the components of ideological arguments to pieces of material experience for analysis? Well, idealism is essentially the claim that there are no mentally-independent realities. But if we examine the classical postmodern works of the Opera Aperta and its partner The Limits of Interpretation, both by Umberto Eco, we can see that postmodernism does not necessarily reject the extant physical world. There are limits to permissible interpretations of the senses, and these limits are determined socially, which creates the social reality in which we live.

Thus, when we as Marxist materialists, "reject idealism", we are not rejecting the notion that ideas have a palpable effect on the world. We are rejecting the naive idealism that considers the stated goals or methodology of ideologies as their actual goals, methodologies, and effects. When we say, for example, "Liberalism is the left wing of fascism," we are actually engaging in complex material analysis of the pragmatic, material effects of classical liberal thought.

Raw Experience.
The question posed by ultra-materialists, who reject even the very possibility of social constructs, is essentially this one: "Can we interact with the world and receive raw, unmediated, experience?" The answer, of course, is that the very notion of a raw and unmediated experience is fatally flawed and self-contradictory.

In order to understand this, we should examine raw experience as a concept. The ultra-materialist point of view, which rejects socially constructed mediators as acceptable vectors of analysis, must rely on the concept of direct, unmediated, sensory experience. However, anyone who has been socialized in any society must necessarily experience sensation through the lens of these constructed mediators; for example, knowledge of socially-constructed connotations of color, even though they may stem from straightforward-looking connections, are mediators.

The perception of darkness or blackness as being related to death and the grave, for example, is not a universal social mediator. Eastern culture associates whiteness and paleness with death. Both can be logically justified on actual material experiences (the dark is unknown, it is scary, etc.; the dead are pale, etc.)

"Raw experience" thus immediately gives rise to assumptions about perception, which rapidly become social mediators. Social mediators constantly interfere with raw sensory experience, altering the perception of what is experienced. Even were a child to be raised without any social input, the act of generating experiences would give rise to social mediators that the child alone understands. That is, culture and experience exist in a perpetual feedback loop, one affecting the other.

Social Reality.
What do we mean by reality, then? We mean the socially undeniable reality that exists as a result of a mass of mediated experiences shared in a social group. We run up, then, against the limits of interpretation much as we would in a fictional work; certain inputs can only be permissibly interpreted in certain ways based on the systems of thought (primarily logic) that we have chosen to adopt as socially useful.

However, the inputs still exist. We can destroy social realities by proving them false, or simply by attacking them vigorously enough until they are no longer supported or no longer exist. However, the material realities that gave rise to those social realities are not necessarily directly accessible. In order to get at them, we must understand and deconstruct the social realities that have arisen as an inevitable consequence of the nature of sense-perception.

Social realities, whether they line up with material realities or not, continue to affect people living in the society, and they must be analyzed with the same degree of care as material realities. They are not, as some ultra-materialists believe, flimsy gauzy veils that simply vanish when material realities change. Certainly, there was a notion of "race" before there was imperialism; however, imperialism empowered race-theory and created a virulent strain of bad social reality that has persisted to this day, even when the most useful elements of bad race-theory have been superseded by neocolonialist attitudes. But because we failed to sweep away the shards of race-theory, it persists and continues to affect people in the world.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Akem's Gentle Repose

Akem's Gentle Repose
Level 1
(death, guardian)

Sometimes, a Journeyman may be in a situation when he cannot give fallen comrades funerary rites. To make taking their bodies back to a temple more bearable, he may temporarily sacrifice a first-level spell slot to keep a body from corruption.

This spell slot may not be used until either he abandons the corpse or returns it to the temple and begins funeral preparations. He must escort the corpse for this effect to remain in place.

While Akem's Gentle Repose is in effect, time is halted for a corpse and it does not rot. If it has already started to rot, any corruption is halted, though the body is not restored nor is any damage repaired.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Second Edition AD&D Is Only 3/4ths Of a Game and Even Though I Love It, We All Have to Acknowledge That

On Friday, the Swords of Stock (formerly Fenrus' Very Best) were in the Tomb of Queen Serenavalla, last of the Golden Age Queens of Tailmisia, seeking her undecomposed silver elvish corpse in order to talk with her ghost about who should rule the Greatwood.

They came upon a puzzle (the Queen had always intended for the very clever and very strong to be able to reclaim her belongings from the tomb) that included a series of traps in the form of 5' wide 30' long mosaic strips on the floor.

The question arose, "Can we jump them?"

Can they?

I flipped to the index of the DMG and looked up jumping. Oh, page 82. No, not 82 in the DMG, there's no jumping entry here. Someone check the PHB.

Huh, the jumping proficiency, which gives rules for if you have it... but no default rules for jumping. Interesting.

Did I go over to my computer and scroll through the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide pdf? No. I frantically checked all the other 2e books I own. Meanwhile, half of the party walked into another room and began their scientific jumping trials. They put out a measuring tape and began jumping from a standstill to see if they could make it across.

Eventually, since a heroic and enterprising member of the group was able to broad jump 4.5' from a standstill, we agreed that they could probably jump it. To be safe, they never did, rather using a slow and tortuous method of casting dispel magic, crossing the mosaic, and sleeping on the far side so they could use a dispel magic to escape.

But the question lingered. Where the hell are jumping rules in 2e?

Oh, as I thought: they're in the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide. A 1e book.

Now, let me just say that I love 2e. It's the perfect iteration of D&D. I'll never change. I've houseruled it to death. I just added a houserule granting specialists a -2 penalty to all saving throws made against spells by opponents hit by spells of their specialty to represent their increased understanding of how their own school of magic works. I use Combat and Tactics 15 second rounds, but don't reduce the duration of spells to match (should a first level spell only last 15 seconds? That seems like not even magic at that point). It doesn't break the game, because the game is flexible and doesn't exist on a razor's edge of functionality.

But 2e is missing so many important things. And they're all in 1e.

This means I have to get the 1e books, since I finally have a real group of flesh and blood people, in person, to play with and I can't take the time while people are typing on IRC to putter around through 1e pdfs.

What rules am I talking about?

The data for construction a holy water font? In the 1e books. 2e hints at, but never grants the full explanation, of how holy water is made. Things like exposure rules from the Wilderness Survival Guide. The jumping rules in the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide.

The fact of the matter is, 2e doesn't appear to have been designed with just itself in mind. It is an expansion of 1e and while many of the rules are different, it builds on rules that people were either expected to know or have access to. But 2e was my first D&D, so I never had the 1e books.

Now, it's time to fill in the gap.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Ballad of Scintillus Sulpicius Severus (composed by Vinhalaloen)

Verse 1
Have you heard of the Last Schoolman?
Yes, it's Schoolman Scintillus!
listen close, you folk of Varan
of that bloody blacklake baron

Look out! Vampire!
Sharpen stakes and polish mirrors
If to save those you hold dear-er
The valeguard marches chivalrous
on Suspicious Sulpicius Severus

Verse 2
Dont let tricks let you forget him
Yes, it's Schoolman Scintillus!
He's Lord Servillus, Schoolman Scintillus
Sulpicius Severus; he means to kill us


Verse 3
You know a corpse in need of burning?
Yes, it's Schoolman Scintillus!
hide your wife and hide your children
from that viscous voracious villain


Verse 4
There's a vampire worth destroying
Yes, it's Schoolman Scintillus!
Vale's protector,  to blacklake
In his heart, you plant your stake


Verse 5

A great sacrifice made to Akem, to fight a great evil
Yes, it's Schoolman Scintillus!
Three great bulls, bled and burned
Eastwick saw, and Blacklake learned


Verse 5
Let's send them off, to fight great danger
Yes it's Schoolman Scintillus
Off they go now, Valeguard ride,

We'll see you back with a vampire's hide

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Academics in the 10th Age

Apropos of the Academician kit that Arneth the Cautious, the party's new wizard is outfitted with, I am here collecting a number of academics from throughout the setting, as well as introducing a number of new ones. Part of the Academician's benefits include exchanging communication with other academics and sages and having access to a wide network of knowledge through them.

Very Famous Academics and their Fields
Ceylon the Thoughtful
Ceylon is a monk who dwells in the Heartland of the Empire, in a small abbey south of Miles. He is known for his meditations on theogony, Milean history, and ancient history in general. His most famous work is the History of the Heartland, followed closely by Theogony.

Cyon Greenmantle
A vanished scholar of halflings and the Greensward, Cyon Greenmantle was a wizard who once lived in the Lamp Country with his apprentice Aurelien. Several years ago, he left to find out what had become of the Conclave and its members... and was never seen again. Considered the foremost scholar on halflings and gnomes.

Drozon the Red
There is no scholar in Arunia as learned as Drozon the Red, one of the rulers of occupied Kallatha when it comes to the matter of Wyrmish histories, beliefs, and religion. Drozon is a scholar of dragons and has studied them in more detail than any man now living, although conversation with him can be difficult, as he is also a mighty and reclusive wizard.

Hamish Letterfriend
Another wizard. Hamish Letterfriend is a sage of one particular topic above all else: food. The history of and making of various foods are his pride and joy. A gnomish illusionist, Letterfriend was once a member of the now-vanished Conclave. He is also a scholar of illusions and general history.

Nauheryon the Recorder
An elf-scholar who resides in the Library of Sulcania in Aita Valmindene, Nauheryon is the foremost historian of elvish wars, including the Elf-Dragon Wars, the War of the Moon, and the Rot War.

Reynarius di Llun
You know this scoundrel; a Dorl who now spends his time behind enemy lines in Essad, Reynarius considers himself a Sage of Renown on all topics. He wrote several guides for adventurers early in his career.

Sarent de Vayens
A Milean historian, well-known for his histories of the First and Second empire.

Local Academics near or Within Craftsman's Reach
Ilisia the Sage
Ilisia is a historian who specializes in Elvish histories, but is well-versed in all history of the west. She resides in Aita Valmindene, and is frequently patronized by the royal court there.

Varius of Tyreth
Varius is a man who grew up in Tyreth under Prince Aegus, but left for the Library of Sulcania in Aita Valmindene. He is a religious scholar, studying comparative religions of the various races. This includes the mythology of monstrous folk, when he can get his hands on it.

Aurvangr the Aged
A dwarven scholar at Aella's Hall, Aurvangr is an ancient dwarf with no hair on his head and a long white beard. His knowledge is focused on the eddas, the law, and the hated enemies of the dwarves: giants, dragons, orcs, goblins, and other such races that have troubled his people since time immemorial.

Lastresis of Aellon
An Aellonian  scholar of the Art, Lastresis has come all the way west to study in Aita Valmindene amongst the elves. He is one of the wisest arcanologists, most witty historians, and a master of each of the fields of spellcraft. The elves consider him a prodigy.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Valley Kingdoms: Sifekgae, General Information

Wondering what the hell is going on with these blog posts? Well, head on over to this here post to get a general feeling for the Valley Kingdoms. If you'd like to read the other Valley Kingdoms pages, you can click the button up top or just follow this link to the index.
Light brown: Hills, Yellow-brown: regions of heavy cultivation

Kingdom of the Throne
King Izeid II, b. 1168, r. 1189
Geography and General Information

Sifekgae is divided into a number of small lordships, most no larger than 10 miles by 10 miles or so. These lordships are the descendants of the territories controlled by the former warbands of shipfolk that settled the coastline. The kingdom is also mentally divisible into several major regions; the first is Shalpirith, the royal demesne, ruled from Vabaten by the aging King Izeid the Second. Other regions include the Cirran Peninsula, Valley Country, the Pirian Plains, the Tamadar Bay, the Western Highland, the Great Araden Wood, the Vale of Piris, the Cheset Fen, the Ruban Highlands, the Northern Marches, and the Nithis March, also called the Nithis Narrows. Each of these areas will be addressed in turn.

Ethnically, Sifekgae has pockets of wandering folk, particularly among the hilly regions. These are former natives of the area who were never fully settled by the Sifik empire and, like the wandering folk of the other kingdoms of the valley, share a unique but interconnected ethnic identity. They call themselves the Rarun, which in their tongue means "they who walk." They are to be contrasted with the seafolk who live on boats and rivers -- there are few of these in Sifekgae, as the new lords from the ships drove most of them out after their invasions.

Fethas, who take their name from the mythical sea-monster forebearer of Izeid I, comprise the bulk of people in Sifekgae, no matter their ancestral heritage. The only other recognizable kingroup from before the landing of the Fethas are the Great Sifiks, who retain power in some of the marchlands. These are nobles who trace their heritage back to Sifhem itself, and prefer to retain old Sifik customs. The Great Sifiks stand in sharp contrast to the Fethas, posturing themselves as heritors of an older, more mighty, and more noble tradition. However, in recent generations, Great Sifiks have been dying out -- not that they have been having less children, but those heritors of the Great Sifiks have more and more been identifying as Fethain and attending the king's royal court.

Fethain Culture.
The Fethas are essentially a warrior culture, like most of the Valley. They have inherited a healthy respect for wizards, and as such permit the sages who claim descent from the High Wizards of Sifhem to have prominent places at court. Fethas nobles dress in bright colors, made from expensive dyes, and wear knee-length tunics with tight hosen. Breeches are considered barbaric (though they themselves wore breeches when they first game to ruined Sifhem), and longer dress is considered effete.

Unlike the other Valley cultures, the Fethas have no long-standing history of ruling queens. As such, though women can hold property and title, they are much more constrained in Sifekgae than in other realms of the Valley.

Fethas culture focuses on martial prowess and loyalty, both in inter-personal relationships and political ones.

Great Sifik Culture.
Those who still call themselves Great Sifiks can be immediately singled out by their dress. Great Sifik nobles tend to wear long ankle-length tunics; they are often mocked for their "retiring" style, and they are generally taught to read, a rarity in Fethas culture. They preserve an ancient respect for the Empresses of Othan, and thus are unlike the Fethas in that women have full rights in Sifik law. Generally, Sifik written law only prevails in the Northern Marches.

Wanderer Culture.
Wanderers are not quite as mobile as they sound. They live in small, decentralized communities, with elders acting as their leaders, rather than lords. The kings of Sifekgae have been forced to recognize this way of life as legitimate, much to their cost. Wanderer townships are mostly concentrated in the Valley Country. They have very little social hierarchy, although most Wanderers are fanatically devoted Sivans and will follow the word of a Sivan priest before they will listen to the word of a king.

Wanderers are also a storytelling culture. While most of the Valley Kingdoms have a strong tradition of oral storytelling, the Wanderers in particular host storytelling competitions at their village centers in the summer, and their high poets are revered above all other members of their society. Indeed, Wanderers are far less martial than Fethas or even Great Sifiks.

Sifekgae is a feudal kingdom, strongly reliant on the individual loyalty of its lords to their king. Izeid is well-loved by most of his people, and is considered a fair and upright overlord. The laws of the kingdom are primarily inherited from old Sifhem, and King Izeid maintains a whole chancery of notaries to digest and distribute it. Literacy has increased to be somewhat more common under King Izeid, as he often requires written replies to his own letters and commands.

Court is held at Vabaten. No longer do the kings of Sifekgae maintain their courts at the various coastal strongholds, but rather every lord is required to attend the General Thivatin which is held twice a year. The General Thivatin is a gathering also of the mightiest interests in Vabaten, and serves as a ratifying body for the king's decrees.

Justice is done according to Sifik law, and King Izeid has trained a whole corpus of magistrates. These magistrates are also his personal retainers, and are dispatched to each lord in turn to do the king's justice. There are usually twenty such knights at any given time, known as the Knights-Justice. While the transgression of certain crimes are left to the local thivatin assemblies, the most grievous may only be presented to a Knight-Justice and the court he convenes in the locality.  This courts have come to be known as Kingscourts.

However, Sifekgae is riven with conflicts of the law, as the conqueror Fethas never had a written law, and several generations have gone by with the locals adhering to the old Law of the Chiefs. Thus, while a strong promulgation of Sifik law does exist, judgments are also made pursuant to local common law as gleaned by the Knights-Justice from elders of the community, or from a vote by the local thivatin assembly.

Generally, the geography of the kingdom is divided into low population inland areas and the remains of the great old Sifik cities on the coasts. Sifekgae is much less well-populated than Sifhem was, and most of the old imperial roads have fallen into very bad repair. The only cities that remain even shadows of their former selves are Vabaten and Medolin.

Like their more powerful rivals at Medenleb, the High Wizards still stage a yearly pilgrimage to the Black Stone for their apprentices. However, they are much reduced since the days of Sifhem. In the modern era, the High Wizards are a secretive, withdrawn, and much-maligned sect. Other kingdoms see them as serpents, coiled to strike at the heart of Ya, while King Izeid has made good use of them. Many lords of Sifekgae, indeed, pay the Wizardry Tax to the throne for permission to keep their own pet wizards near.

None now know the power that remains in the High Wizards, but it does not do to test them. They drink strange concoctions and are always brewing madness out of herbs in their bubbling retorts. They rarely work magic, and indeed seem to do anything they can to avoid it, but rumors say that they still have some quite powerful spellcraft, and where they ever moved to, they could change the tides of a battle, a war, or of fate itself.

The Isle of Shalpirith
Shalpirith is a royal demesne, administrated entirely by the royal household of King Izeid and his knights. Royal wardens control the land, much of which is given over to farming to support the court. The island is hilly, filled with winding valleys and ravines, and those are occupied by a great many shepherds and drovers.

Though the court is fed by Shalpirith, the Royal City of Vabaten must import food from the continent. The only remaining road on Shalpirith is the grain highway that crosses the Darish Straits, over the monumental ancient Sifik bridge that spans the water.

The last High Wizards also have their home and central meeting place on Shalpirith, hidden somewhere in the royal hunting grounds, which have become known as the Wood of the High Wizards for that very reason. These are an old and hoary preserve, dominated by massive trees that were old when Sifhem was young. The forest has always been protected by emperors, kings, and potentates, and remains so to this day.

The Cirran Peninsula
On the far side of the Darish Strait stands the old city of Cirr. Like most of the coastal Sifik cities, it was raided nearly continuously in the period leading up to the founding of Sifekgae. The Lord of Cirr is a powerful person in the peninsula, but only one of four lords in the region. The peninsula is one of the few regions that, like Medolin, remains under heavy cultivation by farmers.

Cirr has a thriving market, but little else. It is a collection of about 8,000 people in the old city center. Stone ruins surround the city proper, and are often used by the locals as quarries. The peninsula proper is divided more or less into a cultivated region on the eastern side and a forested region on the west. It's most powerful lord, Crioch, is only slightly more influential than Lord Malgos of Etriel, who commands the loyalty of all the farmlands north of the Cirran Wood.

Because of its position near the Valley Country, there are a fair number of raids down into Cirr by bandits and rogue Wanderers. For this reason, most Cirrans have a strong dislike for the Wandering Folk, and they suffer a fair amount of discrimination in the townships of Cirr.

Crioch, Lord of Cirr
Dasmas, Lord of Dariesh
Tirovin, Lord of Calmost
Malgos, Lord of Etriel

Valley Country
Valley Country is an extremely difficult to pass region; it has no roads or clear trails, and is shot through with deep gullies and high hilltops. These range from lightly wooded to very heavily so, mostly with pine, juniper, and and northern hardy oak. Bronze- and Ironwood is also found in great quantities in the Valley Country.

The region is ruled by five Great Sifik lords and two Fethain lords. There are long stretches belonging to the Wandering Folk and their decentralized towns. These communities are mostly appointed Royal Wardens to administer them and ensure that their lord treats them well. There are no major cities in the Valley Country, and it is haunted by bandits and outlaws.

Deniot, Lord of Malmis (Great Sifik)
Coros, Lord of Temm (Great Sifik)
Lemogar, Lord of Filith (Great Sifik)
Tuvor, Lord of Sem (Fethain)
Maldohere, Lord of Prothas (Great Sifik)
Eldogar, Lord of Maas (Great Sifik)
Thudein, Lord of Jorat (Fethain)

Pirian Plains
The Pirian Plains provide food for much of the rest of the realm. This is the site of Medolin, the largest city outside Vabaten, and the location of the yearly Medolin Fair. Two great lowlands are interrupted only by the Middling Hills between them, and the thirteen lords of Pirian gather every year for the Fair at Medolin, each contributing to the draw of the great fair.

The Pirian townships have mostly preserved their shapes from the Sifik period. These small villages and towns are grouped together in manors of 3-5 villages under the authority of a local knight (also, confusingly, called a Lord's Warden). Each lord, ruling over a demesne some 250-400 square miles, controls many of these manors, and owes service of his knights to the crown (the so-called knight's fee, 40 days of unpaid military service).

Medolin is a large walled city, well-known for its linen and cotton industry. Medolin cloth is shipped all over the Valley. It also plays host to the Merchant's Courts, where fair business and inter-kingdom laws are decided during the celebration of the fair.

Savalis, Lord of Medolin
Tria, Lady of Alcai
Venir, Lord of Morred
Thonis, Lord of Aldir
Mavos, Lord of Tiriot
Thirik, Lord of Malan
Thraya, Lady of Timort
Amirath, Lord of Arolin
Korath, Lord of Avisus
Mira, Lady of Toravin
Fora, Lady of Stavin
Nonir, Lord of Ariot
Valin, Lord of Halled

Tamadar Bay
A region that focuses around the old city of Tamadar, which is now little more than a glorified fishing village on the shores of the bay, this region also encompasses the old cities of Erano and Avomel. Of the three (known as the Three Cities in Sifekgae), Avomel retains the most of its old glories. Ancient Sifik monuments still stand there, and the city actually retains its ruling thivatin, one of the few Sifekgae cities to be ruled by an elderfolk council instead of by a lord.

This region has poor soil and its people tend to be fishers or herdsmen. Numerous small sandy islands off the coast provide for good oyster hunting ground. Of course, there are many coastal and even inland farming villages, clinging to the earth. Scratch-ploughs predominate here.

Western Highland
The Western Highland is another wild region, taken over with grazing and Wanderers. It is nearly uncontrolled, with only a handful of fortified manors and a few castles amongst its wild uplands. It is well-known for its herbs and lavender.

Great Araden Wood
This heavily wooded area is culturally focused around the Royal City of Araden, which is ruled by its own thivatin, much like Avomel. The city itself holds a franchise to a huge territory, the size of a lord's demesne, and commands taxes like a lord. It is the only city in all of Sifekgae that trades with the inhumans of the lands beyond the sea, and one of the few seaports in the Valley open to folk from beyond the mountains.

The wood itself is a peaceful place, having been well-groomed and well-settled in the Sifik times. Portions of it are reserved for royal hunting, and Araden keeps the rest clear of bandits and outlaws with their legendary Araden Guard, who are drawn from the wealthy children of the city and trained as soldiers.

Vale of Piris
Another forested region, this one wild and uncontrolled. Like the Marches, the Vale of Piris lies at the very frontier of Sifekgae. It is a deep wood, hard to travel, and rumored to be filled with spirits. They say the gods are strong in the Pirinvale, and that they still scrutinize the world there and act within it. It is also rumored to be wrapped in sorcery, and to hide renegade wizards who seek refuge from the High Order.

The Lords of Piris are a strange lot, but brave. They hunt bear and boar recreationally, and for that reason often think of themselves as the natural enemies of Nithisgae, whose heraldic sign is a bear. They are eager warriors, and excel in the tournaments when they are held throughout the kingdom.

Cheset Fen
A religious refuge, where Yasivan priests hid during the sea invasions, Cheset Fen is known for its Sivan temples. On a lonesome mound in the center of the swamps there stands Isma's Hideaway, a temple renowned for its beauty, stained glass, tapestries, and vast library. Though outlaws also lurk in the fens, the fen lords do their best to root them out.

In the northern fenland, the ruins of an old Othan city can be seen, slowly sinking into the swamp, some miles downstream from an ancient and cracked Othan dam.

Ruban Highlands and Northern Marches
Marcher lords rule these lands. Both regions are rough hill country. The Northern Marches play host to many Wanderers, while the Ruban highlands see almost none. Both are heavily militarized, although the castles in the Highlands are much larger and tend to be self-sufficient.

The demesnes in these realms are both parceled out to the most loyal knights and lords of the realm, as they border the inhuman lands of the Outside and protect not only Sifekgae, but the entire Valley. The Unified Temple sends money and aid to the marches as well, and pilgrim-mercenaries known as Flails, who serve in the castles and fortresses at the borders and help fight inhuman incursions into the Valley.

Nithis March and Nithis Narrows
Both these regions focus around the Lithas Castle, the linchpin of Sifekgae's defenses against Nithisgae. These regions are caught between the hills, the mountains, and the sea, making them narrow but important. Bones litter the fields of the Narrows and are still tilled up at the Field of Sighing where the great armies of King Azar's were finally halted.