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The Kingdom of Carolis
~ The World ~
The six duchies of Carolis are Caryle, Haverston, Highpeak, Korbis, Mekal and Sinosere. The latter is rarely mentioned by name.
The Boundless Waters: This is the ocean (or sea, or late, or large river for all anyone knows) that is the southward bound of Carolis. The Royal Navy patrols it and keeps other vessels from daring to enter Carolis for any reason. They are devastatingly efficient at this. What lies beyond the waters is unknown.
Caryle: The port city of Carolis, this city serves as the centrepoint for the Navy and only source for fresh seafood. Due to the permanent presence of the navy and sailors spending money like piss it's also the richest of the Cities (next to Manichee, naturally), though the area falls behind Haverston and Korbis for wealth as a Duchy. The city is a scattering of architectural styles and buildings, to the point that it makes no sense to anyone. It's the easiest of the cities to get lost in, which tends to happen regularly even to locals. Much like the buildings, the people are wide assortment but generally embrace a love of life and fondness for the more important things, like women, drinking, and fun.
The Great Desert: This is the Great Desert. No one - not even the barbaric, baby-eating savages in it who give themselves tattoos and piercings know how big it is, nor how far it extends. No attempt to cross it has ever succeeded but sometimes the desert people meet humans from the outer side, stumbling from lack of water and food and trying to kill everyone they meet. The desert people are known for black magics, stealing women for harems, being thieves, untrustworthy and beastly creatures with no honour, and widely considered to be sub-human. In the east closer to the desert the rumours tend to avoid the sub-human part but embrace the rest.
Haverston: The wealthiest duchy and third wealthiest city, Haverston reaps a lot of benefit from the rain in the western lands and produces a third of the excess harvest for the nation. The city itself is surprisingly modest and mostly made of wood. It tends to rain a lot, which helps keep the chance of fires down. The citizens are known for being generous and very outgoing, as long as you want to trade or sell or buy things. Rumours about illegal merchants guilds abound in the city but have never been proven.
Highpeak: The remotest city in the Kingdom, Highpeak is surprisingly well-off due to the mining funds and miners that flow into and out of the city, but the cost of living there tends to be rather high and the it can get cold in the winter months, enough that some foods need to be important from Korbis. Which the duchy is the second largest of the six duchies, the land is covers it largely empty and few people have any desire to live in such "provincoal" land. As a city, Highpeak is made entirely of stone and with an eye to defence since, on occasion, things have come down from the mountains that needed to be slain. The people of Highpeak are very dour, and believe in a good day's work for a good day's pay. Children are, naturally, raised on horror stories about Caryle. Strangely, though, the tales of depravity and wantonness tend to lead to a lot of people moving to Caryle if they can ever afford it.
Korbis: Both the second-wealthiest duchy and city, Korbis is largely envied by the other cities and evades various trade sanctions and the like only by very skilful use of diplomacy and bribes, which further fails to endear them to others. The city is all stone, and beautifully designed, with the central castle set up literally like a fairy-tale one, almost no guards and no wall around the city at all. It's defences against threats are largely magical, and cost a fortune. It's widely believed that not even the King could afford them so how the city of Korbis manages to and what hold they have other the Kings is unknown but despite the reputation of the people at stuck-up it is the most popular city to move to, bar none.
Lake Sindar: A large freshwater lake, Sindar serves the city of Manichee as a source of water. It's the largest lake in the Kingdom and said to be a source of many underwater streams leading to the west. There are rumours that there is an entire underwater river to allow the kings to flee, but if so it has never been used and is likely lost or forgotten.
Mekal: This city isn't a pretty city and is largely factories, crappy housing for workers who are often close to legal slaves, and smog. The wealth of cities is measured in desire to live here, reputation, and the like, not just production of goods. It says a lot about this city that the only reason it's wealthier than Sinosere is because the latter is a ruin. Which isn't to say that the city isn't wealthy: the merchant families living outside the city proper are stinking rich It's just that the city is a terrifiying realty of the costs for those riches and most people don't like acknowledging that and plans have been made (as they have before) to "fix" the city, but they always crash when faced with the bottom-line of the merchants.
Manichee: The capital city of Carolis and the place where all the duchies come together, Manichee is a larger sprawling city where the squalor of Makal and confused streets of Caryle come together with the beauty of Korbis and the practical defences of Highpeak into one city that, inexplicably, works. As the centre of the world and culture of Carolis, Manichee is probably the closest thing to a myth people have, and is much like New York City is to immigrants to the USA in this world, the place where anyone can succeed, of fabulous wealth, and the like. It says a lot about the mythology of the city that the reality never quite kills the mystique.
Northern Barrier: The northern mountains. Legend claims there used to be paths, through it to other lands, but if so no one knows where they might be any longer. Foul and loathsome creatures are said to dwell in it and few living near the mountains willingly.
Old Wood: The oldest forest of the north, and the largest one to have resisted efforts to turn it into homes and furniture. It is also, oddly, one of the few remaining woods not guarded by a druid. No one is sure what lives in it, but locals flat out refuse to cut it down and it's said that the dead walk its depths in paces where the sun never reaches the ground.
Scrub Land: The area between the mountains and the desert in the north, the scrub land is a small, mostly deserted waste that no one lives in. Really. It has a name on the map for no reason at all. Honest. Stop looking at me like that!
Sinosere: The ruins of Sinosere are seldom mentioned by name. In fact, most people don't like to mention the city at all if it can be avoided. The Duchy itself is a good 2 days north of the ruins and the dukes don't like to mention it themselves, calling themselves "the desert duchy" instead. What is known about the city is that 150 years ago the people of it set up a plan to trade with outsiders (against the wishes of their Duke, many say, but this was hotly debated them and still is now). The King of the time - King Reynard the VII - found out, and had the city levelled, burned and the ground salted. The scattered ruins were left behind because they served as a better warning than empty ground. Sinosere was among the poorest duchies then, since it's land is rather poor and the desert savages having no real desire to swear fealty to the ducky (or king for that matter) and after the destruction of the city things have largely gone downhill for it. Reyanrd VII would be pleased to know that, but not as pleased as he would have been to avoid falling down a flight of stairs onto 5 swords by accident three years later.
Western Reaches: The western mountains, largely believed to be impenetrable, though on occasion merchants will send expeditions into it. None has ever returned.
Politics, Taxes, Marriage, Honour, Laws, and other fun things in Carolis.
Carolis is very much a land divided into haves and have-nots. Much of the survival of this system lies in the fact that the common people have what they need, while the nobility have what they want. Technology and magic are largely the domain of the nobles and kept sequestered from the rest of the people, ostensibly for their own good. Keeping this system running requires a lot of effort, and the primary output of this lies in politics, the constant battle between the haves and the haves punctuated by the trickle down theory of economics. What largely tends to trick down is the occasional shower of piss out the window a drunken noble. It is possible that the kingdom was not meant to be a government of the wealthy designed for the wealthy by the wealthy but that is what it has largely become. As such, political (and economic) power is concentrated in the hands if the king, the dukes, the lords and the barons. The merchant class has never formed guilds and the like and most likely will never be permitted to.
Power is based on various checks and balances. The King is chosen from one of the 36 Lordly houses by the 6 Dukes, and rules until there are no legitimate male heirs. At that point, a new house is chosen and the old one is, basically, given a barony or house for the females and their children, or tossed out into the streets. Salic succession is the rule of the day for the king, the lords, and the barons. Only the dukes are allowed to circumvent this by adopting children and much of the stability of the kingdom lies in the power of the dukes to keep the kings in check and make sure the lords aren't allowing their barons too much free reign.
Manichee is the kings city, and ruled by the king alone. The six dukedoms rule the rest of the country, and each has 6 of the Lords underneath them. The Lords may have as many Barons as they wish, but most Baronies typically cover from 4-6 villages. Within each realm, the ruler is the law. A corrupt Baron may be circumvented by appealing to the Lord, and a Lord to a Duke and the like, but it's rather rare. The King can, in theory, discipline the dukes but that is a chancy business at best. Most often, the dukes police each other for excesses.
Players should keep in mind that the word of nobility is law. They are the justice of the land, so getting on their bad side of one (and not the good side of another to help protect you) is a really dumb move.
The Barony system is the one PCs will be(come) the most familiar with, like as not. So, here's a rough breakdown:
Barons rule anywhere from 4-6 villages (Sometimes as few as 2 or as many as 12 (or more, if they've taken over other baronies in a minor war/feud)). Each village has, in general, 300 people. Of these, two are knights trained by the baron and about 50 are fighters (Most likely 0th level fighters, rogues, rangers). The knights pick out the best people and those are taken to the Barony itself, and trained by the armsmaster and become classed NPCs. This is generally 5-10 other people a village.
So most Barons can field at least 100 - 300 troops for their lord at any given time. Give a lord 10 barons (not an unreasonable number) and you get an army of about 3000 per lord for 36 lords, which is nothing to sneeze at.
The Lords themselves take care of cavalry and keep a standing army drawn from their Baronies to enforce the King's Justice throughout the land. The Dukes, on the other hand, don't take taxes directly but are paid from the royal treasury and maintain their own standing armies. The King, perhaps surprisingly, has no army, save the city guard of Manichee itself. The Royal army and Airforce are largely autonomous bodies who do their jobs, get paid, and report to the king and the dukes every quarter of the year about any new developments from Outside.
The Kingship is given to one of the 36 Lords by a vote among the Dukes when a king's line vanishes (i.e. no male heirs). The family chosen loose their Lordship and a Baron is traditionally promoted to it. For the most part, the head that wears the crown is very uneasy and more than a little paranoid. While having a lot of sons is one way to ensure that the line continues, infighting among the sons becomes rather common, and killing off your father and/or brothers will lead to the throne, but leaves you with very few heirs if someone assassinates you. In point of fact, assassination from within the family probably brings down more of the Kings lines than outside assassination would. Most kings tend to kill the wife of the previous king and their daughters, as well as (especially) the sons of said daughters, since unlike the women they would have had something had their father lived. Not power, but a position of importance and trust somewhere for being male. The cleaning/cullling is traditional, but not all kings have done it.
Death is free. Taxes aren't. Taxation in the kingdom is the prerogative of the Barons. The Lords generally accept half of what the Barons tax, and half of what they accept is passed on to the King (and by extension the dukes). Taxation itself depends on the Baron, the baronies location, and the like.
Generally, the poorer north regions have taxes set at a flat rate of 15%, which seems high, but taxes are not collected during poor years and 5% of the 15% is kept aside just for such years.
The richer western lands, with plentiful rainfall and lots of rivers and lakes, tends to 60%, the highest in the kingdom, but they get the most perks and the most protection from the King's Justice as a result.
The south, rich in cities and the navy, generally pays 30% - 40%.
The desert-bordering eastern lands vary but 20% is the average for them as well.
Taxes are collected from net profit, rather than gross (at least, they are in the kinder baronies), so that everyone is fed and looked after and taxes come out of the surplus the community generates. Almost all taxes are collected as food and provisions, and from them the Barons send actual money to the Lord, or just a lot of provisions.
Taxes from businesses are what pay for the road and guard upkeep of the towns and cities themselves. Most businesses pay 30% of the profits, split between the Kingdom and the Town/City.
Marriage, Sex, and such.
As all claims of power and titles and ownership of land require one to be male, there is no more terrible stain than being a bastard, so marriage is strictly enforced in Carolis. Sex before marriage does happen, but only with your intended spouse. If it was with someone else, a woman still marries and hopes the child looks like his father. A man having sex with many women runs into another problem, since marrying more than one person, while not strictly illegal, is frowned upon unless it helps keep the population down. (So a woman with more than one husband is preferable to a man with more than one wife.)
While being a bastard is more a slight to males, who become females insofar as a man can as they can't get any rights to land or titles from their unknown father, female bastards are just as disadvantaged since the slim connection to their family they can offer up for marriage is non-existent. A result of this is that someone who is indiscriminately siring children and producing bastards is invariably castrated, while a woman of negotiable affection who doesn't take steps to ensure she won't have a child if she does not know the father (a tricky thing, sometimes) is shunned for the shame dealt to their child. Rape, when it can be proven, leads to the child being legally the fathers, and the father executed. (Rape by females isn't admitted to and never happens. Really.)
Marriage occurs between the ages of 16-18 for the most part, with the country leaning more towards 16 (and sometimes as young as 14 or 12). Most marriages among the nobility are arranged since birth or before it, and arrangements in the country are common as well but not strictly binding. In most cases, marrying for love is a Bard's tale and seldom ever a reality, but the separation of the man's and woman's worlds and places keeps domestic friction to a minimum. The formal rites for marriages tend to vary from place to place, and often simply living together and having children is considered married by most. Various religions have their own, secret rituals, and actual pronouncements of marriage can be bought off the Kingsmen and proclaimed for a fully legal marriage.
As noted on the intro page, same-sex relations are condoned, if not openly admitted to. There aren't even many jokes, on the belief that people can't be what they don't know about and sure, they might wonder why the don't like the sex, but they'll live with it since they don't know any other way. Those who do learn of options and exercise them are mostly left in peace, though if they were formally contacted to marry someone it may happen anyway. (Such relations are to last until a child of their union is 10, legally. So the homosexual spouse is obliged to raise the one (or two) children with the other spouse, but a refusal for sex again tends to be common, and largely accepted thought it can lead to strange households.)
FYI, as Sintaqx asked about it, there are no entirely gay or bi divisions of the army, a la Greece. Indeed, marrying someone in your own divisions is frowned upon, let alone sex and love. The nobility reasons, rightly(?), that the none of the soldiers should be put in the position of choosing between their lord and their love and endeavour to make sure that won't happen.
At itís most basic level, honour is about trusting someone and taking them at their word. This considered the height of honour and to question someoneís word or integrity is the most insulting thing that can be done. The basis of honour is a conscious assumption of ones obligations, in effect accepting responsibility for what you do and living with the consequences of your own actions. Of course, honour varies from person to person and many people hold to the letter rather than the spirit on honour in most situations. To most people, honour tends to resemble a set of general principles by which one person or a group of persons live by, and the rest of society finds rather silly. The generally accepted tenants of honour include some (or all) of the following:
These ideas apply to friendship as well. In the Kingdom, someone would say "I am not honoured that you are my friend, I am honoured by the trust you are placing in me by being my friend, and I shall do everything in my power to live up to that trust." As such, the concept of honour is closely interrelated with the concept of loyalty and friendship and is used to discriminate with wisdom in deciding where people will place their loyalty.
On a personal level, one is loyal to one's family, one Baron, one Lord, and the King. Each trumps the other in level of loyalty, though in the end family is considered by many to be more important. In the north especially, loyalty to kin is highly prized and considered wiser than loyalty to religions, political boundaries, and the like since those are just abstract inventions. Honour is most highly prized and formulated (complete with duels over issues) among the nobility. The common people are more into doing what it right over what is strictly honourable, honour to them being as for thems who can afford to have it since itís a farking poor food for the starvin man.
Laws are generally enforced by Barons at the local level, and the Knights generally keep most villages in line by slapping around drunkards from time to time. Most of the fighters trained by the Baron rotate around as town guards and the Barony itself generally has a few of them on full time. The Kingsmen generally enforce laws on the road and help in larger town disputes and the like. They're pretty much like legions in miniature, with groups ranging from 10-30 for the part and enforce the King's law on the land. They're fair, just, and generally ruthless to lawbreakers, but there are only so many of them and they have a lot of kingdom to cover, so many adventurers find themselves hired by local barons to deal with more minor problems, and some of them eventually becomes Kingsmen, if they do well enough.
The five cities are served by City Guards, who aren't Kingsmen and paid by the city itself rather than the crown (Cities and towns make money from taxes collected from business, rather than the people). This gives the cities some autonomy, and though the guards are paid less they at least don't have to go out and wander all over Carolis.
There are, of course, rumours about spies and secret police, but they're largely just rumour with no basis in fact. (Though the fact that the nobility tend to be paranoid of each other pretty much means that spies are mandatory among them.) Generally, only the King and/or the Dukes can afford any kind of secret police, assuming it exists at all. The rumours are necessary of course, since there is no point to having a secret police if no one knows they exist.