Praemium Terra (3.5e Campaign Setting)
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Praemium Terra is the name of a series of lands brought under the control of 500 oligarchic archmages. There is no one place called "Praemium Terra", but that is the name given to the land by those who study it. It is a great, wide land between mountains to the north, a desert to the west, a great chasm to the south (with a desert on the other side), and a great ocean to the east. The land itself is rich in all kinds of resources, including many magical ones. The mountains to the north were not traditionally part of the civilized areas, but with the coming of the archmages, they have been brought into the fold.
Praemium Terra has a very long history, most of which far predates the current state of affairs. At present day, the land is ruled by archmages, but this was not always the case...
Roughly 1,500 years ago, a human kingdom in the middle of what is today Praemium Terra was at war with several of its neighbors. While the kingdom was powerful, the war was a stalemate, and resources were running out quickly. To achieve a breakthrough, the kingdom called upon the help of 10 archmages from the outside, promising to give them some of the conquered lands in exchange for their help. With their power and resources, the archmages managed to turn the tide of the war, and the lands that the human kingdom had been fighting fell.
The first sign of serious trouble was when the mages insisted that they take all of the conquered lands. Having been weakened by war and in no position to fight them, the king had to agree. Soon, 10 magic towers were built, and a massive estate surrounded each one. Within a short time, the estates were each as rich as a kingdom in their own right, and the land whose king had been at war in the first place was overthrown by his own people, who were fed up with his tyranny.
The kingdom soon splintered into many small, warring fiefdoms, and the magic estates began to conquer them one at a time. Before long, the entire center of Praemium Terra was under control of the ten archmages, who wasted no time in exploiting the land's resources. There was a problem, however. The people who lived in the central part of the land didn't want to be ruled by ten archmages, and revolts were frequent. The mages tried to put down the revolts, but discontentment and resistance grew, so much, in fact, that even paid armies would turn on the mages. Their magic was powerful, but even the archmages required the assistance of some warriors, especially when they wanted to exercise control over the land. Soon, the original ten found themselves calling in help from other mages, promising them a fraction of their estates if they could help them in putting down the revolts.
After order had been brutally restored, the mages were now able to exploit the land for massive profits and resources. The mages had access to materials and knowledge that most others can only dream about in other lands and they had no one to answer to but themselves. In such an atmosphere, high magics were able to flourish. Against the wishes of the original 10, even more archmages arrived. Soon after, a great war was fought, and in the aftermath, it was agreed that the 500 most powerful mages would become the rulers of the lands; any archmages who resisted were killed or exiled to other planes.
Praemium Terra is filled with grasslands, forests, a long coast going from north to south, and is criss-crossed by many rivers at various points.
Two main types of political divisions exist. The first are the estates of the archmages, which occupy most of the farmland (all of the best soil is under their control) and a number of cities and towns. All urban areas are essentially required to be loyal to one more archmages as there are no open cities or neutral settlements. In the eyes of the archmages, every settlement is an asset to be exploited, either for taxes, labor, or a special site.
Some towns are located on the archmages estates, but the majority of them are autonomous or semi-autonomous; the problem is, they want to be independent. Sometimes, most cities can simply pay their tribute to their archmage and refuse to cooperate with other archmages, and be otherwise left alone. On occasion, a city will be loyal to several cooperating archmages and have to pay tribute to more than one of them.
The problem with paying tribute to the archmages and having to be divided from other cities is that it severely limits growth opportunities for most cities. The largest city in the land is no greater than large size; there are no metropolises in Praemium Terra. Internal trade networks are usually limited to areas under control by the same archmage(s) as the city has to pay tribute to, and the great concentration of wealth in the hands of a few limits the amount of consumption power of most people. As a result, there isn't much of a middle class in Praemium Terra; what middle class exists is usually limited to craftsmen, scribes and shopkeepers. Most large-scale commercial activity is under control of the archmages.
While common is the largest language by far, elven, dwarven, and draconic have significant populations as well. Each of the 500 know how to speak, read and/or write in several languages.
The lands of Praemium Terra are mostly agricultural, with a few port towns and cities, a large Dwarven metal-working city, a large port city, some smaller cities here and there, and countless stretches of farmland, orchards, vineyards, and pastures on vast estates. Processing agricultural goods is vital to the health of the economy; this can be testified by the large number of mills, granaries, breweries, wineries, and dairies which dot the landscape.
Mines and quarries play in important role as well, but with the exception of the north, these elements are secondary to the local economy as a whole.
The most important exports are special resources, such as rare metals (such as mithral and adamantine), darkwood, magical plants, crystals, and other rare, frequently magical items. Some processing of these good occurs in the cities and towns.
The archmages control most major economic activity.
Note that this list doesn't consider most of the various non-humanoid creatures of the lands.
Humans: Making up the plurality race, Praemium Terra's population is 45% human. Humans are found in all walks of life, from the cities and towns, to the countryside and mines. The humans who live in Praemium Terra frequently discriminate against one another on the basis of race, even though they are all of the same white skin color; this perplexes many other races to no end. For the archmages, humans can be used in any purpose, although they excel in religious and military fields.
Elves: The Elven race is divided terribly in these lands. Most elves live in the countryside and work as poor farmers and herders (2/3 of them), but a minority (1/3 of them) live as richer merchants, craftsmen, mercenaries, mages, and officials in the cities. Some of them are part of criminal syndicates who have been known to extort and terrorize merchants. Elves make up 15% of the population of the lands. For the archmages, elves are good archers, mages, and workers in precise crafts.
Halflings: Surprisingly, the Halflings are fairly prosperous in this land, more so than the rural elves. Hardworking and settled on good land, the Halflings are frequently hired out as gardeners, brewers, vintners, coopers, and for other trades. They make up 15% of the population. Most of them are humble and industrious, which makes them a quiet pillar of society in whatever land they are in. To the archmages, halflings are nothing more than gardeners. 
Dwarves: Living in the mountains and mining towns in the north, the Dwarves had to be brought to Praemium Terra by the mages in order to extract valuable metals and forge manufactured goods. They make up 8% of the population. Compared to the other races, Dwarves are industrious overachievers whose metalworking skill is matched only by their ferocity in combat. Obviously, dwarves are considered by the archmages to be excellent smiths and architects. 
Gnomes: Making up 5% of the population, the gnomes are the quietest and arguably least consequential of all races in the lands. They live in their homes underground and usually prefer to be left alone. Their skill with metalworking is very good, but it cannot match that of the Dwarves. The archmages consider gnomes to be mostly useless to them. 
Goblins: The native inhabitants of the mountains, the goblins make up 5% of the population, and are a constant annoyance to more developed areas. Sometimes they can be a threat, if they are organized (a rare event.) The archmages use the goblins as slaves or as menial laborers. 
Half-Elves: At 2% of the population, half-elves are in a peculiar situation; they don't fit in very well and don't have enough numbers to create any major settlements of their own. As a result, many half-elves are traveling merchants. The archmages consider half-elves to be good traders for selling the wares from their estates.
Dragons: Consisting of less than 1% of the population, the dragons mostly inhabit the northern mountains. A number of dragons are counted among the 500 most powerful mages; including the most powerful female mage, who is a red dragon (the 59th most powerful mage.) The most powerful dragon in the land is one of the five most powerful; his lair is a great tower which rises over 200 meters into the sky. Dragons are respected by the archmages; this is reflected in the fact that no small part of the 500 is comprised of dragons. Dragons are constantly seeking to get more treasure, and although most of the dragons which are not part of the 500 have a good deal of wealth, their treasure is nothing next to that of any of the archmages. As a result, the archmages are able to pay dragons for occasional assistance, in the rare event that such assistance is needed. 
Half-Dragons: Mostly the offspring of humans and dragons, half-dragons are very rare, making up less than 1% of the population. They can frequently be found in positions of power, and a number of the 500 archmages are half-dragons. On the whole, they are vain and arrogant, thinking that they are better than the other races. Half-dragons are perhaps the favorite race of the archmages; they are powerful enough to be used as good soldiers, intelligent enough to be good officials, and still weak enough to be controlled by the archmages without fear of rebellion. To make matters better, their personalities are easy to predict, as their mindset is heavily influenced by the race of their draconic half. Finally, the promise of treasure is usually enough to win their loyalty. All of these factors combined with the race that many of the 500 are half-dragon themselves means that many of the highest-ranking officials in any administration that an archmage may have are half-dragons.
In addition to the standard races, the Archmages have been busy working on magically enhancing and modifying various races to become better servants, stronger soldiers, or otherwise more efficient in their tasks.
Dracons: The power of the dragons has always perplexed the mages of the world. While dragons have been known to share their a fraction secrets with certain select humans (such as the dragon disciples), it is believed that these secrets are only the tip of the iceberg. While dragons of all ages and races have been slain, very few of them had extant magical notes with which to copy information from, and those fortunate. To unravel the greater part of this mystery, a race was created, mixing the blood of humans and dragons. So far, the effect has been the birth of a race which is similar to the half-dragon, and yet, distinct in its own right. With two arms and legs and no wings, it has the appearance of a human in the distance, but up close, one can see the claws, fangs, and horns, and can easily mistaken it for a half-dragon.
Many diverse Gods of every kind imaginable are worshiped in Praemium Terra. Some monotheists exist alongside polytheists, but the former are quite rare. With a few exceptions, most estates and towns are content to grant relative religious freedom to their inhabitants, as long as their religion doesn't harm others (no demon-summoning cults or death worshiping necromantic cults are allowed in most places.)
Humans, dwarves, and halflings tend to worship deities with a pragmatic agenda (hard work, self-reliance, virtue, faith, salvation.) Elves, half-elves, and dragons tend to worship deities that promise them things (gold, power, fulfilled desires, etc.) Gnomes tend to worship earth spirits. The 500 archmages only worship deities if it benefits them; most of them consider themselves to be "above" morality. It is worth noting that the top fifth of the 500 have deity-like powers themselves, although they are nowhere remotely as powerful as the one, true God.
Some deities include:
The Dragon King: Followed by about 4% of the population as a god (2% recognize him as the only deity), the Dragon King commands respect through his great power. His followers in Praemium Terra believe that it will be the dragons which will overthrow the 500 archmages and rule the land.
Cassia: Cassia is a deity of minor but growing importance in Praemium Terra. She has a great appeal among elven females, especially the poor ones. The archmages who rule the land are not fooled by her for a second; many of them would do the same things Cassia does if they were in her position. Currently, about 2% of Praemium Terra worships her as their only deity, and another 3% believe in her as a minor side divinity. More of the land would worship her (as much as 10% would make her a part of their pantheon and 5% would worship her as their sole deity), but Cassia worship is illegal in large parts of Praemium Terra, due to her corrupting influence.
Lucia: A lesser good goddess of truth, Lucia has less than 1% of the population worshiping her and only her paladins and priestesses recognize her as their main deity.
While all of the standard types of magic apply, a distinction is generally drawn between the two kinds of magic generally practiced in the lands. These kinds of magic are more of an approach than a whole new school. Some mages swear by a specific kind of magic as being superior to another.
High magic: Spells which create their effects by changing the root source of whatever is targeted. The target can be anything as simple as a rock to as complex as reality itself. An example of high magic would be warping reality to temporarily reverse gravity in a certain area in order to lift a heavy load. Simply put, high magic affects the cause, not the effect.
Low magic: Spells which directly effect the object it is targeted at. The example of the heavy load is good for low magic as well; instead of suspending gravity, low magic simply creates a push or a pull in order to lift the load. In other words, nothing is altered, but a force is directly produced. Low magic affects the effect, not the cause.
Different mages focus on different types of magic. What kind of magic a mage focuses on depend on a number of factors. The environment from which the mage came from is a major influence; mages from deserts are likely to use fire magic, while mages from arctic regions are likely to use water (ice) magic. Another influence is how civilized the mage's background is. Generally, the more complex magics (energy manipulation, electricity, psionics) originate in civilized areas, while simpler magics (elements, nature, etc) tend to originate in less developed regions.
Magic traditions are also based on race. While humanity is diverse beyond belief in its magic skills, other races tend to be focused in one direction. Dwarves, for example, are heavily focused on earth magic.
Ferovale: A large city whose population is 80% Dwarven, Ferovale is the largest manufacturing center in all of Praemium Terra. Valuable metals, such as adamantine and mithral are mined, smelted, and turned into finished products.
Prodigia: The largest city in all the lands (large city size, not a metropolis) , Prodigia is the site from which more resources are exported than any other port. All 500 mages have a presence here, but only a relatively small number (45 of them) actually have their towers there. The city's loyalties are divided, with different neighborhoods, docks, guilds, and the city government itself owing loyalties to different archmages. Conflicts are frequent, and the value of the resources which come in and out of the city are vast. Crime is a problem, and shifting loyalties among various city factions make it a difficult place to live in. Complicating the situation is the matter of race; there is no majority race in the city, and not all races get along very well. To make matters even worse, the city is badly crowded.
The Ruined Citadel: The once great fortress-town of the kingdom who invited the 500 to the lands. There is nothing left save for a burned wreck. Great secrets of magic can still be found there, but it is said that the spirits of the lost kingdom still haunt the ruins.
The Tower of Sin: A tower belonging to a female elven archmage, this tower has seven levels; each one is guarded by an avatar of each of the sins, which get more powerful until one reaches the top, where one must face an avatar of pride, greatest of all the sins. It is said that if one can reach the top, the archmage will grant a wish to the one who makes it. Many have tried, all have failed.
Solaria: A large town devoted to the god Pelor. Solaria is considered an asset by the 500, and the city is occasionally fought for by rival archmages. The largest building by surface area is the temple to Pelor. For a town, Solaria produces a large number of clerics and wizards; its magic schools and temple complex give the city a great magical infrastructure. Currently, there is one tower belonging to an Archmage in the city. In order to maintain control of the city, he moved his tower there by magical means; this has happened before with other Archmages who control the city. The local administrator of the town is the high priest of the temple.
Fervens Insula: An island in the ocean just to the west of Praemium Terra proper, this island is home to a dragon of unknown classification. He is not one of the 500, but is believed to be the adolescent (by dragon standards, this is a long time) son of one of the dragons who is a part of the 500. Fervens Insula is known to be a refuge for those who have enough knowledge to find it, appropriate means to get there, and sufficient treasure to tribute the dragon with. Inhabitants of the island include ogres, a drake, a vampire, a giant, the dragon himself, and various other unusual refugees, drifters, and unique magical beings. Rumor has it that the dragon wants to increase his power so he can be one of the 500. In addition, there are at least four other, smaller islands around Fervens Insula, each one containing a powerful magical being. The dragon claims these islands as his own and wishes to collect tribute from them, but the other beings will not comply.
The Great Citadel: A heavily enchanted fortress-city (small city size), this citadel is under the control of the third most powerful of the 500. He is able to protect himself and all of his subjects from almost all harm from the outside world inside of the walls of his bastion. However, in order to be able to live well in the city, one has to possess some sort of special skill or craft. The archmage divides the citizens in to three classes; mages, skilled workers, and unskilled workers. Each class is relegated to a different part of the city, with the mages getting the best parts, the skilled workers getting to live in the moderately good areas, and the unskilled workers getting to live in the walled-off ghettos. One's status in this society is determined by one's usefulness to the archmage who rules it; race and gender matter little. The only problem is that this merit-based system is based on one's usefulness to the ends of one man, not one's own benefit. Regardless, high pay in a variety of magically-adept skills (such as inscribing magic scrolls or constructing golems) is available, and a magic academy (whose expenses are paid for by the archmage, as he knows that a successful magical artisan is worth many times more to him than the costs of an education) exists for those who show interest and potential.
The Great Oracle: Predating the arrival of the 500, the great oracle (herself a powerful mage, but no match for any one of the 500) has given advice to many important adventurers. Her dwelling is large and well-protected.
- An archmage is seeking to steal an artifact from a more powerful archmage, but he needs help.
- Elven rogues are ambushing caravans on a major road.
- A magical disease is plaguing the citizens of Prodigia's slums.
- A powerful dragon has just died and his treasure-filled lair is said to be open for easy pickings.
- An adamantine mine has suffered a cave-in.
- Dwarves living in major cities have been disappearing for apparent reason.
- A heavily trapped dungeon has been discovered.
- Dragons attack a town and the archmage in charge of it doesn't seem to care.
- One of the 500 has disturbed an ancient power in the forest and nature itself is attacking civilized areas in the region.
- A tribe of minotaurs is rebelling against the archmage that controls them.
- Inequitable distribution of wealth leads a small human city to rebel against the archmage that control it.
- The daughter of a notable halfling leader is killed by an archmages' creature and he seeks redress.
- The son of an archmage plots to rebel against his father and steal a valuable magical sword.
- A settlement of gnomes has disappeared without a trace.
- A portal to the plane of positive energy has been opened and energy is leaking out into the material plane.
- A portal to the plane of negative energy has been opened and energy is being drained out of the material plane.
- Devils have infested an old palace.
- A demon has possessed a herd of swine and is rampaging across the countryside.
- An very old man with enormous wings (possibly an angel) has been found near a fishing village.
- Followers of Cassia have been found in a land where they are illegal and the archmage wants to wipe them out.
- A half-dragon has run away from the estate he was employed on and is being pursued.
- Runes have been carved on the walls of an ancient temple, and magical energy is starting to concentrate on that site.
- An extraplanar being who recently arrived from a distant dimension has a wondrous item to sell for the highest bidder, and many of the archmages want it.
- A pool of protoplasm is generating oozes at an alarming rate, and it is believed that magical waste produced by one of the 500 is responsible.
- A massive construct is powering up.
Below is a small sample of the diverse creatures which inhabit the many lands of Praemium Terra:
Khalkotauroi: Giant bulls with bronze hooves and mouths which breathe fire. They are related to gorgons, but unlike those creatures, these bulls also have brazen mouths and do not have the ability to turn anyone into stone.
Wolverines: These mammals are still a common sight deep in the woods.
Elementals:Summoned by mages, elementals are more common in Praemium Terra than in most other lands. It isn't rare for elementals to be used as guards in a mage's tower, nor is it rare for elementals to be found accompanying mages as they travel through the land. Elementals also congregate around magical energy sources, such as enchanted ruins, or a portal to another plane. All four elementals, earth: fire: air: and water: occur in roughly equal numbers.
Classes and Templates
Astrologer: They say that the stars are an open book just waiting to be read, and within its volumes are the answers to the mysteries of magic and fate; the problem is knowing how to read them. Astrologers devote themselves to such a task. These mages are a kind of wizard who specialize in Astral magic, and spend much time in their observatories on top of tall towers in the remotest of regions, biding their time to learn about the stars.
Mystic: "Why is freedom like a temper? Because it is only appreciated when it is lost." A common saying from a brooding kind of mage who spend his time in dark caves, seeking knowledge from within as opposed to without. Known for their odd customs and strange beliefs, these wizards are nevertheless useful for many things; having mastered themselves, they are able to master spells beyond that which one normally expects their experience to permit. They are also well known for their wise sayings.
Teratogenitor: The 500 are well-known for their lack of respect for the laws of nature. To them, the gods are nothing more than powerful entities, and no moral law applies to one who has enough force to overcome or ignore it. With no regard for consequences, and fewer regard for principles, the archmages have introduced the magic of teratogeny, or "monster making" to the lands. Applying all of the great knowledge and power in the most fiendishly imaginative and terrible ways possible, teratogenitors are able to create creatures of unspeakable horror and power. To them, living tissue is but a raw material, and the lives of others are a replaceable asset, albeit one that should be spent with a wisdom that is proportionate to the supply of them to expend.
The 500: The rulers and owners of Praemium Terra, there is nothing in all of the lands the 500 Archmages don't have influence on. Throughout the world of mages, the 500 are well respected, due to the fact that they sell a good deal of magical materials which are harvested from their estates to other lands. Magically powerful, incredibly wealthy, possessed of rich estates, and highly intelligent, each of the 500 is a formidable foe. The weakest on the list are still fairly strong, while the most powerful of all (the top ten) essentially transcend mortality (at least, in terms of aging and typical mortal vulnerabilities.)
The 500 may be diverse, but they all share a few commonalities. First, all of them are, in game terms, epic level mages. Second, they are all able to forge artifacts of varying power levels. Finally, almost all of the 500 have been known to take an interest in one or more aspects of very advanced magic, such as high-energy alchemy, the creation of massive constructs, complex teratogeny (highly developed monster creation), the collection of millennia-old magical items, or dimensional manipulation.
The Caelaes: Elven for "helpers", this is the most feared criminal organization in all of Praemium Terra. Cities, generals, kings, and nobles have historically been under threat from this group just as much as the common people have been; only the archmages are out of the reach of the Caelaes.
The Altores: A group of human clerics, paladins, and other religious classes devoted to overthrowing the rule of the 500. This order consists of several different groups. First, there are the members of the first level, those who operate in society and secretly support the group. Second, there are those who fight for the group (mostly paladins and monks.) And third, there are those who lead and preach (the clerics.)
Shivi Hivis: Draconic for "Guard group", Shivi Hivis are a group of dragons who hire their services out to only the very highest-paying customers. Their cost is so high that only archmages, emperors, the very richest of aristocrats and merchants, and deities can afford to hire them, but the price is well worth the cost. Dragons of every color work in the group, but are far from typical of their respective races. Most of the dragons in the group are neutral, but can be made to do almost any task if offered enough money; they will fight malignant extradimensional beings and wreck innocent cities with equal willingness, as long as the payment is good. The group is headquartered in a gigantic palace which is designed for dragons to inhabit. Currently, Shivi Hivis has 57 dragons; 27 metallic and 30 chromatic.
Praemium Terra has a wide variety of individuals whose lives and experiences capture the essence of the lands. To most, Praemium Terra is an distant land which provides many magical goods; little thought is given to those who actually live there. A few of the characters are:
Lyaldor: The new leader of a mid-sized human town, Lyaldor has little choice but to pay a crushing tribute to the archmage which rules over the region. For years, he has watched as his people have gone hungry in a land of plenty because of the 500, and as leader, he wishes to make it stop. He believes that a good leader puts the needs of the people first, and that what the 500 are doing to lands such as his is very wrong.
Cenandra: A bronze half-dragon, she is the result of the union of a bronze dragoness and one of the weaker of the 500. A born sorceress, Cenandra was expected to become a mage of great power, but her concern for the peasants contrasted greatly with the cold indifference shown by her father.