Society (Orizon Supplement)
From D&D Wiki
|Upper Tier, Atomhawk (Source|
This chapter is intended to serve as a reference point for broad societal trends that are common throughout the world of Orizon. There are many divergences from the norm, some great, some small, but wherever they go travelers will find some of these trends.
- 1 General Trends
- 2 On the Ground
- 3 The Underground
- 4 Oceans and Seas
- 5 The Skies and Skylands
- 6 Factions and Organizations
Most skilled labor is handled under the purview of guilds, especially skilled crafts and magic. The usual system of managing guild membership and advancement begins with accepting and training apprentices. Once they reach a certain level of ability, these apprentices are then sent out to travel between multiple different guild masters during a journeyman period of training in order to learn new skills and new ways to apply them. Following this period of study, they then prove their abilities before a group of guild masters to become approved as a full member of the guild themselves.
The guilds are typically held responsible for handling guild business and disputes internally and are a powerful lobbying force, but are forbidden from forming any sort of militia. Many guilds operate between multiple different nations and need to manage their operations to accommodate the various laws of different countries.
Shipping is a lifeblood industry as it is responsible for connecting people across the skylands and the ground. As a consequence merchant guilds and similar organizations responsible for transit and ships usually command a great deal of power.
Many merchant guilds collaborate with other organizations to facilitate their operations. Communications organizations like post offices and couriers may collaborate with merchant guilds, using their trade routes as their delivery routes. Adventurer guilds will use merchant guilds both to collect and share rumors and jobs and to shuttle adventurers closer to their final destinations.
Most nations are relatively small in scale. This is usually because of practical concerns rather than a lack of ambition from world leaders. It is difficult to move people between skylands because of the necessity for sailing ships, and monsters and raiders makes it difficult to reliably move people across the ground.
These consequently restrain a ruler’s ability to maintain the rule of law within their borders, forcing those borders to remain small to allow those rulers to reliably enforce their rule and defend their people. There are very few large nations, and many are surrounded by either wild territory or numerous smaller nations and city-states.
Airships are often used for surveillance over the ground, and small scout ships can occasionally be seen flying low over the ground looking for people in distress or for signs of monster activity. This practice has its own dangers though, as monsters may attack these ships, flying above them and striking, or launching grappling hooks or other missiles. Some creatures like giants will hurl boulders at these ships, hoping to loot them for supplies or simply defend their territory.
Organized monsters, like the raiding parties or the legions, usually have heavy ballista or guns and cannon intended to shoot down low-flying ships to prevent them from reporting on their activity to any organized militaries.
Rooftops on the ground and sky are designed to be color coded and usually have symbols painted onto the roofs to indicate to anyone flying above what is available and where it can be found.
Sex and Sexuality
The influence and philosophies of gods like Celeste, Sildrin, and Wobbum has encouraged a somewhat permissive attitude towards sexuality. Some holiday celebrations are even expected to conclude with an orgy, though this typically follows a great deal of alcohol and is conducted in private spaces. Openness about sex is not considered shameful or discouraged, but open practice is seen as being in bad taste at the very least and some discretion is expected in polite society.
All societies do still hold the importance of consent along with this permissiveness, and any abuse of that is considered a serious crime. Hand in hand with this criminality is a negative association with coercive magic, such as charming spells.
Thanks to the philosophies endorsed by Celeste, gender identity is allowed a great degree of personal expression. Some people seek out magical means of reassignment if they feel they need it. While there are some to whom such things may be considered jarring, they are not persecuted or demonized.
Further, gender isn’t really viewed as any sort of concrete limitation on ability or quality of a person. Though there is some consideration of the distinct differences between genders, no one would consider a woman being a warrior or a man being a homemaker to be at all unusual.
Romance & Relationships
Young people are passionate about love and lust, and the old don’t exactly dislike it. Romance is, for the large part, encouraged and enjoyed in the cultures of Orizon. There is, however, a difference between relationships of passion and relationships like marriage. Marriage is considered a contract and love is not a necessary part of that contract.
Marriage, especially among the nobility, is arranged. The concern is more for arranging alliances or business relations than the happiness of those involved. Although compatibility between the future couple is taken into consideration, they rarely have any real say in the matter outside of indicating their preference.
The sexuality of the couple is usually taken into consideration when arranging a marriage, but if an arrangement would be especially profitable even that may be ignored.
Since formal relationships are so strictly controlled, affairs are not looked upon with much disdain, so long as they are handled with courtesy for the situation and discretion for society. There have even been cases of a partner and spouse becoming close friends and acting almost as an extended family.
The closest parallel (in earth’s history) to the technology available to the people of Orizon would be the 16th to 18th century. The mechanical and industrial innovations of the industrial revolution haven’t even been conceived of. Additionally, a lack of infrastructure and communications tools makes spreading and advancing these technologies difficult at best.
Gunpowder is a common tool for weapons technology and is often used in either simple firearms or simple explosive devices like grenades or powder kegs. However, gunpowder is an inherently dangerous substance, so it is only produced and stored by specific groups and organizations. In addition, firearms have small and intricate mechanisms, and so are only produced by well trained individuals and they are expensive both to own and maintain.
Medical technology keeps about the same level of advancement, but since it’s supplemented with the healing abilities of magic great feats can still be accomplished. The greatest difference from the period is an understanding that cleanliness is connected to health.
The ruins of the ancient world have numerous caches of the technology used by the people of that era, technology that outpaces what those of modern Orizon could accomplish by centuries. Unfortunately much of it has been irreparably damaged or extremely well protected. In addition, the method for their creation or their maintenance depended on a techno-magical infrastructure that the breaking devastated.
Sometimes people survive expeditions to the ruins and bring back some of this ancient technology, but because of the gaps, attempts to recreate the things recovered have almost all failed, sometimes disastrously.
Getting messages through the world is an ordeal in itself, in addition to the distance between people and the comparative rarity of means of travel, there is also a tremendous amount of danger to travelers. Most communications is handled by either the merchants guild using their ships and trade routes for delivery of postage and packaging, or by specific courier companies that have their own ships and flying mounts they use for faster, more reliable, delivery.
Some employ magical means for communications. Sending stones, scrying, even teleportation is used to communicate over vast distances. However, these tools are expensive and require training and resources to develop. Because of this, there are extremely few developed and expansive communications networks that employ magic. There are numerous smaller systems to communicate between individuals though.
Print tools are relatively simple affairs, basic printing presses and movable type are available to those who want to use them. Many use these tools to develop newsletters and newspapers that are distributed through merchant guild’s trade routes.
There are many different languages on Orizon, most of them are racially based and descended from the pre-breaking cultures. One of the more subtle influences of the gods has been preserving a common language between the various people of Orizon, though there are numerous regional dialects and accents of that common language. International travelers may have to spend some time figuring out each other’s meaning despite their shared language. Common is directly rooted to the ancient language, but there has been drift over time.
Most people of Orizon are literate in at least common. Though the further they are from the major cities in the skylands, the less likely they are to be more than barely literate. And most people on Orizon are at least conversationally passing in another language in addition to common, typically this is their racial language, taught to them by their families.
Learning the racial language of another species is difficult to completely master, as they often involve sounds or inflections that are easier for one race’s voice than another’s. Other languages, like those of the Tsukiusagi or the merfolk, may involve motions of unique body parts to add context or inflection.
Adventurers take up an important role on Orizon, acting as mercenaries and irregulars, filling the many different needs of the various groups that employ them. These employer groups can range from peasant farmers that have pooled their resources, to organized guilds, to militaries, and even to kings and queens.
Adventurers are typically called upon to handle dangerous situations, devious monsters, the consequences of a wild magic eruption. Their adventures spend them up and down the world at the whims of their employers or their own recognizance.
Adventurers are often employed instead of using a standing army, because of their independence and mobility. An army is expensive and needs to be manned and equipped, adventurers are expected to equip themselves. Adventurers can also move more quickly than typical military forces, traveling to distant islands without having to mobilize or organize. They are often employed as irregular mercenaries, sent to either resolve a problem quickly or simply to assess the danger.
Adventurers are also able to travel and act independently of national borders, with the dangers of monster raiding parties and beasts like dragons that can act outside of a nation’s borders an adventuring party can be sent outside of borders to address issues that governments can’t without the worrying potential of starting a war.
Typical adventurers act with the coordination and support of adventuring guilds. These guilds operate a guild hall and maintain a membership roster, they also coordinate with various organizations and governments to bring in jobs for the guild membership to perform. Some guilds post the easiest jobs publicly at the entrance to their guild hall, offering these listings to entice people to the reward and adventure available to those who participate in the guild’s adventures.
Guild membership offers many benefits to those who stick with it, senior members have access to the most difficult and rewarding jobs, granting them access to more rewards outside of the guild for services rendered. Guild members also may enjoy discounts on goods and services from other guilds and some governments. Though it is an incredibly difficult and dangerous position, many find the rewards to be well worth the risk.
Adventurers guilds also act as a sort of social club, they provide people with a place to meet people with shared interests and skills. Many burgeoning adventuring groups meet through the guild before going on to storied careers.
The mixed peoples of Orizon may join together and pool their talents and resources to form adventuring parties, these can range from small groups of a bare handful of individuals to full mercenary organizations. Some of the most popular legends and tales feature the exploits of these adventuring parties and their accomplishments.
On the Ground
The territories on the ground are wild and reckless, they are vast expanses of untamed wilderness, rich in natural resources and abounding in massive, majestic, beasts. They are broken up between lush resources and fortified cities, traveled by roving nomads and daring adventurers.
Major cities on the ground are never truly independent, but they’re also rarely exist without a solid connection to the world above them. Most cities on the ground view themselves as distinct entities and tend to operate in a sort of organized chaos or wild-west style lawlessness. Many of the organizations on the ground operate more like mercenary organizations rather than governmental ones, regardless of their connections, political or otherwise, to the nations above them.
The cities of the ground have numerous threats against their security and rely a great deal on the strength of their residents and the thickness of their walls for security. The guardsmen of ground territories are significantly tougher and more willing to bend the rules in the name of security than their counterparts on the skylands.
Immediately outside of the cities on the ground are wide stretches of farmlands where foodstuffs are grown to be sold both up in the skylands and to people in the cities. These farmlands tend to gradually stretch away from the walls of their nearby city during times of peace, then abruptly collapse following an attack from monsters.
Travelers to the cities on the ground may quickly find themselves victims of thieves and pickpockets if they are unprepared or unprotected. Adventurers visiting the ground cities typically use them as waypoints between quests, taking the opportunity to rest or to spend their gains on wine and whores. Other adventurers and travelers use the ground cities as places to meet with criminal elements, or to seek out mercenaries and toughs to hire.
Those people living in the cities on the ground tend to be blue collar workers, developing and collecting resources from the verdant world around them. They act as farmers, loggers, ranchers, miners, hunters and other similar positions.
Some of the residents of these cities are exiles or those hopeless peoples looking to start fresh in a new territory. Some are hoping to avoid the law, or are fleeing their pasts or their reputations.
It’s a pretty safe bet that the people of the ground cities are armed and very familiar with how to use their weapons. Brawls can break out fairly easily when tensions rise and they can get ugly fast.
Another common focus of the people living on the ground is operating in martial roles, serving as military or guardsmen, or working as adventurers, traveling the ruins and the wilds. They act as guards for caravans that move goods and people between the ground territories. They also use the cities as staging grounds for ambitious expeditions into ruins of the old world.
On the ground the law is typically loosely enforced, the city guards maintain their watch and, unlike the guards on the skylands, they have the space to build prisons. But given the threat of monsters outside their walls, most guards really only concern themselves with obvious or violent crimes, using the prisons more as holding cells to give people the opportunity to cool their heels. Few cities on the ground get much direct contact from the monarchy they may owe fealty to, if they are not simply independent city-states, so the city’s governor is typically the final authority or say in legal matters.
In the event of an attack on the ground cities, people are expected to serve as a militia, the city’s governor and its guardsmen will seek out able-bodied individuals and conscript them into service. Those who accept are typically rewarded for their service, and those who refuse are punished, usually with jail time, though some cities use flogs or stocks, or even exile.
Settlements, towns, and villages
Outside of the walled cities are small scatterings of settlements. Although this is dangerous for its occupants, leaving them vulnerable to raids and monsters, it is much less expensive than life on the skylands, and much less likely to incur trouble from the criminal elements of the cities.
These small towns use impromptu methods for their defensive measures, relying on militias, watchtowers, and boltholes in place of the sturdy walls of the cities. The people of these locales will trade off guard responsibilities, acting as a loosely-organized citizen soldiery.
The main advantage of places like this is the proximity to the resources they are there to take advantage of. Farmers and ranchers don’t need to worry about the space constrained by walls, loggers can simply take advantage of the wood surrounding the village, miners can set up right above a vein or quarry, and hunters do not need to travel far for game.
Travelers to these small villages go there either to trade for the goods of that town, or to settle there themselves. Visiting adventurers are there to resolve turmoil or deal with monsters. Attacks of this nature are usually small, these places are not high-value targets and don’t attract higher orders of monsters. The exception is if a village is in the path of a monstrous warband, then all hope is swiftly lost.
There are numerous nomadic cultures on the grounds of Orizon, they travel from city to city, or simply wander the world’s wildernesses. The ones that travel between the cities typically act as large wandering groups, traveling between large cities to trade or serve as entertainers or both. These nomads have a strong culture of independence and count on their mobility to prevent being devastated from attacks rather than tall walls. They typically have some specific locations they hold significant or sacred that can serve as points of return should anyone get lost or the caravan become scattered.
These nomadic groups follow a travel route determined by their leadership which usually has hard destinations in mind but aren’t too dedicated to a specific route to get there, which will change depending on a variety of circumstances. Some of these circumstances may require the assistance of adventurers and runners may be sent ahead to contact adventuring guilds and post a job, or to warn nearby governments that can muster armies.
Whenever two groups of nomads encounter each other they usually celebrate the meeting with a party where both groups share between each other in an exchange of goods, stories, and people. Typically these two caravans will remain together, either resting in an impromptu village of caravans or traveling together, for several days or weeks, then part with a slightly different arrangement of people than they had when they started.
These nomadic groups rarely go inside of a city as a whole group, preferring to stay on the outskirts. They’ll make camp outside of the walls and either walk into the city, or let its residents come to them. This is both to keep themselves away from the claustrophobia of being inside the great walls of these cities, and to keep themselves safe from the historic mistrust and persecution that follows nomadic peoples.
The nomadic groups of Orizon share a simple common symbolic language. They’ll mark certain locations with these symbols to convey information to other nomadic groups that may be traveling through the area. These symbols are designed to inform travelers of safety and danger, or to inform them of how the people in the cities they visit might behave. This symbolic language is often inscrutable to people who have no experience with the nomads, and it may be mistaken for peculiar and simplistic graffiti.
Travelers that meet up with the nomadic people will find a seemingly welcoming group, though a great deal of time will be spent observing newcomers to assess if they are a threat and threats may be quietly removed and eliminated. Adventurers may join up with traveling groups for additional security and knowledge while they travel and may find gifts of all but forgotten legends or mysterious magical items waiting for those who provide great assistance.
The population of these nomadic groups is fluid and changeable, they accept people outside of their groups who choose to join them and some members choose to leave to join the people’s they pass by, cities and other caravans. The populations of these nomadic group are mixed and can have representatives from numerous races.
Others choose to join the nomads or caravans for long enough to reach the group’s next destination. These people travel so long as they can pull their weight, and will typically act as guardsmen or craftsmen.
The laws of these nomadic people are dependent on the individual caravans, usually the only constant is a harsh punishment of obvious crimes, such as theft or violence.
Punishments are varied and also depend on the caravan, but can include beating offenders or shunning. An extreme punishment is branding the crime onto the offender and leaving them behind. The brand is so that they cannot repeat their offense with another caravan.
The dwarven nations operate large independent cities underneath the ground and small villages that spread very short distances from the entrances to their great halls. The dwarves trade with the skyland governments and nearby cities, typically mineral goods for floatwood and foodstuffs. The main entrances of these cities are usually carved into the mountainside, the peaks and cliffs of which are converted into docks for airships.
Dwarven cities extend a bit beyond the decorated and fortified walls, these are usually small trading villages where dwarves peddle their wares for travelers on the ground. The dwarves that venture out from their walls into these trading posts are often some of the only dwarves that most people of the surface and skylands see.
Some dwarves travel further out into the world past their halls, either to escape troubles with their families, or to fulfill some quest of honor, but also may do so simply to seek out new concepts and techniques to bring back to their otherwise secluded peoples.
Wood elves keep hidden forest villages on the ground, their tree-houses are connected by a latticework of ramps, ladders and bridges, it’s possible for a wood elf to live in their cities without ever touching the ground. These tree cities are loosely governed, but the exact strictures of their organization differ between cities.
The cities of wood elves are often expertly hidden, often trespassers will not know that they have entered the territory of the elves until the elves decide to let them know. Sometimes there are hidden enclaves and structures hidden deeper within the cities that no one outside of the elves has ever seen.
The wood elf cities usually have a strong relationship with nomadic groups like the traveling caravans or the nations of the Kor. The wood elves enjoy their seclusion, and this connection to these nomads allows them some means of both trading with the outside world and gaining news and other information.
Travelers to the cities of the wood elves are most likely to not even know it so long as they stay by the outskirts, but those who come with the approval and permission of the residents can find magnificently crafted woodworking and intricate magical items, as well as rich bounties of nature.
The Goliath of Orizon are a mostly nomadic people, they stick to the hills and mountains where they are the most comfortable, occasionally wandering out onto skylands that float close enough. The Goliath adore hot springs and will adorn them with decoration and elegantly stacked cairns to mark their locations and may spend their winters nearby the warm waters. Goats, because of their hardiness and skill at traversing the goliath’s mountain homes are special creatures to the tall folk, and younger goliath often spend time as goatherds.
Goliath are famously independent and hardy, they value strength and ability, those that can’t pull their weight are left behind. Although the definition of “pulling their weight” is expansive, and many stay beyond their peak physical ability, this is still a death sentence for most goliath. Some abandoned in such a way wander down into lowlands and try to integrate with the peoples down there, but have a hard time adjusting.
Some goliath tribes act as raiders, venturing into the lowlands to strike at any unprepared cities or settlements. Since the goliath only keep what they can carry these raids are usually only for food, gear, or supplies, although the raiders will zealously snap up any fine weaponry. There are many stories among settlers in the hills of a group of goliath descending, grabbing a cow and hefting it up before running off with it.
Travelers who visit the Goliath tribes find them patient but gruff, accepting of visitors so long as they don’t interfere too much with their wandering. Some take the opportunity to trade, exchanging their simple but finely made goods for tools and gear. Adventurers may seek out the goliath for their knowledge of the highlands while they hunt giants or dragons.
The warrens of the Tsukiusagi are cleverly hidden and their libraries are expansive, these reclusive peoples have entire villages buried a short distance underground, while seeming to be little more than a simple, if large, farm above. They are a reclusive people, hoping to avoid conflict as much as possible, but they have of late opened some communications to the world around them, even sending out the odd traveler and ambassador.
Tsukiusagi warren homes are comfortable, warm, and dry, well designed to drain away water from the rain and make the absolute most of fireplaces. The libraries of the Tsukiusagi are legendarily expansive and it is extremely rare that outsiders are ever granted access.
The elders of the Tsukiusagi hold great power in their culture, bordering on almost dictatorial amounts of control over their people. In the past they controlled everything, from what job a child would take to who would marry, but recently it seems the moon rabbits have become more permissive, though they do not say why.
Travelers to the tsukiusagi warrens may not even know it, they may only ever see the farms and monasteries that sit above them and those few residents that were permitted to interact with them. Those that travel deeper do so with difficulty and are begrudged the privilege. Adventurers seek out the Tsukiusagi for their knowledge of magic, or in the hopes of finding some lost tome in their libraries.
The intelligent and “civilized” monsters of Orizon build themselves into a mixed bag of loosely affiliated and integrated tribes and villages. Traditionally these are led by a single powerful leader or by a coalition of elders, but they always hold to the ancient tradition and credo “never be a friend to those who enslaved us.” There is an animosity, carried across generations, towards the people that once ruled the ancient world. The monsters hate humans and dwarves, and they hold a special loathing for the elves.
Most of the monster settlements are mixed bags of races and peoples. Orcs and goblinoids mingle among the lesser giants while humanoid slaves scurry around in fear of being beaten further. All of these various peoples act in service to their clan leader that rules over them.
The civilizations of monsters are typically smaller groups, consisting of a few family groups and raiding parties. Sometimes though a more powerful leader emerges. These warchiefs travel to other settlements and villages and take over, merging the disparate clans into great armies and tremendous mobs. Lashing the disparate groups together and sending them out against the cities of the ground and the skylands. These mobs are a terrifying prospect, howling masses of bloodthirsty clans warring to seize slaves and plunder and leave rivers of blood in their way. Fortunately, it’s rare for someone strong enough to lead such an army to emerge.
These are an egalitarian people, all that matters to them is the strength to put themselves to their chosen tasks. There are philosophers and educators among their ranks. They are hidden with the families, the old and young, in villages away from the more visible armies and raiding parties.
The drow and dwarves are the two major cultures of the underground, constructing great cities in the earth and stone, using magic and flame, bioluminescent organisms and even flows of molten magma to illuminate their territory. These underground nations may stretch for miles, centered around a single city and stretched out along mines and caverns and farms, both races taking advantage of as much of the resources of the underground as they can scrounge.
There are several ways for people to take themselves down to the depths of the underground, though there are very few safe passages. The drow have numerous raiding tunnels connecting their cities to the world above, but these are concealed and dark. The dwarves have developed reliable tunnels from their cities to the deep caverns and the deep black, but they keep these sealed and defended to prevent intruders or monsters from attacking the city. The typical way for people to gain access to the caverns of the underground is by accident, a mine might have been dug too deep, or an earthquake may expose a previously sealed tunnel. Sometimes passages exist that have been tunneled out by burrowing creatures, or there may simply be caves that happen to run deep enough. These passages though, uncontrolled by the drow or the dwarves, not only act as passages into the deep dark, but also as passages out.
Drow cities in the underground are the most diverse locations of the underdark, the drow rulers allow a wide range of peoples to reside in their cities as second-class citizens or slaves.
Their cities are built spread out inside of existing caves. They take advantage of the same enchantment that created skylands that supports these massive cavern structures to build up as well as out. Drow cities gradually expand to take up as much space within the caves as they can. These cities rarely expand too wide, as various drow nations frequently war among each other for control of these spaces and for the limited resources that are available in the underdark.
Other underdark species such as beholders, aboleths and mindflayers also compete with the drow for space and resources. This has created a culture of militarism and aggression within the Drow.
A culture of infighting between powerful drow and drow families and dramatic political intrigue, combined with the militaristic bent of the drow people can lead to that intrigue spreading out among the city streets as drow matriarchs manipulate the people of the cities as pawns for their own ends and games.
Travelers to the cities of the drow may find grateful benefactors, and for adventurers the drow may be a path to wealth and luxury, but they will quickly find that their involvement may intertwine them in deadly drow politics.
It’s frequently considered fashionable among the Drow to die their hair, fashioning the styles to match their clans and then detailing that dyed hair into fanciful and elaborate braids. The drow enjoy bright colors in their decoration and often incorporate their clan colors and favorite colors into their fashion and decor.
Dwarves create their homes rather than occupy naturally existing caves like the drow. The dwarves tunnel through the earth and stone, building planned and organized cities. An architect is one of the most respected positions of dwarven culture, as they are not only expected to plan out mines, but plan out their occupation and use for centuries afterwards.
Dwarven cities are neatly structured to accommodate both the dwarven people and their various industry, often with much more space dedicated to the latter. Different dwarves have different residences in their cities depending on how many dwarves were a part of their construction. A large residence is a status symbol among the dwarves.
Dwarven society is typically hierarchical and organized among clans, each clan centered around a skill that they embrace and teach to their children, such as mining, refining, crafting, and administration. This can make social mobility difficult among the dwarven peoples. Sometimes dwarves are adopted into other clans, this process is intended to ensure that those with ability are able to practice their skills among clans that can foster them.
Travelers to the dwarven cities find gruff hosts, always ready to discuss business over drinks and ramble on about the politics of clan and country, or simply talk rocks. People go their to seek out the famously sturdy and finely crafted dwarven goods, and to purchase the ores and minerals that the dwarves mine. Even high elves travel down from their skyland enclaves in search of the resources that dwarves mine. Adventurers seek out the dwarves for a chance for a piece of their legendary riches, though this comes with its own dangers, as the most common destination Dwarves have for adventurers is the deep dark or their abandoned tunnels.
The Deep Black
Out beyond the stability of the cities of dwarves and drow is the deep black. The established cities are responsible for illuminating their territories, and beyond that illumination and security are wildness and myriad dangers.
Some small settlements exist in the deep black, mushroom farmers or prospectors. However, usually what explorers will find are the horrendous cities of aberrations. The twisted architecture of the mindflayers and the hollow tunnels blasted out by beholders. There are also the lurching horrors of other monsters that hunt the underdark, and of things that have never seen the light of the sun in the entirety of their existence.
There are a precious few people either crazy or desperate enough to travel through the pitch black of the deep underground, attracted by the promise of looted riches or impossibly rare resources, or even secrets of magic and technology thought to be lost to everything but the collective of the mindflayers or the distant memories of the aboleth.
Oceans and Seas
The Merfolk have developed small villages in the coastal regions and larger cities in the depths. They harvest large amounts of sea life and other raw materials that they use for tools and residences and live in close tandem with the land. They trade these materials and artworks for refined goods made on the surface and act as scouts and guardians for sea-faring ships in exchange for money.
There are typically very few outsiders within the settlements of the merfolk, simply because of the difficulty most species have with breathing underwater. Consequently these cities have the air of legend to people of the surface, and rumors abound of cities of coral and pearls, filled with the gold and treasures of every ship lost at sea.
To accommodate the few outsiders that do come to visit merfolk cities, many of the cities have dive pods and dry rooms, hollow structures that allow air-breathing visitors to stay comfortably and descend to the city depths, although only in a restricted space.
Above the deep cities of merfolk, there are numerous small islands scattered among the waves, these are isolated spots, but some have been taken over as shipping depots, transit stations or criminal hideaways. These islands are also places that are home to rare creatures, isolated by their distance.
The Merfolk are the major culture of the oceans and seas. They constructed huge cities under the waves, incorporating a mix of natural and scavenged materials in their construction, and using underwater creatures as pets and beasts of burden, Sharks and other trained hunters patrol the waters around merfolk cities and giant crabs, giant sea horses and even dragon turtles are trained as mounts or draft animals.
Most merfolk of the ocean deeps rarely interact with the people of the surface, it’s simply too difficult for the people of the surface to travel underwater, and it’s too difficult for the finned deep merfolk to travel on land. Instead most merfolk work with the coastal merfolk erectus as intermediaries. Sometimes surface people do visit, sailing out to the wide buoy platforms and using the merfolk’s diving bells to be carried down to the city’s depths.
The merfolk erectus live by the coasts of the oceans and seas, they’re amphibious and live to the sides of the merfolk culture, moving between the shores and the seas with equal ease. Traditionally they’ve slotted themselves into roles as traders and diplomats.
Merfolk cities tend to have small populations of other underwater people, some kuo toa or merrow move to these cities, they are closely watched but allowed so long as they do not disturb the peace.
The Skies and Skylands
Most people who live on the skylands wear warm layered clothing, as at high altitudes the temperatures tend to shift drastically between night and day, but are typically colder than the regions below them.
Livestock in the ranches of the skyland are typically given large fenced-off spaces to range and graze, Large space on occupied skylands are set aside for agriculture or ranching to supplement any goods brought up from the farms and ranches on the ground territories below.
Given the risk of falling, the fences around livestock grazing areas are built tall and sturdy and keep a few feet of space between the fence and the rim of the skyland. Even skylands without livestock have these simple fences, as a simple reminder.
Few livestock are branded, the business of cattle rustling is difficult to the point of being almost impossible, and it is certainly impractical. Flying mounts though, are typically branded by their breeders or ranchers, both to establish ownership and pedigree.
Most people on the skylands keep a diverse mix of mostly small livestock, sheep, chickens, goats, maybe a few cattle and other animals. Even people who are not strictly farmers usually have a few animals so long as they have the space for it, along with a small vegetable garden.
Large space is occupied on some skylands by ranches for the breeding and training of flying mounts, which are often temperamental and difficult to control, hippogriffs are a common species and easy to domesticate, but others are more difficult and command high prices as a result. People who live on distant skylands pay high prices for flying mounts, especially a breeding pair. Flying mounts allow these distant people to travel to the skylands that would otherwise be denied to them.
Skylands tend to not concern themselves with fortification walls, most creatures that might threaten a civilized skyland would be able to fly over walls anyway. Instead they focus on watchtowers and emergency shelters, hoping that being adequately prepared can help prevent a disaster.
Most governments manage a cadre of knights, or similar elite soldiers that are dedicated to traveling between different skylands, maintaining the rule of law and defending the remote people from various dangers. These knights typically enjoy certain privileges among the people in exchange for their service. These knights also coordinate with adventuring guilds, acting as supervision and support.
The noble families (or appointed governors) living on skylands are responsible for maintaining law and order, collecting taxes and each has a moderate number of troops and ships under their command for the sake of maintaining peace within their appointed territories.
Crime is strictly controlled on the skylands, but jail is an unusual punishment as the space is too precious to waste on incarceration. Most people are punished with forced labor or fines, or in extreme cases, exile, death or slavery. Jails do exist, but usually only on small, barren islands that would have been unsuitable for anything else. Simple holding cells are much more common.
In order to escape punishment or avoid discovery, some flee to the less regulated ground territories
Large skylands are the centers of aerial culture, they are the seats of noble houses, and the largest skylands take the place as the capitols of entire nations. These large skylands have varied territories and diverse populations. Large skylands usually have a few cities across their mileage, and many more small farming villages spaced between them. People take advantage of the opportunities to spread themselves out that they may not be able to enjoy on other skylands.
These large and mid-sized skylands are the seats of major cities and trade hubs. Every sailor knows the sight of the rooftops on these islands. These places are especially valued as cities established there have the opportunity to be more self-sufficient from farmlands established outside the cities. People on the smaller skylands dream of these places and their metropolitan opportunities.
Smaller Skylands are usually counted within the territory of noble houses (or governors) living on larger islands, or may have a noble family of their own occupying the territory. In the case of the former, that individual is responsible for the workings of government on the small islands, for the latter that noble family is responsible, but are appointed smaller forces.
Most smaller skylands only hold a small number of people on the confines of their territory, usually a handful of families. These are farmers, craftsmen, fishermen, breeders, people that don’t need too much space or can find ways to take advantage of as much space as they can..
The people living on these small islands are almost totally dependent on the trade networks that connect the islands, relying on them for the influx of necessary goods in exchange for whatever excess the family produces on their own island. The trade networks are also employed to keep people on these small skylands moving, for example taking these people to annual gatherings at select locations, or transporting them to hub islands for markets.
The nests of aarakocra spread out across the skylands they come to call home, chirps and cries sound out at a distance from the homes of these avian peoples as they travel through these cities that are built to be completely three-dimensional, allowing access from above and below.
The aarakocra often act as messengers and couriers and for many courier companies their homes operate as waystations or coordination centers. Some aarakocra act as escorts for ships, traveling along with them to act as quick messengers from ship to ship or ship to shore.
Travelers to an aarakocra city may find its people’s mannerisms odd, the avian features being even more alien than usual for them. However the aarakocra on Orizon are a relatively calm people, the consider the plane a place of “calm skies” compared to their native plane of elemental air. Adventurers would seek out the aarakocra for rumors and knowledge of what they heard in their flight, or to hire scouts.
On the skylands, some communities of high elves have broken themselves apart, using their talents with magic and the knowledge they collected they constructed glittering cities in the sky where they can recuse themselves from the world at large and focus more on delving into the mysteries of Orizon and magic. These city-states are often independent of the nations that humanity has built up, but do have close relations with them.
These high elven cities are the subjects of legend and rumor to any who live close or pass by, and while the elves are aloof, they are courteous and welcoming of guests. Since high elves pride themselves on doing everything well, while there may only be a small amount available for sale or trade from these enclaves, but what is available is exquisite.
Travelers go to the cities of the elves for knowledge or for the rare and powerful magics that the elves have developed. Adventurers go there for those quests too difficult to hand out to simple mercenaries that the elves may have for people.
Halflings are unassuming in their settlements, content to let enough be and not demanding much they spread out their farms and their herds of goats and sheep, burrowing immediately below the ground and creating “hobbit holes” to maximize the amount of green space for the creatures and crops.
Within their homes halflings lead comfortable lives enjoying the fruits of their labor and things traded between the community and with traveling traders. Halfling brew is famous for its quality, not only made with great care and fine ingredients, but also stored and allowed to ferment for generations.
Should a halfling settlement get too large, entire families will pile aboard a ship loaded with furniture, goods and supplies and set out for another island. These trundlebug-looking ships are rich hauls for pirates. Other halflings feel the pull of adventure and deliberately leave these communities, signing up with sailing ships or adventuring guilds.
The nomadic rope-slinging kor travel between the skylands like apes travel through the canopies of trees, swinging with a mastery and skill that few can hope to match. Much like the goliath, the Kor rarely stay in one place for very long and take with them only what they can carry. Unlike them, they work to train flying mounts to accompany their journeys and provide aid. They do not abandon the weak, though sadly this is because the weak usually fall to their deaths.
When asked why they travel, a kor will typically say “we are searching.” If pressed they become more cryptic, simply telling them “the stones will tell us.” The lithomancers believe they can read the skylands and derive knowledge from them, and will seek out new places to find new skystone lore in the hopes of one day finding either some new meaning to life on their adopted plane, or a way back to their ancestral home.
The kor are difficult to visit, they come to settled skylands only rarely and their typical routes of travel do not accommodate sailing ships. When the kor do visit, they are kind people, trading for rare small baubles they picked up during their journeys and bringing back news and reports. Cartographers guilds praise the kor for their abilities and travels, and will offer grand sums for copies of the exceptional maps the kor make.
A small branch of the tsukiusagi people went to the skies and constructed hermitages on small remote skylands. Using their skills with magic they conceal these places behind clouds and mist, living under mirrored domes and marble walls. These tsukiusagi are even more reclusive and controlled than their terrestrial neighbors, dedicating themselves purely to study and meditation.
There are a precious few who are aware of the existence of these cities in the clouds, and of those, many believe they are nothing more than a myth. Those who do go to these cities often do so by accident, crashing against the rocks trying to take a shortcut through the fog.
Factions and Organizations
There are many groups that operate independently of the governments of the world, or are portions of those governments that have gained the power to operate on their own whims. Orders of knights and monks, trading guilds, underground thieves organizations, or simply a group of people bound by common cause can all bind themselves together under a single banner and become more powerful by their unity.
The world is large, and travel is difficult, but some few groups take advantage of the few means of travel and communications that span the oceans between continents to establish global groups. Some of these groups are politically powerful and closely organized and controlled, others are loose and decentralized, not solely bound by an organization but by a shared set of beliefs or tradition that unifies them. These people hold pride in the path they’ve chosen and will mark themselves or carry tokens to signify their devotion.
Before the breaking there was an ancient order of spiritualists and peace keepers, the events of the breaking rent them apart. Many of their best were taken for the godswar, some of them split off, intending to use their powers to seize control of the fractured world which caused a civil war between the order’s membership. At the conclusion of this, there were painfully few left, they broke apart, each seeking to carry on the goals and ideals of the order alone.
The ge daii are dedicated to the understanding of the energies that suffuse existence and using that knowledge to improve themselves in the hopes of becoming one with that energy. The ge daii no longer have any sort of central authority or organization, but are joined by their shared traditions and observances.
The ge daii follow the tenets of their code: Emotion, yet peace / Ignorance, yet knowledge / Passion, yet serenity. / Chaos, yet harmony. / Death, yet life. Outside of their code, ge daii must swear to wear no crowns, to offer their aid when they are able, to show mercy when possible, and to give respect to all life.
Joining the ge daii requires being taken in by a master of the order and trained into the order’s secrets and mysticism. The apprenticeship concludes by seeking out another master of the order, then both test the prospective apprentice. Should the apprentice pass then they are accepted as a full member of the ge daii order. Becoming a master requires further tests, though the exact nature of those tests are shrouded in the order’s secretive mysticism.
There are rumors of ge daii grand masters, mysterious figures that acts in authority of all the masters. But there has been no actual evidence outside of the ge daii that this is true.
The Honorable Four Winds Trading Company
One of the few organizations that reliably trade between continents the honorable four winds trading company has outposts along every major port to the oceans. The honorable four winds trading company hires executives that plan the routes and arrange the deals, captains that sail the ships, as well as crew, dockhands, harbor-men and dozens of other different positions that help the company to function.
The Honorable Four Winds Trading Company also hires a large number of agents to act outside of their traditional sailing operations and promote the company’s interests. This may range from guarding employees or cargo to industrial espionage or even assassination.
There is a dark underbelly of the hfwtc, a smuggling ring, groups of the company’s ship captains and company executives, along with a small cadre of dock employees that arrange the transport of illicit goods between the continents. Drugs, weapons, even slaves, as well as whatever else they may be paid to move find themselves hidden in the holds of four winds ships.
The Iron Way
The iron way began with the legends of the iron scrolls, a massive library of text stored within the great halls of the battlefield, the warring place for the glorious dead where their souls defend the plane. These scrolls contains the legends of great heroes and their famed exploits. Everyone who achieved martial glory finds themselves written of in the iron scrolls. Adherents of the iron way seek to have their legends written down for eternity and so they seek out causes and challenges in order to prove themselves and their skills.
Followers of the Iron way set out to prove themselves always, they never turn down a challenge and will gladly rush into battle, what holds them together as a cohesive order is that an adherent of the iron way will always heed the call of another, coming to their aid without thought of reward. Adherents of the iron way will also target other followers to the exclusion of everything else should they meet on opposing sides of the battlefield.
There is no formal way to join the iron way, you are simply required to be strong and to wish to follow the ways tenets. However, if one who says they follow the way abandons it, they may face violent retribution from “true” followers, who despise such betrayal.
An assortment of universities and centers of learning, both magical and mundane, the scriptures seek knowledge of all kinds and will send out their agents to carry texts between institutions and to seek out new or ancient knowledge. The scriptures are nearly always backers of expeditions into any ruins of the ancient world.
“The Magpies” are the lower members of the scriptures, they are the ones who travel the world, collecting scraps and pieces. Often they work as teachers, lecturing people on basic reading, writing, and arithmetic and sharing some of the knowledge they’ve collected. The magpies are not the best funded of the scripture agents, so this teaching also serves as a way of making ends meet.
Membership of the scriptures is restricted to professors of institutes of learning, but they do employ numerous agents to secure their goals.
The Seven Stars
An adventuring guild that accepts only the best. This guild operates similarly to the way other guilds operate, taking in quests and requests and sending its members out to deal with the requests. However, the Seven Stars takes most of its jobs from other guilds, taking the most difficult tasks that other guilds simply cannot deal with. They accomplish their global reach through a network of portals that connects to their headquarters, exploiting the magic of Howl’s doorway to have several entry and exit points for travel across the world, this network is carefully protected. The stars also have an extensive support network and a small number of lesser members to help swell their ranks should they need it.
The Seven Stars has a brand, blessed by angelic servants of several gods that they use to mark their members, it is rumored that the act of being branded into the seven stars bestows strength by itself, though no members will say.
Joining the seven stars requires recruitment from one current member of the guild, and approval from at least three other active members. There are only seven official, “branded,” members of the stars at any one time, if one should fall, an offer to attempt a trial for full membership will be extended to several candidates, each proposed by another member,
Wild magic leaves a mess in its wake and there are those who are dedicated very simply to the healing of the damage that an eruption of wild magic causes. The tranquil are people dedicated to finding a way to ease this disaster. They are skilled healers and cursebreakers and have found ways to smooth out the ruffled weaves of magic that can still cause troubles even after an eruption has passed.
Most of the tranquil felt called to join the cause after suffering the effects of a storm themselves, others joined through the church, coming together to try to serve the gods, especially Celeste, by healing the wound of wild magic. Others simply hope to restore the world to a peaceful state, dreaming of a vision of a world without the threat of wild magic.