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Infractus is a world that is entering a dark age. The primary setting of Infractus are the Northern Realms, but there are obviously other countries and continents in the world. The world's greatest outside threats come from the Abyss and the Far Realm which are likely connected. The gods and primordials have an uneasy peace, with both sides having taken massive losses in the battle over the world and its reflections. The primary power in the world is actually the Primal Spirits, who are worshipped more commonly than gods or primordials, leading to a very shamanistic sense of religion and community being prevalent in the world.
Notes on Cosmology
The world follows the general cosmology of the default D&D 4e setting, with a some major differences.
The Worlds Tree
All three of the worlds (Feywild, Middle World, and the Shadowfell) are held in place by the Worlds Tree, known as the Yggdrasil. The Astral Canopy of the Worlds Tree contains the various realms of the gods, each located on a starry leaf, which give the tree spirit and thought. The roots of the Worlds Tree twist and dig into the vital essences of the Elemental Chaos, which gives the tree form and energy. The balance between these two is what allows the Three Worlds to function and live. The worlds are balance between the chaotic energy and vitality of the Elemental Chaos, tempered with the thought and spiritual power of the Astral Canopy.
The branches of the tree are visible from the world on clear nights as streams of starry energy. It is possible for those with the right magical rituals to walk along these branches, which appear and glistening crystaline tubes running between the worlds, which hover within the grips. The leaves of the canopy look like beautiful stars, and the roots pierce through the elemental chaos as though it were rich sod made from the swirling elements. Nestled among the roots is the gaping blight-hole of the Abyss.
If one looks beyond the branches, they can see the glistening crystalline lattice work that is the living gate. Within it is a hole that is filled with nothing but instinct and hunger: The Far Realm.
Ties Between The Far Realm and the Abyss
In this setting, the Far Realm and the Abyss are intrinsically tied. The Shard of Evil that was cast into the Abyss by the gods was taken from the Far Realm by the Obyrith lords. While Scholar's have learned this much, no one is quite certain what the implications of such a connection are.
It is theorized that the Far Realm may not be innately evil--but the beings that are interested in the Worlds Tree likely are. The Far Realm is known to be a place of pure unknowable instinct and hunger. Those who dabble in the worship of Far Gods and Far Magic become aware of sometimes oddly specific hungers--for instance, one of the great Stars is known to desire salt above all else. It is not malice that drives him to the Worlds Tree, but hunger. This is true of most of the beings, but the Shard of Pure evil is truly just the purest expression of hunger: it hungers for everything, and has created the abyss to acheive this. Dark gods followed it, the Obyrith Lords, and now the rest in the Abyss, biding their time until they can begin feeding on the known multiverse.
Some stars of the Far Realm seem to be benevolent, or at the very least 'less destructive.' They've been known to guide mortals and send them warnings when terrible things are about to occur. It is not known what would drive these creatures to do so, whether it is simply their own reaction without care for its effects on the Worlds Tree, or if they somehow benefit from saving the Worlds Tree, or even more curious that perhaps they truly do just wish to help. Most of the stars are indifferent towards the realms of the Worlds Tree, but many are malevolent towards it as well.
The Primal Spirits and the World's Reflections
The Primal Spirits are prevalent in the world and its reflections, namely the Shadowfell and Feywild. This deviates from the fluff surrounding the reflections in the source books of D&D 4e, however as the Primal Spirits are the primary power that keep the gods and primordials in check in this setting, it is necessary they be able to protect the world's reflections as well.
The Northern Realms
The Northern Realms are a collection of Princedoms, Duchies, and tribal land holdings located in an area that is very similar to Scandinavia in our real world. Characterized by a vast forest known as the Blackwoods, mountain ranges, high lands, and four large lakes, the Northern Realms have short summers and long, harsh winters.
One of the most important access points into the region is the city of Lightmourne, located on the edge of the southern lowlands and on the outskirts of the Blackwoods, it is the only major trade city into Helmont province. There are other port cities that rest along the coasts, but Lightmourne, which rests on the Godsblood River right next to the Sanguine Fen, is the only city connected to a relatively safe trade route (namely the Godsblood River, which connects to Helmont Lake) to Helmont Castle, and its surrounding city.
Lightmourne is ruled over by a Vryloka Duke named Elmed Blackswain, a powerful and very old Vryloka known for being incredibly decadent. He has a seemingly endless hunger for food, women, men, and bloodsport.
The city itself is incredibly successful. It boasts a massive temple located in the market district dedicated to the Primal Spirits, and includes shrines to a few gods, the most prominent being The Raven Queen and Erathis. It also has a shrine dedicated to the primordials Entemoch and Sunnis.
The city's population is about 2000. Most of those people are humans, but a few minor noble houses made up of Vryloka also exist in the city, and there is a substantial population of elves who have moved into the city seeking shelter from the dangers of the Blackwood. The city is quite agrarian, due in part to the rich soil located on the outskirts of the Sanguine Fen, and the lack of minerals in the area to form any other sort of industry. That said, the city is famous for its ales and meads.
One of the other Vryloka families of note is the Akathan family, who moved up from a continent in the south about 100 years ago, fifty years after Elmed took over the Duchy.
Helmont Province is ruled over by the Helmont family, a family of Vryloka with dark interest and darker appetites. Allies of the Blackswain family, the Helmonts keep to themselves, but their current family head is Prince Unther Helmont.
Helmont is located in the middle of The Three Brothers, three lakes that are connected by rivers and nestled in the Blackpeak Mountains. Helmont Castle is located on the coast of Lake Helmont, which is connected to the Godsblood River, providing an effective water route between the Castle and Lightmourne.
Helmont Castle has had a small city build up around it over time, filled with hardy men who work the metals mined in the Blackpeak mountains, and sturdy farmers who toil in the fields growing hardy foods like potatos and other tubers.
The province encompases the entirety of the small mountain range called The Blackpeaks, the Three Brothers Lakes, and the highlands and forests surrounding the area.
The southernmost of the Three Brothers is Helmont. The lake to the southeast is named Akital, and the northernmost lake is Guerrin.
The legend of the Three Brothers tells the tale of the first Vryloka to live in this area. It is said that they were powerful wizards, possessed of deep wisdom. The first of the brother, Guerrin, moved to the north that he might be alone. He studied many different rituals, and mastered many spells. However, his loneliness became so much to bear he cried until his tears formed a pool. The spirits, seeing his pain, decided to seek out his other brothers.
They found Guerrin's brother, Akital. Akital had settled to the southeast, and he was tilling the ground. He worked hard and tirelessly to farm his crops, seeking to put magic aside. The sweat from his brow formed another pool.
Then the spirits found the third brother, the dark Helmont. Helmont, like Guerrin, sought to be alone. He, however, did not find the loneliness bothersome. But unlike Guerrin or Akital, Helmont was constantly being dogged by a beautiful maiden, whose advances he constantly spurned to study his magics. The spittle from his mouth as he shouted at her in rage formed more puddles on the ground. The spirits, however, wanted to bring the three brothers back together.
The took Guerrins pool of tears, and formed a lake. Guerrin was amazed, and watched in wonder as the spirits carved a valley to Akital's farmstead, where they formed another lake from the sweat of Akital's brow. The two brothers were finally united, but they both wished to see their brother Helmont again.
Helmont still spurned the advances of the maiden Vryloka, who wished desperately to marry him. She began to cry, and the spirits asked her why. She told them it was because the only man she'd ever loved despised her. Taking pity on the woman, the spirits went to Helmont and told him to marry the woman, or they would bury all of his work under a lake.
Not having seen the wonders performed by the Spirits, Helmont didn't believe them, so he continued to spurn her.
The spirits became angry with Helmont, and took the pool of the Maiden's tears, and the spittle from Helmont's mouth, and formed a mighty lake. They called forth waters from the Godsblood river, and washed away Helmont's works. Helmont was distraught and terrified of the spirits powers, so he finally married the maiden, seeking to abate their anger. But the spirits were still furious with him, and sought one last revenge.
They connected the other two lakes to the Helmont lake, and lured Guerrin and Akital through the newest Valley. But the spirits knew that even Helmont loved his family, and they waited until they were in the middle of the new valley, before turning the placid river into a torrential rapid. The brothers were unprepared, and they both drowned. The spirits made certain their bloated corpses washed upon the shore near Helmonts new house, as a reminder to never anger the spirits.
Boatsworth is a small village of approximately a hundred living souls, give or take a dozen or so. Closely nit and insular, it is a fairly prototypical coastal town, positioned seemingly perfectly situated for growth and prosperity, and yet somehow never breaking free of its humble roots, remaining little more than a small and noteworthy town known only as yet another fishing village with a small boat industry. On the surface, the odd lack of success could be reasoned to be linked to the very insular nature of the townsfolk, bordering on the xenophobic in some ways, based more on regional kinship than a racial reason. However, these are actually symptoms of the true reason.
The village itself is located on Helmont lake, not far from Helmont castle. The population is composed of primarily fishermen and carpenters, specializing in small vessel construction. Indeed, amongst fishermen and river-sailors, Boatsworth actually does have something of a small name for itself for producing a sizable harvest of seafood and some of the finest river-fairing vessels at reasonable prices. Despite their insular nature, the village does conduct a remarkably large amount of trade, though a majority of it takes place either off-shore out outside the village proper, though never too far as there are a scant few peoples of the community who would willingly leave it for any length of time.
The Kaern Province
At its heart, the Kaern Province is full of rivers and lush woods, though frozen mountains dominate the northern quarter of the territory. The weather is fairly temperate, only becoming extreme in the deep of winter when many of the rivers freeze over and the cold that normally resides in the mountains delves deeply into the south. The land itself is fertile, and beautiful, certainly worth fighting for. Capital City: Kaern City Other Notable Locations: Hjorn's Rest
Rulership and Relations
These lands are the domain of the Lyrian family, who rightfully laid claim to them through noble blood long ago. The territory is home to a modest number, who work the fields enough to feed the nation as well as have extra to export to their allies. The common folk view the Lyrian family with suspicion due to their dark history and many a rumor, however they are also grateful to them for low tax rates and a well-protected border. Towns and villages mostly reside around Lyrian Castle, as it lies in the heart of the territory. While the locals would be open to trade with outsiders, those from outside the Kaern Province that have heard rumors and stories of the Lyrians tend to avoid the province altogether. Despite this, the Lyrians have many strong allies including a dwarven clan and a goliath tribe that reside in the mountains as well as strong ties to other royal Vryloka families from neighboring territories.
The Scarlet Raven
There are a great number of stories relating to a scarlet raven in the northern mountains. Those that saw it claimed they were hopelessly lost, each believing their death was certain. The stories vary slightly, but each person claims to have been awoken from what they believed to be their last sleep by the pecking of a large dark-red raven, as it drew blood from the small wound. The stories each claim the bird then lead them out of the mountains, but believe that some dark price was exacted. Noone in recent years has seen such a bird, and the only proof of its existence is a single, large red feather that was brought to the Lyrian family upon the story-teller's supposed return. Many of the Lyrians believe that if the stories are true, the raven could be a Vryloka trapped in the form of a raven, or a servant of the Red Queen herself. However, such thoughts are quickly dismissed as superstitious nonsense.
The Lyrian Family
The Dark Pact
Despite the bloodlines running true, the Lyrians' sudden rise to power has come with some speculation. The commonfolk generally whisper stories relating to a dark bargain with a demon or a powerful vampire lord (something the Vryloka take offense to of course). A few of the Vryloka royal families strongly believe them to have made a deal with Orcus against the Red Queen, though these beliefs are shared by few and rarely expressed. Though, the Lyrian's tightly guarded secret family rituals and the games they play with leadership in other nations has done little to weaken these beliefs
Other Counties and Regions
Unclaimed Territories (the Holdfast Mountain, large regions of the Blackwood); Harld County (Capital is Mortdock, also contains largest temple of Erathis in Whitestone Village), Northwest Tribal Landholdings (North western region dominated by tribes folk, contains the Vittreheim Mountains).
The Central and Southern Empires
South of the Northern Realms rest a number of much larger and cohesive empires. Most prominent among these are the two Dragonborn Empires, the Human Empire known as Clestaria, and the vast tribal empire located in the eastern expanse stretching out to the unknown and treacherous Deep East beyond the Ridge of Fire.
There are two dragonborn Empires: Consterat located in the western part of the Central Empires, stretching as far as the western coast and to the border of the Clestarian empire, and Bloodflame in the Southern Empires, stretching from just below Clestaria into the Northern reaches of the Golden Savannah. Both were originally part of a massive empire known as Arkhosia, that fell due to internal strife and having their forces spread out too far. The two empires became divided when the council was split on who should be emperor nearly one hundred years ago, with one side choosing the Empress Consterat, and the other the Emperor Bloodflame. A bloody civil war ensued, and the two went their separate ways. The two empires still bear the names of their chosen emperors.
Consterat is primarily made up of large tracts of farmland interspersed by small woodlands. It has a low-lying mountainous region known as Harlat's Spine. It is a militarily powerful nation, with a well-known unit over Gryphon-mounted knights called the Skyreavers.
Constrat has the northern tip of the Harlat's Spine mountain range in it's south eastern corener, along with a few sparse forests, and a great deal of rich farm land in the plains and river valleys that dominate the rest of the country side.
Racial Make Up
Despite ostensibly being a dragonborn empire (and indeed, the upper class is almost entirely dragonborn), humans make up the bulk of the country's middle and lower class, followed by halflings, elves, and finally dwarves are the least represented race in the nation of Consterat.
Consterat is a wealthy nation, with a great deal of farming and mining goods to trade. Their primary luxury export is in Griffon feathers that they sell when their griffon's from their Skyreaver knights molt.
The Skyreavers make up their elite knights, powerful dragonborn soldiers who ride the backs of griffons into battle. Otherwise, they have a large powerful military, consisting of heavy cavalry, a strong militia, and a good deal of mercenary regulars.
Most at least pretend to worship Bahamut, although many farmers and peasants pay more homage to Primal Spirits than to dieties.
The Emperor of Consterat is an elderly Dragonborn and former Skyreaver named Telmorin, elected by the council of Princes some fourty years ago. He is in his twilight years and nearing death, but he still seeks to see a unified Arkhosia. Considered to be one of the few truly good kings, so far as anyone can tell he has no secrets. So far as anyone can tell, anyways...
Bloodflame is a country in a state of decline. Every year, they lose more and more land to petty kingdoms and tribes in the south, to internal strife and rebellion, and to their neighbours in Clesteria and Consterat. Their military is in shambles, and their once potent Heavy Cavalry is small and forgettable when compared to the pikemen of Clesteria and the Skyreavers of Consterat. Even the Vrylokan Hus Carls are more powerful and better trained in these days.
Bloodflame is dominated by marshland and lush farming ground on it's north Coninental holdings, but on the southern continent it is primarily jungle and savannah. It's capital is the Palace City of Remica, a bustling metropolis located on the country's southern coastline. At the centre of the city stands the large triple-spired palace made from polished white stone, its towers capped with bright red onion domes.
Bloodflame is made up of an even mix of Dragonborn, humans, and Tieflings. Halflings are slightly less common, and dwarves are almost unheard of. In their holdings in the southern continent, there are a fair number of elven and shifter tribes.
Despite lush farmland, it's primary natural resource is actually the Marquis' Strait, a vital trade route that controls the ability of Conserat and Clestaria to trade with either coast of the Southern continent. As they are currently on speaking terms with Conserat, they do allow their dragonborn rivals the abilitiy to trade with the Southern continent on both sides, but they have blockaded Clestaria from being able to trade with the gem-rich western side of the country by sea, massively inflating the cost of certain gemstones with Clestaria.
The country has largely given up on its state run church to Bahamut, which has fallen to shambles. Many of the old temples have been cannibalized to build forts, and the remains now serve as shrines to Primal Spirits instead.
Emperor Victor Bloodtalon X is a wonderful manager and emperor. Many ascribe the countries continued success simply on his charisma and his acumen skills. He is, however, absolutely ruthless--it is the only way his country has been able to survive at all. He doesn't want a unified Arkhosia, he believes that the two countries are and should remain separate. He simply wants to see Bloodtalon's unique culture to remain unique and apart from that of its surrounding cultures.
A quickly growing Monarchy, Clestaria is the result of an alliance of humans and dwarves in the eastern kingdoms. While originally consisting of a few small baronies as part of the Arkhosian dynasty, the Humans and Dwarves of the area banded together to form their own kingdom. Selecting a king from among the collected nobilitiy when emperor's Consterat and Bloodflame began their civil war, they carved out their own oligarchical kingdom from the rebelling provinces. The Arkhosian Nation was unable to unify in order to fight off this new threat, and the border kingdoms eventually grew until they became an impressive empire in their own right.
The Harlat's Spine mountains descend through the southern reach of the country, which is otherwise predominantly foothills and forest. In the south eastern reaches, the country touches on the Blackhold Sea.
Racial Make Up
Clestarian is a predominantly human nation, although a number of dwarven noble families exist in the mountains that make up the southern part of the country.
It is a nation that makes its money primarily through farming, mining, and some trade with the tribes in the Golden Savannah and other parts of the southern continent. However, a blockade on the Marquis Strait by the Bloodflame Empire has effectively halted direct trade with the wealtier tribes on the western side of the southern continent, meaning most of their trade has to be made by sea on the eastern side, which puts their trade routes right by the Blood Flame empire, and exposing their traders to pirate attacks. Due to poor relations with Consterat, they don't do much land trade unless they send Envoys through land held by the Black Horde. All of this has put Clestaria in an economically very precarious situation, making it a land rich but money poor nation.
The nation of Clestarian doesn't hold to one form of worship over any other, leaving the individual Baronies to make up their own minds on what to allow and disallow. The current King is personally devoted almost exclusively to the primal spirits, although he does offer some worship to Pelor.
Clestaria began as an Oligarchical empire, but after a few generations, the Clestarian king Dominique Pasqual decided his descendants should inherit the throne, and through a royal edict stripped the rights of the Baronies to select their own king. At the time, his impressive military strength was able to put down any upstart nobles who felt otherwise, and the Clestarian throne has been passed down through the Pasqual line ever since.
Dominique Pasqual III is the current king, born to a human father and a dwarven mother in order to tighten the ties between the Human and Dwarven Barons to the royal family. He is a good person, however his political position is very weak due to the difficult economic position his nation is in. At the moment, his dwarven advisor (and uncle) Murrak Thorgindson is the only reason he's been able to hold onto the throne for so long, forcing Dominique to strengthen his personal military and crack down on any upstart nobles who don't like his decisions. Murrak sometimes even goes behind Dominique's back to put down such rebellions. Despite this, Murrak is fiercly loyal to the king, whom he views as being like his own son.
Note on Half-Dwarves
Half-Dwarves in this setting are not Muls, like in the Dark Sun setting. Rather, they breed true depending on who the father is. If the father is human, then the child will likely be mostly human as well. If the father is a dwarf, the child will most closely resemble a dwarf.
Subrace options for a half-human dwarf: If playing a dwarf, you have the option to choose one or both of the following sub-race options if your dwarf is half-human: Half-human flexibility: Lose the +2 to Dungeoneering and +2 to Endurance. Instead, you receive training in an additional skill. Human Training: You no longer maintain your speed when wearing heavy armor or carrying a heavy load, but you may take a bonus feat.
Subrace options for a half-dwarf human: If playing a human, you have the option to chose one of the following sub-race options if your human is a half-dwarf. Half-dwarf skill bonuses: Instead of gaining training in an additional skill, you gain a +2 to Dungeoneering and a +2 to Endurance. Half-dwarf stature: Instead of taking a bonus feat, you can choose to be able to maintain your full speed when it would be reduced by armor or a heavy load. However, if your speed would be reduced by something like a power or difficult terrain, your speed is still reduced.