A realm divided by ideology, faith, and a patchwork of complex feudal obligations and holdings, the Korlian Empire of Berlberg, colloquially simply the Empire, rots. The Cult War pitted the faithful of the Imperial Cult against the new heresies springing up in the northern districts. No sooner had the Cult War come to its bloody close than the privation it had wrought among the people spurred the Summer Rising, an Empire-wide rebellion of the underclasses that was only barely suppressed. Since then, the twin specters of heresy and reform have haunted the Empire, threatening to rip it apart or transform it into something else.
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Races in the Empire
The Empire is dominated by humans, and they make up the entirety of the nobility and the vast majority of other civil and political posts. Those of nonhuman races who dwell in the Empire typically are either specialized craftsmen or advisors who make their living plying their unusual trade, or poor laborers who have come seeking opportunity or on the run from the law in other lands, or both.
The people on the whole are quite racist. The nobility is often more accepting than the commoners, though this may be a practicality rather than a result of "better breeding". A noble has a use for an elven fencing master, and so is inclined to treat him well. By the same token, the merchant class is much more cosmopolitan, provided that their interactions with other races can prove lucrative.
Nonhumans are not legally protected, and so if one intends to survive they either ingratiate themselves to powerful people or keep their heads down. Large concentrations of nonhumans are rare, but when they do they tend to settle in insular communities within cities for mutual protection.
Emperor Belg I-The reigning Emperor. His father, Karl II was more willing to hear the grievances of the reformists. Belg is not--he has played upon the nobility's fear of another rebellion, using it to justify the arrest of many of his political enemies for "reformist delusions".
Prince Elector Ruprecht III of Kerlheim-The most powerful of the nobles and the largest single landholder in the Empire, Ruprecht has not tipped his hand for either the Old Guard or the Reformists yet, though he is both popular amongst the people and well respected by the nobles.
Bernard Hulgren, Lord Mayor of Bulgstadt-The current mayor of Bulgstadt, Hulgren is closely aligned with the "Old Guard", those who support the cause of the nobility. He has taken many repressive measures against reformists in the city, yet it remains a hotbed for agitation and violence. Several failed attempts on his life have only served to further convince him of the righteousness of his reactionary cause.
Witchfinder General Vera Klemper-"Wrinkles", as she is affectionately known by her subordinates, is a jolly, fun loving, fat woman of middle age who ascended to the post of Witchfinder General on the basis of her skill as a torturer bringing lost souls back to the fold during the Cult War. She is supposedly the nicest woman you will ever meet. And if you don't think so, she has ways of convincing you.
Politics and Law
The main governing body of the Empire is the College of Electors. Originally composed of the five Prince-Electors (Kuerfuersten) and five Ecclesiastical Electors, the Treaty of Lorges expanded the College to include the mayors of the five largest free cities and representatives from the five largest heretical faiths in the Empire. The College elects the Emperor and his successor, the King of the Korli, at the death of each reigning Emperor.
The Empire hosts a massive bureaucracy, mainly concerned with the regulation of arcane and divine magic.
Bureau of Magic
The BOM is the primary accreditation and certification organization in the Empire, involved in training magic users, granting licensing, and governing codes of conduct for magic users. Every sanctioned magic user in the Empire is a member of the Bureau. It should be noted that the Bureau’s enforcement authority is limited—local laws and licensing are of greater concern for magic users.
The Imperial Registry
This massive bureaucratic engine collects and stores data of all kinds from the Empire. Their agents gather information on harvests, taxes, production, and population, but its most well known and The rolls, which contain True Names for all registered users, are kept extremely secret and are protected by a complex set of rules and security procedures to prevent loss and abuse. The paperwork required to access a True Name from the Registry is prodigious. Registry buildings are typically some of the most secure, protected by spells and crack security teams. All Registry workers have no magical talent.perhaps most important function is maintaining the rolls of sanctioned magic users.
Imperial Witchhunting Bureau
In legal parlance, "witch" refers to unregistered magical practitioners, both male and female. The IWB is the primary arm of enforcement for magical law and regulation in the Empire. The most recognizable aspect of the Bureau are its wandering witchhunters, who travel from village to village, ensuring licensed practitioners have their information up to date. Young children are always examined around the fifth birthday by an IWB agent. Those who display any latent magical ability are then tagged for further supervision. Due to their interest in monitoring births, the IWB holds some of the most accurate population data in the Empire. IWB agents are marked by their black ascots and the purple eye, the agency's logo. Their arrival is usually cause for concern--being reported by an enemy as a witch is inconvenient at best, deadly at worst. And the IWB frowns heavily on false accusations.
The IWB hunts down and prosecutes rogue practitioners, though when powerful mages go rogue, one of the more deadly and dangerous agencies usually takes over. The IWB is based in the Bastion, a massive fortress hewn into a mountainside long ago. They are commanded by Witchfinder General Vera Klemper.
The Imperial Cult
The Imperial Cult centers around revering the Emperor as God's worldly representative. Indeed, the Emperor himself his often styled, "His Holiest Majesty", and his many titles include, "Champion of the Faith" and "Anointed Sword of the One True God". Civil and religious crime are closely wed under this system--crimes that break the Emperor's peace are likewise sins against God. The difference between the two has become more distinct, however, with the advent of the Treaty of Lorges.
The Cult is organized along hierarchical lines, with the Emperor as supreme priest. The true management of the Cult is left up to the four Archprelates, who administrate in the four major districts of the Empire. Below them are an army of prelates, deacons, and scrollmen, who enforce the Emperor's divine will and minister to his flock.
The God of the Imperial Cult grew out of the Korlian pantheon's war god, Horm. Horm absorbed many of the attributes of the other gods until the Imperial Cult entirely did away with his fellows and elevated him to the status of the One True God. To use the name of Horm is considered heresy, as the Imperial Cult's dogma maintains that God was never Horm and denies that the Korli ever worshiped many gods.
Heresy and Heathenry
The rolls of every faith in the Empire would fill volumes. The largest heretical faiths are related here.
The Cult of the Reformed Imperium is better known by its derisive name of "Anti-imperialism". Anti-imperialists, or simply antis, still revere the God of the Imperial Cult, but discount the Emperor's role as divinely appointed. Despite their name, the Antis are hardly seeking the overthrow of the Empire, and apart from their rejection of the Emperor's divine right, their dogma is almost indistinguishable from the Cult. All the same, the Cult considers them heretics of the worse sort and their primary rivals.
The Antis are dominant in the north of the Empire, where the Heresiarchy formed during the Cult War.
The monotheistic faith of Fayenreich has a large following in the Empire. Not only Fayenreicher expatriates, but half-elves and even a few Empire born humans now revere the Goddess, attracted by its more lax attitude towards dogma and the looseness of its hierarchy. Kallas has no ordained clergy, instead viewing each individual believer as capable of divining the Goddess's. This egalitarian stance makes it a popular choice for republicans and democrats, and it's reverence for a female deity attracts many women of all races.
Even when the Imperial Cult denied the existence of Horm and his fellow gods, some stubborn people continued to practice the old traditions. Even a few nobles clung to the old ways, worshiping Horm and Jykk and Hollgass and all the others in those sacred places that remained after the purges. The Edict brought an resurgence of the old ways throughout the Empire. Is is greatest in the more conservative district of Polard, though the worship of Horm has enticed many soldiers through out the Empire.
The Empire is still divided between the old kingdoms of Vulgheim, Torovia, Kerlheim, and Polardy, which form its largest “districts” and maintain much of their own independence and unique culture and character. Vulgheim is actually the smallest of the three, situated at the center of the empire. Torovia encompasses the low, marshy lands and coasts to the north. Kerlheim is dominated by large forests and mountains to the southeast. Polardy, the largest of them all, dominates most of the western reaches of the Empire and provides for much of the realm’s grain.
Vulg—After the founding of the Empire, Vulg became the lingua franca used for official business. Most educated people throughout the Empire speak Vulg, though many are limited.
The other Korlian languages (Torovian, Kerl, Polard) can be considered dialects of Vulg and are mostly spoken by commoners in their respective areas.
Classical Korlian—A dead language, often used by the highly educated and found in ancient texts.
Zauber—A secretive language with its own script used by some magic users to protect “trade secrets”. Imperial Magic schools teach their students with Zauber.
In addition, each race speaks its own language as normal.
To the south lies Giulterra, the only land which may claim the dubious honor of being even more divided and fractured than the Empire. Populated mostly by gnomes, Giulterra is divided into city states, each of which is sovereign in its own right. Some are ruled by kings, some are republics, a few are governed by political system only comprehensible to the gnomish mind. The Giulterran cities are extremely insular, and within each city the gnomes themselves are divided by familial lines, creating a very competitive and tempestuous society.
The main city states in Giulterra are Kerenze, Mediocampum, and Kilbrazza.
The small crown republic of Geldindarn, located on the Empire's easter border, is unique among the nation's of the world for its racial makeup. The "ruling class" is an amalgam of halflings and hobgoblins. The halflings serve as civil administrators and diplomats, while the hobgoblins are military leaders. This curious arrangement came about around two hundred years ago, when the hobgoblins enslaved a large population of halflings living in the area. Intially their rule was brutal and harsh, but they recognized the value of the halflings and have since cultivated more harmonious relations with them. While the hobgoblins are still nominally supreme, the relationship between the two races is startlingly egalitarian. Halflings and hobgoblins call each other "cousin" as a term of respect, and hobgoblins often act as guardians of halfling children and vice versa. Purely ceremonial "weddings" between hobgoblin and halfling families are also not unheard of. It is often held up as a sterling example of racial harmony by anti-racists in the Empire.
Geldindarn is a close ally of the Imperial House, and despite its small size is a creditor for many nobles. Because so many are indebted to it, Geldindarn wields influence incongruous with its small size.
Reigning Monarch: Nollis IV
Prime Minister: Linus Dadrikssen
Ambassador to the Empire: Livia Bronthig
On the extreme northern border lies Orkmark, a cold and unforgiving land home to barbaric orc tribes. While the Empire's embrace of gunpowder has neutralized their threat somewhat, their raids still pose a great danger, especially now that many are more focused on internal threats. In some northern districts, orcs have settled with the permission of the local nobles, who grant them land in exchange for defense from other orc tribes. Some of these settled tribes have grown quite powerful and wealthy, much to the alarm of the nobles who procured their services.
Located to the west, Fayenreich is populated by a large concentration of elves, who form the nobility and ruling class. A much more centralized and absolutist state, it has long been a goal of the Korlian Emperors to ape the Fayenreicher kings.
Fayenreich is the birthplace of many of the new "Enlightened" ideologies now plaguing the Empire. Strangely enough, the source for these comes not from the disenfranchised human majority, but the elven upper class. Elven longevity has torn a rift between the "younger" generations who were born within the last few centuries and their elders, who cling to power with no signs of relinquishing it.
Reigning Monarch: Clovis III
Ambassador to the Empire: Reddin de Volgerac