Thursday, August 18, 2011

More on Zu

Once we get this brief setting information done, we can move on to discussing  some more spells, monsters or Zu character creation houserules. That's what we're all here for, so let's get on with it:

To the west of the Ankur Empire (and roughly to the north of the Lowlands) lies the Asrakan Desert, a wasteland of rock and sand. It's dunes and labyrinthine mesas are a haven for bandits preying on the few trade and supply routes as well as horrid monsters - preying both the routes and the bandits. Travellers are advised to keep to the rocky southern stretches, as the endless sand seas are often plagued by the grey dust storms of the north and the attending raiders of the little-known but terrifying Grey Khanate, a distant and inimical place where, as they say, grey-skinned people live without water or food, ruled by the terrible Zubotai Khan.

In the centre of the Asrakan desert lies the salty, inland Spice Sea, named for the many exotic crops that can be grown on its salty shore. It is a point of violent contention between the Ankur Empire and the Rayyashid Califate, an alliance of semi-nomadic tribes that occupy the oases and waterways of the western half of the desert watched over and ruled by the allegedly immortal Protector of the Way, Calif Zurún al-Rayya ibn Khaldún ibn Sabbah. Rayyashid tribesmen are described by travellers as polite and hospitable, but this does little to improve their reputation: besides the demonic riders of the Grey Khanate, the Caliphate is the only land where the use of the fell and unnatural beasts called "horses" is accepted and even encouraged.

Somewhere to the west of the desert and the Lowlands, hidden behind great mountain ranges, lies the hidden empire of Khantún. Their fine luxury products occasionally make it into the possession of refined collectors, and rogue Bushi Knights of the land sometime travel into the known lands, but little else is known of these strange-hued, slanted-eyed people and their mighty fungal farms in the jungle. Their ruler is the Incomparable Sage of the Amber Heavens, the Emperor of the Lacquered Throne, Zu Long.

To the southwest of the Lowlands lie the barbaric Hāāā Plains. The longhaired, loincloth-clad barbarians of the plains have three main occupations: quarreling between tribess; raiding settlements beyond their borders for metal tools and weapons to better quarrel between tribess with; and hunting, trapping and taming the myriad species of dragon-lizards that seasonally migrate here from the south then selling them to the highest bidder as riding mounts, beasts of burden or warbeasts. These people are far too disorganised to have any sort of formal rulership, but a certain barbarian hero called Zungarr the Mightiest commands the grudging respect of all - and in fact has been doing so for centuries, if these barbarians are to be believed.

To the east of the Hāāā Plains lie the forbidding mountain peeks and deep dark valleys of the Rotwald Forest. A traveller must tread carefully and never deviate from the trails that connect the hamlets and villages of the valleys, lest they be lost forever or snatched up by the things lurking beneath the dense canopy. While most travellers only encounter the villages, the real power over the Rotwald Forest is held by the mountain fortresses of the reclusive Smithing Lords. The Smithing Lords are the preeminent weapon- and armoursmithes of all the known realms, creating - and jealously guarding - designs not even imagined anywhere else, and imbuing their best creations with the magic of mysterious runes. For a warrior, the armoury of a single Rotwalder hohesschmitt would be worth more than the Ankuran Imperial treasury - and, fittingly, an attempt at it would be similarly more preposterous. Little is known of the internal organisation of the Gilde, but the high-ranking master smithes are believed to be engaged in constant and covert struggle for each others' most powerful runes and weapons. Nevertheless, an entity called Zugfried Dwimmerschmitt is always spoken of with great deference, regardless the speaker's affiliations.

The last known land, sandwiched between the Rotwald and the Eastern Ocean, is the God Coast. Little is known of this narrow but long strip of land, as most who go there come back thoroughly changed - or not at all. What's known is that the land is peppered by hundreds, if not thousands, of shrines, temples and cathedrals, each consecrated to a different god. Some of these occasionally send missionaries to other lands, but the tenets spread by these people are just too strange to win many people over. Having said that, some of these missionaries do seem to have extraordinary abilities and magics at their command, so maybe not all these religions are the product of fevered delusion, after all.


  1. Is this a hexcrawl-style setting, or does it handle overland travel in another way? As you have described it, the place looks like a focus point between several civilisations (although I may be mistaken without a map).

  2. It's sort of a mule. Most of the world would be handled as a hex crawl. At least in the sense that it would give that freedom of movement, although exploring hex after hex won't necessarily receive that much emphasis. The way I've done it in my last campaign (and the way I'll probably do it in the future) is to leave the hex map relatively crude and light and supplement it with a bunch of random tables - not just for encounters but also for locations that don't need to be tied to a certain coordinate.

    As alluded to in the fluff, the unnavigable Lowlands are the notable exception. Without revealing too much at this point (I'm hoping to run it to our Hungarian group one day), moving from locale to locale there is more of a location network-style affair with a great deal of randomness and DM fiat - even though (again, as alluded to) some travellers might be able to influence both...

    And yes, the Lowlands (where I intend the game to start) are nestled amongst all the other realms. In a way, the Lowlands are the "funhouse dungeonland" (only in wilderness format), where adventuring would revolve around day-to-day survival. Then, if and when the party matures to the point where they want to involve themselves in larger stuff, they can move out towards the peripheries and the trading and scheming possibilities located there.