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It’s been a while since my last update.  Since this was the only request that I’ve had, I present the Spotlight on the Numbraran Empire: Part 1.  Parts 2-4 will detail each of the three subsections of the Empire individually, since blanket statements don’t cover the entire Empire very well.

To the Imperial Court:

I’ve been instructed to put together an overview of our nation’s history, to be preserved in the event of some form of catastrophe.  While I’m immensely glad to see the Court taking such an interest in my field of work (and my personal work, in particular) I must apologize for the rushed nature of the thing.  Rest assured, this is not a comprehensive history.  The volumes that I have been scribing since my retirement will be made available once they are finished.  Here, I hope, is enough to tide over the Imperial appetite for knowledge.

 

The Numbraran Empire

The Numbraran continent is easily the largest landmass in Valt.  It is more than ten times the size of the next nearest contender (Fassett) and far more densely populated.  It is littered with the remains of dozens of kingdoms and nations that have come and gone over the centuries.

The Numbraran Empire began sometime during the Second Dark.  As an approximation, this is inaccurate at best.  The first recorded mention of Numbrar as an established government is in the Divine Scrolls in the Imperial Palace in Shotan, a record of an explorer from that nation meeting with officials at the Numbraran court.  This contact took place in 582 SC, placing it over a thousand years ago, but the Numbraran Empire had already been established for some time by that point, certainly long enough to have completed the lengthy events that created the nation.

Several kingdoms both large and small dominated Valt during the time before the rise of the Empire, but of all the fallen ones, it is believed that Thanast was the origin of what would become the great nation of Numbrar.  Thanast was a nation ruled by a council of undead (the Thanastian Diet) who held tyrannical rule over the enslaved living populace.  Several of the more esoteric forms of undead (such as vasathunts, bonedrinkers, and devourers) are believed to be remnants of the elite unliving soldiers created originally by the skilled Thanastian necromancers.

Relatively little is known about Thanast, due to the nature of the Thanastian downfall.  Folk tales of the Empire claim that Colsus Numbra, remembered as the first Emperor, rose to prominence as a slave in the gladiator pits.  Eventually, he would bring the slaves together in a rebellion which would see the destruction of the city he dwelt in.  Escaping with an army of gladiators, Colsus would go on to rally the people against their undead oppressors.  The stories of Colsus’s victories against the undead are as numerous as there are exaggerated: there is simply no possible way that Colsus Numbra was able to do everything which he is credited with.

Indeed, it is only conjecture which puts Thanast as the birthplace of the Empire, since no written record provides any concrete evidence to this effect.  Several diaries of the Mad Alchemist of Diegon (a lich of some small power, known to have held a minor position in the Thanastian Diet) have recently come to light which list a host of problems that faced the Thanastians over the two centuries that the diaries detail, including a slave rebellion led by a “slave who dares call himself emperor.”  Tragically, the Mad Alchemist never uses dates, and historians are positive that the entries in his diaries are not in chronological order, making it impossible to verify when this uprising occurred, nor if it is the one which resulted in the eventual formation of the Empire.

Current conventional thought is that Thanast was plagued by a number of difficulties, including multiple foreign wars, severe competition amongst the ruling body (which had become stagnant with the relatively low turnover that any group of undead is likely to see) and multiple revolts within the nation itself.  The probable truth (as held up by the most objective of scholars) is that Colsus Numbra was a brilliant military commander who managed to unite the multiple civilian uprisings under a single banner, either before or after the demise of Thanast.

Colsus Numbra is credited with the formation of the Empire, but his daughter is credited with being the first actual Emperor (or Empress).  Empress Tanora I is credited, historically, with seeking wisdom from the goddess Ralorael, who would become her personal deity as well as the patron deity of the new nation.  Ralorael’s ascension to chief deity of the Valt pantheon must therefore follow the formation of the Numbraran Empire closely, and the Stewards of the Kingmaker claim her command of the Fathomless Castle to have begun in 563 SC.  Even among the most skeptical of historians, this date has to be accepted as marking the Empire as having existed for some time.

It is, of course, important to mention that other historians have voiced alternative viewpoints with just as much evidence as the commonly accepted theories.  (All of it circumstantial, whether mainstream or fringe.)  The most widely accepted belief is that the Numbrarans originated in a country below the Storm Belt, no longer accessible.  A few writings exist that might (depending on interpretation) support such a view.  Some say that Colsus Numbra did not in fact win his rebellion, but fled to Numbra from the actual land of his birth, Cadram, which was also ruled by a monarchy headed by the undead at the time.

As you continue to listen, theories get ever more implausible.  For every country in the known world, there is at least one (otherwise respectable) sage willing to claim that Numbra was actually from their nation.  The most bizarre theories claim that the nation of the dead that Numbra overthrew was actually Chenestes (a fact made patently impossible by the fall of Chenestes predating the rise of the Numbraran Empire by hundreds if not thousands of years) or that the original Numbraran slaves came not from Valt, but from sailors beyond the stars.  Such ideas as these last two are, mercifully, as rare as they are laughable.

 

Expansion

The dawn of the Third Light saw several infant nations spreading across the globe, inevitably brushing against each other.  Numbrar quickly became the dominant member of these new powers.  Over the mountains to the north, they encountered a series of small feudal countries, little more than city-states, along the northern coast.  These city-states were quickly absorbed into the burgeoning Empire.  The eastern forest nation of Derrikol mounted the first real resistance, but fell within a handful of years.

By 462 SC, Numbrar controlled the northern part of the continent, and turned their attention south.  Between the eastern nations of Jheira and Cadram lay a host of imposing geographical difficulties, including the Palisade Mountains, the Cadram desert, and the dizzying array of swamps and marshes which made up the southern part of the continent.  These forbidding climes were home to a seemingly unending supply of barbarian tribes, demihuman societies, and monster communities.  With no central authority, each of these groups, most prone to isolationism and violence, had to be pacified and brought into the Empire individually.  By this point, border skirmishes with other nations were not uncommon, and due to a combination of these factors, the expansion of the Empire began to slow.  By 288 SC, it no longer mattered, since the Numbraran Empire had reached its zenith, controlling the entire Numbraran continent.

For years the Empire had enjoyed a strained relationship with the Jade Islands, the birthplace of the experienced sailors who had harried the Empire for centuries.  The throne would no longer tolerate such insolence, and turned their full fury on the island confederation.

 

Decline

This would prove to be a mistake for the Empire.  Although they would eventually conquer the Jade Islands, it would prove to be too costly.  With the amount of resources back home spare, the Empire began to undergo a series of rebellions.  First Jheira and then Cadram went into open revolt.  The power of the Numbraran Empire went into a state of decline.  At the lowest point, even the northern coastal states split from the Empire, which could no longer muster the resources to bring them back to heel.  The final crushing blow came when an armada of Jadelanders, led by the Greenkeel, sailed up the Alean River in 135 SC to sack the capitol itself.  While Numbrar burned, the Emperor Savian I took his own life.  His body was burned by the invaders, his remains split apart and taken as a series of grim trophies, making Savian I is the only Emperor since Tanora to not be interred in the sacred barrows beneath the palace.

With no clear line of succession, it fell to the Senate and the Councilors of Numbrar to elect the new Emperor.  Fearing the influence of a dynamic force, they chose a man known for his taciturn nature.  This trend, one of calm and resignation, would come to be the defining characteristic of the crown for the next five centuries.  The Empire had fallen far from its glory days, and while the Emperors who came and went would range from the evil (Helean II, Colsus XIII) to the good (Alari II, Helean VI) and everything in between, it was clear that it was now the Senate who truly controlled the nation.

The government had become so out of touch with its people, it has been joked by some historians that if it weren’t for the rain from the Godstorms, most may never have realized the capitol wasn’t talking to them anymore!  By the time the storms swept across the world, the nation was vast merely in size.  Many villages had never seen a representative of their government, and even today there are many small settlements that only know Numbrar as a far-off place they have to send food and money to every so often.

 

Return of the King

In 397 TR, the Empress Alari VII married a landless knight named Sterron.  Although it was she who was the crowned Empress, it was Sterron who captured the heart of the people.  With the ear of his wife and the fear of the majority of the Senate, he managed to unite the nation as never before.  He had grown tired of the depredations of the villains who lurked in the darkness, the Tutuen-Nietwe especially.  In what would come to be known as the Dawn Crusade, Sterron rooted out every form of oppression he could find, be it monstrous or merely social, to be exposed to the sunlight.  If it withered and died once exposed, so be it, and if the sunlight would not suffice, the Sterron was more than happy to finish the job with his sword.

When fringe elements of the Senate, hoping to maintain their power, had Alari assassinated, the rest of the Senate finally committed, unifying behind Sterron as never before.  The Senate had always had the right to declare the new Emperor, but had only ever used the power to fill the throne when no clear (or physically able) successor was evident.  For the first time in the nation’s history, the Councilors crowned someone outside the line of immediate succession, giving the crown not to Alari’s eldest son, but instead to her husband, Sterron.  When the crown was given to him and he was asked what his Imperial name was to be, he famously laughed and replied, “Sterron, obviously.”

The Dawn Crusade swept the continent.  By the time it was done, many of the lesser nations which had left the Empire to fend for themselves came back of their own volition, pledging fealty to the Dowager King.  With his promises of international peace, even the neighboring kingdoms of Cadram and Jheira came to an uneasy peace with the new face of the Empire.

By this time the last of the Tutuen-Nietwe had rallied around the greatest of their number.  With what allies they could, the forces of the darkness made ready for their last stand.  An army of the unified Empire marched on them, led by the Paladin King, even assisted by the forces of Jheira and Cadram.  In a battle which would come to be the most widely represented fight in artworks across the continent, Sterron Numbra met the hell-dragon Kunikaninochiston.  The actual details of the fight have been obscured or hideously embellished over the years, but the salient point remains: the dragon lay defeated, but also stretched out across the battlefield lay the corpse of Sterron Numbra, whose third title would be the Last Emperor.

 

Civil War

With Sterron dead, the question of succession became a tricky one.  The Councilors of Numbrar had the ultimate authority over who would become the Emperor, but the issue was quite unclear.  Alari VII had always wanted the crown to go to the second of her two sons, Alcot.  But the last Emperor who had died, Sterron, had made it known he wanted Alcot’s older brother Gadrin to succeed him.  To complicate matters even further, Sterron had a third son, Sinden, (by his second wife) who claimed that he was the only true-born heir (since he had been the only son born after their father’s ascension to crowned Emperor).

The three Councilors and the Senate could not reach a consensus.  Each brother enjoyed equal support, and each claimed to be the true Emperor.  This war would last, off and on, for the next three hundred and seventy years.  The endless rounds of war, armistices, peaces, and alliances with neighboring countries would come to be known as the Three Crowns Wars, and while it ground the nations of Numbrar into the dust, it gave ample arm room for the rest of the nations of the world to grow and flourish.

 

Unification

By 791 TR, the Numbraran Empire was considered by many (save for those who lived within it) to be no more.  To the north, the region which had been claimed and controlled by Gadrin, was Northern Numbrar, or New Numbrar.  Between the two mountain ranges that nearly divide the continent like a butterflied piece of meat (the Coureth and Palisade mountains) lay Central, or Old Numbrar.  It was home to the capitol city of Ancient Numbrar, and was considered by those outside of the country to be the “real” seat of the Empire.  To the south lay the nation of Sindle, once known as Southern Numbrar.  A lowland of swamps and forbidding landscape, it was the home of Sinden, and halfway through the Three Crown Wars stopped openly declaring itself to be part of the Empire, and instead operated as an independent kingdom.

This all ended in the early 790’s, when Julium Numbra seized control of the Capitol.  His military crusade to unite the world has resulted, by 805 TR, in the conquest of Sindle, as well as a political Confederation with Cadram.  He has taken three of the five nations of the continent, and is in an open state of war with Northern Numbrar and Jheira, who will not accept Numbraran rule no matter who wears the crown.

Despite centuries of turmoil, Numbrar remains.  It is said by some that during his rebellion, Colsus Numbra rescued an extraplanar creature of deific power, that promised him that he would become the leader of a nation of men, and that nation would endure in one form or another until the stars froze over.  This story, a fun and uplifting children’s tale, is being told more and more often of late, as it appears that the Empire will indeed survive into the next age.

–Antorin Donati, Imperial Archivist, Sterron 21st, 805 TR

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My lovely and adoring girlfriend requested that Julium’s deity be written up next.  As always, suggestions for the next god to do are welcome.

Ralorael (rah-LORE-AY-ell)
Her Radiance, the Kingmaker (Queenmaker), the Noble One, Goddess of Kings, Queen of the Gods
LG Greater Power of the Fathomless Castle

Pantheon: General
Portfolio: Rulers, royalty, nobility, magic, leadership
Domain: The Royal Hall (Fathomless Castle)
Allies: Ianor, Presian, Eksus, Lord Osil, Aralor, Kryis
Foes: Malarise, Scorce, Aksan
Symbol: A longsword backlit by either a halo or a glowing crown
Worshipper Alignment: LG, NG, LN
Favored Weapon: “Imperiel” (Longsword)
Cleric Domains: Law, Good, Magic, Nobility, Trade, War
Summary: Ralorael is the deity of kings and leaders. She is the patron deity of Numbrar as a country, although those from beyond the empire’s borders sometimes dispute this. As the goddess of good and just rulers, she promotes strong leadership, encouraging all to gather under the banner of a righteous leader.
As the ruler of the Fathomless Castle, Ralorael has command over most of the deities in the general pantheon. She rules with temperance and wisdom, balancing mercy and strength in equal measures. When she takes to battle, she is a terror to behold, leading her armies of celestial beings from the front lines.
History/Relationships: Ralorael was once called Renael, before her deification. She fought demons and devils along with her solar brethren, spreading light and justice throughout the planes. The people of Valt had no arcane magic at that time, and Renael used her knowledge of other worlds to craft the foundation of the Loom, the plane that makes magic possible. She swiftly became deified as the goddess of magic.
As a demigod, she turned over her duties to the mortal Eksus, elevating him far above her in divine status. It seemed that her divinity would fade, until a mortal named Tanora approached her. Tanora was a wizard, as well as the second Empress of Numbrar. She asked the Queenmaker for guidance, since there were no goodly deities of rulers at that time.
Soon other mortals began to approach Ralorael, and within a century she had become more widely worshipped than she had ever been before. When the deities known as Elffather and Orcfather left Valt, it was Ralorael who stepped in to unite the remaining gods against Silduggis. Thereafter, she took her place in the throne room in the Fathomless Castle as its undisputed ruler.
Scorce and Aksan are her constant foes. Each a deity of evil tyrants, they oppose her doggedly, attempting to usurp her place as the Queen of the Gods as well as her mortal worshippers. Mallarice still bears a bitter grudge against her for imbuing Eksus with divinity, and seeks a way to exact some measure of revenge.
Kryis is her devoted bodyguard, and she is never without him. Even in human guise, he is always nearby. As the queen of the deities, she has many members of her court, although Aralor, Ianor, and Presian are her favored confidants, who promote the sort of society that her Radiance approves of. Lord Osil is her military commander, leading her legions of celestials, although his loyalty to her is circumstantial, and he would happily serve a Lawful Evil deity as well (who would be more likely to use military force). When the Kingmaker feels that she must get away from her duties and responsibilities, Eksus remains the only friend she has who is not connected to her mantle as the queen of the gods.
Manifestations: Ralorael is usually found within the Fathomless Castle, dealing with matters of state, and mediating the day to day disputes of the gods and the outer planes. Her manifestations on the material plane are rare and very specific.
When she does manifest, she only appears to a single person. This person is usually someone who is destined to be a great leader, or who has the potential to be a great leader, and has travelled too far down the wrong path. Her manifestations are awe-inspiring events meant to remove all doubt from the person receiving the visitation in regards to their destiny. Usually, those she appears to keep such a visitation quiet.
Ralorael is depicted as beautiful in every way. (Of course her appearance changes depending on the culture of the artist depicting her.) She is usually clad in armor and wielding a glowing or flaming sword. She is often wearing a glowing corona of light. She is always, however, depicted with radiant wings, either pure white, or a rainbow of scintillating colors.

THE CHURCH
Priests:
Stewards (women are still called stewards, not stewardesses)
Alignment: LG, NG, LN
Classes: Cleric, paladin, monk, wizard
Dogma: All great things begin with one person. Every man is a leader; every person commands the attention of at least one other. It is your duty to do right by those who have placed their faith in your guidance. Lead them true, and they will follow you beyond death. Betray their trust, and you are lower than the foulest worm. If you lead so that you are trustworthy, then you shall be able to trust those who follow you.
Day-to-Day activities: The Stewards occupy themselves in many different (although similar) ways. Most of them seek positions which will allow them to advise those in positions of leadership. Those in areas which are less developed will seek leadership positions themselves. The positions they take often leave them with little time for anything else. When leisure time is available to them, they often take on projects to better their communities, which can range from training town guard to feeding the homeless to crafting magic items to benefit the community.
Worship Locations: Any city with a center of government will have at least one temple to Ralorael, unless the government is evil. Some smaller towns will have a temple to the Radiant One, but the Stewards usually build their churches in larger cities.
Their temples are usually impressive affairs. Vaulted ceilings are common, and stone is the preferred building medium. Stained glass windows are mandatory, and the main altar is always built in front of a large stained glass window depicting Ralorael herself. Temples are built with the main altar facing east.
Affiliated Orders: The Knights Radiant is a paladin order dedicated to Ralorael. The Silver Hands are a monastic order, who may freely multiclass as paladins or clerics. Finally, the Weavers are an order of wizards, whom Ralorael shares with Eksus.
Apostasy: The Disciples of Renael are the only divergent followers of the Radiant One. They worship her in her older guise as the goddess of magic. They tend to be women, and do not regard themselves as heretics. The main branch of the religion does not actively persecute them, although they do not assist them or regard them as fellow clergy. The divergent followers worship Ralorael as LG. They can be LG, NG, CG, or LN. They have access to the domains of Law, Good, Knowledge, Magic, and Spell.
Vestments: The Stewards wear clothes of vibrant colors. Frequently they dress in reds, yellow, white, gold, or purple. Dark colors are discouraged. They holy symbol is often worn on a headband. Men prefer metal headbands, with the holy symbol carved into the front. Women prefer a cloth headband, with the holy symbol attached by a small chain and resting on the forehead.
Holy Days/Ceremonies: They church has no holy days of its own. Instead they preside over state functions, such as coronations, the birthdays of rulers, or celebrations of independence. They frequently pray before meetings of councils of leaders, such as town councils or the Numbraran senate. They do have their own internal ceremonies they conduct. The most frequent of these is conducted every morning in every temple, when the priests pray for their spells at sunrise.
Oath: The Oath of Leadership. The cleric swears to never abandon someone who comes to follow them, and to never turn such an individual away. If they do so, then they receive a free rank of either Diplomacy or Knowledge: Nobility and Royalty at every level. (This is the cleric’s choice.)

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With so little information about Valt available to folks who aren’t actually playing in the game, I thought I would start a new series, the Spotlight on Valt.  I will focus on the nations, people, and organizations that make Valt unique.  I will of course continue the Deities of Valt series, sporadic as it may be.

Today I thought I would start with a summation of the major geographical and political players in Valt.

Numbrar– Both a nation and a continent, Numbrar is the largest in both categories.  Although it is primarily intended to be Roman in feel and tone, its size makes uniformity impossible.  Throughout the history of Valt, the Numbraran Empire has been the villain and the hero of my campaigns, and its borders have swelled and contracted to varying sizes.  It is a true empire, in both size and government.

The Jade Islands– A collection of islands centered around a larger landmass which is in turn broke up into several smaller nations, the Jade Isles is a collective monarchy.  Each nation rules itself, although they all pay fealty to a high king, who rules the entire collective.  The tone and theme of the islands is varied, and is intended to reflect a wide range of cultures, from those of the UK to Scandinavian.  The people of the Jade Islands are, without a doubt, the preeminent sailors in Valt.  (Which, quick trivia, was originally intended to be a primarily maritime game world.)  Within my games, the Jade Islands are frequently opposed to other nations, usually Numbrar.

Fassett– Like Numbrar, Fassett is both a continent and a nation.  Unlike Numbrar, it is the only nation on its self-titled continent.  Fassett is a city-state, with a culture that is wholly unique to Valt, although heavily influenced by a Carribbean theme.  Despite the fact that there is only a single permanent city in the whole nation, their geography makes them nigh impervious to military assault.  It is also unique in being one of the few regions of the world in which monsters are tolerated as citizens.  (In fact, half-ogres make up nearly fifteen percent of the city’s population.) Fassett is very rarely a political mover in my games, and is usually neutral.

Cadram– Cadram is a nation on the Numbraran continent.  Separated from the Numbraran nation by a vast desert, it is a coastal nation, with extremely favorable croplands.  The theme is strongly influenced by middle eastern cultures, and the Al-Qadim supplements would certainly not go amiss there!  It is governed by a monarchy, and usually serves as the opponent to Numbrar in my campaigns, either as heroes or villains.

Jheira– Jheira is south of Cadram, and is largely intended to reflect an African based background.  It has not figured largely into my games thus far, and when it is, it is as the adversary or ally of Cadram.  Although viewed as a nation by most outsiders, internally it is viewed as a confederation of smaller nations.  When outsiders must be dealt with, each nation sends a representative to a national conclave, which is empowered to make decisions for the nation as a whole.  However, this council is not usually used for domestic matters.

Shotan– Shotan borrows heavily from Japanese culture.  As I am not one of those gamers who enjoys slavish devotion to all things asian, I use it sparingly.  It has enjoyed very little face-time in my world, usually serving as the homeland for a far-travelling NPC.  Much like its real-world counterpart, it is a collection of small islands.  It is also a monarchy.  It frequently has expansionistic policies, although usually directed at its closest neighbor, Zhun.

Zhun– Zhun is a larger nation, also an island, located west of Shotan.  It is a large landmass, and is usually focused on its own internal wars.  Also intended to be asian in theme, but with more borrowed from Chinese culture.  Originally, I placed these nations in the world so that I could have two countries to work with if I ever wanted to run a game using the Oriental Adventures supplement.  Zhun is a monarchy as well, although its government changes as the internal wars progress.

You will notice the prevalence of monarchies in my game world.  This is because I think they work best for a fantasy setting.  I was never a big fan of the governments of Amn, Waterdeep, or Calimshan.  I always want a clearly defined head of the government, whether that is a single ruler or a group of them.  Within Valt, the myriad dangers from within the humanoid races and from beyond make more cumbersome forms of government unfeasible.  A government which cannot fall back to a single person (or very small group of people) to make decisions in times of emergency would probably not last long in this world.

In my further entries in this series, I will try and give more information on the various nations, as well as current organizations, lost civilizations, and broad groups of people that affect the world.  If there are any suggestions, I would be happy to oblige!  Knowing I have a reader waiting for some information is a great motivator.

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