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The world of Korad is an open-source fantasy setting, created by crowd effort at Robin D. Laws’ blog. Its contents are public domain and freely usable for any gaming, fiction or other creative project. For recent postings, go to: http://robin-d-laws.livejournal.com/tag/korad. At present this document is a series of rough notes assembled from the suggestions of multiple participants. It has not yet been massaged into a narrative document written in a stylistically consistent voice. Or formatted properly.
Korad Bible / by the readers and commenters of Robin D. Laws’ eponymous blog / p. 1
Korad Bible / by the readers and commenters of Robin D. Laws’ eponymous blog / p. 2
Terrain Northern Islands
The three northernmost islands are volcanic, like Hawaii. The smallest of the three northern islands is rocky and covered with rich deposits of guano. A notorious prison is located there. The largest island in the north consists of highlands and peat-filled moors. These lands are agriculturally rich and mineral-poor. Ancient rock art is found on these islands. Some of it depicts sacrifices to entities dwelling on the later-mentioned floating weed islands.
The Northern Bay
The small bay above and to the west of the big one is tidal, a beach at low tide. The river connecting the interior lake to the ocean is not wholly natural. ...but might be so old as makes no difference. The shore is shallow for a long distance out into the sea. The current is partially caused by waterstones now inaccessible to retrieval.
There are pieces of obsidian and pumice in the rich soils of the breadbasket, explaining the great fertility.
The tiny lake with the river coming off it is sitting on a plateau. There are macau(macaw?)s or other brightly plumaged birds who live there in the rich jungles.
The north west corner of the map goes from hills to mountains just off the map. The northern edge of the coast is steep, with dramatic fjords. Things often emerge from the western mountain when tribute is not left. Terrible things that were once men.
The Western and South-West edges of the map are much higher in elevation than the rest of it, the land generally slopes downwards from there towards the lake or the oceans. Much of the Western edge of the map (A2-A9) is sharp mountains/highlands, with a high plateau/mesa behind them (off the western edge). Communication is difficult through this region and there are many small cultural/linguistic enclaves, and local products/life that are unknown/rare/mysterious for people in Korad Bible / by the readers and commenters of Robin D. Laws’ eponymous blog / p. 3
the map centre.
The Central Lake
The four rivers that flow into the large lake each tumble over spectacularly high waterfalls before entering the lake proper. These beautiful white cliffs run for many miles along the south and west shore of the great lake, and many caves are found within. A perpetually snow-capped mountain range behind them provides for the perfect picturesque complement to their beauty. The lake water is darkened/tinted (like the Rio Negro in Brazil or the depths of the Black Sea), and the creatures that live in it are notably different from those found elsewhere.
The region on the southern shore of the central lake at B7, between the two rivers, is dotted with cyclopean ruins from an ancient, long-dead civilization. The stonework is unlike that found anywhere else in Korad, as is the stone itself. A recurring motif in the ruins is the circular maze. No two mazes of identical design have been discovered anywhere in the region, although scholars admit that many ruins remain unexplored. The ruins are also mazelike and circular in layout. The circular mazes are not, however, maps of the ruins. Five-fold penrose tiling patterns are found on domes. Some of the mazes seem to consist of similar 'blocks' or 'wedges' of repeated shapes, in different configurations to another. Some of the shapes are in awkward relationships to the other parts, as if frozen mid-motion. To traverse an intact ruin it is necessary to move in three dimensions (ie - enter buildings, go across skybridges, enter tunnels, etc). Sadly the ruins are all... ruined and strangely 'out of alignment' as though the buildings were frozen in some complex shifting dance - thus sometimes corridors don't line up and streets end abruptly. The mechanism for the shifting cyclopean structures is unknown, with no understandable mechanism. However, there are certain signs that scholars can spot that an area is still 'active'. It is possible to accidentally trigger a shift - this can close off rooms, slam ceilings downwards, snap walls shut on adventurers, etc. Stepping on the correct tile, touching the wrong thing, or just loosening dirt or rubble preventing the walls/floors from moving. Functionally this means that the ruins are 'trapped' even though the structures may not have been designed to be trapped. Most of the ruins are static however, and large-scale shifting of structures is unknown. The ruins are also the subject of great interest amongst both professional and amateur scholars, and a lucrative trade has arisen locally providing guides, transport, bearers, pack animals, and other support services for individual tourists and expeditions which visit the ruins. They also support a cottage industry of occultists and would-be oracles and ruin-readers. Save in those areas where river travel, due to marked elevation changes, is impossible, it is possible to find someone willing to ferry passengers to the region everywhere along the drainage basin which serves the central lake.
Korad Bible / by the readers and commenters of Robin D. Laws’ eponymous blog / p. 4
Water is known to flow uphill in certain limited areas. The effect is uncommon and weak, but by no means unheard of or unexploited at well-known locations. The relationship of this effect to circular currents and local magnetic poles is unknown, but the current course of a number of major and minor rivers rely on this effect to gain elevation at some point in their travels, only to lose it again in their more ordinary course. Areas where water flows uphill are often commonly used for water wheels and for small-scale perpetual motion machines that run mills and the like - not to mention set into the courses of some rivers at critical points. Anyone taking over an area to dig it up and engage in waterstone mining of this kind risks a very substantial personal/political backlash. Free-flowing water is attracted to the strange stones now found only in the cyclopean ruins. These stones repel water. They can be used to divert rivers or even cause water to flow uphill. However, not every piece of stone from the ruins has this effect. It is thought that water that flows uphill must do so because there is some of this stone underground nearby. This effect was instrumental in digging the great canals between the major rivers. Now in short supply, waterstones today dictate neither the course of rivers or of history.
More Weird Stuff About Rocks and Movement
Other stones exist which repel fire in a radius around them. They are used by the wealthy to protect portions of their estates from damage and for city fire control. Unfortunately they do not quench the fire, only direct it away. Every tornado contains a single rock which is whipped around within at frighting speed. If one could capture the Galestone, one could have a fixed tornado within their control. There are a few fanatical storm chasers seeking this goal, though the risks are immense. At both the A1 and A12 positions are forests of short (8-12 feet tall) conifers. Despite being in markedly different climates, they look to be the same species. They do not grow too densely and both support a good deal of wildlife. Each "Short Forest" covers about 2 square miles and sits on fairly level ground. Both the southern and northern tribes have legends of people falling asleep in one forest and waking up in another. While this might be dismissed as myth, it does not explain why there are members of each tribe who resemble members of the other. Except for their legends about falling asleep in the forest and the resemblances of some members, the two tribes have absolutely nothing else in common.
The Crescent Coast
The Sometimes Peninsula
The tiny peninsula at G4 becomes an island at spring tides, allowing for water-creatures to emerge from the pores of the isthmus that connects it to the mainland.
Korad Bible / by the readers and commenters of Robin D. Laws’ eponymous blog / p. 5
The High Pincer
1. The peninsula that makes up the northern part of the crescent consists of two major geographic areas. The western part of the peninsula (which looks like a bulge) is full of a small but mostly impassable mountain range that, save for a small pass, isolates the eastern part of the peninsula from the rest of Korad. It is part of a series of mountain chains) stretching from the long spur diagonally across to the other corner and around through the other spur. The eastern part of the peninsula is mildly hilly, with temperate weather, and Korad's biggest and richest deposits of metals (iron, gold, silver, tin, etc) and precious stones (emeralds, etc)
The complex delta just below the center of the map is a swampy and mazelike braided river system that floods frequently.
The Pillar Isles
The three small islands in the northwest portion of the crescent bay are very tall and almost smooth sided, like eroded pillars.
The Crescent Isles
The islands in the very large bay are surrounded by a constant circular current.
The Low Pincer
The narrow isthmus of land connecting the small island to the claw in the south-center is very new (as in within living memory new). The lake on the western peninsula (G8) has a series of hot springs around it. The pincer is mountainous.
The southern peninsula (which runs roughly from 9.6 F southeast to 10G) is a headland, surrounded by steep sea cliffs and riddled with ocean-accessible caves. The bulge on the peninsula at G10 is separated from land at high tides. The same peninsula is covered in rich, lush jungle, which includes many valuable spices and herbs that do not (and can not) grow elsewhere.
The Interior: Bonelands and Wronglands
Between the central rivers, ancient bleached bones of giant creatures are everywhere. No two creatures are alike, and most died seemingly in battle with each other. Some of these skeletons are big enough to build villages in/around, others serve as bridges. Korad Bible / by the readers and commenters of Robin D. Laws’ eponymous blog / p. 6
Interspersed with the farmlands, and often the site of the hamlets and villages (constructed from or on the bones) there are sharp, knifelike mountains, diminishing in size as one approaches the great bay, and increasing to nigh-impassable sky-raking masses as one approaches the sources of the greater rivers. One of the reasons the wronglands are difficult to traverse is the variability of the mountainous shards within. The mountains are not visible from the outside, but once you set out to travel through one of the wronglands they loom up out of the distance. Irrigated farmland is common, with lots of tiny hamlets and villages. There are areas that are completely uninhabited. There is nothing wrong with the land - it is as fertile as the next patch of land, but it is just somehow ineffably wrong. People avoid going there, avert their gaze when travelling by, and don't like to talk about it. Children may share the legends of the wronglands, but adults never do. The 'wrong' land can be as large as an hour to travel across or as small as an acre. Strangely, 'wrong' land tends to be bigger on the inside (thus faster to go around than to cross) and occasionally has weather slightly in delay of weather around it's borders. A line of arid, broken hills divides the headwaters of the three southern rivers from the desert to the south. As rivers form the backbone of trade in Korad, there is an extensive north-south canal system connecting the major rivers.
The Sea and its Floating Islands, the Moss Oarchids
Islands of plants grown together, populated with unique organisms both on "land" and at their saltimmersed roots, occasionally float slowly along the outer coasts. Known as “Okekai moss oarchids”, they rarely transit into the Great Bay. These massive islands of green moss and vines propel themselves around the sea with huge, brightly coloured flower blossoms. The inmates of the prison island don't attempt to escape on the "floating islands" that move along the outer coasts. This is no doubt due to vigilance by the guards (who are kept informed of incoming "floaters" by contacts on the mainland, where experts attempt to keep track of such islands in order to harvest certain unique flora and fauna), but may also be due to reports that unprotected humans on the "floaters" may suffer a fate worse than death. (Eaten by plants, transformed into fungoid monstrosities, incorporated into the structure of the island, etc.) Several of the floating islands is occupied by some form of sentient plantlife – jungle versions of the ents. No two have quite the same attitude to visitors. Some are unremittingly hostile, others like the land of the lotus eaters, and others still friendly and growing delicious fruits and berries. Another sapient species, the chivari plant-apes, live on other islands. Or are extensions of the islands, depending on how you distinguish these concepts. They’re gatherer-vines that swing in packs between trees, hunted for their beautiful flowers with powerful mutagenic properties, that when properly prepared allow for permanent or temporary changes (both gross and subtle) to a person. The only catch? Improperly prepared they are deadly poison. Who defines what exactly 'properly' and Korad Bible / by the readers and commenters of Robin D. Laws’ eponymous blog / p. 7
'improperly' is has varied with cultural mores over the ages. Changing gender / apparent age / sub-race could be OK one century and forbidden the next. Some cultures would want their soldiers to be in a permanent warp-spasm (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C %C3%BA_Chulainn#The_Cattle_Raid_of_Cooley & http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sl%C3%A1ine_ %28comics%29) but some cultures would stay clear of even temporary ríastrad. Some cultures venerate certain mutational effects (bone spines, extra arms) and some do not. The effects of the Chivari flowers are partly determined by the age and quality Chivari harvested, partly by the person preparing it and their skill, partly by the subconscious of the person taking it, and partly by luck. The Chivari moss oarchids live only in the central lake. When the ent islands float from the ocean into the lake, warfare ensues. Thankfully this is a rare phenomenon.
The Southern Desert
There exists a lifeless desert with nomadic mesa/column-like rock formations. o A needle magnetized (magic-tized?) on a mesa always points to that mesa, even when in the presence of a strong magnetic field. Also... o Most mesa do not follow paths or orbits. o Mesa do not crash into each other. o The average speed of a mesa is slow enough so that a running person could jump on it. o The speed of a mesa is a function of the depth of the desert. The deeper you are in the desert the faster they go. At the edges of the desert and near oasis they move slower than a slow walk, but in the deep desert they can move faster than a horse. o The smaller the rock the faster it goes. o They can't be steered. o The journeys that some of them take are predictable in advance, but not totally so. It is more an art than a science and it is possible to be wrong. o The average size is large enough to build a town or village on, but there are some truly massive ones and some smaller man-size ones. o The mesa are taller than they are wide. They are mostly pillar-like. o No one has counted them all, but there are a lot of them. o Some are large enough to be instantly recognizable. o They are not sandstone. The stone is hard, but soft enough to be dug through. So like very tough sandstone, or a concrete. o Some have naturally occurring tunnels riddling them, and are home to desert creatures (or a desert culture?). Korad Bible / by the readers and commenters of Robin D. Laws’ eponymous blog / p. 8
• The moving mesas are used in executions. Victims are chained to two mesas moving in the opposite direction and horribly quartered. These are only possible when mesa routes appropriately intersect.
The Koradi originate in the southern breadbasket region of Urkorad. Among their key customs and values, the following stand out: 1.) wisdom acknowledges the best idea no matter its origin. 2.) A woman who dies knowing unspoken truths has betrayed her daughters 3.) Winter solstice is when the gods are taught new things. 4.) A key distinction is made between public and private knowledge. 5.) To outlive one’s children is to fail. 6.) Family lines are matrilineal, and socially very important. 7.) Knowledge is good. Using it to attain power is better. 8.) Marriage ceremonies end with the capture of the sacred goat. 9.) Unused meat must be placed outside at night, as tribute to the Veytikka, who made have once been Koradi outcasts. 10.) Education is more important than wealth or beauty. 11.) Environmental obstacles are opportunities in disguise. 12.) Military service is compulsory for all citizens. 13.) Failure is the only route to success.
Families, Guilds and Secrets
The connection between public and private life, between family and empire, is the guild. They are strong, militaristic, extremely tight-knit & often based on family ties. They believe in sharing some of their basic knowledge with everyone who will listen, they will even have public libraries, but the jealously guard their secrets carefully passing them down to initiates. They believe in experimenting and trying repeatedly to improve things, even in the face of failure and defeat. To blackmail a powerful Koradi is not to reveal her secrets, but to reveal that she’s failed to properly manage your guild’s private information. Everyone sits around in private, comes up with a decision, largely made by the women, then the patriarch takes that decision to other groups. Dissent among the elect in the capital must not spill out into the "public hearth" of the empire at large. The hoi polloi around the village hearth do not discuss matters in your home. That is, I may disagree with my brothers (or sisters), but when we face the cousins (colonials, Imperial provinces) we are unanimous. Special, sealed archives are kept for dissenting opinions. In the private houses of the Lords.
Korad Bible / by the readers and commenters of Robin D. Laws’ eponymous blog / p. 9
From Guild to Government
Korad's dedication to merit, knowledge and egalitarianism shows in it's Imperial Examination system. Much like Imperial China, Young men and women go through rounds of exams to determine their intelligence, aptitude and ability. These exams determine your placement when you begin your compulsory military service; smarter youths are placed a track to become engineers, officers and scribes, while those with poor test scores are the cannon fodder. Since this represents the system that is collapsing, it has become corrupt. The lack of a universal quality education system and the bias of the exams and the examiners mean that for the most part, how much money your family/guild has determines how well you do in exams. Bureaucrats must express themselves using a highly formal, poetically inflected language. Art in letters is the mark of the truly cultured and enlightened administrator. A failure in literary allusion can discredit an otherwise sound proposal (so that it might be submitted anew by a more eloquent proposer).
The Secret Matriarchy
Matrilineal inheritance puts a strong emphasis on the role of mother in the family. One side effect of this is that becoming a mother is the biog status change in the life of a woman, rather than becoming a wife. A mother moves out of her own mother's home, and mothers do not serve in the front lines of the military. This has the further effect of a baby boom every time Korad starts a major war, as young women who want to avoid battle try to get pregnant to stay out of the front lines. Women are the keepers of history. Going back to oral histories passed down from mother to daughter, in modern Korad, women are expected to preserve the knowledge and history of the family. Literate women maintain family histories going back to the founding of their line. Tradeswomen are the ones who maintain trade journals, guild records and are responsible for training the next generation of workers.
Failure, Scientism, and Inquiry
The Koradi language has several different words meaning "fail" or "failure". Earlier in the development of the culture, success by any means was celebrated and applauded, while failure was condemned. The rise of scientific knowledge and the concept of experiments (such as the culture has them), and the development of military strategy (where to lose a battle may be to win a war) led to the idea that success could be achieved in spite of temporary failure, or even that failure could be an eventual route to success (axiom 13). It was tied into religion in axiom 3: even the gods must learn new things. In Koradi culture, there is no such thing as perfection.
Korad Bible / by the readers and commenters of Robin D. Laws’ eponymous blog / p. 10
The language changed to match this, with various different versions of "failure"/"to fail" evolving: "to fail utterly", "to fail but learn a lesson through it", "to deliberately fail as part of a larger plan", "and "a necessary failure as part of a process". Some of these are single words, while others are proverbial or slangy phrases.
Koradi place great emphasis on the mother as producer of children; their supreme deity is the Black Goat of the Fens (whom is symbolized by the sacred goat of the marriage ceremony), a million-teated, ever-pregnant creator who spews out fragments of the cosmos, which given enactment and form by her soldier-demiurges.
The Festival of Ideas
The most important festival of the Koradi year is the Festival of Ideas, which occurs in midWinter. It is celebrated in all cities, towns, and villages of the empire. On this day, everyone dresses in costumes to conceal their identity, much like we might at Hallowe'en or Carnival. It's a bit like Saturnalia, in the sense that all social and class distinctions are (in theory) suspended for the day. However, the celebrations are not frivolous. Rather, this is a day for anyone who feels so inclined to come forward and to offer an Idea, without fear of censure or of being called foolish. An Idea can be any sort of proposal or observation. It may be based in magic, or science, or (more rarely, as the Koradi are still notoriously focused on the pragmatic) the arts.
• • • •
"Hey, why don't we dip a piece of string in a cylinder of melted wax, let it harden, and set the exposed part of the string on fire at night to produce light?" "I've noticed that this magic spell is stronger when performed at midnight, especially when the three moons are aligned in *this* configuration." "I think we should fence off the western meadow of our village as common ground for all to use." "I have an idea for a bardic story where the villain tries to kill a seaborne enemy by putting lots of venemous serpents on his ship!"
At the end of the day, the priest(esse)s of the God(dess) of Knowledge decide which is the best Idea. This is restated as an offering to the Gods, and noted down in the temple records. Over the next few weeks (as the Spring campaigning season approaches), each community's chosen Idea is communicated to the sect's High Temple in Onyxbridge. Any that may have general application thus have a chance to be evaluated and adopted by the sect's leadership and/or the Empire's leaders, to the benefit of the entire Empire. Because of the pseudo-anonymity of the process, the greatest of leaders can present wild ideas without fear of losing face if their Idea is shot down, while the humblest of beggars can be sure that his Idea will be considered as carefully as any other, purely on its own merits. Of course people may Korad Bible / by the readers and commenters of Robin D. Laws’ eponymous blog / p. 11
have some hints of who the presenter of any given Idea is, especially in small communities: but the polite fiction of anonymity is maintained. In particular, there is a profound social taboo against criticizing anyone for a bad Idea, both during and after the festival. However, this anonymity is winked at in the case of a good Idea. In addition to winning the favor of the Gods, the proposer of a good Idea may find their community standing increases - unofficially, that is. Formally only the Gods are supposed to know who proposed what Idea, and you are never supposed to *expect* any sort of public recognition for your Idea - that's horribly gauche and impious. Claiming the credit for an Idea that was actually somebody else's is the worst possible act of blasphemy. This is mitigated if two or more people propose the same idea independently (it has been known to happen) or if someone is given credit for an Idea without realizing it: but it's still thorny theological ground. The better educated are certainly more adept at explaining any particular idea, leading to a bias in the theoretically equitable ritual. Also, ideas must be stated as generalities or refer to already-established social groups. Naming names is strictly prohibited. And, of course, any idea generated by a woman has to be handed off to a male communicant. While women still don the appropriate dark-sheeted disguises, they do not deign to speak. This is the result of an ancient intersection of the festival tradition and the structure of the Matrician class system, which originated in two different pre-Koradi societies in the far and forgotten past. The women are not forbidden to speak ideas themselves, nor is there any prohibition or consequence to doing so on the books, it's just never done. Doing so would still offer up private knowledge to the public. Conservative matricians believe that ideas originate with a primal mother goddess, the Black Goat of the Fens. From her they are communicated to people possessing a special connection to the divine spark. They are then transmitted through people to the lesser deities. As many people say that gods, even the prime mother, can’t change or have new ideas, and that innovation is a strictly human preserve.
Frivolity is Forbidden
The Koradi are never frivolous. Frivolity among natural-born Koradi is punished severely. Accordingly, the costumes are all dark grey sheets distributed by the Temple of the Lord of Knowledge. Outside innovation is forbidden in aesthetic matters. The Koradi abjure what is considered 'art' or 'decoration' from obscene foreigners, as judged by the familia censor. Accusations of foreign artistic taste may be brought against families by others, or the civil slaves operating the religious bureaucracy, and may involve redistribution of land holdings or being stripped of personal wealth if found guilty (with any results of foreign artistic inspiration being summarily destroyed in the ritual garbage pits). Koradi anti-ornamentation standards are aggressively enforced. Korad architecture is beautiful, but in Korad Bible / by the readers and commenters of Robin D. Laws’ eponymous blog / p. 12
a simple, austere way. Decoration and art are things other, weaker, foreign people do. Architectural ability is highly prized, but the resulting basilicas lack anything that could be accused of being frivolous.
Spying and Thievery
The Koradi focus on gaining knowledge means that certain forms of spying and thievery are viewed as entirely honourable. However, there is a sharp distinction between those that are honourable and those that are not. Spying or theft that succeeds because of shrewd observation and cleverness are virtuous and noble: however, any such acts that rely on treachery and/or brute force are contemptible. A clever spy or thief who cases out a building, and later returns to sneak in through the weak points and steal valuable information or jewels gains honour, in much the way that a brave soldier wins honour for winning on open fight. However, a spy or thief who robs that same building by gaining employment as a servant there and being entrusted with the key by the owner, or who bribes such a servant, is doing something contemptible - like a soldier who sneaks up on his opponent and stabs him in the back. However, a spy or thief who gains employment at a building across the way in order to be able to watch the first building is still being honourable, as long as (s)he does not rob from or cause other negative consequences to their employer. This is sometimes difficult for outsiders from a non-Koradi culture to understand, but to the Koradi themselves the difference is so obvious that it goes without saying. So basically covert observation, sneaking around, and trickery are all perfectly honourable. However betrayal, seduction, infiltration, bribery, brute force, and extortion are not. If caught, an honourable spy/thief is considered to be like a prisoner of war: someone to be treated with respect until they can be ransomed or traded. A dishonourable spy/thief is a common criminal, richly deserving scorn and harsh punishment. This distinction helps explain why the stealthy sea raiders of Blackflag are quietly tolerated, and why the ex-piratical mayor of Stiltport is in fact widely admired. In military campaigns, the Empire places great emphasis on spying and scouting, with the aim of gathering enough information to plan the perfect campaign. This takes time, so the Empire is often slow to act: but when it acts, it usually does so with great effectiveness.
Slaves can never rise to the heights of imperial society. Slaves may be elevated to a quasi-citizenship, stillb beholden to their matrician patrons.
Korad Bible / by the readers and commenters of Robin D. Laws’ eponymous blog / p. 13
Koradi pay homage to their longstanding relationship with the mysterious carrion-eaters known as the Veytikka. Custom requires them to leave unused meat out for them. Half of Koradi say that this is because their own outcasts once became Veytikka. Perhaps some of them still do.
Cities of Urkorad
The imperial cities are as follows.
Onyxbridge, the Imperial Capital
The bustling center of this cliff-side city occupies the vast stone bridge that gives it its name. Cranes and winches move cargo and passengers to the lake below. It provides a home to erratic, eccentric alchemists and natural scientists who study the lake and its creatures.
Aquaton is two twinned cities, peopled by air-breathers of the shore and water-breathers below it. Once home to the empire’s most famous doctor, it remains its foremost center of medical learning. Dye works produce vivid colors but pollute the river, fueling growing tensions between waterfolk and airfolk.
This settlement sits in the vale that leads to the only known land route over the Western Mountains. Though its university has faded in comparison to that at Oldtown, its libraries remain. It zealously guards the secrets of its airship fleet.
Known as “City of Stones” due to its black market in waterstones, firestones, and artifacts from the nearby ruins. Its streets and structures unconsciously evoke the architecture of that crumbled ancient city. Its people worship disgusting lake-monsters, but only as a promotional device for an annual carnival.
Wargrave was once the site of an ancient battle. Bones buried in its aftermath enrich its soil and are sometimes still dug up today. Its ruling council, composed of seemingly ageless elders, faces a growing challenge from a new source of influence—the leaders of a community of retired pirates.
Threats to the Empire
Three crises threaten Koradi hegemony from within and without.
Korad Bible / by the readers and commenters of Robin D. Laws’ eponymous blog / p. 14
Failure of Doctrine
It is nearly impossible for scholars and clergy to hide an ideological rift that began forming over a century ago. This rift surrounds the "correct" interpretation of a series of ancient stone codicies discovered by explorers. Information in the codicies indicates that the great Warrior Demiurges that tame the wild chaos of creation do not exist. This heresy threatens to undermine the hearthstone of Koradi morals by suggesting that there is absolutely *no* formative power or principle in the universe.
There is a strange, alien, powerful race that rendered Korad a barren wasteland millenia ago - by accident or by design. They are the ones who created the Ruins, and the chain mechanism at Rustaxle. They are responsible for the Bonelands and Wronglands and absence of magic at Stonebane. They are the ones who sealed away the threat that was released at Oldtown. And they are about to return to these lands. The scholar-lords of Montvale, long eclipsed by Oldtown as dictators of Koradi thought, conspire to overthrow the Empire. Controlling the sole pass through the Western Mountains, Montvale clandestinely allied with the once-men who dwell beyond. Together, they secretly built a vast airship armada which will allow their army, comprised of once-men troops led by Montvale officers, to strike at every Imperial province in a massive, concerted attack. The once-men have an agenda of their own, though, involving the reconquest of their ancient city on the southern shores of the Central Lake and the release of the eldritch horrors which they serve. Two of these are the "something awful" beneath Oldtown and the great lizard of Bloodfen. Both the Bonelands and the Wronglands are the remnants of the antediluvian war in which men threw off the dominion of once-men.
The Great Imbalance
Over the last half century there has been a slow shift in the ratio of male to female births; the current ratio is about 35% female, 65% male, with no reason to believe that the trend will reverse. As a result many young men are unable to marry. This has given rise to a disruptive phenomenon: roving bands of young men appear at idea festivals across the empire. They propose the radical idea of patriarchal atheism. They argue that the empire has become a "nanny state" - a clear reference to the sacred goat. Attempts to argue with them are met with hostility; the only acceptable response is acquiescence. Attempts to remove these young men from the festival are met with arguments grounded in the very idea of the Festival of Ideas - "you can't kick me out, this is the Festival of Ideas, and you have to be willing to hear me out." While this has resulted in violence in a number of cases, the idea of an openly patriarchal society without the rule of the Sacred Goat has begun to spread...
Ideologies of the Future
As the above threats to the empire bring about the slow, centuries-long demise of the Koradi worldview, one of three currently obscure ideologies will undertake a difficult and circuitous rise to succeed it. The other two will rival it, ultimately strengthening it through competition, then fall by the wayside. The question of which ideology wins is the main historical conflict against which the stories of Korad’s Korad Bible / by the readers and commenters of Robin D. Laws’ eponymous blog / p. 15
people play out. Candlism. “The Candle in the Darkness” is a stoic path that blurs the line between religion and philosophy. The Candle in the Darkness is a school of thought that focuses on sharp rationality and observed phenomena. Gods are discussed in the same tone as ghosts and chivari apes - to be studied and respected exactly as much as direct observation suggests is necessary. While not, strictly speaking, an atheist movement, The Candle in the Darkness has the scorn and hatred of the religious organizations for the way it denounces faith and prayer. Satirism: Koradian freedman culture is often overlooked, largely because of the permanent secondclass, yet not actually oppressive, citizenship that it imposes. Still, it was probably inevitable that certain of its members would turn to magic (the traditional pastime of slightly disreputable social classes everywhere); and it was probably also likely that said magic would break a mainstream Koradian taboo (in this case, the one against frivolity). Needing to keep said frivolity hidden from obvious discovery meant that its practitioners needed to grow adept at hidden meanings of texts and subtle shadings of speech: a Satirist spell is typically a well-disguised mockery of an existing artistic form, with a direct ratio between the power of the spell and the subtlety of the mockery. It is said that a true adept can transmit a blessing or a curse in a simple "Good morning." And then it was discovered that the spell for ensuring the sex of a child was easily within the powers of the adepts... provided that the woman who was the target of the spell accepted the central teaching of the Satirists: "Life is absurdly good." Which sounds a lot more transgressive in the original. Symbotomism combines anti-Aesigil views with extreme devolutionism. They believe that the Aesigils have had undue influence on the development of human civilization and culture, and it is now necessary to expunge all symbols used to adorn bodies, clothing, architecture... even going so far as to advocate the destruction of all written records and language itself. Humans will become perfect when they develop their own thoughts and language without Aesigil influence.
The Koradi spread from Urkorad to subjugate or populate the rest of the empire. The provinces of Barle are administered as separate entities, ruled by a combination of Koradi and pro-regime locals.
Barle, the northern half of the fertile region it shares with Urkorad, was the empire’s first conquest. The Barleans descend from ocean-crossing seafarers. Their first wave founded Oldtown, the empire’s oldest city. For this reason they evince a nautical infatuation; the romantic ideal is the suave pirate. Barleans created the the banking, accountancy, and currency systems used throughout the Empire. When the Koradi conquered Barle, the aristocracy fled to Blackflag, where they founded and still maintain its pirate fleet. Barlean citizens hope the day will come when the pirates will reverse this epic defeat and end Koradi domination. Twenty years ago, however, they suffered a catastrophic setback, triggered by an incident in the Oldtown mine. Miners there were infected by horrible parasites called slaughter worms. These small Korad Bible / by the readers and commenters of Robin D. Laws’ eponymous blog / p. 16
parasites crawl under the skin of living beings, infecting their minds with an irresistible urge to kill. As the infection progresses, the brain is devoured, the victim becoming less and less capable of reason, and more and more violent. Worm-eggs are laid in the mouth of the victim, and spread by bites. Magicians from the Wyrdward wove a spell to end the plague. As it offered no ongoing protection against new outbreaks, the mines have been sealed, to prevent additional infections.
This settlement is reeling from a blow to its mining industry, suffered when the biggest mine dug down to something awful twenty years ago and had to shut down to seal it in. A former metropolis, Oldtown is a mostly ruined shadow of its former glory. However, it is the site of a recently-opened coeducational university.
Silver Oar serves as a major transhipment point for barges heading up and down to the cities on the lake. Rich through commerce, it takes a tough line on piracy. Youngsters from the boonies dream of its cosmopolitan glories. It is halved by shifting sandbars, into a sea port and a river port.
This smug, prosperous and walled town is so named because it was built on a floodplain. The well-off live on stilt-supported structures, with the poor relegated to life below in the muck. Its litigious mayor sues anyone who mentions his piratical past.
This port is also a wealthy wine-producing center, thanks to the lush vineyards to the north, heavily influenced by their owners. It is plagued by bears who frequent an ill-planned garbage dump to the west of town and is reeling from a very recent catastrophic fire.
Ocean-swept Doniri occupies the northern half of the continent’s lower pincer. Its rivers drive thousands of prayer wheels praising water spirits. Deafness is a blessing, and only the deaf may be priests. Jewelry has its own language, signalling status, gender preference, and politics. Highly skilled musicians playing excellent instruments can actually cast spells. It is taboo to lie in sign language, the mother “tongue” of Cataracts, where crashing waterfalls drown out the sound of speech.
Residents of Cataracts, the city of bridges, use sign language, as the roar of the falls is so loud. It is built around a large mystical well, from which gushes the water that feeds both rivers. The well predates the city. Behind the great waterfall lies the Secret City.
This city takes its name from the ancient engine that marks the headland; a huge chain runs from it Korad Bible / by the readers and commenters of Robin D. Laws’ eponymous blog / p. 17
into the bay. It is Famous for creating musical instruments of exquisite tone & timbre; the secrets of crafting such are jealously guarded. Daring pearl-divers satisfy the city's craving for pearls and fermented kraken jerky.
The pacifistic and friendly Lus follow no social structure larger than the village. Most humans are nomadic tribesmen, highly prized as wilderness scouts. They stole the secrets of fire from a God, as revenge each human settlement can only ever have one fire. The seacoast is home to the empire's finest oysters, and oyster farming is a growth industry. The city of Apewood is ruled by apes, whose will is discerned through examination of things dropped from trees. who rule the city of Apewood manufacture optical devices, mostly to correct their universal nearsightedess. A secret and sinister ape cult, bent on domination, derives occult power from the ritual consumption of human flesh.
This remarkable settlement is named for its primary inhabitants, intelligent apes who rule the city from their nests high in the trees, graciously allowing humans to live below. It exports drugs and venoms from area’s many poisonous reptiles, insects and amphibians. In the nearby jungle are several ruins that just could not have been constructed by humans.
Of the two most populous central provinces of Korad, Nomir is the one dominated by humans. Nomirians revel in being blunt and forthright -- with friends and enemies alike. Their straightforwardness extends to the bedchamber, where women call all of the shots when it comes to sex. Their government and trade are famously corrupt. Bribery is the norm. The Nomirian diet is based on seafood, especially shrimp and crab. Holidays all involve leaving out food to appease the forgetful dead. Paradise is envisioned as aquatic realm beneath the big swamp, where souls dwell in splendid pageantry. Any Nomirian who lives to see his 50th birthday must choose a new name. Brigands use rumors of ghosts to keep people out of the swamp.
An exiled potential leader on the outs with the imperial leadership gathers supporters here. Chalkhaven houses the Invisible College, though nobody can tell you where it is. It receives an influx of refugees from the seemingly nonexistent coastal city of Seadelve. Korad Bible / by the readers and commenters of Robin D. Laws’ eponymous blog / p. 18
Nomadic pastoralist yak-herders, the Palthians make winter camp at Bridlepost. Something destroys all other communities that get "too big". They just disappear. Palthians are an ornery bunch who just plain don't like being crowded. Palthians believe weather at one's birth mystically affects one's personality and character. Youth go on vision quests/rites of passage in the mountains. In Palth, orphaned children disappear within a fortnight, without exception.
This settlement started as a trading post to deal with the western barbarians, who sell the best horses. At summer’s end, it is subject to choking desert winds bearing shining sand, clay beads and scorpions. Barbaric centaurs from the western plains routinely attack it.
One of the nonhuman provinces, Threniri’s majority population are aesigil—sentient runes with formerly human hosts. Aesigils trace descent from star-patterns and kinship is based on celestial proximity. They and their hosts form 4-or-more-way pansexual marriages. Despite the intimacy of this bond, Aesigils display no comprehension of, or care for, human age or gender. Perhaps this is one meaning of the popular saying, "The pattern is more important than the ink." In fact, some aesigil sceptics don't believe humans are truly sentient without their aid. Their enemies refer to them as “body snatchers.” Imbuing runes with intelligence to impersonate Aesigils is a capital crime. Giant aesigils dwell in and are carved into the Wyrdward mountains.
Magic, including waterstones and the like, doesn’t work here, making it an ideal venue for diplomatic and trade negotiations. Two opposed religions both claim it as their mecca. Under the city is a bejeweled cavern containing something its leaders won’t talk about.
Proximity to the supernatural beings of the southern peninsula defines this remote and haunted settlement. Its citizens keep its demons from breaking through, while also controlling access to its realm of fey folk. Haunted mountains mean that it can only be accessed by sea. Wyrdwardans believe that great magic is born of sentences of exactly thirteen words.
Korad Bible / by the readers and commenters of Robin D. Laws’ eponymous blog / p. 19
This province is among the empire’s two most populous, and must be fed by shipments from the breadbasket. Its forbidding terrain includes large tracts of wronglands and bonelands. The non-human Veytikka outnumber humans. They are pacifists, hence their refusal to kill animals for food. Despite their dining habits, the Veytikka are obsessed with cleanliness/body odor. Veytikka may temporarily acquire memories and abilities of whatever they eat. Ulthonese humans and Veytikka share a fondness for revels, keeping their communities intimately well-acquainted. The snow-white skin of the hairless, humanoid Veytikka contrasts sharply with jet-black lips. Their frames are lithe, if somewhat hunched. Their horizontal pupils and nictating eyes lead some scholars to trace their descent from birds or reptiles. Enlarged jaws provide ample room for rows of triangular, shark-like teeth. The basic social unit of the Veytikka is the totem society. When Veytikka come of age, they embark on a vision quest, in which they encounter their totem animal. They then join the tribe-sized group venerating that totem. This may entail a long journey, or require the individual to remain with the totem group his mother and father belong to. Veytikka marry within their totem societies. With the right ritual the desolate zones called the wronglands become dimensional portals. Any mistake is lethal.
Wind blows constantly here, driving mills, and maddening some of the populace. Galeharrow houses a secretive religious cult, infamous for its expertly trained spies and assassins. Its river flows backwards, from the sea a into a pothole in the limestone mountains to the southwest.
An infamous swamp casts a dread influence over Godfen. Its infamous poisoners hoard knowledge of the venoms they harvest from the swamp. It contains a dangerous half-sunken ruined city, rumored to have hidden treasures. In the heart of the ruins dwells Bloodfen’s great lizard, who is fed sacrifices daily.
This city sits on the only river crossing within 100 miles. A fee is charged to cross the river. It is home to a sizable minority of an otherwise unknown culture, who are mistreated if they go anywhere else. It is built into the side of a giant vertebra, part of the great and strange Bonelands formation.
City-States and Outposts
The following cities exist outside of the settled regions. They are either imperial outposts, or autonomous enclaves.
Korad Bible / by the readers and commenters of Robin D. Laws’ eponymous blog / p. 20
This autonomous island settlement is a center of piracy, conducted by sea raiders who keep a low profile and consider themselves honorable collectors of rightful tribute. A series of underground vaults and arcades allow residents to move about in relative comfort during inclement weather. It is built on ruins of a far older city, though no one has found the riches rumored to be buried beneath it.
A meteor created a crater of glass. The city exists in reflection within. The river from Galeharrow flows through caverns underneath the city and is the source of the city's water. The oldest living being in Korad resides here, the last of an otherwise unknown race.
A paranoid god-king rules Far Isle with fear and secret police. He is a young boy, said to be the reincarnation of a terrible water god. His cult carries out his capricious commands with terrifying zeal.
Built by miners using the skills they knew, this imperial outpost lies mostly underground. The mines and refineries make this the filthiest and most polluted city in the empire. Here a woman may have several husbands, but a man can only have one wife. The Disappearing Quarter of town (near the docks) is only intermittently there.
Snowmelt has been overtaken by barbarians but the university's undead militia is fighting back. It is infamous for its dependence on slave labour for the mines. The area surrounding this city is the world's only source of firestones.
This town is designed so that the light of the rising sun illuminates different sigils all year long. Its name derives from its underground hotsprings, spas and brothels. Steamveil provides the setting for a famous epic poem of a doomed warrior and his lost love.
The Climate of the area is similar to India, Burma, Thailand. This allows a climate range from hot a sultry coastal lowlands, dry desert and lofty snow covered peaks.
Korad Bible / by the readers and commenters of Robin D. Laws’ eponymous blog / p. 21
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