Shadows of Esteren: The Gaes of Tulg
Basic Campaign Information
The Game Concept
The in game setting for the campaign is the Dukedom of Tulg, which is in the Northeast of the Kingdom of Taol Kaer, bordering the country of Gwidre. The PCs are from the village of Melwan. They need not have been born in Melwan, but they need to have lived there for at least two years. However, do not expect the campaign to stay in Melwan. The characters will learn that one or more of them carry a gaes, and they will attract and be attracted to misfortune. The Demorthen of the group will counsel that they must travel. Should they stay in one place, the misfortunes would only continue, and grow worse for themselves and their chosen home. But by accepting their gaes, they may have the opportunity to undue the misfortunes to which they will inevitably be drawn.
The characters will be travelling with a caravan so that there will be a common group of NPCs that will be interacting with the PCs as the setting moves from town to town. This has some financial impacts on the characters, which can be seen here: Travelling Costs
Tri Kazel in a Nutshell
The oldest known legends of Tri-Kazel concern the Aergewin, a time of enormous feondas (some of which may have been dragon-like). The extinction of humanity was a very real possibility until the great elemental spirits as well as the smaller spirits of nature taught the first demorthen, the shamans, the art of sigil rann, using rune stones to call upon the powers of the spirits. This power allowed them to eventually drive the largest of the feondas away or imprison them. During this time, all villages became fortifications, a tradition that continues to this day despite the threat of feondas waxing and waning over the years. Never have the most terrible feondas of the Aergewin returned, but the ones that remain and still plague humanity are quite bad enough. Children are taught from very early age never to enter the wilderness alone. And in fact, this cultural habit does actually hold true. It is not uncommon for children to enter a forest nearby to their home village for the first time no earlier than the age of ten, carefully watched by one or more damathair. (A typically female “second mother” who teaches, watches over and cares for children of a roughly equal age while their parents work the fields or their profession.)
The three kingdoms of Tri-Kazel are Taol-Kaer, Gwidre and Reizh, named for the three legendary brothers who collectively conquered the peninsula close to a millennium ago. Before them, the land was inhabited only by small clans. Even today, especially in more remote and hard to access areas, the vestiges of the clan structure live on. While the feudal system is the law of the land in all three of the kingdoms, in practice many of the villages are governed at least as much through local customs and traditions as the more formal central authority and law. In particular, the southernmost regions of Taol-Kaer, the largest and most traditional of the three kingdoms is inhabited by the Osags. Their clans have no love for the feudal structure and continue to live much as they used to while paying lip service to the royal authority in a manner not exactly in keeping with the official law, but trying to deal with the widely distributed, stubborn and fierce warriors of the clans is seen as more trouble than they’re worth.
Twice during the last millennium a group of continentals found their way to Tri-Kazel. The first was the magientists, people who had found ways to distil magical energy called flux from different materials like rock, plant matter or even the flesh of animals. They can use this to create and fuel different kinds of magical artifacts like mechanised tools, electrical gauntlets, magical lanterns and so on. They taught the kingdom of Reizh to build large magical factories and spread scholarship and built large extraction sites around the land, mining rock, felling trees and butchering animals for the precious flux. This hardly pleased the more traditional-minded Tri-Kazelians, for whom nature and its spirit remain sacred.
The other group found its way to Gwidre. Monotheistic adherents of The Temple managed to convert the king and much of the population of that kingdom to their beliefs, eventually leading to an unsuccessful attempt of forced conversion of the two other kingdoms fifty years back. Most families lost a grandfather or some other ancestor in the war, the animosity of which remains to this day. The Temple teaches of Soustraine, the prophet of The One, a god that according to the faith created the world and everything in it. Its teaching include obedience, humble restraint from ostentation and a life of meditation, prayer and goodwill. Some priests of the Temple can channel the strength of The One to produce miracles.
In Taol-Kaer the demorthen remain the primary spiritual authority, although their influence has waned in the cities. Indeed, in the capital of Osta-Baille, magientists had a hand in redesigning the city after a catastrophic plague. They founded a great university there teaching both magience and more traditional scholar subjects. Recently, there was a big accident in the university, which was afterwards closed down by the king, who dismissed his magientist advisor and generally decreased the influence magientists could exert in the kingdom.
Books and literacy are common, especially outside of cities. Most lore is still passed down orally by the demorthen, damathairs and bards. Minted currency is slowly starting to become more common but barter is still the norm in rural areas. And due to the dangers of the wilderness, every village and lone farmhouse is a small fort, surrounded by some amount of fortifications. Houses are built with only small peephole/archery windows, there’s always a guard on the palisades or watchtowers of a village (everyone must participate from childhood onwards in guard duty).