Dungeons and Dragons: Krystallos
The Amethystian Empire is the largest political entity in Krystallos and consists of seven provinces: Amethyst, Tourmaline, Thulute, Alexandrite, Iolite, Scapolite and Onyx. The empire has the largest standing military in the world but their real power lies in trade. With access to the combined trade goods of seven lands as well as protected sea and land based trade routes, the empire is an economic powerhouse and their currency has become a standard accepted in most shops throughout Krystallos. The empire learned early on that a hands off approach when it comes to culture and government is best. Each province in the empire has their own culture and leadership and, so long as taxes are paid and certain rules of law are followed, the empire is content to keep it that way. This has led to relatively content subjects with only the occasional uprising or resistance movement.
Historically, the empire happened almost by happenstance. Originally just an island Kingdom, Amethyst established trade routes through the Thulite Steppes in order to avoid elven taxation for traveling through the Sapphire Forest. When the Thulite tribesmen began attacking caravans, the Amethystian military stepped in. A combination of brilliant tactics, thanks to a legendary general, and superior air power, thanks to griffon and pegasi mounted knights, led to victory. The Thulite tribes, impressed by the Amethystian’s military strength, pledged their loyalty to the Kingdom. The Kingdom of Alexandrite, to the south of Tourmaline, was worried about this sudden increase in Amethystian influence and proactively invaded. With the Thulite tribes at their disposal, the Amethystian military won handily and pushed back, conquering Alexandrite. Later, the Tourmaline Alliance came to the Amethystians with a deal – ice springs were rapidly freezing their villages. If the Amethystians would help them with this problem, the Tourmaline Alliance would join the young empire. With Thulite manpower, the Amethystians figured out how to turn the ice flows of Tourmaline into an advantage and now Tourmaline ice is exported all across Krystallos. The empire grew from there. Because it is on the western edge of Krystallos, it was only lightly touched by the Great Invasion in terms of physical damage but it is still recovering from other scars. The Amethystian Empire did not shirk away from danger but used their massive military to fight Tiamat’s invaders. Many lives were lost and it took decades for the population to stabilize.
Kingdom of Amethyst
The seat of the empire’s power is, ironically, also her smallest province. Amethyst is a sleepy island covered in rolling hills that sees more days of rain than it does sunshine. The people of Amethyst enjoy a certain level of stability in their lives and are very fond of routine and schedules. Despite this, they are extremely tolerant of eccentricities, both in other cultures and in their own citizens. They recognize that the occasional quirk or oddity actually helps push society forward, contributing new battle tactics, new inventions and new ideas that help make the empire strong. Amethyst has an incredibly strong middle class and banking system, though nobles still hold quite a bit of power. The nobility system of Amethyst (Knight, Baron, Count, Duke, King/Queen) has spread across the entire empire, though the titles sometimes change in accordance to local culture. Most of the citizens of Amethyst are human, though other races can also be found in the kingdom. Halflings, dwarves, and elves all find Amethyst to be a comfortable place to live while in exile.
The Tourmaline Alliance is governed by a council made up of a representative from each town in the region. The people of Tourmaline are hard working but enjoy their recreation and are known for having parties which last for an entire week. Thanks to a strange phenomenon known as ice springs, much of the land is frozen over. Slush and ice bubbles up from hundreds of springs throughout Tourmaline. Keeping fields, roads and towns clear of the ice has become a full time occupation for many Tourmalites and, when the ice springs are especially troublesome, help is imported from elsewhere in the empire. The upside is the ice is harvested much like a crop would be and exported for sale.
Kingdom of Alexandrite
For many years, Alexandrite was the rival of Amethyst. Now, they are a province of the empire. Alexandrites have a strong belief in their own cultural superiority and that isn’t whole undeserved. They are well known for the cuisine, their art, their literature and their wine. The people of Alexandrite are passionate and given to making quick decisions without thinking through the consequences. Every few years a new independence movement pops up in Alexandrite but that usually fizzles out quickly after a round of executions. Alexandrites consider it rude to show any but their closest associates their unmasked face. An elaborate system of mask wearing has developed over the years. A mask’s design can show one’s social status, profession and lineage. Many Alexandrites have more than one mask, switching based on occasion or function.
Rocky and riddled with cave, Iolite is small but provides most of the empires metals. Iolite is a center of mining and most residents either work the mines or support those who do. Iolites are proud that the metals they dig out of the ground can become the strength of a sword or the beauty of jewelry or the reliability of a tool but they have little interest in creativity themselves. It isn’t that they lack the spark but they prefer the simple life of work and family.
The Thulite Steppes are a stark, unforgiving land of wide open plains, where dust storms happen regularly. The Thulite tribes are nomadic and bronze skinned. The average Thulite, male and female, stands between six foot five and seven feet of lean, well shaped muscle. They believe in the strength of the individual and the community and reject most technology as a weakness. Thulites do not ride beasts of burden or wagons. Instead, an entire tribe runs their nomadic trails from camp to camp. They will use weapons but prefer simple weapons to more complex ones. A bow requires less upkeep than a crossbow and a spear is better at killing a giant beast than a sword. Thulites respect strength. If you can beat a Thulite in fair combat you have made a friend for life.
A people of deep convictions, the citizens of Scapolite believe firmly in the power of the Temple. The trust that the High Priestess, who speaks for the Totem, will guide them through their daily lives and that the solution to any problem can be granted through prayer and piety. It is not uncommon for Scapolites to attend temple daily. Clerics, even to other totems, are highly regarded and it is unheard of for a cleric to pay his or her own way (within reason – giving a cleric a bed is one thing. Giving a cleric an expensive magical item is another).
The people of Onyx are a strange lot. With pale skin and dark hair, they have an uncanny fondness for the strange, the macabre and the unusual. They have not one but three holidays celebrating death and enjoy discordant music that others find displeasing. They have also embraced magic and the empire’s largest college of magic, the Tower, is located there. Onyx is ruled by a rather strange government. Once a year, seven citizens are chosen, seemingly at random, by the Onyx Totem. The identity of these seven citizens is unknown to the populace and even to each other. When a decision of government must be made, the Totem speaks to the minds of these citizens and they vote on the matter. The majority vote becomes law.
The Pearl Islands have no central government. Instead, the various villages and towns are each autonomous. This makes them the perfect hiding hole for pirates, scoundrels and low lives. The warm currents that wrap around the islands also give them lovely, tropical weather so there are a number of estates there that serve as vacation homes for the wealthier citizens and nobles of the Amethystian Empire. Thus far, the empire has been content to leave the islands alone, so long as the pirates who dock there leave the empire’s elite and their homes alone.
The long green of the Sapphire Forest winds through Krystallos like a ribbon. It is the home of the elven nation. It is unknown how many cities are in the Forest but there are at least a dozen, each grown from the trees and living in harmony with nature. The elves are ruled by the Immortal King, an elf who has seemingly ruled from the beginning of Krystallos itself. The elves are fierce traditionalists and their lorekeepers advise on the rules and rituals that govern every aspect of elven life. Druids and rangers are especially well thought of in the Sapphire Forest but they, too, are expected to follow the traditions of their people. The Sapphire Forest serves as a major obstacle for those traveling through Krystallos. The only way to avoid it is to travel by sea or to follow trade routes in the very north or south of the continent. There are roads that travel through the Forest but the elves keep close watch on them and tax anyone who travels through them. They use the funds they raise for trade. Smuggling through the forest is a major career for many criminals.
The Topaz Rift is home to the gnomes. Miles long and very deep, the gnomes have built an entire city into the rift’s faces. At the very top, where the sunlight reaches, live the gnomes who have the most contact with the outside world: traders and scholars. Gnome alchemists and craftsman live in the center and, at the very bottom, live the farmers and gatherers who tend to the lichens and fungi that gnomes use for both their diets and their alchemy. All is not dark and dour, however. The gnomes use light crystals of all colors, paints and illusions to create a colorful, cheerful place to live, work and play no matter what level they of the rift they are on.
Free City of Peridot
A single city state in the midst of grasslands, Peridot has always been a rather lawless place. Any number of rulers have attempted to whip the city into law and order over the years – mayors, princes, dukes, generals… and each one has been assassinated. Because Peridot is home to the Cartel, a trade guild of criminals that has fingers in every city across Krystallos. Government and guard are allowed to keep order… so long as it doesn’t interfere with Cartel business. A strange thing happened, however, during the Great Invasion. Most people in Peridot (and the surrounding grasslands) were paying the Cartel a “tax” for “protection”. When the Invaders came, the people demanded that the Cartel actually make good on the promise of protection. Faced with mass revolt for the first time, the Cartel took the job seriously. They organized and beat back the invaders, keeping the city safe. After that, the Cartel learned that treating the people of their city and the surrounding areas well had more benefits than crushing their spirits. Protection taxes were lowered (though not abolished) and the Cartel began funneling funds into the community to buy good will. Outside of Peridot, there are villages and farms dotting the windy grasslands. Sail wagons, wagons equipped with sails that take advantage of the strong winds of the grasslands, are a common form of transportation.
One interesting feature of the grasslands of Peridot are the large number of cairns, tombs dug into the ground, that are scattered in hillsides all throughout the area. Most of the cairns have long since been picked clean by treasure hunters and adventurers.
Kilts are very popular in Peridot amongst both the men and women of the region.
Living along the Amazonite river is an all-female tribe of warriors. It is thought that the Amazonites are descended from the Thulites because they share the same great height and bronzed skin tone. There are no male members of the tribe and it is unknown where new members come from – the Amazonites are unwilling to share this information, calling it a sacred mystery. Like the Thulites, the Amazonites prefer simple, hunting weapons and eschew mounts in favor of walking and running. They are content to live their lives quietly and alone and seek little contact with the outside world. They will give visitors passage across the river but will send them firmly on their way once the crossing is done.
The dwarven kingdom of Ruby lays in great halls carved out under the Ruby Mountains. The king, known as a thane, rules by birthright and the society is carefully organized into castes. One is born into one’s caste and leaving is only possible through specially arranged marriages (all marriages are arranged in dwarven culture. Marriages for love aren’t unheard of but they usually lead to exile). Ironically, tales of doomed, cross-caste romance and friendship make for popular entertainment in the Ruby Kingdom. The dwarves are fond of drama, arguing and dancing. Dwarves are both master miners and excellent craftsman, creating works of stone and metal that are sought all across Krystallos.
A lovely, hilly and tranquil land perfect for steppe farming and basking in the sunlight, the Emerald Shire is home to halflings. The halflings of the Emerald Shire seem particularly dedicated to food. They farm, they fish, they herd and they cook. The cuisine of the Emerald Shire is known across Krystallos as some of the best possible (though the people of Alexandrite might disagree). The halflings of the Emerald Shire aren’t strong believers in the concept of central government. Instead, order in each town is kept by the local burger, who will deputize some of the locals as his aid should the need arise.
A vast sea of shifting sands, the Citrine Wastes are home to the kobolds. There are a few cities built in the desert but roughly half the population of kobolds wander the desert in tribes, moving from city to city, oasis to oasis. Each of the cities is ruled by a sultan. The kobolds value knowledge, education and learning. Scholars of any art or science are well respected in the Citrine Wastes and given great deference.
Short and compact, the people of the Chalcedony Protectorate are hardy and take pride in their military prowess. In fact, the entire nation is one large military. The Chalcedonan birth ceremory inducts babes into the army. From there they are taken from their parents and raised and trained by the state. Their most important family isn’t biological but their class, the brothers and sisters with whom they are raised as a military unit. Of course, the Protectorate recognizes that not every cadet is designed to be a soldier first and foremost. Those cadets that prove unsuited for combat are given training in support roles – farming, craftsmanship and trade. Still, the Protectorate likes to boast that even their farmers are better warriors than the soldiers of foreign armies. The Protectorate’s biggest problem is a lack of war. With their focus entirely on the military they have nothing to really trade… except themselves. Chalcedony hires their soldiers out as guards and mercenaries to companies, countries and individuals all over Krystallos.
The Quartz Territories is a loose alliance of five city states: Star Quartz, Phantom Quartz, Smoky Quartz, Blue Quartz, and Rose Quartz. Each city has one large fragment of the original Quartz Totem. Each city is also mobile. Each of the five city states of the Quartz Territory is built on the body of a giant. The giants five giants roam the Quartz Territories in a slow circle, taking one year to make a full rotation. Five times a year, the giants stop to kneel down and drink water from a lake or grab and eat vegetation but they seem to take no other actions beyond that. While it is assumed the giants were either created or brought to Krystallos by the Totems, they remain a mystery. The giants seem to have no motivation, they do not seem to care that there are cities built upon their bodies and all attempts to communicate with them have gone unanswered. For their part, the people of Quartz accept this but some consider Quartzites odd anyway. They are light and ethereal, cheerful. They spend as little time working as possible and will use any excuse for a party. Despite this, the people of Quartz have a reputation as being excellent performers and they have a thriving tourist industry. It is rumored the Bards Guild is hidden within one of the Quartz cities. Each of the Quartz cities tends to specialize in a specific performance art: Storytelling (Phantom Quartz), Dancing (Rose Quartz), Painting (Blue Quartz), Music (Smoky Quartz) and Circus Arts (Star Quartz). One can tell which city a Quartzite was born in by their hair. Star Quartzites have white hair, Phantom Quartzites have green hair, Smoky Quartzites have purple hair, Blue Quartzites have blue hair and Rose Quartzites have pink hair.
The Garnet Mountains are a second dwarven kingdom. Like the Ruby Kingdom, the Garnet Kingdom’s population is divided into castes. Their ruler is known as a Thane. They are excellent miners and craftsmen of gems and stone. In fact, if someone were to blindfold you and place in you inside the Garnet Kingdom, you would be hard pressed to know if you were in Ruby or Garnet unless you asked. Of course, the people of Ruby and Garnet take exception to this and insist they are NOTHING like those “other dwarves who only pretend to uphold the customs and lore of their people”. They also won’t be able to tell you why the two kingdoms split but will be sure that the reason was terrible, horrible, and unspeakable.
Like the Emerald Shire, the Turquoise Shire is home to halflings. And, like the Emerald Shire, the Turquoise Shire is a tranquil and temperate land with rolling hills, picturesque farms and lovely homes. However, where the Emerald Shire is famous for their dedication to the art of food, the halflings of the Turquoise Shire are famous for their dogs. They breed them, raise them and carefully train them by the hundreds. Turquoise Shire dogs are big and ugly but you will not find a more loyal breed anywhere. Nor will you find a breed more fierce in combat. As a result, the Turquoise Shire halflings tend to be more combat capable than their Emerald Shire cousins. One saying goes “During the Great Invasion, the Emeralds fed the Turquoise while the Turquoise fed the enemy to their dogs.”
Founded by refugees fleeing the Great Invasion, the Zirconian Commonwealth is nominally Krystallos’ only fully representative government. Each village or town elects a representative who sits on a senate. The senate decides the laws of the land. In practice, the high clerics of Diamond City have a great deal of influence over the senate and the senators rarely vote against their wishes. The villages and towns of the Zirconian Commonwealth are made up of members of all races. Humans tend to be very dark skinned, as they are mostly descendants of refugees from the Kingdom of Obsidian but members of other races, especially elves, dwarves and kobolds who either cannot return home or do not wish to return home are found here. The original Zirconian, what was now a small town but now qualifies as a small city, rests in the south of the territory.
Originally, Diamond City was a sacred place – home of a temple where clerics of each of the totems could meet, discuss, debate and decide upon matters of religion and philosophy. When the Great Invasion came, the clerics opened the temple to refugees fleeing the war. What was once a temple quickly became a city, with the overflow of refugees spilling out into what is now the Ziconian Commonwealth. Today, Diamond City is a shining jewel of a city and the most cosmopolitan in Krystallos. People from every race and every nation come here to trade and give honor to the fallen of the Great Invasion, thousands of whom lay in rest in the catacombs beneath the city. Diamond City has also become a place of diplomacy, where the various nations of Krystallos work out their differences through words instead of warfare. Most of the time. Diamond City is ruled through a bureaucracy that has been established to support the high clerics – one for each Totem. The high clerics are sent from their homelands and are considered to be the voice of their Totem in the world (though not always the highest ranking member of their order).
The Jade Kingdom is the second largest nation in Krystallos, after the Amethystian Empire. They are an ordered and reasoned society with a strict feudalistic structure. At the top sits the Shogun, the ruler of the Kingdom. Below him are the Daimyo who rule the provinces of the Kingdom in Shogun’s name. Samurai, warrior nobles, serve the Daimyo (though some directly serve the Shogun) and enforce their will upon the people. There is no middle class to speak of, though merchants have gained increasing power in recent years. In the Jade Kingdom, as anywhere, money can buy influence. Craftsmen are well respected in the Jade Kingdom and are often well cared for by their Daimyo if they have excellent skills. Peasants are not particularly well treated and, as a result, many become bandits to survive. The people of the Jade Kingdom have a golden tinge to their skin, dark hair and eyes that some say are more elven than human (what we would call Asian). They are stoic and believe in the sincerity and honor over truth and individualism – at least the nobles do. They also believe that a person should be balanced. Most citizens of the Jade Kingdom have an artistic skill and Samurai are well known for both their calligraphy and their poetry.
The Tanzinite Shores are dotted with Darfellan villages. From there, the Darfellans venture into the chilling waters of the Northern Sea and fish. The Shores are a harsh land. Little grows there, though some have success with herb gardens kept inside the home. Much of what does grow on and near the shores is poisonous. Amphibious beasts regularly crawl up onto the shore, looking for easy prey. Creatures wander to the shores from the Opal Badlands to the south. It can be a hard life. The villages do not have rulers but, instead, look to the wisdom of their elders in order to guide them.
Once, this cracked and dry wasteland was the Kingdom of Obsidian, a vast jungle in which flourished a proud civilization. The Great Invasion began in the south of the kingdom. Tiamat’s forces bubbled up from portals underground and spread across the jungle. The people of Obsidian were unprepared. They fought valiantly but, in the end, they were only able to hold back the invasion for a few months before they were conquered and the survivors were forced from their land. When the invasion was forced back to their portals it is said that Tiamat herself did the unthinkable. She shattered the Obsidian Totem. She killed a god. The land turned from jungle to wasteland overnight. Now, it is home to monsters and nothing grows here that isn’t twisted over time. Some Obsidianites have attempted to reclaim their land in small colonies but their efforts have ended in failure and, often, death.
City of Gears
Built into the side of a small mountain on the southern tip of the Badlands, the City of Gears looks like nothing so much as a large gear-work clock without a housing. The Modrons who were left behind (or chose to stay behind) after the Great Invasion have been building constantly to build their strange city. If it has a purpose, no one outside the Modrons know. Rogue Modrons refuse to speak of it and when asked directly, the Modrons speak in strange and arcane mathematical formulas. Recently, they have begun trading with the outside world to get the raw resources they need to continue construction.
The sun is a giant turtle. A giant, flying turtle whose shell is on fire. This is not metaphor. It is actual fact. It flies across the sky from east to west every day until it dives down into the ocean. The fire is extinguished and the turtle becomes the moon. The moon rises up from the ocean and then flies from west to east until it dives down into the volcano of Mount Opal where it is ignited once more. Every day and night, the turtle makes this journey. In addition to housing a giant volcano, Mount Opal is also riddled with caves. These caves are home to the Illithid, who live simple and solitary existences. They do not form communities but, instead, each lives as a hermit and contemplates their philosophies and ideas and those of their patron Totem: Opal. Illithid come together on occasion to exchange ideas, companionship and to mate. Children are raised to value solitude and peace and then sent out to find their own cave. Some Illithid do venture out into the world. While their appearance disquiets many, the wisdom and intelligence of the Illithid is well regarded and Illithid clerics of Opal are always welcome to help guide the dead onto the next stage of their journey. Illithid live in fear of one thing: all Illithid have the potential to embrace the darkness and power their psionic nature gives them. Those few, degenerate Illithid who do become monsters: Mind Flayers who devour the intellects of others. Some speculate that this is why Illithid prefer to live in solitude, to avoid the temptation.