The Empire of the Immortals
The Empire of the Immortals is ancient, the ancestral home of the humans known as the Sun Children. Originally, the Sun Children lived as hunter-gatherers. In those days, the Southern Continent was a thick lush jungle, and the humans revered the Great Spirits.
At some point, the Great Spirits abandoned the Southern Continent. Exactly when and why the Great Spirits chose to abandoned the continent is unknown, but the most common reason given, at least among the Travelers of the Wind, is that an ancient king gathered together all of the various tribes under the kingdom of Nyambwe and named himself the First Immortal. The First Immortal then stormed the homes of the Great Spirits to demand that he be made one of them. For his pride, the Great Spirits stripped the First Immortal of his true name and threw him down to the surface of Ma'rakan. Where the First Immortal impacted with the ground, the Great Crater was created, and the Great Spirits turned their back on the continent.
From the Great Crater spread the death of life on the Southern Contient. The once great, lush jungles died out and powerful and deadly creatures such as blue dragons, moved in. The beings that would become the Ra-Maat wept at the destruction, and moved to to save what they could, but only if the Nyambwe would agree to worship them. Facing extinction, the Naymbwe agreed and, in honor of the father of the Ra-Maat pantheon, renamed themselves the Sun Children.
The gods could only do so much, however. Much of the Southern Continent remained a dangerous desert, but the gods gifted their Sun Children with the River of Life, which would flood its banks annually and leave rich soil behind. It was here that the ancient Sun Children settled and began to build their empire, partially in reverence to the Ra-Maat, but also in defiance of the Great Spirits, whom they were dedicated to showing that life cannot be destroyed so easily.
Rulers of the Empire of the Immortals are known as Immortals and have a mystic compact with the Ra-Maat; they will rule in their gods' names, keep worship of the Ra-Maat strong and, in return, will be granted an immortal place in the afterlife.
The culture of the Sun Children is one adapted to desert survival, even along the fertile river valley of the River of Life. Clothing is often loose-fitting, light-colored and covers much of the skin. Females and males are treated equally under the Sun Children culture. Demihumans are rare, and wood elves are particularly disliked among the Sun Children for their reverence of the Great Spirits. Other demihumans are treated with disdain at best, and outright predjudice at worst.
Preparing oneself for the afterlife is an important part of Sun Children culture. It is said that, if one leads a righteous life, your heart will remain lighter than a feather and you will pass on to the great Du'at after you die to live with the gods. If the burden of sin weighs heavily on your heart, however, when you die and are judged your heart will be eaten. As the Sun Children believe that the heart is the seat of the human soul, this means that the soul is forever destroyed. The more rich a person in life, the better tomb he can afford in the afterlife and, thus, the more things he can take with him. The poorest are cremated and their ashes given over to the wind, while the Immortals have great pyramids constructed in their honor.
Despite being a desert people, the Sun Children are actually excellent sailors, and trade along the River of Life is handled by travelling up and down the river. River piracy is, likewise, a problem. The Sun Children even have experience traveling the oceans, and have explored much of the seas surrounding the Southern Continent.
Demihumans are rare in the Empire of the Immortals. Dwarves live in clans among the northern mountains, but don't truly have a kingdom of their own. Halflings occasionally can be discovered wandering the desert wastes. Occasionally, great cities, apparently of high elven design, can be found buried beneath the sands, but there are no known high or grey elves in the Southern Continent. Small tribes of wood elves eke out a meager existence in the woods to the north of the mountains, but they find themselves cut off from the Great Spirits so many oftheir kind worship. There are no druids or priests in Southern Continent wood elf culture.
Religion: The vast majority of the Empire of the Immortals and the immediate surrounding area worship the gods of Ra-Maat. Most other religions are not allowed, officially, among the people of the Empire of the Immortals. There are no followers of the Great Spirits on the Southern Continent, the prayers of the faithful go unanswered. Worship of the Dharmics is strictly forbidden in the Empire, though this does not keep some from paying tribute to these gods.
Large Cities: Amen-Ra (Capital), Cheops
Common Character Classes: Cleric, Fighter, Wizard
- Fighter: Myrmidion, Noble Warrior, Peasant Hero
- Priest: Nobleman Priest, Outlaw Preist, Peasant Priest, Prophecy Priest, Scholar Priest
- Wizard: Academian, Peasant Wizard, Patrician
- Thief: Adventurer, Assassin, Beggar, Smuggler, Swindler
Lands of the Wheel
The Lands of the Wheel are less a nation and more a loose confederation of mostly nomadic tribes. Originally, the humans of the Lands of the Wheel were the same as those of the Sand Children. Originally, the peoples that would become the tribes of the Travelers on the Wind were slaves to the Empire of the Immortals.
These people were approached by various gods of the Dharmics, and offered freedom in exchange for their worship. These humans rose up in a slave rebellion in a vicious and bloody battle. In the end, the slaves won their freedom, but were banished to the opposite side of the River of Life. Outside of a narrow band of fertile soil, nothing existed except a blasted landscape that was the home to creatures known as genies.
At first, the exiles tried to build established settlements and live as their ex-masters did. This proved disasterous, as the malicious genies of the desert would lay waste to these settlements. To avoid being killed, the exiles split into different groups and called themselves the Travelers on the Wind.
The groups soon became tribes, and the Travelers began to learn how to enter into agreements with the genies, and to even control them to an extent. As relations with the genies calmed, a few settlements were made along the River of Life but most of the tribes had grown accustomed to their way of life and refused to settle down, though more permanent structures are occasionally bult along oasis found in the deserts.
The various tribes war among one another, but this is to be expected and rarely causes animosity between two tribes. Honor is an important part of the way of life of the Travelers of the Wind and, so long as an oppsoing tribe maintains their honor, they can expect similar treatment from other tribes. In warfare, this includes not destroying homes, not killing horses and not killing children.
Most Travelers on the Wind tribes are lead by a male chieftan, known as a shekh, but there is nothing culturally that forbids women from joining the the ranks. A female chieften is known as a shekha. Most shekhs are advised by a wizard, known as a vizier, and the two make decisions for the tribe as a whole.
The society of the Travelers on the Wind is caste-based, and each person is born into a caste. It is rare that one is able to rise in caste, at least not without being reincarneted as such. When a person is a child, he or she is given intricate tattoos that display their caste, always in an easily-visible area and most often on the face or forehead. The higher one's caste, the more intricate the tattoo, from a simple dot on the forehead for a harijan to beautiful full body tattoos for brahma.
Those that deal with the dead and other unsavory jobs are the loest caste, called harijans. Among adventurers, necormancers are commonly harijans. Outsiders and foreigners are also considered harijans.
Above the narijans are vaishayas; merchants, slaves and bankers. Moneylending is frowned upon in Traveler society, and thus bankers are likewise looked down upon. Merchants sully their dharma with greed. Most adventurers native to the Traveler tribes are vaishayas (with clerics being a notable exception).
The vast majority of Travelers are of the Shudra class, the common man.
Reincarnation is an important concept in Traveler culture. If a being lives an honorable life, he or she is reincarnated into a higher caste in the next life. Only those that have lived through two or more reincarnations as humans or demihumans can advance beyond the Shudra caste.
Above the Shudra are the Khat, warriors and kings. Most adventurers of the warrior classes are Khat.
Clerics and holy men and women are of the Bhrama caste.
Despite being spread far and wide, the tribes of the Travlers have many common customs that often seem strange to outsiders. For example, if an individual or group is found in the desert in dire straits aid must be given even if they are sworn enemies. When staying in another's house or tent and you accept salt, you agree to be a polite and proper house guest and leave within three days; likewise, if the host offers you salt it's his way of saying that you are safe and welcome for the next three days.
Except for Halflings, demihumans among the Travelers of the Wind tribes are rare, but they do exist including the all dwarf tribe known as the Elhajid. Among the Travelers, demihumans are accepted and treated just as other Travelers and the demihumans for the most part treat other Travelers likewise.
Around the River of Life there are a few permanent settlements, such as Tal-iq, the trade capital of the region. Otherwise, permanent settlements within the desert dunes are rare, though semi-permanent tent cities often spring up around oasis. However, great abandoned cities are often found hidden beneath the desert sands. Unlike those of the Empire of the Immortals, the cities beneath the sands here are of unknown origin. Many of them contain unlooted treasures, but terrible monsters and traps.
Because of the harsh sun as well as cultural taboos against seeing the skin of another, Travelers dress in what seems to be a counter-intuitive fasion to those not used to the desert climate. Long, flowing robes of light color are prefered, as are traditional head dress. Faces are covered by scarves called ala-dul for men, or veils called ala-dulai for women. Unless a member of a family, faces are not shown to others. Despite this, Travelers have no problems recognizing their friends (and enemies) nor identifying another's caste. Because the ala-dul are not to be removed in public, meals are taken in private rooms. Despite only having hands and eyes exposed, Traveler robes are extremely comfortable as the loose robes catch and cool air pockets. Undergarments are rarely worn, though armor is often worn beneath these robes.
Wizards, as they appear in other lands, are virtually unknown in the region. Instead, all native wizards must take either the sorcerer, elemental mage or sha'ir kits (from the Al-Qadim sourcebook). Even dwarves are able to become sha'ir, leading other lands to whisper rumors that the Traveler dwarves have made dark pacts with evil beings to return their magic to them.
Traveler customs and culture do not just apply to humans, but also demihumans living within the region.
Large Cities: Tal-iq (as close to a capital as the Travlers get)
Religion: By and far, the Dharmic religion is followed by the vast majority of Travelers on the wind, but the Travelers are a surprisingly tolerant people. Even worhsip of the Ra-Maat is accepted, though not common among these former exiles.
Common Classes: Fighters, Thieves, Wizards (specifically Sha'ir), Clerics
Common Kits (all are from the Al-Qadim sourcebook).
- Warrior: Askar, Desert Rider, Faris, Outland Warrior
- Priest: None
- Wizard: Sorcerer, Elemental Mage, Sha'ir
- Rogue: Beggar-thief, Holy Slayer, Rawin