Posts Tagged ‘Sea of Stars’


Festival – The Empress’ Birthday (RPG Blog Carnival)

27 May, 2021

The year in the Sea of Stars runs as dictated by the Empress and is universal across the entire world, the year consists of thirteen months of twenty-eight days each and one epagomenal day in the middle of summer, the Empress’ Birthday.

495px-Pantomimes_of_1866_-_Hush-a-Bye_BabyWhile the Empress does not demand or enforce celebration on this day, though naturally all of the lands she personally rules do, most communities celebrate it in one fashion or another.  It is often combined with other civic festivals, founding days, name days, all sorts of events get rolled into the big day.

Popular ways to celebrate include parades, speeches and firework displays.  Some groups have martial displays, gladiatorial combats are not unknown.  Plays, songs and other performance art celebrating (or at least acknowledging the power of the Empress) are expected not least because the Empress often visits out of the way communities on this day, sometime she is said to have visiting multiple places across vast distances but that can not be true, can it?

Over time, the plays have evolved from very formal and stately celebrations to more popular entertainment.  Many now use the plays and performances to comment on and satirize local politics and notables.  In a fashion similar to commedia dell’arte or the English Pantomime, the former usually performed by professional with the latter begin more ad hoc productions.  The Empress (and local dragons) are usually not the targets for such frivolity, as most dragons are rather thin skinned, though the Empress is occasionally (and somewhat ironically) cast in the role of deus ex machina on occasion.

How the characters could get involved:

  • Attend a play or celebration.
  • A wizard, or other spell caster, could be hired to provided fireworks or illusions.  Especially at the last minute after the prepared firework got wet.
  • If the characters are well known, they could be asked to perform or be drafted to act in the Panto.  Once in, they might be paid or pressured to include political commentary damaging to one of the local factions.
  • Rumors say the empress has been spotted!  At our festival!

Notes:  This is in support of this month’s the RPG Blog Carnival, Adding Festivals, Holidays, and Birthdays to Your Game hosted by Full Moon Storytelling.

Image Details from “The Pantomimes of 1866”, found on Wikimedia Commons and is in the Public Domain.


Zamindars and the Zamidari System in the Sea of Stars (A to Z)

30 April, 2021

Zamindari everywhereWhile the dragons rule the Sea of Stars they usual do so at some remove, it is the rare dragon who is interested in the minutia of actually governing, most enjoy the pomp and splendor of their occasional visits and the tax revenue and that is quite as much as they wish to be involved.  To call most dragons claws off rulers would be the best description.

But some seek a greater degree of control working more closely with the states they rule.  Some appoint Satraps, governors, to oversee the way their lands are ruled.  Other take a more direct hand and appoint the ruler directly, these are the Zamindar, their power comes directly from their appointment with the implicit backing of draconic power if they are not obeyed.  Usually, the Zamindar are free to rule their land as they see fit as long as the proper taxes are paid to their draconic patron and the Imperium, and some rule as tyrants, others try to work with the local systems and a few go native.  The record of success depends on how much support the new Zamindar can count on and how much they are willing to accommodate the wishes of their new subjects . . . needless to say, it can be a very short career but a very profitable one to those who survive.

Succession is theoretically at the whim of the dragon, but a successful Zamindar can usually angle for a successor of their choice, often someone in their family, a spouse, child or even more distant relative.  For the dragon, success is what usually matters, if someone wants to build an empire, that is fine as long as the tribute keeps rolling in.  Some dragons fear that successful Zamindar will build rival power base to that of the dragon ruler, move them around and find replacements for those who have died from distant lands, all to ensure they are not being plotted against.  This general this sort of maneuvering causes so much political and social disruption that plots against the dragon are almost inevitable but the disruption makes it difficult for such groups to organize (especially as dragons are notoriously difficult to kill) and the constant changes make the place poorer and so they have less resources with which to rebel.  Perhaps there is some method to such rule but it is not kind nor efficient to the ruled.

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Yeomanry and Yokels in the Sea of Stars (A to Z)

29 April, 2021

The Sea of Stars is quite urbanized given its level of technology, with perhaps just under one in four people living in cities, that still leaves the vast majority of people living the rural life which primarily means farming (though there are no lack of nomads and herders, they are a subject for another time).

Vineyards too.Without farmers, the cities starve but the city folk are not always pleased by that fact and most places have a city and country rivalry, with the city people usually considering the country folk to be ill-educated bumpkins who smell, and the county people tend to think the city folk are snobbish stuck ups who have never done a day’s honest labor in their lives.  While there is some truth to this and some states are better at reconciling their urban and rural populaces (such as the very small city-states where the farmers live the the city and go out to work the fields, so they are both rural and urban).  But there is a continuing tension between what benefits the city and what benefits those who work the land, which naturally spill over into other relationships as well.

Farmers come in many, many types ranging from enslaved worker on huge latifundia-style estates to the brave yeoman farmer on their freehold of land.  Equally, the number of things farmed is equally wide ranging though cereal crops are one of the most widely grown, ranging from wet paddy farming (mostly of rice) to various types of terrace farming and field farming ranging from slash and burn to systematic crop rotation models.  Only the largest, export focused farms manage anything approaching modern mono-culture farming, most raise one or two primary crops and a wide variety of smaller crops for personal consumption.  But without the farmers, much of the Sea of Stars would starve and even the dragons have been forced to accept how important their are to the foundations of the societies.

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Xenophillia and Xenoeros in the Sea of Stars (A to Z)

28 April, 2021

Visiting a friendWhile love is sometimes a factor in relationships between people, friendship and desire are also both motivating factors in interactions between beings.  Indeed, they are likely to be more common that love in most place and for most people.

As a general rule, the peoples of the Sea of Stars are fairly accepting of outsiders and willing to treat them based on how they present themselves.  They are not trusting fools, but change is one of the few constants in the Sea of Stars and most people have learned that it pays to be welcoming of knowledge and adaptable to shifts in the way things are.  Friendships built with travelers provide news and information along with the greater chance of more travelers, with more news. and occasionally even new members of the community if one of the travelers settles down.

While long distance communication (that is anything more that fifty miles/eighty kilometers away) is difficult, it is not impossible and the major cities have relative;y strong courier and mail systems in place and writers from far distant location carry on a lively, if slow, correspondence.  Chains of friendships and networks of communication spring up and often outlast their founding members.  If you can get an Imperial courier to carry your message, you are almost guaranteed that your missive will arrive at its destination.

Friendships ranging across and between kin and kine lines is common, especially among merchants, sailors, travelers and venturers who come from all walks of life, all places across the Sea of Stars and from all kine.  Such friendships often lead to such groups settling in the same area, usually the home regions of one of the people, when they retire from active work.  This leads to such things as dwarves in coastal towns, dogmen living in dwarven holds and visse just about everywhere.

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Valishja VanDerOverlijden, Builder of Tombs, Ethical Necrourgist (A to Z)

26 April, 2021

Do you not want a save resting place?Some people fear death, some are fascinated by it, others find it a useful state of being.

Valishja VanDerOverlijden, Builder of Tombs, Ethical Necrourgist

Quote: I would not have used my magic to animate those corpses if I had not been assured that they were the corpses of legally executed criminal.  It is in my contract that I will only animate such corpses for my work here.

Yes, necrourgic magic carries a whiff of evil with it, but it can be properly channeled and controlled to put it to good and noble purposes.

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Undertakers and the Umbra in the Sea of Stars (A to Z)

24 April, 2021

Among the tombs . . . and ghosts?While knowledge of the heavens and the hells, really the entire afterlife, has been severed from the day to day life of the people of the Sea of Stars, people still die and their bodies must by put to rest, dealt with, disposed of.  Cultural traditions remain, is some cases unchanged from before the Sundering, in many places, so burials remain common across vast swaths of the lands.  Though cremations have become more common as time has gone on.  One of the easiest solutions, from a practical standpoint, of simply tossing the bodies over the edge of an island to plunge into the inky void of space has been adopted only by a very few of the cultures of the Sea of Stars, though many starship sailors ask for such an end for their mortal remains.

The profession of the undertaker remains important, though of varying status, throughout the various lands and states, while not always burying or entombing the dead, they also oversee cremations and other forms of setting corpses to rest.  In a world with necrourgic magics, the unliving and the unbound, proper care of the dead assumes a greater importance, no one wishes to unleash a plague of unhappy spirits or hungry dead.  So, undertakers are skilled on the method of releasing spirits trapped to bodies, warding fresh corpses from beings that may possess them and for the warning signs of necrourgic reanimation.  They seek to insure that the spirit, soul, or whatever their culture calls the animating spark of life, moves on to the Umbra, which is agreed upon term for place beyond life.

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Tailors and Textiles in the Sea of Stars (A to Z)

23 April, 2021

The quest for fashion is universalFashion and clothing vary widely even radically from one culture in the Sea of Stars to the next, even before the Sundering split the world into islands, each culture tended to have it own ideas about proper and effective dress.  Afterwards, those splits became deep and more pronounced in many cases.  Fashions that once emulated that of the gods were abandoned (or at least hidden away) and new styles evolved, a few attempted to flatter the dragons by imitating their form in cloth, leather and metal, but most dragons just found the effect ridiculous so such fashions have been mostly abandoned except for masquerades.

Equally, the materials available to make into clothing especially textiles changed in availability and, often, in composition and quality.  Some materials were entirely wiped out in the aftermath of the Sundering, such as the silkworms of Giesa, were all killed in a frost that lasted a month.  However, new ones emerged such as the giant cotton plants of the Yile Valley which produce so much cotton that the valley has been the site of no less than three wars between Draconic House for control over it.

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Sailors and Ships in the Sea of Stars (A to Z)

22 April, 2021

A fisherman in good timesWhen the Sundering happened, it hit sailors and the ships at sea particularly hard, some of the seas just poured away into the void, taking all of those upon them with it, others were wracked with storms and waves, as few as one in six of those ships unlucky enough to have been out when the Sundering happened ever made it back to port.  This was a terrible loss of skilled sailors and knowledge, not to mention ships and cargoes, several merchant houses were wiped out by these losses even before the other changes of the Sundering disrupted their business.  Many coastal fishing village lost the major portion of their adult fishermen in a single day, a handful were almost depopulated of adults, leaving only children and the elderly waiting for the fishing boats that would never return.

As if such devastation was not enough, the fracturing of the world disrupted -when they did not eliminate- maritime trades routes, fishing patterns and more.  It was some years after the Sundering before wood (such as Karrias wood) and other materials were discovered that would allow for the construction of starships which could travel the space between the islands as though it were water. The Empress poured no small amount of money in the search for materials to build starships with, freely sharing the knowledge, as she recognize that wealth is generated by trade and the Sundering had all but killed trade on anything other than the most local of scales.  The ability to travel between the island by starship caused a huge boom in trade and travel, leading to the construction of new ports, the revitalization of old ones and shipyards springing up to build the new starships.

Unfortunately, the availability of sailors was at an all time low as the starship boom began, leading to a huge influx of new people into careers about ship, old traditions -often half remembered- were reestablished, schools and academies were opened, but most of the training was actually aboard the new starships.  As one can imagine, it was an exciting and harrowing time for the new crop of sailors and lead to new traditions.

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Raiders and Robbers in the Sea of Stars (A to Z)

21 April, 2021

Raid for plunder, profit and  . . . patriotism?There is an illusionary calm to the Sea of Stars, an impression that a Pax Dracona has ended war and conflict, nothing could be further from the truth.   While under dragonrule, open war between states has become vanishingly rare, as such invites war between the Draconic houses, so armed conflict is waged by other means: raid, skirmish, reconnaissance in force, chevauchée, backing of rebel factions, hiring bandits and pirates, and other such tactics.  Life can be very dangerous in the borderlands between two ambitious realms even if war is never declared, in fact, it may be worse than war if such raiding is left unchecked.

Those who raid often do so under some vague authority or authorization from the powers that be, though the legality of such things is questionable at best without a formal declaration of war.  Privateers operating under a Letter of Marque, soldier on an extended “scouting missions”, such actions tend to dissolve into raids, counter-raids and reprisals.  It is a messy business when soldiers act as raiders and looters, they can quickly become barely distinguishable from bandits and brigands without a strong commander who can maintain discipline.

Bandits, robbers and pirates are there to get money and goods, rarely they have some other purpose as well, but in general, they are are very focused on the money.  They usually operate in small groups or bands, it requires an exceptional leader to gather together multiple bands into a large group (or, for pirates, ships into a flotilla) as the bands tend to be very idiosyncratic in their organization and, especially, in their leadership.

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Poets and Performers in the Sea of Stars (A to Z)

19 April, 2021

Poets come in all shapes and sizesPoetry is a popular pastime in the Sea of Stars no matter where one travels.  The varieties of poetry are almost limitless with many of the elven traditions extending back millennia, tough the main draconic traditions claim such antiquity they were only properly formalized after the Sundering, many cultures have poetical traditions of great lineage and many new ones have sprung up with the blending and bending of cultures under dragonrule.

The Dragon Empress herself is an accomplished poetess, and this is not just flattery, her epic piece on the final battle against the Giantish armies is taught to students of the Draconic language across the Empires and is a favorite piece to recite.  It remains a moving tribute to a mighty foe even across the years.  Many of her other poems have been collected as well but it is known that there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of poems that she has given as gifts that are only known to her and the recipient, each year a few of these come to light and are added to the official canon.  It is rumored,

Many courts, royal and noble, and even some Republics and citizen assemblies, maintain their own poets (Court, Royal, Official, or other such titles proliferate).  Competition for such spots is fierce, bribery, seduction and other dirty tricks are . . . not unknown when such a job is in play.  Even roles as assistants or apprentices to these official poets is sought after and occasionally demanded as a price for supporting someone for the post.

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