The Setting.   Posted by The Cowled One.Group: 0
The Cowled One
 GM, 22 posts
Fri 31 May 2013
at 16:38
The Setting
The Rjurik have tried to settle the Giantdowns many times. To date, no attempt at civilization has held. Humanoids so thrive in the region that even the hardy, independent Rjurik cannot oust them from the Downs. The soil is poor. The winters are harsh, untempered by the warm currents of the Tael Firth. Both challenges make any settlement here a task that fate does not smile upon.
The Cowled One
 GM, 23 posts
Fri 31 May 2013
at 16:40
Life and Society
The Giantdowns is one of the most diverse regions to be found anywhere in Cerilia. Indeed it could as easily be broken into half a dozen different regions, and discussed as the Rjurik Giantdowns, the goblin Giantdowns, the dwarf and giant Giantdowns, Ghuralli's Giantdowns and the White Witch's Giantdowns, for these influences all carry with them their own cultures, lifestyles and customs. However it is the Rjurik with whom a traveller is more likely to have friendly contact, and it is with them that we shall begin to discuss life among the Downs.

In the debate between urban and rural Rjurik, the Giantdowns' human inhabitants definitely fall into the latter. Most do not even belong to a distinct tribe, but rather the settled Rjurik of the Downs tend to live in small family or extended family units throughout the human-dominated provinces. A typical Rjurik household might include a patriarch or matriarch, a spouse, one or two elders, two to four children, and perhaps spouses and offspring of one or two adult children. The average household comprises seven individuals; prominent homesteads may extend their families to include up to twice this number.

A household in the Downs occupies a large area. Since most Rjurik tend sheep, goats or cattle and have vegetable gardens or wheat farms as well, they need a lot of land. A large family even in relatively civilized Midjarna may live five to en miles from their nearest neighbour. However the upshot of this is that these families are not so seasonally mobile, often able to go hunting in winter for weeks rather than entire seasons, before retuning to their homesteads, or sometimes remaining in their homes the year round. The Rjurik need to defend themselves against the numerous aggressive inhabitants of the Downs, and this has made them somewhat more sedentary when they control the best land. Unsettled or wandering Rjurik include trappers, traders, hunters, foragers and a few shepherds who have not yet staked a claim. More and more these wanderers are expected to check in with the local Watch station before setting up temporary camps.

Unfortunately bandits are all too common, and the Rjurik need to no only defend themselves against goblins, orog, occasional giants and the savage wild animals, but also their own countrymen. Because of this the safety of the Old Fort and Midjarna village have become popular, and the populations here have swelled to the point where a few traders have even set up permanent posts, and other settlers have abandoned failed farmsteads to live in the village and adopt trades.
The Cowled One
 GM, 24 posts
Fri 31 May 2013
at 16:41
The Land
Downland is formed by soft porous white limestone as a dominant type of rock beneath a what is generally a pretty thin layer of soil. This is basically a greyish chalk and a poor basis for an agricultural soil. As a result, the Giantdowns have never been suitable for large scale habitation. The word "downs" is an Anuirean interpolation of the Rjurik word "dun" which means hill. In the valleys below the downs there is typically a clay soil, and at the place of contact between the two a springline can occur where water emerges from the porous chalk as the water level rises. Along this line, settlements and farms were often built, as on the higher land no water was available. The water level rises and falls because limestone is a porous rock, so the height of the water table in chalk hills rises in winter and falls in summer. Another feature of this kind of landscape is a bourne, a Rjurik word that describes where water flows to the surface at a spring and forms a stream. Many such streams only exist in the winter, and dry up during the summer. These are called a winterbourne.
The Cowled One
 GM, 25 posts
Fri 31 May 2013
at 16:42
Sheltered by the Silverhead Mountains and the great northern forest, most of the Giantdowns region experiences comparatively pleasant weather year-round. Winds from the west bring rain and snow with moderate frequency, and the long grass of the Great Downs grows lush and beautiful in the summertime. Most years, winter covers the Giantdowns for six, perhaps eight months. Snowfall is heavy but seldom approaches blizzard status. Two to four feet of snow covers the Downs region during most of winter, except in the Silverheads, where six feet of snow is not unusual. Temperatures seldom sip below -10 degrees Fahrenheit outside of the Silverhead provinces - at least during the day. At night, a bitter wind sweeps over the Downs, and frost covers everything. Wind chill factors can easily drop to -50.

Spring, summer and fall all blend together in a rush of seasonal changes. The planting season for the Downs region is very short, but rain usually comes in moderate, pleasant showers. Late frosts can ruin small farms, but experienced settlers know how to prepare for the eventuality. Most plant their vegetables and tend their fruit trees in a staggered fashion, so that if one crop is ruined by an unpredictable frost, the next won't be. Fortunately, the area's population supports several druids of the Emerald Spiral (as well as a number of unaligned druids) who travel the human-dominated provinces during the spring months to provide what assistance they can.

Summer comes and goes quickly. Heather and tall grass mingle on the Downs, and the sheep, goats, and cattle of the Rjurik grow fat. Wild animals also prosper; the Giantdowns seem covered with life during its summertime. Temperatures can climb into the 90s, though they average in the high 60s and low 70s. Rain keeps the ground fertile and moist, and droughts seldom occur.

In fall, when the farmers of Vjelthelma, Midjarna and Lemnjohen cut their wheat and hay, and the predators of the Downs (animal, monster, human and humaniod) begin stocking up for the winter, only a few trees trees in those provinces shed their leaves. The forests to the north are ever-green, and the Downs mark the change of seasons only with the yellowing of the grass. Bitter winds sweep over the Downs, producing an eerie "wuthering". The sound of the wind reminds the Rjurik of the dead that may rest uneasily in the Great Downs and of the cold winter to come.

Human settlers thrive during the spring and summer of the year, when the sun is bright and the weather remains fairly pleasant. Humaniods claim the fall and early winter, preying upon those who reaped an honest harvest. The winter belongs only to the hardiest monsters and creatures of the Downs - and perhaps the ghosts and other undead in the region. Even the humanoids and giant-kin of the Downs hesitate to stir from their lairs in the dead of winter.
The Cowled One
 GM, 26 posts
Fri 31 May 2013
at 16:46
The 12 Provinces
Barrow Woods
The Barrow Woods have a bloody reputation. Recently, the Scarlet Baron of the Blood Skull Barony has made efforts to extend his rule over Barrow Woods, but Ghuralli has opposed his plans. The creatures of Barrow Woods object as well, and they make some fearsome arguments.

Plenty of hill and mountain giants live within the Barrow Woods, and they are known to hunt any living creatures they can find. Wolves, made stronger by the humanoid competition, also roam the province, keeping the "peace" between the Giantdowns and the Blood Skull Barony.

Some say the White Witch may have influence in this region, and she may have used the reputation of Barrow Woods to pass her agents over the Silverheads and into Bjorlangen. None can confirm or deny this rumour.

Once under the control of The Watch, Bjorlangen fell to agents of the White Witch only a few short months ago. Rjurik renegades and mercenary humanoids currently scour the plains of northern Bjorlangen for those who still resist the White Witch's occupation. Any remaining Rjurik settlers in Bjornlangen have probably retreated to the dubious safety of the Great Downs in the south or fled to Lemnjohen. If any still survive, they have probably found little comfort there - the Bjornlangen Downs are reputed to be the oldest and most treacherous of all.

The Watch once made its presence known in Boganhaar and was supposedly scouting this province for future settlement when the White Witch attacked Bjorlangen. Now the Watch has pulled back all but its most experienced scouts from this region, leaving the few nomadic settlers (mainly hunters and herdsmen) to their own devices. Many unaligned humanoids live here as well, though they maintain an uneasy truce with the Rjurik. The Downs of Boganhaar do not seem to be as evenly spaced as those in other provinces, possibly implying that they were either added later (if one believes the tales of giant burial grounds) or were completely natural in the first place.

Caer Cwnnar
The elves of Lluabraight fought most determinedly for Caer Cwnnar, but eventually Ghuralli and his humanoids overcame all resistance in this section of the northern forest. In the past few months, Ghuralli has moved to strengthen his hold in this province, hunting out all remaining elves and working to increase his influence over the independent humanoids and Rjurik of this area. Rumour has it that a few Rjurik, unwilling or unable to abandon their homes in Caer Cwnnar, have joined with a few hearty elf warriors to fight Ghuralli's advance.

Haldallen is another sore spot for Ghuralli. His humanoids use the mountains as cover for striking east at the Rjurik settlers of Boganhaar, and to keep watch on the "no man's land" of Skansoeren. In turn, his minions suffer the predations of mountain giants defending their territory and, supposedly, that of the giants' allies - a small colony of dwarves in the Silverheads.

The Watch added Lemnjohen to its list of patrolled provinces somewhat unwillingly after a band of adventurers drove a group of bandits, giants, and goblins out of a crumbling fort near the north-eastern corner of the region. Settlers from Bjorlangen poured in, making the small province nearly as densely populated as Midjarna. When Bjorlangen fell to the warriors of the White Witch, Lemnjohen became a refuge for those Rjurik and other settlers who could flee across the border. Now the Watch patrols both the eastern and northern borders - though not as well as its members might wish, had they more personnel to devote to the task. Two of the original adventurers who cleared out the fort remain here, on as the leader of the local watch.

The Old Fort: Built by Anuirean forces during one of their abortive attempts at invasion, the hill fort (or "Old Fort") of Lemnjohen has become a base of strength for the Watchmen of the province. But the Old Fort was not always a boon for the Rjurik inhabitants of Lemnjohen. Until very recently, it was a haven for bandits and dangerous monsters right in the center of the westernmost province of the Giantdowns. Until a party of adventurers led by Dagmar Druesbane cleaned out the Old Fort, its inhabitants made safe passage between the Downs and Dhoesone almost impossible.

If the Giantdowns had a human-controlled capitol, it would probably lie within the province of Midjarna. Ruled loosely by the Watch, and shepherded by the Emerald Spiral, this sparsely populated region contains at least one permanent settlement, and more may be forming. The Watch carefully patrols Midjarna

Midjarna Village: The Rjurik village in the province of Midjarna grew up around the large homestead of Sturin Gundar. He chose a beautiful area just north of the Ruide River and just east of the Bjorlangen border to settle his family, and many Rjurik choselikewise. They thinned out much of the Aelvinnwode and cultivated a little of the land for farming. Now their sheep, goats and cattle roam the land between the homesteads and the whole area has a very pastoral feel.

Ghuralli's headquarters, dark Rhuiddar has become a haven for the most powerful and evil humanoids of the Giantdowns, and a place of fear and loathing. Ghuralli himself strays from the province only on errands of warfare, since it borders three of Lluabraight's eleven provinces to the to the north and two Rjurik provinces to the south. Reports from escaped slaves and prisoners confirm that Ghuralli has a dark fortress among the trees somewhere within Rhuiddar, but an assault on this province likely would prove dangerous and foolhardy.

The awnshegh Ghuralli barely keeps control of the mountain province of Silverheart. Only a few of the famed Great Downs lie here, beneath the shadow of the Silverheads, but more than enough danger exists in this region for two Ghurallis. Rumour has it that the giants of the Silverheads, with some of their mysterious allies, contest Ghuralli for the right to rule this region. If the awnshegh did not need this province to support his battles in Barrow Woods, he might well abandon it to strengthen his other holdings.

Silverhead Hold: It has been said that dwarves and giants live among the Silverhead Mountains, and this rumour has finally been confirmed. When Greggi Upshar came out of the mountains to trade with the Rjurik of Midjarna, Lemnjohen, and faraway Vjelthelma, revealed some of what happened in the mountains. A few scattered dwarven mines (though 'mine' does not accurately represent what craftsmanship and beauty of a dwarven hold) exist in the Silverheads, and these ancient holds are in contact with Khurin-Azur. The largest of these is the mine of Silverheart, the namesake of the province.

One of two completely wild provinces of the Giantdowns, Skansoeren has been the site of more battles than any other province in the region. Many human barrows lie within this province's boundaries, though only a few "giant graves" can be identified by those who believe in the old tales. Bordered by two Watch-ruled provinces, one of Ghuralli's territories and the White Witch controlled land of Bjorlangen, Skansoeren currently exists under a watchful, uneasy peace. The next great battle of the Giantdowns may well be fought over the rocky barrow hills of this land, should any of the warring factions provoke another. A group of neutral goblins lives somewhere within Skansoeren, trading with both the Rjurik and Ghuralli's followers in an effort to remain useful, and thus free.

The wild province of Trondelaag provides shelter for the worst the Giantdowns has to offer. The bandit tribe Kjarhoelle winters here at the feet of the Silverhead Mountains and makes summer camp among the southern Downs. The bandits raid Rjurik settlers and humanoids alike, warring with any who cross their path. Skulking in the shadows between the mountains and the Great Downs, the people of Kjarhoelle are better than their humanoid competitors by only a small degree - at least they keep the Blood Skull orog fro pouring over the Silverheads and into the Downs. They may, however, have an arrangement with the forces of Rowena Manspear and the White Witch.

The Watch maintains as strong a presence as it can in the semi-civilized province of Vjelthelma, mainly to patrol the long border between the Giantdowns and the Gorgon's Crown. In the history of the realm, no armies have marched from the Gorgon's Crown into the Giantdowns - but the Rjurik do not count too heavily on the Gorgon's respect for tradition. Most of the Rjurik in Vjelthelma live on great homesteads owned by individual landholders or large, important families. These freeholders govern their own homesteads as they will, but generally respect the authority of the watch. The Emerald Spiral presence here helps unify the Rjurik settlers. They keep the people in a military frame of mind, and the secretive druid Kalla makes her semi-permanent home here.
The Cowled One
 GM, 27 posts
Fri 31 May 2013
at 16:50
The political situation in the Giantdowns is as split as the cultural one. Invaders, natives, settlers and refugees all husband their own domains, and goblins, men, dwarves, giants, orog, and even a few elves all of mixed alignments and loyalties all dwell within the borders of the Downs. While many communities, especially of Rjurik and goblins, remain unaligned, especially in the provinces of Trondelaag and Skansoeren, the major powers have begun to consolidate into factions, one of whom may well take the Downs as their own one day.

The Watch
The men and women who patrol the Rjurik Giantdowns and keep settlers relatively safe from their enemies are known as the Watch. They operate casually in all the Rjurik settled provinces, though they keep small garrisons in Vjelthelma, Lemnjohen and Midjarna. The Watch is broken into three branches, all under the command of Hogrun Njalsson. The most visible members of the Watch serve in the holmjarllen, or "home guard". They are the actual garrison troops meant to repel humanoid or monster attacks. Vjelthelma, Lemnjohen and Midjarna each support a single holmjarllen garroson, each garrison being between one and two hundred men under arms (totaling two units of irregulars). With the recent unpleasantness in Bjorlangen, Hogrun has begun recruiting a third cohort of perhaps two hundred in Midjarna, but he doesn't know if he can find that many able bodied warriors, let alone how he will pay them. As it is keeping his current force paid is nearly impossible.

The Second branch of the Watch is called the marklorjen or "march warden". The marklorjen patrol the borders of the Rjurik Giantdowns, keeping guard against invasion or danger. There are perhaps another hundred marklorjen, but they spend the best part of their time committed, harrying supplies to Ghuralli and the White Witches's advance forces and keeping watch on the Gorgon's Border. The last branch of the Watch does not officially exist. Those few who know of it call it the svinarek, or "outriders". Only Hogrun and the outriders secret leader know the exact number of members in the band, but it cannot be more than a few dozen. The svinarek have the dangerous job of infiltrating the renegade bands of Rjurik throughout the Giantdowns (the Kjarhoelle of Trondelaag being the most notable).

Ghuralli's Warriors
The humanoids of the Giantdowns cannot be lumped together. At best, they can be grouped into two factions: one organized and wholly evil, the other more loosely affiliated and benign. The most cohesive group of humanoids in the Giantdowns serves the awnshegh known as Ghuralli. Recently, with the help of some ogres and fhoimoreans, he built a snakk realm within the Giantdowns. His minions are clearly divinded - the goblins in his service are numerous, and are his labour force, his hunters, scouts, spies and sentries, while the orog warriors who share his long house are his warriors, elite and prized among his followers. He has many allies amongst the natives of the Downs, such as the giants and a handful of native goblins, and perhaps even the Kjarhoelle, but it is the orog and goblins who form the heart of his loyal followers.

The White Witch's Mercenaries
No one expected the White Witch to attempt an invasion of the Giantdowns, which is probably why she managed it so easily. As near as anyone can tell, the awnshegh made some sort of alliance with the Kjarhoelle tribes and avoided the worst of the humanoids in the mountains. She used a collection of Rjurik and goblin agents to muster a small army of mercenaries in Trindelaag and northern Bjorlangen, then sent them against the Watch's meager defences. This move did not catch the Watch completely unprepared, but the vicious attack swept away its defences.

Now the White Witch's mercenary army occupies Bjorlangen. She has managed to set up a small holding there and has picket riders along the eastern and western borders. The Kjarhoelle continue to raid and pillage the area, and the army's main concern seems to be keeping the Bjornlangen Rjurik from escaping before they can be enslaved.

The Kjarhoelle
Brutal and wicked, the bandit tribe of the Kjarhoelle follows the example of its scarred and ancient leader, Chieftain Tjorvaal. The Kjarhoelle could be considered the antithesis of the Watch. While the Watch styles itself a guardian force for the Rjurik population of the Downs, the Kjarhoelle disrupt the lives of the Rjurik settlers as much as possible. In the summer months, the bandits raid the other provinces, attacking settlements in Lemnjohen, Bjorlangen, Skansoeren and Boganhaar and then fleeing back into the twisted ravines and mountain passes of Trondelaag. They engage in little trade, though Tjorvaal may have an alliance of some sort with Ghuralli.

Like the Watch, the Kjarhoelle have two branches. The tarloelle or "gatherers" are the raiders and armed men and women of the tribe. They venture forth from Trondelaag in groups of ten to fifty, attacking either fixed targets, or whatever wanderers they can find. They treat their enemies brutally, seldom killing but often maiming those they take alive. The hjorlag or "housewarmers" live practically as slaves among the Kjarhoelle. Most hjorlag are men and women maimed in battle, persons too young or old to travel with the taroelle, or captured enemies broken into service. Every member of the taroelle has at least two hjorlag to look after his possessions and territory while he's away, and woe betide a hjorlag who fails in his duty; Kjarhoelle warriors train themselves in torture as well was battle.

The Emerald Spiral
The Emerald Spiral temple, devoted to the worship of Erik, has holdings in nearly all the Rjurik kingdoms throughout the highlands. Run by Gretta Seligsdotter, it has very conservative views and focuses on respect for nature. In the Giantdowns, two major centres of Erik's faith are found amongst the rolling downs, one in Midjarna and the other in Vjelthelma. While Gretta is the overall regent of the Spiral, two druids share responsibility for the people of the downs, Kalla and the mysterious Huralla.

The Silverhead Dwarves
The first dwarves came to the Giantdowns nearly a thousand years ago. They arrived in small families and individually, perhaps fleeing the Gorgon's corruption of Mur-Kilad, of the tightly organized societies of Baruk-Azhik and Khurin-Azur. They made their way west in search of new homes. Drawn to the isolated Silverhead Mountains, many settled in the caves and caverns of the northern Giantdowns, carving out homes and mines for themselves. But the dwarves encountered the various giant races of the mountains early on. The fought the ogres and fhoimoreans, but they came to an agreement with the stone giants of the Downs, some say that Morsjarlur himself came down from Mount Silverhead, and spoke to the dwarven leaders, forginf an alliance between the two races that would last generations.

Today, few dwarves exist in the Silverheads. They have always been slow to breed, and their semi-secret community attracts few immigrants. Of late, younger, adventuresome dwarves have come down from the Silverheads and mingled or traded with the Rjurik settlers, causing tales of the settlements to leak out. The Rjurik settlers warily welcome the dwarven traders. Both races are proud folk with strong traditions. They tend to be reticent in their dealings with one another, each hoping to avoid offending the other.