Setting Information.   Posted by Storyteller.Group: 0
Storyteller
 GM, 5 posts
Thu 21 Nov 2019
at 08:27
Setting Information
Note - some of this is taken from various Exalted sourcebooks, while other parts have been taken from publicly Exalted wikis.

The information below generally represents what average, mostly uneducated individuals would know about a given community that they aren't a part of.

The Kunlun Tundra

Bounded by the Black Crag Mountains to the East, the Dehennen Mountains to the South, the North Sea to the North, and the Varaj Passage to the West, the Kunlun Tundra is a vast rain shadow desert of over 500,000 square miles of mostly barren, lifeless steppes. Despite the apparent desolation of its landscape, it is nevertheless the largest and most populated region of the central North.

The Shining Path

Throughout the current age, religion in the Kunlun region has been largely defined by periodic conflict between the Immaculate Faith, imported by Dragon-Blooded conquerors and monks from the Realm, minor cults of various local deities with limited reach, and ancestor cults. By far the largest, most widespread, and most successful of these is the Shining Path.

And yet, this tells only half the tale, for the Shining Path is far from unified. An ancient creed, scholars of the Path claim that the first texts first started appearing thousands of years ago, during the Dragon-Blooded Shogunate. In the centuries and millennia between its founding and today, the Path has grown to include hundreds of texts and associated interpretations. These in turn have led to hundreds of individual sects, some as small as individual villages, others rulers of the mightiest cities of the Kunlun Tundra. To an outsider, these differences often seem small, but they lead to vicious infighting and religious war even today.

Realm Influence

Though nominally subject to the Realm, the Kunlun Tundra has usually enjoyed a relatively light hand from their Imperial overseers. Simply put, total subjugation of Kunlun has never been a priority by the Realm because there just isn't enough worth possessing from the desolate region. Legion garrisons are maintained in Naruu, Grieve, Fortitude, and Gorot, with the majority of one of the Ledaal legions based out of Fortitude. Meanwhile, the Immaculate Order periodically sends missionaries into the Tundra's interior to attempt to tame the more rampant heresies of the Shining Path. The fact that these missionaries are often disgraced or dissident monks considered undesireables by the Order is lost on no one.

This message was last edited by the GM at 09:19, Thu 21 Nov 2019.

Storyteller
 GM, 6 posts
Thu 21 Nov 2019
at 09:18
Setting Information
Cities of the Path

Four major cities hold the largest, most influential Path sects - Naruu, Thar, Ikh Bayan, and Kunlun Shan.

Naruu: Seafaring Naruu is a nation of sailors and traders. A major point of entry for those few merchants that seek to man the trade-routes through the Kunlun, Naruu is a bustling city-state, with a handful of client towns and villages around it for nearly a hundred miles in each direction. Naruu is ruled by the Ataman (a local term for a leader) Balajan the Bear, a powerful warlord with a modest navy known for hiring mercenaries from far-off places to come die for the views of the Naruu's version of the Shining Path, as dictated by the High Eparch of the High Stone Seat, overlooking the sea.

Kunlun Shan: Mild in their fervor and isolationist in tendency, the peoples of Shan (or Kunlun Shan, as its citizenry refer to it) are a nation of reindeer herders and bear hunters. Many of them are also mountaineers, prospecting into the Dehennen Mountains during the summer months for washes of silver, copper and gold. The Shan look to the Ijanti Nath, their high priest of the Shining Path, who rules the nation from the Citadel of Honored Souls in the center of the city. The Ijanti Nath is considered too holy to tend to the irritations of ruling directly, however, so military power is usually held by the Voivode (Warlord), who is chosen by the Ijanti Nath.

Ikh Bayan: Dwelling in a state of constant warfare, the warrior-state of Ikh Bayan are known as the Reavermen, for they take great delight in raiding the caravan routes and outlying villages of their neighbors. With their men away so often raiding, women tend to rule in Ikh Bayan. They are ruled by a royal house known as House Pyotalin, a military power. The wife of the Pyotalin king always acts as high priestess for the Bayani interpretation of the Shining Path, a role known as the Mother of Heroes. All the women of House Pyotalin are trained as priestesses in the Halls of Memory, the mighty sepulcher-temple of Ikh Bayan.

Tharn: The people of Tharn are sometimes called "Turtle People" by the other Kunlun city-states, because they avoid engaging in open warfare when they can. They are masters of surviving sieges, however, and take great pride in their fortifications and defensive structures. The Holy Church of Ancient Tharn is its religious order, based off the teachings of the Shining Path, and their monks are some of their deadliest fighters. The Tharn are ruled by an Ataman, who holds secular power, with the Voivode holding military power and the Archiereus holding religious authority. Traditionally, these are always three brothers, and when one brother dies, all three must step down to make room for three new brothers (although those left behind remain as advisers and mentors).

Other Communities of Kunlun

While the Path Cities are the most populated and powerful of the cities in the Kunlun Tundra, they are but a small sample of the cultures and communities of the northern plateau.

Gorot, the City of the Wall: Far out onto the Northwestern steppe lie the remnants of a gigantic wall, nearly a hundred feet high, with another fifty feet underground, and almost a mile thick. The Wall extends for many leagues to the East and West, though all but a few scattered bastions lie in shattered ruin with barely one stone atop another. None remember why the Wall was built, nor why it was eventually destroyed, but today the great wall still has one sizable section left standing, a span of fifteen miles between two great towers nearly a thousand feet high.

Gorot, the City of the Wall, is a thriving city, largely due to farming atop the Wall, possible because the paved stones atop the wall are somehow warm all year round. This allows a growing season nearly twice that of most Northern farms, permitting the city to produce enough grain and other food crops to not only sustain themselves, but to provide a sizable remainder for export.

Despite a central location, obvious wealth in the form of excess food, and belligerent neighbors, Gorot has rarely been conquered by its neighbors. Not only does the nigh-impenetrable Wall itself provide a strong defense, some strange influence makes many visitors from neighboring cities uncomfortable. True believers in faiths such as the Shining Path, the strange worship of Fortitude, and other malign influences find resting within seven miles of Gorot first uncomfortable, then eventually painful, making long sieges of the city untenable. The few successful conquests all occurred via treachery, and by peoples that have long since assimilated into Gorot culture rather than the reverse.

Fortitude: Once it was the mighty prison-fortress of an ancient empire. Its rulers believed that criminality was inherited, and so it filled the prisons with entire families of recidivists. That empire has long since fallen to dust, but the prison remains, and has taken on a life of its own. Over centuries, the prison and the walls meant to contain it expanded outward, while the tunneled wards beneath the surface spread like roots.

Fortitude is a place where the strongest and most ruthless rise to the top; where there is no law but what the strong decree, where entire tribes of prisoners toil in darkness, harvesting valuable plants and gems for the gangs that run the prison. The gangs in turn trade with the Realm and the Guild for necessary imports.

Fortitude is a place where the darkness is worshiped, the winter is hated, and every man believes he is cursed. It is a place where people are born believing that only their deaths can atone for their lives, and that the only way to erase the stain of darkness on one’s soul is to lead a heroic life and to die an immortal death.

Grieve: The allure of the miraculous White Elixir has infused new life and wealth into formerly stagnant Grieve. Thirty thousand souls, mostly artisans, merchants and laborers, dwell within the Northern port’s walls. The city’s famous tame lynxes strut proudly in yards and gardens, warding off vermin and trespassers alike; their feral cousins prowl the city’s back alleys. Legend says that if the cats ever leave, Grieve will fall.

Grievian savants first revealed the White Elixir just a few years ago. It is purported to grant a macabre sort of immortality, preserving body and soul in the instant of death. Grieve’s richest citizens who have procured the Elixir are recognizable by their unusual pallor and the parasols they employ to ward off the sun. Foreigners arrive in increasing numbers to purchase immortality, trade in the Elixir’s reagents, or seek wealth in the city’s booming economy.

As a gift, the savants presented the Elixir to Grieve’s queen, Shield Glory. Gossips whisper that the palace lynxes now hiss when she passes, and that she’s responsible for the recent deaths and disappearances among her kin.

Zalvenesh: A small maritime nation dwelling at the edges of the Inland Sea, the Zalvenesh were once and up-and-coming nation. Known for their longboatmen who fished for whales, narwhales and seals, and divers that enter into the deathly cold seas far longer than anyone normally could in search of ancient Artifacts and relics of the First Age, the Zelvanesh brought something up one day that proved too terrible for them to meddle with. They lost their capital city Liriel-Anneth and a good portion of their population, leaving only a handful of small villages and towns to eke out an existence caught between the Kunlun Tundra and the freezing Inland Sea.

Today, the most noteworthy feature of the Zalvenesh is the Zal-Kelementi, the small gods of sea and ice the Zalvenesh made pacts with shortly after the fall of Liriel-Anneth. The Zalvenesh maintain exceptionally close connections with this petty pantheon, resulting in a very high number of God-Blooded mortals serving as priests, fishing captains, mediators, and other important positions.

Hidden Places

Unlike most of the previously mentioned communities, there are several smaller locations worth mentioning mostly hidden from outside view. Note that most characters are likely to be unaware of these locations, unless they are somehow involved in the character's backstory.

Sequestered Tabernacle: Not truly part of the Kunlun, the Sequestered Tabernacle is a small valley with a handful of hamlets, settled in an unseasonably warm vale in the Dehennen Mountains. Few outside the small communities realize that it is one of the centers of the Cult of the Illuminated, a mystery cult venerating the Shining Ones, saviors who will one day return the world to righteousness.

Oceanmouth: A culture most of the region would be surprised to learn even exists, Oceanmouth is a small community of the near-human race of Wyld mutants known as the sea folk. It lies in the deep waters where the White Sea meets the Great Western Ocean. Oceanmouth may not exist for much longer - never possessed of a great military, the village has recently come to the attention of a tribe of pelagothropes, a far more violent and heavily altered branch of underwater Wyld mutants.

Nomadic Peoples of Kunlun

Though there are many smaller groups of nomads within the Kunlun region, most of the larger clans are based off one of two main templates: the nomad tribes native to Kunlun, and the Varajtul.

Kunlun Nomads: The Kunlun nomads are a nomadic, tribal people who follow reindeer herds from place to place. The Kunlun make extensive use of dog sleds to navigate the snow and ice of the tundra, and a tribe's dogs are considered not just pets, but comrades and spiritual protectors. The Kunlun Tundra is scattered with a variety of small Wyld zones, which the nomads regard as holy places. Indeed, their shamans go vision and power-questing within the deeps of those terrifying places, and the tribesmen always pick the distinctive white and red hallucinogenic mushrooms that grow at the edges of such zones. Over the generations, the nomads have constructed great barrows of sod and stone within these Wyld zones, and the dead are often interred there, where it is believed they become powerful gods who are part of that zone, and continue to lend their power to the tribe.

The Varajtul: Not native to the Kunlun Tundra but to the islands to its west, the largest and most feared group of Wyld barbarians in Creation’s Northwest are called the Varajtul. Hardly anyone else knows their true name; the Varajtul do not talk to their food. Indeed, they speak only a language of their own, meant to imitate the howling and moaning of the winds. In their own tongue, they call themselves the Dream of Infinite Light.

Varajtul average eight feet tall, with bodies covered in white, gray or light blue fur. They have narrow, yellow or blue eyes and mouths full of fangs. Their only clothing consists of cloaks woven from human hair, whose designs record the deeds and vision-quests of their ancestors; the frigid winds do not bother them. Their blood, however, is human enough.

Most of the time, Varajtul hunt, fish and gather wild foods just as other Northern tribes. In battle, the Varajtul prefer spears with heads of bone or stone, but can use any human weapon. They often lay traps such as camouflaged pits, snow-filled trenches lined with spikes or nets triggered by trip lines. They value human meat for religious reasons as well as the taste. While Varajtul readily feed on their dead foes, they prefer to butcher captive warriors or shamans and roast them for a tribal feast.

Most important of all for the Varajtul, captives can be taken to a Wyld pocket and ceremonially dissected with a blade of unmelting ice and eaten alive. This thaumaturgical procedure of their shamans calls the Wyld energies into the spilled blood to produce visions of the victim’s emotions, memories and desires—and, sometimes, a complete vision-quest performed in only one day. The Varajtul do not see themselves as savages: rather, they consider themselves the most spiritual folk of Creation. Only a few have spent enough time in Wyld pockets to assimilate. Most eat human flesh out of the sincere religious conviction that other tribes and races are no better than beasts.

Beastmen Tribes

Though nowhere near as common as the native Kunlun tribes or as fearsome as the Varajtul, there are still several other nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes worth mentioning, largely due to their part-beast nature.

Aside from the Varajtul, the wolfmen are the most feared threat of the Kunlun Tundra, traveling in large hunting packs that threaten travelers throughout the region. Most of the packs keep small communities of human slaves, though their slaves' numbers tend to wane during the winter months as they serve as mobile food supplies during lean times.

Elkmen tribes also dwell within the area. The most mysterious of the Northern beastmen, elkmen are all natural Essence-users and have a reputation as potent magicians—not just thaumaturgy but true sorcery, as well as Charms bartered from spirits and stored within talismans. Elkmen breed slowly, keeping their population low. Because of their potent magic and the fact that as herbivores they never hunt humans as prey, elkmen are perhaps the most accepted of the Northern beastmen. Of course, humans fear elkmen, as sensible people fear any sorcerer, but some human communities trade with them for the use of their powerful magics. More ominously, some elkmen’s prove capable of learning necromancy instead of sorcery. These elkmen are often aggressively recruited by the Shining Path when Path leaders learn of one emerging.

Several tribes of eaglemen live on the outskirts of the Kunlun Tundra. Though they make their permanent communities within the Black Crag or the Dehennen Mountains, small bands of eaglemen warriors spend much of the warmer months of the year travelling to and from their roosts, raiding smaller communities southeast region of the Kunlun. Most of these raids prioritize food, building up stocks to survive the cold winter months when the eaglemen remain in their roosts.

Similar to the eaglemen, the taiga regions of the Kunlun hold several tribes of owlmen, though these are more likely to trade with their nearest neighbors, only raiding further from the forests that hold their own roosts.

Lynxmen are rare, but worth mentioning for their honored status in Grieve. A small community of several hundred lynx people dwell within that city, most of whom are members of the city's small military.

This message was last edited by the GM at 23:21, Thu 21 Nov 2019.