Dungeons and Dolcettes
As information for potential players I thought I’d post what I’m thinking about as a campaign.
This is what I am thinking for the world development. It is still a work in progress and inputs are welcome. But inputs from committed PCs will be weighted higher than potential PCs and theirs will be weighted higher than others. Still ALL suggestions and comments are welcome!!
I’ve not put effort into names using them only when they came easy. Long ago three gods (LG, LN and LE) looked out upon the world and saw that their people (mostly humans) needed room to grow. So they cast their eyes on the Elven Empire … not only was their worship low among the elves but the most popular gods were those who favored chaos and this was an … irritant. So they mustered their forces, sidelined/finessed the chaotic gods and each cast a curse on the land ruled by the empire.
LG’s curse was such that the sex ratio between males and females changed resulting in many more females being born than males … the idea being to both disrupt the culture and reduce the overall combat power of the elven armies w/o being too brutal. LE’s curse made the males more sadistic and domineering and the females more masochistic and submissive (these are general inclinations of course not absolutes – effects vary) this curse also gave both sexes a fascination with death (again at varying levels). LN’s curse, seeking balance, was subtle – it made the other two curses communicable, anyone who lived in the land of the elves would become subject to the curse and everyone who had sex with one subject to the curse also becomes a carrier. LN also took the opportunity to remove a long time irritant and equalized the libido between the sexes … by increasing the females’ until their average libido matched males. (Some of the knock-on effects of LNs curse make it a bit counter intuitive as to why that was chosen – other than as a plot device by DM who wanted a more dolcettish world – and it is probable that LN had LN’s relative power with the other gods in mind more than the good of the triumvirate.)
It took quite a while before the triumvirate’s worshipers could mount an invasion over the wide sea. By the time they did the elven empire was in social turmoil and very unsettled by their changing nature. The invasion was successful in part because both the dwarves and the orcs (who had been repressed and discriminated against within the empire though for different reasons) joined the invaders. Their armies crushed and their mages defeated (and executed) the elves submitted. One of the chaotic gods in an effort to reverse this fate laid a ‘curse’ of fecundity on all elves hoping that their increased birth rate combined with their long life spans would give them a numerical advantage and lay the seeds for an eventual resurgence.
Fast forward many hundreds of years. There are 3 powers in the former lands of the elven empire. A LG Empire run by humans, a LE Empire run by humans and the River Kingdom which controls the mighty river that serves as the border between the two and is LN and ruled, in the majority, by dwarves.
First those things all three have in common. They are all ruled by nobles and commoners are most definitely the lower classes though the way the lower class is treated varies. All three also have an emerging urban middle class though this class is only a true force in the River Kingdom and is much more secure in LG than LE. Women are more disadvantaged than in normal DnD campaigns; all three polities are quite patriarchal. For example in LG the proper goal of a ‘good girl’ is to be a wife and mother, second to be a man’s concubine (one of the junior wives in effect) and a distant third is to become a priestess … all other options are worse. In the River Kingdom things are better, in LE worse. However, in all three there are options for determined women to live lives of freedom and adventure … but of limited respectability. All three are also very open about sex and BDSM; the consensually and violence of the relationships obviously varies however. One interesting example of the complexity of the interactions is that priestess, especially of the sex goddesses, are higher status in LE than LG; this is, in part, because they usually provide the human sacrifices for the high holy days of the other gods, the exception would be the mass sacrifice holidays were a handful of priestesses are followed by many elf and peasant females.
Patriarchal and stodgy women are looked down upon and limited … but it is possible for a female noble to attain her inheritance if there are no male heirs … and once a baron she is a baron first. Excess females are encouraged to volunteer for slavery or human sacrifice … but are not compelled. All religious human sacrifice is completely consensual. (Yes … good gods have human sacrifice … remember the curse. The gods don’t want it but their followers do.)
Noblesse oblige drives the nobility; commoners are treated respectably and in accordance with the law. The middle class is officially encouraged and socially looked down upon. Still it is generally considered better to marry off a noble daughter to a middle class merchant than to let her go into the priesthood. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t abuses, and a peasant girl raped by a noble has no good choices, but the law is clear and enforced. Slavery exists as a condition, as a punishment for debt or crime or as a refuge for those who have no other option but to starve. Snuff of a non-consenting slave is a serious crime and mistreatment of slaves is considered a severe moral failing.
Humans are first among equals but Half-dwarves and Dwarves are first class citizens as, officially, are Half-elves (there are some Half-elf nobles) … but think Saxon nobles in Norman England. Elves are definitely second class citizens but not, officially, persecuted. There is some growing unrest as, as their god hoped, their fecundity and long life are increasing the proportion of elves in the total population. Other races are rare, with only half-orcs and Orcs being treated as elves.
Patriarchal and brutal, women are but a step above chattel. The priesthood is a definite improvement even for noble females (and so very attractive to all females) and no female is allowed to succeed to a noble honor. At a last resort she is married off and her husband becomes the baron. Excess Noble females are dealt with by their male relatives; excess commoners are usually sold into slavery by theirs.
The nobles are out for power. The good ones put the empire’s power ahead of their own. The middle class is not really encouraged and is emerging only from the logic of the thing. They have competition as the lower levels of nobility, not being as stodgy as their LG counterparts, are moving in to commerce and have additional advantages. Rape of a commoner female is not a crime. Murder of a commoner female by a noble is a misdemeanor … and it rarely benefits the family to press charges. Nothing one does to a slave is a crime.
Humans are, again, first among equals, with Half-dwarves, dwarves and half-orcs also being first class citizens and all nobles come from these races … though few Half-orcs. Orcs are not included because 500 years ago the Orcs, who mostly dwelt in LE, rebelled and tried to take control of the empire. They were brutally suppressed with the enthusiastic help of the half-orcs. Half-elves and other species are second class citizens. Elves and Orcs are slave races. Male elves are routinely culled as are older females in order to limit the total population.
LN – the River Kingdom
Less patriarchal and more practical than the other polities the River Kingdom is the best place by far to be a noble female … in fact ‘legally’ you are the equivalent of a male. Succession is officially in order of birth regardless of sex … though it is not uncommon for an inconvenient female to suddenly join the priesthood or marry out of the family. It is also not unheard of for an incompetent male heir to join the priesthood or suffer a crippling or even lethal accident. ‘Excess’ noble females are routed into the priest hood or married off to the officially encouraged and socially acceptable middle class forming strong alliances with trade and manufacturing families. Excess middle class females are treated similarly, their status is about that of noble or middle class females in LG. But the pattern does not hold for the lower classes and lower class girls are generally treated like females in LE and the excess are usually sold into slavery. As a side note: it is not uncommon for a commoner female to volunteer to be the slave of a particular male … in these cases it is considered bad form not to accept, and it is unacceptable to later sell her, snuff being the preferred alternative. This is similar to what goes on in LG … but there, there is no stigma to selling such a slave … and there is to snuffing her involuntarily. That said, nothing done to a slave is a crime … however as mentioned before certain treatment of ‘volunteer’ slaves is subject to cultural sanction.
River nobles, of whatever race or gender, are hard asses. They are VERY conscious that they are a mediator and buffer between two very different cultures and address this duty with conscientiousness, practicality, and ruthlessness. The middle class with their positive impact on trade, manufacturing, innovation and general wealth creation are considered an integral part of this mission; increasing River’s power far beyond their population or geography. Rape of commoner females is a crime and rare … in the middle class … less rare lower down. Murder of commoner females is rare and thoroughly investigated, even the lower classes. Though for nobles these crimes are misdemeanors it is considered shameful to indulge oneself.
Here Dwarves are first among equals, humans, and half-dwarves, gnomes and Halflings are first class citizens. River is the only polity where these latter two appear in significant (proportional) numbers though there are no nobles of either race … gnomes concentrating mainly on magic and halflings on agriculture. Half-elves and half-orcs are second class citizens. Elves and Orcs are slave races. However, free elves and orcs entering from LG are not, unlike in LE, automatically liable for enslavement … but they better be sure to stay on the right side of the law.
The river kingdom is like a T, the long stroke being the navigable length of the great river and the cross stroke being the habitable caverns in the Dwarf Mountains that are controlled by the kingdom. These are not the only habitable caverns in those mountains but those to one side bare allegiance to LG and the other to LE, the boundaries being two great passes which facilitate trade with the high planes beyond. The pass caused by the river is under the complete control of the Kingdom. The down stroke however is the heart of the Kingdom’s power.
It is dotted by the jewel cities, four large, powerful metropolises that form the true power and wealth of the Kingdom. From top to bottom they are Diamond, Ruby, Emerald, and Pearl, each a thriving center of religion, learning, manufacturing and trade, each however has their own strength. Pearl located where the mighty river empties into the wide sea is at the bottom of the stroke and is the queen of trade, the portal to trade not only with River but with both empires. Diamond at the top of the T, at the upper edge of the navigable river, Flying Dwarf Falls, it is mostly cavern and powered by abundant water power and easy access to highly productive mines it is not only the Queen of manufacturing, it is the Armory of the Kingdom … and both empires. The lower of the middle gems, Emerald is the Queen of Learning, where colleges and universities devoted to magic and the physical arts actually out number both banks and trading houses, this despite the fact that it is situated at the confluence of two major tributaries of the river.
Ruby, upriver from Emerald, is located where the river penetrates a small(er) mountain range that runs between the sea and the Dwarf Mountain, parallel to both, and also the confluence of three tributaries, two upstream of the mountains and one down. It is by far the largest of the four jewels and is perhaps a third cavern and the rest above ground and the home of not only the farthest downstream bridge across the river of but three gigantic stone and steel bridges, all within its walls, allowing free and cheap flow of cargo across the wide river making it a confluence of caravans as well as cargo barges. But it is not the queen of trade, it is the capitol of the River Kingdom and the Queen of religion for it is the home of the Father temple of not only (Major LN) but of the father or mother temple of every legal god in either empire save only for (Major LG) and (Major LE) whose Father temples are located in their respective Imperial capitols.
Our adventure starts in Diamond, were two young women, ‘perfect sacrifices’ each selected by the priesthood of the appropriate member of the triumvirate, one from the hinterlands of LE, traveling by caravan and canoe, and the other from the caverns of River have rendezvoused for the trip down the river to Ruby where they will be sacrificed … along with the third ‘perfect sacrifice’ who has traveled by sea from LG and is even now moving upriver toward Ruby. The goal of this sacrifice is to stave off the return of the Plague Dragons who’s third arrival had contributed significantly to the fall of the Elven Empire and whose latest emergence had caused so much damage to the Empires and Kingdom, seven hundred years ago. The two girls have vanished … their bodyguards slaughtered … and a frantic search is launched using every available resource. EVERY resource … even including our heroes ….