You have been arrested.
You are rotting in a dungeon beneath Caer Llan, seized by King Arthu’s diligent seneschal Myrian.
That’s for you to decide.
The earl, Lady Chelsea, is on a hunting trip, and has been away for over a month, leaving her power-mad seneschal to rule the nearby towns of Kingsbridge-on-Alcester, Galdown and Thistleway. The seneschal, Eadwulf, has mobilised the Militia and hopes the earl will return to find her kingdom free of crime.
Three villages and a run-down, haunted castle may seem a rather inadequate domain for an earl. Lady Chelsea seized the lands after the strange disappearance of the eladrin royalty who once governed here.
But there is more to your predicament than meets the eye. In the Eoman culture, only the nobility are considered citizens: and law only protects the nobility. Other Eomen can be tried and – harshly – punished for crime, but nobles are free to exploit their fellow Eomen.
And from what you overheard in the whispered conversations of the Militia, time is approaching for the Kalados, the coming of age ceremony in which war is formally declared on the peasant population of Eomar. For the one night of the year, noble youths will run amok, burning houses, raping, looting and murdering. Your friends and family need to be warned and – more pressingly – you need to escape the dungeon that will soon become a killing field.
Character creation will occur backwards. That is, apart from outlining your character concept, you will describe events in the most recent past going back until your childhood. In this way, your character will be elaborated upon but the most pressing matters – why you are in prison and how you intend to get out – will be given the most attention.
How I’m Going to Get Out of Here: Decide what your part is to play in the jailbreak that you and your fellow prisoners will be engaging in. Will you sweet-talk the prison warder while a fellow inmate snatches her keys? Can you tame a rat to scurry under the warder’s feet as she passes your cell? Will you break the bars with your brute strength? Is your job to keep everyone calm and orderly while you escape, or to catch the informant who will spill the beans to the Militia?
Why I’m In Here: What did you do to get yourself locked up in the first place? Did you resist arrest or go willingly? Are you guilty of the crime you were charged with? How did you get caught? Were you betrayed?
Your Village Life: What’s your job? Ever served in the Militia? Do you have close friends or rivals? What are your plans for the future, or at least what were your plans before you were arrested? Did you ever encounter what might be described as a monster?
Your Childhood: What race were you born into? What ethnic people? Where was your place of origin? Were there any formative experiences in your youth? Are you a noble or a peasant?
Where the plains and steppes end and the jungles begin rests Kingsbridge. A village built alongside Hadrian’s Crossing, Kingsbridge marks the farthest extent of the sprawling tiefling empire of Tibernium. Kingsbridge itself would have been surrendered long ago to the barbarian hordes, but the village is necessary for the defence of the Temple of the First Woman, a sacred Kaelestian site.
But there is more to the world than the Tibernium, and stranger gods by far than Kaelestia’s Host. For Kingsbridge rests within the domain of the client king Arthu and his kingdom Dartmoor, and its fields are tended by the uncanny half-elven farmers who pray to the savage and dangerous Isbryd, spirits of hearth and hellfire.
You’ve had little opportunity to mingle with the half-elven necromancers or the masked and mute elves, for you are rotting in the dank jails beneath Caernarfon, the Pale Fastness. Lady Chelsea, the earl of this region, swiftly claimed this castle after the eladrin nobility escaped into the Near Kingdom.
But the Lady Chelsea, callous though she may have been, is not here. In her stead, the seneschal Eadwulf rules – and he is bitter and tyrannical. Even Chelsea’s allies and children have not been safe, and his jails have swelled with the just as well as criminals.
Five Things Every Alcesteran Knows
- Nobles are Nobles and Peasants are Peasants: You are either born into the nobility or you are an unprotected, undefended serf bound to the land and your liege. It is no surprise that so many bandits abandon the law and civilisation and join the roving bands of marauders and mercenaries – some even travelling to the fabled, romantic City of Bandits.
- The Kalados is Coming: Every year, for one night, the noble youths take up arms and assail the peasant population of Eomar. They usually content themselves with destruction and mayhem without deaths, but there are always old hags or defiant farm boys that are killed, their heads carried back to the castle.
- The Eladrin will Return: King Arthu claimed the particularly fine Caern Llan after the eladrin lords and ladies disappeared mysteriously one autumn day. They will return, and will not be happy that a mere mortal has taken up residence in their abode. When they return they will collect their children who – now coming of age – were fostered to human and half-elven carers in the villages.
- Racial Tensions are Rife: Along with the peasant-noble dichotomy of humankind, the dragonborn are bound in service to the tieflings, whose empire demands obedience from this petty client king. The eladrin, who have their own complicated hierarchy quite distinct from humankind, consider themselves the natural rulers of the elven people. Typically, the elves do not agree. Finally, there is a growing movement amongst the half-elves to recognise half-elvenkind as a distinct race called the Pryderi.
- The Finest Eateries and Taverns: The Hallows and Cravens, the two largest half-elven farming families, offer harvest feasts for all farmers of an evening. They will typically welcome travellers, merchants and even outlaws – as long as revellers are well-behaved, respectful, and offer a prayer to the Myrddin (the elven gods). No Hallow would be accepted at a Craven feast and vice versa, of course.
The Oaken Boar, Kingsbridge’s tavern, has cheap bread-and-slop with watered-down ale. While the main meals are unappetising, the desserts are uniformly delicious. They are the creations of an elusive Hin chef who never shows his face. Most people wish the gruff barman, Joah, would be equally reticent.
- Racist Slurs and Racial Names: Finally, every Alcesteran knows (but rarely uses) the proper or accepted term for each race. Typically, the racist or slang term is used.
Kingsbridge-on-Alcester is a modestly sized town, mainly human with some 250 people. Beyond Kingsbridge are the half-elven farming families (altogether roughly 350, including elves and humans) that dominate the golden fields around Kingsbridge – most notably, the powerful, rival dynasties of the Harrow and the Craven. The elven shantytown, called variably Elfmoot or Dosrwydd (‘Shelter’), can number from 50 to 100 depending on bandit activity – if marauders prowl the forests, even elves retreat to the open.
The most privileged humans and the eladrin adoptees live in the spacious manor that grows off Caer Tylwyll (‘Dark Castle’) like a cancer. Seventeen years ago, the eladrin princes and princesses that occupied the Caer left under mysterious circumstances, leaving their children to be adopted by Lady Chelsea. Lady Chelsea and her family have no ancestral claim on nobility, but following the turmoil from the collapse of the Imperium Chelsea’s forces seized the Caer and have claimed to be nobility ever since. Even so, the Caer remains a foreboding mystery, and Chelsea’s troops explored only the ground floor of the sprawling castle before sealing most of it up. This has not stopped Chelsea from using a castle topped by a throne as her heraldry shield.
While the Imperium may have collapsed into civil war, the legions stationed in the provinces still proudly defend the Tibernian way. The tieflings and dragonborn stationed in Darali (the region Alcester occupies) have a particularly pressing duty – to defend the so-called Church of the First Woman, where Kaelest supposedly created the first tiefling in her image. Since the tieflings control a dragonborn force significantly stronger than Chelsea’s knights, the Lady bows to their will in many areas of state.
Dwarven and halflings migrants are less common – while halflings are often traders and troubadours they rarely settle. Dwarves are a stoic and muscled warrior-people from Artoi, an island far to the south.
|Casual Term||Proper Name|
|The Tibernium||Tieflings, dragonborn, humans|
Note: Some proper racial terms are also regional descriptors – for example, Eoman and Tibernian describes all residents of Eomar and Tibernia. With the movement to form a new state, Pryder, even humans and elves are identifying as Pryderi.
There are eight major races present in Kingsbridge.
Humans, calling themselves Eomen, make up the majority of citizens. Rugged and enterprising, humans have colonised much of the world in a short space of time.
Humans in Kingsbridge are probably students that have just finished their education and have become journeymen and women – expected to travel the world before returning to complete their studies.
Half-elves, calling themselves Pryderi, descend from the original wave of human settlers meeting and mingling with the elves of the jungle. Half-elves have a proud tradition and a bloodline that breeds true – many half-elves believe they are the chosen race and there is a movement to establish a half-elven homeland.
Half-elves in Kingsbridge are probably young Pryderi frustrated with life on the farm that have set out to see more of life before returning to the claustrophobic and staid half-elven farms.
Elves, calling themselves Teyrngar (‘loyal’), are masked and mute inhabitants of the jungles. Recently, the jungle’s threats have increased tenfold, forcing more and more elves to seek refuge in the halfling town of Waymeet – causing racial tensions between halflings and elves. While sworn to silence, the elves do communicate through hand gestures and paintings.
Elves in Kingsbridge are probably exiles who had their masks removed and their position in the tribe after making noise, betraying an elf or consulting an oracle. The barbaric elves have forsaken language, which they see as the decadence that led the eladrin to abandon them.
Halflings, calling themselves the Hin, are the merry thieves and merchants who travel along Alcester – the river they call the Ghostwash. Many halflings tarry in Waymeet, selling their goods and mingling with the elves – whose quiet company they seem to find comforting, though halflings are still kept as slaves by eladrin lords.
Halflings in Kingsbridge are probably the sons and daughters of wealthy merchants that have given up travel. Alternately, they could have been detained for theft or merely lingered in the town because of some other duty or interest.
Eladrin, called Teyrnfradwr ('traitor') by the elves, consider themselves the rightful rulers of the elven race. A century ago, the elven soothsayers predicted a great disaster that would sunder the elven people. The eladrin nobility abandoned their fellows, retreating into the Near Kingdom where they would be safe. Only recently have the eladrin returned, expecting a welcoming from their now barbaric cousins. The elves call the eladrin Teyrnfradwr (‘traitor’).
Eladrin in Kingsbridge are probably Lady Chelsea’s adopted sons and daughters. When the eladrin rules of Caernarfon disappeared seventeen years ago, Chelsea adopted the children they left behind.
Tieflings, calling themselves Cambions, are the race that rules the mighty and extensive Tibernium army. As well as captains and commanders with the legion, tieflings are often scholars – perhaps studying in the cloister that surrounds the Temple of the First Woman.
Tieflings in Kingsbridge are probably the children of centurions or monks, bored of life in the fortress.
Dragonborn, calling themselves Drakkar, are the slaves and legionnaires of the Tibernium Empire. While they had a rich tradition in their native southern lands, they gave up their chants, their myths and legends, and their war paint to serve as the warrior underclass for the tieflings.
Dragonborn in Kingsbridge may be legionnaires under arrest for defying an order, or they could be the sworn companion or bodyguard of a tiefling or other dignitary.
Dwarves, calling themselves Nanandes, are the tanned mercenaries and stoics whose isolated island of Artoi sunk beneath the waves – sending them across the world in an attempt to re-establish their homeland. Some dwarves turned to brigandry, others to trade or mercenary work.
Dwarves in Kingsbridge could be merchants, mercenaries or marauders, or they could be on a specific mission – protecting a Nanandes dignitary or perhaps hunting a dwarven criminal. The dwarves police their own.
Human names (male): Athelwulf, Beornrad, Cadda, Ceola, Cryda, Cuthbert, Cynefried, Dudda, Eomar, Esla, Godric, Hrothgar, Lilla, Nothhelm, Ordbryght, Pybba, Swidhelm, Welande, Wistan, Wulmar.
Human names (female): Ascwyn, Ceolflad, Emma, Osthryth, Winflad.
Elven, half-elven and eladrin names (male): Aled, Afon, Bedwyr, Bryn, Cadfael, Carwyn, Delyth, Folant, Glyndwr, Haydn, Idris, Maxen, Morcant, Pryce, Rhys, Sawyl, Taliesin, Trefor, Wynn.
Elven, half-elven and eladrin names (female): Aderyn, Alis, Bethan, Braith, Catrin, Deryn, Eilwen, Gwenllian, Llywellyn, Lowri, Mabyn, Meredydd, Olwyn, Rhian, Siani, Tegan.
Tiefling names (female): Aspietes, Balsamon, Branas, Camytzes, Curcuas, Dandalo, Himirius, Lascaris, Moschus, Opsaras, Palamas, Pyrrhos, Rshtuni, Stypiotes, Zonaras.
Tiefling names (male): Achmet, Apion, Archelus, Asticus, Bardas, Carausius, Cyril, Damian, Elias, Genesios, Hyaleus, Iasitas, Karas, Ktenas, Lydas, Melitas, Narses, Palladius, Psellus, Silvanus, Symeon, Syncletia, Tacitus, Vitus.
Tiefling names (female): Aelia, Ariadne, Eudokia, Galla, Gemma, Helena, Irene, Juliana, Macrina, Olympias, Thamar, Verina.
Dwarven and halfling names (male): Adelphos, Alexis, Ares, Anstice, Athos, Belen, Chiron, Cyrano, Darius, Demos, Dion, Doron, Erastus, Evander, Hippolyte, Laertes, Lysander, Nieandor, Rastus, Stefanos, Teodor.
Dwarven and halfling names (female): Acacia, Aleka, Andromeda, Arcadia, Atlanta, Bellanca, Callidora, Cinnabar, Dacia, Despina, Eleni, Halcyone, Idylla, Naida, Oleander, Philomena, Sophia, Theodora.
There are four major religious traditions present in Kingsbridge. Kaelestia and her host wield the most influence among humans, tieflings and dragonborn, while dwarves and halflings favour the Thalos and the elves, eladrin and half-elves worship the Isbryd. Only madmen would worship Tiamat’s foul brood.
Kaelestia and Her Host: Kaelestia is a slumbering and exhausted goddess whose massive act of creation left her drained of all life and energy. Now, her sons and daughters – the angelic hosts – keep the universe operating in a vast and powerful celestial bureaucracy. As well as elevated saints, the original and true angels attend different – and sometimes opposing – portfolios. Angelic politics can be as bloodthirsty and divisive as those of the mortal realm – but always the priority is to defend Mother Kaelestia and, to a lesser extent, order and harmony.
Isbryd: The pantheon of the indigenous elves, the Isbryd incorporates the otherwise forgotten nature spirits, a host of gods once worshipped by all the mortal races, and the legendary heroes of the elves.
New Gods: A loose coalition of the so-called New Gods, the Thalos were eight children who plotted against Kaelestia – their mother. As punishment for their crimes, the angels banished these miscreants to the Shadow where they are doomed to wait until the death of the world and the end of this age. Though these eight gods are prophesized to assume control of creation in the ensuing age, none are satisfied with the promise of the future and plot openly to expand their power in this age.
Baldur and his wife Persephone, Ran, Oghma1 and his sibling Herakles are the New Gods, and the Shadow is dotted with small enclaves of their brave but foolhardy followers.
Tiamat and Her Brood: An instrument of destruction and Kaelestia’s archenemy, Tiamat is the devourer of creation. According to Kaelestian eschatologists, she will eventually consume all with a gnashing of teeth. Her agents are Legion, for she is the mother of monsters, and she works her will upon the world through Dajobas, demons and other foul beasts. Cults that worship her are typically desperate or destructive, for Tiamat’s mouth is the pit of the Elemental Maelstrom.