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Thread: A Brief Overview of the Empire

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    A Brief Overview of the Empire

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    The Empire is troubled of late. Taxes on both goods and money only seem to increase each year, regardless of whether the harvest is plentiful or lacking. However, it was the sudden suppression of the popular Church of Avandra ten months ago that pushed matters into open rebellion. The imperial response has so far been predictable and merciless, but not yet successful. Spring saw the seeds planted in relative quiet, but in the growing heat of summer, each side appears to tensely await the other's first move.

    The Empire of Aucothia stretches from its capital of Aucoth in the dry, western plains, through the broad passes of the great central range, to the sea in the east. It reaches north to the unmapped tundra and south to the foothills of the Orange Peaks. Except in the frozen north and the wet coast, it is a land characterized by long, scorching summers, and even longer, frigid winters, with little in between. It is known by some as the Masterless Empire, for the Emperor, who is always named Aucoth, is never revealed to the public; never announced to have died, been born, or succeeded to the throne; and is even said to communicate with the members of the ruling Star Council only through their dreams.

    The Star Council enforces its will through the offices of the Constellation Bureau, which directly controls the apparatus of empire, heading all of the numerous ministries. There are two state religions: the church of the Great Master Kord, run from the High Temple in the capital, and the Cult of the Emperor. It is not the current emperor, but the first emperor, who is so revered. The military arm of the cult is the most feared armed force in any land: the Bone Lancers. This religious order is supplemented by a cadre of wizardly advisers. It has never been defeated in open battle by a lesser army, and itself has defeated vastly larger forces. The Bone Lancers have defended the Empire from invasion, expanded its borders, and ferociously quelled any internal descent.

    There is no national levy, nor is there a proper feudal system. Aristocratic landowners license their titles from the Ministry of Peerage, and can maintain their private armies or hire out one of the numerous mercenary bands. However, woe betide the would-be magnate that earns the wrath of the Bone Lancers, who are incidentally the most generous, wealthiest, and largest employers of mercenaries themselves. The recognized churches can have their own military orders or use the same methods as the landowners. The term "knight" is often used to denote a warrior akin to a housecarl, or a member of a military or religious order.

    Besides the official religions, worship for most deities is allowed on an individual basis, but large congregations are forbidden, except for the two state religions, and the cloisters of Ioun, Sehanine, and the Raven Queen. However, the worship of Avandra and Moradin is strictly forbidden, as are devotions to Erathis, save those made through the Cult of the Emperor. The ban on the worship of Avandra is very recent and the order is still in the process of being carried out in most of the Empire. Generally, the depiction of deities is similar to that of saints or "great figures" to be emulated, rather than directly prayed to.

    Life has rarely been easy in the Empire. The lands in the west are not sufficient to feed the capital, so food must be shipped from the east. To insure that there is no want, most farmers are bound to the land as serfs, chattel of the landowning aristocrats. With rebellion spreading across the land, many are agitating for a visible King to replace the hidden Emperor. Whether this King is to come from within the ranks of the fearsome, yet supposedly loyal, Bone Lancers, or from somewhere else, is a heated question among the rebel factions. Whatever the case, the days of the Masterless Empire may be reaching their end.
    Last edited by Umiushi; 02-15-2010 at 12:25 AM.

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    In discussing the worship of various deities, the information in the Deities and the Empire thread takes precedence over the material presented here. Specifically, only the organized worship of Avandra, and the worship of Grandfather Moradin, are forbidden. When I wrote this, I was still deciding how I wished to present some of the information concerning religion in Aucothia. I apologize for any misimpressions this may have caused.

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    A few items concerning treatment and behavior in towns and cities

    I may add to this post or write additional posts, if the need should occur.

    Since it's likely that the players, if not the characters, will encounter their first settlement soon, I should say a few words about what they might reasonably expect, based on their characters' past travels.

    Armor and Weapons
    Wearing armor and wielding weapons sends a universal message of "I'm looking for a fight!" in settlements. This might be sufficient to send the residents scurrying to shelter in a small village. In larger or better-patrolled communities, the local watch will usually have visitors take off their armor and large weapons, and store them at their place of residence. Places where one can freely wear armor and brandish weapons usually have a unique and memorable atmosphere.

    In game terms, any sort of armor above regular clothing is subject to this, as are two-handed and "versatile" weapons, including many missile weapons. Some single-handed weapons also attract scrutiny, like hand crossbows. This places weapon and armor-using characters at a comparative disadvantage in towns.

    Fees and Tolls
    These differ a great deal from place to place, as they are usually determined by the local ruler, though subject to oversight by the Ministry of Trade (what a conscientious bunch).

    Memberships
    There are no universal or national guilds, but some have very broad, regional reach. Whether a population center enforces membership in order to practice certain activities depends on the local power of the guild in question, and the whim of the ruler.

    Prohibitions
    Prohibitions or punishment based on a person's qualities are universally enforced or protected across the Empire. For example, if you are a half-orc, you have the same rights and restrictions no matter where you go, at least as long as there is an imperial presence to enforce that.

    On the other hand, rules concerned with practices change from location to location. One village might forbid gambling; another one may require everyone to bow when passing by a statue of the Great Master. However, communities with "hidden taboos" only occur in backwaters, as the Constellation Bureau frowns on such things.

    Crimes
    As in numerous societies, assault, murder, theft, and similar activities are usually not tolerated in individuals. Even though there is a hierarchy amongst the races, committing one of these acts against the member of a chattel race or an outsider race will still invite punishment, as commission of these acts are seen as a sign of disturbance and rebellion in the perpetrator. In many locales, various crimes related to "disturbing the peace" are taken very seriously. An exception occurs when such an activity is sanctioned by people of high station, such as aristocrats, or officials in the Constellation Bureau. This works the same way as in most cultures: the town guard has the authority to use violence in the pursuit of its official duties, for example. The other, more bizarre, exception is an armed excursion against a local (never Imperial) ruler, which is discussed later in this section.

    Depending on the nature of the settlement, the enforcement and investigation of these crimes vary dramatically. Response can range from an "if we didn't see it, we don't care" attitude, to an all-out witch hunt. Some places allow brawls to occur in the streets and charge licensing fees to pickpockets. Others will put a person in stocks for a day and a night if they raise their voice in anger.

    While rebellion against the Empire is an absolute offense, the situation with local rulers is a lot more precarious. As the tradition of nobility and feudalism is underdeveloped in the Empire, people become rulers by virtue of their strength and that of their followers. As such, they can be overthrown in similar fashion. This is why mercenary bands and similar groups are relatively common.

    Permitted religious practices do not include rituals related to human sacrifice or torture, at least among innocents. Criminals are occasionally given over to certain churches that have a need for such behavior.

    There are some special-case exceptions to normal rules. For example, the right of one Raven Brother to attack another Raven Brother almost always supersedes the local laws.

    Organized crime is tolerated in some areas, and forbidden in others. Thieves' guilds may or may not exist, depending on the settlement. Some are true secret societies; others are the "secret everyone knows about;" and still others openly license prospective members. There can be found similar guilds for various other sorts of criminal activities, such as the duelists' guild discussed in a later section. The one exception is organized assassination, which is banned by Imperial Edict.

    Punishment and Enforcement
    Taking justice into one's own hands may be acceptable in an immediate sense, but only if authorities are not present, and subject to local rules. For example, it may be permissible to assault a thief caught in the act. Formal, long-term vendettas are rarely, if ever, allowed.

    The primary objective of most law-enforcers is to quell disturbance. Consideration of arrest and capture only come after the fact. There are usually no questions asked about people slain in the process of disrupting the peace. People who do wind up captured are subject to whatever procedures the local aristocrat has set up, which may or may not include a trial. Punishments run the gamut from the mandatory attendance of formal lectures to being drawn and quartered.

    It is a commonly-encountered practice for the treatment of some crimes to be harsher if such crimes are committed at certain, specified times, such as during a holiday, or at night.

    A person with a grievance may plead their case in the offices of certain high-ranking Imperial officials. There is no guarantee that such an official will make their residence in any given population center, but they are not generally uncommon. The easiest-to-remember sorts of these officials are magistrates, who pass judgment based on Imperial edicts; prefects, who preside over the administration of certain territories as direct representatives of the Imperial government; and censors, traveling officials who investigate possible violations of Imperial authority. The Empire is most likely to step in when idiosyncratic local rules create an intolerable environment or disrupt the normal conduct of business and travel.

    The ultimate appeal against a tyrannous local administration is, as mentioned earlier, to overthrow the offending aristocrat by force of arms, or some other means. The Constellation Bureau may or may not involve itself, or will adjudicate the conflict based on their interests. As a general rule, the Empire prefers armed conflicts to occur away from both cities and fields.

    Dueling
    The Empire does not have a formal dueling culture. There is little outlet for perceived slights to one's honor other than sheer, overwhelming force. If you can waylay the offending party on a dark road; or if you can gather a band of warriors and assault their homestead, and then be powerful enough, or hide quickly enough, to avoid retribution: that's how you satisfy your honor. The closest thing to duels are the fights between Raven Brothers, but they are just as likely to involve groups and ambushes as they are to be pre-arranged, one-on-one conflicts. Depending on the nature of law and enforcement in some places, one might even encounter a "duelists' guild" where you can hire someone properly authorized to go beat the daylights out of a person.

    Magic
    Magic-users are well-regarded in Aucothia. They are also fairly dangerous in urban settings, since a lack of weapons or armor doesn't adversely affect them as much as some other classes. Rather than additional limitations being placed on wizards and the like, they are instead generally treated with a healthy degree of respect, and sometimes avoidance. Offenses committed with magic do not usually carry stiffer penalties than those committed by mundane means, and sometimes even the reverse is true.
    Last edited by Umiushi; 02-15-2010 at 12:33 AM.

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