Part of the Unified Setting for /tg/
A wretched and barren continent, filled with chill wind-swept plains, burning deserts and humid, undrainable swamps. Forsaken even by the gods it is utterly lacking in humanoid civilization and is home only to cruel and savage beastmen.
That at least was what outsiders once thought about Vilous. That opinion has changed in the last century. The sergals united into a mighty empire that inflicted a humiliating defeat on the elves of Vanawill. Lizardfolk pilgrims have learned powerful secrets from other nations, stockpiling them in a vast library devoted to PROGRESS! The gnoll tribes have developed a taste for foreign coin and now rent their mercenaries across the world. And the doobies... the doobies endure.
The land of the beastmen is on the march. Let the other races tremble.
Those who dismiss the land say that Vilous has three flavors. Flat and cold (the Tatola Plains in the north), flat and hot (Sailzane Desert in the center) or flat and wet (the swamps of Vekshimar Uresh in the southwest and Jiar-jia in the south).
There are also the Mensala Badlands in the southeast. And that's pretty much it. Sure there are oases, mountains, forests and all the other things you'll find on any continent of sufficient size. But it is mostly flat and worthless to outsiders.
Vilous is homeland to the sergal, lizardfolk, gnolls, and doobies. Other races, notably the goblins and their merchant fleet, have attempted to establish bases. These have all fallen or been abandoned after native attack. At the present time, only the precariously neutral, human-colonized island of Thrace off the lizardfolk coast endures.
An alarming newcomer to the national stage, the Silvoran Empire arose a century ago thanks to the genius and blood-lust of its sergal founder. Governor-General Rain Silves.
Opinions differ as to whether she was a brilliant polymath, a bloodthirsty atavism or a sergal touched by the gods themselves. The facts are she forged a mighty empire out of scattered tribes that once threatened the world and endures to this day.
A hundred years ago, when Rain began her rise to power, the sergal were nothing more than a uniquely-savage looking breed of beastmen, squabbling amongst themselves and split between the gray northern and tan southern breeds. Five years later the Shigu clan she ruled was the dominant power of the Tatola Plains. Ninety years ago the northern sergals were united under her banner. Five years after that the Silvoran Empire was well on their way to conquering their southern kin. Eighty years ago the Silvoran Empire stood supreme and lay claim to territories previously claimed by the elves and humans. A grand alliance against the Silvoran Empire, uniting all the humanoid races against the beastmen, began to form.
Five years later the Grand Alliance was in shambles. The previously invincible elves had been outwitted. outnumbered, defeated and forced to sign a humiliating armistice. The humans, drow and even the dwarves trembled as they prepared for a seemingly inevitable conflict that would engulf the globe.
And seventy years ago, Governor-General Rain vanished. The Silvoran Empire, bereft of Rain's leadership and thirst for conquest, pulled back and sought to stabilize itself. Today she still rules, in name only. Her chambers are sealed and only opened once a year for cleaning, dusting, and replacing the furnishings that need replacement. The chambers are then sealed for another year. Officially she is out inspecting the troops as that was the last item in her schedule before she disappeared. Actual power is wielded by the military, which is all that is left of sergal culture after her reign.
While outwardly a great power, the Silvoran Empire is teetering on the brink of collapse. Universal conscription into the omnipresent military has done much to unify the sergals (as has making referring to southerners by the racial epithet of "gnoll-blooded" a prosecutable offense under the Silvoran Code of Military Justice). But there are still factions dividing the empire.
Southern sergals are resentful of their subjugation, and bands of freedom-fighters still roam the Sailzane Desert. The military government is ill-suited to deal with the complexity of a modern society, but dare not change for fear of unleashing pent-up revolutionary forces. Ambitious generals scheme for the position of Acting Governor-General, followers of the old ways agitate for greater influence, and most disturbing of all is the Cult of Rain.
Declaring her the Eternal Empress, these cultists believe Rain still lives and will return one day to lead the Silvoran Empire to new heights of glory. While loyal to the existing government they do all in their power to expand the empire, believing that is her will and that conflict will lead to strength. The generals who run the empire keep a careful eye on the cult, fearful that they may be right and that the magics Rain learned in her later years could preserve her to the present day.
Homeland of the Toltecatl and drainage basin for most of Vilous, Vekshimar is a vast, humid swamp with no known natural resources. Accordingly it has been ignored by every other race, even the Silvoran Empire under General Rain never laid claim to it.
Toltecatl society revolves around their religion, whose main god and goal both translate into PROGRESS!(1) Toltecatl believe they must learn all that can be learned and use that information to advance their race. It is common for young Toltecatl to go on pilgrimages across the world, amassing whatever information they can. When they feel they have learned enough they return to Vekshimar to present their findings to the archivists.
The archivists are the highest caste of Toltecatl society and manage the Great Library of Rs. A collection of stone temples the size of a small city, they hold the collected wisdom of the Toltecatl race. Returning pilgrims present their findings to apprentice scriveners who pass their transcripts up the line to scholars and lore-masters who judge its value. If found worthy the pilgrim is given great status and their chances of breeding soar. More importantly, their discoveries are forever enshrined in the Great Library.
Forever battling against humidity, mold and mildew, the temples of the Great Library are sealed to all but its acolytes. It is said that the words of the greatest Toltecatl heroes are etched on hammered plates of pure doobienite (a rare, rainbow-hued meteoric metal) but none can say for sure. Preserving their gathered information against the hostile environment of Vekshimar means that none but the archivists ever walk the halls of the Great Library.
And it was all a hilarious joke to the other races. Primitive beastmen traveling across the world to bring back maps, poetry, philosophies, ideas and inventions, only to have it locked away in a temple while the race stagnated in a swamp? So much for PROGRESS! Where were the gleaming crystal cities, the towering spires, the evidence that their racial goal had any impact whatsoever?
The Toltecatl were immune to such mockery. They were adapted to their marshy homeland and saw no need for such monuments, they said. Ostentation was not PROGRESS! This was considered a pathetic excuse from a backwards people who could not master the scraps and lessons they gleaned from superior races. Was, as in past tense.
Recently a human naturalist became intrigued about the gigantic tubers the Toltecatl folk grow and hollow-out instead of constructing buildings. Asking about their history he was told that the Toltecatl didn't just cultivate them. They had made them. Using life-magics previously thought known only to the elves and the deceased draconians they had altered the native flora into a more useful form. One that was appropriate to their marshy homeland and thrived where traditional construction would collapse within weeks. And they had been doing it for hundreds of years.
When the news spread other nations began treating the Toltecatl with greater respect. The elves denounced the work as crude and unworthy of even apprentice level casters, but everybody expected them to. The Toltecatl knew life-magic, and treated it casually. Who knew what other secrets they had in their possession?
(1) A note on language: Toltecatl speech is notoriously difficult for outsiders to interpret. To the untrained ear, the primary language sounds like guttural hisses. So does everything else uttered by a Toltecatl and respectable people question the sanity of scholars who waste their time trying to understand their tongue. PROGRESS! (both the god and the goal) both derive from the same root, are uttered as verbs in a notoriously verb-heavy language and both have imperfective aspect, active voice, imperative mood, are present-active infinitive, future perfect tense. The god form is third-person singular and neuter. The goal form is first-person plural. Because the god-form is a verb, debate rages whether the Toltecatl have an actual god, are animistic or instead follow a philosophy. The name Toltecatl is one of the few words that the Toltecatl have bothered to translate into a form (somewhat) pronounceable to humans. Unfortunately, due to the complexity of the Toltecatl language, the word can be used to mean the race, a title an adult Toltecatl wins after bringing proof of progress to the capital, the name of the capital itself, or the name of an archivist. The differences in intonation and pronunciation are entirely lost on most members of other races. Which is why most members of other races just call them Lizardfolk.
Jiar-jia (The Swamp of Death)
Homeland of the doobies, the most perfect, beautiful and awesome creatures in all of creation. In deference to lesser beings they make their home in the southernmost realm of Vilous. The area is a drain for Vilous and Lindwurm and infested with creatures so foul and dangerous they seem to have stepped out of the Water Forest. The doobies insist that the Swamp of Death is actually a paradise that other races are simply unable to appreciate.
Or so they say, for in all things doobie there is the perspective of the doobies and the perspective of the unenlightened.
Doobies are creatures of such striking beauty, that it is impossible not to stare in awe at them. Their songs are so hauntingly beautiful they awaken a melancholy so deep it brings tears to all who hear it. Their movements are so graceful it inspires love in even the coldest of hearts. Their intellect and philosophy are so powerful that it is difficult for lesser beings to understand even an iota of their wisdom
Doobies are freakish, misshapen looking creatures that it is impossible not to gawk at. Their incessant, tuneless wailing is so unbearable it can make a grown man cry. Their freakish, spastic jerking is so pitiful you feel an urge to correct them. Their nonsensical ramblings make the ravings of a drunken kobold with heat-stroke seem sane in comparison.
Whichever side you believe, the doobie endure despite all threats. This, they say, is proof of their perfection. Naysayers put greater credit on the fact that doobies are almost impossible to kill. They heal in seconds from normal wounds, slightly longer from mortal ones and have been known to pick up and re-attach severed limbs.
Doobies are familiar with naysayers. Perfection inspires jealousy and they are surrounded by imperfect, lesser beings. Because they are so morally superior they hold no anger in their hearts. Few doobies leave their perfect homeland (perfect by definition because the doobies live there) but those who do frequently become infamous, which means MORE famous.
Adding credence to the doobie perspective (which needs no validation) there are members of many races who hold the doobies in the highest esteem, claiming that those who do not appreciate this magnificent species and their incredible culture are just not ready for it.
Despite centuries of working and living together and a prospering trade in goods and ideas with other nations, the world remains a very racist place. Humanoid races universally place themselves at the top of the ranking, judging other humanoids by various criteria and rarely distinguish between the beastmen. Beastmen are more discerning, interleaving humanoids and beastmen underneath them. Lizardfolk for example are quite fond of the drow and place them third, beneath themselves and the extinct draconians. Kobolds being a simple, practical people invert the standard ranking and put themselves at the bottom, ranking other races above them by how scary they are.
Most inhabitants of the world place gnolls on the bottom of whatever pyramid scheme of worth they have crafted. Gnolls are smelly, dirty, lazy, violent, murderous thieves. Gnolls will freely admit to all of this with a laugh. They don't need the respect of other races. Other races fear the night, and gnolls are the reason why.
Gnoll tribes control southern Vilous and most of Lindwurm from their homeland in the Mensala Badlands. They may spend the days asleep, raid other races for weapons and technology they could easily build themselves and ignore the hygiene protocols of other races. But at night nothing crosses or stays in their territory without the permission of their matriarch. Under cover of darkness their night-vision and enhanced sense of smell (allowing them to discern the position of their unwashed comrades from a kilometer away) make them unspeakably lethal. Why smelt metal and smith weapons when lesser races are so easily killed, giving up whatever treasures they possess?
Not that gnolls are stupid. Far from it. The gnolls of Lindwurm have learned to let caravans with a certain mark pass, as long as tribute is paid. Gnolls of Vilous earn their foreign coin by renting themselves out as mercenaries, imitating the sergals who pioneered the idea. Next to the raptor-shark grin of sergal spearmen, there are few sights more disheartening than the smirk of hungry gnolls wielding weapons looted from their fallen victims.
- The Green Berets- You are an elite team of adventurers. Your true patrons are clouded by so many layers it would make an onion cry. But your mission is clear. Transit to southern Vilous, establish a base-camp, contact and recruit gnoll tribes and renegade sergals to your cause. Train them in the ways of mayhem, murder and death. Acting solo and leading your native allies give the Silvoran Empire a bloody snout. Sabotage their military machine. Raid their settlements. Do everything in your power to drench the Sailzane Desert in Silvoran blood.
- Raid on Rs- The library-temples of the lizardfolk used to be a punchline, but their knowledge of life-shaping has changed that. The lizardfolk may have their own timetable towards PROGRESS! but there is no denying they have accumulated vast wisdom. Your job is to break-in and retrieve whatever you can, while avoiding death at the hands of an entire nation who consider knowledge to be their holy of holies.
- Just a quick border crossing- The Silvoran Empire needs intelligence about the elves, but all sergals are suspect. The players on the other hand are perfect for a quick recon mission. What could go wrong?
- DOOBIES!- Your patron is convinced that the doobie race holds whatever it is he wants. Hit Vilous, cross a beastman infested continent, somehow survive a trip across the Swamp of Death to reach the doobie homeland. Now try and navigate doobie culture while dwelling amidst doobie-worshipping cultists in the foreign quarter. Try not to say anything negative about your host race.
- Super Happy Gnoll Death Squad Family Hour- Your adventuring party are all gnolls. They kill what they want and doesn't afraid of anything.
- Blood of the Empress- The Eternal Empress cultists are stirring. Find out why, and if possible stop them. Complications include, but are not limited to: Finding the body of Rain, magical fleshshaping blood that could only come from one person, or the Yellow-Eyed Terror herself.