THE BROKEN LANDS
Tainted is set in the Broken Lands, a vaguely s-shaped archipelago of islands that rotates around the eye of a world-spanning storm that is slowly drawing the archipelago around the planet. Beneath the surface, the ‘archipelago’ is a single land mass, so the movement of the land does not cause islands to drift away from or closer to one another, but everything is in constant motion.
Because of the rotating and roving movement of the isles, cardinal directions are all but useless and seasons tend to change over the course of decades or even centuries, rather than months.
Down the archipelago, a vast sweeping mountain range towers along the inner curves of the loose s-shape of the island chain, jagging down to foothills on the inland side, and plunging in cliffs that tower hundreds of feet into the air on the seaward side. The winds of the maelstrom use these cliffs as “sails” to keep the islands constantly turning. This makes the mountain side of the isles Windward, while the more gentle slopes and plains that have grown over the millenia from mountain erosion and runoff and silt buildup on the leading edge is Leeward.
If Windward is to your right, you are facing Reachward, towards one of the horns at the far extremes of the archipelago. If Windward is to your left, you are facing Centerward, toward the middle of the archipelago.
The horns of the archipelago are known as the Reaches; tiny isles of bare rock that are hardest hit by the edges of the Maelstrom where the Broken Lands extend beyond the eye of the storm. Further in toward the center the bulk of the isles are green and hospitable for life. The wind is harsh here, but rain and storm are not constant and the weather is usually warm (relative to the season). The largest and innermost isles are Desert Wastes, a cracked land of bare rock and shifting dunes.
In the very center of the Broken lands, is the mild and nearly windless Inner Sea, a vast bay at the center of which is a single small island. Here, the last tribes of man have built their final fortress, The Citadel. This is the center of human civilization.
The Citadel is a vast white city built of cut stone, clay, and washed limestone slurry in the middle of the Inner Sea (a large bay at the center of the Broken Lands). It sees very little rain or even wind throughout the year and is almost a world unto itself. While not perfectly circular, the Citadel is organized in concentric rings rising towards the center of the city and takes up the entirety of the island upon which it is built. With each ring you travel through on your way inward you gain in elevation.
The outermost ring of the Citadel is made up of the wharves and piers which circle the entire city and includes the Shipyards and the two Reachward Lighttowers (one on either end of the city) that mark the shallowest waters. Just inside the wharves is Rattown, which is primarily a warehouse district littered with the tattered tents and shanty sheds that house the poorest folk of the Citadel. Slightly higher up from Rattown’s warehouses is the Merchant’s Rim, a business district and sprawling bazaar where merchants who do not wish to sell in the city proper, either for monetary concerns or legal reasons, ply their wares. The Grey Watch are the company of the Citadel Garrison assigned to watch over Rattown and the Rim.
Just inside Merchant’s rim is the Hammerwall, a monstrous seawall fifty feet in height and thirty feet thick that protects the heart of the city from the vagaries of the Maelstrom. Giant ware towers along the wall store food for the city against a day of famine or disaster. These towers are only accessible from the top of the wall which is in turn only accessible through the gate towers that flank the four gates that lead up into the Labyrinth beyond.
The Labyrinth is where 90% of the inhabitants of the Citadel live. It takes its name from the practice of building new structures where current streets and alleyways stand and tearing down existing buildings for materials and creating new passthroughs when a place is no longer in use. Simply put there is nowhere to build anything new in the Labyrinth save where something already stands, so new structures take what space they can over or even in the streets and a viable route through the Labyrinth one week may vastly shift and change before a new week dawns. The Red Watch are the company of Citadel Garrison assigned to watch over the Hammerwall and the Labyrinth.
In the center of the Labyrinth stands the Ironwall; a great stone structure that stands thirty feet high and twenty thick. The Ironwall houses further ware towers to feed the city at need, but it also houses the city garrison. At any given time 1200 soldiers quarter there with room for three times that number as the need arises. Only two gates pierce the Ironwall into the city above and these gates only stand open while the sun hangs in the sky. The Black Watch has the duty of standing guard on the Ironwall.
Inside the Ironwall lies a single ring of upscale merchant shoppes and houses before the streets spill into the elegant sprawl of the Gold Quarter, the district that embraces the parklands and mansions of the city’s wealthiest citizens, in particular the estates of the seven High Houses, the governing families of the Citadel. This section of the city is accessible only by token (signet rings or medallions worn by those who live there) or official invitation (signed vellum scrolls sealed by the signet or medallion mark of one who lives there). The Gold Watch are the company of Citadel Garrison assigned to watch over the grounds of the Gold Quarter, though each of the seven High Houses has its own elite private guard to watch over its people and grounds.
Below is a brief synopsis of the High Houses and their purview in the Citadel and the world at large.
The Seven High Houses
Charn – House Charn has rule over the Peace of the Citadel and commands the Red and Gold Watches. House Charn’s colors are brown and bronze. Their seal is an upright hammer.
Kahn – House Kahn has rule over the crafters, smiths, and stonemasons of the Citadel and is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the city proper as well as the parklands of the Gold Quarter. House Kahn is arguably the wealthiest and most influential of the High Houses. House Kahn’s color is a field of solid orange. Their seal is a cut stone wall.
Ma’at – House Ma’at has rule over the shipyards and the procurement of shipbuilding materials. The upkeep of Hammerwall also falls under Ma’at’s purview. House Ma’at’s colors are Red and Gold. Their seal is a ship on the sea.
Nicolai – House Nicolai has rule over the trade and supply of food and textiles and is responsible for the upkeep of the Ware Towers throughout the city. House Nicolai’s colors are Green and White. Their seal is a cluster of grapes.
Ruvyen – House Ruvyen has rule over all merchants and businesses within the Citadel, with a particular interest in Taverns and Brothels. They are responsible for the import of luxury items and weapons and arms into the Citadel. They have charge of the Black Watch, and the upkeep of the Ironwall falls to them. House Ruvyen’s colors are Black and Silver. Their seal is a perched raven.
Sceva – House Sceva has rule over the Wharves and governs the office of Harbormaster. They have charge of the Grey Watch. House Sceva’s colors are Blue and Copper. Their seal is a single curling wave.
Vraen – House Vraen has rule over the Lighttowers and the magic that guides and tracks the navpools on Citadel ships. They are also responsible for the Citadel’s standing navy. House Vraen’s colors are Purple and Grey. Their seal is a writhing octopus.
Because ships are the most common form of large transportation of men and goods in the Broken Lands, many settlements are located on the coasts, often at the mouths of navigable rivers. These settlements are often the victims of human raids from the sea or river, but due to the peculiar aversion wildlings have to seawater are rarely the victim of overland raids.
Coastal settlements are most common in the green isles between the great Desert Wastes and the cold rocky isles of the Reaches.
Settlements within the Desert Wastes are few and far between, often located in regions that couple large stone outcroppings with fertile oases. The water and food available around the oases are necessary for life under the harsh glare of the sun, while exposed bedrock is a requirement for safety once the sun descends. The Desert Wastes are home to the restless spirits of the land, spirits that exist and survive on the breath and blood of the living. Such spirits can inhabit human flesh and devour human souls. While in spirit form they cannot cross exposed stone and they are unable to cross open water even while wearing a human host.
The spirits of the dead do not harm animals or the half-men known as wildlings and they are not active under the sun unless clothed in flesh. No one knows why.
In terms of Relics and Artifacts of the Ancients, the Desert sands hide the richest sites in all the Broken Lands, but most are unmapped and buried or have been thoroughly gutted by marauding thieves over the ages.
Only Wardens may choose Forests as their familiar Region. No other character type can survive living there. The Forests lie between the mountains and the plains of every green isle. They are vast, dark, and aware of the living creatures that venture within their borders and they send out a constant compulsion that is even able to affect Gypsii (who are otherwise immune to the Arcane Sphere: Mind) with their subconscious demand to sleep, rest, lay down. Insidious, pervasive, no creature that enters the wood can ignore the ancient woods’ demand. Eventually all give in. And once given in, are devoured by the wood when they lay down on the roots of the eldrich trees.
Only Wardens are immune. Only they can walk among the trees with axe and fire with impunity.
Some characters will choose to come from a life on the sea. Whether sailing the maelstrom with the Citadel Navy, Outlaw Shore Raiders, or Honest Merchants, the sea and the storm are the “land” these characters know and are most at home in. Characters who take Maelstrom as their familiar region gain the ability to use their Practical Lore check to pilot, navigate, or sail any vessel.
Beyond the Desert and the Forest and the Plains are the Mountains that run along the windward spine of every isle. The settlements in the mountains are few and far between and folk who choose to settle there tend to be of the rugged and hearty kind – and many are wealthy to boot, as the Mountains represent the most concentrated source of resources in the archipelago. Here stone may be quarried, metals may be mined, and lumber may be felled (beyond the foothills the trees of the mountains loose their bond with the great Forests, and with it the malevolent sentience that the Forest exerts).
Of course, getting these resources out of the mountains is the trick, severely limiting trade options, but just having this wealth means an opportunity to build and live and thrive in the island highlands.
The greatest expanse of usable land in the islands is perhaps the least settled. With raiding bands of wildlings roving the plains few human settlements grow up within them save on large rivers that can be easily defended and offer an easy route for trade. Though unsettled, however, the Plains represent the primary Region of the traveling Clans of Gypsii who trade their skills between scattered settlements.
The Reaches are cold stormswept islands of bare stone devoid of human life and frequent home to the wild elemental beasts of the Maelstrom known as Dragons. Crosscurrents here are treacherous and the isles themselves don’t lent themselves to habitation by anything without talons and raw strength to simply grip in and hold on. No player characters may choose the Reaches as their familiar Region.