An Empire Asunder
”War is devastation and ruin, predicted and remembered as glory.”For over three hundred years, the continent of Selice has been torn apart by unending hot and cold wars between the lords of the Selician Empire and the independent nobles of the Grand Duchy. What once began as a heated political dispute over the right to sovereignty, which all involved assumed would be laid to rest within a matter of months, has long since blown into a devastating civil war that has defined countless generations. Entire cities have been levelled into dust in the wake of rapacious hordes, crops no longer grow on lifeless fields watered with the blood of entire armies, and bloodlines as old as the Empire itself have been extinguished – sacrifices to a war started by bickering nobles that none alive today have ever met. Living in a state of total warfare is the norm that has defined the lives of entire generations, punctuated only by brief, unofficial ceasefires when both sides are too depleted to continue fighting – only for open conflict to resume again once one side believes it has licked its wounds enough to press the offensive once more.
However, for the first time in three hundred years, all of that is set to change.
Outbreaks of pestilence and famine threaten to sap the last vestiges of strength remaining between these two titanic nations, while a new power in the south bides its time, like a hungry predator stalking an increasingly weary prey. The two factions have agreed to a peace conference, hoping to bring an end to their centuries-old dispute. But will old enmities make way for new realities, or will the desire to settle old differences tear the continent asunder?
Hi, my name is Marissa and I’ll (hopefully) be your GM for this game. The premise of An Empire Asunder
is simple. Two competing nations, both with radically different ideologies and a deep seated hatred of one another, have been invited to attend a peace conference in (somewhat) neutral territory in order to bring an end to a long and devastating war. While this peace accord will take the form of a final formal agreement defined by the players, binding the nations together through marriages between opposing houses will go a long way towards bringing everyone together – whether such a marriage is a loveless relationship of pragmatism or your characters manage to find love amongst the enemy is up to you to determine. Also invited is the aforementioned third nation, the Kingdom of Sahal, which threatens to engulf them both if they refuse to set aside their differences and stop beating one another senseless. The players will take the role of various nobles, whether members of the royal family or various other nobles (Counts, Dukes, Barons, etc.). Down below you’ll find some lore on the three kingdoms and some background to the conflict to help you with designing your characters, along with a character sheet which will also offer some suggestions that I hope you’ll find handy. The character sheet of my own character, which you should find in the subsequent post, will also offer you some insights into the location and context of the peace conference.
The game will be a freeform RP and I tend to take a rather laissez-faire approach to roleplaying, meaning that I hope to give you as much creative freedom as possible to shape the storyline however you see fit. Open conflict should be rare, as all monarchs have agreed to ban their followers from fighting on pain of death, although such dictates will not pose a problem for the cunning and discrete individual. However, the weapons of choice for most players will be cunning words, backroom deals and secret alliances based on mutual interest. In the interest of full disclosure, I tend to be woefully forgetful, so if I’ve left out any important information or you just have any questions feel free to ask and I’ll answer them as quickly as possible. I hope you enjoy what I’ve come up with, and I look forward to hopefully roleplaying with you all.
The Factions The Selician Empire
A refined and cosmopolitan state, the Selician Empire once held the entire continent under its dominion, with the Emperor’s rule stretching from north to south, east to west, and everywhere in between. Originally the Empire only controlled the western half of Selice, a wealthy and prosperous region full of majestic cities and wealthy trading outposts, with constant bickering between the ancient noble houses and a new wealthy class of merchants forcing the Emperor to rule with a heavy hand to maintain order. Seeking to ease the tensions between the old houses who ruled and the “new money” that had acquired wealth and power but lacked noble titles, the Emperor sponsored colonisation efforts in the uncharted eastern regions of the continent, allowing this new class to seek their fortune in the untamed frontier and gain lands and titles of their own. The new nobility in this region were granted a much longer leash in governing their new lands than their western brethren and it wasn’t long before even noble lords began to follow them eastwards in pursuit of further land and power for their respective houses. However, when these lands grew into prosperous and wealthy fiefdoms the Empire began to reassert a greater level of control – when these lands were wild and untamed, it made more sense for the lords on the ground to have greater authority in making decisions than distant Emperors and Empresses, but now that these lands were peaceful and prosperous it only seemed natural that they should be subject to Imperial decree just like everybody else. And while it would have been unfair to impose taxes upon lands being developed entirely out of pocket by enterprising souls, the fact that the east was now amongst the most affluent regions of the Empire made it only fair that they now be subject to Imperial taxation to pay for the services and order that the Empire afforded them. However, the new gentry, long since accustomed to their own independence, chafed at the notion of ceding control back to the Empire – precipitating in a crisis that saw revolts and the eventual secession of most of the east. This secession eventually led to full scale civil war, when the Emperor dispatched military forces to reassert control of the rebellious territories he maintained were legitimately controlled by the Empire.
Imperials believe in strong, central authority and that it is the role of the Emperor to benevolently make decisions for the greater good of the Empire as a whole, even if this comes at the expense of individual fiefdoms. While various nobles rule their own fiefdoms beneath the Emperor and on their behalf, claim to such lands and titles is not hereditary. Immediately after the civil war began, the Emperor instituted reforms allowing himself to appoint the successor to an individual fiefdom whenever a vacancy presented itself, in order to prevent further attempts at secession and insurrection. Theoretically, this means that all nobles and their potential successors are completely dependent on the Emperor in order to claim lands that have been in their families for generations. In practise, however, the Emperor typically honours the claim of the oldest legitimate heir to a deceased monarch, with only a handful of notable exceptions serving to remind the nobles of their place as loyal servants of the Empire. By contrast, the position of Emperor or Empress is a hereditary one, with the throne passing to the oldest legitimate heir of the previous monarch. Imperials tend to view the nobles of the Grand Duchy as vile traitors and self-centred separatists, willing to plunge their lands and subjects into anarchy and disregard the collective good of the Empire as a whole, all the while pleading “sovereignty” in order to maintain a grip on their own power.The Grand Duchy of Nobles
When the Empire sought to expand into the wild, untamed lands of the east, the Emperor granted a long leash and vast powers to nobles willing to use their own resources to conquer these lands and bring them into the Imperial fold. Almost immediately, enterprising and ambitious nobles, seeking new wealth and stifled by the rigidity of the western Empire pushed forth into the uncharted frontier and, in less than a century, established new fiefdoms that reached as far as the seas of the eastern shore. Unrestrained by Imperial dictates and with only a light guiding hand from the now distant capital, these lords prospered greatly in their abundant and fertile new territories, and rapidly developed affluent cities that rivalled even the oldest in the old Imperial lands themselves. However, when the Emperor sought to reassert control over these quasi-independent territories, the new nobles began to chafe as more and more power was stripped from them and concentrated back towards the capital. The imposition of new taxes, the drudgery of dealing with distant bureaucracies and the gradual usurpation of powers the nobles believed were rightfully theirs all began to take their toll, precipitating in a revolt that saw the secession of some of the easternmost duchies and counties – followed by the entire eastern half of the continent. Despite being independent-minded and interested only in their own holdings, these nobles found common purpose in their cause and need for defence against the Imperial forces sent to reassert Imperial authority, and within months the Grand Duchy of Nobles was formed.
The lords of the Grand Duchy maintain that those living within a particular fiefdom are more qualified to make decisions that best reflect their needs and interests than a distant Emperor residing in a capital half the world away. In particular, they feel that as the Emperor resides in the west and nobles living there have greater ease of access to him, Imperial dictates are always going to reflect the interests of these western lords. As the name implies, the Grand Duchy is headed by a Grand Duke or Duchess, but unlike the Empire this title is not a hereditary one. Rather, each noble within the Grand Duchy will come together and vote for one amongst them to be appointed Grand Duke or Duchess and the official head of state of their confederacy. This titular ruler serves for life, unless impeached, and has been granted a number of powers such as command over all the armies in each fiefdom and the right to negotiate on behalf of all, under the strict understanding that the administration, laws, and day-to-day affairs of each territory will be handled by their individual rulers and not themselves. While the Grand Duke/Duchess cannot meddle into their internal affairs of their fellow lords, and can be removed from office by a two-thirds majority vote, they are not without their powers and often hold the absolute respect and support of the nobles who appointed them in the first place. The independent nobles of the Grand Duchy view the Empire as tyrannical and oppressive, more than willing to trample all over whichever of their inalienable rights stand in the ways of the whims and fancies of whomsoever happens to sit on the throne at the time.The Kingdom of Sahal
As more and more resources were drawn away to fight on the frontlines, both the Empire and the Grand Duchy were forced to abandon remote villages and distant regions to bandits and other criminals, who took advantage of the lawlessness to plunder at will. Over the course of a hundred years, the entire southern periphery of the continent – a remote region of empty badlands, treacherous mountain ranges and hardscrabble townships – was subsequently abandoned by both governments and the order they maintained, left to be fought over by self-proclaimed bandit kings. Whereas the strategically worthless lands of the south once existed as a hodgepodge of feuding warlord states, with control of various territories constantly shifting as a result of military conquests, changing alliances or treasonous lieutenants, the bickering warlords have since been brought to heel by the most powerful among them. Since this time, the newly minted Kingdom of Sahal has bided its time, growing in strength as it waits to sweep across the continent like a scourge and conquer both the Empire and the Grand Duchy in their weakened state. However, with few resources and constant infighting, the only hope of the desolate south to expand is for war between the Empire and the Grand Duchy to continue until both reach the point of breaking.
The Kingdom of Sahal is ruled by a self-proclaimed High King or Queen, the leader of the most powerful group who is capable of enforcing their will upon their rivals through the threat of conquest. The closest analogue to nobles within Sahal are the various bandit kings who, through control of their own mercenary armies, have been able to carve their own fiefdom out of the south, which they rule with an iron fist. Rather than claiming noble titles, these brigands have resurrected the ancient Imperial title of Warlord – a rank traditionally bestowed by the Emperor in times long since passed upon those who conquered new territories for the Empire – and this remains the standard title for addressing them. However, it is not uncommon for these Warlords to also bestow upon themselves any additional titles that catch their fancy – including the ranks of Duke, Baron, or Count – so long as their opulent accolades do not appear to imply a higher status than the High King/Queen who rules over them. Both Imperial and Grand Duchy nobles alike are united in turning up their noses at the aristocratic pretensions of these common criminals – so much so that the Duchess Grace has invited their representatives to the peace conference to pressure her guests to reach an accord. The Duchess intends the treaty to serve as a show of force to cow their imperial ambitions, but the warlords of Sahal see it as an opportunity to sow dissention and discord amongst their enemies and, if need be, legitimise their claims to the south by convincing one of their enemies to ally with them, rather than with each other.
Insert Picture HereName:
Who the hell do you think you are?Title:
Duke of Nukem, Count of Chocula, etc.Faction:
Selician Empire, Grand Duchy, Kingdom of Sahal, or independent.Age:
Be ye smooth-faced or wrinkle-skinned?Sexual Orientation:
Just for the reference of other players, lest someone tries to stick their thing inside someone else’s thing and it just becomes terribly awkward for everyone involved.Goal:
What is the ultimate goal of your character in entering the peace conference? Do you seek to forge peace amongst one another or do you hope to derail the proceedings? Or do you have another end in sight? For example, you might chose to make a character who seeks to form an alliance through marriage to protect their weakened fiefdom, or perhaps you seek revenge against another character who has wronged you during the war, or maybe you even seek to defect to the enemy. Be as creative as you want here. While the in-universe characters may or may not know about your aspirations, if you also want to keep your goal a secret from their out-of-universe writers feel free to PM me so I know for my own reference. Personality:
A description of the personality traits of your character.Appearance:
I know it’s a little redundant to ask for this since you’ll most likely be including a picture of your character as well, but just a short description of your appearance would be appreciated.Biography:
While I’m not one to set a word or paragraph limit, I do ask that you try to be as detailed as physically possible. The more details you include, the easier it will be for other players to determine how your characters will interact and whether they have any shared history together that makes the story more interesting. While I’m far more interested in quality than quantity here, I do reserve the right to ask you to pad it out a little more before being accepted if it feels a little bit lacking.