The Western Empire is only the third oldest human kingsom in Paradigm but it is inarguably the largest and most powerful. Also known as the "Empire of Sin", it has a long reputation for decadence, injustice, slavery, practicing forbidden magic and death cults, cruelty, savagery, and violence. One thing it is not known for is poverty, and despite the reputation the Empire has in other kingdoms the people that inhabit the Empire are, by and large, happy and content.
From west to east the Empire stretches about 3, 475 miles until it reaches the Jungle Periphery, where its authority and power ends. In terms of sheer land size, the Empire is the arguably largest civilized nation on the continent. It is a densely populated area controlled by one central government. It has become and remains a global power and even at the worst of times is indeed an Empire. Yet even in this bastion of human civilization there are pockets of unexplored wilderness, strange and ancient ruins of unknown civilizations, and huge areas of desolation. The Mannadir Forest in the northwest of the Empire is given wholly to the Pizkie, and is generally thought of as a kingdom within a kingdom. The Pizkie maintain their own laws and statutes but are, by and large, beholden to the Empire and consider themselves Imperial citizens.
The Thunderscale Ridge, the largest line of mountains in the north central portion of the nation is where the western Dwarves make their homes. The greatest of these dwarven cities, Nost-Amaloth, rivals the Imperial City in sheer scope if not power. The dwarves are surly and dislike uninvited guests, and so much of what their city holds remains a mystery. There is some rumor that the dwarves do not go deeper than the thirtieth Deep, as something that frightens even the hardy Sons of Stone.
The central area of the Empire becomes a small jungle remnant measuring only about 26 square miles. Early on in the Empire's history this jungle, called the Blackdell, was explored. Each of the exploring party groups never came out again, except for one poor soul, gone completely insane, screaming. Since then the Blackdell has acquired a reputation of immense evil, and many fables, myths, and legends have sprung up about it. It is considered a place of real evil, and is left alone.
Most of the habitable grasslands, prairies, and foothills are dotted with both human and Mattimeo habitations. The Mattimeo are glad for their human neighbors, and the association between the two races is superb. The Mattimeo are staunch Imperial citizens and allies, if very short ones. It was the Mattimeo that introduced methods of irrigation to the Empire, and helped establish the Empire as a large provider of exported grains and other foodstuffs.
Aside from the Imperial inhabitants, the desolated and unexplored areas of the Empire are home to "monster" races. Those hills not inhabited or protected by Western dwarves crawl with orcs and goblins, hill trolls and ogres. The grassy plains lining the Mannadir has been claimed by the Unseelie, and are home to redcaps, hobgoblins, and gremlins. Long forgotten graveyards are home to the fearsome sluagh, ghouls, and undead from the North that have chosen to claim an area as their habitation. It is rumored that the ancient ruins that can be found scattered about the Empire are home to even more fearsome creatures such as minotaur tribes, spriggan, and dragons. There are also whispers that some of these old cities have yawning caverns that lead deep into the Underdark, where the horrible Ilithid wait for the unwary.
The Western Empire is home to numerous species, though the prevailing and dominant species is the human race. By and large, the humans are content to share their home with these other species. The ten most prominent Imperial races are, from lowest to highest:
10. Trimean. A very seclusive and orderly species, whom dedicate their whole lives to recording history. They look completely human, but have a third eye in the middle of their foreheads. They do not associate with other races. They are so rare that a man who gets a look at one will only get that look once in his lifetime, and likely remember it forever.
9. Harrigan. The deadliest enemies of Imperial men, these ogres were specially bred by dark powers long ago to exterminate the human race. They easily pass for humans, and are given away only by their tremendous strength and double rows of sharp teeth.
8. The Erendilquel, the Noble Elves. Also called High Elves, a moniker they despise, the Noble Elves are xenophobes that have little interest in the world outside their communities. There are a few known Noble villas in Mannadir and in mountains, and none of them welcome visitors.
7. Trolls. A variety of trolls inhabit the mountain ranges and forests of the Empire. Mountain trolls are the most common, but scientists have also identified stone trolls, hills trolls, and river trolls. Trolls are surly and have extremely violent tempers, which makes most people believe they are an evil race as a whole.
6. Spriggan. The dark elves have claimed the Underdark as their own, and brook no opposition to their rule or trespassers into their territory. Imperial, and some elven, propoganda have labelled them creatures to be mistrusted and suspicious of, which suits them just fine.
5. Mattimeo. The Beautiful Ones can be found all over the Empire, particularly is low-lying hills and meadowlands where they can farm, raise families, and live long peaceful lives. Mattis are almost always found in human cities as well.
4. Nain. The Nain are a rugged, short, strong, and surly race of small people that live in mountains and canyons. They are not an unfriendly people and are great haters of all evil creatures, but they are very rough around the edges and never considered polite company.
3. Gnolls. These tall and thin humanoid hyenas have enjoyed a shaky alliance with humans for less than a century, and suspicion runs rampant between the two races. Still, gnolls can often be found in human habitations where they work in menial jobs or as servants and retainers.
2. Pizkie. The Pizkie are a happy, child-like race believed to be the offspring of humans and elves. They are found mostly in the Mannadir Forest but are always found within human settlements as well. They like to spread rumors about themselves that stick, the most popular one (among men) is that a pretty Pizkie woman's kiss brings extremely good luck.
1. Human. Any city that you walk into in the Empire is likely to be populated mostly by humans. Imperial men, Desert Men, Savannah Men, Easterlings; all kinds of Men have dwellings, homes, settlements, and communities within the Empire.
The military forces of the empire make it both a constant threat to nearby nations and a bulwark against any thoughts of invading the Empire. The Imperial army current has over 500,000 enlisted soldiers, plus they could assemble another 250,000 reservists and militia men in about a week. In addition to the Imperial Army, each regional House maintains it's own Regional Army, about 1500 strong.
Some 5000 Imperial troops are stationed on Isla Demoltos, which is an island located between the Jungle and the Western Empire peninsula. The Isle is a prison island, reserved for the very worst criminals in the Empire. Most say that being condemned to the isle is a fate worse than summary execution and that death would be preferable. Those that have been to the island on business say that it it a place of sheer hell, rocky and sandy and utterly devoid of hope. The Isle's warden is General Kaltoos, an old black dragon that long ago made peace with the Emperor and decided to serve in the Imperal Army. Kaltoos ensures that nobody, ever, escapes Isla Demoltos.
The economy of the Western Empire is rich, robust, and thriving. Copper is the most abundant mineral resource, and because of this the stamped copper coin called the Penny has become the standard unit of money. Silver is also found within the Empire in relatively decent amounts, and the majority of the wealthy with actual coin money have it as silver. It takes 1000 pennies to equal one silver coin, which is by and large a number of pennies that all but the upper-classes will never see. Gold is a rare and luxurious metal, and commonly reserved only from the greatest of the nobles and the Emperor himself. It takes 500 silver coins to equal the value of one Gold Imperial Standard and for 99% of the population a gold coin is something that they will never see.
Most wealth within the Empire is measured not by coin amount but by a variety of factors such as land ownership, cattle and other food bearing products, marketing, and successful trade with other nations. Thus, a typical wealthy landowner in the Empire may have three ranches each on twelve acres of land, rearing 500 head of cattle but only have a few dozen silver coins in the bank.
Qi use is very strong in the Empire, with the flow of goods and services held in the tight fist of the Imperial Mage's Guild. The Guild, and the Guild alone, controls Qi within the Empire, but does so fairly and without bias. Because Qi is so prevalent and in some areas a way of life, the cost of goods and services is generally about 30% less than can be found elsewhere.
The Western Empire grew from clans of powerful warlords and elite castes of warriors who brought relative peace to the land, protected it's realms and borders, enforced it's laws, and expanded it's territories. Among the kingdoms of the world the Empire is regarded as one of the, if not the, most powerful and wealthiest of nations with a long, rich cultural tradition and heritage. It is largely regarded as a human empire, with only a fraction of the regional inhabitants being of other aces. These other races, predominantly Pizkie, Dwarf, and Mattimeo are likewise proud to call themselves Westerners as they have benefited in the last century by Emperor Palldine's benevolent rule.
Many outsiders decry the Empire's social class system as base and vulgar with a super-rich and powerful elite aristocracy making all the decisions and an disproportionate number of poor common folk. Such outcries puzzle the Westerners themselves. While there are some cities in the Empire that do possess shocking slums and ghettos most common people earn very good livings, whether they are farmers and laborers or skilled craftsman and merchants. Most Westerners feel safe and are quite happy. Merchants, magic-users, select guilds, and many churches comprise the middle class. They are moderately wealthy and influential compared to the nobles of the Western Empire but are considered to be extremely wealthy by the standards of most other nations. Generally speaking, they style of living in the Empire is better than any place in the world.
The lowest caste in the Empire is the caste of slaves. Slavery has long been an established practice, with male slaves being made from the ranks of prisoners of war or condemned criminals. Male slaves are fairly uncommon, but female slaves are in abundance.
Slaves are viewed as possessions and property rather than people but even so they are treated exceedingly well. Most female slaves are birth-slaves, meaning that they are born into slavery, live their lives as slaves, and die slaves. Born-slaves have no concept of freedom, not do they want it. Slavery is the only life they know; the cruelest form of torture anyone could perform on a birth-slave is to give them their freedom. A slave that has performed their duties all thier lives and have had all their needs met would have no idea what to do with themselves if given their freedom. They wouldn't know the basic means of survival, many would die of exposure or starvation. Born-slaves are often bewildered by attempts at securing freedom for them and tend to think of people advocating freedom-noble as their intentions may be-as cruel and heartless.
Slaves are very often treated with a great deal of affection, more as household pets and companions than just living machinery. Slaves are given access to medicine to keep them healthy, have a roof over their heads, and are fed and watered and so they are content with their lot in life. In other nations, where slavery has been outlawed or non-existent, horror stories about how the Empire treats slaves have sprung up and jaded many views of the nation. Stories speak of slaves being beaten and whipped at the least provocation, being forbidden to speak or stand in the presence of free people, and forced to address free people as Master; and all of these myths are untrue. There is a standard of conduct for slaves of course but it is nothing as harsh as wagging tongues say.
Slaves are forbidden to wear, carry, or touch weapons of course. They are also not allowed to handle money and must carry coins in their mouths or in the folds of their skirts. Slaves are expected to be respectful at all times and obey any instructions given to them without question except when they must ask for clarification to understand what they are being told to do. Slaves do kneel in the presence of their owners but are not forbidden to stand or move around freely; nor are they forbidden to speak. Indeed, many lonely men are known to adore their slaves as companions and company on otherwise lonely nights. Slaves, in turn, tend to become very attached to their owners and it's not in the least bit uncommon for master and slave to have deep bonds of affection, loyalty, and friendship for each other. Sometimes a man will marry his slave, a situation that is frowned on and discouraged but it does happen.
Slaves are all taught basic household skills, as well as various ways of entertaining. Almost all slaves are highly competent and organized in sewing, meal planning and preparation, record keeping, and housekeeping. In addition, many slaves are trained to sing, dance, play musical instruments, or tell stories to entertain guests of the owner.
Slaves are often scantily clad, the typical outfit being a short tunic in bright colors or an outfit rather like a modern day bikini. The Western Empire as a whole sees the human body as a thing of art, and slaves are shown off both to be visually pleasing for the owner and his guests and to show that the owner has good taste.
The most sought after slaves for pure eye candy value are female Mattimeo, and a man owning one or more Mattimeo slaves is considered a very wealthy man indeed. Accordingly, Mattimeo slaves come with exorbitant price tags.
Women in the Western Empire at not quite second-class citizens but are not afforded all of the same rights and privileges a man is. Women are not allowed to choose their own husbands; most marriages are arranged from birth. The father of the woman chooses the husband, most often selecting a consort that is financially stable to ensure a good flow of income into the family or a man possessing some degree of political power. Sadly, it is a true fact that over half of all marriages in the Empire are loveless, and sometimes in desperation a woman will flee the marriage to escape an uncouth, overbearing, or abusive husband. Such women are automatically ejected from the family, and many end up as slaves if and when they are caught.
Women are not allowed to engage in politics or policy making. They may not be Guildmasters, lawyers, advocates, or lobbyists but they are absolutely permitted to own land and businesses. Many of the guilds of the Empire are operated by women behind the scenes, and several successful businesses are owned by women.
One of the most interesting customs of the Empire is that of the facial veil. Western women rarely, if ever, venture forth in public without first concealing their faces with beautifully woven and colorful veils and bonnets that conceal everything but the woman's eyes. The custom was started 3500 years ago by the wife of the ruling Emperor, whom chose to appear in public veiled as a fashion statement. The statement caught on as a fad, and as time progressed it slowly became a tradition. There is no law that says that a woman cannot go out without being veiled but the custom is so ingrained that it has become an expectation and as such women that do not wear veils are never quite taken seriously. Also, slaves are not permitted to wear the veil so most Western women will wear the veil outside if for no other reason than to avoid being mistaken for a slave. Visitors and tourists to the Empire are not expected to wear veils naturally, but should do so if asked to by their hosts. An outright refusal to go veiled when asked can be, and is, a cause for great offense.
The backbone of Imperial economy is the Guild. Almost every trade and occupation has a guild associated with it. Guilds serve to collect the taxes of the Empire and generate revenue for Imperial coffers, which in turn is fed back into the society where it's needed most. Guilds are quite powerful political entities in their own right, with Guildmasters frequently called on to attend sessions of Senate with the Emperor to give a state of the union report, offer advisement, and carry out the Emperor's instructions. Emperor Palldine has gone to great lengths to ensure that no single Guild or set of Guilds is more powerful than any other, which has done wonders for keeping political maneuvering at bay.
Visitors to the Empire that have a skilled trade or craft are expected to register with their local Guild chapter house for the duration of their stay. Failure to do so can generally be overlooked provided the craftsman does not attempt to put his craft up for hire. If a craftsman embarks on a money-making opportunity without registering, it can get very bad for him very quickly. Guilds do their best to encourage tourists and visitors to register for by knowing who and where the tradesman is the Guild can then offer him affordable lodging, employment opportunities, and-most importantly to most tradesmen-Guild protection in case of trouble.
Emperor Palldine has ensured that all of the biggest Guildmasters are nobles, and has placed them in charge of entire regions of the Empire. These Provincial Houses thus are the law and authority of their province, answerable only to the Emperor. Each of the Provincial Guilds also understands that Emperor Palldine holds the reigns of power, and a misstep means being stripped of everything and a new House named to Provincial status. Thus the Emperor keeps the provincial Guilds in line and ensures peace. The provincial Guilds are:
The Guild of Warriors: Kighfolton Plains
The Guild of Magicians: Bartuk province
The Guild of Metalsmiths: Highridge Mountains
The Guild of Loremasters: Tardelt Plains
The Guild of Spicers: Lower Bartuk
The Guild of Woodcrafters: The Vequell Woodlands
The Guild of Moneychangers: The Middle Kingdom
The Guild of Farmers: The Grasslands
The Guild of Textilers: The Gardrank Mountains
The Guild of Butchers: The Old Frontier
The Guild of Brewers: The Jungle Periphery
It is said that without the Guilds, the economy of the Empire would collapse. This is most likely not true, but the Guilds like to say that anyway.
Food in the Empire is abundant, and delicious. Foods of all kinds are exported to other nations, some of these are heavily reliant on the Empire for their source of victuals. The Grasslands are famous for fruits and vegetables as well as grain, beef, and lamb. The mountains produce goat and sheep, the plains produce wheat, oats, and barley. The Jungle Periphery is ideally suited for growing rice, and the Middle Kingdom is famous for its herbs and spices as well as veal and venison. The seas, rivers, lakes, and estuaries cough up myriad forms of fish and shellfish.
Western cooks are very skilled in producing tantalizing recipes and because of the dietary habits of Pizkie, Mattimeo, and Dwarves the Empire is a culinary melting pot. Most humans in the cities and dwarves enjoy their beef and other proteins, the Pizkie produce amazing light soups, salads, and sweets; and of course the comfort loving Mattimeo can turn even the plainest of ingredients into a feast fit for, well, the Emperor. Many tourists from other nations come to the Empire simply to sample the wide variety of dishes and it is a well-known fact that Westerners that live in other nations often pine for the culinary comforts and familiar tastes of home.
Places of NoteEdit
There are many locations within the Empire that attract tourists, visitors, and adventurers. The most famous of these locations are:
1. Imperial City
Located in the very heart of the beautiful and wind-swept Tardelt Plains, the seat of government for the Empire is a city unlike any other. The city is massive, housing more than three million people and covering a land area of 469 square miles. The city is built on a tier structure, with wealth and abundance becoming more evident the higher up one goes. The first level of the city, the slums, house the most poor and desperate while the highest tier, the sixth level, is given entirely over to the Emperor's palace and municipal and government buildings.
Imperial City boasts scientific breakthroughs and technology found nowhere else such as hot and cold indoor plumbing, electric lighting, and zeppelins. Imperial City is also the location for all of the Empire's main Guild houses.
2. The Mannadir Forest
The largest forest in the entire Empire, the Mannadir is the last remnants of the forest which once covered the entire region. It is wholly controlled by Noble Elves and Pizkie, whom established and enforce strict laws regarding personal conduct within the woodlands. Visitors are forbidden to leave the main roads unless specifically invited to do so by a resident elf. Because the Elfin species shroud the Mannadir in such secrecy it has become a popular spot for sightseers, tourists, and those speculating on what lies within. Foolish people often choose to ignore the laws and enter the forest realm; such unfortunates are never seen again. Annually, 100 or so people are reported missing.
Despite the rigid law enforcement by the elves there are several cities within the forest along the main roads that offer entertainments and activities for visitors.
3. The Blackdell The Blackdell is the largest standing jungle in the Western Empire. It draws adventurers, fortune hunters, and the curious on a regular basis because of it's reputation of being wholly evil. Rumors of dragons, lost cities, gnoll bands, and powerful undead under the humid canopy circulate throughout the Empire. It is also said that the very heart of the Blackdell is a dark swamp, where an exceptionally horrid and ancient evil dwells.
4. Omashu, The City of History <Added by Essa>
Around the continent of Paradigm, Omashu stands alone as the city of history. Omashu is the home of scholars, scribes, researchers, magi, and all those whom have dedicated their lives to the collection and preservation of Paradigm's history, cultures, and traditions. The city is divided into sections, each section inhabited exclusively by the race the section is devoted to. In the very heart of the city is the amazing Museum of Omashu, which houses the most unique or rare historical items found. The Museum is open seven days a week for tourists, and is heavily guarded by a mind blowing array of qi masters, soldiers, and traps to prevent thefts.