Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Southland: The Founders and the Cartel

THE SOUTHLAND
A Fantasy Core Setting
© Jerry Harris 2014
(This link will take you to the Fantasy Core Index.)


The Founders
It is said that there only two things keeping the widely disparate nations of the Commonwealth together.  One, the omnipresent threat of the Hegemony.  While the two countries are at peace now, everyone remembers the invasion by the Prophecy Empire, which preceded the Hegemony.  (This invasion created the alliance that became the Commonwealth.)  Two, the tireless efforts of a secret society of the patriots, who have put unity ahead of national affiliation, the Founders.  They ferret out the plots against the Commonwealth, internal and external, and investigate supernatural threats.

National rivalries are rare in the Southland.  Life is just too difficult for that kind of petty politics.  The threats to the colony are overwhelming and existential.  The entire land and its inhabitants are a supernatural threat.  There are few subtle conspiracies and such to occupy the Southland Founders’ time.  The secret society has unfortunately turned into something like an exclusive club.  They have turned their attention to economic and political concerns in the colony.  In short, they are mobsters, the behind the scenes power that controls those who openly wield power. 

The Founders are the prime brokers of all information in the Southland.  They do use this knowledge to serve some useful purpose in stopping foreign and domestic plots against the colony.  But even this is mainly done to safeguard individual member’s own assets, and not any lofty ideals.  Petty grudges are instead often played out in this arena.  Unfortunately, even at this, some members have become corrupted by Empire and Hegemony agents, who have identified the Founders as the real movers and shakers of the colony. 

Other Founders have wondered if the colony might be better off without the Commonwealth altogether and are quietly plotting a future rebellion.  The home continent Founders would be horrified at these developments and would take action, but they are completely in the dark about them and quite simply aren’t concerned about the colonies to begin with.        

The Founders work in independent cells, called cadres.  Founders can be of almost any profession, from accountants to paladins.  Further, they are very discrete about their activities for the group.  They are outside of any government influence.  There is no hierarchy of command to infiltrate.  All members are equal brothers and sisters.  (Though as a practical matter, senior and highly trained individuals tend to take command.)  The cellular nature of the group has made it almost impossible identify all of them, or find their leadership.  

The Cartel
All commerce going through and out of the colony passes through the hands of the Cartel at some point.  These are the most prominent businessmen in the Southland.  Some are civic leaders, Founders, outright mobsters, foreign nationals, and whatever, because they don’t discriminate.  If you can pony up the initiation fee, you can get a seat at the table, and a cut of the pie.  These diverse elements have come together to control all the business going on in the continent.  Everyone gets an exclusive territory.  The only rules are do what the Cartel bosses tell you to, don’t cross one another, and shutout anyone not paying their dues.


It’s a monopoly of sorts.  Everyone that does business in the Southland is forced to pay them tribute.  It’s all quite open, too.  It’s no secret.  Why is it allowed?  Apart from the obvious, that the wealthiest and most powerful individuals in the colony run it, they do serve a useful function.  They keep goods plentiful and trade flowing in and out of the Southland at slightly elevated, but stable prices.  Given the lack of infrastructure, the danger of the continent, and the distance from the homeland, this arrangement was the only way to entice the big money to invest in the Southland.  For now, they’re a fact of life.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Southland: Prospectors, Settlers, and the Rest

THE SOUTHLAND
A Fantasy Core Setting
© Jerry Harris 2014
(This link will take you to the Fantasy Core Index.)


Prospectors, Settlers, and the Rest
There was little motivation for Commonwealth citizens to make a long voyage to a dangerous place like the Southland.  Even the promise of free land if you’ll work it and free passage, was not enough of an incentive.  A reason would be forthcoming.  Shortly after the founding of the Sydney, gold was discovered outside of the settlement.  This brought a sudden wave of prospectors.  As the Summerhill strike became played out, there was another discovery made in Melbourne.  Then diamonds and Philosopher’s Stone were found in the north around Darwin.  Then more Philosopher’s Stone outside of Adelaide in the south.  Then the huge Kalgoorlie gold mine was discovered in the west.

It’s been one boom after another.  The main result was a large number of prospectors who never struck it rich and became stranded in the Southland because they couldn’t afford passage back to the homeland.  They had to make a go of it as settlers.  With increasing population and, except for the Cairns settlement massacre, the colony seemed somewhat safe, the actual settlers began arriving.  

Much of the land in the Southland is marginal at best, but that’s good enough for ranching.  Local wildlife is a problem rather than an asset, so livestock has had to be brought over from the homeland.  The best farmland was claimed quickly, forcing expansion into Humanoid dominated lands.  Many retired soldiers would also choose to stay, many simply not wanting to make the long sea voyage back or having nothing to go back to after years of service.   

Along with the prospectors and settlers have come a multitude of Con Men.  Most are on the run from crimes in the homeland and see nothing but opportunity in the Southland, rather than a chance to reform.  Commonwealth officials have actually been quite pleased to see these individuals go into what amounts to voluntary self-exile.  Also mixed in are small groups of political radicals and religious extremists.  These groups tend to be either far too outgoing or way too xenophobic.

Lastly, have come the Adventurers.  With some infrastructure built up to support their vagabond lifestyle, they’ve arrived in the Southland seeking the treasures of the Ancients for looting.  Not just the reported massive wealth, but also magical artifacts and weapons.  Scholars and wizards are eagerly seeking Ancient knowledge, magical and mundane.  All of them are dreaming of being ones to find Circumsphere and become famous on top of rich. 

Most “sell out,” and end up employed as mercenaries in the various hot spots around the continent, or as library or research scholars for the academic types.  Those who remain “true” to the quest of adventuring, often find themselves collecting bounties from killing Humanoids and even the dangerous native animals (by collecting their right ears and presenting them to local officials) to scrape together a pathetic hand-to-mouth existence. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Southland: Convicts, Military, and Government Officials

THE SOUTHLAND
A Fantasy Core Setting
© Jerry Harris 2014
(This link will take you to the Fantasy Core Index.)


The Convicts


Many of the colonists in the Southland are transplanted convicts, who chose permanent exile from their nation in return for populating and developing the colony with at least some freedom.  This option was only available to those convicted of non-violent or non-capital offenses.  They were simply dumped here with nothing but a mandate to meet with their parole officer once a month for their first year. 

These individuals form the bulk of the menial labor pool in the colony.  Lacking a native population to impress, like in the Dark Continent, somebody has to do the dirty work.  It’s a hard scrabble existence, but a few, with hard work and some luck, can do alright for themselves, even become rich (though usually there’s some larceny involved in that).  Southland is a harsh environment with a sparse population, however.  Even the aristocratic gentry in country are forced to deal with the convicts in a somewhat egalitarian manner.  For their part, honest work is only means of survival for the convicts.  There are no second chances here.    

A few convicts have been brought here to serve hard time for violent capital crimes, though some are purely political prisoners here in exile.  These individuals were considered too dangerous to be incarcerated in any Commonwealth member nation and could not be executed for various reasons.  Those eligible for parole after serving their sentence could not be allowed back into the general population.  These individuals are used for much of the hard civic labor in the colony under heavy supervision.  In truth, given the sheer remoteness and desolation of the Southland, there’s few places to run to even if prisoners could escape (the Crossbones “nation” in Tasmania being one).

The option of military service is available for all convicts with the Frontier Service.  As the name implies, they are holding the frontier against the Humanoid hoards.  Most consider this a prolonged violent death sentence, but it is a path to eventual freedom, if you survive.

The Military and Appointed Government Officials
Someone has to guard and run the colony.  Even those sent to the Norther March meat-grinder to fight the barbarians in the Commonwealth homeland, still find that post preferable as its closer to home.  The soldiers and sailors in the Southland theater count the days until they are cycled back home.  The government officials posted here more often than not refer to themselves as “in exile,” which may in fact be true.  Some have hopes that if they do their job well, they’ll be recalled.  Most are resigned to spending the rest of their lives here, hopefully buried and not eaten.  Nobody in government with an option volunteers for the Southland.  

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Southland: The Commonwealth Colony

THE SOUTHLAND
A Fantasy Core Setting
© Jerry Harris 2014
(This link will take you to the Fantasy Core Index.)


THE COMMONWEALTH COLONY

The Founders and the Cartel
The Settlements
Colonial Defense

Colonial History
Emperor Leon may have decreed a new colony, but actually colonizing a hostile continent takes more than words.  The Southland is not adjacent to the Commonwealth homeland, in fact nearly a half a world away.  Finding a large, unclaimed property doesn’t happen everyday.  Speed is of the essence in such a situation.  Thankfully, the Commonwealth Navy and civilian shipping are up to the task.  The question is, who’s going there to stay? 

Let’s look at the hypothetical brochure that a prospective colonist might read about the Southland.  After a long, dangerous sea journey, the colonist could expect to find a completely undeveloped sliver of coastline, with little arable farmland or other apparent natural resources.  Oh, and there’s hordes of Humanoid monsters just over the mountains, who are going to want to kill and eat you and your family.  Talk about an easy sell. 

There were only two groups of people in the Commonwealth who could realistically move to such a place.  Here’s a hint; neither of them had any say in the matter: convicts and government employees (like the military and various officials).  The willing settlers would not appear until they were given a really good reason to do so.  Discoveries of gold, diamonds, and Philosopher’s Stone (an aid to magical spells, also called Uranium) would bring the prospectors.  With a bit of civilization, the families of settlers would arrive to make the Southland home.

The discoveries of large deposits of valuable resources turned the Southland from a point of pride for the Commonwealth, to a point of extreme strategic interest for the Commonwealth.  Other nations were interested but observational before, now they are fully engaged in trying to get their own cut of it.  The Southland has since become a major deployment of Commonwealth armed forces.  They are determined to a deterrent to any military incursion.    

So where’s all the magic and magical artifacts?  Explorers and scholars have found odd stores of various forms of documentation (some actually written during the Catastrophe), but all of it has been mundane.  The speculation is that the “good stuff” is somewhere hidden in the Outback.  Much of the Ancient civilization simply disintegrated, a byproduct of a devastating war and magical construction, likely weakened by the Catastrophe.  Remaining sites are often teeming with Humanoids and monsters that have resisted random, scattered interlopers pretty well.  Even getting to these is the well-known sites is difficult.  However, there’s no telling how many undiscovered sites there are. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Southland: Pre-Colonial History

THE SOUTHLAND
A Fantasy Core Setting
© Jerry Harris 2014
(This link will take you to the Fantasy Core Index.)


PRE-COLONIAL HISTORY
This continent was never really “lost,” or unknown to the rest of the world.  “Terra Australis” (Southland) was well known to the Oriental Empire.  After the sudden destruction of the Ancients, the Empire’s explorations found it to be unsustainable to human life, filled with legions of dangerous, man-eating sub-human creatures.  They charted its coasts and left the interior blank, labeled with the word, “Unknown.” 

Zealous emissaries from the Prophecy Empire would arrive a century later and would be promptly exterminated to the last man.  The Prophecy spent its next century attempting to consume its neighbors.  The Southland could wait until after the conquest of them, but that moment never came.  The Hegemony nation which followed the Prophecy Empire, simply regarded the continent as a mystery, as did any other country that visited it.


Another century passed.  Brave Commonwealth nautical explorers, with their navy ruling the seas and equipped with second or third-hand Oriental maps, would “discover” the Southland.  By this time, the contamination from the Catastrophe had receded from the coasts, along with the Humanoid tribes.  Certainly explorers quickly found them in the interior, but that still left that prime beach front property wide open.  The Commonwealth Emperor decreed all the Southland as Commonwealth property by right of discovery and mandated the immediate establishment of a colony to legitimize the claim.  It was now just a question of who those colonists would be.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Southland: Ancient History

THE SOUTHLAND
A Fantasy Core Setting
© Jerry Harris 2014
(This link will take you to the Fantasy Core Index.)


ANCIENT HISTORY
They were mighty.  The so-called Ancients (not what they called themselves, that word is eluding translation) had managed to tap the knowledge of extraterrestrial and extra dimensional beings and were given almost unimaginable powers.  The greatest workers of miracles became their leaders, the Wizard-Kings.  They re-made their culture into a glittering jewel of civilization and even their land into a nurturing paradise.  The Ancients had been given otherworldly knowledge and power, but were still very human.  

The Ancients sent out emissaries around the world for surveillance, subservience, and tribute.  Civilizations at the time were primitive by comparison, with little or no magic knowledge.  Their initial reconnaissance of the rest of the world had revealed it to be ripe for plunder and subjugation.  The all-powerful Wizard-Kings decided they would need a mighty army, fearless, relentless, and utterly loyal.  Thus they created the Humanoids and other monsters.

On the brink of their world invasion, the Ancient Civil War began.  Ultimately, it started from the madness caused from using dangerous high-level magic.  The trigger cause was the Wizard-Kings fighting amongst themselves over how to divide up the world before the invasion even began.  The Humanoid armies and monsters built for a war against the rest of the world, were turned on themselves.  Incredibly, their civilization rose and fell within one generation.  With their high-powered magic, cities were destroyed and much of the remaining population fled underground.

Eventually, the capital of Circumsphere was the last Ancient city left standing intact.  It had changed hands several times without any wide-spread destruction, but finally became the coveted object of all the remaining combatants.  A cabal of the most powerful Wizard-Kings held the city and enacted a final defensive spell to secure it.  It required a massive draining of human souls to activate.  The city’s remaining inhabitants were unwillingly sacrificed to create a giant magic shield over the city. 

The spell worked, but too well.  It kept expanding.  Everywhere it expanded, it kept absorbing souls.  It drained the besiegers first, but kept expanding.  The Circumsphere Wizard-Kings couldn’t stop it.  The vampiric absorbing shield made an inexorable march across the continent.  A few (such as the mythical Seven Sisters) were able to get ahead of it and escape the Southland.  A few survived in deep underground bunkers.  Everyone else perished.  The wave was only stopped by the ocean when it ran out of souls to absorb.  At that point, it collapsed and left behind a magical “fallout” all over the continent.  Ironically, the city itself disappeared.  Its whereabouts and fate, unknown.      

The “Catastrophe,” as it was called, left the Humanoids and the monsters untouched.  Worse, the magical fallout from the Catastrophe allowed the Humanoids to breed themselves, unchecked.  They would be the new masters of the Southland and would proceed to mindlessly war on one another, just as their predecessors had done.

There were survivors who escaped the continent.  These survivors would be scattered all over the world by various means.  Myths of their journey would follow wherever they went.  The Seven Sisters myth is most common re-telling of the story.  It is said that if their stories in the Southland could all be collected, one could retrace their route back to its origin, the lost capital of Circumsphere.  The act of collecting these stories from Ancient sources on the continent has been called the “Walkabout.”


At various points in this setting, parts of the myth will be included with certain locations.  Much like the Players’ Characters, you’ll be given the information in an out of order, fragmentary fashion.  It won’t make sense and there won’t be any way to logically reconstruct the Sisters’ journey.  Ultimately, that’s not the point of the “Walkabout” journey.  It is the act of gathering the stories and visiting the sites mentioned in them that will make the explorers worthy of finding the “lost city.”  

Monday, July 27, 2015

Southland: Terrain Features

THE SOUTHLAND
A Fantasy Core Setting
© Jerry Harris 2014
(This link will take you to the Fantasy Core Index.)




TERRAIN FEATURES
It was once a paradise.  The Ancients thoroughly re-made the continent into an ideal living environment with their powerful magic.  It was this same powerful magic that decimated the landscape during their Civil War.  The interior was rendered almost sterile.  The only lakes are saltwater, and even those only appear if it rains hard enough. 

Eventually, signs of life have gradually reappeared.  Hard-scrabble prairie has surrounded much of the desert.  The equatorial regions in the north have become dense swamps.  The eastern coast, somewhat sheltered from the worst effects of the conflict by the Great Dividing Range, has recovered into pleasant, but limited, farm and grazing land.  Colonial settlements rely on underground, fresh water Artesian wells and a few above ground rivers. 

It’s an unpleasant environment for settlers.  The good land is too little.  The marginal land is hard to work and too near the monsters.  Unlike the Dark Continent, there are no native populations to impress into forced labor.  Even most of the native animals have been rendered hostile.  Livestock has to be brought over from the homeland and carefully protected against the native wildlife and Humanoid raiders.  It’s a lot of work to just stay alive in the Southland. 


It should be noted that areas still in the “Fallout,” are not harmful to human life.  (The fallout and non-fallout areas have not been defined on the map to allow more flexibility.  Also, the fallout areas are constantly contracting.  Generally, the coasts are uncontaminated.)  Fallout areas are, however, important to Humanoid life.  They can only replicate themselves in these magic saturated places.  Areas with the magical fallout can be determined by a light blue glow that appears around the sun, the moon, and the stars.