This post wraps up my region-level development of the Gilded Lands.
Define the relationships between the groups.
This step in Worlds Without Number has two components: what each nation generally thinks about each other nation, and a specific thing they want from each of them. I keep them brief, and I always try to make the want an adventure/campaign hook.
- Yrfeđe: A haunted place best avoided, a trading partner, and an obstacle to making Mormú a client state. Their smoked meats are especially prized in Kadavis.
- Want: The Kadavan embassy in Ulfærn-Dennic is engaged in a long-term mission of bribery and skullduggery aimed at convincing the Grshniki that Yrfeđe is not as secure an ally as it seems, thereby bolstering the case for client statehood.
- Lonþyr: A rival, and sometimes a trading partner. Lonþyr and Kadavis both mine the same portion of the Mormú-Hús Mountains, and Lonþyr controls the southern end of Many Sorrows Pass (as well as all of the coastal ports along a large section of the ocean south of Kadavis).
- Want: Control of the south end of Many Sorrows Pass. Always trying to avoid open warfare, Kadavis has attempted this many times. The current plan is to find the most dangerous thing they can extract from Nus Palavar, sneak it into Castle Nefre, and let whatever foul curse inhabits the artifact pollute the castle and its environs. If this works, it will make the whole pass horribly dangerous . . . but hey, it might wipe out the Mor presence in the center of the pass, too.
- Garshán: A close trading partner, and generally an ally. Kadavans love novelty and the opportunity to show off new things to their neighbors, and acquiring stuff from far-off lands is a big part of that — and something at which Garshán excels.
- Want: Kadavan nobles have heard rumors from far-off lands that someone has killed a god and turned its corpse into a delectable candied treat — a truly one-of-a-kind culinary experience. They’re tripping over each other to acquire it, and most of the interested parties are paying huge bounties to Garsháni traders, calling in markers with those traders, or otherwise trying to coopt Garshán’s expertise to ensure that if this monstrosity is real it lands on their table.
- Kostivolsk: A strange place that would be funny if it weren’t so sinister. Best kept at arm’s length.
- Want: The Kosti abducted a Kadavan noble from a troublesome family. The government doesn’t actually want her back; the family does, and will go to extremes to make that happen.
- Mormú: An inconvenience which keeps Kadavis from efficiently mining the Mormú-Hús Mountains. If the Grshniki would just accept the inevitable, they could become part of Kadavis.
- Want: Annexing the Mormú-Hús Mountains — and all of Mormú in the process — would increase Kadavis’ wealth immeasurably, as well as its ability to ostentatiously display that wealth. Kadavis is mounting a major diplomatic effort to convince the Grshniki to become a client state, with a caravan of wine, delicacies, and trade goods to sweeten the deal. As a client state, Mormú would gain allies against their neighbors, most notably Lonþyr.
- Kadavis: They don’t care about us, and we don’t care about them. A possible ally against Lonþyr, save that allying with Mormú precludes allying with Kadavis.
- Want: To convince Kadavis to stop mining the Mormú-Hús Mountains. The Dýgan doesn’t care about Kadavis, but a third of the Dýfeón does. Their squabbles over the importance of this venture, and the means, have resulted in several parallel, non-overlapping efforts (hiring outsiders, spies, assassinations, magical skullduggery, etc.).
- Lonþyr: A foe, but it’s complicated. Yrfeđe was originally part of Lonþyr, and families and bloodlines straddle the border. Reconciliation is viewed as impossible; enmity is driven by Lonþyr’s treatment of the Grshniki and by their apparent immunity to the predations of the đargnr.
- Want: To find out how Lonþyr has avoided being overrun by the đargnr. The Yr don’t know about the actual reason (the artifact stolen from under the mountains), so they’ve spread spies throughout Lonþyr to gather information.
- Garshán: A valuable trading partner. Yrfeđe exports timber, worked wood, fish, furs, and smoked meat. Apart from iron (which they get in partnership with the Grshniki), they import almost everything else — and much of it comes from Garshán.
- Want: For Garshán to set up a permanent outpost of Sou gnomes on Lake Be-Hédan. The threat of the đargnr has thus far kept the gnomes from establishing a presence there.
- Kostivolsk: Somehow, even darker and stranger than Yrfeđe itself. Resented because they can keep the đargnr at bay, but pitied because of how they must do it.
- Want: Kosti scouts and raiders keep turning up deep inside Yr and Grshniki territory, appearing as if from nowhere — which means they’re coming up from tunnels under the mountains. The Yr want to find and seal those tunnels.
- Mormú: A staunch ally. The two nations are longtime trading partners, and their peoples are intermingled. Among the nations of the Gilded Lands, only Mormú stands with Yrfeđe against the đargnr.
- Want: To build a joint outpost with the Grshniki — a fortress carved into the face of a mountain, full of windows to keep it well-lit, that might serve as a bastion against the đargnr. And, if it works, it could become a template for moving more Yr into Mormú so that the two nations can more easily protect one another.
- Kadavis: A rival too large to crush outright. With Kadavis controlling the north end of Many Sorrows Pass, and pressing Mormú from the north, it assists Lonþyr as a byproduct of sharing similar goals.
- Want: To take the north end of Many Sorrows Pass from Kadavis. This would put Lonþyr in control of virtually all overland trade in the Gilded Lands, and give it a base from which to crush Mormú’s fortified presence in the center of the pass — an open war that could split Mormú in half and leave Lonþyr in full control of Many Sorrows Pass.
- Yrfeđe: A rival, but it’s complicated. Absent the đargnr, Lonþyr would be trying to annex portions of Yrfeđe — but now they want Yrfeđe to be sealed in a bubble to keep the evil inside. Bloodlines cross the border, and family ties go back countless generations.
- Want: To unlock the secrets of the Grshniki artifact that keeps the đargnr away from Lonþyr, find a way to extend that protection to Yrfeđe, and then use that knowledge as leverage to force Yrfeđe to become part of Lonþyr again.
- Garshán: Weak, passive, and of little import. The Garsháni take nothing, therefore they are irrelevant.
- Want: To pit Garshán against Kadavis, leaving more room for Lonþyr to muscle Kadavis out of Many Sorrows Pass and the mountains in general. Lonþyran spies plan to kidnap several Garsháni elders, spirit them into Kadavis, murder them, and stage the crime to look like the Kadavans were responsible.
- Kostivolsk: A strange place, best avoided. The Kosti focus on submission in exchange for power is utterly baffling; Lonþyrans take what they want.
- Want: Lonþyr has heard that the Kosti have ways into a layer of tunnels under the mountains which are less-trafficked, letting them scout and mount raids from relatively safe quarters. The Lonþyrans want access to those secret passages.
- Mormú: A foe to be crushed. There’s no malice in it, the Grshniki are just in the way of Lonþyr taking what it wants: the mineral wealth of the Mormú-Hús Mountains, control of the middle of Many Sorrows Pass, and the cessation of constant guerilla attacks on their mines and forts.
- Want: To plumb the depths of one of the Grshniki God-Tunnels and leave behind a god-killing artifact. The plan is to acquire a legendary cursed chalice from Nus Palavar, in Kadavis, and then steep it in the cursed waters of the Unlucky Isles. With the artifact twice-cursed, they get it as deep as they can and let go, hopefully crippling or killing Nújag-Húarn.
- Kadavis: One of the largest markets in the world, a vast coffer of wealth just waiting to be transferred to Garshán one trade caravan at a time.
- Want: One of the most unscrupulous trade guilds in Garshán, the Wayfolk guild called Uelkaecz Blue Coster (“WELL-kay-ish”), has a buyer for the personal ceremonial mask of the Oracle of Iskuldra, and they plan to steal it. This is possibly the most valuable, most heavily-guarded artifact in all of Kadavis…
- Yrfeđe: A dangerous, depressing place that’s fine to visit, just don’t linger. But also a source of trade goods prized throughout the Gilded Lands and beyond.
- Want: To learn the truth behind the rumor that Yrfeđe controls a secret tunnel leading under the mountains and emerging in Kostivolsk — which, if passage rights can be secured, could give Garsháni traders a way to avoid Many Sorrows Pass entirely.
- Lonþyr: The bully of the Gilded Lands, without which trade would be more efficient and peace more commonplace.
- Want: Coster of the Murghain (“muhr-GAYN”), one of the most-reviled trading companies in Garshán, wants to get Lonþyr hooked on an opium-like jelly from a far-off land. Their hope is that by spreading this jelly, called Kiir-nektaat (keer NECK-tot”) far and wide, they’ll make Lonþyr so docile that they become less of a threat to the rest of the Gilded Lands.
- Kostivolsk: A strange place, in which it’s best to spend as little time as possible, but full of things people elsewhere want. Some traders have elevated efficiently trading within Kostivolsk to the status of an artform.
- Want: A Landfolk guild, the Yastili (“yoss-TIH-lee”), has become possessive about overland trade routes through Kostivolsk. To improve their efficiency, they want Kostivolsk to grant them exclusive trading rights.
- Mormú: An ally, though a complicated one. Garshán’s Sirali population gives this nation a unique insight into what it’s like to be beset on all sides by hostile powers — and, depending on one’s beliefs, abandoned by their god (as the Grshniki appear to have been). But aiding Mormú, at least openly, risks alienating every other power in the Gilded Lands save Yrfeđe — and all of them are more powerful than Garshán.
- Want: To secretly aid the Grshniki in retaking the north and south ends of Many Sorrows Pass. Passing through three nations’ contested territory to trade with points south is inefficient and dangerous, and of the three powers Mormú is the most likely ally.
- Kadavis: A decadent, wasteful nation full of indolent layabouts, undeserving of its riches. Too big to piss off, but relations are generally chilly.
- Want: Jealous of the prized wines made in Vinu Kremru, just west of the Kadavan border, the town of Stymret — home of the famous Stymret Red, a vintage from the northern foothills of the Mormú-Hús Mountains — plans to hold a huge sacrificial ritual in order to magically wither all of Kremru’s vines, thus ensuring its own preeminence.
- Yrfeđe: The source of all of Kostivolsk’s woes, home of the cursed đargnr, and — at least to those who question why the Kosti must live as they do — the reason why life is pain. If Kostivolsk could burn Yrfeđe to the ground and salt the earth, it would.
- Want: To destroy Yrfeđe utterly. Not by force of arms, which Kostivolsk couldn’t do, but insidiously, from within. This effort is ongoing, and takes place on many fronts: poisonings, abductions, souring their alliance with the Grshniki, etc.
- Lonþyr: It’s complicated. Lonþyr hates Yrfeđe, so they’re an ally in that regard. But Lonþyr has also figured out how to avoid the scourge of the đargnr without the extreme measures Kostivolsk must take, so they’re a source of frustration and a rival as well.
- Want: To find out how Lonþyr avoids the đargnr. Kostivolsk began sending spies to Lonþyr some time ago, and now they’re everywhere. Active temple-based efforts at home send power to Kosti spies courtesy of Xlě̀-Ceth’s dark blessings, enabling them to hide, assassinate, and otherwise get up to no good with virtual impunity (albeit at great cost to those performing the rituals).
- Garshán: Neutral. Kostivolsk doesn’t have time for Garshán, and Garshán isn’t an expansionist power, so they just coexist.
- Want: A prophetic vision from Xlě̀-Ceth revealed that a powerful and sacred artifact, the Book of Yirg (“yeergh”), is hidden somewhere in Garshán. In order to find it, the Kosti have begun killing traders and using magic to impersonate them — and in the process, have assembled a surprisingly effective spy network in Garshán.
- Mormú: An annoyance, but also a good source of sacrifices to Xlě̀-Ceth. The Kosti plunder the mountains for blood as well as minerals.
- Want: Kostivolsk is secretly building a temple to Xlě̀-Ceth inside Mormú, deep underground. If completed and sanctified, it would make it much easier for them to abduct and sacrifice Grshniki…but it also might protect the surrounding area from the đargnr. For that latter reason, a hardline Grshniki faction is secretly aiding the Kosti in this effort.
- Kadavis: A hostile invader that’s too large to fight off. Kadavis is less aggressive about incursions into Grshniki territory than Lonþyr, but it has stolen just as much land and wealth from the gnomes.
- Want: Mormú wants to take back the north end of Many Sorrows Pass, currently under Kadavan control. It already controls the center, perhaps its greatest bargaining chip when it comes to staving off the other powers in the Gilded Lands. Control of the north end would enable it to lock Lonþyr almost entirely out of northern overland trade.
- Yrfeđe: Mormú’s sole true ally in the Gilded Lands. Their bonds are many, including trade, intermingling of their peoples and settlements, and the common threat of the đargnr.
- Want: The Yr are adept at making, using, and maintaining light sources (as one might expect), and the Grshniki want them to help find their absent/slumbering/dead god, Nújag-Húarn, who many believe is somewhere in the unexplored depths beneath the mountains. This would drain people and resources from Yrfeđe, in addition to being incredibly dangerous.
- Lonþyr: A hated foe, with which they are at war. Of all the nations in the Gilded Lands, Lonþyr has taken — and continues to take — the most from the Grshniki.
- Want: Hardline “we should fight everyone and take our territory back” Grshniki have learned that Lonþyr stole a mysterious artifact from Mor territory long ago, although they don’t yet know that Lonþyr is using it to keep the đargnr at bay. The artifact is sacred to the gnomes, as it appears — in frustratingly vague terms — in ancient legends about their god; they want it back, at any cost.
- Garshán: A neutral trading partner. Garshán has considerable goodwill with the Grshniki simply because they’ve never stolen land or resources from Mormú, but they’re also far enough away that the two nations don’t have strong ties — and Mormú has a full plate just dealing with neighboring threats.
- Want: The Grshniki have recently heard tales of a “god-finder” in some far-off land. Whether that’s a person, an artifact, or just a fairy tale, they want to Garsháni to acquire it — if it exists — and sell it to them.
- Kostivolsk: An invader, only less hated than Lonþyr and Kadavis by dint of being too preoccupied with internal problems to be as large a threat to Mormú as the others.
- Want: To find a way to unleash the đargnr on Kostivolsk, breaching whatever magical or god-given “barrier” currently keeps the shadows out. Let them suffer as we suffer.
And for now, that’s it for the Gilded Lands! I’m currently working on my third region, Kurthunar, and have plans for my fourth and fifth.
(This post is one of a series about worldbuilding with Worlds Without Number.)
Out now: The Unlucky Isles
The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
2 replies on “The Gilded Lands 3 of 3: national relationships and wants”
I like these too — they have a very different feel, despite the overall dead gods background flavor that comes through. Characters beginning in the isles would have their hands full figuring out the players and local rivalries.
Thanks, Scott! And you’re right, sussing out the politics of the Gilded Lands cold would be a challenge (hopefully an interesting one).
I’m going for that thing the older Forgotten Realms material does so well, where you can close your eyes, open the book, point and random, and land on an idea for an adventure, story arc, or campaign. It’s a fun challenge!