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The Land of Kythe was a project that started in 1989, during my GCSEs. I had a big pad of A2 paper, and as a distraction to revision started sketching maps for a fantasy world. Some time later, I obtained a large sheet of A1 hex paper, and draw what was to become the map for the first campaign set in The Land of Kythe, using the newly released 2nd edition AD&D, using the Temple of Elemental Evil adventure as a base.
It made heavy use of speciality priests (basic Clerics didn't exist), and also made use of the weapon specialisation rules that I'd ported from the D&D Master rules.
Some years later, I wrote my own game system called Myths, and ported the setting to that. Though it went through at least one major round of terraforming, the campaign lasted about six years, until I grew tired of high fantasy and wanted something a bit darker and grittier.
The background was mostly written using Impression Publisher on RISC OS, and the later maps were drawn using Artworks. I no longer have anything capable of reading those files, so most of the information is now lost to digital history. However, what was converted to HTML has been reproduced here.
What follows is written for you, an inhabitant of the planet Earth, sometime in the late 20th century. Much of what is related here is easier to explain when put into some 'real' context with which you are familiar. There are two reasons for this. The first is that it is easier for me. The second, is that it is easier for you.
A second note, is that everything here is given from the point of view of a sage of Atharia, though one with knowledge of our own world. Because of this, there is much of Kythe which is not related here, for the simple reason that it has yet to be explored.
Kythe is more or less Earth sized, and its sun is quite similar to our own, though very careful comparison will show it to have a slight greenish tinge, and that it is slightly hotter than our own. Finally, Kythe has but one continent - that of Alabahn. It is similar in many ways to pangea, the super continent of Earth before that split up into its present day form. There are other differences, which will be related as they are come across, but otherwise, Kythe is very much like our own World of Earth.
The Land is the common name for the continent of Alabahn, on the northern hemisphere of the world known to its inhabitants as Kythe. Not all of the continent is inhabited, indeed, only a small fraction, on the northeastern corner, can actually be called civilised. This region is named Eumeria by its human inhabitants, and this name is often used when referring to the entire continent, though correctly it applies only to the northeastern part.
The rest is inhabited only by nomads and barbaric tribesmen, if at all. This uninhabited area is often called the Dark Lands by humans, for they have yet to be explored, and many fear that these lands are the home to evil civilisations, worshipping demons and other dark powers. Whether these stories are true has yet to be discovered, though it is known that the inhabitants of these areas are rarely friendly.
Alabahn covers many climatic zones, stretching from 80 degrees north to about 30 degrees south, its equatorial tips covered in thick jungles - home to many mythical lost civilisations. The continent is about twenty thousand kilometres wide, almost a full half of the globe, Some say it stretches even further, and that to reach its western edge a mere short hop across the ocean to the east is all that is needed.
Of course, many people still believe that the world rides on the back of a giant whale, the sun and moons kept aloft with the odd flick from the giant creature's tail. Most more knowledgeable sages hide their smiles when they here such tales, for it would not do to have the ignorant peasant versed in the true nature of the world, would it?
Eumeria is a collection of many different climates and terrains, ranging from frigid arctic wastes to sun bleached deserts and temperate forest belts. The largest single area within Eumeria is the Kingdom of Atharia - a human country for the most part united by religion. The land here is temperate, cool to the north, especially around the Dragonreaches - a mountainous region rich in lost treasure and old civilisations. For the most part though, Atharia is a mixture of forests and grasslands, the countryside covered in small villages and farmsteads, as well as the occasional towns and cities. Atharia is split by the Turgath Sea, a sea which is slowly draining as time goes on.
To the north of Atharia is Gorthan - a region of open grasslands, bordering on tundra to the far north, populated by barbarian nomads and a few city states. Gorthan is for the most part unexplored wilderness. Its northern boundaries are marked by glacier covered mountain peaks.
To the west is Lhorone, which is much like Atharia, though with fewer trees and warmer weather, especially to the south. To the southwest, the land becomes desolate bad lands and semi-arid desert, together with hilly uplands and further south, stretches of savanna.
A double inland sea marks the southern boundary of what is termed Eumeria - to the northwest is the Aeron sea, which flows out through the Sargath sea to the southeast. Mountain ranges run to the north of both, in particular the great Voldan Mountains, which border the Aeron. It is here that the cradle of civilisation is said to be founded. The religiously fanatical countries of Anquar and the Caliphates of Jadda are here, together with Drendora, once the most civilised country until civil war and religion tore it apart.
Seldor is much a mixture of warm forests, wet marshes and dry deserts. Civilisation here is both advanced and barbaric. The former trade with both the far north and far south across the seas, their ships and navigators being famed across the Land for their experience and daring.
Kythe is not alone in the heavens, for she is accompanied in her continual journey around Lok, her sun, by her two sisters, the moons Udara and Fadora, Udara is the larger of the two sisters, and also the brightest, while Fadora is dull and not so large, sometimes taking to hiding behind her larger kin, being little more than a bump on the edge of Udara when both moons would otherwise be full.
Above is shown a scale view of both Udara and Fadora, together with our own moon of Earth in the background. This is how all three appear from the surface of their parent world.
The father of the three is Lok, whose anger and power is displayed by his brightness and heat. It is thought that Kythes sisters have done something to displease him, for it is rare that they are seen when He is in the sky.
On a clear night, it is possible to make out the suitors, who appear much like the stars, but wander across the sky in pursuit of Kythes younger sisters. The names for the six suitors vary, but the Atharic names are given here, with their scientific (taken from their Olabeth translations) names following in parenthesis. In order from the sun, the suitors are Thauron (Mekan), Mathus (Ariotha), Chrysath (Llarn), Solomus (Letha), Jaohl (Epodias) and Tharos (Forgena). The first two, Thauron and Mathus, are the chosen of Lok, for they often stay near Him, and can be seen only at times near to sunrise and sunset. Tharos is the oldest of the six suitors, for he is slow moving, and also dull red, compared to the others white.
It was the Archmage Heigal who designed the calendar used almost universally throughout the Land today, while he was still advisor to King Trindith, before his great betrayal. He decided to mark all years from the time of Æthara, the warrior queen who started the slow but consistent unification of Atharia, and later Alwold. As such, all years are counted as Athara Einir, which is taken from the Olabeth meaning Ætharas Year, or A.E. Year 1 is usually taken to be the data of her birth, but of course this could be inaccurate by several tens of years. The current year is 743 AE, and this counting holds true for most of the Land.
The year, consisting of 392 days, is divided into fourteen months, each consisting of four quarters of seven days each. For the most part, it is a merger of three (some say four) different calendars, mainly those of Atharia and Alwold.
It should be noted that Udara takes one month to complete her phase about Kythe, and Fadora takes seven quarters. This brings the two sisters into conjunction at the times called High Moons, during the middle of the summer, and at the beginning of the year, during deep winter.
The months and seasons are listed at the bottom of the following page, together with a few of the more important festivals. Religious days, including those named for saints are not given here, since their importance (and existence) varies from place to place, and even over time.
Each of the seven days of each quarter is named, with the first day varying depending on the quarter. The first day of the quarter is known as First Quarter, if it is the first quarter of the month, Second Quarter if it is the second, Third and Fourth Quarter for the last two quarters. The rest of the days are the same whatever quarter it is.
The first day of the quarter is sometimes referred to as Firstday, though this is only the case where the quarter in question is unambiguous, and being added some centuries after the calendars design, it is seen by the more conservative as 'not proper'.
Godsday is held as a day of rest and worship, and even the most tight fisted of lords usually allow their peasants a day of rest at the end of the quarter. Metanday is also often a rest day, though not all Lords hold it as such, and in nearly all cases, important work is done on this day. It is also a day of markets, councils and such public displays as executions or coronations. As such, on this day towns and cities are usually flooded with people from out laying districts, here to trade or just to enjoy themselves.
Those four yearly festivals which mark the seasons as shown on the calendar, are held on the first day of the following month, ie on First Quarter. This usually means an extra two days of rest for workers, for most Lords allow Uday to be held as a rest day, to recover from the celebrations of the day before.
Spring Dawning signifies the beginning of spring, though in some regions it tends to be a bit premature. It is uncommon for large banquets to be held at this time, for food tends to be scarce, and so instead it is a time of light entertainment, dancing and song.
High Moons is one of the two times in the year when both moons are full at the same time. Due to the slight angle of inclination of the sisters to Kythe, Fadora appears slightly above Udara, with two thirds of it hidden behind her (apparently) larger sister. It is quite a sight to behold, and the common people hold it as a time of great portent, and many systems of predicting omens, both good and bad, have been invented over the years. Of course, these are no more than superstitious nonsense, as any good mage would tell you. Despite this, many stay up to the early hours of the morning of First Quarter (High Moons occurs on the night of Godsday/Firstday), drinking and merrymaking, and this time is held as sacred by Druids. It should also be noted that lycanthropes tend to be very common at this time, due to the effect of both moons.
Harvestide signifies the end of summer, and the beginning of the autumn harvest. Huge banquets are held at this time, and it is among the more expensive of the festivals because of this, and lords who have the moral of their kingdom to think of, often supply food and drink for their peasants. Not all is good at this time though, for once the harvest has been collected, there is little to do, so Lords tend to use this time to start petty wars, hopefully to finish them before the snows set in.
Witfest signifies the end of the year, and is held on the shortest day - often also the coldest and darkest as well. Because of the bad weather conditions large festivals are rarely held, and it tends to be a quite, private festival, when family and close friends get together. In the richer communities, small gifts are exchanged, and these traditionally have been objects crafted by the giver.
The number of days sanctified for saints, old gods, historic events and other reasons for a day off work number in the hundreds, and could probably fill a good couple of years. For this reason, only a few are celebrated by any group of people, though it can be argued each day that there is at least one village somewhere celebrating.
Unlike for the four major festivals, these minor festivals rarely mean a day off work for the hard working peasants, but at least means some traditional food is eaten, ceremony performed, or prayers invoked by those honouring the day. Some of the more important of the minor festivals are listed below.
Fearnit (11th Losmar): On this day in 453, the Night of Unending Terror was unleashed on those who blasphemed against God, and took up worship of a man in His place. This day is recognised throughout the Kingdom, and is especially favoured by Telam since it marks the beginning of that religion in the Kingdom. Its name comes from the Old Atharic Fyrnit, which means Fire Night, so called because the old tradition was to burn a witch over a large bonfire at dusk. This old tradition is still followed in some places, but witches are hard to come by these days, and people tend to be a bit less blood thirsty, so a mere bonfire is used instead. Nevertheless, it should be noted that old women have a habit of being nice to people in the weeks preceding fearnite - just in case.
The majority of Eumeria is blessed with warm weather for most of the year, though it rarely gets hot enough for crops to wither and streams and rivers to dry up. The winters are for the most part short and cold, without being frigid, while the summers are long and warm.
For the central regions of Eumeria, those laying between the Voldan Mountains and the Dragonreaches, winters are short and cool. Snow is common during this time, though is only thick on the ground between the months of Akan and Meltha. Further north, particularly in northern Gorthan, winters tend to be harsh and cold, lasting well into Hibrith, with the first snows falling in Bronath. Just across the mountains, in Calhaina, winters last for most of the year, and it is a warm year in which snow does not lay on the ground throughout. South of the Voldan Mountains, winters are brief and short, with snow restricted to the higher regions only.
Spring is usually warm and wet, especially in Hibrith and Eldath, which were once known as the rains for good reason. During this time, lasting until High Moons, great storms sweep across Gorthan, and the already poor roads are completely swept away every few years. To the far north, spring doesnt come until Losun, but elsewhere they are mild and cool, with plenty of rain to keep even the farmers happy.
Summer is the time of many religious festivals, since the days are almost guaranteed to be warm and at least reasonably dry. It is during this time that Calhaina has been known to be almost hospitable, and elsewhere it is a time for both trade and hard work. Summer is probably the safest time of year as far as wars go, since most rulers are training their troops and getting them ready for the almost inevitable wars which occur after the harvest in autumn.
In the Land, Autumn is a time of war. Once the harvest is in, most petty barons and city rulers can find little to do, except revive old hatred, and blood feuds. Even in the Kingdom, neighbouring duchies start minor border skirmishes, and across Gorthan, it is often time for outright war between the city states. Climate wise, the snows and storms hold off until Colath and Druth, but when they do arrive, they can be quite sudden, and most lords try to ensure that their troops are home and dry before the winter storms set in. It is for this reason that southern Gorthan is more warlike than its northern regions - the southern tribes have far more time to practice that their northern neighbours. South of the Voldan Mountains, it is not until the later months that the weather turns cold, but the more stable southern states tend to hold off from this annual bickering - when they fight, they prefer to spend a good few years at it.
The use of coins as a stable currency has spread rapidly in the last couple of centuries, mainly due to the expansion and influence of the Kingdom of Atharia.
Because of the power of the Kingdom, it is its coinage which is used most often by the most people. Even countries which dont officially recognise it find it being used in their countries, and it is really only the non-humans, as well as the southern human kingdoms who refuse to accept it as a standard.
Four coins are used by the Atharic monetary system, these being the brass bit, copper tusk, silver sild and golden royal. Their values are listed below:
The sild and royal are rare (almost unseen) among the common folk, and even amongst the nobility the royal is rare.
The Land of Kythe is as much like Earth as it is different. It is not only the existence of magic and the gods that mark it as dissimilar, but also its more natural differences.
Geography aside, probably the most important difference is the animals which call Kythe their home. Not the intelligent races such as man, savesti or duergar, but the common animals which have no goals other than survival and comfort.
Whereas on Earth, the mammal is the most common of land based creatures, on Kythe, it is the saurial which dominates. A cross between bird and lizard, the saurials are probably best described as warm blooded reptiles. Such a description is not totally accurate, but it will do, for the only creature of similar kind which has existed on Earth is the dinosaur.
Though the saurial is similar to the dinosaurs of ancient Earth, they are not the same. Many look similar, but this shouldnt be taken to mean that they are. Their names are very different of course (since more common, less scientific names have been given to them). Also, saurials are warm blooded (something which is debated about dinosaurs), and some are fast and quite intelligent. They should not be taken to be slow lumbering beasts whose only purpose is to hunt and kill. Those of you who have read (or seen) Jurassic Park will recognise this description of dinosaurs. Dont expect saurials to exactly match Earth dinosaurs though. Because of the success of the saurial, other creatures, notably the mammals havent done quite as well. Felines and canines are rarer than on earth, but still do exist.
Many insects are larger than their earthly counterparts. The dragonfly for instance can often reach 30cm in length. Some species of beetles are also quite large, especially the fire beetle, which is about 15cm long, and which has a nasty acidic bite (the concentrated juices of which are often put on specially prepared sword blades to cause lingering wounds) which is irritating to adults, and sometimes dangerous for children, especially for those attacked by an angered swarm of the creatures.
Full details about all creatures which dwell in the land are given in the Bestiary, including descriptions of their appearance and where they fit into the worlds ecology.
The Land is home to many races which are generally considered to be intelligent. The wide diversity of intelligent life, especially between the two major strains of mammals and saurials, has led several sages to postulate that not all species are native to Kythe - an idea which is often ridiculed, since obviously the only other bodies large enough to support life which are near enough the sun to be warmed sufficiently by it are the moons, which appear quite dead to both mundane and magical observation.
The most diverse of the intelligent races are the humans. Next, come the kiar, who are for the most part barbaric savages, but have set up their own civilisation in southern lands. Duergar are quite rare, keeping to lands humans find desolate, through trade between duergar and other races is quite common. The savesti mainly avoid the company of other races, though their services are often sought by humans requiring their rather unique ability. For the most part though, they prefer uncultivated wilderness lands as their homes, mainly dwelling in the far west.
There is only one real race of intelligent saurials, known to humans as saurians. Their own name for themselves is unpronounceable by other races, for their language is as much based on scent as it is on sound. These creatures are slowly dying out, for they are generally hunted and killed by the other races.
Humans are as wide spread as they are varied. The common stock of humankind are taken to be the Atharic of the Kingdom of Atharia. The Kingdom is the largest single stable human nation, and also the most powerful. Humans in general tend to be suspicious of most other races (including other human sub-races to some degree) apart for duergar and huadan, with whom they get on reasonably well with.
To the north is Gorthan, which is populated by the gorthanic tribesmen. They are generally barbaric, though have a few small cities which are used as trading points for an otherwise semi-nomadic culture. Gorthanians tend to be large, with dark hair and well weathered skin. The majority are skilled warriors and hunters, for both war and a cruel environment are a common found thing in these northern lands.
To the west of the Kingdom of Atharia is the Kingdom of Lhorone, a country which was great long before Atharia rose to power, but has since been beset by much internal feuding (not to say several major rebellions and civil wars), as well as a near continual war with the human kingdom of Zalbeth and the kiar nations to the south. The people of Lhorone tend to be fond of either a good rebellion or a big celebration commemorating a good rebellion. The politics of Lhorone has enough political back stabbing to keep assassins in a job for a good few centuries to come.
The duergar are a short stocky race of fierce warriors and greatly skilled craftsmen. For the most part they dwell in their secluded mountain kingdoms, though have recently started trading the fruits of their craft with humans. They have a natural distrust of magic, and are unique in having no deities of their own. For the most part, duergar are atheists.
They are also incredibly practical, to the extent that they are difficult and dangerous to deal with. They have absolutely no sense of honour or morality. They do what is necessary. If going back on their word will be to their advantage (this includes the long term), then they will do so.
The greatest of the duergan kingdoms is that of Norvenia in the Voldan Mountains. Though they generally dwell below ground, there are a few surface cities near the Stone Lands, where the duergar are carrying on a genocidal war against the kiar to that kinds home grounds.
The meaning of duergar is uncertain, but thought to mean the crafters or the builders. Humans call the duergar dwarves, because of their short stature.
The savesti are for the most part an unknown race who keep very much to themselves. The most unusual feature of savesti is their ability to change their form. They are restricted to humanaid shape, but even this gives them a wide range of appearances. Their control over their body is almost total, and they are supposedly immune to poisons and disease. The natural form of a savesti is an ugly parody of a human, a skinny, pale skinned neutral look with very blank facial features, and devoid of hair. Savesti have the same ideas of beauty has humans do though, so they are seldom encountered in their true form, preferring the shape of beautiful human men and women. This has led to some conflicting tales about what they look like, with many people who deal with them unaware that their real form is anything other than their beautiful one.
Their inconsistent outside appearance is mirrored in their personality. Savesti are chaotic and temperamental. They are driven by their emotions rather than by rational thought. Their society is unstructured, for they see the importance of the individual over the group. They are deceitful, dishonourable and untrustworthy, the very opposite of the human ideal. Then again, they have a strong sense of humour, are generous and often friendly, and will rarely carry a grudge or hatred for longer than a few minutes.
For the most part they live in wilderness lands, away from the other races. They are sought for both their artistic ability, knowledge (for they are very long lived), and shape changing ability - they make among the best (non-magical) assassins, and have few qualms against such tasks.
Humans have many names for the savesti, amongst them being doppleganger, changer and face dancer. They are distrusted, but rarely fought. Savesti means simply The People.
The kiar is a race very similar in some respects to humanity. Many consider them a degenerate form of humans, though the two species are very much different. They tend to be slightly shorter than humans, though heavier of build. They are bald, but have hair on their arms and in a strip down their backs.
Their thick skulls, with a slight double dome (more pronounced on males) gives them an ugly, square faced appearance. Their skin is light brown, and they have well developed canines. They live for about as long a humans do.
The kiar are warlike and aggressive, and though humans consider them stupid, they are just as intelligent as humans, though more driven by instinct and emotion than reason. Their craftsmen rival, if not surpass, the duergar, though the latter are far more skilled artistically - a kiar sword may be just as good as a duergan one when it comes to war, but it looks a lot more inferior.
Kiar have a strong sense of what they call hikrat. This is vaguely similar to human honour, though the two are quite different. Hikrat represents bravery, the ability to stand on your own two feet, and social standing. When a kiar gives his word on his hikrat, it means he will keep it, whatever the cost. This oath is rarely given lightly though, and only to those who demonstrate that they too are worthy of hikrat.
It should be pointed out though that hikrat is more practical than honour. A kiar will gladly use poison, ambush and other tactics to gain back hikrat - all is allowed. If someone is unarmed and defenceless, then that is their fault.
Amongst humans, kiar are often known as orcs. Their own name for themselves means The Hunters - a name that well represents them.
The saurian race is an old one, pre-dating humanity by many millennia. For the most part they are a wise and honourable race, though they are currently very much in decline.
Saurians are humanoid, standing about two metres tall. They are covered in fine but tough black scales. Under the correct lighting conditions many shades of reds, blues and greens can be seen, dark iridescent patterns on a darker background.
To the saurian eye, such colourings are obvious, for they show up much better in the infrared spectrum - that which the saurian sees. They also have an acute sense of smell, and ears designed for far higher pitches than humans are capable of hearing. Needless to say, trying to communicate with a saurian by mundane means is impossible unless sign language is used.
Saurians have heads much like their saurial cousins - eyes on the sides of their head, and forward protruding mouth, filled with teeth which, despite popular belief, are designed for chewing plants, not tearing at meat.
Within the Kingdom, the most commonly spoken language is Atharic, which has over the last two centuries become very much a trade language in Eumeria. Their are other human tongues though, as well as many non-human ones, not all pronounceable - or even understandable - by humans.
Even in the more educated parts of Atharia and Lhorone, few can read and write. In Gorthan, writing is almost unheard of, except in the use of mystical runes which form a partially magical, partially informative language (ideas such as danger, food, shelter etc can be portrayed, but little beyond this).
It should be noted that not every spoken language has its own written form. Many human languages use a similar alphabet - notably Labeth - and knowledge of this is sufficient to understand any language this is used to record, as long as that language can be spoken.
Alundic is spoken by the Alundic people (surprise) of Frean Taer, and a few scatterings of what is left of this once numerous people. Since the majority of the Alundic were swallowed up by the expanding of Atharia, their previous written language (more a glorified rune language), Tolithian, has fallen into disuse, and now Labeth is most often used for writing.
Atharic is a common trade language in Eumeria, as well as being the native tongue of the Kingdom of Atharia. This does not mean that all civilised people speak Atharic, just that the chances of finding someone who does is much greater than for any other language. Of course, in northern Gorthan or Calhaina, doing so is still going to be almost impossible, but traders, merchants and travellers will often know it. Labeth is the written alphabet for Atharic.
Drendoran is the tongue of the southern country of Drendora, being a derivative of the Olabeth language. Its alphabet is Labeth.
Gorthanic is the language spoken by the nomads of Gorthan, though the wide diversity of tribes has led to many tribal dialects. On the whole, few difficulties are encountered by travellers, though meanings and pronunciations of a few words may differ from tribe to tribe. Gorthanic tribesmen do not use writing, believing the written word to be a poor substitute for memory. Within the seven cities that make up the civilised part of Gorthan, writing has made itself necessary though, and the Labeth alphabet is much in use.
Lhoric is the language of Lhorone. Many of that kingdom wish to see it replace Atharic as the common tongue, but Lhorone is just not central enough to be able to push this. Labeth is the written alphabet for Lhoric.
Thembian is spoken within Thembia, though those living on border lands may often speak Lhoric, Atharic or Gorthanic as applicable. Writing is very uncommon, being a privileged skill of the few scholars, some priests, and a scattering of the nobility. In such cases, Labeth may be used, but in such cases Olabeth is most often used along with it. Some of the religious orders use an obscure alphabet found only in Thembia, known as Old Thembian.
Olabeth is a dead tongue, originating in Drendora, and it was the first to use the Labeth alphabet. Today, it is used by scholars as a universal language for scholarly texts. Outside libraries though, it is very rarely used.