Tales from Karickbridge
THE LANDS OF LEGEND
Imagine a world of chivalrous knights, dangerous sorcerers and dextrous thieves, where warnings of hobgoblins at the bottom of the garden doesn't cost just the children sleepless nights and where sightings of dragons are rare, but real. A world of wizened witches and saintly hermits where church intrigue and pagan beliefs coexist, whether in wary harmony or outright hostility and where political aspirations of local lords can change the course of history… Welcome to the World of Legend!
This is an early medieval feudal society as it might have been were magic real…
[The Lands of Legend are a campaign setting initially created by Dave Morris and Oliver Johnson in the 1980s for their rule system Dragon Warriors. Magnum Opus Press has recently re-released the original rule books as well as several add-ons. More information can be found at the Dragon Warriors Wiki.]
The gentle reader is referred to pages 150 and 219 of the core rule book for detailed maps of Ellesland and the westernmost lands of the Barony of Aldred respectively.Both are also to be found in the Free Introductory Rulebook on pages 19 and 21.
Much like Europe of the 11th and 12th centuries, Legend, and in particular Ellesland and Albion are largely feudal cultures. Peasants owed fealty and taxes to their local lord, who in turn would protect them. He, in turn, owed fealty and, in times of war, men to his duke and he to his king. The peasant had practically no rights and certainly no great possessions. Even members of the local court were dependent for everything on the lord of the manor.
Local lords would support small private armies to protect their folk and, in some cases, to raid the dominion of the next lord. Learning was protected and propagated by either the church or learned scribes.
Ellesland is dominated by humankind and human culture. Very occasionally a dwarf from the Pagan Mountains will venture into human culture, either for trade or in exile. Elves tend to be more aloof still and only allow themselves to be seen on very rare occasions.
The religious background of Legend is comparable to that the middle ages. The West is dominated by the True Faith, which is split into various factions, most notable of which are the Holy Selentium Church and the Wythians. The Holy Selentium Church is a hierarchical church with its earthly base in Selentia. The church is characterised by its authoritarian approach to life and its ostentatious churches and cathedrals. The Wythians are a less centralised group of believers whose mission is more pastoral and are more likely to be found in rural areas. Another significant difference between the churches is the absolute intolerance of the Selentians for all forms of magic; they understand magic to be of the Enemy and to weaken the boundaries between Legend and Fey. Sorcerers and witches are burned, as are magical manuscripts and the like. The Wythians are more tolerant of magic without necessarily encouraging it. They tend to suspect that the Selentians may possibly be right with regard to the weakening of the boundaries, but also see the positive uses to which magic can be put.
Before the True Faith came to Albion, Ellesland was dominated by pagan beliefs. The island now stands in flux between the two, with pagan beliefs and practices tending to dominate the outlying areas.
Thuland, on the other hand, is still fairly well in the grip of its Norse-like gods and the eastern areas, which are dominated by the Ta'ashim faith. Other more exotic areas have their own belief systems.
One thing is true, though. As the True Faith has spread through Selentia, Kurland, Algandy, Chaubrette and slowly Ellesland, the forces of Fey and magic are slowly abating.
Ellesland has been populated by humankind for at least 3,000 years (despite any perceptions the dwarves may have of humans having arrived on the scene only yesterday). Until about 600 years ago there was little history to speak of. Peasant villages kept to themselves and culture was primitive. Slowly feudal society evolved out of this at about the same time that the True Faith hit the southern shores of Albion. The next 75 years saw the True Faith spread rapidly through Albion, sweeping the pagan religion to the edges of Ellesland. The kings, for kings there were by this time, converted to the True Faith.
The reaction to this encroachment was watched in Fey with divided hearts. The goblins, bugbears, hobgoblins, giants, ogres and other fell creatures wanted war to push the humans back out of Ellesland. As much as the Elves and Dwarves hated being pushed to the fringe of human civilisation, they could not justify war on mankind.
The inevitable came as it must. War broke out between Fey and mankind. The goblin kings attacked the humans under the leadership of the first human king of all Albion, king Vallandar. With the support of a small but decisive number of elves and supplied with armour and weapons from dwarven smithies Vallandar defeated the Fey Horde, only to be struck down by his half-brother Morgrin during the victory celebrations.
Since then, Albion has been led by a succession of kings, some noble, some base. The island has been subject to raids from the barbaric tribes of Thuland, who still have a foothold in northern Ellesland. The present ruler of Albion is King Hadric.
Probably the most significant event of the last century have been a series of crusades to the Ta'ashim lands, particularly the Principalities of the Crusade. Although the crusades were initiated by the King of Algandy and the Selentian Pontiff, several Elleslandic knights have taken part in them.
The Land of Legend and the Land of Fey are closely connected and it is possible to walk out of one into the other. Many are the tails of a child disappearing on a misty evening only to reappear unchanged months or even years later. The border between Legend and Fey is not a physical one, although there appear to be places which uniquely allow this. Walking through a misty forest on a moonlit night or entering an old barrow or well could well leave one in the land of Fey against ones will.
Far from being a land of all things pleasant, Fey is at once the home of the beautiful, otherworldly Elves as that of goblins, ogres and dragons.
A third realm, the Realm of the Dead is also too close to Legend for comfort, allowing all sorts of undead creatures access to this world. Skeletons and zombies, unpleasant as they are, are among the least harmful of the minions of this place.
The adventurers find themselves in the county town of Karickbridge, an important inland military market town. Lord Karick is a close vassal of Baron Aldred. Karickbridge is a walled town dominated by the castle overlooking the river Hern. Town life tends to centre on the castle, market and church. There are numerous tradesmen in the town, including blacksmith, tanner, fletcher, herbalist and all the other trades that an adventurer might need in the course their careers.
The main feature of the town is the castle sitting above the town on the bank of the Hern. As well as lord Karick's home, the castle hosts a physician (Alric), a chaplain, a scribe, a castle steward, castle cook and a guard captain (Dromeir) together with a garrison of some 50 armed men, most of whom live in the town. Only Lord and Lady Karick, the chaplain, steward, physician and associated servants actually live in the castle. Even Dromeir enjoys a small town house where he lives with his twin children.
The town square is dominated by the market house and the church of St. Martha. Karickbridge is significant enough to harbour a bishop as well as attending priests and lay-brothers who for the most part live in the small cloister attached to the church.
The town's inns cater to all manor of tastes, from the Gryffon, favoured by his Lordship and the town dignitaries, to the spit and sawdust "Tar and Feathers" at the bottom end of the town near the river. In between these two (geographically and culturally) lies the Red Dragon, where the town's craftsmen can be found of an evening.
The immediate countryside is characterised by agriculture and the timber trade – though none delve too far into the surrounding forests – who knows who or what the careless woodsman might encounter there?
There are only really two differences between medieval Europe and the lands of Legend; the existence of strange creatures and the existence of magic. Philosophers have disputed over the ages what the source of magic in the world of Legend is; is it heavenly, demonic or simply 'there'? Maybe it's all three. Maybe it's the result of the close proximity between Legend and Fey, maybe it causes the boundary between the two to be weakened. It's impossible to say.
Whatever the case, magic manifests itself in a number of ways, varying from the pagan rituals of ancient folks, the scribed spells of the sorcerer, the innate powers of the mystic or assassin or bound in physical form in the case of a potion or a magically forged weapon. Some would also say that the power of holy relics, so valued by the church, is also ultimately attributable to magic, though the church denounces such views as heresy of course.
Not everyone has the capacity to manipulate magical forces as the sorcerer or warlock can; most people are magically 'blind', but all can be affected by a magic potion or wield a magical sword to great benefit. Because of the views of the church regarding magic, most people with the capacity to use it will not readily admit it either.
Because of the systematic eradication of all things magical by the church, teachings (and teachers), manuscripts, recipes, scrolls and the like tend to be rather rare items.