Continued from Part 1 and Part 2
This region of the Wilderlands was originally dominated by Orcs. About 6000 years ago a large group of demi-humans and allied humans migrated out of Northwest Wilderlands and settled from present day Warwick to Lightelf. They did not much further inland than where City-State stands leaving the rest to the Orcs. For this culture I took a lot from traditional D&D high fantasy of a multitude of race.
Two thousand years ago the Elessarians migrated from the west and invaded the inland regions. They drove the Orc out of the best lands. Most of the Orc tribe migrated south. While influenced by the Demi-humans they largely remained independent forming their own hybrid cultures. I took a lot from Celtic culture.
A thousand years ago the Ghinorian came and established several colonies conquering them from the earlier inhabitants and imposing the worship of Mitra. After the Empire fell the colonies went their separate ways.
For the last four hundreds the interior regions have been subjected to repeated waves invasion of Tharian barbarians. They are a horse people divided into clans. Currently they are dominant culture of much of the region.
City State of Invincible Overlord.
This was once a small Elessarian village of Briarwood. A thousand years ago the Ghinorians came and established the colony of Caelam driving out the inhabitants of Briarwood. When the Empire fell Caelam managed to retain it's independence from the other colonies notably Modron.
Despite Briarwood Caelam managed to forge alliances with the surrounding petty kingdoms of Elessarians. From this humble beginning the Prince of Caelam managed to unite the Elessarian Kingdoms into the Dragon Empire. The name comes from dragon riders of the Order of St Caelam a chivalric order of the Church of Mitra.
The initial push behind the Dragon Empire was the rise of the Third Empire of Viridstan. Despite their success at resisting the Viridians the Dragon Empire was torn by religous strife as extermists fought one another. Four hundred year ago the Tharian barbarians rode across the northwest frontier and shattered the empire.
Along with the calamitous Tharian invasion the Dragon Ancelgorn united the remnants of the Orcs and brought down the Dwarven Kingdom of the Majestic Fastness and the Elven Kingdom of Silverwood (Dearthwood). From the ruins of the Majestic Fastness the dwarf Atrabilorin arrived at Caelam and save the city from the town invasion. For this, Atrabilorin is known as the first Invincible Overlord.
During Atrabilorian reign the name Caelam fell into disuse and became known simply as the City-State. Atrabilorin used his position to gather the survivors of the fall of the Majestic Fastness and help them establish Thunderhold. In addition Atrabilorian create a loose alliance of the surviving towns between the Howling Hills and Dearthwood called the Alliance of Lords. The Rorystone Road was built to cement the alliance and to foster trade between Thunderhold and City-State. When Atrabilorin died he left the choice of his successor in the head of the Council of Aldermen. They decided to leave the position empty as nobody was felt worthy to fell the great Overlord's shoes.
For two hundred years City-State along with the Alliance of Lords were successful at keeping their freedom from the Tharians. During this time the Guild of Arcane Lore, a Mage's Guild, was established in City-State. The Iron Guard was established to acts as the core around which an Alliance army could be rallied. The presence of these two institutions was important in defeating the Tharian Lords of Bulwark and forcing them to join the Alliance of Lords.
Several decades later a mage named Salm-Lorin took advantage of disputes between the Guild of Arcane Lord and the Iron Guard to manuever the Council of Aldermen to appoint him the first Overlord of City-State since Atrabilorin. Nobody knows whether the charges were real or trumped up, he accused the Iron Guard of treason and was able to destroy it at the Battle of Darkfield. From this point on Salm-Lorin was known as the Tyrant and ruled with an iron hand.
During the conflict between Salm-Lorin and the Iron Guard both Thunderhold and the Tharians of Bulwark formed an alliance of their own to resist the Tyrant. During all this a new Viridian Emperor was crowned after assassinating his predecessor. When he took control of the Third Empire of Virdistan, the peace that existed along the frontier was shattered as Imperial Armies marched eastward into the Lands of the Tharians.
Halius, Lord of Bulwark was appointed Overlord of All Tharians and led the united armies of the Tharian Clans against the Viridstan. The Viridstan armies rarely lost but after a decade of war they had little to show for their efforts. Facing exhaustion and continued resistance by the Tharians, the Emperor agree to peace in exchange for a yearly tribute from the clans.
During the war Halius left Bulwark in the hands of his son Lucius. The Tyrant, Salm-Lorin, conspired with the Viridian Emperor to attack the Tharians. Lucius in conjunction with Thunderhold struck first. After a close victory won by Lucius, the former members of the Alliance of Lords rose up in rebellion against the Tyrant. The war ended when Salm-Lorin threw himself off the highest spire of the Cryptic Citadel while Lucius' forces poured into City-State.
A few short years later Halius died and Lucius was crowned Overlord of All Tharians and the City-State. More than a warrior, Lucius was a philosopher as well. He established the laws and institutions that govern City-State into the present day of the setting. His role as Overlord was to defend the clans , and act as arbiter in disputes between clans. The Senate was created to appoint his successor and act as the highest court in any dispute between him and the clans. He rebuilt the Rorystone Road and brought in neighboring realms as full members despite them not being Tharians. Notably the Ghinorians of Dearthmead lead by their Duke. When he died he was proclaimed Lucius the Great.
A hundred years later his descendants still rule as Overlord of All Tharians and the City-State. Their realm has expanded to dominate the region. Since the collapse of the Viridstan Empire into rival provinces and factions they are now the most powerful kingdom.
However it is a polygot realm uniting different cultures (Elessarian, Ghinorian, Tharian, Dwarven), and different religions (Mitra, Set, Lars) under one Overlord. Many Tharians feel that too much of the old ways are being lost. Many more feel the old ways don't have the answer to the problems they face today and have turned to other gods, like Set, for answers.
Not 30 years ago City-State convulsed in a city wide riot of the laborers and craftsmen protesting the onerous laws under which their livelihood was governed. The timely intervention of a charismatic priest of Hamakhis named Mong allowed the Overlord reach a equitable settlement and quell the riot. But many issues lie unresolved and the turmoil still seethes under the surface of the City-State.
The history of City-State is the fulcrum around which plots of my campaign are driven. There are many conflicts and conflicts provide adventures. Long ago I learn not to dump all this on my players. I have a condensed synopsis that I can include in a character background. Combined it rarely exceeds one page.
So what good is the history if the player isn't reading? It allows me to dress up dungeons and encounters. For example A manual on riding dragons written by Marshal Armtiage of the Order of St Caelam could be found in an old chest in a crumbling ruined fortress of the Iron Guard that is currently inhabited by a secret cult following Set. This allows me to give a sense that the players inhabit a world that existed before them and will continue to exist after they made their mark.
It appeals to players who like to poke around a setting. Some may just be focused on killing the cultists. Other want that manual. Others notice the tattered banners of the Iron Guard. wonder who they were and what treasure and secrets they had.
In my own campaign over twenty years have passed in-game. The issues I mentioned have exploded into conflict ripping apart City-State and the realm of the Overlords. I hope somebody to be able to publish this in addition to my other work. It would be interesting to hear how referees resolve this situation in their own games.
Continued in Part 4.