In the darkness, there hangs a jewel. Pinned to velvet oblivion that stretches beyond imagining is a turning, spinning light, a glittering treasure that shines in uncaring defiance of the unending black. A dot of vibrant color, a beacon shining bravely into the emptiness, like the last lighthouse left alive.
It is not a matter given much thought. No man muses over the cosmos, for on Thryn, the skies lie silent. In the day, no sun burns, no star metes out daylight. From darkness comes light, fading in with the unknowable inevitability of life. At night, there are no moons to offer comfort, there are no stars to break the void. Out of the light twists the darkness, returning as if it was always there.
Thryn is a massive world, though much of it is sea. Landmasses that could dwarf entire planets whorl and wind across the surface, and clouds that could hide continents beneath them wreathe the planet in their folds. One in particular, a great arc that sweeps from the frozen northern pole to beneath the boiling equator before dissolving into a thousand thousand islands, is our focus. Only the lowest tip of this world knows civilization, and it is civilization just beginning to stretch from the darkness into the light. They know nothing beyond their small corner of this world, barred more by small-mindedness than the fjords and seas that hedge them. They call their small world-piece Thryn, for they know of nothing beyond it. This place knows many divisions, and they dominate the minds of men. Whether it be between rich and poor, nation and nation, man and woman, lord and peasant, ruler and worker, or sorcerer, artificier, and common man, there are few that any man could call brother.
The lower classes are brutally dominated by those above them, broken time and again, and there are more than a few lords that murder for sport. Nation-states hold nothing beyond bitter hate for each other, for each has a thousand slights against them to draw upon, and is led by little more than greedy, foolish children. People are defined by their birth, as man or woman, and woe betide any who fail to obey that. Social mobility is a concept that has never seen a realization - born a lord, or porn a pauper, that is what you are to be. Technology, aided by artificiery, has been on a constant, slow, destructive march, and factories now dot the cities, choking the air with poisons and choking the souls of man with further means of oppression. Perhaps the largest division in Thryn is that between sorcerers and common man. The potential for sorcery lies within every being, but to attain it, a mind must break and shape and know itself until it is something alien. The reward is powers that shatter reality, knowledge of things beyond knowing, and the jealous hate of every other creature to lay eyes upon you. Artificiers are lesser shadows of a sorcerer, crafting in the shadows wonders of material magic, but they are victims of the same jealous rage from those beneath them and of laughing scorn from those above.
Thryn has, as a result of these conflicts, a long, complex, and bloody history. Wars are constant, and it is a rare state that remains intact beyond a century. Every few generations, a great and mighty sorcerer emerges, or some nation uncovers some new secret of artificiery, or the ordinary conflicts of man reach an unexpected conclusion, and their small world is changed forever. Violent, unending change is the inescapable norm. The coming of industry did little more than accelerate this. Wars are waged with ever greater frequency, fueled by new resources, weapons, and populations swelling beyond the means to sustain them. For the first time in millennia, there are more than a handful of sorcerers alive. And destruction erupts from them all.
Thryn is a world that, despite constant change, lies stagnant. All of history is but variation upon a theme. Now, though, new powers and practices are being born. Will they bring about something new at last? Or will Thryn be plunged from the fledgling light back into the void of its birth?
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You will notice that much of the map is blank - that is intentional. While the mechanics of the setting are rather firmly nailed down, the content of it is not. I've made three "starting nations", which will be described further on, but you are by no means restricted to them. By all means create a character in Vyirint, Zanara, or Ionar, but also feel free to create your own if you want - fill in the blanks. I'll be happy to add to the map.
You may also notice that I began this with talk of nations, not characters. That's because the nations in Under the Silent Skies are as much at your disposal as any characters will be - which is to say, you can create, change, and direct your nations in order to make an interesting story. Treat them like NPCs - they're there to provide context and conflict for everyone. You control them, not necessarily your characters. Now, this doesn't mean you're required to help fill in the map - you can make a character from one of the starting nations, or in one from another player. But the option is there.
Code of Conduct
Don't godmod - Don't use anything another player has created without their permission. By all means, use something someone else has done - this wouldn't be much of an RP if you didn't. But ask them via PM or in the OOC thread if anything you think they might find objectionable is okay. Work out what happens between characters with the people in charge of those characters. Work with other players and what they've done to help make the story. You can still write for other characters or use other nations in your posts, but make sure it's okay with the person they belong to. The Golden Rule is a good guideline here.
Don't Mary Sue - Don't make a character that's implausibly awesome. Don't make a nation that's too enlightened or too powerful for the setting. Don't be afraid to let the characters or nations you've made take some losses. Don't be afraid to make them suck at a few things or in a few ways(at least). Keep your characters and what they're doing believable. Remember, this isn't a competition to see who wins.
Those are the two big ones. Other than that, use your common sense and be considerate. Remember, an RP is a shared thing.
It did not escape my notice that several people expressed interest, but weren't quite sure what an RP is. That's okay! Everyone's new at some point. Feel free to play anyways if this game catches your interest. If you have any questions at all or aren't sure how to start, PM me. I'd be happy to help or give some starting ideas.
Setting and Backstory
The only sentient race on Thryn(or at least on this part of Thryn) is humans. That said, Thryn is a big place, and it's not Europe. You can be any kind of human you like and can come up with. The world is as racially and culturally diverse as you make it.
Artificiers are sort of the super-engineers of Thryn. Artifice, or artificiery, is the common kind of magic on Thryn. To put it bluntly, it's the creation of magic items. However, what those magic items can be and how they work is probably different from what you're used to. Artifice doesn't break the laws of physics - it doesn't create energy out of nothing, and the things it makes are not perfectly efficient. An artificier is a craftsman who will use a variety of materials like bone, metal, blood, paint, or even simple chalk to put runes on something. These runes give it magical properties. A few examples of artificiery:
A fishing net that draws in fish
A piece of paper that will copy whatever's written on it to another surface
An amulet that deflects projectiles
A gun that fires exceptionally powerful shots
Now, as it says above, all the energy involved has to actually exist - the items don't do this for free. The fishing net might be attached to a boat that provides power from a steam engine, the piece of paper might need extra ink placed on a specific spot and require you to pound on it to provide energy, the amulet might draw from the heat in your body, and the gun might reuse and redirect the energy from the kickback of a shot.
Generally, small, personal applications of artificiery (like the amulet or the gun up there) are very rare and difficult to produce or maintain. More often, artifice is used on an industrial scale (like the fishing boat).
Artificiers are somewhat rare, but common enough that most people have seen artificiery. It's a very difficult and coveted skill, and those who can teach it are usually loathe to do so, but it's a skill that anyone can learn. To do artificiery, someone has to both deeply understand the extremely complex language of the artifice runes and be able to manufacture those runes themselves - artifice performed by someone that doesn't understand it, or performed by machine, just doesn't work.
Sorcery is the very uncommon kind of magic on Thryn. It's the really magical magic - throwing fireballs, flying unaided, summoning living creatures, transmuting elements, healing wounds, raising the dead, all of the stuff like that. But. There's a catch. Sorcerers can no longer be considered entirely human. Sorcerers are not just insane, or quirky, or focused. They are driven by genuinely alien concepts and desires, their ability to function in or comprehend normal society or even normal humans is limited, and the way they perceive the world is different than others. This is directly related to their sorcerous powers; for a sorcerer to become more powerful, they must become less of a person. A sorcerer capable of a few D&D spells - a fireball here and there, a shield of energy, maybe some summoned demons - might think of normal people as literally indistinguishable from animals, or speak in and understand only obtuse metaphors, or take on a truly bizarre appearance, or become completely comatose during rainstorms, or something. A sorcerer capable of truly great feats - the creation of a city from nothing, the raising of a sunken continent, mind-controlling entire armies - would be completely removed from human comprehension.
Any normal person can, theoretically, become a sorcerer. But to do it requires a concerted effort of intellect and will, and a perfect mental control and discipline. And, of course, the loss of that person's humanity. Someone becoming a sorcerer has no control over how their mind changes or what powers they gain - they only know that they will break something inside of themselves in exchange for sorcery. They have to completely and fully know themselves, and they have to deface themselves. This can be done at the will of the person, or because they feel compelled to it, or for reasons they don't fully understand acting in their minds. The way a sorcerer is broken is often very intimately tied into what their powers are.
Sorcerers are extremely rare. There are less than two dozen in all of Thryn, and their powers and degrees of inhumanity vary. Some can be controlled, and are controlled by nations or other powers others to further their own ends. Some of them follow their own agendas. Some don't seem to do much of anything - at least nothing that anyone understands.
Thryn is in the throes of industrialism. Sprawling factories, early skyscrapers, basic electrical devices, radio, dirigibles, steam engines, railways, sophisticated firearms and artillery, all of these things are widely available to every nation. Now, many of these things are affected by artificiery to some degree or other and many nations can have have unique or rare advancements, so there's a fair amount of leeway where technology is concerned. There's a lot of magitech in the form of artifice, at least on a large scale. There are, however, a few things that definitely do not exist -
Airplanes. Yes dirigibles, no airplanes.
Practical automobiles. A very rich nobleman might own something like a Model T, but it would by no means be anything more than a status symbol.
A widespread electrical grid. There is electricity in factories and maybe in the houses of a few wealthy elites, but it's generated on-site.
Very good medicine. Surgery is fairly advanced and there's some genuinely effective chemical remedies, but tons of diseases are death sentences or crapshoots, lots of people still die from things like cholera, etc.
This list isn't necessarily comprehensive, but it provides a decent guideline. If there's anything you think of that might be toeing the line, ask me about it.
Thryn is not a happy place, not a fair place, and not a progressive place. The class divisions are immense. It's not consistent what those classes are - in one place, it might effectively be a theocracy, another might be a militaristic fascist state, or beholden to an ancient aristocracy, or be dominated by the extremely wealthy, or a bloated bureaucracy, or any number of things, but in every place, a large section of the population is very clearly subservient to a small one, and all the social structures that support that are in place. Generally, the world is sexist, nationalist, classist, etc. Now, that's generally. A nation might be missing a few of those traits, and I don't expect you to make characters that are awful people, but Thryn is a pretty crapsack world for the common man.
Vyirint is an extremely populous and extremely industrialized nation. It embodies the concept of quantity over quality. It has never stood out as a tremendous innovator, but it is rich in natural resources, has a huge labor force, and is quick to embrace the ideas of others.
Around a century ago, Vyirint's last king was executed by firing squad at the end of a military coup. Ever since, Vyirint has been ruled by its military. A council of generals leads the state, and their officers live like barons. The soldiers under them are well-treated and rewarded for loyal service, and the populace under them is held firmly to the ground, with a boot at their throat. Most industry is directly managed by the military. There are, as elsewhere on Thryn, extremely sharp class divides. Laborers live like animals while factory bosses live almost as well as officers.
The sheer size of Vyirint's military is unmatched, but much of is it permanently dedicated to subduing the general population. The state has conscripted every resource that it can to maintain its position. Artificiers are required to join the military, though guaranteed an officer's post. Major industries are under the direct control and supervision of the military. Weapons are highly restricted. The military council takes no chances with its grip on power, but even so, revolts are common. Any have yet to be successful, but there have been more than a few bloody massacres.
Zanara is a feudal aristocracy that has adapted itself to modern life very effectively. The nobility, under the rule of a monarch, restructured its feudal system a few centuries ago to include industry as well as land, and the noble families have successfully maintained their control and ownership of their serfs into the present day without major incident. The people of Zanara are far more docile than might be expected of them, for the nobility often makes literal sport of tormenting them. Zanaran noble families live lives of outrageous excess and hedonism, often passing any actual duties on to their hired staff, and they have developed a culture of cruelty and intrigue even among themselves. Noble houses have their own hired enforcers, and the monarchy maintains a standing army.
However, Zanara is unmatched in its use of artificiery. It is more common here than anywhere else, for the nobility spends lavish amounts on artificed trinkets or special items. It is not uncommon to see a noble house maintaining an elite guard clad head to toe in artificed armor and weaponry, and Zanaran factories make unparalleled use of the magical science. The nobility sees artificiers as simply more serfs, albeit lavishly paid ones, and will often force people into learning it. They don't realize how much they've come to rely on their artificed guns and walls and machines, but no artificiers have yet taken it upon themselves to make them realize, either.
Ionar is an odd beast. It lost its emperor less than a century ago, but not to violent revolution or reform. Instead, the imperial line simply died out, naturally. The emperor died, and there were no more emperors to take his place. The line of succession very firmly came to an end. And it was only then discovered that the imperial bureaucracy had outgrown its emperor. Ministers and mayors and judges and others of the political breed now rule their appropriate sections of Ionar's society, and are entirely capable of doing so on their own. To the extent that power no longer has much to do with breeding or inherited wealth, Ionar is something of a meritocracy. To the extent that Ionar is plagued by constant, violent intrigue, it is not.
The military, industry, and the general population are very carefully administered to by the bureaucracy. It has the most distributed wealth of any state - more of its people live decently than any other, though that portion is still but a small fraction. However, it does not excel in any material sense. Its artificiery is average, its technology is average, the size and quality of its military is average, the frequency of its violent revolts is average.
More than anything, Ionar is dedicated to the status quo. Laws exist and are followed and are not changed. Policies, however outdated, must be adhered to. Archaic ceremonies venerated a nonexistent imperial line are still carried out like clockwork. The sprawling imperial machine ensures its own continuation and nothing more. Meanwhile, other nations look at it hungrily. It will take something stronger than a minister to lead Ionar through that.