This map was made with the same techniques discussed in our earlier post, and zooms in on the northernmost region of the Free Cities. This time we add in some color an a few civilization icons: walled cities, holdfasts, roads, and major monasteries. Per standard D&D, monasteries and their monks in this campaign world tend toward the temporal, “Eastern” style and away from the Medieval “western” ideal. Monks are militant and monastic orders are independent. These guys are Shaolin, not Benedictine. As in both ancient civilizations, monasteries hold and administer lands and can be major political powers. Religious orders like the Knights Templar are the archetype in this world.
Tarsus is the largest, richest, and most powerful of the Free Cities. To the southeast is ally and major trading partner Fourwinds. On the southwestern coast is rival and occasional enemy Urnst.
The Grand Duke is ruler of Tarsus and nominal overlord of all of the Duchies. It is an elected office, with a term of ten years, and candidates are drawn from those of ducal ranks (athough the five Dukes themselves are ineligible.) Later posts will more thoroughly describe the politics of the Tarsun republic.
The five dukes/duchesses are hereditary positions, going to the eldest living member of each ruling family of the Five Houses. The ruling families have not remained constant over the centuries: coups, rebellions, or lack of heirs has sometimes ended noble lines. Each time, the newly ascendant family taking over the House adopts the ancient name of the Duchy.
THE FIVE HOUSES
House, Alignment, Primary/Secondary, Patron Deity, Sigil. Territory.
House Vorenos: Lawful Good, Military/Political. Heironeous. Three Snarling Wolves. Duchy of Voren.
Notable Surnames – Garou, Aathos, Carther, Brannen, Killey
Their territory guards the northwestern passes through the Skyspine Mountains, and is rich in iron, copper, and bronze; agriculture and trade are secondary in their economy. The house’s strength of arms and savage allies were instrumental in defeating the Painted Horde, but the war — especially the siege of Blackwall Holdfast two years ago — did much damage to their territory. Their host can field 10,000 spears and twenty ships. Lords of the house adopt the prefix vor-. Many members of the House hold important positions in the Ministry of Sword and the Court of the Grand Duke.
House Selvos: Lawful Neutral, Mercantile/Political. Cuthbert. A Watchful Griffon. Duchy of Selvae.
Notable Surnames – Oryen, Jacent, Amiiryan, Bravos, Muudrin
Their territory dominates the northern run of the Silk Roads from Fourwinds and boasts excellent farmland and southern grain traderoutes. The hills and mountains to the south and east are rich in precious metals. The house of Selvos is the wealthiest of the Five, but suffered greatly during the war from Painted raiding parties that were able to travel around Voren and ford the Swiftwide River. The host of Selvae fields 7,000 spears and employs thousands of mercenaries to guard its roads and trading centers. Lords of the House adopt the prefix sel- and many hold powerful positions at Court and in the Ministry of Coin, Ministry of Scroll, or temples of Cuthbert.
House Duros: Neutral Good, Agricultural/Military. Kord and Pelor. A Charging Bull. Duchy of Durestal.
Notable Surnames – Varyan, Turion, Lothren, Drammen, Fulrestal
Durestal boasts the very best agricultural lands and has strong industries as well. Coastal townships on the eastern side of the Horned Hills do a fair sea-trade, though they cannot offer a quantity and variety of trade even close to the city of Tarsus. The families of House Duros have a strong martial tradition and a reputation for forthrightness, piety… and a distinct lack of subtlety. Caricatures of Duros nobles by the city bards typically feature naive, old-fashioned bumpkins… unless they be tales or songs of battles. The house’s deep treasuries and valiant soldiers turned the tide of the recent war and strengthened the bonds of alliance with Selvae and Voren. The host of the Duros fields 9,000 spears and 40 ships guard their coastline. Nobles adopt the prefix dur- and are heavily represented in the Ministry of Scroll and all the temple hierarchies of the Five Favored Gods.
House Dragos: Lawful Neutral, Magical/Military. Boccob. A Flying Dragon. Duchy of Dragestaan.
Notable Surnames – Grosthan, Bosh, Vreniir, Davinney
A small but ancient house with a powerful magical tradition. The duchy has poor soil, but many mines and quarries, trading gemstones, precious metals, marble, limestone, and granite. An ancient animosity with the Duchy of Urnst kept much of the house’s soldiery on the southern border during the war, a strategy which did not go unnoticed by the other Houses. Nonetheless, the warmages of Dragos provided much-needed firepower against the horde, and their close relations with the temple of Boccob were crucial as well. Because of the duchy’s small human population, the Dragos Host can field only 3,000 spears. However, ancient and strategic alliances with the mountain and forest elves, dwarves and gnomes of the hills, and even the wild tribes of lizardfolk, gnolls, and orcs of the southern extents provide an additional force of 5,000 auxiliaries. Though not always a reliable ally, the Duchy is close as well with the neighboring Count of the Margrave Marches. Members of the house adopt the prefix dra-. The current Grand Duke is a Dragos; as such, his house is well represented at Court and in every city ministry.
House Kratos: Neutral, Mercantile/Arts. Pelor. A Grasping Kraken. Duchy of Kratora.
Notable Surnames – Nedoryal, Jouns, Stetrin, Saywerd, Bromestal
The wealth of the Kratora is second only only to Selvae, despite the small population of the duchy. Much of the region is covered in dense forest, the territory of rich and powerful elven kingdoms who are close allies and trading partners. The Kratos have a famous seafaring tradition and control many of the merchant fleets of Tarsus — not to mention the bulk of its navy. The host of Kratos fields 2,000 spears and well over 100 ships, often augmented by elven warriors and wizards. Nobles carry the prefix kra- and are well represented in the Ministry of Coin and many of the merchant guilds of the city.
In keeping with a fine tradition of outright plagiarism, virtually none of this is original. See if you can figure out which house name is ripped off from HBO’s Rome, the video game Medieval II: Total War, and which ones are just muddled versions of Greek or Latin names for their sigils.
On another note, I use the manorial game mechanics from the excellent Magical Medieval Society series by Expeditious Retreat Press as the basis for the feudal/economic system of the Duchies.
Members of the gentry below ducal rank are listed below:
- Aristocrats are wealthy non-nobles or members of the petty gentry who have either avoided or simply not earned noble title, but are distinguished by their wealth and influence. They have a surname, unlike commoners, and are more common closer to the city or townships. Most aristocrats are officers of guilds, but those who own land might hold an estate as well. The richest hold as many as ten estates, often through the patronage of a lord.
- Knights usually hold a single manor, though they may vary widely in size and wealth. They are responsible for providing a number of equipped armsmen to their lord that varies depending on the terms of their vassalage and is referred to as a “lance.” Knights almost never hold allodial title, instead holding a benefice. Nobles of knightly rank or higher adopt the title Ser.
- Lords hold several manors and often have a number of knights as vassals. They are referred to as Ser or Lord. They are almost always vassals as well; a rare few have allodial fiefs, but lords always have an ally or patron of higher rank, if not an outright overlord. They must usually field a couple lances. The wealthiest lords are often obligated to provide as much as a “company” (10-20 lances) to their patron or the City-State itself.
- Barons are the rulers of baronies. Some ancient baronies hold title to their land, but the majority were awarded benefice by a duke, to whom they must provide a company of armsmen in times of war. Powerful barons are considered Bannermen by their overlord, and outfit a “banner” (3-5 companies) of armsmen. Barons are sometimes referred to as Lord Baron.
- Counts are the lords of Marches. They are very powerful nobles, and usually hold their fiefs outright. A few of the most powerful are totally independent of the Duchies, but usually have close alliances with the nearest. Counts raise “hosts” consisting of however many bannerman their territory holds. Independent counts are sometimes referred to as Viscount, but rarely addressed by that title. Powerful counts closely related to the Five Duchies are the lords of the Nightmarch, Rivermarch, Margrave, and Hallow Marches.