The smallest of the four Federated Nations, Byssia occupies the small space between the Gap-Tooth Bay to the south and the Kairen Plateau to the north. Inhabited by puun ihimisia and humans who fled the encroaching Frost (called the night’s children for their coloration), as well as the half-elf products of interbreeding between the two, it is a unique land for several reasons.
First, it is almost an entirely godless nation. While worship of the Congregation is not forbidden, very few actually venerate them. They accept that they exist and have power, but consider them as mere functionaries. They prefer to venerate and seek power from ascended ancestor spirits and local kami (as well as elemental lords).
Second, Byssia uses very little metal. There are only two mines on the southern face of the Kairen Plateau, and they yield only poorly, producing small amounts of copper and tin. In lieu of metals, the craftsmen have created alchemical and magical techniques to harden wood and work stone and glass. Ironwood, a dark-red wood that’s only slightly weaker and softer (but much lighter) than steel is the preferred tool for edged implements, along with elemental glass (which isn’t really glass, but an alchemical form of an obsidian-like stone that keeps a very good edge and is not nearly as brittle).
Byssia is a hierarchical, democratic kritarchy. This means that each village (or neighborhood of a city) democratically elects one or more judges who settle disputes according to laws enacted by the village members. The judges of each group of villages form a district court to settle inter-village disputes. They nominate a representative to a higher, regional court that handles inter-district disputes. The regional courts, similarly, elect a member as the High Judge.
The High Judge, along with a representative of the druids of the Dreamgrove and one from the monastic community known as the Home of the Elements, form the supreme governing council of the nation. They set high-level policy and adjudicate cases that affect the whole nation.
This all leaves a very decentralized nation. There is very little in the way of taxation or national politics--everything important happens at the village or district level. Policing is done on a communal basis, although the mendicant monks of the Home of the Elements serve as a backstop and monster-elimination force. Prosecution is done by the aggrieved individual (or by a family member or neighbor in cases of murder); the defendant defends himself before the court. The harshest penalty usually levied is that of exile (with exile to the west being preferred to exile to the east).
Economy and Currency
Most transactions are done via barter or established credit networks. Currency is in the form of marked wooden disks (strung on strings). In recent years, the Adventurer’s Guild has set up bank-equivalents (to buy and sell treasures recovered by adventurers and to pay the proffered rewards). Metal currency is still very rare.
Most of the economy is agricultural, focusing on rice and fish. Spices and dyes grow quite freely and are becoming a source of foreign trade. The Byssians are the only nation of the four with any blue-water shipping experience, as the nation extends out onto the Bay quite a bit (covering many small islands out there).
The majority of Byssia’s land area and population lie in the lowlands on the shore of the Gap-Tooth Bay, in the southern and eastern parts of the nation.
- History: Before the Cataclysm, this area was mostly inhabited by uncivilized human tribes; what civilization existed was in the form of outposts of the tyrannical Arlondagan Empire. In the war leading up to the Cataclysm, the empire was one of the first casualties, leaving a bunch of settlers on the frontier without support. In the aftermath of the Cataclysm itself, some of the Nocthians (who had a nation on the Kairen Plateau) fled south through the mountains. There they joined forces with the elves living in the mountains and expanded to the south (away from the frost creatures in the mountains), absorbing the Arlonds as they came through. This area was settled right after the Cataclysm and Byssia has expanded outward ever since.
- Religion: Animistic. Most humans revere their ancestors (either as ascendant Heroes or in spirit); most elves venerate the kami of the land. There is substantial overlap--most people end up propitiating both sets of beings. Religion is very much a private matter, although the druids (who claim to speak for the kami) and the monks (who claim to have contact with some of the revered dead) advise in matters that affect their spheres of influence.
Most villages have a shrine to the local kami, possibly naming one or two of the largest in particular. Most houses have a small shrine to a particular ancestor, to which people offer flowers or tokens, as well as prayers. Incense is burned on ritual occasions.
- Demographics: Humans and half-elves are most common, with full-blooded elves less common. Almost all humans are night’s children, Arlondish phenotypes are quite rare here. A very few goblin tribes have started to settle in the far east edges (north of the former Twisted Lands).
- Climate: Hot and wet summers with mild and short, but wet, winters. Semi-tropical rainforest or swamp except where it’s been cleared for agriculture. Higher ground to the east and north. Islands in the bay are full-on tropical.
- Economy: Mostly agricultural, with rice and cotton being the two major crops. Fishing on the bay and in the rivers is a primary source of protein. Since the founding of the Federated Nations, the cultivation of spices and dyes (as well as the production of enhanced wood and stone items) has begun to be economically important.
- Architecture: Houses are made of wood with thatched or ceramic tiles. Most houses are very open with lots of airflow. Each village is built around a central building that houses communal areas, including cook spaces, storage, and shrines. Most major items are shared at the community level. Private property is limited to individual possessions. Each extended family unit builds a sprawling house with separate wings for each couple. Often 3 or 4 generations live under one roof.
- Culture: Byssians are an open, friendly people. Family matters a lot to them. Most villages are composed of a few large extended families, heavily intermarried. The rice paddies and cotton fields are worked as a community. Status is less about wealth (since so much is held communally) and more about having important ancestors. Most Byssians can trace their ancestry back to well before the Cataclysm. Those whose direct ancestors were priestesses or priest-mages are considered high status.
- Traveler Housing: Travellers are accommodated in the village longhouse. This is usually free, although travellers usually pay by exchanging stories. Particularly honored guests may find a young woman (or man, or both) attending them in their bedrooms--bearing a child by a notable visitor is an honor and no further obligation is presumed from the visitor.
- Rice, plain or in noodles
- Fish, rarely pork or chicken
- Spicy/savory (not sweet)
- Curry with coconut
- Rice and fruit liquors (sake)
- Taboos and superstitions
- A portion of each mean must be offered to the local kami and to the ancestors.
- When returning home after a trip, one must visit the local shrine and alert the local kami to your return by clapping three times loudly, stating “Oh kami that guide and protect, your child has returned to your lands,” and bowing from the waist to the shrine.
- Red skies in the morning signal that the Storm Serpent is angry--prepare for stormy weather.
- Were creatures and cultists from the eastern twisted lands
- Bits of old-empire tech coming back and causing issues
- Aquatic creatures from the Gap-Tooth Bay
- Rumors of strange beast-folk establishing enclaves on the islands of the Bay
The capital of Byssia. About 8k people.
- Location: At the intersection of two minor rivers in the south-central area of Byssia.
- Defenses: Very little. A few dozen monk-guards and various sages. Possies of citizens can be called up if needed. No wall.
- Economics: Light manufacturing, especially cotton textiles. A market has grown up for the packaging of dyes from the islands for shipment elsewhere.
- Leadership: The High Court, composed of
- Arch Druid Damon Dreamcat--male wood elf. Middle-aged Druid (Circle of the Moon). Prefers the shape of large cats. Tends to speak cryptically.
- High Sage Savvas Stonemaster--female human. Older Elemental Sage (Outward Spiral). Prefers earth elementals, is not pretty (very solid and blocky like her servants). Brusque.
- High Judge Danai the Just--female half-elf. Currently serving as Presiding High Judge. New to that position and young. Does not tolerate flippancy. Think Judge Judy, but young and relatively pretty.
The highlands are the wooded foothills of the Kairen Mountains, stretching into the grasslands to the west of the River Das. The only major settlements in this area are the river town of O’Dasos and the monastic Home of the Elements in the minor peaks at the edge of the plateau. Rugged and untamed, this area is the ancestral home of the wood elf population of Byssia.
- History: Tribes of wood elves have lived here since the First Interregnum. They were never really assimilated into the Western Empire, and after the Empire’s Fall they continued their ancient ways. They coexisted uneasily with the Arlondan settlers with frequent raids. In the aftermath of the Cataclysm, many joined with the fleeing night’s children and moved to the south, leaving the highlands largely empty. Only the ancient monastery still stands in the same place, where it has stood for millennia.
- Religion: The wood elves venerate the local kami of thicket and stream; the few Arlondans left (who are concentrated west of the Das) are of mixed faiths but mostly worship ancestors and fierce creatures of legend.
- Demographics: In the forests, it’s almost entirely wood elf (in semi-nomadic tribes). In the high plains west of the Das, it’s mostly human of mixed Arlondan and Night’s Children descent. Half-elves are rarer here.
- Climate: Humid and warm, but the higher altitude (especially in the mountains) tempers the heat a bit. Short but cold and wet winters. The plains are prone to massive thunderstorms as cold air from the plateau meets warm air from the bay and sweeps across open terrain.
- Economy: Hunter-gathering in the mountains, semi-nomadic pastoral herding in the plains. Very few fixed settlements.
- Government: Tribal governments only. These people only notionally pay attention to the High Court. When there’s a dispute, the shamans of the tribes will meet to negotiate.
- Architecture: Tents and temporary huts only. In O’Dasos the architecture is much more similar to the coastal lowlands than to anything in the rest of the area. The Home of the Elements is made out of monolithic blocks of local granite, welded together by ancient elemental magic.
- Culture: Xenophobic. Travellers are not welcomed unless they bear tokens of introduction from trusted sources and carry gifts of materials not available in the highlands (such as grains).
- Traveler Housing: None. If accepted by a tribe, you might be able to camp nearby.
- Hunter-gatherer, little grain (imported rice)
- Meat, fish, insects
- Fruits & greens
- Taboos and superstitions
- A portion of each mean must be offered to the local kami and to the ancestors.
- Do not speak of the dead by name. To do so is to risk the creation of angry undead.
- When you greet a newcomer, test their strength by ritually slapping them across the face.
- Crossing the wrists is bad luck (symbolizing slave cuffs).
- Devil-worshiping tribes raiding from the west
- Frost creatures from the Plateau
- Fierce beasts from the wilderness