The World of Grandvia
Spirit of the Game:
Action and mystery in a noir inspired setting
The traditional religion of Grandvia is the worship of the Immortal Elders, a pantheon of spirit-deities dating back millenia. The Elders' portfolios include dominion over the Heavens, the Woodlands, the Seas, Fire, the Seasons, and Night. The Elders are known by other names in other cultures across the continent of Temah, and each brings their own interpretation to the depictions.
The religion of the Eastern Lands is monotheistic, centered around the worship of an entity known as the Wyndstar, Singer of Worlds. All of the world's known deities have withdrawn from the mortal realm in a recent cataclysm called the Forsaking. According to the priests of the Immortal Elders, the Forsaking was the result of the creation of the Unborn by Stryan magicians. Priests of Wyndstar claim the cries of anguish caused by the Bitter War have deafened their god. Other faiths have their own interpretations. Whatever the cause, divine magic and prayer no longer have the power they once did, and all faiths have faded in popularity.
The religious leader of Strya is the Prime Attendant of the Immortal Elders, and he still holds office in the temple of the Skyward.
Magic is an old power that was discovered centuries ago by scholars who studied in the Eastern Lands. It quickly spread across the known world and became codified by the master magicians of the major nations. While there were many variants of spellcraft and sorcery, the most potent was the traditional art of Arcane Formulae, the memorization of complicated runes which could then be expressed in voiced spells. Both Strya and Volken became renowned for the power of their respective mages, and deadly ritual magic became a major component in the Bitter War. Following the Forsaking, however, all forms of sorcery became tainted and corrupted by the mysterious pollution collectively known as the Cyst.
While magic can still be cast by those with strong wills and mastery of Arcane Formulae, it is accompanied by a particular manifestation of the Cyst, depending upon which school of magic one is invoking. These manifestations include the spontaneous growth of fungi, the rusting of metal, lesions of the flesh, and other foul harm to the caster, those in their vicinity, and their environment. As a result of this pollution and the abandonment of the divine powers, the general populace has become fearful and even violent towards those who dare to cast magic. There is now an entire division of the Magisters known as the Purifiers dedicated solely to tracking down and arresting practicing magicians who cast without special permission.
Grandvia is home to a range of species who have origins across Temah, but not all are equally represented or treated the same. Humanity is by far the largest and most accepted species, though its settlement in the continent is relatively recent compared to the native dwarves and elves. More than half of the city's nobles claim to be descendants of Jorek the Wise, a human warlord who led his people on a victorious march across Temah some centuries past. Human arrogance and propogation are legendary, and while they may not live as long as most other species, they have the greatest claim to power across Strya.
Dwarves are the second most populous species in the city, and they hold a deep and abiding pride in their primacy in terms of settlement. Most scholars agree that the cliff dwellings of Nemet were dwarven in origin, and while they are now outnumbered by pure humans, dwarves still consider themselves the foundation race of the region. They are accepted to be the best crafters in the world, and many of their greatest minds served Grandvia by building great defenses and engineering devices such as black powder weapons to fight the Volken invaders.
Elves come a close third to dwarves in terms of population and influence, but their kind has two marks against them in the view of most Grandvians; firstly, they are strongly associated with the now corrupted magical arts, having been the race most gifted when it came to Arcane Formulae. Secondly, Volken's forces were led by elven champions who made many appeals to their "brothers and sisters" of Strya. While the majority of the Stryan elves ignored these entreaties, enough seditionists and saboteurs were of elven origin to create suspicion and hatred. Despite the prejudice they now face in the wake of the Bitter War, they retain their old allure as the longest lived and most graceful species, and there are quarters of the city nobility where elf influences is still strongly felt.
Orcs and goblins are generally seen as two sides of the same greenish coin, having traditionally been seen as offshoot races of the elves. The exact details of how orcs and goblins came to be derived from their prettier cousins remains up for debate, but depending on one's perspective they were either bred to terrorize the "decent" species (the view of most other species) or are a more practical improvement on the original design (the opinion held by orcs and goblins themselves). The one accepted fact is that there are now a lot of both across Temah, and they have found their ways into the lower and middle classes of Grandvia. Many are immigrants from the Western plains or Southern jungles, and while there are the occasional orcish or goblin merchants, they are most often seen by Grandvians as soldiers, workers, or cutpurses.
The child-like species collectively known as Pech are something of a curiosity in Grandvia, having a fairly small community in Strya as a whole. They are mostly associated with the Eastern Lands across the sea and fairy stories about little folk who are prone to trickery and laziness. They resent the stereotype but don't have enough influence yet to change many minds. The latest generation of immigrants are making some inroads, finding employment as tavernkeeps and stall or cart-based merchants in Grandvia's marketplace. Those that care to challenge popular perceptions of their race point to the nobles and wealthy merchant lords rumored to be in Volken, but these stories earn them little traction and even less kinship with survivors of the Bitter War.
Perhaps the rarest of races seen in Grandvia, the Saurian species is looked on by most citizens as curiosities and primitives. The difficulty the species has in speaking "regular" Stryan doesn't help, as their native tongue is big on bird-like clicks and whistles that most take to be utter nonsense. They are seen as handy to have around as bearers, guides, and scouts, however, and most of the larger military units during the Bitter War have had some exposure to one or two Saurian runners. Preferring the warm climate of Southern Temah, the small enclaves of Saurians in Strya naturally gravitate towards the fireplaces, furnaces, and high population densities of cities like Grandvia. They are typically found in the lower levels of the city, having curious hovels near the bases of steam towers.
Crafted for labor and grunt work, blamed for the Forsaking by most Stryans, made out of metal, wood, or other inanimate materials, the Unborn are easily the most scorned of all species in Grandvia. While the city has moved on from the caste system of Jorek the Wise's era, this species is about as close to "untouchable" as you can get in the modern era. The surviving 'born of the war and the post-Forsaking pogroms some years ago can only find employ as lowly servants, muckrakers, and whatever other work is deemed too unseemly, dangerous, or blasphemous for more decent races. Restricted to closely monitored ghettos in the lowest levels of the city, the alien Unborn are still struggling to find their place in a world that doesn't seem to want them around anymore. Those that swallow their pride can hope for patronizing handouts - those that don't can expect to become outlaws hunted by the entire city.
Grandvia is the capitol of the nation of Strya, a relatively new imperial power which still holds more ground than any other country in the continent of Temah. Founded by human tribal warriors long ago, Strya spread its influence through several horde expansions that grew more sophisticated with each new conquered territory. The most celebrated expansion (at least in Grandvia) is that of Jorek the Wise, a notoriously ruthless and capacious warlord who drove his forces north into the icy wastes of the Silent Peaks. This would eventually lead to the establishment of Grandvia on the ruins of Nemet, and the Steaming City's subsequent ascension as the new capitol. The old capitol, Premeth, remains a powerful city, but for all its trade and commerce along a nexus of Temah rivers, its development paled in comparison to the industry and military power of its northern cousin. Strya has an international reputation for audacity mixed with arrogance, a trait that has gotten it into many conflicts that were less than profitable. More staid and segregated nations look on its cosmopolitan and utilitarian attitudes with disgust and bewilderment, wondering at how such a feeble species of nomads could rise to such power. Those that have failed to keep up with the rapid growth are fading fast, and the rest have learned to try and keep up.
Volken is the greatest rival nation of Strya, centered on the islands off of the Eastern coast of Temah and the united peoples of the Eastern Lands. According to Volken history, it was founded during a war against a great evil even further to the East known as the Blackened Throne, one which brought the once disparate tribes of elves, dwarves, and others together in common cause. This United Truth, as the Volken call it, was further bound by their shared worship of a deity in opposition to the Throne known as Wyndstar, god of all bards. Confronting the evil together in epic battle, the mixed army threw down their enemy and placed an elven line of Emperors and Empresses in his place. The Volken accounts go on to tell how the United Truth seeks only to free the other people of the world from their ideological shackles and so forth and so on, but most Grandvians don't get that far in their reading, having put down the text in disgust. What little both sides agree on boils down to this; one nation made a move against the other in the Temah coastal nation of Orsley, and the Bitter War was the outcome. Fought over a decade of stalemates on Strya, Orsley, and the coastal isles, the interminable conflict cost both nations many lives, much wealth, and a good deal of their diplomatic cache with their neighbors. While Strya was ultimately able to drive the Volkien from Temah, their enemy has recovered from the Forsaking better than most expected. While it lacks the technological advancement of Strya, it retains its unique alliance and fervor for its cause.
Orsley is a former independent neighbor of Strya which became the powder keg of the Bitter War. It is home to some rare ores and minerals lusted after by both Strya to the North and Volken to the East, not to mention large tribes of Orcs and Saurians. Its terrain is a mix of swamp and forest, with a grim ambiance that makes it a less than ideal vacation spot. As a result of the defeat of the Volken forces, it is now occupied by Strya and large numbers of their militia. There are many merchant houses with large investments in the region now, and it can be argued that they are the true winners of the war.
Grandvia Nobility: The nobles of Grandvia are a mix of humans with ancestry to early Stryan warlords, dwarven clans who abided by the human occupation of Nemet, and elven families old enough to merit inclusion and indulgence, and a mix of the three prior species who have made it big as merchant lords. There are no other species of note included in these rich and rarified circles, though its not for want of trying. The old nobles are somewhat faded in import compared to the new money and influence of the merchant houses, and as industry increases this gap only likely to grow. The current Emperor of Strya is Uriah the Munificent, the son of Ezekiah the Bold, the ruler who saw the nation through most of the Bitter War years. He holds court in the Imperial Palace, a stately manor which has become somewhat overshadowed by the city's distinctive steam towers.
Magistrates: The law of the land in Strya are the Magistrates, regional judges who are granted special license by the Emperor himself. Many of them are of noble origin, though a number have risen up through the ranks of the City Watch. The power weilded by individual Magistrates can vary wildly depending on the districts to which they have been assigned; the Magistrate of the High City is potent indeed, while the Magistrates of the Lower Districts are fairly petty and interchangeable. This assignment has everything to do with politics and very little to do with actual effectiveness. All Magistrates have access to the City Watch, are tasked with collecting taxes, holding trials of captured criminals, and sending out the Purifiers on the hunt for unlawful magicians.
Criminal Gangs: As important as the nobles, merchants, and magistrates are, they would find it hard to get along without the collusion and cooperation of the many organized crime syndicates now operating in Grandvia. The earliest gangs had their roots in protection rackets for early traders fearful of bandits roaming the desolate countryside. They have since blossomed into an entire underworld filled with shifty characters looking to put one over on the other guy. Some have certain pretenses of nobility, particularly those who are old enough to remember raiding the tombs of Nemet. Others are little more than alley rats who scrabble for coin in lowly street brawls. A troubling fact for all of these gangs is that many have particularly monstrous lieutenants and even gang bosses, including rumors that a red dragon is the head of the White Talon, perhaps the most powerful and most feared gang in Grandvia. While some of these monstrous gangsters are immigrants who could find no other line of work, the eldest and most dire of their ranks have ties to the old crawlspaces of the Nemet cliff dwellings, having adopted the ruins as their home and decided to stay.
Grandvia is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the known world, but it is not particularly friendly. The City Watch's corruption is renowned around Strya, a nation not unaccustomed to graft, and it is all too easy for new arrivals to get trapped in desperate employment in order to provide a roof over their heads - especially if they are not humans, dwarves, or elves. While there is a surprising amount of racial mixing among all species, things are decidedly uneven in the allotment of power and respect.
Humans remain top of the heap, and wealthy and "useful" members of the dwarven and elvish races can rise to similar heights, but the other races tend to be locked into places in the middle and lower classes. To most Grandvians, this is not prejudice so much as a reflection of the natural order of things, as taught to them through the many tales of Jorek the Wise and the righteous rise of Stryan empire.
The architecture and structure of the physical city reflects this, with the higher levels being mostly reserved for the noble and merchant classes, the middle tier for marketplaces and residential districts of the growing middle classes, and the lowest levels set aside for ghettos that house laborers and the Unborn. The streets themselves can be a bit confusing, however, and its not unusual for visitors seeking the Imperial palace to end up in the worst of the dead end alleys the city can provide. This is just another reason to not get on the bad side of the Watch and perhaps have some change available when you need directions. If one has the misfortune to run afoul of one of the local gangs - well, you better have even more change or something else worth selling.
Trade and Currency:
The main trade of Strya and Grandvia alike is innovation. For the past several decades, the capitol city has been at the forefront of scientific investigation and engineering. The development of black powder weapons by dwarven inventors is certainly the biggest such change to the international landscape, but there are other, less flashy creations that are as important. One major one is the printing press, an innovation that has the nobles concerned and the public increasingly dissatisfied with the state of affairs. Another one that Volken was quick to pick up on were the crafting of great ships for sailing the seas and exploring the known (and unknown) corners of the world. This has expanded trade manyfold and is likely to result in new settlements, new agriculture, and new conflicts abroad.
Grandvia's currency is the same as the rest of Strya; the silver coin. Pressed with images of Jorek the Wise, manufactured locally at the Imperial Mint, these coins are sometimes chopped down into "bits", representing quarters of a silver coin. Largetransactions can involve bars of silver, gold, or even Imperial bills backed by the Great Bank.
Grandvia has many retailers who trade in a wide range of gear. The chief distinctions of the setting are related to the Reason era of technology; the availability of black powder weapons, a gradual turn away from heavy armors, and so on. Another thing to bear in mind is that magic items are almost unheard of by the common person.
The chief language of Grandvia is Stryan, the tongue of Jorek the Wise and his human nomad warriors. It has become more refined in the centuries since his time, and it is now the root language of most scholars in Temah. Dwarven (Dursh) and Elvish (Tellendre) are also fairly common, especially among noble classes. The other languages of note include Orc/Goblin (Shurg), the bizarre Saurian tongue (T'ckal), and the Pech languages of Temah (various). The language of Volken is a polyglot tongue they call "Unified", but speaking it in Grandvia is still a fineable offense.
Here are some studies common to the setting:
The Immortal Elders
Tales of Jorek the Wise
Secrets of Nemet
Lessons of the Bitter War
Black Powder Maintenance
The United Truth
Swamps of Orsley
Magistrates of Grandvia
The White Talon
Hideouts and Flophouses
City Watch Informants