Author Topic: Setting Development: The Seven Cities of Helgia  (Read 1369 times)


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Setting Development: The Seven Cities of Helgia
« on: March 07, 2011, 05:02:13 PM »
So, I'm planning on throwing together a Fantasy Craft one-shot in a few weeks which will hopefully be followed by a Fantasy Craft ongoing (depending on if the one-shot generates interest, though the one-shot wouldn't continue directly into the ongoing).

For that purpose, I've been putting together a fantasy setting to fit the sort of game I'd like to run.

Here's what I have so far.

WARNING: I like to use existing cultures and their people/place names as dressing (here taking Russia, India, Inka, Teutonic, and a few others for inspiration), so if you see a language you recognize being horribly abused I apologize in advance... though if you have a suggested alternative name please feel free to say so. :)

The Region: Helgia
The Era: Feudal
The Map: I'm basing it (roughly) on this -

Yes, it is part of Canada turned upside down. What of it?

The Magic: Other than rumors of some exclusive schools back in the Empire, there are three ways to learn magic and each means a different school while presenting unique challenges.

An eastern 'Heretic' can teach you magic of the Prophet, Reaper, Seer types. The risk for them is going to be high, though, unless they have the protection of someone like a Prince... in which case it'll be expensive.

A Dascha [NOTE: Fire Brave/Elder Ogres], the descendants of the magic creatures that were the source of the the fallen Killte civilization's mystic might, hide among mortals or in the wilds even today. If you see through the disguise of one it must grant you one boon, and teaching Trickster, Channeler, and Preserver magics is something they can do. They might try to eat you afterwards, though, so be warned.

A Nerayan 'Smokeman' can teach Conjouror and Enchanter magic, but only to those that are members of their secret organization. Good luck, unless you were born into it.

Basically, Mages need to have something like this in their background and can only start out with one.

The Divine: I'm going to be including the Miracles quality as well, and each Alignment will be fully equipped to handle an appropriate Priest (though they may not be called that for some of them).

The Species: Humans are the primary option, however there is room for the occasional giant, cursed or beastly "man" (like an orc), legendary creature, and disguised being of folklore. Such figures will be presented as being walking legends, disbelieved by anyone with an education, and likely will be treated as freaks by the civilized or monsters by the superstitious depending on what we're dealing with.

The Factions:
The Camlin Empire - A major power to the East/North East of the region, the Empire is about 400 years old and is ruled by various monarchs who claim divine right as descendants of the Incarnate (a reincarnating messiah figure who they claim was born of the divine powers that created the world, and who others claim was a man who became divine through virtue).

Technically the powers of Helgia are aligned with the Empire's Enemy, the Kingdom of Lavena, but it's a distant relationship and the Empire has many representatives and traders in the area.

The Volnwald-Ehrenke Commonwealth - To the immediate North East of the Helgian city-states lies the Commonwealth. Formed just two hundred years ago by a handful of smaller states that had sworn allegiance to the King of Lavena, but had been cut off from their protector during its conflicts with the Empire, it was started after the various leaders realized how desperately they needed one another. With several months of heated bargaining and a few political marriages, a commonwealth "with the King as its President" was born.

By joining together under one banner they managed to hold off the Empire and eventually gain the support of at least most of the Helgian princes. Now there is a general peace, as the Commonwealth serves as a buffer while itself benefiting from exclusive control of overland eastern trade.

States: Norward, Iomhar, Renwyk, Haldis, Herwyn

The Seven Princes - There are seven cities of Helgia-proper. Compared to the Commonwealth and the Empire they are a bit backwards, but they have power of arms as well as a number of devious minds. Once there were more cities, but time and a massive invasion followed by a two hundred years of partial occupation have whittled it down to seven. The alliances and feuds between the various cities are tangled, going back over 500 years, leading to sporadic warfare and constant political maneuvering.

Currently two of the cities are in the midst of a major war, one is doing everything but declare open warfare on the last city still occupied by the Nerayan invaders, two are planning a marriage between their ruling families, and the other two are trying desperately to make sure the wedding never happens. That's not even mentioning the hired brigands disrupting trade, and various spies.

Cities: Lesta, Gayev, Elga, Jov, Peten, Kolenka, Brencis

The Virtuous - The Virtue of the Incarnate is the predominate religion of the region, with those who teach of the Incarnate's many lives and the lessons found therein being called the Virtuous. Ostensibly there is no formal hierarchy, with only a Virtuous mentor's blessing being required to become one yourself, but over the centuries a recognizable structure has formed; Great Teachers choose who becomes a Teacher or a Searcher and sometimes declare certain lessons from the Incarnate's lives to be heresies, while only Teachers can make someone a Virtuous. Each region has its own Great Teacher; in Helgia each city has one, while the Commonwealth only recognizes the Great Teacher of Levena and the Emperor of Camlin is always the Empire's Great Teacher.

Searchers are those who look for the Incarnate in his current life; sometimes he (or she, though rarely enough it's not expected) becomes aware of who he is as a child, sometimes only moments before his death, but he is always in the world and when he does become aware the signs are unmistakable. In the past lucky or observant Virtuous were able to find him and help him discover who he is, and thus the Searchers were born.

The Folk - Also known as the Kinclaves, this is a broad term for the widely distributed association of local groups that operate on family alliances and blood debts that predate or run concurrent with the creation of the city states of Helgia. These are people who may never meet someone from the cities, or who deal with them frequently and aren't especially fond of the necessity. They consider themselves true Helgians, and as much as possible live by the rules they've known their whole lives, loyal to community and family over all else.

Easily dismissed as unorganized serfs, the Princes have learned that in certain areas the bonds of the Kinclaves create a powerful network they must either destroy in a costly expenditure or quietly compromise with.

The Killte - A small group of mountain-dwelling people whose ancestors were, a thousand years ago, the primary power of the region. Outside of a scattering of tiny villages they now have only four population centers to call home; one trading post in the foothills, two small towns among the ruins of grand cities, and one mostly-intact but half-deserted city in a high valley.

Every time they have attempted to expand or restore even a fraction of their power over the last five hundred years they have been crushed by some power or another, but they are learning to be patient.

Homes: Tambo Tohku, Matagua, Ayarmaca, Quenti Kansha

The Nerayan - Most people in Helgia don't quite understand the Nerayan; they look and speak of themselves as if they were a culture of nothing but pirates, but they behave as if they are the local branch of an expanding empire. Three hundred years ago they turned from regular raiding of the North Western coast to a full-on invasion, taking land like it was free to all comers and laying claim to several major waterways. Though the Princes fought them constantly over two hundred years, they continued to gain more territory than they lost until the Commonwealth soldiers and a few disastrous storms turned the tide and drove them back.

Now they control a city on the very tip of the region as well as an island just off the coast, a toe-hold they refused to give up and which the Princes bargained to let them keep before the Commonwealth needed its armies back. That was a hundred years ago, and tensions have been high ever since... but the last time a Prince tried to test the treaty and siege the city an alarming number of ships appeared.

City: Krodha


The Killte Way
Priests/Devoted: Guide
Paths: Air, Earth, Magic
Skills: Athletics, Medicine, Sneak, Survival
Weapon: Sling
Avatar: Predatory Giant Eagle
Opposed: The Oaths of Order, The Nerayan

The Virtues
Priests/Devoted: Teacher/Virtuous
Paths: Beauty, Knowledge, Heroism
Skills: Investigate, Tactics, Resolve, Impress
Weapon: Long Staff
Avatar: Guardian Angel
Opposed: The Incarnate Families, The Kinclave

The Incarnate Families - Of the Camlin Empire
Priests/Devoted: Faithful
Paths: Fortune, Secrets, Protection
Skills: Blend, Bluff, Intimidate, Impress
Weapon: Short Sword
Avatar: Alpha War Dog
Opposed: The Virtues, The Commonwealth

The Oaths of Order - Of the Cities of Helgia
Devoted: Oathbound
Paths: Metal, Order, Strength
Skills: Crafting, Haggle, Sense Motive, Blend
Weapon: Bastard Sword
Avatar: Alpha War Horse
Opposed: The Killte Way, The Nerayan

The Kinclave
Priests: Depends. Elder, Grandfather/mother, Boss, Speaker, etc.
Paths: Life, Nature, Wilderness
Skills: Bluff, Medicine, Notice, Survival
Weapon: Hatchet
Avatar: Alpha Grizzly Bear
Opposed: The Virtues, The Commonwealth

The Nerayan
Priests: Brother/Sister
Paths: Water, Travel, War
Skills: Athletics, Acrobatics, Notice, Tactics
Weapon: Sickle Sword
Avatar: Ancient Water Serpent
Opposed: The Oaths of Order, The Killte Way

The Commonwealth
Devoted: Loyalist
Paths: Light, Deceit, Fire
Skills: Crafting, Investigate, Search, Sense Motive
Weapon: Crossbow
Avatar: Alpha Elk
Opposed: The Incarnate Families, The Kinclave

General - For those interest in more abstract Alignments, I'm going to have Good, Evil, Chaos, and Order as options.

I have a very rough timeline that I haven't yet typed up (it's scribbled out on a legal pad), that I'll try to put together soon.

Final Note
The Incarnate religion is, really, a combination of Christianity, Buddhism, the Virtues from the Ultima series, with the schismatic history of both Christianity and Islam thrown in for a dash of flavor. It's sort of crazy, but I think I love it. :)
« Last Edit: March 20, 2011, 08:30:15 AM by MaskedBrute »


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Re: Setting Development: The Seven Cities of Helgia
« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2011, 12:47:32 AM »
Clever what you did with the map! ;)

Other than Miracles and Sorcery, are there any other Campaign Qualities that you think would suit the setting?

Cheers! :D


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Re: Setting Development: The Seven Cities of Helgia
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2011, 07:54:00 AM »
I'm thinking of the following Campaign Qualities, but nothing's yet set in stone:

Complex Heroes
Rare Magic Items

Hearty Heroes
Hewn Limbs
Rampant Corruption


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Re: Setting Development: The Seven Cities of Helgia
« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2011, 09:03:09 PM »
Just a bump. Any other responses or suggestions?


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Re: Setting Development: The Seven Cities of Helgia
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2012, 10:23:40 AM »
So, over a year ago I posted this thread and promptly lost my notes.

Until yesterday.

I'm going to post that timeline I mentioned in the first post here, just for completeness sake. Please note that it contradicts the given age of the Camlin Empire above, because that was a typo.

Timeline of Major Events in the Land Called Helgia

2000 - 1700 Years Ago
The Killte* move from being one powerful group among many in the western mountains to expanding until they have united, through warfare and negotiation, all of the various mountain groups. Developing much of the available terrain in their home valleys, forcing powerful Dascha to stake out territory through shows of force while the others attempt to hide amongst the Killte.

1700 - 1500 Years Ago
The Killte Empire begins to expand into the lowlands, having discovered that the weaker Dascha can be captured and their inhuman abilities turned towards a number of uses. While some Killte experiment with learning the secrets of the Dascha themselves, this is considered to be a debasement of the natural order and discouraged with lethal force.

1500 - 1250 Years Ago
With the Dascha now considered fully domesticated and their abilities incorporated to almost every part of daily life, the Killte confidently stake out an ever larger part of the lowlands, absorbing or scattering the various native tribes. The few barbarian population centers at the fringes of the Killte Empire attempt to push back many times, with raiding parties a constant nuisance, but the mystic and military might of the so-called Sky People is far too great.

Visits by curious foreigners from the northwestern sea happen a number of times, some attempting settlement and some merely reaving, but none seem to represent a rival power of note and they are repelled or destroyed without fail.

1250 - 1000 Years Ago
Internal strife eats away at the central power of the Killte Empire as regional leaders with either too many troubles or too much time on their hands begin first to argue over resources and then to war amongst themselves. Their Emperor attempts to squash this with armies from other districts, but things only deteriorate further and at some point one of the leaders manages to free all the Dascha in his enemy's lands. Chaos is unleashed as the clever creatures quickly take hold of the opportunity to free their brethren, rather than immediately attack their former masters, and they begin to relentless destroy the infrastructures that they had been forced to maintain.

Then the more vengeful Dascha turn their attentions to the people, starting a conflict that ends with the Dascha seemingly wiped out and the Killte severely reduced in power as well as numbers.

Meanwhile, in the far east, a man that will become known as the Incarnate is born to a powerful family. Filled with a wisdom and passion that cannot be denied he draws followers in large numbers and a handful of dedicated champions to his side. This man eventually founds the Kingdom of Lavena, named for his family's home, and according to legend rules it well for several years before his death. This kingdom will control most of the eastern continent for 600 years.

1000 - 500 Years Ago
As the Kingdom of Lavena expands in the east, many who are unhappy or unwelcome are driven into the region. Some of the newcomers are able to stake and hold claims, while others are absorbed or slaughtered. Outlying Killte cities are sacked and overrun in the waves of war and migration, and eventually almost all of their surviving cities are ravaged to some extent or another.

During this period the Incarnate, having been reborn throughout the east, lives three lives in the region. The number of Virtuous in the region grow and spread, claiming five sites as holy to the Incarnate's people.

500 - 200 Years Ago
The larger centers of trade, a number of which are built on the ruins of those fallen mountain folk, have continued to consolidate their power and stake out their borders over the course of a number of brutal conflicts. As the dust settles there are a number of great City-States, each ruled by a Prince, in control of almost the entirety of what is now widely known as Helgia.

Meanwhile, in the far east, the Kingdom of Lavena has been troubled for years by what its rulers call "the Blood Heresy"; the descendants of the Incarnate from the various lives where he held power (or the families he left behind that made power for themselves) believe that they have a greater connection to him and that only they have the Virtue to lead. These people call themselves "the Incarnate Families," and with money and power on their side they unify in an attempt to seize control of the kingdom, but when the war stretches on they declare themselves the Empire of Camlin after the home of the most powerful family and attempt to grab as much land as possible.

With the Incarnate Families gaining control over a little more than half of the eastern continent, the loyal allies of Lavena that bordered Helgia find themselves pressed hard between two enemies. They form the Volnwald-Ehrenke Commonwealth, managing to hold off the Empire of Camlin.

250 - 50 Years Ago
The Nerayan, who had frequently attacked as pirates off the coast or raiders along the northwest shore, start to attack more frequently and even form small settlements. They then suddenly begin to arrive in large numbers and without warning. With support by 'Smokemen,' who whose mystic abilities are unheard of in Helgia, and fleets carrying entire armies these newcomers manage to take a large chunk of the region for themselves almost overnight.

Thus starts almost two hundred years of war, interspersed with short periods of peace and short-lived victories, only ending when the remaining Princes manage to convince the Volnwald-Ehrenke Commonwealth to assist them as part of a pact that ensures mutual support against outside enemies. The Narayan suffer a number of setbacks, both militarily and in terms of supply, causing them to accept a peace agreement that leaves them a single significant foothold in the region.

Conflicts continue on a small scale, but something that could be mistaken for peace holds sway over Helgia.

So, there we go, all typed out.

* - I am aware that this is an area in Finland, and I apologize to any Finnish folks who may be stuck on that association, but it's a made-up name I stitched together from some Inka naming conventions that works for my purposes. :p
« Last Edit: August 09, 2012, 10:26:42 AM by MaskedBrute »