The Crystal Palace and The Radiant Empire


The Radiant Empire is one of unprecedented size and duration. It claims as territory the watershed of the mighty Sipsa river, and this year begins it 83rd millennium. It owes its success to the combined virtues of its founders (Makoo, Dragons, and Garu), and its willingness to incorporate the talents of new races as well. The Makoo, a species of sentient plant, are the spiritual leaders of the Empire. After an active youthful stage, Makoo retire to a tree-like dormant state of pure contemplation. The Makoo religion which celebrates these Ancients is the glue that holds the Empire together, both socially and mystically. If not for the bonds the Ancients have to the land, to each other, and to their followers the Empire would splinter into disconnected regions. The Dragons brought their magical and technological knowledge to the partnership. In particular, the Dragons gave the Empire the secret of the dimension-spanning Crystal, which conducts and stores somna, the mystic energy of meaning. Crystal and somna are the sources of the plentiful magic and powerful technology that form the basis for the economy. Finally, the shape-shifting Garu protect the Empire from external menaces with their courage and cunning. The Legend of the Founding tells one story of how this partnership came to be.

Into this partnership, new species of citizens have brought their talents: the Unicorns bring their natural lore, healing, and magic; the Aerads, their beauty and lively personalities; the Varagh, their memories and pragmatism; the Cham, their skill with tools; Gorillas, their strength and stability; the Taz, their speed and ferocity; the Telluri, their perceptiveness and refinement; and the Darby, their boundless energy and eagerness to please.

NOTE: The variety of races found in the Radiant Empire is designed to allow players to play characters that are extreme and distinctive as far as personality and abilities, without limiting possible social roles to icon, outcast, or freak. Each character race is meant to capture a common role-playing archetype: the saint, the sage, the feral warrior, the innate magician, the socializing entertainer, the skulker, the gentle giant, the speedster, etc. On the other hand, each race also is multi-dimensional, allowing a variety of approaches or personalities. This should allow groups of player characters to have distinctive specialties even if the group contains several members of the same species. Characters of different backgrounds should also bring a variety of social contacts and interests to the game. See Inhabitants for a more complete description, with typical roles each race can play in an adventure.

Unfortunately, the Radiant Empire is now in a period of decline, stemming from the catastrophic loss of the Science Tower, the scientific and technological center of the Empire. Note only did the Empire lose its most knowledgeable citizens, but its system of records-keeping became useless. (Think of the chaos that might ensue in a computer-dependent society if extended periods of electro-magnetic pulses repeatedly destroyed all data at the same time as a computer virus enters the system.) To make matters even worse, many irreplaceable artifacts that were central to the technology of the Empire were stored in the Science Tower. While the Empire still has a sophisticated store of equipment and power which maintains its economy and military, its communications and transportation systems have decayed. Consequently, its political and mystic ties to outlying regions are collapsing, and the Empire is shrinking. Citizens are divided over the best way to recapture the lost glory, and speed the Empire on its spiritual mission to bring about Utopia.

The Crystal Palace

The Crystal Palace is the cultural, political, technological, and above all spiritual center of the Empire. Almost half of the Makoo choose to retire inside the Palace. The walls of the City are made of Crystal, which conducts and stores somna energy, released by material reverting to potentia in the City's chaos vats. This energy is stored in the Palace like heat in a greenhouse, making the Palace a place of dreams and wonders. Crystal can also be used to transport somna throughout the Empire, and the economy of the Radiant Empire is based on trade in somna. Most importantly, somna binds the minds of the Palace's inhabitants to the dreams of the Makoo, giving them a place in the Perfect World to come.

The physical structure of the Crystal Palace

The Palace was designed as a fractal pattern, repeating the theme of a single tower surrounded by three smaller ones at finer and finer scales. The central tower is the Holy Tower, where the oldest and most honored Saints are rooted. Its upper reaches are the headquarters of the Church. The Triumverate (the High Priest, the Warlord, and the Archon) meet there as well. Surrounding this central tower are: the Tower of Beauty, center of arts, crafts, trade, and commerce; the Tower of Vision, the headquarters of the military; and the Science Tower, once the center of magic, science and technology, now abandoned and dangerous.

The tertiary and tetrary towers are the Parks. The grounds of the Parks offer a variety of habitats for the retiring Makoo to choose from. The centers of the towers above the Parks are kept open to the sky, but the edges are built up with bazaars and living quarters. Young Makoo and Unicorn herds tend the Parks, and some Aerads prefer to live there as well. Garu, Dragons, Varagh, and most Aerads and Gorillas live in dwellings adjacent to the bazaars. Darby live throughout the city, Taz mostly dwell in barracks in the Tower of Vision, and most Telluri live in a complex in the Tower of Beauty. Chams frequently live in out-of-the-way places, such as side tunnels.

The quintary and sestiary towers are divided into personal dwellings of the rich, mostly Dragons and Varagh. The other smaller towers are mostly lost in a random assembly of corridors, out-buildings, wings, and turrets built after the original city was completed. (Expansion was forbidden during the Reformation. At that time, Seed Crystal, needed for new construction. was restricted to the Science Tower. See History for more information about the Reformation.)

The foundations of the Palace lie on three separate areas: one on each bank of the Sipsa river, and one covering Steran Island. These are separated by arched tunnels about half a kilometer wide, that allow the Sipsa to pass underneath the Palace. The area on the sides of the arches is known as the Docks. The Docks are always busy with port activities: loading, unloading, and inspecting. Outside the Crystal walls, and hence not directly connected to the Eldest, this is the traditional place for disreputable activities: drinking, gambling, carousing, illicit sex, and brawling. So pubs like the Purple Pomegranate are found in the Dock area. On the walls and ceiling of the arches, slipshod, improvised construction has merged with the Palace's infrastructure to create a district called the Web. This is the home of outlaws, revolutionaries, thugs, and low-lifes who have been temporarily banished from the Palace.

Geography of the Radiant Empire

The Radiant Empire defines itself as the watershed of the great Sipsa River. This is a piece of land approximately the size and shape of the Lousianna Purchase. However, this traditional definition has rarely corresponded exactly with fact. The northern tributaries of the Sipsa pass through uninhabited and perhaps uninhabitable regions. The southwest part of the Sipsa Delta is the corrupted Fouled Lands. On the other hand, the southeast province of Bama is not part of the watershed, but has been an on-again/off-again part of the Empire. The Empire has also had "protectorates" in the Spice Islands for most of its history.

The most densely populated regions of the Empire are Bama, the Delta, and the Central Forest. There, retired Makoo are plentiful. This keeps the climate temperate, wet, and warm, and the land fertile and benevolent. The Crystal Palace is on the border between the northern tip of the Delta, and the southern part of the Central Forest.

On the fringes of the Central Forest, to the East, West, and North, retired Makoo become sparser, the climate colder and less predictible. Dangerous animals or monsters might roam the land. Villages in these border regions are built up around a patron saint or saints, one or several retired Makoo who protect the area immediately surrounding them. It is an act of extreme piety to make a pilgrimage, bringing a gift of somna to these patron saints, to keep them connected to the rest of the Eldest.

The Sipsa River flows from the North to the South, where it empties into the Sea of Huma. The basic regions of the Empire are, starting at the southeast:

  1. Bama

  2. The southeast-most province of the Empire, it lies between the Sipsa River watershed and the Dismal Swamp. It is a densely forested tropical region, and extremely fertile. It exports fruit, nuts, sugar cane and palm oil to the rest of the Empire.

    History: Bama is an on-again/off-again part of the Empire, added in periods of expansion, and lost in periods of contraction. It had been part of the Empire before being settled by the Gorillas, but was uninhabited when they arrived, bringing with them the Bamboo Chair, arcanum of plenty and fertility. When the gorillas joined the Empire as citizens, the Bamboo Chair was brought to the Crystal Palace. After this, Bama became a popular retirement place for the Eldest Makoo and was firmly cemented into the Empire. The population remained heavily Gorilla, and Bama was viewed by the Gorillas as their homeland.
    After the catastrophe, communication with Bama became sporadic, and local Gorilla leaders took matters into their own hands. A rebellion by these leaders over an unreasonable demand for fruit and oil shipments escalated into a small war. The Empire's armies were humiliated by the Gorillas, but the Empire could still have crushed them if they were sufficiently ruthless. However, the Empire could not destroy Bama without disturbing the Eldest Makoo retired there; nor could it abandon these Eldest Makoo by giving Bama independence. So an uneasy truce was negotiated, with Bama remaining part of the Empire officially, but given large amounts of autonomy. One condition of the truce was the return of the Bamboo Chair. The treaty was viewed as treasonous by many in the military, and it is still controversial. Many Gorillas in the Palace are sentimentally attached to Bama, and view its ruler Lord Ben as a hero. This has caused some to accuse Gorillas of disloyalty.

    Population: Bama's residents are almost entirely Gorilla, with some Makoo, Unicorns and Darby. Its total population is about 700,000, with an additional 100,000 retired Makoo. Bama City has almost 100,000 inhabitants, including suburbs and supporting plantations.

  3. Delta
  4. The Delta region is hot and wet, with much of the land swampy. It is the delta of the Sipsa River. The Crystal Palace is on its northern border.

    History: This has been a core area of the Empire, and, although the scene of great conflict, never out of Empire control. It seems to be the region where the Makoo first evolved to consciousness, and the eldest of the Eldest Makoo are found there. The western Delta was corrupted into the Fouled Lands back in times of legend, when it was the home of the Patchwork Beast. Later, during the Age of Isolation, the Sipsa mouth was barricaded by the Thing with a Thousand Limbs. The mouth was abandonned and Liu's Canal, connecting the Sipsa and Crouka Rivers, was built to redirect trade. Although the Sipsa mouth was recolonized after the Great Alliance, Liu's Canal is still used, and the most populous city of the Delta, Salt City, is at the Crouka's mouth. The western part of the Delta region, naturally part of the Crouka River watershed, is called Chamia, and is the traditional home of the Chams.

    Economy and Population: The Delta's main exports are seafood, cotton, rice, and high-quality clay. Much of the land is rural, divided into plantations. Each plantation will have hundreds of Gorillas, Darby, and Chams, with a few Makoo, Unicorns, and Varagh as specialists. Garu don't like the Delta, and will only be found in military bases along the coast and the Sipsa. Many Aerads live in the Delta, but in their own hives, not part of the plantations. However, the hives will socialize with all of the nearby plantations.

    The total Delta population is around 2 million, with an additional 200,000 retired Makoo. This includes about 500,000 Cham, 500,000 Darby, 300,000 each Gorillas and Aerads, 100,000 each Unicorns, and Varagh, 80,000 Makoo and another 100,000 inhabitants of the other races.

  5. The Central Forest
  6. The Central Forest is the heartland of the Empire, a temperate sparsely wooded area, with gently rolling hills, plenty of water, lush greenery and small villages dotting the countryside. It lies north of the Delta. The Sipsa River runs through its center, and it extends north past the confluence of the Nehash River with the Sipsa. The Crystal Palace marks the border between Delta and Forest regions.

    History: The Central Forest in legendary times was a dense, temperate deciduous forest that was the traditional home of the Garu. The Makoo had started to move north into the Forest at the time of the Founding, which had created tensions with the Garu. The First Dragon War took place largely in the Central Forest, but since then, it has been the most protected and peaceful province of the Empire. Over time, its native forests have been logged, villages built, and spaces cleared for retired Makoo. So the land is no longer dense wild forest, but sparse cultivated woodlands and orchards. Some areas are kept wild as game reserves, and having a hunting lodge in the Forest is a cherished perogative of high-ranked military officers.

    Population and Economy: The Central Forest produces fruit, vegetables, game, dairy, furs, wood, and flax for the Empire. About 1 million Garu live in the area, with an equal number of the other species: around 300,000 Darby, and 100,000 each of Gorillas, Varagh, Unicorns, and Chams, with 50,000 Makoo and a scattering of others. The Garu tend to live in segregated, single pack villages, except near the rivers, which are more cosmopolitan and contain many of the non-Garu residents. A few mixed-race villages are found through-out.

    Many villages have skilled craftsmen, or are known for certain delicacies, and trade is common. Currency (somna disks) is relatively plentiful, and many villages have a few construction or manufacture anibots owned in common. The villages tend to be rather small and spread-out, so many travelling specialists wander from village to village: Varagh peddlers, Cham technicians, Makoo priests, Unicorn witches, and Aerad performing troupes. Each village has a patron saint, but retired Makoo are plentiful (over 200,000) and most villages are home to several.

  7. Meadowlands
  8. Northwest of the Delta lie the grassy Meadowlands, a drier area with few retired Makoo. Near the Pilgrimage Road (which follows the Nehash River and then continues west to the Unicorn Praeries) the region is calm and safe. However, off the road at any distance, the calm meadows morph into the treacherous Badlands. The history of the Meadowlands is relatively uneventful; contact with the Unicorn Praerie was established in the First Age of Heroes, and has been peaceful ever since.

    Economy and Population: The Meadowlands are largely cattle, sheep, and goat country. The ranchers maintain huge herds, that are brought live down the Nehash to be slaughtered in the Banks, outside the Crystal Palace. The population is mixed between Unicorns and Garu (300,000 each), with some Varagh, and Darby, and a few Makoo and Gorillas.
  9. The Northern Provinces
  10. The Northern Provinces are sparsely populated mixed deciduous-coniferous forest region, whose limits have not been acurately mapped. Although a source of some natural resources such as furs, the Northern Provinces are maintained largely as a defensive perimeter for the Empire. Its residents have a missionary zeal that maintains their ties with the main Empire despite hardships and lack of communication. The population is clustered in small villages, each centered around a Patron, a retired Makoo devoted to protecting the village. Typically, these villages have a small Garu pack, a Unicorn doctor/gardener, a Varagh family or two, and a scattering of specialists of other races, all living in close proximity. (Traditionally, each village would have one or two Makoo priests, but priests are now mostly circuit riders, going from village to village.) It is considered a charitible act for groups from the Crystal Palace to undertake pilgrimages to such villages, bringing presents to the inhabitants and a gift of somna blessed by one of the Palace's Eldest to the patron. Total population of the Northern Provinces is now down to about 160,000, with 70,000 Garu, 50,000 Varagh, 10,000 each Makoo and Unicorns, and a scattering of others.
  11. The Silver Mountains
  12. The Silver Mountains are a sparsely populated, mineral-rich area of craggy mountains and canyons, on the Northeast fringe of the Empire. Natty River marks its western border and Mount Dismal its southern; there are no precise eastern or northern borders, as the land becomes gradually less inhabitable. The climate is bleak at all times, with winds from the Cold Wastes to the north occasionally turning it into a frozen hell. Earthquakes, tornadoes, and bizarre monsters are not uncommon. There are no Makoo Saints sturdy enough to colonize and pacify the area, although a few Makoo priests attend to the inhabitants spiritual needs. The area is an important source of raw materials; otherwise it would be abandonned. The worst of criminals are sentenced to work in the mines. The Army maintains a fortress here, Fort Cruga, and the surrounding town is the only settlement of any size. A few of the inscrutable Telleri actually find the environment aesthetic, and some Chams and Varaghs live here because of the potential to strike it rich. The total population is around 50,000, with about 20,000 Garu soldiers, 20,000 criminals of all races, and 10,000 hardy crackpots, er, entrepeneurs. The mining equipment (golems, anthropomorphs, glow stones, etc.) and safety devices are relatively well-maintained, and the Silver Mountains have the highest concentration of Crystal technology outside the City. Many of the mines were abandoned during the Time of Confusion, and these form a rich hunting ground for brave Archaeomages (but is there any other kind?).
  13. Colonya
  14. Colonya is the area south of Mount Dismal, and north of Bama. It's name comes from the fact that it was settled in the 21st millenium, and is technically not part of the Sipsa watershed. This makes it a ``colony'' rather than a central part of the Empire. The terrain is a flat brushland, and the climate is moderate. It is sparsely settled by Makoo Saints, forming the centers of villages as in the Northern Territories. It has one large city, Phism, with a population of around 60,000. Phism is near a spa which is a favorite resort area, and a source of oils used for greasing machinery. The population of Colonya is around 350,000, with about 20,000 Makoo Saints in addition. There are around 50,000 Garu, 10,000 Makoo, 20,000 Unicorns, 20,000 Aerads, 90,000 each of Chams and Gorillas, and 30,000 each Varagh and Darby. source of

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