The Auran Empire: Default Setting of Adventurer Conqueror King
While Adventurer Conqueror King can be used to simulate a broad variety of fantasy settings, we do have a well-developed default setting for the game, called the Auran Empire. The Auran Empire fills the role that, e.g, the Imperium plays for Traveller, that Greyhawk played for 1st edition AD&D, and that Night City played for Cyberpunk 2020.
So what is the Auran Empire setting like? To make sure all of our authors and designers were on the same page, we created a “setting bible” which defines its themes and feel. I’ve excerpted some key areas for you below:
Built for Gaming: A fantasy RPG setting needs a reason for wandering heroes to travel into the wilderness, fight monsters, and take their treasure. Thus towns and castles must exert control only over a local area, with outlying regions infested by robbers and monsters. Empires must have collapsed and lands grown depopulated in order to provide a source of ancient ruins and treasure, and an ancient war or wild magic must have created terrible monsters that, in the declining age, can no longer easily be held in check. The Auran Empire setting was defined with these needs in mind.
Genre: The setting is adventure fantasy, not high fantasy. Adventurers seek fame, power, and loot. Nobles live in luxury while slaves toil in misery. Human cities teem with vice and villainy. Virgins are sacrificed to chthonic cults. The characters may be adventurers like Conan, or willing heroes like Aragorn, but they are not reluctant heroes like Frodo.
Era: The era is historically akin to the age of Late Antiquity circa 350AD as the Roman Empire slipped into the Dark Ages. Opulent long-standing empires are shattering in a tidal wave of violence. It is not the Middle Ages and the tropes of the Middle Ages (knights in shining armor, chivalric orders, and so on) are not strongly present.
Theme: The overall theme is of decline and fall of a great empire. Characters may simply be scavengers and vagabonds feasting off its corpse, or they may choose to be heroes fighting to save what they can. Good is not certain to win, and indeed the odds are stacked against it
Cultural Analogues: The Auran Imperial culture is based on Late Rome/Byzantine Empire. The Sunset Kingdoms of the west are akin to Indo-Persian civilization. The North is akin to German (Anglo Saxon) civilization. The Skysos riders of the far west are based on the Asiatic mounted hordes (Huns) that threatened the Late Roman Empire. Northern Elven culture is Celtic British, assuming it had not been Romanized. The deceased classical elven civilization is “Atlantean” (hypothetical Bronze Age with both Greek and Egyptian motifs combined with early Christian burial practices). The deceased Thrassian (Lizard-man) civilization is inspired by Aztec civilization with an Assyrian aesthetic, while the deceased Zaharan civilization is inspired by Babylonian, Egyptian, and pre-Hellenistic Persian civilization. The early Auran Empyrean era civilization is Heroic Age Greco-Roman (Illiad, Aeneid). This creates a wide range of settings, ruins, and landscapes for adventure.
Pagan Religion: The gods did not create the world, nor are they omnipotent or omniscient; and they fight each other to control the world, not to redeem it. As such, religion is a powerful force, but does not dominate Imperial society. Ammonar’s worship is akin to the worship of Sol Invictus in the Late Empire, or the Byzantine Christian Church (i.e. subordinate to the Emperor, rather than vice versa). The other Empyrean gods are mystery cults popular with different factions of society, much like Mithra, Isis, etc. The Chthonic gods are worshipped by various city-states in the Sunset Kingdoms, much like occurred in the ancient era, and there priest-kings are common.
Alignment: The setting assumes a perpetual struggle between Law and Chaos, but not in a sense of “good” and “evil”. Law represents humanity and its works; Chaos represents inhumanity and its alien works. To have an alignment is to have chosen a side in this perpetual struggle. Most people, choosing no side, are Neutral, although most Neutral humans enjoy the protection of Law. (To paraphrase George Orwell, Neutral humans sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because Lawful heroes stand ready to do violence on their behalf.) Human vices, such as greed, lust, and vanity, are widespread and common; the true enemies are characterized by inhuman vices, insanity, wanton destruction, cannibalism, necrophilia, and so on. Evil is all-too-human, but chaotic is something both less and more than human.
Heroic Morality, Not Modern Morality: “With great valor comes great reward.” Like Achilles and Beowulf, and unlike Spider-Man, heroes seek out fame and fortune. A beautiful wife, chests of gold, magnificent weapons, and grants of land are considered by all to be the rightful rewards for great deeds of valor on behalf of Law. Wealth is a positive value, a symbolic measure of a man’s worth.
When the Planes are Right: The Material Plane, a great crystal sphere made up of all the elements, floats within the center of an infinite silvery sea known as the Astral Plane. Above the Material Plane is the Empyrean Heaven, source of law and goodness. Beneath the Material Plane is the Chthonic Darkness, the source of chaos and evil. Ringing the Material Plane are the four Elemental Planes of Earth, Air, Water, and Fire. These positions are not static, for the 4 Elemental Planes and 2 Outer Planes metaphysically orbit around the Material Plane, interacting with it and each other. Depending on their current location, the Planes are considered in one of four states: Ascendant (close to the Material Plane), Descendant (far from the Material Plane), Conjunction (actually touching the Material Plane), and Eclipse (furthest from the Material Plane). The planes were set adrift from their natural orbits when the Tablet of Destiny was shattered, and their movement is now partly dictated by spiritual factors as well as physical law. The shifting of the Outer Planes, which is part of the struggle between Law and Chaos, is greatly correlated with, but not causal of, great historic events. One such great event, the Awakening, looms as a possibility in the future.
There Is No Destiny: The Tablet of Destiny was shattered in a primordial age. Fate is adrift, and the outcomes depend on the will of men and the whims of chance. Gods and heroes can seek to influence the outcome but there is no assurance of a happy ending. In game terms, PCs can and do die, the Awakening may or may not come to pass.
Magic is Natural but Mysterious: The setting’s level of magic is equivalent to what the ancients historically believed magic to be capable of; which is roughly the implicit level of magic in B/X Dungeons & Dragons, not the high level of magic assumed in 3rd Edition or 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. It is wrong to treat magic in a scientific manner, because the entire society is pre-scientific. It is equally wrong to treat magic as fundamentally non-comprehensible, either. Instead, magic is considered part of “natural philosophy,” which is the pre-scientific manner that classical thinkers attempted to understand the world. Physics and metaphysics are not yet distinguished; an alchemist is both a scientist and sorcerer.
Weird Science: Ancient civilizations from long-forgotten eras had advanced in scientific knowledge beyond what is known to the setting. Ray-guns, death rays, floating packs, grenades, and laser-swords can be found in rare and out of the way places. The ruins of the elves and Zaharans are comparatively recent (circa 3000 years old) compared to these far more ancient artifacts.
Monsters were Mostly Created: While some creatures, such as dragons and unicorns, are natural to the world, most monsters, including giant vermin, undead, all aberrations, and all evil and monstrous humanoids, were created, either when the Tablet of Destiny was shattered, or by the elves, Thrassians, and Zaharans as slaves, pets, and soldiers. As such they are innately unnatural and should be destroyed. PCs need have no moral qualms about killing orcs, undead, and so on.
Literary Inspirations: Key inspirations for the setting are R. E. Howard’s Conan stories; Lin Carter’s Thongor of Lemuria series; Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone and Hawkmoon series; David Gemmell’s Drenai series; R. Scott Bakker’s Prince of Nothing series; and George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series.
Hopefully you find this setting as exciting and appealing as we do! But, of course, if you hate it, it’s easy enough to ignore. There’s nothing to prevent you from using ACKS with your own favorite setting, Rob Conley’s Wilderlands of High Fantasy, Gygax’s Greyhawk, Arneson’s Blackmoor, or anything else!
The present-day nations of mankind trace themselves back to five distinct tribes, the Daneans, Itheans, Kemivorns, Ulrukans, and Zaharans, who entered the contintent of Aureopos from the north, west, south-west, south, and south-east respectively.
The earliest records of all of those peoples indicate that the elves and dwarves already had established civilizations at the time of their earliest records.
No one civilization in the game world has a true archive that spans all of history. The Auran Empire marks the present day as Imperial Year 381. Written elven records trace back to 4,000 Before Empire. The first written records that the elves have memorialize “the Fifth Turning since the Day Without Night,” and that marks the start of recorded history. However, the elven records were badly shattered by the Fall of Argolle, circa 1,650 BE.
Written human records only trace back to circa 1,650 BE, so no one is exactly sure of the precise timeline.
From the official HISTORY:
The recorded history of Aurëpos begins four millennia ago, when elven chroniclers first memorialized their race’s history on clay tablets. Before then, we have only myth and legend to draw upon. From such dubious sources we can identify several semi-mythical ages. The first of these, known as the Age of Marvels, is said to have begun with the creation of Cybele in the center of the Cosmic Sphere. Legend maintains that the Age of Marvels lasted for 100,000 years, during which the mortal inhabitants of Cybele were introduced into the world by their creators and flourished under their guidance.
The Age of Marvels is said to have ended with the Predestined War, a mythic struggle described in the holy books of both Empyrean and Chthonic powers. All our religious sources are unanimous in claiming that that the Predestined War ended when the Table of Destiny was shattered. Chthonic theology claims that Iskara shattered the Tablet to liberate men’s will from the shackles of fixed fate. Empyrean theology teaches that the destruction of the Tablet was a terrible accident that destroyed the ordered harmony of life and law that characterized the Age of Marvels. Given the tragic nature of history, we must, of course, believe the latter to be the case.
In the aftermath of the shattering, these same sources recount, Fragments of the Tablet plummeted down onto the world. There they were found by creatures of Iskara and turned to sinister purposes, ushering in the Age of Abominations. The tales of this time are the stuff of nightmares and dark folklore, best left shuttered in the recesses of the mind. This reign of darkness, of humanity enslaved and preyed upon, is accounted to have lasted 20,000 years, until the Day Without Night, when a million suns blazed in the heavens and Ammonar restored law. An anniversary of this mythic event is recorded in the earliest elven annals and marks the beginning of recorded history.
The Imperial calendar counts the first Imperial Year as the year that Audarius Tarkaun acceded to the throne. Events prior to the founding of the Empire are noted as BE (Before Empire). Note that the Fall (circa 1650 BE) caused significant loss of records for a period of about twenty years. Its date and all dates prior to it are approximate.
Yes, the Auran Empire has a specific calendar.
The calendar actually predates the ACKS system. When creating the calendar, I wanted a calendar that would (1) have months of the same length, (2) have every day of the week always fall on the same date in each month, (3) have the lunar and solar months be of equal length, and (4) keep the 7-day week. That way I always would know for any year and date what day of the week it would be, and what phase of the moon. This is great for tactical-level play - if the adventurers wanted to adventure “on a moonless night” I always knew when that would be. If they wanted to set off “on a holy day for Ammonar” I always knew when that would be.
I made the system work by going with 13 28-day months. The downside is that technically the seasons are each 3 months and 1 week long, rather than being 3 months long. This creates some tension with the season system min ACKS. In using the calendar for ACKS, I resolve this by having domain morale checks every 3 months, with a bonus check on Celebration of Unconquered Dawn, figuring that it’s the major holiday of the year.
I may tweak the system again before final publication of the Auran supplement.
DAYS OF WEEK (WITH RITUAL SIGNIFICANCE)
Nauridras-- Start of journeys
Calefadras-- Funerals, estates
Istreudras-- Day of work
Turadras-- Major court announcements, proclamations of law
Iannadras-- Engagements, duels, declarations of war
Ammonadras-- Holy day
The solar cycle is 365 days long. The solar calendar consists of 13 months of 28 days, totaling 364 days, with 1 independent day at the start of each year for 365 days total.
Celebration of Unconquered Dawn–December 21 / Winter Solstice
Vicelen-- Dec 22-31 (10), Jan 1-18 (18)
Genelen-- Jan 19-31 (13), Feb 1-15 (15)
Juselen-- Feb 16-28 (13), Mar 1-15 (15)
Froelen-- Mar 15-31 (16), Apr 1-12 (12)
Pendaelen-- Apr 13-30 (18), May 1-10 (10)
Zigelen-- May 11-31 (21), June 1-7 (7)
Esevelen-- June 8-30 (23), July 1-5 (5)
Agitelen-- July 6-31 (26), August 1-2 (2)
Innelen-- Aug 3-30 (28)
Nethelen-- Aug 31 (1), Sept 1-27 (27)
Vinethelen-- Sept 28-30 (3), October 1-25 (25)
Genethelen-- October 26-31 (6), November 1-22 (22)
Jusethelen-- Nov 23-30 (8), Dec 1-20 (20)
The lunar cycle is 28.0769 days long. Since each month is 28 days long, over the course of the year the waxing and waning of the moon slips out of alignment with the solar calendar by 1/13th of a day per month. The day-long Celebration of Unconquered Dawn re-sets the alignment each year.
New Moon-- 28th/1st
Full Moon-- 14th/15th
Celebration of Unconquered Dawn-- New Year’s Day (365th Day of the Solar Year)
Holy Feast of Epiphany-- Genelen 17th (45 days after COUD)
Rites of Hearth Fire-- Froelen 6th (March 21st)
Day of the Undying Sun-- Esevelen 15th (June 22nd)
Festival of the Reaping-- Nethelen 23rd (Sept 22nd)
For those who care, “dras” means “day” and “elen” means “moon”. Vic, gen, jus, are “one,” “two,” “three,” and so on. Ammonadras means “Day of Ammonar” and “Vicelen” means “First Moon”.
I think the easiest way to offer the historical analogues would be to share the language tree. The language tree for the Auran Empire campaign setting was designed to parallel real-world language trees. The Judge can therefore give an elf a Gaelic name, an Ancient Zaharan an Akkadian name, and a Jutlander an Old Norse name, and know that in-world the language parallel would be the same. The only exception to this is Classical Auran, for which I constructed a complete conlang, and Common Auran, which I translate into English. (If ACKS were published in real-world French it would be truly perfect because then I would be able to translate Classical Auran as Latin and Common Auran into French and the analogs would match carefully.)
Ø Argodanean [Proto-Indo-European]
o Ancient Argodanean [Celtic]
§ Classical Argollëan [Goidelic]
· Centaur [Gaelic]
· Elven [Gaelic]
· Faerie [Gaelic]
§ Old Rornish [Brythonic]
· Rornish [Cornish/Breton/Welsh]
o Eastern Danean [Italic]
§ Classical Auran [Latin]
· Common Auran [Vulgar Latin]
o Western Danean [Proto-Indo-Iranian]
§ Celdo-Somirean [Indo-Iranian]
· Celdorean [Iranian]
· Somirean [Indic]
o Northern Danean [Germanic]
§ Old Jutlandic [North Germanic]
· Jutlandic [Old Norse]
Ø Proto-Ithean [Proto-Mongolic]
o Ithean [Mongolic]
§ Old Skysos [Classical Mongolian]
· Skysos [Mongolian]
Ø Aurë-Ulrukan [Afro-Asiatic]
o Eastern Ulrukan [Eastern Semitic]
§ Ancient Zaharan [Akkadian]
· Goblin (etc.) [Assyrian]
· Orc (etc.) [Assyrian]
o Central Ulrukan [Western Semitic]
§ Old Opelenean [South Semitic]
· Opelenean [Levantine Arabic]
· Besherab [Maghribi Arabic]
o Northwestern Ulrukan [Old Egyptian]
§ Old Kemeshi [Middle Egyptian]
· Kemeshi [Late Egyptian]
Ø Proto-Ulrukan [Niger-Congo]
o Ulrukan [Bantu]
§ Kushtu [Swahili]
· Keitan [Kenya]
· Mundean [Zambia]
· Kushtun [Zimbabwe]
Ø Proto-Monstrous [Proto-Sumerian]
o Ancient Monstrous [Old Sumerian]
§ Thrassian [New Sumerian]
o Ancient Dwarven
§ Classical Dwarven
In the chart, the bolded languages are live languages. Languages are increasingly rare in the campaign as you move more and more steps from live languages.
In my most recent campaign, I allowed players to take 4 languages for one proficiency slot as long as they were linguistically or geographically related. So for example, one player spoke Besherab, Opelenean, Old Opelenean, and Kemeshi.
Another helpful way of understanding the cultures is to see how they refer to the various gods.
Gods and Goddesses of Cybele
GO TO THE ORIGINAL POST TO SEE THE TABLE: http://www.autarch.co/comment/17239#comment-17239
Krysea has no direct analog but it is similar to Thracia, Dacia, and Iberia. It is augged mountainous land with a pastoral people who are seen as slightly barbaric by Aurans.
Nicea is an analog of Greece.
Opelenea is an analog of The Levant and Middle East, loosely defined.
Nicea, Tirenea, and Krysea originally joined Aura as part of the Auran League to deal with marauding beastmen that had united under a warlord. Unable to defend themselves, they became client states, and then provinces.
“211 BE Cincanus completes the liberation of Nicea and Krysea, and places them under Auran administration. A garrison of legionaries is put in place to protect them against future incursions from the Waste.”
Opelenea does not come under Auran rule until 206 Imperial Year (417 years after 211 Before Empire) when it is captured from the Somirean Empire.
The default campaign begins in the Imperial Year 381. Nicea and Krysea are well-assimilated in the Empire but Opelenea has not been well-assimilated and retains a unique culture and strong ties to the Sunset Kingdoms to the West. It is a crossroads between West and East, much as the historical Middle East was.
The Sunset Kingdoms are those kingdoms which lie along the western shores of the Ammas Aure. Celdorea, Kemesh, and Somirea are the main Sunset Kingdoms. Opelenea has close ties to them. Skysostan, west of Somirea, does not lie on the Ammas Aure and is not a Sunset Kingdom.
When the Zaharan Empire was toppled by the Auran-led revolution, the Auran crusaders never reached Kemesh, Somirea, or Celdorea. As such they essentially fall outside of “Empyreandom”. Worship of the Chthonic gods is legal there, as is hereditary lifelong human slavery and traffic with beastmen.
South and west of the Sunset Kingdoms are the Ivory Kingdoms, about which little is known save that they are rich in ivory, spices, diamonds, gold, and exotic animals.
In the north, Rorn is similar to Romano-Briton, as it was once held by the Aurans (as the province of Ivorea) but is now being abandoned. The former Auran province of Dappakosea has already been lost to Juttish invaders from the north, who have established the Kingdoms of Jutland there.
There is no exact historical analog for the dwarves. In the earliest iteration of the Auran Empire campaign, the dwarves were extinct, having been slaughtered by the beastmen. My players, arguing that they would tolerate no further bias against short humanoid races, insisted they wanted dwarves. So I put them in the game. But they are relatively rare and isolationist.
The closest analog can offer is that ACKS Dwarves are basically Fantasy Vulcans culturally, if Vulcan had been invaded by Klingons and only tiny outposts of Vulcan remained. Some Vulcan decide that their work ethic and discipline are the problem and embrace their Romulan side (Dwarven Furies), others dedicate themselves to preservation of their culture (Vaultguard, Craftpriest), and others seek to push the boundaries of science to help the war (Machinists). They forget nothing, forgive nothing, and regret much.
The dwarves believe that they were forged by the hand of Istreus when the world was young, and were first taught the secrets of metal-work and machinery by the god himself. For centuries the stout, cunning people delved vast vaults in the Meniri and Jutting Mountains, gathering rich ores and creating enduring works of stone and iron. Eventually they came into contact with the expanding elven and human peoples of Aurëpos. These meetings were not peaceful, and the dwarven annalists still recite tales of ancient battles that the elves and humans have long forgotten.
When the Aurans launched the great Empyrean War against Zahar, the dwarves took no part. The mighty automatons and war machines of the dwarves would have greatly aided in securing victory over the Zaharans, but the dwarves saw little cause in joining one faction of men in fighting another faction of men. History has shown the dwarves’ decision not to intervene to be a terrible error in judgment, however. When the Aurans defeated Zahar, they were too exhausted to fully cleanse the land of the beastmen. In the absence of constant warfare to reduce their numbers, the beastmen population exploded. The beastmen were largely kept out of the north by elven and human garrisons, and so migrated into the mountains in great numbers. The dwarves soon found themselves in a never-ending war for their own tunnels and vaults. Today, the dwarves are a dying race barely clinging to the last of their holdings in the great Meniri and Jutting Mountains. They constantly seek new artifacts and war machines to make up for ever dwindling numbers.
Dwarves are short and stout, averaging 4’ tall but weighing as much as adult humans. They have large, round heads with prominent brows, broad noses, and strong chins. Their skin ranges from light tan to very dark, but it is always some shade of tan or brown. Their hair color can be black, gray, or brown, with occasional red hair in the Jutting Mountains. Their eyes are brown, green, or grey, and very deep set.
Male Names: Arsic, Ballum, Barto, Belfor, Bollum, Bombor, Buhrador, Dalin, Daric, Denor, Doric, Dorfin, Dulic, Evedar, Fullum, Garic, Gailin, Glour, Ghyrin, Hraken, Hrodar, Hruk, Hurgon, Karodar, Klint, Korten, Kulden, Larodar, Larodin, Makor, Motar, Morto, Murtin, Nared, Norden, Oric, Oyrm, Shyldar, Skyrin, Stahlur, Syric, Sythic, Taric, Thor, Tordar, Torenic, Torrad, Wharto
Female Names: Arsi, Balla, Barria, Belfa, Dala, Dara, Denia, Dora, Efti, Esti, Evedara, Fara, Fili, Fula, Gora, Ghyra, Klia, Lara, Lari, Motara, Mora, Muri, Nara, Ora, Oyrma, Rutari, Shylda, Skyra, Stahlia, Syra, Sythia, Tara, Thora, Tordaria, Torena, Torradia
Demons do exist in the Auran Empire. They are native to the Chthonic Darkness, also sometimes known as the Abyss and the Outer Darkness
I have used both Mythos creatures and creatures from the AD&D 1e Monster Manual. The Balor, Marilith, and Hezrou have all appeared in Auran Empire campaigns
Law and Chaos in my own campaigns are much closer to their portrayal in Three Hearts and Three Lions than to their portrayal in the Eternal Champion series.
Premises in the Auran Empire setting are:
- The nature of man means man flourishes in a civilization
- Civilization must be forged by struggle against uncivilized forces
- Civilization is inherently fragile because the flourishing life enjoyed by the citizens of a successful civilization erodes the virtues which give the strength needed to defend the civilization against uncivilized forces.
Civilization in this context means “rule of law” in the sense that term was understood in classical Greece and Rome, medieval England, etc. - as compared to the despotic rule of god-kings or the capricious rule of a bandit chief.
300 is an example of Law (the free Greeks) opposed to Chaos (the despotic Persian God-King).
Lawful characters are those who struggle to build or sustain civilization* against uncivilized forces.
Neutral characters are those who seek to enjoy the fruits of civilization, and have no wish to see it torn down, but do not personally struggle to support it, though they might admire those who do.
Chaotic characters are those who actively struggle to tear down man’s civilization, either because it will benefit them personally, because they are innate enemies of man, or because they just want to see the world burn.
Law, as a metaphysical force, explains why the world follows natural laws; why man has a nature; and because that nature is reasonable and social, why he flourishes in a society of reason. Lawful gods are gods of civilization, nobility, knowledge, reason, justice, etc. It is theistic humanism.
Chaos, as a metaphysical force, appears in the unpredictable randomness in nature (fire, earthquakes, storms); and in those personal vices which destabilized civilization. It also encompasses all that is alien and inimical to man. It is nihilism in its original sense - “no being”, constant change.
The Auran Empire is the most successful polity in the world’s history, and as such represents what is best in Law. However, its very success has corrupted it - soft senators and ruthless merchants indulge in idle luxury in Aura while the borders grow weaker. Scions of noble houses prefer to watch the chariot races than become cavalry officers. Chaos seduces from within (through vice) while menacing from without (through physical destruction in the form of beastmen and similar creatures).
All of this is a simplification of the classical thinkers like Aristotle in the Ethics and the Politics, much of Cicero, and Machievelli’s Discoures, combined with Anderson’s explanation of Law and Chaos.
Military oil is available about as much as you’d expect from the rules in ACKS. Greek Fire in the Byzantine sense is definitely available in the Auran Empire, and among the Dwarves.
Great question. In the Auran Empire, some of the Chthonic gods are inhuman horrors, the stuff of nightmares, but they can also take on a more human visage.
Here is the Chthonic pantheon:
+Iskara – The Demon Queen, goddess of chaos, evil, darkness, and destruction.
+Dirgion – The Doom Lord, god of hellfire, doom, and destruction.
+Kaleth – The Blasphemer, god of profanity, obscenity, and madness.
+Bel – The Slaughterprince, god of anger, violence, and killing.
+Galmorm – The Poisoner, god of lies, treachery, and subterfuge.
+Nasga – The Serpent, goddess of seduction, adultery, and decadence.
+Raviled – The Bitter Prince, god of despair, woe, and regret.
+Nargund – The Dusk Wolf, god of predators, hunting, and night.
+Ornaron – The Godfather of Storms, brother of Rapanor, one of the gods of storms.
+Rapanor – The Thundermaker, brother of Ornaon, one of the gods of storms.
+Lammala – The Sea Mother, goddess of the murky depths and tidal waves.
+Telith – The Great Earth Elemental, goddess of earthquakes and volcanoes.
Of these, Kaleth, Lammala, and Telith usually take the form of alien horrors, while Dirgion, Galmorm, Raviled and Nasga are most frequently anthropomorphic. Iskara usuallly appears as a dragon, Bel as a four-armed demon, Nargund as a giant wolf.
The word chthonic is actually a Greek word that refers to “gods beneath the earth” or “gods of the underworld.” The chthonic gods were worshipped at night, underground, and received ritual sacrifices (usually animals) burned or buried alive. Jungian psychologists align the chthonic gods as representing the unconscious spirit within, the Id - including envy, lust, sensuality, deceit, etc.
From this Greek derivative, I conceived of the Chthonic gods as being an ancient pantheon that is associated with darkness, the underworld, the earth, and with all of the irrational passions of man. These contrast with the Empyrean deities, associated with the air, the sky, the stars, the light of reason.
The word “chthonic” is pleasantly close to sounding “Chaotic” and “Cthulhu” so its admirably suited for a variety of uses, depending on your needs, of course.
all the gods and goddesses are syncretic, so they show up under different names in different cultures, and have different symbols. Here’s a short list.
+Iskara: A silver draconic eye; a dragon-winged woman; a two-headed serpent; a coiled cobra; a serpent eating its own tail
+Kaleth: A mouth surrounded by eyes; a purple circle on black, with a mauve eye in the center; a dripping pseudopod
+Bel: A black gauntlet with 6 arrows; a bloody axe; a triple flail; a taloned hand
+Galmorm: A horned rat; a striking scorpion; an oozing lizard-toad
+Nasga: A medusa’s head; a serpent with a woman’s upper body; a copper scourge; a black rose; a white dagger in a pallid hand; a spider; a horned bat-winged woman
+Raviled: A black wavy dagger; a human head sporting antlers
+Nargund: A bloody wolf’s muzzle; a spiraling red maze on black; bloody teeth
+Dirgion: A skull on a black sphere or cowl; a ruby mace; a red eye of fire on black; a black star on grey
+Ornaron: A lightning bolt through a storm cloud; a horned helmet with glowing eyes
+Rapanor: Crossed lightning bolts; a lightning bolt through a storm cloud
+Lammala: A tentacled abomination; a blue-green spiral with a black center; a lobster head
+Telith: A pregnant fertility goddess with multiple arms and great fangs; an egg in a woman’s vulva; a green eye surrounded by tentacles; a jawless human skull with fungi
These are the 7 Empyrean gods.
+Ammonar: Ammonar, called the Lightbringer, the Lawgiver, and the Lord of the Dawn, is the god of light, law and creation. He is symbolized by the winged sun, and the eagle is his sacred animal.
+Calefa: Calefa is the Lady of Fortune, goddess of wealth and protector of the dead. Her symbol is a 7-spoked wheel, while her sacred animal is the raven. The Sisters of Mourning are her priestesses; they manage funerals, oversee wills and estates, and offer prayers for the dead. A secretive Imperial guild of assassins also serves under her aegis, following ritual rules of engagement to punish lawbreakers who escape other sanction.
+Istreus: Istreus is the Master of Secrets, god of knowledge, learning, and magic. His holy symbol is the crescent or the tower, while his sacred animal is the owl. The mages and scholars of the Tower of Knowledge pay him allegiance. His worship is conducted in secret, and only the initiated know the meaning of the mantra, “no sooner spoken than broken”.
+Ianna: Ianna is the Lioness, goddess of love and war. Her symbol is an eight-pointed star and her sacred animal is the lion. She has two orders of priestesses, the Dancers of the Veil and the Dancers of the Blade. The veil-dancers serve as courtesans, temple dancers, and sacred prostitutes during the Feast of Fertility. The blade-dancers are highly desired as bodyguards by the nobility.
+Mityara: Mityara is the Noble Lady, goddess of peace and civic duty. She is symbolized with either an ivory lady with her arm outstretched, or with an ivory torch. Her sacred animal is the dove. Her priestesses are known as the Keepers of the Hearth Fire; they maintain the sacred fires and pure waters of the city, oversee ceremonies such as marriage and childbirth, control censorship of the arts, and may pardon any criminal.
+Naurivus: Naurivus is the Patron of Explorers, god of travel, water, and weather. His symbol is the galley, and his sacred animals are the dog, the horse, and the dolphin. He is also known as the Lord of Winds, and sailors praise and curse him. The Imperial Company of Explorers, whose men and women serve as scouts and navigators around the empire, hold him as their patron deity.
Similar deities or analogues appear in all of the major cultures. For example, an Ammonar-like god known as Aldfodr or All-Father is worshipped by the Jutlanders and Rornish. A sun deity called Manannan is worshipped by the elves of Argollë. Both Aldfodr and Manannan are symbolized by a spear over the sun and venerated as the father of the gods.
Hi luftmensch! Good job spotting the inspiration for Ianna.
Ianna is a goddess of the Auran Empire and is Lawful. That said, there’s no hard-coded alignment restrictions on Blade Dancers and you could certainly have Neutral or Chaotic ones.
Here’s some official info:
Ianna: Ianna is the Lioness, goddess of love and war. Her symbol is an eight-pointed star and her sacred animal is the lion. She has two orders of priestesses, the Dancers of the Veil and the Dancers of the Blade. The veil-dancers serve as courtesans, temple dancers, and sacred prostitutes during the Feast of Fertility. The blade-dancers are highly desired as bodyguards by the nobility.
Ianna is commonly called Istara and Ishtar in the Sunset Kingdoms. As Istara and Ishtar her symbol is an ankh and star. In the north she is known as Hanna to the humans and as Andraste to the elves; both symbolize her with a sword upraised.
In the Auran Empire campaign setting, Ianna has a Chaotic counter-part:
Nasga: Nasga, The Serpent, is the demon princess of seduction, adultery, and decadence. Nasga is known as Jezebel, Lilith, the Mistress of Pain, and the Unchaste in the Sunset Kingdoms, and as Loviatar in the North. As Nasga, her holy symbol is a medusa’s head or a serpent with a woman’s upper body. As Lilith, it’s a black rose; as Loviatar, a white dagger in a pallid hand.
Ackrembra, in general, a bladedancer of Ianna should be lawful. Because of how the alignment system works (alignment = side), a divine spellcaster should generally be the same alignment as her deity.
So if the bladedancer is chaotic, she is serving another deity. In the Auran Empire, that would likely either be: (1) Nasga, the Serpent of seduction and treachery; or (2) Bel, the Slaughter Prince of war. She might be secretly serving one of those gods while pretending to serve Ianna, or she might be openly serving those gods.
What you should tell your player will depend on the alignment and context of the campaign. If the rest of the party is Neutral, then they are unconcerned with Law v. Chaos and just after profit. In this case, you should tell your player that her goal is to advance Chaos while enriching herself and she should look for opportunities to do so. (I’ve found that often the Neutral characters in the campaign will over time switch to that of their most powerful cleric-type, because that’s the best way to ensure they get raised and healed.) But if the rest of the party is Lawful, that’s much tougher. A Chaotic divine spellcaster does not generally do curative spells on Lawful creatures, for instance.
Hello everyone! Things have been quiet on the Auran Empire forum for a while, but it’s only because I’ve been hard at work on material.
Here’s an update on what I presently expect to be included in the campaign setting:
- Annals - Timeline and calendar of the Auran Empire region
- Census - The ancestral tribes and current races of the region
- Atlas - 24-mile hex maps of the entire region (4 8x11 maps) with ACKs statistics for the 12 major realms, including military forces, land values, scaled to the duchal level (e.g. borders of empires, kingdoms, principalities, and duchies)
- Mythopedia - Deities of the Empyrean and Chthonic pantheon, cosmology, religious teachings
- Guidebook - Administration, legal code, culture, customs, and language of the Auran Empire
- Bestiary - 24 monsters, including the Children of Nasga, Dire Beastmen, Draugr, Hag, Leyak, Mummy Lord, Sphinx, and Yali
- Apocrypha - Secrets of the campaign world for the Judge’s reference, including unique magical items and major NPCs
- Gazetteer - A starting campaign setting on the south-eastern borders of the Empire, adjacent to Old Zahar and the Waste
Auran Empire Gazetteer
CDM: How would you describe the Auran Empire campaign setting in a sentence?
APM: The Auran Empire campaign setting offers a world of adventure, where a once-majestic empire is slipping into oblivion, and bold and ambitious conquerors are rising to forge new realms from the ashes of the old.
CDM: My sense of the Auran Empire campaign setting is that it is influenced by the real-world ancient and classical periods as much or more than swords and sorcery literature. Do you agree, and, if so, where does this influence come from?
APM: I do agree, yes. The Auran Empire resembles the Roman Empire in Late Antiquity. I was an ancient history major as an undergraduate, so the easy answer as to why the Auran Empire is an ancient setting is because I studied ancient history in school. But that would just lead to the question of why I studied ancient history….
I think the genuine answer is that there is an aesthetic to the world of Late Antiquity that resonates with me very deeply. In Late Antiquity, the most advanced and powerful civilization that ever existed was falling apart. The wise could see that it was falling apart, but the problems were too big and they were endemic to the system. They were almost insoluble given the demographics and the culture. So it was a moment of existential despair. And yet brave men and women kept struggling for their civilization. Think of a man like Aurelian, who almost single-handedly saved the Roman Empire and gave it another two hundred years! Awe-inspiring, tragic grandeur.
Although it’s more of a medieval feel, Middle Earth’s grandeur is very much rooted in this same ethos. Tolkien called it “the long defeat.” But Tolkien offers a vision of ultimate victory for good, whereas in the Auran Empire the prophecies are of ultimate victory for evil. That’s not to say that the prophecies are true, only that they exist, and hang over the setting darkly.
CDM: Do you know yet what we can expect the first Auran Empire Gazetteer to cover?
APM: Presently the sections are: Annals (overview of history and timeline); Census (overview of ethnography, races and classes); Atlas (overview of climate, geography, and special features); Gazetteer (overview of the sixteen major regions); Mythopedia (overview of the major gods, cosmology of the Spheres, and religious practices); Guidebook (“traveler’s guide” to law, culture, and custom); Primer (an overview of the Auran language); Bestiary ( listing 30 new monsters); Catalogue (a list of new magic items and ancient marvels); and Apocrypha (covering obscure facts and hidden secrets of the setting). I have about 100,000 words written and a lot more content waiting to be consolidated from various adventures, notebooks, session reports, spreadsheets, and so on.
One thing I haven’t fully settled on is to what extent the campaign book will be written subjectively (from within the game world), versus objectively (about the game world). For instance the Greyhawk campaign setting and the Dark Sun campaign setting were both written subjectively, while Ravenloft was written objectively. Subjective campaign guides have more flavor, while objective campaign settings tend to be easier to integrate into game mechanics.
CDM: Will we see any new Nobiran, Thrassian or Zaharan classes?
APM: Definitely! I currently plan to include the Nobiran Champion, the Thrassian Stalker, and the Zaharan Sorcerer-Priest. The Nobiran Champion is a steel-jawed warlord who leads his men to hell and back. The Zaharan Sorcerer-Priest is a Chthonic cleric/mage. The Thrassian Stalker is a cold-blooded killer in the night. This is an area where backers will help guide the product, though.
CDM: Thank you very much!
A Note on Names and Language
In geographic and historical writing, the proper names used for places and people vary widely depending on the language used in the writing. For example, the region once called Germania by the Romans is now called Germany in English, Deutschland in German, Allemagne in French, and Niemcy in Polish. Which of these names is proper entirely depends on which language is being used.
The proper name used by a language might not mean anything in that language. If the proper name is older than the language, it might be a name inherited from a prior language, and therefore meaningless in the current language. For example, London(founded 43 AD) has no apparent meaning in modern English (which dates to 1550 AD), being inherited from the Latin Londinium. On the other hand, if the proper name is younger than the language, it might be meaningful in that language. For example, the name United Kingdom (established 1707) is meaningful in modern English.
Because of these properties, proper names beautifully convey the flavor of their history and origin. In writing the Auran Empire Campaign Setting, we have aimed to convey to English readers the flavor that the Auran Empire’s proper names would have to its own denizens.
Therefore, the proper names appearing in the Auran Empire Campaign Setting were developed as if the language being used were Common Auran. Proper names meaningful in Common Auran were then translated into English, to be appropriately meaningful to English readers. Proper names which were inherited by Common Auran from other tongues were transcribed in English letters, but were not translated into English.
The table below illustrates this practice with some proper names from the setting along with similar real-world examples.
Translation and Transcription from Setting Language
Similar Real-World Examples
“Jutting” translated from Common Auran into English
“Mountains” translated from Common Auran into English
“Meniri” transcribed from Classical Auran
“Mountains” translated from Common Auran into English
Kingdom of Kemesh
“Kingdom of” translated from Common Auran into English
“Kemesh” transcribed from Kemeshi
Republic of Egypt
“Southern” translated from Common Auran into English
“Argollë” transcribed from Classical Auran
“Auran” transcribed from Classical Auran
“Empire” translated from Common Auran into English
“Tarkaun” transcribed from Classical Auran
All 5 Auran vowels have an “open” and “closed” form:
a “a” as in arm closes to “e” as in perfect
o “oh” as in soak closes to “oo” as in hook
u “uh” as in cinema closes to “ui” as in suit
e “eh” as in bed closes to “ay” as in bay
i “ih” as in bit closes to “ee” as in deer
Dipthongs include w sounds:
au “aw” as in awful
ou “ow” as in house
eu “ew” as in queue
y “eye” as in ire
A, E, U, and O are always open, except when directly preceding another vowel, or when marked, as noted with an umlaut: ä, ë, ö, ü.
Certain vulgar written dialects of Auran uses a “y” to represent the umlaut, but the umlaut is the Imperial standard.
I is always closed, except when marked with a diacritical or as noted below: í
The diacritical (open) I is sometimes spelled with a “y” (as in Aurelyn). This is an irregularity in the language that appears in some very old words, such as “cybele.”
When a vowel proceeds a different vowel, both vowels are pronounced (except for diphthongs). The first is pronounced closed, while the vowel following is pronounced as if open.
B, D, F, H, L, M, N, P, Q, R, S, T, V, Y, Z, all as English, except
c “ch” as in chapter, except at the start or end of word; then “c” as in cake
k “k” as in kiss
j “j” as in justice, never as in jalapeno
g “g” as in giggle, never as in giant
x “ks” as in extreme
Note that there is no “w” sound except for “u” in special cases (after a vowel or q), and in certain very old words, and foreign words adopted into the tongue.
Th “th” as in theatre
Sh “sh” as in shop
Wh “hw” as in whale
Ch “ch”, as in loch
Kh “hk”, glottal sound
Other consonant combinations should be pronounced.
In general, stress the second-to-last syllable, unless both final syllables are short and aren’t separated by two consonants, in which case the first syllable is pronounced.
The double “l” results in a longer “l” sound, as the two 'l’s belong to different syllables.
Therefore the pronounciation works out to “Ar-GOAL-lay” rather than “Ar-GOH-lay” or “Ar-GOAL-ay”.
And thanks for asking. The Classical Auran language predates ACKS by several years, but I rarely get the chance to discuss it.
Weapons of Opelenea
This is actually a re-post of a thread by Radioactive Ape, written in the context of a response to my Opelenean Nights thread.
The most appropriate style of plate for Opeleneans would be the Turkish “Krug”, often worn over mail:
Similarly, for other armour, something like the Zihr (mail or reinforced mail armour) and Ciçak would get across the East-meets-West vibe:
Weapon-wise, I’d replace the generic “scimitar” with the Yatağan and Kılıç:
The plated mail was Zirah Baktar or Zirh Gomlek, and another appropriate helmet would be the Miğfer (pictured above with the mail).
Here’s a Ciçak:
Also, do a Google Image Search for the “ak koyunlu helmet” for another style of Miğfer that would be appropriate.
Opeleneans use the Kemeshi “Jawshan”, a mail hauberk reinforced with metal plates (treat as lamellar). Over this they sometimes wear “Korazin” a light cuirass of metal plates, mainly circular, linked with mail.
Their typical shield is of leather- or fabric-covered wood or woven cord, often beautifully decorated, and is called a “Kalkan”.
Their normal light helmet, based on the Kemeshi “Khula Khud”, is the “Ciçak”, and it features a tall, pointed dome, and is sometimes affixed with a peak, mail veil and aventail or cheekguards and nasal.
They utilize a composite bow, called a “Tirkeş”, and two different short-handled curved swords, the forward-curving “Yatağan” and the heavily-curved “Kiliç”.
The Opelenean axe of choice is the single-bitted, highly-curved “Ay Balta” or “moon axe” a weapon often highly-decorated and engraved with a long steel shaft, found in battle axe and great axe varieties.
In terms of bludgeons, the “Topuz” is an Opelenean mace of all-steel construction with a rounded head, and is often engraved, inlaid, and otherwise embellished as it is a symbol of rank as much as a weapon.
Flails, “Döğen” are not uncommon, and most are normal wooden hafts with single chains and spiked iron balls.
Rorn is an Romano-British equivalent; think King Arthur in the days after the Roman Empire left.
It was once a colony of Celdorea. When Celdorea was defeated by the Auran League, its holdings in present-day Jutland and Rorn passed to Aura. Aura extended colonies into both countries. When the Jutland barbarians came down through the Jutting Mountains they captured Jutland (which was e.g. “East Celdorea” back then). They also attacked Rorn, but the Auran-Rornish held them off. Still the Aurans decided it wasn’t worth holding onto Rorn and they slowly exited their legions, leaving the colonists and natives to their fate. They’ve since organized into the beginnings of a feudal society. So it’s got a mix of elven (Celtic), Celdorean (Punic), Auran (Roman), and Jutland (Germanic) influences.
You could probably plug Karameikos in place of Rorn without too much trouble. “os” means place in Auran, so the name is even fine.
If you look at the Auran map and find where Southern Argolle and Krysea meet, the Borderland’s map covers the south eastern border near the Waste.
THIS NAMES ARE NOT OPEN CONTENT:
Geography: Aurëpos, Ammas Aurë, Comean Sea, Lake Laman, Jutting Mountains, Meniri Mountains, Achaean Mountains, Drakonir Mountains, Zaqāru Mountains
Countries: Auran Empire, Tirenea, Celdorea, Corcano, Krysea, Nicea, Somirea, Kemesh, Argollë, Jutland, Rorn, Keita, Munde, Kushtu, Skysos, Syrnasos, Zahar, Thrassia, Azen Khador
Nationalities: Auran, Argollëan, Besherab, Celdorean, Corcanoan, Jutlandic, Kemshi, Kushtu, Krysean, Nicean, Opelenean, Rornish, Skysos, Somirean, Syrnasan
Cities: Aura, Alakyrum, Arganos, Cyfaraun, Kavala, Korinthos, Istakahr, Ithos, Ivorium, Pireus, Pyrgos, Telpir, Thrassia, Trikala, Zahar, Zidium
Languages: Auran, Zaharan
Races: Nobiran, Zaharan, Thrassian
Gods: Ammonar, Calefa, Ianna, Istreus, Mityara, Naurivus, Türas; Iskara, Sakkara, Dirgion, Kaleth, Bel, Galmorm, Nasga, Ravanor, Nargund, Ornaron, Lammala, Telith, Winged Sun
Characters: Audarius Tarkaun, Baal the Terrible, Azendor, Valerian Bellësareus, Marcus, Quintus, Viktir
The reason ghouls and vampires are singled out is that in ACKS’ default cosmogony they are the only types of undead that must feed. I don’t explain this anywhere except in the unpublished Auran Empire setting, but for those who are interested…
WHAT IS UNDEATH?
Undeath can be thought of as a blight, corruption, impurity, or taint of the Logos. Undeath blocks the natural process of reincarnation from occurring. Either or both the body (form) and soul can be tainted with undeath, and the taint can be spread from tainted creature to creature.
When the body of a living creature becomes tainted by undeath, the soul within is trapped in the impure body upon its death. Ghouls, mummies, and vampires have tainted bodies. Tainted bodies are no longer truly alive and in the absence of magic or physical means of preservation, they rot. Ghouls magically maintain their bodies by feeding on the flesh of the living, vampires by feeding on their blood. Mummies do not feed, so great care is made to physically preserve the body before undeath.
When the soul of a living creature becomes tainted by undeath, the condition of the body is less important; the soul itself is unable to enter the cycle of reincarnation. Wights, wraiths, spectres, and vampires all have tainted souls. Undead with tainted souls are greatly feared, for their chilling touch spreads the corruption of their soul. Once tainted, an affected creature is greatly weakened, as the tainted portion of its soul works against the pure potion that remains