• How Rules of SAKE Enhance Worldbuilding

    First, let’s look at a powerful divine ritual: Wind Control.

    As we see for most powerful effects, the priest must roll against DL 80, which at first may seem just impossible.

    Achieving such a high roll is only possible for a character whose Channelling Skill Level is at least +18, as this is a prerequisite for purchasing the ritual.

    However, that’s just the beginning.

    The Ritual Mastery Ability can add up to +26 to the roll, but this bonus comes with requirements:

    • The ceremony must last over an hour (+1).
    • The ceremony must be celebrated with festivities pleasing to the deity (+1).
    • It must be performed on a traditional altar of sacrifice (+1).
    • Conducted in a temple (+1).
    • Attended by an Otherworldling associated with the deity (+4).
    • The offering is a voluntary human sacrifice (+8).
    • In addition to the priest, another priest with Channelling skill takes part in the ceremony (+1 per priest, max 10 priests).

    Also, with a good Theology check, the same Ability can grant additionally up to a +12 bonus.

    Next, Ritual: Sacrifice involving human sacrifice, with the highest successful roll, gives another bonus of +28 to the overall roll.

    With all prerequisites met, the priest would roll Channelling with a bonus of +84, enough to summon the storm of ages. However, attaining this bonus requires fulfilling all prerequisites and achieving extremely successful rolls on the way. Also, it involves a voluntary human sacrifice – a scenario with many dependencies that may not always align.

    So, How Does It Support Worldbuilding?

    Firstly, the significance of human sacrifices. In many fantasy settings, we often encounter cultists and evil cultures that engage in the practice of sacrificing people, but the rationale behind such actions is seldom explored. These numerical bonuses provide a tangible explanation for these unsavoury practices. Especially when rolling high numbers is rarely necessary, the scenario of human sacrifice emerges as a last resort in times of dire need – perhaps to sink an enemy’s navy or calm a storm that threatens to sink their ship – very real situations that may come up during Your game and place PCs to an interesting moral dilemma.

    Moving on, describing rituals. Picture yourself as the GM narrating scenes where NPC priests engage in intricate dances, burn incense, and sing together as part of a spellcasting ritual. However, when it comes to PCs casting the same spell – they just cast it?

    In the Asteanic World, the most significant temples are those inhabited by Otherworldlings. Despite their dangerous nature and alien way of thinking, these creatures are often housed in temples. This raises the question: why hold such entities in temples? Once again, the provision of real numerical bonuses for priests active in these temples provides justification for their presence.

    This is just one example of how the rules in SAKE intertwine with worldbuilding. Other examples include:

    • Unpoliteness and especially cursing are frowned upon because the curse can be a real magical one. It’s impossible to understand the difference without knowledge of magic.
    • The region’s nature god and Otherworld pocket have an immense impact on the region’s culture. For example, in Gurgeland, the nature god hates humans and human souls entering the Otherworld after death, so Gurges look much more favourable towards necromantic practices. They also sometimes try to trap their deceased souls in items and make magical Soulbleed weapons from them.
    • The whole domain rules system basically builds the world itself.

  • The Short History of the Asteanic World

    The Short History of the Asteanic World

    Asteanic chronology divides the world’s history into four eras: the Mythic Age when Thefna (the Asteanic motherland) was home to the lost Azzurian civilization, the Age of Heroes when gods walked the earth and ancient heroes cleansed the world of all kinds of monsters, making it habitable, the Age of Kings when the first Asteanic kingdoms rose, marking the beginning of credible written sources, and the Age of Empires or the New Age, that marks the start of the Asteanic calendar.

    Mythic Age

    Little has survived from the Mythic Age, likely ending approximately 3000 to 4000 years ago. During this time, Thefna was home to the Azzurians, a completely extinct or assimilated people among the Asteans. The remnants of this era on Thefna include several ruined cities with massive necropolises and ziggurats. The largest among them are Urtari, Hatussa, and Mitanni, located away from the main civilization. Cities closer to civilization have largely been dismantled by the Asteans for their construction projects.

    From the Azzurians, Asteans inherited something of immense significance: their gods. Asteans consider the Azzurian gods as deities of natural forces and continue to revere (mainly fear) them to this day. Azzurians identified themselves as the children of the sun god Azzur and worshipped and feared their gods fervently.

    While some aspects of Azzurian writing have been deciphered, the absence of significant texts raises more questions than answers about their culture. Historians debate whether the Azzurians were aware of the Astral Projection magic school. What led to the demise of their culture and paved the way for the Asteans? Some signs suggest that the Azzurians harboured immense fear of otherworldly forces and death. Why, what was so different in that time?

    Age of Heroes

    The Age of Heroes marks the beginning of Asteanic mythology. The era commences with the tale of how the Asteans descended from the Eternal Waters (pocket of the Otherworld) to the human world. All stories of the deeds of Asteanic gods fall into this era.

    The Age of Heroes also encompasses tales of various human heroes and the slaying of monsters and dangerous lesser gods.

    There are no written sources from the Age of Heroes because the Asteans had not yet developed writing. All stories have been preserved as oral traditions and are therefore more myths than subjects for serious historical inquiry.

    It is unclear whether the Azzurians lived alongside the Asteans during this time. Oral tradition is contradictory in this regard. In some tales, Asteanic heroes battle seemingly foreign nations, but these may also be kinfolk of the Asteans (Asteanic language only becomes standardized in the Age of Empires) or the Hattu peoples who lived in Northern Thefna. In other stories, the Asteans find Thefna seemingly empty, abandoned by its ancient inhabitants.

    In some ways, the Age of Heroes has the most stories, being the core of Asteanic mythology, but it has the least credible historical information. Modern Asteans view these stories as what they are – myths. But certainly, some tales may contain a grain of truth.

    Age of Kings

    The Age of Kings is considered to span seven to eight centuries before the Age of Empires. During this period, writing emerges, providing ample opportunities for a more detailed study of this era. However, there are challenges in precisely dating events because it is nearly impossible to reconcile the different calendars used at that time with the contemporary one.

    At different times, dozens of small kingdoms coexisted in Thefna.

    This era also marks the first attempt at an empire building when Pyrdema, the sorceress queen of Niobe, compelled all the Southern Thefna kings to swear allegiance to her over her long life. Pyrdema’s grand empire lasted for several decades until her own grandchildren rebelled against her and dethroned her.

    Age of Empires

    The start of the Age of Empires is counted from the mythical moment when the grand Temple of Divine Ocean was erected in Oocnea, and the 12 kingdoms of Thefna forged the Eternal Peace, from which later sprang an alliance, then an empire ruled by an elected emperor, and finally, the Asteanic Empire known today. This moment occurred approximately 1500 years ago. It stands as one of the greatest points of contention among Asteanic historians, as the modern imperial calendar was actually adopted in the 7th century when the Asteanic Empire essentially came into being, and the start date of the calendar was agreed upon at that time, taking into account the earlier knowledge.

    The Age of Empires is somewhat misleadingly named, as nearly half of this era, life in Thefna was much like during the Age of Kings. It is known that the Eternal Peace forged in year 1 actually lasted only 8 years, and its significance is more symbolic than real. The concept of Eternal Peace became an ideal that was always pursued, but it was only after hundreds of years that it led to the formation of the empire.

    The early Age of Empires is characterized by a resurgence in foreign trade and the establishment of the first colonies beyond the Asteanic homeland – Southern Thefna. The initial colonies were established in Hattu lands in the North Thefna, then in the Tauric lands to the north and on the Sensionos Peninsula to the west. By the eleventh century, Asteanic colonization had even reached the Orenic Archipelago, a distance of 4000 km from Thefna as the crow flies. Initially, such distant colonies were not reached by ocean-going vessels, but instead relied on coastal navigation, making them particularly remote and fostering the development of distinctive Asteanic colonial cultures, best exemplified in the Asteanic pantheon, where central national gods like Menes, Geulades, Ezron, and others remained the same everywhere, but the earth, sky, sun, and other major nature gods varied by region.

    Asteanic national major gods.

    The establishment of colonies and foreign trade falling under Asteanic control was made possible by the invention of innovative ship types and navigation tools such as the kamal and the early compass, which ensured safer maritime travel. For centuries, the Asteans managed to conceal these maritime technologies from other coastal peoples, giving them a tremendous advantage and laying the foundation for the world as it is now – the Asteanic World.

    The early colonies belonged to independent small Asteanic kingdoms and were therefore rather unprotected from the kingdoms of foreigners (locals). This vulnerability was a driving factor in the formation of the empire. During the early Age of Empires, Asteanic kingdoms constantly formed various alliances with each other to jointly protect their colonies from other peoples. And the more Asteanic kingdoms turned their gaze to the outside world, the more alliances they formed with each other to subdue other peoples and protect their colonies. The transition to an empire ruled by an elected monarch was quite organic.

    The early Age of Empires also saw the subjugation and integration of the Hattu people in Northern Thefna into Asteanic culture. With the Hattu, there was a significant cultural exchange for the first time, and much of what later became characteristic of the Asteanic people was adopted. Today, the Hattu are fully integrated with the Asteans, having lost their language and forgotten their sharper distinctions, making it nearly impossible to distinguish between the two peoples. However, Northern Thefna looks significantly different from the southern grasslands. Northern Thefna is characterized by towering wooden architecture, unique names, samurai culture, and a high reverence for local nature gods. Many of these aspects are adopted by the Asteans and brought southward. Surprisingly, the most significant influences of Hattu culture architecture and naming conventions are in distant Orenic Archipelago. The reason for this is quite simple: the first Asteanic Great Houses and merchants to reach Orenic lands had Hattu roots.

    Example of Hattu architecture.

    The greatest influence of Hattu culture on the development of Asteanic culture is the adoption of Hattu samurai warrior culture and the integration of their main god, Tengu Jin, into the pantheon of Asteanic major gods.

    The Creation and Expansion of Asteanic Empire

    In the year 555, eight Asteanic kingdoms formed the Great Asteanic League, which established the title of an elected dictator. The kingdoms agreed that a dictator would only be elected when the Great Asteanic League went to war for one of its member kingdoms and would lead the League’s military activities. It quickly became apparent that one or more League participants were always at war, making the temporary position of dictator effectively lifelong.

    The Asteanic kingdoms that formed the Great Asteanic League were:

    • Fentonistos, with its capital in Oocnea (the present-day Fentonistos-Fay with its own Asteanic Empire)
    • Scarta, with its capital in Tarentum (also founded a new Asteanic Empire, currently holding no lands in Thefna)
    • Niobe, with its capital in Nileen (destroyed by the la Delagrua great house in the 10th century)
    • Delagrua, the only kingdom in the League without access to the sea, with its capital in Delagrua Nill (today’s la Mepho-Delagrua, which also has its own Asteanic Empire)
    • Tartheus, with its capital in Perusa, later known as great house la Taratheus (destroyed during The Great War)
    • Algeon, with its capital in Ancona (surviving lineage has virtually no power or land)
    • Mephoclea kingdom, later known as the la Mephoclea great house, which has since merged with la Delagrua
    • Liguuria kingdom, covering the territory of present-day la Eldra (fallen during the wars of the 10th century)

    By 600, the position of dictator was replaced by the lifelong title of emperor, and the foundations of the Eternal Empire began to be laid: imperial navies and a unified bureaucracy. An imperial calendar was introduced, and Oocnea, the city within Fentonistos’ territory, was established as the permanent capital of the empire. Asteanic scripts were standardized, and a unified Asteanic language evolved for all to understand. Simultaneously, the Asteanic great house system began to take shape, and the kingdoms were transformed into great houses with vaguely defined territorial jurisdictions within the empire. The wealth and power of royal dynasties had shifted to foreign trade and overseas colonies. The desire to monopolize trade for their own clan led to the smooth dispersion of power from one king to daimyos, daeguns, and other important relatives. The pieces of colonial kingdoms were far apart from each other, making it impossible for one person to rule them all. Fentonistos, Scarta, and Tartheus were the first to transform their kingdoms into great houses. Their decentralized form of governance made them more successful than the other League members, and throughout the empire’s history, most of the emperors have hailed from these three great houses. Through the great house system, these families permanently and closely integrated other important clans, creating a unique system that was the key to the Asteanic’s long-term success.

    However, the great house system was also the empire’s weakest point and ultimately led to its downfall. Powerful houses formed the highest governing body of the empire, the Inner Circle, which selected one of the great house leaders (nillwring) from amongst them as the lifelong emperor. After the emperor’s death, the Inner Circle would select a new one. The constant shifting of power from one house to another prevented any single house from becoming dominant, but the frequent civil wars between equally powerful houses were equally devastating.

    Over time, all Thefna states joined the Asteanic Empire, either through conquest or voluntarily. At its peak, the Inner Circle consisted of 25 great houses. However, within the empire itself, there were thousands of houses, large and small.

    Despite setbacks and frequent civil wars, the empire lasted for 700 years.

    The Fall of the Empire

    In 1317, the formidable emperor Meledor la Fentonistos took a step that sparked yet another civil war – he attempted to establish the emperor’s throne as hereditary. This civil war saw the clash of three factions in its initial years: la Fentonistos, la Taratheus, which was completely destroyed in the civil war, and la Scarta.

    However, the Asteanic people had overlooked the rise of power among their neighboring nations. While the Getae Amoorian Empire would have stood no chance against the unified Asteanic Empire, it was the divided empire resulting from civil wars that left them vulnerable and Geteedics attacted.

    In 1335, the Asteanic Empire, weakened by the prolonged civil war, was attacked by the distant Getae Amoorian Empire. Thus began a 100-year war between the two empires, which ended with the fall of both. The Flandrians and Gothians, who had recently adopted a new invention – firearms, in the form of cannons – played a part in the collapse of the Asteanic Empire. These firearms provided them with a significant advantage over the previously invincible Asteanic fleet in naval battles. Many subjugated peoples rose up against individual great houses, and without the empire’s support, the houses were unable to defend themselves.

    The whole known world was filled with chaos for a hundred years.

    In 1413, Oocnea fell into the hands of the Amoorian forces and was razed to the ground. This event marked the official end of the empire.

    The Era of Housestates

    The remaining Asteanic houses could no longer organize themselves into a unified empire, and the 15th century was characterized by constant local struggles for survival. Technological and cultural development stagnated, and there were regions where literacy was forgotten. Entire archipelagos were left uninhabited, such as the Kaliba archipelago, which is almost half the size of Thefna. Many Asteanic cities were burned, and the Asteans were driven out of their colonial holdings. The entire western part of the ocean fell out of Asteanic influence, and the Mederea and Paradise Islands fell to the hands of Farwesterners. On several occasions, it seemed that Sensionos, the powerful base of la Scarta, would also fall to the Holy Empire of the Gothians. However, la Scarta managed to survive.

    Formally, the empire never disappeared. After the Great War, the two largest Thefna great houses claimed the title: la Mepho-Delagrua and la Fentonistos-Fey (also known as the Cursed House). The houses waged long wars over the title and lands without either side prevailing. Thus, the Thefna archipelago was divided into two Asteanic empires, each of which refused to recognize the other. Of course, no one outside Thefna recognized either. The Thefna has been in this stalemate for almost a century now.

    One of the most significant changes during this period is the disappearance of Asteanic technological superiority. During the civil wars and the subsequent era of house states, the Farwesterners surpassed the Asteans in technological development. Their inventions, such as firearms and new production methods, gradually spread to Asteanic lands. But, by the time a Farwestern invention had become prevalent in Asteanic World, the Farwesterners had already adopted a newer one. Firearms are a prime example. Today, common firearms (flintlock musket, carbine, pistol) are quite widespread in Asteanic World, but the Farwesterners have already introduced new firearms that can shoot farther and more accurately.

    It is the year 1512. after the foundation of Great Oocnean Temple when players step into this world. The three Asteanic empires are again occupied with civil wars and wars among themselves, and the world is more fractured than ever. It’s a great time for all sorts of adventurers and kingdom builders to make their own power plays.

  • Example Trade Journey (or even an example trade campaign if fully played out)

    Example Trade Journey (or even an example trade campaign if fully played out)

    In this trade journey from Rastlaskhan (Zuharic Trade Region) to Irongate (Kaliland Trade Region), the PCs would have to decide between two different main routes. To make sense of all the numbers in the example, You may want to read a few pages further and then reread the example.

    The journey would commence at the lower Embablessed River, sailing to the Gilden Sea and passing through the small straight strait at its start (~250 km). This leg would take approximately 2 days, and no Navigation rolls would be needed as it would be coastal sailing.

    The next part of the journey would involve crossing the Gilden Sea, covering around 500 km, and requiring a Navigation check against DL 15. This segment would take 3 or 4 days. In the case of a slight deviation from the course, there is a chance for the ship to encounter one of the seven Wyvernkingdoms. This part of the journey concludes at the great city of Ehnaiton – the capital of the North, the Golden Star. It serves as an excellent location to conduct trades or gather further supplies for the long journey ahead.

    The subsequent leg of the journey involves passing through the Straits of Vookan, a coastal sailing stretch of approximately one and a half days (~250 km).

    Following this, a significant decision awaits: whether to take The Eastern Route or the western route around Thefna. The decision may hinge on the PCs’ political allegiances, preparedness to confront flying monsters, and, of course, the oceanworthiness of their ships.

    If the PCs opt for the western route, they would sail straight over the Tauric Sea (~500 km, Navigation DL 15, half a week), coastal sail around North Thefna (~350 km, no roll needed, approximately 2 days), and then sail directly to the Hlea Archipelago (~900 km, Navigation DL 19, one week). From there, they would circle the Lesser Hlea (~250 km, no roll, about 2 days) and set their course straight to the small Caffa Island Fortress. Taking the Western route, it’s possible that the religious militant order of Asteanic privateers – the Hands of Menes – might be somewhat friendly toward them (~800 km, Navigation DL 18, six days). After resting in Caffa or alternatively battling the priest-pirates, PCs can embark on the long ocean crossing straight to Irongate.

    With almost 5000 km, this would take 5 weeks of straight sailing and a Navigation roll against DL 34. It’s almost certain that the ship would deviate from the course, possibly even risking not reaching the whole Kaliland region and sailing to Orenic or Roadic region by mistake.

    All together, approximately 8800 km traversed in nine weeks without counting stops or adventures between.

    But returning to earlier choices: should the PCs choose The Eastern Route – because they are not afraid of the encroaching Mist and Tauric pirates from Wyvernkingdoms, or because the civil war in Western Thefna seems more dangerous for them, or they just don’t have a ship able to straight traverse the huge Asteanic Ocean. Then there is a possibility to coastal sail the whole journey, with no possibility of getting lost but many opportunities to encounter various dangers – like trying to coastal sail the border of Mist – hoping not to accidentally traverse into it at night. Or coastal sailing the Roadic Archipelagos – filled with angry Roadic pirates, happy to attack any Asteanic trade vessel. This semicoastal route of ~5600 km wouldn’t need any Navigation rolls – theoretically (if not getting lost in the Mist). Only after the Roadic Archipelagos, there would be a ~500 km strip of open ocean – Navigation DL 15. And after that, 200 km of coastal travel to Irongate.

    This trip would be shorter, ~7300 km, and taking just over seven weeks. But this trip would be, of course, a lot more dangerous – with even the real possibility of getting lost into the Otherworld.

    The riches made and adventures experienced throughout this trade journey could be epic.

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