Monday, December 17, 2012

K is for Kinzassál

Records of the ancient days of the Mezzovian area are scanty and poor, meaning that many of the kingdoms, nations, tribes and peoples of long ago are poorly known, if at all.  The scientific inquiry into the past via archeology, anthropology, parahistory and prehistory is in its infancy in the Mezzovian area, compared to what it is in our own world.  But it is a fruitful area of inquiry to those of scholarly bent who aspire to learn more of such things, and while records may be poor, in some cases there are other sources of information that can be tapped by the brave or foolhardy: vampires, who's memories stretch back centuries, shades, ghosts and specters, and Outsider demons and angels or other spirits who's memory reaches into the past.  Trusting such sources is fraught with academic dangers--to say nothing of the actual physical dangers that come with inquiring for information--but occasionally academic and scholarly information worth its weight in gold comes from such lines of inquiry.

One kingdom that, relative to many others is somewhat well-known as a name, at least, if details of its history are not, is Kinzassál, a kingdom that sat north of the Mezzovian sea and east southeast of the Indash Salt Sea.  Today, this land is a wilderness, populated only by nomadic Untash barbarians, but these Untash are relative newcomers to the area.  Prior to their incursions, it was part of the Empire of Baal Hamazi, and although the badlands were thinly settled, they made up an important part of the satrapy of Pnakot or Pnakotus, the capital of the area on the shores of Lake Kidin, and still an important successor city-state of Baal Hamazi today.  But the Badlands weren't always as forbidding an environment as they are today, and there are many indications that climate change in the last millennium has dramatically changed the landscape.  Much of the land inhabited by the drylanders today was not, in fact, desert at all, but received far more rain than it does today, and it was dotted with pluvial lakes, the Indash Salt Sea being a shrunken remnant of the last of them, one that once covered all the land between the Kindattu and the Dagan mountain ranges, and much of the Shutruk Savanna as well.  These lakes were in retreat at the time of the very earliest historical records, which tell of the rise of the early balshatoi kingdoms: Rozovķa, Ryazan, Pjarmia, Pezhek, and Vuronezh.  The balshatoi kingdoms were along the northern coast of the Mezzovian Sea, and thus south of the lands that later become the Drylands.  Long before the arrival of the nomadic peoples who occupy the area today, a series of kingdoms of a completely unrelated ethnicity lived in the area, and dealt with the early balshatoi as traders, as allies, and occasionally as rivals and enemies.  The greatest of these kingdoms, and the only one who's name as come down through the ages, is Kinzassál.

The Battle of Eltdown, with much artistic license
At the time that the early balshatoi kingdoms were carving out their influence, the great kingdom of Kinzassál was already in decline, as waves of subsequent droughts depleted the shrinking pluvial lakes that made up their homeland, and the area become increasingly xeric.  This set in motion a great deal of unrest within Kinzassál, which brought them into conflict with the balshatoi kingdoms, especially Ryazan, which was located directly to its south and beyond the forests.  In those days, there was no gap between the Shifting and Haunted Forests, which were not known by those names, nor did they have the evil reputation that they gained in years since.  Legend has it, in fact, that many of the changelings that gave the Shifting Forest its name were originally Kinzassian peoples displaced and cursed by the droughts and associations with werewolves of the forest.  The Kinzassians contested right of passage though the area with the expanding influence of Ryazan, since settlers related to and subject to the king in Volék Szemennok, the capital city of Kinzassál, already lived to the east of Ryazan, in lands that later became Tarush Noptii.  It seems likely that the Tarushans today were related ethnically and culturally with the Kinzassians.  Some scholars even posit that Tarush Noptii was little more than a colony of Kinzassian settlers, while others speculate on more complicated relationships, calling the ethnic Tarushans more like "cousins" of the Kinzassians rather than direct descendents of them.  In any case, whomever the peoples were who lived in Tarush Noptii at the time, they recognized the authority and sovereingty of the Kinzassians, which put them at odds with Ryazan, and later with Pezhek, when it inherited Ryazan via dynastic union.  The borderlands of Ryazan to both the north and the east were unsettled and uneasy for many generations, although open warfare was rare.  Only the pitched battle at a location very close to the present day sleepy village of Eltdown is known to historians, while otherwise border skirmishes and diplomatic wrangling appear to have characterized much of the relationship between these kingdoms.

On the night that has retroactively been labeled "The Falling of the Star of Doom" the fate of Kinzassál appears to have been sealed.  A great sign and omen in the heavens was the falling of Tæriruuş, the Death-god from the sky.  The language which rendered his name is unknown, but he was eventually called simply Tarush, and is immortalized in name with the kingdom of Tarush Noptii.  Twenty great champions of Kinzassál traveled to the place where the the god fell, and by their sacrifice, and the sacrifice of the ancient Witch-lord retainers they brought with them, Tarush was contained for all time beneath the surface of the earth, and eventually the capital city of Tarush Noptii itself was built over the spot where that triumph was realized.

This ancient sorcery and the legendary battles of the Twenty with the servants and creatures of Tarush ruined the land of Tarush Noptii for generations, though.  Ryazan and Pezhek turned its face from the land and contested it no more, and it took many centuries before the native population regrew to a sustainable level.  The loss of this territory devastated Kinzassál, however, which was still suffering from a climatic crisis that continued to worsen.  At the same time, barbarians--the most ancient ancestors of the drylanders and the tribesmen of today--had made their way on the now dried corridors between the mountains and the Salt Sea.  These nomadic peoples had an economy that was better positioned to take advantage of the drying conditions, by following nomadic herds of bison, pronghorns, or feral longhorn cattle, who spread across the dry savannas as the woodlands retreated following many years of drought and drying.  These barbarians fell upon the weakened Kinzassians until they met the balshatoi, who were now ranging up through the forests to the borderlands of the savanas and badlands itself.  By the time the two people first contacted each other, though, Kinzassál was largely a depopulated wasteland, and its few remaining inhabitants were absorbed completely into one of those two successor populations, leaving behind little evidence of their existence.

The ancient capital of Volék Szemennok's location is unknown, and its ruins are undiscovered, at least by Terrasan or Hamazin scholars.  Such a find would be a great treasure trove of knowledge, as it is believed that extensive archives of historical and arcane knowledge were lost with the city.  Some believe that the vampires of Tarush Noptii, as the sole remaining heirs of the Kinzassian people, know its location and have long ago looted it, or perhaps haunted its ruins, hoarding it for themselves, but this is only idle speculation.  In truth, very little of Kinzassál is really known, other than the legend of "The Falling of the Star of Doom" and the foundation of the current nation of Tarush Noptii as a splinter of sorts from Kinzassian sources.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Blog round-up

Normally, I don't post posts that are simply links to someone else's blog post, but this is just too excellent to pass on.  Plus, given that DARK•HERITAGE is a self-professed "wretched hive of scum and villainy" and decadent urban intrigue is one of three preferred play modes for the game, this fits in too perfectly to pass up on.  It really needs very, very little tweaking to fit in one of my games as written.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Desert Symphony

Although I've never lived there, some of my favorite memories of my youth (and more recently) were of time spent in the Colorado Plateau, specifically in the deserts and mountains of southern Utah.  If this video can't express why I love that part of the country so much, I don't know what can.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Post series

Well... so, I decided to look through my archives for a little bit today.  I decided to make a list of post series that I promised I would write, but which remain open for whatever reason.  In a few cases, there wasn't any plan necessarily on how often or how many times I would add to the series, and a few are probably ready to be closed.  But many remain open, or unresolved, so... I thought I'd make a note of them so that they aren't completely forgotten and fall off the table.  Most of these series have post tags associated with them, but not every post tag is a series, if that makes sense.


I just did J recently, so I'm a little less than halfway done.  This one is moving slowly, but moving nonetheless.


This was a rules lite alternative to d20 that I was working on as a homebrew; kind of a hybrid of Savage Worlds and The Window.  I'm not working on this anymore, and haven't been for a long time.  DARK•HERITAGE HACK, or DHH has replaced this as my rules light alternative to d20.  And frankly, I'm much less keenly feeling the need for a rules light approach to gaming, since the way I run d20, it works fairly well for me anyway.


For a little while there, I was reviewing episodes of the animated TV show, Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes.  I'm not even watching it anymore.  I'll pick up the rest of season 2 when it shows up on Netflix alongside Season 1; in the meantime, this series is dead.  When I get around to watching the episodes, reviewing them will be pointless.  I'm calling this series caput.


This was an open-ended series.  I had hoped to do more of them, and I hope to yet, but there's no compelling need to go out of my way to add to it at the present.  I think I'll leave it open yet dormant for now.


This series is for any setting (or rules) update related to the titular setting of the blog.  Naturally, this one remains active and gets updates about as often as I post, since most posts belong to this series.


I was paraphrasing the old Ray Winninger series of articles, but with my own examples at one point.  I haven't made an update in this series in literally years.  In fact, I had pretty much forgotten that it was still open.  Ray's column kinda peetered off without a firm conclusion itself, so I wasn't ever completely sure how it was going to conclude anyway.  I'll just consider it abortive and officially close it out.


Sure, this one was hot and heavy for a while, and then slowed way down.  I'm still working on this one, though, as time permits and as topics occur to me.


I had grand designs for podcasting with a rotating cast of guest hosts.  It didn't really happen.  I recorded a second episode, which ended up being accidentally deleted.  Scheduling guest hosts started to become more trouble than it was worth when I attempted it a third time and had no-shows.  Plus, I don't really have the web infrastructure in place to host a bunch of podcast audio files (unless I were to have them be youtube videos or something), so my grand experiment into the world of being a gaming podcast host ended up being one single episode.  Which I still think is a pretty darn good listen, for whatever that's worth.  The series as a whole?  Finito.


I got excited about doing this, briefly, when I saw a similar format on someone else's blog.  I did one entry and then... lost my enthusiasm for it.  Oh, well.  I might yet add to it (someday) but don't hold your breath.


This is a relatively new series, so it hasn't even had a chance to stall yet.  I have a few ideas still in mind for posts here, but there's no schedule, no agenda--I'll just keep adding to it as ideas come to me.


This is in the same boat with one big exception--it hasn't had a new entry in quite a while.  But, when I need one, I'll add it.  It's an open-ended and flexible kinda format.

Another thing that I've been tempted to do for a long time, and will probably try in the near future, is to take some short fiction stuff, set in the DARK•HERITAGE setting with the ICONIC characters, break it up into manageable postable chunks (kinda like how Paizo does their web fiction in the blog) and add it.  Of course, before I can do that, I need to write more, and polish what I do have so that it's presentable.  I won't "officially" announce that new series before I've got something firm that I can post under that new tag.

Correia on the classics

I've been reading some Larry Correia lately, and while surfing his website looking for more info on the just released book (and the projected continuing books in his Monster Hunter series which is listed on Wikipedia) I cam across this post of his.

I think that maybe there's some Thermidor reaction gist to that post--maybe it goes a little too far into the opposite territory before swinging back to a balanced view.  And yet, I find that I mostly agree with it too, and I've talked a bit about it as well.  Literature sucks.  Reading, on the other hand, is fun.  I think it was Terry Pratchet who said--of one of his characters--that she hated Literature.  She greatly preferred, instead, a good book.