The map and the Nine Kingdoms
Thank you, backers! We're well on our way to funding this game. We think our success is probably due to being absolutely the only science-fantasy intellectual property on people's minds right now. (Ahem.)
Anyway, we've gotten a lot of requests from you guys for details about the setting of The Ninth World. This isn't surprising. When we released the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, we got a whole lot of requests for setting material as well. That's because not everybody who loves our card games is a diehard RPGer. (We like to think that our adventure-rich games make a few of them into RPGers, though.)
And that ties in with the limited-run map we're making. The concept here is that it's a functional map. It will show each kingdom (and any regions we unlock as stretch goals) and all four locations in each kingdom. And in a manner similar to games like Pandemic Legacy, you can track your progress through the game, marking who won each game you play. (You don't have to do that, of course. You can just treat the map as the awesome piece of wall art it will be.) We don't expect this map to go into the retail channel, so it's probably something you want to get now if it's your kind of thing.
As for where the map will take you, here's a guide to...
The Nine Kingdoms of the Steadfast
Here's a quick travelogue of the nine kingdoms of the Steadfast. They're all different, and they all will play differently in the game. We haven't worked out the mechanics for all of them, but we like the directions we're heading. (Versions of this text—and a whole lot more about these places—can be found in the Numenera Core Rulebook.)
A broad, fertile, and peaceful land, Ancuan is blessed on many fronts. Its rolling hills teem with bountiful herds of animals, its fields flow with produce and grains, and its long shorelines offer fish and other valuable commodities. Of course, Ancuan is not without its troubles. Pirates ply the shorelines, preying on coastal trading vessels. Bandit raiders threaten villages, while sathosh and chirog roam the countryside. King Asour-Mantir rules from a castle of stronglass 20 miles outside the city of Glavis. The people of Glavis worship a pair of gods called Relia and Bianes. These sibling deities are believed to watch over those who place offerings on their secluded altars.
Draolis is the most populated land in the Steadfast and also one of the wealthiest. Its banner depicts six interwoven spheres, but most people refer to it as the Tiger Banner. Centuries ago, Draolis was home to a powerful queen who ruled the land with a firm hand. Her symbol was a roaring tiger, and her armies crushed all those around her. When her line died out, power in Draolis was seized by a council of wealthy plutocrats who didn’t want another hereditary monarchy to take control. The Council of Spheres abolished the tiger symbology, but many people remember the tales from that time and long for that former glory. It is home to Qi, the largest city in the Steadfast. More than a half million people live in Qi, a city of spires and fantastically huge balloons and dirigibles. The common saying “Half of Qi is in the sky” is an exaggeration, but it feels accurate when you’re there.
Iscobal is a land tearing itself apart from within. Internal politics keep the nation focused on itself rather than on the dangers of the expansionist kingdoms at its borders. Mulen serves as the capital of Iscobal. Its towers of glass looking out over the western sea are the subject of song and poem. The city of Wyrfall lies along the Wyr River, built amid a series of waterfalls where the Wyr cascades through Aeres Canyon. The people of Iscobal associate the river with divine water spirits, and Wyrfall is the central focus of this religion. The Temple of the Unseen rises amid the waterfalls and rocky outcroppings of the city.
Known for bleak landscapes and people tested by hardship, Malevich’s tale is one of war and would-be conquest. Yet after crushing defeats in decades past, its warlords are now quiet. Yorvic, the current king of Malevich, is no bloodthirsty despot, as was true in previous generations. He is, in fact, a three-year-old boy. His cousin Ellabon serves as regent and likely will continue in that role until young Yorvic passes through the ritual of second birth at age thirteen. Numerous villages dot the landscape of Malevich. These farm communities are usually small and poor, little more than thatch-roofed huts gathered in defensive circles around a communal pen for the shaggy goats they tend. Mud-stained boots walk down rough roads infrequently—the folk of this dark land remain in their isolated villages if possible. They bar the doors at night and pray to vindictive yet seemingly indifferent gods.
Most people of Milave are farmers who produce a variety of foodstuffs as well as an herb called ghianche, or sometimes just ganch. It fills many pipes throughout the region, and it’s sometimes rolled into cigars as well. The herb is a mild relaxant, but when treated with certain chemicals, it can also be a powerful hallucinogen. Much trading takes place in Orrila, thanks in no small part to a device located on a high campanile in the center of the old town. Known as the All-Speech, the device automatically translates any word spoken within the city (and a fair distance beyond) into a language understandable to each listener’s mind.
Navarene is one of the largest and most prosperous kingdoms in the Steadfast. Disliked by all the other lands, the people of Navarene are thought of as aloof, difficult, and even arrogant. “Wealthy as a Navarene merchant” is a saying in the Steadfast that almost always has implied negative connotations. In Navarene is the Amber Monolith , which reportedly contains a teleportation device that gives access to a numenera edifice floating high above the earth. However, no one has ever found it or even discovered the secret to accessing the monolith’s interior since the Amber Pope supposedly went inside and used the device 400 years ago.
Possibly the oldest of the Steadfast kingdoms, the Pytharon Empire once commanded most of the southern region, including Milave, Iscobal, and Ancuan. Although the empire collapsed almost a hundred years ago, it regained its footing and began to prosper under the previous empress, Challadien II. She consolidated old holdings into Imperial rule again under the auspices of protection. The empire’s capital is the great city of Rarmon, home to about 80,000 people. This old settlement of marble, stone, and glass once fell into a state of decay but now is being restored to its former grandeur.
Known for its coastal trading ships, the so-called Sea Kingdom of Ghan is a relatively peaceful land. King Laird has no wish to challenge or even appear to challenge Queen Armalu of Navarene or the ruling council in Draolis, yet he doesn’t want to appear weak and ripe for the taking, either. Thus, he protects his borders and maintains a careful vigil without making aggressive moves. Most important, however, he ensures that his merchant fleet plays such an important role in the Steadfast that no one would want to suffer his kingdom’s sudden collapse—or, just as bad, his sudden refusal to maintain the coastal trade routes vital to most of the nine kingdoms.
One of the smaller and least prosperous kingdoms in the Steadfast, Thaemor is often overshadowed by its neighbors. In fact, the other kingdoms consider it something of a joke. That wasn’t always so. Bordered by two rivers and a mountain, Thaemor was once an unnamed but very much desired piece of land, part of a three-way war between Navarene, Draolis, and Malevich. A man named Holiva the First took office in the Precipice, although no one can quite remember where Holiva came from or what skills qualified him to rule. No one whispers that Holiva the First might have lost his sanity long ago—that would be treason. And no one whispers of the ancient time when the shadow herd thundered across all the lands tucked in the shade of the Black Riage—that would be superstition.
Those are the nine kingdoms of the Steadfast. Stay tuned for more story as we continue our journey through The Ninth World!
Mike and the Sharks