Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Raavnia: Part One

World Information

Game play in the world of Raavnia is not just combat and dungeon delving, but rather a mixture of religious, political, social, and geographic discovery. Certainly, no world would be complete without dramatic and physical conflict, but the rich background of this setting cannot be used as an excuse to merely rename longswords and orcs.

Raavnia is entrenched in religious dogma, embroiled in political division, and subsumed by post-war malaise. The people are tired and the elite are busy quarreling over who will repair the land, instead of taking arms and leading the people out of darkness. The closest real world equivalent to this setting is 1000 A.D. Yugoslavia, at the time of the Magyars. Like the Balkans, a wide range of ethnic backgrounds dot the landscape. Humans, dwarves, elves, and orcs all live within the same nation, although at various levels of prosperity.

Religion unites and divides the peoples and a strong central government ensures peace and prosperity. However, a recent invasion has scattered the faiths and pitted neighbors against one another. Tensions mount. In addition, food is scarce, faith is deteriorated, and the common man believes the end times are nigh. And noble-backbiting keeps the country mired in its grief. If not for the spiritual core of the common man, the nation would fracture.

The lower class makes up the largest portion of the population. 88% of the people are artisans, craftsman, and peasants. These classes are poor, subsisting on (in D&D terms) 1 sp per week, many times less than that. The remaining 12% consists of nobility, soldiers, traveling merchants, religious authority, warbands, and adventurers (the smallest fraction). The landscape is harsh, its predators are relentless, and thorps, hamlets, villages, and shanties can be found everywhere.

Daily life for the peasantry is not easy. Wedged between warring factions, the lowest class pays homage to whomever claims rule that season, often paying taxes two and three times a year to one duke or another; or worse yet, peasants living far from the capital often pay additional taxes to the Magyars or a self-appointed warlord of the region. Farmers live at the bottom of the food chain in Raavnia and as a result are very distrusting of outsiders.

Beyond that artisans and craftsman thrive only in settlements large enough to support their wares. Even the largest town may only have a few artisans and a couple dozen craftsmen. Beyond bakers, blacksmiths, coopers, millners, and the like, there is little need for someone who can tailor a suit or carve stone into the bust of a gentryman.

With less than 10% of the populace living in anything larger than a town, the elite maintain a status of living 50 to 1000 times that of a standard peasant. And in the case of landed gentry and nobles, their wealth is nearly immeasurable. However, within the present weakened Empire, the nobles have fallen on (relative) hard times, and those unable to maintain a certain standard of living are certainly scorned by those who can.

With minor variations, these standards of living extend across all races -- dwarves, elves, and even orcs. Cultures with shorter ranges between the classes are seeing less affect on their standards of living, while those that reward hard-work with wealth have a greatly weakened lower class. Dwarves maintain the richest upper class, while the elves live in near-communistic harmony. The Aradan are an exception, living in poverty (by human standards) with their own economic and caste systems.

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