Monday, 11 April 2011

Zama: The Arcane (Aryan) Imperium

The Arcane Imperium is a blasted, vile wasteland inhabited by godless demon-worshippers and ruthless conquerors. Driven by the need to acquire fresh slaves and fertile grazing lands, it's ruling Senate of demon-blooded cambion spell-casters strive to greater conquests, to enhance the already powerful prestige and dignitas of their accursed realm -and to bring all the gods-sworn of the world under the terrifying rule of the Mantis Banner. No law exists save that a man can claim for himself at the edge of a blade, demons, devils and worse stalk the alleyways and flat rooftops while bodies lie rotting in the streets. It is an empire built upon fear, greed and the pitiful weeping of enslaved nations.

Fifteen hundred years ago, a fleet of ships under the Priest King Arias fled the destruction of the old Punic Empire. Yet where other such fleets found safe harbours and gentle winds, the people of Arias were plagued by storms and sea-monsters, loosing half their number and more to the perils of the journey. Arias himself lost his wife and children when a great wave struck his ship, driving it onto the rocky shore even as he grave praise to the Gods for his deliverance.

Raging in his grief, he denounced the worship of divine beings and cursed the Gods themselves. Upon making landfall at the city that now bears his name, he slaughtered all those in his company who would not forswear their oaths to the Punic Gods and devoted himself to the worship and adoration of demons and devils thereafter.

Following the lead of their King, the people of Arias soon came to abandon worship of the Gods entire, even in secret, and so the lands about their new Kingdom grew fallow. With no gods to manage the rains and winds of the land, the new Kingdom soon became a wasteland, giving the people of Arias yet more reason to despite the divine beings they once worshipped and driving them further into the embrace of evil

In desperation to acquire fertile lands and the vast number of slaves required to eke out the barest growth from the blasted lands about, the folk of Arias were driven into a never-ending cycle and conquest and growth – for no worship of the divine is permitted anywhere in Aryan territory and any new territories quickly become as blasted and barren as the city of Arias itself.

In recent decades, the Senate of Arias, having long since displaced the ruling line of Kings, have sought to feed their growing populace not through conquest but through trade, as much from realising they will soon run out of land to conquer as much as from any desire for peace. And yet the Senators, both young and old alike, still yearn for war and conquest, for nothing so enhances the political prospects of a family than the defeat of the Imperium's foes. Yet the calibre of foe required to sustain a long-term war without resulting the acquisition of new conquests is great indeed, Fortunately for the power-grubbing, war-mongering cambion spellcaster's of the Senate, such an enemy exists in the military and mercantile power-house of Zama. This rival, non-expansionist city-state's control of the vital grain trade – grain vital for the continued existence of the Imperium as a viable state- provides the perfect excuse for war -a war that the Imperium has been waging (and loosing) consistently for nigh on fifty years.

The enslaved peoples of the Middle-Sea are kept docile by the implied possibility of freedom and even citizenship for future generations. This citizenship is no empty honour. Imperial Citizens are legally permitted to made pacts with demons or devils and are entitled to certain protections (enforced by the soldiers of the Mantis legions) throughout the lands of the Middle Sea. Imperial merchants, tax-farmers and even criminals can walk the streets of foreign cities plundering and grafting at will, knowing that no citizen of the land in question would dare risk the wrath of the Imperium by taking action against them. For any given Imperial citizen might be one of the feared Arcanum, the magic-wielding secret police and assassins of the Imperium. Any such transgressor is likely to waken in Hell itself, the personal play-thing of some demonic creature summoned for that very purpose. The Arcanum see and hear all and are all to likely to report any harm or insult done to an Imperial citizen -and therefore, by extension, the Imperium itself- to the eager and all too- rapacious ears of the Senate whose greedy conscript fathers eagerly grasp any excuse to further stretch the shadow of the Mantis over all the world.

Development Notes: The idea for the Arcane Imperium came from two main sources: the Masters of Rome series of books by Colleen McCullough and the Principlaties of Glantri from the D&D setting. At first the Imperium was just the Late Roman Republic with the caveat that all the Senators had to be arcane magic users and all "priests" had to be elected officials rather than clerics (who were banned from the Imperium due to the failure of the Pheonixian Priest Kings to protect their people).
At first, the Imperium expanded it's borders for much the same reason Rome did. but then I was inspired by the ancient Roman notion of making "bargains" and "contracts" with the Gods. 
"If you do this for me I will sacrifice X white horses in your name" and so on. 
So I figured, why not have the Imperium turn away from Gods and Goddess altogether, and have them make deals with devils and demons instead. This idea expanded further. What would happen, I wondered, to a land where no Gods were worshipped, in a world where the Gods themselves determined weather patterns? The answer was the Blight. The barren wasteland found within the boundaries of the Empire. Suddenly, the Imperium had another reason to be fighting constant wars of expanions. No longer just to feed the power-lust and prestige of the Senate, but to feed the very people of the Imperium themselves.

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