Tuesday, 17 May 2011

An Open Letter to the Lands of the Middle Sea.

As per a request by by C'nor(Outside_Toe)

Here follows a short piece of narrative used as the introduction to my home-brew world of Zama in previous incarnations of the game (I believe this particular one was used for a 3rd game). At different times, Zama has been magic heavy, magic light, humano-centric and racially diverse in accordance to the needs and wishes of different groups of players. As I've mentioned in previous posts about this game world, Zama is not a static setting. It is constantly undergoing revision as new concepts inspire me. Races, Cities, even whole nations and major characters have undergone several name changes over the years. But this is the introduction to the default version of the setting: a world in which man dominates, demi-humans are few and far between. Most of the monster races in the various beasteries/monster manuals represent unique individuals in this world - mortal men and women cursed by the gods, trapped in an immortal, twisted shell, every-hungering, ever-thirsty, until slain.

It is a world where the word "Hero" has a different meaning than in our own. In the world of Zama, in the lands of the Middle Sea, arrogantly known to civilised men as the "Known World", Hero's may serve good or evil. Or perhaps even only themselves. In Zama, the term "Hero" is simply another word for "adventurer."

Players Introduction to Zama and the Middle Sea.

Welcome to the Known World. A world of Myth and Legends, a world where man has just begun to pull himself out of the swamps and caves of the Dawn Times, into this new age. An age of mystery, of mighty city-states and great empires. Of great trials and where the march of armies can still shake the world beneath sandaled feet. An Age of Legends.

And yet the Known World is not unlike our world as it was some 2,500 years ago, before the fall or Carthage or the Rise of Rome. It is a world in which armies fight in phalanx, in which Chariots and Elephants roam the battlefield as Kings and Queens and in which the heroics of a single man can decide the fate of millions and where the Gods will watch his every move. It is a time, of Mighty Heroes and Great Champions.

It is your land to shape, to rule, to change and evolve. Your land, where your heroes might challenge the very Gods themselves and bend history to their wills, and seize the right of mortals to determine their own destiny. A land, where you may crush your enemies beneath the tread of your sandalled feet.

The Letter

What can be said of this land of ours, this continent that learned men call the Known World. It is a place of darkness and mystery. Of life and of death. My old eyes tell me that this age, which many hail as the pinnacle of human achievement, is little more than the dawn of civilisation. Aye, for some lands remain barren and dangerous still. And I speak not only of those lands held by those some call the “barbarians”, after the primitive noise of their speech, but of our own, so called "civilised" lands.

For there are many things in the dark wilds beyond the walls of our cities that the inhabitants of smaller towns and villages rightly know to fear. Fears that are treated with Scorn and laughter by those safe in their cities. Aye, even by those who should know better. There is nothing so dangerous in all the world as a man who owns but a little knowledge to call his own, and yet believes he may lay claim to it all.

I was such a man once, until I learned the truth of what haunts the dark places of the world. Despite what the tales say, we have not eradicated the last of the monsters from our lands. Nor do deem that truth such a bad thing. For who are we, mere mortals that we are, to dispute the wisdom of the Gods? Who are we to decide what creatures may live and which should be destroyed, simply because we fear the differences between us? But try telling that to the heroic fools who wonder these lands searching for adventure.

Aye, fools. That is what I call you openly. Whether you be heroes in the service of good, or evil. Of the Gods or merely yourselves. For you know not what forces you deal with. Who is to say if the beast which slays a man in his fields does so from evil or spite, or if the said beast merely does so to defend what is rightfully theirs. Land or food or pride that we have taken from it?

But, I fear, it is now too late. Man has made it’s enemies. It has driven the other races to the brink of extinction or to exile in the wildest parts of the barbarian lands. There these brute nations sharpen their skills against the arms of men not so different from ourselves. And yet still, others remain to be found even in the deepest lands of civilisation, beneath ancient cities or in mouldering ruins where those cursed by the Gods wail at their fate and the veil between the Underworld and ours is dangerously thin.

Aye, civilised we might call ourselves, but civilised we are not. We hide from or refute the things that we do not understand. We “civilised” men, in many ways are as ignorant as our forebears. More so even. Barbarians do not exile or a burn a man born with the gift of sorcery. Survival in the wild-lands is beyond tenuous and sorcery too useful a gift to allow such a useful talent to be wasted without forethought. And yet here, in the city of Zama which I have called home for many years, children born disfigured are still sacrificed to uncaring Gods. Those born with sorcery in their veins are driven out and killed when they should be studied and taught. Think then, of what one taught and tutored in wizardry is capable of. Imagine then how much greater, how much more capable a sorcerer born and trained to his art would be? Capable of great destruction yes, I do not disavow. But capable also, if properly raised, of great and mighty boons. And that, I fear, shall be the epitome of this age and this new race of man. For so long as humanity fears to reach for new heights, to strive to climb new reaches for fear of the mountain. For fear of the fall, then man shall never ascend to the pinnacle of enlightenment, and shall instead languish in mediocrity in the depths of his own inhibitions.

Thus I pronounce my judgement.
Servocles the Slave
Royal Tutor to the Queens of Zama

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