Thursday, March 17, 2011

History and Geography of Nova Avalon for Pirates of the Bronze Sky Part 5

Shan-Wei


Shan-Wei is the oldest civilization in Nova Avalon, predating the Monarchy’s history by millennia. Already ancient and well established on Year Zero of the Sky Reckoning calendar, Shan-Wei’s very existence calls the Monarchy’s history of the world into question. In turn, the Monarchy calls Shan-Wei’s very humanity into question, a millennia old prejudice that has chilled relations between the two great empires. The Shan-Wei’s many sky-islands lay pole-ward of the Monarchy’s islands, and sit much higher in the living sky, a fact no Shan will ever let a Monarchist forget.

The Shan, as the people of the great empire are known, claim descent from the Mother of Seven Snakes. The Mother of Seven Snakes was the first being to open her eyes at the dawn of creation, and her complex schemes placed the heavens in their current order. She is the mother of all dragons and the Shan consider the great wyrms their kin. The Shan laugh at the Monarchy’s faith, mocking the worship of Justar Worldbreaker as peasant superstition. By refusing to consider the world is more than six millennia old, and refusing to accept the Mother of Seven Snakes as the true progenitor of mankind, say the arrogant and imperious Shan, the Monarchists prove themselves little better than the Orcs they conquered. Barbarians. Children. Gullible fools to be rooked at the bargaining table, nothing more.

To a Shan, holding non-Shan in contempt is right and natural. The scaled, amber eyed Shan are the most beautiful people to ever live. Shan geniuses invented writing, tea, gunpowder, surgery, calligraphy, the cannon and the skysail. Shan courtesans first described the 9,999 ways of pleasure. Shan-Wei is the center of the civilized world.

Shan-Wei is ruled by an Imperial Dynasty whose heritage stretches back more than ten millennia. Even compared to the rigid and tradition-bound Monarchy, Shan-Wei culture is caste-bound and resistant to change. The same dozen great bloodlines have ruled the Shan for most of its history. Which bloodline currently rules is decided by its courtier’s skills at politicking and building alliances, and the strength of the sorcerer-nobles born to the house. Raw and naked magical power is a sign of the Mother of Seven Snakes’ favor. Shan nobles rule by the strength of their spells… and their skill at manipulating the other noble houses.

Shan-Wei is isolationist by nature, though it engages in limited trade with the Monarchy and Avalon. Since Shan nobles are concerned primarily with internal power struggles, conflict with outsiders would only weaken their position and possibly lead to their destruction at the hands of their vengeful countrymen. As such, the great strength of the imperial military is chained. The Shan use a cunningly conceived network of traitors, spies and catspaws in every port to manipulate world affairs. Shan diplomats fan conflicts, while Shan merchant houses sell weapons and broker mercenaries to all sides of a war. Killing an enemy with honeyed words and clever promises is a more fitting strategy for a Shan than the brute force tactics practiced by lesser nations.

The recent Avalonian Mutiny has given Shan-Wei an oppritunity to scheme like never before. Though the Avalonians mistrust the Shan, and rightfully so, Shan-Wei is one of the only nations to formally recognize the colony as an independent power and to sell needed weapons and troops. Meanwhile, Shan advisors whisper in King Harold III’s ear urging him to crush the upstart peasant rebellion across the sky. And through all the tumult, the Sovereign Empress laughs.

SIDEBAR

Shan Humans

The cold and scheming Shan claim descent from the first and most beautiful serpent. The Shan value logic, dispassion and skill at manipulation above all things. A hero with flashing sword may win the respect of the peasants, but the Imperial Court respects those who kill with words far more. Humans born in Shan-Wei who place their ‘floating’ ability score modifier into either INT or CHA receive the following national traits.

Speak with Lesser Cousins (SU): Once per day, a Shan with a CHA score of 11+ may cast Speak With Animals to communicate with any reptilian animal. The caster level is equal to the Shan’s level.

All Shan characters begin speaking Draconic and Common.

Shan cultivate informers and are adept at gathering information. Shan humans receive a +2 racial bonus on Knowledge (local) checks.

Chao-Chin Humans

The Chao-Chin Armory City is forbidden to outsiders, and its inhabitants are barred by Imperial Decree from ever leaving their province. Chao-Chin is fortified and garrisoned by a full battalion of Imperial soldiers. The populace, virtual slaves who toil to refine the gunpowder and assemble the legendary guns Shan international power is built upon. Despite their bondage, the men and women of Chao-Chin hold on to hope, and the cult of the Little White Snake is strong in the prison-city. Humans from Chao-Chin (including the rare escapees) who assign their ‘floating’ attribute modifier to DEX, INT or WIS receive the following national traits.

Hands Familiar With Lead (EX): Adults of the Chao-Chin Armory City are expected to produce weapons for Shan-Wei. Citizens of Chao-Chin are proficient with all firearms, and receive a +1 morale bonus on ranged attack rolls with firearms assembled in their home province.

Chao-Chin are well trained in metallurgy and engineering, and receive a +2 racial bonus on Craft (gunsmith) checks.

Indomitable (EX): Chao-Chin are tough minded and difficult to bully, even by Shan magistrates! The character receives a +4 racial bonus on checks made to resist being Intimidated.