The long way home
Welcome to what was the Vornak Empire
You’re standing on the docks in what was the city of Krom, capital of the Vornak Empire. The hustle and bustle of the port is all around you as the ship on which you arrived is loaded with foodstuffs and mineral wealth for the journey back to the Imperium. But that shouldn’t worry you! You’re here for a while…
In fact, you may as well go find a drink.
The Long Way Home is a campaign in D&D 5th edition. You are playing individuals who left the Imperium’s capital city for reasons of your own. Maybe you tired of the over-civilized nature of that ancient city, maybe you want to seek your fortune. Maybe you owe someone money, or they owe you money and don’t want you to live to collect. Maybe you got the wrong girl pregnant…
There’s some background on the world below and a map of the world in the maps section.
Balamor, Capital of the Balamory Imperium. Shining jewel of the oceans. A city of culture and learning which shines as a beacon across the world, with its glorious architecture, tree lined avenues, bubbling fountains, universal healthcare, schools of magic and art. The Imperium is ruled by the Elven Imperatrix of the family of Ariadne. A hereditary title passed down through the female line. She is a constitutionally limited monarch who heads the two houses of the Council of Balamory. The lower house of Areen which is composed of elected members of various guilds and cultural groups via proportional representation, and the Upper house of Sabat. The Upper house is composed of life members who are awarded their place for various great works and achievements. The Lower house holds most powers of creating law and taxation, but to change the membership of the house requires the approval of the Imperatrix, while passing the laws requires a Supermajority of the Sabat.
Certain groups wield great power in the Areen. The predominantly Elven Scholars and Wizards have large representation, as do the largely Human Farmers and the Dwarven Miners and Artisans. Halflings control a large portion of the fishing fleets which gives them the smallest of the major representative groups. The Areen’s membership is capped at 751 which can be broken down in hundreds of different ways according to any number of criteria. However the large number of different groupings mean that even the most populous groups only have a dozen or so seats in the chamber. There are a few groups who are too small to have any individual representation – such as Drow – however these groups are often represented by single-seat electees who take several causes under their wings.
The Sabat is limited to 151 seats, but as these are life (or until voluntary/medical retirement) positions and are only filled by notable individuals who have performed great works for the Imperium, it’s seldom full. It is possible for powerful individuals to buy their way into the Sabat by simply devoting huge quantities of money to charitable or artistic projects but in those cases the expenditure required is prohibitive for many members of the same business or family. Also, the Imperatrix confers the honour of the seat in the Sabat and thus prevents stuffing the membership with the merely wealthy.
From the outside the Imperium appears perfect. Beautiful and serene, but those who know the nation understand that even in this place there are shadows. Organised crime runs in the streets of Balamor. Polite, courteous, refined but organised crime none the less. The Guard of Balamor (Not to be confused with the Imperial Guard) are in a constant struggle with the various criminal enterprises. For all of that, it’s a gentleman’s struggle. There are certain rules and ways that things are done in the Imperial capital. A crimelord will not order attacks on the families of guard members, just as the guard will not attempt to harass the families of criminals unless they also commit crimes. Low grade crime such as pick-pocketing or vandalism will – more often than not – be dealt with by the criminal organizations, just as they will pass on information about suspected spies or acts of treason. It’s still possible to get into trouble in the city, however. Showing disrespect to a Crimelord, helping yourself to his business, borrowing money and not repaying it from a Loan Shark, getting too deep in gambling or even showing the wrong kind of attention to the wrong girl can result in having large, humourless men in dark suits taking you by the shoulder in a dark alleyway and then helping you down to the docks where a heavy new set of shoes will be waiting. If it’s merely a warning then most enforcers will be sure to deposit you near a healer’s office.
If you do get in trouble in the Imperial City, then you always have the option of The Voyage.
Krom, Capital of the Vornak Empire. The city from which Nock the Bloody Fist ruled his domain. The Vornak Empire was a political unit that spawned in the Eastern desert out of nomad tribes conquering each other and finally, once united in a single body, marching out of the desert to the verdant foothills of a mountain range to create a city. The Empire was interested less in knowledge and art than the people of Balamory. They were interested in their desires, pleasures and power. As soon as the city had taken root, the people of Krom spread out through the east. A nomadic people at heart, they weren’t interested in farming. They captured slaves from the peoples they encountered and put them to work farming, fishing and mining all they needed. The Empire grew rapidly, passing through the hands of various Emperors, either by inheritance or bloody coups as a successful general returned to the city with a blooded army at his back, a horde of slaves before him and a lust for power. Inevitably, this expansion brought the Empire into contact with the Imperium.
The cold war between the Vornak Empire and the Balamory Imperium lasted for over a thousand years. Mostly a matter of scuffles between allies. The Imperium had formed many alliances of mutual respect and trade with the smaller nations of the tropics to their North while the Empire had learned to respect the hardy warrior tribes of the snowy wastes. It was via these groups that the scuffles and skirmishes were conducted. Even the bloody handed people of Krom were capable of acting politically, just as some secret groups within the Imperium were capable of acting with bloody dispatch.
The war turned hot almost five hundred years ago. The records of the Areen archivists are very clear. A warband of the Vornak, under no lesser personage than the crown Prince, attacked a peaceful group of mineralogists on a research expedition on neutral ground. The research team was slaughtered, all but one junior student who hid beneath the bodies of his fallen fellows. Outraged at this act of callous cruelty, the Imperatrix demanded the Prince be arrested and tried by his father’s government. A demand that was met with a battle fleet bombarding a fishing settlement. It took only days from receiving the news of this second attack for the Areen and the Sabat to vote out a declaration of War against the Empire. A war which would last three hundred years.
The great war stood as a stalemate for a long time. The Empire would make gains by brutal force of arms, but then the Imperium would reverse them by magic and the skill of its generals and artisans. The Empire had magic of its own, but it was never capable of the levels of the Imperium’s master Wizards. Battles raged back and forth across the continents. Neither side ever quite coming within striking distance of the enemy’s capital until a simple mistake by an Empire Admiral, a storm and an act of daring by a lowly commodore of the Imperium brought a striking force, unopposed, into range of Krom.
In those last hours, as the second and fifth fleets bore down on Krom, sweeping aside the small boats that sallied forth in an forlorn attempt to block their advance or even to buy more time, every sailor and marine’s hearts were in their mouths. The ferocity of the Empire’s troops was legendary and all feared what they would find when they finally reached the shore.
In the end, they found nothing. As the second fleet entered the harbour, the resistance collapsed. When the first marine set foot on land there was no-one to be seen. Suspecting a trap, the troops moved slowly and carefully into the city and found no-one and nothing. Not the elderly or young, no bodies or sign of anyone. Food and personal belongings sat in place. The city was more completely abandoned than seemed possible.
As time progressed, it became clear that not only was the city deserted, but so was the Empire. Not entirely, by any means, but largely. As the marines had gone in, the Empire’s fighting forces had vanished. Wherever they were. Forces engaged in combat at those times had continued fighting and died, never surrendering. Forces in their fortresses and encampments had simply disappeared. No-one, not the most powerful of the Imperium’s Wizards could explain it. Some groups of civilians and slaves throughout the span of the Empire remained, but they were as baffled as the Imperium as to what had happened to their Emperor and millions of his people.
Every civilization needs some way of getting rid of people. A way out for those bored of the way things are done or on the run from trouble or who simply need to challenge themselves. The Imperium has The Voyage. After the fall of Krom, the Imperium began to rebuild after 300 years of unceasing war. The men deployed across the world were needed to rebuild, to return to fields and fishing nets. With the vanishing of their enemy, the army and navy were no longer needed and the Imperium withdrew back to itself. Some people remained behind however. The fields around Krom were fertile and the Imperium needed food to feed its returning population. The mines in the mountains around Krom were rich in badly needed ores and as such, Krom survived as a settlement. Not much of one it’s true. The city that had once housed hundreds of thousands became little more than a shipping point. Farmers and Miners hauled their bounty to the docks, vessels arrived and hauled it away. However those vessels did not arrive empty. There are many reasons people find to leave Balamor. Perhaps you’re bored as the child of a rich merchant. Perhaps you angered the wrong member of the criminal underground or the Guard. Perhaps a politician has it in for you. Perhaps you feel like there’s no hope of a future in the organized society of Balamor… Maybe you even just want to find yourself or prove yourself in a way you can’t in the beautiful, bustling streets. Whatever the reason, there is The Voyage.
Approach a captain at the docks in Balamor and ask them for passage. They may smile, they may scowl, they may look you up and down and then over your shoulder to see who’s following you but eventually they’ll nod and have you shown aboard. You don’t need to show coin, your passage is subsidized by the state. Some may try to talk you out of it, others may just shrug. Most won’t take you if you’re not in your right mind but if you want to go then someone will take you. You have to be sure though. There’s not much chance of changing your mind. The ships won’t change course mid way and if you jump overboard outside the harbour mouth then the strong currents will drown you. Once you’ve been set ashore at the docks in Krom, you’re on your own. A return trip isn’t subsidized and all returning vessels are scrutinised by the navy who intercepts them half-way. Your only way home is across the continent to take ship from the fishing port in Solanem. Those who make it home this way are feted as heroes and many end up with seats in the Sabat. Those who make it. The eastern continent is wild and untamed. The Empire only farmed the areas they needed and if there wasn’t an enemy in a region then they barely bothered. In the 200 years since the end of the war, a lot of areas that were improved by towns have fallen back into ruin and lost to all memory. Bandits, adventurers, monsters of all descriptions now inhabit the former Empire. And now, so do you.