Campaign of the Month: March 2016
Ptolus, City by the Spire
History, as it was taught to your character, centers about the formation of the Empire of Tarsis and the establishment of the Lion-Guarded Throne, its hereditary seat of power. However, be aware that history stretches for thousands and thousands of years before that — not that the Empire, in its arrogance, believes anyone should care about such “primitive” times.
To understand the Empire is to understand that there are truly two Empires: a spiritual one and a temporal one. When Delian Von Tessel became the first Emperor, he also named himself Holy Emperor of the Church of Lothian, which became the official religion of the Empire of Tarsis. After his death, his nephew, Radlov Von Tessel, took both positions, but quickly abdicated the role of Holy Emperor. Since that time, the same individual has never held the two seats of power and, in time, they have built very different infrastructures around themselves.
Although he controls no lands the way the Emperor of Tarsis does, the Emperor of the Church governs the spiritual lives of all citizens. The Holy Emperor has his own court, his own army, and his own vast treasuries. He has the power to pass laws and issue edicts, although they must involve spiritual matters, such as the Edict of Deviltry (see below), issued more than two centuries ago to ban the use and practice of arcane magic.
Life Under the Empire
Unlike many empires, the Empire of Tarsis gained little of its dominion through conquest. A thousand years ago, the evil lord Ghul waged war against the rest of the world, his armies comprised of demons, undead, and horrible monsters. At that time, a group of humans called the Prust occupied the area around the city of Tarsis far to the east. When the Prustan forces from Tarsis came westward to the help defeat Ghul, they stayed, helping to rebuild and establish order. Following their terrible defeat in the Ghulwar, the folk west of Tarsis welcomed not only the Prust’s help but also their advances in science. The Prust (and the Grailwarden dwarves of the same area) brought with them firearms, clocks, printing presses, and even steam-powered engines. They built roads, waterways, and well ordered cities with running water, sewer systems, and postal services. Their laws were not arbitrary but codified in a book called the Vast Codex. In short, life under the Empire seemed good.
The Empire, however, also brought with it strict controls. Various freedoms suddenly vanished in the name of maintaining order. Official citizens of the Empire achieved rights denied non-citizens, such as permits to own firearms. The Church of Lothian became the official religion of the Empire, and eventually the only allowed religion. Other faiths were persecuted, and ultimately arcane magic was demonized, restricted, and finally outlawed. Life became very complicated.
For hundreds of years, the Empire of Tarsis expanded its domains and influence. The Church of Lothian, or simply “the Church,” became omnipresent within society. Emperors and empresses came and went. It seemed that the Lion-Guarded Throne was destined to rule the known world forever. But slowly the pillars supporting the Empire began to decay. The Edict of Deviltry was overturned, and arcane spellcasting became legal once again (even before that, time’s passage had brought with it more safe havens for the practitioners of magic—including the city of Ptolus). Other religions practiced fairly openly, and the Church of Lothian was no longer organized or powerful enough to stop them. Education worsened. Complex Prustan and dwarven devices wore down and were forgotten rather than repaired. If anything, the last two hundred years have seen a decline in science rather than its further advancement.
The Empire Today
The Empire teeters on the brink of disintegration. Barbarians from the distant east have defeated Tarsis’ armies and ransacked Tarsis itself. Three different people claim the Lion-Guarded Throne, including the current Emperor of the Church, Rehoboth Ylestos. The secular Empress Addares XXXIV is the cousin of the previous Empress Addares, who died with no children or siblings. No one currently holds the title Prince or Princess of Tarsis, therefore there is no heir apparent. Segaci Fellisti, a powerful and aged councilor who has survived six Emperors, now claims that only he is fit to rule in these trying times. Despite his non-Prustan heritage, his followers believe he has more right to rule than the Empress, whose blood ties to the original Von Tessels are convoluted at best. Addares now holds court in Dohrinthas, the city she has proclaimed as the new capital, while Segaci apparently has returned to Tarsis following its sacking. Meanwhile, the Emperor of the Church, now residing in Ptolus, claims to be the only true ruler with the title Emperor. But outside of Tarsis, some see the fall of the Empire — if it has indeed fallen — as a good thing. The hereditary monarchies, long disenfranchised, now return to power as Imperial governors lose their influence. Like a disease overcome, the Empire is fading and life is returning to its state of a thousand years ago — but not without many indelible scars left behind.