Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Kingdoms of the Marches and the Disputed Regions

As I continue to move westward across Oerik with my "Mapping Beyond the Flanaess" series, I find myself on occasion needing to reconcile disparate sources. In addition, I am keenly aware of a problem with the various sources that cover western Oerik; specifically, they're just too frigging big and empty, compared to the Flanaess. (This last point was explicitly mentioned by Nellisir in the comments of my last post, and it's one I completely agree with.)

At present, the two sources I'm dealing with in western Oerik are the map found in Dragon Annual #1 (which came with a single page of thumbnail descriptions of the lands it depicted), and the Chainmail game of 2001/2002, which featured the northwestern corner of Oerik as its setting (called "The Sundered Empire", for the elven Empire of Ravilla which used to dominate the entire region). Here they are for reference:


My immediate problem lies with what are called the Kingdoms of the Marches on the DA #1 map (on the bottom). The accompanying text describes them thus:
A temperate land filled with princely states. Perhaps another locale colonized by seafarers from across the Solnor (Ocean).
Setting aside for the moment the question of where they might have originated (although it is plain that they share the same sort of pseudo-European culture of the rest of the Flanaess, from the above description), if one looks at the map of the Sundered Empire (on the top), it's clear that the area is actually held by Ravilla, which is an empire of elves. Fortunately, the "Elven Lands" on the DA #1 map fits in well with that, so it seems to be a question of what to do with the "Kingdoms of the Marches".

We're given some latitude by the fact that the DA #1 map is presented as a sort of "player's map", and no guarantees are given as to its accuracy, especially in terms of small detail. Given that, it seems a small thing to shift it down just a tad, south of the Empire of Ravilla. But that puts it squarely in what Chainmail calls "the Disputed Regions". And that's all to our advantage.

From my reading of the Chainmail material, the "Disputed Regions" aren't ever really fleshed out. They used to be under the control of Ravilla, but the elven empire has withdrawn its influence over the years, leaving a vacuum that's been filled by the other factions (Naresh, Ahmut's Legion, etc.), and leaving a big empty hole in the middle where the fighting is supposed to take place (implicitly).

And there we have the solution not only to the question of reconciling the two sources, but to filling in the broad expanses of western Oerik. Shift the Kingdoms of the Marches south just a tad, and they fill in fine for the Disputed Regions. and, since they're a collection of "princely states", they are both a) politically disorganized and broken into many small nations and (potentially) city-states, and b) allow us to fill the gaps between the various big factions of the Sundered Empire with many small states, adding much-needed interest not only to the map, but to the geopolitical situation in the region. None of the "princely states" would be a power on the level of a Ravilla or a Mordengard, but certainly would add for enormously interesting play as a collection of squabbling minor powers with constantly shifting alliances, interests, and so forth.

One question remains; what distinguishes this anarchic land of petty princely states from the "Free States" on the Sundered Empire map? Well, the text of the Chainmail rulebook gives us the answer, I think (and also provides the next link in the chain of source material). Page 18 mentions the "Free Cities" as a "loose assembly of city-states" which is good for little else than providing mercenaries for the major factions in their quest to recover the dead god Stratis's panpoly ("The Godwar", which forms the chief impetus for action in the Sundered Empire setting), and thus have one of their number become the next god of war. Stratis was the neutral brother to evil Hextor and good Heironeous, all of whom are sons of Stern Alia.

So there we go, I think.

The "Disputed Regions" of Chainmail are the same as the "Kingdoms of the Marches" of the DA #1 map. Petty squabbling bits of dirt that the surrounding powers see as little more than a battleground. None of them has large population centers; towns are going to be capitals here. The "Free States" on the Chainmail map are actually a collection of city-states, sufficiently divided to not count as a faction in the quest to become the next god of war (yet), but a source of mercenaries, and because of their urban nature, distinguished from the Disputed Regions on the map.

And, we might surmise, one of those city-states is called Lhynn (the Empire of Lynn on the DA #1 map-- more on that at some later date). It's powerful enough to be labeled an Empire, and has expanded its influence eastward across the desert. But in a desert waste, such notions as territorial integrity are notoriously ephemeral. It's distracted by its own issues, but who knows what could happen if it took an interest in the Godwar?