Monday, January 23, 2012

[Secaelia] The State of the Nations

Besides a smattering of previously existing border towns, and impromptu villages which sprung up around permanent military outposts positioned to guard the border, the borderlands between the two great nations are surprisingly empty. One can travel for days from town to town and find only ruins or wasteland. For this reason, most who travel do so in large caravans, to protect against not only the wild beasts who inhabit the wastes, but also marauders and as protection against exhaustion, starvation, or dehydration while passing through the inhospitable lands. Surviving cities, towns, and villages are a welcome sight, and many along the new travel routes have rapidly grown in size.

However, due to the disarray that rapid population growth can bring, crime is a major concern for these small towns, which may not have the ability or resources to protect themselves adequately against that element. They may send a messenger to the capital to request intervention, but it could be months or years before they receive a response, if they even get one at all. Worse, many who frequent these towns pass themselves off as "adventurers" actually are no better than thugs, preying on the weak and unprotected and helping themselves to whatever they can steal. There is a great deal of mistrust of groups of well-equipped and armored travellers, as they could just as easily be mercenaries or marauders than adventurers on legitimate business. Nevertheless, there are others who uphold the law and decency and make a name for themselves protecting the innocent, recovering the lost, and "liberating" artifacts lost amidst the flames of war. These types can be mercenaries as well, but can just as likely be genuine heroes.

Much of the land covered by either of the empires is nearly entirely unprotected. A great deal of arable land was destroyed by battles, leaving only wasteland behind. The empires are larger than they can possibly directly manage, so while much of the populated world is supposedly carved up between one of the two great empires, many who live within will never feel the direct effect of imperial influence. Occasionally parades of "peacekeeping" forces can be found, but most military personnel are garrisoned either on the border, or within larger cities. The cost of the wars in time, resources, and human life was nearly incalculable, and where the humans no longer dwell, the monsters have reclaimed the land. Ghost towns may be filled with literal ghosts, but could just as easily have been taken over by goblins, ghouls, scavenging pests, or any number of other creepy-crawlies. A predominance of undead in an area can strongly indicate the presence of a necromancer, or worse, a necromancer who has become undead themselves (i.e. become a lich).

Many of the surviving towns have constructed walls if they did not have them before, and they will nearly exclusively not allow travellers entry at night. Despite the capital cities of the two empires being massive, lavish, magnificent examples of engineering, artistry, and urban planning, the subjects of both empires live the lives of serfs, servants, and supplicants. Typically towns are in the vicinity of arable farmland, and usually they will have military or militia patrols to protect against monsters. Human activity outside of villages is usually a good indicator of the health and security of the local society and economy, but is by no means always true. Despite frequent raids by the imperial guards of the two empires, shantytowns composed entirely of slavers, highwaymen, or the like, do still manage to occasionally crop up. Some even maintain the outward appearance of an ordinary farming or fishing village in order to avoid suspicion and undue imperial interest.

Certainly there are areas of the world more secure than others. In places less fiercely affected by the centuries of warfare, such as as one gets closer and closer to the capital cities of each empire, there are fewer monsters and bandits, and people do not have to be as cautious. Even in the more wild regions around the borderlands, where monster attacks are frequent, people do not live in fear; security is usually good enough within the city walls, and a high amount of trust is placed in local constabularies and militias to "keep the bad out." Most will do all they can to avoid travel at night, or being trapped outside of the city walls, not because they expect monster attack, but because they would prefer not to have to take the chance.

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