As always, you can find all of the posts in this series here.
A Nice Place to Live
Laraloch-Thistivuel is a County in the terms of this setting, which means that it’s a civilized area where things are generally good. That doesn’t mean nobody ever has a bad day, but the rampant, crushing, sadistic brutality of the Grim Cities or the natural hazards of The Wilds aren’t a concern for the people who live here. It gets its name from a treaty between a large dwarven duchy (Laraloch) and a group of smaller elven estates (collectively known as Thistivuel) back about 3000 years ago. There has been significant immigration to the area, particularly humans and centaurs, but culturally, it is very dwarven with some elven influences. The local economy is stable, and there’s enough work to go around that people generally live comfortable, secure lives. Technology is advanced enough to keep plagues and starvation at bay, paved roads run between cities (and in this case, rail lines, too). Industry is productive, but very careful about both safety and waste. People of all social standings tend to be generous with what they have. Laws are enforced, but fairly and with mercy toward minor offenders. The overall “cultural alignment” of the area is Lawful Good, broken down as follows (see this post for details about the virtue-based alignment system).
Pride/Humility: Accepter (0) – There’s not a lot of nationalistic zeal, but there is titled nobility, and folks from Laraloch-Thistivuel tend to be eager to tell you about it.
Envy/Kindness: Saint (+2) – There are dual and interlocking traditions with very significant cultural weight of both hospitality and nobless oblige here that go back at least centuries and probably millennia; people share stuff with those who need it. They also breathe air. They tend to consider one about as remarkable as the other and give both roughly equal amounts of thought.
Wrath/Patience: Seeker (+1) – Laws are fairly enforced and punishments fit the crime. There’s not a significant amount of cultural grudge-bearing, either, though there is definitely some of that old dwarven toughness ingrained in the people of this land.
Sloth/Diligence: Seeker (+1) – People tend to be grateful for what they have, work hard, and are appreciated by those who employ them, who compensate them fairly for their efforts.
Greed/Charity: Saint (+2) – As mentioned under kindness, if you are in genuine need and manage to stumble into a town in Laraloch-Thistivuel, you are very likely to be okay. People will expect you to help the next person in need who comes through, but they won’t remind you of it constantly, mock you for your weakness, or hold it over your head. That would be cruel.
Gluttony/Temperence: Accepter (0) – Because things are generally good, people don’t generally get too worked up about lavish feasting, drunkenness that doesn’t end with anyone getting hurt, and so on.
Lust/Chastity: Accepter (0) – People generally keep their bedroom activities to themselves. Advertising may feature the occasional bit of “nudge nudge, wink wink” content. People react with disgust and outrage to marital infidelity.
Overall Virtue Score: +6 (Good)
Duty/Independence: Favorer: Duty (+1) – People here know things are good and are generally motivated to do their part in keeping them that way.
Efficiency/Artistry: Favorer: Artistry (-1) – There’s a definite undercurrent of elven influence that can be seen in architecture and the way everyday objects look – you’ll see little bits of filigree, pinstriping, or other adornments on things that don’t strictly need them. It’s not ostentatious, but it’s very widespread and commonplace. The overall effect is that almost nothing looks harsh or purely utilitarian.
Meticulousness/Expediency: Favorer: Meticulousness (+1) – This is another place where dwarven influence is noticeable. There is a definite cultural influence toward doing things right and making sure that any potential problems are mitigated before calling something “done.”
Satisfaction/Excitement: Exemplar: Satisfaction (+2) – Laraloch-Thistivuel was formed by the uniting of communities of two very long-lived races, which means that there’s a deep, prevailing sense of “the long game” in virtually all aspects of life.
Tradition/Progress: Favorer: Tradition (+1) – The same thinking that pulls strongly toward Satisfaction also pulls toward Tradition. Dwarves and elves have cultural memories stretching back eons and a lot of that cultural memory is deeply treasured and has been shared with their neighbors.
Sacrifice/Pragmatism: Favorer: Sacrifice (+1) – The hospitality and nobless oblige traditions factor in strongly here. It is seen as virtuous not merely to help others, but to give of oneself while doing so.
Overall Personality score: +5 (Lawful)
Lay of the Land
Laraloch-Thistivuel enjoys a mild, temperate climate. There are four distinct seasons, each about three months long. Summers are warm, but not usually unbearably hot, with temperatures topping out around 85 degrees, even at the height of summer. Winters are snowy, but not usually bitterly cold, with temperatures reaching about 10 degrees at the coldest. The western end of the small nation is made up mostly of craggy foothills, which are the traditional dwarven homelands. These merge into a forest to the south that’s the ancestral home of the local elves. Most of the rest of the landscape is gentle rolling hills and wide, fertile plains. The region enjoys regular rainfall and a long growing season, which means crops are plentiful. The eastern border is mostly coastline, with several port towns and the capital city of Highshore.
On the Table
Local crops include wheat, corn, barley, a wide variety of vegetables (including potatoes, carrots, peas, peppers, tomatoes, and several varieties of bean), apples, pears, and some aromatics including garlic, onions, and leeks. Livestock includes cows (including a sizeable dairy cow population), pigs, and sheep. Most farms also raise both egg chickens and meat ones, and turkeys are also common. Wild game includes deer and pheasant. Beekeeping is common, so honey is widely available. Cheesemaking is subject of great regional pride and a number of both cow’s milk and sheep’s milk cheeses are available. Coastal areas have a wide range of seafood. Local fare tends to be rich, hearty, and highly-nourishing. Food is an important export.
The cities and small towns have the sorts of businesses you’d expect them to have given the technology level of the setting but there are a couple of noteworthy, exceptional pieces of industry. The first is Stonefoot Motorworks, a dwarven vehicle company that makes everything from semi trucks to high-performance sports cars to motorcycles. Stonefoot Motorworks vehicles are famously overbuilt and reliable – dwarves don’t even consider a vehicle broken in until it has 100,000 miles on it. They’re also very reasonably for the build quality. Stonefoot is employee-owned and in addition to its general assembly operations, also has a small division that builds vehicles for customers with unique needs, such as those with disabilities or centauroid physiologies. The company was founded by dwarves but employs members of a large number of different races. The logo is a stylized gray footprint on a black background. If the PCs need a land vehicle, specialized or not, they can scarcely do better than a Stonefoot. One particularly unique model the stonefoot engineers are particularly fond of is the Chariot, a motorcycle-like vehicle designed for centaurs and alseids. It has a pair of wheels in the front and a single, large drive wheel in the back. The rider sits with their hind legs extended back slightly and their forelegs are used to steer. This leaves their hands free, a feature which has made the vehicle popular with adventurers who like to hold things like weapons while on the move, but it has also become popular with delivery companies.
The other is Highshore Harbor, a busy, heavily-industrialized harbor. A lot of the food that gets exported goes out through here, and imported goods flow in – the massive cranes never stop moving, and there’s a constant coming-and-going of trucks and trains. Magic gets used a bit to help things along by some of the companies doing shipping. While one company may use forklifts, another may use the Floating Disc spell. Ships are often staffed with armed security due to sea monsters and piracy, so this is a good place to pick up adventuring supplies. In addition, some of the import/export companies will sell goods salvaged from damaged containers in the Harbor Market, a kind of giant flea market immediately to the north of the harbor itself. Speaking of maritime security, those desiring the most skilled and well-equipped personnel can hire Trident Enterprises, which uses submarines to fight sea creatures and is largely staffed by tritons. The company enjoys a strong reputation for integrity and ethics. They also have a very high success rate.
Over in the slightly-smaller river city of Stoneford, you’ll find Zallacker Arms, a weapons company that tries very hard to ensure that they’re only serving the good guys. Zallacker weapons use special proprietary ammunition that can only be purchased (legally, anyway) directly from the company. Customers typically do not object to this practice, because the ammunition is well-made and actually slightly cheaper than the going rate (by about 3% – emphasis on the slightly in that statement). New orders receive a credit based on the return of spent brass casings given back to the company at the time of the order. Both the ammunition and the weapons that fire it are of better-than-average quality (In game terms, Zallacker weapons are less value to jam or misfire by a value of 1), and Zallacker does its best to make sure unaccounted-for shipments are recovered, their weapons don’t find their way into Grim Cities, and so on. There’s only so much a pre-digital company can do to control their inventory after it leaves their warehouses, but Zallacker is doing all of it. They also sell melee weapons and body armor. The company is privately owned by the estate of Archduke Thurgrim Zallacker.
Points of Interest
Laraloch-Thistivuel has a few other locations of note, as well.
The Stoneford Bridge crosses the Alagan river near its widest point, and is a marvel of structural engineering. It’s an old fortified tower bridge that is usually left open, though the gates have been upgraded as newer technology has become available and it has been kept in good repair. It is the first line of defense on a road that leads through the Yuthi desert and ultimately to Alchova. Most of the time, though, it’s an important cultural attraction. The bridge is usually hung with colorful banners and tours are available for about 5sp. Discounts and family days can get this down to 2sp at the right time, and school groups studying history, engineering, or architecture sometimes are invited to tour it for free.
The Thistivuel Botanical Guardians are among the most impressive of their kind the world over. In addition to hosting thousands of both domesticated and wild plants from dozens of different biomes, the gardens are also home to one of the most beautiful and enduring pieces of elven artwork in the entire nation. The Tree of Blossoms is actually a tree-shaped scaffolding covered in flowering vines that all bloom at different times of the year. This makes it a vivid, magnificent, and ever-changing thing that can be appreciated almost as a new piece every time a visitor sees it. As a place of exceptional and long-lasting peace and natural beauty, the gardens are a tether to the Feywild, and good-aligned fey can sometimes be seen strolling the grounds.
The Church of the Five Martyrs sits on an old elven site dedicated to five devout servants of God who held off an army led by minions of The Adversary until the community they belonged to could escape. The ruins of that community (called Ethliel) form the grounds around the church itself, which are located on the outskirts of Stoneford. Visitors can sometimes get audiences with the martyrs (all sainted now) themselves, and they are full of kindness and wise counsel. They do not, however have to put up with being pestered or trolled and hence they do not, manifesting only where there is legitimate need and vanishing as soon as they have done what they can to assist with it. They usually do not appear as a group. The church itself is a modest stone and wood building, but the windows – all of the windows – are beautiful stained glass of elven design in sharp contrast to the humble nature of the rest of the structure.
Archduke Thurgrim Zallacker: The archduke is the latest in a long line of very well-regarded dwarves to bear the title of Archduke. In addition to owning Zallacker Arms, he has his hands on shipping (where he has done a great deal to promote worker rights and safety at great cost to his own profit margins) and logging (where he works with a group of elven druids to keep the operation sustainable). He is also deeply involved in a large number of philanthropic ventures, many of which he supports through actual action rather than just by bankrolling. He is an exceptionally principled man and is widely beloved by the citizens of the province. It’s considered exceptionally fortuitous that he is young by dwarven standards (he’s about 70) and has several hundred years of life ahead of him.
The Five Martyrs: The five martyrs of Ethliel were members of an elven militia that protected the town. They were:
St. Lathlien the Steadfast: Lathlien was a huge, powerfully-built elf in life, and is often depicted with a massive tower shield. He is well-regarded as a protector of the innocent and was the leader of the five martyrs.
St. Korinas the Gentle: Korinas was a reknowned healer and herbalist, and is well-regarded for his bedside manner. Tales tell of him healing the wounded and then playing soft flute music to help them relax and sleep afterward. He is depicted with a doctor’s bag and a flute, and his statues often depict him with a long elven sword at his side.
St. Selbiel the Implacable: Selbiel was a peerless warrior, well-trained in a variety of weapons and fighting styles. According to the accounting of the other four, she was the last to fall. She is depicted with a small shield and a broad-tipped spear, her weapon of choice in life.
St. Ennala the Swift: Ennala was scout and hunter. She warned the other four and the town of Ethliel, allowing many to escape. She is depicted with a bow in one hand and a lantern in the other.
St. Laganna the Knowing: Laganna was a wizard and scholar. She is always depicted in flowing robes and carrying a large, heavy tome. In life, she was a botanist, a theologian, and an architect in addition to her magical studies.
All five have been known to appear to visitors to the Church of Five Martyrs. When they appear, the are always in white robes and bear none of the wounds of their sacrifice. They often will dispense advice to those who need it in their area of expertise, but all of them, Korinas and Laganna in particular, have been known to appear for the sole purpose of comforting the grieving, the broken, or the conflicted.
Harbormaster Kelton Favre: Kelton is a centaur, which may seem out of place in a harbor, but he is exceptionally good at his job. A talented and fair-minded administrator, it is largely due to his efforts and his high standards that Highshore harbor continues to be such an efficient operation.
That’s it for the highlights of Laraloch-Thistivuel. Next post will be either the Yuthi Desert or Alchova. I haven’t decided yet. If you’ve go opinions on which you’d like me to tackle first, let me know!
Waking Lions by Pop Evil – this was recommended to me by my dad over breakfast earlier this month. It’s a fantastic, uplifting song, with some nice heavy bits and some good melodic bits. Dad has great taste! It also feels like it fits perfectly with the ethos of a County – psych up and go confront the darkness.