Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Salt in Wounds and the Wider World | Synoma – The Fantasy Cold War

(Note: Salt in Wounds is designed to be largely standalone, isolated, and able –with relative ease- to be plunked right into your favored game world. Just select an out of the way valley amidst the mountains –preferably somewhere you can imagine daring heroes trying to lure and ambush the Tarrasque- and Salt in Wounds can easily fit there. The city’s unique features justify it as able to function more or less anywhere. However, Salt in Wounds is officially part of Synoma which is a fantasy setting in the midst of a ‘cold war.’ The post below discusses the world of Synoma in broad strokes as well as Salt in Wound’s place there.)

Synoma: The Fantasy Cold War

Built upon the ruins of empires of old,
the nations of men and others that rose after the fall of the ancients quickly realized that power was not measured by numbers in your armies, but by the amount of magic you dug up from the ground or developed within your own people. Massive research and exploration efforts began in earnest three hundred years ago and every (easily locatable) ruin or dungeon was secured by a state and plumbed for its secrets. Very rapidly, five great powers emerged; each with their own specialties and unique artifacts upon which their empires were founded. Nearly as quickly, however, they reached a stalemate as they each possessed magics capable of utterly obliterating their enemies (and possibly themselves). With open war too costly to conceive of (or at least that’s the hope of ordinary citizens) conflict has transferred to proxy wars fought over and on satellite states & spheres of influence, the relentless crusades to push back monstrous, demonic, or undead forces, and finally the so called ‘great game’ of adventurers.

Magic items are extremely rare and high level magic is virtually nonexistant. Only those most rare savant-like individuals are capable enacting high level magical workings/creation of magical items. The primary ‘resource’ the various states compete over is high level wizards, clerics, sorcerers, and magic item creators. Abundant alchemical goods have replaced most low level magic items, and these are often derived from the special properties of magical creatures (most especially, Salt in Wound’s Tarrasque).

The Great Game: The Role of Adventurers in the Geopolitics of Synoma

Most adventurers in Synoma are usually loyalists pledged to one of the five great powers, although occasionally they are mercenaries happy to take the pay of whoever offers the most coin. More paranoid states control their adventurers via leveraging threats to their loved ones, rune-bound exploding slave collars to enforce compliance, and/or mind affecting magic.  The five great powers have have identified ‘22 Paths to Power’ (what serves as character classes in other settings) and rigorously screen their population for any individuals who show aptitude for one of the paths (there is also regular abduction/recruitment of exceptional citizens of other empires). Such individuals are then conscripted (or at least ‘strongly encouraged’) to pursued developing their class abilities whereupon they are incorporated into the traditional armies or sent to join state sponsored adventurer agencies. These agencies are utilized for intrigue, covert dungeon delves (often behind enemy lines), or SWAT like fast response to emergent/quick moving threats for which the army is ill-equipped to handle.

Most adventurers in Synoma cap out at level 6; to push past is to generally become something more/less than human and insodoing wind up in the crosshairs of the other powers. If adventurers reach this point, they figure greatly into politics & plots of the greater world and have their enemies begin to develop exhaustive dossiers on their strengths & weaknesses in addition to facing regular assassination/recruitment efforts. As such, ‘min-maxing’ is something states regularly do for their squads of adventurers, as they attempt to put together the most effective and versatile teams of weirdos who regularly face down threats ‘far above their level.’ However, even as they arm themselves to take down demigods, adventurers must regularly move throughout the paranoid world of Synoma without attracting notice. Some rare adventurers manage to keep their abilities secret and become independent operators; but these are the exception rather than the rule.
Adventurers are amongst the only segment of the population with regular knowledge of magical items, and the incredible value of these items make them especially tempting targets.
Adventurers in Synoma function as something between secret agents, special forces, and an armored tank division/living WMDs – with their sponsor states ready to disavow or betray them following a failure or even if they seem to have grown too powerful, This is of particular import as one of the current ‘big five’ powers was founded by a group of adventurers who recovered and artifact that put them on equal footing with the other empires and allowed them to carve out a kingdom of their own.

Salt in Wounds in Synoma

The City of Salt in Wounds is one of a handful of ‘impossible’ cities in Synoma; that is, cities that can only exist because of some supernatural quality that supports their otherwise untenable existence. Because of its isolation, self-sufficiency, and due to the established policy of the Binder-Lords that they will release the Tarrasque if their rule is threatened by an outside force Salt in Wounds has managed to maintain its independence. As such, it often serves as a meeting place of rival factions and powers, a base to scheme & launch plots + intrigues, and one of the central location wherein an interested party can find neutral, mercenary adventurers.
Another unique feature is that, due to the incredible value of its alchemical exports in a world largely void of magic, Salt in Wounds runs a huge trade deficit with most of its regular trade partners. Hence, large quantities of magic items flow into the city to pay for all the alchemical goods + Tarrasque derived wondrous items flowing *out* of the city. Salt in Wounds is one of the few places in the world where magical items can often be procured… though higher end magical items can usually only be obtained by providing ‘favors’ or going into ‘debt’ with one of its aristocratic or merchant powers.   

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