Nebuchadnezzar is a neutral city-state, a coastal port intersected by several surrounding human kingdoms, in a land called Akkadia (Ah-kay-dee-ah). It is the largest city in Akkadia, the oldest, and is an important political, economic, and cultural center. (Real world examples: Rome, Constantinople). The city itself has many thousands of people (how many is debatable). There are several different quarters, a very large port, and four enormous towers. To the west, there are several human kingdoms and a dwarven kingdom still farther. To the south, there is a great archipelago settled by humans and sea-elves. To the north, there is a great expanse of land home to both a large elven kingdom and many thousands of tribesmen. To the east is a great sea and far-away lands. The climate of Nebuchadnezzar is Mediterranean. It is arid and warm most of the year, with a monsoon season. There is little precipitation otherwise.
Nebuchadnezzar was originally founded a thousand years ago by a group of legendary, immensely powerful adventurers, who wanted to build a magical city. Today, it is administered by a Steward. Five great Nebuchadnezzar families take turns placing a Steward on the throne. These families are the descendants of the original adventurers, and thus Nebuchadnezzar is often called “The Jewel of Five Souls.” While the original Souls were fiercely loyal companions, their descendents have devolved into petty squabblers and backstabbers, at once allying and betraying one another for increased city influence. Neighboring kingdoms also meddle for more control. Thus, there is constant political turmoil, and over the centuries much of the city’s original, once magnificent magical infrastructure has faltered and failed.
The latest Steward is named Nidfutz and is the patron of House Passhimir (pas-shi-meer) (human). The other four families are:
Tzameskies (za-mess-keys) (human)
The Steward keeps order via the Malachite Guard, a combination military order and mage council. Residents often refer to them as “The Peacocks,” for their green tabards and golden trim. Their ranks include soldiers, war-mages, urban casters, city agents and inquisitors. The Guard is run by the Assembly, an elder council at once sworn to the Steward’s side but also a powerful political entity that must be appeased. Included in their arsenal are a number of green Iron Golems, known as ‘tin men’ to the locals. These are only deployed for critical situations or as a show of authority. When one appears, city folk know to vacate the area immediately. The Guard also operates several ‘sky ships,’ sailing vessels which can fly through the air. One or two are often patrolling over the city itself.
The Guard maintains magically-run public services, including clean drinking water, lighted city streets, and frequent construction projects. Stone Shape and Earth/Mud spells are often used for repair and construction. Occasionally, the Steward sends out magic-using tax collectors who collect payments from businesses and residents (using such spells as Zone of Truth). Further sanitation and cleanliness is handled by priests of Ypras, deity of the seas (see below). They have made an arrangement with the Steward to use magic for particular public services, and can additionally be hired for services in exchange for payment/donation. Priests of Ypras are often seen magically cleaning streets, gutters, and even toilets, or creating food for the less fortunate.
Magic use is illegal in the city, unless sanctioned by the Malachite Guard. Offenders are punished harshly. Rewards are given for information related to the apprehension of rogue magic-users and citizens are trained on the warning signs of possible spellcasters. Most city folk agree with the magic ban, having been conditioned to believe it is dangerous to let magic-users run freely in town.
Because magic is outlawed, there is a proliferation of alchemical businesses and practitioners. Alchemy is technically not legal, but also not a punishable act (unless one commits a crime through the use of alchemical means). There are many more alchemical sham operations and products than there are authentic, effective ones. Certain magical effects and devices can be replicated alchemically, usually with a 50% effectiveness.
Within the city, only weapons of station are allowed in public without a voucher from the Malachite Guard. The Guard requires permits for a whole litany of activities, from public gatherings to street vending to housing improvements to the sale of livestock. Despite the presence of the Guard and strict policing, the city’s commerce and cosmopolitan nature is such that corruption and ambition run rampant. There are guilds of craftsmen, merchants, thieves, underground wizards, assassins, elves, prostitutes and more. Trade goods include the mundane (foodstuff, construction materials, clothing) to exotics such as tea, coffee, liquor, silks, spices, ironwood, ivory, jewelry, technology, and especially potential ingredients and components for alchemical processes.
There are several highlights to the city, including:
- many commodities, trade goods, exotics, and wondrous things can be found here, including the occasional wild beast. At the center of the Bazaar is Vim’s Emporium, a magic shop-run by a gnome and his two stone golems—that somehow escapes the wrath of the Guard.
The Great Museum — containing both a library and an exhibit hall, it attracts scholars and the curious from all over the world. Established by one of the Five Souls (a mage), it contains relics, magic items, and historical artifacts. Dress codes and donations are required to enter.
Great Gates — Opposite the port, the Great Gates strictly control the flow of people and goods in and out of Nebuchadnezzar. Young mages scan the crowd for magic items or users. On busy days, the line to enter the city can stretch for miles, with visitors, wagon trains, caravans and the like waiting to get in. Vendors peddle along side the line frequently.
RACE RELATIONS AND THE FOREIGNERS
A 10-year war between the surrounding kingdoms and an elvish kingdom to the north ended in a stalemate, with both sides signing a treaty 2 years ago. Amongst many humans, there is a strong anti-elven sentiment. Many businesses and shops refuse elves service, even though this practice is banned. The city remained neutral during the war. There are still outbreaks of elven persecution, although they are put down harshly by the Guard. The Elvish Quarter is home to House Sylvari, one of the Five Families, and few elves live outside their walled quarter.
A key to war’s end was the human kingdoms’ use of the fey spice, a drug that renders elves and other fey creatures incapacitated. This drug originates from Qadam (ka-dahm), a land far to the east. Qadamis are simply referred to as “foreigners.” House Tzameskies connected with the foreigners and set up a spice trade, and the spice arrived in Akkadia through Nebuchadnezzar’s ports. The human kingdoms dispersed it throughout the front-lines and soon staved off what would have been a crushing defeat at Elven hands. This led to the truce and treaty. It also led to a bitter feud between Tzameskians and the elves of House Sylvari. Part of the treaty included an outlawing of fey spice in Nebuchadnezzar and the surrounding kingdoms. However, it is rumored to still flow through the Foreign Quarter, and rumored further that certain kingdoms ignore the ban. With the help of House Tzameskies, those foreigners involved in the spice trade were offered their own quarter within Nebuchadnezzar in order to foster trade of exotic Qadami goods and expand markets of commerce beyond a drug trade.
While small, the foreign quarter and its Emirs have become very powerful politically, and it is cynically said a foreigner has more rights in Nebuchadnezzar than a citizen does. Most city folk view the foreigners with uneasiness and suspicion as they have different customs and practices. They are dark-skinned humans, thin and wiry. Males are fond of beards, often braided at the chin. Both males and females wear loose, flowing tunics and robes and various headscarves. Ritual tattooing is common amongst males. There is no outward gender iniquity in profession or station. They speak their own language, Qadami. As far as anyone can tell, the foreigners in Nebuchadnezzar are, to a soul, worshipers of Sabra. They have very rigid customs, including:
—All foreigners turn to face east, towards Sabra, and pray.
—Any possessions they carry must be marked with the Golden Knife symbol. This even includes hairpins and teeth fillings. Foreigners will not accept material goods without a stamp or mark, nor will they sit at a table or enter a house without first placing a token or drawing a chalk symbol.
—Likewise, they only accept payments in coins stamped with the Golden Knife. Conversely, they do not accept gold as currency. Most high level transactions are done with platinum, silver, or jewels.
—They have a great aversion to dogs and hounds, and an equal affinity for felines. Qadamis will go out of their way to shoo or kill a dog, and it is an extreme insult to have a dog in a Qadami’s presence.
—Many foreigners have intricate tattoos on their bodies. Some believe they are powerful sorcerers whose tattoos unlock magical powers.
—Qadami culture advocates slavery. Slaves are to be treated respectfully while in servitude.
—Foreigners place a high value on physical and mental discipline. A sizable number in Nebuchadnezzar are monks who rigorously train in mindfulness and unarmed combat.
—Child pages are an important rite of passage in foreigner culture. At 5 years, children are drafted by another family, where they rigorously train for three years to serve as messengers. Seeing a young, unchaparoned Qadami child scurrying down a Nebuchadnezzar street is not an uncommon sight. To harm or kidnap a foreigner’s child page is a capital offense in Qadami culture.
RELIGION AND CUSTOM
Most Akkadian humans are polytheistic, worshipping different gods for different times and circumstances. The Akkadian pantheon is thus:
Albasent – God of Justice. Albasent is a large, fixed moon. Nebuchadnezzar was built directly underneath its highest point in the sky as tribute. Albasent is a full moon 1 day a week, called Moon Day [Sunday].
Ypras – Goddess of the Sea, and worshipped by sea-farers and those working close to water. Also known as the Goddess of Death. Many choose an Yprian sea-burial for their loved ones.
Sabra – The Golden Knife. Sabra is another fixed moon, perpetually in “crescent” form. From Nebuchadnezzar, it can sometimes be seen just on the horizon to the east. Foreigners claim that in Qadam, it is high in the sky fixed over their Emirates. All foreigners worship Sabra, facing east while praying; in Akkadia, it is often seen as the God of Misfortune.
Bubo – The Silver Fox. Bubo is a shooting star that crosses the sky once a month, marking the start of a new month. It also appears randomly on other days, with no discernable pattern. Bubo is also known as the God of Luck and Chance. Many Akkadians plan special events or wage wars according to Bubo’s (possible) schedule. Bubo is popular with rogues and adventurers.
Ghul – The Man on the Mountain. Ghul is the highest peak of the Akkadian Mountains, and also a great beastly man who lords over the range. Ghul is also an active volcano, and its eruption is seen as a terrible omen of things to come. Ghul is also known as the God of Perseverance, or the God of Immovable Might. Many die attempting to scale Ghul for ritual or rite of passage.
Mana – The Earth. An ancient Akkadian religion, now mainly worshipped by tribal folk. Especially dominant with the steppe-people of the Northern Plains.
Chuggoth – The God of the Outside. Chuggoth was another moon, fixed in the sky and visible only at night as blood red. Centuries ago, the religion was stamped out by the Five Souls and the moon vanished. Today, the faith is largely extinct. Occasional Akkadians claim to worship Chuggoth, and sometimes authorities persecute those suspected of Chuggoth worship. Chuggoth still appears in Akkadian culture as a “boogeyman.”
Elvish, Dwarvish and other Races – These races both worship the Akkadian pantheon and also retain some of their own racial deities.
There are numerous other fringe faiths.
The act of offering to the Gods is a critical component of Akkadian faith. Akkadians make offerings for many different cultural functions (much like those of Hellenistic faiths). Gifts to the Gods
- offerings of material or magical donations- according to strict times and rituals, can even reward worshipers with divine dividends. Priests are available for consultation.
There are 10 months to an Akkadian year, with each month equaling 3 weeks. One day is 24 hours.
Days of the week:
Sullen Day (No Moon)
Moon Day (Full Moon)
Once a month, on Bubo’s Eve, The Steward customarily shuts the city down for Bounty Day, during which Guard mages combine to magically create massive amounts of food and drink for the city. This celebration lasts throughout the night, with fireworks immediately following Bubo’s Dance.
Akkadians celebrate the (reputed) birthday of each of the Five Souls, as well as Sig-Surah-Surah, a celebration of the Five Souls’ destruction of Chuggoth and the vanishing of the Blood Red Moon.