is was a setting proposal for the 4th Edition Living Enworld; serving as an example of an element we can use to flesh out a flexible setting; it has been drawn upon to create the Imperium as it appears in the Transitive Isles. For ease of use a lot of it has been cut down or eliminated, in other words, THIS IMPERIUM IS NOT THE SAME AS THE CURRENT TRANSITIVE ISLES VERSION.
This original lives here (preserved for posterity) while the new simplified version is part of the Transitive Isles proposal.
Also, please note that the Imperium is not supposed to be a " why the Imperium wasn't proposed as just a "typically Lawful Evil kingdom". However dysfunctional it may be it is a representative democracy devoted to (mostly) good gods that seeks to improve the world.
The Beginning Edit
There are many legends of the beginning; most agree only that there was only place. A single vast world so great that a human could walk their entire life in one direction and not see a fraction of its breadth.
The Eladrin of the Imperium call it the Pangea, they say that is was shattered by some dark force an even they call the sundering; their nigh immortal elders hint that their rulership is necessary to prevent this darkness from returning.
The Elves mock their once-brethren. Pangea grew, they say. It went no where; it was all land and it is all land. The sundering is an excuse to claim power, to justify the unjustifiable. The lies of a corrupt and decadent culture.
Now there are many places, individual worlds. Some are so large that a person can only cross them with a years travel; others are barely large enough to stand in. They connect in different ways, some portals last for millennial, others for an eyeblink. Some open all the time, others only sometimes, or when you use a trigger.
The scholars of the Eladrin of the Imperium call these isolates for they are small fragmented pieces of Pangea, isolated save for the fickle shifts. However, in an attempt to relate more closely to the other citizens of the Imperium, younger eladrin often use the common cay. Eladrin scholars once believed there were 55 isolates (a number with significant in the laws of Arcana) but as the number of known isolates has grown they now believe there are 610, or 5 major isolates and 605 minor isolates.
More fluff can go in here later.
== A (short) history of the Imperium [the official version]==
For as long as it has existed the Imperium has been dominated by the Eladrin. They claim that the humans and other races who make up the majority of the populace, came upon them with fairies and, confusing them with the gods begged them for civilization. Some of the Eladrin, being of good heart and moved by the pleas of the humans -- who were noble in spirit, if crude in bearing -- came to dwell among them, to teach them the ways of civilization and honor.
Over time, the Imperium, governed by the wise Eladrin and served by the industrious humans, would visit many worlds, meeting peacefully with the others of honor and education, bringing civilization and justice to the uneducated and down trodden and clashing with the vicious and evil.
Three great events have challenged the Imperium, two of which were driven by internal forces.
=== The purge ===
Occurring over a thousand years ago; a mystery cult devoted to a demon masquerading as goddess threatened to destroy the empire before it was cut like a canker from a wound. The Imperium insists the extermination was purge was completely successful, but rumors persist of a handful handful of these cultists survived, escaping down shifts to dark isolates.
(Origin of shadar-kai, drow, whatever sort of angst-ridden pseudo-elves people want to have)
=== The sundering minor: Expansion and destruction of the goblin isolate ===
Its legions flush with seemingly endless goblinoid hordes the Imperium had engaged in a long period of expansion; growing to dominate more than a dozen isolates at the height of its power.
Virtually every goblinoid of fighting age had enrolled in the legion forming a devastating force that rolled across the cosmos; which left their own isolate vulnerable to an invasion. Unwilling to give up their fertile newly claimed isolates, which had already been divvied up, the Senate dithered, bickering over which legion should return.
In the end the goblinoid isolate was completely overrun, and connected as it was by carefully engineered shifts to key points in the system, the whole Imperium was vulnerable. Goblinoids, in many case freed by their officers (who were often themselves goblinoids after years of bloody warfare had taken its toll on the eladrin officer core) broke ranks; streaming back to defend their homelands and families.
Concerned about the threat to the entire empire the senate authorized an awesome magical ritual, the like of which had never before been performed in the history of the Imperium, coordinated across dozens of worlds; officially the explanation is that this ritual would "temporarily close all shifts into the goblinoid isolate" giving the Imperium time to muster forces and launch a coordinated counter attack. What actually happened can only be described as a catastrophe. Under the pressure the the goblinoid isolate simply broke; the isolate fracturing and disgorging its contents into all the planes and hundreds of isolates. While small bands of survivors would survive most of the goblinoid population, million of beings, were wiped out in an instant.
The Senate attempted to put the best face on things, but an unfortunate word by a shocked arcanist on the Senate floor would give the event it's name... the sundering minor.
=== The madness: the elves revolt ===
Occurring in the wake of the sundering minor the madness would have much a greater impact, by far on the future of the Imperium. During the years leading up to the sundering minor an apocalyptic doomsday cult took hold among the younger ranks of the eladrin elite. About a week after the sundering minor a large chunk of the eladrin simply left. Some say one in twenty, some say one in ten. They simply left in the dark of night using shifts that, in some cases, have not been found ever again.
In the immediate aftermath the eladrin elders simply assumed that the sundering minor had triggered some sort of mental shock. Years later the theory that it was a reaction to the stifling pressure in eladrin society to conform would gain credence and lead to widespread changes in how the elders would treat their younger siblings.
At the time the senate was distracted, they had advanced into an unprecedented number of isolates at one time; their legions had been decimated by the loss of goblinoids who had ignored orders and returned to their isolate before its obliteration; the officer corp needed to be purged (goblinoids who hadn't reigned in their kin were generally just "relieved of duty" -- eladrin who had done so were usually tried as traitors and maimed or killed); magical rituals needed to be performed to stabilize many shifts that had been damaged; an effort was to be made to find the surviving goblinoids and resettle them on the various isolates (not isolate prime of course, that was reserved for citizens).
The disappearance of their younger kin was just another thing on a long list.
Until the assassinations started.
They began as a trickle, a tax collector here, a governor's aide there. The assassins were precise. The targets were always eladrin. It rapidly became clear that the assassins were also eladrin. A few of the senators enjoyed taking advantage of the situation to pick off annoying rivals while the Senate struggled to deal with the situation. They had conditioned all citizens of the empire to obey eladrin without question, and that made their existing apparatus uniquely poorly suited to try to stop these attackers, many of whom had spent decades or centuries as members of the legion, or, worse still the Imperium spy and police forces.
There were a few victories, one or two of the attackers were captured and survived long enough to reveal some basic details; they called themselves the elves (from the goblinoid word for truth), many had not been close to the mystery cult until its predictions synced up perfectly with the sundering minor; then all these casual non-believers suddenly started to pay a lot more attention to prophesies of "the destruction of virtue" and "the era of atonement and blood". As younger members of the government military apparatus many eladrin who would join the elves had personal contact with goblinoids, often stretching back for decades. Many were incised and shamed by the reaction of their people.
Then, in during Ibon (a funeral festival), a several bands of elves attacked the senate directly. The senator's security forces, lead by the High, quickly overcame their attackers, but not before three of their own were killed. The three who had originally sponsored the ritual that would ultimately trigger the sundering minor. The Proclamation against Insanity was passed that day; though the absence of Ildurn and the snide words he was reported to have said about he proceedings would hang over the assembly.
The armisti Edit
The madness, as it was called, would continue for almost a century. Assassinations were common, but so were kidnappings; only eladrin were taken (they would appear, sometimes centuries later, as converts to this new religion). The elves seemed relentless and impassive, paladins and clerics of the churches, apparently taking their cue from Ildurn -- who would not set foot in the senate during this time -- were less than enthusiastic in rooting out the mad.
Eventually the Senate relented and did what the divinations said was required. They pulled back from every isolate taken during the great campaign that led up the sundering minor. For the next centuries an uneasy truce began; one that has recently become official (from the Imperium's standpoint) with the repeal of the Proclamation against Insanity.
== The Imperium Today ==
Is a place of remarkable contractions
- It is one of the greatest forces for good and order in the cosmos. And also ruthlessly crushes dissent; dominating a half dozen isolates and extending its reach across dozens more.
*It champions the idea of equality among all of its citizens, and yet a small racially homogeneous group has effectively controlled it for thousands of years
*Open debate and oratorical skill is valued above all else; even as an unspoken consensus governs the country
*The Imperium is pledged to peace and openly calls for tolerance among all beings; and it maintains a standing army of such size that it can credibly threaten muster and successfully invade all but the largest and most well defended isolates within a month; has dozens of bands of armed questos acting as a law unto themselves as they scouring the cosmos at all times
*Honor and virtue are considered to be the greatest of virtues and yet the sheer number of half-elves suggests that many of its nobles do not adhere as rigidly to the virtues as they insist
*There is a state mandated worship of the official pantheon; and yet mystery cults thrive in the shadows
*The isolates dominated by the Imperium are generally governed well and fairly few members of the population are wealthy but few starve; the opposite is true on isolate prime most citizens profit little, if at all, from the vast wealth that flows into the Imperium; poverty is common and the wealth gap is vast
===Ambitions of the Imperium===
With cessation of the overt military campaign of annexation in the wake of the sundering minor a hundred years ago and the pullback to the isolates that was completed a century ago the Imperium has avoided outright military activity annexation. Which means the flood of wealth has slowed to a stream. The legions are fresh, in full fighting trim and have nothing to do; the core is well protected; anger within the citizenry is growing over their poverty and lack of options. A good military conflict would solve all those problems.
Some senators have noted that the divinations are clear that "worthy crusades" will not upset the balance and trigger a return of the waves of assassinations that would mark another madness; they are seeking a suitably evil isolate into which to expand. Meanwhile they strategically use bands of questos to seize "areas of concern", employ mercenaries to plunder old ruins for items, or simply buy title to untapped isolates.
A few of the more creative have turned their eyes to the planes; surely annexing part of the shadowfell, or even returning to the feywild, would not disrupt the balance.
The Imperial Pantheon Edit
It is said that the major gods saved mortals during the sundering (each of the 12 saving a certain sort of individual in a certain method) and sprinkled them upon the isolates that they may live their lives.
Each mortal has the capacity to choose between good and evil, and the gods will reward or punish them accordingly.
Deiòs: The god of kings. He governs the sky, the thunder and lightning. The eagle is his symbol, as it is one of the symbols of the Imperium. He is said to have defeated the Primordials and brought peace to the Cosmos.
He also has a somewhat tyrannical and capricious aspect too, and storms are often explained as a manifestation of his anger.
Hadeys: The keeper of the dead. His name is not spoken least it brings misfortune to those who utter it. He is said to dwell and rule in the Shadowlands.
Poseeydus: Ruler of the shifts, Seas and great Lakes, he has influence over the winds, sea travels, and waterbound beasts. He's a feared deity and always sacrificed to before long travels. His priesthood is small but rabid and have declared the shifting seas to be sacred to him; encouraging pilgrimages to demonstrate humility before his whims.
Phoebus: God of the Sun and light. He is said to give mortals the gift of prophecy and foreseeing. In his angered aspect, he is the god of archery and pestilence.
Proserphones: Bride of Hades. Goddes of melancholy and gloom, but also tied to the seasonal cycle and land fertility.
Eefeystos: God of Fire and forge. Mostly revered by dwarves, he is often depicted as maimed. A secluded god, dwelling in the Elemental chaos.
Aressus: God of war and strength. Mostly tied to the violent aspect of battle, he is often given the attribute of cowardice. Often revered by goblinoids.
Hermethis: God of trickery,lies, travel, and luck. He's considered nimble and witty, and often revered by thieves and rogues. He is also said to show the souls the way to the afterlife.
Palladys: Goddess of wisdom and intelligence, but also tied to wars and protection. One of the most revered deities in the Imperium.
Arthamis: Goddess of woods, virginity, hunt and wild beasts, sister of Phoebus. She often represents the wildest aspect of the natural world. Highly revered by feys and other wood-dwelling creatures.
Erath: Bride of Deiòs, goddess of queens and priestesses. She watches upon the order, both in the family and the State. Keeper of traditions, she's also referred to as the goddess of righteous revenge.
Aphrodeys: Goddess of love and passion. Representation of beauty and charm. Also in his hostile aspect, the deity of blinding passion and disorder, and illusions.
Though its theologically agreed that the gods are not of any race the major gods are generally invariably presented as eladrin within the Imperium; the practice of presenting them as non-eladrin in the tales where a certain god was doing something unwise or comical has recently fallen into disfavor and is now frowned upon within the church.
== Races of the Imperium ==
Eladrin: long lived, wise, beautiful the Eladrin dominate the Imperium. They are at the forefront of every area, the greatest statues, the most powerful magics, the mightiest warriors, the wisest sages, the greatest orators of the Imperium are all eladrin. The Eladrin originally hale from a the plane of faerie, and came to live on the isolates four thousand years ago in order to form the Imperium.
While exceptions exist the average Eladrin is wealthy and powerful; they have no need to work, applying themselves to whatever recreation they might find appealing. Those who devote themselves to politics may assist one of the senators, help manage the bearuacracy of the Imperium, or act as a governor of one of the regions. Those who devote themselves to warfare will often become officers in the legion, often leading a phalanx of spear fighters using the techniques the eladrin brought with them.
The impact of the Eladrin can be seen throughout the empire. The "common" tongue is the Eladrin tongue. While a few scholars still study the human tongue it has eroded away completely (some eladrin feel that "human imports" have corrupted their own language as well -- though few would state it in mixed company). Statues in the main plazas on isolate prime invariably feature great eladrin of the past; the Imperial legions have never developed a cavalry force because the eladrin who dominate its officer core sees little need (riding animals is an ungraceful, uncivilized activity and a mount can't travel with them when they feystep anyway).
As a group the Eladrin prize honor, dignity and grace above all things. They feel that in their longevity, intelligence and education they embody the noblest impulses of all the mortal races and are closest to the gods. While eladrin society is rigid and the social expectations are great the recent centuries have seen eladrin elders attempting to grant their younger kind more freedom. In the centuries approaching the madness eladrin society grew stifling with forced apprenticeships that lasted for decades; true or not it is commonly believed by the elders that this was the primary cause of the rebellion. Most elders attempt to encourage their younger kin to get out and explore the world: have fun, become a questos and otherwise "work out youthful energy in a positive manner". As a result young eladrin disproportionately become questos, or simply eschew their responsibilities completely traveling as shifters as their whims take them.
Given their vast lifespans (most eladrin can live for a thousand years or more) many eladrin will die of unnatural causes, be it on the battle field or from a cup of poisoned wine.
Half-Elves: While the government does not reveal precise figures (half-elves are counted as humans in population census) the conventional wisdom on the street is that there are five half-elves for every eladrin within the citizenry of the Imperium. Half-elves seem to be quite.... fecund, and it is hard to not to note the fact that almost every half-elvin family seems to have two or three children.
It is probably the worst kept secret in the Imperium that these children are, not, in fact the children of the half-elves who raise them. They are usually brought to the family by an eladrin patron
A half elf is -never- never raised by an eladrin; though some uncles and aunts take a very close interest in the development of the "nephew" or "niece".
Humans: The backbone of the Imperium. They form the largest component of the ranks of the legion, the unskilled labor pool, the sub-priests and acolytes. A human citizen of the Imperium is rarely wealthy or well educated (though most are functionally literate) but he or she lives his days proud of his or her status as a member of the greatest civilization on the greatest isolate the cosmos has ever known.
Elves: Physically similar to the eladrin their humble clothing usually sets them apart, while still rare in Imperium lands elves have nevertheless grown common enough that people no longer stop on the street to point when they see one.
The senate recently repealed the prohibition upon them entering Imperium lands (see Aeloishi under individuals of note below); while they are usually closely watched by Imperium agents they generally travel unmolested.
With the cessation of overt military annexation by the Imperium most elves have given up (or at least put to rest) their quest to destroy the Imperium. Traveling the dark and dangerous isolates they have become keenly aware of the value of a powerful disciplined nation devoted (at least superficially) to goodness and honor. Some are even considering rejoining the Imperium, if only because it is easier to monitor their brethren at a closer proximity.
Most have forgone the pure aestheticism that marked the first century of the madness and believe that the "era of atonement and blood" is over.
Goblinoids: The goblin diaspora engineered in the wake of the destruction of their isolate means that the goblinoids now exist throughout the Imperium, unfortunately the hopes of of the engineers have proven excessively optimistic. Superficially the goblins of the current era bear little resemblance to the diligent, proud people the Imperium first encountered a half a millennium ago. The knowledge that their isolate was sacrificed while the goblins were fighting Imperium battles elsewhere has poisoned their relationship with the Imperium, the third class position they were relegated to upon their arrival at their new isolate and the centuries of neglect since then have only twisted the dagger of bitterness and hatred deeper. The few goblinoids who aren't bitter usually join the legion, where they often serve in the worst positions; it is their only possible route to citizenship though few advance far enough to receive that position.
(it) = Imperial term
(sh) = shifter lingo
- adventurer - a shifter who travels the isolates; usually a mercenary compare with crusader
*the armisti - the unwritten understanding that the elvin campaign of assassination against the eldarin will not be restarted so long as the Imperium refrains from invading any more isolates.
*back alley (sh) - a not-widely-known-shift, or series of shifts, that connect two major isolates
*cay - a common street term for isolate; believed to have come from the lost human language
*citizen - a member of the Imperium with special privileges and rights (including the right to observe the senate and dwell upon isolate prime; normally someone who was born in the Imperium's home isolate (though legionnaires may also qualify upon reaching a certain rank); for most citizens being a member of the Imperium is far more the most important and largest part of their identity; in theory all citizens are equal and any citizen has the right to petition the senate to hear it;
*crusader - a questos, usually divine, who concerns themselves entirely with fighting the forces of darkness; originally this term was attached only to those questos who served Ildurn however the last century has seen a spike with other senators sponsoring their own bands of questos.
*cosmos - all isolates, collectively (doesn't include planes)
*dead end (sh) - a casual term for an insularity
*district - a political unit within the Imperium; there are districts defined by geography, religion (the worshipers of each major god elect one senator),
*the Eladrin - a race of long lived, highly educated beings; it's members include the rulers of the Imperium
*The High - a handful of senators who are eladrin and extremely aged, including one lich; as a group they are all generally personally powerful, command almost uncountable wealth (though most of it is in the form of assets and resources); Ildurn the deathless is either included in this category (on account of his power and the quantity of questos he controls) or as their opposite (the crusading lich having little in common with the wealthy and decadent members of the high)
*holm - the dwarven term for an isolate, a dwarf says the holm or my holm to refer to the lost isolate the birthplace of their race
*isolate (it) - a term favored by Eladrin scholars for a discrete unit of space that can only be reached by a shift
*isolate major (it) - a designation the Imperium uses for an isolate with a civilization; a precondition for full diplomatic relations; in practice the Imperium has never invaded an isolate major without declaring a state of war, and refrains from unilaterally claiming land or resources. The designation is highly sought after by the inhabitants of isolates who do not have sufficient military strength to hold off a legion making the designation prized
*isolate minor (it) - any isolate that is not an isolate major, or the isolate prime; in principal any occupants have few rights in the eyes of the Imperium and any resources may be claimed by the Imperium (or a citizen on behalf of the Imperium if no authorized representative is present)
*isolate prime (it) - the home isolate of the Imperium; only citizens may dwell upon the prime
*insularity (it) - an isolate that is not connected to any other isolate by permanent shifts; also dead end
*legion (it) - the military unit within the Imperium; generally a full legion will include phalanxes of spear fighters backed up by seige weaponry, golems, a full squad of arcanists and priests. While the Imperium lacks mobile forces like cavalry, and depends upon mercenaries to suppy ranged weaponry it is nevertheless a force to be recoded with. Entire kingdoms have (wisely in many cases) surrendered to the Imperium simply because a legion has shifted into their isolate.
*the mad (it) - a term for elves, no longer in wide use
*The Obligation - the obligation felt by many dwarves to serve the Imperium in exchange for having freed them from bondage and found them the current isolate where they dwell
*The Ocean - the original body of water that is supposed to have surrounded Pangea, the priesthood of Palladys has asserted that the Ocean became the shifting seas after the sundering.
*plane - one of the dimensions that border all (or at least many) isolates. There is tremendous debate among scholars as to whether a planes are *isolates with certain unusual properties, extremely large shifts that have developed their own eco-systems, some after effect of the sundering, or something else entirely. Well known planes include the Shadowlands, the Farie and the Abyss.
*quester - a shifter who serves, or works primarily for, the Imperium; from questos; this term widely used on the fringes of the Imperium and frowned upon the closer you get to the center
*questos (it) - someone who has received a writ from the Imperium granted to them by a senator; it comes with certain privileges and responsibilities, usually only a citizen can become a questos; in theory most questos serve the good of the Imperium and the will of the gods; in practice certain questos seem more interested in protecting the interest of the senators they serve
*shift - a zone that allows travel between worlds
*shifter - someone who travels between worlds regularly; often synonymous with adventurer but it has a broader meaning including traders and messengers
*the shifting seas - a massive area, covering close to one third of the known isolates. The nature of the shifting seas, including whether it is properly called an isolate, a massive shift zone or something else at all, has been debated for centuries. See the Imperium's view of the shifting seas
*The Senate - the governing body of the Imperium; membership is generally for life; in principal, anyone can be elected, in practice it is overwhelmingly dominated by the Eladrin; 40 of its 55 members are eladrin; 7 are dwarves; leaving 7 seats for the younger races. Power within the senate is an arcane affair often managed through unspoken consensus among the eladrin; however open debate is encouraged and skilled oratory will often carry the day (sometimes at the expense of the facts grouse certain observers)
*senator - first among equals in the Imperium and a member of the Senate; tenured for life senators are elected by a districts; With one notable exception (see Ildurn, below) each senator is expected to address the senate at least once a year; even the least of senators has the right to speak to the senate, invite guests to speak and the right to five questos.
*skerry (sh) - a small isolate, or a dangerous, poorly explored one, from the goblin term for isolate
*the sundering (it) - an event shrouded in history which supposedly split the Pangea into the isolates that form the current cosmos
*the sundering minor - the disastrous side effect of an attempt to prevent an invasion of the Imperium from the goblinoid isolate; it resulted in the complete obliteration of that isolate
*trigger - a method for opening a non-permanent shift; can be an object, or an action or a combination of the two
Other stuff Edit
the cult of the unification
mystery cults (demons, moander); opposed to the rule of the gods
should their be a patron/client system?
Individuals of note Edit
- Aeloishi - a beautiful and charming elf who made a mockery of the Imperium's fabled Prohibition against Insanity by traveling to all the states of the Imperium and impersonating an eladrin so perfectly that she was able to receive the personal stamp of each governor on a plain papyrus scroll. Challenging the Imperium to "get over old hatreds" she convinced the senate to remove the prohibition; she travels frequently but makes her home on isolate prime and has grown so involved in politics that she is sometimes called the 56th senator.
*Ildurn the Deathless - a member of the high, the longest serving senator, and almost certainly the strangest. Over a thousand years ago Ildurn was a devoted cleric of the sun god during the time of the purge. Captured by the demon worshipers he was forced to undergo vile rites that would turn him into an undead. The transformation worked, but Ildurn would not bow to their dark god even in death, he wiped out the entire cult and returned to the temple of the sun god. Throwing himself upon the altar as the sun rose he begged for destruction. The sun god apparently refused, altering Ildurn into some sort of strange undead that has never been seen before or again.
Ildurn appears to be a husk animated by blinding light; and is customarily heavily cloaked to avoid blinding people around him. He is not an orator by any stretch, has not addressed the Senate in more than 500 years and famously skipped the passing of the Prohibition of Insanity; calling it a "a distracting irrelevance from more important matters". He is not likable, but his questos are fiercely, some would say fanatically loyal to Ildurn and his mission, traveling to the most downtrodden and dark isolates to fight hopeless battles against the darkness.
He has by far the most questos; its a poorly concealed secret that he abides by no rules but his own grooming and recruiting holy warriors as part of an unceasing personal war against the forces of darkness. Some senators have quietly suggested removing him the senate for one reason for another; however those same individuals fear that he wouldn't change anything he was doing and he would become a force unto himself. For now a cadre of senators works as best they can to limit his power; sending their own questos to intervene in areas before they come to the liches attention (especially sensitive ones where they have their own interests); sponsoring their own groups of crusaders and so forth.