I wrote this a long while ago, and it’s likely to get a complete overhaul eventually. I’m going to retool the Trial version into the Lite version, and this will be greatly altered in the process. Until then, I figure some basic info on the setting is due. Submitted for your approval, the unedited Table Tactics Trial version:
In a world covered by endless water… No, wait, that’s not where this happens at all. In yet another isometric grid-world, on the continent of Thelea, the countries of Austellus and Byzantius continue to fight an endless war. The Old Empire has faded into legend, and only historians can imagine a time when the people of Thelea worked in unison. Things have changed greatly from the time of the Old Empire, but war still forms the core of almost every person’s life.
THE OLD EMPIRE
Long ago in the lands now occupied by Austellus and Byzantius, the Old Empire rested, secure in its power. It ruled every inch of Thelea, trading with and warring against strange and distant powers (seriously, those other guys were really weird). The Gods of Thelea were good friends of the Empire, each aiding the other. The prayers of the common folk empowered the Gods, and the gifts of the Gods strengthened the Empire. It was a pretty sweet deal while it lasted.
THE MAD GOD
As the power of the Old Empire slowly unraveled, one of the Gods fell victim to a strange madness. His warped power tainted the Aether, realm of the Gods, and threatened to overwhelm the others. They were unable to strike him down and did the Godly thing; they cast him down to Thelea for the mortals to deal with. The Mad God wandered the lands, spreading his terrible Blight across the Empire. Four Warriors from the far corners of the Old Empire teamed up (I feel like I’ve heard this setup before) and defeated the Mad God. They buried the Corpse deep within an underground temple designed by powerful mages to contain the Blight. It was a great idea, but only worked moderately well. As if no one saw that one coming…
THE FOUNDING OF THE NORTH AND SOUTH
When the Old Empire fell, the most powerful Noble family split into two factions – one loyal to the eldest male of the family, the other united with his twin sister. The two factions grew quickly into nations, and established their capitals a mere two hundred miles apart, separated by an expansive Blighted field.
The brother’s faction settled in the North, uniting the people between the Great Mountains and the central line of Thelea. They focused on holding to the traditions and ceremonies of the Old Empire, continuing their alliance with the Gods. In little time, Byzantius was a power to be reckoned with.
The sister’s faction went South, pulling in people between the central line and the Desert of Froze Flame. They rejected the Gods, seeing them as the cause for the Empire’s fall, and built a society shaped by mortal hands alone. I’d talk about how they also quickly rose to power, but I’m sure you’ve already figured that out.
BYZANTIUS – THE NORTH KINGDOM
The powerful and scaly lizardmen of the Satha Nobility rule the North with the aid of the Church of Thelea. The Lords and Ladies of the Satha house are known for their kindness and wisdom, and the King is known for his generous… size. The King, or Adipose Rex as he prefers, is a favorite of the people and his daughter looks to do an excellent job of filling his position when he finally passes. Well, sort of, she’s in much better shape, so she won’t literally fill his position. She is well renowned for her skill on the battlefield as well as on the throne.
The Church helps keep the North running, providing education to the common people and leading them in proper worship of the Gods. The clergy are responsible for maintaining the delicate friendship with the Gods, as well as running schools, hospitals, and providing magic users for the Northern armies. That, and hunting down heretics worshipping Forbidden Gods. No one really likes to talk about that part, though.
AUSTELLUS – THE SOUTH DEMOCRACY
Democracy is the “king” of the South, a powerful Senate of seventeen members guiding the future of the country. Instead of a Church, a government controlled Military handles the public services needed for the many citizens. The seventeen territories of the South appear to work great together, as long as you overlook the scheming senators and mayors working hard to grab power from each other and their neighbors. Fortunately, government positions can only be held for four years, and eventually a new round of politicians comes in, expecting a whole different set of bribes.
The Military is the backbone of the South, running the army and public services. While the Nobles of the North fund their armies out of pocket, Military service in the South is a mandatory two years of service upon coming of age. Many stay on with the Military after their two years are up, making a career out of helping other Southerners. And, you know, killing Northerners.
THE DUNGEON EXPLORATION SOCIETY
When the Four Warriors killed the Mad God and entombed his corpse, everyone thought that was the end of things. The terrible warping powers of the Blight stretched the temple’s passages through the ground. They grew until they met with the decaying underground tunnels of the cities abandoned when the Old Empire fell. Before long, the Blight weaved its way under the entirety of Thelea.
The infinite expanse of tunnels contained two things that got the attention of every person in Thelea; an endless font of Blight-born monsters and an incredible supply of Old Empire treasures forgotten in the turmoil of the fall. In order to retrieve the treasures and purge the monsters, the builders of the Mad God’s temple formed a society focused on monster killing and dungeon crawling.
The Society changed greatly over time and the Chobbin builders that started it used the treasures they found to develop a merchant empire. A council of merchant princes descended from the founders continue the work of their forebears, training teams to enter into the ruins and hunt down the Blight monsters. Not for free, of course – the North and South pay a pretty penny to have professional hunters take care of rampaging beasts that leave the dungeons and haunt the lands.
THE BONE DICE
Even before the Old Empire crumbled, various pirate groups roamed the West Ocean. A huge network of islands in the West Ocean provided unlimited hiding space from the powerful navy of the Empire. When the Old Empire began to decline the three most powerful pirate guilds decided that combining their power would give them the best chance to conquer the West.
A powerful Necromancer, a gifted Brigand, and a charming Corsair walked into a bar. Wait, that’s not it… But I do know a good one that starts like that. The three leaders left it up to a roll of the dice, and since every one of them rolled a one, they decided to share power between the three of them. With their groups combined they went on to unite all the lesser pirate guilds in the West. As the Old Empire’s navy fell apart, the newly formed Bone Dice became the force in the West.
The Bone Dice now rule the West Ocean and are pushing hard against the shores of Austellus and Byzantius. On the water, neither the North nor the South can compete with the navy of the Bone Dice, and on land bands of brigands roam the war torn western border. Before long, the Bone Dice may be a genuine military force on land as much as on sea.
THE ETERNAL WAR
No one is entirely sure how the fighting between the North and South started (seriously, I’ve got no idea), but the general consensus is that the war will never end. The old imperial desire for conquest still lives in the people of both nations, and neither one will be satisfied until the other is under their rule. Though the desire is there, the incredible fortifications of each capital and the amount of resources tied up in the fighting along the western and eastern stretches of the border, the nations are unlikely to truly overtake the other.
Both countries have a final fallback, something that would level the field if they were being overrun. Neither one wants to use their secret weapon as an opening punch, knowing that the instant escalation could lead to them both being wiped out. With their efforts tied up in the Eternal War, the surrounding areas are safe from the buried imperialist natures of Austellus and Byzantius.
THE BLIGHT, THE RUINS, AND THE MONSTERS, OH MY
The Eternal War is not the only resource sink for the North and South. No place on Thelea is truly untouched by the Blight, and fighting it and the monsters it produces back takes more effort than the Dungeon Exploration Society alone can muster. As the Blight grows and transforms, the temple that houses the Mad God’s corpse moves further and further away in the labyrinth. The temple crawls deeper underground as twisting tunnels form all around it, hiding it from the surface even as it keeps it connected. The dungeons born of the ruins and labyrinths combining are constantly assaulted by Society teams. The teams work to discover a way back to the temple, as well as break the connection between the the Blighted tunnels and the dungeon. The hope is that the Mad God can be found again, and the Blight contained, but every year this goal grows further away.
When a dungeon goes long enough without discovery, a powerful monster is born out of the Blight’s power. These deadly creatures come in a wide variety, ranging from huge, mindless, and physically powerful to the intelligent and consciously evil. Normally a Society monster hunting party is able to defeat these beasts, but the truly powerful ones can take entire armies to stop.