Fluff is mostly from Clinton’s book. Crunch is original with ideas from the book and Josh. Onomastics from Clinton and various Internet sources.
Across the deep waters of Absolon’s Way lie the ruins of Maldor, once the grandest empire Near has ever known. Before the Shadow Moon came, Maldor ruled the world, its empire spreading from the Eastern Sea to the frozen waters of the South and the Hungry River of the north. Maldor’s most distinctive feature was its tremendous walled cities, giant sealed engines of industry and culture. As the empire fell and shrunk back to the center of Near, many of its cities were ruined as terror and plague eradicated their denizens. These cities, filled with secrets and danger, are a destination for especially foolish or brave adventurers.
Today the land is much different; the old ways of the Empire have given way to brazen robber barons and failed principalities that can just barely protect their Lords, leaving the peasantry and negligible citizenry to fight for the scraps.
Maldor is made up of a variety of geography, from rolling plains stretching to the ocean in the east to forest-covered hills in the west. It once was beautiful. It now looks like someone dropped a bomb on the cover of a sad-eyed-wizard fantasy novel.
When the Sky Fire fell, Emperor Absolon passed on and Maldor passed into darkness. As people took to the land again, the country found itself shattered, with local lords claiming royal blood dividing the land up like lions on a carcass: unfair and bloody. The disparity between the wealthy and poor is immense; only those families with great stone fortresses and great stores were able to emerge as anything but destitute.
The Lords of the land press commoners into service as infantry, farmers, artisans, or whatever suits their whims. Outright war between these Lords is not uncommon as they attempt to gain dominance over each other. None have achieved their goal, however, and the country remains divided.
The Maldorites are war-weary, blindly attempting to follow their old ways of life. The people are a mix of ethnicities, although the noble lines are all Caucasoid in appearance. Nobility treasures their blood and the peasants huddle together, but families are often separated by war, hunger, and wanderlust. Filthy children run rampant; with nothing to own, people make much of their only resource.
Maldor is in its dark ages; the old Civil Service wilted soon after the academies closed down, with the remaining officials turning their talents of lore and wizardry to the service of the Lords in an effort of survival, becoming courtiers. The noble courts are now the primary centers of learning in Maldor. Sciences, history and the arts of wizardry are transmitted by masters to their disciples individually, as they will and care.
Art and culture take second-place to survival. Among the noble classes, art still exists in collections from before the Shadow Moon came. Tapestries, painting, and sculpture are most prized. Artists are employed by lords, but innovation is rare: the artists are called on to make knock-offs of preShadow art more than anything else. Musicians and actors do well if they can find a liege, as owning the better court entertainment is a major point of pride for these cardboard nobles playing at being kings.
Other troubadours wander the countryside, going from inn to inn to make a few pieces of gold. It is said that one enterprising merchant hired a gang of mercenaries to pillage a fallen city and is now printing books using a press they managed to liberate. From the borderlands, there are stories of commoners banding together to rebuild villages; these communes are said to sponsor community theatres of dubious quality, but high humor.
The food of Maldor is considered bland by the rest of the world, but it is hearty and filling. Potatoes are served at every meal, from a commoner’s feast to a noble’s snack. On the other hand, Maldor’s beer is the best in the world.
The Maldorian economy can be described as an ever hungry violent monster, constantly devouring itself to live. Farmers grow grain, corn, potatoes, and other root vegetables and raise goats, sheep, and cattle for milk and food, but it never seems to be enough, especially as the Lords take an obscene amount of crops and livestock in land taxes to pay for their wars. Beer and vodka make up a large amount of their exports, especially to the Gorenite highlands. Metal is found in the western hills, and what doesn’t become an axe or breastplate gets sold to the iron-poor north. Most families have to supplement their income by taking up the sword. The nobles promise good pay in their armies, although plenty of young people end up dying on the end of a sword before payday.
Individual lords of Maldor supplement their coffers by trading priceless artifacts and antiquities to foreigners. The Ammenite Houses are the major buyers of these objects. There is good pay in Maldor for a seasoned explorer; the ruins of many great cities are filled with arms and art, as well as fierce ratkin unlikely to appreciate pillagers.
Maldor is the linchpin of TSoY in that it holds the Shadow of Yesterday: the past is everywhere in sight and its weight oppresses the land every day. A game set in Maldor will not necessarily go all revolutionary, however; characters may well end up championing the feudal obligations, transforming the shallow rule of warlords into a real social contract between the rulers and the ruled. I try to reflect this in the crunch, which provides some functional-but-not-quite means for upholding a society in an essentially lawless, feudal context.
Maldor also has a function as the point of relation between the fantasy genre and Near; this is why I start the book with it. Basically Maldor is your normal fantasy setting, so if you want to play around with thieves’ guilds and such, this is the place. There are only few fantasy staples that can’t be inserted here at the group’s pleasure, and ADVENTURE CAMPAIGNS are more than natural, whether they only start or remain indefinitely in Maldor.
Maldorian society is traditionally chauvinistic, which means more for the upper classes and less for the lower. It’s become pretty typical in fantasy roleplaying through recent years to actively ignore this facet of medievalism in favor of gender transparency, which is something you can easily do here as well for player characters (or everybody) if you want; however, I suggest considering the opposite tack as well: if you want to play a woman of Maldor, is it not an important part of her identity that she has to deal with these issues in her life?
My own first instinct would be to simply play a male character if I wanted to avoid dealing with this (admittedly well-worn, at least here in my own play environment) issue. Another important point is that at least in my experience bad play around gender has often resulted from disabling play as opposed to enabling; the Story Guide shouldn’t simply use gender as a sadistic hammer for harassing some players.
In practice: if you are Story Guiding for female characters and feel like forbidding the character from leaving her home or speaking in public, consider the situation as a genuine choice for the player, not a prerequisite for play; should they choose to have her rebel, respect the character’s right to try to change her circumstances or even the world.
The diminishing middle class of imperial Maldor is represented today by courtiers and craftsmen. When the common people are concerned only with survival and the Lords only with war, the cultural heritage of the land and the world is in their hands.
Freedom is at a premium in the lawless Maldor. Even the nobility is constrained in their lives by the expectations of their peers and vassals, and by the necessities of war. The game is played for the highest stakes of all, but it is far from certain whether participating in it is worth the sacrifice, morally right or even humane. Getting out might cost even more, however, because your family is just as committed as you are.
Maldorian peasants as player characters seem to usually be either vagrants, rebels or not peasants for long; the social framework of Maldor is such that it doesn’t make for much of a drama to accept this lot in life. If the player character doesn’t want to leave and doesn’t want to change the system, the Story Guide does well to proffer him a chance at social betterment through the court or battlefield.
Rebellions discontent with the rule of particular Lords mingle freely with proper revolutions that strive to start new societies afresh. Reformation towards the society of the old Empire is far from unknown as well in the central areas that still remember. I don’t hesitate to mix modernistic, utopian and high philosophical ideas into the social movements that roll through the Maldorian countryside. There is no one revolution, but many.
The basic theory is that Maldorites use Romance names (Hispanic, particularly), but for some reason my own games always tend towards Germanic when I’m not paying attention. Cities get names ending in “-burg” and so on. It’s probably because fantasy empires are usually German here in Finland or something.
Carlos, Michele, Pedro, Porfirio, Victor, Francisco, Tamim, Alejo, Reinaldo, Saul, Alberto, Anibal, Herminio, Lucio, Rodrigo. Go pure Latin for wizards and other academics if you’d like, Latinizing their given names back into the old language.
Laura, Juanita, Rosamunda, Zelda, Josefina, Cristina, Beatriz, Esther, Zoe, Ana, Isadora, Doroteia, Genoveva, Natalia, Montserrat.
Villanueva, Martinez, Escudero, Cortes, Garcia, Carrion, Martinez, Botella, Pena, Vina. Also form personal compounds from multiple ancestors with the y conjunction; form family names from personal names with the -ez or -es suffix; form noble holdings with the de/del/de la preposition.
Aveiro, Mirandela, Murca, Redondo, Tarazona, Pena Uibino, Tafalla, Herras, Tharais, Lora, Alpera, Palmogo. Combine geographical features (such as “Bosque”, forest) or other names with de for variety or specificity, like “of” in English.
Typical Ability SPECIALIZATIONS for Maldorites include brewing beer, gambling, competitions, literacy, imperial history, multiculturalism, complex social hierarchies, legal systems, power agriculture, discipline, nationalism, honor, nobility (as a personal trait), fine romance, using shields, using particular throw-back tech, using particular tactics in battle, politics.
Typical Pool CONDITIONING for Maldorites comes from peonage, noble upbringing, academic background, camp follower childhood, harsh mentoring, life of crime, cult childhood.
Typical Ability ENHANCEMENTS for Maldorites include prestigious fighting schools, courtesan training, terrorist training, scholarly degrees, forgotten magic, noble pedigree, cult pedigree.
Typical Ability SYNERGIES for Maldorites include fighting on horseback, scrounging with research, stealthy demolitions, dueling military officers, all social Abilities with etiquette.
Typical Ability RETRAINING for Maldorites includes music (and many other things, come to that) with Reason and instinctual matters with Vigor.
Typical EQUIPMENT for Maldorites includes swords, helmets, horses, breastplates, axes, spears, plows, looms, elaborate dresses, writing implements, artifacts magical and mundane, explosives, adventuring gear.
|The revolutionary elements in Maldor have re-discovered the ancient knowledge of explosives, although they haven’t made the discovery of firearms yet. This ability allows one to create and detonate these implements of destruction, hopefully without losing a hand.|
|Maldorite nobility approaches personal combat as something of a harsh art form. Masterful armsmen (themselves often military) are valued as instructors, and these skills are also expected from courtiers who interact with the nobles. The Ability can be used to fight with great flair and finesse with a variety of weapons; it is weak in chaotic situations where the character is not in control, however.|
|While most academies have been abandoned in Maldor, the practical skills of engineering are maintained by master craftsmen. This Ability can be used to plan and direct the building of various ambitious structures, the most important of which may be the castles and fortresses of the lords.|
|Maldorian upper classes live in a shifting social environment, with ancient, feudal and outright martial mores intermixed in their courtly life. This Ability can be used to recognize and present the appropriate cues for nobility, civil officials, ladies and other members of the court.|
|Fine Art (I)|
|This Ability is used to produce marble statues, oil paintings and other sophisticated art typical of the Maldor of old. The work requires highly expensive tools and materials, and specialized working conditions, but the results are also breath-taking, beyond creations of mere craft.|
|Maldor is the seat of history with its ample ruins and unscathed libraries. This Ability can be used to know the truth about the Antiquity (as pre-Shadow days are known in Maldor), to operate ancient technology and to write new histories of the more recent past. Heraldry and noble genealogy are an issue of history as well.|
|While most Maldorites are very poor, their land is covered with the riches of times past. This ability can be used to evaluate ruins, recognize valuable finds, comb battlefields and so on.|
|Secret of Counter-strike|
|The character can use DUELING (V) in a fight to counter a Secret with a Pool cost another character is trying to activate by paying INSTINCT equal to what the opponent is paying. If he succeeds, the opponent suffers penalty dice equal to INSTINCT spent if the fight continues.|
|Cost: 1+ INSTINCT|
|Secret of Culture|
|The character with this Secret has been schooled in the tradition of the old Academies, making his mind into a weapon; when a conflict concerns academic knowledge, the player may opt to not roll and use the Ability value directly as the result.|
|Cost: 1 REASON|
|Secret of Dueling Stance|
|As long as the character can hold to a disciplined stance with DUELING (V), he can lower any fighting Harm coming his way by paying INSTINCT on a 1:1 basis.|
|Cost: 1+ INSTINCT|
|Secret of Fealty|
|The character can refresh his Pool by working to fulfill his duty as a vassal. The refreshed Pool depends on the type of work as determined by the Story Guide. Vigor is most likely for commoners.|
|Secret of Ladyship|
|The character can use Pool and Effects for bonus dice on behalf of others she has met, even when not present. She can also use the Pools and Effects of the same people herself when they are present, spending at most points up to an ETIQUETTE (I) check (possibly RESISTED (R)).|
|Requirement: KEY OF NOBILITY|
|Secret of Lordship|
|Whenever the character would gain bonus dice from fealty and respect of his vassals, he may turn them into penalty dice for said vassal at his pleasure. Additionally, the character does not pay creation nor upkeep costs for one such Effect per vassal.|
|Requirement: KEY OF NOBILITY|
|Secret of Noble Blood|
|The character’s descent from the ancient nobility of Maldor runs true. He has an extra generic Pool point that refreshes at the end of each scene.|
|Secret of Pretender|
|The character can use a Secret associated with a social position he does not actually hold with a successful DECEIT (I) check. If he takes the result as an Effect, he can continue using the Secret as long as his deceit holds.|
|Cost: 2 INSTINCT|
|Secret of Scavenging Grounds (area)|
|The character has a certain area, such as a seminal battlefield or large ruin, which he knows particularly well. The player can make the area itself an equipment, creating it with the SCROUNGING (I) Ability. Suitable equipment ratings might concern finding certain kinds of supplies there, seeking shelter or knowing the pitfalls therein, for example. The character can also use the SECRET OF CREATION (SCROUNGING) while in the area, except that he pays INSTINCT instead of VIGOR for any equipment he finds, the equipment does not have to be mundane, and the Story Guide gets to choose all but one of the ratings and half of the imbuements in the item.|
|Key of Manipulation|
|The character is situated to influence a ruler’s politics while himself staying in the shadows.|
|1xp: Advise your ruler.|
|2xp: Act against your ruler’s interests.|
|5xp: Force your ruler to follow your will.|
|Buyoff: Accept the mantle of power for yourself.|
|Key of Nobility|
|The character considers himself one of the privileged in Maldor, justified in his rule by his nobility.|
|1xp: Your status comes up.|
|2xp: You get the respect you deserve.|
|5xp: Prove yourself better than commoners.|
|Buyoff: Humble yourself in front of commoners.|
|Key of Revolution|
|Maldor is wracked by social unrest as unjust governments struggle to hold onto power against ideas old and new.|
|1xp: Speak against the ruler.|
|2xp: Act against the government.|
|5xp: The government reacts to you in fear and concern.|
|Buyoff: Accept a favor from the government.|