Cultural History of Chaldea
Cultural History of Chaldea
Author’s Note: I like the notion that culture is rarely simple or one-dimensional. Sure, there are homogenous cultures that fit into a nice box but if you look closely most great cities or memorable civilizations were composed of a bit of this and a bit of that. If you were to walk down the streets of ancient Rome I imagine it would sound a lot like Manhattan (well, except the subways and taxi horns of course) with a great variety of languages, fashion, and skin shapes and colors. When thinking about culture in Chaldea I like to visualize it as layers that have built up over time, with each new cultural influence adopting elements from what has come before while bringing in its own influence.
- The Original Chaldeans
The oldest cultural influence in Chaldea is dwarven. While there is some evidence of other cultures in the far distant past, like the marns in the Mountains of Chaos or primitive elven settlements in the Garnon Forest, these are rare and exist only in localized regions. But remnants abound of prehistoric dwarven cities and mines from the time before the dragons, lending credence to dwarven claims that they at one time populated the known world. No one knows for certain when this era started but sages agree on when it ends
- when the dragons came.
The prehistoric dwarves would hardly be recognizable alongside the dwarves of today. They lived on the surface, much like humans, and did not have nearly the warrior tradition of their modern-day counterparts. During this period they did, however, develop their love and universally-acclaimed skill of crafting stone and metal. But they also farmed land and herded livestock.
In current times, remains of prehistoric dwarven settlements and roads can easily be found throughout the known world. There are several notable examples of where humans from the Dark Times expanded dwarven settlements and subsequently the human additions wore away leaving the prehistoric dwarven architecture remarkably well preserved.
Prehistoric dwarves loved mining too, of course, but were content in those days to mine fairly close to the surface. The deep mines and underground roads and railways that dwarves are known for now would not come until later. Also, since the dwarves of this time were quite peaceful (except for the occasional spats between clans), one will not find strongly military fortifications or complex underground strongholds from this era. There is evidence of great prehistoric dwarven citadels on the surface but none of them survived the era that followed.
Author’s Note: When GM’ing Chaldea it’s appropriate to occasionally note that some abandoned keep, a section of old road, or even a palace or stone manor “shows signs of long term use, dating back to prehistoric times, but is still in remarkably good condition.” An easy success with the appropriate skill will reveal it as prehistoric dwarven.
The Great War of Dwarves and Dragons
- A Cultural Setback
By historical standards this era was relatively short, perhaps only 100 to 200 years in duration (see Dwarves and Dragons for more historical context), but during this short interval the face of Chaldea would change dramatically and permanently.
Dwarves had always had a penchant for mining and working with stone but now this skill came into the forefront as a vital discipline for survival. Dragons could be avoided by going underground, and dwarven communities that became isolated by the dragons’ armies occupying the surface could reconnect through underground highways and railroads. Dwarves of this era also quickly developed a warrior tradition under the leadership of Clanggedin. Vast numbers of dwarves were slain in the war. Most of those who remained fled underground. Deep underground
- they started digging and never stopped. Some say the dwarves still dig, seeking to distance themselves further and further from the surface world.
During this era the dragons introduced three races (kobolds, orcs, and humans) into Chaldea on a large scale and countless others (mostly “monsters”) in more modest numbers, accounting for most of the racial diversity witnessed in Chaldea today. Kobolds were the result of an aggressive breeding program by the dragons using their own sperm to seed the project, a program most dragons would say failed miserably. Humans and orcs were brought in as armies from other planes, humans as mercenaries, orcs as slaves.
None of these races, not even the dragons, contributed much culturally to Chaldea during this era other than tearing down the peaceful dwarven culture of the time and prompting dwarven culture to quickly adapt toward warfare and underground migration. If the orcs of this era were capable of creating terrifying bastions of hatred, none of them have survived til this day. The humans of this era were nearly as savage and murderous as orcs, caring not at all for music, poetry, art, or performance.
Dragons are, of course, quite skilled at hiding their lairs. If the remnants or ruins of any dragon lairs from this era still exist, they have yet to be discovered.
The Dark Times
- Human Culture Flourishes
Once the dragons lost interest in warring against the dwarves it didn’t take long for the humans and orcs to begin warring against each other. Within a hundred years or so human intelligence and the ability to cooperate won out against hatred and savagery. Orcs receded to the more mountains regions and the underground realms vacated by the dwarves when they dug even deeper. And humans became the dominant culture across the surface of Chaldea.
Because they essentially migrated from other worlds humans of Chaldea did not have to evolve from cave men. When the dragons brought humans to Chaldea those humans brought with them the technologies, sciences, and social outlooks roughly equivalent to Earth’s humans of the Bronze Age. From the get-go they were masters of agriculture, stone masonry, calendars, reading and writing (only for the scholarly of course), paper, pottery, rope, simple ships of oar and sail, knowledge of how to domesticate horses, and basic weapons like swords, spears, and bows. Metal-smithing at the time was limited to copper, tin, and bronze. The dwarves were already working with iron but managed to keep this technology secret.
So with the dragons and dwarves gone and the orcs and kobolds marginalized humans very rapidly settled the known world and began doing what you’d expect humans of ancient-era temperament and technology to do—-eat, fuck, build things, kill each other, and then sing about it. This went on for about a thousand years.
Author’s Note: One thousand years is long time. In our world, during the thousand years from 1000 BC to Year 0 we see humanity evolve from dramatically. The period opens with the Babylonian Empire in full swing, only to be replaced by the Persians, then the Medes, and then the Greeks, who managed to also find time to invent democracy, city-states, Olympic games, and the Iliad, only to be whooped by the Romans who founded the republic, but lost it again by the time Jesus is born. And that’s just in Mesopotamia. I mention this to remind us of how much human culture can advance in this amount of time.
The first human culture to emerge above the rest were the Perts. The Perts had established control early over western, populated areas of the large island of Perrin and developed sea travel which they used to spread their culture throughout Chaldea. At the time of their greatest expansion the Perts occupied Dorsang, Port Facility, Az, Estone, Modava, Georgia, and Aimill. The Pert social structure is inspired from the European medieval culture with squires, knights, lords, ladies, barons, earls, dukes, princes and princesses, kings and queens, and so on. This structure survived, with some local nuances, long after Pert rule of these territories ended.
Author’s Note: The territories listed cover the area where much of the action takes place in the fiction. This gives Chaldea a strong anchor in western fantasy with some familiar structures running through it while leaving room to layer in other cultural influences on a case by case basis. And, of course, there’s plenty of room outside this region for other types of cultural exploration. Read on.
The island of Perrin was also a bastion of power for the dragons in the previous era and there are still more dragons living here than anywhere else and some of the mountain regions are still ruled by dragons. Even though the Perts conquered many other regions of Chaldea they never completely conquered their home island.
Author’s Note: I admit it, I love the notion of knights fighting dragons. The legend of Saint George fighting the dragon is a favorite. Someday I’ll find a roleplayer who wants to play a dragon-slaying knight and Perrin will be waiting! Long live Dragonlance!
The Modavans throughout this period were known as a brutal, warlike culture. The kingdom threw off the shackles of Pert rule after gaining support from the Greek goddess Hecate. The ruling Ptolemy family claims direct heritage from the goddess. The Modavans have been a strong player in the politics of the region that includes Estone, Roosh, Kazaktow, Tadzhiz, Kirgiz, and sometimes as far away as Az and Lat.
In the eastern reaches of the empire the Trevens gained prominence, first by annihilating the orcs who dwelt in the Treven mountains, driving them back into the plains of Muk and Satan’s Testicles, and then gaining notoriety as river Vikings by sailing and pillaging down the numerous rivers that flowed from the Treven mountains.
Trevens have a long history of braving the dangers of the enchanted Garnon Forest by daring to sail the length of the Garnon River through the Swamp of Conn.
Until outlawed by Emperor Kordaava, Trevens held strong religious ties to Norse deities. When the Norse deity Balder found “friendly” giants who were being wiped out by Surt, Balder relocated them to the lands east of Treve.
The Targonians hail from the mountainous southern continent. This hot, tropical domain features thick jungles, heavy rains, lush savannah, long muddy rivers, and a vast elven forest but is best known for what lies at its southern most edge
- the Mountains of Chaos. Here, the veil that separates this world from the chaos planes is thin and incursions of netherworldly horrors or armies led by beastlords or chaos godlings happen from time to time.
As a result the Targonians are a wary culture, learned in many arcane arts, and well practiced at skills like summoning, binding, and exorcism, which are necessary for dealing with other-planar threats. Dealing with these incursions and the taints they leave behind have kept Targonians looking more toward the south, watching the mountains, then exploration and conquest of other cultures.
Other cultures, like the Perts, have sometimes colonized parts of Targonia but the continent is so large that Targonians usually just fade to the background in that area and let the natural inhabitants of bugs and carnivorous plants create such a hostile environment that the foreigners decide it’s not worth it and leave of their own accord.
The Aimians were the original inhabitants of Tolance and Ulbere. The Aimians suffered greatly at the hands of the Trevens from the east, the Orshavans from the north, the orcs and Manti from the south, and the Larktans from the northwest. Ultimately they forged an agreement with the Atars, who sold to them the land now known as Aimill. Today when people think of Aimians they think of Aimill but there remains a large population of Aimians, by custom if not by law, in the kingdom of Larkt. The Aimians here enjoy some degree of self-governance from their cultural capital of Tours.
The Larktans emerged as the most prominent human culture in the region upriver from the Manti after numerous wars with the Orshavans to the east and the Aimians to the south.
Before the Trevens, the Larktans, and the Manti ascended to their current glory the Lats were the dominant faction throughout the eastern portion of the Kordavan Empire. The lands of Larkt, Ulbere, Orshava, Mantis, Tolance, and Volanda were all under Lat control at one time or another.
Somacian culture is an amalgam of all the Hollywood stereotypes of Arabian culture. Sheiks, harems, scimitars, camels, viziers, and, of course, djinns and efreets. Somacians are knowns for their skill at horseback and the use of bolas.
While the humans won the fight for supremacy the orcs are definitely not out of the picture. There are numerous orc cultures that dot the face of Chadlea, from small warbands up to significant orc nations. [Needs work]
[Still to do: Elves, Agitars, Roden, Spiders]
The Kordavan Empire
Once Kordaava became emperor of the known world he established clearly-defined borders for all the various kingdoms of the Empire. Most dramatically, many kingdoms that had colonized areas outside their homelands saw those colonies turned over to local jurisdictions.
Most heavily impacted was the Kingdom of Perrin who held significant colonies in Estone, Port Facility, and Targonia. Now, the Perts only rule Perrin and a number of islands.