The Gods of Keldora
Keldora is where the Gods rule mortal life, where the spawn of the previously defeated Titans and their makers, the Elders, threaten the world, in the wake of a massive war between Gods and their greatest creations, the Dragons, the Gods have grown fat and arrogant, believing themselves to be the ultimate masters of creation. How could they not be? Where the Elders and Titans failed, they did not – they overthrew their creators and controlled their Children.
Truly, they are supreme among all life.
However, Under their watchful, cautious eyes, mortals have developed new ideas, and some have begun to speak in hidden, secret places of the Tyranny of the Gods. War brews, a fact to which the Gods remain ignorant, and mortals must chose between the Gods and Themselves, while keeping an eye out for awakening First Ones, the remaining Titanborn, the new Terrors spawned of Zhoatech, and the hateful Dragons – and the Drachkyn, some of whom seek common cause with the Mortals. A new Era of Divinity has begun to stir, and only time will tell if the Gods were truly able to suppress the Cycle of Creation.
Horrible and Awesome
Keldora is full of the weird, the macabre, the horrible, the strange. These are woven into the setting and gives it an element of grimdark I'm not going to try and pretend isn't there. However, these weird, horrible, strange things are also used to create awesome. A twisted monster ravaging through the countryside is meant to be frightening in the “oh god, it's grotesque and dangerous” sense, not in the “it fills you with paralytic dread” sense. That twisted monster is supposed to be horrifying so when you eventually do stop it's ravaging through the countryside by splattering it across said countryside, it's all the more satisfying. The response to killing that monster should not be “Oh god, what horror!” but “Did anyone see that?! I am the most badass person alive! C'mon, it rocked!!”
Keldora is a world rooted in cyberpunk ideals. Player characters take up the role of Daeva, mortals who have been cast out or ignored in part by society - either directly or indirectly - and have turned that into a tool of their own, running jobs for powerful guilds, corrupt Temples, and even raiding the Zigguropoli of the Gods
The Gods are Not Your Friends
At best, the Gods have a patronizing view of Mortals, much like a small child that is too damaged in the head to ever mature past their current age, and at worst regard them as little more than tools to be worked with and then discarded. A God will provide powers to a mortal, but will do so out of a desire to keep that mortal from seeking power sources the God does not control, or to accomplish a specific end, or to give other Mortals something to envy and aspire towards. That is not to say a heroic character will reject the gods and what they stand for - but a smart character will keep in mind that the god serves his or her own interests first.
On Virtue, Vice, Good, and Evil
Virtue is not Good. Vice is not evil. Someone who is Just can still be cruel, someone who is Lustful can still be good. Evil and Good are subjective terms, depending on who you are and how you look at the situation and how it impacts you. Virtue and Vice are not – they are part of the system of control the Gods have put into place on Mortals and are clearly defined. Good and Evil will be replaced as game terms with Virtuous and Sinful, and the mechanics would change to reflect this as well. (Detect Evil becomes Detect Sin, for example).
Sufficiently Advanced Magic
A reversal of Clark's famous line, inspired by numerous previous discussions here and elsewhere, I'm going to be using magic to fill the role of technology – to a point. I still want to have the setting fantasy – I don't want to make armor, swords, castles, etc obsolete, but I also want to make sure the fact that magic exists known. Zhoatech is the primary way this is expressed: however, Zhoatech is not electricity. Zhoatech is not modern technology.
I'm trying very hard to keep close to sword and sorcery fantasy: dudes with swords in armor are still a thing, but the sword is powered by Zhoatech for supernatural sharpness and leaves behind a horrid curse, and the armor is a semi-living suit that aids you as you fight. Also, Zhoatech ships are not meant to replace land-based transport. (Zhoatech is a fancy way of saying magic items, is what it boils down to)
The world of Keldora is huge compared to Earth, and the floating islands expand even further. Above them sit the Inner Spheres, and beyond them are the Outer Spheres. This also allows for creatures that just wouldn't work – dragons, giants, and other huge creatures – to exist: with much more ecosystem to feed on, megafauna can exist. Larger land-based creatures, such as Giants and Kaiju, are native the the Wastes of Urd, which also contains the largest bodies of water.
Keldora is divided into “layers” that have their own distinct properties. From bottom to top, the Layers are – The the Pits of Shubboph, The Wastes of Urd, The Grand Canopy, The Great Isles, the Inner Spheres, and the Outer Spheres.
The Pits Shubboph
The Pits Shubboph are the bowels of the world, a realm of fire and ash lit only by molten rock. Little life dwells here and the air itself is both toxic and caustic – and many of the Elders and Titans that survived are imprisoned within. However, treasures going back as far as the First Age are hidden here, as are great deposits of minerals and gems. While inhospitable to mortal life in the extreme, Immortal life can find a dwelling here – and the waves of Titanborn and First Ones that occasionally emerge from the Pits are proof enough of the fact that they still do thrive here. Some Dragons also make their homes within the Pits of Shubboph.
Shubboph is what the Elders called the world before the Titans rules, and it was buried when the Titans remade the world, so the name remains as testament to what once was.
The Wastes of Urd
The Wastes of Urd are the land that sits below the Great Isles. Barren and covered for extended periods of darkness as the Great Isles block the sun, life in the Wastes of Urd is hard, made more difficult by the presence of higher numbers of Titanborn and Drachkyn – and actual dragons. However, the Wastes of Urd are beneath the notice of the Gods – quite literally, given their geographic location – and in Wastes of Urd, the Cults of Mortals begin to gain traction.
Out of the Wastes, which are the edges of where Mortals hold sway, there is the Deep Urd, the Titanwastes. The best source of the Corpus, Titanwastes are transformed by the Titan who's flesh infuses the land: the Waste of Sangoth, for example, constantly creates creatures mutated by his perverse desires and are blanketed in the Blood Mists, while the Obsidian Seas' brackish waters hide the body of Maliden the Lost, and the creatures that live within are twisted reflections of her horrid grief. The Jungles of Unknown Sekrith, an Elder One that sided with the Titans until he was laid low during the War of the Divine, teem with the Ophiapods, his tentacled fusions of serpent and octopus.
To give real world examples, the Great Isles are about as big as the islands of Japan, Hawaii, or New Zealand, with none getting much bigger than the largest of those islands. It's possible for someone to live their entire life and never see the island.
The largest realm of the Wastes of Urd is Sreth. Once the breadbasket of Urd, corruption and madness overtook those tied to the Titans as Sreth the Gatekeeper was slain and the madness of an Elder was let loose. Plants and Animals found their forms twisted into unnatural beings, and Mortals and the remaining Titanborn found common cause, forced to huddle in fortress cities or beneath the ground or wherever they could find refuge - waiting in vain for the madness to end or at least abate. There they have begun unlocking the powers of mind and body, powers untouched by the Taint. Zhoatech Alchemists has unlocked great secrets of chymistology and mutology, working with the Artificers to create weapons to wield against the First Ones that roam Sreth, and the Taintwalkers learned to harness the magics of the Elder of old without completely succumbing to madness - sacrificing decades of their own lives to fight for a future that may never come, guarded and watched by the Purifiers who have tapped into the lingering power of the Titan War, the corpses of the Gods, and even the might of the titans themselves to wield a powerful force against the Taint and the Rot.
Urd was what the Titans called the World when the ruled it, so like the Pits of Shubboph, it retains that name as the gravestone of the Second Age.
The Great Isles
The Great Isles of Keldora, which float above the Wastes of Urd, are where Mortal life thrives under the eyes of the Gods in their Zigguropoli. Held aloft by Gethren Crystal, great glowing stones used by the Gods to elevate the masses of land that became the Great Isles and is known as Keldora proper.
The Great Isles are ruled by the Gods. The smaller Isles may only have one or two Gods, while the larger ones are ruled by Pantheons, multiple gods that at times work in tandem and other times squabble amongst each other. Sometimes Pantheons work so closely together they form a unified Empire across that Isle and even spread to others. Other times they are so busy fighting each other that it seems as thought that Isle will never know peace. Mortals form the primary foot soldiers in these conflicts, of course – it's rare for a God to fall to violence from his peers.
The Gods rule from massive city-citadels known as the Zigguropoli. They are centers of commerce, communication, culture, information, and Zhoatech. Each one is governed by some sort of Theocratic government, no matter how benevolent the God is, ranging from the compassionate Scions of Habyela to the sadisticly enforced necromantic quasi-hivemind of the Nelodimos-Is. Clergy form the bulk of the inner workings of these Zigguropoli, and to be a member of a God's priesthood is to be in the upper echelons of society. It's actually one of the quickest way for an individual to move out of poverty, so even among those who resent the gods the Clergy can be a viable path if one is careful. Not all of the clergy receive power from the Gods – only the truly favored do. Then there are the Ur-Priests, who syphon powers from the Gods without their consent. A discovered Ur-Priest has a very short lifespan.
Within the Great Isles are the Lowerlands, is a region that sits below the surface of each Isle, a vast interconnected network of tunnels and caverns lit sporadically by bioluminsenct fungus and veins of magma flowing through quartz tunnels. However, those features do not have the biggest impact on the races that live and venture into here - upon entering the Lowerlands, closer to the Gethren that holds the Great Isles aloft, gravity becomes much more...flexible. In particular, it becomes subjective - whatever surface you are standing on is "down", something that is often very disorienting to people unaccustomed to it's effects. This leads to some confounding structures - caverns where cities are built on all surfaces facing inwards, homes that use all six surfaces as living space, paths that curve and spiral around a tunnel to avoid obstructions, and even stranger still. Creatures and Gods that dwell within the Lowerlands make the most of these unique landscapes.
Travel between the Great Isles is accomplished on the backs of flying beasts or on great ships powered by Zhoatech.
The Inner Spheres
Travel between the Inner Spheres is much like travel between the Great Isles, accomplished on creatures that can breath the Aether or massive ships powered by Corpus.
The Outer Spheres
The distant realms to which many of the Elders were banished, travel is nigh impossible save for rare gates that open to them. Madness lies here, and the Elders sleep for Countless Aeons as legions of First Ones plan for that Count to reach it's completion.
Note: Distance and Size
The Inner Spheres are the size of dwarf planets and planetoids. Distances between them is much smaller than space – we're talking Earth-Moon distances at most, with the furthest Inner Sphere's having distances similar to those between the Jovian moons. Don't try and apply real world gravity to their orbits. It doesn't work. Sit above the Great Islands in the Aether Above, the Inner Spheres are smaller worlds where strange types of life and Gods – as well as some still living Titans and many Dragons – rule. Vastly different from each other, the Inner Spheres are too diverse to easily make blanket statements about.
In the Time Before, there were the Elders, beings beyond nightmare and comprehension, who created the First Ones and shaped the world to their mad whims. Their greatest of their begotten were the Titans, immense beings whose size was surpassed only by their might and will, and the Elders were pleased with what they had wrought. However, the Titans were still tools of the Elders, and grow frustrated with their servitude - Eventually, the Titans rebelled against their progenitors, and the Elders were banished from this plane to Distant Spheres, where they slumber and await their return.
Now the masters of creation, The Titans began to reshape the world, driving many other of the First Ones to extinction or banishing them to the Outer Spheres. To replace them they introduced their children, the Titanborn. Beings of form recognizable to modern mortals but still strange and bizarre, the greatest of the Titanborn were the Divine, known now as Gods. Seeing how powerful their greatest children had become, in time, the Titans were determined to avoid the fates of their fore bearers and began to ruthlessly bind the Divine to their will – a wise effort, perhaps, but it only ensured that the cycle began anew when the Gods rebelled against the Tyranny of the Titans. Legend has lost how vicious the wars between Elders and Titans was, but it is difficult to believe that it matched the ferocity of war between Gods and Titans.
The Gods outnumbered the Titans, as the Titans had outnumbered the Elders, yet the legions of Titanborn were endless, and so the Gods created their own soldiers, whom they called Mortals, for they were the first creatures born to known death. Since they were born to know death, they were given a sliver of something new, something called a Soul. After two hundred years, the war ended. The titans were butchered, shattered, or bound as they had done to the Elders before them, their essences seeping back into the world.
The Divine, now much pleased with themselves, began refining their Mortals as the Titans had once done with their children, and once again began remaking Keldora in their image. The Great Isles were lifted into the sky, the World Trees were cultivated, and their creations were encouraged to go forth and propagate and prosper. The greatest of these were beings of immense power and ferocity, the Dragons, who began to outnumber the Gods and began looking at their creators in jealous desire to claim their seat. Having seen the mistakes of the Titans and having heard of the follies of the Elders, the Gods did not attempt to repress or control the Dragons – but instead began a war of extermination. Drachkyn, the children of the Dragons, were created in this war – abominations molded to mock the forms of Mortals.
And thus was the cycle broken, for the surviving Dragons were defeated, killed and bound or forced into the deep, hidden parts of Keldora. No longer would they fly among the great isles, never again would they dance among the stars. They took their Drachkyn and fled beneath the earth or to the Inner Spheres – some even as going so far to dwell among the Elders in the Distant Spheres. Denied the sky that was their birthright, they forsook the name the Gods had given them and renamed themselves Wyrms, vowing to reclaim their name when they could reclaim the sky.
On the Nature of Gods
Beings as diverse as the Gods are difficult to quantify as an organized group. Each of the Divine is a totally unique entity that is distinct from every other God in appearance, personality, and powers, except in rare cases of Divine Families – and even among them, each God is unique. Yet there are a few common threads among them that can be quantified:
Gods are not strictly male, even though I am using the masculine term largely because I am a lazy writer and it means 4-5 less key presses and I don’t have to remember to correctly use him or her. The Divine really transcend gender, given their powerful shapeshifting abilities – while those that prefer a male form are called gods, and those that prefer a female form are called Goddesses, mortal genders are a purely optional concept for them, and they can switch between the two or simply operate as an androgynous entity as they wish. When referring to specific Gods, I will address them per the gender they most typically present
Taboos and Grotesques
Every God has two things that they impose on their followers: taboos and grotesques. A taboo is something the followers are forbidden from doing – it may be eating a particular type of food, doing certain tasks on certain days, or similar restrictions. It can also be stranger – it depends entirely on the will of the Divine. These are always codified in law, and breaking a taboo results in extremely harsh punishment – at times even so extreme as exile or death. Clergy and others who receive divine power will find them immediately stripped if they violate a taboo – with the exception, obvious, of Ur-Priests, who have far more to worry about than the taboos. Oddly, given their distrust of it, most Gods to not make Zhoatech in any way taboo. A common theory is that Taboos are semi mystical pacts a God makes with their followers, and since Zhoatech is so new a true Taboo against it is difficult. Others argue that most of the Divine are simply to pragmatic to forbid a tool their rivals’ followers would still use against them.
Grotesques, on the other hand, are depravities of the divine, rituals that utterly debase mortals in performing them. Every God has one or more grotesque they favor, all twisted by their nature into something depraved made Divine. Grotesques are sometimes referred to as Holy Fetishes, by those that do not fear the phrase reaching Godly ears, and the phrase is accurate in some ways. Typically a grotesque is preformed as part of holidays or momentous events, and are always at least annual events. It is theorized by heretical scholars that the Gods derive some measure of power from these events, though it is unsubstantiated.
While the nature of each of the Divine’s power varies, the scope of it is often very similar. Gods wield immense but not limitless power, and while they inspire awe and wonder they are not beyond mortal comprehension. In general terms, a God can wield magic a step above even the most powerful mortals, reshaping areas to suit their whims and purpose – although such a task does take time. A God can create life, though it is typically limited to life suited to its nature – unless the significant amount of time and energy is invested required to create a True Mortal, as opposed to base plant and animal life. They do not tire doing mundane tasks, able to travel, drink, fight, and fuck without need for stopping. Only the heaviest of Divine tasks truly tire them – raising a new Great Isle, establishing a Zigguropolis, creating or reshaping a True Mortal, or anything that requires a similar exertion. Such tasks are rarely undertaken in the pre-Dragon War era, as the Divine worry about leaving themselves weak and exposed to each other and Mortals.
One thing that all Gods share in common is the ability to shift form. Every God has a true form, their Visage, and then a Mortal form, their Masque – the former of which is often used when attempting to overawe mortals or at war, the latter of which they most commonly wear when interacting with their subjects. However, the Divine are not limited to those two forms – though some rarely bother beyond that – and commonly take the form of animals, new mortal shapes, or stranger things to suit their goals or intrigue. Many Nephilim owe their origin to a Mortal woman who was visited by their beloved, only to learn later that their beloved was elsewhere the entire time.
The Masques of the Divine always appears as a Mortal with unique features that hint at their Visage – if a God’s Visage is that of a four winged falcon that stands on leonine legs with serpents for arms and a scorpion’s tail, their Masque may have feathered hair in the color of their plumage, retain the leonine legs, have scaled arms that hiss when waved, or even fully retain their tail – or some combination thereof. The purpose of a Masque is not to blend in with their subjects, but to interact with them without them being fully exposed to the divine glory of their Visage, which many mortals have difficulty standing before and not being paralyzed with awe or fear.
The Divine are not dispassionate, analytical beings. They are governed by the same emotions they gave to their children, the Mortals; fear, anger, lust, joy, sorrow – these are all parts of the Divine state. What makes them different is the scope at which the Divine feel them. An angry mortal may shout and rant, may even become violent – an angered God may stop there, or may destroy the source of their anger, those connected to the source of the anger, those near the source of the anger, and then curse any survivors unto the sixth generation. A grieving mortal may become withdrawn and insular. A grieving Divine may block out the sun with perpetual rains, dull all colors in their Zigguropolis, and may even change into an aspect of grief. That is not to say that the Divine are not in control of themselves – but they act and live much larger than Mortals do, and their actions always make sense to them. Mortals rightly fear the moods of their Gods, and act carefully less they provoke them.
One emotion of particular note for the Gods is Arrogance: before the Dragon Wars, the Gods were (according to rumors) much more concerned about the repercussion of their actions. They knew of the Cycle of Divinity and knew that if they were not careful they would suffer the same fate of the Titans. Now, in the modern era, the Gods believe they have broken the Cycle, and are sure that they will remain the uncontested masters of Keldora for the remainder of time. As such, they have become much more arrogant; they believe that the only threat are other Divine and maybe, perhaps, an incredibly lucky group of Mortals who catch them when weak and exposed. The result of this arrogance is often apathy at best and cruelty at worst – individual Mortal concerns are clearly beneath them. A God may, rarely, intercede on behalf of a Mortal to improve some difficulty they face, but such incidents are rare and often serve a deeper, underlying goal.
A side effect of this arrogance is a simple, unfortunate fact of life on Keldora – a Mortal has no legal recourse and often no physical recourse against a God and the Divine cannot commit a crime against a mortal. Murder, theft, experimentation, torture – should a God wish to, there is nothing to prevent them from doing so. That’s not to say that it happens frequently – typically, there is little to no reason for one of the Divine to bother – but every Mortal is aware that the Gods master their life in the basest of ways should they chose to do so.
In addition to the common Mortal breeds that are more universally found, all Gods also has at least one, and often more, Servitor race that is unique to that God. While they are still Mortal, and thus in possessian of a soul and free will, they are rarely found outside their God's Dominion.
The Four Siblings
While not a traditional pantheon, the Four Siblings live on adjacent Isles and their followers often interaction.
Erebaz, The Shackled Dreamer
Erebaz was a god of sleep and peaceful dreams until the fall. Now he rules the Isle of Orphebe, a land where vigilance is key and sleep is for the weak. Whatever the Dreamer saw before his change, it's made him do everything in his power to keep all mortals awake - lest they fall victim to what he saw.
The greatest virtue of Erebaz is Diligance: he places great value in remaining hardworking and steadfast in the face of adversity and resisting temptation, especially sleep.
The greatest vice of Erebaz is Sloth: for Sloth leads to oversleeping, and those who wish to follow the Shackled Dreamer should not do so more than absolutely needed.
Erebaz's has two taboos that are among the least horrendous of divine taboos while also some of the most intrusive: First, none should ever sleep during the daylight hours, and second, there should always be one awake in every household. Individuals without families gather into small group homes called Wakefulls to make sure they are able to meet this taboo.
Grotesques to Erebaz often involve sleep deprivation in extreme measures - at minimum three days, and he maintains the visions gained from such are ways to learn the future. The most devout can stay awake for months at a time, and those they inevitably kill when they finally snap are considered blessed to be freed of the dream.
Purlith, The Vacuous Queen
Before the fall, Purlith was a goddess of revelery and intoxication. Now she rules the Isle of Rogacor, a land of delightful chaos. She plys her followers with drugs and sex and wines and parties, and emplores them to do the same to each other.
The greatest virtue of Purlith is Charity, for ensuring there are no poor ensure all are able to revel. The poorest of Rogacor still have their basic needs met, although the demands of the Revels keep them from truely prospering.
The greatest vice of Purlith is Wrath. Wrath prevents enjoyment, turns the mind to thoughts of destroying the Revels, and leads to a focus on cruelty that disrupts what truely matters - taking pleasure in life.
Purlith forbids her subjects from any work more than half the week, and at least one day a week must be spent in celebration of life's pleasures. In addition, eating bread without at least oil to season it is punishable by public flogging.
Grotesques to Purlith are week-long festivals during which all are expected to partake in their basest desires. During the day, a visitor to Rogacor will find it like other festivals, with jousting and food and celebration. At night, however, men hunt each other, theft is allowed, and the entire law is "Do as thy darkest self wishes."
Croaroth, Knight of the Black Lament
Once a god of Chivalry, Croaroth is now known as the Black Lament, a mourning figure that weeps for all the soldiers that have been lost and bitterly regrets the best that he can do to ensure their watch does not end is to empower his followers to give their bodies a mockery of life in undeath, and the undead are therefore common among his Isle of Bellis.
The greatest virtue of Croaroth is Humility, for a true soldier puts the nation, the people, and the Faith above him or herself. Ambition is not be shunned, but ambition for the gain of the self is a corruption.
The greatest vice of Croaroth is Envy, since none should resent those who properly put others before themselves, and to envy any other trait is to ignore what truely matters.
Croaroth's taboos are the most eclectic of the divine. Followers of him must never eat leavened bread, must never gaze upon the stars for any reason other than navigation, and must never eat meat still red. Simple to follow, which is good, for those who violate them are given a second chance to obey once they have been risen from the grave.
Grotesques of Croaroth are horrid affairs where the undead are brought into the city, and the living must prove they still have valod by surviving them. Once a year, the eve of a battle that only Croaroth remembers, the undead swarm Bellis, and the grotesque is a ritual defense against their seige.
Shabenex, the Savage Mother
Once a goddess of wildlands and favored daughter of the Earthmother Titan, Shabanex is now the ruler of the Vernomia, an Isle where cities are made of Ironwood and grown from the land itself, and beasts hunt among and upon men.
Temperance is the greatest virtue of Shabenex, for is that not just the balance of nature imposed upon mortals? Even when behaving as a predator, it should be done with a degree of restraint so the balance of Vernomia or the world is not destroyed.
The worst vice of Shabenex is Gluttony, for such a Sin could only arise from the overabundance of civilization. Her followers are expecting to not become corpulent and weak - and to prey upont hose that do.
Followers of Shabenex are forbidden from living behind walls of stone or adorning themselves with metal as decorations. They also must eat only the flesh of beast for at least one meal and only the fruits of the earth for another every day. The penalty for violation is confinement for a day in a box only slightly larger than a coffin. Multiple infractinos cause the box to be placed beneath the earth.
Grotesques of Shabenex are called Hunts, and during them her followers raid each other, stealing food and supplies and livestock and even children. Some thing that years and years of constantly raiding each other mean that even if the Savage Mother were to cease taking an interest in her followers or cease the Grotesque, they would still hunt each other to avenge wrongs past.
Celestials, Fiends, Fey, and other Outsiders
The Gods do not create immortal life – death and souls are part of how they planned on controlling their creations. Other, non deific Outsiders are First Ones or other Titanborn. Celestials and other "Good" Outsiders are instead Virtuous - they obey the Gods. Fiends and other "Evil" outsiders, however, are Sinful and rebel against them - meaning both Celestials and Fiends can be friend or foe to heroes.
Fey are they exception - the Lords and Ladys of the Fey tend to mind their own buisness and care little for mortals except as playthings. The Gods allow them to do what they will, since a war between the Divine and the Fey would leave both too vulnerable.
Temples, Zigguropoli and Dominion
Very few Gods are without these two structures and only a handful lack at least Temples. A Temple is a combination of a house of worship, a house of governance, and a place of business for the local area. Temples for the Divine serve several purposes. First and foremost, they house the Clergy, including the local High Priest/Priestess that serve in mayoral roles for individual cities. They are a nexus for the Divine’s power – it is heightened within their temple, and any prayer spoken with the proper incantation in a Temple will always reach that God’s ears. They are community hubs in many ways, and typically the local market takes place outside the temple’s doors if not inside (depending on the edicts of that Divine). They are also where Divine depravity is often manifested – the grotesques an individual Divine favors take place within the Temple’s wall.
Zigguropoli are the temple-cities of the Divine, the ultimate testament to Divine presence and arrogance. Typically built as massive pyramids, with the God dwelling in the topmost layer, Zigguropoli are cities and temples wrapped into one. They are centers of Divine power and Divine might, and are always located on the “best” - as determined by the God’s desires – location that the God controls. Zigguropoli can take non pyramidal forms, but their name comes from the most common shape they share.
A Dominion is the sum of the area a God rules. From a tiny corner of an Isle to an empire that spans multiple Isles, the Dominions of the Divine are jealously defended from interlopers and, within, the God's will is strictly - often brutally - enforced.
Temples and Zigguropoli can and often are constructed in the Lower Lands, but no Temple or Zigguropoli is constructed on the Wastes of Urd or the Pits of Shubboph. Temples do exist on some Inner Spheres, but only a few Gods have claimed any of the Inner Spheres as their Dominion, so Zigguropoli are rare among them.
In the Wake of the Dragons Wars, the Gods slumbered for a time, regathering their expended energies so they might heal their wounds. During this time, mortals uncovered many new tools, not the least of which was Zhoatech.
Powered by Sarx, the cast off bits of the Titans, Zhoatech tools are strange, almost insane creations that could be held in hand, grafted to living beings, or even create new, non-life. Zhoatech is fairly pervasive; transport is accomplished as often by beasts of burden as it is by scuttling, spider-limbed walkers, lights that glow with the perversely strange colors of the Zhoa illuminate the night, weapons and armor (both worn and grafted) are used by the military, and the Zhoatech has opened the Xhan-Gi, a realm of information, ideas, and dreams that connects millions in the Zigguropoli of the Divine, while millions more live in the Wastes of Urd, which is any part of the world that exists beyond the Zigguropoli.
Zhoatech is pervasive and strange, and typically emulates something that could already be done by organic life but more so. Zhoatech transports have legs and move quicker than a beast of burden. Zhoatech weapons are swords infused with the power of the Sarx, or bows that fire shards at blinding speeds. Armor enhances and adds to what the wearer can do, from as simple as increasing their strength to as fantastic as allowing the wearer to fly.
The rise of Zhoatech and demand for it lead to the rise of the Syndicates. No single artisan could keep up with demand for the goods that Zhoatech produces, so they began to band together and work their apprentices even harder while taking on more. Eventually the apprentices began to take on neophytes to keep up with the work, and something new was born - the Temples of Zhoa, massive collections of wealth and hard work, which produce many of the wonders of Zhoatech. True innovation, however, is still mostly found among individual artisans, who produce some wondrous and terrifying creations - and then must either join the syndicates or struggle to keep control of their creations and their lives. The Gods, for their part, tolerate the syndicates for the same reason they tolerate Zhoatech - that is too say, possibly out of pragmatism or, perhaps, for more esoteric reasons. Meanwhile, the Blackguard Triumvirate, Skybound Sarx, Zhoa Solutions, and others flourish, often coming into conflict with the guilds of old that they take much of their structure - and business - from
For the common person, Zhoatech is most often seen in the various tools that it creates. Most of these are quality of life additions, that make routine tasks easier or quicker or safer. The examples below are just a small amount of the wide variety of tools made from Sarx.
One of the simplest and yet most important tools Zhoatech has spawned are Crawlstars. They are small globes of light that, as their name suggest, crawl constantly to provide the best lighting possible, linked through Xhan-Gi to constantly check if they are maximizing illumination in an area. Virtually useless outdoors, where they will just move away from each other constantly, Crawlstars are massively important in the homes of the upper classes and the halls of Zigguropoli, where they have removed the tyranny of the day/night cycle. A recent improvement to Crawlstars by Zhoa Solutions allows them to recognize if someone is sleeping or attempting to do so and dimming their light, ending the tedious task of collecting them every night.
Another device that completely revolutionized life on Keldora, the Mass Scribe is a huge, false eye attached to an apparatus made of hundreds of tiny mechanical hands holding pens. It can look at written documents and the hands can reproduce it with near perfect accuracy, although the writing is always strangely imprecise, and a strange flaw in the process causes them to occasionally insert random words into the text from time to time. Nevertheless, it has allowed the written word to reach the masses, and this change has been so drastic no one minds that texts will occasionally contain such utterances as "The End is Nigh", "They Burn," "Dusk Will Fall," or other such nonsense that are clearly artefacts from other documents.
Known by those who use it as a *clutch, is a simple apparatus – a large box with two holes the operator places their hands within. The box serves two functions: first, it monitors the hand's movement, and translates that into a pair of massive golem arms that are used to move and build heavy machinery or buildings, and secondly, it provides tactile feedback to the operators so they know how hard they are grasping their subject. Some rebel groups have seized a clutch or two and balanced them into giant walkers, or mounted them on top of largerSkittering carriage and turned the arms into makeshift weapons. Officially the syndicates denounces this use of their technology. Unofficially, the more recent models of clutch have made this particular use much easier.
While nowhere near as revolutionary as the above, the clawbow nonetheless is a common tool among theives and adventurers. A simple design externally, a clawbow looks like an egg attached to a cylinder with a handle. When squeezed, the egg unfurls into a five spaced claw and is launched from the cylinder at phenomenal speeds, attached to the base cylinder by a rope or chain. Once it impacts something, the claw attempts to grab on, and then quickly reels in - pulling either target to user or visa versa. Used most frequently to reach higher places or across chasms, clawbows are also are also used to grab items through open windows and even by some as a weapon to draw an important target out of a protective position.
In some was the most phenomenal of the wonders of Zhoatech, the vehicles that are powered with Sarx are incredibly striking. Used by many to denote wealth and status, Zhoatech Vehicles have not yet completely replaced animals as the primary means of transportation on Keldora, although some suggest that is coming one day soon.
The simplest flying vehicles, a hawkskiff is a simple glider held aloft by kinetic energy put off by its Sarx core. Lean and able to carry only a small pay lode, hawkskiffs still are revolutionizing travel and warfare. Smaller models actually flit within the larger halls of some Zigguropoli, while larger ones are used to travel the spaces between isles. A common tactic has been mounting a shardbow (see below) to the frost of a hawkskiff as a crude military vehicle, while others are equipped with massive clawbows (see above) to hunt aerial creatures.
Much larger than hawkskiffs, Zhoships more closely resemble sailing ships with wide domes over their tops and the sails set to the side. Used to travel between isles, to the Wastes of Urd, and even among the Inner Spheres, Zhoships are impressively large, some surpassing even the largest sailing vessels. One of the few pieces of Zhoatech that the gods have adopted, some are even small Zigguropoli in their own right. Most famously is Khyndriel, the Mother of Nomads, who's Zhoship The Lost Path can darken the sky above some of the smaller isles.
While mechanically Player Characters do not differ from most Dungeons and Dragons settings, PCs in Keldora are Daevas, acting as the cyberpunk "runners." Daevas are a diverse lot, drawn together mostly by their desire to live their life the way the want to. If they could make enough money while doing so to avoid starving to death and do so without ending up in some Guild or God's dungeon, that would be great too.
- Artificer - currently available as a playtest from WOTC's website, Artificers often hold positions of reverence as the builders of Zhoatech
- Barbarian - Hailing from either the Wastes of Urd or the Isle of a more savage God, Barbarians are valued fighters and gladiators.
- Bard - Bards are commonly found travelling the islands to spread hope and work with resistances against gods, Bards are also employed to keep the populace happy and placid.
- Cleric - Clerics of course hold posistions of power among the Divine Courts, although Ur-Priests (which are mechanically the same) steal divine power.
- Druid - Druids draw their power directly from the Titan Gaia, one of the few still alive, and as such often stick to the wilds they prefer, keeping their power source secret when in towns and often posing as clerics.
- Fighter - There are always alive things that people want dead, so Fighters always have a place, either as thugs, enforcers, or in militaries.
- Monk - Monks have learned to draw upon the mysterious power mortal possess, the Soul, called Ki, to enhance their physical abilities and as as such are inherently opposed to the gods, often finding themselves among the Daeva.
- Mystic - Currently available as a playtest from WOTC's website, Mystic's powers come fromt he same sources as Monk's, but they instead harness their Ki as mental discipline, allowing them to influence the world around them.
- Paladin - Paladins are warriors of the Gods most often, and serve as temple enforcers and protectors. Some Paladins manage to draw their power in the same manner as Ur-Priests and must take similar precautions. Ur-Paladins can also use the Antipaladin Archetype, available as a playstest on WOTC's website.
- Ranger - Scouts and hunters, many Rangers take their time venturing out into the wilds to get away from the bustling Zigguropoli and the gods and people.
- Rogue - Cutpurses, assassins, thieves - all still have a place in the world. Rogues often find themselves Daeva due to the fact that they already exist outside the law. Sorcerer - Sorcerers can tap into the powers wielded by either the Dragons or the Void between the Outer Spheres. They are renegades for this, and again find themselves often among the Daeva.
- Warlock - A Warlock's pact represents drawing power from a source that stands in opposition of the Gods, and as such they must exist on the fringes of society - but with less stigma than before.
- Wizard - Wizards draw magic in the "proper" way, through study in colleges, and as such have better treatment in society - although Wizards that grow too powerful are monitored closely by the Gods.
- Aasimar, Genesai, Goliath and *Tieflings are the long descended offspring of Gods and Humans, and are collectively called Nephilem. Their divine blood affords them some respect, but it doesn't count for much among the actual Gods.
- Dragonborn and Yuan-Ti Pureblood were created by Dragons, and as such aren't truely Mortals. Gods tolerate them on their islands because many fought against their creators on the God's side, but they are viewed with some suspicision.
- Humans, Dwarves,, Halflings, and Half Orcs are all Servitor races created by the Gods. They are the most common servitor races and can be found among most isles.
- Elves of all types, Half-Elves, and Gnomes were the Children of the Fey, the other creations of the Titans, and as such are viewed with suspision when on the Isles of the Gods, but they are welcome and allowed.