The Blessed Empire governs a large, solid land mass, reaching from subpolar regions in the north to temperate regions in the south. The central area of the Empire is largely open plains, cut by large rivers. The western region is a mix of swamps in the west-central area, mixing with forests to the northwest, and rising to mountains along the southwestern border. To the east of the Empire is a vast hinterland of rough, low mountains and forests, opening into broad plains, with little besides wood, fur, and a handful of mines as available resources. Far to the east (several months’ journey by land) there is a distant kingdom (or two, depending on whose reports you believe), which have little contact with the Empire other than a rare trade caravan. The southern reach of the Empire is a large sea, where the current Imperial capital, Vostir, sits at the end of a large peninsula; across the sea are several island of various sizes, whose cultures and allegiance to the Empire vary greatly from place to place and time to time; across the sea lies another supposed Empire, but the known land there is a desert, and both the terrain and the inhabitants are hostile to foreign travelers. Beyond the western marches, across the Krut River lie the Chaos Realms, a wilderness where goblins, orcs, and other less human races hold sway, and borders shift with every breath of wind with the fortunes of various local monsters, lordlings, and petty warlords. The northern reaches of the Empire are frozen tundra, taiga, and seas which are frozen much of the year; to the northwest the region bears the name Samiland, inhabited by scattered small tribes who eke out a living by herding reindeer and fishing.
The Blessed Empire is the undisputed master of the region; no other mortal realm exists with enough strength to directly challenge it. Incursions from the Chaos Realms and the wilds to the east are not uncommon, but are typically a tribe or warband, easily contained by imperial border troops. The desert realm to the south also raids the coast, and islands have traded hands repeatedly over the years. The remnants of the ancient dragonborn empire of Arkhosia border the southeastern marches, and also the delta of the great Aglef River. And beyond the southwestern borders lurks the memory of the tiefling empire, its ancient devil-infested capital of Bael Turath nestled on the far side of the mountains.
Humans are the overall plurality, but local populations can be a very eclectic mix; towns, urban quarters, and small baronies which favor one race or the other are common, but no large-scale violence has erupted between races for a very long time.
There are four great cities of the Empire:
Vostir is the capital, where the Imperial Court resides, and has for almost two hundred years. It rests at the tip of a peninsula, overlooking the finest natural harbor in the empire. Trade goods from exotic lands arrive here, and depart for distant shores: the desert lands to the south, chaotic realms to the west, and even ships from the far east; rarely, a ship will reach here from distant kingdoms to the west, beyond the Chaos Realms.
Voscom is the largest city, and for 300 years it was the capital, until the Court moved to Vostir. Voscom is by far the largest settlement known to the Blessed Empire – over 100,000 at its height, and still more than twice the size of any other city. The Patriarchs of the Great Temples remained here when the court moved to Vostir.
Evik is the city where the empire was started, although it was then only styled a kingdom. Now revered mostly as a kind of living museum by most of the empire, the oldest families still exert much influence from their estates here. Unlike most of the elites in Voscom and Vostir, however, there is less emphasis on scholasticism and sophisticated taste; Evik esteems the warrior culture that turned their kingdom into the Empire.
Gard Proset, the northernmost great city, stands near the cold, forested frontier of Samiland; and is the major port on the West, or White Sea. Being so far north, the port is frozen over for several months each year, but the wealth of fish and whales, the ‘near trade’ with unsettled lands (mostly wood and metal ores), and the ‘far trade’ with foreign lands far across the waters (luxury goods such as wine, art, and exotic items) give Gard Proset a cosmopolitan air second only to Vostir itself.
Other cities of note:
Gard Aglef is an old settlement on the banks of the great Aglef River. It contains the southernmost settlement of dwarves, which has grown since the establishment of Vostir as the capital. Closer to the imperial court than the northern cities, the presence of dwarven smithing talents, an abundance of Halfling skill at river travel, and sitting amidst the plains where herds of fine horses are raised, the city is a bustling center of industry and vigor, the place where imperial legions are equipped and trained in all manner of warfare. It also serves as a hub for the halflings living along the river.
Brsic is the westernmost bastion of the Empire, a fortress guarding the only authorized bridge across the Krut River.
One of the elements holding the Empire together are the leyroads, enchanted pathways which grealty enhance the speed and carrying capacity of those who travel upon them.
Races in the Empire
The Blessed Empire is open to all kinds of races and groups, though some are regarded with more or less esteem than others. Humans form most of the noble class, and are a plurality of the population.
The Emperor, anointed by the gods, is the top of the Imperial order; in theory he holds absolute rulership; in fact, his power is constrained by ritual and tradition, as well as the influence of the Cardinal Synod, and his own ability to persuade, cajole, or intimidate his own Imperial Council.
The Cardinal Synod is a council made up of representatives of the various temples and sects; generally, each region and major city sends a delegation comprising representatives of the major temples. Each delegation has as many or as few members as their home wishes to send, depending on ability to support what is basically an embassy to the capitol, balanced with the need to properly represent local concerns with appropriate nuance and energy. The Synod is a hotbed of debate – it is often here that various local concerns are aired, as well as disputes between and within the clerical structures of each deity’s followers. Officially, the Synod has very little power beyond its direct concerns: organization of temples, keeping religious interactions peaceful, and advising the Emperor with auguries and lore; in fact, the Cardinals serve as a forum to bring together the rarefied atmosphere of the Court and the varied issues and opinions of regional nobles and tribal leaders across the Empire. The Synod’s membership roster and other rules of protocol and procedure are left to its own definition.
A variety of deities are worshiped in the imperial territories; most of the cults are centrally organized, but there are a number of local variations and aspects.
The Imperial Council is the traditional inner circle of advisors and executives selected by the Emperor to govern the realm. While there can be as many or as few councilors as the ruler desires, a few seats are held as a matter of ancient law and tradition.
The Imperial Army is generally organized into three classifications: The Imperial Legions, the Militia, and the Foreigners. Naval forces are considered part of the army.
The Empire is no homogenous unit: it is composed of a number of provinces, principalities, duchies, baronies, freelands, and so on, with only a few areas ruled directly from the capital. Local lords and councils carefully guard their territories and