The Seven Principalities
A common past fails to unite these seven islands.
Capital: No single capital is agreed upon.
Major Settlements: Each island has a single major settlement which shares the name of the island: Aesik (4000), Brun (2500), Hile (2500), Huq (6000), Laon (3000), Mael (4000) and Noen (2500).
Rulers: Each island has its own prince: Huron of Aesik, Latilde of Brun, Vizar of Hile, Rokurk of Huq, Leon of Laon, Amitie of Mael and Quarg of Noen.
Government: Each prince retains absolute authority in his or her own realm, and the fate of the Principalities as a whole is decided by the princes acting in council.
Major Races: Humans, lizardfolk
Major Faiths: Ithreia, various druidic faiths, Toma Thule on Aesik, Nemyth Vaar among the lizardfolk on Noen.
Resources: Fish, hard wood, ships, exotic plant and animal extracts
Languages: Common, Draconic
Some 1000 years ago, a chartered expedition from Dunring [[ed note – actual place?]] settled the eight islands of Aesik, Brun, Hile, Huq, Laon, Mael, Noen and Torl. The islands were rich in both natural beauty and natural exports, being home to several heretofore undiscovered forms of plant and animal life, and they boasted ancient ruins in the depths of the jungle that attracted many well-funded expeditions. The islands flourished as tropical ports for Dunring until the kingdom fell about 400 years before the present day, granting power to the ‘princes’ who controlled each island.
The struggle for total control of the island chain began immediately: ships – and sometimes swimmers – raced back and forth across the short stretches of water between the islands, raiding and seizing in an ever-shifting battle for territory and resources. The initial furore eventually died down but the islands remained on a war footing regarding one another for decades until Romos, the prince of Torl, managed to persuade the other princes to form a council. By giving the princes an arena in which to wage their wars with words Romos managed to broker an uneasy peace between them which, over the next two and a half centuries, mellowed into the casual rivalry that the islanders know today.
Enter Asterion. No one knows where he came from, but the minotaur was active on the islands for years before he made his play for power. No bestial savage, Asterion possessed all the mighty strength of one of his kind coupled with low cunning, a gift for duplicity, and a keen intellect. He declared that the inhabitants of Huq had colonised an island which rightfully belonged to him and demanded to make his case before the council of princes. The council was dutifully convened on Torl to see what the minotaur had to say – and Asterion used an ancient artefact to sink the whole island into the sea, drowning everything that lived on it.
With the council dead, Asterion declared himself ruler of the seven remaining islands and threatened that any who did not bend knee to him would feel the power of his artefact. In chaos without their leaders and dealing with the destruction caused by the waves of Torl’s sinking, the islanders capitulated. Asterion chose Huq as his seat of power and began construction of a volcano-side lair whose labyrinthine tunnels have never been fully mapped.
Asterion ruled with the proverbial iron fist. He had swathes of the jungle clear cut and brought cattle farmers in to graze the new land. He opened the islands to pirates and those fleeing justice, so long as he got a cut of all the valuables that passed through the islands. His reign lasted for 40 years before a group of adventurers discovered that Asterion’s artefact was single-use only and managed to sneak into his lair to assassinate him. Of that group only Huron, Rokurk and Latilde survived, and they installed themselves as individual princes in Asterion’s wake. Other princes emerged from the squabbling on the other islands, and the council of princes was reformed.
With the defeat of Asterion trade has stepped up and wealthy travellers are once again coming to the islands to experience the warm climate and relaxing atmosphere. The trade in spices and exotic woods has picked up again, bringing merchants and their wealth to all of the seven islands. The lizardfolk keep to themselves in the inner jungles, as they have always done, but are common enough sights around the islands.
The islanders still bicker between themselves but with the memory of Asterion’s oppression vivid in their minds it rarely escalates to more than a friendly rivalry. A more serious problem are the Grey Blades, a large band of pirates who were ejected from the principalities following Asterion’s death but have found moorings on other islands nearby and joined forces for revenge and plunder. Those willing to sign on as marines will find plenty of work.
The island ruins have always drawn plenty of attention, and now adventurers and scholars flock not just to them but also to the old lair of Asterion, in search of the vast wealth he accumulated over 40 years as tyrant king of the isles. Among those who have the ability or magic to breathe underwater, the coral-choked ruins of Torl are a popular destination. Since the entire island sank, all the treasure of its inhabitants likely remains below the waves if someone could brave the sharks and natural hazards to get it.
Aesik is the second-largest settlement, although most of its population are lizardfolk rather than humans. Tensions between the races are higher here than on the other islands, thanks to several nasty pieces of work on both sides. Huron rules with all the wisdom of a paladin of Toma Thule but the history is too convoluted and the bad blood too strong for a simple solution. If he can’t work something out soon, a civil war seems inevitable.
Brun is situated at the far end of the archipelago, its isolated position making it vulnerable to raids from the Grey Blades. Latilde rules it as a general, trying her best to keep everyone safe. Although she and Huron used to be lovers they fell out over matters of statecraft and she now watches the disintegration of his society with a grim satisfaction.
Hile is the smallest settlement, although the island itself is large and home to a great number of tribal lizardfolk in the inner jungles. Vizar, once a lieutenant of Asterion, has been slowly descending into paranoia since the minotaur was slain and is seeking allies in all the worst places: rumour has it he treats with fiends to secure his future.
Huq is the largest island and its settlement has the greatest population. Under the rule of Asterion and then the half-orc Rokurk it has become a place for hard workers, hard drinkers, and those who know to keep their mouth shut. Ever suspicious of outsiders, the inhabitants of Huq find themselves increasingly annoyed by the endless parade of people marching up and and down the volcano in search of Asterion’s treasure.
Laon is overseen by the laughing rogue Leon, who changed his name to better suit the island. Under his light-handed rule the town is an anarchic haven where anything goes, so long as you’ve got the smarts to do it where he can’t see.
Mael is a quiet town under the rulership of the mage-queen Amitie, who delegates most of her ruling duties to her steward so that she may continue her arcane studies of the sunken Torl. Anyone who can bring her material from the island will be rewarded, and may find themselves pressed into leading the next expedition.
Noen is also quiet, although unlike the contemplative stillness of Mael this is a silence born of fear. Lizardfolk and humans alike run barbaric in the jungle, worshiping bloodthirsty gods at ancient altars, and every night the lizardfolk vampire Quarg fades out of the jungle to deliver his edicts and receive his tithe of blood. The settlers can sleep safe in their beds, so long as Quarg holds his people back.
- Conquest. A group of power-hungry PCs might find the Seven Principalities prime ground for taking over – with all the political strife there are plenty of cracks a dedicated group could exploit to catapult themselves to power.
- Exploration. Asterion had four decades to work on his lair, constructing an elaborate underground maze that still holds his greatest treasures. Characters poking around down there might find any kind of treasure, passages connecting the lair to other islands, or secrets regarding Asterion’s origins – and his ultimate purpose.
- Bounties. Hunting the pirates of the Grey Blades could be lucrative work for a martially-inclined group of characters. Plus, the pirates have found islands nearby to dock at: any of the current princes might be inclined to expand their territory if such news gets back to them.
Strong Swimmer: The islands of the Principalities are not far apart and the water is warm, so it is far from unknown for brave souls to swim from one to another. As one of these souls you gain any two of the following three benefits: Swim is always a class skill for you; you gain a +2 trait bonus on Swim checks; you can always take 10 on Swim checks, even when distracted.
Lizardfriend: One way or another you have managed to ingratiate yourself with the lizardfolk of the Principalities, and they have taught you their ways. You gain Draconic as a bonus language and a +2 trait bonus on Bluff, Diplomacy, and Sense Motive when dealing with lizardfolk.