Factions of the Shattered Sphere
There are a number of different power groups within the Astromundi Cluster, each with its own goals and means of achieving its ends. The following section describes the major factions within Clusterspace and their known goals. All of this information is known to those who are natives of the Astromundi Cluster, but outsiders may learn of these things gradually, over a long period of time. In any event, the details provided here may or may not be complete, as many of the factions have agendas hidden from even the most diligent of prying eyes.
Each description will detail the general attitudes of the nation or race, and the known goals of that faction. Following that is a short description of the attitudes of individuals of that faction, which may be different from the general view of their nation.
Antilan Empire (Sun Mages)
The Nation (population: 3,000,000,000)
Undeniably the most powerful group in the Cluster, the Sun Mages are located in the heart of the Shattered Sphere. Their rise to power was fueled primarily by their possession of the Cluster’s prime real estate. The Antilans were also the first to rediscover their spelljamming and magical heritage, and realize its potential. Today, they are the foremost practitioners of magic in the Cluster, with the possible exception of the Arcane. They have also harnessed the inherent power of the sun to energize the incredibly swift and deadly crystal ships.
Of all the factions, the Antilans are the most openly bent on expanding their empire. Their crystal ships sweep the asteroid belts periodically for slaves, who are transported to the Antilan mines. Immense crystal fortresses glide through wildspace, powered by the energy of the sun and intent on conquest.
Naturally, the Antilans view themselves as superior to all other races. Few can equal their magic, and no other faction has as large an empire. But in several ways, the Antilans have simply been lucky.
The Antilans have always managed to get a better deal than other races. During the First Cataclysm, their home planet escaped destruction. Even during the coming of the Unbidden they were relatively unaffected, protected by powerful magics. During these times, the Antilans were busy making great advances while their neighbors were fighting horrible wars with inhuman invaders. Even with the coming of the Second Cataclysm, the Antilans were far better off than their brethren. The asteroid belt where they had settled was nearly perfect for their needs, with ample resources. Also, their magical might was only stunted, not eradicated, helping them to rebuild more quickly than other civilizations.
They were also the first of the human races to relearn the secrets of spelljamming. Realizing just how much of an upper hand they had on the other inhabitants of the sphere, the Antilans set out for glory. The Thoric and Calidian peoples (see below) remember well the savage violence of those days. Their legends speak of the conquering legions of “sky people” and their horrible magic. To this day, Thoric and Calidian citizens are uncomfortable around Antilans.
The Antilan Empire spread like wildfire through Clusterspace, and settlement after settlement fell to its power. It seemed that the Antilans could not be stopped, and that they would eventually become the undisputed rulers of the entire sphere.
Illithid aggression put an end to that belief. Unused to defending their homes from assault, the Antilans were caught off guard by the mind flayer assault. One by one, the Antilans lost the territories they had gained. Furious, they prepared to counter-attack, but the illithids were like smoke before the wind. Fighting a guerilla war from the shadows was a mind flayer specialty, and it was some time before the Antilans were able to adjust their tactics to take this into account. By the time the Antilans were ready to fight on the mind flayers’ terms, their opponents changed the rules.
The illithids began using human agents to infiltrate Antilan targets. Lines of supply collapsed and more than one crystal ship mysteriously disappeared with all hands lost. The illithids were winning the war.
Desperate and terrified of losing their empire, the Antilans sought new answers to their problems. While sorcerers studied the texts of the ancients, Antilan diplomats sought allies. The Arcane were willing to lend a hand, but only for a price.
The Arcane promised to deliver magical and technological aid to the Antilans in exchange for special considerations to be named later. Desperation drove the Antilan Emperor to agree, and the Arcane made their first delivery.
First came the secrets of sun magic. These powerful spells (detailed in The Celestial Almanac) did much to turn the tide of the war. When the Arcane demonstrated how it could also power their crystal ships, the balance of power shifted back to the Antilans, but only marginally.
The war between the illithids and Sun Mages lasted for decades, and would have continued had the neogi not stepped in as arbitrators. Knowing that such fierce and widespread war was bad for trade, the neogi forced an agreement between the illithids and the Antilans. The pact was forged under threat of trade embargoes and veiled promises of wildspace piracy, and has lasted to this day. Espionage and treachery are the tools used by the Antilans now, rather than spells and crystal ships.
Today, the Sun Mages are the rulers of a Romanesque empire. Their society is based on their imperial ideals, and is extremely harsh. Crime in Antilan cities is rare, as even minor offenses carry extreme penalties, enforced by the ruthlessly efficient Judicants. Travel through Antilan space is very strictly controlled by the Judicants as well, limiting the opportunities of saboteurs to harm the empire from within. When in their area, it is wise to follow the commands of the Judicants if a traveler wishes to avoid prison terms. While the Sun Mages are liable to allow passage to legitimate traders (for a fee, of course), smugglers are destroyed on discovery. This does make the black market a highly profitable arena to work in, but such careers are short-lived in areas controlled by the Judicants.
Magic is power within the Empire, and the Sun Mages keep its secrets close to the chest. Use of common magic (in a nonviolent manner) is allowed by outsiders, but it is illegal to teach the magical arts to a citizen of Antila unless that citizen also happens to be a noble. Likewise, the transportation of magical goods is allowed only by registered traders, who are escorted by at least two Judicants at all times.
Technology is still quite primitive in the Antilan Empire. Confident in their magical superiority, the Sun Mages have engaged in little trade with the Cluster’s newer occupants and so have missed out on several new inventions. In time, such things will seep in from the outer edges and be absorbed into the Empire, but that may take quite a few years.
Adventurers will find Antila a difficult place to work. With travel so tightly restricted, it is very difficult to get to and from the most interesting areas. On the other hand, there is plenty of opportunity for intrigue within the court. Literally hundreds of nobles exist within the complicated Antilan bureaucracy, and they all hatch plots as a hobby. Finding employ with these self-seeking individuals is not difficult, but not always safe. One never knows the sort of unhealthy business such work might entail .
Currently, the Antilans seem to be in a state of stasis. Their empire has not expanded appreciably in the past several months, and they seem to have let up their shadow war with the illithids. Rumors abound, of course. Apparently, crystal ships have been spied flying very near to Firefall, and sometimes it seems as if the pattern of the fires of that sun has shifted. Whatever is going on near the primary sun, if the Antilans are behind it, it will be good only for them.
The average Antilan is neither a Sun Mage nor a noble bent on conquest. Antilans are, for the most part, a reclusive people, preferring not to interact with other races if it can be helped. They are not shy, but racial biases make them hesitant to associate with the “lesser races.” Even servants of the Antilans (and some slaves) share the arrogant bigotry of their masters. Citizens of Antila, and those who serve them, honestly believe that their race is the only one fit to rule the world.
The Nation (population 3,000,000,000)
Mysterious and relatively new to the Cluster, the illithids quickly established themselves as a power to be reckoned with during their war with the Sun Mages. Though they took something of a beating toward the end, they put up a good fight and would have won had the Arcane not interfered.
The history of the mind flayers is cloaked in shadow and fog. No one is sure where the first illithids came from, and no member of the race is very straightforward where this information is concerned. All that is known is that one day the Antilans met up with a foe that could fight back.
Though unsavory to look at, and definitely not to be trusted, the mind flayers are given a certain amount of respect. They are, after all, the only race not to lose a protracted war with the Antilans and they do have a significant fighting force still at hand. These two factors have caused the illithids to be tolerated by other races, and to be treated with a certain amount of civility. Though definitely not social creatures, illithids have managed to develop good trade relations with the other races of the Astromundi Cluster through the use of human allies. This has helped ease the friction with other races, as the they now have human go-betweens (the Varan) that they use when dealing with non-illithids.
Magically, the mind flayers are very powerful, though not quite as potent sorcerers as the Sun Mages. Their sorcerers learn spells quickly, but they cannot rise in levels as high as their human counter parts. Making up for this is the advanced technology of the mind flayers and their potent psionic power. No other race in Clusterspace has as many, or as powerful, psionicists.
The illithids have generally kept to themselves. They have conquered a few settlements, but none in the past few cycles. Most other races see them as necessary evils, an undesirable force that serves to keep the Sun Mages from beginning another flurry of conquest. Throughout the Cluster, illithids meet with grudging respect and tolerance, but little real trust.
It is impossible to say what the mind flayers are planning. Though not as conquest oriented as the Sun Mages, they undoubtedly have an agenda of their own. Only time will tell, and the other races of the Cluster may not like what it has to say.
Not all illithids conform to the stereotypical cold, alien, brain eater. A very few even dare to disagree with their relatives and act nearly human. These “traitors” (as other illithids view them) often retire to the darkest reaches of wildspace, where they take up the dangerous trade routes along the Fringe. Such illithids are very rare, however, and most conform to the views and attitudes of their nation.
The Nation (population: 1,000,000,000)
This human race comes quickly behind the illithids in terms of power and clout. Having formed an alliance with the illithids many cycles ago, the Varan have enjoyed their position as negotiators and scouts for the mind flayers. Unfortunately, this role has caused other human races to view the Varan as traitors and slavers. The Varan pay this little heed, as they know they can demand respect for themselves by calling on the might of their masters.
Aside from the trade barons of Boyarny, the Varan produce no goods and indulge in little trade. Their wealth comes from their employment with the illithids, who have set up their human servants as petty nobles. The Varan provide manpower for the illithids, who in turn provide creature comforts. A mutually profitable acquaintance, as the neogi say.
The Boyarny Varan are considerably different from the others of their race, preferring what they consider honest work. They have emerged as something of a mercantile power over the past few years, and are regarded as honorable throughout Clusterspace. Paradoxically, the illithids view these Varan as troublemakers and have done whatever they can to either bring them into line with the other Varan, or ruin. So far, open war between the two factions has been avoided by the diplomatic skill of the Boyarny consortium. The illithids are known for patience and cunning, however, and the Boyarny Varan must be on constant guard against mind flayer treachery.
The average Varan is predisposed toward activities of the less-than-legal sort. Over the centuries, they have come to view such activities as perfectly acceptable, though they realize that few other races share this outlook. Varan don’t like to hear the nasty rumors about their illithid allies, but they don’t go out of their way to defend them either. To the typical Varan in the spaceport, the illithids are a source of income and no more.
The Nation (population: 1,000,000,000)
This human race is widespread and quite common throughout the sphere. Unlike the other human races, the Calidians have never coalesced under a single government, preferring an existence as numerous self-ruling city-states. While this has done much to insure individual freedoms, it has also made the Calidians easy targets for illithid and Antilan conquerors. Many of the freedom loving Calidians now suffer beneath the rule of a distant tyrant.
Those Calidians who have remained free exist as traders and mercenaries, establishing small settlements from which they conduct business. Calidian traders are respected and their mercenaries valued in any army. Headstrong and willful, the Calidians are a friendly race, if a bit impetuous.
Overall, the Calidians are a goodly portion of the Cluster’s population, but their disorganization and unwillingness to unite behind a strong leader prevents them from becoming a real power.
While their race as a whole abhors slavery and domination of any sort, the average Calidian is not a freedom fighter. Most are content to simply stay free, and to avoid the tyranny of other races. To this end, a good many Calidians are somewhat reserved around other races, especially Antilans. This changes if the Calidians outnumber other races in the area. When this happens, the Calidians relax and return to their normal, rowdy selves.
The Nation (population: 1,000,000,000)
In the Astromundi Cluster, the neogi are not a military power. Knowing that they could not effectively compete with the Sun Mage and illithid forces, the neogi have adopted the role of neutral traders in the Cluster. They will sell anything, to anyone. Operating from various bases throughout the Cluster, and especially in the Inner Ring, the neogi have established themselves as the primary traders in Clusterspace.
This doesn’t make them pleasant folk. They are a cruel and treacherous race, given to hard bargaining and the occasional misrepresentation of goods. Still, their services are necessary as they often have access to goods available nowhere else. This includes slaves, which are legal throughout most of Clusterspace. Human slaves are the most common, but the neogi have begun to dabble in the dwarven and elven slave trade as well. This has caused some friction, but none will stand against the neogi for fear the traders will invoke their embargoes. In a sphere as dependent on trade as the Astromundi Cluster, a trade embargo can destroy a colony in weeks.
The neogi are a reasonably trustworthy group of traders. Wise adventurers keep an eye on them, however, because they will attempt to get away with just about anything. Deceit is not their main stock in trade, but neither is it unknown to them.
Individual neogi have a tendency to become obnoxiously accommodating. They will do whatever they can to make those they encounter feel comfortable and at ease. Of course, this does serve to put people into a bargaining frame of mind …
The Nation (population: 1,500,000,000)
Traders and merchants of middling power, the Thoric have settled themselves in the outermost reaches of the Cluster. Because of the lack of earth upon which to build and farm, the Thoric are natural sailors, always on the lookout for new places to settle. They also enjoy the highest level of technology anywhere in the Cluster, due to their access to ships entering the Cluster and the information they carry.
The Thoric garner most of their wealth from the fabulous furs and hides that they trade, most of which are taken from beasts found only in the remote areas the Thoric populate. Other rare items come from the icy worlds of the Thoric as well, and none can surpass the quality of their excellent cold weather clothing. Other races have tried to settle in the colder regions of Clusterspace specifically to challenge the Thoric trade in furs, but none have been successful.
A prolific people, the Thoric are present almost everywhere there is civilization in addition to their secluded settlements. Traveling as they do among the various peoples of the Cluster, spelljamming Thoric are great fonts of information. Still, they can keep a secret, and gaining information from them can be very difficult and very costly.
Most other races hold the Thoric in high regard. As traders they are fair and even-handed in their dealings, and as a people they are generally open and honest. They have no dreams of conquest and are happy with their simple life, which has allowed them to steer clear of Clusterspace’s many conflicts.
The Thoric are a hardy race, but that doesn’t mean they like living in the harshest environment in the Cluster. Thoric often grumble about where they live, but secretly pride themselves on having survived in such a harsh environment. Unlike the Calidians who “tone-down” around other races, the Thoric are usually rowdier around non-Thoric!
The Nation (population: 800,000,000)
The dwarves of the Astromundi Cluster could not be happier. Here they have been able to create their great citadels, as well as hundreds of asteroid mining colonies. Their habit of tunneling within asteroids and planetoids has made it very difficult to harm a dwarven settlement and has also given them access to fabulous mineral wealth.
Relatively few in number, the dwarves have still managed to become quite a famed military power. This is based mainly on the strength and skill of dwarven mercenaries, who can be found fighting on both sides of a given conflict. True to the mercenary code, dwarves will fight for the highest bidder.
Other than their forays into the mercenary side of war, the dwarves have pretty much been left alone. Their impregnable fortresses are valuable, but not worth the massive effort it would take to conquer them. Thus, the dwarves enjoy a peaceful existence, with the exception of those who choose warfare as a way of life; only those willing to fight do so. A seemingly ideal existence indeed, among the war-torn Astromundi Cluster.
The average dwarf is happy just to do what he or she does best. Be it fighting, mining, or jewel-cutting, dwarves are happiest when performing in their chosen profession. Few dwarves have any desire to be great heroes or warlords; they simply want to work at their job and make a good living doing it.
The Nation (population: 300,000)
Astromundi elves are a beaten and battered race. They fled to the sphere from the (inhuman Wars but were pursued by the goblinoid races. With better armaments and greater numbers, the goblinoids harried the elves almost to extinction before being forced to retreat by dwarven mercenaries. The elves were deeply scarred by their early defeats, and to this day live a hermit-like existence.
Little is known about the elves of Astromundi, as they have little contact with other races. It is known that they grew their settlements themselves, and that their ships are grown from similar plants. Other than that, their goals and dreams are a mystery.
The elves’ chief source of economic gain is their virtual stranglehold on egress to the phlogiston. No other race has discovered a means to escape the Cluster, and the elves are very secretive about their solution. Those buying passage on an outbound elven spelljammer are typically blindfolded or kept in windowless rooms below deck until the ship has left the sphere. Merchants tolerate the outrageously expensive fare and uncomfortable conditions in order to trade with outsiders. Only the Thoric do not deal with the elves, trading instead with new arrivals to the sphere.
Among the other races, the elves are viewed as haughty and purposefully obscure. They are something of an oddity and rarely travel within the more civilized sections of the Cluster. They prefer to be left alone, and indulge in trade more for their own reasons than any need for coin. The neogi desperately want the secret of travel out of the sphere for themselves, but their past attempts to coerce the elves ended in disaster. Attacking an elven settlement has proven to be a bad idea, and it will be some time before anyone else tries it.
The elves are not a happy people as a rule. They often withdraw from groups of non-elves, preferring to be left alone. While they may appear aloof, in reality they are simply paranoid. Some few do overcome their aversion to other races, and even associate with non-elves on occasion. Such elves are viewed as adventurous or foolish among others of their kind, who simply do not trust the other races.
The Nation (population: 400,000)
Like the elves, the lizard men want to be left alone. Their watery worlds are well protected and off the well-traveled trade paths, so they typically get their wish. Some among them, however, wish for a more active role in the Cluster, and have begun to trade with outsiders.
In the past, the lizard men were treated with distrust and hatred, and their once prosperous race now teeters on the brink of extinction. A limited gene pool and their dislike of travel has led to stagnation in their settlements. Births are few and old age is slowly killing off the adults. The lizard men are a study of a race in decline.
At least one of the settlements is doing what it can to remedy the situation. Of late, some lizard men have engaged in active trade and are actually having spelljamming craft built. These lizard men wish to escape their dying asteroid homes and seek out others of their kind. If successful, they may be able to revitalize their race and perhaps become something of a power in the sphere.
Other races view the lizard men as backward primitives, and simple creatures not to be overly feared. This has helped the lizard men greatly by gaining them acceptance, albeit condescendingly, in many areas of the Cluster.
Though still not a common sight, lizard men are becoming more and more known in the Cluster, and it is only a matter of time before the sight of their ships becomes known as well. Perhaps their goal of a new lizard empire is not as far-fetched as it seems.
Individual lizard men can be either uncomfortably sullen and withdrawn or boisterous and outgoing. Of course, the bulk of lizard men fall in between the two extremes and have as wide a range of emotions and attitudes as do humans. Lizard men are hopelessly naive in their dealings with other races, for the most part, simply because they have had so little contact with other races. Like children, they don’t mean to offend, they just don’t know any better.
The Nation (population: Unknown)
Though individually quite powerful, as a group the beholders are a minor force within the Cluster. Constant in-fighting and their practice of attacking non-beholder races on sight has severely depleted their numbers. Though they have no friends, the beholders are not engaged in any formal wars with other races at this time.
Beholders do hold a few small worlds, populated mostly by enslaved humans, but these are of little real value. It is believed that the beholders may be preparing for a war of expansion soon, but their success is highly unlikely. With every race in the Cluster willing to turn against them at the first sign of aggression, the beholders will probably never become much of a power in Clusterspace.
They’re beholders — what more can be said?
Many other races exist in the Cluster, including some of the goblin-kind, but most of these are scattered populations at best. Any race could be found within the Cluster, but only those listed above have any real power. The rest are regarded as curiosities or dangerous animals, but no real threat.
As befits a sphere fractured by disaster and war, each of the races has a language of its own, which is spoken only rarely by members of other races. The neogi have established a basic tongue through their travels, which, naturally, is their own. All characters may speak the neogi language because it has spread so far within the Astromundi Cluster that it can be regarded to be as well known as Common. However, in some remote sections of Clusterspace the neogi travel only infrequently and their language may not be known in these places.
There are 13 primary deities of the Astromundi Cluster. Many of these are the patrons of nonhuman races. Among these are the dwarven god Chodak, the elven goddess Wajek, the monstrous Lugribossk of the illithids, and Sstasa, patron of the lizard men.
The remaining deities are worshipped by the various human nations. All of these gods are described in Chapter Two of this book as they pertain to character creation.
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