Staff & Credits
A Newcomer's Guide to the Kiasse
The game takes place on a planet called Scialla, the second planet from the blue star Helios. Scialla is the seat of the Empire, with its capital city being Priascialla, famous for being built of a nearly-indestructible pure-white mineral called triamandine. Most characters won't ever have visited the capital city, but it has a sort of mystic impression of being able to obtain anything... for a price of course.
Scialla is also known for having an unusual situation regarding power. The main city Priascialla is encircled by a power grid called the Perimeter that goes about 50 miles in every direction. Within that circle, power works: engines work, complex machines work, guns fire, shields function. Outside it, however, nothing works but simple machines. Far from the city, people in the frontier (like around one of the larger villages, Weston) live like primitive savages, using axes and hammers to build houses of wood. Most folk from the Eastern Cities would consider getting stationed or sent there to be like a death sentence. While some power sources work there, they're hideously expensive and fiddly; most people'd rather have the reliable certainty of a hand-tool to do the job.
Valrona, where the game takes place mostly, is one of the Eastern Cities, but is outside the Perimeter. As such, it's urbane and sophisticated, but its technology is lacking compared to the capital's. People there know what power is and what it looks like, much like players would know if they went to a re-enactment Viking village. Newcomers might not know, but those who come from off-planet or who've been inside the Perimeter would know and lament the loss (but not loudly; people Without are proud of being able to make do without power).
The various planets of the Empire were out of touch for a few hundred years, but not long ago came together again to form the government body we know today. See the Timeline for more info about that process. As a consequence, a lot of technology and innovation that came about, came about to make each planet habitable. There was some re-inventing of the wheel in that regard. Some people, like the Lirwhinites, have so much technology they almost seem magical, but most of it's concentrated in carving habitable land out of a planet that's almost entirely water. Flameholdans, the warlike denizens of the first planet, also have impressive technology, but most of it's concentrated in medicine, weapons, shields, and ships (their medical know-how is superior to almost all the rest of the Empire's).
The current ruler of the Empire is Empress Kira Stardancer. She came to power in 2212 during the tumultuous Succession War. She's ruled since then, though not always peacefully. Kira's known to be shrewd and methodical. Her Council is rarely far from her. She does take grand tours of her Empire every two years, and stays in Valrona in her Summer Palace every summer for at least a month or two. She is about thirty years old, having ascended in her late teens, and is easily recognized by her white hair and dark blue eyes. Most paintings of her portray a "Mask of Youth," making her look far younger. She is married to a Flameholdan Noble named Rowan, and has no children. Her heir is Larizel Moondancer, one of her cousins; Larizel is in her teens in 2230, and, having never held any sort of governmental position, is usually in Priascialla being educated for her future role.
Days of the Week:
Most workplaces give at least Trimandis off, and most do Saturis as well. No Valrona government office except for law enforcement is really open on either weekend day.
The planet Scialla is roughly a third larger than Earth, but has a slightly lower than Earth gravity. It is part of the Kiassan Empire, which spans 4 planets, plus one independent moon (Walker, one of Lirwhin's).
Most of Scialla consists of one large continent, called Tergaea. Tergaea has been mapped from the air, but has never been entirely explored by humans. Scialla has other continents, but nobody has successfully colonized them -- or even been to the bulk of them, owing to some odd meteorological phenomena that prevent spacecraft landings.
Obviously, weather patterns across Tergaea are almost infinitely changable, given the continent's size and wide variety of terrains, but overall, it's safe to say that the weather's fairly mild, but can be chilly and moist for most of the year. As one ranges south, it grows warmer, and as one heads west, it grows chillier and more damp. One city, Freehold, is located near the ice line, in a mountain range that runs across the western edge of the continent.
Sciallan civilization is concentrated on the eastern side of Tergaea. A succession of large, urbane cities dots its eastern shore, the most elegant of which is Priascialla, sometimes nicknamed "The White Towers" for its Imperial Palace. Priascialla has been the capital of the Kiassan Empire for almost a thousand years, but it is not the largest of the Eastern Cities. Several other cities vie for that privilege, including Val Taqar, the location of the second largest university on the planet (Atramis University, enrollment roughly 4,000). Most cities cluster very close to Priascialla to maintain proximity to the capital's "energy grid", which powers all aircraft and other technological gadgets. The grid extends around the city for about 3 days' horseback ride, but south another 3 days' ride.
One should devote some brief time to describing the energy grid and the reason for its existence. Simply put, there is something about Scialla that prevents electronics and most technology from working. Priascialla's massive below-city engines can override this, and have for the more-than-thousand-years that Priascialla has existed (not for nothing is it called The Eternal City). The grid is the only thing that makes such devices work.
Needless to say, most of the area around the Eastern Cities is given to agriculture, which is good, because the land around there is particularly lush. As one ranges west, the terrain grows steadily more inhospitable and more forested, until it becomes the Wilds, a dense, impenetrable region of old-growth forest. The Wilds themselves seem to grow up almost immediately around human advancement, defying all efforts to tame it. One road runs through it, the White Road, an ancient construction, but no other human touch seems at all tolerated by it. The Wilds are marked by bizarre animals (the treewee, greatcat, and wildling are some examples) and even more bizarre plant life, including the massive rhell tree and delicate purple flameflower. Humans don't really live in the Wilds at all.
Trading posts dot the White Road, as do villages. One of the few villages of note on the western side of Tergaea is Weston, a small (pop. 1200+/-) village that makes its living on export goods. Another, several days' ride east of Weston, is Eliff, but it's almost entirely a logging camp with inns for those caravans who stop there for rest.
Most of Tergaea tends toward deciduous forests, with, as one might expect, coniferous and mixed forests growing further north. There are also areas of vast grasslands, concentrated directly west of Priascialla and around Weston.
As one would expect, the areas around the Wilds are a treasure trove of information for archaeologists and anthropologists, so despite the risks, scientists seem always willing to try to get out there.
In Valrona, Nobles enjoy considerable power and reach. It's best to call someone "sir" or "ma'am" until you know what the status is. Finger-rings called "signets" or other jewelry, such as pins blazoned with House symbols, will tell you more about who that person might be; if a House leader, the jewelry will employ a crown symbol atop the blazon, and "lord" or "lady" is most appropriate to use in speech.
The culture is quite feudal in nature, consequently. For the most part, Nobles do believe they were born better than "normal" folks, and that commoners really don't rate as high as the lowest Noble. Bastard blood is far from a dishonor, though in times of political upheaval it can be a distinct personal risk to claim it. (Of course, for the bastard blood to count for anything, that bastard child must be acknowledged; otherwise making a huge deal out of it could get the authorities involved or worse--claiming nobility where none exists is definitely a textbook example of Breach of Rank.
That said, Nobles do not typically mistreat those underneath their station. That's a good way to encourage rebellion or, at the least, a certain lack of willingness and enthusiasm in serving. It is considered rude to blatantly taunt or mistreat an inferior. They don't know better; they don't have the Noble's education and upbringing. It is therefore a completely unfair fight. Now, a commoner who taunts or mistreats a Noble is entirely fair game for whatever torture or punishment the Noble wishes to dish out!
Marriage and conception between classes is not always considered a faux pas. In the aftermath of the brutal Succession Wars, quite a few Noble houses have had to "make do" with high-end commoners. The key here is "high-end." A Noble must have a mate who understands the protocols and extensive etiquette rules; anybody who marries a Noble has to understand how to play the part of the spouse correctly. Marrying a commoner with poor manners is a much worse breach of etiquette by far; a commoner who can amuse and delight his peers and who demonstrates acumen in his spouse's business affairs will become accepted in time. The middle-class gentry, the rich commoners in other words, are acceptable mates, but by far it is better that the Noble at least have looked closer to his own rank first.
Some occupations just won't ever be good enough, of course. A Noble wouldn't dream of marrying a Molly or a dockworker. Especially in Sciallan or Lirwhinite company, this would be a death knell for that Noble's ambitions. He might go far among the commoners he's clearly thrown in his lot with, but he'll never go far among the rest of the Nobility. And Noble friends are what it's all about. Marriage is a cutthroat game, therefore. Anybody with money is going to be very careful to marry someone who can help them "grow" their money. Dowries are not uncommon at the higher levels; a woman should bring something to the match besides her body and mind. That seed money typically helps finance a major business deal that will typically help the new couple survive while they get their feet under them. A Noble who marries without a negotiation first (and a lot of lawyers present) will probably be mocked unless the match is really outstanding.
Crime and Punishment
Because of Valrona's unique position as a playground and educational hall of the rich and famous, the law is understandably going to be pretty tough there. If anybody was stupid enough to kidnap someone important, it'd probably mean the utter destruction of the entire Sun Quarter just to start. Criminals in Valrona--and indeed in most of the more law-abiding Eastern Cities--have to be very clever about how they go about their lives of crime. Even in the Sun Quarter, criminals prey upon each other and those they know have no powerful protectors. When a streetrat turns out to have such a protector, things get interesting indeed.
Locks are quite good in the Eastern Cities. Theft does happen, but generally the authorities catch who they're looking for. Penalties for theft usually include jail time and fines (if within the Eastern Cities) or exile or worse (if far from them). Treason is one of the only capital offenses, but since the war, it's punished extremely harshly. The legal system does allow accused to hire legal advocates (lawyers) who will defend accused criminals and seek the best penalty possible under the circumstances. Bureaucracy isn't too bad out in Valrona; the power necessary to fuel computers and other bureaucracy-loving machines just isn't there, so paperwork and record-keeping has to be done entirely by hand. Thus, few people want to do more of it than they must.
The social scene in Valrona is bustling and thriving, especially in Plume Quarter where all the students hang out. One of the most popular bars is Steelcat's Lounge on the southwest side of the quarter. Popular musicians perform often for tips. Storytelling isn't as popular in the Eastern Cities, but out on the frontier, bard-type people enjoy a good following as they communicate the stories and current events they've seen in their travels.
Food and Drink
Hard liquor has the reputation players expect, with most varieties available--rum, whiskey, brandy, vodka, etc. Liqueurs are much in demand by the Noble and wealthier classes. Tea, coffee, and fruit juices are easily made, though tea and coffee can be expensive outside the Eastern Cities. Regular beer isn't frowned upon by the main religion at all, and few people abstain from it as it is both antiseptic and not terribly strong. Someone abstaining from beer for religious reasons would be looked at terribly askance, considering that one of the Church of Haran's main functions involves brewing. Drunkenness is very much condemned, but alcohol itself isn't. A movement is afoot in Weston called the Ladies' Temperance League that seeks to destroy hard liquor and make it illegal to produce, buy, sell, or imbibe, but even that group doesn't come down against beer. The big problem there is that beer is sterile and usually a lot safer to drink than the water in most areas. Wines are produced in quantity; most commoners don't drink it, or drink the really cheap stuff as happens RL. Nobles are known for being wine snobs and for their impressive wine cellar collections. Many Church officials are even more so.
See here for more info about the various wines your PC might run into on Scialla.
Cheeses are in the same category as wines; there are basic cheeses like any farmwife can make, and the so-called artisan cheeses that Nobles tend to gobble up and drive prices up to get. The two main cheeses made near Valrona are Blue Heron, which is a veined crumbly cheese with a pungent taste, and Macadam, a yellow cheese with a sharp bite. See here for more info about the kinds of cheese you'd run into.
Perfumes are also approved in general and there are a number that are considered very high-class. Though essential oils of basic single-note scents are most common, the perfumery industry is a complex one. See here for some of the brand names available, and here is a writeup of the most distinctive ones you'll run into ingame, what they smell like, and a general idea of their expense:
Aria in Damask: One of the most expensive perfumes on Scialla, the mystique begins with the bottle: a quarter-ounce-sized fluted bottle of gold-tinted glass with a heart-shaped frosted-glass stopper. The bottle itself is a showstopper, originally made by a Pontecala native glassworker a few centuries ago who was ennobled for his contribution to the world. His family lives in Val Taqar and still makes the same design of bottle. Inside the bottle is a viscous, golden-yellow liquid that begins with top notes of rose and sandalwood, deepens with a mature damask scent mixed with spices, and ends with a honeyed musk that lingers long after the roses have faded. The perfume is made in Val Taqar according to a very well-guarded secret formula. It costs anywhere from 400-600d a bottle.
Riisa: Pronounced "rye-EES-ah" and produced on Lirwhin, this clean-smelling perfume is favored by both men and women. It advertises itself as the scent of sea breezes and rain, with notes of honey and lotus. The scent is bright yet complex, and not often worn by anybody but Lirwhinites. The bottle is usually of dark cobalt-blue with a silver stopper-applicator, and it usually costs some 200d a quarter-ounce bottle.
Mesmerize: A newer perfume made in Priascialla, this one is a stronger, musky scent characterized by spices and a smoky hint of sandalwood, neroli, and leather. It is preferred by men, particularly those of a rakish bent; respectable men avoid it. The bottle is amber-brown, with a bronze stopper-applicator, and is plain with a frosted base. It is very expensive, selling for 190d for a half-ounce bottle.
Everfall: The emerald-green bottle is quite distinctive, shaped a bit like a zig-zagging lightning bolt. Its stopper is made of silver inlaid with green glass swirls, and the swirls continue down its stopper-applicator. Everfall smells of the forest, with pine and notes of woodsmoke laying beneath brighter notes of rain, green-growing-things, and even honeysuckle and wild-rose. Everfall is made in the faraway city of Mount Avenbury, technically part of the Duchy of Pontecala. It costs about 150d a half-ounce bottle.
Ylessia: Another fine perfume from Val Taqar, this one is a floral perfume of jasmine and poppy. Considered seductive and a popular choice of courtesans, Ylessia is a perfume used only by women. It has musky and spicy bottom notes that linger for hours. It comes in a scarlet-red bottle pressed into the shape of a poppy, with a black enamelled stopper inlaid with red glass. It sells for 100d per half-ounce bottle.
The less expensive colognes (perfumes with more alcohol in them, diluting the essential scent base and making them last less time) vary from city to city. Generally someone wanting to smell good but not cost so much money will either buy a single-note essential oil based cologne like "sandalwood cologne" or "rose cologne" or invest in one of these less expensive variants. (Rosewater and orange blossom water, incidentally, are not personal scents at all but actually cooking liqueur ingredients! Don't wear them!) Women almost always just wear essential oils if they want an inexpensive scent. Here are a few of the less expensive colognes most people might know about:
Bravado: Selling for about 35d per half-ounce bottle, this inexpensive cologne sells in an amber-brown bottle with square sides and a paper label. Its screw-top lid does not have an applicator. The cologne smells of sandalwood and leather, with a base note of musk. It's a very masculine scent, one that working-class men would wear before heading off on the town with that very special lady.
Whiteridge: A sophisticated blend of evergreen, woodsmoke, and rum, with top notes of bergamot (a type of spicy citrus). This men's cologne is favored by those with more sophistication. It is produced in a dark-blue round glass bottle with a label printed with the outline of the Whiteridge Mountains. It sells for about 45d a half-ounce bottle.
Other Materials You Might Want to Know About
Triamandine: First discovered near Razec Abinion, this pure white mineral had unusual properties that proved invaluable to the initially metal-starved planet's denizens. Though metal has since been coaxed out of the ground (or traded with Lirwhin or the like) since triamandine's initial popularity, at the time, it was the hardest, densest material on Scialla. It is a blinding white color that does not stain or take on color; easily cleaned, it makes a building really stand out. It is not easily worked into blocks, but once the blocks are made, they are virtually impervious to weather or wind. Needless to say, the material proved hugely popular. Within a short time, the mines at Razec Abinion were played out, and no other sources have yet been found. Triamandine is now found primarily in very small objects, notably jewelry and trinket-boxes for the humongously wealthy. The White Palace in Priascialla, Scialla's capital building, has an exterior notably made entirely of this mineral. Without a doubt a new source would earn its finder a Noble title or, if already Noble, much more -- triamandine, almost more than any other substance, is closely identified with the Kiassan Empire itself.
Rosesteel: A gorgeous rose-tinted steel popular in expensive weaponry. The alloy is a very carefully guarded secret from Abdera's master smelters and smiths. Deep in the mountains of the Duchy of Abdera far to the north of the Eastern Seaboard of Scialla, the smiths mix certain metals at certain very precise temperatures for very precise time intervals to make this tinted steel; the rumor has it that nothing rose-colored even goes into it, making its color all the more of a mystery. It is hugely expensive, and most cities prohibit all but the nobility from even owning a knife made from it. That said, it holds an edge like nothing else in the Empire, and can be made sharp enough to slice a human hair.
The Kiassan Empire went through a phase long ago when good-quality iron and bronze were difficult to find, but that phase is largely over now. Metal still isn't what one would call plentiful, but it's not unknown by any stretch. Other metals one might find include iron and bronze, of course, but also aluminum, nickel, copper, tungsten, and the like. Other mined materials include the more powdery materials like those used in dyemaking and mordants. The periodic table of elements is pretty much the same here as it is on our own world RL, for game purposes.
Lirix: A gorgeous, translucent sea-green stone similar to moonstone and unique to the planet Lirwhin. Coming from its deepest waters, it is acquired at great cost. It does not facet well, but takes very nicely to polishing and gentle shaping into cabochon (dome) shapes. Though they are not forbidden to Sciallans to wear, they are prohibitively expensive. Lirwhinite ladies of extremely high station often wear these in circlets; they are considered far too noble a stone to wear as a simple ring-gem, because they aren't as easily seen on the hand. The Crown of the Empire, worn by Kira Stardancer I, is set with, among other stones, the largest known flawless lirix in existence. Called "The Star of the Empire," it was given as a gift to the Imperial Family by the Lirwhinites upon the signing of the Seruvian Accords in the 17th century AH.
Powerstone: Not a decorative stone at all, but a quartz-like energy storage device. Flat on one end and pointed on the other, it inserts into many Flameholdan weapons and devices to power them. They are somewhat dangerous in that they can sometimes explode into shards of needle-like shrapnel, but this is very rare and easily avoided as the crystal heats up and "shivers" for a few days before the blessed event actually happens. Powerstones are excellent batteries, with solar recharging units often deployed to extend their lifetimes. They do not, however, last at all beyond Scialla's Perimeter. Powerstones are pale yellow-ish crystals with no veins or flaws inside. They are mined from Flamehold's Asrabreak mountain range.
Jasminite: An exquisite multicolored gemstone. Graded in color from palest yellow to deep golden yellow, this beryl-like stone has a very regular structure that lends itself well to faceting. Jasminite is not as expensive as ruby or emerald, but more expensive than amethyst or moonstone. It is mined from the Whiteridge Mountains of Scialla.
Other gemstones include the standard sorts, plus sunstone (a bronze-colored opaque stone flecked with gold), moonstone in various shades, lapis lazuli, most of the quartz varietals like amethyst, topaz, peridot, and the like, plus pearls of various colors and shapes. Onyx, sardonyx, tourmaline, chalcedony, and just about anything else one might expect are found in addition to the Empire-specific gems.
Sexuality is a complex topic in the Empire. Alternative sexualities are not illegal, though the Church of Haran does condemn premarital sex and public displays of affection. Prostitution is legal in Valrona, with the workers involved paying fees and enjoying protection from wrongdoers, but the workers are required to restrict their activities to certain areas of the city and to dress and behave decorously when outside their places of business. Most common folk view flagrant sexual displays about like they do in our own world, and someone who dresses like a slut or who is known to indulge in pleasures of the flesh outside of a marriage partner is going to get a reputation. Excessive displays of that nature might just bring the Church to demand an Inquisition; the concept's been noised about for a few years now, but so far the Empress hasn't been convinced. So in short, marriage is the most common form of sexual expression, being a virgin till marriage is perfectly fine, and not being a virgin is also fine as long as someone's not too loud about it.
Pedophilia, however, is vastly frowned upon; the age of consent is usually reckoned at 18 (with parental consent, 16). Nobles marry even younger than that, though consummation usually waits until sexual maturity. The usual other vices are illegal as well, such as rape and bestiality.
Same-sex relations are an acknowledged part of Valrona society, but not a loudly acknowledged one. Upper-class men especially may have an experimentation or two lurking around in their pasts, but this is regarded as an alternative to marriage, a behavior that ends as soon as a "real" outlet is discovered. Lifelong homosexuals are not loud about their orientations, and the Church of Haran frowns upon open practice of this still-proscribed behavior. No father would ever consider marrying a daughter to a practitioner of such a lifestyle, and finding herself supplanted by a man would definitely bring most wives to leave their marriages. Very slowly, attitudes among the Eastern Cities are changing, but it's a slow process. At least there have not been any outward displays of violence around homosexuality for decades. (Amusingly, lesbianism is almost entirely unknown as a public concern; the Church barely admits it's even possible, and most people would be pretty surprised at the idea of two women having a sexualized relationship.)
Here the game's administration stops to say this: no sexual RP will be tolerated on the part of any player whose RL age is under 18, and representations of under-16 sex are proscribed entirely. Players who do this will be banned out of hand. See Policies for more information. Also, while the gameworld employs a mild form of homophobia (of the type one would expect of people who are simply unsure how to handle a rarity) to increase drama and tension, absolutely no OOC discrimination or poor-treatment on the basis of orientation or gender identification will be tolerated on SciallaMud. Remember Rule Zero, folks. Thank you.
Clothes and Other Such Things
Regarding body modification, things vary depending on where you are and who you are. Well-to-do people in areas with power, like the city Priascialla and the other planets, have customs that are very different from those of the poor or those stuck in areas outside the Perimeter.
Wealthy women outside the Perimeter often wear makeup, especially lipstick and face powder. Perfumes are not at all uncommon, and there are some stunning popular brands. Inside powered areas, the makeup can get more and more elaborate, as can the hairstyles. Hair-dyes are also not unknown; women especially dye their hair to keep the greys away, though only some Lirwhinite brands are really effective at doing so. Men don't really fuss with makeup or hair dyes at all. Unusual colors of hair-dyes, like saffron, eggplant, and the like are used by the younger set, but not usually by older women. Blue, green, purple, pink, and other such Hot Topic colors are not currently in style, though midnight-blue is enjoying a renaissance among older Lirwhinite men. Nail varnishes are not lacquer-based, but red and dark rose colors are common.
Less wealthy women don't generally mess with dyes or makeup. The further one gets from Priascialla, the more unlikely it is one is going to find a girl with bright orange hair. The dyes and pigments are obscenely expensive outside the Perimeter, and it's seen as unnecessary frills. A woman who uses such things would want to guard very much against being seen as frivolous, light, or incognizant of the greater hardships of existing without power. A woman out in the frontier out west in full makeup and hair-dyes would likely be seen as a prostitute.
Clothing is pretty standard through non-powered areas. Women tend to wear dresses or skirts with blouses, and men tend to wear knee-length flared longshirts over pants or leggings. Shoes are of leather or boiled wool and can range from basic sandals all the way to thigh-high, turned-cuff heeled boots. Most common are slip-on leather shoes with pointed toes. Fashion changes the popular style of shoes every few years. See individual city pages for a lot more information about what's common in the area you're talking about. In these pages, you'll also find writeups of common hairstyles and other useful city-specific customs.
The further from Priascialla one gets, the more confining gender roles can be regarding clothes, occupations, and relationships. Religion plays a role in this phenomenon, but life's just rougher out there. The luxury of equality is harder to come by.
There are, of course, very high-class couture houses on Scialla. In Valrona, the main couturier is the Ossian House, owned by Gallant de'Ossian, an aging, lithe man who has dictated Valrona fashion for close to thirty years. He has several young apprentices who all work very hard to learn his vision so when he's gone Ossian will continue. Priascialla is dominated by Elinor Grady, who has held a similar position there for just as many years. She produces Grady's Book of Fashion, a yearly book documenting what is stylish and what is not, and even in Valrona this book is sold out within weeks of its arrival.
Sciallan Cities of Note
Priascialla: The capital of both the Empire and the planet, ruled by Kira Stardancer. Noted for its huge, soaring pure white walls and its delicate-but-strong Palace, as well as for its urbanity. It is one of the few cities in the world that enjoys technology's fruits. The city is very far from Weston. Its full writeup is here.
Ceres: Located in Northwest Tergaea, Ceres is a mining town famous for its unusual minerals, such as lead sulphate, used by dyemakers as a mordant. Population: About 300, most of it transient. See here for more info about Ceres.
Valrona: A city far to the southeast of Priascialla, Valrona is known for its excessive luxuriousness and its decadence. Priascialla's already pretty bad, but Valrona is very much the Cordoba of its time, combining the worst of sensuality with the best flowering of arts and sciences. See here for a fuller writeup.
Despite its reputation, Valrona boasts the best university on the planet, and even members of the Machinist Cult are generally ignored as long as they follow Scialla's strict technology laws. Valrona is also considered a mecca for artists, singers, and weavers, with accredited schools for each trade; it is a high honor to have attended this school, but those who are lucky enough to be admitted, and who can actually afford the schooling, will VERY rarely leave the Eastern Cities ever again.
Val Taqar: Another of the Eastern Cities, this one closer to Priascialla than any other one, Val Taqar has the planet's largest silk farms. It is also famous for its fragrant flowers; most of the famous perfumers in the Empire have bases here. Val Taqar leads the Empire, generally, in dress trends and attitudes. Its writeup is here.
Eliff: A noted stopping-point on the White Road. It is one-third the distance from Weston to Priascialla. Much trade goes on in Eliff, but in general, Eliff itself is small and provincial. It does have some celebrated inns, and their brewer of late has proven capable enough that his beer is known for miles around. More info about Eliff is found here.
Degnes: A town along the White Road, about two-thirds of the way between Weston and Priascialla. Though not large, it is twice the size of Weston and very much a town built on trade. See here for more information about the Abbey and its Abbot.
Money comes in two forms: coins and paper bills. Either is legal tender, but outside the Eastern Cities, coins are more common as paper bills are nowhere near as durable. Coins come in denominations of 1 (make, penny), 5 (flag or win), 50 (lion), 100 (eagle), 500 (tower), and 1000 (crown) regals. A much rarer coin called a ducat is worth 5000 regals.
Paper money is far more common around the Perimeter, but around Valrona you'll mostly find coins. Either is fine ingame. Merchants tend to like paper money, but other people find it scarily ephemeral and will prefer actual coins. Refusing paper money is unheard-of, but if someone has that big of an issue with it, it isn't too hard to get bills converted to metal coins.
You'll sometimes see two makes called "tuppence," and three makes called "thruppence."
Though barter is used in some far-flung areas, and gems and precious metals (especially pure gold) are accepted as tender in some places, this currency is valid all through the Empire. There aren't any other forms of currency that are legal tender. The Act of Incorporation of 1622AH decreed one universal currency as well as the gold standard that backs all paper money issued by the Empire. Previous attempts at creation of a paper currency had been tried and failed, but the Ministry of Exchange begins a 1:1 gold standard for it, and this time it succeeded.
Arms, Symbols, and Livery
A coat of arms is reserved only for Nobles (those people who have been invested with a noble title and/or holdings). A coat of arms is always displayed on a shield-shaped background with a pointed bottom and plain or ornate flat top to differentiate it from a symbol or badge. A Noble House has its own coat of arms, but an offshoot family usually alters this very slightly. For example, House Tybiris' coat of arms is an eight-pointed star on a red background, so a youngest son might make his own coat of arms four eight-pointed stars on a red background.
Non-noble people and organizations use symbols or badges instead. A badge/symbol is always put on a circular background to differentiate it from a coat of arms. These do not need to be registered but professional societies such as the Brotherhood of Swords usually do register them at their cities' council chambers. Commoner families of means do sometimes adopt a symbol or badge as well, but this is seen as rather pretentious unless that family/org has a pressing reason to need recognition from afar. Having a badge purely for vanity is not recommended; Nobles and those who actually have one for necessity would look down upon this pretty severely.
Kiassan heraldry follows rules similar to those of the RL world with regard to colors and metals. No color on color or metal on metal, etc, and colors are restricted to the following: purple, red, blue, black, green. Metals are silver/white and gold/yellow. There are no shade differentiations allowed; blue is always dark blue, red is always crimson, green is always kelly/emerald, purple is always medium purple/amethyst, black is always black. Yellow is always bright golden yellow and silver is either bright silver or pure white. Any standard heraldry book should guide those who wish to explore making their own family badge.
It's probably a good idea to review this page to learn what the major coats of arms are around Valrona. A savvy and up-and-coming person would definitely want to know this information; it makes Nobles happy to be recognized.
Most people on Scialla are decently educated, at least around the Eastern Cities. Out west, far beyond the Perimeter, things might be a little more dicey; frontiers have never been famous for their incredible educational facilities, and it isn't actually illegal not to send one's kids to school.
That said, unless you have a good reason not to be at least basically educated, your PC will know how to read and write Eshtenel, the dominant language of the Kiassan Empire. He may not have the biggest vocabulary in the whole wide world, and he might not have ever read a book that lacked pictures and a puppy somewhere on the cover, but he won't be an illiterate savage unless you want him to be one.
While it isn't illegal not to school one's kids out west, around the Eastern Cities, it actually IS illegal. Schooling is compulsory up to age 15, at which time a child may withdraw with consent of his parent or guardian. (A child without a parent or guardian will need to materialize one in order to get out of schooling.)
The Church of Haran is associated very strongly with education in Valrona; in these religious-affiliated schools, a basic grounding in Haranite tenets is provided. In the frontier, all of the schools tend to have a very religious bent, especially since all of the schoolbooks tend to be produced by Haranite presses back East.
Architecture and Ship Styles
Several architectural styles currently dominate Sciallan building. In Valrona particularly there are numerous examples of each of the main fashions.
Valletian A very artistic style popularized about 200 years ago, this style features built-in verandas and elaborate parapets. Many Noble houses feature this style as it is so ideally suited for hosting large gatherings and for observing events from a balcony/veranda. It has wide doorways, occasionally peaked domes for the ballrooms, and generally faintly peaked roofs for water drainage. First pioneered by the architect Nicholas Vallice.
Artaheri. Made by the architect Byron Artaher (1260AH - 1340AH), this style features rounder houses with few angles. The style lends itself to taller structures, particularly for public houses. Artaher helped design the main buildings of Valrona University, and it is without a doubt one of the more distinctive structures around Valrona, with its round towers, cupolas, and arching windows and doors. Artaheri is a very old style, but much admired for its classic lines. The White Palace of Priascialla is very similar, though of much older vintage, than the University of Valrona. The dome shapes at the top of the towers is what really indicates the age of an Artaheri; the oldest feature more flame-shaped domes similar to those of the White Palace, while newer ones are more subtly shaped.
Sorretino. This style features more compact, close-built structures, typically taller than they are wide. Often the buildings are built with a deep cellar, some 15' deep in some cases, for purposes of food preservation and heat conservation. Seen as a very practical style for city residences, it can be "dressed up" with as many details as the builder likes, or else left very plain for more economical homes. The style originated in the Age of Sorrows, but the original architect is lost to the mists of time. This style is the oldest still in use. Older Sorretino buildings tend to be narrower in proportion to height and do not generally feature a lot of extra details, with many lacking kitchens or more than one private bedroom; newer Sorretino structures often have features like lintels over the doorways, gable windows, and a construction of bricks on the upper half and stones on the lower. The very newest Sorretinos feature double doors and a more open floorplan with lofts and a central kitchen. Many architects play with the classic style, creating all new designs.
There are a good number of different land and seagoing vessels in the Kiassan Empire. Here are a very small sampling along with relative cost and popularity:
Dart: The typical small air vessel from Scialla, usually used inside the Perimeter. Costs about 12,000d, and is quite popular. It can't get out of orbit. It's a small, rakish-looking vessel with a snub nose and small, two-person cockpit and not much room for much else, so it's really considered a young person's runabout.
Interceptor: Also generally used within the Perimeter, this ship is often used by both smugglers and law enforcers. It is not often seen in private hands. It is known for its sleek lines and its long snout. It costs about 25,000d.
Hennessy: The most popular style of carriage, used both inside and outside the Perimeter. It can be quite fashionable, with its placketed curtains that keep out the weather and its scrollworked seats with their plump cushions. Though a Hennessy can be made very expensively, the least expensive start at 900d or so. Most larger cities feature a carriage maker who can make them.
Cutter: A sleek pleasure-craft used by the most blue-blooded of families, with a dozen or two staterooms, minimal cargo room, and plenty of deck space for relaxing in. The crafts can be made medium-size or large, and can be made quite luxurious. The Imperial Family has an incredible one, The Queen of the Sea.
Windrider and Suncourser: Lirwhinites have their own nearly-miraculous crafts. The Windrider and its larger cousin, the Suncourser, are both solar-powered and exquisitely shaped, made of gleaming metal with pointed noses. The Suncourser has wider wings and more cargo space.
Religions of the Kiasse
Most people of Scialla worship with the Church of Haran. Haran is a prophet from very long ago (during the time Scialla calls its "Troubles", just before House Stardancer took control of the Empire a thousand years ago), preaching the word of Logos. It's a fairly ascetic, dualistic religion with a hermetic tradition of scholarship and mortification. Abbeys dot the landscape of Tergaea, each presided over by an abbot or abbess. The main Cathedral is, of course, in Priascialla, and House Stardancer is its most illustrious patron.
Anything that old is going to have variants, of course, and there are some "fundamentalist" sects in the Eastern Cities gaining ground. One rarely finds schisms in the western provinces, but the type of Haranism one finds there does not often coincide with the form practiced in Priascialla.
The Church of Haran stresses loyalty, integrity, and learning. Its western variants also tend to stress kindness and generosity. To learn more about this faith, click here.
Other sects include the Preservationists, a small religion concentrated around the western end of the continent Tergaea. Their goals are nebulous, but they are pacifist and keep to themselves. You're not likely to see many of them around Valrona. They live in hippie-like communes that they say are dedicated to the ideals of harmony, mutual acceptance, tolerance, and love, with a generally anti-hierarchical structure. They call themselves Keepers, with the leader/spokesman of a sect calling himself the Master Keeper. New members are seldom admitted to the faith, but when they are, they are called Seekers. Seekers, Keepers, and the Master Keepers. That's about it, for them. They are friendly toward outsiders, but extremely careful not to share too much or get too close.
There's a good reason for them to be so aloof, of course; every so often someone in charge decides they're a threat and tries to wipe them out, either by taking their land away forcibly or just declaring a pogrom-style purge. The new strategy seems to involve making themselves useful by allying economically with smaller cities by selling at a good discount their fine cheeses and wines. The Church of Haran tolerates them at the moment. That may change later.
Only in rumors does one other ancient cult exist. The Machinist Cult, as it's called colloquially, says it's dedicated to the propogation of learning and technology. In the past, it has been accused of treason, heresy, rebellion, and worse. Just to ask about the Cult is a good way to get authorities involved in your affairs. Without a doubt the Cult is still active, but also without a doubt they're very careful about how they achieve their goals.
Other planets, of course, have different religions. Haranism has invaded all the other planets, but is not dominant anywhere but on Scialla. Flamehold's religion is much like a form of shamanism. Lirwhin practices a faith called "The Middle Path" which preaches moderation and learning.
Bilashe's religion centers around a single god, Sernis, but not much is known of him or the faith. Bilashans absolutely do not accept foreigners into their faith, and do not proselytize. Of Bilashans themselves, one can only say that whatever their faith is, it doesn't seem to keep them from committing immoral acts.... like, say, trying to take over the entire Kiassan Empire.
Slang You'll See Ingame
Other slang exists, especially the high-tech type used by young Lirwhinites and the more earthy and violent-sounding used by Flameholdans, and in time this too will be elaborated upon.
Medals and Recognition in the Kiassan Empire
There are both Imperial-level and local-level awards, medals, and recognition. Needless to say, the Imperial-level ones are much better known, but just about every military organization and political entity has its own marks of honor. Mostly it's Lirwhinites and Sciallans who enjoy them, since Flameholdans have other customs involving tattoos and scarification of marking battles and bravery. Here are the main ones you can expect to see around Valrona:
The Star of Kiasse. An oval faceted sapphire set in a triamandine pendant brooch, with jet or onyx "starbursts" around the sapphire. This is a hugely dramatic-looking brooch. Because it uses triamandine, a mineral no longer available, it is of enormous value in and of itself, even with the small size involved. It is awarded only in cases of enormous bravery and sacrifice on the behalf of the entire Kiassan Empire. Rus Niak of Lirwhin is one of the past (and current only living) recipients.
The Order of the Healing Hands. A bloodstone set in a framework of gold. Awarded once every 4 years to a doctor of medicine who has made a good advancement in the name of Kiassan health. Past recipients have included a woman who pioneered the building of maternity clinics in frontier towns and a doctor who discovered a new treatment for Uriel's Syndrome. Out of the many thousands of healthcare workers in the Empire, those who hold this honor can feel genuinely proud.
The Order of Saint Alexander. An emerald brooch inside a cross, with a gold starburst around it all. A military award given as the Imperial throne feels fit to military commanders who have gone well and above the call of duty.
The Lion's Mark. Sometimes called "the Lion's Mane," awarded to commoners who have shown a great deal of valor in defending the interests of the Kiassan Empire. The badge is a golden lion on a field of blue with petitpoints, but those who have been awarded it have the heraldic right to wear lion fur on their clothing and cloaks.
Recreation and Fun
Quite a few people are into the team sports game called Quintzel. The season's in the fall and lasts through early spring with the Quintzel Bowl, held in Priascialla generally. Almost all of the Eastern Cities have Quintzel Leagues, usually associated with universities. Wearing a jersey or sash from the "wrong" team at the wrong time in an "enemy" city can get someone in a lot of trouble sometimes!
Games of dice are also popular, such as Pick-Up and Rules of Three, in which players respectively try to beat each other's rolls or to predict how a throw of the dice will land. Lucky Seven is played in higher-end casinos across Scialla; in this simple game, players just bet whether or not they'll roll sevens or elevens on two six-sided dice. Though it sounds utterly simplistic, entire cultures have sprung up around the games.
Most people like to dance, and as long as the dancing's not too friendly, the Church doesn't mind too much. There are quite a few group dances (similar to our modern ballroom dancing) that have pre-set, memorized moves for partners to enjoy. In many cases, the partners switch up or interact with each other in more or less formalized ways. Very seldom are dances meant for only two people. Nobles particularly enjoy their dances. Commoners also dance, but often the dances are circle dances that are done without regard to gender and often without set partnerings. Nobles do not engage in these boorish displays, but they're a lot of fun. Many dances are specific to particular cities, and since new ones are made up every few years, it's good to keep up with them if one wishes to make a good appearance at the parties.
Though the Church of Haran frowns upon playing cards, most people have at least one or two decks of cards floating around. Decks of cards have 36 "number" cards, with 4 suits each ranging from 1 to 9. Suits are called Cups, Jewels, Staves, and Swords. Each suit also has 4 "court" cards each, consisting of Knights, Queens, Kings, and Aces. The most popular game among commoners is "Hunting the Hares," played by two people who assume the roles of hunter and hare. It's a simple high-card game; each player holds 10 cards which he can see but which the other can't, and the hunter's job is to have the staves and wands suits higher than the hare's. If the hare's cups and jewels are higher, he's deemed to have gotten away.
Bilashans add to these suites 12 "Face" cards that have no specific suit. The Face cards are used in fortune-telling in combination with the other cards; entire manuals exist teaching how to interpret various kinds of layouts of the cards. The Face cards most people know are the Fool and Death cards. Needless to say, all forms of divination are absolutely, positively condemned by the Haranite Church.
While many Sciallans keep animals of various kinds for work-related purposes, in the city many people keep them just as companions. Dog breeds range from the standard hounds and shepherds down to the toy breeds that work well for households. Cats can be indoor-only or outdoor/indoor, and are often default vermin-catchers. In game terms, staff ask only that you have somewhere to keep your pet or some way of keeping it alive; please don't ask if you don't have your own house unless the person who owns the house has given permission to have a pet running around. Exotic pets like wolves, ferrets, treewees, and the like will not be allowed.
That said, most upper-class Sciallan abodes feature stables for horses. Horses are usually hard-working, performing transportation duty for their owners. Sometimes they're used just for going around town, and ladies particularly like riding them to show off their wealth and status.
Almost every Sciallan household features a little garden if possible. Herb gardens are considered thrifty and useful, though upper-class households like flower gardens too. "Stonegardens," with sculptures and other outdoor artwork displays, are popular among the rich. Even a low-class household often has a window box or something similar.
Health and Welfare
The technology level around Valrona is fairly high with regard to healthcare, though obviously no healthcare machines that use power or electronics will work. That means no X-ray machines, no refrigerators, and no electronic thermometers. Medicines, though, are usually spot-on; they come in vacuum-packed containers for freshness, and once torn open, must be used quickly.
Germ theory--the idea that germs can cause illness--is known throughout the Kiassan Empire; only the most ignorant backwoods rednecks don't know that washing one's hands prevents illness, though cleanliness is hard to achieve out west. Miraculous medicines that can prevent obesity, most physical ailments, and even some forms of cancers are easily obtainable in Valrona, though much harder to get elsewhere. Illnesses like diabetes, cancer, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease are almost nonexistent in the Empire (and aren't known by those names anyway), and polio and measles are unknown. Autism still occurs, but between therapy and modern medicines, is fairly manageable.
As to mental illness, anything physiological is pretty much dealt with in the Eastern Cities. Other illnesses such as addiction, personality disorders, and other things like that can be managed with care, but are not as eradicated, especially among the lower classes.
Basic healthcare is provided to all citizens in the Kiassan Empire courtesy of Imperial edict. Taxes pay for this care. Emergency care must be subsidized by citizens, preventing frivolous use of the resources, and intake technicians in larger cities prevent non-emergencies from wasting valuable money and time. Basic healthcare means preventive care for the most part. Of course, way out past the Perimeter, this healthcare isn't as assured. Frontier doctors are some of the major unsung heroes of the Empire as they make sure even the smallest villages get a little seeing-to and vaccinating.
Here are some illnesses and disorders you can expect to see ingame:
Phaeteronitis: occasionally cropping up among frontier mining towns. This infection begins with twitching and shivering and ends with seizures and death. With certain drug therapies this parasitic infection can be beaten, but otherwise it has a 20% mortality rate. Those who survive the infection's initial rush can look forward to a life of aching joints and shaking hands, as well as a much-lessened lifespan.
Uriel's Syndrome: a broad spectrum of problems centering around perception. Miners in the Whiteridge Mountains first described this disorder around 1400AH or so. The disorder is remarkable in that it begins with a series of horrible headaches that lead to such severe fatigue that the sufferer usually ends up in bed for a week or two. Afterward, objects' size is not perceived correctly, nor are distances able to be accurately gauged. The eyes are completely normal and there is no injury or trauma involved to them or the brain aside from the migraines. This disorder is extremely serious. Treatment involves a visit to the Eastern Cities for drug therapy; once the migraines are dealt with, usually the rest clears up. The syndrome has never been contracted in the Eastern Cities and doesn't appear to be contagious. Theories abound regarding its sources (bacterial, viral, etc), but the main idea is that it is painful and incurable without specific drugs.
Tyri Disorder: named for the now-extinct village where the illness began, this disease has a fairly high 40% mortality rate. It begins with coughing and abdominal pain and progresses through weakness and vomiting to trouble swallowing, seizures, and coma. Sufferers with bad cases of Tyri Disorder might need mechanical assistance to breathe (such assistance, obviously, is unavailable except in Priascialla). Care for Tyri involves drug therapy as well as palliative supportive care. It's very rare to see this disease; it is contagious, and outbreaks can devastate human populations. It's also cross-infectious to horses and pigs. The initial outbreak was hideous, and caused quite a stir in 1870AH when mail carriers discovered Tyri had become a ghost town. Tyri is on the northwestern edge of the Wilds so the disease's source is thought to be from around there.
Weeping Sickness: a rare and contagious sickness contracted in the southern edges of Tergaea that is characterized by bleeding from the eyes and orifices. Almost nothing is known of its origins or cause, though bats are suspected as both index patients first identified had contact with the animals. The illness is nearly 80% fatal, and there is no known vaccine or cure. Luckily, it is vanishingly rare, with outbreaks every 30 years or so centering around incursions into the Wilds' southern reaches.
Wilderlust: thought to be a sort of "cabin fever" marked by an extreme desire to visit the Wilds and spent a lot of time in this otherwise forbidding and dangerous environment. Though this is not an illness per se due to the fact that it is primarily psychological, it is worth mentioning as the compulsion sufferers face can be very severe. Note: Before you launch this concept for your PC, talk to admins first. This is a real illness with some IC components. If you want to RP having it without backing, then you run a risk that we will not support your RP ingame and you'll end up being proven to be malingering.