This entry is part 2 in the series On Alien Languages

Here’s where we’re at: In order to complete my series on Names, I need to deal with non-human languages; and the best – in fact, the only – approach that I have found for explaining the procedure that I’ve come up with for the creation of such languages is to describe how I do it in my Shards Of Divinity campaign. But, in order to do an adequate job of doing that, I first need to divert from my diversion to explain the background and premise of the campaign, to lay a foundation as it were for the discussions to follow.

So, after two ninety-degree turns in the conversation in rapid succession, we now find ourselves going neither left nor right but straight up – relative to the original line of discussion. I know a writer’s job can sometimes get complicated, but this is up close and personal with a ridiculous extreme!

Nevertheless, that’s where things stand, so let’s plunge onward…

The Shared Kingdoms: Conceptual Origins

I got the idea for the Shared Kingdoms whilst waxing philosophical about the impact of the Internet on the society of the future, specifically, the concept that the internet will reduce all domestic laws to the lowest common international denominator because nothing else is practicable of enforcement. That got me to thinking about the processes of formation of Kingdoms and Cultures in human history, and whether or not anything analogous could ever come into existence in a fantasy setting, and just what it would look like.

Unfortunately, I suffered a failure of imagination at the critical moment and couldn’t come up with a viable solution. The premise was set aside for consideration some other time, and went no further.

Step forward in time almost a decade, to the point at which I was thinking about the setting for my Shards Of Divinity campaign. I had an original idea for how magic worked, and working backwards gave me an origin-of-the-universe story; those two in combination gave me a unique origin-of-the-gods and an overall campaign premise. The campaign was being created to focus on one particular player and his character, and was designed to let him achieve all the things that he had always wanted to do in a game and not been permitted to do by other GMs – conquer the world, become a Demi-Lich, become a dragon, become a God and reshape the world as he saw fit, that sort of thing. Achieving those goals required him to receive a singular education in the nature of reality, to perceive things that no-one else had ever done before. It would then take him many years of game time to understand what it was that he head experienced and how to convert it into practical advantage; as he did so, he would learn to do things that no mortal had ever been able to do before (in this world at least).

As I set out to chronicle what he had experienced – without explanations – I discovered, much to my surprise, that the end result was exactly what I had attempted to create those many years earlier. So, at a metagame level, that’s the story of the origins of the Shared Kingdoms.

The Shared Kingdoms: In-Game Origins

The “origin story” of the Shared Kingdoms – as it is known to the priests of this world – is presented within the “scroll excerpts” used to illustrate this article. It is presented here for the first time anywhere, the players have not seen it before. It is not entirely accurate, is far from complete, and lacks any comprehension as to why certain events took place. Nevertheless, it is the best truth available to most of the world, and theologians within the campaign believe it implicitly. Only one person knows better, having not only seen the events unfold, but having been privileged to look behind the curtain. That, of course, is Lucius, the PC about whom the entire campaign revolves, a character who has seen things and knows things, but does not yet understand them or their significance…

The Shared Kingdoms: The Concept

The Shared Kingdoms are a social, cultural, economic, and political palimpsest – multiple realms (not all of which are Kingdoms) occupying the same geographic area. A citizen of the Shared Kingdoms belongs to one of these realms, and is responsible to its laws and cultural demands, everywhere within the Shared Kingdoms that he goes.

European Similarity

The situation is slightly similar to that presented by modern Europe, in which a person is a native of a particular country, but may pass freely into any other nation within the greater common Europe. While a tourist, he is answerable both to the local laws he may encounter and to his domestic laws at the same time. Take away that nation of origin and disperse it throughout “Europe” whilst retaining it as a collective conceptual entity, and you have the shared Kingdoms.

Australian Similarity

It also has its similarities to the political structure with which I am most familiar, since I live in it and have done so since birth – Australia. We have local governments. We also have collective regional state governments. And we have an overriding Federal government. All of these are elected independently, no representatives are appointed by any other level of government, so they do not form a strict hierarchy; instead, they form three layers of an overall map.

This is analogous to, and will be directly understood by, citizens of many other countries, such as Canada and the USA. The primary difference between the US and Australia is that within the US, State Laws are secondary to Federal Laws – but there are strictly defined prerogatives of authority beyond which the Federal government must cede control to the states.

In theory, in Australia, the situation is the other way around – the states have all the authority and the Federal Government only has authority in those areas in which the states have relinquished that authority. In practice, we are becoming more like the US every day, but that’s another discussion for another time.

Connecting The Dots

So it is within the Shared Kingdoms. An individual is responsible to his local government for strictly local matters; an individual is responsible to the government of which he is a citizen for wider matters; and there is a common overall law that concerns itself with interactions between citizens of different governments.

There are no boundaries between Kingdoms, just one political boundary around the entire collective Shared Kingdom. And even that is not a border per se – civilization just sort of dissolves around the fringes.

This is not to say that there aren’t societies beyond this boundary – it is just that these governments are not part of the Shared Kingdoms, and are not recognized as legitimate by the Shared Kingdoms. They are outlaw states, populated by rogues and criminals – because, so far as the Shared Kingdoms are concerned, no other legitimate political authority exists. That’s because as they have come across these, they have either absorbed them into the overall collective (shades of the Borg!) or declared them enemies of civilization.

The Reality

Of course, this is a hypothetical situation, an ideal. Each of these realms originated in a different location and built up a local power base before running into each other. Within the overall union of “The Shared Kingdoms,” there are localities that are dominated by individual member realms. Once the shared kingdoms were unified into a single political body, individuals from different realms would have sought out places to pursue their trade, just as in the Middle Ages the apprentice to a relatively young blacksmith would have to move elsewhere to pursue his trade if there was not enough local demand to support a second Blacksmith.

Historically, that entailed paying an annual fee for permission to relocate to the noble from whose domain the former apprentice derived. In the Shared Kingdoms, because the individual remains a part of his original realm even when he relocates to a location where his services will be in demand, still paying his taxes to that realm and still responsible to its laws (except in purely local matters), this arrangement is not only simplified but the economic drain of paying two sets of taxes is avoided, so the Shared Kingdoms are more prosperous than the equivalent medieval political model.

Get enough people in a particular village or minor community with the same political opinion and that opinion will become official. The village of Vedusia might start off being allied with one realm, but slowly strangers relocate to there who are affiliated with another, until they become the dominate population. When that happens, the local government changes allegiance, and the village can petition that second realm to become part of it, instead of being part of the first realm.

The end result is simulated by the somewhat abstracted “map” to the right. Red represents “civilization” and black “the unclaimed wilderness”, home to states which are not members of the Shared Kingdoms. Seven hypothetical “Shared Kingdoms” are shown – one in yellow, two in pink, two in brown, one in blue, and one in green. Each has a central power base but they don’t have a definable boundary – they just sort of disperse into each other. Note that this square shape has nothing to do with the real shape of the shared Kingdoms – it is for illustrative purposes only.

Ideological Relocation

Naturally, economic prosperity is not the only reason people relocate, given the option of doing so at will, or close to it. Followers of a particular religious, social, or political bent can move to someplace where their views are more welcome, or can function as missionaries and representatives of their point of view. Each of the realms vies for the opportunity to educate young nobles in their own ideology, their own perspective on how and why the Shared Kingdoms should function. The more senior the Noble, the more likely it is that he will have two or more tutors, theoretically broadening the education of that young noble. That makes the Shared Kingdoms more progressive than a typical medieval culture, socially, and helps maintain both the unity of the collective and keep the peace internally.

Titles

The overall pattern is medieval, with appropriate titles – the value and meaning of which varies from one member kingdom to another.

Most Human Kingdoms have the same basic structure of nobility, with variations. Non-human Kingdoms have equivalents to many of these titles, sometimes adapted after contact with Humans. Greater variation exists in questions of inheritance and bestowing of titles. This basic structure is:

  • Emperors & Empresses rule multiple Kingdoms.
  • Kings & Queens rule countries. Kings & Queens can bestow or vacate any lesser rank.
  • Dukes & Duchesses rule Regions. Dukes may appoint Viscountries, Baronages, and Knighthoods.
  • Viscounts & Viscountesses rule Cities in Regions. They may recommend Knighthoods.
  • Earls & Earlesses rule Isolated Cities. They may bestow Knighthoods and appoint Counthoods and Baronies.
  • Counts & Countesses rule districts in capital cities and isolated estates without cities. They may recommend Knighthoods.
  • Barons & Dames rule towns, outposts, towers, guard posts, settlements, estates, and the like (specific locations). They may recommend Knighthoods.
  • Knighthoods recognize exceptional service to the throne or its nobles, or achievement, or bravery, or some other special merit.
  • Princes & Princesses are children of Emperors & Empresses and Kings & Queens. They may bestow Knighthoods.
  • Baronells and Baronines are children of Dukes. They may recommend Knighthoods, approval is usually pro-forma.
  • Margraves and Margravines are children of Viscounts. They have no authority to make or recommend appointments.
  • Baronets & Ladies are children of Counts, Earls & Barons. They have no authority to make or recommend appointments.

Noble titles other than Knighthoods are hereditary unless designated otherwise by the issuing authority. Titles are not normally cumulative through the generations. However, Kings also have personal estates (and the title of Duke that comes with them) and Dukes have a city which heads their domain, and hence also have the title of Viscount. In addition, one or more Baronies may be conferred apon a noble of any more senior rank in addition to their dominant noble title.

A specific exception is made for the Capitas Duodiem and surrounding lands, which are ruled by a Duke with no Viscounts, Counts, or Baronies as vassals. Technically, this is a concession to the importance of the Capital of the Shared Kingdoms, in practice it is a measure of the political power and independence conferred by, and necessary for, it’s status.

Lesser titles belong to the administrators of smaller communities. A count may hold “title” granted by one of the Kingdoms to administer half a dozen communities with little or no geographic or physical consanguity. That carries with it responsibilities to the parent realm which the noble is required to enforce and authority to match (at least in theory).

When a community changes “hands”, there are only two solutions: change the noble, or give him a new allegiance and title. Since the first would quickly cause the whole thing to fall apart into a multitude of small civil wars, rapidly growing union-wide, the second is preferred. The same administrative head governs the community, but he now has two titles and a different set of laws to enforce so far as that village is concerned. His obligations and authority levels will also change, and so might his revenues from the community. Balancing any shortfall may be a stipend from the new “crown” to which the village looks. Note that the change of allegiance is not his choice, it is made by the local government of the community.

A nobleman may have several titles, and be active within several different courts. This affords him political connections, allies, and support that he might otherwise be hard-pressed to achieve. The more elevated the nobleman, the more likely it is that he will actively seek out many titles for this reason. A nobleman might be Baron of this, Count of that, and Viscount of something else, all at the same time, and all titles from different member realms.

The Social Impact

This has a substantial social impact on communities within the Shared Kingdoms in that it provides a mechanism by which a nobleman is held responsible by the communities that he governs. A repressive nobleman might find his villages all switching to a political view that minimizes his powers and revenues, effectively stripping him of one or more of his titles – potentially, all of his titles. Since this effectively weakens the realms in whose name the communities used to be held, while strengthening others, this often makes him very unpopular with his peers and superiors within those realms.

Over time, depending on the ability of their leaders, different realms will be more prosperous than others, and will swell in political authority overall as a result. The result is a byzantine web of political games and intrigue as each member realm seeks to become the dominant philosophic and political power within the Shared Kingdoms, to steer the overall direction they take in the future to one of their liking. This is only possible by so managing their realms that communities belonging to their rivals change allegiances – a tricky balancing act, since those already belonging to a political group expect to reap the rewards when that group prospers, not see it frittered away on those jumping onto a bandwagon after all the hard work us done.

Economic and political management are always a challenging juggling act in the Shared Kingdoms, and ambition has been the undoing of many Noblemen. Able rulers must often use the revenues from one title to shore up the popularity of a rival realm in order to maintain their overall position.

Ending The Preamble

All this has been preamble, additional explanation. My players are still trying to wrap their heads around the concept, more than two years after we started play, so I thought it might be beneficial to spell a few things out a little more fully. The rest of this article will mostly be verbatim extracts from the briefing packages provided to the players, with some additional commentary and explanation as needed.

Some of this information will be redundant, covering ground already discussed. I make no promises with respect to accuracy or completeness – this is the briefing given to the PCs as what their characters can know through general knowledge.

A unique form of Internationalism

Although they started out as separate realms, over time the members of the Shared Kingdoms have expanded in and past and through each other, or one has come to completely surround another. Political expediency has forced mutual recognition and ultimately a unique internationalism in which the political boundaries of each member state are considered to extend throughout the shared jurisdiction (like states within a country) without any loss of sovereignty. This seemingly-unstable situation has persisted for hundreds of years, maintained by political balance and peer pressure.

The Capital city of the Shared Kingdoms is named Capitas Duodiem.

Laws

Each Kingdom can only pass laws affecting its own citizens, and transfer from one Kingdom to another is rarely possible (with a few exceptions amongst the human Kingdoms). Relations between the Shared Kingdoms are controlled by the Council Of Kings, also known as the Council of 12. While each ruler has his own administrative and support staff, there is an overall bureaucracy dealing with Council matters.

When problems arise between the subjects of two different Kingdoms, the law that applies is always that of the complaining victim. Reciprocal jurisdiction is universal – Dwarvish authorities will hold a troublemaker until the Elvish authorities arrive to take a drunken Halfling into custody.

The Galliamic Code

Laws are built around something called the Galliamic Code, which accords serfs and peasants certain rights and protections against the depravities of their rulers. The laws are based on the premise that without workers to plant the crops, dig the mines, etc, a noble’s holdings are worthless. In exchange for honoring this rights and protections, the local Lord is entitled to a tithe of the products of the workers, is entitled to draft them as manpower or for military service, and so on. The peasants and serfs also have duties and obligations that must be met. The code sets limits to the severity of punishment that can be assigned for failing in these responsibilities.

In general, the higher one’s social level, the more proof must be provided of an offence. The code restricts the wealthy and powerful less than might be expected. The nobility are always entitled to present a defense, and can afford to call in professionals to argue that defense. Over time, the number of loopholes so established have given the nobility a fairly free hand. The Code is enforced collectively by the Kingdoms; no one Kingdom’s nobles dare break it or all the other Kingdoms would turn on them.

The Member States

There are currently twelve member states within the Shared Kingdoms:

  • Bher Yuralvus – an Independent City-State, also known popularly as The Home of the Endless Library.
  • The Causa Domusora – a Human Republican Meritocracy, Mage Dominated, also known as The Home Of Reason.
  • The Congressus Feyunctusora – An Association of independent Fey & Sylvan Clans, also known as The United Association of Fey.
  • The Therassus Amora – A Human Feudal Kingdom, also known as The Centre Of Attraction.
  • The Ineodolus Imperascora – A human Plutocracy, also known as The Traders And Commerce Empire.
  • The Longex Dextora – a Republic Of Independent City-States, located in a region commonly known as The Hinterlands.
  • Parumveneaora – a Gnomish Monarchy, occupying a mountainous region named The Vale Of Dreams.
  • Silvunduzora – a Dwarvish Monarchy, located in a mountainous region known more popularly as The Deep Hollows.
  • Sylvarnpluprasi – The Dryad Forest, a monarchy, also known as The Sylvan Grange.
  • The Temmanora – a loose association of Halfling Feudal Clans. The common people refer to the region it occupies as The Halfling Lands.
  • The Verus Fidesora – a human Theocracy and centre of religion within the Shared Kingdoms. The scroll excerpted throughout this article derives from The People Of True Faith and tells the only doctrinally-approved version of the origins of the Shared Kingdoms, starting about 1000 years ago.
  • The Iriduserde Foliumprasi – an Elvish Monarchy, seat of the Drow Rebellion. The name translates as The Vivid Green-Leaf Forest .

Since each of these will be given their own, more detailed article, I’ve avoided going into substantial detail here.

The Surrounding Wilderness & Outlaw States

There are also ten notable regions/outlaw states in the ‘wilderness’ surrounding the Shared Kingdoms. These are:

  • Procerus Terrora(The Giantlands) – located to the North & Northeast of the shared kingdoms, this is a vast plain marked by sudden crevasses and unexpected bogs. In the middle of this plain is vast forest of trees that stand hundreds of feet tall. Beyond these a massive snow-capped mountain range is visible. These are collectively known as The Giantlands, because everything in them seems to grow larger than it does anywhere else. Giants of all kinds abound in these regions, and they discourage human visitors. While the southernmost areas are quite temperate, the farther north one proceeds, the colder the surroundings become.
  • Gramen Domubyas (The Grasshome Marshes) – Located to the East of the Shared Kingdoms. Rivers running from the mountains of the Giantlands and through the fissures and lakes of the north country eventually feed into this vast marshland of scrub and drifting mangroves. The internal terrain of the marshes is always being rearranged as currents shift this way and that. These fens, bogs, and marshes are the home of innumerable small and vicious creatures. The most dominant and dangerous inhabitants are the cannibalistic Gnoll tribes, who regard human as a delicacy. From time to time, they will raid into the Eastern parts of the Shared Kingdoms for fresh meat, especially in late winter when the local food supplies tend to become scarce.
  • Levitasvirga Abyssora (The Thunderhell). South of the Grasshome Marshes and East of the shared Kingdoms is another vast area of plains and rolling hills known as the Thunderhell, which also extends northwards on the far side of the Gramen Domubyas. Beyond the hills is another vast mountain range, the Montis Levitasvirgo (Thunder Mountains). These seem to be perpetually cloaked in storm clouds, and are responsible for the weather that gives the Thunderhell it’s name. In winter, icy sleet regularly rains down from the east, chilling all to the bone. In spring, heavy rain extends the Grasshome Marshes to the feet of the Montis Levitasvirgo and fills the air with the stench of decay. In summer, the air almost broils with the temperature of the fiery winds from the South, interspersed with the occasional storm that sweeps down from the East to start grassfires. When weather conditions are right, the firestorms that result when these grassfires are carried by the Incendiventus (Firewinds) can travel as much as 100 miles in a day. And in autumn, the days are either stiflingly hot and humid or icy-cold and even more humid.
  • The Solvo Mondibanus, also known as The Unified Association Of Free Ports. South of the Thunderhell, and Southeast of the Shared Kingdoms, lie the eastward prominence of the Shared Kingdoms, running all the way down to the Undus Verdestus, Green Ocean. The coastline to the north is dotted with small islands and coastal settlements, parts of either the Ineodolus Imperascora or Longex Dextora. To the south are a collection of larger, more scattered, tropical islands, somewhere amongst which can be found the Free Ports of the Solvo Mondibanus, an “Association” of independent Human Plutocracies. To the uninformed, these often represent a romantic ideal, a collection of ports whose inhabitants worship the sea and refuse to be bound to any less freedom than “she” is. In practice, these are pirate havens of near-total lawlessness where it’s as easy to get your throat cut as it is to be forcibly indentured into a life of slavery. It is rumored that these are actually former parts of the Longex Dextora that were bribed into a life of plunder and violence by the Solvo Mondibanus, and who then turned on their ‘benefactors’. They answer only to their own code of laws and do not recognize the rights granted by the Galliamic code. Unless you are a trusted member of the Solvo Mondibanus, or are vouched for by one, you have no rights and no authority and are viewed as prey.
  • The Tawnton Dieltriporprasi: South of the Shared Kingdoms lies a massive band of Jungle, home to the Tawnton Dieltriporprasi, a collection of independent Tribes. Although the Shared Kingdoms consider them collectively and don’t distinguish one tribe from the next, they are actually separate political entities with minimal connections to one another. In a state of near-perpetual war with each other are rogue Kingdom colonies, barbarian Orcs, and all manner of other strange creatures. It is often said that no good comes from the Townton, only varying degrees of trouble and strife.
  • Arechanora (The Spiderlands) – located to the Southwest of the Shared Kingdoms. The heavy rains that blow in from the Undus Verdestus can only penetrate so far inland across the jungle before being blocked by the Montus Townton (Jungle Mountains), a rainforest-and-jungle-covered mountain range running from East to West, whose peaks slowly ascend as they move inland before ending suddenly in a series of incredible cliff-faces, the Townton Ascenza (Jungle Cliffs). Beyond the cliffs, the forest gives way to the Silververdis Arechanorprasi, more commonly known as the Arechanora – the Spiderlands. Dominated by Giant Spiders and fell creatures, this is a nightmarish place and a favorite refuge for Drow training camps. It is rumored that the Drow and the Spiders are allied, and that there is an entire Drow City somewhere in the Arechanora.
  • The Buhrs Galliamus (The City Of Ruins, aka The Ruined City, The Demolished City). – located to the immediate west of the Capital of the shared Kingdoms, the Buhrs Galliamus was once the greatest human city in the world, capital of a unified Human empire, the cause of its fall and the disintegration of the political unity that surrounded it are long forgotten by all except the most learned of historians. This was the source of the Galliamic Code, which is the foundation of Common Law throughout the Shared Kingdoms, and of the legendary Pax Galliamus, byword and metaphor throughout the Shared Kingdoms for ‘Wishful Thinking’. In modern times, the ruins have become a haven for all manner of creatures strange and foul (and the occasional criminal fleeing from the Shared Kingdoms). And yes, the fact that the “origins scroll” doesn’t even mention it is evidence that the scroll doesn’t tell the whole story.
  • Arred Anigesasi (The Black Lands) – located West-Northwest of Buhrs Galliamus, this region is an arid and rocky wasteland, home to trolls, kobolds, and other lizard-like creatures who like the heat. No one is completely sure what’s out there. Much of the rocks are black in colour, hence the name. There are reportedly sinkholes of superfine black sand.
  • Attero Montis (The Waste Range) – to the West-South-West of the ruined city and south of the Arred Anigesasi rise the Attero Montis, the most diabolical mountain range conceivable. Legend holds that hidden somewhere in it’s steep vastness is the lost utopian Kingdom of Cosmopolita, where life was so perfect even the gods were jealous. Many citizens of the Verus Fidusora claim that it was not jealousy that led to man’s exile from The Garden Of Plenty, it was the wickedness of Magic, though earlier documents – like the scroll quoted throughout this article – also point to the discovery of Steel. Cosmopolita was supposedly a Paradise, all things to all men. Every human child fantasizes about living in Cosmopolita whenever they are punished, or worked hard, or feel put apon. Assuming that Cosmopolita was real, and was destroyed as per the legends, the accounts in the various ancient holy books were all written decades or centuries after the fact, and contain as much prejudice and surmise as fact. The Elves claim to know the truth, but their version is also incomplete and internally contradictory, possibly a consequence of the shattering of Elvish Society by the Drow Uprising.
  • Diabolectus Pectusora (The Devil’s Heart) – West-Southwest, beyond the Blacklands, lies a vast desert of blistering heat and ancient ruins and monuments whose origins are long-forgotten. Explorers sometimes return with vast treasures found in ancient tombs.

Capitas Duodiem – Capital Of The Shared Kingdoms

Located at an intersection point between Therassus Amora (Centre Of Attraction), Ineodolus Imperascora (Traders & Commerce Empire), and Longex Dextora (The Hinterlands), and which should probably be considered a 13th Kingdom as it’s status forces a political separation between the city and Therassus Amora, the Kingdom to which it is nominally associated. The capital is also the central marketplace of the Shared Kingdoms. To fund Shared Kingdom activities and maintain official structures, it taxes trade. As part of its parent Kingdom, it is also required to pay taxes to the Therassus Amora.

Click to open a larger hi-res version

It may be worth noting that the description below was written in advance of the map being generated – something that was only possible because I had a clear image of what the map would look like in mind before I started. In fact, the first set of game sessions set within the city employed only the verbal descriptions and a very rough hand-sketched map produced on the spot. The description given has now been updated to include the map references.

The main road through the city is the Foliatus Tectum (Leafy Shelter) [1-2-3], which runs east-to-west and bisects the city. Outside of the walls of the fortified town, many other roads and trails connect to this main thoroughfare [not shown]. Part-way into town, it splits [2] and a second road [10] forms a leaf-shaped central area [5, 7, 9] that contains the Castle of Duke Caius Etennius [5]. On the Southern side of the original road is the Fortified Court of the Council Of Kings [8]. The second road is named the Avenue Of Temples [10] and is lined on the Southern side by Temples to the different Gods. The Avenue Of Temples is wide and clearly the subject of additional upkeep, paid for by Verus Fidusora. Cutting across the Leaf are a number of narrow lanes, the largest of which is Links Lane [9]. This runs alongside the Gardens [between 7 and 9] outside the entrance to the Castle. These gardens are named for the wife of one of the past Dukes, the Duchess Sepphrina. The area south of the Garden is the worst part of town, known as the Pohl Riore (The Rogue’s Quarter) [11], which is full of pickpockets, rogues, thugs, drunks, and ruffians. This is an area of warehouses, grain silos, and low-quality taverns & inns.

Facing the temples is the most prosperous and up-market mercantile operations, two- and even three- story buildings (the upper floors of which are residential) [12]. Behind these is the Urbem Opulentam (Wealthy Quarter) [13], slowly decreasing in quality as Meridius Via (the Southroad) [14] is approached.

The Southroad and Antemeridius Via (The Northroad) [15] are (in theory) restricted to military use, and only blank walls are permitted to face them. These walls must be built to a certain specification that includes arrow slits, flat roofs, archer’s nests, and a uniform height and spacing. Effectively, they form a second wall around the city and are intended to form a killing field should the outer wall ever be breached, and a means of rapid redeployment of defenders in the meantime.

Radiating out from the central ‘leaf’ are a number of smaller roads and avenues, periodically cross-connected with roads running parallel to the Foliatus Tectum and the Avenue Of Temples [major roads shown]. Sections of these are bricked closed to form a maze. These are predominantly residential on the northwestern corner side of the city, and there is an inner strip of residential area on the northeastern side as well. The latter are mainly occupied by the Embassies of the 12 Kingdoms [shown in deepest red], the residences of the representatives of those Kingdoms on the Council Of Kings (it’s quite rare for the actual Kings to be in residence, each member of the Shared Kingdoms having its own ‘capital’). inward of these are a line of servants quarters and ancillary buildings [lightest pink], facing an important secondary street, the Exsequor Muneris (Avenue Of Service) [East of 11]. Merchants and wealthier individuals without the political status of the diplomats are located in a residential zone between the servants and the embassies [darker pink].

On the other side of the Avenue Of Service are a number of public buildings and offices – the main Watch house, the offices of the Exchequer, and so on [6]. These include a museum owned by the Causa Domusora and the Cives Templum Common Temple owned by the Verus Fidusora, where ordinary citizens worship.

A further line of poorer and smaller accommodations lies beyond these [yellow area], designed to accommodate in comfort Fey, Halflings, Gnomes, and Dwarves, facing the Brevis Via The Short Road. Opposite is a large ‘park’ where the Elvish and Dryad residents of the city make their home [grey area], and another area of generic accommodations [northwestern pink area], all of which face the Aurum Vicus (Gold Street). This is where the blacksmiths, waggoners, potters, carpenters, masons, leatherworkers, and other tradespeople live and work. These are built to a similar specification as the dwellings alongside the Southroad, but reinforced doors are permitted to face the Northroad.

Facing these workshops and built against the outer walls of the city on this side are four army barracks and related buildings [lighter gray area at 14] and a wagon marshalling area, and a number of livestock pens ranging from the small to the large [western pale brown area to both north and south]. The largest enclosures, to the north, are used for horses and cattle. The larger area contains many smaller enclosures for sheep, pigs, dogs, goats, chickens & game birds, pigeons, and so on. The Wagon Marshalling area [brown area inset into 11] lies between these enclosures and the warehouse district.

NB: Some areas are unlabelled and some roads not shown because I ran out of time when producing the map. The most important parts are shown, because I used a priorities list – main roads, walls, areas and regions, secondary roads of importance, and label as you go.

The Rulers

The Capital of the Shared Kingdoms is ruled by Duke Caius Etennius and his wife, the Duchess Marcia Secamiliter. Their roles are largely reflections of their domain’s special place in the politics of the Shared Kingdoms: the capital is, by it’s nature, a microcosm of the Shared Kingdoms and exhibits all the tensions of the broader populace. The Duke’s primary responsibility is to keep passions calm and the assembled Nobles from very disparate cultures from molesting each other while avoiding partisanship, a constant political juggling act. His secondary tasks are to ensure the comfort and safety of those Nobles, and his Tertiary task is to regulate and protect the trade that takes place in this traditional marketplace. His wife’s task is to ensure the comfort of the wives of the nobles and handle the many social occasions and ceremonies that the presence of so many dignitaries constantly demand. These tasks leave little time for the administration of the city in the traditional sense, and as a result, the capital affords its residents more freedom than can be found in any other place within the Shared Kingdoms.

The Common Language

The common language of the Shared Kingdoms is a form of psuedo-latin. In practice, everything except the names of people and places are rendered in English. What do I mean by psuedo-latin? I decide what I want the name to mean in English, apply a Latin translator, and then simplify to achieve easy pronunciation – because neither my players nor I are Latin speakers.

Geographic Feature Names in ‘Shards Of Divinity’

It’s the usual practice to give the “English translation” of place names after the ‘proper’ version of the name, as shown throughout the above text.

  • Large, self-contained areas are given names that start with a consonant, have 1-2 syllables, + end in ‘eda” (islands, continents). Many also incorporate the word “Ager” (Land) after the name.
  • Smaller regions, nations, etc start with a consonant, have 1-3 syllables, + end in “ora”. Many precede the name with “Regio” (region), “Plaga” (place of), or follow it with “Situs”.
  • Forests start with a vowel, have 1-2 syllables, + end in “-prasi”. Most precede the name with “Verdisilva”.
  • Deserts start with a vowel, have 1-2 syllables, + end in “-asi”. Almost always preceded by the word “Arr-ed”.
  • Oceans start with a vowel, have 1-2 syllables, + end in “-us” or “estus”. All have the word “Undus” either preceding or following the name.
  • Seas have 1-3 syllables and start and end with consonants. All names are preceded by the word “Maris”, the word “Aequior”, or are followed or preceded by the word “Qalassa”.
  • Lakes are 1-3 syllables long. All names are preceded by the word “Larcus” (saltwater), or “Limuh” (freshwater), or “Temprus” (seasonal).
  • Rivers are 1-3 syllables long. All names are preceded by the word “Lihume”. Estuaries and dams are name preceded or followed by “Halimh”. Canals are “Cannali”. Waterfalls are name followed by “Cratari”.
  • Swamps, wetlands, and marshlands may be called “Byas”, especially if they are sufficiently wet that dwellings must be built on stilts.
  • Farmland where a river forks or floods annually are name preceded or followed by “Pot-ahmi”. A river delta is river name followed by “Potasus”.
  • Mountain names are preceded or followed by “Mons” (individual) or “Montis” (range). A cliff is usually a 1 or 2 syllable name hyphenated to the mountain name (without Mons or Montis) followed by “Ascenz”; a mountain pass is the same thing but ends in the word “Descenzus”.
  • Volcanos are mountain name followed by “Hasteio” (which generally means ‘fast’ or ‘fast-tempered’) instead of Mons or Montis.
  • Cities are name preceded or followed by the word “Burs”, unless that syllable is used to end the name. Regions within a city are name/function preceded by “Pohl”. For convenience, English functions will often be used, e.g. “The Temple Region” would be named “Pohl Temple”. The generic name for any urban area is an “Urbanis”, so an unknown Drow City would be named a “Drow Urbanis”. Cities have 5,000-20,000 inhabitants. A city which is also a capital is named “Capitas” instead of “Burs”.
  • Towns are name followed or preceded by the word “Arx”. The generic name for a town is “Arxes”. Towns have at least 1000-2000 residents and up to 4 times this number engaged in some form of primary production outside the urban area – farming, mining, tree-felling, etc. They must also have less than 8,000 residents all told.
  • Villages have less than 1000 residents, and up to 5 times this number engaged in some form of primary production outside the urban area. They must have a total population of less than 5,000 residents. Village names are named “Villa” + name. The general name for villages is “Vicus”. Non-permanent or nomadic villages are “Crio” + name.
  • New settlements are name + “Kolon”. The general name for settlements are “Colonia”.
  • Farms in general are named “Agri” + name or “Ager” + name. The general name for farms is “Agrokthma”. The residential/settled part of a farm is “Agribanis” + the name of the owner, and that of the region.
  • Outposts are name + “Castellum”. The general term for one or more outposts is “Castrum”. Forts and Lookout Towers and other purely military structures are name preceded or followed by “Prostasia”. A military fortification that uses a moat instead of walls may instead be called “Empodio” + name. Exceptionally large or strong examples of these structures may have the prefix “Pares” attached to the word, ie “Parescastellum”, “Parescastrum”, “Paresprostasia” and “Paresempodio” (‘Pares’ generally means ‘great’). Exceptionally small, weak, undefended, ruined, or overrun examples would use the prefix “Toico” instead of “Pares” (‘Toico’ generally means ‘undefended’).

The use of a common “language base” – no matter what the language might be – conveys a unified flavor to the environment, making it feel more real, and at the same time, just a little alien. This was a deliberate choice to distinguish this campaign from the other campaigns I was running concurrently, which used more “English”/traditional-fantasy names for places.

Click to open a larger hi-res version

After the PCs departed from Capitas Duodiem and explored the Black Pyramid, they were given a treasure map, shown on the left. For some reason I neglected to translate some of the names – “White Sands”, “Black Sands”, “Forgotten Wastes”, “Trackless Sands”, “Endless Sands” – while doing a proper job with the others (Lihume Klega, Mons Eclyptos, Gher Rubea, Gher Vallus, Gher Verdus, Verdisilva Aridiprasi). I think it might have been that the translated names were actual names while the ‘names’ given only in English were merely descriptive.

Whatever the reason, the players began to exclusively use the translated names, and the “magic” of the fantasy environment vanished completely. That taught me a valuable lesson: it’s better to leave a label off than to mix messages that way. Next time I have to produce such a map (and the occasion is fast approaching), everything will be in the psuedo-latin, without translations.

Human Character Names (etc) in ‘Shards Of Divinity’

These are also in Pseudo-Roman style. Children have what we call a christian name, which they call a ‘child-name’ followed by “et” or “en” (as though it were a middle name) and then the father’s adult christian name. “et” means ‘son of’, ‘en’ means ‘daughter of’.

Apon reaching the age of 16, the new adult chooses a new christian name for themselves, their child-name becomes a new middle name, and they can choose a surname. Surnames are one of the following:

  1. “Am-” plus the name of the clan to which the child belongs;
  2. “Or-” plus the name of the profession to which the child has dedicated themselves (in psuedo-latin);
  3. “Hu-” plus the name of a group to which the child has chosen to swear allegiance (in psuedo-latin);
  4. “Ne-” plus a word that has some personal meaning or significance to the child or his nature (psuedo-latin); or
  5. [Males]: “Et-” plus father’s chosen surname; {Females]: “En-” plus mother’s first name.

If you want to have a go at coming up with your own name, the following sites might be useful:

As discussed earlier, the difference between Pseudo-Latin and Latin is ease of pronunciation. For example, “Society Of The Red Hand” is “Congregatio Rutilus Manus” in Latin, which I would simplify to “The Conrutilus Manus” in Pseudo-Latin.

Still to come: Non-human races languages in Shards Of Divinity, and the politics and descriptions of the different realms of the Shared Kingdoms.

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