Question: Q: Are there dialectical accents around Arvum? Like a Western Oathlands vs Southern Lycene vs Central Crownlands? I mean, I'm assuming there *are* since that's just how language tends to evolve, but are there any set generalities we can assume or analogous comparisons to accents we'd be familiar with? For example elongated or flat vowel sounds? I know, I'm a complete nerd. -.- For whatever reason, my head cannon has given the Oathlands a French/Israeli sound (Shhh, I know why!) whereas the Lyceum is more of a blend of Italian and Spanish, etc. Am I over thinking this? I'm probably over thinking this.
A: Yes, but I don't want to overplay this and have a few people go overboard and drive other PCs nuts by hyperaccenting to the point where their characters are indicipherable. So let's use a very light touch there. But that said...
Each region does have some clear inspirations, and I think it's fine to see the accents as light touches to their real world analogues. Crownlands: North America (midwestern newscaster neutral), Oathlands: French, Lyceum: Italian/Spanish, Northlands: Scandinavian, Mourning Islands: Eastern Europe. Veeeeeeeeeery roughly. Don't drive other player nuts.
Question: Caithness is usually referred to as Lady Caithness Anthy. Is there a House Anthy in the Compact today or any purported descendants?
Question: What are the regional and universally appropriate greetings outside of bows and curtsies? Kissing cheeks? Shaking hands? I have been careful not to pose kissing a hand as I thought it may be too gender specific.
Answer: Kissing hands and cheeks is fine, it's just gender neutral, so kissing a man's hand (which is not uncommon in greeting say, the Dominus to kiss the Star of the Faith). Physical greetings, including shaking hands, is somewhat less common in the Lyceum due to contact poisons, and more common in the Northlands. The Mourning Isles tend to be the most stiffly traditional and formal.
Question: Back when I made Ian, I promised that whenever the age he was when he started sailing and started fighting came up, I would OOCly make it clear that this wasn't normal and that he would have been seen the way we see child soldiers today, and that there ARE psychological scars that come from fighting this young. I've continued to do this. More and more, especially recently, I've started getting surprised responses; people are assuming that children in this game should be treated how they're perceived to have been treated in the middle ages.
Anyway, it might help to preserve that bit of culture if a post about it were made. I'll keep pointing it out, like I promised I would, but I think it's something not many people understand about culture in the Compact.
Answer: Pressing children to fight in war is considered an offense against Gloria and the ideals of chivalry, as the view of the Faith of the Pantheon is it takes advantage of those who are not yet prepared to make their own choices. A child serving as a page, and then as a squire before they reach adulthood is permissible, but bringing them into battle is considered a sin against Gloria and failing in the conduct becoming of a knight. Allowing children to serve in non-combat support roles in dangerous situations is generally frowned upon, as it is considered grossly irresponsible by a leader if children are killed while serving in those roles (such as child servants on ships of war).
Child soldiers are associated with the Abandoned, as the most vicious and warlike of the Shav'arvani tribes have no such reservations on the practice, and is widely considered loathsome by the Compact.
Question: Q: Are there any? Can we make some up as we go and stick them in a file somewhere?
Answer: Tons. Check out 'lore holidays'. More will be added as time goes on, and it's fine to fill in small details and they can become a thing (such as commoners calling nobles 'silks' was player made that caught on, or calling resources 'writs'), but the key word there is small, and ones that are easily intuitive. The danger in oocly creating super detailed ones is it becomes far less accessible to new players, and way more intimidating when the first time they are on grid people reference a hundred different cultural traditions that no one has any idea what they mean. As such, yes, sure, I add them, but I always keep that in mind.
Question: Do nobles play croquet?
Answer: No, too modern, that's 19th century.
Question: Are couples always able to conceive?
Answer: No. Infertility is uncommon but does exist. Some herbs are believed to help with fertility, but unlike the contraceptives are not fully reliable. In noble marriage contracts, inability to conceive is grounds for no fault divorce.
Question: How much do we know about foriegn sigils? Marcus signed his proclamation with a moto and the name of his house. Have foreigners been using sigils and banners that people would know by now? I would like to include this information in the next edition of Sigils, Volume X - Beyond Arvum.
Answer: Very very limited. It's rare to have Eurusi visitors- it's unlikely to have more than a couple ships in Arvum at any one time, out of the thousands of different Arvani ports. It's even rarer to have Cardians, with perhaps a single Cardian visit every decade or so. And the recent visit by Jadairal's envoys is the first visit on record. In these visits, they tend to be brisk and formal for the purpose of trade, with showing sigildry as uncommon, making the Compact's knowledge of other continents extremely limited. There's no common record of the sigils of foreign houses- there's the very general knowledge that noble houses exist in Cardia and the Dune Kingdoms of Eurus, but that's about it.
Question: What's the proper form of address for a commoner besides 'you there with the crippling poverty and unfortunate case of social immobility'? Is there any variation between regions?
Answer: I'm not very interested in this, and I don't really like most of the options. I think the ones players have randomly come up with aren't atrocious, even if I'm not fond of them. Addressing people by their profession is the most thematic, as that's how commoners have intrinsic value in the eyes of society, and generally avoiding broad customary honorifics for commoners.
Answer: Gendered slurs DO NOT EXIST on Arx. Words like "bitch" or "cunt" or "dick" are pejoratives by gender and make no sense in the context of Arx. While we appreciate that this can be very difficult to change if, in your OOC life, you're used to using gendered slurs on the regular, we'd appreciate you keeping that out of our game.
For some ideas on things that would be in the lexicon of Arx, take a look here (and I didn't have this available either but Aleksei found me the link ofc) - http://arx.mythicus.net/Arx_Lexicon
Question: In real life, hair dye has been used since ancient Egypt in one form or another. What is its status in Arx?
Answer: The short answer, hair dyes of very basic colors are available for black, red, blonde, or silver, which would mirror ancient to medieval styles. I wish to revamp the disguise system at some point to have these have coded representations, but for now it's fine to use +tempdesc. Avoid unnatural hair colors as dyes might not exist for that.
Question: What is the Arvani concept of honor like? Is it permissible to kill a foe that's trying to surrender and still be seen as honorable?
Answer: An Arvani Primer to Honor
Honor is a central concept of the lives of the nobility in Arvani society, as well as those charged with acting honorably, such as knights and major public figures. While not every noble heart beats with the purest of intentions, flaunting the conventions of honor marks one as a scoundrel at best, and an oathbreaker at worst. Oathlands Houses and institutions like the Templars are held to the highest standards by the public in this regard, while the Islands tend to value loyalty and practicality over honor, and the Lyceum delights in flirting as close to the edge of dishonor as possible without ever being caught crossing the line. The Crownlands and Northlands tend to be more practically minded than the Oathlands, but recognize that mutual standards of honor are all that allow the Houses to interact without falling into paranoid brutality, and so are careful to not publicly violate them. For commoners, honor in one’s personal dealings is important, but most violations will only have repercussions for their personal circle, where a public breach of honor by a noble House can have consequences for their entire demesne.
What follows isn’t a comprehensive list of acts which are honorable for Compact society, but rather an illustration of honorable behaviors as examples. These are most valuable when they are tested: an honorable woman or man holds to their principles even when those principles may run contrary to efficient action, or risk significant negative consequences, including their own lives or the lives of others. Few individuals hold to this standard perfectly in practice, but being seen to break them in the public eye is dangerous. More, for those who court the favor of the Church or the gods, dishonorable acts that run contrary to the commandments of the gods do not impress.
-An honorable person does not break their sworn word, under any circumstances. Note: the Lyceum mostly handles this by not GIVING their sworn word very often, and it’s considered gauche among the Lycene to insist on a vow in a deal (which is one source of their friction in diplomatic and other dealings with the Oathlands).
-An honorable person respects sacred ground and the persons of priests, and does not seek to spill blood on holy ground or assault the servants of the gods. The concept of Sanctuary is one of the most sacred rites of Arvani culture, and those who break it are subject to arrest, trial, and - unless the Church is feeling exceptionally generous - swift and legal execution. Attacking or killing priests, pilgrims, or disciples in the course of their holy duties is tasteless in the extreme.
-A guest in your home is inviolate. Gild’s guest right is another of the underpinnings of Arvani society, and is the only reason diplomacy between demesnes is even possible. It is considered extremely dishonorable to cause any harm to someone you have formally welcomed into your home, and it is considered cowardly not to protect that guest even from outside threats. If someone abuses their rights as a guest, they can be turned out, but even then, an honorable person would do them no harm, merely send them away.
-An honorable person accepts surrenders and does not strike down those they know are helpless or who cannot fight back. One of Gloria’s strongest tenets is that of honorable warfare, including the acceptance of surrender. Those who surrender may be held captive, tried for any crimes they committed, and punished accordingly after a trial, but pre-empting the trial by killing them right there is considered offensive to Gloria.
-An honorable person engages in fair battle. They face their enemies on the field of glory, and fight with respect for their opponent. Tactics such as poisoning food or water, infecting enemies with plague, or slaughtering noncombatants, are an offense to the gods.
-An honorable person speaks the truth, regardless of the cost to themselves. Getting caught in a public lie - even (or especially) a minor one - is a deep blow to a person’s honor. As a result, nobility who wish to be seen as honorable are very careful about their public statements. Nobles of the Lyceum delight in making truth into a game, twisting it in a thousand ways, but even they consider it humiliating to be caught in an actual lie - you’re expected to be GOOD at lying, in the Lyceum.
Further, much of the public perception of someone's worth is precisely based around honor, in how valuable their word is and their degree of integrity. Concepts of purity are entirely related to someone's fidelity to their principles and never coming close to acting against the spirit of their sworn word or any of their implicit obligations. Similarly, honor effects how they hold obligations that might not be clearly defined and more understood (see 'lore expectations' and principle lore files for each house, such as 'lore thrax principles'). As examples:
-An honorable person respects his or her liege, and does not order his or her vassal to undertake any action that would stain their own honor. To (publicly) submit to the head of your house or your liege’s orders, even when they are not in your interests, is considered deeply honorable. Disagreements happen behind closed doors, not in public proclamations. The flip side of that is that lieges are expected not to order or encourage their vassals or family members into actions that would insult them or stain their honor.
-An honorable person does not abide slights on their personal honor, and they address such slights with speed and appropriate action. If a noble is insulted by another noble, the most honorable thing to do is to issue a public challenge, using Champions. If a noble is challenged by another noble, the honorable action is either apologize for the slight (if they can do so without calling themselves out as a liar), or accept the challenge with a Champion of their own. It does not matter how petty the slight or insult - an honorable person defends their honor in public. That said, the honor of both challenger and challenged is upheld by the duel, no matter who wins, as long as neither continue the conflict afterwards. A noble may decline a challenge from a commoner, but declining a challenge from another noble is a grave insult to that noble’s honor.
These are examples of honorable conduct, although they are not comprehensive. Arvani society does not consider them up for debate or rules-lawyering: there is no ‘but what if…’ exceptions to honorable behavior. It is very difficult for a character to continuously behave in accordance with honorable expectations, and being honorable ALL the time may not be sustainable. But when a dishonorable act is committed and known, there are no “buts” about it, and society at large does not care what your reasoning or intent was, only what the action was. Publicly defending dishonorable behavior is likewise gauche and inappropriate, regardless of what or why; it tars the defender with the same brush.
Question: Do houses ever get demoted if their fortunes wane? Would that be considered shameful or does it depend on circumstance (natural disaster versus poor stewardship?
Answer: Yes they can and yes it's shameful.
Question: Why would a liege house ever permit promotion? don't they then lose income?
Answer: Traditionally, it is considered a matter of gaining a powerful ally rather than keeping a diminished and resentful vassal, but traditionally the liege house's consent is treated as no more than a formality, and the new liege, crown, and faith are the ones that truly matter. It is roughly the equivalent of asking at a wedding if someone has a reason to object. It would only be if there is some compelling reason that is unknown to the Crown or Faith or the new Liege that would make elevation dishonorable and scorned, and should be rejected, such as terrible crimes that have been concealed. Otherwise, an old liege's consent is considered pro forma, and if they objected, they really should have tried to prevent them from becoming powerful enough to warrant recognition as their social equal.
Question: Is there much of a history of medals and medallions being awarded for great service in Arvum? This has happened on-camera a few times, but I'm wondering if there are things of particular distinction, like the Victorian Cross or the Legion d'Honneur which have a history in the Compact, and if so, what are some notable examples?
Answer: Generally speaking, different houses of the Compact have individual awards and sometimes present medals, but the Compact as a whole has avoided Compact-wide awards and recognitions, due to incidents throughout the past thousand years. House Valardin might have its Sword of Sugan award, and the former regent Dawn Grayson created the Order of Hope award, those are fairly recent awards, and historical ones have a more complicated history.
A 'Champion of the Compact' award was given out to different individuals who distinguished themselves during the Reckoning by King Alar I of House Grayson, but when Lorwroth Kinsbane seized power, he promptly gave the award to every one of his supporters. This in turn led Queen Triscali the Blackrose to declare she would only ever consider the award with unanimous approval from the newly founded Assembly of Peers. But recognizing its tarnished nature, she never nominated anyone for the award during her reign. Even when Macdon Castellus was killed defending her, leading to the formal formation of the Queens' Own, she did not advance his name forward, saying that while he died to defend the Crown, the Compact itself was not at stake if she had perished.
The award was resurrected briefly by King William Thrax at the start of the Crownbreaker Wars, when he presided over an Assembly of Peers made up only of his supporters, as a way to grant ancient awards to those he favored. When Darius Vowbreaker sacked the Great Archive, legates denouncing his granting the award to his captains who helped organize the massacre led to their execution, and is the only case in the Compact's history when medals were posthumously stripped, as the captains he buried under the halls of heroes were disinterred, posthumously tried for their crimes, and 'executed' them by throwing the corpses off of Sovereign Bridge, after their medals were ritually smashed.
Since then, the medal has not been awarded.
Question: I know you shouldn't run around town naked, but how does society here feel about nudity in art? Not erotic art, but David or Venus style nudity.
Answer: While erotica isn't suitable for public display, it's socially acceptible to have nudity in artwork. Context is critical, but something like David or Venus style statues is unobjectionable.
Answer: Each of the five different old kingdoms of the Compact and the five great houses that held sway of them have a distinctly different flavor and set of guiding principles. These principles that are firmly held by the NPCs in each of the five regions guide the reactions of NPCs to the actions of player characters, and what a player character does that might win respect in the Oathlands could earn them disdain in the Lyceum. Player Characters gain respect and affection with different organizations, and while affection is approval over taking actions that better the lives or generally help those NPCs, respect is gained only by only taking actions consistent with the principles held by those NPCs and working to further their ideological goals. Each of the five different great houses will have its own more detailed helpfile, but here's an overview of those principles.
-House Valardin and the Oathlands
"We know not what awaits us beyond the Mirror, when we die and pass into the Shining Lands. We know not if the gods will be there to greet us, or if we go to a long and dreamless sleep. But if I should die and face Gloria and she asks if I lived and died with honor, I should hope I can provide a satisfactory answer. I must then politely decline your offer to yield." - Last words of Sir Erec Redhill, the Sentinel of Redhill
While every house in the Compact holds honor in high regard, no one else comes anywhere close to being as unyielding on issues of honor as House Valardin and the Oathlands. Idealistic to a fault in the eyes of other houses, Oathlanders respect those who are uncompromising on matters of honor, and hold Lycene style pragmatism in contempt. For many in the Oathlands, a life without honor simply isn't one worth living, and they are willing to endure polite mockery to be in the right. Oathlanders might not like plays with actors parodying an inability to tell white lies to avoid catastrophe, but that's fine. They'd rather be right than have the admiration of those who simply don't understand honor as well as they do. Disciplined and dignified, they respect traditions and authority, provided none conflict with living an honorable life in accordance to the virtues of the Faith of the Pantheon.
-House Redrain and the Northlands
"Southerners live in the past. They harbor grudges for so long that sometimes their houses don't even remember why they hate one another and need their leaders to beg them to let go of slights. Some of them look at the Northlands and see an undisciplined and fractious people with ancient feuds, but that's not so. When the Northlands quarrel, it's a fire that burns white hot then is done. We don't roll around in the ashes and breathe deep poisonous fumes and see who dies first from a cancer. Grudges are madness." - Prince Sherrod Redrain, Prince of Farhaven
Fiercely independent, some marvel that anyone is able to rule over the Northlands. Everyone in the Northlands has an opinion and feels they should be able to share it, fights happen easily, and the sort of discipline that the Oathlands or Mourning Isles take for granted is largely foreign to the Northlands, where rugged individualism is prized and respected. In the Northlands, one is responsible for their own actions... for better or for worse. Certainly they understand house honor and can respect it, but it is not anywhere near as bone deep in importance as other fealties, and House Redrain is about living in the present and planning in the future- and letting the past stay in the past. There are few things worse in the Northlands than holding a grudge- it makes one look spiteful and petty, and open to mockery, as a sign that they simply don't understand the free life of endless possibilities still ahead. Once a matter is settled it's over, and other fealties are astonished by the ability of House Redrain and its people to set aside a grievance and work with former enemies once a wrong has been made right. Win them over with hope for the present and the future, and anything can be forgiven and forgotten.
-House Velenosa and the Lyceum
"Every once in a while an Oathlander will ask a question that shows such a stunning lack of understanding that it stops one in her tracks. I was asked the other day 'do the ends justify that means?' What a silly question. The ends are the only thing that -can- justify the means. Our ideals are stars that help us guide our ships through darkened nights, as we shepherd our people below decks to safety. They are no excuse to stay blissfully ignorant and sail into a coming storm and drown everyone that depends upon us." - Princess Ducleali Valardin nee Velenosa, the Fox Dragon
Pragmatism is the single most important guiding principle to the Lyceum. A transactional approach to politics isn't just understood and expected, it's respected as the best way to approach ruling over the diverse Lycene city-states. The stereotype held by more idealistic fealties that the Lycene are only self-interested and amoral isn't necessarily true or particularly fair to them, however, just even the Lycene most focused on improving the lives of their house and the subjets of their city-states tend to think in terms of the simplest and most effective means to produce results to the common good. Caring intensely about the bottom line makes the Lyceum more of a meritocracy than other fealties, with a willingness to reject tradition if a clearly superior method comes along- once the failures have been discarded and politely forgotten, of course. Whether a Lycene noble is formal or informal, dignified or salacious, courteous or crass comes down to a simple question... what works best in this situation? Destructive quarrels and disrespect born of pique are frowned upon the Lyceum often not because they buck noble expectations of dignity, but because they might be selfishly wasteful. A respected Lycene noble throws a fit and makes a scene only if it is to their advantage.
-House Thrax and the Mourning Isles
"The Compact has not lasted for seven centuries by luck and the grace of the gods. It is not good fortune that has kept our isles free, it is not happenstance that we wax powerful enough to be respected and feared. No. It comes from the mighty institutions we have built, the houses that have weathered the storms of the ages, and the traditions that have served us so well. Anyone wearing a crown is just a man, but when they speak, they speak with a voice that echoes with a thousand years of tradition. Our way of life has led us from triumph to triumph, and those who seek to unravel it are enemies who will be destroyed." - Prince Durian Thrax, the Monster of Maelstrom, on his address before the Campaign of Bloody Isles, crushing the Great Thrall Revolt of 705 AR
The Mourning Isles can be summed up with the word 'traditional'. They are not a meritocracy, seeking to test the strong and weed out the week, for the strength lies in the blood of the nobles born into power houses who seek to be the next link on a chain stretching back a thousand years. High born nobles have immense expectations of them, for they represent the institutions they are born into, and those who fail in those expectations are often immediately discarded. Strongly disciplined, the Isles are far more authoritarian than any other fealty, with a bone deep respect for the established order. Pragmatic rather than idealistic, they are willing to take utterly ruthless measures to ensure the continuing success of their houses, and anyone can be sacrificed to those ends. Ever mindful of being cast out as an embarrassment to their houses, the Mourning Islanders tend to be seen as somewhat obsessive over appearances, with formality and courtesy as an ever present shield against social missteps that could cost them dearly.
-House Grayson and the Crownlands
"All of us are called to serve. From the lowest among us working in the furthest field in the Compact, to the Sovereign of Arx sitting upon the Elfbone throne, we all serve. The least of us honor their oaths of service when called to battle, and the greatest of us must never forget their obligations in turn, tirelessly working for the betterment of their lands and peoples. The greater one rises, the more deeply they should feel their obligations to diligently see to all lesser than them. Fidelity with Limerance requires nothing less from the powerful. It is the duty of the greater to help the lesser, and 'None Greater Than Grayson.'" -King Alaric Grayson III
Power must be wielded responsibly. House Grayson perhaps benefits from feudalism representing the natural order of things more than any other house, but they are the ones that constantly reinforce the idea that they bear a responsibility from that power to safeguard and improve the lives of their social inferiors. They simply expect and demand more from their nobles to rise to the lofty ideals that any commoner could hope for. Bold, decisive and daring leaders that lead from the front is simply expected of House Grayson, and never taking advantage of the trust placed in them by their many vassals.
Question: There are several entires in the lore system for the fashions of the main compact, but what about the Ravashari clans? Are there any similarities in the groups that are noteworthy?
Answer: The Ravashari are known for very eclectic and individual styles, but always kind of punk and flashy. As a nomadic group that often avoids cities, their clothes tend to be looted, cast off and traded from a wide range of the fashions of the Compact, and then in a unique fusion. So teh Ravashari tend to mix and match stylistically from the different regional preferences to create their own flair.
Question: In help social rank, we see the following sentence under social rank 6: "A handful of commoners can be treated as peers and reach this rank, typically high rank members of the Compact military or holders of high offices and granted courtesy titles of Lord/Lady."
What are some specific examples of where this has been done in the past? Who would it be who would generally be authorizing this, and how rare, really, is it? What are the general societal implications of this?
Answer: Generally there's three categories of commoners that can be treated as peers, without being formally made one. First are the higher ranks of the Faith of the Pantheon, who are granted formal social rank due to their position for the Dominus, Legates and Archlectors. Secondly are recognized but not legitimized bastards of ducal or royal houses, who have been entrusted with responsibilities that would be appropriate for nobles. Dawn Baseborn and Victus Thrax, for example, were both technically commoners but were given the courtesy title of Lady and Lord respectively, due to being recognized but not formally legitimized until later in their lives, and entrusted with duties for their houses. And finally, there are commoners who are given the rank of nobility without formal ennoblement if and only if the reigning sovereign does two things:
1. Pointedly calls them by noble title in conversation at Court
2. Entrusts them with a duty that is worthy of nobility.
In other words, King Alaric calls someone 'lord' or 'lady', no one is willing to gainsay it, and by their word they are given that rank and courtesy, even if they lack the privileges of land and noble house. These commoners are often just referred to as 'Lord X, so named by the Crown' formally.
Question: What does the typical Arvani believe about the origins of humans? (not elves or other mythical people like that
Answer: Creation myths tend to not factor strongly into the thinking of most Arvani. Most largely assume that more recent scholars are correct in that the elves referred to human tribes before the birth of civilization, and man came from Eurus, probably fleeing a war that led to what more primitive groups referred to as the Dance of Skulls, and those men became what became the pre-Reckoning kingdoms in Arvum. The more religious explanations that don't speak to development simply say that mankind was born of freedom- that humans should not be confined to any one place in the world compared to beasts that stay in only one habitat, and should be able to choose wherever they might live, and spread all throughout the plane. "You have been granted the freedom to live as you choose. So live." Is one quote sung in a canticle in the Faith of the Pantheon.
Answer: While the original theme for Arx is extensive and detailed in all the different help topics under lore and world, here are some commonly asked questions that might help someone find what they are looking for when deciding how they should approach situations in game as a new player.
1. What kind of power does the king have? What kind of monarchy is it (constitutional vs absolute)?
-- Absolute monarch, and in theory complete power. This is heavily checked by traditional autonomy by lords within their own domain, which has made for some periods of a strong crown or weak crown. See http://play.arxgame.org/topics/Feudalism/ and http://play.arxgame.org/topics/Vassalage/
2. What function does the Assembly of Peers serve under an absolute monarch?
--While it is an absolute monarchy, in practice the crown has in the past often put a great many decisions before the peers, and decided conflicts with a simple majority vote by the highlords (the head of the house paramount for each of the five kingdoms). In periods with a weak crown, or one completely disinterested in politics, this resulted in effective Arvum wide rule by the highlords, while in very strong periods the Assembly was virtually never called and created discord and resentment among the peerage.
3. What does the king's court consist of?
--The crown will be played by a non-staff player pretty much always, and while it's expected that he has a great wide range of courtiers (particularly exemplified by the Whisper House as the core institution for courtiers), he or she is free to use their discretion and whatever generates the most RP. Generally speaking, expect for a pretty inclusive crown.
4. Will there ever be rebellion?
--Sure. Generally speaking I wrote everything when I designed the game with dynamic change in mind. I don't mind a great house being destroyed, the crown changing hands to another great house, and so on. But there always will be considerable inertia on the side of the status quo, and a house paramount isn't going to change every couple months as one group becomes inactive and another becomes active. Arvum is huge, with thousands of miles from coast to coast and population in the tens of millions. In order to effect lasting change, the Dominion system of automated land and army management (and a civlization style minigame) is going to be core to it.
5. What type of RP can be expected by joining each group or each major institution? The Crown, the five great houses, or the different core institutions: the iron guard, the king's own, the inquisition, the Faith of the Pantheon, the Whispers, the Observers?
--There will be a great deal of overlap. Most characters can be members of more than one organization, and RP from divided loyalties is expected. Only a few, such as the Faith of the Pantheon's godsworn or the King's Own crownsworn require members giving up ties to other groups. Every organization has its own help file, and the five kingdoms also have their own culture files as well. For example the Inquisition is http://play.arxgame.org/topics/org/48/ and is a secular, not a religious organization. While Velenosa has both http://play.arxgame.org/topics/Velenosa/ and http://play.arxgame.org/topics/org/2/ and the organization web pages are automatically populated from the current state in game.
6. Who are the highlords? What power do the highlords have? What does court intrigue look like in each group?
--The five highlords are the heads of each of the house paramount for the five different separate regions. Currently:
- Darren http://play.arxgame.org/character/sheet/1793/ for the Northlands
- Edain http://play.arxgame.org/character/sheet/1809/ for the western Oathlands
- Alaric http://play.arxgame.org/character/sheet/1641/ for the central Crownlands
- Eleyna http://play.arxgame.org/character/sheet/5106/ for the southern Lyceum
- Victus http://play.arxgame.org/character/sheet/1643/ for the eastern Mourning Isles
While the flavor and style of each court varies immensely (scheming and sly for the Lyceum, vs arthurian for the Oathlands), every house paramount has multiple powerful duchies as vassals, who then in turn all have marches who have counties who have baronies. While individually any of the houses paramount might be more powerful than their ducal vassals, they certainly are not moreso than multiple of them, which creates a tensely cooperative dynamic of needing to balance the needs of both PC and NPC vassals with conflicting desires and the jostle for position among them.
7. How important is religion in this game? How much power do the religious structures have? How much influence does religion have over NPC masses? Can my character avoid religious RP?
--The world of Arvum was intentionally designed against type for medieval fantasy as a highly skeptical populace rather than a highly superstitious one. That does not make for a weak Faith of the Pantheon, however, as the church is often regarded as the '6th great house', and since law is largely entrusted to autonomous local lords, the Church is the bellweather for shared legal and ethical norms across Arvum. Fantastically wealthy from the tithes of millions of faithful and having probably the largest standing military in the faith militant orders of the Templars or the Knights of Solace, the church is extremely powerful. That said, while the Church is a core component of Arvani life, there's really no requirement for characters to be showing piety, and really only directly butting heads with the faith in a public way is likely to impact characters, so religious RP isn't particularly required, and we don't really want players to ever feel obligated to do RP they don't particularly enjoy. Similarly, the far less organized faith of shamanism popular among the Northlands and some prodigal houses should never be seen as required for characters it impacts.
8. Are there fantasy creatures? Is there magic? Can I play one? Can I do the magics?
--Almost all Arvani would laugh and say no. The population is intensely skeptical of magic, and even when presented with proof of its existence, tend to go far out of their way to explain it away in a way that is a little bit suspicious. Or a lot suspicious. Really, really sus. So while everyone would say 'no', there are hints they exist, even if no character would have anything obviously supernatural or magical for some time. Just yet.
Question: What is life like for thralls? What rights do they have? Is corporal punishment used against them?
Answer: It's not great. Due to the Alaric the Great's reforms on freedom of movement, brutality against serfs tends to be uncommon, but this varies by the domain. Some serfs are kept so destitute that the means to travel and the hope of going to Arx to become crownsworn is a distant one, which can result in some extremely abusive lords. This is relevant to thralls as it provides a convenient counterpoint to Islanders defending thralldom as an institution, as some serfs live little better.
Thralls traditionally have virtually no rights while their debt is unpaid. This does include corporal punishment, torture and even summary execution, and House Grimhall and Thrax during the times of Duke Eugine or Donrai Thrax very explicitly used terror to keep thrall populations in line, as far more effective deterants than the hope of freedom which was an unrealistic goal. Any possessions owned by a Thrall can be confiscated at whim to count towards their debt, but as that is effectively up to the interpretation of the debt holder, it has historically meant no possessions at all. Emaciated thralls on starvation rations used as chained oarsmen on ships are not uncommon for many Islander vessels, but this varies, and many Islander houses see that as a distasteful sign of greed on the part of the House, as theoretically fewer, healthier thralls is only slightly less efficient for oarsmen.
Surprisingly, thrall soldiers is not unheard of either. This is particularly true among thralls that are NOT taken from Abandoned populations on raids, but Islanders forced into thralldom for violent offenses. Ironically, much of the raiders taking Abandoned prisoners to become thralls are, in fact, thrall raiders, and Islanders can pay their own thrall debts by taking several in turn. This also means many commoners owning shops were violent criminals forced into thralldom and then acquired their own thralls from Abandoned on raids, and they tend to not be well known as the most empathetic of debt-owners despite their own thrall past.
Question: There's lots of Graysons named 'alar'whatever. I assume most people recognize that goes back to Alar I, and even people who don't really know their history would assume Alarice. There are a number of historical Islands characters whose names start with Don-. Donris Ashcrest, Donrai and Donerian Thrax. (Gilroy's secret includes Donrall Marin, but dubious canonicity at this point.) Is there an Islands hero with a Don- name that lead to that? It doesn't seem to reflect in PC names, but are there lots of Vals in the North, Pro- or -ellas in the Lyceum and whatever you'd do with Sugan in the Oathlands?
Answer: While the similarities to Alar I are more broadly recognized in the Crownlands, the etymology of the Donr- names in the Mourning Isles is less clear, and there's been three different plausible explanations for the origins, but none are agreed upon by the entire isles.
Donralerius Thrax, the Woe Bringer. The father of Aposyr Thrax, Donralerius fought alongside of Koraj Marin, and survived the destruction of the Marin Fleet. He is said to have organized the surviving Islander houses into a defense that temporarily broke the demonic onslaught at the Battle of the Screaming Dawn on the walls of Maelstrom, where he himself succumbed to his wounds after personally slaying Ulth'ral'vyx the Silent Scream. His dying directive was for his son Aposyr, now King of the Mourning Isles, to bend the knee to Alar and join the Compact. But the legend says he turned to dust after giving those words, and some argue he never actually existed.
The second possibility is Donra Thrax, the daughter of Aposyr who acted as his voice and helped oversee the reconquest and rebuilding of the Mourning Isles through the first century of the Compact, as Aposyr ruled well into his nineties, and was highlord in all but name for the last two decades of his life. Along with her great-niece Marie Thrax, the two established much of the cultural traditions in the Isles.
Donryl, the great, great grandson of Donra, is the third possibility, as a particularly powerful highlord that oversaw Thrax's rise during a period of a weakening monarchy where Thrax operated closer to an independent kingdom. Thrax won wars against every great house save the Lyceum under Donryl, and even directly led to one of the few historical alliances between the Oathlands and the Northlands when Donryl sieged both Sanctum and Farhaven simultaneously. As much of the history of his era has been lost (roughly 200-300 AR), but it's often seen in the Isles that if he had not been assassinated, he could conquered a significant portion of the Compact. Contrarian views outside of the Isles point out that he was mostly capitalizing upon the wars of other great houses, and some believe he was assassinated by Mourning Islanders, as the invasion and destruction of the Isles was imminent.
Answer: Arx is an original theme based in a feudal fantasy world. Because of the nature of the theme, players tend to have a fair amount of expectations or assumptions based on other popular works in the fantasy genre. A lot of those assumptions might be generally correct, but there are some parts of the setting that may feel a bit counterintuitive or contrary to assumption. For the sake of clarity, this file has a few common misconceptions.
* PREJUDICE: There is no prejudice or bias based on gender identity, skin color, or sexuality. Outside of the Mourning Isles, where women have historically focused on areas of law and administration and been barred from noble leadership and combat, there are no traditional gender roles. Please see: help gender (http://play.arxgame.org/topics/gender/ ). There is, however, considerable prejudice against Abandoned and Prodigals. Please see: help abandoned (http://play.arxgame.org/topics/Abandoned/ ) and help prodigal (http://play.arxgame.org/topics/prodigal/ ). Classism is also alive and well.
* DIVERSITY: Arvum is a racially diverse continent, and you'll see a large variety of skin tones and features. Additionally, with the intermarrying across all the fealties, there isn't a strong correlation between skin tone and region of Arvum. However, for specific story reasons, you won't see features we'd associate with East Asia as native to Arvum.
* SKEPTICISM: For story reasons, citizens of the Compact trend very strongly towards skepticism. Magic and supernatural creatures don't exist as far as the larger NPC populace is concerned. (The one major exception to this is the superstition surrounding mirrors. See: help tehom (http://play.arxgame.org/topics/Tehom/ ).
* RELIGION: The Faith drifted away some centuries past from thinking of gods and demons as literal beings to treating them more as metaphor: virtues to aspire to, vices to avoid. This point is currently beginning to shift. The Faith is also a syncretic polytheistic, which means that there is a Pantheon of multiple gods, but they are all worshipped and given equal reverence. Disciples are volunteers helping with the worship of a specific god, but it is heretical to worship only a specific god or gods and not the others. See: help disciples (http://play.arxgame.org/topics/disciples/ ). Godsworn are priests of the Faith, and their vows do include no marriage, inheritance, or having children, but their vows do not include chastity. See: http://arx.mythicus.net/Theme_Questions#Relationships_and_Children .
* BOOKS: There is no printing press in Arvum, but books are surprisingly plentiful. They are much more accessible to commoners than would be expected from a real-life medieval analogue. This is due in large part to the worship of Vellichor in the Pantheon, who calls for the spread of knowledge. Part of the work of the Scholars of Vellichor is the reproduction of important knowledge. See: help vellichor (http://play.arxgame.org/topics/Vellichor/ ).
* MEDICINE: Arvani medicine is strangely good for no reason anyone can really identify or think to question! Infant mortality rates are surprisingly low. Contraception is readily available and 100% effective when taken by either the man or woman. See: http://arx.mythicus.net/Theme_Questions#Birth_Control .
* SEX: Sexual purity mores are not a thing in Arx. There is no value placed on virginity, and people are free to sleep with who they like. The exception to this is if one or more parties had taken an oath not to engage in sexual relations with someone. For example, some (but not all) marriage contracts stipulate that there will be no sexual activity outside of the marriage. In this case, a person would be judged not for sexual immorality, but for breaking their word of honor. However, there are still taboos against public nudity, wanton public orgies, incest, bestiality, etc.
* MARRIAGE: Marriage between nobles fall under the approval of the Faith as well as their house. Marriage between commoners, however, are largely just declared by the commoners in question saying that they're married, and divorce among commoners is as simple as them saying they're no longer married. See: help limerance (http://play.arxgame.org/topics/Limerance/ ) and http://arx.mythicus.net/Theme_Questions#Marriage . There is no prejudicial stigma against same-sex marriage, but nobles rarely enter into them just because of issues of breeding and inheritance. See: http://arx.mythicus.net/Theme_Questions#Same-Sex_Marriage .
* BASTARDS: A noble having a bastard child is largely considered to be irresponsible due to the presence of such effective contraception, which generally means that the noble in question conceived the child purposefully, and a child born out of wedlock is a potential succession crisis down the road. However, it is only considered a matter of true dishonor if a noble refuses to acknowledge and support the child. See: help bastard children (http://play.arxgame.org/topics/bastard%20children/ ).
* NOBLES AND COMMONERS: Classism most definitely exists in Arvani culture, but it doesn't generally expectations of over-excessive deference, groveling, etc., on the part of commoners. It's considered poor etiquette to censure someone for an accidental slip of a noble's title, and nobles have no rights to physically abuse commoners on a whim, and blatant verbal abuse would not . There are also no sumptuary laws: if a person can afford something, they can buy it.
* IMPRISONMENT: This actually follows what would be historically accurate for a similar period in the real world, but sometimes causes misconception in Arx's setting: there is not a prison system in the Compact, as it would be prohibitively expensive. Imprisonment is for the most part be short-term before some sort of sentencing and/or trial. Instances of long-term imprisonment are very rare.
* SETTLEMENTS: Villages and settlements are largely found close to the main holdings of the noble houses, as the majority of the land in between the major cities tends to be populated by Abandoned and quite dangerous. It's not generally likely to find a village on the road in between holdings. (This is also a major reason for the existence of the Knights of Solace, the knightly order of the goddess Gild. See: help disciples (
http://play.arxgame.org/topics/disciples/ ), help gild (http://play.arxgame.org/topics/Gild/ ), and the Knights of Solace org (http://play.arxgame.org/topics/org/170/ ).)
* BATS: They're extinct. Aw! Arvani do know they existed once upon a time, but they have not been seen in living history.
Question: Is blind fosterage practiced in the Compact?
Answer: Yes, though it varies by region. In the Lyceum, blind fosterage is not uncommon at all, and often done for no more reason than to keep others guessing. In Thrax, it is vanishingly rare, in part because of how much value is placed upon bloodlines and parentage there, so unless someone has their precise bloodline defined, they are always considered commoner and somewhat scandalous.
Answer: In all public spaces in Arx weapons are expected to stay sheathed. In events or invitations to homes, it goes further than that, with weapons expected to be peacebonded. There is a lot of culture around the peace knots used to do so: popularly, a deceased loved ones' belongings may be portioned out to create peace knots for those close to them, as a mourning tradition. If one draws a weapon, it is considered a threat of violence, and it is acceptable for the Iron Guard to detain someone threatening a peer. If you are invited to an event, it is safe to assume your weapon is bound in such a way that readying it for violence would take you a few moments (a few rounds, thinking in terms of combat).
Armed servants of the crown, such as Iron Guardsmen, Inquisitors, or King's Own would not be violating protocol by carrying unsheathed weapons, nor are house guards in their own wards, but anyone carrying drawn steel otherwise would be expected to lower it or sheathe it upon the order of a crown servant or be arrested for threatening others.