Arvum's populace and hierarchy.
Answer: An excerpt from "On Arvum and its Peoples", a treatise by Scholar Tobias the Dubious.
Many unlearned commoners think of the Realm as covering the whole breadth of the world, but in truth it only refers to a single continent that falls under the dominion of the Compact, the continent of Arvum. Arvum itself is a vast and ancient land of diverse climes and peoples, separated into five different regions that were independent kingdoms before the forging of the Compact.
The Northlands, ruled by House Redrain from its seat of Farhaven, covers the most hazardous and difficult terrain of any of the five great houses, as many an invader has learned to their sorrow. Separated from Valardin lands by the Red Mountains in the west and from Grayson lands by the Gray Forest in the south, the cold reaches of the Northlands contains high peaks and deep valleys with few roads to make travel easy. The deep and cold reaches of the Northlands has the greatest population of Abandoned of any of the lands of the Compact, and the northern houses under House Redrain see constant bloodshed in their lands as far up as the Everwinter where no one dwells. Raised on war, the peoples of the Northlands tend to be fair of countenance but hard in spirit, but known for their lack of courtly grace and are often called barbarians- but seldom to their faces except by the spectacularly foolish.
The Oathlands in the west, long ruled by House Valardin from its seat in Sanctum, has long been called the birthplace of chivalry for Arvum, and it's true that the greatest proportion of knights hail from its reaches. Despite the extreme emphasis on knightly virtues by its noble houses, and their consistent support for the Faith of the Pantheon, they have not been the easiest neighbors for the three great houses they border. They have warred against the Northlands since time immemorial, with some blood feuds against ancestral raiders from Redrain lands still continuing to this day, and their uneasy peace with the Lyceum in the south is little better. Only House Grayson to the east have been consistent allies of House Valardin throughout the ages, but particularly in the past few hundred years when House Valardin played a key role in the restoration of the Grayson dynasty during the Crownbreaker wars. All the regions of the great houses have had such heavy intermarriage that there is enormous variety in the appearances of their peoples, but the royals of House Valardin themselves are well known for their light hair and fair coloration. Sanctum itself sits as the greatest harbor city along the western coast of Arvum, the port of call for sailors traveling the Eventide Vast.
The Crownlands, bordering all of the great houses, has long been dominated by the great city of Arx as the center of commerce and governance in the Compact. Sitting in Grayson lands (which in olden times was ruled from their ancestral home in Grayhold) Arx sits at the entry of the Gray River which connects the Bay of Thrax, leading to the Thrax dominated Mourning Isles and Saffron Chain. Grayson controls most of the coast running north and south, save a thin strip of land after the Grayforest controlled by House Redrain in the north, and past the southern Lyceum River in the south. Like the Oathlands, most of the Crownlands controlled by the houses have been cleared as farmland, but much and more of the harder to control territory such as the low hills and deep forests have fell to the Abandoned over the years since the Peace of the Queens.
The Mourning Isles and Saffron Chain, the many great isles far off the eastern coast of Arvum, have long been held by House Thrax and its vassals. In less peaceful times, reavers of House Thrax would routinely prey upon the ships of the other great houses, exerting their dominance over the eastern sea from the never-conquered seat of House Thrax, Maelstrom. Though master seafarers, the longships favored by House Thrax do not often venture far from their domain in the eastern sea, with extremely few Thraxians ever making the claim they have survived the journey to the continent of Eurus in the east or to distant Cardia in the south. The sea domain of Thrax covers the most area of any of the great houses, from the bitingly cold, wet northern reaches to the far southern tropical reaches in the Saffron Chain, so close to island city-states of the Lyceum. The Saffron Chain is often said to be exceedingly pleasant, tropical islands if one doesn't mind being ambushed by Abandoned pirates.
The warm southern reaches of the city-states of the Lyceum have indisputably the most pleasant climes of the domains of the five great houses. With its gentle passings of the seasons, warmly temperate weather, and beautiful southern coastlines and gently rolling hills, the Lyceum has been described as "the most gorgeous place in Arvum to get murdered." As famous for its dark intrigues between its rival city-states as it is for its glamorous fashion, the Lyceum has seen the title holder of Grand Duke of the Lyceum shift from house to house over its long history. Currently, House Velenosa of Lenosia rules over all of the Lyceum with talented guile, having dominion over the Lyceum from the borders with Valardin and Grayson lands to the far southern sea. Beyond the sea lays the Waste, a dead and desolate land where it is said the much distant Cardia lays beyond, of which little is known.
Question: Do we have a rough estimate for the population of Arx, the other cities, the different fealties, and known humanity as a whole?
Answer: Was half a million for Arx at the start, but that almost doubled during the siege of Arx with waves of refugees, and settled down to around 650-700k now. Around 1.5 mil or so for each of the great houses, with a higher bit in Thrax due to thralldom, and then looking at around 2-3x the amount of Abandoned in Arvum as in Compact, but most of them spend way more time fighting each other, or trying to avoid human contact
It wouldn't be commonly known what the populations are like in the other continents.
Answer: Known by several names such as "The Great Compact of Arx", "The Compact of Arvum", "The Grand Compact of the Five Kingdoms", and just simply "The Compact", the Compact is a political alliance of the five formerly separate kingdoms on the continent of Arvum. Comprised of the great noble houses and their vassal noble house bannermen, these include House Grayson of eastern and central Arvum, who have historically worn the crown of the monarchy of Arx. To the west lies House Valardin, the proud nobles who most embrace chivalry. To the north lies House Redrain, who would politely ask the other houses to not describe them or their bannermen as 'savages', 'barbarians', or the like. To the south lies the collection of city states of the Lyceum, with House Velenosa currently rising as the strongest of the Lycene city states. And finally to the east, House Thrax has dominion over the waves and great many islands that comprise the Saffron Chain.
The Compact was founded in response to the Reckoning, a thousand years ago, when legend states that mankind was nearly exterminated and only a valiant last ditch defense in the city of Arx staved off extinction. For hundreds of years after, the King or Queen of the Compact acted as a very nominal first among equals of the high lords of each respective great house, but during the time of Queen Alarice the Great, five hundred years hence, the Compact became a true alliance of subservient vassals to her majesty due to the crisis of the Elf War, though the power of the Grayson monarchy has waned considerably in the past five hundred years. The respective lords still rule by fiat in their own lands, nor have wars between the great houses been absent in the relatively peaceful past few hundred years. Whether the Compact and monarchy can survive the political turmoil of the days to come is no longer an unthinkable question.
Answer: Originally, claiming to be 'crownsworn' was a rare and high honor. The Sovereign's Own Royal Guard was a collection of a hundred of the finest knights in Arvum, each surrendering their noble titles and birthrights in order to pledge themselves to the service of the crown and the crown alone so that there might be no possible conflicting loyalties. In practice, the term has not meant such for generations, with only the King's Own still considering the term to be one of distinction. Every lordless individual in Arx and all of Arvum have adopted the classification of crownsworn, whether they are a criminal hiding their past after fleeing the service of the lord they served, the children of the lordless and forgotten ruffians in the Boroughs of Arx, or even a former noble cast out from their own family and rejected by every Peer of the Realm for a tremendous scandal possibly hiding in a new life among the Faith or the Whispers. True, the King's Own are not the only honorable crownsworn- the Templars, the Knights of Solace and many members of the middle class of Arx are respectable, even if few could hope to match the prestige of the great houses.
Question: There's a lot of talk of freeing thralls, and I know I had a really hard time putting the number of thralls into perspective. Would it be possible to know how many thralls there are in Arvum, and how much a life debt would cost to purchase?
Answer: Exact numbers would be hard to come by, but the general consensus is somewhere between 1 million and 1.5 million or so. Average thrall debt is usually around 2500 silver, but it varies significantly.
Question: How many NPC vassal houses are there?
Answer: There's a few npc houses that aren't quite correct (don't take bank stuff to heart). Right now, every great house but the Lyceum has 3 ducal houses, with at the time of this post Grayson and Thrax having an npc one that will probably get defined eventually. Then all non-lycene ducal houses have 3 marches, with those in turn having 3 counties, and each county having 3 baronies. Generally.
For the Lyceum, they have more duchies and less smaller vassals to represent them being clustered in city-states and satellite towns. It's one grand duchy, 4 ducal houses, and then each ducal house having 2 marches, those having 2 counties, and 2 baronies.
There's some deviations to that, houses can be sworn to ones much higher in rank though it is unusual to do so, mostly due to geographic difficulties and how the majority of domains were created by carving off parts of their own. For the phantom NPC houses, we'll clean them up when dominion is coming in.
Question: So, as a humble and completely legitimate businessperson I find no reason to ever need or wear a mask or disguise. However, it has occured to me that in a setting like this where every character is an object and has a link to a webpage about them, people play as if they always recognize people when they aren't wearing masks. My question then is, is this something IC where everyone, even commoners, studies the peerage so much and has seen pictures that they recognize people they've never met, even if they are in a non-mask-object disguise? What about nobles recognizing commoners? Is it at all possible to have the Aladdin Scenario where a noble poses as a commoner and nobody recognizes them with their altered clothing and dress and because they are spending time with people that have never seen their face? What about the reverse where a commoner shows up and presents a bunch of wealth and claims to be some foreign noble nobody has seen before but maybe they have heard of them?
Answer: Now, I very intentionally say that it is reasonable for any character to presume they know everything public on the sheet for every other character for a lot of reasons, treating everything written there as a public reputation for a character and general knowledge. I view it as fine for characters to opt out of that and intentionally play ignorance if they want, since that can be fun, but I never want to be in a situation of policing cases where characters should not know something that is publically accessible to players since it creates all sorts of excruciating situations of handwaved meetings and ambiguity on what a character knows or not, and from a gamerunner standpoint it is a nightmare, so I'm almost always going to default to being a very open society where it's reasonable to know of something's existence.
That said, I view extensive disguises as the result of stories as fine. There's a few characters that have done just that, and changed/hidden their identities, and one that's been disguised for months in fact. As the result of RP, we're happy to change characters appearance if it is reasonable to do so, but we'll probably very slowly put in code to do that which is under player control to avoid abuse cases.
Question: What parts of Arvum have swamps? Lycene swamps are referenced as the home of alligators, but there is confusion on which regions in particular qualify as swampy.
Answer: Marshes, swamps, bogs and fens are throughout Arvum, as there's a pretty wide range of wetlands. Crownlands, Oathlands, Lyceum primarily, as most of the North is colder, and the Isles has less grasslands.