Under No Banners
The Bellic Empire
In a nutshell: Fantasy America. A rich and diverse empire spanning an entire continent, the Bellic Empire was tempered in the Orc Invasion and subsequent Great Retribution. Since then it has been the premier force of Law, seeking to drive out Chaos from the world. The elderly Emperor Wilhelm III uses an unwieldy bureaucracy to rule the many subsidiary fiefdoms, while hidden unrest plays out at the fringes of society.
Overview and History: Spanning over an entire continent, the Bellic Empire is the greatest industrial, agricultural, magical, and military power on the planet. Of course it was not always so; during the Dark Ages it was many tiny kingdoms. Over the centuries, the Kingdoms of Gronnigen and Tavostok absorbed their neighbors through conquest, marriage, and diplomacy. As both mighty nations geared up for the ultimate war, the Churches intervened, and in 3386, the two kingdoms were united by the marriage of Prince Andre and Princess Katerina.
The whole world celebrated a new golden age of peace and prosperity as the people of Bellus turned to industry and the arts, leaving their swords to rust. Their glory was short-lived, for in 3411 the orc warlord Grashnatar, transported in gnomish ships from Yldrago, landed on the northern shores of Bellus with a horde of over one million warriors. They drove south towards the holy city of Temureh effortlessly sweeping aside the neglected Bellic army. At the walls of Temureh General Ashmerlane, commanding what few units remained, finally stopped them, and in an epic siege held off Grashnatar until fresh levies could be trained. Once the full weight of the Empire was brought to bear, it was only a matter of time, and in two years the orc forces were scattered, harried, and finally exterminated.
The war would not be over until the orc threat was eliminated forever. In 3416 the Bellic Empire landed the first of its Legions on Utreshnaya, and marched inwards towards the center of the orc’s steppe homeland. The war was long and bloody, but ultimately orcish bravery proved no match for the relentless Bellic legions, and the orcish nation was shattered. The survivors were herded into encampments along the western shore of Utreshnaya and in Velenka and forced to work the mines and till the fields as reparations for their crimes.
Since the Orc Invasion, the Bellic Empire has turned its attention outward, bringing other nations under its rule to form the Barricade, a ring of allies to protect the homeland against any further attacks. Generals and bishops now speak of a holy calling to convert the whole world to the cause of Law, and destroy Chaos forever.
Politics: The Bellic Empire is half feudal, and half an aristocratic civil service. The great lords still wield near absolute power within their dominions, but it is now in the context of the sprawling imperial bureaucracy. An endless system of civil and religious directories, courts, and inspectorates reports to the Emperor. The senior ranks are still reserved for the hereditary aristocracy, but exceptional work within the civil service is one of the best ways for a person to rise in social status. Some reformers have suggested that there should be a representative body to advise the Emperor, but as of yet their suggestions have met with nothing but silence.
Emperor Wilhelm III is the current ruler. Once the steadfast leader who saved the country during the Orcish Invasion, age has dimmed his faculties, and for the past several years his ministers have dome much of the hard work.
Prince Andrew is the eldest of Wilhelm’s four children. There is bad blood between father and son, and Andrew has been systemically frozen out of many positions of responsibility. Rumors are that once he takes the throne he plans to shake up Bellic society, brushing aside the last privileges of the aristocracy and opening up civil liberties.
Minster of War Nehmara is possibly the most powerful man alive. A deva, he gained his position at the head of the massive Bellic war machine through absolute devotion to Law, unimpeachable personal integrity, and inhuman efficiency. He spends untold hours pouring over reports from the war with a team of analysts, seeking the solution to Solenir in the numbers. Nehmara is the public face of the war, his confident predictions and pronouncements fill the headlines.
Life in the Bellic Empire is safe an and orderly. Monsters and chaos cultists have been nearly exterminated through centuries of effort by the Sentinels and the Inquisition. The rule of law, though absolute, is not harsh. Big cities are teeming hives of humanity, where millions of people engage in trade, industry, and unorthodox thought. Hundreds of prosperous market towns dot the countryside, full of contented burghers, while ordinary folk till the fields. There are still frontiers in the Bellic Empire, a few hardy souls pioneer the last corners of wilderness.
Peoples of the Bellic Empire:
Humans: Humans are the most common people of the Bellic Empire. They own most of the land, make most of the money, and hold most of the power. Humans are inquisitive, adventurous, courageous, and generally law-abiding. There are almost as many human cultures as there are people.
Names: More real world, less fantasy. About the level of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.
Halflings: Halflings are natural tradesmen, and can be found almost anywhere. Most halflings live in suburbs and slums around major towns, but a few halflings still live a traditional nomadic life, going from town to town by caravan or boat. Of all the races in the Bellic Empire, halflings suffer the most from prejudice, and are rarely admitted into the halls of power.
Names: A bit more English, from posh upper-class to cockney.
Elves: A few short wars served to convince the elven people that they would be better off with Law than without it. Their ancestral forests in the northwest of Bellus are still elf-majority, with only a few craftsmen of the other races present. Elves have not easily adopted to the pace of modern life. Their towns are poor and relatively backwards, and each year loggers and poachers make further inroads. The new generation of elves chafes under these outrages, but has not yet found its voice.
Half-elves: Either from recent intermarriage, or old true-breeding families, half-elves tend to do better than either their human or elf ancestors. With a natural talent for diplomacy and magic, and a cultural love of learning, most half-elves are middle-class or better, gladly taking advantage of all that Bellic society has to offer.
Dwarves: Stalwart and industrious, dwarves were the first allies of the humans. Trade benefited both sides, and as the empire coalesced the dwarves retained much of their freedom; as long as the taxes were paid, imperials agents did not go further than the entrance to the mines. Dwarf kings rule their fastnesses with absolute power, their regimented society almost like an army unto itself.
Names: Blend Tolkien with Yiddish and you’ll get the drift.
Dragonborn: Dragonborn mostly inhabit the harsh wilderness, deserts, swamps, and mountains. A hardy and self-sufficient race, they infrequently interact with the larger society, yet are loyal subjects of the Empire. Dragonborn have a natural affinity for warfare, and can be frequently found as sergeants in the army.
Devas: Mysterious outsiders, many devas serve the church or the civil service. They are naturally attuned to Law, and are considered to be the best servants because they cannot be corrupted.
A few devas have risen to high in positions in the Bellic government.
Warforged and Revenants: These races are the product of secret programs to breed a race of perfect soldiers, undertaken at the end of the Orcish Wars. From his ingenuity, man has birthed new life. There are less than a thousand warforged and revenants, and they serve in the most elite and secretative units, special forces and religious and political police. They are hidden from public view, as their very existence raises dangerous moral questions.
Eladrin and Tieflings live on the fringes of human society, taking the chances that they need to get by. They are refugees, either from other lands, or from nations that were destroyed during the consolidation of the Bellic Empire. Some have found their way into various shadowy organizations, ranging from cults, to criminal gangs, to the Sentinels and the darker orders of the Inquisition.
Places of the Bellic Empire:
Here are a few places your character might be from. Remember, there are over thirty provinces unexplained, along with many other cities and town.
Kilingrad: Capitol of the Bellic Empire, Kilingrad is a bustling city of nearly seven million. Every type of industry can be found in Kilingrad. Kilingraders have a reputation for brusqueness, and a distinctive, rapid dialect, but no one in the Bellic Empire is more proud of their home town.
Saltorini: The second largest city on Bellus, Saltorini sits on the shores of the Demarra ocean. At times, it seems every ship in the world is at anchor in the harbor, and trade has made the merchant-lords of Saltorini rich beyond measure. The citizens of Saltorini are cultured and sophisticated, carefree dilettantes always laughing.
Temureh: An ancient religious center, Temureh rest high in a mountain range, surrounded by dwarves. Religious pomp and dwarven taciturnity infect the citizens of Temureh, and they have a reputation for being serious to the point of tedious.
The Duchy of Cenobia: Golden fields stretch for miles, as the wide muddy Cenobia river rolls steadily along. Cenobia is the agricultural heartland of Bellus, and the farms here are productive beyond belief. Cenobian are simple folks of the soil, who enjoy hearty eating and folk dances. If there is a typical Bellic citizen, he is probably a Cenobian.
Hoggarth Territories: A recent addition to the Bellic Empire, rugged Hoggarth is thinly settled, and evenly more thinly governed. The tough and independent Hoggarthians must make their own justice in the wilderness without much help from the central government. Hoggarthians are legendary horsemen, trackers, and fighters.