The Grand Duchy of Karameikos

The campaign background for this game is GAZ 1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, which was produced for the Basic D&D game originally. The following is a player's briefing to give them a handle on the history and culture of the area.

Political Background to the Duchy
The Grand Duchy of Karameikos is a late feudal state with a Slavic / Byzantine flavour. It lies in a largely newly settled area of the world. It is a wild land wherein lurk all manner of foul beasts and loathsome races. Away from the settled areas, there is little law to be found. It is a place that attracts adventurous spirits in search of fame and glory (and treasure) for it was once part of a rich and famous empire that fell into ruin after the incursion of the Goblinoid races and their companions. The ruins of the empire are still to be found in the outlying regions, undisturbed and waiting to be plundered, should the careful adventurer succeed in defeating or bypassing the denizens of these ruins.

Karameikos is a land blanketed with thick forests. The indigenous people (Traladarans) originally settled this area long ago, and their past is shrouded with mystery. The Empire of Thyatis conquered these lands roughly 100 years ago to prevent any other nation from developing the lands and using them against the Empire. The territory was sold to Duke Stefan Karameikos III about 30 years ago. The territory became the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, named after the ruling family, and is an autonomous vassal territory under the direct authority of Duke Stefan.

The Political / Economic Situation
The Grand Duchy of Karameikos is a monarchy ruled by Duke Stefan Karameikos III. Officially, Karameikos is a Duchy within the vast and might Thyatian Empire, but retains complete autonomy. The Thyatian Empire would only intervene in the affairs of Karameikos if:
(1) Karameikos is invaded by a foreign nation;
(2) at the unlikely official request of Duke Stefan; and
(3) removal of the Duke by internal forces or unknown forces, i.e. a power vacuum.

The Duke can grant land holdings, estates, and baronies to those that both qualify for the post and petition the Duke. Those that own lands or an estate have the title Lord or Lady while those that hold a barony are Baron or Baroness.

Important Organisations:
• The Church of Karameikos
• The Church of Traladara
• The Wizards’ Guild of Specularum
• The Kingdom of Thieves
• The Veiled Society
• The Iron Ring

Technology and culture: Largely fourteenth century eastern European. No gunpowder.

Kopec - a small copper coin (cp)
Crona - a silver coin (sp)
Halav - an electrum coin (ep)
Royal - a gold coin (gp)

Only coins of the current Thyatian emperor or of Duke Stefan Karameikos are legal tender in Karameikos. When the ruler changes, coins are recalled and reminted (usually for a small fee on the part of the moneyer). Changing coins attracts a 5% tax, part of which goes to the Duke and part to the moneyer. Using coins that are not legal tender can attract hefty fines, although some do it anyway. Most merchants will not accept such coins though, because it means they make a loss on their transactions when they have to change the coins themselves. Forging coins happens too but carries serious penalties up to and including the loss of limbs.

Taxes are an unfortunate fact-of-life for all people of Karameikos. They are as follows:
Income tax - 25%
Guild fees - 10% (if the character is a member of a guild)

Duke Stefan levies taxes four times per year. At these times, all citizens are expected to present an account of their earnings and pay taxes based on that. Characters could hide their treasure on the way home from missions and try to avoid paying taxes but the consequences are dire if caught. Lawful characters would not do this anyway.

The People
Humans are the most populous race divided between the indigenous Traladaran peasants and the Thyatian nobility. The other races within the lands include dwarf, elf and hin (halfling). There are abundant humanoid races including goblinoids and gnolls and there are many sylvan races including satyrs, pixies, brownies, sprites.

Dwarves: 3,000
Elves: 71,000 (90% Calarii, 10% Vyalia)
Hin (halfling): 2,000
Humans: 351,000 (70% Traladaran, 10% Thyatian, 20% mixed and other)

The most commonly spoken human language throughout Karameikos is Traladaran, which until recently did not have a written form. The official state language and the language spoken by the ruling class is Thyatian, which is also spoken in several surrounding kingdoms. As a general rule, the ruling Thyatian class will speak Thyatian and employ interpreters to communicate with the Traladarans, who mostly speak only a smattering of Thyatian. That said, some of the Thyatian lords have learnt Traladaran and speak it well. Within the duchy, there is some language assimilation going on too. Traladarans are beginning to use some Thyatian words and vice versa.

There is also a trade tongue known as Common, which is a pidgin of many Mystaran languages and is understood by most people. It is basic and not suited to expressing complex concepts but is perfect for bartering for goods and finding out where the cheapest inn is.

In addition to the human tongues. the dwarves of Karameikos speak the Highforge dialect of Dwarvish and elves speak either Calarian or Vyalian Elvish. Interestingly, the Hin (halflings) speak the surrounding tongue, and as such all Hin that originate from the Five Shires or Karameikos will speak their own dialect of Thyatian. Some speak the ancient tongue of Lalor as well.

Religion is very important to the daily affairs of humans and other races. Each race worships their own pantheon of gods. The two most prominent churches within Karameikos are The Church of Karameikos, which is the official state-sanctioned religion and is followed mostly by Thyatians, and there is The Church of Traladara, which is naturally followed by Traladarans.

Below is a list of some of the gods followed within the Duchy. Normally, only a priest would dedicate themselves to a single deity. Other people would sacrifice to the appropriate deity as needed.

Church of Karameikos
Eiryndul (Chaotic: Animal, Chaos, Trickery)
Ilsundal (Neutral: Protection, Travel, War)
Kagyar (Lawful: Earth, Good, Law, Protection)
Mithras (Lawful: Good, Healing, Law, Sun, War)
Thyatians worship through the Church of Karameikos, which promotes the sun god of justice known as Mithras. Some Thyatians may worship a foreign god, such as Vanya.

Church of Traladara
Halav (Good, Law, Strength, War)
Petra (Good, Healing, Protection)
Zirchev (Animal, Knowledge, Plant, Magic)

The Traladarans follow a set of rituals incorporating three main gods; Zirchev (nature, magic), Halav (war, justice) and Petra (protector, strength). Another religion is practised in secret known as the Cult of Halav, which believes King Halav will be reincarnated. Little is known about this religion.

Religious Organizations
• The Church of Karameikos - This following was persecuted in other duchies within the empire due to the popularity of Vanya. They have come to Karameikos to start afresh
• The Church of Traladara - This church was set up officially after the establishment of Church of Karameikos. Using the newly developed alphabet (from the Church of Karameikos ironically), the church has documented Traladaran history and promotes the worship of the famous hero Immortals; Halav, Petra, and Zirchev.
• The Cult of Halav - This is a hidden cult that believes Duke Stefan Karameikos is the living reincarnation of the legendary king Halav.
• The Order of the Griffin - This is a holy order of knights establish by the church of Karameikos.

Clerics and Magic users are the only spell-casting classes. Spell-casting character classes from other games are all variants of these two classes. An Illusionist would be a magic user who learns spells of illusion and has traits that reflect this specialisation. A necromancer could be a cleric of a death god with appropriate spells or a magic user specialising in death magic. A druid would be the cleric of a nature god with traits that reflect that. And so on.

Clerics: There are many clerics in Karameikos because all people require spiritual sustenance. Most are low level and will remain that way all their lives. All Clerics are members of a church. As such, Clerics do not generally choose to honour a single god but gain their power from the gods represented by their church instead. Some Clerics do honour a single god and this will affect their spell lists. Clerics from other lands will worship different gods. If you wish your cleric to be from a different country, consult the DM about which gods are worshipped there.

Magic Users: Magic Users are uncommon in Karameikos, although Duke Stephan is attempting to encourage research in this area. To do this, he has founded a Wizards' Guild and School of Magic in Specularum. Not all Magic Users need to be a member of this guild. Membership of the guild costs 10% of the Magic User’s income, but confers the right to seek training from any other guild member. It also grants the member access to the guild’s library in Specularum, which makes research easier.

The majority of the populace is illiterate and has received little or no education.