I've been wanting to make a thread like this for a while, and I finally got around to it.
Basicly, if you could design your own Empire what would it be like? Not just in game terms, but any way you want. Culturally, architecturally, racially, high magic, low magic, no magic, do the warriors use steel, bronze, iron, etc. Anything, everything, nothing (although I guess your post would feel a bit redundant if you opt for 'nothing').
The Ursaris Hierarchy
(Or, 'Hierarchy of the Bear'; i.e. natural law)
The Ursari Nation, formally the Imperial Ursaris Hierarchy of God-Lord Varenus of Sol'Avalon and All Associated Territories, is a human (Ursan) kingdom primarily based around the peninsula of Sol'Avalon (literally 'island of the apples of the sun'), as well as the 'associated territories' of the Scanian Traverse; Norda & Elona.
The Ursan only have one major city, which coincidently is also their capital city - the Towers of Varencia, the myriad city of azurite, quartz and onyx.
The Ursari goverment is a hierarchial meritocracy, at least in theory, ultimately ruled by a oligarchal magocracy of mage-priests, called Priors, and the Grand Theokrator & God-Lord, Emperor Varenus. Society is structured by 4 distinct castes across 41 tiers of citizenship.
The base caste is that of the civilian, and is also the first social tier. This is the caste of all children below the age of military service, but also the caste of foreign auxiliaries troops, workers born of ursan blood but not within the confines of the empire (and thus not previously subject to it's laws at the time), and mercenaries who have finished a full tour of duty (and made an appeal for citizenship).
Formal citizenship, the right to partake in the variety of processes, social services and rights are only granted upon the entry to the second caste, granted upon the conclusion of compulsory military service. The second caste is considered that of the merchant, although the majority of people, including the bulk of workers, are part of this caste. This is followed by the caste of warriors & soldiers, from the Private to the General. The fourth caste is that of the nobility and priesthood, ranging from Knights and Noblemen, to that of the illustrious Primarchs - formally the Priors are also part of this caste, but in reality, they comprise an inofficial fifth caste, pulling from all the other castes directly into their own.
Higher-ranked citizens are expected to lead and protect subordinates. Lower-ranking citizens are expected to obey and support superiors. Promotion to another tier of citizenship is based on the personal assessment of one's superiors. Throughout their lives, ursans ascend to the higher tiers and are occasionally 'demoted' to lower ones. The stigma associated with demotion lies not on the individual, but on those who promoted him when he wasn't ready for additional responsibility. This curbs the tendency to promote individuals into positions beyond their capabilities.
Settling into a role and rank is not considered stagnation, and knowing one's own limitations are valued higher than being ambitious.
There are also casteless, considered unclean and unworthy. These are virtually everyone who is not part of the Ursaris Hierarchy or the Ursan race, those that are of differing religion, or virtually anyone who do not meet the demands of the first caste & social tier.
Religion within the Ursaris Hierarchy & Empire is straight-forward: "God-Lord Varenus is our God and Lord, and the Priors are his Priors" (lit. "Firsts"; i.e. Prophets). All his strictures are to be obeyed and orders issued by his priests (Priors, Paladins, Primarchs, Priests and Palatines) are as spoken by God himself. Missuse or corruption by any of these (Palatines being the lowest of initiates, often young and foolhardy) are punished harshly, often by extended months of perpetual torture followed by a slow death, cermonially boiled in an alchemical mix of pus and acid.
The Ursan religion teaches sacrifice, restraint, patriotism, loyality, racial homogenity, leadership & responsability, and is inseperable from the the caste system and govermental structure of the state.
The religion is not as stagnant or rigid as it may sound, favouring adaption to any situation that is at hand while maintaining the basic principles of the religion and state. The Priors are the highest authority throughout all of society and amongst them, there is a great deal of competition for the favour of God. While actual corruption is almost unheard of, amongst the priors there are no actual hierarchy - they are all of the fourth caste, 41st tier. This leads to numerous arguments on policies, laws and regulations - and ultimately even assassinations, murders and personal wars between Priors. This is in itself not opposed by God-Lord Varenus, but in times of necessity or erosion of loyalties, he will step in, often culling several priors with holy fire - often not just the offenders, but also those priests that share any ties to those priors.
While the strictures in the Book of Ursa are many, and the holy book is thousands of pages, there is a set of immutable principles that are adamant and neverchanging, eternal.
- "There is only one God and that God is God".
- "Honor thy father and thy mother, as you honor your leader and thine God".
- "To be modern only means to fill new forms with eternal truths".
- "To spread the wisdom and light of God is the most hallowed of missions".
- "Know thyself and know thine place, and thou shall know thine God".
- "The Ursan are the chosen and purest of races of men, created in the image of God".
- "The favoured amongst creation are the bear, for they know the nature of nature, and nature is the face of God".
- "Fear not the unclean, the heretic or the animal, for you are the bulwark of God, and faith is your shield of virtue".
- "Filthy are the beasts of burden; Feed not on the flesh of the Horse, Pegasi or the Unicorn, for they are agents of darkness, heretics and the unclean. Give them no quarter but slavery & servitude".
- Betray not your place, trust your superiors and trust in your God. Honesty, Honor, Glory, Majesty, Unity, Balance - strive for these in all things and Trust in your fellow Ursan. Fool or Cheat not your fellow man, for in doing so you cheat yourself and cheat God, and shall incur God's wrath.
Remarkably, the culture of the people and religious fanaticism of their leaders are remarkably dissimilar. While the principles of religion are strong, most of the Ursan enjoy relative freedom in their everyday life. Even those of the fourth caste, even priests like the Paladins, can be suprisingly profane and worldly in their approach to their duties, and it is not uncommon that Primarchs and Paladins focus much more on whatever duty at hand, rather than religious dogma. Primarchs as politicians, nobles or high-ranking merchants, and Paladins on the theatres of war.
Surrounded mostly by forest in a modestly temperate zone, the Ursan is a hearty people, fond of food, drinks and games, and the lower castes and tiers distinctly favour the glory of labour higher than almost anything. This fosters a reliable working class, wheter it be farmers, lumberjacks or masons. As you go higher amongst the castes and tiers, this becomes higher and higher aspirations - merchants of the second caste generally favour science and cultural pursuits, the third caste excellence in combat or governance, and the fourth caste naturally divided between that of religious-magical pursuits and politics.
Magic is restricted entirely to the priesthood, powers granted directly by God-Lord Varenus. Unsanctioned magic, naturally outside the Church, are strictly prohibited and subject to inquisitorial investigations. This has lead to a lasting animosity between those in power, the state and church, and the average man. The freedom to aspire within the confines of your merits, to ascend to virtually any caste (the Priori Council and the Church excluded) does much to harmonize this, however. The real or percieved superiority of the Priori Council and that of God-Lord Varenus ultimately prevents any real dissent, potential leaders of rebels or heretics being assassinated long before they can actually prove any harm.
The idea of choice has an integral part in Ursari culture. No matter the situation, any and all Ursan always have a choice. Wheter this choice is good or bad, is entirely ambigious. Ultimately, all that matters are the end results. "A man chooses, a slave obeys" is a common proverb and a form the basis of this logic. Servitude, the individuals place in the hierarchy, and faith thus becomes a matter of choice; the issue of heresy as a choice in turn a matter of choice vs. choice. As someone may choose one path, others are free to choose to oppose this path, resulting in a fluidous equilibrium of actions and reactions. Ultimately, an apollonian balance of modesty becomes the cultural dogma as a result.
Revering the bear above all other animals, this is a common motiff amongst the populance, if not for outright worship as much as solemn reverance. While furs are generally uncommon as clothing, bear furs is a sign of respect, since a man is only allowed to wear the fur of a bear that he has killed himself in fair combat. Likewise, only the knights or higher standings are allowed to ride and care for domesticated bears, being the ultimate sign of mutual respect; For surely a bear blesses his rider, allowing it's rider to care for him so readily, carrying him into battle in turn.
The Ursaris Hierarchy are loosely governed by state-regulated guilds that promote an overall closed free market principle, emulating a form of national mercantilism. Overall, people within the appropriate castes are free to go about their business, the guilds being more of a cultural institution supported by the state, rather than a necessity or matter of law. Farmers, for example, are relatively free to go about whatever business they want, selling their wares on temporary merchant stalls or selling their harvest to actual salesmen. Comparatively, the Carpenters Guild exerts strict control and rulings over their members, almost brutally pursuing those that seek to upset what they percieve to be the fair balance between prices and work.
It is not uncommon for guilds to be almost entirely under the control of one or a council of Primarch trade-lords, but this is, just like everything else relating to the guilds, very different from guild to guild. It is not unheard of for individual Priors to take an interest in guild businesses, exterting whatever powers they can without arousing suspicion - sometimes forging lasting trade alliances over a multitude of guilds. This control is never overt, however, fearing the condemnation of other priors.
The Hierarchy's military doctrines are, like so much else, tied strongly to tradition and religion. With large forces of conscripted military aswell as masses of professional soldiers - virtually anyone from the third or fourth caste are ready for combat at any time.
Relying heavily on subterfuge, large portions of the professional military are not regular footsoldiers - this being relegated to the lower castes of conscripts, often comparatively poorly armed. Instead, professional soldiers tend to be the elite force, carrying out devestating hit-and-run attacks against enemy armies, disappearing before the enemy can properly react.
Highest amongst the honored, however, stands the Bear Knights and Paladins. Far from the subterfuge of the specialist strike teams, these knights in light plate ride atop massive bears, wielding light, elongated swords, lochaber axes, or spears, depending entirely on the decision of the knight himself. Knights and above are the only ones allowed to ride these noble creatures, bonding with them during the course of their lives, starting as squires. Particulary successfull knights, paladins and so forth may be blessed by Varenus himself, to further strengthen the bond between the rider and the bear, or the longevity of both. There are pairings of bear and rider that have endured for well over 58 years of active duty, seeing generations of lesser warriors grow up and pass by. So deep is this bond that when either part dies, the other part rarely lives long afterwards, and their military career is almost certainly over.
-:Heroes of the Hierarchy:-
- Iracam Thresk - Prior Nylathem - Socratio -
And that's it folks. It took a while, but I'm quite happy with how it turned out. By all means, please describe your own nation!