Table of Contents
Download this packet as a PDF:
“The past is for memories, not for sustenance.”
– Gothic Saying
The stories and record books speak of a time long ago when the Gothic people were a nigh indomitable empire. The sprawling conurbations of Lethia and Fenristadt were glittering monuments to civilization and the power of unifying faith. The people of this empire, the Throne of God on Earth, were united in the common goal of working toward the betterment of mankind. Their choirs sang hymns of hope to the heavens, and in the fields below they dutifully reaped rich harvests that could feed the many. There used to be times of plenty, and it is said there was peace and prosperity.
But peace is an ephemeral concept, and cannot last long, and what was risen up high on the back of men could only be supported for so long before it toppled like so many precariously stacked bricks. The stories of the past may as well be myth, legend, or child tales for all the good they do in the present, and there’s no sense in drooling over a meal behind glass.
The Gothic people carry the same name as the land they inhabit: Gotha. It is a sprawling region that, in theory, they could lay claim to. In practice, however, most of the population is confined to densely peopled cities that overflow out into surrounding suburbs.
While these urban centers teem with disease, filth, scarcity, and poverty, the vast majority prefer their walls and stone that serve as protective anchors and barriers against what lies beyond. For all of the downsides of living crammed up against the press of humanity, there is at least familiarity. There is a rhythm. There is a tie to the foundations of old and the stones that forefathers once walked on. Generations of families have come and gone within these walls, and their stories leave echoes in the wood and rock. Out on the long, lonely roads of the country, or in those foreboding forests, there is ceaseless anonymity, the unknown, and unmarked graves. In the cities, you can starve among friends. Out there, you starve among beasts and strangers.
There is also the matter that for most residents of Gotha, their overlords have made their opinions known about where they would prefer the population to stay. The major cities of the region are presided over by men and women who make no secret of their allegiances to dark powers. And their reach is long. To leave a city not only generally means abandoning one’s family and friends, but it also might carry the risk of displeasing a Triumverati and bringing down their wrath, for they require service and sacrifice as well as food and resources.
However, necessity makes for cruel invention, and the cities can only hold so much. The fields, pastures, and stables were long ago depleted past the point where they could feed so many souls – even with the mandatory tithing of one family member every ten years to work in the surrounding farmlands. The issue is not labor – it is resources. And the Gothic people are caught in a delicate balance. The farther out you go to grow crops and raise animals in undepleted soil, the farther you stray from protection and numbers. You lose the power of the mob. However, to stay clustered is to eventually drive the soil barren and run out of food for the animals and humans alike. And so, over the years, the people have pressed and ventured, and then retracted and retreated. For while these human capitals are deadly, the outlying areas provide Triumverati, Night Malefic, monsters, the Empty, desperate and feral humans, and the Hintermen. And while the threat of death from plague and fellow man is real, it does not always incite the terror that these entities do.
Yet more and more in these modern times, people are taking the risk. They are venturing out in desperation to try to start a different kind of struggle for themselves and their families. Some now believe their chances may be better out in the great unknown, and if they are right, they may be rewarded with food and space, clean air and water, and second chances. And for those brave enough to try, the hope of that possibility steadies their feet and spurs them onwards.
“Yes, we are dead men. But we are dead men endowed with memory.”
– Gothic Saying
One of the great tragedies of the Gothic people is that they are keenly and constantly reminded that there was a time in their history when things were different. Obviously, their ancestors must have known times of peace, plenty, and prosperity, for they had the time and resources to build massively wondrous cities that have stood in defiance of time. While the vast majority of the population is too wrapped up in trying to obtain food, fuel, and weapons to survive from one night to the next to ponder the lessons of the past and track down forgotten history, it’s hard to not occasionally be caught up in moments of contemplation and realization that the world was not always like this.
Reading and writing are skills known and cultivated by some, but without many books in circulation or production, these skills are generally considered to be useful primarily by those who live and die by records – apothecaries, astrologers, guild clerks, scribes, and so on. And without the general populace having much ability to comprehend historic records, the musings on the past are primarily restricted to gazing upon the architecture, shrines, and the occasional work of art, and wondering at what the lives of their ancestors might have been like.
Those who care to study the past are aware that at some point, the Throne of God on Earth was overthrown or defeated, and that the establishments of the time crumbled in its wake. Many of the keeps and castles that still stand are reminders of old noble houses whose names are remembered by few. The Triumverati, cultists wielding powers beyond the abilities of ordinary men, seized control of many major cities and continue to hold them to this day. Fueled by their devotion to their ravenous gods, the Triumverati do not encounter many challengers to their position, though it is well known that those who wish to try are welcome to do so. Power changes hands mostly among the devotees of Kuarl, the god of blood and malice, and as a group, they seem most interested in maintaining their hold. In this time of many faiths, quite a few cults have risen to prominence, and identify as Triumverati, but none yet rival the Kuarlites in standing.
The Benali, a cult with ancient roots, primarily exist in secret or away from large cities. At one point, it was these cultists who led the Throne, but the centuries have upended them. While there are few laws in general, and none truly address religion, the preferences of those in power are the rule… and to identify as Benali is to often be first on the chopping block if sacrifices are needed, or first to be targeted for payment of unusually high tributes. Often, these particular cultists simply disappear, leaving the loved ones they leave behind to presume them imprisoned, enslaved, or worse.
At some point, though it is unclear exactly when, a great Calamity followed the destruction of the Throne Empire, and that was when the world as a whole changed. That was when the dead stopped lying still. And that was when the world truly began to know fear and hunger. The land and seas shifted, and the geography of the known world was also altered, sometimes in profound ways. Gotha, however, did not experience the same levels of catastrophic land shiftings as other parts of the Old Empire did. Their burden, instead, was the development of a crushing overpopulation.
As humans do, the people have adapted and continue to live their elongated lives under these circumstances. But innovation is not something that occurs often when the primary concerns are the acquisition of food, water, shelter, and protection. It is believed that a fair amount of technology and knowledge has been lost to the ages, or at the very least has not made much forward momentum in these difficult times. Some theorize that with the long, potentially unending lives of the population, people are even more set in their ways, and the reliance on oral tradition means that few discoveries or stories are recorded down for others to be inspired by.
Currently, most wars are fought between bands of hired mercenaries or between rival families. Cities are self-contained and autonomous, and no great countries or monarchies of old exist to invade each other. That said, the primary cause of conflict between cities, towns, and various factions is raiding. Raiding is the quickest and most reliable way to obtain needed supplies, food and resources, and while the walls and defenses of the Gothic cities are needed to repel Malefic and monsters, it is far more often that they serve as an obstacle to other humans.
Ethics & Values
“We’re all dead and dying. Some of us are just still moving.”
– Gothic Saying
Disease, scarcity, faceless multitudes, and a lack of personal space plagues the lives of the Gothic people. This has led to a sense of deep distrust for anyone considered an outsider, and that definition is quite narrow. An outsider is not necessarily just someone from a different culture, or even city, though those most certainly apply. An outsider is also a person from outside your gang, guild, or family. These people have done nothing to merit your trust, and in all likelihood are going to try to take advantage of you in whatever way they can to ensure their own survival. Better to always be on guard.
The drive to survive is inherent in all humankind, but the Gothic people carry it always in their chests. At their core of who they are, Gothics are a people who endure with stubborness and a firm tenacity. They have every intention of doing whatever it takes to see the next day, and they will be stronger for it. If they are unable to, then perhaps their children will fare better, and then their children, and so on until they have once again adapted to their world so fully that they rule it once more.
Though everyone agrees that the best people are those with strong senses of moral codes, there are times you may have to cast your sense of honor aside. You may need to steal, kill, or cannibalize. You may need to do things that bring shame to you. But if you survive another night, then you are one of the strong who can continue to try to procreate an even stronger generation. There is no room for weakness. The feeble and cowardly must become better, or they must die to create space for those who can use it. It is survival of the fittest to an extreme.
Stories are told of parents who fed themselves to their children when they became too infirm to take care of themselves. For humanity to thrive, each generation must be stronger, faster, and harder than the last.
The distaste for weak wills can seem contradictory, but human morals and ethics are a tangled tapestry at times. After all, to run and hide is cowardly, and thus unseemly, but if it means that you live, it is understandable and approved of. There is a deeper fear at the heart of it as well. A perception exists that it is the weak and irresolute who come back as Malefic, and thus the weak are also something to be feared. The restful, accomplished dead are celebrated because they did what they set out to do and died well, lessening the strain on the world and their children. However, no one blames a person for coming back time and time again to continue tending to their business. The hopeful and optimistic believe that everyone has the capacity to become better, and that for the good of all mankind, it is our responsibility to do so. But many just want those who cannot contribute or survive to get out of the way.
The focus on what one accomplishes in this life is inherent even in the naming conventions of the populace. Everyone is given a name by their parents on their naming day, and that name is still carried by them their entire life for use with family and close friends. But at an age where one is expected to be independent (usually by one’s very early teens, though actual timing may vary), many Gothics take on a second name. This second name usually speaks to a deed they performed which carries weight – a nickname that professional colleagues, gangs, and the general populace know you by. These are names like Knives, Tough Call, Darkly Wrought, Red Smile, Firewalker, and so on. These naming conventions are often violent or threatening for those in the inner cities, and more profession-based as one gets closer to the city outskirts. The Benali priests also take new names, though they are more in line with the naming styles of the Old Empire: Decimus, Augusta, Caius, Ignatius, etc.
Once a new name is taken, it’s generally considered overly familiar or rude to use an individual’s childhood name unless one is close family.
Accompanying the people’s sometimes bleak outlook, is a sense of dark, morbid humor. Even children get very early starts on exposure to jokes about dismemberment, starvation, abandonment, Malefic, loneliness, and so on. The arts and crafts as well tend to feature the grotesque, and the theme of Memento Mori is ever present. Death in some form ultimately awaits us all, and the Gothic people see it constantly. The fortunate ones die fulfilled and rest peacefully, to be remembered and celebrated. Far too many, though, die tormented and forgetting who they are, only to rise and inflict their misery upon an already suffering population. Many a ballad has been penned about lovers willing to die for each other, and gladly doing so, finally finding their eternal peace together… though some versions have one lover finding their peace while the other one comes back or rises as Malefic, indicating that something else drives them and their devotion may have been false. Regardless, the Gothics are being constantly reminded that for all of their beauty, strength, bravery, and cunning; one day they will all be weak, frail, diseased, and forgetting their purpose – possibly even tormenting and terrorizing the ones they love. It is the lucky ones who die well and are remembered fondly.
“Do not go beyond the wall, my child. The wall entraps us, but it also protects. Outside those ancient stones lies a creeping darkness that is hungry… hungrier than you have ever been. Do not tempt it.”
– Warning from the traditional Gothic fairy tale, The Child and the Chamber
Once, Gotha was the seat of one of the largest and greatest empires known to history. It spanned hundreds, if not thousands, of miles and encompassed many countries, languages, and peoples. United by faith in the belief that man was the pinnacle of creation, and an ultimate force of good, the Gothic Empire’s focus was on maintaining the unity that had been so hard won.
Much has been lost since then.
Libraries have been burned and monuments shattered. Major cities and walls still stand, but much of the countryside and villages have been abandoned and retaken by the wilds. Crumbling monasteries dot the mountainsides, and broken hamlets either disintegrate, abandoned and forgotten, or lie stripped of what stone and lumber they once possessed. Tremendous walls that once served as deterrents against the nonhumans and enemy forces, now stand isolated and moss-covered. Many of the famous roads that crossed and connected the Empire of old still are present, especially near the cities, though even they are well overgrown and broken in places. Travel is difficult and treacherous, though for some, the dangers of the road are appealing when compared to the life that city living presents. For those who have the option to travel, the choice is often simply a matter of deciding on what flavor of death they find most appealing.
Most people live in one of the major cities detailed below, though exceptions do exist for a strange few who live in small villages and even in the ruins of gutted castles and keeps. All the population centers are among the ancient cities of the past, for no Triumverati has seen it to be a worthy endeavor to build a new city, and the resources do not exist to make it a feasible option even if they were so inclined.
The land is temperate, for the most part, though it lends itself to cooler weather and dark forests of evergreens. Aspens, alder, beech, oak, and elm are also common. Mountain ranges that long ago housed fortresses, villas, churches, monasteries, and towns break up the skyline, and to the north, snow covers most of the mountaintops year-round.
The shining city of Lethia is the most well-preserved and oldest of the cities of Gotha, and one of the few where the Triumverati do not directly rule from. As they are unable to overrun and influence the Salgothic dwelling at the core of the city, they have established a stronghold within a great library at the outskirts of the city known as the House of Wisdom. Its shadow falls across the Gothic citizens barred from the inner sanctum of the Cathedral by two great walls. The Triumverati warlords have historically experienced a high turnover here, with some lasting as little as a few months before leaving or experiencing misfortune befalling them. Theories abound for why this may be the case, but the end result is that the House of Wisdom tends to be occupied by only the most brazen and fanatical of the devotees of Kuarl. As a result, the Gothic people here are generally subject to waves of violence and horrific demonstrations on the city outskirts as a new dictator asserts himself, followed by temporary peace as a change of leadership takes place. Currently, Emmanuel de Brisac occupies the often-cooling seat of power. It is said he hails from the Outlands, and while he does not appear to bear the obvious markings of a Kuarlite, the populace has been holding their breath and waiting.
The city is something of a marvel as it bears the architectural influence of times forgotten, and no one is quite sure how old it is. Some say that the layers of the city and its foundations cut deeper into the earth than any other place known. It serves as one of the most well known strongholds of the Salgothic, and its classical religious history is seen and experienced everywhere. The catacombs that lurk below the city are said to stretch for miles, with many of structures built from mostly human bones, though much of what lies beneath the city has not been unearthed for fear of structural destabilization. Some Gothic find the catacombs a more secure and welcoming environment than the surface above, and it is fairly common practice to hideout, live, or have meeting places in these ancient tombs. The temples to the Benali, the old god of the empire, still stand, though they have for the most part been repurposed. Some say that this was his home when he was mortal, and it is his influence which keeps the more overt Triumverati from establishing their home within the enormous cathedral city at its core.
As in most Gothic cities, outer Lethia has a series of gangs and guilds for the purpose of providing some order to the chaos of the streets. One of the most noteworthy gangs is the Invenires. Closely tied to the Salgothic families at the center of the city, the Invenires have the reputation of being able to find anything, no matter how rare or hard to get the item might be. They are noteworthy thieves and have absolutely no compunction about gathering things for their customers that might be considered morally reprehensible by others. They’re lead by the Quartermaster; a tall, whip-thin androgynous figure who has only ever appeared wrapped in many layers of fine dark cloth, and whose voice is as haunting as it is beautiful.
Lethia is vast, with spires and columns and soaring towers, and is one of the few places in the world that is large enough to contain a city within a city. Beyond the core city composed of clusters of cathedrals and temples surrounded by an imposing wall, there lies a second city – densely packed with narrow streets, plazas, giant vault-like buildings, markets, alleys, and housing. The filth is ever present, but if one were to pause and see the city beneath the muck and press of humanity, they would see beauty.
A city that is also a massive fortress, Fenristatd lies at a meeting point of two rivers, though the rivers mainly serve as a means of transportation and as a natural boundary. They are far too polluted to reliably provide food that is safe to eat. The filth and offal of the city manages to ultimately find its way to the rivers, though some say that they were purposely polluted to create a dependency on the wells that are controlled by the rulers of Fenristatd.
The rivers around the city are managed by a gang called the Catfish and their horde of flat bottomed boats. Anything that falls within the water is considered the property of them and their Head, the Lady Magpie. Anyone who argues otherwise is sure to find out just how well they wield the flexible thin sticks that they use to pole around their ramshackle boats. They’re lightly tied to the Coopers, originally a small guild of barrel-makers and one of the many families in the inner ring to be careful of. These days, their barrels have a bloody connotation as they are often used to seal up and drop victims in the sewers who have angered or refused tithe payment to the Catfish. Also of note, the Artisans are a particularly ruthless cult of assassins that have made Fenristadt their headquarters. Commonly, before going on a job, they ingest poison with the antidote waiting for them at their base. If they fail to return with proof of their success, or they are caught, the conclusion is foregone.
Fenristatd sits behind a concentric series of three walls. The middle one stands the strongest, with the outer wall having a southern facing section that has crumbled, and the inner wall having numerous tunnels, gate openings, and other areas of structural weakness. Being most likely the most densely populated city in the world, the inhabitants are spread out between the city core, and the wide spaces between the other walls.
Most inhabitants of the outer ring are hunters and gatherers of resources as well as, paradoxically, citizens deemed to be the most expendable. For while this is the area with the greatest access to crops, fowl, and wild game; it is also the area that is the most easily beset by Malefic creatures of the wilds, bandits, and roving opportunistic mercenaries and invading forces. The rationale seems to be that anyone can learn to find food and resources, and anyone desperate enough for them will naturally move to the outer ring as needed. Those who have lived here for an extended period of time are seen as somehow simultaneously lucky, cursed, extremely talented, and possessing a death wish.
The middle ring is the most comfortable, lying in the middle ground between the monsters outside and the monsters within. Once established here, families are loathe to part with their tenancy. Skilled crafters, barber-surgeons, and priests tend to reside here, for their skills are often in high enough demand that they can afford the resources to stay. Here, the buildings are in the best conditions, as people have more ability to make repairs and take time for such things. They can trade for food brought in by their neighbors in the outer ring, and some of them tend small windowsill gardens and keep very limited amounts of small livestock in pens. There is a fine balance to be struck here, however, for any overtly obvious signs of comfort may bring unwanted attention and looting.
The inner ring is a shadow battleground of gangs, thugs, and the reckless. From high atop the central hill of the city, Sophia the Thresher and Sorath the Artificer have lorded over Fenristatd from the Rapture Keep for as long as most can remember. Even among the undying, they have been long-lived. It is they who demand tribute, soldiers, bodies, and sacrifices from the inhabitants, and those who would dwell even remotely near their home feel the weight of their gaze and the resulting pull of violence in their blood. You either fiercely carve out a living for yourself in the inner core, or you have a very good reason to visit. Harvesters, assassins, thieves, contractors, and hardened urban survivalists of all kinds dwell here, and for most this is the only life they have ever known.
In western Gotha, behind another famously high wall of miraculous construction, lies Sauberhin. The city has surely had numerous names, for it is so old that it even boasts cave paintings from ancient times in the hills surrounding the city. It is likely that the city used to be much larger, and the known network of tunnels and underground caverns that connect the city to the hills would indicate that at some point in the city’s history, a substantial part of the population may have dwelled in the hills or below the surface. Despite the obvious great age of the strange illustrations in the caves, they are exceptionally well-preserved.
While one would think that an area with so many caves would spend considerable time mining for resources, it would appear that the hills and mountains of Sauberhin are tapped of everything save mystery. The Trollvolk, a major gang within the city, have a reputation that extends far beyond the tunnels of Sauberhin where they make their home. Known for the intricate facial brands and scarification that their members use to mark their rank, it is rumored that they capture unattended children and feed them to a dark entity that lives deep within the depths of the caves there – and that their leader Knifeprice is completely within the creature’s sway. The reality is likely much more mundane, but the gang seems to enjoy the renown.
Another well-known gang within Sauberhin is the Potato Farmers. In a world where death isn’t the end, humanity seems compelled to devise tortures and punishments that are far worse. At some point early on, a group of Gothics took this realization to heart. In order to gain an edge and defend their territory, they needed to strike true fear into the hearts of all in their neighborhood to establish their superiority.
They captured one of their chief detractors. But they didn’t kill him. Instead, a barber surgeon among them carefully amputated each of the man’s limbs, meticulously sewing up each wound and cauterizing them. When this pitiful man had fully healed, they set him at the edge of their territory, wailing and mad. They fed him daily- a living warning to anyone who might cross them. The lesson did not need to be repeated often.
The Potato Farmers grew from that first performance. As the first known gang to cross this grisly line and use living human markers, they zealously defended their method and took pride in keeping their “potatoes” alive as long as possible.
Leonhard Von Engel calls this city-state his own alone. Unmarried, and without children, no one has seen him for many years. This is no matter, though, for his agents are numerous and terrifying. The residents of the city are told that they are some of the most well-protected in the world, for this is a city that has seen many centuries of battle, and the ramparts, battlements, additional keeps, towers, gates, and fallback points serve as a testimony to the city’s endurance as well as its preparedness. However, many residents describe Sauberhin as a prison maze.
One of the sigils of the city, likely not by coincidence, is the maze. You will find intricate maze-like designs on flags, storefronts, and simple jewelry. The architecture, while in the style of the Old Empire, is more utilitarian and simple than in other large cities. There is evidence that statuaries and ornate fountains may once have been in the plazas, but over the years they have been lost to various building projects, battles, and simple spite. The people tend to believe that marble and stone have better and far more practical uses than for egotistical aesthetics. Common expressions in the area have a theme of grim resignation.
The natural landscape provides plenty of defense for this city. It sits at the base of the The Teeth, steep mountains that surround it on nearly all sides. It is mainly accessible through either a narrow northern mountain pass or a southern road that cuts through a valley. It is this southern road that is barred by a large stone gate that requires a system of enormous gears and pulleys to open. Perhaps because of its relatively secure location, the population of Fernwehn spills out beyond the city wall and settles in canvas and dung brick hovels and small cliffside homes, often accessible by treacherous stairs and mountainside ledges.
The people wrench from the soil what they can, often with some terracing to create what room they can for crops, but increasingly people are having to go beyond the great gate to find sustenance in the chilly mountain passes. What growing season they have is short among the cliffsides, and a lot of what grain and potatoes they are able to obtain are turned into beer and spirits. Alcohol keeps, provides nourishment, and a warmth in the belly that the residents of Fernwehn find quite addictive.
Two major mercenary groups, Blutstein and the Weeping Men share positions of prestige within the city. Blutstein is a reference to the expression that you can’t squeeze blood from a stone, but their practices are so violent that they say even the stones are forced to absorb blood in their wake. There are even rumors of vampirism and blood rites within the guild, but these have yet to be substantiated. Like all guilds and gangs, their inner practices are intended for a select audience. The Weeping Men are so called for their practice of openly grieving for the lives they must take before an assignment, though they shed no tears afterwards – for regret does not suit a mercenary. Many choose to wear makeup or permanently tattoo marks that imply tears running down their face, as they must always be prepared to take life. Both groups report to the warlord of Fernwehn and her mighty purse of resources, though they each have distinct territories that one dare not cross from the other. Much of the city is divided between the two, with various smaller gangs and guilds owing at least token allegiance to one or the other in terms of tithing and protection fees.
The city’s overseer calls herself Grafin Claudia Naberius – an archaic title, but by all accounts, Grafin Claudia is a woman firmly rooted in the past. Her keep lies in the northern Central district, and it is well known that she guards the frescos, mosaics, and statues of the central district with an unrelenting grip. Many a person has been carted off into the night, and is likely rotting in the Grafin’s dungeons, for the crime of breaking off a piece of wooden altar for fuel, or absconding off with sparkling tiles and art to trade to the Nemien. It is unclear how the Grafin affords so many mercenary soldiers and additions to her statuary gardens, but most residents count themselves lucky if they can simply live their lives without running afoul of her.
Praesa is located to the far east of the Gothic lands considered habitable, at a forked meeting of three ancient crossroads. It was once an outpost, and now is the farthest city before a traveler wanders into the wasteland. Much of the surrounding landscape is of plains and sparse forests, but the city itself sits on a large elevated mound that allows the watch to have an elevated view of the area. Many other, more intricate mounds lie near Praesa, and theories abound to what they may represent or be covering up. It is unlikely that they are natural, because many have a spiralling or deliberately designed shape to them, and the land does not have many mountains or hillsides where these mounds are located.
Praesa does not have a single overseer. Rather, it is considered to be guided and shaped by the hands of the Great Guilds and their associates. Because of this, the city has less shortages than other areas of goods and resources, but there is no question that if you call Praesa your home, you are completely beholden to one guild or another. The residents here are mostly guild members themselves, or they are under the protection or indentured service of one.
Being located so close to the Wastes has a very definite pro and a very definite con. On the one hand, Praesa is the main location to obtain supplies that are exceedingly difficult to come by in the Wastes, and so there is much trade to be had here. On the other hand, dangers that had been pushed to the borders of what remains of civilization abound and pour in from the lands beyond to this isolated hub of human activity.
“Ah, my friend, do not strive to be like these statues here. These colossally great men and women. It is small people who are needed to slip through the cracks of history.”
– Klaus “Silkstep” of the Invenires
The architecture within Gotha is that of a vision of heaven dragged through the dust. The ancient buildings that remain show that the ancestors followed a design that sought to reach the sky: tall and spire-like windows and towers always grasping for the cosmos. But this once bright vision has been marred. The delicate stonework has been stained from the smoke of a thousand fires and the wondrous, vibrant colored glass of ancient churches has long since shattered into dust.
It can be difficult, sometimes, to see what remains of the past surrounded as it is by the present. Where once there were wide-open spaces and plazas, there are now people. Countless stinking, coughing, pressing, sweating people. Around the ancient, lofty towers have grown a cancerous-like squat of hovels, small buildings, and leaning tenements teeming with life. These days, buildings are not meant to impress or exalt the spirit, but simply to hold the massive amount of bodies that the cities have grown to hold.
Some, like the Salgothic, have struggled to keep parts of the old style in what they have built or, barring that, at least protect the timeworn stonework as much as possible. But in most everywhere else, functionality and practicality is valued over decoration, with workers taking pride in making solid creations that can withstand the test of time – often created out of the rubble of the past that surrounds them and evened out with a coat of wattle and daub.
“There’s no one coming for you, rat. There’s no noble you can run to, no knight who will defend you, no churchman who will hear you. You’re in Dirtside now, and Dirtside is MINE. So unless you have an army hiding in those rags who is going to take my neighborhood from me I suggest you stop posturing and play nice.”
– Smoke the Tanner, Head of Dirtside
When the Throne fell, so too did the complex system of relationships and treaties that made up its system of laws. But the Old Empire was, at its base, a feudal system and one piece of that remained true even after the Calamity: those who are strong make the rules. Over time this has developed into an almost mafioso system of government, with charismatic and powerful figures gathering other like-minded sorts around them and either going to war or negotiating peace with nearby gangs in order to survive.
While there are a few individuals that manage to rule simply through strength of personal will and power, most organizations and gangs follow a similar structure: the Head, the Hands, and the Feet. Or in other words, there is a leader with a team of trusted lieutenants who each have a small team of people that they trust underneath them. These Heads, in turn, often pay tithe and tribute to those who lead their city and often directly serve the will of the Triumverati even if they are not Triumverati themselves. This is an uneasy alliance in power, however, and some cities have blatantly rogue gangs, and even guilds, not in any way aligned with the Triumverati. Those who do pay tribute tend to not openly advertise this fact, or at least not speak of it in mixed company, since many market themselves as protectors of the people.
Individuals who live in an organization’s territory will often pay a tithe to their resident Head, whether that be for protection, guidance, use of their resources, or simply to avoid being murdered for their belongings or parts. Those organizations that are especially cruel tend not to last very long as the people they depend on for tribute flee to other, less murderous or expensive locations, or organize together to wreak their own bloody vengeance. Most organizations are eager to make life better for their members and those who live under them. They desire to attract new members, if only because the more people who band together with them, the more their own power grows.
This system scales better in some places than others. The cities of the Gothic people are densely packed and overpopulated and no one, least of all those people who have fought their way to the top, wants a bloody turf war. It certainly happens from time to time, but the individual leaders understand that it’s really in the best interest of their survival if they manage to work together at least somewhat with the neighbors. Not everyone can manage to peacefully be a member of a conclave, and there are gangs and guilds that refuse to work within these systems, as well as individuals who believe that they’re powerful enough to take control of the entire system – but typically these are temporary outliers.
As such, most of the larger cities have a conclave that is made up of the leaders, or representatives of the leaders, of the major organizations in the area. Every conclave is different depending on the city, but they typically hold a member of the merchant guilds, a member of the mercenary groups in the area, a religious member, and a representative from any cult, gang, or organization that the existing conclave members think is important enough (or threatening enough) that they should be extended an invitation.
Each member of the conclave has a single vote and is assumed to have an equal voice, and as such most conclaves will elect someone to be a tie-breaker and general mediator of conversations for the group. It is typical that this person is someone who would not normally have voting rights within the conclave so that they may be somewhat unbiased. If available, this role is typically given to a seer or otherwise a wise man or woman, someone who is assumed to be unbiased and have a deeper understanding of what is best for the future.
“Never waste your time searching for rescue; all you’ll accomplish is becoming lost in your own weakness.”
– Common saying in Sauberhin
The conclave is not there to act as an intermediate between its conclave members and their people. Within their territory, each conclave member is the supreme ruler of whatever they can control. Rather, this body exists to mediate differences between members or to deal with issues that involve more than one group. Certainly, if one member is causing an undue amount of malefic creatures due to their cruelty, then that would be an issue for the conclave. Essentially, its role is to reduce and avoid war in the streets whenever possible.
Because of this, the average person won’t typically ever deal with a conclave. Individual Heads make the rules and laws for their terrority and anyone who doesn’t like those rules can try to take it up with their individual Head (either violently or peacefully) or try to join a new group. As it is in a Head’s best interest to keep the peace, both with other territories and between the Hands and the Feet within their own tiny kingdom, most Heads will usually use resources or favors to offer recompense for wrongs between gangs and organizations.
While these gang leaders are often preferable to any sort of an encounter with a Triumverati, most people who make it to the position of a Head in the crowded cities of Gotha tend to be driven, paranoid, and power hungry warlords who have gotten to where they are by a mix of luck and sheer unbridled, stubborn will. They are the people who will do anything to maintain their position, and the common people under them know that to question their will and their laws is a dangerous game indeed.
As such, most of those within these lands know the – sometimes capricious – whims and rules of their Heads better than they understand the changing of the seasons. Moving between territories within a city never happens without research into what the new territory’s rules are. After all, within their territory, a Head has complete and utter control over their people and can issue punishments as they see fit. Most settle for canings and whips as punishment, although others have been known to starve rule breakers to death – sometimes repeatedly. Some Heads force them to serve as slaves within their household, maim or disfigure them, or even visit these punishments upon their loved ones instead.
If someone feels as if another member of their community is breaking the rules or being unjust, it is necessary for them to petition their Head for justice, often with a hefty bribe, or just take care of the issue themselves. Occasionally, those with means or extremely compelling circumstances may manage to involve another Conclave member against their territory Head, but trying to do such is often fraught with danger.
When a Conclave does rule against one of its members, the punishments vary. Fines of supplies, items, or people are common – but canings, seizure of territory, torture, maiming or exile are not unheard of.
It is generally accepted that the grounds upon which the conclave meets are considered neutral area. However, for added certainty of this assumption, most major conclaves use the Salgothic neutral ring as their meeting space whenever possible. No one may harm another in these meetings without having equal harm meted out against them. That doesn’t mean that members have to like or even respect each other, but no one becomes important enough to become a conclave member without at least gathering the basic diplomacy necessary to avoid breaking the delicate peace. There is a balance to be struck between being feared enough to discourage others crossing you, and respected enough that your word means something.
“Your enemies are with you longer than your friends.”
– Gothic saying
In the lands of Gotha, politics is a dangerous game. Of course, some say that in a world of the undying it’s the only game that is worthwhile.
Given the territorial and independent nature of Gotha’s cities, it is not surprising that politics tend to center around the illusive figures at the top of the food chain, just as much as they surround those in the middle – the Heads of the territories within the city who have membership in the Conclave.
However, unlike the Salgothic, the Gothic people don’t hold much to pomp and circumstance. Here there is no “court” in which ladies and gentlemen waste resources in pretty voices and graceful bows. Instead, the game of politics is one of espionage and backroom dealings, of favors traded and information purchased at a premium. After all, when your rivals can’t be dispatched with a simple knife in the dark it is necessary to turn to more lasting means of ruin.
And in such a world, those people who provide the information are often just as valuable as those they sell information about. Every major city has its collection of shadowy information brokers, complete with a network of informants, and any leader worth their salt is allied closely to at least one of them.
It’s certainly a robust enough market that Gothic children often help feed their families by gathering information for one spy network or another, a practice which has the added benefit of teaching them the nature of their world and the dangers within it at a very young age. However, it is a dangerous practice, as often times the people paying the most for the information are the nebulous figures and Triumverati who lead the city from the shadows… and what they do with that information is a terrifying thought.
The Triumverati are not a united front, as one might suppose. Not every ruler and warlord openly claims worship of the vile gods, and those that do may serve opposing entities. Even those who seem to worship the same Being, such as the Kuarlites, have deep divides in opinion and priorities. Ultimately, each city has its own needs and shortages, and will not hesitate to raid or plunder a neighbor if it appears to be in even a small way worth the risk. The overwhelming populations and the seeming rarity of final death means that lives are cheap.
It is unwise to the extreme to risk the wrathful eye of a immensely powerful leader with inhuman abilities and numerous, zealous followers. Therefore, most major gangs and guilds within a city enjoy their positions at the will of the main ruler (or Council as in Praesa). It is something of a two-way street, however, for even the most power-mad dictator can see that if an entire city of hardened criminals and mercenaries were to decide they had enough, a revolution could very well succeed. However, the competing, territorial and avaricious nature of the various gangs in play serves as a enormous obstacle to true unity, even when they are required to get along for the sake of a Conclave. In a sense, the gangs serve as a sort of buffer and protection for the citizens who desire to join. Membership in a major gang or guild means that you are less likely to be openly targeted by the overlord and their followers, but you are more likely to be a target of intergang warfare than the average person. Conversely, the citizen with no affiliation may find themselves without protection when the streets run red and gore-slick with the need for sacrifice and sacred diversion. This is not meant to imply that gang affiliation means that one is immune to such events, but many Triumverati overlords will first approach a Head or Guildmaster for a quota of sacrifices or retainers as they require. This is often the time when being unknown or not being a favored group member can have dire consequences.
Due to raids, fear, and competing need for the same resources, wide scale communication and trade does not tend to happen between cities as a whole, and messengers or parties from other cities are often looked upon with fear or suspicion. However, some small trade does occasionally occur between members of different cities, although it is typically performed at some sort of neutral ground if it is done by travelling Nemien caravans. Additionally, the Salgothic offer a service within the cities of Lethia, Fenristadt, and far-away Aquila when neutral ground is required – whether for a Conclave, a potentially combative trade agreement, alliance and marriage negotiations, the settlement of a feud, or any number of assorted other events. For a fee, the Salgothic provide space between the outer and inner walls of their sanctum cities. The fee – which can sometimes be prohibitive, depending on the potential user and their relationship to the Salgothic – and appointment are arranged in advance. Woe betide those who displeasure their Salgothic hosts, for a breach of contract or peacekeeping rules ensures not just a permanent ban on the offender and his entire family, gang, or guild, but also a distinct and curse-like period of misfortune. The Salgothic do not often allow obvious Triumverati to make primary use of their neutral grounds, and the Triumverati do not often make such requests. It’s rare for them to not be able to summon those they wish to speak to up to their various fortresses. Yet exceptions have certainly been made over the years, and it is fairly common for their agents and spokespeople to arrive for important negotiations and discussions in Salgothic neutral grounds on the Triumverati’s behalf – even if only to observe. To date, no Gothic guild, gang, or family has refused the presence of a Triumverati agent and not regretted the decision.
“You are not yourself when surrounded by riches and comforts. It is when you face misfortune and need that you see your true self.”
– Gothic saying
There is no consistent currency within Gotha. While individual leaders may occasionally try to issue their own writs, such things are rarely worth the cloth they’re printed on and most anyone who can afford to negotiate takes barter instead. Many will still take the old coin if they can find it, but that’s mostly due to the metal content within them than any attachment to what the coins represent. Most people would much prefer a brace of pheasants than any ancient bit of metal. If people do make notes of IOUs between them, they tend to be more for favors than for material goods or currency, and are usually notices of contracts and agreements more than any real sort of money.
The only exception is the guilds. Guild writs can typically be traded for goods at any chapterhouse no matter their location, and as such, travelers between cities or even countries will sometimes carry guild writs instead of weighty supplies.
The primary economy in Gotha is that of a service economy, with the populace desperately trading anything of value or providing odd services in order to avoid going hungry. Those with more valuable skills are locked up within the Merchant Guilds who have an iron grip on the goods and services they deliver. To conduct independent trade on one’s own behalf is almost unheard of, unless there is no guild presence for a particular good or service within the vicinity. The Guilds do not tolerate independent suppliers for long, and violators tend to disappear or find themselves maimed in ways that prevent them from practicing their craft. Most individuals find themselves either working for the Guilds or for the gangs that lead their area.
The cities do periodically fractionally let down their guard for certain visitors. Nemien caravans and the occasional extremely bold troupe or merchant group do sometimes come to the cities, and these are times where the Gothic people can trade for far off goods or where mercenaries and sellswords can barter their protection services. If the visiting merchant group is selling similar products to those already offered by an established guild within the city, however, their immediate first stop must be to discussions and negotiations with that guild. To do otherwise is considered a grave insult that will not be overlooked for long.
“Want is the net that traps you, tangling you up in your own ruin.”
– Common saying in Sauberhin
Nearest the great cities, much of Gotha’s once abundant natural resources have been picked clean. But for those who are willing to risk the dangers of the countryside there is still lumber in its great ancient forests – aspens, alder, beech, oak, and elm. Individuals or groups have to be truly desperate, though, for the forests are ever farther away from the cities than they once were. Stone suitable for building still exist in Gotha’s mountains, although that is difficult even for the guilds to get to and transport.
For the majority of people within this land, their greatest resource is the rubble of their past, and those that brave the wilds often seek out the grown over and abandoned villages for their building materials, ancient manuscripts, and art.
Many Heads do try to send out groups of people to trap animals and search for natural resources, often in roving bands for protection. Such duties are often those of the low, or a punishment for disobeying authority, as oftentimes the people who go out either return post-death and missing parts of who they are, or they do not return at all.
Fashion & Dress
“People will always stare. I suggest controlling their gaze. Make them see what you want them to see.”
– Melchior the Chandler
The Gothic people have forever been pragmatic, and the black and grey clothing they choose to wear is practical for many reasons. Some believe that the first dyes of the Gothic were discovered when partially buried iron from swords on a battlefield mixed with blood and spilled wine. The mixture of iron with tannins created a deep, black dye that could be made from the abundant amount of each of these things available. Nowadays, while the iron and tannin method is still used at times, most utilize the bloodwood tree as a means of acquiring the dye associated with the dark clothing of the Gothics. Greys and blacks continue to be the most easily accessible dye in the region.
Dark clothing is ideal for filthy city conditions, and makes stains less obvious. As well, given that many a city-dweller bases their survival on how well they can hide, blend in, or disappear into the shadows, alleys, and crowds, black is a sensible color choice. Some say there is a spiritual nature to the choice as well, as a physical marker of the sin that permeates the souls of the Gothic people. Some tales point the finger of blame squarely at Gotha as the reason for the continued rise of the dead and the scarcity of the world. While some Gothics find this to be an insulting and ridiculous claim perpetuated by cultures who only want a scapegoat, other Gothics do wonder if the accusations have merit. Some say the wearing of pure black is a sign of guilt and atonement.
Much, if not all, of a person’s skin is usually covered. Pants are common attire for both men and women, as well as layers and skirts. Hoods are almost always worn, and masks are common. Some prefer simple half-masks of cloth or veils that cover the mouth or mouth and nose, while others prefer more elaborate coverings for the entirety of their face. Some gangs and organizations incorporate common themes to their masks – such as monstrous mouths made of fangs and enormous teeth, bone plates to give a skeletal visage, or symbols or designs sewn or inked on. This cultural custom again has many explanations, of which no one can agree upon.
People wear masks so they they are harder to identify, and thus their families are in less danger as a result, should they run afoul of the wrong person or group. Mask and hood wearers are also harder to see should their activities be illicit. Their faces and hair are protected from dust, debris, and smells, and there is some added protection against corrosives and disease.
There is also the idea of a blending together of humanity. Some interpret this darkly – that this anonymity makes it easier to commit crimes against one another – to kill or be killed, to steal, and to generally dehumanize one another. Others believe that this is a sign of humility and goodwill – that essentially at our core we are all the same and that our burdens, struggles, and joys are shared by all.
Armor is worn whenever possible, and armor of metal is often passed down along family lines and guarded jealously. It is one of the most stolen possessions in the cities and along the roads, and is considered a precious commodity in trade and debt payments. Gothic armor is commonly dyed black as well, but certainly no one would turn up their noses at any piece of well-functioning metal, leather, or chain. To be visibly well-protected against danger is seen as a mark of strength and favor, for not only is the wearer well-prepared for the evils of the world, they have managed to hold on to such treasures.
Diet & Dining Customs
“Suffer patiently in the shadows. There you will find food.”
– Gothic saying
Cities do not lend themselves well to high yields of food production. Most families tend to have at least a small window garden of herbs or try to grow potatoes in sacks. If they have room for some house chickens or a precious goat, they will certainly try to keep them for eggs and milk.
In the crowded living quarters and narrow, overpopulated streets, space is at a premium, and so most people are unable to raise and consume the flesh of animals that require a lot of it. Cows are uncommon, and pigs are available to those willing to risk housing one (pigs pose quite a danger to young children, in particular). Animals are rarely, if ever, raised beyond the city walls. They make far too tempting of a target for raiders, Malefic creatures, and the wandering desperate. Some people do make use of the fields for quick growing grains like oats and barley, though no one is surprised when they are the first things to be burned in times of attack. A few cities carve out space within the city for grain fields, but they are guarded fiercely to stave off grabbing hands, and are often intended for the tables of those in charge. Praesa in particular is known to have a large series of fields within the city limits tended to by the Tiller’s Guild – and their crops are always in fervently high demand.
Those desiring meat beyond the the occasional pig, elderly chicken, or goat must venture out into the forests to hunt it. There is a booming market in trade for fresh game such as deer, boar, wild birds, and river fish from upstream. Everyone is hungry, but not everyone is willing to risk the denizens of the deep woods, human and nonhuman.
Therefore, the staples of most Gothic peoples’ diets are eggs, potatoes, onions, cabbage, porridge, and meat where they can obtain it.
It is not a well-kept secret that in some desperate parts of the cities (and beyond), some have had to resort to eating the flesh of humans. While most people tend to not stay dead, there is still no pleasure in a slow death due to starvation, and the exact same pain and hunger awaiting you upon the return. Some family and gang Heads have been known to make a spectacle of public punishment for those who have offended or intruded; chopping off a part or limb and throwing it to the watching crowd, knowing that it will be descended upon with the ecstatic zeal of starving pack animals.
The ideal dining situation in Gothic society is a whole family or gathering seated together, and having the head of household serve them their food. However, the reality is that most people eat when they can and are often on the go. Therefore, the most common sight at breakfast is a pot of gruel kept warm by coals that family members help themselves to as they can in the morning, and in the evening, what food can be placed out is sometimes served in a similar fashion. However, it is generally expected that every member of the family at least checks in for dinner. Not coming home in the evenings is a deep cause for worry, and so most groups and families insist on at the very least a brief visit around sunset, and another in the morning for those who have business at night.
“No, we won’t live forever. But we can create something that will.”
– Gothic saying
There are some things that not even an apocalypse can change, and for the Gothic people education of their children remains as important now as it ever has been. But in these dark days, that education has shifted to match the tone of the world. Within every lesson is buried a dark kernel of truth: it is necessary to be strong to survive in this world.
Such lessons begin early. As soon as a child is named they become a constant companion to their parents, often swaddled and carried close to the body until they can keep up on their own. While some outsiders might argue this is simply a matter of safety – as the cities provide very few places where a child could be truly left alone – the Gothics say that it is so their children can experience the world as it is unburdened by preconceptions. Gothic parents bring their children with them wherever they go as much as they are able, teaching them through firsthand experience the best ways to survive, and the nature of the world.
But the community also takes a heavy hand in educating the young. It is commonly thought that children are stronger when they have a wide variety of experiences to draw on, and as such, children are often apprenticed to many different adults within the community. Even the most laconic or withdrawn members of the community take their turns sharing their knowledge with their young neighbors and help them figure out what drives them.
These apprenticeships can last as long as a year or as short as a week, and are structured differently depending on their community. In some communities, Gothic children are handed off entirely to the adult who is teaching them for a time, living within their house and spending as much time as possible absorbing the skills they are being taught – but this is typically only done with older children once they are a bit more sure of what they are interested in doing as an adult. More commonly, a child will go to their teacher during the day and return to their family at night to tell their younger siblings and parents about what they have learned. But no matter how these learning experiences are structured, no one argues that because of them, Gothic children grow up with an intimate knowledge of the various ways one can survive in their world.
Science & Medicine
“No, please. Don’t speak of hope to me. Hope is for the weak. I don’t need it, and neither should you. Whatever you do, don’t let it build in your chest. It becomes unendurable with its crushingly endless possibilities. Don’t let it build in your eyes, for it will inevitably spill over as tears. We’re going to fix the problem because we are stronger than lying, misleading hope.”
– Sister Iantha of the Lurites
Much of the forward momentum in innovation that must have been occurring at the time of the Calamity has been lost, and technological advancements are agonizingly slow. Based on what is known of the Old Empire, not much advancement has taken place in terms of tools, weapons, transportation, or science. In fact, many may argue that much has been lost in the time since the Calamity. However, humanity does not exist in a vacuum, and exchanges of ideas have lead to some interesting developments over the years.
In terms of Medicine, there are several schools of thought on the matter, and most people believe in a mix of philosophies. For some, disease, illness, and other maladies are spiritual in nature. A person is punished by entities and deities that they have displeased in some way or another, or their soul has become so twisted and corrupted that it manifests itself physically with symptoms upon the body. For these afflictions of the spirit, atonement, acts of contrition, and spiritual cleansing are often prescribed which take the form of rituals. If one is bold enough to locate and utilize a Lurite healer, they are often the ones who can perform such rites.
Lurites are, however, a potentially risky group to make contact with. As they are a sect of the Benali, not only does using them carry the risk of displeasing those in power, but one must also be sure it is a genuine and trustworthy Lurite they are working with. These priests tend to also utilize the dead flesh of bodies left behind in their healing rites – especially those rites which are designed to restore function of maimed and missing body parts. They are somehow able to graft dead flesh onto living, and have it operate as if it were alive and well as part of the host’s body. It is best to not question the Lurites on how they came by these body parts, for the likely answer is that they were purchased or traded for from the harvesters, a polite term for necro-scavengers. Many people tend to grow wary around a practitioner with a blade when the price of human parts is so precious – for they are indeed in high demand.
For others, the theory is that ailments stem from an malalignment of essences in the body. The Four Humors and their balance or imbalance can explain most afflictions a person may suffer. Black bile is thought to be produced in some organs such as the spleen, and is responsible for chills, depression, and melancholy when it is in excess. Yellow bile is produced in other organs like the gallbladder, and can cause rage, alcoholism, and fevers. Blood, coming from the bones, heart, and liver often carries disease within it, spreading it everywhere, and causing fatigue and inflammations. Phlegm, produced in the head and lungs, is associated with tumors, growths, ennui, and apathetic behavior. These humors are clearly observable if you were to draw blood from the body and allow it to settle – four distinct substances will settle atop each other. Imbalances in the humors can be caused by all sorts of stimuli – inhaling foul odors or the wrong vapors, what we eat, what we drink, and what our activities of living and vices are. Treatment varies by ailment, but bleeding, purging, altering diet and activity, and herbal remedies are common. It is known that by breathing in or touching diseased dead bodies, that you may bring the maladies upon yourself as well. The records show that one technique of driving up despair and fear within a city during times of war has been to catapult diseased bodies over the walls and into the midst of the markets and residences by the gates.
Apothecaries, borrowing where they can from alchemical science, apply the theory of the four humors to many things – the elements, the seasons, temperatures, biomes and plant life, etc. And it is through this understanding that they are able to create herbal and mineral-based remedies that are tailored to the subject’s particular ailment. Tinctures, salves, tonics, and other medicines to cure symptoms can be in particularly high demand as the population lives far longer and older than it used to. The main difficulty can be in finding the needed plants and materials, and many an herbalist has made good barter by braving the dangers of the fields and woods to bring back needed plants to the city, and the apothecaries within.
A fairly good understanding of anatomy exists among the Gothic people, between the rituals of the Lurites and the advent of barber surgeons in the cities. The tools of the trade for a barber are similar to those of a surgeon, and thus the job can be anything from a cutting of hair and shaving, to a lancing of boils, or an amputation of a limb. Barber surgeons must also possess knowledge of suturing wounds, setting bones, and cauterizing with hot metal and boiled wine. There is no sense of reluctance at cutting into the body, if need be, and over time, some fairly well-done manuscripts on human anatomy have been produced. These do, however, tend to be rather jealously guarded by the barber surgeon guilds.
Barber surgeons and apothecaries tend to make house calls and have stalls in the marketplaces where they may ply their trade. By contrast, given the controversial nature of their practices, Lurites tend to organize underground and hidden black market hospitals and infirmaries which can vary in atmosphere from a sweet-scented temple to a charnel house in a graveyard. It is, in fact, not uncommon for Lurites to establish themselves slightly beyond the city walls and among the cemeteries upon ground they claim to be hallowed.
“Fortresses crumble and monuments collapse, but the human spirit is light and shadow.”
– Gothic saying
Several faiths and practices of worship have risen to at least the level of tolerance within the cities of Gotha. The ways of the Old Empire and its single faith have fractured and left room for cults and local practices to have more religious expression.
Of course the overseers and rulers of the populace centers tend to be members of the Triumverati, cultists that at one time were the most heinous and reviled of the world’s faithful, and they were known almost universally as Heretics. They were the worst kind of inhuman monsters, and they still are to this day.
Not much is known of their practices from the outside, save for the fact that they are generally violent, blasphemous, and depraved. Those who make a study of religion also have heard of the god Tarranthalus, a deity of desire, power, and rebellion, as well as Lazarolth, the god of death and secrets. However, most of the Triumverati in positions of power worship the deity Kuarl, a god of savage slaughter and blood. In exchange for their worship of him, these Triumverati are gifted with unearthly speed, strength, and battle prowess. They are often marked by their god’s favor with obvious animalistic traits such as horns, claws, and fangs. In a world where the strongest can keep whatever they can hold onto, these Kuarlites thrive. They are not shy about taking what is needed for continued worship of their god, and what their god wants is blood. Thus, while the streets of the cities tend to be quite dangerous for the uninitiated or unwary, most assume that when a person goes missing, it is because agents of the Triumverati have captured them for a terrible sacrificial purpose.
The Benali are a series of groups of priests and practitioners that are aligned by their belief in a deeply powerful god who created humans to be the physical manifestations of bravery and virtue upon the earth. They believe in this god, his angels, saints, and the importance of a martyr named Benalus. However, the faith is a divided one, with different orders focusing on slightly different goals and interpretations of their religion. As a somewhat underground faith, the Benali do tend to often set aside any differences and work together as Benalus stated mankind should. But among some practitioners, the rifts run deep, and what appear to be small differences of theological interpretation may actually be the difference between the world being damned and saved – just as a small change or substitution in a ritual component can change the entire outcome of the rite.
Just as there are six angels within the faith, there are six orders of priests among the Benali:
The Sanctum are the only Order that do not incorporate the name of their patron angel, Nuraniel, into their title. Their Saint was nameless, and thus they identify only as Sanctum, relinquishing names as deviations from purpose and pouring their devotion into the act of freeing the world from the terrors of the Malefic wherever they can. They believe that the Malefic have worsened as mankind has turned inward and placed their focus upon their own individual selfish needs and wants, to the detriment of mankind as a whole. They believe there is hope for every person, even those lost to darkness.
The Melandim, of the angel Melandiel, are a bold Order in a world of scarcity. They eschew all worldly possessions, and instead rely upon the kindness of their fellow humans and their faith in God to provide. They believe firmly that Benalus was a man who was a shining example of Faith – but he was just a man, and anyone has the potential to be a Benalus once again to lead the world out of its current hellscape. They have a tendency to be first among the martyred and missing, for they also believe it is their duty to try to spread their message of hope both within and outside the Gothic city walls.
The Cyanites, following the patron angel Cyaniel, are perhaps some of the most deadly assassins known. Their view is quite different, in that they believe that at the heart of all humanity is a deep-seated evil – it is a core part of who we are. There is no destroying it without destroying ourselves entirely. They believe that the state of the world is due to the fact that God has turned his face away from creation as the numbers of those who nurture the evil within swell, and humanity is judged as a whole by the worst of us. If they can rid the world of the truly wicked, then humanity as a whole may be redeemed and accepted in the embrace of God once more, and our punishments will cease.
The Sepharihim, of the angel Sephariel, are a small Order. Once, long ago, they were responsible for creating a unified Church within the Old Empire and for destroying heresy and its evil taint wherever they found it. They believe they have failed, and failed mightily. Theirs is a mission of redemption. The world has fallen far from grace, and the only way to repair it is through atonement and investigation into the deeper truths of the soul and the world. It does little good to simply punish the sinner, though that is a start for containment – one must determine why the sinner committed the evil they did, so that the source or temptation is destroyed at its root. They believe there is no sin or deed too wrong to commit upon their own souls, if it means the world passes through penance and humanity survives.
The Mithrites, following the patron angel Mithriel and his great hammer, consider Benalus to have been more than a man. He was a man elevated to the position of a god through his great deeds. As his faith grew and his acts carried more meaning, God shared more and more of his divine favor upon Benalus, until he too shone with the radiance of the Creator. They believe that through action and deed of bravery, they too can turn the favor of God upon them once more, and any one of them could become the hero that this world truly needs. They are an Order that does not shirk from a fight, though they know that each action carries weight, and if one must do battle, it should always be a righteous one.
Finally, the Lurites dedicate themselves to Lurian and the words of St. Istra. Their knowledge of the healing arts is said to be some of the most ancient, and they can restore function and encourage healing of wounds that many would say are impossible. They believe that a mastery over the body can lead to a mastery of the soul, and one’s focus should often be on what one can control – yourself. Thus, they place emphasis on the healing of the body that one may continue to learn and exercise lessons of the soul as well. They pride themselves on only using their blades to heal, and never to bring deliberate injury to another.
The relative isolation of the Gothic cities from one another, as well as the lack of an overarching government, has lead to an increased diversity in faith. While a few Gothic people find that they don’t quite have the time or resources necessary to worship properly, and a few don’t see the point, most residents of Gotha have found something to have faith in. It may not be the pomp and circumstance and cathedrals of times past, but most will leave a small offering at a shrine they pass, or say prayers in the night for what they are in need of most. Ever a practical people, even the least religious Gothic person generally doesn’t see the harm in some worship. After all, life is suffering, and if you can please some deities along the way, maybe there’s a chance of a respite.
Many small cults and religious offshoot groups have formed within the cities and outskirts of Gotha:
One of the most popular cults is to the tall, dark, motherly figure of Mama Mort, a personification of Death, its mysteries, its succor, and its remorseless touch.
The followers of this cult do not form a cohesive community that one may typically associate with the word. While guided by shared beliefs and faith, each individual’s relationship with the Lady of Death is personal. A figure of two sides, she offers succor, protection and prosperity with her right hand, while wielding retribution, obstruction, and curses with her left. What each petitions her for is theirs alone to know.
It is a shared fear and respect of Mama that binds her followers together, along with a common lexicon of symbols. Her symbols are the skull (decor, costumes, makeup), the oil lamp, the hourglass, and the owl. Each rich inits own potential meanings, the individual focuses upon those specific ones that resonate with them. As Mama’s followers do not openly speak of their faith, these symbols are also a method of communication between them. Stylized skulls, oil lanterns, and owl decor allow them to silently recognize one another.
While individualistic in its daily practice, followers of Mama Mort do still come together for certain rituals and celebrations. Celebrations are things such as births, true deaths, a day of honoring the dead. Group rituals range from supplications for protection, to requests to heal a sick family member, prayers for a loved one to remain dead and pass on, to sacrifices for curses upon enemies. It is believed that it is from this cult that the fairly widespread practice of Gothic parents giving their children their first death comes from.
The Temple of Rue
Another cult claims to be an offshoot of the Benali faith, though no order of priests claims them as their own. The Temple of Rue and its adherents, calling themselves Lamentians, are a group that believes a great wrong has been committed by humans upon the world, and the echoes of that wrong continue today. Even though there are indeed many good people in the world, their good deeds are outpaced by the acts of evil men by a thousandfold. It is the nature of the world that good deeds are more difficult and hard to come by, whereas evil deeds are far too easy to commit. Inaction itself is often in tune with evil. Therefore, the Lamentians believe that they must continually punish and abase themselves for the good of mankind.
The self-inflicted punishments range from the simple such as giving away food and goods while the worshipper goes hungry for a short time, periods of abstinence, dressing in burlap or coarse cloth; to more extreme self mortification such as walking across hot coals and self flagellation. Lamentian faithful also tend to perform humbling tasks such as the washing of stranger’s feet, and the loud public confessions of their own shortcomings, sins, and weaknesses. By almost constantly existing in a state of penance, the Temple of Rue hopes to eventually keep pace in atonements for the world. It is for this reason that they are also eager to recruit – for the more number they have, the more the world can be healed, and the greater chance they have of putting a dent in the vileness that humanity is capable of.
Common symbols of the Temple of Rue are a cracked chalice, adornment of the hands and feet with ashes (some also mark under the eyes so as to resemble the tracks of tears), the thorn, and the calla lily. Lamentians are not shy about advertising themselves, and so their symbols are not meant to be part of a secret exchange or signal to each other. Rather, they provide the worshippers a means of self-advertisement and reflection.
A third cult that has a fair amount of popularity amongst Gothics and Salgothics in particular is devotion to the Audricienne, the Glimmering Lady. In terms of seemingly direct offering and reward, this spiritual movement offers clear rationale for its popularity. Devotees claim that in exchange for offerings of art, sweat, blood, and love, any earthly goods you desire can be granted. Depending on what you desire, you need only make a sacrifice of equitable labor or emotional value on each solstice or equinox. When your tithe is received by the Lady, they say that she is most generous in giving you what you need and want.
Believers in Audricienne claim much more comfortable lives than their fellow man, though they do at times complain that it is difficult to come up with more and more elaborate ways to ensure that the Lady’s favorable gaze does not waver from them, and that she continues to grant them their continued desires.
People tend to enjoy business dealings with these faithful, because they tend to be quite generous. When you have a deity that provides for you as you provide for her, they fear less from loss. They tend to invest in newer and riskier guilds, enter into sometimes lucrative contracts, and generally attempt to share their fortune where they can in the hopes that the Glimmering Lady approves of what they have done with her generosity. Their symbols are twin fish, the ox, the color red, and the tulip.
Folklore & Superstition
“The disease of loneliness travels in a crowd.”
– Gothic saying
In a world where the dead do not rest peacefully and the Night is ever more full of Malefic creatures, it is no wonder that superstition runs rampant. How else are people to make sense of a seemingly senseless world? Below are some of the common superstitions and folklore of the Gothic people.
Knock on Stammtisch
No matter what else their dwelling may be made of or may contain, the Gothic people try to include at least one table, door, or support beam that is made of hewed oak. This wood is often called the stammtisch, after the historic name of the main table in bars, and is thought to have holy properties. When greeting their arriving friends or entering a dwelling, Gothic people bang their fists on the table instead of wave – banging their hands on oak proves they are not malefic creatures. If someone does something that might bring the attention of the Night Malefic upon them or says something considered unlucky, it is common to rush to bang upon the stammtisch or other wood in the house to try to negate the effect of their words. With the scarcity of resources being what they are, it is difficult for the Gothic people to obtain fresh hewn oak- although many will trade dearly with the Nemians or Hesha for such an item. Others will scavenge the wood from existing structures, especially those that are not too far outside of the safety of their cities.
Toasting with Water
Even when times are tough, the people of Gotha avoid toasting with water. To toast with water instead of another drink such as wine, beer, or even tea is to wish ill health or bad luck upon those you toast with.
While the great bells that made up many of the churches in Gothic towns have long since been silenced, either by people with an eye for other uses for the metal or by the dark leaders of the cities, the practice of using bells to drive off the Night Malefic has remained. Bells and wind chimes – anything that makes a pure, clear note – are thought to drive off malefic creatures. At the very least, they provide a small measure of comfort to hear them twinkling in the night.
Sign of the Lion
When coming across a stranger at night it is common for Gothics to make the sign of the lion: the right hand raised, palm forward, with the fingertips pulled tightly down above the palm in the form of a lion’s paw with retracted claws. This symbol is generally considered a ward against evil, and it is believed that no malefic creature could make it easily. As such, it serves as both a greeting as well as a reflexive action whenever someone feels as if they have drawn the attention of something dark.
While people in general wear masks so that they are harder to identify and for general protection, masks also serve another purpose. It is widely believed that there are witches called doppelhexen which seek out the faces of people in order to be invited in to otherwise safe spaces and feed on the family and friends of the person they are imitating. As such, it is considered a good idea to wear a mask whenever one goes abroad at night – lest it be stolen by one of these witches.
Drawing the Evil Eye
It is considered bad luck and practice to brag about accomplishments and good fortune, as such bragging draws the attention of dark creatures that might wish you ill. When someone inadvertently does do something that might draw the eye of evil upon them, it is common to make the sign of the lion to drive it off.
There are common bits of folklore that most people know in Gothic cities, although often times the details change between tellings. Some of the most common involve the story of the Cinder Children, children who were separated from their parents and had to make their home in the ashes of a burnt out building. The tale is a cautionary one, telling of the terrible things that the children encountered on each night – with the horrible encounters growing in intensity on each night. In most tellings, the children manage to triumph over these creatures through remembering the lessons they learned from their parents, although there are darker versions.
The Grass Maid
Another common tale is that of the grass maid. This is the story of a young man who considered himself quite the charmer but had been unable to get one particularly pretty girl into his bed. He eventually decided to lie and promised himself to her eternally, and said he loved her truly and would only have her, and she echoed his promise with tears and much happiness. But while consummating their newfound promise, something disastrous happened and both perished. Because he had lied and was not actually devoted to her, the man returned to life. The girl however had not lied, and remained peacefully dead, much to his despair.
“Life is a series of insurmountable tasks.”
– Gothic saying
The overcrowded cities of Gotha are a bad winter away from violence. The need for resources, and desire to protect their own creates a distrusting atmosphere. To keep the peace, the Conclaves attempt to maintain a series of practical holidays that promote healthy communities. During good years, the holidays bring the different gangs together to work on issues that affect the community at large. During bad years, which are more common than not, the gangs celebrate the holidays separately.
The holiday season traditionally starts in early Fall with Ratstag. While not a celebratory event itself, it is an important day for the Gothic people. It is the day that the Conclave of the city meets and the various Heads agree to work together to organize the coming festivities. It is closely watched by the members of the various gangs. If an agreement is made, it is a sign that it will be a good year. If an agreement is not made, it is a sign that it will be a bad year.
The first event of the season is Fastnacht, or Almost Night. It is occurs in late Fall, just before Winter begins. Winter in Gothic cities is especially hard. Fewer resources come into the city, forcing most residents to give up anything that could be considered a luxury until Spring. For Fastnacht, the Heads go from house to house collecting food or alcohol from the residents in order to throw a massive community feast. Everyone from the community is invited to participate. If you have donated to the feast, a small bell is installed above your door to help protect your home from the Night Malefic for the coming Winter.
The event begins just before noon when the participants dress up and then dance and sing until the wee hours of the morning. People frequently wear masks to keep the horrors of the night at bay. Fastnacht is considered the last day of luxury (despite the meal usually being a hearty stew) before a period of deprivation begins. Throughout the celebration, the participants slowly stuff a life sized doll with straw or other flammable materials. It is believed that the doll holds the sins committed during the evening. Fastnatch ends when the doll is burned.
This event is not a celebratory day; it occurs on the day with the longest night. With so few daylight hours, it is considered especially dangerous. During good years, a volunteer from each gang comes forward. Together, the volunteers patrol the city at night to protect the populace from any roaming Night Malefic while the residents of the city lock their doors. They do not leave their homes until dawn. Families usually use this as an opportunity to gather and share stories around a fire.
During bad years, each gang patrols their own territories. Due to the unease in the area, the residents usually gather in a community building until dawn. Bad years are plagued by opportunistic rival gangs, who like to use this night as an opportunity to rob unoccupied homes. During bad years, most of the fighting that happens in the streets is gang on gang instead of gangs on Malefic.
The final event of the year is Gute Arbeit, which occurs in early Spring. It is the return of life to the city, a day of Good Work. On this day, during good years, the various gangs come together to work on a project that will benefit the city as a whole. They might repair buildings or roads damaged during the winter months, help each other plant in community gardens or construct something that will be beneficial to everyone.
During bad years, it is a day the entire gang comes together to work on a project that will benefit their own community. It is similar to a good year, however the scale of the projects are smaller. The gangs work from dawn until dusk. Every member of the community is expected to participate. The strong are expected to perform the manual labor, while the young and elderly are expected to cook food and support the workers throughout the day. It is a happy occasion, even on the bad years, because the community always feels stronger afterwards.
“A single nut does not rattle in your pouch.”
– A Gothic idiom meaning that
one event does not make a pattern
Much like the Gothic holidays, the other traditional Gothic celebrations tend to be practical and community focused. A large part of a Gothic’s identity is defined by their gang, and that is reflected in how they celebrate their Birthdays, Death Days and Weddings.
In Gotha, it is considered bad luck to wish someone happy birthday before the anniversary day of birth itself. It is believed that if you draw attention to the day, that you are inviting tragedy. This means that birthday celebrations are not publicly pre-planned. Birthdays are typically celebrated on the day after a person’s actual birth date, and are organized by the birthday person themself.
The birthday person is expected to host their own party. They are expected to feed and entertain their guests. In exchange they receive practical gifts, like clothing or tools, from the family and friends that they have invited. For poorer individuals, this is usually the only new clothes they will receive all year. Most parties are small affairs. The average person can usually only afford to feed a small group of people. It is a sign of wealth and prosperity if you are able to host a large party.
A traditional gift that is given every year, either by the next of kin or by the Head of the community, is the Geburtstagskranz. It is a wooden ring added to a cord. Some wear the cord as necklace, or hang it from their belts, while others choose to keep them safe hidden at home. Every year a new ring is added. Each ring is intricately carved, in a celebration of their life. However, if they have died that year the ring is plain to symbolize the loss of self.
Todestag, also known as the Death Day, is a remembrance of the first time a person died. It is a somber affair where they gather with their family and friends and tell stories to remind themselves of what they have lost.
Many in Gotha share the same Todestag. That is because it has become traditional that if a person has not died by their 13th birthday, that their family and friends will kill them during their 13th year so they can overcome their fear of death. Because of this, almost half of all Gothics have a plain Geburtstagskranz ring for their 13th year. While the death can occur anytime during their 13th year, most families choose to perform the act on the eve of the Summer Solstice to keep the period that they are dead as short as possible.
In Gotha, while you can technically marry whoever you wish, it is generally considered appropriate to have the union pre-approved by the Head of your community. It varies from community to community how involved the Head is in the marriage arrangements. In some, it is a simple formality to request approval of the Head. In those communities, almost all requests are approved. In other communities, almost all marriages are pre-arranged by the Head, and the request is largely ceremonial.
Because of this variety in how involved the Head is in marriage arrangements, there is also a great deal of variety in how involved they are in organizing the marriage ceremony itself.
For communities where it is a simple formality, it is rare for a dowery to be requested by the groom’s family and the couple is expected to organize and host the wedding celebration themselves. Much like birthdays, they are expected to feed and entertain their guests and in return they receive practical gifts, like cookware and basic furniture, for them to build their new lives. Most marriages are small affairs, with the wealth of the couple being a deciding factor in how big of a wedding it will be.
For communities where it is arranged by the Head, it is common for a dowery to be exchanged. However, in these situations the weddings are organized and paid for by the communities. The union is less about the individuals and is usually more about strengthening the community, or creating ties with another gang.
One of the more unusual customs for Gothic weddings is the Braut Entführung. The night before the wedding, it is customary for the groomsmen to kidnap the bride. The groom must rescue his bride to prove that he is worthy of the union. It is usually considered a fun game that involves a scavenger hunt or a mock battle. However, in situations were the Head has not approved of the union, sometimes the bride is never rescued or seen again.
“Everything has an end, except the sausage, which has two.”
– Gothic saying
The Gothic people track time in a year with twelve months that is partially based off of the Old Empire’s manner of tracking the days. The months themselves are basically the same, though the names have changed slightly over time:
Martius, Aprilis, Maius, Iunius, Quintilis, Augustus, Septiember, October, Noviember, Deciember, Ianuarius, Februarius
Each month has roughly 30 days.
The current year is Cinis 319, marking the era of the current political climate. Those who care to look into such matters, believe that it may have been the families of Sophia and Sorath of Fenristadt, or even they themselves, who began counting year 1.
For scribes and those in care of official documents, the dating style is Month, Day, Cinis Year.
Art & Recreation
“The world is not dangerous because of evil. The world is dangerous because of apathy.”
– Gothic saying
The art of daily survival is the most appreciated of pastimes among the Gothic people. That does not mean, however, that there is no appreciation for art or craftsmanship. Most Gothic art has a practical purpose. There are very few traditional artists left in the crowded streets of Gothic cities. While on an individual level, pursuing art is considered impractical, at a societal level, having an artist within the community is viewed as a sign of prosperity. For a community to be able to afford an unproductive member, who simply creates beautiful things, they must be doing well. Many of these artists find themselves wandering from patron gang to patron gang as the prosperity of these gangs rises and falls. For this reason, artists can be sometimes distrusted. After all, how can you trust someone whose loyalty to their community is so fickle?
Due to the unstable living conditions artists find themselves in, most of the traditional art tends to be portable. Intricate architecture, larger than life sculptures and stained glass is only something you can glimpse behind the large walls that separate the Gothic people from the Salgothic. Instead, the traditional art practiced by Gothics is painting, music and poetry.
The small population of artisan painters trying to make a living by their art tend to paint landscapes. When people are in the paintings, they are usually small and far away. A prevailing opinion is that a painting is meant to let you dream of a peaceful life outside of the city. The landscapes are idyllic, colorful and peaceful. It is a dream of a better place. An uncrowded, tranquil place. Many view them as representation of an unrealistic but pleasant fantasy.
Gothic music and poetry are intertwined. Musical instruments are few and far between, so the vast majority of music is sung a cappella. The human voice is, indeed, the most portable and cheap of all musical instruments. Paper is also a luxury few can afford, so most poems are put to music to make it easier to memorize. This means most Gothic songs are verbally complex, and tell stories of love, violence, tragedy and loss.
Gothic crafts almost always have a practical purpose. Repairing, recycling and reusing old materials is very common. Clothing is patched repeatedly until it is too worn to continue wearing. Once it can no longer be worn, old clothing is torn into strips and made into quilts. In addition to quilt making, other common crafts are knitting warm garments and designing personal masks or coverings for oneself and loved ones.
The historic abundance of wood that was in the region long ago led to woodworking as a hobby, as well as the painting of wood into more beautiful objects for the home. A bed or table may have skulls and roses painted upon it, or ivy and vines. Flowers were a popular theme for wood paintings, as they symbolize the transience of beauty in this world, and that it must be appreciated where it can. However, as the forests have receded farther and farther away from the cities over the centuries, this traditional art form has grown increasingly scarce. Certainly wood can be salvaged, but most people find themselves painting pottery instead. Clay is an easier resource to come by, and those who desire some ornamentation in their homes tend to paint the traditional motifs on earthenware dishes and mugs that will be used. The concept of special occasion dishes or ornamental dishes is alien to the Gothic people.
For holidays, it is common for decorations such as stars and wreaths to be made of straw and embellishments. Childrens’ dolls can also be easily made of straw, with simple faces painted upon them for those with meager resources, or stuffed with straw and made of painted cloth and wood for those who can afford to place more time and energy into their children’s toys.
The most popular game among those with means in Gotha is Kartoffel. It can be played by two to eight players. If played by four, six or eight players, partnerships or teams can be formed by drawing cards from the deck. Unlimited table-talk and heckling is not only allowed, but encouraged. In team games, it is common for individuals on the same team to work out a system of gestures and signals to communicate their cards.
To play this game is considered a sign of prosperity in itself, as paper and cardstock are scarce, making a deck of cards a completely luxury item. Oftentimes, a small community or group of families will go in on obtaining a pack of cards together, and then take turns caring for the cards that they will then communally use.
Dice carved from bone, stone, and wood are also a popular pastime, and a wide variety of dice games are played – often with a gambling component.
In terms of sports, handball is a diversion most everyone has played at least once, if not many, many times in their lives. It is a simple game involving two teams of seven players (6 field positions and 1 goalkeeper), with the object being for the players to pass a ball with their hands and throw it in the opposing team’s goal. If you hold the ball, you can only take three steps before you have to pass. It’s a lively, short game with most matches not lasting longer than 30 minutes.
The View of Others
The large things are what unite us. And it is the small things that divide us violently.
– Traditional Closing of a Conclave
The Gothic people are generally a wary bunch, and the crowded cities ensure that strangers are encountered on a daily basis. The common use of masks also means that familiarity is difficult to come by. Therefore, they can’t spend their time worrying too much about an unfamiliar figure, provided that person has not crossed boundaries they are not supposed to. It’s safest to simply be cautious and distrustful of everyone, unless they are well known to you and share a bond of family, gang, or guild.
People of other cultures may be considered potentially positively as markets for trade and news, provided it is clear they intend to pass through and keep on going. There is a decidedly less friendly view of those who choose to settle and stay within the cities. They are considered to be adding to the already crushing population, and a drain on already scarce resources. There’s also a subtle underlying assumption that the newcomer might be up to a malicious purpose – for they assume not many people would purposely seek out the disease and filth-ridden streets of Gothic cities as a place to make a life if they had not already been born there. For many Gothic people, the dream is to have the means to move out to an area that is safe, spacious, and with ample resources to provide for oneself. In these times, however, this is primarily a fantasy, and there is a sense of jealousy for those who already have made a life beyond the confining city walls.
The relationship with the Salgothic is complex. They are simultaneously viewed with ridicule and scorn, as well as with admiration and envy. Few Gothics have seen the hidden depths of the forbidden cities within the cities the Salgothics keep, but they imagine the wonders and plenty that may exist there. The Salgothics also are the source of many an illicit substance which are in high demand among the Gothics. There is a sense, though, that the Salgothics still take far more than they provide, and few Gothics will ever forgive them for their impassable walls and complete detachment from the terrors of city life. Their focus on meaningless and wasteful rituals and styles of dress are very distasteful to most of the Gothic populace, who generally have to be sure that everything they do serves a purpose. That said, it certainly would be a pleasant change to live the life of luxury and comfort the Salgothics seem to possess.
The Seravians tend to only pass through once in a while, and appear very reserved for the most part. While this is admirable, many Gothics suspect that this is because they have had their will broken by the monsters they dwell with. It is believed that many Seravians are simply high-functioning vampire thralls, and their high collars hide the evidence of their service to their real masters. They tend to be given a wide berth by Gothics, and many find themselves placing their hands on their knives and weapons as a Seravian passes by. It’s hard to say what they are capable of, and many believe that trouble and Malefic follow the Seravian wherever they travel. They are, however, very handy to hire should a section of town be plagued by vampire spawn, werewolves, or other malevolent creatures of the night. Few know more than they about the best techniques for dispatching such things.
Little is known about the Forgotten Ones. Some Gothics don’t actually believe they are real as a people, and that what people refer to as the Forgotten Ones are, in fact, witches and cultists living in the woods preying off of children and hunters who wander too far from the roads. They perform barbaric and heartless sacrifices to their dark gods, and are certainly no better than the Triumverati overlords. Many say they are worse, for their gods are even older and more cruel. If they are a culture of people, they are the worst kind – for not only have they turned their back to humanity, they have preyed upon them and turned to a brutal way of life.
The Hesha are loud, obnoxious, and will steal anything not bolted down. This makes them terrible and untrustworthy guests. They are a self-serving people with a wanderlust that only serves to inflict heartbreak and misery around them. Gothic parents are immediately on edge if their children are seen associating with the Hesha. It is a sure sign that their children will be used in some way, and discarded when the Hesha have grown tired of the association. Seduction, thievery, and disease accompany the Hesha where they roam, and a common saying is that the Hesha boast so loudly that they need not hear the weeping around them.
The Nemien are generally a welcome sight. They know the value of family and community, and what’s more, they tend to bring needed supplies and wares with them whenever they stop by. They are shrewd hagglers, though, and know the worth of what they trade. They are easy to like, because they do not stay long. They are self-sufficient, and know how to make do with little. There is a mystique to them and their freedom that is certainly appealing, but many Gothics are also glad that they are not them. The roads are dangerous, and the night sky is not a warm roof. A Nemien setting down roots is viewed with great suspicion, however, for it likely means that their family has rejected them for a heinous crime, and if your own family can not trust you, how can strangers?
The Outlanders are a cursed people, and it is best to send them as far away as possible. Their very blood carries the taint of Calamity within it, and they have been marked since birth by the Triumverate. They are violent and ruthless, and a community that harbors them invites the gaze of the dark gods to fall upon it. Drought, plague, war, and misfortune are a sure outcome if too many of them are allowed to stay in a population. Therefore, they must be exiled and sent to live in one place as far away from others as is possible. If the infection can be contained to one area, at least it will lessen the impact upon humanity as a whole. It is unfortunate, but they are at least allowed to live out their lives. Some believe this is actually a crueler fate, and if the option was available to kill them, it would be kinder. But that is not the state of the world, and it is believed this may be the Outlanders’ fault.