By David Johnson, November 2004
This document will outline the common knowledge of the players; what an average person living in Hârn would know about their world. Some of this information will be inaccurate, but it is the common belief. Of course, barbarians will know even less and in different versions. Also note that this document references the author's own version of Hârn, and so might not match the "official" Hârn canon.
This is the name of the world. To some barbarians, Hârn is the extent of the known world. Most civilized inhabitants know that Hârn is just an island off of the coast of Lythia.
Lythia is the main continent of Kethira. On most maps, much of Lythia is marked with the ubiquitous "here be dragons." To Hârnfolk, most of Lythia is just rumors of fantastically rich kingdoms and bizarre customs. Northeast of Hârn is the island of Ivinia, home to Vikings, pirates and eternal snow.
Hârn is a rugged, forested island located fifty miles off the northwest coast of Lythia. The island is regarded with disdain by most Lythians. Tales of wild men and fearsome beasts, and rough seas, serve to discourage all but the most adventurous travelers from visiting Hârn.
This is the year 720, in the Tuzyn Reckoning, which began with the founding of the Melderyn kingdom. Most civilized people follow this reckoning, and dates are suffixed with either TR (Tuzyn Reckoning) or BT (before Tuzyn).
There are twelve lunar months of 30 days, and 360 days in a year. The first of spring is also the first of the year. The 15th of the month (Yaelah) is the full moon, and the 30th of the month (Yaelmor) is the new moon. Both days are holidays in most of Hârn. Both the seven day week, and the tenday are used for reckoning shorter periods of time. Yaelah and Yaelmor fall between weeks.
The elves and dwarves keep a different calendar.
Hârn generally has cool summers and mild winters. Fog, drizzle and overcast skies are the norm. Hârn has been described as having no climate, only weather. What the crops lack in the way of sunlight is balanced by an overabundance of rain.
The cool, moist weather promotes extensive deciduous woodland, with evergreen forests and alpine tundras at higher elevations. Moorlands are found along some windward coasts.
The seas around Hârn are famous for their rough and unpredictable waters.
There are no bronze or copper coins in Hârn. The dwarves do mint a Khuzan Gold Crown, but this is very rare. The standard coin is the penny, abbreviated by the symbol "d", which is about 1/16 an ounce of silver, debased no more than 10%. Pennies may be broken in ha'pennies and farthings. Sometimes prices are given in shillings (12d) or pounds (240d), but there are no coins of this denomination.
Each walled city mints its own coins under royal privilege. Dwarven pennies are freely accepted anywhere, but others are usually discounted 10% to 20% outside of their native kingdom.
Barter is very common, and virtually the only form of trade among the barbarian tribes. Notes of credit and other similar instruments also exist, but these are primarily for the use of sea captains and merchants.
The general economy in civilized areas can be surmised from the average wages for various occupations. Farm hands earn one penny a day, longshoremen can make up to two pennies a day, and teamsters up to three pennies a day. The guilded occupations can earn from two to four pennies a day.
There are six to nine civilized nations in Hârn, depending on one's perspective, and numerous barbarian and primitive tribes.
The cultural model for Hârn is 12th Century, Norman England, but many elements of the earlier and later periods are included.
Azadmere, in eastern Hârn, is a Dwarven kingdom. It is outwardly feudal, but set up along clan lines.
Chybisa, in eastern Hârn, is the smallest kingdom. Nestled between Kaldor and Melderyn, few doubt it will remain independent long.
Evael, in southern Hârn, is an Elvish kingdom which keeps to itself. Very little is known about this state by non-elves.
Kaldor, in eastern Hârn, is a major feudal state. It is the eastern terminus of many trade routes. It's king is old and in ill health, and there is no heir.
Kanday, in western Hârn, is the prototypical feudal kingdom. It has been involved in a few recent wars despite its relatively peaceful people.
Melderyn, in eastern Hârn, is known as the "wizard's isle." It is the oldest kingdom in Hârn, and has holdings both on the island of Melderyn, and on Hârn proper.
Orbaal, in northern Hârn, is a colony of Ivinia. Several Ivinian kings demand tribute, but none is forthcoming. It is not a kingdom per say, but rather a collection of petty lords. The Ivinians rule over the native Jarin.
Rethem, in western Hârn, has a violent history, and its cities are slums. Most Hârnfolk view Rethem as a bunch of barbarians attempting to act civilized. It is Hârn's most unstable state.
Tharda, in western Hârn, is recently a republic. Most of its institutions and mores are still feudal, however.
Despite these pockets of civilization, most of Hârn is a wild and barbaric place. Scattered throughout the island are eighteen barbarian nations. Many fell creatures roam the wilderness, notably a nasty and brutish species of orc called Gargûn, who have a distressing fondness for human flesh. These were introduced to Hârn by Lothrim the Foulspawner several centuries ago.
The cultures of Hârn, Ivinia and western Lythia all share the same basic view of the gods. There are ten gods, each with a separate and distinct church. A member of one church believes in the existence of the others, he just doesn't worship them. In essence, there are ten different religions joined into one pantheistic belief system. Some of these churches are illegal in many countries.
The ancient scholar Nala'Uroh combined the beliefs of these ten religions into a single book, called the "Libram of the Pantheon." This book has since become part of the canon for all the churches. The Libram explains the history and nature of the universe and the gods.
Most believe that when they die, they enter the world of the dead, or Yashain. There, each god maintains their own lands for their followers. There are also other mythical worlds besides Yashain.
There are, of course, many other religions in the world than the ones of the pantheon. Most barbarian tribes have their own religions and beliefs, and occasionally a foreign religion enters the area. Heresies are common.
The ten major gods of Hârn are:
Millennia ago there were the Earthmasters, or Ancients, who ruled the world. Some say they were the children of the gods. Their every need and whim was fulfilled through magic. For some reason, they disappeared, but a few of their artifacts and buildings remain.
Then the elves and the dwarves arrived on Hârn, fleeing an unknown evil in their homelands. For thousands of years they ruled Hârn. But then men came. During this period, the Henge Culture appeared in southeast Hârn, building circles of stone monoliths. Most of the barbarian myths say that the tribe came to Hârn from somewhere else. At first, the elves and dwarves ruled over the newly arrived immigrants, but as their numbers increased, the elves relinquished control of Hârn and retreated to the Shava Forest. No one really knows why they did this. The elves said that it was no longer the time of the Elder, but now the time of the men. To the dwarves, this was betrayal.
This was followed by further migrations of men. Kingdoms rose and fell.
In the year 0TR, Erebir Pendragon unified the five kingdoms of Melderyn and founded a new state. Depending on who you talk to, Melderyn was built on the foundations of enlightenment, or of sorcery. In any case, Melderyn remained aloof from the rest of Hârn for centuries.
Lothrim, a powerful mage, decided to build an empire that would rule all of Hârn. So he imported (some say created) a race and army of Gargun. Soon, all of southern Hârn, except for the elvish kingdom of Evael, was under Lothrim's control. Lothrim was obsessed with the Ancients and their artifacts. Most believe he was insane. In the end, his vision exceeded his grasp, and he cravenly attacked and pillaged a dwarvish city. His defeat at the hands of the dwarves was not long in coming. This occurred at the battle of Sirion.
In the wake of Lothrim's fall, several states rose and fell in the west. Out of this came the Corani empire, which subjugated many barbarian tribes. Eventually, most of western Hârn was under one rule.
But decadence began to rot at the underbelly of the empire, and when the evil Balshan Jihad began during the Red Death, Coronan was not long in falling. Many folk, tired of the Corani tyranny, welcomed this. The region was ruled by the subsequent Theocracy of Tekhos for many decades.
Six states in the east gradually arose after the defeat of Lothrim. These, with Melderyn, comprised the seven kingdoms. But the emerging Gargun threat forced many barbarian tribes into conflict with the new states. In the aftermath of numerous minor wars, three kingdoms emerged, Kaldor, Chybisa and Elorinar. Kaldor and Chybisa were at siege with the barbarians, but Elorinar was on the verge of defeat, when its king swore fealty to the island kingdom of Melderyn in return for aid. The barbarian tide was turned.
Fleeing the Theocracy of Tekhos, many inhabitants of the City Aleath fled east in a fleet of ships. They were granted a charter to found the city of Thay.
At the beginning of the fifth century, Chybisa had to swear fealty to Melderyn in order to survive barbarian raiders. But in a succession crisis, Chybisa seceded from the island realm, and became independent once more.
More recently, Kaldor got involved in the Salt War with Tharda, then with Chybisa, which they won. Chybisa once more sought the aid of Melderyn in exchange for fealty. With help, Chybisa raised an army and won back their lands, only to renounce their agreement with Melderyn. It is said that King Chunal of Melderyn only laughed when he heard the news.
The kingdom of Orbaal attacked the Melderyn city of Thay, and laid waste to much of the countryside. They were never able to enter the city though, and tried again a few years later. Unfortunately, their fleet of a hundred dragonships were dashed upon the rocks of Cape Renda during a freak storm, which some claim was raised by the mystics of Melderyn.
When the Theocracy of Tekhos began its rule in western Hârn, the people realized that they had exchanged one oppressive dictatorship for another. But with the eventual assassination of the Theocrat Horahnam, the theocracy was reduced to shambles in months.
Out of this emerged the kingdoms of Kanday and Tharda. The kingdom of Rethem, the last holdout of the Theocracy, was conquered by Arlun the Barbarian.
More recently, Rethem underwent numerous revolts, and got entangled with Kanday in Ezar's war. The armies engaged repeatedly, to little effect. After an assassination attempt in 694TR, Kanday was in a state of holy outrage, and Rethem quickly sought terms.
But then Kanday got involved in a war with Tharda in 712TR over a misunderstanding over border provinces. Kanday ended up losing control of a few areas.
In the west, the border between Kanday and Rethem has been subject to numerous skirmishes between their respective religious fighting orders. Neither kingdom trusts Tharda with its radical government system. They are waiting for the republic's internal decadence to defeat Tharda from within.
In the east, the king of Kaldor is on his deathbed with no heir. A succession crisis is imminent. The hand of Melderyn rests lightly upon its mainland fiefs. They could at any time claim their rights to Chybisa. But Chybisa is also claimed by Kaldor. Both are trying to avoid all out war over the tiny kingdom.
In the north, Orbaal has settled down to petty squabbling among its kings and lords. The occasional raid upon a coastal settlement is still to be feared.
And of course, between these pockets of civilization are the barbarian tribes. And all fear the possibility of the Gargun united under a new conqueror.
Priests are believed to derive their powers directly from their gods, and their skill in calling forth miracles is not derived from years of arcane research, but from the strength of their faith and devotion. Magic is what mages do, invocations are what priests do
Virtually all cultures have laws against the practice of witchcraft. However, the definition of what witchcraft is varies from culture to culture. Witchcraft refers to magic and spells, so that witchcraft laws do not normally apply to priests and churches. In order to convict a priest of witchcraft, one must first prove him capable of magic.
Most cultures define witchcraft as consorting with demons, usurping faith with magic, and performing necromancy or witchery. The vagueness of these definitions has confounded the magicians for centuries. Fortunately, most civilized nations no longer use the ancient tests for witchcraft, preferring legal trials instead.
The keystones of Feudal Society are the unwritten laws of loyalty, family, hospitality, and honor. These customs are part of the lives of all nobles from childhood on. These laws precede and underlie all noble interaction, and are to be respected even between enemies. Only the most dastardly enemies would break these rules, and then they would never be trusted again.
A man's house is considered sacrosanct, protected by the powers that watch over mankind. This is true whether he lives in a hovel or a castle.
A person need not invite anyone into the safety of his hearth. If he does, both people must obey certain rules of respect and safety. Once invited inside, peace must reign, even if they are deadly enemies.
One's kin group should always be trusted. Even if a kinsman acts despicably he is still to be trusted. Only the family can be counted upon in an emergency. Thus an individual is not helpless against the world, but can always count on his kin for aid. The loyalty and affection of a person for his family is considered to be inherent to nature. It is unthinkable that someone would turn against his family. A kin slayer is inhuman, almost demonic.
Loyalty is the basis for all feudal society beyond the family. All members of society hold fealty to someone. Loyalty is also the foundation of military organization, and thus especially important to the nobility. Feudal loyalty is an agreement between two parties: a leader and a follower. Those who break this oath of loyalty are outcast, never to be trusted again, doomed to be punished by the powers that be.
Required of all knights, but not of everyone else. Having honor is one of the things that sets a knight apart from all others. It is conceivable that a knight could cheat and connive, but still maintain his own sense of honor as long as the oath of knighthood was never violated.
Honor includes a code of integrity, pride, and dignity, which is important enough to be backed up by force of arms. While there is a lot of personal definition to this, certain acts are basic and acknowledged by all as dishonorable: