So far, I've finished the base map and the history of the region and I'm working up the regional descriptions. I'm going to put the information down here as I've written it so far. Some folks have asked "how do you write your stuff". You'll see in what I have so far that, as I start writing a region, I leave a few bits blank. The rivers, for example, have no names yet - I just haven't decided on them yet. You'll also find a few XXX's in the text. When I'm writing and I want to skip something to refer back to later, I use XXX. That way, I can do a quick search in a document for "XXX" to find those things and fix them before publishing.
I also realized as I was writing it that I needed to gather some intelligence on the flora and fauna of China and Japan. Actually, I highly suggest anyone doing a campaign setting hit the encyclopedias (or wikipedia) first - start with a search for a region and then just begin exploring everything. Look for interesting words, strange peoples, strange objects, etc. The idea is to produce something memorable to people who have probably been playing the game for a few years and have already seen the basics. When players talk about where they've been and what they've seen, a woodland of gigantic maples and purple-green ferns haunted by satyrs with white, wooly fur and crooked horns is more fun than "that forest where we saw the satyr".
So, without further ado ...
Mu-Pan, Land of the Dragon Chans
Mu-Pan's history is as older than the history of mankind on Nod. While the Venatian tribes were scratching a living as hunter-gatherers in their woodlands and the priest-kings of Nabu were learning at the feet of visitors from beyond the void and before mighty Iram fell to the endless scheming of demons, Mu-Pan was a land of dragons. In fact, it still is by comparison to the lands that surround it, even though its most famous residents are not nearly as plentiful or public as they once were. When men came into the land of the dragons from the highlands of Tsanjan, they were nothing but primitive savages. Most dragons found them easy prey, but the black wyrms of the southern jungles were more clever than that. They appreciated how adaptable and clever humans could be, and more importantly how quickly they spawned. This was the beginning of the Black Dragon Clan and ultimately of all the dragon clans.
The black dragons used their human army to slay their rivals, and soon brought the southern half of Mu-Pan under their sway, reveling in the rich tribute from lesser wyrms. Dragons, being clever creatures, quickly caught on and founded armies of their own. In time, the land of the dragons was split into four powerful kingdoms, each ruled by a dragon chan – the southern kingdom of the Black Dragons, the northern kingdom of the Gold Dragons, the western kingdom of the Cloud Dragons and the eastern kingdom of the Mist Dragons. The white dragons of the eastern mountains were too stupid to play politics, and contented themselves with dining on any hairless ape that wandered into their territory. The dragon turtles of the eastern seas became objects of reverence for the Nakdani sea tribes, but never founded a kingdom.
For centuries the Four Kingdoms struggled with one another until the Black Kingdom allied itself with the men of the Tsanjan plateau. Renowned demonologists, the Tsanjani gave the soldiers of the Black Kingdom the power and weapons they needed to tip the balance of power in their favor and establish their monarch as the first High Chan of the Mu-Pan Empire. The so-called Glorious Son of Heaven and Earth established a dynasty that lasted over a century before being toppled by the gold dragons, who installed the Supreme Bureaucrat of the Jade Court on the imperial throne, and so on, with each ancient kingdom taking its turn until the incessant wars and intrigues finally ground the empire down to mere shade of its former glory.
Into this rode Kali, the Tiger Empress of the steppe leading a horde of nomads. The Tiger Men, as they were known, conquered not only the Mu-Pan Empire, but the lands beyond. For a time, they even beat their fists on the outer gates of Tsanjan. Under the Tiger Empress, the empire was renewed. Order was re-established, troublesome families exiled or destroyed and a scholarly caste of eunuchs established to manage the new possessions of the Tiger Lords. When the islands of the Nakdani sank beneath the waves in a holocaust of divine fire, the Tiger Empress first defended her coasts from their depredations and then finally allowed them to settle in the lands she had seized from the Gold Dragons, herself taking the title of Shogun.
For thirty years the Tiger Empress reigned supreme. And then came whispered rumors of the birth of the Jade Child. Ancient prophecies told of an infant born from the sea foam, the daughter of the elements who would initiate an epoch of peace and prosperity. All at one chaos descended on Mu-Pan – the Golden Dragons mobilized, the Black Dragons sent their spies into the wilds to locate the prophesied babe and the Tiger Empress sent her warriors into every town and village seeking the girl with the hair like sea foam and the jade-blue eyes. As often happens in Nod, a party of adventurers found itself embroiled in these events, and eventually found themselves the rescuers and protectors of the Jade Maiden. When the armies of the Gold Kingdom and Cloud Kingdom finally descended on the imperial city of Cambulac, the Tiger Empress and her court were nowhere to be found and the Jade Maiden became the Jade Empress.
This is the Mu-Pan into which new adventurers will step, a land of peace on the surface, but with powerful forces surging underneath. A land of looted monasteries and ruined strongholds, ninja spies and Tsanjani cultists, lordless knights and caravans protected by dart bureaus. Mu-Pan, Land of the Dragon Chans.
The map herein contains the central portion of the great Mu-Pan Empire, with portions of the four ancient dragon kindoms represented. North of this map is the largest portion of the Golden Kingdom of the North and the vast Golden Steppe. To the south of this map are the jungles that have been partially colonized by Mu-Pan and the more southerly, unexplored jungles of Terra Obscura. To the east of this map are the remainder of the Mountains of Dawn, the rocky coasts inhabited by the pale skinned Nakdani and the sunken remnants of their former home islands.
The Celestial Hills are a large collection of limestone mounds covered in sweet, blue-green grasses. The hills are the breadbasket of the empire, supporting thousands of rice paddies in the broad river valleys and terraced fields of mulberries, tea, pepper, XXX and grains in the hills that surround those river valleys.
The Celestial Hills are spanned by two the empire's three great rivers, the WEST2 and WEST3, as well as much of the Grand Canal that links those rivers. This nexus of rivers and canals also makes the Celestial Hills the most populous portion of the empire and home to several market towns and the great northern port of Artuk.
The Celestial Hills have long been at the center of the armed disputes between the dragon kingdoms, with the northern portion ruled by the Golden Kingdom, the central portion by the Cloud Kingdom and the southern by the Black Kingdom. With the coming of the Tiger Empress, these holdings were greatly reduced, with old families having their ancestral holdings give to newly created noble lines from the nomadic warriors that helped her conquer the empire.
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The Golden Steppe stretches between Mu-Pan, Ultima Thule and the Motherlands and is home to hundreds of nomadic tribes, the southern tribes being golden skinned Ulu-Than people (former allies of the Tiger Empress) and the northern tribes being the red-skinned Luhan people. The steppe is composed of rolling hills covered in grasses and sometimes supporting small copses of trees.
The southern portion of the steppe has long been ruled by the Golden Kingdom of the North, renowned warriors and moralists of the empire. The Golden Dragons were at the forefront of the rebellion against the Tiger Empress, along with her so-called allies among the Nakdani of the Ronin Hills.
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The Great Yamas are a collection of mountain ranges that include some of the tallest mountains on Nod. The Great Yamas surround the Tsanjan Plateau, a broken land of forbidding blocks of basalt ruled by a theocracy of mad monks that have made alliances with the moon folk.
Taken in their totality, the Great Yamas touch on the jungles of Terra Obscura and Lemuria, the grasslands of Pwenet, the deserts of Nabu and the Cradle of the Sun and the hills of the Golden Coast. The eastern ranges of the Great Yamas border on the Celestial Hills that lie at the heart of the Mu-Pan Empire. As one travels from the upper slopes to the wooded lower slopes, the mountains change to picturesque limestone mounds separated by misty canyons of junipers, pines and ferns cut by silver streams. All of the empire's major rivers have their origins in the Great Yamas.
The western dragon kingdom, the so-called Cloud Kingdom, is situated among these wooded limestone mounds and the lower slopes of the Great Yamas.
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The Hunting Grounds
These grasslands are thick with tigers and serpents and notoriously flat. Trees are almost unseen on the plains (by imperial decree). The WEST3 River cuts across the plain, spilling into the Eastern Sea where an acient port once stood. The port was razed by imperial decree, its citizens moved overland to the newly constructed imperial city of Khatan. Brick roads built precisely five and one-half feet tall radiate from the imperial city's mammoth gates. These avenues are 40 feet wide, allowing masses of soldiers to quickly make their way to the to the rivers and canals that serve to link the empire.
The grasslands have been nicknamed "the hunting grounds" by the peasantry, owing both to the habit of the imperial court under the Tiger Empress to go on grand hunting expeditions and on the common punishment for folk who displeased the empress - namely being stranded on the grasslands to be stalked and devoured by the blue-furred tigers.
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Mountains of Dawn
The Mountains of Dawn are a collection of snowcapped peaks. The lower slopes provide fine grazing land for the small mountain cattle, while the upper valleys are home to white dragons, mountain hags, bands of tengu and yamabushi dwelling as hermits.
The rocky coasts surrounding the Mountains of Dawn were settled by the Nakdani after their island homes sunk into the sea, the result of a dispute between the power hungry priests of that land and their sea god. They proved so troublesome to the empire that the Tiger Empress finally settled the most warlike of the Nakdani chieftains in the Ronin Hills.
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The so-called Ronin Hills are the foothills of the Mountains of Dawn. They are lower, more rugged hills than the Celestial Hills to the west and are populated by rebellious, headstrong Nakdani warlords who were granted land in the hills by the Tiger Empress as a hedge against the four ancient kingdoms. The Ronin Hills are known for the frequent skirmishes between the forces of the warlords, the dragonnes that stalk the warmer, southerly portion of the hills, the magnificent cherry blossoms that dot the river valleys in the spring and the icy cold rivers that spill out of the Mountains of Dawn, forming rapids and waterfalls in their headlong rush to the sea. The EAST1 flows into the WEST2, while the EAST2 flows into the WEST3.
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The southern Shadow Hills are the center of the Black Kingdom's power. They are more thickly wooded than the Celestial Hills and eventually turn into the jungles of Terra Obscura. The lords of the south are known to be unreliable allies of the Tsanjan and disloyal allies of the Tiger Empress. When push came to shove, they supported the Tiger Empress against the other rebellious kingdoms and lost a great deal of prestige, having almost no representation in the new imperial government except as its spy masters, a job at which they excel and, frankly, would have done anyway for the empire's enemies.
XXX-sub-tropical chinese trees, vegetables, fruit
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White Crane Marsh
White Crane Marsh is a vast wetland that was long the possession of the XXX family until the Tiger Empress suspected them of disloyalty and had their stronghold destroyed. The entire family was destroyed and their line ended, though one of their former retainers was permitted by the new Jade Empress to rebuild the stronghold and re-establish the line in return for his help in placing her on the throne.
The marshes are exceptionally lovely, the water clear and bright, the reeds tall and a limpid green in color. The marsh is created by the WEST1 flowing from the wooded valley of Qalun where dwell the four-armed, serpentine qal and their decadent princes.
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Until next time ...