Background

Tales are told throughout the Flanaess of shadowy figures that lurk in dark corners—stories recounted at children’s bedsides feature bestial creatures that come out only when the moon is right, and fireside legends speak of otherworldly beings beyond reckoning, whose very existence is more than the human mind can bear to know. These are the legends that explain where the blood of the family cow went, and why clerics spend so much time ensuring the proper rites of Wee Jas are observed at gravesites throughout the North-East. One can write them off as simple, scary stories in Greyhawk or Rel Mord, but in Ustalav, everyone knows the truth of the things that go bump in the night.

In the Carrion Crown Adventure Path, the horrors of the night become undeniably real as the PCs undertake a journey that will decide the future of a nation. This guide will aid players in preparing for this campaign by providing background on the nation of Ustalav, from its traumatic history to its superstitious citizens, who struggle to eke out a living while holding back the darkness.

Ustalav Overview

The Immortal Principality of Ustalav lies on the northeastern reaches of the newly formed North Kingdom, between the Trask River and the Solnor Ocean. It’s a grim bastion of civilization amid the cruel north, where a harsh landscape and a history rich in tragedies inspire a wary population with skepticism, religious devotion, and superstition.

History

When the Oeridian tribes moved eastward across the Flanaess, eventually founding the Great Kingdom, they initially focused in the southern lands of modern day Ahlissa and the Southern Portion of the Great Kingdom. These lands were warm, fertile and the inhabiting tribes largely friendly. Eventually though, the southern lands were all claimed, and attention spread north. There, the Aerdi found a vile and decadent people, ruled in near slavery by a powerful being known as the Whispering Tyrant and his undead armies. It was rumoured that the Whispering Tyrant was himself undead, and had ruled the land for hundreds of years. It took the new nation of Aerdy 7 long years, but at last they overcame the Whispering Tyrant, and claimed the lands for themselves. While the Flan peoples of the region were quick to submit to the new rule, it took some time to stamp out the common worship of vile gods such as Nerull and Incabulos. While some of the worst elements of ancient Ustalavic culture were removed, much of the old superstition and mysticism remains.

The lands to the north were originally ignored by the Oeridian settlers for a reason – they are not particulary fertile, and are always under threat of invasion from the Bone March or the barbarian tribes to the north. The new ruling elite dragged what they could out of the land, leaving the average citizen much worse off. Hundreds of years of subjugation and the residual horrors that plague the countryside have left the people of the North Kingdom, and Ustalav, suspicious of magic, religion, foreigners, and their fellow citizens.

People of Ustalav

While the Aerdi people of the south are more commonly an Oeridian-Suel mix, the people of the north tend to be more Oeridian-Flan. A sharp increase in the number of orcs and other non-humans has been noted in recent decades. These races are considered inferior by the Aerdi gentry, but are widely employed as labourers and mercenaries through the north.

Beyond their eccentric and insular qualities, Ustalavs often have a dour worldview. They resign themselves to lives of suffering, seeing nothing in their people’s history to suggest there is any hope for a better life. Despite the physical and psychological strains upon its populace, Ustalav nevertheless fosters extremely hardy and tenacious stock: men and women who firmly believe that no matter how bad it gets, history shows it could always be worse.

Although Ustalav has little to offer its rural peasants, inhabitants of its many metropolitan cities fare somewhat better, and the centers of learning and culture they provide draw trade and travelers from throughout the region. The capital, Kaport Bay, stands on the shores of the Solnor Ocean, and its fog-shrouded streets host some of the nation’s most esteemed centers of trade and academia. In the south-east, the city of Karcau boasts a thriving culture of music, theater, and other fine arts, and its opulent architecture rivals the excess of even the most exotic palace of old Rauxes.

Current state of affairs

Grenell of House Naelax currently rules North Kingdom (and therefore the principality of Ustalav) from the Capital of Eastfair, and he is an utterly ruthless and cold-blooded monarch. His temporal authority is augmented by his dominance of the church of Hextor in the north, of which he is the titular head. The line of succession is unclear, with many potential claimants to the throne; Grenell has no children of his own. Currently House Torquann holds direct rule over Ustalav from its capital, Kaport Bay.

Meanwhile, Ustalav’s northwestern counties have broken from aristocratic rule and formed their own local, democratic government without nobles, calling themselves the Palatinates and providing a glimmer of hope for the downtrodden people of provincial Ustalav. While this would otherwise be ruthlessly crushed by Grenell, he has other things to worry about at the moment. Most pressing is the contention over the southern border of the Kingdom with Ahlissa, though a serious issue remains in the city of Rinloru (to the south of Ustalav), where an insane undead cleric of Nerull named Delglath (originally installed by King Ivid of the former Great Kingdom) has managed to hold the city against Grenell’s forces despite a 4 year siege.

So it is here, in the Immortal Principality of Ustalav, that the Carrion Crown Adventure Path takes place. As internally varied as a nation can be, Ustalav is your new home, and the possibilities for fame, fortune, and influence are as thick as the fog that creeps across the windy moors at night.

Background

Carrion Crown Greyhawk Mykl