The cluster of small nations thought of as Esterfel extends from the eastern borders of Arumthar and the Taurvann to the territories of the Haedrasian Empire in the west. In the north it is bordered by the rugged highlands of Bethamzthac, and to the south the swift-watered Khoper Coast. Despite the lofty elevations of the Yrelldor and the Jacarti Mountains the lands are mainly flat, be they rolling prairies, light woods, or rugged grasslands. The region is well watered, with he mighty lakes of Alare and Usuk, and of Doraim, to the countless rivers flowing to the Khoper Coast (the mightiest of which is the broad-banked Sarpin) from the red-watered Lake Taccino, there are streams, creeks, ponds, and lakes aplenty throughout the plains, and these create their share of marshlands - though these are never large, and often seasonal. On the whole the land is a patchwork of green and blues, waving in the winds, extending between the gradual ascents of the mountains.

The temperatures are comfortable, with mild, wet winters, pleasant summers, and stormy springs and autumns. Long cloud frequently looms over the eastern lands, embracing the peaks of the mountains in the south, as if waiting patiently to storm and bellow, and a day without rain is rare. Soils are rich, crops generous, but the land is unstable, and gentle tremors also common, around the coast. At least once every couple of years a major quake will strike part of the region, doing substantial damage to civilized areas in its wake, and opening earthy rifts that smell of rot, and grow dark mere feet from their rims. Within days these close - collapsing into loose earth, and cloying mud that sucks unwary animals and travellers into their muddy depths until hungry roots find their rich blackness and sew them together again like darned cloth.

The Six Guilds

While there are almost thirty small domains within the eastern kingdoms, easily the most important and impactful presence is not that of any one nation, but of the six great guilds. Each bearing the name of the place of its founding, most are now based out of, or keep a substantial powerbase, in Sipra. The guilds dominate all manner of trades, controlling currency, and operating key industries. They are not specialists in a field, as the name might imply, but rather massive incorporations of merchants, moneylenders, and craftsmen, heavily militarized and wielding greater influence than any surviving nation in the region.

Not only do craftsmen have to pay guild dues to practice, affording them a certain protection, both from more traditional landholding powers, as well as members of other guilds, and any new enterprise must buy contracts from the guilds, but even nations go to the guilds for protection against invasion, and vast numbers of guild mercenaries enforce the will of the guilds, protect their interests (and members) and can be employed for a price, to police or fight for a nation. More wars are decided by diplomats than generals, with guilds taking turn at victory, and fighting token battles for appearances only. Everyone in the east, from nobles to monarchs to warlords, answer to the guilds, or else find their names on a guild-sanctioned writ of execution - which amounts to legalized murder in most domains.

The guilds have several tiers of membership. Partnership entails the greatest dues, but allows a partner to speak and vote at the guild's congress, and to campaign for selection as one of the elite ruling body which varies from guild to guild. Membership is less expensive, and is for those craftsmen and merchants who wish to be able to bid for guild contracts. Under-membership is for those who simply want to operate in a guild sanctioned field or territory without harassment, and benefit from the protection and advocacy of the guild.

The Boraka Guild

An outsider could be forgiven for assuming that the Boraka Guild, founded in Doraim, is the most ancient, powerful, and wealthy of all the guilds, so visible is it, and so dignified its history and hierarchy. In truth, while they are wealthier than many, the Boraka Guild puts great stock in appearances, placing a strong emphasis on how they are perceived amongst the common people, and among their peers. Confident, complacent, and given to make a show of their wealth, the members of the Boraka Guild appreciate subtlety, and detest overt showiness. It is a difficult thing to walk the line between demonstrating one's wealth and success, and not overreaching into gaudiness in the eyes of the rather particular peerage of the Borakas. Patronage of the right scholar, or temple, or writer, or fine craftsman is crucial for partners, and even for successful members.

The Sarpa Guild

The Sarpa Guild, founded in a tiny village in Kipir, is ruled by a particularly ruthless and competitive regime. Intrigues, and internal conflict has been rife at the upper levels of the guild from its earliest days, and without exception every influential or powerful member has attained his or her lofty position by betraying, undermining, or downright murdering his way there, and has to be prepared to continue in this vein to retain his position. The members of the Sarpa Guild feel that this breeds a strong, and cunning ruling class, far superior to the soft, decadent merchants of the other guilds. Recently a particularly grisly and bloody purge completely decapitated the guild, leading to a new ruling regime arising, and as yet no one has managed to find the perpetrator, leading to an even greater atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion amongst the partners, and especially the newly inducted guildmasters. Of course, all of this intrigue unavoidably attracts many Kenu to the guild, and their influence only makes the situation worse.

The Marap Guild

The Marap Guild of Maradahl are perhaps exactly what the Sarpa Guild's philosophy rebels against. Known for lifestyles that are opulent, indulgent, and whispered to be debauched or even depraved by outsiders, they are firm advocates of enjoying the benefits of wealth and position, and that the truly powerful should be allowed to choose their own way of life. Vice, of course, frequently arises from such an outlook. But this also means that where the Marap Guild flourishes, many otherwise unknown delights are available, be they indulgent and exotic foods, or beautiful and esoteric crafts, the Marap Guild place an emphasis on quality, shutting out those that cannot afford the finest, and seeking to engender taste and decadence into their membership, making them a popular choice for the wealthy. Many call them the Guild of Shining Delights, and that moniker, as well as a few other less savoury terms, is well deserved.

The Benwik Guild

Though their home in Sandour has now been divided between all of the six guilds, the Benwik Guild, from the port of the same name, are still the most influential of all the guilds in that wealthy land. However since spreading into the central plains, the Benwik Guild took an odd turn, focusing on becoming the most dominant military force in the Southlands, perhaps in preparation for the day when the guilds finally decide that only war will decide the dominant power of the Southlands. To this end the Benwik Guild devotes much of its resources to drilling elite mercenaries, acquiring skilled commanders, constructing impenetrable fastnesses, forging arms and armour, and using shows of force, be they mock battles or brutal gladiatorial competitions, or brutally putting down uprisings, to attract scared merchants and craftsmen to their number. Their armies welcome all men who wish to sign on, paying generously and asking no questions, but demanding a lifetime commitment. As a result there are a plethora of criminals, traitors, and other such unsavouries filling out the ranks of the Benwik armies under assumed names. he Benwik Guild is also known for its enormous number of rulers, having a council some eleven-strong at present, and boasting a full twenty-seven guildmasters at its height!

The Illia Guild

From Illia in the north of once-powerful and historic Newhone, the Illia Guild rebelled against the dynastic vigour, and prestige of the realm that, at one time, looked set to dominate the east. The Guild of Wonders has long valued innovation, and devoted the lions share of its resources to risky ventures, be they new markets, new technologies, or gambles with the promise of lucrative reward. They seem to thrive of risk. But of course no guild would survive with an attitude of utter carelessness, so they temper their innovation with a profound interest in secrets. None can match the Illias spy networks, nor the quality of their spies, and their informants are often protected by layer upon layer of informant networks, all aggregating secrets amongst one another, never sure for exactly whom they work, some completely unaware that they are spies at all, others spying on their own employers, if only to keep their information from being sold to another party! Of course the Illias do not begrudge one another their spies (much as the other guilds, and the nobles of the lands they occupy might). To the extortion is merely another way to get business done, and secrets are as much a commodity as food and drink, to be traded, hoarded, or gifted just as freely.

The Lamork Guild

Founded by a large, wealthy, united body of Irians from throughout Lamorand, the upper echelons of the Lamork Guild is made up of moneylenders and investors, and is tied up in currency and valuable commodities over people and goods. Conservative, cautious, and extremely selective, the Lamorks are are smallest guild in terms of members, but by a long shot the wealthiest on a per-member basis. And while there is no rule that this is a guild of Irians, these close-knit people still dominate the ruling classes of the guild, with only a handful of non-Irian guildmasters throughout the guild's entire history. The Lamorks have plans within their plans, and schemes upon their schemes, and even the simplest of their machinations are laid out in generations rather than years. But the more time passes, and the more their speculations pay off, the more powerful they become. Many believe that it will be the vast holdings of the Lamorks and the brute might of the Benwiks that will eventually remain to battle for supremacy when finally the guilds are openly pitted against one another.

Life in Esterfel

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The lands of Esterfel enjoy a shared currency, though different nations and bodies issue both coins and notes of credit. The base unit is the copper coin. This roughly thumbnail sized coin with a square hole punched in the centre will usually be marked by the legend of the city that minted it - legends generally repeated above the city gates for reasons of recognition. The iron coin is worth twenty copper coins, and is of slightly larger size and solid. Iron coins are often melted down for the iron that composes them, and thus their availability varies wildly depending upon political events. Above this Irian banks and some of the Great Guilds hold gold bullion against notes of credit, which have become a sort of paper money themselves. In order to accept these a trader would need to know the seal of the insuring bank, and so they can be tough to spend, but their denominations make them difficult to use on a day to day basis in any case. An ounce of gold is equal to about thirteen iron coins in a favourable exchange. Though no Esterman, even the wealthiest, carries around gold bars.

The Estermen

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The Sprawling Southlands and the Western Kingdoms
Esterfel Sandour, Irak, Newhone, Kipir, Talrat, Verca, Lebros, Kadar, Zulgar, Qilkur, Maradahl, Azakay, Lamorand, Sipra, Eyat, Usuk, Alare, Zeytin, Braymen Plains
Saldania Ilmarrow, Doraim, Vledos, Kasharyk, Kadoc, Pelos, Bethamzthac, Balica, Karsuk
The Divide Arumthar, The Taurvann
Farland Usdai, Kimmura, Mzrad, Bulghaz, Perapos, Kayaba, Sudar, SorĂ¢ne, Hyd
Director's Miscellany Amenities, Gear, Prices, Professions, Random Encounters, Sample Characters, Series Loglines, Small Settlement Generator, Supporting Cast Generator