Yon Crusade is an RPG about crusading in a fantasy world. And by fantasy, I do not mean flying ships. Players take the role of crusading orders which provisionally contain one hero and some troops.
Riryka is the most favoured of lands beneath Heaven, the greater of the two continents of the known world. It is the cradle of all civilisation. For thousands of years, people have warred, traded, and co-existed upon it, building grand cities and realms. For thousands of years, things had settled into a sort of longterm monotony. Outside the known world however, other things looked hungrily in.
It had long been known that in the year 11940 of the Asterian calendar the stars would be in an unprecedentedly inauspicious alignment for a space of six decades. Yet, no one knew exactly what would happen. For the mayfly lives of the mortal races, the date always seemed so far away. Even for the elves, it remained a distant problem for future generations. By the time the fateful year approached, reputable scholars considered the prophesies of the Darktime a mere legend. Even the archpriests of the Oracle of Stars remained unconcerned, convinced that added vigilance and renewed proselytism would suffice.
Events began near the deepforts beneath the dwarven mountainhold of Belgrnheim. In search of precious deposits of Adamantium, the dwarves dug too greedy, and too deep. In a foul wave, the demons erupted from the living tunnels of the Underdark and Belgrnheim fell overnight, heralding the full scale invasion of Riryka by a horde of darkness that could emerge wherever the overworld interchanged with theirs. Elsewhere one autumn night, hapless adventurers happened upon an ancient crypt and carelessly opened it. The sky for miles around turned pitch black. All across the land, people turned up to see a crimson moon as an ancient being awakened from millennia of torpor. Although vampires and related beings had coexisted with mortals since the beginning of death itself, the Midnight Queen was far more ancient than any then active. With her vast power, she destroyed or corrupted any who opposed her and assembled countless lineages and factions to unify under her banner, the Pact of Night. The Dragon Empire and their hordes of reptilian men roared out of the great deserts and impassable mountains from the Deep East, burning and enslaving all in their path. And with the northern stars of Riryka vanished in ill omen, mysterious outsiders, the devils, came from beyond the horizon in hosts, rampaging through the north. Cities toppled and kingdoms vanished. Within a few years, most of Riryka was conquered.
The free survivors, mostly those native to the neighboring continent of Chora, but also millions of refugees, reacted with confusion. Many launched small, disastrous campaigns. Eventually, all were forced to accept the reality of their control of the continent; the resources to dislodge them simply did not exist, and the Chorans struggled to feed and settle refugees for the time being.
For a generation, fears abounded that Chora would be next. Yet the expected conquest did not come. Aside from very rare major attempts, Choran navies have been easily sufficient to limit the enemy to piracy and the odd shore raid. In fact, it is the allies who have launched far more raids on occupied Riryka in return. More than one assembling demonic fleet has been burned at its moorings preemptively. Shorline positions are raided annually, and the Grand Stream movement has rescued and smuggled countless refugees across the sea. The Chorans were also aided by the disunity of their enemy. Their invasions timed by coincidence rather than coordination, any alliance they might have had has collapsed to bare toleration over the years. Moreover, the rebellions suffered by the Anathema rulers remain fierce even after sixty years. Indeed, the crusade would not be possible if it weren't for the fact that the majority of the people would gladly see them as liberators.
In 11995, an enormous demon armada carrying huge quantities of their best troops was annihilated at sea by an allied fleet. The victory, the first of such scale in the history of the war, was met with delirium in the capitals of Chora. The archpriests of the Oracle quickly took advantage of the high spirits. Within five years, they reminded everyone, the stars would renew their natural order and the war should once again swing in favor of the faithful. The reaction was enthusiastic and instant. Many emboldened kingdoms of Chora began to prepare for the final conflict. Joining them, or funded by them in lieu of their own troops, are you – the hundreds of crusading orders sprung from survivors, descendents of survivors, genuine zeal, or plain old greed with an independent streak. At the end of the year 12000, the Celestial Crusade was called against the four evils, to drive them off the continent and banish them from the mortal realm.
High King Zog of Sanc was elected to lead the first wave of crusaders – a thousand ships, a hundred thousand soldiers, numberless camp followers – over the Parma Sea in the new year. Starting his crossing early in spring to lengthen the campaign season as much as possible proved ill advised. The same storms that had savaged the demon ships five years earlier now savaged the crusader allies. Nearly a third perished without ever setting foot on Riryka. Then, massed demonic armies almost drove the army right back into the sea from the start. Yet, the mortals rallied at the last moment, and the beach was held. The ensuing campaign was sharp, violent, and merciless. Almost half those that remained were slain fighting the demonic armies to a stalemate. Yet, in the end, the forces of the mortals held the great port of Sharom and the surrounding countryside. Thousands more froze, sickened, or starved over an unexpectedly harsh winter, but the demons too had their rotting corpses revealed by the spring thaw. Suffering along with his men, the aging King Zog perished, leaving the crusade without a clear leader. As the future of the campaign fell into uncertainty, newly crowned Zog II made a perilous winter crossing back to Chora with a single ship. He presented a gathered council of leaders, rulers and archpriests with soil from Riryka and the skull of a demon general he had slain in battle, working tirelessly to garner support for the next year.
You are among those who have answered this call. The date is now April 20, 12001. The last snows melted over a month ago and the early spring rains of northwestern Riryka have begun to recede; the campaign season is starting. You have either just survived a tough winter and spent the last few weeks receiving reinforcements and supplies, or more likely, are only just arriving with your soldiers. Even as you get your units into fighting order however, fell evil musters on the horizon. It will be a long, hard war to free the continent of Riryka.
For the past several years, zealots such as yourselves have been mustering in and around the city-state of Nafréce, a fortified port located on the easternmost Choran island of Norida. Now, it is known as the City of Crusaders, with an entire district is dedicated to the chapter houses of the crusading orders, from impromptu gatherings of thugs to some of the best and genuinely good mortal warriors. Heroes, mages, royalty and even kings from all parts of the free world gather together with their arms and soldiers in this second-last staging point of the Celestial Crusade. Here, all races and banners observe a permanent truce overseen by the Oracle of Stars, whose archpriestly council has also moved here.
Yet, not all is as peaceful as the archpriests would hope. The Prince of Nafréce died under mysterious circumstances just after the declaration of the crusade, casting a shadow beneath the city's veneer of righteousness and making clear that even the pious must engage in fierce political intrigue to ensure their necessary interests. A few of the less reputable "holy warriors" have even begun pillaging before their part in the war even starts. Hangings have become a near daily thing and the ordinary population unrelated to the crusade regard their guests with nervousness.
Sharom is a city on the west coast of Riryka and for strategic reasons was the Celestial Crusade's first target. The allies now control the devastated remains of the city as well as some of the countryside around it. About half the population has died in the past year but refugees, camp followers, adventurous merchants, and tagalongs have filled its numbers into six figures, including over thirty thousand soldiers at any given time. Life is rough as military priorities must precede all other concerns, but morale isn't bad, all considering. The climate is usually pleasant, though rainy, and last winter was a case of misfortune rather than the norm.
Once a part of a kingdom whose royal line is long extinct, it is currently administered by Zog II as Sovereign of the Royal Crusading Order of Sanc and the tenuous Paramount Leader of the crusade but it is not part of the kingdom of Sanc itself and he sits at the head of a council of important crusade leaders and Choran emissaries as a first among equals. After being stormed twice last year, its defenses have undergone nonstop repair and improvement and there is a shallow feeling of security, even if the border forts that the crusaders hold onto in the hinterland were to fall this season.
Aster is the origin city of the Oracle of Stars and the former site of the High Temple of Heaven. It is considered the holiest city of all branches of the faith that originated from Oracle founded by the Elven Empire in year 1 of the Asterian calendar. Prior to the Darktime, it was a place of worship, gleaming stone buildings, ancient history, and not too little religious and secular intrigue. Assembling great walls out of the very buildings of the city and pushing themselves beyond physical and creative expectations, the clerics of faiths set aside their differences and led a zealous and spirited defense, resulting in a continuous seven year siege by two different forces. When it finally fell, Aster was looted, desecrated, burned out, and massacred. Since then, an enormous pyramid has been constructed out of the stones.
Understandably, the Oracle of Stars and its branches consider Aster the target of the crusade and everything else the subject of a longer term reconquista. Lizardfolk of the Dragon Empire currently hold the ruins.
The largest and most populous city in the world, Allhime is a venal hive that exists and thrives upon trades of all kinds. It was historically a city-state that submitted to and paid off more militant neighbours in order to retain autonomy. The city extends into the Underdark, which is exceptionally shallow there, and even has a mer quarter, whose inhabitants must aggressively keep the nearby canals clean.
The Pact of Night overtook the city bloodlessly and it is now their seat of power. Life in the city however, purportedly continues, and there is even a little trade from Chora now and again.
The greatest of the dwarven mountainholds, the prospective deepforts beneath Belgrnheim were the starting point and main thrust of the Demonic Horde's invasion. The main city is currently their "surface" command center. The dwarves are thought to have been massacred, with the survivors either fighting a guerilla war in the endless tunnels and mines, or escaped as refugees.
Spirea was known as the capital of magic. It was very pretty.
The Underdark is an alien realm that exists beneath, yet not beneath the surface of Riryka. One cannot enter the Underdark simply by digging downwards wherever one pleases. Most deep excavations or caverns do not lead into the Underdark and relatively few entrance zones exist compared to the extent of excavations into the crust. Nevertheless, the absolute number of Rirykan-Underdark interchanges, while not known, is probably considerable. They are distributed across the continent, and many are even natural. Thus, the source of the Demonic Horde is simultaneously under the whole of the continent, a strategic concern to both the crusade and Riryka's other occupying powers. At the same time, these entrances are expected to form natural, sealable bottlenecks.
As a separate plane, the location of the Underdark is not entirely tied to depth. Where the Demersal interchange is always at a constant depth, the border to the Underdark follows the shape of the crust and is thus shallower near mountains or geological features such as chasms, rifts, or even volcanoes. The two best known and probably largest interchanges are at Belgrnheim and Allhime. Belgrnheim is the largest of the mountainholds and even the core city extended into the shallow Underdark. With numerous undocumented tunnels and excavations over the millenia, the tunnels there proved both naturally hazardous and a military disaster waiting to happen. Allhime is a human city that also extends into the shallow Underdark and its similarly labyrinthine catacombs proved equally attractive to misfortune. However, the city is presently in the hands of the Pact of Night, who are not known to allow the demons to use the otherwise ideal exit.
An interchange is a gradient rather than a boundary, with increasing changes as one goes deeper. What most mortals know as the Underdark is actually just the shallowest layer, a place where things start getting slimy and moist, and a distinct sort of fauna starts appearing in the increasingly large and common caverns. Still, it is reasonably safe and predictable if safety precautions are followed and demons, the odd troll aside, never ventured up into it before the Darktime. The miners and prospectors who supply the mortal world's insatiable desire for mineral wealth visited this layer frequently. Dwarves view this zone as a valuable resource, the presence of which makes the location profitable as a hold in the first place. Deep dwarves and goblins even dwell here as their preferred habitat.
As one goes deeper, things start getting stranger. The stone itself gains a living quality and the caverns seem to have pulse and breath, twisting in confusing ways, making up and down uncertain. Underdark fauna gets denser and more dangerous. Only the deep dwellers venture here with any regularity and they must always be on the lookout for trogs and trolls, who are the demonic equivalent of deep races - 'shallow demons' that live exceptionally close to or in Riryka. To most mortals, this place is mere myth.
It is said in deep dweller lore that if one goes deeper yet, the stone begins to bleed burning ichor if struck. Underground rivers run with a frigid silver, flowers of crystal grow and bloom before the eyes, and it is from this pulsating rock-womb that trolls and troglodytes spring.
Once known as the "New" World, Chora was known since prehistory by mer navigators, who made transit between the continents a reasonably routine matter. For several thousand years, their sea clans held a monopoly on intercontinental trade with Chora's indigenous cultures. Its range of environments were largely similar to Riryka, although its lands were wilder and its diseases are the more virulent. The Eighth Millenium Plagues that eventually devastated Riryka were probably Choran in origin. The Elven Empire made a number of imperial forays through the ages, initially with reluctant mer cooperation, and then their own fleets. The first serious encounters with the beastfolk occurred then, with the elves finding them repelled each time.
When humanity became ascendant, their kingdoms and empires launched rather more successful ventures, often making heavy use of orc and goblin mercenaries to match the individual beastfolk tribes in their areas of strength. After sustained effort, the beastfolk tribes were steadily defeated, with many going extinct and others driven to fight among themselves from the inexorable pressure of the Rirykans. In the present day, Chora has been continuously colonised by all Rirykan races for several thousand years. Relations have normalised, with the beastfolk accepted as a race like any other, though most take a dim view of being homogenised into a single label. Several tribal populations of beastfolk have settled for many centuries in Riryka as well. There has been no widespread independence movement: feudal links stretched across the sea between the continents in a complex though lightly threaded web until sleepy and distant prestige holdings suddenly became vital lifelines for dispossessed continental nobility.
In the Darktime, Chora became known as the Free World. It's population exploded from the influx of refugees, causing shortages, famine, and other hardships, as well as bursts of rapid development for several decades. Secular warfare abounded during these times, especially as many of the militant refugees turned to mercenary work. However, distance from Riryka critically ensured its overall security from the forces of darkness, allowing survivors of Riryka's fall regroup under the hospitality of overseas fiefs or former colonies. Its easternmost extreme is now the second-last staging point of the crusade.
The route to the Deep East is blocked variously by mountain, desert, sheer distance, and incredibly hostile seas. Some travellers have gone and returned through the ages, telling inconsistent tales of pyramids, cities, and horrible barbarity and bloodshed. No trade or embassy had ever gone that way, so very little is known about this distant land. The Deep East is dominated by lizardfolk, the reptilian counterparts of the Choran beastfolk.
The Choran equivalent of Riryka's Underdark, the Demersal is vast subterranean water table. Little is known about it as it is very difficult to access – only the tunnels of Choran dwarves reach it and only the mer can navigate its air bubbles meaningfully. It is said that up becomes down once one penetrates deep enough, and that the world on the other side as a surface and a sun much like the overworld. It is inhabited by a range of folk who, unlike the mer, are truly aquatic.