Freeholds of Karistynia

Round 2: Design a country

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Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16, 2010 Top 4 aka Alexander MacLeod

Freeholds of Karistynia
"Decadence Founded On Undeath"
Alignment: LE
Capital: Karistynia (pop. 23,000)
Notable Settlements: Bokkage (pop. 4,600), Karre (pop. 1,100), Malloven (pop. 2,000)
Ruler: Eldane Rax (LE male human lich necromancer 20), Autumnal Lord
Government: The autocratic Autumnal Lord rules the city of Karistynia and its surrounding lands. He is aided in governance of Karistynia's confederated plantation-fiefs by the Twilight Council, made up of the heads of the dozen necromancer families who rule those outlying provinces.
Population: 32,000 (human 80%, halfling 10%, sahuagin 4%, tiefling 4%, other 2%). The Freeholds also control four to five times as many mindless undead as it has living citizens.

History: Named for an imperial consort, the port city of Karistynia was founded a century ago by the now-destroyed Empire of Mör-Kreln. Originally meant to be nothing more than an agricultural venture, the colony's lord saw an opportunity for himself as his homeland was overrun only twenty years after the city's founding. He declared Karistynia an independent city-state, and sent out trade ambassadors to the far reaches of the world, even as he readied the remnants of Mör-Kreln's fleet to defend his new realm.

The anticipated attack never came, but something far more deadly struck the new nation -- a terrible plague borne from the dark interior of the Great Umbral Swamp. It was this event, more than any other, that had the most profound effect on the current nature of the Freeholds. With several new trade contracts to fulfill, and most of their population laid to waste by the plague, the lords and aristocrats of Karistynia used necromantic magic to animate thousands of dead peasants and used them to continue working the land.

People: Karistynia has no lower class. Its capital, towns, and all of the villages that cluster near the fortified manors of the plantation-fiefs are full of craftsmen, artisans, and the like. The citizens' higher quality of life comes at the expense of their good reputation outside of their homeland. Many good nations, whether lawful or chaotic, will have nothing to do with the Freeholders, thanks entirely to the country's use of skeletons and zombies to work their fields, clean their streets, and butcher their livestock.

However, the skill of the druid-necromancer Overseers trained in Karistynia's universities ensures that the plantation-fiefs crops are always abundant and of the highest quality. This in turn ensures that a profit can be made somewhere along the realm's lengthy trade routes.

The upper classes of Karistynia have generally turned to one of two pursuits. The first is the quest for undeath, laughingly referred to as "going into politics," as every aristocratic family in the Freeholds is headed by a powerful, intelligent undead of some sort or another. In fact, the current Autumnal Lord is actually the original head of the Mör-Krelnian colony from a hundred years ago.

The other path Freeholder aristocrats are likely to follow is the rakish life of the dandy. Intrigue, decadence, fashion, scathing wit, and a flashing blade all mingle and clash in the manors and streets of this realm. It is hard to say whether dueling here has become more of an art or a science in the years since Karistynia's founding; either way, more rakes and duelists are said to be found in the Freeholds than anywhere else in the civilized world.

Holdings: The Freeholds of Karistynia are made up of thirteen plantation-fiefs, each roughly twenty-five miles wide. Five of these -- including the lands around the port capital -- cover a wide, central area of grasslands. Peanuts, cotton, corn, and sweet potatoes are all grown here, and a good deal of fishing is done beyond the three barrier islands (known as the Shield Maidens) that protect the port from bad weather.

The remainder of the lands are split fairly evenly between the Freeholds' other terrain. The hill country to the north lacks rich deposits of metal, but does provide lime, sulfur, and feldspar, as well as grazing for the pigs and cows that have led to the region's fine leatherworking tradition. Moderate forests along the country's western border provide pine, oak, maple, and a surprising amount of darkwood. Pecan and peach orchards have been planted there as well, and much of the lumber from the forest makes its way to the shipyards of Karistynia and Malloven.

The wetlands and salt marshes at the edges of the Great Umbral Swamp to the south of Karistynia have only recently been dominated, though are not yet tamed. They grudgingly yield up rice, sugarcane, tea, and crawfish, while salt and eels are gathered from the coastal areas.

DM Secrets: Rumors are brewing in the hill town of Karre that the industrious hobgoblins that live in the barrens to the north of Karistynia have recently been united under a new leader who apparently cannot stand the unnatural ways of the Freeholds. This feeling, coupled with his obvious desire for his neighbor's wealth, will likely lead to an invasion within the next year.

As if family prestige, lustful desire, and personal honor were not enough to cause the Freeholds' aristocrats to draw steel, several young rakes have gotten it into their heads that the prestige of the elite, female archers of the Shield Maidens needs defending. For some reason unfathomable to the Twilight Council, these dandies are being countered by those proclaiming the superiority of the mostly-male Overseers. Whether the tension will rise or the fad will blow over has yet to be seen.

Finally, a number of good-aligned nations, as well as a few neutral and evil nations, have begun secret talks regarding the Freeholds of Karistynia. Many do not believe that simple agriculture, regardless of the nation's use of undead, could lead to the sort of wealth enjoyed by the living here. Perhaps, they say, Karistynia's fleet contains privateers and raiders in addition to the ever-present trade vessels. And, perhaps, something should be done about it...

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

Submission checklist:

Submitted on time? Check.
Submission is a "country"? Check.
Submission contains all of the mandatory content as required by the contest rules? Check.
Submission is within the word limit? Check. 984 words.
Submission is free of inappropriate content in violation of the "taboo" guidelines? Check.
Submission does not use content from a source other than those listed above? Check.
Submission does not reference a published campaign setting? Check.
Submission does not include maps or art? Check.
Submission is a suitable setting for roleplaying with the d20 system? Check.
Submission is not a "joke" or otherwise completely fails to meet the minimum requirements of the competition or other contest rules? Check.

The Exchange Kobold Press

Three entries so far, and they all reference hobgoblins. Is there something in the water?

This is well written, with a coherent backstory, good twists in the history and solid DM secrets. It also feels like there's plenty of depth yet to mine from the country, with room for DM improvisation and tailoring to a campaign.

And for an evil country, it's definitely got enemies and attitude. All good so far.

Not my favorite, but I think this should make it through into the next round.

Paizo Employee Chief Creative Officer, Publisher

Karistynia is a bit difficult to pronounce, which is seldom a wise design choice. That said, I like several of the names in this entry quite a lot: "Autumnal Lord" and "Twilight Council" are strong names.

The general set-up of this nation reminds me a lot of a country called "Geb" in the forthcoming Pathfinder Chronicles Gazetteer. It's always interesting to see how different designers can come up with similar ideas in a vacuum.

I especially appreciated the humorous aside that seeking undeath is referred to as "going into politics." It's nice to laugh while reading these entries.

Generally, I am well disposed toward this entry. The writing is strong (if not overwhelmingly so) and the idea of a nation that uses undead labor is so appealing to me that I've already used it in the Gazetteer. I also like rakes and dandies in my D&D, and the idea of these plantations being sort of spots in the wilderness is very strong.

That said, it takes until the DM Secrets section for the entry to really provide much sense what's going on in the here and now and how a DM or player might use this information to create a cool character or storyline. The framework that's provided is excellent, but the entry as a whole could use more meat on its bones.

When reading the "Holdings" section I started to get a sense that too much emphasis was being placed on the nation's natural resources and trade. I know that's an important part of the country (and one that I like), but more exciting options would make this nation a lot more interesting.

Are there any points of geographical interest worth mentioning? Any undead-crawling plantation towns where something _didn't_ quite go as planned, creating adventure opportunities for players and GMs? There's a bit of that in the DM Secrets section, of course, but there could be a lot more of it in the general meat of the article.

I've read fewer than a half-dozen of these so far, though, and this one is definitely a stand-out.

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

The guys got to it first, so an abbreviated review from me:
Fluff (writing, grammar, style, evocative prose, etc.): B
Strong. But not as evocative as it could be.

Crunch (basics, rules issues, depth of the setting, details, etc.): B+
The Good: Very good crunch on the NPC stats and the racial composition. Needs more of that. Depth is good. Very good, in fact.

Design (choices made, format, naming, originality, theme, balance--ie, is the submission heavy in one part but lacking in another?): B+
The Good: Druid-necromancers? Interesting… This is a unique take on a country. Points for trying something unique. Good modifications to the format to help display your submission. I like the theme of decadence. The way you got there—via the history—was useful rather than self-indulgent, which has been a major failing of more than a few submissions. Good balance in the submission. Naming is reasonably good.

Play (setting for adventure? campaign? is there conflict? are there play limitations?): A
There are some real interesting and creative play options here. No races or classes seem to be excluded. There is conflict and theme.

Tilt (my personal take, is it evocative? do I want to play there? does it capture my imagination?): B+
I like it a lot. I could have used a more immediate focus and more immediate conflict from the undead. It captures my imagination for sure.

Overall: B+
A creative and fresh take on a kingdom of undead servants with some interesting moral twists.

RECOMMENDED for top 16.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16, 2010 Top 4 aka Alexander MacLeod

Upon reading that Rule 14 has been revised, I have removed my "Flouride in the water" joke and now simply ask for any feedback the friendly posters here at Paizo's message boards would like to give me before they cast a vote for my little country.

Thank you.

A. MacLeod

This reminds me a lot of hallowfast, from Scarred Lands. That's a good thing.

The language makes me feel like a free-the-undead civil war might be coming.

But rakish dandies living on the sweat of undead labor? yes, please!

I like the idea of the country but the mechanics of it seem too perfect. Other than the undead it is a nation with no faults or limitations (except ore which when compared to everything else it has isn't much of a limitation). It needs a fault/weakness/need/source of conflict other than the undead. A very cool idea though.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

I also immediately thought of a civil war: financed by spies from good countries. I love the idea of good spies doing shady things, and shady politicians trying to do the right thing.

I don't think the secrets section is as strong. This is only my second entry to read, but I am hoping for a DM section that brings out some clues planted in the prior text, or really recommends something I didn't think while reading the entry. Far better secrets than the first entry, though.

Outside of the civil war idea (not proposed by the author - that would have earned a vote almost without reading the rest of the entires), I don't see a full, diverse campaign.

Plantations worked by undead - I really like that idea. I also like the plot idea of players aligning themselves with the hobgoblins perhaps to bring down the evil rulers. Well written.

And, come on Eric!, what's so hard about Karistynia? It's obviously care-iz-tinia (foot in mouth intended).

(Shield Maidens? Elite all-female warriors? Blech. Overdone cliche.)

Good entry. Liked the flavour. Only question that sprung full formed in my head was: How do they control that many HD of undead? I would add a mechanic where the "estates" have "Necromantic nodes"* or such that boost the number of undead that can be controlled within them.

Necromantic nodes in my mind would possibly be like this:


Necromantic Node: These large purple crystals range from 1 foot in diameter to 5 feet in diameter. When controlled undead are with an area surrounded by Necromantic Nodes they count as only 1/10th their normal HD for a casters effective controlling limits. If undead leave the area that is surrounded by the nodes they count as their normal HD for controlling purposes (which may cause them to become 'free'). To have an area be surrounded by the necromantic nodes there needs to be at least four nodes present. This allows an area of 100 square feet to be affected. Each node added to the perimeter allows an additional 100 square feet to be encompassed within the necromantic energy. Often extra nodes are added to a perimeter without expanding the area affected to counteract possible sabotage. A node needs to remain in a single place for 24 hours before it can affect any undead that may be brought into the area. A node has a hardness of 5 and 30 hp.

Strong necromancy; CL 13th; Craft Wondrous Item, control undead; Price 50,000 gp; Weight 10 lb.

Though at second glance that wouldn't cover the are needed for an entire estate. Hmmmm.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6 aka exile

I like a lot of the naming conventions used here. Autumnal Lord is perfect. Still I don't really dig on whole nations so tightly tied to the undead. Seems well-written though.


Scarab Sages

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

More hobgoblins? LOL.. Wonder if it will be a common theme.

I liked this entry, but aside from the necromancy, I didn't feel there there was a pervasive evil about the country.

Seems that they're just a bunch of zombie-using landholders. Are there bodysnatchers? Do the common folk fear for their lives? Is there the typical oppression that one would imagine in a LE society?


Dungeon Grrrl wrote:

The language makes me feel like a free-the-undead civil war might be coming.

But rakish dandies living on the sweat of undead labor? yes, please!

Those are both good things! Hmm...

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Aotrscommander

You had me the moment Undead were mentioned...


The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

When I had read through the initial statblock my thoughts had been:
1. lich as the countrie's ruler - bleech, not again
2. sahuagin? yessir, but why?

The second question hasn't been answered which makes me wonder why they have been included at all?

On the opposite, my aversion against the "lich king" turned into admiration when I had read through the rest of the entry. We have recently seen the "country needs military and turns for necromancy" approach by Karrnath and it's vampire king but necromancy for economic reasons is a really cool twist. The best thing is, you don't even need any DM notes to get some inspiration of what to do with this setting. It is obvious that other nations dislike the development in the Freeholds which can lead to any sorts of conflicts (espionage or counterespionage missions, sabotage from the outside or from within, open war).

So my only gripes are the Shield Maiden (I like the idea to name the three isles this way but female elite warriors - not so; at least this adds another ongoing conflict), and the hobgoblins which seem to be kinda overdone in the meantime.

And to repeat my question from the start: So what about the sahuagin?

But generally I consider this to be a very strong and well-written entry with a lot of potential.

I love a good use of undead and I think that this is creative. The one downfall I see is the first thoughts that came to my mind was - Ravenloft and White Wolf. It seems as if it would be easy to stick in a Ravenloft setting (good and bad). I'm still mulling this one over in my head.

Too much time was spent on the countries resources, words that could have been used to give more indepth information about the country and it's politics, history, DM secrets...etc. For me, the resources are minor compared to other elements, and I would have liked to see more so that I would have a better feel for the country.

Solid straightforward writing.

Agreeing - How can a country control that many extra undead? That's pretty tough and something indicating how that is done is necessary for flushing this type of description out.

Wolfgang Baur wrote:
Three entries so far, and they all reference hobgoblins. Is there something in the water?

Orcs are so yesterday. I'm glad Hobbies are finally getting some recognition. I mean they are evil AND ORGANIZED. A much bigger threat than Orcish hooliganism. I think of Hobgoblins as the fantasy equivalent of the Nazis: cruel, rascist, and horrifyingly efficient. edit: Be careful about your allies ;)

I really, really enjoy this one a lot. I love the idea of a plague that wipes out the working folk and a kingdom that just reanimates them and now has a working class without all the whining and rebellion. That's just a fun idea. I also love the "going into office" thing, that's just a wonderful hit of flavor. Bravo for making an undead kingdom that not only isn't wretched and awful, but is partly populated with the cast of the Scarlet Pimpernel. This here is a classy, classy, fun place packed with flavor, depth and interesting hooks. I would love to play here or make a character from here. Good stuff. The name is a tad inelegant, hard to pronounce, and not quite in synch with the flavor of the place, but that's a piddling argument against a great entry.

Mark yourself down for one shiny Grimcleaver vote.

Scarab Sages Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games

I like this one, and it goes in my "I think I'll vote for it" pile so far. It reminds me of the Jakandor setting TSR put out in the mid-90s (I liked it and stole ideas for my 2nd Ed campaign, but I rarely see it mentioned), with a massive undead labor force, though the motivation is entirely different here. That change, though, is I think a good thing. The touch about the undead being a replacement for the commoners because of the plague is a simple enough sentence to include, but it is simple sentences like this that make the difference between "what is going on here?" and "okay, that makes sense."

I also appreciate that you referenced the rest of the world's reactions to you country, and that is something I wished I had more time or space to deal with in my entry, since it was essentially a 'villian' country as well.

Like a lot of others, I also enjoy the division, again elegant, simple, and entirely logical, of the surviving living population pretty much splitting between techs and layabouts. It actually makes me think a bit about the Matrix movies (more particularly, the backstory provided in the Animatrix shorts) and what humans would do if there were no physical/menial work to be done. Some would be support staff to make sure the engine kept running, and others would pretty much slide into petty decadence.

My only complaint is about the Shield Maiden/elite female archer bit, bleah, tired, boring. Still, that's a minor and peripheral piece of a very good whole.

Liberty's Edge

Zombie nation. I like it. I think the strengths of this entry (zombies and liches, but not necessarily outright evil; the dandies; the potential for conflict; good names) outweigh the relatively minor weak points (yeah, the shield maidens seem a bit clichéd and out of place … and, Mayaheine anyone?). I think this will get a vote.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16, 2010 Top 4 aka Alexander MacLeod

Kari Houle wrote:
Agreeing - How can a country control that many extra undead? That's pretty tough and something indicating how that is done is necessary for flushing this type of description out.

So many people asking this question, I'm now wishing I had given my answer more specifically in the entry. Please, vote for me anyway, and I promise the answer will be given when I'm on to Round 3!

A. MacLeod

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6 , Dedicated Voter Season 6

I've always loved zombie working classes. I don't completely buy that it can replace the entire lower class (some menial jobs take a brain, as our friends at Lord of the Frys can tell you), but kudos for the fun concept.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

OK, disclaimer: I mean all my comments to be constructively critical. I respect and admire all my peers in the top 32 for their effort, and truly hope that this will be a fruitful learning experience for all of us, if nothing else. Further, I have decided to look at my entry last, so as to maintain a "neutral" view on everyone else's work, and analyze it on its own merit as opposed to in comparison to the criticism I get for mine.

So, The Freeholds of Karistynia:

I like the concept of undead slave labour, too, and the idea of organizing an entire country around undead characters at the top AND the bottom, without necessarily involving constant strife and power-mongering. Intelligent solution, good ideas, and lots of opportunity for roleplaying and adding/modifying to the setting.

I was hoping/expecting the DM secrets section would include a couple of plot twists, like intrigue amongst the undead leaders of the important families, or some sort of conspiracy between minor undead nobles cut off from the power scheme and spies from a good-aligned power seeking to undermine a nation of undead creatures (I think someone mentioned that earlier). However, the fact that I am thinking all these things just goes to show that your setting is inspiring. Great concept, with lots of potential for use and abuse.

Also, my question would be if there are any other kinds of undead in Karistynia, other than zombies, skeletons and liches. If so, how is the non-undead population of Karistynia not preyed upon by those undead that need blood or life energy to survive?

Congratulations on a great idea, which is well-executed and delivered.


I like this one - skeletons and zombies do the farming? That's pretty cool. And the names really click for me, though I laughed when I saw the umlaut (since someone was threatening to see Umlauts return if we banned the Apostrophe in a another thread).

The Undead lords are kind of cool, too. I first throught this was going to be another "dark land of dark darkingness", but it really came off as a viable fantastic nation that could be a potential ally despite the evil alignment. And the political possibilities!

It made me think of a cooler version of Eberron's Karrnath.

Names are good, and much of the format works for me as well. The only two miffs I have are:

1) You mention Sahuagin in the demographics (4% of the population?) which is a really cool idea - and it isn't touched upon anywhere else. Linking the idea of an undead pirate nation with sahuagin would be a lot of fun, and I think that'd be a lot better than "Rumors are brewing in the hill town of Karre that the industrious hobgoblins that live in the barrens to the north of Karistynia have recently been united under a new leader who apparently cannot stand the unnatural ways of the Freeholds. This feeling, coupled with his obvious desire for his neighbor's wealth, will likely lead to an invasion within the next year."

2) The duelists being mentioned just don't seem to fit for me. They kind of break the mood for me - too flippant and crazy.

Erik Mona wrote:
Karistynia is a bit difficult to pronounce, which is seldom a wise design choice. That said, I like several of the names in this entry quite a lot: "Autumnal Lord" and "Twilight Council" are strong names.

Agreed. When a name is a stumbling block, I find it difficult to read the rest.

However I did also like Autmnal Lord, Twilight Council and Great Umbral Swamp.

I will be coming back to this one to give it another read.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6 aka Eyebite

I liked this entry, but only until I figured out why.

I love Greyhawk, have played in it for years. The names you used remind me too much of Greyhawk. I found myself imagining places from Oerth when I read the entry.

Karistynia sounds like Karistyne's Castle, the Shield Maiden is a reference to Mayaheine, and the Ruler's last name "Rax" is too close to the House of Rax, all Greyhawk canon. Further, the ruler being a lich just felt too much like Ivid the Undying. All great things, but all things I've already seen.

I was looking for something new and I just couldn't get past the names I was already all too familiar with. YMMV

Reminds me of several other fantasy places that I've heard about unfortunately. I know Clark thinks druid-necromancers are unique, but that goes to Eric's "in a vacuum" comment as I participated in an adventure 22 years ago that featured undead plants and druid-necromancers trying to kill off all the animals and humanoids to turn them into undead gardeners.

Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Clouds Without Water

Alexander MacLeod wrote:

Freeholds of Karistynia

"Decadence Founded On Undeath"

Love the slogan.

Big fan of "Autumnal Lord".

Not such a big fan of "...with several trade contracts to fulfill"- it reads a bit silly as a reason for an entire people to go necromatic.

The vibe I get is antebellum Louisiana, which is a good thing really.

Overall, it gels, makes a self-consistent sense. I'd want to use it in a campaign.

Putting it in my maybe pile.

I like this entry alot. There are many positive things going for it:
1) Coolness factor: I can really see this country being added into my current campaigns and I know my PC's would love to either be from there or to adventure there

2) Druid-Necromancers: I love it when you see more of the nasty side of druids come out, after all death is a part of nature

3) Intrigue: The plotting of the other countries was a nice touch

This is what I was hoping to see from this contestant after his Wondrous Item entry fizzled for me. There is great evidence of ingenuity and quirkiness that I would expect to see from rpg superstar.

That said I had some issues with it as well:

1) Like others you mention sahuagin and tiefling's in the demographics but left us hanging a bit on what roles they play in the society as a whole

2) Elite female archers are a tad bit overdone and cliche

Both of these however are minor and pale to the great job done on this entry. Will more than likely get my vote

I always love a good undead nation. So do a lot of gamers. This one put it's own twist on the basic premise. But what pushes this one over the top for me was the quality of sentence construction and the smooth flow of concepts in the writing. This entry reads to me like it has been edited repeatedly. And it shows. Craftsmanship in writing might not be sexy, but it is important. Very important. This definitely has my one of my votes.

Glad I didn’t make it now, as we’d have had nearly identical country concepts!

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Darkjoy

Can I use it: Yes, take me there now!
Is it entertaining: Yes
Is it original: Yes / No, using undead as labour is something I've seen before, but it is done well here.

Final verdict: Good may vote for it.

Grand Lodge Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8

Now this has a hook.

First sentence: The evocative concept sounds a bit jokey, but it may be just the way I'm reading it.

I really like the foundation story and the way that it translates into the system of government. It would be more impressive if the country's history was slightly longer, though on the other hand this develops some sense of instability.

"Freeholds" is slightly jarring but makes sense.

I don't see the relevance of the duelling culture to the premise. In fact, it contradicts strongly with the expectation of eternal life through undeath. It's developed well, if a little confusingly, in the DM's Secrets though.

"He is aided in governance": This sentence is shockingly bad.

Some flaws, but may be a keeper.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8 , Star Voter Season 6

I like it. Though I do like Erik's comment about a place where it went wrong. I think in a more fleshed out version we'd see a blackrocl/Miranda type place where the zombies all turned into ghouls or something.

It's nice to see functional Lawful evil societies.

As to the contrast between the necromancers and the swashbucklers... I don't see a contradiction. In a nation of death, why not embrace life and live each day like it's your last?

That resources section was beautiful, seriously well-written in my opinion. When I heard the part about undead butchering livestock I immediately thought of disease. As in how do the living people hang out with rotting corpses all day and not get sick.

I do think undead and dandies go together well. I can picture them making up funny names for the undead, being constantly disgusted by them and treating them horribly to feel powerful.

Doesn't seem like a place adventurers live but more like somewhere they would go for a single adventure.

Good luck!

I like the resources sections in some of these offerings. The ecosystems of a place and the economies they empower are a shorthand for a lot of concepts. From the crops and minerals mentioned, One can infer plenty of other details, such as climatic variations, rock formations and colours of the landscape and biomes. Much more useful to me than an adventure hook.

Been there, done that.

For me nothing new, Hallowfast and others have done this, so no real interest for me. The writing was fine and maybe for an adventure but really a campaign based on this holds no interest and no umph for myself.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

My only criticism here is that you should have added more story hooks and less almanac information. Otherwise, very solid and intriguing. Voted.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6 aka adanedhel9

A great concept. I've heard ideas like this several times, but I've never seen in implemented at all. And you did a good job, too!

I get the feeling that it's not really evil beyond the undead part. I don't mean to start an alignment war here, but I don't even necessarily see undead (or the creation of undead) as evil. So I don't quite buy the alignment. But, the entry doesn't really rely on alignment, so it's not a big deal.

I agree with ArchLich that some details about how that many peaceful undead exist would have nice, and they could've even been used to introduce some more interesting conflicts besides (I thought your DM Secrets to be rather ho-hum).

Your entry is fairly well-written, though several clunky sentences mar the readability in some spots (DM Secret #2, I'm looking at you!). I dislike the names - not only are they difficult to pronounce and use unexpected characters, but they seem to be pulled from a grab-bag - there's not feeling that they are related at all.

Liberty's Edge

I like this. I've always figured it was an aforegone conclusion that available necromancy would create an undead serfdom.
I also see a lot of potential with a bunch of pissed off dandies going around looking for duels and stuff.

I love this one. I love everything about it. It appeals both to my fondness for using undead in adventures and my belief that just because something is evil doesn't mean it has to be wantonly destructive and be detrimental to the lower classes. I see a lot of potential for using this as both the setting of an adventure and as a place that a character could call home.
It is well written, creative and it sounds like a lot of fun. I'm voting for this one.

Star Voter Season 7

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Top 5 so far.

I like this idea a lot . . .setting a necromantic country against the foppish, distant aristocracy = me happy.

I agree with an above poster that the darkness of the country could be punched up a bit, but so far it is in my top 5.

Dark Archive

Being a huge fan of Hollowfaust (having run a campaign there for a long time), I'm always fond of seeing necromancy used societally, and the decadent dueling noble aristocratic cast makes a great offset of that. Necromancer *Druids,* on the other hand, I'm not so sure about.

The alignment of the society feels off to me. On the one hand, they are raising their own dead to work the fields, and yet, the society seems only to be slipping into decadence, not completely and hopelessly corrupt. Or at least, that's how it feels like it would work best as an adventure setting... Maybe the average citizen is either completely evil, or 'partying in the ashes' and closing their eyes to the ugliness around them. I'm left conflicted about that.

I was almost done my response, when I failed a browser check and lost my post, so I'm sorry if my response suffers for it

I love the concept. Like Erik Mona, I also have a similar empire on my latest setting project.

I don't like the alignment. The government seems genuinely good regarding the well-being of its own citizens, even if it's willing to commit unholy crimes against nature in order to secure them. If the court-sanctioned privateering accusation is true, then their foreign policy may fall more towards evil. I might label the government as NN or possibly even CG. We may differ in how we interpret alignments or on whether the listed alignment should describe the behavior of the nation's leader, the spirit behinds its laws, or the general attitude of its citizens. I find an evil society who is reliant on undead for labor much less compelling than one that is generally good and in that same situation.

I agree with most other posts regarding the name. I'm in the SCA, and one of the more recently-formed local cantons chose a Welsh name with (I think) at least five syllables for their group. Everyone calls them "Fred".

The rest of the names are mostly good. The "Shield Maidens" rocks especially hard.

The history is very cool, definitely adds to the description, and is miles above the usual big evil with a whimsical pension for animating the dead or the ancient battlefield/graveyard that the settlers unknowingly picked to dig a well into and start building homes.

The foppish and decadent upper class is an acute and colorful element to include.

You suggest but do not discuss that there is a middle class of skilled laborers to satisfy the demands of the upper class (fancy tailoring, art, poetry, education, masterful swordsmithing, et cetera). The alternative is that there is only the aristocracy (numbering 32,000!) and the undead, and all goods and luxuries are imported, which is dubious, so I assume there is a working class among the living. It seems to me that this middle class would be where most of your adventurers would come from and who they would most likely deal with most of the time they were in the region. I would have expected them to receive some attention, even if it was a throw-away line stating that they were average skilled laborers and merchants. Most of what makes up the flavor of a country is not its leaders, but it's average citizens.

I love the euphemism for undeath. Besides being very droll, it provides some flavor of the setting and serves as a demonstration of the wit of the upper class.

I love the threat of invasion from an army of indignant hobgoblins on crusade against the vile humans. Comically grave.

As a GM, I could easily run multiple campaigns here. The setting is open to the implementation of almost any type of story while imposing very specific consequences for choosing this setting. The setting could even be used as a foreign feature of a campaign centered in some other country to add a focus for holy campaigning, a source for external political maneuvering, or just a sense of dread locations in the world.

adanedhel9 wrote:
I get the feeling that it's not really evil beyond the undead part. I don't mean to start an alignment war here, but I don't even necessarily see undead (or the creation of undead) as evil. So I don't quite buy the alignment. But, the entry doesn't really rely on alignment, so it's not a big deal.

Ditto on that sentiment.

In the campaign world of Mystara there is an Immortal (Immortals are the Mystaran equivalent of Gods) called Nyx who is the patron of Undeath and is dedicated to, essentially, causing everyone in the world to become some form of undead. Despite this rather unusual focus she is considered to be true neutral and not evil.

I'd almost definitely play the country that way if I were to steal it for my own campaign.... (Hmmm... it could easily be placed on the north coast of the southern continent of Davania or on one of the larger islands in the Thanegioth Archipelago.... I could stick some clerics of Nyx in there too...)

<click> <whirrrr> DM MACHINATION CIRCUITS ENGAGED.......... Mwah-ha-ha-ha-haaaaa!


Contributor, RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut

I didn't feel like this was the strongest entry at first, but I kept coming back to it. Frankly, in deciding how I would spend my 5 votes, I reviewed many of the submissions that fell into this same category. But I feel like there are a lot of great ideas woven into Karistynia -- the execution just fell a little flatter than some of the frontrunners. Nevertheless, I think there are enough good ideas and good writing technique that it deserves to move on into the next round. So...

That's my two-cents and my fifth and final vote,

Place your votes.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

The thing I like about the Freeholds of Karistynia is it's flavor. I can totally picture this decadent plantation lifestyle built upon the backs of undead slaves. It comes with a sort of built-in southern flair, where manners are expected (in direct contrast to the fact that slavery is acceptable) and having one's honor slighted leads to duels. Yet it's far enough removed from real life, with its creepy necromantic magics, to fit a fantasy game world. I envision noble houses vying for control of the region and its resources. An entry that causes the imagination to take hold is what this contest is all about. This entry made my top five.

Sovereign Court

If only the Donner party had had necromancers so as people dropped they could have sent them out for help/food.

Again, it doesn't look like a place I'd do more than run a one shot.

Didn't anyone object as each family came to be run by an intelligent (that is, evil) undead? With paladins immune to the plague, wouldn't there be one who would have raised the moral issue. Are the intelligent undead happy merely being plantation owners? With an infinite lifespan, surely they have many, many more plots brewing. IS the pecking order based on plantation size or type of undead or wealth or number of undead you control?

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