Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Setting: the Thawing Kingdom

I once saw a fungus, a mould that usually infects the breathing organs. Rather, I heard a camel talk about it at a bar, heard it say how that peculiar mildew yelled into the forest and rustled the feathers of all the birds with its screaming about the self-gratification of the rulewrights. Though it was just a meagre toadstool, I can’t shake the feeling that maybe when you pick apart the mycelium threads of its fungal rage, you might find an intriguing truffle.

So, I’m going to create a setting. Or rather, I’m going to tell a story, which is the same but more graceful. It’s a story about a crazy old king, because who doesn’t love those?

King Iceheart was a mean name, but unfortunately it was accurate. The king, for all his attempts and efforts, simply could not love anyone. Many candidates came to his castle, were shipped there by hopeful parents, or simply appeared quizzically while some witch stuffed her pockets with silver and was one frog poorer. It never worked out. Especially once he started freezing his wives into ice statues filling the throne room. For “looking at my generals lecherously!” For “wearing the wrong dress to the walking dinner!” For “sticking her bubblegum under her throne!” It’s safe to say that his loneliness, his age, the artificiality of his love life, and possibly his inbred line made him go progressively kookier as he aged. He was archetypal. Long white hair and beard. Sunken eyes. Long thin nose. Sharp and tall crown. The collective idea of the Mad King made flesh.

At long last, when the throne room was so crowded with frozen wives that terrified servants had started to stack them for optimal spatial management, King Iceheart’s love-deprived heart hurt so much that in a fit of mad desperation and contempt for all the little loving people, he cast a spell that banned the sun from his kingdom and said that no one would be able to love, not for five hundred years. Without the light of the sun the lands were cast in thick ice, and everyone was frozen solid. It was a still picture of the precise moment that King Iceheart cast his darkest spell, which had killed him as it turned his hart to ice. It was a final defeat for the king as he gave in to his nickname.

For five hundred years, not a soul stirred.

Everything was cold, dark, and silent.

Until finally, the land had served its sentence, the sun rose once again and the Frozen Kingdom became the Thawing Kingdom.

For the people waking from their five-hundred year sleep, the world is strange. Their memories are far away, sometimes even gone. They only have the things around them to remind them of who they were, and who they loved. The ice melts in patches: most of it has thawed and formed muddy and water-eroded landscapes and big new lakes that have sometimes swallowed whole villages. Some of it is still around, big patches of glacier producing broad and rapid rivers. The whole land has a wetness to it, recuperating from the initial floods caused by the melting ice. Fields have become paddies, ferries are everywhere for travelling across the wetlands-dominated landscape. Bootmakers and boatmakers never run out of business. The land beyond the Kingdom, which is 500 years further in its progression, is colledtively called Draailant, Drayland, or simply Dryland. Spelling has become a bit funny, now that the water has ruined many books. Oddly enough everyone remembers the King, and they feel a little sad and angry whenever they speak the name of King Iceheart.

Local lords have started to spring up here and there, some of whom actually were lords, some of whom took the opportunity of the chaos in the thawing's wake and gathered a few people to squat in an abandoned castle. A few lords may actually have succeded at creating a somewhat functioning county or community, some may just live in a windy and empty castle and call themselves the lord of it to try and console their loss of identity. Small bands of hedge knights are very common, as someone has to fight the bears and wolves that have unfortunately also been thawed out, and the drakes that have taken roost, and the devils that have crawled out of the murky crevices. They lend out their service for food, which is scarce. Sometimes they will become a lord's loyal knights, because it makes them feel harboured and important in a world that just showed everyone who's boss.
Plus, they get to hang out in a castle, which is cool even if it's in disrepair. Sometimes, people from Draailant come along. They tend to be lonely travellers, but they have a strange air around them. They never stop talking about their machines. Machines, machines machines.

That's the Thawing Kingdom for you. It's moody, wet, and there's a cold wind that blows through the entirety of it. Some people say that that's the last sigh of the king, an icy current forever trapped in the kingdom. But people band together, as they do in harsh times. Sometimes they fight too, as people also do in harsh times. There are recently thawed castles or keeps that if you're lucky nobody has explored yet. There are drakes, wild animals, monsters and devils that prowl the muddy land. There'll be posts about all those in the future. This is it for now.

(All art above made by Skraww)


  1. I love it! Would the players be from Draailant, exploring into the recently thawed land or from the kingdom?

    1. Could be either! The players being explorers from Draailant is actually a really cool idea!