Iffud
“Better to lose with panache than win without flair…” -Emperor Argan III, last words after a duel

Capital: Berton
Settlements: Berton (20,000), Bezir (900), Carneton (8,000)
Ruler: Emperor Argan IX
Government: Imperial monarchy/meritocracy
Races: Elan, Eventual, Half-Orc, Human, Orc
Faiths: Nemyth Vaar, Toma Thule, Tulis
Resources: Agriculture, education, firearms, seafood
Languages: Common, Orc
Border Conditions: Restricted (enclosed by an irregular porphyrite border)

History
The ancient history of Iffud is one of warfare—not of her own people waging war or defending themselves, but of unrelated armies of a warlike world marching back and forth across the damp plains that make up the majority of the nation. With a population constantly cowed by the rampaging soldiers and mercenaries and a royal family little more than puppets for external interests, Iffud had a reputation for being other peoples’ battlefield, the Fudi people of no consequence.

Perhaps because its people raised many cattle, the totem animal of Tulis, that the Martyred Maiden took an interest in the sheep-like people, martyrs for no cause whatsoever. She took the mild-mannered nation from its world of subjugated complacency and relocated it to Porphrya, forcing its people to fight or be annihilated. The NewGod Wars saw to that.

Iffud was a strategic prize: it was well-located on the north coast, easy to travel across, and its fertile fields and pastures could produce food for many armies. The elementalists saw this immediately, and their armies of genies and giants were well-placed to attack Iffud and, if necessary, scour it clean of life if they could not conquer it for their own purposes. Toma Thule and Nemyth Vaar, in a rare moment of accord, favored interception of the army approaching from the east—but Bleeding Tulis saw another opportunity.

Her priests infiltrated Iffud on the wings of the wind. They went among the people—the good, honest citizens who had turned the earth and ploughed up skulls year after year—and spoke of great deeds. They told the people of sacrifice and glory, and then they demonstrated it. Thulian crusaders performed awesome feats of heroism. Tulite martyrs died so that hundreds might live. And slowly, the people of Iffud came to believe. One by one, then in a flood, they stood against the elementalists and fought them—with divine power, with devotion, with rocks, and with bare hands.

Every crackdown in occupied territory produced a more fervent response. Every martyr inspired a dozen new heroes. Like a cresting wave, the Fudi threw off their elementalist oppressors and cast off their useless royal family. The new emperor was chosen by popular acclaim: Argan, the First, was the greatest hero in a generation of heroes, his deeds legendary in his own lifetime.

His first decree was that Iffud would no more be a nation of meek farmers: lordships, mayorships, knighthoods, any position of authority would be filled only by those who, judged by Tulite hornbearers and Thulian magistrate-knights, would be fit for the task by the proof of the greatness of their deeds.

Current Events
Nearly a thousand years have passed since Argan’s declaration, but Iffud remains a nation governed by the great. Every authority figure can recite a list of the great things they have done, and conflicts in jurisdiction are handled by comparing the deeds of the contesting parties. Bards are greatly prized for their role in enhancing people’s reputations, and anyone who can make a claim for greatness has at least one as their permanent herald.

The Fudi are now known as a nation of showoffs and competitors, seeking greatness in everything they do. “Let’s give people something to talk about” is a traditional invitation to compete. Duels are common, whether with rapiers, bare fists, or firearms—which are more common here than in many other lands—and even a loser can gain social standing if they do so with panache and flair. Large weapons and heavy armor are frowned upon as ‘dull’ or ‘unsporting’. Even in non-violent pastimes the people of Iffud strive to do things with the most style; local fairs often feature competitive vegetable growing, preserve-making, greased pig-catching, and other contests. It is often up to the underclass of semicivilized ‘swamp orcs’ and their half-orc leaders to get hard labor done without a lot of posturing.

The system is not a pure meritocracy: expensive schools for the children of the nobility teach them everything they need to thrive in Iffud’s society: swordplay, gunplay, and unarmed combat feature prominently on the curriculum alongside poetry, literature, and wit. Skilled instructors can earn vast sums working for these schools, but must be wary of wandering champions—it is an accepted fact someone’s deeds can be tested at any time, and a caste of outcasts and travelers has formed who make it their purpose to rack up great deeds of betrayal and put others to the test.

An unexpected consequence of this arrangement is that everyone in a position of power is extremely dangerous in personal combat. As a result, politics in Iffud is a matter of excessive politeness, ceremony, and iron fi sts in velvet gloves. No one wants to provoke an angry response from someone who can single-handedly fi ght thirty men-at-arms to a standstill—so rudeness is a luxury of the lower classes.

Settlements
The major settlements of Iffud are:

  • Berton is the capital of Iffud, seat of the Emperor since the NewGod Wars, beacon of taste and culture in a land otherwise known for wandering vagabonds and root vegetables. The walled inner city is a display of ostentatious wealth, well-guarded, every inch owned by one of Iffud’s noble families. In the myriad chambers of the Imperial Palace politics is carried out with a peculiar combination of delicate maneuvering and savage attack. The outer city is a more freewheeling place, where wealthy merchants and lesser nobility live closer to the wall, with land values falling as you get further out.
  • Bezir is the stronghold of the elans. Humans driven to seek perfection (or simple superiority) over their brethren come here seeking transformation into something more—only those who show mental and physical superiority are accepted into the elan’s elite order. Bezir can sell goods and has classed characters of a city ten times its size.
  • Carneton, also known as the City of Conflict, is dominated by the eternal competition between two schools for the children of nobility: Drake’s Academy and the Archon Scholarium. Students of the schools, known as Dragons and Angels, play out the long-standing rivalry back and forth across the city in every arena: drinking contests in the taverns, games of skill in the parks, duels in the streets. Countless smaller schools take the students who don’t make the cut for the big two, creating an intricate web of alliances, enmities, and lineages of both blood and tuition.

Intrigues

  • Argan IX grows old, and soon the time of Imperial Selection will begin: rumor has it that the pitiable swamp orcs have been taking lessons from the Fudi, and have bred and trained an awesome specimen for the challenge, and seek ultimately to gut the elitist system of Iff ud to their advantage.
  • The constabulary in Carneton is hiring at double pay since an unfortunate ‘prank’ by the Dragons has made half their force comatose. It might not be worth it, as Arena Day is coming up, and the competition is fiercer outside than in…
  • The gangs of Rackers, outcast failures of the system of challenge, have always been patronized by Nemyth Vaar, but now actual clerics have sprung up among their ranks, and they have established bases, and organized, after a fashion. Is there a darker motive behind this unprecedented coherence?
  • The Puritan Redemptors of the Way of the Gun have a rogue in their midst. These noble "troubleshooters” are skilled in magic and black powder, and a skilled, renegade member of their number is gunning for upstart adventurers, leaving villagers to quake in fear. Are you afraid of slung lead, pilgrim?

See Also