Physical Characteristics: Dysterians are taller then imperials but only slightly with males averaging around 5’7” to 5’9” and females standing at 5’5” to 5’7”. Dysterians tend to have brown hair and eyes, and olive complexions. Exercise is not nearly as venerated within Dysteria as it is within the empire and so the Dysterian ruling and merchant class will tend to be fairly slender, although they’re physics will actually build muscle fairly quickly with physical activity. This is not fashionable among the Dysterian upper classes as a developed musculature is seen as the mark of the working or soldier class.
Local Fashions: Dysterian men and women both tend to keep their heads shaved save for a single scalp lock that is grown from birth and kept tightly braided. Dysterian cloths will often feature silk even among those of only modest wealth as spider silk is produced in great abundance in Dysteria. Dysterian’s usually wear full length diaphanous robes which are pulled over the head and left unbelted. Working Dysterians will also wear light pull over robes but they will tend to end at the knee or mid thigh and will be belted at the waist. Women usually wear knee length skirts and length of silk or other light fabric pulled down from the back of the neck crossing the breasts and tied in the back or will go topless. The latter is particularly common among younger women who are seeking husbands, or women who are about to engage in any labor that might dirty their garments.
Attitudes: Dysterians are often characterized as being first and foremost hedonists, and it’s true to some extent. Dysterians do spend a great deal of time seeking and indulging pleasures. Everything from alcohol and drugs to sexual promiscuity to blood sports and spectacles are indulged in Dysteria. What the casual outsider fails to understand about Dysterians though, is that their hedonistic indulgences are not in fact their principle pursuit, rather Dysterians first and foremost pursue status and standing and public displays of dissolute indulgence is a way of demonstrating that you are a person of means and standing. Even the poor working classes in Dysteria will work very hard at demonstrating they have the means to pursue Dysterian leisure’s. Hard work of the other sort is the job of slaves and to be forced to indulge it is a mark of shame upon you and your family. This is why Dysterians are also renown far and wide as cunning (and often disreputable) merchants world over, because selling is seen as the only reputable profession a free man can indulge. Crafting or farming is properly done by well trained slaves.
Slavery: While slavery is common in the empire, Dysteria raises the institution to high art. Unlike most other places in Dysteria a slave is a slave forever, there is no mechanism to free a slave. Slaves exist as a complete and perpetual underclass in Dysteria. Most craft industries and virtually all farming is performed by slaves. Once a person is enslaved in Dysteria, by Dysterian law they and all their descendants will be slaves as well. Becoming a slave in Dysteria is fairly easy. You can be enslaved to pay debts, if your family chooses to sell you, by royal decree, as a penalty for crimes, or by the simple expedient of being seized by slavers.
Technically the last method of being seized is only supposed to apply to foreigners in other countries, as it is illegal to seize citizens of good standing or foreign merchants or ambassadors. Still accidents happen and if you’re a person of no means or weak family, it is difficult to make the local authorities take an interest and even if they do they’re unlikely to do much save force the slaver to pay compensation. (Hence a good portion of the Dysterian obsession with appearing to have means and standing especially if you don’t.)
All slaves in Dysteria are required to be branded, this usually occurs within a day of being taken or born. The brand is located either on the left check, for working and craft slaves, or on the left shoulder for house and pleasure slaves. The mark its self will often vary depending on what slaver organization is applying it, or occasionally what house the slave was born into. Of course as slaves are sold back and forth it is not uncommon to see slaves in one house or stable with the brand of another.
Civic Organization: Dysteria is an absolute monarchy, ruled currently by a Queen. Beneath the Queen stands the great families, who are more like clans than families truly. With cousins, second cousins, etc all claiming title and membership in the family by virtue of the family name. Indeed the lower echelons of a great family may live little or no better than any free merchantman, but they enjoy the protection of the family. This can be a double edged sword, for while no slaver or commoner in their right mind would make an enemy of you, you immediately become a target for any rival family that wants to make a point. Still the families are what pass for nobility in Dysteria with the heads of houses commanding as many men and as much money, and owning as much property as any lord could hope for.
The position of monarch is inherited and will be handed down by through the queens great family to her children. This process will persist until one of the other great families amass enough power and men to challenge her family directly for supremacy then the families will back whom ever their most closely allied with, (or most likely to win) and the result will be a long bloody conflict that will last until either the monarch surrenders the crown, or the challenger is destroyed.
Family: Just as it is everywhere family is important in Dysteria, although not quite as formal or profound as it is in the empire. The Dysterian family is generally consists of the nuclear family with the extended family certainly being present and cared for but seldom living in the same household. Most families in Dysteria are headed by males although unlike many places, it’s not uncommon to find a household held by a matriarch. Indeed in the mercantile oriented society of Dysteria the true head of household is whoever controls the money and women in Dysteria are perfectly entitled to own property and manage businesses. Children are seen as the property of their parents until they come of age and marry, indeed the choice of spouse if the last decision a parent makes for their child. Until then a child must suffer the will of their parents in all things up to and including selling the child into slavery. Murdering your own children is not permitted unless they are being formally offered to sacrifice in a temple.
Politics: Myteria Uthallis, also known as “The Witch Queen”. She has ruled Dysteria for nearly 10 years having ascended to the throne at the tender age of 19. At first her rule was expected to be short she was the designated heir who survived to the throne largely because of the protection of her father to whom she was said to be almost incestuously close. After her father demise her bothers and sisters immediately begin scheming to supplant her and with few allies it seemed likely her reign was destined to be short. Myteria however it seemed had spent her cloistered young life studying the dark arts and upon ascending the throne was able to use her powers to summon allies the like of which her siblings had not counted on. She also showed some astute political acumen and immediately forged an alliance with the church of Mortania between her own arcane resources and what the church could bring to bare she had more than enough power to survive and hold her throne, and in Dysteria nothing will bring allies to your side faster than ostentatious displays of power.
Such are the politics in Dysteria, the great families own much of the kingdom and they scheme and plot, against one another as naturally as breathing, relations between houses tend to more resemble relations between rival criminal gangs save that their extortion and bloody reprisals are seen as more or less legal as they are the ruling authority within the kingdom. That said the system functions well enough, in truth the families are most interested in making money and warfare with rival houses, be it open or covert, is generally bad for business.
Functionally the arrangement is little different from other governments commoners pay local families for protection and justice. Familes in turn pay larger families or split profits with allied houses to insure their own protection, and the queen sits at the top taking her taste of the revenue from the families.
Religion: Dysteria is wracked by a bitter religious conflict between the churches of Mortania and Sai’Shanneal. During the imperial occupation the local gods where largely displaced by the Imperial Triumvirate. However after Dysteria’s rebellion against the empire there was among the people of Dysteria a conscious rejection of those things imperial and an almost fanatical resurgence in the belief in their older gods. Mortania historically was the goddess of the educated upper classes while the rude peasant classes tended to worship the much less cerebral swamp god Sai’Shanneal. In the wake of the empire’s departure, the utility of the empires use of faith to help secure the power of the ruling class has not been lost on the Dysterian nobility and so there has now been a conscious effort by the Dysterian state to convert the lower classes to the worship of Mortania and establish within the church an level of divine sanction for the noble class. The church of Sai’Shanneal sees this as a direct affront to their god who’s opinion over who should rule they feel has been marginalized. At the moment the conflict is limited to sniping and the occasional low-level assassination, but it’s only a matter of time before more widespread violence erupts.
The Black Queen, The Devourer, The Dark Matron
Symbol: A white fanged skull on a field of black
Home Plane: The Grey wastes of Hades
Portfolio: Pestilence, Dark Mysteries, Magic
Worshipers: Necromancers, Alchemists, Any seeking dark paths to power
Cleric Alignments: any Neutral or Evil
Domains: Pestilence, Knowledge, Magic
Favored Weapon: The Sacrificial Dagger
If power is the goal then Knowledge is the path. Mortania teaches her followers to strive for knowledge, especially that knowledge which the timid would forbid you. For that is the one sure path to true power. Also she demands reverence for Mortania is the lady of plagues and she holds the power of pestilence. When the dark mother hungers she unleashes her plagues upon mankind and feasts upon their death and departing souls. Honor her with worship prayers and living sacrifice and she may spare you, or not as is her want and privilege.
Clergy and Temples
Clergy for the Black Queen wear black robes often adorned with the shrunken bronzed human skulls of plague victims, worn either as necklaces or toping staves and scepters. Temples to the Mortania are libraries and laboratories where the clergy the faithful of The Black Queen perform unspeakable experiments in search of ever more dark knowledge and power. During the Empires rule of Dysteria worship of the black queen was largely suppressed by the clergy of the Triumvirate who, while not banning her worship entirely, would often seize upon the lawless acts her priests would indulge in the course of their studies as a pretext for purging the most powerful and enthusiastic of her followers. Since Dysterias rebellion 200 years ago Mortania’s worship has seen a sharp resurgence and now she enjoys the sanction of the state and worship of the queen herself.
The serpent king, The snake God, Lord of the marshes
Symbol: a coiled serpent rearing to strike
Home Plane: The nine hells
Portfolio: Serpents, Reptiles, The Marsh
Worshipers: Marsh dwellers,
Cleric Alignments: Any Non-good
Domains: Water, Scalykind, plant
Favored Weapon: The poisoned Dagger
Sai’Shanneal teaches that the serpent is a source of both wisdom and power as such they must be respected and revered. The marsh its self is a sacred and holy place and humans who would venture there should do so with fear, reverence and beg the permission of the snake king. Lastly Sai’Shanneal demands the worship and reverence all who live in or near his domain those who refuse him will justly be made to suffer his wrath and his venom. He does not demand that he be the sole focus of every persons veneration, but if you would be spared his wrath you will offer him his due.
Clergy and Temples
Sai’Shanneal’s temples will typically be located either underground or in the marsh. The temple it’s self will center around a large idol of Sai’Shanneal, this idol will take the shape of a coiled serpent body with a human torso topped with a serpents head. These idols are actually infused with a small part of Sai’Shanneals power radiating from it a permanent prayer spell. The priests of Sai’Shanneal typically wear green robes trimmed, and belted in black and keep their heads completely shaved. Sai’Shanneal also grants his priests each a guide and companion in the form a tiny viper. This companion in most ways functions as a familiar save that there is no choice in the animal and if the familiar should ever be killed replacing it will require an atonement.
World renowned for their skill with alchemy and mastery at crafting potions and elixirs the Dysterian Alchemists are both sought after for their skills and feared for their power. Contrary to common belief the Dysterian Alchemists are not simply alchemists hailing from the Dysterian marshes, rather the Dysterian Alchemists form a very tight knit secret society. Entry into this society is reserved for those who have demonstrated both great skill and great discretion. Once in the alchemist gains access to the deep secrets of the Dysterian craft but is also bound to keep the secrets of their craft. Reveling these secrets result in immediate expulsion from the society and likely will earn a terrible retribution from the remaining alchemists.
Wizards make up the lions share of Dysterian Alchemists, though Sorcerers are also not uncommon. Other spell casting classes are also possible, but rare.
Requirements: In order to become a Dysterian Alchemist the character must fulfill the following criteria.
Ability to cast spells
Feats: Brew Potion, Skill Focus (Craft (Alchemy))
Skills: Craft (alchemy) 8 Ranks, Knowledge Arcana 8 ranks, SpellCraft 8 Ranks
Other: Must Join the Dysterian Alchemists. Each time the character gains a level of Dysterian Alchemist she must spend at least one week studying under another alchemist before she gains access to the new class skill for that level. The instructor alchemist must already posses the skills she wishes to learn.
Skill Points per level 3+intelligence Modifier.
Attack Advancement: poor
Fortitude Saves: good
Reflex Saves: poor
Will Saves: good
Class Skills: Concentration, Craft, Decipher Script, Heal, Knowledge (any), Profession, Spellcraft.
Spellcasting at 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 8th, and 9th level you will gain spells as though you had gained an additional level of an existing spell casting class. Your total caster level however will be your previous spellcasting class plus your full levels of Dysterian Alchemist.
1st Efficient Alchemy, Poison Master
2nd Heighten potion 1 level of existing spellcasting class
9th Secret of life, +1 level of existing spellcasting class
10th Craft Philosophers Stone
So skilled is the Dysterian Alchemist at her craft that when crafting Alchemical items, or brewing Potions, Oils, or Elixirs the Alchemist can reduce the base price of the item by 25% before calculating the cost of materials, XP and time.
So great is the Alchemists skill at handling dangerous substances that she no longer need worry about accidental exposure when handling or wielding poisons or drugs. Further the alchemists’ constant exposure to these substances grants a +4 bonus on Fortitude saves against poisons and drugs.
When brewing potions, and oils and elixirs, the alchemist can brew them especially potent adding +1 to the maximum allowable spell level only for the purpose of modifying the spell with a metamagic feat. So for instance the caster could then brew a potion of flying modified with the extend spell feat doubling it’s normal duration even though that makes the effective level of the fly spell 4th which would exceed the level limit for a normal potion. The caster must still know the metamagic feat and the spell to be imbued. The base cost of the potion will be calculated at the spells modified level. The caster does not have to be able to actually cast spells at the modified level. This increases to +2 at 5th level and +3 at 8th
Long exposure to addictive substances has made the alchemist particularly adept at shrugging off the effects of addiction. The save DC for addiction effects only increase by +2 after the satiation period, and after recovery the addiction rating of a given drug will return to normal no matter how long the alchemist was addicted. Further the Poison Master +4 bonus now also applies to withdrawal saves.
As the feat see the section on world specific feats. This ability applies even if the alchemist doesn’t meet the normal prerequisites for the Brew Elixir Feat.
Brew Arcane Oil
Arcane Oils are like potions in that they are liquids that contain spells. Unlike Potions, Arcane Oils can only contain spells that affect objects, or areas, not a creature or creatures. The spell imbued in an Arcane oil must be equal to or less than 5th level and be a spell that the character can actually cast. It cannot have a duration of instant, permanent, permanent until discharged, a triggering condition, or require concentration. The base price of an Arcane oil is equal to the spell level X the caster level X 75 gold pieces. The caster level of the Oil is set at the time of it’s brewing and must be high enough to cast the spell, but no higher than the casters own level. (Not counting additional levels bestowed through the heighten potion ability.) Finally brewing the oil requires one day per 100gp in the base price and consumes raw materials costing one half this amount and 1/25 the base price in XP in addition to any material component or XP costs of the spell its self..
As the Feat, see ELH. This applies even if the character does not meet the normal prerequisites for this feat.
Secret of Life
The Alchemist can now brew potions and elixirs with the following spell effects even if they cannot cast them. Cure Light Wounds, Cure Moderate Wounds, Cure Serious Wounds, Cure Critical Wounds, Heal, Regenerate, Neutralize Poison, Remove Disease. With the exception of Neutralize Poison, all of these effects are treated as though they were one level higher than they are on the cleric spell list. So a potion of Cure Light Wounds is treated as a second level spell for the alchemist. Any of these spells which already appears on one of the alchemists spell lists will be unchanged.
Craft Philosophers Stone
The greatest and most closely guarded secret of the Dysterian Alchemists, the knowledge of making these stones is reserved only for the very greatest of the alchemical masters. Crafting such a stone requires the use of a full alchemical and Arcane laboratory for one full month. Further the process consumes 1,000 gold pieces in raw materials, and 5,000XP. At the end of the month the Alchemist makes a DC 50 craft(alchemy) check. If the roll is successful they alchemist succeeds failure means that the raw materials, (but not the XP) are consumed and the alchemist must start again. By keeping certain key processes and compounds secret, the alchemist can use less skilled assistants to aid him in this process. The Efficient Alchemy skill does not apply to this process.
Prerequisites: Brew Potion, Caster level 12th
Benefits: You may brew any elixir of any spell that you know up to a maximum of 9th level and that targets one or more creatures. Brewing and elixir takes 3 days. When you create an elixir, you set the caster level, which must be sufficient to cast the spell, and no higher than your caster level. You also may also create an elixir with a combination of spell effects, but the total number of spell levels brewed into an elixir can be no higher than 9th, and no higher than your own maximum spell level. Further the base cost of the elixir is calculated using the total spell levels in the elixir and the caster level must be sufficient to cast a spell equal to that total. The base price of an elixir is its spell level x its caster level x 100 gp. To brew an elixir, you must spend 1/25th of this base price in XP and use up raw materials costing one half this base price.
The Dysterian Alchemists:
As the name implies the Dysterian alchemists are a professional association of Alchemists dedicated to preserving the deepest secrets of the Alchemical arts. They are deeply jealous of their knowledge and will only pass on their secrets to those who have joined their brotherhood and proved their talent in their craft. Beyond the preservation of their brotherhood the Alchemists have no code of ethics, and little organization. It is not uncommon to find alchemists selling their services and their wares to the both sides of a conflict or to both sides of rival families.
Regional Artifacts and Relics:
This massive black pot stands approximately 4 feet high and has a diameter of 4 feet as well. Legend has it that it was crafted by Nosicus one of the greatest of the Dysterian Alchemists centuries ago and was one of the prized possessions of his noble house for many years. Reportedly whenever a body is placed within the cauldron it will fill with a strange green viscous liquid and several hours later the body will emerge as the undead thrall of the cauldrons master. Further it is said if the owner of the cauldron crawls inside he will emerge 12 hours later as a Lich with the cauldron as his Phylactery.
Nosicus it is said raised an army of undead and was destined to save Dysteria from imperial conquest, but one of his allies a great wyrm black dragon named Xyggith envied the cauldron and destroyed Nosicus for it leaving his undead horde master less and running amok in Dysteria ultimately leading to Dysteria’s defeat at the hands of the empire. The legend is silent as to how Xyggith was able to destroy the lich without also destroying the cauldron.
Others say that Xyggith was in fact bribed by the empire to betray Nosicus and that the Arcane council took ownership of the cauldron but fearing the destabilizing effect it could have on the empire hid it in their own vaults or more likely destroyed it to prevent Nosicus from returning.