This campaign takes place in a country named Ustalav, on a planet known as Caliban. Life on Caliban is short and brutish. In Ustalav, wretched nightmares and terrible creatures outnumber the sane mortals by quite a bit. The people are wary of outsiders, especially in the capital of Ardis, where the people have recently learned of the true nature of their King. This tormented city is where our adventure begins.
Ardis lies in the center of Ustalav, where the Orphield, Senir, Vhatsuntide River converge. While the King of Ustalav reigns from this city, there has been a push to move the capital of the country to Caliphas, a port city on the Avalon Bay. The bay allows trade access to the Great Lake Encarthan, connecting Ustalav to other nations such as Nephalia and Stokehurst. With the King’s death, this is all the more likely. Still, most citizens care little about politics or their rulers, nor can they afford to. The few that do are the ones who gain enough wealth to become lazy. In the past couple of months, most of them have whisked off to Caliphas.
King Styvian Ustav the Third reigned from Ardis for over fifty years. Only a week ago was it revealed to the people that he was a vampire when he was publicly executed. His court claims they were ignorant of this fact up until the Lamplighters stormed the castle and inform (and prove) the king’s nature to all present. The same Lamplighters took his heir and deemed the seneschal, Damon Maldanado, fit to rule as regent. Whether or not the Heir is fit to rule or even live remains to be seen.
Deities and Religion
In Ardis, divine magic is harnessed and practiced similarly to the Arcane. While most of these casters devote themselves to a deity or pantheon deities, a few dedicate themselves purely to the magic and domains they associate with. In this way, clerics and paladins are similar to rangers and druids that dedicate themselves to nature. Gods and demigods are worshipped by some of the common people in small amounts, but infrequently do they praise one in particular. Those who do dedicate themselves to religion are almost always absolute zealots of unshakable faith.
This is more or less true throughout Caliban. Particular regions may differ culturally.
For deities, we’ll use Golarion’s pantheon because it is what I’m most familiar with. Can import others if need be, but I don’t think that should be a problem.
See here for deity list
Other noteworthy locations of Ustalav
Wealthy port city that is well-defended from outside intrusion. Unfortunately, many creatures of the night have infiltrated the densely populated city. A different sort of fear haunts the people, especially the poor who are easily missed.
Recently, there have been attempts to sway King Ustav III to relocate to Caliphas, where current and would-be members of the court would feel safer.
Lepidstadt University is most well-known and oldest University in all of Ustalav. It grew so popular that an entire city quickly grew around it. Though it started as purely as a place of academic learning, Lepidstadt is now home to some of the finest dueling and artisan schools. Relatively secluded in the northwest, the city’s grand walls seem superfluous and are rarely manned.
King Ordranti funded Lepidstadt University to create a separate campus closer to Ardis, mockingly called Little Lepid. Officially, it is called Ordrant University. It sees little attendance as of late but several academics and wizards in Ardis have graduated from Ordrant.
Eh-em I mean…
The races of Caliban fit the world around them. Elves do not live in glorious cities away from the peasant humans and majority of dwarves do not live in giant mountain fortresses. Still, not every race is just a human with different dimensions. Most races can be found throughout Ustalav’s settlements and as follows:
Dwarf: It is said that long ago, the dwarves emerged from underground, leaving their great stone cities behind in a quest for the sky. What exactly drove them out changes with each telling of the story, but all end in the same place. Many dwarves reached the surface and integrated themselves into the world. A small number of others live just below or in mountain strongholds, where they face even more dire threats than their surface-dwelling cousins. There are whispers of other dwarves never leaving their cities deep in the earth. The occasional sight of a duergar seem to confirm these stories.
Elves: It seems that there was once a time when the near-ageless elves had great arcane cities hidden deep within forests or underground, but those years are long past. Elven longevity means little when violent deaths are more common than not. Just less than half of elves make use of their long years while the others die in a human lifetime. High and Wood elves that do not live in the typical cities of Caliban roam the world like nomads and some are known to take in many gnomes, halflings, and humans who no longer have a place to call home. Of course, they are just as likely to kill or exile anyone who they grow suspicious of or cannot trust.
Dark Elves are similar, but often travel at night and thus are less likely to take in outsiders.
Gnomes and Halflings: Does anyone actually care about these loser races? Jk
Gnomes and dwarves have similar origins and joined forces when fleeing the “underdark.” They don’t have quite the same knack for the mines or the forge as dwarves, but plenty find themselves at home in lumbering communities or with dwarves in the mountains.
Halflings have lived alongside humans for as long as anyone can remember. Just like humans, some prefer to live in rural and agricultural communities while others thrive in urban regions where they can blend into a crowd.
Dragonborn: Dragonborn are an oddity in Caliban. Some academics believe they were an experiment to prolong the dying dragon race while others believe they are an unrelated species all-together. It seems the former may be true as the dragonborn are dying out just like the dragons did. Many dragonborn strive to be self-sufficient and willingly leave their communities behind, just as the remaining true dragons. A handful end up in communities where they will never see a dragonborn again while others live alone and succumb to madness or vile creatures. Either way, very few stay with their clans and reproduce making the dragonborn more and more rare.
Tiefling: When a tiefling is born, it is an ill omen. They are almost always feared and some are even killed as an infant (mother willing or not). Some see tiefling as just another mutation, but a very small few who know of the existence of devils and demons see something much more in every aberrant birth. A tiefling could represent anything from an elf with an unexplainable tail to a human with red scales and horns.
The Lamplighters are the strong arm of the Our Lady of Lanterns church dedicated to Pharasma, the goddess of death. They act as a city watch and vigilante law keepers, though they hold no official power themselves. Despite being based out of a church, not all Lamplighters worship any deity. Instead, the organization is based on rituals and a strict adherence to a set of codes. These practices likely originated from Pharasman philosophy but are more complex and community-oriented than a priest’s.
Outside of Ustalav
Ustalav is just one nation on Caliban.
Kell: Kell lies to the north of Ustalav. The people of Kell are called the Kells or Kellids. An individual is a Kellid. The Kells are shamanistic and barbaric by Ustalav’s standards. The Kellids worship animal spirits and raise great totems for protection. They are frequently tattooed and wear animal hides and leathers.
Nephalia: Nephalia is to the east of Ustalav. A coastal nation, they are Caliphas’ primary trade source. Yet for all the business Ustalav does with Nephalia, Nephalia is hesitant to allow ships to them and instead send ships out themselves. They import primarily lumber and export firearms and weaponry. While land routes do exist into Nephalia, it is uncommon for anyone who travels there from Ustalav to return.