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I'Cath Gazeteer
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Author:  nothri [ Mon Nov 06, 2017 6:36 pm ]
Post subject:  I'Cath Gazeteer

Hello, everyone. Feels like literal years since I started working on this project, but it is still happening and ongoing. Wanted to create a thread people can comment and offer suggestions on.

Ideas I am working with so far.

1. The Palace of Bone is like any chinese imperial palace- a massive series of structures clustered together, resembling less a western style castle and more a city in miniature. The infamous area made from actual human bones and hair and flesh lies in the center of the complex, the inner sanctum you might compare with the Forbidden City of some Chinese Dynasties.

2. I'Cath has four provinces Tsien annexed and made part of her state in the time before entering Ravenloft. Each is covered in thick forests and undergrowth, but also has unique land features and phenomena based loosely on four beasts of the chinese directions. Sheer Kunlun like mountain peaks to the North, Karst caves with rifts and floodplains to the West, hotsprings and tropical plants to the South, and flat steppes of fertile dust and silt to the East.

3. There are four mistways into I'Cath. One leads to Nova Vaasa, another to Sri Raji, a third to Rokushima Taiyoo, and the last to Al-Kathos.

4. There are cities in I'Cath, though they defy the rules of the Core. Each would barely qualify as a hamlet in size, yet in terms of infrastructure and urbanization would easily rival the heart of places like Il Aluk or Paridon. Each structure is built with precise measurements, divided into four quarters each subdivided into smaller sections of four. Each is surrounded by a high square wall with a gate at the center of each side. Many of these places are now ghost towns, but they are not all (or always) as deserted as they once were. There are, of course, an unknown number of isolated manors homes, temples, and tombs also hidden in the forest. Some are abandoned, some are inhabited, and some are even inhabited by denizens who are as human as they first appear!

5. The history of I'Cath begins with a tree-ified version of the Way. The Jian-Mu, the Builder Tree, is the pillar of heaven that forms the three realms of Heaven (the sky), Earth, and the cavernous hells that arise between its massive roots. In time it gives birth to two equal forces, the Fu Sang and Roumu trees, also known as Yin and Yang. Yang is the more foolish of the two, a naive lover of life who raises songbirds and shows compassion for all things. Yin is cold but wise. One day they create humanity together, Yin offering precisely as much of her essence as necessary to create women, and Yang foolishly using an uncontrolled amount of her essence to create man. Eventually, the tribes of man go to war to dominate the Earth. Lord Yi defeats the axe weilding warlord Wu Kang and forms the first empire. Enraged at his loss, Wu Kang takes his axe and chops down the Jian-Mu. The world is thrown into chaos, harmony is lost, and all of creation is threatened. Fu Sang catchs Heaven as it threatens to fall to Earth, causing the sky to tilt. Yin creates the four dragons of the seasons to hold up heaven in her stead. Lord Yi offers to help calm the songbirds of Yang, who are flying across the face of the Earth ablaze with fiery essence (essentially, there are many suns in the sky day and night and they are burning the Earth alive). Lord Yi does this by killing the songbirds with his bow, demanding the last living daughter of Yang marry him and make him the immortal Emperor of Heaven. This is done, but Yin offers four curses to Yi's terrestrial dynasty and each that follows him. Each will rise and fall by her curse, and after a time of four dynasties the Earth will be controlled by her servants.

6. There will be four dynasties, starting with the Yi dynasty and proceeding from there. Each will be named after one of the "four curses" on the celestial scrolls mentioned in I'Cath's write up in Islands of Terror. I will be attempting to "reduce" the dynasties of real world Chinese down into four "archetypes" based on certain patterns you might come across. So Yi's dynasty will eventually fall, and the next will feature weak emperors controlled by the imperial ministries and the enunchs of the court. This will be followed by a foreign conqueror who will struggle to maintain legitimacy in the eyes of the people by adopting and upholding ancient traditions but ultimately is always seen as alien and unfit by the commoners. This will be followed by the most beloved and celebrated dynasty in I'Cath. Their power will last centuries but eventually fade to a mere figurehead. A long period of civil war will follow. An oath taken by four of the most powerful states of the time will be made to protect the now disenfranchised emperors of the last dynasty. The warring period will be ended by the machinations of Tsien Chiang, who will break her oath of protection the night she enters Ravenloft.

7. I'Cath actually hosted a fairly sizable population when it entered Ravenloft. But the people were always terrified of Tsien, and the death of the emperor inspired a mass exodus from the domain. The population is now in a diaspora across Ravenloft, small I'Cathese communities hidden amongst the neighborhoods and alleys of native cities. There are four major clans of note that make up these populations. Tsien's four daughters are ostensibly the matriarchs of each clan, though in practices the clans govern themselves in their own communities. Each has a detailed history and records of marriage, birth and death. Unfortanetly, tradition is too important to the Cathese to abandon their land entirely. Pilgrimages to mark important festivals and holy days, and especially funerals and rituals to honor the dead all demand frequent visits to I'Cath. Thus while there are few true inhabitants to the domain, there is always a chance of finding a village or manor filled with life.

8. Tsien Chiang has been building up a force in her domain. This is her Infernal Bureaucracy. Four Ministries, each made up of scholar-officials (Mandarins), make up this Bureaucracy. Each Mandarin undergoes intense training, as well as taking an oath and drinking a sacred tea made from the leaves of one of the cursed groves of her domain. The effect of the tea is less severe than eatin the fruit of the tree, but lasts longer and changes the mindset of the drinker to better fulfill the function of the Ministry. Like the Kargat, the ranks of the Ministries are made up of human and supernatural elements, and act as Tsien's eyes and ears across Ravenloft. She has concluded that a conventional army will not allow her to conqueror this strange realm. She is seeking subtler methods of undermining and controlling the realms beyond.

Author:  nothri [ Wed Nov 08, 2017 1:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: I'Cath Gazeteer

Ah. Lest I forget....

Religion: After a lot of consideration, I've opted for a religion that I'm tentatively calling the Mandate of Heaven. It hosts elements of Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and other philosophies and religions that were prevalent in China at one time or another. The main theme of the religion is that the Jian-Mu (as previously mentioned) embodied a divine direction for the whole universe and all things within it, from gods to mortals to supernatural creatures. But ever since the destruction of the Jian-Mu, the balance of creation has been thrown off and gods and mortals can no longer see what the divine plan is. But through discipline, meditation, and logical thinking it is possible to grasp some part of this divine plan. Those who achieve this enlightenment are said to ascend to a place of honor in the afterlife, and thus are named Buddhas. Their philosophies and methods for achieve this exalted state tend to vary widely. Rather than worship a god, followers of the Mandate of Heaven tend to devote themselves to one path or another as prescribed by one of these enlightened Buddhas. Note that thus far no Buddha has found the perfect path that embodies all aspects of the Mandate of Heaven, and thus there are many separate ways to achieve imperfect but still divine enlightenment.

Tsein's Curse: Tsien believes that the number four will provide her ultimate power and enlightenment. After a fashion, she believes she can become a Buddha as described above if she can fully comprehend the significance of the number and all the symbolic connections it has to life, death and rebirth. The dark powers have taken advantage of both her obsession and her lack of full understanding behind the number. Four times a year a number of hungry ghosts arise in I'Cath, their throats filled with a ghostly fire and their ethereal forms wracked with endless hunger. They will seek in vein to eat whatever can be found, most often clawing and biting and burning the trees of the wilderness in their desperation. Due to her connection to the trees, Tsien shares in the agony and the burning as the undead desecrate her beloved forest. Now, there are many reasons why a hungry ghost might arise, just as with ghosts in the West. Sometimes it is due to unfinished business, such as being murdered or a task incomplete. Other times, it can be more esoteric, such as a rite done improperly at their funeral. In the case of these entities, their creation is always tied to some action of Tsien related to the symbolic representation of four. Some subtle action she took or failed to take on a certain day, dictated by the arcane numerologies and astrologies of her homeland. Likewise, the means by which the undead can be destroyed are always tied to some esoteric invocation of the number four. Destroying the ghosts temporarily is relatively simple, but they always return the next night. Putting them to rest permanently becomes vexes Tsien, and the connection with the number four always eludes her but inevitably appears obvious in hindsight. No matter how much she obsesses, the answer will never come. Not to her at least. Nightingale is always able to provide the answer with but a moment's contemplation. This truth infuriates Tsien to no end. How can her foolish waif of a daughter comprehend so naturally what Tsien has struggled so long to learn. The final, ironic and sad truth that Tsien knows deep in her heart and will never admit is this: Long ago the gods answered her demands to know the full secret of the number four. Her fourth daughter was given a soul that inherently embodied all the things required to master life and death- love of all things, piety to Heaven and Earth, forgiveness even in the face of the worst betrayals. These are the virtues required to navigate effortlessly the gates between life and death, to cycle into the highest states of enlightenment and being. These are the virtues Tsien mocked and hated her daughter for, the ones she herself abandoned decades ago believing they were for the weak minded and foolish. She can only ever gain mastery of what she longs for if she embraced the lifestyle her daughter tries vainly to show her. And that, of course, is something she will never ever accept.

Author:  GreenWood [ Sun Nov 19, 2017 10:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: I'Cath Gazeteer

Fantastic ideas!

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