The Empire of Gard is one of the four major empires of Occident, ruled by brass dragons. It occupies the eastern portion of the continent, plus several growing colonies in the Bocan Islands and Freedland. Ruled by Emperor Rommestilanis, a great wyrm dragon, the Empire is a conglomeration of lesser kingdoms, duchies, principalities, and city-states collectively known as realms.
Emperor Rommestilanis is the supreme overlord of the Empire of Gard, whose authority is unsurpassed. But each of the 46 realms of Gard has its own government and laws, and often its own military and official religions. From the first year of The Pact to the year 451 Occidental Calendar, dragons dominated the halls of power in Gard as in the rest of the Old World, acting in secret by taking human guise. In 451, the truth of the vast draconic conspiracy was revealed, kicking off a three year civil war that became known as the Human’s Revolution. The war ended with the dragons remaining in control, but severely weakened.
The 46 realms of Gard are still joined by their common Emperor. All realms pay tribute to the Emperor in gold, soldiers, and obedience to the Emperor’s Imperial Decrees. But they also benefit from the stability and support of being part of the Empire. The Army of the Empire under the command of the Emperor protects all realms from Arcland and other enemies, and Imperial weights, measures, and currencies are standardized. The fact that almost all realms are directly ruled by brass dragons also lends a measure of stability. But individual realms also their own alliances and rivalries, which have been growing steadily since the Human’s Revolution.
Emperor Rommestilanis still exerts a calming, unifying influence over the whole empire, even though his political power is enormously limited except over the capital city-state, Gideon City. He collects tax and can raise armies from the various realms, but he cannot simply pass laws for all realms to obey. Instead, he may issue Imperial Decrees, which go into effect only with the support of a majority of the realms. Most of the realms’ leaders, though they are brass dragons like Rommestilanis, are loathe to allow the passage of Decrees that take powers away from themselves and grant it to the Emperor.
There have been a few important Decrees over the years. Perhaps most importantly, by Imperial Decree, slavery is banned throughout Gard. Gard is one of only two draconic nations in the world to outlaw slavery, the other being the gold dragon-ruled holy city of Gomina. And a new Decree, still being debated by the realms, calls for the creation of an Imperial Navy of Gard.
Gardish realms vary widely in area and population. Twelve of the 46 realms are particularly important to the Empire as a whole, and exercise particular influence over their neighbors and over the rest of the Empire. These twelve are called major realms, and virtually everyone agrees that their power is far above the rest. These realms are: Gideon City, Chester, Eustace, Wick, Casogard, Lestecha, Vaunoo, Cadriyal, Claysaw, Pecsmuth, Rushtide, and Maxow.
Gard is one of the four great powers of Occident, one of two continents in the Old World. It occupies the temperate-to-warm eastern part of the continent, including the entire eastern and southeastern shoreline.
As a large empire, Gard’s geography varies widely. It includes virtually all terrains, from the Granite Mountains in the west to the beaches of Rushtide in the east, to the deserts of Lestecha and Pecsmuth in the south to the great forests of Cadriyal the north, from the great metropolis of Gideon City to the farmlands of Chester and Eustace. There is even a massive, if sparsely populated, swamp in the southeast of Gard, taken up by the minor realm of Paparoneck.
In central-west Gard is the Almond Sea, actually a massive lake that borders several realms, and which connects to the Brassica and Dolphine rivers. These rivers are major lanes of transport, as are important roadways such as the Emperor’s Highway and the Blue Highway.
West of Gard, across the disputed Granite Mountains and the contested Bellands, is Arcland. Ruled by blue dragons, Arcland has been at war with Gard on and off for many years, but most of their battles are fought in the New World. North of Gard is Urst, a reclusive country ruled by the red dragons. To the east is the sea, across which lies Orient, and Gard’s Oriental trading partners, Cipok and Shraa.
Gard’s army, the Army of the Empire, is not as large as once it was. The army commanded by the emperor depends entirely on effectively voluntary contributions from the rulers of Gard’s realms. They are honor-bound to send however many troops to the emperor as he requests in time of war, but ever since the Human’s Revolution, the realms are wary of sending too many of their troops to the Emperor’s direct control.
The individual realms Gard often have powerful standing armies. Though they are all part of the Empire of Gard, and their leaders are all brass dragons, the states bicker constantly, and the emperor’s mediation is often unable to prevent these quarrels from escalating into open conflict. For example, the kingdom of Chester and the Grand Duchy of Wick have been bitter rivals for ages, and fought a brief war over religious differences as recently as 20 years ago.
While there is an Army of the Empire, there is no Navy of the Empire. The individual realms have always had their own navies. This is simply the tradition in Gard, and has been since its founding. In fact, many of Gard’s realms are exceptionally well-known for their long naval tradition and outstanding tactics. Chester’s and Gideon City’s navies have been particularly important in the colonization and exploration of the Bocan Sea and the newly discovered continent of Freedland. Until recently, the distinction between the two realms’ navies was all but forgotten in the New World. Threats of piracy, hostile natives, and Arcish attack drove Gardish sailors together. But in the last few years, the rivalry between the realms has grown so hot that some question the ability of the Cestrian and Gideoner navies to work together.
Gard considers itself the historical descendant of the old empire of Gideon. Although Gideon collapsed in 417 BP, almost a thousand years ago, the inhabitants of modern Gard are eagerly rediscovering Gideonese culture. Artifacts from the Gideonese era, Gideonese-style art and architecture, and even Gideonese philosophy are all in high demand. Gideon was originally founded as a republic, but one with strict divides between upper- and lower-classes. Differing understandings about how to recreate the glory of Gideon have led to intense disagreement between the peoples of Gard.
It is hard to identify a single Gardish culture, because each of the realms has its own economy, customs, lifestyle, and religion. But there are some things that can be considered universally Gardish.
A love of liberty is central to Gardish thought. This is one thing on which humans of all realms and all brass dragons agree upon. What exactly “liberty” means varies from place to place. Some realms see liberty as simply the lack of slavery, that institution so embraced by hated Arcland. Others call liberty that right of free action which upper classes possess, and peasants would not know what to do with. And other realms see it as guaranteeing certain freedoms to everybody.
Another cultural phenomenon well-known in Gard: constant festivals and holidays, parties and feasts. The brass dragons of Gard have always relied on these diversions to keep their people happy. And, being brass dragons, they enjoy them immensely too. But the strategy may have run its course – the people of Gard now expect frequent parties and merrymaking as a basic part of life.
There are other trends common throughout Gard. Gardishmen and Gardishwomen tend to be racially tolerant. They also expect genders to be treated equally, unlike the bias towards men in Arcland and Urst, or the matriarchy in Lasant. Attitudes towards religion vary from place to place.
Gard’s greatest difficulty today is the rivalry between the major realms of Gard. A loose coalition of realms with Chester and Eustace at its center are unhappy with Gideon City’s ever-increasing domination over the rest of the Empire, and growing resentful of dragon rule. Wick and Rushtide strongly support Gideon City and the dragons. Other major realms, like Claysaw, Casogard, and Lestecha, are on the fence, and being courted by both sides. And Cadriyal, a realm in the north, has shown signs of wanting to withdraw from the Empire altogether. So far, Emperor Rommestilanis has been able to keep things from getting out of hand, but wise men and women warn that the situation could get much worse. If the realms cannot find a resolution to their differences, they risk a civil war that will dwarf the Human’s Revolution.
While debates over dragons, the roles of upper and lower classes, and economics continue in the halls of power, other dangers lurk in the shadows. A militant underground group calling itself the Revolutionary Vanguard has been recruiting throughout the Empire, planning a violent overthrow of the dragon regime. Meanwhile, the dragons’ secret service, the Hidden Hoard, is trying to identify and subvert the Vanguard and others who sympathize with them. A notorious crime syndicate, the Crowd, has begun to take root in Lestecha and is spreading east. And, while their actions in Gard are limited, the terrorist group called the Sour Scourge is an ever-growing concern.
But it’s a more obvious threat that most Gardishmen and -women are worried about. After a peace lasting 12 years, war has broken out again between Gard and Arcland. So far, all the fighting has taken place in the New World, except for occasional skirmishes in Claysaw and the western mountains. But the threat of a larger Arcish invasion, by land or sea, is a constant fear in Gardish minds.
Because of recent events in Dragonfall, Eustace’s Freedlandic colony, questions have been raised about the ability of the Cestrian and Gideoner navies to work effectively together against the Arcish foe. Emperor Rommestilanis has proposed a new Imperial Decree which would authorize the creation of a Navy of Gard, a unified fleet answerable only to the Emperor, in order to solve the problem and present a united front. But the Archmages of Eustace are furious at the idea, calling it a “power grab” and trying to rally opposition to letting the Decree come into effect.
Every realm has its own religions. Each has deities and practices that its people favor. In general the Gardish favor good gods and oppose evil gods. The goddess of peace and love, Ielda, probably has the most widespread faith, but she does not necessarily have the greatest number of worshipers.
Laws also differ from realm to realm on the handing of outlaw religions, generally disparaged as “cults”. Most realms outlaw the worship of all evil deities. But some realms have exceptions – evil gods who are allowed, or non-evil gods who are banned. Some realms, like Wick and Vaunoo, have official state religions. And some realms, such as Gideon City, have no laws about worship at all.
The New World
Gard is one of three nations trying to colonize the Bocan Islands – Arcland and Lasant are the other two. While Gard is still somewhat behind Arcland in its colonization efforts, its trade with the Bocans is still of incredible importance to the Empire. Disputes over this trade are what kicked off the most recent war with Arcland. In addition to relying on the navies of Gideon City and Chester to fight this war, Gard has once called upon the services of privateers. These sailors (or Bocaneers as they are known) are little more than pirates, who are issued letters of marque sanctioning their depredations as long as Arcland suffers for it. Their use has been controversial back in the Old World. However, Emperor Rommestilanis was a major supporter of their efforts, going so far as to name an ex-privateer governor of Campierno in 449.
Companies out of Gideon City and Chester have both been given charters to set up colonies in the newly-discovered continent of Freedland. These colonies have been growing rapidly in recent years, but they are still small.
Eustace, on the other hand, has established a rapidly-growing city in Freedland, connected by portal to the Eustan capital of North Almond. Eustace has no Bocan colonies at all, and is a landlocked province. Its interest in Freedland is viewed with suspicion by many. However, this Eustan town, called Dragonfall, is easilly the largest functioning settlement in Freedland today, and has drawn many explorers and adventurers.