What is this?
This was the public world-building document/lore guide for a roleplay MUSH called Winter’s Edge that I played on back in late 2003. See My Diary #066 for more context. This document is timestamped Aug 30 2003, and is incomplete as it was a work in progress at the time, and I’m not sure if it was ever finished. But it was plenty for us players to work off of. I have included it verbatim below (minus removal of a bunch of empty lines and header formatting due to WordPress/Elementor/Microsoft Word formatting).
If I ever find an updated version of this document I will edit this to add it in. This is meant to be a snapshot of what the game was, so I don’t really care if this has changed in the interim (the game isn’t live now anyway, though it apparently was as recently as 5 years ago and might well come and go depending on the owners’ inspiration levels).
If a reader has an updated version of this guide, jesskitten at gmail is how to reach me!
Vintermor, Nation of
Government: Feudal Monarchy
Population: Approximately 350,000
Demographics: Humans: 65%
Vintermor, officially The Kingdom of Vintermor or The Province-Kingdom of Vintermor, is a relatively large country and one of the member-states of the Taldaran Empire. Vintermor maintains no extranational possessions of its own and has traditionally preferred isolationism over an active form of external policy.
Vintermor is shaped in a rough crescent, running west to northeast, some four hundred eighty-miles long. At either end, the nation is approximately two hundred miles wide, thickening in the central regions to measure just over two hundred eighty miles from the southern edges of Duchy Stanclyf to the Mistwalls north of Helgegard Pass in the Royal Counties of Duchy Sturmgaard.
The nation is bounded directly on three sides by the Mists, and centered around the Vimirthond Fjord, a deep, narrow inlet that flow east from the Valtamerine Ocean beyond the Shelter Isles, over four hundred fifty miles inland, to end at it’s furthest point in the narrow mountain gorges between Duchy Haelgrim and the Dwarven Nation of Maeldring. Of particular note, however, is that while paths through the Mists exist in other lands, destinations cannot be reliably reached without the use of Mistwards, as ships and travelers become lost, or emerge in places far from their intended destination. In Vintermor, that does not seem to be the case. Instead, the connection between the sea beyond the mouth of the Vimirthond fjord and the Valtamerine Ocean near the Melorian coast is stable, and relatively safe. (Nothing is ever truly safe in the Mists, after all.) However, Taldaran ships still make use of their Mistwards, just in case.
Vintermor is a land of greatly varying landscapes, but possesses a uniformly cold climate. From the lowland region of Duchy Brimlad to the high steppe plateau of Stanclyf, the summers are short and mild, while the winters are long, harsh, and often brutal. Much of Sturmgaard’s mountainous reaches have snow year-round, and the growing season in the nation is only truly suited to crops in the relative warmth of Worrill’s narrow band of sheltered valleys, fed and nurtured by natural hot-springs.
Politically, Vintermor is ruled by a feudal monarchic system, whereby the overall head of state is the King, and authority over the populace passes from the Crown to a set of powerful nobles called Eorls, each of whom rules over one of the five Duchies of the nation. (This inconsistency, Eorls ruling duchies instead of Dukes, stems from the mixture of Taldaran notation (Duchy) with traditional Vintermori terms for their leaders (Eorls) and is a product of the historical interaction between the Empire and the local region.) Beneath the Eorls are lesser nobles enfeoffed as Barons and Thanes, and at each level the nobility maintains both direct control of ‘personal’ lands and the skeletal structure of a potential military through landed and unlanded knights.
Economically, Vintermor’s strength lies in the means to make war, which is somewhat ironic for a nation with no standing army of its own. The nation’s primary exports are ores and gems either mined in Sturmgaard or being sold for the dwarves of Maeldring, lumber felled in Sturmgaard and the fjord-shore of Haelgrim and Stanclyf, and horses, both members of the many local breeds raised in Stanclyf, or a rarer breed from Sturmgaard rumored to be bred from Dire Horses. The nation does not often import much other than luxury goods, though produce from Meloria is not unknown in the kauppatori (markets) of Vintermor.
II. Land and Resources:
Vintermor covers an area of approximately 102,575 sq mi., including interior lakes and waterways. The nation includes the two Shelter Isles that form a natural breakwater between the mouth of the Vimirthond fjord and the rougher, open waters of the Valtamerine Ocean. At its longest point, Vintermor measures 483 miles east to west, and a maximum length of about 300 miles from north to south. The country occupies almost the entirety of a relatively small pocket of land surrounded by The Mists, sharing the immediate region with the bandits of Forstgall and the dwarven kingdom of Maeldring.
A. Natural Regions
Vintermor has four distinct regions characterized by differing types of terrain – lowland plains, sheltered valleys, plateau highlands, and high, jagged mountains. The vast majority of the interior of the country is over 1000 ft above sea-level, with the highest mountains located along the northern edge of the nation, and down a central ridge in the southeast.
The western lowlands lie along the coast of the Valtamerine, and stretch inland along the Vimirthond for nearly a hundred miles along the southern shore and comprises the majority of the land in duchy Brimlad. These lowlands are, by virtue of the surrounding waters, slightly milder than much of the nation, but do not support much beyond subsistence agriculture or grazing, at most. The seacoast itself has a number of treacherous semi-frozen peat bogs, where seemingly stable ice can often give way and leave its victim to the mercy of the briny, freezing waters below. The southernmost section of the Brimlad Coast curves northward again as it stretches westward to Blackmist Point, forming a sizeable peninsula covered by the densely-forested expanse known as the Shadewood.
Moving east, this broad, but cold expanse rises into the lower of Vintermor’s two north-south mountain ridges, the Modstrife Peaks. Behind the Modstrife, the land falls away into a series of lesser ridges and sheltered valleys, with many of the more northern valleys warmed by the hot springs that pepper north-central Worrill. This region, including the area known as The Six Leagues, comprises the majority of Vintermor’s significant agriculture, and provides much of the revenues for House Faebjorn.
These valleys and lesser ridges give way, in turn, to the steep ridge of the Kivispine, forming much of the border between duchies Worrill and Stanclyf. Beyond the Kivispine, duchy Stanclyf sits upon a broad plateau, slowly rising as it moves eastward into the Mists. Harsh and unforgiving, this plateau is nevertheless dotted by a small number of natural hot springs, and provides enough grazing land for larger animals. At the northern end of the Kivispine, the ridge is cut deeply by the Anirthond fjord as it branches off of the Vimirthond. Between the arms of the fjords, the land is a rolling lowland, though it swiftly rises up to the level of the plateau as it moves away from the meeting of the waters. As the plateau reaches the Mists along its southern reaches, it becomes enshrouded by the second of Vintermor’s densely wooded regions, Mistguard Forest. The forest extends in some places out as far as ten miles from the Mists, though some reports indicate that within the wood itself, the position of the Mist-edge often moves.
North of the Vimirthond, the terrain is far less forgiving. The northern coast of the Valtamerine is a jagged series of high cliffs and narrow inlets, save for the more expansive harbor of Derring Sound, and the port village of Soundhollow, just outside the city of Derring. Moving east along the Vimirthond, the landscape is similarly hard and jagged, with rocky slopes backing up onto high, wind-blasted taiga. This lightly-wooded steppe, and the intimidatingly high peaks and everpresent glacial masses above it, continues eastward the length of the duchy, with only a brief narrowing to allow for the gentler inclines and hills near where the Anarthond fjord branches off from the main inlet, turning northward in a jagged cut just as the Vimirthond passes the capital city, Vintermor. These jagged, treacherous peaks that form the northern border of the region are known as the Mistwall.
The peaks grow higher as the steppe moves past the highest point in Vintermor, Mount Thorvald (15,140 ft) and the northern half of the Kivispine ridge, called ‘Talvi’s Teeth’, then lower again slowly around Ulfvig Lake in duchy Haelgrim, and on into the third of Vintermor’s great forests, an area named only ‘The Trackless Woods’. The wood extends some sixty miles northeast, but travelers tales insist that once within, a man can travel hundreds of miles in a straight line without ever coming near the edge of the wood. Some tales go farther, and insist the Wood itself contains a hidden gateway to another land, a place as warm as Vintermor is cold, where a man can die merely from wearing too heavy a cloak. The truth of such rumors is unknown.
Vintermor has one primary water-system, the Vimirthond fjord. The Vimirthond reaches over four-hundred miles into the northern interior before ending in the narrow chasms between duchy Haelgrim and the dwarven lands of Maeldring. In the north, the only lake of any significant magnitude is Ulfvig Lake in Haelgrim, with the city of Hearg on the northeastern shore, and providing the easiest major landmark along the trade road from Hearg to Vintemor.
In the south, what is called ‘The Bandit’s Fjord’ severs the country from the region of Forstgall, issuing from and then returning into the Mists. The very water itself is said to be haunted by the insane denizens of the Mists, and few will brave its dangers to hunt the bandits beyond, By day and in large groups, however, most will speak with confidence that such tales are planted by the bandits themselves. At its furthest point, the Bandit’s Fjord extends some hundred and fifty miles long, and draws near the city of Gothrel, in south-central Stanclyf. Farther east, the Mistwater issues from the eaves of the Mistguard Forest, a black lake that is nonetheless teeming with enough fish to support local settlements.
In the southwest, near the edge of the Mists in Brimlad, a series of long, relatively shallow lakes provide fresh water to the immediate region, as well as affording some small amount of fishing.
C. Plant and Animal Life
Vintermor is largely a forested country, with mixed forests of oak, ash, elm, and yew, standing mingled in with pine, fir, and other coniferous trees. Large animals such as deer, elk, caribou/reindeer and even dire (wooly) rhinoceri are common, as are snow hares, arctic foxes, wolves, badgers, and other hardy, thick-furred animals. Other species that thrive in the cold range from fairly common, such as winter wolves and Icedrakes, to rare, but not unheard of, as in the case of remorhaz, frost wyrms, cryohydrae, and even white dragons.
In addition, the lowland areas and the three great forests provide dangers of their own. In the Mistguard Forest, strangely changed treants have been reported, and the Trackless Wood is rumored to have an infestation of a bizarre form of basilisk that creates its own heat. The most disturbing and possibly dangerous creature of legend, however, is the black wyrm Fallondrix, rumored to hunt the length and breadth of the Shadewood, and whose ability to foul the very water itself is claimed to be the source of the name of Blackmist Bay. The wyrm is said to lair beneath the bay, in the marsh at the very edge of the forest.
D. Natural Resources
Vintermor provides an abundance of several natural resources, including wood, iron and other ores, gems, and some supplies of coal (used to produce steel). As well, the country’s wooded steppe and deep forests provide an array of furs that are often considered ‘exotic’ in warmer climes (such as winter wolf or dire rhino). The fjord system provides abundant fishing, and the deep waters allow even large cargo shipping to penetrate far into the interior.
Vintermor has a harsh, subarctic climate, characterized by mild summers and harsh, deadly winters. South of the Vimirthond fjord, the weather is slightly warmer, but still remains a cold, unforgiving land in most places. The growing season is short, outside of the sheltered valleys of Worrill’s hot spring belt, and snowfall in an average year is very heavy, as the moisture-laden air off the sea gets trapped amongst the mountains.
III. People and Culture
Vintermor’s population is largely stable, though the influx of people that comes with imperial trade has helped the country continue to grow. Regular censuses are not taken, however, and so it is impossible to know exactly what sort of growth and average family size is at work in the nation. The majority of the populace is rural, living in small communities surrounding the larger cities, or small fishing villages along the fjord.
A. Racial Makeup
Racially, Vintermor is predominantly human, with dwarven families and tradesmen most common in Haelgrim and eastern Sturmgaard, including a concentration of dwarvish citizens in an old, well-established delve beneath the capital itself.
Elves of various type are distributed around the nation fairly evenly, overall, with higher concentrations of morthidar in Sturmgaard and Haelgrim, and more lumidar residing in the relative warmth of Worrill, especially the area surrounding the city of Ailsby. Elaidar, as is their nature, have tended to adapt to their environment, retaining much of their nomadic ways in Sturmgaard and Brimlad, while Worrill and Stanclyf clans have settled down either in villages of their own, or among the local humans. In many cases, these sedentary elaidar often have a small number (perhaps one or two) half-elves among their number, and consider themselves a kind of ‘detached’ segment of the local House.
Gnomes in Vintermor tend to remain among the areas their family groups have taken to. Puutasadi are more common in the southern areas, especially Worrill, while pilvisadi can be found in any of the mountainous areas of the country.
The majority of halflings within Vintermor are skaltings, and by and large tend to live either in small halflings communities in the larger cities, or in the region known as ‘The Six Leagues’, an area of warmer, more fertile land where they produce much of the nation’s agriculture, and garner a measurable profit in doing so. Those ulfskaltings who hail from Vintermor live much like the nomadic elaidar, and can be found in much the same areas, as well as wandering the taiga of Sturmgaard.
Religion in Vintermor is largely a non-issue. While there are many followers of the imperial Pantheist Church, and just as many followers of either a specific god or the druidic cults of Elain, Kukka, and Skogen, by and large these groups tend to have very little difficulty with one another. The gods, after all, are the gods, regardless of how many of them you try to worship. The only deities whose worship is forbidden, and indeed punishable by death, are the three evil Primordials, Korinthar the Red, Sslira the Black, and Talvi the White. Indeed, many in Vintermor feel that to worship Talvi, in particular, is an affront to all those who have toiled and sacrificed to survive the cold, and keep the nation itself intact.
Given the Nobility system of the Kingdom, the general citizenry does not tend to view the local aristocracy as a group of oppressors. The opportunity, through merit, machination, and nepotism, to advance ensures that even the lowest dirt farmer can aspite to one day be given rank and title among his House. Being that they all come from the same bloodline, each and every citizen of a particular duchy are a ‘member’ of their Noble house in the purest essence of the word, even if they are not entitled to any of the privileges someone with rank in the House would hold.
The people of the duchy of Brimlad, live on the coastal plains on the shores of Blackmist Bay. There are few Brimlad settlements in the interior of the duchy, as that land has been ‘leased’ for use by the Bereza living in Vintermor. The few settlements that are in the interior are mostly those people who have mixed with other humans, or even other races.
Although the people of Brimlad welcome visitors to their city, they rarely invite them into their homes, or blatantly expose visitors to their cultural ceremonies. The largest event in the year for Brimlad is the Great Hunt. The Great Hunt is a ceremonial whaling journey where a group of chosen hunters venture out in a boat they craft themselves and go after the largest whale they can find. If they fail to make a kill, it is told that the harvest season that year will be poor. If they do make a kill, the whale is divided up to all of the families in attendance, and each and every part of the animal is used.
The sea is the most important thing in the culture of Brimlad. Each and every person in the duchy strives to protect the waters from pollution, over fishing, and above all, Pirates. Some say that the Brimladers are greedy, or they value the coin above all else. This is not always true, though they do hold on to what they have with a tight fist. Most of the Merchant houses in Vintermor come from Brimlad, due to their knowledge of trade and their dealings with foreign traders.
While the winters are no less cold in the land of Brimlad, there is less snow, and quite a bit less wind than in some of the other duchies. The clothing of the area is a mixture of fur, whale and seal skin, and cloth died in bright hues. Both men and women wear jewelry made from the bone of whales and other marine wildlife.
Life in the mountainous duchy of Haelgrim is a daily struggle. The people that dwell there must face the harshest climate in all of Vintermor, the constant threat of attack from across ‘Tulvi’s Teeth’, and the occasional outbreak of intense Civil war. These dangers have hardened the hearts of the people of Haelgrim, and have forged them into a culture of warriors. It is a well-known fact that although the Duchy is the smallest in terms of population and wealth, it over 70 of the soldiers in the Royal Fyrd are from Haelgrim.
The people of the Haelgrim do not often welcome visitors to their lands. In fact, the town of Hearg is the only place where visitors are even allowed to go without written permission from the Eorl or one of his advisors. This xenophobic attitude is illustrated in their largest winter celebration they call ‘The Cleaning.’ During The Cleaning, people bring items they have brought from other lands and burn them in the middle of their villages. It is rumored that prisoners caught in the Duchy without permission are often tossed into the pyre as well. Of course, no one from Haelgrim will admit to this.
Despite their harsh life, the people of Haelgrim enjoy music and art, and are very quick with a song or a story when pressed. This does not, of course, imply that they are a refined or overly civilized group of people. After their song is over, it is not unknown for them to start a fight or storm out if not enough people were listening.
The family unit is very important to the people in Haelgrim. They honor their ancestors with undying devotion, and often go to great lengths to memorize not only their forefathers, but also their foreuncles, foreants, and forecousins. An individual who is wins the the friendship of one of these people, can be assured they would stick by their new friend until the bitter end.
The people of Haelgrim almost all have blond or red hair, and grow them to great lengths. Men take pride in their beards, and often braid them in the fashion of their Dwarven neighbors. Their clothing is made up of thick furs and soft leathers, often in the light colors of the region. Men and women both adorn their hair and bodies with iron and silver jewelry that is made in the region.
Stanclyf has a diverse population of people, spread out over different geographical regions of the Duchy. Stanclyf is by far the wealthiest of territories, and at their lowest tier of society, the people live in comfort and a lifestyle that would be considered privileged in other Duchies. This is due to the fact that each town or village in Stanclyf either raises or trains different breeds of horses, or they grow crops to feed the horses. Horses, ponies, and mules bred in Stanclyf are treasured throughout the Empire, and across the mists to other parts of the world.
Given the major export of the Duchy, it is no surprise that the culture of the people is dominated by their ties to the horses, and their care and breeding. Seasonal festivals are held in accordance to the breeding patterns of the horse, and the planting and harvesting of grains. The largest of all is the Feast of Thrydhir where breeders bring in their finest animal for a sort of beauty contest.
There are a few things that the people of Stanclyf are passionate about (other than horses.) They enjoy the finer things in life, they enjoy personal and public power, and they enjoy gambling. It is rare to find a village that does not have a ‘running track’ where farmers and breeders bring their swiftest horse for a day of racing.
Most of the clothing of Stanclyf is made from natural fabrics that are made to be comfortable while riding. It is rare to see someone from this Duchy wearing anything but dark colors and jewelry made of anything but gold and precious gems. More so than any other Duchy, the people of Stanclyf show off their position in society on their bodies in the form of expensive clothes and jewels.
It is widely held that if you want to know something, you will learn it in Worrill. The people of this Duchy have a love for all sorts of lore, and don’t mind sharing it with anyone who will sit down to listen. They grew from the tribe of the Bear and still dwell in the forests and plains of their ancestors. Recently however, the town of Margrim has grown to prominence on the border of Brimlad. It has been said that Margrim was created so the people could get closer to the news from the foreigners who have settled in the interior of the Duchy of Brimlad.
While the passion of the people lies within the learning and spreading of information, their daily lives are rather mundane. People work the fields, harvest the forest, and raise livestock just like people all over Vintermor do. At the center of their cultural celebrations is the Awakening. The Awakening coincides with the birth of spring, and is a particularly raucous affair filled with all sorts of mischief and merrymaking. It happens on the day the Great Bear is said to awaken from his winter slumber.
Many consider the people of Worrill are an odd lot. Wild one minute, and reserved the next, they can be a man’s best friend or biggest source of irritation. Rarely evil, they are certainly chaotic, but usually follow the laws as far as they can be stretched to suit their fact-finding lust.
Vintermor’s economy is largely agrarian, though the nation does export lumber for shipbuilding, as well as iron and other ores, horses, and refined goods such as armor and weapons. In addition, the positioning of the nation within the only known point of stability in the Mists brings many mages and priests from the rest of the Empire to study this odd happenstance.
The King of Vintermor is currently Magnus Thorvald, crowned King Magnus III. However, as the King’s age begins to weigh heavily upon him, much of the duties of rulership have passed to his son, Eorl Meric Thorvald, Crown Prince of Vintermor. Coming with his younger brother Prince Alburn to Vintermor, Prince Meric has left his cousin Gamal Thorvald as Eorl of Sturmgaard in Derring.
The current Eorls of Vintermor are:
Sturmgaard: Eorl Gamal Thorvald
Brimlad: Eorl Uri Ulfvig
Haelgrim: Eorl Aelfvig Stenger
Worrill: Eorl Sirus Faebjorn
Stanclyf: Eorl Ainess Wieghorst
Power in each of the Duchies is maintained through a network of oaths of fealty, personal accomplishment and reward, and familial loyalties. The vast majority of the residents, and virtually all of the vassal lords and landed knights, are all members of the same ‘House’, or clan, stemming from Vintermor’s historical development. This has produced a lineage of nobility that is not far removed from the commoners, and in most cases can and will interact with their local subjects on a familiar level. At the ‘bottom’ of the power structure, the majority of Vintermor’s populace are freemen, whether craftsmen, laborers, or tenant farmers, with indenture usually limited only to criminals whose crimes merited harsh punishment, but did not merit death. In those cases, long-term imprisonment is a drain on the limited resources of the local knights or magistrates, and indenture at least makes the offender a contributing member of society again.
Each of the Eorls is served by a set of Barons, lesser nobles who see to the execution of the Eorl’s orders and administration of their titled lands. The Barons themselves each oversee a group of minor nobles known as Thanes. These Thanes tend to be practical, hardworking landlords and administrators, usually overseeing a significant expanse of land with multiple small towns and hamlets. The temperment and attitudes of the Thanes vary greatly from one to another, some earthy, selfless, and dedicated to their people, others arrogant, grasping, and completely self-centered with an eye toward greater things. Knights form the two lowest rungs of the nobility, with landed knights overseeing the day-to-day leadership of a larger village or one or two smaller hamlets in their liege lord’s domain. Landless knights are those knights in a lord’s service who have not been deeded a grant of land, but instead tend to form the core of that noble’s armed response in times of need, whether the errand be defending a village from a group of marauding ogres or putting down a peasant revolt, though it must be said that open revolt is not common, given the famlial ties of the peasantry to their rulers. A lord’s knights will also provide the expertise that trains members of his or her personal Guard or city Watch.
Of important note is that while there are a number of knights in Vintermor, and each level of nobility does tend to maintain a small personal retinue of Men-at-Arms, by Imperial Law, no member kingdom is permitted to raise an army or train militia forces outside of the Imperial Legions without the direct and specific permission of the Emperor or Regent in Taldara. As such, Vintermor maintains no standing Army, however the Eorls do claim the right to raise conscripts as necessary, and given the relative isolation and potential dangers in Vintermor, most able-bodied men and women of appropriate age are at least passably competent with the simple weapons of speak, staff, and club.
Document dated: Aug 30 2003.