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From:     Michael Sandy <mehawk@????.org>
Date:     Tue, 11 Jul 1995 15:38:00 -0700
Subject:  Re: More on the Priest Magic of Nuren...
I introduced the city of Nuren a couple of posts ago.
The design inspiration for the city was the desire to create a center for
clerical magic.  The design underwent several incarnations, which turned
into the early expansionist age campagin era, a later era of profound
crisis as internal politics and external invasions threaten the peace of
the Nurenoi culture.  A final campaign era with the Nuren Empire collapsing
and it being a serious moral question whether to help reform the Empire or
contribute to its fracturing.

The Nuren culture has its roots in a rather primitive nomadic tribe.  While
there are many older cultures in the world, the Nuren has roots in its
most primitive pre-magical tradition peoples.  To these primitive 'barbarian'
tribes anyone who can wield and instruct the art of magic is venerated.
The entities which granted power and knowledge for the basic rituals and
veneration that the tribal shamans were able to discover were generally
weak and localized beings.  But as tribes came in contact with more and
more tribes, more rituals and magic summoning ceremonies became available.
The shamanistic culture which came to be known as the Nurenoi developed
an edge in supplanting these other local deities.

This edge was a syncretic tradition that renamed and fused local gods
into entities whose power stretched over a much larger area.  Political
power wasn't concentrated, but a large web of cities with similar Pantheons
emerged which respected each other cults.  Various cult centers would be
set up near trade routes or on mystically significant sites, (The Spectral
Waterfall, the Eternal Flame, in the Shadow of the Obsidian Mountain etc...)
Most of these sites were mobile, in terms of centuries anyway.  As Nuren
came to be a power, it managed to arrange that more and more cult centers
were moved under direct control of the city.  It was located in a very
significant area for trade, at the highest point on the river Nur that
was navigable by the ocean vessels of the day and also the lowest bridgable
point of that river as it flowed through a short but steep canyon just
upriver.  The city was in prime control of land, river, and naval trade routes
as there was no better harbor for 100 miles up and down the coast, and no
easier river crossing short of the spinal mountain range, named for its
division of the peninsula.

Before widespread application of magic to trade, Nuren had an unrivalable
position on the peninsula.  The city's early desgign left its defense to
its standing army.  It had walls against primitive nonmagicly armed
barbarians, but for a long period of its growth it had no need to fear a
magicly supported army on its gates.  Its army, and those of its allies,
coreligionists and trading partners usually met their foes far from Nuren.
The military tradition of Nuren centered around highly disciplined infantry
and a locally unmatched skill in field fortification and siegecraft.  Having
a large, organized and cooperative priest force for clerical magic gave
great backbone to these tactics.  The food providing spells, the morale,
healing, divination and guardian spells frequently tilted the balance.


For campaign relevance, this means the early period Nuren had very little
contact beyond the peninsula and surrounding seas, and is a dynamicly
expansionist force.  Later, with more wealth flowing in from successful wars
and tributary states, as well as the pilgrimages and religious support
more luxuries were available to be consumed by increasingly wealthy families.
As wealth also meant the ability to support public holidays, festivals,
and thus religious cults, whole religious hierarchies came to be sponsored
by these families, as a source of magical power.  These paid-for-cults
competed for the most 'result' for the gold paid to support them.  Secret
necromantic cults and worse founded by power hungry aristocracies began to
flourish.

Uusually these would be quickly, if not cheaply snuffed by an increasingly
brutal Council.  Whereas early on the syndics welcomed every new religion
and god they could get there hands on, they began increasingly suspicious of
foreign gods, foreign influences, and foreign cultures.  Having conquered
a huge area, they weren't going to admit that their culture was lacking in
any of the cultured arts, sculpture, musics, drama or especially religion.
Nonetheless, it was a mark of status to have highly cultured slaves raising
and teaching one's children.  This marks the start of Nuren's dominance in
some wizardly traditions, as Nuren's aristocracy discovered a magical power
base independant of the popular cults.

This independance did _not_ go over well with the allied and rural laity and
clergy.  They saw the alien influences and lack of respect for old traditions
as a threat, and they were even more conservative than the aristocratic
Council, also known as the Senate.

During ordered periods, travel was quite safe throughout the Nuren dominated
region, but during strife between the city and the peoples it came to see
itself as ruling the pilgrimages and tribute which sustained the huge city's
population would be cut off.  Banditry would thrive, often encouraged by the
local farmers and magnates as long as they mostly raided merchants or
neighbors they didn't like.  Nuren's armies, priests and magicians could
squash any army they could find, but came to be challenged by forces that
were more difficult to beat.  Ambitious nobles, and those wishing to 'restore
the Republic' raised huge armies, conscripting magical support and weaponry
often left the Nuren alliance's or empire's border territories weak and ripe for
revolt.  Magical beasts, created with polymorph spells and other means,
came to be known as the "poor-wizard's demons".  Unscrupulous and even
idealistic leaders resorted to dreadful rites, including human sacrifice
in some dark period's of Nuren's history, blotted out by the historians.

There was a brief period of order and prosperity when the leader of the
Assassins' cult became emperor, a period ironicly looked back on as the
last Golden Age of Nuren, but the fanaticism of the mostly rurally raised
assassins faded with prosperity.

By the end, the last campaign period, it is an era that almost anything the
Player Characters can accomplish will be an improvement.  Smashed cities and
smaller ruins abound, old temples now haunted with monsters, bandits and
barbarian humanoids raid the smaller successor states, and undead wizards
and liches plot their final ascendancy over the rest of the aristocratic
families.

But there is a brighter note.  Towards the final winding down of the civil
wars, some of the last great mages, now without their huge libraries with
staffs of scribes and apprentices, forged great magical King Swords.
Ala Merlin, these swords conveyed power for the righteous to rule, independant
of the manipulations of wizards and priests.  These swords would help
defend their wielder's followers from the magical beasts unleashed by the
horrible Sorcerous Wars.  In AD&D terms, these were really powerful Holy Swords.
Some of the less decadent, and less magicly powerful provinces before the Fall,
especially the frontier provinces, became the sites for new, more unified,
intolerant but morally powerful religions who spawned paladins and martyr
priests by the hundreds.

The campaign city was originally supposed to be the site for the introduction
of Spelljamming to the campaign universe, but I kept changing my mind about
what period I wanted it to be introduced in.  None of the campaigns in that
world lasted very long, but I may try again with a new crew.

At various times in their history, mages and priests went through a wide
spectrum of their acceptance for historicly traceable reasons.  Early
wizardry was suspect next to the popular religions.  Later priests became
more involved in political manipulations, and the festivals became financed
by the nobles rather than the free effort of devoted pilgrims.  Later still
the priesthoods became seen as a sinister force with dark, secret rituals.


During the early history, it was quite common for low level priests to
wander from town to town, following the scheduled festivals, helping to
energize Focus spells, (4th level Tome of Magic spell) and generally being
adventurers.  Only at higher levels were they supposed to become devoted
to a particular aspect of a particular god, until then they were priests of
the whole pantheon.  Skills like cooking, Riding, entertaining and the like
are highly valued for this kit.

At some periods of Nuren's history, it would be hard to be a politicly
independant magic wielder.

Even during Nuren's more turbulent periods it was a mark of piety to
make a pilgrimage to it, from the further away the better.


Comments?  Questions? Contributions?  Adivce?
Michael Sandy
mehawk@????.org


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