- Family names are an Imperial trait, and even commoners tend to have them.
- Wrightfolk use "profession" names like Tanner or Smith. These are largely family names, as wrightfolk culture maintains that a parent is responsible for apprenticing their children in their craft, though if a child takes another profession, they always change it to that new profession.
- The Bounded are always named for the Domain they are Bound to.
- The Crown: The Crowndom of Ilbarych is a monarchy ruled by a royal house and a group of noble houses. Its capital is Crownhold. The title of "Crown" is gender-neutral, and has been held by many women over the history of Ilbarych.
- Heralds of Ilbarych
- Knights of Ilbarych
- Sworn Companion: To be a Sworn Companion is a formal relationship to the nobility of Ilbarych. Not all nobles have a sworn companion. But, for those that do, the sworn companion is a member of their family. They will sit at table with the noble, and the noble's spouse. They may greet guests or act on the noble's behalf. When acting in this capacity, however, they are expected to reflect well upon the noble they are representing. Their children are treated as cousins of the noble's own. Occasionally, if the noble is unfortunate enough to not produce an heir, the sworn companion's child may be adopted formally by the noble. The sworn companion is usually, but not always, the same gender as the noble and may be either commoner or noble themselves. The children of a sworn companion, unless adopted, have the status conveyed to them by their parent.
- CROWNSMAIDS: young promising noblewomen of particularly low birth with few options. They were taken in and trained to serve at the highest of tables, given genteel instruction, sufficient to grant them a spot in even the most exalted of Households. The Crown established a small academy for the training of these handmaidens, and placed them with worthy and deserving nobles. It has become very fashionable to have a Crownsmaid in one's service. This works out for everyone: the Crownsmaid gets opportunities she might never have before, and the noble gains an exceptionally trained, loyal, and discreet servant.
- Bounded: Status 1. Short for “demesne-bounded”, the bounded are low-Status serfs who “belong” to a given domain. They pay neither rent nor taxes, and are required to work the House fields. This doesn’t take up all their time so they can often work for others for small coin or goods, usually providing additional labor or doing tasks no one else wishes to do.
- Becoming Bound: Criminals, outlaws, and orphans who reach adulthood with no other prospects are frequently bounded by noble edicts. Bounded cannot leave the boundaries of the domain to which they are attached, on pain of death, though their lord may order them so moved.
- Welfare: The Bounded are not property - they cannot be bought and sold, and a lord is responsible for the welfare of his Bounded. The mendicant faithful of Unctus Ilpharo of the Broken Chain are empowered by the Crown to wander the lands, tending to the Bounded. If they find mistreated Bounded, the mendicant may report such to the Crown and their order.
- Unbound: If a Bounded accrues enough coin to pay a specified fee to the House who holds their bond, they can be freed.
- Free: Status 2. The term "free" has specific cultural connotations, inherited from Imperial definitions of its citizens. Free-folk are unbound by any compacts, contracts, or bonds, owing allegiance only to the Crown itself. They are required to obey the laws of the lands they find themselves in, certainly, but they are not restricted from moving throughout the Crowndom and pursuing their own fortunes. They are also legally permitted to form bonds for themselves or their households. Free-folk range from shiftless drifters and beggars to fantastically rich merchant-princes.
- Compacts: The types of compacts that free-folk can enter into are legally adjudicated by the Crown, each with specific benefits and responsibilities.
- Leases: Free-folk may be granted a lease, which is a bond that ensures the right to a specified dwelling and a vocation within that settlement. Leases are granted by contracts drawn up between the free-folk and either the nobles who hold that land, or the tenant who is empowered to grant a lease. Leases are commonly granted for periods of five, ten, twenty, or forty years, or for rest-of-lifetimes. Leases come with an expected rate of taxation, with longer leases granting lesser rates. Rural lease vocations are usually for a share of the local agriculture's bounty, while those in settlements are for specific vocations (such as a shop or other structure necessary for a specific profession). Holding a lease does not surrender the right of all free-folk to travel, although it does necessitate the continued pursuit of the vocation to which the lease-holder has committed.
- Tenancies: Tenants are those who are given authority over a swathe of land and the responsibility for administering to the folk who dwell there. They are empowered to grant leases to other citizens, and are given responsibility for the Bounded of their tenancy. In rural areas, these are most often farm-holders, while in settlements, they are part of the civic administrators who help the local lords to govern: in a hamlet, this is usually only a single reeve, while a town or city has a number of reeves called councillors (because they make up the local council of reeves), one of whom serves as alder-reeve.
- Guild-bonds: Free-folk may also swear a guild-bond, which is for life. The guilds are formalized sodalities of vocationally-focused craftsfolk and merchants who take responsibility for ensuring the consistent training and quality of the crafts involved. Rather than paying local taxes, guild-members pay an annual membership to their guild. Although this amount is slightly higher than typical taxation, it goes to pay for the years of training granted the guild-folk, as well as allows the guild-folk to take advantage of the large-scale negotiations that guilds undertake for goods and services on behalf of their members. Guilds do pay the guild-tax, an annual taxation that goes directly to the Crown, and is the backbone of the Crown's prosperity. The guilds also mandate a specific style of housing for their members, the guilding-house. Guilding-houses are considered to be owned by the guilds, who can grant their members the guild-lease for them; lords are paid an annual guilding tax by the guilds per guilding-house occupied during that year, and can insist on apprentices being taken from the locals around that house (usually at a minimum of one apprentice every five years of residence).
- Fealty: Finally, the last major bond that free-folk can take for themselves is the bond of fealty to a noble House or specific noble, to fulfill a specific role.
- Artistry: The nobility of Ilbarych places enormous importance on art and beauty. So much so, that houses gain great prestige in their patronage of great artists. Even more so if the artist is a member of their own house. All forms of artistry are prized, from permanent works such as sculpture, painting, or crafting arms and armor, to the more ephemeral works, such as flower arranging, dance performance, or the artistic expression of Martial prowess. While these works are prized by all, some houses take it to the extreme. More than one house has ruined themselves in the pursuit of beauty.
- Arcadae: Derived from an archaic term for a gallery, the arcadae is a space unique to Imperial estates. The high value placed on the arts necessitated a dedicated space to protect and preserve a house's most precious collections. This need gave rise to the arcadae, a gallery space that is provided with its own security and resources to preserve the art pieces held within. The arcadae may be a part of the house's castle or fortress, or sometimes is its own structure within the protected grounds of the estate. An arcadae traditionally includes living quarters and studio space for any artists in residence with the house, sometimes quite lavish in their accoutrements.
- Often, a given house's arcadae is customized to provide space for their other artistic pursuits or entertainments, doubling as a dance or fest hall, a study or library, a lecture hall or amphitheater, or even protected garden space, all of which is enhanced by the precious arts on display.
- Traditionally, a knight-sophiste will have charge of the protection and management of the arcadae and is sometimes even one of the artists in residence there. Depending on how trusted the knight-sopshiste is with the house and their competency in such things, this role can be largely ceremonial, as the actual work of maintaining the arcadae is always done by trained and trusted household staff.
- Shooting Stars vs Comets: Due to the focus on artistic achievement in the Crowndom, several decades ago a type of Benediction ritual was developed, the Ritual of the Muse. This ritual was designed to be relatively easy to learn and cast. It is a specific blessing that focuses the artistic talents of the recipient. The target of the ritual will often go through a short period of incredible creativity, producing a masterpiece or two in a single season.
- All magic has a price, of course, and when the season is over, the artist will never again be even as creative as before the ritual. These days most Houses consider this ritual socially taboo, but the knowledge is out there and struggling artists are never in short supply. Thus, the first time an artist creates a significant work of art, a suspicion surrounds them until they successfully create another. Artists that use the ritual are thought of as "shooting stars", bright lights that soon fade away. Successful artists with a long career are thought of as "comets", they burn bright for a long while, and even if they have a fallow period, their creative inspiration may return one day.
- Festivals: See the Calendar of Ilbarych
- The Academy of Courtly Arts - A selective institute, it caters to those nobles with a real passion and talent for the arts, and those few wrightfolk who have an unmistakable gift and patronage of a noble house. The Academy teaches all know forms of artistic endeavor and architecture, along with history and other skills considered important to the Imperial courts. The Academy leaves much free time for Social occasions and leisure, in order to allow a student enough time to experience life to better fuel their art.
- The Imperial College - This school is more focused on the Wrightfolk, and some few nobles who choose to attend. It teaches more traditional scholarship, mathematics, and stewardship, along with the sciences and medicine (or what passes for those). Individuals who attend the Imperial College are in high demand as advisors and higher servants among the nobility. The Imperial college is much more rigorous and has students working into the long hours of the night. It also has them performing the more tedious arts, such as illuminating manuscripts. Attending the Imperial College would be seen as slightly strange and somewhat beneath most nobles. However, it is done on occasion particularly by 3rd and 4th children who are academically inclined, but don't have a real talent for the arts.
- The Coronet: Named for a “small crown,” the Coronet is the Crown-sponsored academy that is in session during the months of Summer Court. It’s main goal is to provide a consistently high quality education for the children of the nobility, and to foster connections among them. Its informal purpose is to keep the children of nobles occupied during the Summer Court. The children of a Lord/Lady are given space in it for free. A Lord/Lady can also pay to provide spaces for kin (including the cousins from Sworn Companions). The children of retainers are sometimes sponsored as well, as a tremendous reward for that retainer or if the offspring shows great promise.
- Lustre: A type of lily, lustre's gorgeous flowers produce a crystalline pollen that coats their petals, giving them a jewel-like appearance. The pollen is also toxic. Simply breathing in lustre's fragrance is not a danger to most, though some have significant allergic reactions to it. However, the pollen can be processed into a deadly poison.
- Lustre is highly valued because bees can produce honey made primarily from lustre pollen that is truly golden, delightful, and perfectly safe to eat. Raising fields of lustre and restricting the bees to them is an finicky process, adding to the value of lustre honey. Lustre honey is also distilled with apples to produce a coveted, strongly alcoholic brandy. Certain secret processes exist to distill the brandy in a way that returns the lustre's poisonous property, making the acceptance of a snifter of the brandy in certain situations either a very bold or foolhardy proposition.
- The wrightfolk have many negative superstitions regarding lustre and generally refuse to have anything to do with it, though some are coerced to do so under the direction of the Imperials.
- REGNIUM, or KINGSTEEL: - a creation of the ancient imperial mages of the Four Wisdoms, regnium is a magical steel. Possessed of a hematite-like sheen, such blades always retain their sharpness. Made into a variety of piercing and slashing weapons, regnium was never used to create bludgeons or armor of any kind. Many of the old houses have weapons of regnium in their panoply.
- BARROWSTEEL: - the strange metal created by forge-wise wrightfolk, it is a metal that appears pale and misty. In moonlight, the “mist” patterns in the steel seem to roil and drift, and there are those who say that ghostly faces can be seen in the mists under a full moon. Barrowsteel cuts deep and leaves grievous injuries, though such wounds never fester.
- THE WISE: Sorcerers are referred to by this phrase. It is left-over from the name of the Imperial sorcerous academy - the Four Wisdoms - which taught all four of the Imperial Arts: Benediction, Divination, Malediction, and Warding.
- A magician with one of those Arts is just called "Wise." Those who know two or three of them are called Twice- or Thrice-Wise, and someone trained in all of them is All-Wise (an almost unheard of feat these days).
- This naming scheme has bled over to the titles for non-Imperial sorcery as well: the Habersi have their Star-Wise, the wrightfolk their Forge-Wise, and even the wealdfolk are said to have Wood-Wise.
- Sorcerers of Ilbarych
- The Unctæ: The Unctae are sainted figures attributed with spiritual power, including the answering of prayers. In Imperial culture, they are heroes who accomplished great deeds or made great sacrifices to help establish, foster, and defend Imperium.
- Imperium was seen as a sort of godhead, but one that could only be petitioned through the Unctae. Imperium is order and civilization, the conquer and taming of wilds to make them habitable by people.
- There is no priesthood. Houses often have a patron uncta or unctus tied to their interests and history. The devoted often experience a call to monastic retreats to study the teachings and skills of that saint.
- Knights who dedicate themselves to an unctual order are called knights-sanctified, and can often be found in errant wandering upholding their patron’s edicts.
- Unctæ of Ilbarych
The Crowndom of Ilbarych is made up of the following regions and landmarks.
A dry, cold swathe of hills and canyons along the central western reaches of the kingdom, the Barrowhills are home to small clan-groups of wrightfolk who live the way their people did before the coming of the imperials, mining iron ore and tending to flocks of goats. The nobles of these lands learned long ago to allow the wrightfolk to live as they have always done in order to harvest the ore wealth of these lands.
- Houses of the Barrowhills: The Barrowhills houses are wealthy, benefitting as they do from the ubiquitous mines of these lands, and their defensive structures are strong, to defend those resources. The Crown has long watched the nobles of these lands carefully, however, fearful that they might try and turn that wealth against the throne. As such, the masters of these lands do not dare to raise large armies, even if they had the population to do so.
- House Modifiers: Defense +10 • Influence – • Lands – • Law +5 • Population -5 • Power -10 • Wealth +10
The Bay of Lances
The open ocean is separated from the southern coastline of the Crowndom by the Bay of Lances, a massive body of salt water that features treacherous spires of rock rising high above the waves. Worse still, for every such spire above the surface, there are many more lurking beneath the waters. Only the Habersi traders have the cunning and skill to traverse these deadly waters, and even then only in their lightest coastal trading vessels. Otherwise, only small fishing vessels can safely pass over these waters. On clear days, it is possible to look down and see the remnants of many vessels who tried and failed to navigate the Bay of Lances – but such days do not come often, for these waters are tempestuous, gray and unwelcoming throughout the winter, and stormy and restless in summer.
Once a large trading hub of the wrightfolk, Crownhold has been turned into a city. Notable for the river that runs through it, which harbors a spur of rock upon which stands the Thronespire, the keep of the Ilbarych kings. It is surrounded by a double-wall which hosts small estate-keeps allotted to the various Ilbarychan noble houses, ostensibly to force them to contribute to the defense of the city. Crownhold is located at the terminus of the Steel Road, along the Crown River which serves as the boundary between Steelvale and the Greensward.
The grasslands of the Greensward are the shield against the wild wealdfolk. Lumber camps dot the edges of the Wildweald here, and the noble houses provide soldiers to protect these encampments against the fury of the wealdfolk, who strive to stop the harvesting of the great forest's edge.
- Houses of the Greensward: The Greensward Houses command large tracts of land, much of which was secured in living memory. As a result, the armies of the Greensward are frequently large to help defend those lands, and the houses thereof benefit greatly from the wealth that comes of them. Its upstart nobility are still taming these lands, however, and both bandits and wealdfolk raiders are a common problem.
- House Modifiers: Defense – • Influence -5 • Lands +10 • Law -10 • Population – • Power +10 • Wealth +5
The cold coastal waters of Northshore were, until very recently, a haven of bandit and populations of rebellious wrightfolk driven out of the northern hills. For generations, those northern hills were considered the wall that protected the Crowndom from the savagery of those desperate souls. Ninety years ago, however, Crown Arfandal dispatched the Crown Wardens, his elite peacekeeping force led by the Knights of the Crown, to these lands to see them pacified and settled by upstart houses. Now, though these lands provide only sparse crops, coastal settlements fish these cold waters and mines in its western reaches produce iron, tin, and copper.
- Houses of Northshore: Nearly every house of Northshore is small, recently-founded, and nowhere near as prosperous as the nobles of other parts of the Crowndom. Despite this, their lands are ample and well-guarded by both plentiful house troops and the Crown Wardens sent to pacify it.
- House Modifiers: Defense – • Influence -10 • Lands +5 • Law +10 • Population - • Power +10 • Wealth -5
The Steel Mountains
The Steel Mountains are the wall which defends the Crowndom of Ilbarych from the dangerous lands that were once the Empire. They are tall and imposing, with very few passes among them. There are a good many alpine valleys and meadows sequestered between the tall peaks here, tiny pockets of rich plant life and the native cliff goats, cave bears, and mountain wolves often seek out these sanctuaries.
- Houses of the Steel Mountains: The Houses of the Steel Mountains are hardy folk who are used to doing a great deal of up-close fighting themselves. The valleys of the Steel Mountains do not have large populations, so the houses here do not have the luxury of raising large armies. Instead, the nobility are all doughty warriors and mountaineers themselves, defending tall cliffside spires and keeps.
- House Modifiers: Defense +10 • Influence – • Lands -5 • Law +10 • Population -10 • Power – • Wealth –
- The Steel Road: Winding westward out of Crownhold, the Steel Road is an ancient imperial road. The keep Steelgate stands at the point where the Steel Road enters Ilbarych, defended by the Knights of Steelgate.
The gently rolling plains that unfurl out of the Steel Mountains are among the longest-settled of the domains of Ilbarych, and home to some of its most established nobility. Steelvale is the bread-basket of the Crowndom, with a great many wide agricultural fields, broken up by orchards, vineyards, and the famous lakes of Steelvale.
- Houses of Steelvale: The oldest of the Ilbarychan nobility hail from these long-settled, populous lands rich in the resources that have kept the Crowndom prosperous for generations. Because of this age, many of the keeps of the Steelvale are smaller and less grandiose than in some other places, and the need for large armies is significantly less.
- House Modifiers: Defense -5 • Influence +10 • Lands – • Law – • Population +10 • Power -10 • Wealth +5
The lands of Three-Rivers are home to a significant majority of the Crowndom's populace, noble and otherwise. Tucked away into the lowlands south of the Barrowhills, the wealth of waterways and moderately balmy climate provides long growing seasons and rich agriculture of all sorts, notably the wines of the region. The three rivers of the region are the Crownsflow, the Barrowwash, and the Peakesriver.
- Houses of Three-Rivers: The nobles of Three-Rivers are known for their riches and extravagant castles built to defend the same. Though their domains tend to be more modest, they more than make up for that in the size of their populace. Because of how tightly clustered noble domains are here, houses require much smaller militaries to defend their holdings.
- House Modifiers: Defense +10 • Influence – • Lands -10 • Law – • Population +10 • Power -5 • Wealth +5
A massive primeval forest that forms the eastern and part of the northern borders of Ilbarych, the Wildweald is home to wealdfolk, nomadic people who are related to the wrightfolk (though culturally at odds with them).