The Empire of Night is the realm of the Dread Emperor Karsen. It consists of several kingdoms, once ruled by human royalty, that were conquered by Karsen and his lieutenants. The high aristocracy consists of various immortal and near immortal sorcerer-lords, supported by a military caste of orcs, goblins, trolls, ogres, and other near-human monsters. There is a vast population of oppressed human peasants, subject to strict rules and savage reprisals for breaking those rules.
The Empire of Night is continuously at war, seeking to destroy the last hold-outs among the dwarves, elves, and the Fae. They have driven the minotaur villagers and Tzavarim into the deepest forests and the reptilians into the dankest swamps and kill them on sight should they try to leave.
No one is sure exactly who Dark Lord Karsen was or where he originally came from. He gained his first infamy in the savage northlands by forcibly unifying several orc tribes. He swept south, eventually attacking the Isenmarch. Legends of the Resistance claim he was defeated then, but the official histories of the Empire of Night don't acknowledge any defeat.
Eventually, the Dark Lord Karsen faced off against the Incarnate Hope, a group of demi-gods made flesh and empowered to defeat him. He and his lieutenants defeated the Hope, conquered the remaining human realms, and formed the Empire of Night.
In the centuries of shadow, there have been many attempts at rebellions against the Empire. These have generally been futile, as no rebel city has been strong enough to defeat the full might of the Empire and there are no outside forces that can be called upon as ally against the Empire.
Life in the Empire of Night Edit
The Empire of Night is a vast collection of small farming villages controlled by the citadels of the orcs. Dread Emperor Karsen and his vile peerage control a few ruined cities and towns, the wreckage of the great civilization of humanity that Karsen conquered.
People of the Empire of Night Edit
The vast majority of the Empire's population are normal human peasants. Aggressive taxation and orc cruelty cause the average peasant to be underfed and timid. A few humans work as servants to the orc military caste, and are slightly better fed. Orcs and humans can interbreed, but do so rarely, and orc half-breeds are not welcome in their father's society.
The military caste consists of around one orc for every twenty humans. The orcs live apart from the humans in regional citadels and forts. Ideally, the orcs are supposed to spend their time training for war, maintaining their gear, brutally enforcing the laws, and delivering humans for sacrifice in the worship of the Dread Emperor and his dark gods, but in many regions the orcs are lazy and only perform their duties when an aristocrat arrives to inspect them.
Elves, dwarves, and most other non-human races are subject to immediate execution in the Empire of Night. Various half-breeds still live among humans, but hide their heritage to avoid being murdered by an overly zealous orc. Rumors abound of free elves and dwarves living beyond the reach of the Empire of Night but if these rumors are true, these elves and dwarves are doing nothing to defeat the Emperor.
Kobolds are a strange case. These doglike miners are nearly as oppressed as the human peasantry, but are allowed to make and use metal tools and are sometimes incorporated into the military to conduct siege operations. They also serve as smiths and armorers to the orcs.
Technology, Religion, and Magic Edit
Orc society is technologically advanced, with minor magical tools and alchemy supplementing their own craftsmanship. They are a TL 3+1 society, roughly equivalent to the historical Renaissance, though without gunpowder or anything similar. In some areas, such as food preservation, alchemy and herb lore bring them TL 3+2.
The human peasantry have limited access to metal, and live a TL 2 (3+1) society, though humans are generally familiar with orc technology. In some areas, such as glass making and alchemy, a few humans are privileged craftsman and somewhat immune to the arbitrary nature of orc law enforcement.
The societies of the Empire of Night don't really distinguish between magic and religion: magic is part of religious ceremonies and many priests perform magic. Some magic comes from study of profane texts and other magic calls upon dark gods, but any serious student of magic is necessarily a student of religion. Similarly, alchemy is just a continuation of natural philosophy and many alchemists are also physicians and herbalists.
The Dread Emperor Karsen has systematically destroyed all evidence of humanity's religions from before the Empire of Night, and generally does not allow humans to worship his dark gods. Humans are fit for sacrifice, not supplication. Orcs are required to worship Karsen's gods, but do so in mystery cults far away from the prying eyes of humanity.
The peasantry and craftfolk produce a vast fortune of food, livestock, ores, and manufactured goods. Much of that wealth is confiscated by the Empire and used to maintain the vast war machine and the elaborate lifestyles of the nobility. Cargo ships and supply caravans leave the ports and towns of the western half of the empire and head east, laden with alchemically preserved foods, weapons and armor, and fresh orc troops to fuel the war against the Dwarves.
The peasants and craftfolk trade among themselves primarily with barter. Carved wooden tokens are used as a crude scrip within villages, but are rarely negotiable in neighboring or distant villages to concerns about forgery. Prosperous craftsmen in the cities have evolved letters of credit, but since writing is illegal these letters are contraband. Orcs use copper, silver, and gold coins among themselves and to buy improved gear from kobold smiths, and they sometimes give them to craftsmen instead of just confiscating their goods. Orcs tend to confiscate large stashes of coins back from the peasants, and regular use of coins is a sure sign of a favored collaborator. Still, most peasants have some experience with trade using coins.
The Empire maintains the Imperial Road Network, mostly based on pre-existing roads. The thoroughfares between major cities and important military fortifications, especially Orc citadels and some fortresses, are high quality gravel surfaces, wide enough for six soldiers to march abreast, with good drainage. Secondary roads link most towns, fortresses, and strongholds, and are packed dirt covered with gravel. The villages of the peasants are linked by bewildering maze of unmarked dirt paths. Minotaur work gangs are used to maintain the thoroughfares, and sometimes the secondary roads, but peasant roads are only maintained by peasants who can take time from their other duties.
Crime and Punishment Edit
Peasants are almost under a suspended death sentence every day of their lives. They are forbidden from touching weapons, training in any martial art, or eating meat (fish, flesh, or fowl) on the pain of death. Some metal tools are allowed, but smithing and mining are illegal so the peasants have to go their oppressors to maintain them. A few people in every region are sacrificed to the Dread Emperor or his dark gods, especially to ensure the farmlands' fertility. Failing to show respect to the orcs is a crime that earns a brutal beating, while resisting an orc's attacks is a capital offense.
Most crimes result in the death of the offender. Orcs believe in collective reprisal, killing families or even villages for acts of rebellion and large-scale violence against the orcs.
Orcs themselves are subject to a savage law, though orcs are more likely to be flogged or scalped in the privacy of their fortresses than executed in the street. It is a crime for orcs to show mercy with humans or allow humans to touch a weapon or handle armor. However, orcs are lazy and consider maintaining their gear to be beneath them, so they often allow favored humans to polish their armor and sharpen their blades. These humans are in a desperate place, as refusing an orc's orders is a crime and performing the tasks is a capital crime. It is generally safer to agree and thereby make the orc complicit in the crime, but inspections by the nobility are always fraught with danger.
Orcs make few attempts to enforce or maintain any kind of civil law, nor are they especially concerned about crimes among the peasantry. A peasant blatantly murdering another peasant in front of an orc patrol is likely to be immediately executed, but a subtle thief can steal from other peasants for years with no action taken by the orcs beyond beating anyone who is foolish enough to disturb the orcs by reporting the crime. Instead, the Resistance acts as an informal system of police and judges, resolving civil disputes and punishing lawbreakers.
In the cities, the orcs make a minimal effort at law enforcement. The shops of artisans and craftsmen are protected against theft, and collaborators can sometimes get crimes investigated. Even these efforts are ham-fisted and draconian, with prohibitions against large gatherings and a strict curfew at night.
Social Order Edit
The lowest rank on the Imperial hierarchy are the outlaws and freedom fighters. Their existence is a capital offense and orcs are happy to execute the sentence. They live miserable lives in desolate swamps, trackless forests, and atop nearly impassable mountains. They survive as best they can by hunting and gathering, supplemented by clandestine trade with the peasantry. Mechanically, they are Status -1 with Social Stigma: Wanted Criminal.
One step above them are the mass of peasantry. They work the lands for their orc overseers and pay a heavy tax for the privilege. Peasants may raise herd animals, but they cannot eat their flesh. Most are human, but some are kobolds working as miners or semi-legally as armors and weaponsmiths for the orcs. They are status -1.
There is a small urban population of relatively privileged craftsman: alchemists, carpenters, weavers, dyers, herbalists, leatherworkers, glassblowers, and the like. Legally, they are the same as peasants, but their skilled work gives them a measure of comfort and safety. Officially, there are no non-orc smiths, but most orc garrisons tolerate kobold or human smiths rather than do the work themselves. Most craftsmen are status 0; a few very fortunate ones have nearly as much respect as an orc and are status 1.
Most peasant villages have a headman or council of elders, and towns and cities have unofficial mayors or other leaders (who are often also collaborators). These peasants have the respect of their communities and arbitrate disputes and provide what little civil laws is available. The orcs generally leave them alone as long as they aren't plotting treason or otherwise causing problems, and these leaders have status 0 in the smaller villages and status 1 in the largest villages, towns, and cities.
The highest rank of peasant is the collaborator. Orcs are generally not interested in conspiracies among the peasants, confident in their power to put down rebellions. Still, minor acts of sabotage and passive resistance such as hiding parts of a windfall harvest do occur, and some peasants get in good with the orcs by reporting on their fellows. A collaborator lives a precarious existence, mostly shunned by their fellows and only dubiously supported by the orcs. Collaborators are usually protected from orc brutality and casual theft, and often amass a fair bit of wealth by selling their services as a go-between to the orcs. The Resistance treats collaborators as a necessary evil, as harming or killing a collaborator brings orc retribution and living collaborators can do a little to ameliorate the harshness of orc rule (enriching themselves on the misery of their fellows in their process). Collaborators have status 1.
The orcs and goblins of the local and regional garrisons are the petty nobility. They effectively own the land and oversee the peasants' agriculture, though they mostly consider it beneath themselves to perform labor. They are status 1 or status 2, with orcs generally having more status than goblins and cavalry having more status than infantry.
The true nobility consist of the army commanders, courtiers, warlocks, and black priests of the Empire of Night. They mostly live in a few palaces, castles, and cities, and generally don't interact with the rural peasantry except for irregular inspection tours or work on road crews. Not much is known about them. They are Status 3 to 5.
The pinnacle of the nobility are the archdukes, pontiffs, and archmages, known collectively as the Luminals. These are trusted allies and lieutenants of Dread Emperor Karsen, steeped in his wickedness and nigh-immortal. They rule entire regions from their palaces, attended by the nobility and legions of orcs, goblins, ogres, and trolls. They are Status 6 or 7.
At the top of the hierarchy is Dread Emperor Karsen and the Imperial family. Little more than rumor is known about them. Karsen himself is reputed to be a power priest or sorcerer, and may have been married multiple times - but it is not clear if there is currently an Empress. Imperial Princess Nima, the Dark Daughter, is his heir. Rumor claims she is a half-demon and her twisted heritage is visible to all who see her. Karsen is Status 8 and Nima is Status 7. There current fates unknown but they are generally believed to be victims of a coup at the capital.
The primary military unit of the Empire of Night is a regiment, a combined arms force built around orc knights, supplemented by orc foot soldiers and crossbowmen, and supported by goblin wolfriders and skirmishers. The exact composition of a regiment varies with terrain, as regiments serving on the steppes have more light cavalry while those serving in mountains are almost entirely infantry and have kobold miners. Typically, each large town supports a regiment, based in a fortress either inside the town or a short distance away. These fortress are scattered around the country, usually a day's march apart, but more scattered in less populated regions.
Multiple regiments can be formed up into legions, headquarter in citadels near the largest cities and commanded by a Luminal. Each legion has its own composition, though there is usually an elite regiment at the core and other forces depending on the preferences and abilities of the commander. Typically, regiments stationed in nearby towns will be assigned to the legion when it goes to war.
The most visible military unit of the Empire of Night is the company, a roughly 100 strong detachment of a regiment. Each regiment stations 2-6 companies among the larger villages in its area, and the companies patrol the smaller villages and farms. The orcs and goblins of a company are the enforcement arm of the Empire, confiscating food for taxes and brutalizing peasants. Most companies have a fortified manor or other stronghold that they can retreat to in the case of uprising, but their real defense is the ability to summon the rest of the regiment. Discipline and maintenance in the companies is usually low, as the junior officers are more focused on their own luxuries and are confident their troops can handle any peasant uprising. Garrison companies are small combined arms forces, smaller versions of their parent regiment.
Geography of the Empire of Night Edit
The Empire is huge, stretching from one side of the continent through to the other. The central plains are the core of the Empire, and the western forests and south central hills are important population centers. In contrast, the east lands are remote and provincial, though Menkgu is very important to the Imperial war machine. The deadlands of Dodenrike block easy travel from one side of the southern empire to the other, increasing the relative value of the northern trade routes.
Population density is fairly low, roughly 10 people per square mile. The central plains are two as three times as dense, while the more remote plains or forests have less than 2 people per square mile. Hanist has a noticeably higher population density than the surrounding countries of Venrike, Menkgu, and Zerniless.
Terrain prevalence in the Empire in descending order is plains, hills, woodlands, swampland, mountains, rural, urban. There are several major lakes. The overall climate is temperate and mild, though the north is slightly colder with more severe seasonal swings.
The continental map is conveniently scaled to 1 mile to the pixel. Settlements are out of scale and only show major cities.
Also available as an XCF file with layers for better editing with GIMP.
Capital Region Edit
Probably in Breland, Thrane, or Aundair.
Probably Wroat, Xandrar, Varna, Passage, or Cragwar.
Capital blah blah blah FIXME
A wealthy, forested land in the south central area of the Empire. It was the first human realm to successful rebel.
The lands of the dead occupy the south central area of the Empire. Nothing lives here.
Venrike was once a province of Hanist, but the Empire administers it as part of Menkgu. It is a sparsely populated plain.
The great eastern plains are home to the horse herds that supply the Imperial cavalry steeds. Northern Menkgu has many armed camps for the assault on the Dwarven Safeholds.
A mountainous realm that is not actually part of the Empire but is under constant assault from orc legions out of Zerniless and Menkgu.
Hanist is the most densely populated province in the southeast.
Engenstut is a province on Cape Har, near the eastern coast of Hanist.
The easternmost province of the Empire, past Hanist. It is heavily forested and comparatively poor.
The independent lands of the Fae, northeast of Zerniless and east of the Dwarven Safeholds.