The caravan you travel(ed) in is called the Padoran Envoy. It is a joint venture between Queen Isobel Derevia of Eora and the Padoran clergy of Ironrock. Its purpose is to explore and, hopefully, establish an Eoran colony west of the Spine. The Envoy consisted originally of 100 people: 25 Padoran clergy and Peacekeepers, 4 adventurers, and the rest “commoners,” coachmen, and soldiers. (I put commoners in quotes because I mean non-adventurers, though some, like Vall, are nobles.)
There are three people to a caravan, with some exceptions. For the regular caravans, two carriages are linked and pulled by one horse; the caravans themselves have been infused with minor magics that makes them lighter. The leader of the expedition, Holston Trevere (human male, squat, stumpy guy, kind of an asshole), has his own caravan; Vall (Nate’s character) has his own caravan; and the 4 adventurers have their own caravan. The adventurers’ caravan is essentially a magic car that they can drive around. It also, like the TARDIS, is bigger on the inside. They received it after saving a gnome from some mind flayers. (It’s a long story that you’ve heard multiple times from Henry, the human paladin.) When the adventurers left to go on their mission south, they took the caravan with them.
The Padorans have one caravan which holds 7 Inhalers, three caravans for each of the 3 Exhalers, and one very extravagant double-decker caravan for the 5 Skeptics. There are also 10 Peacekeepers but they sleep outside on bedrolls. The Padoran caravans do not have horses, nor do they have wheels—they hover and are instead moved by “Padora’s Breath,” which you assume is some kind of divine magic. The Skeptics’ caravan is laden with tools and various doodads they use to conduct experiments while on the journey. The Padorans tend to keep to themselves in general, though the Inhalers will gladly chat with anyone if spoken to.
The Adventurers were all semi- or fully retired, having spent most of their lives adventuring. They have their own reasons for joining the Envoy.
Henry Iturnak, human paladin. Henry is in his 60s but looks like he’s 30 years younger. He is a champion of law and order, and he joined the Envoy seeking info about a knight named Sar Toven, who is said to have traveled west of the Spine for reasons unknown. He never returned and Henry believes finding Toven’s home will help create a link between them and the inhabitants of the Steppe. Vall (Nate’s elf paladin) became good friends with Henry over their travels, despite Henry being a devout Padorist, and Vall worshiping the Old Gods.
Kroos, elf druid. Kroos is nearly 900 years old and is known as the Protector of Blackmarsh. She is weird and keeps to herself, frequently flying above the caravan as a giant eagle, scouting the countryside. It is generally agreed upon that Kroos knows more than anyone in the caravan, and no one knows why she won’t tell anyone anything.
Malyen, human cleric. Malyen is 34, and is a worshiper of Padora. She is not formal clergy, however, due to her violent adventuring past. It’s not sure, even by her, why she has divine powers despite worshiping the Goddess of Peace. Guidance (Jayc’s tiefling) has spent a lot of time with her, but unlike most women, whom he typically seduces, he has formed a platonic relationship with her, and she taught him meditations and prayers he could use to gain favor with Padora. (Guidance spends most of his time in the bed of the Exhaler Valen Calorien, a human woman who matches Guidance’s libido step for step.)
Nova, air genasi warlock/rogue. Nova is the most enigmatic of the four by far. She is a genasi, who are the offspring of mortals and genies. No one knows how old she is or where she came from, only that she befriended Henry at some point in his travels. She is insanely powerful, likely the most powerful of the four (technically, she has a few levels of rogue, and the rest of warlock). Her patron is some god she calls the “Great Old One,” which you all believe might be Zek, the Otherworldly. Whatever her past, it is very surprising that she has not returned, although you wonder if maybe she never wanted to travel with you in the first place. Edwin Mudfoot spent a lot of time trying to get to know her, with little success, though she did teach him a few sleight-of-hand tricks.
The Gnoll Camp
About six months into your expedition west, your caravan ran into a large camp full of nasty, terrible gnolls. Gnolls in Iro are relatively stupid, savage creatures, but west of the Spine they are actually quite intelligent and cunning, and when they attacked your caravan in the night you were ill-prepared to fight back. Fortunately, the Padorans’ retinue of Peacekeepers, plus the four adventurers and the six soldiers stationed with you, managed to kill or drive them off, though six people died in the melee and many others were injured.
While you held off participating in the battle, you watched the soldiers, Peacekeepers, and adventurers fight, which is what triggered this spark of adventuring spirit within you—either the desire to defend, or gain power, or whatever motivation that stirred the need to become adventurers of your own.
At dawn a quick meeting was called, and 20 people decided to return to Fort Harador and abandon the expedition, whittling your caravan population down to 74 people, which it has remained until the adventurers went south.
The two years since the gnoll attack have been surprisingly peaceful, as you traverse the flat, windy Krosven Steppe. You spoke often with the adventurers and other soldiers, listening to their tales of bravado and terror, learning bits and pieces about them and their trade, and keeping notes about their fighting styles, spells memorized, and skills learned. You didn’t know it at the time, but this would come in handy on that one particular night, six weeks after Springvale was “founded,” when you went from ordinary people, to adventurers of your own.
This is some stuff you would know about the world of Iro, and how it may or may not affect you in the Steppe. It’s mostly magi
Magic: Arcane magic in Iro is heavily regulated. There are even “magic licenses” that you must obtain in order to practice magic. (This is a relatively new phenomenon, instituted shortly after the Republic was formed, in response to some pretty serious magic used by the Dhregen Sakhr to kill Gamavër. Basically, think Hiroshima except with Wish and Time Stop spells, etc.) Divine and natural magic is less-heavily regulated (especially Padoran magic) though it is still generally distrusted and looked down on by the populace. Magic users cause Bad Shit to happen, so commoners are usually worried about it. Ironically, bardic and warlock spells are not regulated, because they are not considered “magic.” This obviously doesn’t affect you tremendously in the Steppe, but it’s nice to know.
Religion: OVERALL, humans worship Padora, the monotheistic goddess in whose infinitely-big lungs we all live. Elves are Skallanites, who worship the Old Gods: the Father, the Mother, the Child, and the Trickster. Most other races are Skallanites as well, favoring specific deities within that pantheon, though more favor has turned toward Padora in the last few hundred years. (Also, the term “Old Gods” doesn’t refer to them being old and Padora being new, but more that those gods are older than time and stuff like that.)
Monsters and other non-benevolent races (like goblins, etc) worship various gross deities that nobody who is a civilized person would even think of remembering. The most common deity mentioned is Zek, known as the “otherworldly,” who exists beyond the veil of darkness.
Padorism: Padorism is a new religion which believes that we all exist as a tiny speck inside the infinitely large lungs of the goddess Padora. At least one Messenger of Padora, Tavot, has descended to speak this truth to the prophet Datorya. It is the primary religion of humans, after Queen Savosa had a vision of her own roughly 300 years ago and changed the official religion of Eora.
Padora has four sects: Inhalers, Exhalers, Skeptics, and Peacekeepers.
Inhalers believe that Padora is breathing in—that the world is just beginning and will exist for a very, very long time. They are altruistic, hyper-benevolent people who believe in sacrifice for the greater good, delayed gratification, and constant spiritual connection with Padora.
Exhalers believe that Padora is breathing out—that the world is ending and that we should get the most out of it while we can. They are generally self-serving, crass, and brash people, who regularly use others to get what they want in an attempt to fulfill their lives before the world ends, which is always “soon.”
Skeptics follow a specific part of Padoran dogma which encourages “heightened thought.” One of Padora’s Messengers, Tavot, speaking to the prophet Datorya long ago, told her Padora wanted her people to experience “heightened thought,” and that mortals possessed the gift of “the question,” as opposed to the burden of the answer. It was one statement in a holy book’s worth of dogma, but the Skeptics took it to mean that they should question everything. So they do, even Padora’s existence. They are, effectively, proto-scientists and -philosophers. They are generally annoying, snooty, and always act like they’re better than you.
Peacekeepers are the military force of Padorism. Because Padora expressly forbade violence, specifically the “killing of my kind,” Peacekeepers take a “breaking” oath at the beginning of their service, swearing to never worship Padora or any god so long as they live. Padora then blesses them with a small amount of divine magic, and then leaves their lives forever. They are essentially paladins without a god, but work in the service of Padora, indirectly. It’s hard to explain. But if they do ever worship or pray to Padora, they lose their magical ability and are banished from Padorism.
The Old Gods: Skallanism is the worship of the Old Gods, who descended with Covoran the Builder thousands of years ago. These gods are thought to be from “beyond the veil” like Zek, and are considered a family. Many people believe that Covoran is the Father, but that is untrue. It is also important to know that the Old Gods did not create the world, but merely inhabit it. Enormous Titans created the universe thousands of years ago (in Old Gods theology).
Artok, the Father (the Worldshaper): Artok is known as a tall, broad-shouldered man, with an ox head and legs that end in ox hooves (but aren’t bent backward like a satyr). He is seen with an enormous haybale hook, which he supposedly used to pull Father’s Fire (the enormous volcano in the south) out of the ground. His icon is a volcano with a large plume of smoke coming out of the top, and his favored weapons are his hook (sub sickle stats) or a longbow. He is the god of Justice, Creation, Nature, and War.
Midya, the Mother (the Mason): Midya basically looks like a mix between a short, fat woman and a small bird, like a robin. She carries a bricklayer’s trowel in one hand and a wooden bucket of mortar in the other. Her icon is a brick wall, and her favored weapon is a sword (or “blade” in the old language, which referred to any type of bladed weapon, dagger to greatsword). She is known as the one who built Modvaya, the Golden Temple on Herst Island, whose shining spire can be seen at any place in Iro. She is the goddess of Life, Cities, Technology, and the Ocean.
Goyen, the Child (the Bridge): Goyen looks very much like the Humanoid, an androgynous being frequently confused as either male or female. (Typical pronoun use is “he.”) However, he is also the most malleable-looking of the Old Gods, as he frequently changes his appearance to act as ambassador between god and mortal creatures on Iro. Thus, to the Dragonborn he looks more like a dragon, to halflings he is much shorter, etc. He carries no weapons and is known for his great wisdom, which he uses as much in battle as anyone would with a sword. His icon is a stone bridge with a star in place of the keystone. He is the god of Light, Knowledge, Language, and Wisdom.
Sut, the Trickster: Sut has many avatars, like Goyen, and it is generally believed that he is Goyen’s brother (much like Cain to Goyen’s Abel). His most typical avatar is a small, wiry half-man, half-lizard. He likes to undo the good things that Goyen has done in Iro, frequently by pretending to be Goyen, though no matter what shape he takes, he cannot hide the scaly skin that protrudes down his neck and back. These scales have formed the basis of countless cultural and social mores throughout Iro: when people greet one another, for example, they will always touch the back of each other’s necks to feel for the scales. (Also the phrase “check the neck,” used when one person feels like another person is being two-faced.) Despite his trickery, Sut is a favored god for many races, especially the gnomes, who fucking love tricking people. The dragonborn also believe Sut to be a dragon god due to his scales, and the elves worshiped Sut for hundreds of years while Valden was essentially a mafia state. His icon is snake scales and his favored weapon is poisoned darts. He is the god of Death, Deception, Entertainment, and, surprisingly, Love.