Flannish Cities
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"While it cannot be denied that the architecture of the Parginian Rim and other regions to the south and east have their own unique charms, the Flannish Cities remain the place to watch if you are interested in the latest advances of architectural design.
And in no place is this more evident than in Praxus. In this shining beacon of progress, urban planning has taken place on a scale seen never before in this world, and its architects work day and night to bring the vision of its city fathers to life…"
- Introduction to Praxus: City of Tomorrow, Annual Special Issue of Architectural Review (1411)

Capital: None
Population: 32,736,350 (humans 71%, halflings 14%, dwarves 6%, gnomes 4%, elves 2%, hobgoblins 2%)
Government: Varies by city state, though a merchant oligarchy is the most common form of government
Imports: Wood, ore
Exports: Magic items, manufactured goods, ships, textiles

The Flannish Cities dot the north-western shores. Their culture is a young one, but perhaps it is this which gives their citizens unmatched drive and ambition. Their ships range far and wide, and their trade goods reach all over the world. A prosperous future of these cities seems assured.

Perhaps paradoxically, they tend to have a strict definition of "morality". Most city governments have defined a range of activities as immoral, such as gambling, prostitution, or drinking alcohol, and passed laws to outlaw those. This often does little to actually suppress those activities, as they are just driven underground. Still, most upper-class citizens like to make a show of how morally superior they are when compared to people from other regions.



As the most advanced region of the Known Lands, the Flannish Cities represent major centers of industry and commerce. Their factories produce finished goods at astounding rates. Their banks and stock exchanges have few equals. Their books, magazines, and newspapers consume the northern forests at increasing rates. And their trading concerns have agents around the world.

Of course, all this requires vast amounts of raw materials, which are increasingly hard to find in the region - especially as each city-state which does have such resources in its protectorate guards them jealously from foreign interests. This fuels the expansion of the railroad and shipping networks of the Flannish Cities, for such resources can often be found at much cheaper rates in faraway lands - especially if they can be exchanged for one's own products.

Life and Society

On the surface, the Flannish cities seem far more egalitarian than other regions. While there are still some hereditary nobles left from the feudal ages, true power is open to anyone who is able and willing to grasp it. There is more than one merchant lord, city councilor, or other potentate of humble origin - and who is proud to tell the tale of his self-made success to anyone who is listening.

But despite this, class tensions are alive and well. Most of the poor live in squalid apartments they have to share with a dozen other inhabitants - or more! They have to work long hours in factories without hopes for better jobs, while their children are sent to work as soon as they are able to contribute to the family income, thus denying them chances for a better education and a brighter future. The rich, on the other hand, have replaced the nobility of old in all but name - they make sure their own children get the best education and opportunities, and look down on the poor as being lazy and lacking in moral fibre. Between these extremes is a middle class of craftsmen, accountants, shopkeepers and other people frantically trying to enter the upper classes (or at least aping them) while constantly worrying about sliding down to lower class status.

Still, the Flannish cities are constantly expanding and changing, and someone with the right measures of boldness, wits, and luck can easily make his fortune, if he is only willing to take his destiny into his own hand.

Government and Politics

During the Liberation War, it was the guilds and other members of the burgeoning urban population who called the loudest for the heads of the nobles (as the cities had suffered the most from the occupation by the forces of Negroth the Doombringer). As these groups eventually emerged largely victorious, it was they who formed the basis of the new ruling elite, and their attitudes shaped the systems of governance in place in the Flannish Cities even today.

Heredity no longer determines power (though being the child of powerful parents certainly gives one a head start). To gain acceptance among the ruling classes, one must display economic success, a good education, and a large number of connections to other influential citizens. Being a native of one's city is not needed, as long as one's other merits are evident. Even not being human is no impediment to power and success (despite some lingering prejudices), and increasing numbers of nonhumans make their way to this region in search of their fortune. Anyone can rise to the top - if one is a ruthless and skilled enough politician and deal maker.

The exact form of governance varies from city-state to city-state. In some cities, meritocratic oligarchies based on the guild councils of old call all the shots. Elsewhere, republican structures resembling the revolutionary councils they originated from are in place, and votes are held at regular intervals in which all citizens can participate. However, regardless of their exact form, these systems tend to discriminate against mere residents and other outsiders - those are seen as little more than children who need to be looked after for their own interest at best, and as fodder for the nexus towers at best.

Groups and Organizations


Large portions of the Flannish population are deeply devout. However, many people - including many among those with political influence - consider religion to be a private matter, and fiercly fight any larger political influence by the different faiths. This embrace of secularism is quite common in the administration of most cities, and priests who worship different gods often find themselves allying with each other to gain greater respect and influence.

In general, organized religions whose wealth can build edifices to rival the secular temples of power do best within the Flannish cities. The grand cathedrals catering to the followers of Thenos are an awe-inspiring sight, and many people gather in them for prayers. Gebral and Jorunnos both have plenty of followers who embrace the spirit of the new age which seems to manifest itself in this region. Dahla and Hatramo both have no shortage among the urban poor. On a darker note, the cult of Shaprat grows faster here than anyone else, and the Last City whispers into the dreams of many architects dreaming of bigger and bolder monuments to their skills.

Important NPCs

Major Geographical Features

The whole region is shaped like a large valley hemmed in by the Siebenbund Alps to the south and the highlands of the Norfjell Wastes to the north, and gradually falling in elevation from the Great Lake and Avareen in the east to the Great Western Ocean. Much of the western regions consist of flat plains or gently rolling hills which have been home to hordes of sheep for countless generations. The few remote forested regions which haven't yet been cut down for lumber by the major port towns are hotly contested resources. Towards the north, east, and west the hills get steeper and the terrain more broken. Forests (coniferous in the north, mixed elsewhere) fill much of the terrain not suitable for agriculture, and they are usually carefully cultivated to maintain them as a resource.

Important Towns and Cities

Important Sites

Regional History

While there are hints of pre-human settlements and artifacts in the region now known as the Flannish Cities, the true nature and age of these artifacts are hotly disputed among scholars. However, it is generally accepted that humans have lived in this region for many thousands of years, possibly as many as ten thousand years. These early humans are now collectively called the Henge Culture after the primitive monuments they left scattered across the landscape. It is believed that the Green Monoliths date back to this period, although their comparatively high level of sophistication suggests that the Henge humans had some outside help with their construction.

About four thousand years ago, goblins started migrating north from across the Siebenbund Alps. Due to their high fecundity, they quickly overwhelmed the native humans by numbers and competed with them for food and land. The Henge Culture seems to have disappeared two hundred years later, and it is presumed that they became largely extinct, with the few survivors either migrating to other regions and interbreeding with other tribes, or hiding in remote valleys (searching for remote communities that supposedly descend from the Henge Culture is a frequent past time for amateur anthropologists). The goblins primarily made their homes in hills, and where no hills were available (such as on the flatter western expanses of the region), they constructed mounds in which they build their communal dwellings. Many such mounds still exist, and are considered haunted or associated with the fey by superstitious locals. These goblins are now known as the Goblin Mound Builder culture, and their remnants can still be found in the Gray Hills.

Eventually, other human tribes migrated back into the region from the south and north, as well as orc tribes from the Norfjell Wastes. These clashed with the goblins and gained some ground, but the goblins were persistent and hard to eradicate. This stalemate continued until 180 NA when the Atalan Empire appeared in the south of the region and started to conquer and civilize it - allying with many human tribes against the goblins and orcs. By 241 NA into three provinces, which compromised the southwestern, southeastern, and the northern parts of the region. They then built the Atalan Wall to defend the provinces against raids by barbarians from the Norfjell Wastes, and apart from a few small skirmishes never expanded beyond it. While the Atalans never succeeded in eradicating the goblins entirely, they were able to greatly reduce them in number and push them to remote areas. The goblins never recovered from this, and learned to stay underground in their mounds and caves during the day and only come out at night, lest they be spotted and hunted down by the better organized and better armed humans.

This state of affairs continued for several centuries, but gradually the Atalan Empire crumbled from within. When the last provincial governor renounced all ties to the Empire in 654 NA and crowned himself king of the Dartmouth-centered kingdom of Darchester, it was a mere formality - the Emperor in Atalus was too far away and too weak to do anything more than protest. Now the three provinces became feudal kingdoms, with Darchester in the south west, Gelgen in the south east, and the Flannish Kingdom in the north. These soon splintered into small baronies, fiefdoms, and small, independent cities that continually warred with each other, despite a short attempt at unification by the Flannish King Hellweg III, who crowned himself the first Emperor of the Flannish Empire. He succeeded in conquering the entire region in 977 NA, but died seven years later without heirs - all heirs apparant had apparently met "tragical accidents" or been murdered outright. Thus, the Empire crumbled soon after it was created, though rumors of a "true heir to the Flannish throne" continue to be popular in certain circles even today.

The feudal system reached its moment of crisis with the invasion of Negroth the Doombringer in 1174. The various feudal lords were completely incapable of uniting in the face of a common threat, and indeed often used the invasion as a chance to stab their fellow nobles in the back. As a result, the Flannish kingdoms were soundly defeated at the Fields of Harrow, and even though the reign of Negroth ended two years later, the aristocrats were completely discredited in the eyes of the common people. Some nobles saw the writing on the wall and gave more and more of their powers to various citizens' councils, while other were forced to abdicate or even executed by angry mobs. This culminated in the Liberation War, where the combined armies of Hogenrood, Holzau (now Grüngarten), Oldenheim, Torburg, and Zuidenstadt marched against the other regions where nobles were still in control. This war culminated in the partial destruction of Praxus, and ran out of steam when an elven army from Avareen conquered and occupied Holzau. The armies retreated, leaving only Bodenwald in the hands of nobles.

Thanks to the experiences from these wars, people were now much more concerned about external threats that old-fashioned armies wouldn't be able to handle, and the ancient techniques of constructing nexus towers became popular again. Old ones were repaired and improved, and new ones sprung up everywhere. The cities were expanded and fortified, while most smaller settlements vanished or were reduced to small supply depots. And in 1268 NA, all Flannish cities (now including Gorok-kar and Svardholm) signed the Treaty of Praxus, a self-defense pact that requires all Flannish Cities to cooperate in the face of an external threat.

Today, such concerns seem out of date. No enemies seem to threaten the prosperity and stability of the Flannish Cities from without. Instead the cities have become increasingly competitive and hostile to each other, as they try to monopolize key resources and trade goods. One fairly recent conflict of this nature was the Coastal War between Rondhaven and Torburg forty years ago as each city tried to gain naval predominance in the area. Rondhaven "won" the conflict by convincing Dartmouth to enter the conflict, but the numerous concessions it had to make - including handing over the Veldtland colony of Hope Town - cost it dearly, and ultimately the war resolved little. Further armed conflicts between these and other cities seem all too likely. And all the while, the cities themselves become more crowded, and full with poor, desperate people who have little to lose.

Adventure Ideas

While the Flannish cities are civilized, this doesn't mean that they are peaceful. Some merchant lord, noble, or other potentate is always scheming against his peers in other cities - or in the same city. While no giants stalk the land, and few dragons dare to fly openly within sight of a city-state, plenty of monsters remain that lurk in the spaces between the city-states - or within them. And while the rulers count their riches, some among the oppressed people in the slums whisper of another revolution…

  • The Lumberjack Wars: Wood is a vital resource for any city-state, and even more so for the coastal cities. Most easily accessible forests in the vicinity of a city-state have been completely cut down by now, and as a result the shipbuilding industries have to search further abroad to continue to function. There have always been arguments and low-level conflicts about the ownership of useful forests. But now, with the new aggressive ship building efforts of Torburg, these conflicts are becoming more heated. Already there have been a series of skirmishes between the forces of Torburg and the neighboring cities of Dartmouth and Oldenburg, and many fear that worse is to come. All sides are hiring mercenaries and other agents to sabotage the other side's efforts to secure the most accessible forests.

Designer's Notes & Resources

The Flannish Cities represent in many ways the heart of Urbis - they are the most "advanced" and "modern", and are thus the standard by which all other regions are compared. They are representative for much of Western Europe during the Age of Industrialization, especially the German and Dutch-speaking parts, with some Swedish (Svardholm) and British (Dartmouth, Hollowhill) influences in some outlying region (with fantasy dwarves in Gorok-kar thrown in for good measure).

Visually, the architecture of the Flannish Cities should contain strong Art Nouveau, Gothic Revival, Neoclassical, and Neo-Renaissance styles.


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Urbis - A World of Cities © Jürgen Hubert. All material on this site excepting forum posts is owned by him.