ZEITGEIST Player's Guide: Ber




ZEITGEIST Player's Guide: Ber

This page is a chapter in 'Books:ZEITGEIST: The Gears of Revolution Players Guide'

Ber’s history is tied to dragons. Until just a few centuries ago, the land was in constant flux, with different dragons battling for supremacy while the mortal races served as their slaves. Tribes of dragonborn, goliaths, minotaurs, orcs, and shifters ascended to tiny nation states under the banners of their draconic overlords, built cities and strip-mined mountains to gather wealth for these kings, and eventually collapsed into chaos when their rulers fell.



Newborn nations conquered each other like a ring of serpents devouring their tails, and whenever a dragon had willpower enough to unite all of Ber, it would inevitably make the mistake of pressing into Risur or Elfaivar, and be slain in retaliation.

Despite the endless turnover of rulers, Ber did manage to establish a few long-lasting cities—Ursaliña, Reo Pedrecoso, and the capital Segobriga, among others—and develop a shared culture. After the death of the last dragon king two hundred years ago, Ber splintered into racial and tribal factions. Only in the past forty years has a semblance of unity returned to the land.

Le Roye Bruse

Four decades ago, an orc warlord, Vairday Bruse, declared himself king of Ber after he managed to conquer the three largest cities in the land. Risur expected an imminent invasion, but instead the new king opened diplomatic channels with Danor and arranged for the construction of factories. The wealth from this new industry helped keep tribal warlords cooperative, and the work gave would-be soldiers something to do with their energy.

Dubbed “Le Roye,” a Danor diminutive for “the king,” Bruse managed to keep peace until his death five years ago, and had the foresight to arrange a peaceful transition of power. He took his cue from Risur, and passed the crown to a respected ally who was not a blood relative; indeed he was a minotaur, not even an orc. The new king kept his predecessor’s name in place of the typical “king,” and so was crowned Bruse Shantus. Though there are still factions in the Anthras Mountains who refuse to bow to the new monarchy, many old enemies are now clamoring for a share of this new prosperity. Against nearly everyone’s predictions, it appears that Ber will endure as a unified nation.

Executores dola Liberta

One of Vairday Bruses’s more contentious programs was to aggressively end the practice of slavery except as a punishment for criminals. He enlisted bureaucrats from Crisillyir to reform the country’s legal system and track convicts, and then created a law enforcement group of warriors and priests, the Enforcers of Freedom. Comprised primarily of women, the executores dola liberta are officers of the king, tasked with wandering the country and finding rich or powerful people who abuse their station by forcing others into slavery or slave-like conditions. Such wrongdoers they thrash brutally, dragging them into public locations and pummeling them with royally-empowered fists or staves while proclaiming the person’s crimes.

They inflict similar punishments on those who try to quash protests, silence vocal complaints, forbid undesired religious practice, or hoard wealth from those they tax rather than providing value for their money. Membership in the Enforcers is strictly monitored, and those few who hypocritically abuse their own authority suffer excruciating public torture, then are executed.

Remnants of the Dragon Kings

Ber cities tend toward stout, vertical buildings with prominent rooftop perches. Dragons no longer alight these roofs, but they have become part of Ber’s romantic conception of its own identity. Many festivals are celebrated on these old draconic perches, and many inventors from Crisillyir come to Ber to study winged flight and test glider designs. Window cleaners can commonly be seen swinging from colorful ropes tethered to high rooftops, singing of lovers meeting to watch the sunset from the top of the city.

In the countryside, the dragon kings left an even more obvious mark: megafauna. Beasts of great hunger and great size, dragons protected herds of elephants, massive cattle, and deer as large as houses, forbidding their enslaved mortals from hunting the creatures. Huge swaths of Ber are still relatively uninhabited because these megafauna and the giant bears and tigers that hunt them pose too great a threat for cities to endure. But some ranches have managed to domesticate these titans, which can feed a whole village for days. Wealthy foreigners pay huge amounts for the privilege of serving such a beast at their banquets.

The nation bears the scars of many mines. Sadly, the wealth from these mines is mostly lost, hidden away in the lairs of paranoid dragon kings, and booby trapped even after the tyrants’ deaths to prevent their recovery.

The Panoply

This young movement consists of a few educated Berans who have proclaimed themselves scholars. Inspired by the new—and comparably peaceful—cooperation among the many races of Ber, they have begun to found schools throughout their nation. There they educate students in matters of art and culture from around the world, pursuits normally mocked by those who follow the old tribal ways.

A few traveling professors from the Panoply schools have made a splash among the dockers in Flint, and every year more foreign artists and poets attend the parties of wealthy Beran nobles who are eager to appear cultured.

The Ursaliña Bear Games

The mountain city of Ursaliña hosts a strange tradition, wherein those who wish to act as ambassadors of Ber hold proxy battles using trained short-haired bears, each standing a dozen feet high at the shoulder. A great colisseum, once used for entertaining bloodthirsty dragon tyrants, now hosts these vicious battles, which occur every few months; different days determine the positions of different ambassadorships.

Thousands turn out to watch the games, which are surrounded with grand pomp and much feasting. The fights between the bears are seldom to the death, because each beast is worth a small fortune. One game five years ago, however, witnessed an event so unbelievable that word of it spread throughout Lanjyr.

A minotaur merchant, Brakken of Heffanita, was competing to be named Ber’s ambassador to Orithea, a tiny wartorn nation between Danor and Drakr, when his dire bear had its throat mangled in the arena. Brakken leapt into the arena and stepped between his bear and its opponent, staring into the other bear’s eyes. To the shock of the crowd, the other bear hesitated in its attack, then fled, as if intimidated by a person half its size. Bruse Shantus gladly named Brakken an ambassador. Perhaps even more unexpected, two years after Brakken began his ambassadorship in Orithea, the country’s civil war ended, and it came under the protection of Danor. Today Orithea is part of the rail route along the north Avery Coast, and it is enjoying unprecedented prosperity. This past year, Brakken competed to become ambassador to Risur, and won without any challengers.

Fear of the Clergy

Ber has never had any close ties to Clergy religion, for it was insulated by its neighbors. Some high elves sought refuge in Ber after the Second Victory, and brought with them great distrust of the Clergy. Ber’s religions are a disjointed mish-mash of different tribal beliefs, involving hundreds of gods and spirits without any unifying doctrine.

Recently, however, preachers from Crisillyir have begun to visit Ber, and a few have set up missions to spread their faith. Some of these have been met by violence retaliation, including one incident where an Enforcer of Freedom tossed a battered priest into a rowboat and told him to return home after the man’s church abducted several children from a nearby village under the auspices of teaching them. Ber has seen what the Clergy can do to a nation when they disagree with its faith. Especially since the Bruse became so friendly with Danor—itself deemed heretical by the church—many in Ber fear that Crisillyir might someday invade in a bid to forcibly convert them.

The Tyrant's Eye

In 700 B.O.V., the dragon Yerev controlled a small empire, cowing his enemies with the power of his unblinking third eye. It was said this pale, scarred orb could slay any creature it could see. On a moonless night, an army of thousands rose up against the dragon tyrant and managed to slay the beast, but when he collapsed, his eye remained open, killing any who crossed its path.

Nearby townsfolk carefully surrounded Yerev with all his treasure to appease his spirit, then carted the soil from the nearby hills to bury his corpse, finally blinding his eye. Supposedly the only sign today of Yerev’s cairn is a field of lush potato flowers. Only the most foolish or desperate seek the treasure, lest they inadvertently unearth the deadly eye.

The Humble Hook

When Triegenes passed on from his mortal shell, the prelates of the Clergy cremated his remains in a grand state funeral. As they gathered his ashes to spread across the nation’s soil, they found a small harpoon hook—the kind used by some fishers—which somehow had been caught in the living god’s body since before he achieved divinity.

The priests crafted the hook into a pendant, and for over a thousand years it has been worn by the hierarchs of the faith, as a reminder that we all have humble origins. Doctrine claimed that it let its wearer learn the history and background of anyone he met, allowing the leader of the faith to deal with overly prideful enemies and heads of state. In 260 A.O.V., however, it was lost when a high elf assassin slew that era’s hierarch and stole the pendant.

Critics of the faith claim that its loss was part of a plan to steer the Clergy away from its original humble core, so that high priests could better profit from their stations.

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