Bridge Over the Gu-Hai
Humans have only lived on the Two Continents (which they call Sie Nüwerlt) in great numbers for the last three hundred years. Prior to that they had small trade enclaves on the eastern coast, from which they traded magical trinkets and luxury goods for silk, silver and slaves. Their homeland, the Old World, was a warring tempestuous collection of city-states in the far east. Humans are gifted enchanters, innovators and are ruthlessly dynamic as a people. Their airships allowed them to cross the Wide Sea, which was otherwise impassable due to the shifting reefs and powerful tides that would tear any ship of reasonable size to shreds before it got half-way.
Humans have innovated and improved in the field of magical enchantment, pushing production to a near-industrial level by using a modular system whereby a team of workers can be trained to do a handful of simple enchantments, and then apply them in series to create more complex and powerful effects. Taking enchantment out of the hands of powerful mages allowed the human cities to create a huge arms technology gap due to mass-produced magical weapons and armour. Seeing an opportunity to expand their influence, they united to invade the Two Continents.
The resulting war was heavily one-sided. The Hobgoblin Empire was complacent, believing it would be impossible to ship an invasion force across the Wide Sea. When the army arrived, they were totally unprepared, and quickly driven back from the coast. City after city fell, with the airships rendering their walls irrelevant. It was only when the northern continent was totally overrun that the Hobgoblins managed to mount effective air defences. Their answer was trained wyverns, huge winged reptiles that could tear an airship to pieces. The innovation came too late to save the north, the Humans had entrenched and started building fortifications along the new border.
The status-quo lasted about fifty years before the alliance in the Old World crumbled, and they turned on one another. Rather than be dragged in to the conflict, the colonies declared independence, and the Old World kingdoms were too committed at home to bring the colonies to heel.
Now, two-hundred and fifty years later, the Old World has fallen silent. No one has heard from them in twenty years, and no airship sent across the Wide Sea has returned.
Human culture is mercantile. Human cities are arranged in a loose federation called the Landschrekt, with disputes between cities settled by a central committee. Small wars among the Human factions happen every few years, but they are not on a scale that threatens the factions as a whole, rather they are scaled down vendetta conflicts with strict rules. Trade and financial stability is extremely important to the Lantzrood, and they ruthlessly crush anyone they believe threatens that stability.
Architecture in the Lantzrood is built to be utilitarian, and impressive in a brutish way. Stone is the most common building material, and human towns and cities are distinctive due to the massive airship docks that tower over their industrial areas. Due to the versatility afforded by airships, Human cities are not restricted by proximity to waterway transportation. This means that the Lantzrood sprawls across the forests and plains of the northern continent.
Human merchants wear wool or leather trousers or hose, shirts and doublets, and wide brimmed hats. The upper-class women wear elaborate gowns made from wool and silk. Lower classes wear cheaper and more practical versions of the same garments.
Human military is professional, supplemented by a civilian levy in times of war. Their professional soldiers are easily the best trained and equipped heavy infantry on the continents. Their levies however are famously bad, with poor equipment and morale.
Professional soldiers are called Landshreckt, and are armed with Zwiehanders, Halberds or Armbruscht (crossbows). Their armour is steel half or full-plate. Much of their equipment is enchanted in some way, which makes up for the comparatively rather poor quality of their steel.
The levies on the other hand are armed with pikes, and armoured in leather or, if they are lucky, unenchanted bronze or iron chainmail.
Some Major Cities of the Lantzrood
Literally “First Foot”, this port city was once the trading link between the warring Old Kingdoms and the Lantzrood, and until the recent loss of contact with the “Aldwerlt” kingdoms it was a stubborn loyalist holdout. Its great size and wealth meant that it stood unchallenged despite its lack of loyalty to the rest of the Lantzrood, but the loss of contact with its trading partners abroad has weakened Erstefutz considerably. It has had to make concession after consession, and is now on the verge of economic collapse. The Hertzog (Duke) of Erstefutz has been borrowing heavily from the Gnomes in recent months, and hiring enough mercenaries to make the neighbouring Hertzogtum nervous.
Heidelweg was the first permanent city to be built on the continent. It started as a rough and dangerous outpost settlement, and that element of lawlessness has never quite shifted. “Going to Heidelweg” is a popular term for entering into a death duel, and the city is home to the College of Swordcraft, a duelling academy considered to be the best of its kind in the world, and also the most disreputable. Many regard it as little better than an guild of assassins, as many Heidelweg blademasters offer their services to the highest bidder, and the college has no entry requirements beyond exceptional raw talent. The Hertzog of Heidelweg is considered by the rest of the Lantzrood to be a criminal and a renegade, but his Landschrekt have so far proven difficult to defeat, and since Heidelweg has never shown much of an expansionist agenda, an uneasy stalemate has developed. As the nearest neighbour to Erstefutz, it looks like that stalemate may not last very much longer.
Han Zu Wei/ Hantzerweg
Hantzerweg is the ‘newest’ city in the Lantzrood. The Hertzogtum was founded on the ruins of an ancient Elven outpost, and the central structures are of Storm Giant origin. The construction of an enormous citadel using these Storm Giant palaces as a base has been the cause of an extended guerilla campaign by a group of indigenous Elves, involving suicide bombings and assassinations of senior nobles. The resulting Human crackdowns have killed thousands of Elves, Half-Elves and Human sympathisers. It has also been used as an excuse for further land siezures and expansion into land previously guaranteed to local Elven clans. This has not yet resulted in war with the mountain Elves as the local clans are not recognised as Zu Lin, but instead regarded as Hobgoblin Wo Giin left behind in the contraction. Strangely, the siezures have created an increase in tension with the Hobgoblins, but the tension has little to do with the loss of Elven life. Instead, the Hobgoblins view the treaty violations as evidence of Human faithlessness. They have demanded action from the Lantzrood to rectify the situation and compensate the Elves, but as yet no action has been taken.
A Note on Slavery
Slavery is technically illegal in the Lantzrood, but in reality the practice is endemic. The Serf classes are tied to their land and their masters on pain of death, with harsh grain quotas and little by way of compensation. A Serf can “buy out”, but it costs more than a single peasant can earn in a lifetime. This results in what are called “Freedom Pools”, in which a number of families pool their resources to free a single child, and get them an apprenticeship in a guild. The hope is that the child will become sufficiently wealthy that they might buy the rest of the families out. Few such children ever completely fulfil their obligation, but enough do that the practice persists.
A Note on Other Species
With their expansionist colonialism and aggressive treatment of the Hobgoblins during the expansion wars, it is easy to think of the Humans as a civilisation of bigots and oppressors, but other than the Hobgoblins they probably have the least ingrained prejudice of any of the civilisations currently active. The terms Elf, Hobgoblin, Orc, and Goblin are all Human terms, and other than Goblin, none of them are used with any great frequency as an insult (although the respective races may well take offence to the terms).
That said, an Elf or Hobgoblin cannot hold any position higher than that of Huskarl, in effect an unlanded knight sworn to their lord for life. In this position they would have a house and a pension if they lived to retirement age. Further, inter-species marriage, while frowned upon by many, is not illegal. Nor is the worship of non-human gods. Several Gildmaesters are non-humans, wealthy merchants who wield considerable power despite their common births and non-human status.
Humans and Magic
Humans are adaptable and innovative, but their magical aptitude is limited due to their short lifespans and chaotic thought patterns. There are very few Human mages of any kind, but those who do exist perform their arts through pre-prepared spells written on scrolls, or engraved on rods or staves. They are not as flexible as Hobgoblin or Gnome mages, but there is something to be said for their methods, as they can cast until they run out of materials, where a Gnome or Hobgoblin would have only a few minutes of maximum exertion before exhaustion rendered them unconscious.
More common are Enchanters. These craftsmen are capable of enhancing the properties of objects, making them stronger or more supple, burn hotter or cut more cleanly. They do this by engraving symbols into the material with a special awl, and then imbuing the pattern with magical energy. This discipline requires little of the intense mental discipline that more complex magic requires, although it is a highly demanding art in its own right when applied to its fullest potential.
Specialist Human soldiers called Gewehrmach wield simplistic muzzle-loading firearms known as Harkebuz. These soldiers are banned in vendetta wars, instead serving as garrison defenders for cities and castles, as well as being stationed on Airships. Despite their relatively infrequent deployment, the Gewehrmach are considered of vital importance by the Hertzog, as the Harkebuz has not only an effective range that exceeds most other nonmagical projectile weapons, but also a devastating effect on enemy morale. Hobgoblins refer to the Harkebuz as the Ryu Gu, or “Dragon Staff” due to the tremendous noise, and smoke they produce when fired.
Richer civilians are also known to carry firearms for protection from bandits and animals, but these are more often the smaller and more sophisticated firearms manufactured by the Gnomes. The Human-made Harkebuz’ size makes it an inefficient personal defence weapon.