The Technology & Cultures of Calydorn
This is the first of a series of articles exploring the background of Godslayer, the world of Calydorn and its rich, exotic cultures. In this first piece we will be looking at the technology levels of various civilizations on Calydorn, past and present, as well as the fundamental nature of matter which governs technology.
If you are not a background fluff-nerd, then stop reading now
Being predominantly a bronze-age level world of sword and sorcery, Calydorn is certainly not rife with high technology, but why is that? Did we just happen to grab a snapshot at a convenient low-tech age? Or should we artificially assume that because it is a fantasy world that this is just how it is?
Calydorn is a fantasy world, but there are guiding principles which determine the type of technologies which could exist and the speed in which they would develop.
Since human and other civilizations have been around for thousands of years, why have they not invented cannons, zeppelins, steam trains or electric motors? Surely such technology would provide a great advantage to whoever possessed it.
There are a number of reasons why many familiar technologies in our world do not exist on Calydorn, and these will be covered below in part II since they are extremely relevant to understanding the world of Calydorn. Nevertheless, Calydorn does contain two advanced cultures and many alternative technologies which are not present in our own reality, and these will be described in Part III and Part IV.
The less-advanced cultures are also very interesting, and an overview of the general technological levels of Calydorn is important to an understanding of the Godslayer world, so let’s look at them briefly in Part I.
Part I – Cultural Levels of Calydorn
So vast are the distances on the world of Calydorn that cultural interchange is a slow process except among the most densely populated sub-continents.
Natural disasters and Banebrood migrations have a way of swallowing civilizations whole and erasing their advancements. The Baneplague and the Time of Nine Woes brought the Mortal races to the brink of extinction. Earthquakes, wars, disease, meteors and floods have leveled many aspiring cultures at various times in the past.
Besides the fragile nature of civilized nations, a total lack of scientific methodology and the presence of readily available alternatives to technology (such as magic and divine miracles) combine together to create very slow technological advancement.
There are indeed broad cultural changes which sweep across the world, but like our world in the ancient and middle ages, these are largely either religious (such as the Anointed Champions’ conquests during the Blessed Age or the Theocracy and the Sacred Flame during the Halcyon Age), or Magical (the Wu-Wei Sorcerers of the Halcyon Age and the Dreamspinner culture of the Golden Age) or political (the Kassobari Khanate and the Malentian Empire).
So unless a culture is actively sponsored by a divinity or immensely powerful group of heroes, they tend to evolve slowly and remain in a particular cultural level for hundreds or thousand years. Here is a summary of the main types of cultures:
Stone and wood are the primary materials shaped by these peoples into tools and weapons. Armor consists of fur, leather and bone, while weapons are usually stone axes, flint arrows, wooden spears or simple clubs. Dwellings are typically made in caves or in yurts of wood and leather. Some more permanent settlements build houses with a frame of branches, covered in straw and mud. Bone and leather are used for fine tools and decorations, and wood-carving is common, as are cave paintings and the drawing of immense hillside chalk figures. Some primitive cultures practice cliff-face sculpture.
Primitives mostly live as hunter-gatherers, and are dependent on the fruitfulness of the land around them. Legends, myths and history are passed down by oral tradition and shamanism and animism are the most common belief systems. Some limited animal-taming may be practiced for protection or hunting. Food tends to be eaten within 2-3 days of hunting/gathering, since storage consists of wrapping in large leaves, or placing in wooden pots or leather pouches. Cooking is usually performed over an open fire or upon heated rocks. Trade is exclusively by barter, and even precious gems or metals often have no real value among a people who rely on practical items and food for survival.
Most Primitives stay close to water, often camping in one place for several weeks or months before moving on. Especially bounteous areas may support permanent villages of primitive cultures, and the most established may build fortifications of dry-stone or wooden logs.
They also possess simple instruments and practice a great deal of singing and dancing while local narcotic herbs are smoked or chewed. Primitive societies are marked by their isolated state and lack of social organization beyond the village or small tribe. Daily life is dominated by the urgent necessity to acquire food and fight off competitors.
Examples of primitive cultures include the Peuktran tribes of Annyrion, and the Skraelingr of the Northlands, the Elder Races of Tartovara, and most of the cultures of southern Transcephalos. Most Gnoll societies are also primitive cultures, and so too all Beastspawn herds and Centaur nomad-nations. Banebrood Reavers fall somewhere between primitives and Barbarians, and it is important to note that most of their armor and metal items are scavenged.
So-called Megalithic cultures are an advanced form of primitives. They are marked by their use of large stones for construction and even the existence of small cities.
The massive stones they employ are sometimes fashioned for use in temples and holy sites or used largely uncut to form walls. Numerous megalithic cities from the mythical ages have been uncovered and many also exist in the present. Such conurbations contain up to 10,000 people, and although such cultures employ some community planning, roads, sewers and canals, they posses primitive social institutions which cannot compare with civilized urban cultures since they lack currencies, paper, and common metals.
Technology in megalithic cultures is in fact rather similar to the primitive communities, with trade being conducted by barter. Stone, bone, wood and leather remain the most common materials used for making tools, weapons, armor and in everyday life. Primitive pottery is sometimes present and clay tablets may be used for writing by the priestly and noble classes. Homes are often built in ditches which are lined with stones. Some notable megalithic cultures carved their cities inside sandstone mesas of pumice cliffs, complete with water wells and ventilation and lighting shafts.
One major difference between megalithic and primitive cultures is the existence of some basic agriculture, nevertheless, megalithic cultures still rely on hunting and gathering by tribes in the surrounding region, and because of this their existence is sometimes precarious. Droughts and famines are far more difficult to cope with than for megalithic cultures since they cannot relocate (as Primitives and Nomads do) and because they do not possess adequate storage methods (as civilized cultures do). For this reason, megalithic cultures can undergo massive depopulations which can set them back hundreds of years or wipe them out entirely.
Megalithic cultures usually revolve around a king or high-priest who possesses a warrior-guard, but there are otherwise no professional warriors, and each citizen is expected to bear arms.
The development of tools and technical devices is rather random; for example, primitive stone axes may remain the prevalent tool and weapon, but plazas contain accurate sun-dials. The wheel may be entirely unknown, and yet amazing sculptures can line the king’s palace. Extremely potent poisons may be routinely employed, and yet healing may consist largely of leeching.
Remains of megalithic cultures can be found all across Tartovara, the Northlands and Annyrion. Examples of such cultures on Calydorn include the south of Transcephalos where megalith cultures are common today. The Barbarian Reavers of Guliskull in northern Kurtishan are another megalithic culture and so too the Mortal tribes worshipping Elemental Darkness in the Gloamgod Dominion. The Giants or Jotuns is another race which fit this level.
Nomads are perhaps the most common of all cultural types on Calydorn. Such people live by following herds of animals, often during annual migrations. By necessity they employ tamed mounts of various kinds to travel and are expert riders.
Nomadic society is typically divided into individual tribes, and rarely do these tribes cooperate or unite. During the course of their migrations, nomads may come into frequent contact with other cultures and trade with them, but in general they are limited to the resources provided by their herds and by the lands they roam. In most cases, this means open grasslands – from northern tundra, through lush temperate prairie to steppe and savannah. Woodland and rainforest provides poor grazing for herds, although deserts and wastes can sustain nomads with animals adapted to these terrains.
Leather and fur are the most common materials available, but Nomadic cultures generally possess techniques for producing good-quality, utilitarian clothing from various different grades of hides, and are able to harden or soften leather to the desired grade. Nomads have access to wool, milk, cheese and manure for fuel.
Technology is more advanced than primitive or megalithic cultures, with wooden wheels, carts and wagons in common use, although dwellings are usually similar – yurts furnished with furs. Cooking is conducted around an open fire, but some wooden and clay pots are usually available, along with wooden cutlery and tools. Nomads commonly produce wicker baskets, woolen clothes, drinking horns and leather belts.
Metal armor is a luxury among nomadic cultures, but metal weapons are standard, and some bronze-working is practiced by most tribes.
Examples of nomadic cultures include the Wyldfolk Fiannor, Amazons, Banebrood Centaur tribes, Sand Trolls and Desert Gnolls, as well as the Karkhosian Bedouins, the White Horse Animists of Pancephalos and most of the steppe tribes of Kassobar.
Barbarians occupy a technology level between nomads and civilized rural people. Barbarians are not savages; they are peoples marked by a decentralized power structure and the absence of large stone cities. Although village and town life may be quite civilized, the culture itself lacks an infrastructure connecting the disparate regions. Vast tracts of land can lie between settlements, often rife with predators and enemies, and tribal or clan wars are common. Communities protect themselves with earth ramparts, ditches and wooden palisades or natural barriers such as lakes, rivers and cliffs.
Barbarian societies may possess impressive cultural traditions, arts and crafts, but life is more raw and immediate than in civilized cultures, with the necessity for all able-bodied men to be ready to take up arms at any moment. The social structures often include tribal leaders supported by a small warrior elite, while the rest of the population lives as herders and crop farmers.
Metal weapons and armor are common for the warrior class, and metal tools are readily available for farmers. Houses are permanent structures which can last a lifetime, being constructed largely of wood, with thatched roofs. Pottery is abundant, making temporary food storage a reality, and long-term storage possible through smoking and salting. Cooking is usually performed on a stone hearth which also provides the dwellings heating. Candles, bronze sewing needles, copper pots and tin tools are common devices, while tapestries and rugs provide a measure of comfort, interspersed with furs and straw mattresses. Leather is a common material for clothing, but not the raw hides of primitive cultures or the utilitarian leathers of nomads; these are finely cut jerkins and boots, often engraved or embroidered. Linen and wool are the most common materials used for clothing.
Written language is the province of leaders and priests. Religions tend to be either nature worshipping Animists or deity worshipping Pantheists.
Examples of the barbarian cultures include the Tribal Wyldfolk, Tuathan Wyldfolk, and most Skannfyrd lands. The tribes of the Matamaru savannah and the Kassobari of Kurtishan also fit this level, as do most cultures in central and northern Volturna and northern Zephyr.
Civilized Rural Cultures
Although power is centralized in civilized cultures, the technology level differs considerably between urban and rural settings. Rural villages are linked to the nearest city by stone roads, and river trade is common, both of which to unite the far-flung parts of that nation.
Rural communities enjoy a higher technology level than barbarians, with houses generally constructed from stone, with slate or clay tiles. Metal tools are common and beasts have been domesticated to assist the farming. Techniques for farming include irrigation, crop rotation, and cultivation of hybrid strains of grains, while watermills or windmills grind grain in each community. Villages often possess defenses which include some stone walls, while water wells are a common feature within. Granaries and wooden barrels allow effective storage of food for lean times, and families generally produce a surplus of crops which are traded at the local market. Trade is commonplace and conducted with coin currency, and goods come from all across the nation are readily available at market.
Copper and tin are the most common forms of utensils, pots and cutlery, with bronze being used for horseshoes, scythes, pitchforks, bells and for many other applications. Dedicated stone ovens and cooking stoves are commonplace, and separate from the hearth of the house. Food is stored in cellars to keep it cool, packaged in barrels and often smoked, salted, pickled or conserved with fruit sugars.
Rural cultures can also include riverside and coastal villages which rely of fishing rather than farming such as the hundreds of villages along the Halocine River or the fisher villages of the Sirano Sea.
Examples of rural cultures are Nordgaard’s Dwarven Clans, and many parts of the Mortan Empire and Halodyne countryside. The Oasis valleys of the Jamjinn and Cephalos Deserts, and the lands of Kur Karesh, Gonatar and Azmaka also fit the Civilized Rural category.
Civilized Urban Cultures
Urban centers are a class of culture all on their own. Such conurbations falling in this category usually consist of more than 100,000 inhabitants and represent the pillars of a civilized culture.
Urban cultures possess well-constructed city walls and stone roads, with sewage systems of varying quality. Water is often supplied by river or aquaduct, and plazas exist for market places and festivals. Advanced architecture provides defenses for city gates and harbors, while palaces are decorated with marble, ornate woodwork. Silks and precious metals and gems exist for the ruling elite. Even libraries with books and scrolls or leather codices and parchments are common. Mints produce the nation’s currency and treasuries store the nation’s wealth.
Many cities are constructed around some magical or divine phenomena, such as a portal gate, magical fountain, while others are more unique such as with its magical walls of bronze or upon a floating skyland or series of islands or within an immense cavern etc. There are a great number of unique cities on Calydorn.
The intellectuals of each culture are to be found in these urban centers, as well as the most powerful sorcerers, healers and alchemists. Managing the civilian affairs is a formal. The military normally consists primarily of a standing professional army backed up by expert militias of regularly trained troops. The soldiers benefit from copious metal armor and the finest weapons as well as cavalry, chariots and war-machines.
Bathhouses, sporting arenas, theaters, race courses and sporting fields offer entertainment for the masses. City-watch police the streets and courts administer justice. Urban communities are often marked by a mixture of different classes or wealth-brackets, each with its own standard of living and lifestyle.
International trade brings a plethora of goods from across Calydorn, and docks are often filled with large ships being loaded and unloaded by wooden cranes. In these cities are found most of the wonders of every civilization – immense buildings, statues, and monuments, the finest arts, music, food and entertainment. Many cities possess landing plazas for the giant avidons and skyships which transport goods and people by air.
Oil lamps and lanterns light homes while torches light the streets, and houses are filled with plentiful glazed crockery and useful metal devices for cooking, weaving, and woodworking. Technology provides people with bronze mirrors, sun dials, sextants, sails, distilled alcohol, musical instruments, mounts for riding, ready-made fabrics and rugs. The rich enjoy paintings, sculpture, clothing fashions, running water, and in-house toilets.
Buildings are constructed of wood, brick, stone, or even concrete, and roofs are tiled. Wealthier families possess pools, and fountains for cooling, and hot-water pipes for heating. Paper is commonplace, and a courier network exists for transporting documents.
Food storage is done with corked amphoras, and air-tight barrels inside ventilated, dry storage houses, and cold-cellars exist which bring the temperature down to 13 degrees Celsius just by being below ground. Ice-houses are used to collect ice during winter which is packed with sawdust or straw, allowing the ice to remain frozen even during summer in hot climates. The ice is then used in cellars to bring down the temperate to 4-5 degree, allowing meat to be kept for weeks.
Food is prepared not only in the home but also in taverns, bakeries and butchers, and the rich own different ovens for different types of food.
Taverns provide food and alcohol, while dedicated shops exist for various trades such as butchers, bakers, book-makers, cobblers, wheelwrights, and apothecaries. Seedier parts of typical cities contain brothels, gambling houses, opium dens and pit fights for both savage animals and savage men.
Grand temples host the most powerful priesthoods and are regularly filled with the faithful. Regular festivals enliven the city, involving the entire population in religious or civil celebrations. Some cities might instead be controlled by powerful sorcerers, mages, necromancers or warlocks, and large cities are the best places to find such individuals.
Some of the greatest technological advances are economic, with paper money, bonds and contracts being common as well as money-lenders and tax-collectors to grease the economic wheels and administrators to oversee the economy.
The population consists of tradesmen performing unique jobs as well as laborers, professional soldiers, administrators and wealthy landowners. Foreign traders and refuges are also common sights.
Examples of civilized urban cultures include the Nordgaard Guilds, the Mortan Empire, and Halodyne City States. The largest Trolloth nations also possess civilized urban cultures.
The only truly advanced civilization which existed on Calydorn was that of the Gnostic Cabal. Today some remnants of that culture survive on the continent of Pharalan. The Gnostic Cabal’s technology and culture are discussed in Section III, along with the Mortan Empire and Elyssar, since they also now attempt to reach the same Cultural level.
This is a category which could actually encompass several different levels at the same time. It represents civilizations in steep cultural or technological decline. This can come about through natural disasters, economic collapse, war, disease, famine and climatic changes. Even the changing course of major rivers can collapse a nation. Calydorn is carpeted with the bones of dead civilizations.
In regressive cultures, there are many disastrous causes and phenomena, but one factor which is almost always present is famine. When this happens, civil order breaks down, people starve to death, and a huge percentage of the population leaves the towns, villages or cities to find food in the countryside. These under-populated communities are then easily conquered.
Even without a disastrous conquest, the cultural balance is upset by the population migration and the civil administration disappears. Without organization, culture levels drop quickly back to barter, and raw materials become increasingly difficult to obtain. Advanced skills are lost as people regress back to farming, and hunting. Once the cascade begins, the process is difficult to reverse, and most such civilizations either disappear completely or undergo a lengthy period in a lower cultural level. Calydorn is a challenging world where simple Banebrood migrations can easily sound the death knell for a collapsing culture.
In many cases, divine sponsors despair of such cultures and shine their beneficence upon more promising worshippers. One of the hardest challenges regressive cultures face is to restore the self-esteem and national pride which has been lost, for without it, the self-sacrifice and hard work which are necessary to re-building civilizations remain absent.
Examples of regressed cultures include the Minaxon Empire, Happarra, Massuria, Hitaxos and the Tartos Empire, all of which disappeared when the Baneplague swept across the world. During the Dark Age, the collapsed Theocracy of the Sacred Flame largely reverted to nomadic culture, so too the Kassobari Khanate, while the rest of the world was mostly reduced to primitive cultures except in a few isolated regions. Later the Leonite Empire of southern Ghorn was mysteriously snuffed out overnight.
Janzibur, Khabaltir, and the Dhannus Valley civilization, Manapoca and the Gonatar Khanate all suffered various calamities and either disappeared or regressed back to barbarian level. At the end of the Blessed Age the Gødermark and Empire of the Red Gryphon sank from civilized cultures back to barbarian and nomadic levels, and most portions of the Holy Realm of Umbagwe regressed back to primitives.