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Archive for October, 2009

Tyleria: Law of the Jungle

The Tylerian Empire is an aggressive, rigidly stratified empire with institutionalized racism, religion, and forced labor. Their compulsive military service for all men keeps them powerful, but their strict laws prevent them from becoming the economic powerhouse that would help them conquer the world.

Physical Geography

Tyleri is Azmoth’s largest jungle. For many, the empire and the jungle are one and the same. This perception conveniently ignores the vast plains on the eastern end of the empire, but this is largely because the grip Tyleria holds on the plains is much more precarious.

However, there are other geographical types in the empire. The mountains on the south and west are tamed to a certain point, though they are much more frontier style settlements. Beyond the patrolled areas however are wildlands. There are some reports of human life in the heights of the Steelpeak mountains separating Tyleria from Silkur and Bregtoran, but the government’s official position is that they are uninhabitable, and nothing lives there. The more common belief is that the mountains are home to trolls, darklings, and other dark beasts – if nothing lives there, why would the Imperial Forces patrol this frontier? All that is certain is that it isn’t safe to leave settled lands, whether for bandits, darklings, or the weather and treacherous terrain.

The Wall of Elu to the south is another matter. It is well documented that the upper reaches of these mountains are home to darklings and giants. It is, after all, from the Wall of Elu that the Darkling Emperor hailed. It is also from these directions that darkling forces attacked during the various collapses of the empire. While there are a few settlements in the foothills of the Wall, the Imperial Forces maintain their fortresses and garrisons a good distance from them.

The Wall is the cause of a good deal of religion and superstition. In one of the few cases where official religion approves of folk belief, it is held by the churches in Tyleria that The Wall was placed there by Anhouim to fulfill a direct order from Az-Mozeth to protect the empire from the evils that dwell further south. For this reason, as well as the historic difficulty they have had, Tyleria has no interest in expanding southward. Indeed, there have been those who have pushed such an agenda who have been labeled heretics and sacrificed to the The Shining One.

The most famous geographical feature to break the jungle façade of Tyleri, however, is the Treib River. It is far from the only river in the rain forest; the jungle is criss-cross by smaller rivers, many of which are tributaries of the Treib, streams, and runs. It is hardly possible to take any journey of more than a mile or so without having to cross at least one stream. However, the Treib stands out for it’s size. It is famous in that it is navigable its entire length to The Wall of Elu, where a massive waterfall inhibits further travel. There is a cateract that formerly blocked the progress seaworthy ships at Tyleria itself, but the empire has long ago dug canals of sufficient size and capacity that it is no longer an obstacle.

The Treib runs fast and deep in most. There are few place safe to cross without a ship, and even fewer to swim safely. However, there is a massive fishing industry because of it’s size. It is so capacious, in fact, that freshwater fish is more prominent in the average Tylerian’s diet, surpassing sea fish even along the much of the empire’s coastline.

Tyleria also controls the entirety of the Zaamon river, which is the location of the sudden border between rainforest and temperate plains. The Zaamon is much less friendly to travel, and it has many more fords. This has been a great source of consternation for the Tylerian government, as the sheltered Bay that the Zaamon feeds is an ideal port. Normally, such a locale would become a popular port anyway, but due to Tylerian tariffs and regulations, almost all traders and merchants prefer to dock in the free city of Carpath at the mouth of the Ourismi River, despite it’s tendency to flood and the frequency of disease from the nearby swampland. Tyleria tried for centuries to take Carpath, but the ferocity of the allied free cities to prevent such an incursion held them off. Today, there is an uneasy truce between the empire and its closest eastern neighbor.

The flood plains that Tyleria controls are where most of it’s farming is done. It is not a popular place to live, however, because of the frequency of disease. Criminals who are not sacrificed to The Shining One are usually shipped to the flood plains to perform forced labor on the farms there.

Tyleria produces more rice, indigo and smokeleaf in the floodplains than the rest of the world combined. Rice bread is considered the primary food of the common people in Tyleria, where only the very wealthy can afford to eat food made of wheat or corn regularly. The abundance and fertility of this region is also why Tyleria has the only common population who use smokeleaf, which is usually only available to the rich in other place.

The insect population and unhealthy hygiene of the floodplains, has led to frequent disease, lowering the life expectancy of this region considerably. As there are few trees, the jungle humans who make up the vast majority of Tyleria’s population is uncomfortable here anyway. On the positive side, however, these work camps have led Tylerians to a number of medical advances: primarily using herbal and mineral remedies for disease.

However, despite this significant diversity, the vast expanse that makes up most of the Tylerian Empire is filled by the Tyleri Jungle. Botanists from Parthann have identified more than 3000 breeds of trees in this luch region, but the locals group them into only a few groups.

Tylerians build their cities and homes high off the ground in the branches of the giant tripolod trees. These trees grow for thousands of years, and grow to be hundreds of feet tall. Most, notable, however, is the triple trunk of the tree, each of which can be hundreds of feet around (they grow in thickness nearly as fast as they grow upwards). Tripolod trees send out sprawling branches of immense girth on which the villages are built. Between the branches and the gigantic trunks, these trees appear round when separated from surrounding trees. Occasionally a petrified tripolod will have structures built within the tree itself. The most famous example is the Imperial Palace at Tyleria City, which thoroughly uses the inside of the tripolod where it is built, with many hallways built inside the branches. All the structures on this tree are part of the palace itself, and the city is built primarily in the trees surrounding the palace.

Juntel trees bear food, and thus it is forbidden to cut a live juntel down. The leaves are useful for food, the smallest branches can be boiled to a soft shoot that can be added to nearly any meal. The bark is ground into a fine spice that enhances the flavor of most any food it is put in. Juntel spice is one of the reasons that a vigorous trade with Tyleria still exists. The fruit of juntels is used as a staple of Tylerian diet, supplementing fish and rice.

There are actually a wide variety of juntel trees, bearing different fruits and with different flavorings that come from the twigs. However, there is little variation in the flavor of the spice made from the bark of these different varieties, except in intensity.

Dead juntel trees are considered property of the government, and the lumber from them is made into exquisite furnishings and décor. It is not, however, a sturdy enough wood for construction or for weaponry.

Construction that is not done with tripolod trees is usually done with parxess trees. When treated with sap from a trill tree, parxess trees are incredibly strudy and strong. Depending on how the trill sap is treated, it can also have various levels of rigidity, from solid enough to make weapons to flexible enough to curl into circles. Both parxess and trill trees are very common throughout the jungle.

The colonies established by Tyleria are poor and ill developed. Since Bask discovered the only known jungle land in the north, Tylerian colonies are settled next to rivers in open land. This makes most Tylerians very uncomfortable with living there. The land is fertile, and the three rivers that sport major Tylerian settlements are broad and non-treacherous. One Tylerian colony, Tyllana (Tyl on the bay) is established on a very major river on the most ideal bay in the world. There are traces of civilizations lost in the large forest in Tyleria’s colonized area, but Tylerians have not explored them yet, being confounded by the falsely familiar, yet totally alien trees there.

Cities

The most important city in the Tylerian Empire is, of course, Tyleria itself. The capital is the largest city and the economic center of the empire. Situated as it is on the Treib it is a very useful location. The main part of the city is built on a tall hill which can see a great deal of the surrounding territory on which a dozen or more of the largest tripolods on record stand, all of which have been built up to capacity. The most important of the aristocrats live atop the hill, but primarily it is used for the palace, government office, food hoards, and mercantile concerns. However, the area can be very quickly converted to house hundreds of residents of the city should invasion ever occur, which hasn’t happened since the fourth empire was formed.

A hundred yard area of the hill at the bottom has been razed and cleared of all brush. This is to promote the ability to defend the city. As jungle humans have no problem moving from tree to tree, especially when they are the size of tripolods, this is the Tylerian equivelant of a wall.

Huge tracts of the Tyleri jungle have been built into villages. There are few places where the tripolods don’t grown, and as they seem to have some sort of symbiotic relationship with certain kinds of juntel trees, it is easy to make a home most anywhere. There are, however, portions of the jungle that are still not explored, noteably in the northeast. Wild game is still here in abundance, and one may enter only with Imperial sanction.

Barcx is another of the large population centers with it’s own identity. It was founded at the mouth of the Zaamon with the hopes that it would become a second economic center. However, trade at this location did not pan out as planned. Due to a large stretch of parxess trees, however, much construction is done at Barcx still, and it is a very important military town to the empire. Much of the expeditions to the northern continent left from Barcx, though in the last half-decade or so a small town known as Maryez at the northeast tip of the peninsula has become the first stopping point for these expeditions. Only a few people live in Maryez, and it is a well-known secret that the primary inhabitants are actually Baskers. It has not been enough of an issue for the Tylerian government to take control… yet. Taxes… more properly a tribute, is paid from Maryez, and they don’t ask for protection, so they Maryez is permitted to exist.

The final important population center in Tyleria is Bardenstock. Bardenstock is the only free city Tyleria managed to take and hold. It was accomplished through internal treachery and a large segment of the population with sympathetic with Tyleria. It is another strain on the relations of the empire with it’s eastern neighbors, but it is no longer a source of contention.

Most Tylerian exports that do not leave directly from the capital go through Bardenstock, for distribution to the free cities and Tarth. Thus it is tightly guarded and a heavily fortified city. Bardenstock is also the administrative center of the agriculture of Tyleria, and it is not unusual for laborers and soldiers to be sent to Bardenstock before they are send to their post of duty, even though it is on the far side of the plains from the jungle.

Because of it’s history and economic importance, Bardenstock is the only place in the empire where the institutional racism of Tyleria is not enforced. Here you will find a disproportionate number of humans who are not jungle or river. It is also the only place where you will find churches that would be considered heretical in any other part of the empire.

Tyllana and the other colonies exist primarily on imported goods from Tyleria, making them a very unprofitable enterprise despite their ideal locations. Few Tylerians who have a choice in the matter stay in the north more than a couple years. Yet, Tyleria refuses to give up gains, due to it’s manifest destiny, so there are large garrisons in the three major colonies and heavy fortifications. Parthites have petitioned Tyleria to allow them to stay in Tylerian colonies so they can investigate the rich cultural ruins and artifacts they are sure exist there, but thus far, permission has been refused, and the colonies remain primarily large military forts distant from the empire, and without enough workers to feed the residents. More river types live in the colonies than jungle types, simply because of their location. But even these don’t care for the northern rivers as well as the Treib or the Zaamon, since they were raised in the jungle.

Tylerian Pride

It is unclear whether nationalistic fervor is the source of Tylerian religious zeal or if the reverse is true. Whatever it is, the two are inseparably intertwined with each other and Tylerian sense of identity. In the distant past, Tarth had sent missionaries to Tyleria to convert them. They found that they could convert no one. The first reaction was that this was due to the institutionalize religion, to which they responded that Tarth would use its might to protect converts. However, they soon found that they could not their students were unwilling to listen because to be Tylerian was to worship the emperor. To worship the emperor was to be Tylerian. They couldn’t break the association between them, and thus no converts were made. It is this historical experience that informs Tarth, and the rest of the world, about Tyleria.

It is further evident in Tylerian culture itself. Those who strike out and are different are typically shunned. Most feel that anyone interested in scholarly pursuit are at least different from normal, and most often feel that what they do "isn’t right." Those who do not revere The Shining one or who dislike Imperial policy on things like military service are not even Tylerian in many minds.

This also explains the racism of Tyleria. What is generally common is what is proper. Since the vast majority of Tylerians are jungle types, and the vast majority of the terrain is jungle, Tyleria is the jungle, and the jungle is Tyleria. Being associated with the sea or hills or so forth makes you a little more suspect politically, and a little less significant.

History

Three thousand years ago a few families banded together in a tribe like existence and decided to call their village after their leader: Tyl.

Tyl was built into the trees at the top of a steep hill where the normally treacherous Treib River settles down for a couple miles. It became an ideal location for trade because of river, and was easily defensible because of the hill. Thus it was an attractive place to settle, and soon others were coming to join the original settlers and the village grew into a town.

Over the first few centuries Tyl tried to be a peaceful village. However, the local jungle tribes, out of hostility, jealousy, or mere desire for conquest, were aggressive and wars are not infrequent. Tyl, being nigh unassailable, eventually won all these wars and took control the nearby habitations, exacting simple tribute from them, but also defending them when their neighbors attack. Eventually, however, they began to pursue an approach of preemptive war. Other cities or tribes would eventually attack them, so they decided it would be best to conquer the region before that could happen. Slowly but steadily the empire grew from a collection of small villages and towns to control all the land bordering on the Treib River.

Some four and a half centuries after the founding of Tyl, the central issue of any politics was how much Tyl can righteously conquer. The prevailing decision was more or less to take as much as they can, the whole world, if possible. They began by pushing westward. It is at this time that they changed the name of the empire to Tyleria and began reckoning time from the founding of Tyl.

By the ninth century, the Tyleria empire stretched from the Steelpeaks to the Zaamon, and by the eleventh, they ruled the entire, vast jungle.

In the twelfth century, disaster struck. A massive army, made up of trolls, giants, and darklings, began coordinated strikes. They seemed to attack everywhere at once. In a matter of weeks, the entire empire had been reconquered and a new emperor set on the throne (see sidebar). Thus began the first dark age of Tylerian history. For two centuries Tyleria was occupied by the monsters and humanity was enslaved. There was a resistance movement through most of this period. However, it wasn’t until 1456 that a force united behind Gollend Tyl managed to dethrone the so-called Darkling Emperor. Without central leadership, the rest of the army was disorganized nine months later they had been driven to the southern mountains.

Tyleria reorganized in much the same way as it had previously, though with the Tyl family becoming somewhat more central to religious practice. Gollend was seen as a deliverer sent by the Anhouim. Emphasis came to be placed on order and strict hierarchy. The celebratory-oriented Tylerians were not quite ready for the authoritative rule that was emerging, however, and a blight affecting the juntel trees and causing mass famine triggered a second overthrowing of the empire only a century later. This second dark age was hardly as chaotic as the first, but it didn’t teach the society anything. It lasted roughly 20 years, and a reactionary emperor took the throne.

This emperor showed very little interest in control or authority. Local authorities and Treeheads were given leeway and a number took it upon themselves to consolidate a new empire. The emperor’s dynasty lasted four generations before, once again, the empire collapsed, this time into a vast swath of individual kingdoms and baronies resembling Silkur or Bregtoran as much as anything.

Eventually factions came together and formed alliances. While this “dark age” resembled the second more than the first, it lasted much longer. Three emperors, all claiming the name of Tyl and all claiming rights to the imperial throne fought a long war of attrition. At last one of the emperors was killed, and the two remaining, after pursuing three more years of bloody war, came to a compromise. The inheritance of the emperor’s seat until this point had been a matter of strict primogeniture. Under the compromise, the emperor would choose his heir, and he would be required to choose an heir of the other house, subject to approval from a council of nobles. This served them well until the end of the eighteenth century by Tylerian reckoning.

Squabbling led to petty politics, which led to assassinations, and the period known as The Fifty. In this time, fifty emperors ruled over the course of only three years. The last one, a child of four, was killed on the throne with no declared heir. Another dark age ensued.

Approximate 2000 years after the founding of Tyl, the empire was reforged. Relying on common identity as Tylerians, another man going by the name of Gollend Tyl led a group of militant priests gathered from throughout the jungle. Through a combination charismatic evangelism and selective, but effective, physical force, most of the jungle fell to his rule in a short time. Gollend retained the tradition of selecting his own heir, but dispensed of the needed approval of the council. Military campaigns conducted by his son restored the empire to its previous size, and then beyond in eastward expansion toward the free cities. By 2150, the empire was stable. The emperors gradually realized the value of an administrative council and the small council that runs things today was formally formed in 2216. The emperors gradually surrendered the day-to-day running of the empire to the council, but retain formal authority.

The Tylerians Themselves

Naturally, due to the geography, an overwhelming majority of Tylerians are of the Jungle type. This is promoted by state instituted racism, as well. Marrying outside your own racial type earns one a demotion in the strict status hierarchy in the society. Jungle humans are the at the highest level of this hierarchy, naturally, with desert types being at the lowest level. Nearly every Tylerian respects and honors the hierarchy, even those at the bottom, and there has been little or no movement to change it for hundreds of years. Obviously, the Emperor and all the aristocracy are jungle-types.

There are a significant number of river-types in Tylerian, however, due to the troublesome nature of the major rivers in the empire. River-types receive very little persecution and are often quite rich, earning positions of importance in the bureaucracy. The third most common type, though significantly fewer than river-types, are the ocean types. Traditionally anyone not of the river or jungle type has been treated with great disregard, but it was, not surprisingly, an ocean type who captained the expedition that discovered the northern continent, thereby earning much more respect for his people.

Plains-types are nearly all laborers in the farms, and their lot is not a good one. There are very few mountain types as well. Those that do exist are attached to the military for duty in the south and west. They more or less exist outside the social stratum.

Government and Military

The government of Tyleria is ostensibly headed by The Shining One, what they call their emperor. However, very little real decision making is done by The Shining One. Generally he lives a life of leisure. Most decisions are made by a small council of nobles who are picked from the leading houses by the The Shining One. However, while the emperor generally plays a small part in the government, it is not because he has no power. The emperor can at any time choose to veto or overrule any mandate or law formed by the informal council, and he will be obeyed. The people of Tyleria, and the military especially, are zealous in their loyalty to the The Shining One, to whom they swear their fealty.

The Shining One is an inherited position, with primogeniture being favored but not an absolute rule. It is not unheard of or considered strange for an emperor to appoint a younger son, brother, or even a nephew as an heir. Oddly, this is not a source of civil conflict. The Shining One appoints his own heir, publicly, and it is immediately acknowledged, the military even taking an oath of loyalty to protect the heir. It is also not unusual for The Shining One to change heirs, thus he can appoint one relative when he first ascends to the throne, and then change his mind later when a better candidate manifests. It is traditional, however, to appoint former heirs to the council, and no emperor has ever changed heirs more than twice.

The current council consists of three nobles: Xavier Styll is a brilliant strategist and is typically given carte blanc when it comes to maneuvering the military. The Styll family is nearly as old as the lineage of The Shining One, and there is nearly always a Styll on the council. Branc Brutell is of another prominent family, yet was an unusual pick that most people had not predicted, for while his family is prominent they have not traditionally been influential or well off. The decision has proven to be a good one, however, as Brutell has shown himself to be a remarkably capable diplomat, especially when dealing with foreign powers, such as Bask, and has a very good head for economics. The final member of the council is Consen Tyl. Consen is the eldest nephew of the current Shining One, and is in fact older than his uncle (the Tyl family, to promote stability, tends to marry early and have many children, currently, The Shining One has 25 male children and 150 nephews). Consen was picked as the first heir, fifteen years ago when the current Shining One rose to power. He has been replaced as heir by his cousin, as was expected when the boy demonstrated his brilliance in military service and became a favorite in the noble social circles. The council’s loyalty is beyond question.

There are various other nobles, most of them related to the Tyl family by marriage or descent, and they could generally be grouped into 3 or 4 clans. Nobles have little power other than being eligible for leadership positions in the government and the military. Because of their connection to the Shining One, however, they profit greatly from the junkel tree trade and are rich.

The only other civil government positions of political significance, besides the Shining One and his informal council, are the TreeHeads. Only nobles are eligible for these positions, and it is, essentially, a neighborhood chief. Each TreeHead is responsible for the management and accounting for all the businesses and residences built in the tripolod tree to which he is assigned, and all his orders must be obeyed, although nobles can appeal his decisions to the council. Generally, the noble lives in the tree he rules, though it is not necessary, especially in cases where no nobles live in a particular tree. It is a practice, though not a requirement for the TreeHead to appoint three assistants, each responsible for one of the trunks of the tree. These assistants are usually nobles, but as it is not an official government position, merchants or artisans with high social standing are often asked to serve. The TreeHead is responsible for recompensing his assistants, but he receives a generous stipend from the Shining One to compensate for the work he does.

Clearly, this system does not work east of the Zaamon, where the tripolods don’t grow. But generally, this is unimportant, as nearly all those living in the floodplains are either in the military or are forced laborers. The exception, of course, is the few communities, including Bardenstock. Most of these population centers simulate the system, dividing themselves geographically into boroughs or wards they call Branches, which are then grouped into Trunks, headed by assistants chosen by the noble appointed to head the city (not generally an envied position, as it pulls the noble from the jungle). Bardenstock follows this system as well, but a certain degree of anarchy brought on by its proximity and history with the free cities is also included. There is less strict obedience, and popularly organized militia/police forces enforce the law, keeping crime still at a minimum.

Tyleria maintains a standing army, justifiably feeling that its western and southern borders are threatened, and believing that an eastern show of force is necessary to keep any of the Free Cities from forgetting their place. All males, whether citizen, noble, or not, are compelled to serve five years in the military and must keep a sword, shield, spear, and bow in good repair in their homes, to be called on in a moment’s notice, which partially explains why Tyleria has never been invaded – the defense force would be the entire healthy male population, well trained and loyal to the death. Most mountain types tend to make careers out of military service, even though they are prohibited from becoming officers.

Unit sizes in the military vary, but they are typically set up in groups of nine led by an officer, and then put into 9 groups, and then another 9 groups, making a battalion of 820 soldiers and officers. Officers fight along side their soldiers, though the lowest social caste (typically non river, ocean, or jungle types) are given the most menial tasks, rarely asked to fight, and it is considered punishment for an officer to be given charge of such a group, hardly better than being posted in the north.

Culture

Despite the intricacy of the government and the rigid social structure, most Tylerians are very simple people. They have no interest in deep scholarship, philosophy, theology, or other learning except as it directly affects their daily lives. However, true to their jungle nature, they live life passionately, and laziness it the cardinal sin above all others.

Each tripolod tree holds a celebration of some sort at least once a month, some of them as often as once a month. These celebrations, many of which have no purpose other than to have a gathering, usually start off with a sacrifice in The Shining One’s honor. The sacrificial animal is typically a dozen or so of the colorful birds that live throughout the Tyleri Jungle or else if the TreeHead is wealthy, a grond, a large, slow moving, but tough-hided herbivore that Tylerian nobility enjoys.

In the case of a grond sacrifice, the meat is cooked after the sacrifice and set out for all to partake. While many of the jungle birds are considered delicacies in places like Parthann and Tarth, Tylerians do not enjoy their taste and so they bodies are usually discarded. In any case, the feast is supplemented by whatever junkel is easily available, a variety of rice dishes, and plenty of fish. Everyone is permitted to eat as much as they want, but few overeat, both because it makes climbing through the trees more difficult and because after the feast the competitions are held.

Tylerians typically do not enjoy dancing, so dancing is not a common feature of their celebrations. But they love physical exertion, and so races (on foot or through the trees), sparring matches (in various armed and unarmed styles), endurance contests, marksmanship, and other sports last long into the night. The focus of most celebrations, however, is the Tchonna game.

Tchonna is a team sport with many variations, and the same group will play different ways so that every game must start with a reading of the rules, to make sure everyone has it straight, but the basic structure is the same.

An area of the surrounding jungle is proscribed, and that territory divided into three sections, one for each team at either end and a "no man’s land" in between. Some variations make the game more difficult by making either the no man’s land or the ends a clearing. Each team is given a certain number of rings, depending on how long a game desired and the number of players on each team. A general rule is to have at least as many rings as players, but most games use a few more rings than this. The longest game on record was played during a week-long festival at the coronation of a new Shining One – there were a hundred rings for each player, and the game lasted the entire festival.

When the rings are handed out, each time has approximately a half hour to hide their rings. The time granted is extended if there are significantly more rings than players. It is usually a rule that all players on a team must participate in hiding the rings, thus none of them can follow the other team and spy out the hiding places early. There are rarely restrictions on where rings may be hidden except that they cannot be buried or covered completely. One historic team was made completely of river people, who hid their rings in plain site, but over and in the Treib, making it very difficult for any of the other players to retrieve them. The river people, while not as agile as the jungle folk, were used to living in the trees and had an easier time gathering rings than their opponents. Unfortunately, this was forbidden in the Imperial Games that year, and while the team of river people made a good showing, they ultimately lost.

When the time for hiding the rings is done, the real competition begins. Each team begins hunting out the rings hidden by their opponent. This is complicated by the fact that most of the players (if not all) will be carrying peace-bonded weapons coated with dye and arrowed with soft tips filled with dye. Points are scored for finding rings, with bonuses at pre-defined proportions. Points are lost for each mark of dye on players on your team. This is what makes clearings so difficult, as it is both relatively unfamiliar terrain and it exposes you to the opposing team’s fire.

A player may only carry one ring at a time, and is generally of sufficient size to guarantee that the player can only use one hand at a time (rules state that the rings must be carried my the hands). The ring is then brought back to a judges’ circle, often an stadium area where audiences may sit and the judges may gather. No points are gained until the ring is placed on one of several hooks or pegs in the judges’ circle. These targets are rarely accessible, so the rings must be tossed onto them. Judges give extra points based on shot difficulty and style. This is clearly subjective, but it is a dependable that a player who makes the shot more difficult for himself will be awarded more points. "Ringers," where the ring doesn’t bounce off anything before reaching the target, are also given more points.

Ending conditions are variable. Some games are played to a certain score. Others are played until all the rings, or all of one team’s rings, are found (extra points usually awarded for the team that gathers all their rings first). Others are played based on an amount of time.

There are few restrictions on behavior. Players are permitted to bodily restrain other players, though causing an injury will usually bar a player from the rest of the game. Players are also permitted to block attempts at throwing the ring. It is tempting for some teams to use a blocker of some sort to guard their targets, though this usually doesn’t do enough good to ensure that the opposing team doesn’t get points, as it leaves the guard exposed and ring carriers can throw at different targets.

Tchonna tests a players ability to track and hunt, his fighting ability, endurance, and marksmanship, as well as a sense of strategy. Thus, while players will make extravagant displays to please audiences, it is universally considered better to play than it is to watch. Men, children, and even women are avid players of Tchonna.

Other than their enthusiasm for Tchonna and thinking up new rules and strategies, Tylerians are generally a straightforward people. They do not delve deeply into their religion or their way of life. Politics are not interesting to them, even the nobles who tend to be better educated in terms of theology, and thus there are few power games for control. The typical Tylerian, indeed, most Tylerians, heartily believe in their current social and religious structure, and resist change. They are a conservative people, and they adore their emperor. Since the Shining One is rarely seen in public, it is difficult for them to become disenchanted with him.

The Darkling Emperor – Collapse and Restoration

Very little historically verifiable information is still available about the Darkling Emperor who rule 18 centuries ago, only enough to demonstrate that there was certainly a historical emperor who controlled much, if not all, of the territory now known as Tyleria during one of the several dark ages that befell the empire. There are scholars who debate whether this emperor was actually a Darkling, but even they acknowledge that he used giant, troll, and darkling forces exclusively in his army. He was not the heir of any other empire, having forged a short-lived empire out of the chaos of political collapse and leaving no heir.

It is a dark time that few will discuss, but there are a few stories still in the memory of skalds about heroes who fought to destabilize the darkling rule, and how they tragically failed to create enough human unity to restore the empire at that time, instead creating a number of factions that formed fragmented states, much like the territories of Silkur and Bregtoran.

It is this sort of organization that typified the other three "collapses" of the Tylerian Empire. While the land could no longer be considered unity, it was not like the first collapse, when stories tell us that cannibalism, demon worship, and violence were the rule. The disparate states retained a sort of ethnic loyalty, which made the second and third collapses much shorter.

It is said that Gollend Tyr was the primary of the rebels who dethroned the Darkling Emperor. Depending on which cult you believe, it was either Gollend resurrected or reincarnated, or else his descendent, or some mixture of the two, who reappeared and reunited the empire each time. The cults also disagree on Gollend’s own claims about himself. There are dozens of texts that claim to be his writings, some of which are messianic, some which claim he is divine. All teach obedience to rule and the virtues of order and unity, and proclaim manifest destiny for Tyleria.

The Shining One is also the focus of the official religion of Tyleria. While a great deal of variation is permitted in the various cults, there are a few doctrines that are enforced, with heresy punished by sacrificing the guilty. Among these doctrines are the holiness of the emperor and the chosen status of Tyleria. It is believed, not just as nationalistic fervor, but as a literal religious dogma, that Tyleria is to one day rule the world and finally throw the Shailumen forces off Azmoth. Some cults go to extremes, claiming the Shining One is an angel, or an anhouim. Some even claim he is an Elumen, possibly an incarnation of Az-Mozeth himself. Anything more than an angel, however, is generally regarded as suspect. Clearly the Shining One is picked by Az-Mozeth to rule, but to say is he is much more than that seems absurd to most Tylerians.

Priesthood is an occupation about on par with artisans in Tyleria. This means that priests, while they have more influence that most citizens, have little absolute political power, and nobles rarely, if ever, choose to become priests. Exceptionally good priests, like skilled artisans, are given grants by the government and nobility to do their work, thus it is an attractive career choice for anyone who can draw a congregation.

All Tylerians attend the worship services of at least one cult, and many attend several. Technically it is a law in Tyleria to attend worship and pay obeisance to the Shining One. However, there is no working reporting system, and it is generally held that there are so few who break this law that it need not be regularly enforced. Those few who do not attend, however, are quiet about it. There’s no point in building up interest from soldiers who are charged with enforcing the law. It’s also looked down on so severely by the conservative people of Tyleria that it can only harm one’s reputation and business to have it known that you are not religious.

Tylerian art is bold and bright, and usually considered garish and tacky in other lands. They make use of only the brightest colors in paintings and clothing, often using contrasting colors for dramatic effect. Sculpture utilizes exaggerate features that call attention to themselves. Even their theater is overacted in foreigners’ opinions, often shouted or screamed for large portions of the drama.

Tylerians Abroad

Tylerians rarely leave Tyleria except on military campaign or a few merchants on trading missions. The one exception is to colonize the northern continent, and this doesn’t remove Tylerians from their culture. There are a few diplomats and ambassadors who represent the empire in places like Bask and Tarth, but there are almost no expatriates to speak of. Those who encounter Tylerians out of their homeland find them to be haughty and self-important, especially if the non-Tylerian is not a jungle type.

Foreigners are also rarely welcomed onto Tylerian soil, with two exceptions. A very few Parthann scholars are welcomed with whom a very few nobles like to speak, to hear their outlandish ideas. Though it is not popular for Parthannites to make this journey, realizing that they are entertainment, rather than educators. The other exception are skalds from Bregtoran. Tylerians enjoy their stories and songs, often commenting that the foreigner (who is rarely of a jungle type) is "very good for a Breggie." Most skalds have difficulty with this journey as well, as Tylerians do not usually follow the Bregtoran rules for skald audiences.