The Thracian Hegemony
These are setting essays by Nick the Nevermet for the Wyzard's fantasy setting
Welcome to the Thracian Hegemony. Welcome to Freedom.
Long ago, humanity did not dream of freedom, as its leaders dreamed of power. This hubris caused the downfall of the Amaranthan Empire, a downfall that was as inevitable as it was disasterous. The sorcerer-kings were replaced by Vampire Princes, demonic patrons, and alien intelligences who erected the Dark Kingdoms on the backs of humanity. The Dark Kingdoms were the natural conclusion to the vicious pursuit of power began by the Amaranthans: sectarian, war, suffering, alienations, and hopelessness reigned supreme. The Dark Kingdoms are known by their Three Failings: Parochialism, Tyranny, and Monstrosity.
The rise of the Thracian Hegemony was a successful rejection of this social order. There was no revolution creating a new kingdom, as that would merely continue the cycle of oppression. The Hegemony was something new and distinctly, wonderfully human.
The Hegemony began as a set of trade agreements made between the human serfs in several neighboring Dark Kingdoms. Over time, it used its economic power to outflank the domination of the Vampire Princes. One by one, the Vampire Princes left, were bought off, or destroyed. The result were truly free human polities for the first time since the Amaranthan Empire. The Hegemony, however, refused to become a kingdom, but rather the infrastructure to supported all human nations.
What is the Hegemony?
The Hegemony can be thought of as a web made of countless strands. It is a cloak made from carefully woven thread.
The Hegemony it is a network of organizations and institutions dedicated to helping humanity transcend the provincialism. The Hegemony is composed of combines, formal organizations with specific missions in accordance with the Hegemonic worldview. Some promote particular industries, others general economic growth, or a political concern, a form of government, or any number of countless other matters. However, each combine is defined by an interest it promotes in the name of the Hegemony: humanity shall be free to have a full life of opportunity to be assembled as they see fit. The Hegemony is not a government, and it does not serve governments. It is not the market, nor does it serve the market. It serves humanity in all its infinite possibilities. Markets and governments are inevitable and necessary, but they must serve humanity, rather than force humanity to serve them. The Hegemony calls its attitude toward governments and markets “parameterism:” a few key ideals regarding universal human rights must be recognized by all nations within the Hegemony. Beyond these core ideals (“The Parameters”), humanity is allowed to self-organize as it sees fit. Two of the most basic are democracy, the will of the people directs the nation’s course, and functionalism, societies are to be sustainable and efficient. The Hegemony sees these as interrelated, and offers assistance in the form of experts and technocrats to ensure integrated nations can be maintained within the acceptable parameters.
"Polity" is a catchall term for a populated territory that is politically unified. Republics, kingdoms, confederations, clans... the form a polity can take is as variably as humanity
Despite its best efforts, Dark Kingdoms still exist beyond the edges of the Hegemony. There are even some holdouts that manage to withstand the Hegemon despite being geographically surrounded, but it is generally a matter of time before these fall. Finally, while it is a rare and horrible event, there have been cases of a polity being retaken by the Night.
Hobbled Kingdoms are human polities that are free of Dark Masters, but who are not yet ready to join the Hegemony. They are violent, superstitious, and backward. The Hegemony targets those Hobbled Kingdoms it believes it can help, giving them the opportunity to improve until they achieve a minimum CCHR to enter the Hegemony.
Hegemonic polities are those that are within the web of the Hegemon and its organizations. They benefit from the vast opportunities for trade, cultural exchange, and political assistance.
Strands of the Hegemon
Polities are within the Thracian Hegemony through their connection to, support of, and dependence on Strands, the interrelated non-governmental organizations that form the back bone of the Hegemony. Strands are extremely diverse, though each is organized around a specific mission that somehow promotes an element of CCH or a vision of how CCH is best managed and balanced.
Gates are Strands that approve or accredit a nation as being acceptable for entrance into the Hegemony. Gates periodically re-examine nations both inside and outside the Hegemony to see if their CCHR should be revised. Different Gates have different methods for evaluating a polity. For example, the Combine of Clouds begins its analysis with the indigenous beliefs and ideals of the polity, how they acted upon, and how these ideals may or may not lead toward a higher and more sustainable CCHR. Wellspring, on the otherhand, focuses on the polity's political economy and its consequences on the lower classes as the starting point for its CCHR. Gates are constantly surrounded by ideological conflicts over the best way to operationalize CCHR, and political conflicts over which Gates are assigned to evaluate which polities. A shift to a radically different Gate will have dramatic consequences for a polity.
Technocratic Strands are strands that offer assistance to a polity in maintaining the social infrastructure necessary for a high CCHR. Economists to manage fiscal policy, civil engineers to lay out a modern capital, cultural managers to ensure the Hegemony takes notice of a polity's distinctive voice... there are countless Technocrats who endeavor to keep societies running smoothly and peacefully.
Technocratic Strands are most active within new hegemonic territories (as they require the most assistance) and the core of the Hegemony (where the Strands are the state in practice if not in fact). Established yet non-elite polities often have a faction of varying strength that is concerned with maintaining the "distinctiveness" of the polity, and therefore limit the role of Technocrats to a degree. In some cases, this seems to work well. In others, it appears to stunt the development of the polity. Since the Hegemony is generally non-coercive, it does not impose Technocrats on a society, though more than one polity has found itself politically or economically trapped into allowing a greater Technocratic presence.
CCHR (Connectedness / Collectivity / Humanity Rating) is the basic measure of how much a given polity embodies the ideals of the Thracian Hegemony. Different gates calculate CCHR in slightly different ways according to their internal methodologies, but the same three core ideals are used across all Gates and polities.
Fluidity is a goal in and of itself for the Hegemony. Humanity should have the ability to customize its path through this life as much as possible. The requires the freedom to change in self-determined ways, and cosmopolitan access to as many ways to live as possible. This is a rejection of the First Failing of the Dark Kingdoms: parochialism. The Dark Kingdoms were at best isolated and static things that could not handle change without breaking, and they certainly could not grant the people within them the freedom to change and develop as they saw fit.
Polities with a high degree of Connectedness (Cn) are cosmopolitan and diverse. Individuals have the freedom to assemble their lives as they see fit. Work, hobbies, family life, and sexuality are merely different types of thread that can be woven together to make the tapestry of one's life.
Power is to be dispersed through a society. A society is not truly connected if only its elite is fluid, while the masses remain trapped in provinciality. The means for life and self-determination are to be universalized. This is a rejection of the Second Failing of the Dark Kingdoms: Tyrrany. Within the Dark Kingdoms, power was inevitably accumulated in the hands of a few individuals who ruled at a whim with no regard for others, leaving the rest of society cowering in powerless fear. All shall have a voice in the polity and the Hegemon.
Polities with a high degree of Collectivity (Cl) are defined by civil liberties and political institutions that are held accountable by and reactive to the public. Though democratic governance based on voting is most common, at least one polity achieved a reasonable high Cl score through a system of clan elders ruled and governed with the help of advanced telecommunication technologies.
Human beings are living, sentient, and sapient beings. We have the ability to hope and dream and feel empowered, yet we are susceptible to terror, fear, and suffering. Society ought to defend and promote the humanity of its people. This is a rejection of the Third Failing of the Dark Kingdoms: Monstrosity. Inhuman things ruled humanity in those places, and humanity suffered truly unnatural fates as a consequence. Fluidity and Collectivity mean nothing unless we are human and ever becoming more human.
Polities with a high Humanity (H) are defined by a quality of life. A strong social safety net is generally present that ensures the population is healthy, educated, and not impoverished.
“Hero” is a generic term for individuals who, through whatever means, have amassed a great deal of power attached to their person and personality. Some have powered armor. Some are wizards. Some are even genetically modified. All, however, are spectacular: powerful in a way that demands attention.
There are a number of descriptive categories heroes can fall into. If a hero is employed or sponsored by a nation, the hero is a magistrate or a magisterial hero. If, however, a hero is primarily attached to a Combine or combines, then the hero is a champion.
Most heroes are retained or attached to a particular government or Combine. The Free City of Ion retains the Maul of Comets to defend their city from whatever demonic monsters come its way. Jessica the Windguilder, on the other hand, is attached to the OVDA, the Outer Valley Development Authority, a Combine organized to re-populate and develop a region decimated by the Dark Kingdoms. They are well funded and have a predictable mission. Retained heroes are very different than freelance, or less politely, mercenary heroes, who move from one patronizing entity to another.
Eccentric heroes are those who do not fit cleanly onto the retained – mercenary spectrum. Lord Rail funds his personal vendetta against the Dark through the spoils of war. Brother Break, on the other hand, primarily makes draws his wealth from his exclusive sponsorship deals and his regular video specials. There are even a few, like Faithful William, who scrape together enough resources through amassing Hegemonic development grants.
Magistrates are heroes associated with a particular nation’s government, a situation that creates certain inevitable tensions. On the one side, there are faceless, expert technocrats keeping society running. On the other, there are the heroes, walking spectacles that defy formalization by their very nature. And in between, there is the public. The public may want many things, but more often than not, it rejects the idea that there is an irreducible tension between heroism and technocracy. This dynamic exists throughout the Sunrise. Meanwhile, the Technocrats constantly attempt to minimize the role heroes play within ‘real’ government matters, and the heroes in turn are constantly fighting for either more freedom in their actions, more influence over the government, or both.
Different nations have attempted to balance this tension with various political institutions. One nation may have a select group of magistrates with life-long terms selected by its parliament. In another, they are the cream of the military, given a chance to become more than human in the name of the nation. One nation is even ruled by an aristocracy of genetically enhanced humans who form various political parties which are then elected by the voting normal population.
Magistrates generally have a “built in audience” in their homeland. Simply by representing the nation, they are worthy of adoration.
Champions are, if anything, even more diverse than the Magistrates. All champions are defined in part by two questions: what is the thread of their Combine, and how much autonomy they have from the Combine. Some Champions are nothing but agents of the Combine, others are part-time agents, and part-time supporters of the public good (often in the name of good public relations). The popularity of a Champion varies widely depending on what its Combine’s interests are.