Commonwealth (Redirected from The Commonwealth)
There is no additional briefing material available to characters who are originally from this nation beyond what is presented below.FAQ
The focus of the Empire campaign is on the Empire and on the actions of its citizens, so every player must play an Imperial citizen following the normal rules for character creation. If you are fluent in one of the languages spoken in this nation then you can create a character who was originally from here but who has now become a citizen of the Empire if you wish.
The Commonwealth is a young nation, taking its first major steps on the world stage. Guided by a philosophy of the greatest good for the greatest number of people, the nation is convinced that it can make the world a better place - a conviction that makes its neighbours very nervous. Three times in the last fifty years, the Commonwealth has been at war with nearby countries and in each case they have been victorious. Yet, rather than turning their conquered enemies into vassals, they have done everything possible to incorporate them into the greater Commonwealth. Membership brings a level of freedom and comfort seen in few other places - provided one is prepared to accept the philosophy of the greater good.
Like the Empire, the Commonwealth is dominated by humans (both lineaged and unlineaged). Unlike the Empire, the Commonwealth population includes significant numbers of both orcs and daeva as well. Indeed, the Commonwealth recognises all sapient beings as having equal standing before their law, and equal opportunities within their society - a stance that contributes to their poor relations with the Principalities of Jarm.
Of particular interest to Imperial citizens are the Commonwealth ports which are open to trade with the Empire.
The Commonwealth lies to the south-east of the Empire, and takes many weeks of sailing by boat to reach. It shares the same land-mass as the Principalities of Jarm and, while they do not share a border, their uncomfortable proximity leads great deal of friction between the two nations.
The Commonwealth is a comparatively young nation. It has its roots in an old kingdom that once occupied the area that is now the core of the Commonwealth. Some time around 20YE, the old monarchy collapsed into a civil war that raged for over a century as the various heirs and pretenders to the royal throne (and their descendants) fought to be recognised as the One True Ruler. By 120YE, the area had stabilized slightly into five smaller states, each locked in a vicious struggle for dominance with their neighbours and suffering regular internal coups and schisms.
Into this chaos came a philosopher named Leonitz Altmann whose extensive writings came to form the core of the Commonwealth philosophy of the greatest good for the largest number of people. His teachings were embraced especially by the daeva soldiers who served in the armies of the Successor Monarchies - and they quickly spread the teachings to their human and orc peers. An organised coup by the militaries of all five monarchies swept away the idea of rule by hereditary nobles and re-united the Successor Monarchies into a single nation - the Commonwealth.
The coup was by no means bloodless, but it succeeded in part due to a great deal of grassroots support both from a civilian population sick of unjust taxes and the tyranny of the landed nobility, and by free thinkers and egalitarianists in all walks of life. Since then, the Commonwealth has steadily expanded - and not only through conquest. Several smaller nations adjacent to the Commonwealth peacefully petitioned for admittance when it became clear that the social, cultural, and economic benefits of doing so far outweighed the requirement to adopt the Commonwealth's political systems.
The modern Commonwealth is a highly meritocratic stratocracy. All political power in the Commonwealth lies in the hands of the military. Only those who serve are seen as worthy to make decisions about the future of their nation. Final executive power lies in the hands of the general council. Retired military officers often return to civilian life, but a sizeable number of ex-soldiers choose to continue to serve their nation in support roles; while they no longer make decisions themselves, they offer advice and logistical support to the people who do.
The general council does not exist in a vacuum, however: a second "house" of power exists, composed of the wisest and best-educated philosophers, thinkers, and planners. The Commonwealth is known throughout the world for its universities - centres of academic excellence that study everything from comparative religion to engineering, from medicine to ethics - and it is the universities that advise the military on courses of action that they can take to pursue the nation's goals. Some of the most influential people in the Commonwealth are the philosophers who dedicate themselves to establishing the most ethical course of action for their nation.
The civilian population possesses a great deal of freedom, but they cannot hold political rank nor participate directly in government. They are expected to co-operate with and support the military. They can accumulate personal wealth, and ultimately serve to drive the economy of the Commonwealth, but only those who take up military service can gain a voice in the running of their nation.
The practice of slavery is seen as one of the greatest evils to beset the world; the Commonwealth is absolutely dedicated to the emancipation of all slaves everywhere and their incorporation into the Commonwealth. A slave cannot engage in enlightened choice; the idea that a sapient being might be reduced to the status of an object is absolutely abhorrent to the Commonwealth. This vile institution is one of the things guaranteed to stoke the passions of any good citizen of the Commonwealth - more than any other form of tyranny, they are dedicated to its absolute destruction.
In addition to the ideas promoted by the common good, the people of the Commonwealth are known for a dynamic approach to life and its problems. The truism "was du heute kannst besorgen, verschiebe nicht auf morgen" (roughly "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today") is a touchstone among the people of the Commonwealth. This is almost certainly down to the influence of the daeva. While humans and orcs tend see the short lifespan of the daeva as a tragedy, the daeva themselves see it as a spur towards action. Act now, they say, because you may not see another sunrise. Much of the Commonwealth's culture is drawn from the tension between the idea of taking action today, and the desire to ensure that action is ethically sound.
Everyone in the Commonwealth speaks the Gemeinsamesprache (the "common tongue"). All official documents are written in this language, and while the Commonwealth carefully preserves many of the traditions of the nations that join it, it requires every child to learn the Gemeinsamesprache as their first language. Other tongues exist, and while the Commonwealth makes no effort to stamp them out, they are not promoted. Language, as the Commonwealth philosophers say, shapes thought. Language differences make misunderstandings easier, and prevent true understanding between sapients. The soldiers have a more practical approach - they do not need to translate a half-heard order on the battlefield before they can obey it.
All political power lies in the hands of the military and all government positions are held by actively serving soldiers. Only those engaged in active service are able to participate in political decision making. Ultimate authority lies in the hands of the generals, each of whom leads a significant armed force. These generals make decisions on behalf of the entire nation as part of a unified general council.
The soldiers of the Commonwealth - from the lowest footsoldier all the way up to the most powerful generals - swear an oath, not to the Commonwealth itself, but to the idea of the common good. This oath is fairly straightforward and can be summed up as "Handle so, dass das größtmögliche Maß an Gutem für die größtmögliche Anzahl von Personen entsteht" (Act according to the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number of people).
In all cases, the Commonwealth select their own leaders: ultimate political power lies in the hands of the soldiers. For example, a unit of soldiers select their own captain from among their own ranks - not even the generals can appoint someone to a leadership position. This has lead to a more dynamic military that is largely free from the dangers of nepotism or corruption. Rather than spending their time attempting to impress their superiors, ambitious Commonwealth citizens spend their time gaining the confidence of their peers and proving their competence to those who will be most impacted by it. At the end of the day, the soldiers tend almost overwhelmingly to select leaders that they trust to make life-or-death decisions on a daily basis.
The military council does not exist in a vacuum. If the Commonwealth's "military council" has ultimate executive and legislative power, the ultimate administrative power lies with the philosophers and academics. The universities work together to create a "second house" of government reminiscent of modern think tanks. The universities present proposals for laws and building projects to the general council based on careful study and heated debate. Such projects often require extensive commitment of people and resources; the generals determine which projects will be implemented and which will be refused via complex funding agreements.
The Commonwealth considers this two-tier approach to be very effective. The important ideas come from the people who are good at ideas but poor at execution/practicality, but the decisions about which policies to put into operation lie with the people who excel at practicality. The same people who are responsible for protecting the nation from outside threats and maintaining order are charged with selecting and implementing the policies proposed by the intelligentsia.
There is no doubt that the Commonwealth is an aggressive, expansionist nation, but they are not interested in subjugating or culturally dominating their conquered neighbours. They are also not driven by a desire for wealth, or for land, but by an absolute commitment to the idea of spreading the philosophy of the greater good. A common claim from the philosophers of the Commonwealth is that they will only consider going to war if they can prove that the suffering caused by doing so will be less in the long term than the suffering caused by doing nothing.
While the Commonwealth is militarily extremely powerful, and is well-respected for its commitment to learning and education, it has comparatively few magicians. Their Zauberer are expected to put their magic towards the service of the military, and there is a great emphasis on practical application over theory. Those who master ritual magic are very much in the minority - the majority of Commonwealth magicians focus on spellcasting, or master a handful of low-magnitude rituals that can be performed without the need for a coven.
More powerful groups of magicians do exist, but they are almost exclusively connected to one of the Commonwealth armies; they are soldiers, not scholars. Unsurprisingly, the Commonwealth focuses on magic of use on the battlefield - their most powerful ritual magicians master the lores of Autumn and Summer, and the healing powers of Spring. The rituals of Day and Night are seen as the province of philosophers, while the realm of Winter is seen as particularly suspect, and its use discouraged.
The common good contains many ideas that the priests of the Way might recognise. It encourages loyalty and personal pride; it respects courage, enshrines wisdom as a lofty ideal, and encourages prosperity and ambition. Yet it does not recognise these virtues as distinct - rather, it promotes the idea of living a good life, a life founded on ethical principles, that recognises both individual freedom and communal responsibility. Commonwealth priests have a not-entirely unearned reputation for being condescending to the "backwards" priests of the Imperial Synod.
Commonwealth priests are almost always philosophers and scholars. They promote ethical behaviour with an emphasis on both personal liberty and personal responsibility, whilst also encouraging community spirit and respect for other sapients. Many of these philosophers become chaplains, serving on the front lines as soldiers. Others engage in more pastoral care, tending to the spiritual needs of their communities, being particularly active in the role of educators and counsellors. While religious scholars all embrace the core philosophy of the greater good (as laid out by Altmann), there are several competing schools of thought as to how to put these ideas into practice. Most students of Altmann's philosophy agree, however, that the first step toward achieving the greatest good for the greatest number of people lies in choosing to live an ethical life; to avoid causing suffering to others; and to actively reduce the suffering of other sapient peoples.
When foreigners think of the Commonwealth religion, however, they usually imagine the paladins. The paladin orders go beyond the role of advisors and educators, and actively seek to promote the philosophy of the greater good. Many serve as armoured knights who inspire and support their fellow soldiers directly, often in the vanguard. Others have a reputation for more underhand behaviour - they actively infiltrate other nations and encourage the people to revolt against tyrants or oppressive laws.
In particular, chaplains and paladins alike engage in ceremonial practices that would be familiar to followers of the Way. Unlike Imperial or Sumaah priests, however, they eschew using ceremonies which create auras (specifically they employ anointing, consecration, and hallowing only to remove existing auras). In the Commonwealth, the creation of auras is considered a wicked act, practiced by witches and sorcerers. These auras, they argue, are a form of oppression. Sapient beings are born with free will, and spiritual auras attempt to subvert that free will. As a consequence, many paladins of the Commonwealth who master these religious ceremonies (as well as insight and exorcism) commit themselves to tracking down and eradicating spiritual auras and menaces (such as ghosts). Paladins who specialise in this role are sometimes called witch hunters.
This philosophy is often seen by Imperial priests as being an expression of Lucidianism, but the movements are unrelated. Lucidianism grows out of the desire to explore the seven virtues without the distractions caused by auras; the Commonwealth opposition to auras runs much deeper and is based around complex concepts of self-determination and the power of enlightened choice.
At the lowest level, the economy of the Commonwealth is somewhat familiar. The civilian population maintain resources, and buy and sell goods to each other, and to the armies. All the mithril, white granite, weirwood, and ilium in the Commonwealth is ultimately controlled by the armies, however. The armies also have an entire class of structures that the Empire might call "intermediate Bourse resources" - large scale sinecures that secure additional resources for the armies. The armies use these resources to supply themselves, and to invest in projects suggested by the universities. The surplus is sold to the civilian population, and the money used to buy bread, shoes, and swords. This represents a form of "trickle down economics" but it is not that straightforward - the civilian buys Bourse resources from the army to improve their resource, and then they have more materials to sell to the military.
The Commonwealth invests heavily in infrastructure. The universities propose projects that they believe will improve life for the citizens in an area, and the generals determine how much their army is prepared to contribute to making that project a reality. The more impact the project has, and the more people it effects, the more likely it is that enough generals will be invested enough in the outcome to invest in the project. This leads to a slightly paradoxical situation in which it is easier for the Commonwealth to build a great work than it is (for example) for you to get the potholes outside your house fixed.
The ideals of the common good are held up in the economic arena as elsewhere; this is particularly apparent in foreign trade. The Commonwealth imposes punitive tariffs and import taxes on any nation that practices slavery, for example - when they are prepared to deal with them at all. The universities regularly debate the ethics of having anything to do with foreign nations that keep slaves, but the general consensus is that absolute sanctions would ultimately do more harm than good. Any merchant from Asavea or Jarm had best get used to regular lectures about the evils of slavery if they wish to do any business in the Commonwealth - and few bother as there are better profits to be made elsewhere.
The irony of the Commonwealth is that it can only truly exist while it is expanding. Their philosophers are well aware that they will eventually have to find a new form of government, once there is no longer any need for an active military. They are a nation that lives in the moment, but they are wise enough to know that eventually someone will have to come up with a new idea about how to live - once they have conquered the entire world, of course."Emperor Frederick
Look and Feel
The Commonwealth look and feel are very much a work in progress, but some elements of their costume are detailed here.
Clothing in the Commonwealth is practical and utilitarian. Leather, wool, and fur are the most common materials used throughout the Commonwealth. The most common style for civilian clothing is a buckled leather or wool jerkin over a quilted tunic or lightweight gambeson, with trousers. this image or this image might represent an off-duty soldier or merchant. The people of the Commonwealth do not usually reflect their rank in their clothing - rather, rank is presented with badges, medals, or insignia. A wealthy merchant may have a beautiful gold ring or necklace, but the idea of spending money on mere appearance is often seen as wasteful.
The Commonwealth tends to be cold, however, and whether armoured or off-duty, the people favour heavy fur-trimmed cloaks and fur-trimmed leather hats.
Chaplains, academics, magicians, and many paladins favour an even more austere look; black robes are standard The gentleman on the left in this picture from the Seventh Sea roleplaying game, represents the style embraced by the academics and those who favour the religious life (albeit they will recreate it in black). In character, it is modelled after the clothing worn by the philosopher Altmann who inspired the creation of the Commonwealth.
When it comes to armour, a full harness of plate is common at all ranks. The armour often belongs to the army itself, and is loaned to the lower ranks. The Commonwealth prides itself on providing the best possible arms and armour to its soldiers - indeed, the common infantry in the Commonwealth are much more likely to have magic items than their counterparts in the Empire. In this image the man on the left and the woman in the middle represent Commonwealth soldiers.
An OOC Note on the Daeva
The daeva are a species, like humans and orcs. They are not found in the Empire, and are not known anywhere along the Bay of Catazar. We are still working on the precise details of this species, and wrangling over their appearance has been one of the factors that has delayed the Commonwealth for so long.
But there are two "facts" we know about them. One is that they are short lived - they mature quickly, and they seldom live more than thirty or forty years. This has given them a biological drive to take action - they are dynamic and energetic because they know that they will not be around for long.
The other thing we know about them is that they have an inbuilt drive to "make the world a better place". Both these drives have had a profound effect on the development of the Commonwealth.
The daeva are extremely unlikely to be made available as player characters.Please do not e-mail Profound Decisions asking for more details of the daeva - we will share them with you once we know for certain what they are.