Vodacce is Italy, mostly Venice in a lot of ways, back in the time when it was individual kingdoms.
“If asked to describe Vodacce with a single word, I would respond: ‘Treacherous’.”
- Admiral Enrique Orduño
Always look over both shoulders. Never meet a woman’s eyes unless you know your blade is better than her husband’s. And never, ever turn your back on a challenge. You won’t get an opportunity to turn around again. Vodacce is a place where every careless word, every second glance, every misstep could be fatal. It is not a safe place for the reckless.
The Lay of the Land
The nation of Voddace includes both the southern peninsula of Théah and the chain of small islands curving off from it. With the exception of some low mountainous regions, and the central area where the capital of the Old Empire stands, mainland Vodacce is primarily marshlands. It’s low and near the water, and the land is crisscrossed with small streams and rivers. This means frequent flooding and general instability, making it unsuitable for supporting anything more than small wooden buildings. The only crops that will grow on a large scale are rice in the lowlands, and olives and grapes in the hillier areas.
The mainland is divided into territories controlled by the seven merchant princes. Each Vodacce prince also controls one of the southern islands, rockier areas upon which they have built great stone houses. The islands rise high out of the water, dropping off in steep cliffs in places. A natural series of canal ways run through the islands, and the Vodacce have strategically constructed dams to raise the water levels, allowing for canal travel through the cities.
The architecture of Vodacce is as hierarchical as its culture. At the bottom, next to the canals, are the laborers. They live in crowded, littered, ramshackle homes built right on the canal ways. Built literally on top of them are the houses of the merchant and crafts classes. On top of these stand the grand manors of the nobility. The tallest towers belong, of course, to that island’s prince. Bridges cross the canal ways, and in the tiers above them rope-and-wood causeways let the upper classes go about their business without ever setting foot on the ground.
Added (21 Dec 13, 8:33 PM)
Mainland Vodacce was once the seat of the Old Empire’s capital. Its streets bustled with senators, merchants and soldiers all going about their business. Its buildings echoed with their debates, and its libraries overflowed with the collected knowledge of a thriving republic.
Now, several hundred years after the fall of that empire, the capital city stands empty and silent. The land on which it stands belongs to the princes who have turned their backs on debate in favor of subterfuge, and left the great city in favor of their own miniature kingdoms scattered along the peninsula’s southern islands. Better in Vodacce to be king of your own hill than to share the rule of a mountain with other men . But better still to be king of that mountain.
Each of the seven princes controls a different aspect of the country’s economy and a different export. One makes the finest wine in Théah, another boasts the best craftsmen. Vincenzo Caligari holds the greatest collection of Syrneth artifacts on the continent, and Gespucci Bernoulli controls the only open trade route to the Crescent Empire.
The Vodacce Princes are all cousins. Traced far enough back, they’re descended from brothers, and they fight as viciously as only family can. They don’t visit one another’s islands except under special sanction. If there is business great enough to require a gathering, they do so on the mainland, in the senate building of the Old Republic.
The people of Vodacce are an emotional lot, from the lowest peasant to the highest Prince. Fights are common among the lower classes, and duels among the upper. Still, there is a profound sense of respect for strength, and while a fisherman may brawl the day through with other fisherman, he knows better than to insult his Prince’s son. This isn’t simply because the nobleman could cut him down in a heartbeat (which he could), but because the fisherman respects his lord and his lord’s family, and takes great pride in their strength. Should anyone disagree with his assessment, the fisherman will happily explain why he’s wrong... with his fists.
Fighting, like much else in Vodacce, is a man’s sport. Although Vodacce men are known for their hot tempers and fast blades, their woman are renowned for their cool calculations. In Vodacce, alone among Théan nobility, sorcery is possessed only by the noblewomen. Called Fate Witches in other parts of Théah, the Sorte Strega play a dangerous game of cat and mouse with destiny itself. They see and tug the strands of fate, aiding their husbands in their business. Vodacce ships are seldom caught in bad storms, and pirates usually stay clear of them out of fear of running headlong into misfortune.
Romance is one of a Vodacce man’s greatest pasttimes, although his wife maintains a respectable distance from such things. Marriage among nobles is entirely a matter of politics and economics. Couples seldom meet before the wedding day, although once the engagement has been decided, husbands are still required to woo, from a distance, with poetry and fine gifts. Most of a man’s romantic endeavors are directed at professional courtesans. These women exist as a separate society from Vodacce’s other women. Where respectable ladies do not read (the Vodacce fear that education would tip the tenuous balance of power between men and witches), courtesans are extremely well-educated both in arts and the sciences. Their dress is as elaborate as the noblewoman’s is simple, as bright as theirs is black. Entire quarters of the city are set aside for fetes and revelry, and the noble wives of Vodacce do not tread in these quarters. It is entirely acceptable for men, married and otherwise, to attend these gatherings, however. Still, the courtesans are wary of the potential anger of the strega, and wear elaborate decorative masks to hide them from the witches’ gaze.
Common Male Names: Alberto, Antonio, Carlo, Ernesto, Felice, Fortunato, Gianni, Giuseppe, Leon, Marco, Modesto, Pietro, Rinaldo, Rolando, Savino, Siro, Timeo, Toni, Umberto, Vito.
Common Female Names: Alesio, Angelina, Clarissa, Crescenza, Elena, Fiora, Iolanda, Lea, Luisa, Miranda, Natalia, Paolao, Penelope, Rachele, Rebecca, Regina, Sandra, Valeria, Veronica, Viola.
Added (21 Dec 13, 8:34 PM)
Sorte magic is perhaps the most feared and most powerful in all of Théah. Fortunately for most people, it’s also very rare. Sorte sorceresses can see the web of fate that connects all things and understand them with a deck of tarot cards and with experience can start tugging on those threads, even perhaps cutting a thread in two.
Ambrogia is the style of swordsmanship most common in Vodacce and it’s easy to see why – it favors winning at all costs over anything ridiculous like honor and chivalry. It also trains a swordswoman to fight with her off-hand, which confuses most right-handed opponents. It’s only weakness is that it is a proactive style of fighting – if the opponent refuses to respond and keeps to his own style, then Ambrogia has some serious gaps in defense.
A beginner Swordsman schooled in the Ambrogia art can use her left hand in combat without penalty and gains a small damage bonus for twisting the blade.
Some Character Ideas to Get You Started
- A courtesan who works for one Vodacce family as an assassin.
- The youngest and maddest sister, sent away before embarrassing the noble family with her odd ways. Like wanting to read.
- A swaggering nobleman who is constantly trying to prove his worth in duel after duel, if only to hide the fact he’s a coward.