Land of canyons and cultists.
The western province of the Empire of Splendour is a stony badland, where rivers have carved deep valleys from the red-orange stone. The valley floors are lush and fertile, in contrast to the desert conditions at the top of the cliffs that border them. These winding canyons form a natural barrier between the heartlands of the Empire and the Khazarate of Vaarta beyond, and have been home to a race of humans known as the Dron for centuries.

People and Culture
The Dron have long been part of the Empire, and most would consider themselves Imperial citizens first before any national identity. Dronish culture is pretty much Imperial culture although the Dron are still famous for their pottery, their rug-making, their delicately-spiced cuisine, their music and their love of flying. The Dron also practice different funeral customs to mainstream Imperial culture, which earns them some suspicion from other Imperials. Dronish settlements in Dronistor tend to be built into the walls of the cliffs, as the valley floor is too valuable as farmland to cover with dwellings.

Flight is of almost religious significance to the Dron. They have domesticated a species of giant carrion bird known as the aadrul, that they ride through their canyon-wall cities and also use for their funeral customs. Every year, at around midsummer, the Dron hold the Festival of Flight, a great celebratory gathering where teams construct flying machines and gliders, and engage in contests for distance, speed and skill. Visitors from across the Empire come to participate, and many governments and organisations attempt to gain kudos by sponsoring winning teams.

Dronistor is nominally governed by a Magister of Dusk and Diamonds responsible for the province, although the relevant Magister has been absent for many years. Government is still conducted by an Imperial style bureaucracy but its members vote for an Overseer to stand in the stead of the provincial governer. Although this has mostly worked in practice, it has had the effect of simulataneously weakening Imperial authority whilst increasing the power of the Overseer to limits unacceptable to many citizens.

Sunset Canyon
The nominal capital of Dronistor is Sunset Canyon, centred around a vast temple complex dedicated to the Setting Sun. This is home to the Overseer and is one of the few places where building has occurred on the valley floor. The largest complex is the Temple of the Autumn Sun located at the western end of Sunset Canyon. This huge stepped pyramid houses many different sub-levels. Most of the bottom layer comprises homes and shops, with administration and temples sharing the upper levels. Although it was originally dedicated purely to the Divine Emperor, other faiths have taken up residence in the temple, notably the followers of Divine Manrupashnar.

The Sicari
Of growing prevalence in Dronistor are bands of religious extremists who have taken to a life of banditry and raiding. There is considerable variation in how fervent these gangs of sicari are in their religion, but most call for the overturn of Imperial religion and the return to the more 'pure' form of sun worship found in ancient Dronistor. Most, again, have a fairly ill-defined or ill-informed notion of what form the ancient sun worship actually took, but this does not stop them. The actions of the sicari have caused the Overseer's government to begin to suspect any unorthodox religion as being in league with sicari bandits - a viewpoint that has begun to cause trouble for innocent worshippers of unusual deities such as the followers of Manrupashnar, Vaartan immigrants and the mystery Cult of the Morning Star.

Using Dronistor

The Festival of Flight
The Festival is an occasion that attracts a lot of fierce competition, and player characters may become embroiled in dirty tricks between sponsoring groups, particularly if they have a patron organisation of their own. It also serves as an entertaining backdrop to other kinds of city-based adventures with perhaps a heist or a murder going on at the same time.

The flying machines created for the Festival of Flight are not powered, merely gliders of various kinds. Usually they will support a single person and remain aloft from anything between 5 minutes to 5 hours, depending upon conditions. The Empire once tried to incorporate the glider pilots (known as Skypilots) and aadrul riders (known as Wingriders) into their military, with limited success. The gliders were of some use as spotter craft, but the Skypilots tended to be too individualistic and idiosyncratic for the structured Imperial military. Aadrul, as carrion birds, are not fierce creatures like the Thell eagle and so make poor war mounts. Again, the nature of the Wingriders proved too unreliable for the Empire. Both types of individual are, however, well-received in Dronistor for their skills.

Anyone with ranks in the Ride skill can be a Wingrider, and may use Mounted Combat feats as well (although most aadrul are not war-trained). A Wingrider may also learn the 'monster' feats of Hover and Wingover - these are applied to any winged creature that he rides (and may also be used if shape-changing magic gives him wings).

Skypilots may be modelled in game terms in one of two ways. One is to include a Profession (skypilot) skill, the other is to introduce a seperate Pilot skill (based on Dex). This is used to control gliders and other flying craft using vehicle rules of your choice (the easiest option being d20 Modern).

Tomb Raiding
Because it is expensive to maintain cliff-tombs, there are many abandoned tombs throughout Dronistor where family money has run out. These represent opportunities for tomb robbers, although most are simple niches with dusty collections of mummified bodies. This does not stop rumours of wealthy caches from circulating amongst the bazaars of Sunset Canyon, nor does it stop people from searching. Many tombs are now fitted with traps to prevent posthumous disturbance of the dead, even when there is no monetary treasure within. And, of course, one should never rule out the presence of the undead....

Religious Strife
The predations of the sicari bandits, and the response of the Overseer's government, are the perfect opportunity for gamesmasters wishing to run a backdrop where zealous geurillas engage in terrorist strikes from hidden bases deep in rocky badland, against the military of a much more powerful political entity. The GM may find further inspiration from Roman-occupied Judea or modern day Afghanistan.

Typical Skypilot
Human; Exp4: CR 3; Medium Humanoid (Human); AL N
Abilities Str 10 (+0), Dex 13 (+1), Con 10 (+0), Int 12 (+1), Wis 11 (+0), Cha 9 (-1)

Initiative +5; Speed 30 ft.
Armour Class 12 (+1 Dex, +1 padded armour) touch 11, flat-footed 11
Saves Fortitude +1, Reflex +2, Will +4
Hit Dice 4d6; hit points 14

Base Attack/Grapple +3/+3
Melee Light mace +3 (1d8)
Special Attacks None
Special Qualities None

Skills: Balance +8, Craft (glider) +10, Jump +4, Knowledge (architecture and engineering) +8, Knowledge (nature) +8, Pilot +10, Spot +7, Tumble +8, Use Rope +4
Feats: Born to Fly, Improved Initiative, Wingover
Languages: Dronish, Low Imperial
Possessions: Glider, toolkit, padded leather flying jacket

Born to Fly: This feat grants a +2 bonus to the Craft (glider) and Pilot skills.

Typical Wingrider
Human; Exp2/War2: CR 3; Medium Humanoid (Human); AL N
Abilities Str 11 (+0), Dex 13 (+1), Con 12 (+1), Int 10 (+0), Wis 8 (-1), Cha 10 (+0)

Initiative +1; Speed 30 ft.
Armour Class 12 (+1 Dex, +1 padded armour) touch 11, flat-footed 11
Saves Fortitude +4, Reflex +1, Will +2
Hit Dice (2d6+2d8+4); hit points 20

Base Attack/Grapple +3/+3
Melee Shortspear +3 (1d6)
Ranged Shortspear +4 (1d6, 20 ft.)
Special Attacks None
Special Qualities None

Skills: Balance +6, Handle Animal +9, Jump +7, Knowledge (nature) +5, Ride +10, Spot +4, Tumble +6
Feats: Animal Affinity, Mounted Combat, Wingover
Languages: Dronish, Low Imperial
Possessions: Shortspear, padded leather flying jacket, aadrul tack.

Sicari Zealot
Human; Adp2/War4: CR 5; Medium Humanoid (Human); AL N
Abilities Str 13 (+1), Dex 10 (+0), Con 12 (+1), Int 8 (-1), Wis 12 (+1), Cha 9 (-1)

Initiative +0; Speed 30 ft.
Armour Class 13 (+2 leather armour, +1 buckler) touch 10, flat-footed 13
Saves Fortitude +5, Reflex +1, Will +7
Hit Dice (2d6+4d8+6); hit points 31

Base Attack/Grapple +5/+6
Melee Battleaxe +6 (1d8+1, crit. x3)
Ranged Shortbow +6 (1d4+1, crit. x3, 60 ft.)
Special Attacks None
Special Qualities None

Skills: Climb +5, Concentration +5, Jump +5, Knowledge (religion) +3, Ride +4, Survival +5
Feats: Endurance, Iron Will, Track, Weapon Focus (shortbow)
Languages: Dronish, Low Imperial, Sicari Secret Language
Possessions: Leather Armour, battleaxe, shortbow, 20 arrows, holy symbol

Spells per Day: 3/2
Spells Typically Prepared:
1st level (Save DC 12) bless, cure light wounds.
0th level (Save DC 11) create water, guidance, light.

(c) 2008 The Creative Conclave.
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The Empire of Splendour
Imperial Provinces
Imperial Religion

The Dronish People
The Dron are a race with characteristic gaudy orange skin, blonde hair and blue eyes. These dronish features tend to breed true - a descendant of mixed dron and non-dron tends to show either full dronish features or none at all. Amongst Imperial society there are no particular prejudices associated with dronish features. They are stereo-typed as being cheerful and musical, but unlike the nekuu and ashara people they are not considered fixed to any particular level of society.

Burial Practices
Throughout the Empire, cremation is the most common form of funeral, but in Dron they practice two very different forms of disposing of the dead. For higher class citizens it is common to be mummified and interred in family cliff-tombs. Maintaining these cliff-tombs is expensive, hence it has become a sign of status to own one. It is quite common to revisit and re-wrap your ancestors on the anniversary of their death. Those who cannot afford a cliff-tomb commit their dead to the Towers of the Sky. The dead are laid out atop mesas or brick towers where their bodies are consumed by sacred carrion birds, including vultures and aadrul. Since the bird is a creature of the sky, this is considered a form of returning the deceased to the heavens, and the bosom of the Sun God.

Cult of the Morning Star
This is a mystery cult whose numbers are on the increase. As with other mystery cults there are levels of membership, secret signs and a dogma unknown to outsiders, although their general goal seems to be the worship of the Morning Star (seen as the geomantic animal Glass Frog in orthodox Imperial religion). The cultists see the Morning Star as the harbinger of an entity they call the Sun to Come, and themselves as path-beaters for a new era. The authorities are worried that these cultists may decide to give the 'new era' a helping hand by attempting to dispose of the 'old era'.