It derives its wealth from the trade of luxuries and narcotics. It has more magicians per capita than almost any other nation. Every aspect of life is controlled by the government. Welcome to Fon.
Fon barely warrants the title 'Empire' that it awards itself. An archipeligo of a mere four small islands on the far side of the Necklace of Plenty, the nation nevertheless wields more power than its tiny size would suggest. The reason for this lies in the yaama blossom, or 'sickle root' flower.
Sickle Root (Yaama Blossom)
A species of flora that grows only on two of the islands that make up Fon (Fon Alad and Fon Milikin), yaama blossom is a delicate plant that is harvested by the people of Fon for several purposes. Its nectar can be converted into the mild narcotic Golden Yaama, popular throughout the Empire of Splendour. If the flowers are left for longer before harvesting, the nectar can instead be made into the more addictive (and illegal) Black Yaama. Furthermore, the sickle-shaped tubers of the plant can be eaten and are considered a great delicacy. Managing the harvest of this remarkable resource requires careful planning so as not to over-exploit and thus ruin Fon's stranglehold on the luxuries market. It is, perhaps, for this reason alone that Fon's government became so totalitarian. There are further difficulties in harvesting the products of yaama blossom, however.
Dar flies are fist-sized flying, stinging insects that normally nest on the slopes of Mount Orange Morning Sunshine on the island of Fon Dara (also known as Fon Mar). However, during the warmer months of the year they can be found swarming over to the yaama fields of Fon Alad and Fon Milikin. The dar flies are essential to pollination of the yaama blossom but unfortunately their flights tend to coincide with the prime season for collecting nectar for golden yaama. Dar flies do not like competition, are aggressive, and their sting can be deadly. The life of a yaama harvester (which, as discussed below, is every lower caste Fon at some point in their life) can be unpleasant, although liberal use of items that replicate repel vermin spells helps them to survive.
The Foundation of Fon
Although many attempts at colonising the Fon islands had been made in the past, the presence of the dar flies meant that these were always unsuccessful. About 200 years ago, the Empire of Splendour was embroiled in the War of Red Wind, a civil war described by the historian Ai-Pan as 'the last twitches of a dying beast'. After the civil war, a mercenary magician called Fon Of The White Oak ended up on the losing side and found it politic to leave the Empire for pastures new, taking with him a band of followers. Fon and his fellow magicians found the archipeligo that was to bear his name and using their powers were able to tame the dar flies and reap a living from the land. Within five years, the basis of the yaama and sickle root trades had been set and the new nation of Fon began making a healthy profit. Fon of the White Oak was shrewd enough to realise that careful control of the yaama harvest was needed in order for the nation to continue to thrive and so over the rest of his lifetime he laid the basis for the strict regulation of Fon society. New blood was obtained by making treaties with other nations whereby prisoners would be transported to Fon with the understanding that Fon would later ship any criminals to the other nations. This reciprocal trade has rarely been used, although modern Fon sometimes finds it a useful way to dispose of troublemakers.
Government of Fon
Fon (the man) divided Fon (the nation) into two castes, upper and lower. To be upper caste, one must be able to use magic, to speak at least three languages and there must be a vacancy in the limited numbers of upper caste positions. In theory it is possible to move between lower and upper caste but in practise it is not common. The Emperor is a hereditory position descending from Fon, although the Emperor must also fulfill the criteria for an upper caste citizen. So far it has never happened that an Emperor has had to be relegated, although many suspect that quite a few Emperors have lacked any magical ability, including Fon VII, the current Emperor. Emperors of Fon have been careful to never be too profligate in spending, but over time money has been squirrelled away into the Imperial Palace on Fon Gotto so that today it is a remarkable place of wonders. Any visiting supplicant must leave their voice in a box by the entrance to the throne room, which itself is a confusing three-dimensional maze of stairs and platforms scattered with reverse gravity fields so that, although the throne is upright to a viewer from the entrance, assorted dignitaries are seated on the walls and anyone approaching the throne finds themself upside-down at one point.
Overall, however, the Emperor is a figurehead. True power resides in the four Departments that oversee life on Fon. Upper caste citizens run these, although there are many lower caste citizens amongst the armies of clerks.
The Department of Objects is responsible for collecting and redistributing material wealth. It manages trade of yaama and sickle root with the Merchants League and then returns the profits to the populace. In theory, all citizens of Fon receive equal shares, although no-one is too surprised that the upper caste seems to get more.
The Department of Accounting is not concerned with money so much as information. It manages a census of all citizens of Fon and has vast record houses listing all aspects of its citizens' lives. It employs scry spells to keep a watch on its citizens and it also includes the Traveller's Allowance that maintains a close watch on any outsiders who visit Fon.
The Department of Security includes the combined army/navy Defence Force as well as the Citizen's Guard of civil police. It works in close concert with the Department of Accounting to maintain an orderly society.
The Department of Work, also known as the Taskmasters Office, also works closely with the Department of Accounting to ensure that all citizens of Fon are gainfully employed in a role that best suits them. This Department also organises the Harvest Teams during the warmer months where hundreds of citizens are re-deployed to Fon Alad and Fon Milikin in order to harvest yaama and sickle root.
Life in Fon
So, are the citizens of Fon happy? They are all fed, housed, employed, educated, entertained and clothed by the nation. Despite the dangers of being called for harvest duty and the everpresent eye of the government the average citizen has reasonable freedom. Anyone engaging in extremely outspoken criticism of the government is in danger of disappearing but satire and free debate is allowed to some degree; Fon realised that giving the illusion of greater freedom was more productive than crushing the will of the people with a heavy hand. Visitors to Fon are likely to find it a strange and potentially restrictive place. Visitor permits are awarded for short term only (the maximum is six months to study with one of the magical groups discussed below and in the side bar). All outsiders must be accompanied by a member of the Imperial Translation Service at all times. These individuals are identified by their coloured arm bands and their presence is mandatory despite the fact that most citizens of Fon speak Low Imperial. The Translators report to both the Department of Accounting and the Department of Security, and many visitors suspect them (correctly) of being little more than government spies.
Fon allows a free market economy of sorts. All imports and exports are handled by the Department of Objects. Traders are then allocated portions of goods to dispense within the populace, but at prices fixed by the Department of Objects. This allows citizens to seem to make a profit, although the government conducts matters such that a gain in one place is balanced by a loss elsewhere, ensuring that all citizens remain roughly equal in wealth. There is a growing grey and black market, however, encouraged by agents of the Merchants League families. The League would like nothing more than for the Fon system to collapse so that it can take over the monopoly of the yaama trade. Fortunately for Fon, the League is hampered in this by internal bickering, but it is also held back by Fon's impressive magical defences.
Magic in Fon
Perhaps another reason that Fon Of The White Oak chose these small islands to colonise was that Mount Orange Morning Sunshine, of which all four islands are peaks, has its roots in the Underwater Darkness World. Crossing between the two worlds, it serves as a nexus for magical power and many of Fon's citizens have at least a small ability to wield magic. Because it was founded by a magician, progress in Fon's society requires magical ability and many of the fundaments of the society are based on magic. To facilitate this, many magical societies have arisen on Fon (see sidebar). The Department of Accounting currently reckons on 542 societies existing, although one man, Vleeben of Third Street, is the sole member of at least 127. The magical societies gather for the purpose of training new magicians and for magical research (sponsored by the government for the betterment of Fon). They are divided along philosophical lines, schools of magic, types of magic, geographical locations and social concerns. Societies are allowed use of a patch of ground on Fon Dara known as The Playground, allocated by the Department of Security. This is an area for magical duels, experimentation and other activities deemed too dangerous to be conducted in the populated area of Fon Gotto or the economically important yaama fields of Fons Alad and Milikin.
Most of the population of Fon can be found (outside of harvest season) on Fon Gotto. Approaching the city of the same name by sea, a ship crosses the Red Reef and approaches the Three Piers. From the Three Piers, three streets (Left, Middle and Right) stretch straight to the walls of the Imperial Palace. Crossing these at the perpendicular are First through to Fifteenth Street. Fon Gotto city is an orderly place yet with a peculiar bustle where traders hawk their government-sponsored wares with illusory figments as adverts, where diners fill the long trestles of government-sponsored eating halls and where magicians show off new tricks to one another in showy displays.
Fon is a strange combination of a (relatively benign) totalitarian government, magical experimentation and a delicate ecosystem. It is somewhere to place any strange and new magic systems the the gamesmaster wishes to import into his game, or it is a place to run a game with the background feel of Orwell's 1984.
Citizen of Fon: At the GM's option, any (human) citizen who was raised in Fon may exchange their bonus skill point for the ability to cast, once per day, a 0th level spell. This is usually an arcane cantrip although many Fon follow shamanic or druidic paths and use divine orisons instead. Caster level is the same as character level and the spell uses Charisma as its ability score.
Members of Fon's wide array of magical societies may use alternative magic systems to those of the Core Rules, including rules from the Tome of Magic, Magic of the Incarnum, Expanded Psionics Handbook, Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved, or even try to squeeze in rules for Jedi powers! Remember that the population of Fon is small, so these users may represent the only practitioner of that magical style in the entire World of Conclave.
|Type||Price||Craft (Alchemy) DC||Addiction Rating|
|Golden Yaama||Inhaled (DC 13)||5 sp (50 yen)||25||Low|
|Black Yaama||Ingested (DC 15) or Injury (DC 16)|| 10 sp (100 yen) to 100 gp (10,000 yen) ||25||High|
Golden Yaama is a yellow powder, taken by gently warming it and inhaling the fumes. It produces a sense of mild euphoria and raised self-worth at the exclusion of worldy matters. It causes 1 point of Wisdom damage and a +1 alchemical bonus to Charisma. There are no side effects or overdose effects.
Black Yaama is a dark resin that can be ingested (since its fumes, unlike golden yaama, are acrid and unpleasant). It is often injected beneath the skin using small needles, and this more direct application has a higher saving throw. It causes 1d6 points of Wisdom damage and increases Charisma by the same amount (alchemical bonus). As a side effect, black yaama dulls reactions, causing a -2 penalty to initiative. More than 2 doses in a 24 hour period causes 1d3 Constitution damage.
Sickle Root is a commodity that typically costs about 15gp (1500 yen) per pound. It is a small, pale yellow tuber sold as a delicacy. Commonly served lightly boiled, it has a very light, slightly sweet flavour that some call 'delicate' and others call 'bland'.
Dar Fly, Tiny Vermin
Hit Dice: 1d8 (4 hp)
Speed: 10 ft. (2 squares), fly 40 ft. (good)
Armor Class: 15 (+2 size, +3 Dex), touch 15, flat-footed 12
Base Attack/Grapple: +0/-8
Attack: Sting +2 melee (1d3-4 plus poison)
Full Attack: Sting +2 melee (1d3-4 plus poison)
Space/Reach: 2 1/2 ft./0 ft.
Special Attacks: Poison
Special Qualities: Darkvision 60 ft., mindless
Saves: Fort +2, Ref +3, Will +0
Abilities: Str 3 (-4), Dex 17 (+3), Con 10 (+0), Int -, Wis 10 (+0), Cha 6 (-2)
Environment: Mount Orange Morning Sunshine
Organization: Flight (4-32)
Challenge Rating: 1/4
Alignment: always Neutral
Combat: Dar flies attack anything within 60 ft. that is not another dar fly. Typically they will swarm around an opponent, stinging until they or the target is dead.
Poison (Ex). Injury. Initial damage 1 Dex, Secondary damage 1d3 Con. Fortitude DC 10, Constitution based.
- The Vanishing. The government of Fon knows where all its citizens are, all of the time. So when citizens begin to disappear without a trace, the Department of Accounting gets worried. Are they dissidents who have found a way to leave the nation or block scrying? Is it another ploy by the Merchants League to destabilise Fon society? Or have magicians in The Playground unleashed a supernatural disaster?
- Capture the Queen. A Merchants League family wants to replicate the dar fly/yaama ecosystem elsewhere to break the Fon monopoly. To do so, they need two things. A living yaama plant, plucked from the watchful eyes of the Department of Objects. And they need somebody to enter the mile-high hive that is Mount Orange Morning Sunshine and bring back the dar fly queen.
- Revenge of the Unborn Souls. One of the ways in which the authorities of Fon ensure that there are enough resources on their tiny island nation to go around is by restricting the birth rate. Although the government regularly supplies its citizens with the contraceptive herb bitter tea, unwanted pregnancies (unwanted by the government) still occur. The usual 'solution' is to abort unborn children with a massive dose of bitter tea, or to expose the 'surplus' who have been born on the slopes of Orange Morning Sunshine. What happens, however, if the souls of those children gather together, coupled with the power of the dark netherworld, to form a vast, vengeful undead spirit fuelled by rage and grief with no morality or reason? Outsiders may say that it serves the Fon right, but the Unborn Soul does not recognise Fon from non-Fon. What happens when it turns its attentions elsewhere in the Necklace of Plenty? The Caller in Darkness stats could be used for the Unborn Soul.
- March of the Dar Flies. Every three hundred years or so, the dar flies respond to some unknown signal and gather together in the biggest swarm the world has ever known. Since Fon was founded after the last mass swarm, nobody on Fon knows of this. When it comes in the middle of harvest season, player characters may become part of the mobilisation of a massive rescue operation to save the harvesters from the dar fly swarm. (Use Ruin Swarm statistics).
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