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The Hearthlands are a nation encircled by, and a protectorate of, the Atarlie Empire, composed largely of halfings and gnomes. For generations, the peoples of the Hearthlands have enjoyed a peace uncommon on Wisteria, and their realm is both characterized by and famous for its peaceful and carefree lifestyle.

The Hearthlanders are principally known for their rural habit, rarely congregating into settlements much larger than a good-sized town. While the halflings and the gnomes both live separately and have their own ideals and culture, the shared culture of general peace has lead to a lot of unity among hearthlanders, who can all agree that continuing to live under the Empire's protection is worth the tribute they send.

Hearthlanders enjoy a well-developed infrastructure and civil service second only to that of the empire itself, which contributes to their comfortable and easy living, made easier by not having the need to fight wars to defend their own borders.

In spite of being otherwise largely unified, the halfling and |gnomes have their own unique systems of belief, which are held to more or less observantly depending on the individual halfling or gnome in question. Both populations have a common understanding of the other's beliefs, largely due to the blended nature of their settlements and a commonality of life experience.

Hearthlander Adventurers are unusual. They are often considered odd by their non-adventurer peers, and oftentimes might perhaps even be outlaws. Those who take up adventuring among them are often considered to be "too fey", relating to the gnomish race's close ties to the Fae, and interbreeding with the halfling population, and returning adventurers are often looked at ascance, as strangers and eccentrics in their own land.

Geography and Government

Mayors, Parliaments, and Courts

The peaceful and protected nature of life within the Hearthlands is such that it represents the only parliamentary democracy in all of Wisteria, and perhaps all of Ahren. Gnomes and Halflings do not bow down to kings and queens but instead elect their local mayors, riding governors, and legislators to send to Hall Hill, where they have a Parliament and a President.

Hearthlander Culture

Arts and Architecture

The Hearthlanders enjoy craft and fine arts of all kinds, from theater to the production of visual arts. They are particularly known for a specialty of gnomish sculptors they refer to as "Kinetic Sculpture", in which natural or magical forces are harnessed to create sculptures that actually move.

Both gnomes and halflings favour dug-in homes as opposed to the constructed-above-ground variety.

Religion, Festivals, and Timekeeping

With no one central religion, the halflings and the gnomes celebrate their religious rites (sparingly) and civil holidays (zealously) independently of one another. Their timekeeping used to have its own system of reckoning (the "old calendar), but since becoming a protectorate of the empire they rely on the Rophalin Calendar.

Festivals occur monthly, if not more often, though they are usually family affairs, with only three or four per year being celebrated communally. In addition to the ordinary calendars of gnomish and halfling holy days, these are the Festival of the Turning Wheel, the Emperor's Birthday, and Hearthfire Day, which usually marks the winter solstice.

Fighting, Warfare, and Death

Fighting - both for sport and for "keeps" - is frowned upon by the Hearthlanders, who have no taste for military conflict, and whose military traditions are long dormant after generations under Atarlie protection. As a result, there is no strong martial tradition among them.

War is viewed as an absolute horror, to be avoided at all costs.

Death is hoped for as the peaceful and sleepy transition from one life into the next, with the Hearthlanders sharing a common understanding of an afterlife in Elysium.

Language and Scholarship

Both Gnomish and Halfling share a common script, referred to as "Hearthland Script" if a necessary qualifier is required. That said, both are distinct languages both as-spoken and as-written, though it is extremely common for Hearthlanders to speak, read, and write both languages, together often with Elvish or Bastonian-Common.

The comfortable life of the protectorate allows for a high degree of formal education for both trades and higher academics. Primary and secondary education exists and is often integrated, and furthermore, some trades and professions require higher education at a post-secondary level, such as theological or arcane seminaries.

Diet, Libations, and Entertainment

The Hearthlander diet is rich and plentiful, consisting of several traditional meals in a day (breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper), and a large quantity of refined foods such as cheeses, charcuterie, and so forth which may be less common in other areas. It is altogether distinct from the culinary traditions of the Atarlie Empire and relies heavily on roasts, stews, breads, cakes, and pies.

Drink is common to the point of being a pass-time for some. The Hearthlanders produce their own beers in a number of varieties, grape and fruit wines, brandies, schnapps, and whiskeys.

Hearthland Economics

Taxation and Social Provision

The Hearthlands are wealthy due in large part to their peace, and have a codified (oftentimes complicated) tax law that encompasses sales, trade, and income taxes. Negotiating these tax codes requires professionals on both the government and taxpayer side in most circumstances.

Without an army to support, these taxes are relatively low, and only cover infrastructure, government salaries, and the Postal Service. With a stable climate, crop failures are rare, but the in the past century when they have occurred, the Parliament has stepped in to use the treasury to subsidize the import and distribution of foods.

Wealth Gap

As might have been implied by the above, there is a stratification of wealth within the Hearthlands, though it is not nearly so bad as is seen in perhaps Bastonia. Homelessness and Poverty are rarely-occurring, but heard-of events. While the vast majority of Hearthlanders enjoy reasonably comfortable lives for their profession, a rare few live in utter destitution or fabulous wealth.

Such unfortunate Hearthlanders as to become truly destitute, who nonetheless remain able-bodied and sound-minded, very often become adventurers or emmigrate to the Atarlie Empire in search of better lives for themselves.

Focal Industries

Without a military to hold up, and with a relatively slow population growth, the principal industry in the Hearthlands is Agriculture, a portion of which they divert to the Atarlie Empire as tribute. Where they trade externally at all, it is most often in raw textiles, raw food, or exotic spices and materials.

Technology and Craftsmanship

The Hearthlands' gnomes, in particular, are a technically-driven race, known for their artifice. Such gnomish artificers are often also minor spellcasters in their own right, and are in demand throughout the Atarlie Empire and even abroad for their engineering ability. As a result, many gnomes choose to ply such trades in complete secrecy, preferring to make things for the novelty of them rather than for production or to have their designs bent to facilitate warfare.

Goods of all kinds - including weapons - are often well made for the time period, and occasionally include embellishments that are completely unnecessary - fancy stamped-brass buttons, literal bells or whistles in pommels, fancy brocading, and the like.

Hearthlanders and the Adventuring Class

Hearthlanders rarely become adventurers, but when they do, they run the gamut of the classes.

Barbarian – rarely seen among the hearthlanders, who like things quiet and for whom anger to the point of a barbarian's Rage is discouraged.

Bards – quite common, especially among the gnomes, though both gnomes and halflings have a deep and abiding love for music that often extends to include bardic levels of performance. Gnomes, with their fae heritage and trickster leanings, very often take bard as a stepping stone to Arcane Trickster.

Cleric – Not wholly uncommon, though even most of the pastoral social class tend more toward adept than being true clerics. Hearthlander clerics are almost always focused on healing ability, but those who adventure sometimes become very adept at dealing with the undead.

Druid – About as common as clerics, Hearthlander Druids tend to be seen as somewhat fishy, as their dealings with other druids from around the world and habits with respect to spending time in nature and even speaking directly to animals are seen as unusual and eccentric.

Monk – The monastic tradition was introduced to the Hearthlanders by the Atarlie, and to a strange degree flourished in a very peculiar form; the drunken master. While such individuals are few and far between, they have a community amongst themselves and a continuum of drinking and training that passes reliably from one generation to the next.

Fighter – extant, but anachronistic, and usually focused on swashbuckler-y or ranged builds, owing to the small size and enhanced dexterity of the gnomes and halflings that make up the hearthlanders. A small number of such fighters often captain community guard groups, and a small retinue guard parliament.

Paladin – Rare, given the proclivity of halflings and gnomes alike toward chaos and/or neutrality, paladins none the less periodically appear among their number, usually as part of the diaspora or inspired by Paladins in the empire, by whom they are considered lovable but foolish, by and large.

Ranger – Common, particularly among the halflings who have a proud hunting tradition, some of which is vestigial of a time when they had a standing military. A discreet corps of halfling rangers and other adventurer types is responsible for the peaceful nature of even the wilder parts of the hearthlands, and halfling rangers occasionally finds themselves inspired or pressed into service with the Atarlie Legions.

Rogue – borders on ubiquitous. Gnomes and Halflings both make natural rogues, and beyond even the criminal element within the hearthlands, there are no end of spies, scouts, and even assassins that count themselves among the Hearthlander nation, even while abroad.

Sorcerers – One of the rare cases of divergence among the Hearthlanders, sorcerers are admired, respected, and even occasionally revered by the gnomes, while seen as wild and unpredictable by the Halflings. This is due in large part to the gnomes having a greater incidence of sorcerers born among them, whereas halfling bloodlines are relatively "purely" halfling, and sorcerers are therefore more rare and unexpected.

Wizards – Conversely to sorcerers, the gnomes see wizardry as the stolid, boring, and hidebound path to arcane magic, whereas halflings see wizardry as a dangerous, but potentially profitable, and overall more reliable path - if nothing else, fodder for the education industry. Enchanters, Illusionists, and Artificers of all sorts are counted among the wizarding specialties of the Hearthlands.

Hearthlanders and Monsters

Monsters are few and far between in the Hearthlands, with most local species having been hunted to the brink of extinction, if not stamped out completely, centuries in the past. Hearthlander tales of monsters make their danger clear, however, and include a great many beings that some other nations would not normally include, often with exaggerated savagery ascribed to them, such as Orcs, Goblins, and Giants.

Hearthlander Attitudes on the Other Nations

Isolated by having been surrounded by the Atarlie Empire and not themselves given to long journeys, even on business, the vast majority of peoples on Wisteria are spoken of in faraway and hushed terms within the Hearthlands, with strong oppinion chiefly limited to these three groups:

  • The Carcolie Mountain-Elves exist, and there is little more to be said, as interaction between the two groups is highly rare. For the most part, the Hearthlanders speak of the Carcolie as downright barbaric, having bougth the Imperial line on the matter.
  • The Atarlie Empire are, by contrast, the "good" elves. The Hearthlanders accept Imperial talk of being the "true rulers of Wisteria" as long as it does not impact them in any way, and will neither fight for nor against the Empire so long as parliament gets to stay in session and the meals continue to arrive on time. Of the elves themselves, oppinons are divided - the Halflings tend to view them with a mixture of awe and respect, whereas the gnomes see in them a dour and taciturn staticness that they quietly hate.
  • The Clans of Magnus are viewed with considerable respect, and periodically traded with. While the way of life of the dwarves is alien to the Hearthlands, there can be no denying the quality of dwarvish goods, and the dwarves prize the textiles and woodworks of the Hearthlanders almost as highly as Hearthlanders praise dwarven ale and jewelry.

Of the Bastonians, the Lordless Lands, and the shimmering shore, the Hearthlanders speak of only in gossip and rumour. While not necessarily xenophobic, most Hearthlanders see these places a dangerous, and extend that dangerousness to the inhabitants.