Ravenloft: The Shadow Fallen
A land of human horrors, Falkovnia is a place of predators and military buildup for its own perverse sake. The path of the soldier is exalted above all others in this land, to the point that non-soldiers are seen as little more than suppliers of raw materials for the army. Soldiers can get away with murder in Falkovnia—quite literally.
Falkovnia goes a step beyond the xenophobia of many lands, placing non-humans in a subservient position as a perpetual underclass. Those without pure human blood are mere chattel, slaves for the human elite. Even the lowest serf can hold himself as better than an elf or dwarf, so long as his blood is pure.
The near-worship of the military and the cult of racial purity have come together to create a land of vicious small-mindedness and jingoistic reactionaries. The fortress-cities of Falkovnia are cesspools of disease and hunger, even as the fields produce vast harvests from the backbreaking labor of peasants who have been taught that soul-crushing labor is a sign of patriotism.
The military ambitions of Falkovnia are thwarted time and again by its shifting, floating nature. Falkovnia is a land that comes into conjunction with other domains and Clusters frequently, but rarely stays in alignment for very long. Because of this, a constant border garrison is necessary—both for the paranoia of the land’s king and for his vainglory.
Vlad Drakov rules Falkovnia with an iron fist, a former mercenary who seized the throne of his land through hard-fought and bitter battle. Unhappy ruling over a nation of “weak peasants,” he has turned Falkovnia into a vast machine whose only purpose is war. Unfortunately, the shifting borders of the land leave Falkovnia unable to fight the grand mass battles that Drakov desires, leaving their military as little more than glorified raiders and thieves.
Because of the many acts of aggression performed by Falkovnia on their inconstant neighbors, Drakov is convinced that any conjunction brings with it the potential for invasion. After all, it’s what he would do—and has done, many times. Drakov is unable to recognize that his nation’s unique circumstances make him a non-entity in the minds of most other countries, worth worrying about only on the rare occasions that misfortune brings them into alignment with his land.
Falkovnia is a vast and fertile land of rolling plains, gentle hills, and a few deep, untouched forests. The growing season lasts longer than usual, and the nation’s farms bring in multiple harvests each season. Most of that grain goes to the military, with the peasants left scant scraps of their own harvest to scrape by through the brutal winters.
Most Falkovnians are a ruddy-skinned people, with a few paler sorts among the upper class, with hair ranging from blonde to black. Red hair is uncommon, but strawberry blonde is considered very attractive. Men and women in the military cut their hair short, almost to the scalp, while peasants grow it long. Mustaches and beards are common among male Falkovnians. Green and brown eyes are common, while blue eyes and silver-grey eyes are considered highly attractive rarities.
Falkovnia also has a large population of non-human and semi-human slaves. Anyone with non-human ancestry is considered chattel in Falkovnia, just another animal to do labor and serve their human betters. Any human foolish enough to mix their blood with a “beast” is subject to public shaming, fines, and even imprisonment under Drakov’s horrific rule.
When Falkovnia comes into conjunction with other domains—a time that their temporary neighbors call “the hawk’s moon”—hundreds of soldiers rush to take advantage of the alignment. These hurried invasions are on a timer; any soldier caught on the wrong side of the border when the conjunction ends (which can be anywhere from three days to three months) have to make their way back home on their own or become refugees in a foreign land—at least until the next hawk’s moon.
Though Falkovnia has only rarely seized territory through these actions, military raids serve a dual purpose in Drakov’s eyes. First, they keep his soldiers in fighting trim and give them good field experience, which is hard to get from tormenting peasants. Second, they allow the country to seize vital supplies and materiel for the perpetuation of the war effort and Falkovnia’s eventual (and inevitable) rise to glory.
Falkovnia’s attacks have occasionally managed to seize and hold small towns or fortifications—which stayed within the nation’s borders when the conjunction ended. Drakov believes that if he could seize another nation’s capital or capture its rulers (and execute them, of course), that Falkovnia could eventually grow into the empire he has always sought.
Falkovnia is a dark mirror of real-world atrocities in fascist states ruled by petty tyrants who seize their thrones through force rather than the rule of law. Nazi Germany is a major inspiration, obviously, as are the worst excesses of Vlad Tepes III (aka “Vlad the Impaler,” the real-world inspiration for Dracula). To a lesser extent, the warlord states of Africa and the Balkans have their reflections in Falkovnia as well.
Drakov’s rule is meant to be a stark reminder of the horrors and tyranny embodied in the rule of strength over law. Falkovnia is a place where the strong dominate the weak, with the military perpetually keeping a boot on the neck of its own people as oppressors rather than guardians.
- The Strong Rule, the Weak Serve: In Falkovnia, there is no authority higher than the military. The king claims his crown through force of arms, and his councilors are generals rather than statesmen. Bullies and tyrants lord their strength over an underclass that is kept too weak to consider fighting back.
- Man is the Real Monster: Falkovnia is a land with few supernatural evils—and most of those were once human. Humanity’s ambition and pride are the real terrors in Falkovnia, as well as the willingness of the many to trade their freedom for the illusion of safety.
- Human Purity: A cult of “human purity” has arisen in Falkovnia, in which humans are the pinnacle of nature and all races that mock the human form are defilers—mere animals pretending to the glory that is mankind. This racism pervades all levels of society, permitting even the lowliest serf to think himself a king in comparison to his “racial inferiors.” Within this category of “humanity,” all others are considered equal from birth, with merit achieved only through service and duty, not inheritance. Quality shows itself in deeds.