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Returned Maztica

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
Some new ideas I've had after reading that essay on Aztec philosophy I linked earlier:


On Divinity

While most Mazticans only have a rudimentary understanding of metaphysics, to the learned - priests, sages, and philosophers - "Divinity" does not refer to a distinct category of beings (i.e. the gods) but as an all-permeating force that comes in lesser and greater guises, or masks. This includes the deities, yes - but every single thing, both living and inanimate, is just one more aspect of Divinity. What is known about this force? Philosophers have debated this for innumerable generations, but most agree on the following:

Divinity is creative: Divinity constantly strives to recreate itself, bringing forth new greater and lesser aspects which all have their roles to play. Indeed, Divinity should be less thought of an "essence" that inhabits things, but as the creative force that keeps everything in motion. Frequently the old has to make way for the new - for this reason Kukul had to sacrifice themselves/be sacrificed (depending on the story) so that there could be room for new incarnations of gods and the world itself. Another implication is that art mimics this creative process of Divinity, and thus can bring mortals closer to it. Most prominent of these artistic endeavors are the sacred arts of pluma and hishna, but poetry, song, dancing, painting and many more can bring mortals closer to the Divine - although some artistic expressions will be derided by the temples as bringing disharmony and thus making mortals stray from the path.

The balance of the world is constantly recreated by Divinity: Eastern philosophers might see "balance" as a perfect "average" been extremes, but to Mazticans, the back and forth between extremes is part of the balance. Just like night follows day and the seasons follow another, the back and forth in the struggles between the gods, people, and animals constantly recreates the world in a new form and a new balance. This does not mean that the new balance resembles the old - sometimes nations, empires, and even gods fall. But as long as the world is recreated anew in these struggles of Divinity, the world can continue. Only if Divinity somehow lost the ability to express itself in new acts of creation would the world cease to be - along with Divinity itself.

Mortals can grow closer to Divinity by finding balance: While the struggle between gods and empires is part of the balance of the world, most normal mortal beings cannot afford to be actors on such a grand scale, since it is easy to falter and bring ruin to themselves and those around them. Instead, in order to find contentment and perhaps even happiness in this perilous life, they should strive for moderation in everything they do, neither doing too much or too little of any one thing (whether eating, sleeping, bathing, having sex, and so forth). They should likewise refrain from doing things that endanger the balance of others. On a more abstract level, they should also find their own role in life and attempt to fulfill that to their utmost, whether this role is that of a humble farmer, a rich merchant, or a brave warrior. Someone who pursues one different path after another quickly becomes unbalanced and find ruin.

Personal Greatness is also a form of Divinity: As pointed out, most Mazticans frown upon attempts to break out of one's social conventions and role in life - and as most such attempts fail, they use such failures as a parable for others. However, a rare few actually do succeed to break out of their role and successfully achieve greatness, whether as conquerors, sages, legendary artists and so forth. Paradoxically, such heroes are also celebrated by Mazticans even if they bring great disruption to others - because through personal greatness they have become actors upon the world and become part of the balance of the eternally re-creating cosmos, attaining a level of Divinity that might not be far short of the gods themselves. And, indeed, a few mighty heroes have ascended to godhood...
 
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Zeromaru X

Registered User
Validated User
Pretty interesting stuff. And I think that this can be applied to all gods, not just the Maztican ones. I already have my doubts on Realmsian religion (as IHMO, a person only should praise a god that contributes to the betterment of civilization; praising a god for the "evulz" is something only a madman would do... that is a problem I have with evil deities on the Realms).

Also, I remembered some other creatures from my childhood. I was raised in a rural village during my earlier years, so I "experimented" first hand the old traditions of my grandparents. Here, people still believe in such creatures, that they are real and are there, in the forest or in the mounts, lurking and waiting. They are not just myths, but an alive and thriving belief, just like Christianity. In fact, in some tales, you can find that the old folkloric tales have been fused with the religious beliefs of the people.

The more "iconic" monster of Colombian traditions is "El Mohán" (The Mohan), that is like an spirit of the forest (wikipedia says he is satyr-like). He is so associated with many traditions and beliefs, that is kinda hard for me to explain, but he represents stuff like the spirits of the dead (more commonly associated with the spirits of the ancestors), and the natural knowledge beyond human comprehension. In a D&D setting, he can be a fey, because the Mohán of folklore is capricious and mercurial like them. Shamans here revere him, so he is a perfect archfey patron for warlocks, as well.

There is also "La Patasola" (The One-Legged Woman). I remember my mom and my aunts scaring me to death with tales about her when I was a kid, now that I think about. Its the spirit of a beautiful woman (she usually takes the form of someone you know and lust for) that search for young men and seduces them. When they are alone, the Patasola reveals her true form (an evil spirit with just one leg, hence the name) and devours her victims. She is somehow used as a moral tale, to teach men to be faithful husbands and women to be proper and polite, so you can say this is also a "machista" tradition. She is also called "La Tunda" and "la Morimonda" in some regions, but according to Wikipedia, La Tunda is a different legendary creature.

Then, you have one of my faves, as I did enjoy scaring my nephews with this one when they were small kids: The "Hombre Caimán" (Alligator Man). A man with a passion for spying on naked women who was cursed (by God in some traditions, by a witch in others) to become a being with the body of an alligator and a human head, who lives in rivers and know spy women when they are washing clothes. A usual protection against him is that a man accompany those women, as he dislike men. Even kids can be useful for this (I was one of such "guardians" in my childhood, in fact). We even have a song about him (is considered too vulgar, though). I got an english version of the legend. If you see a difference in the name of el Hombre Caiman in the video and the wikipedia article, that is common: the name of the guy cursed changes with the retelling.
 
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Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
Pretty interesting stuff. And I think that this can be applied to all gods, not just the Maztican ones. I already have my doubts on Realmsian religion (as IHMO, a person only should praise a god that contributes to the betterment of civilization; praising a god for the "evulz" is something only a madman would do... that is a problem I have with evil deities on the Realms).
Or worse, the notions of "Balance" in the Dragonlance world, where the "Kingpriest" was allegedly too much of a swing towards the side of "Good".

Also, I remembered some other creatures from my childhood. I was raised in a rural village during my earlier years, so I "experimented" first hand the old traditions of my grandparents. Here, people still believe in such creatures, that they are real and are there, in the forest or in the mounts, lurking and waiting. They are not just myths, but an alive and thriving belief, just like Christianity. In fact, in some tales, you can find that the old folkloric tales have been fused with the religious beliefs of the people.

The more "iconic" monster of Colombian traditions is "El Mohán" (The Mohan), that is like an spirit of the forest (wikipedia says he is satyr-like). He is so associated with many traditions and beliefs, that is kinda hard for me to explain, but he represents stuff like the spirits of the dead (more commonly associated with the spirits of the ancestors), and the natural knowledge beyond human comprehension. In a D&D setting, he can be a fey, because the Mohán of folklore is capricious and mercurial like them. Shamans here revere him, so he is a perfect archfey patron for warlocks, as well.

There is also "La Patasola" (The One-Legged Woman). I remember my mom and my aunts scaring me to death with tales about her when I was a kid, now that I think about. Its the spirit of a beautiful woman (she usually takes the form of someone you know and lust for) that search for young men and seduces them. When they are alone, the Patasola reveals her true form (an evil spirit with just one leg, hence the name) and devours her victims. She is somehow used as a moral tale, to teach men to be faithful husbands and women to be proper and polite, so you can say this is also a "machista" tradition. She is also called "La Tunda" and "la Morimonda" in some regions, but according to Wikipedia, La Tunda is a different legendary creature.

Then, you have one of my faves, as I did enjoy scaring my nephews with this one when they were small kids: The "Hombre Caimán" (Alligator Man). A man with a passion for spying on naked women who was cursed (by God in some traditions, by a witch in others) to become a being with the body of an alligator and a human head, who lives in rivers and know spy women when they are washing clothes. A usual protection against him is that a man accompany those women, as he dislike men. Even kids can be useful for this (I was one of such "guardians" in my childhood, in fact). We even have a song about him (is considered too vulgar, though). I got an english version of the legend. If you see a difference in the name of el Hombre Caiman in the video and the wikipedia article, that is common: the name of the guy cursed changes with the retelling.
Thanks! These are useful. And they help emphasize a point - monsters and other creatures shouldn't just be "random encounter" but play roles in the tales of the local people who have encountered them and need to know how to fight them or avoid them.
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
On the Importance of Sacrifice and Ritual

While there are countless arguments among the priests and philosophers of Maztica about the true nature of the gods, on one thing there is a broad consensus: The gods must be fed and strengthened, and this is not only a task that can be done by mortals, but also their obligation.

On one level, this is a pragmatic affair - the gods are extremely powerful beings, and by contributing to their power the mortals help ensure that the gods remain well-disposed towards them (although this is a relative term - with some deities, this merely staves of their wrath). However, the actions of the gods are also a vital part of the constantly re-creating cosmos, and if the gods were to weaken, they might no longer be able to maintain the cosmos, leading to great disasters - indeed, many Maztican sages claim that this is exactly what happened during the onset of the Godless Time, as the introduction of foreign ideas caused faith and worship of the Maztican gods to weaken. Some philosophers argue that if individual gods were to weaken, they would simply be replaced by newer gods as the Divinity of the cosmos simply expresses itself in new forms - however, there would be no guarantee that the new gods would be better disposed towards mortals and their concerns. But others claim that an overall weakening of faith and worship would weaken the very cosmos until it is no longer able to recreate itself, leading to the end of Divinity and thus all things.

One of the ways mortals can strengthen the gods is through sacrifice. Whatever is sacrificed must have some value to mortals, measured either by the difficulties in creating or aquiring it or by what it costs the mortal to give it up. This doesn't necessarily represent economic value - for example, during a monthly celebration in honor of Tezca, small boys are expected to search nearby swamps and waterways for small water animals such as snakes, lizards, frogs, and dragonfly larvae which are presented as offering to the priests. These have no economic worth as such, but because of the effort the boys have put into aquiring these animals they count as a worthy sacrifice.

The most potent of these sacrifices was generally considered human sacrifice, although this practice fell out of favor in many parts of Maztica after the Night of Wailing. The Seven Storms largely forbade the practice - not out of altruism, but because they regarded it as a waste of slaves. While the practice never really died out, its practitioners had to do it in secret (with the Heart Seekers being the most notorious practitioners). After the Return, many priests argue for the reintroduction of human sacrifice, claiming that its abandonment made the disaster of the Godless Time possible. However, others argue that the Return was accomplished without practicing large-scale human sacrifice - thus, the gods don't really need it and can be strenghened through other forms of worship. This debate has not yet found a conclusion, with some regions (such as Nexal) enthusiastically embracing it, others abolishing it, and others limiting it to condemned criminals (as opposed to slaves and captured warriors, as was the custom in the Nexalan Empire).

Precious objects also were commonly sacrificed, though the Seven Storms objected to this practice as well, since they argued that any such items should be given to them as tribute instead. It should be noted that the sacrifice of precious objects to the gods was mirrored in the tribute relationships of old Maztica, as commoners gave tribute to the leaders and nobles of their calpulli, who in turn gave it to the calpulli their own owed fealty to (such as the old Nexalan Empire). This was deliberate, as the nobles were seem as more powerful actors upon the world - they were stronger expressions of Divinity, in other words and thus worthy of sacrifice similar to how the gods were worthy of sacrifice. Since one of the obligations of nobles was to make proper sacrifices to the gods on behalf of their calpulli or nation, the nobles were seen as just another link in the chain of sacrifices. Indeed, one of the things that offended the Mazticans deeply was that the Seven Storms set themselves up as the final nexus of the tribute chains but then refused to pass on sacrifices to the gods themselves.

One form of sacrifice that was not suppressed during the Godless Time was the giving of one's own blood. This was usually accomplished by piercing the tongue, earlobes, or genitals - in some cases by running a thin rope with attached thorns or obsidian shards through a pre-drilled hole. The most common practice was to smear the blood on paper and burn it.

While sacrifices were in decline during the Godless Time, rituals became vastly more popular during the same period. The most spectacular of these were reenactments of stories about the gods, with priests, actors, and worshipers each playing a role in the myth. Mazticans generally believe that by taking on the masks and guises of something, mortals also become that entity to some degree - in the case of gods by taking on a small measure of their Divinity. And by re-enacting the deeds of the gods, the worshipers can reinforce their power. For this reason most priests of Maztican deities wear guises of their gods as part of their duties, even when they are not actively conducting rituals. But numerous smaller rituals exist as part of ordinary, day-to-day activities, such as farming, weaving, food preparation and so forth. Learning such rituals is a large part of Maztican education in the Houses of Youth.
 
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Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
The Star-That-Shines-By-Day

Ten years before the arrival of the Golden Legion on Maztica's shores, the first of a series of omens prophesizing his arrival appeared: A great light, brighter than the brightest star, hovered over the valley of Nexal for twenty days before vanishing again. This Star-That-Shines-By-Day disturbed Naltecona and his subject greatly, and caused the priests of Zaltec and Tezca to call for ever more sacrifices for their gods. Yet no matter what they did, the omens continued, year after year until the arrival of Cordell and the doom of Nexal.

Yet even the sages of Nexal did not know that this was not the first time the Star-That-Shines-By-Day has appeared in Maztica. The people of the Coxi Basin had many stories about this strange light which would at times appear over remote areas of the swamps of the region. Sometimes it would appear over a village, and its inhabitants might vanish completely - or reappear as babbling madmen mutting about alien landscapes appearing nearby. And sometimes the madmen were able to command uncanny powers for which the upstanding people of the villages would shun or kill them. Yet cults to the Star remained in the swamps, and rumors persisted that some were able to summon it.

Modern scholars now ask themselves: Did the Star appear over Nexal out of its own volition (if such a being can be said to have an agenda of its own) - or was it summoned by some unknown entity? But whatever happened, it seemed to break the Star's old bindings, for ever since it has appeared in vastly different regions of Maztica, sometimes appearing off the coast of the Patzcoatl (the Western Ocean), in the highlands of Lopango, or the deep deserts of the House of Tezca and the Sands of Itzcala. It has not appeared above a major city again, but this might be due to random chance. And sometimes, when it appears, it leaves its spoor behind - strange plant growths that grant their users visions beyond sight, mutations that plague men and beast alike, or alien creatures that were not born under the eyes of Tezca. Its appearances have become more and more common in recent years, and some sages fear that it will soon appear permanently in the skies - an outcome that certain cults try to accelerate.

Game rules: The Star-That-Shines-By-Day counts as a Great Old One otherworldly patron for warlocks.
 
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Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
I am currently reading the book "Aztec Philosophy: Understanding a World in Motion" by James Maffie, and it makes some rather interesting points.

In Western (that is, European and surrounding areas) metaphysics there is a tendency to believe that things that exist have a "true", inner self that might be "eternal" (consider the "immortal soul" or the God of monotheism), and anything that changes is merely a lesser, possibly illusionary derivation of that "true self". Consider how many Christian streams of thought consider the human body as a mere vessel for the soul that is of lesser importance.

Meanwhile, in Aztec philosophy the "true self" is the change - "being follows from operation". Thus, saying things like "this is not who I really am" would likely be dismissed in Aztec society - you are what you do.

I am not sure where I am going with this, but it is interesting...
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
Perhaps this: Like most other cultures, Mazticans generally disapprove of attempts at social climbing and other socially disruptive activities. However, this is for entirely pragmatic reasons. There is no "divine right of kings" that holds that some people are inherently "better" suited to ruling others merely by virtue of their birth. The rulers are in charge because they are powerful and can stop others from taking over.

Instead, social climbing attempts are frowned up because they are disruptive to the people around them - and frequently to the person attempting the climbing, should they fail. But if it looks like they might actually pull it off, most Mazticans will be pragmatic enough to try and stay on their good sides.
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
Okay, I want to come up with a rough map for Ulatos-Dragonport over the Christmas holidays in preparation for my upcoming campaign - but that means I need to come up with details for the city first. Since it has been a while, I will quote my prior posts on the subject so that you don't have to find them:

Since there is a campaign looming ahead, I thought I'd take a break from reading the novels and spending some time detailing Ulatos in the modern era, since that's where the PCs will be spending time first.

The city gets some detail in the adventure "Fires of Zatal", and here is the map from that module:



Some first thoughts:

- Sadly, the map has no scale. However, the text mentions that the plantations ("7" on the map" cover about 200 acres each, which is about 0.31 square miles. Ulatos proper seems to have twice that area (say, 0.6 square miles), and Google tells me that medieval cities have a population density of 38,850 people per square mile. Given that the text also tells us that the area has a total population of 20,000 people, that seems about right. Using the measurement tools of GIMP, I estimate a distance between the outskirts of Ulatos and the outskirts of Helmsport of 2.8 miles.

- "Helmsport" will have been renamed "Dragonport" and the vast majority of its population will be non-Payit. All those Dragonborn trading concerns for starters, the "Little Lantan" with all those artificers-in-exile which I mentioned earlier, and all those foreigers making landfall. Needless to say, it will be vastly larger than during Cordell's time.

- Ulatos will be the administrative center of the twin city, and likewise have grown much larger. It will also host all sorts of diplomats - both from other nations and other Payit city-states, and look like it. Ulatos tries to me much more "proper Payit" than multicultural Dragonport, although it is frequently failing in that regard. The "Godspeaker Square" I mentioned earlier, where priests of gods old and new try to find new followers and locals try to find priests who can help them with their problems, will be here as well.

- The two cities remain distinct geographical units for the most part, but they are slowly growing together. This is most noteworthy along the "Corridor", the road between them. The Lantanese operate a primitive railroad between them, drawn by golems (in the shape of bulls, unless I can come up with a better idea). It's not particularly fast, but it gets you there and beats walking. The plantations have gradually grown into small settlements in their own right, and now there is an almost continuous stretch of houses along the road.

- The dragon ruler of Payit (I still need to find a name for him) maintained the swamps to the northeast of the city as a nature preserve/hunting ground, which explains why there was no development in that area in the past century. Nevertheless, the swamp presented an obstacle to river trade - so a canal was built along the Corridor as well. Now that the dragon is gone there is talk of draining the swamp and making it usable for agriculture and commerce, but first you'd have to get rid of the monsters, smugglers, and bandits (as well as the occasional genasi village).

- I like to plunder real world sources for this project wherever I can. The closest real world equivalent for Dragonport would be Veracruz, since it was founded by Cortes and represented the main port of the region for a long time. The model for Ulatos would be Potonchán, a Mayan city where Corzes had his first major battle. If anyone knows of any English-language websites that provide further interesting details about either of these cities, I'd much appreciate it.
Further thoughts:

- The Corridor represents the connection between Dragonport and Ulatos, yet is not part of either. Furthermore, as it is along a route frequented by travelers, it will cater strongly to those travelers. As a result, there will be plenty of inns, pubs, restaurants... but also brothels, gambling dens, and drug parlors. Organized crime will be rife. I imagine something on the lines of "Main Street" in Westerns.

- As Dragonport probably represents the best harbor in the northeast of Payit, and Pezelac doesn't have any good deep water harbors of its own, Dragonport will likely be the final destination of many cattledrives. Thus, it will also have a massive slaugherhouse district. Additionally, a stretch of land close to the forest in the east will be kept aside for the cattle passing through to their final destination, instead o being used for plantations. Let's call it the "cattle road".
Let's read a bit in the description of Helmsport-Ulatos from "Fires of Zatal".

p.2: This reminds us of the strong racial divisions between Mazticans and Faerunians: "The Amnites tend to treat the Mazticans as a second-class work force, little better than enslaved orcs. Native Payits are treated best, the Nexala and savage Dog People the worst. Amnites in the new world consider themselves the superior race - after all, they destroyed Nexal." A proto-form of the New Spain Casta System - ultimately aborted before it could reach the complexity of our world.

However, this is somewhat contradicted in the next paragraph: "The Payits and other native races tend to treat the newcomers with respect and/or fear, at least to their faces. The Payits respect the Amnites and have generally benefitted from their rule, while many others fear the newcomers' power and greed."

So... how precisely have the Payit benefited from being conquered by the Amnites? The text doesn't say, and I find this notion dubious.

In either case, this will be ancient history by the current age. While there are still a few lineages tracing their roots to the Amnish, to most Payits this will be ancient history. They may be somewhat wary of newcomers - who might, after all, attempt to conquer them again - but after throwing off the Seven Storms they no longer fear them. After all, they have overcome much worse.

p. 3: The text explains that the Payit are reduced to "near-slavery" and have to work the fields of the plantations (owned by Cordell's soldiers and some influential newcomers) "in exchange for minimal support". I suspect that this works similar to how it worked in New Spain - the native leaders are told they need to send a certain quota of laborers to the plantations, which also means that their clan is responsible that they show up and do their work (and thus face reprisals when they don't).

We are also told that both the natives and the newcomers handle their own judicial cases. Among the Payit, squabbles between families are handled within Ulatos, all the way to the Revered Counselor if need be. Meanwhile, all cases involving newcomers (even if one of the parties is a native) are handled at the military tribunal, which will generally side with newcomers unless heavy bribes are involved. They usually use enslavement as a punishment, ranging from a single year to life.

In the current age, the "legal system" is in a way not too dissimilar. Crimes and misdeeds that only involve the members of a single calpulli will be handled entirely within it. If two different calpullis are involved, they can either attempt to work it out between themselves - in that case, the issue will likely be resolved with some sort of compensation for the offended family. But if they can't sort it out between themselves, they can try to kick the conflict upstairs - to the more powerful calpulli they owe fealty to, all the way to the actual rulers of their city-state. Of course, these important people are very busy and sometimes might not hear a particular grievance for years. In that case, the offended party might go for some "vigilant justice", such as asking an organized crime family to hurt the perpetrators - or just find a settlement between the two families (I hear the Japanese Yakuza fulfills a similar role in modern-day Japan in many cases, due to a lack of lawyers and cultural reluctance to settle conflicts in court). Of course, such vigilant justice can escalate, and eventually the rulers will have to step in and mediate the conflict if they don't want blood in the streets.

This, of course, makes it difficult for newcomers - if they have no calpulli to speak for them, then they have no way of getting any justice! Of course, adventurers might be willing to seek some vigilant justice of their own - but then they might gain the enmity of an entire calpulli...

This is probably a good point to go into the Maztican liege relationships. The Aztec Empire (aka the Triple Alliance), as far as I understand, was not an organized empire in the European sense - instead it consisted of a series of tribute relationship based on which city-state, district, village and so forth owed tribute to whom. Beyond tribute, they were largely left to run their own affairs, although the tribute (whether in goods or labor) could be crushing.

This likely held true for the Nexalan Empire as well. While the other nations beyond the Empire likely had their own way of running things, the Seven Storms rather liked the "tribute relationship" and installed it with themselves on the top - including in regions like Payit.

Now that the dragon ruler of Payit is gone, the old tribute network is gone. However, the Triumvirate of Ulatos argues that they should receive tribute instead of the dragon (if not perhaps the same amount) and become the leaders of the nation of Payit, since theirs is the biggest and most powerful city-state.

To justify this, they warn of external threats - the Queen of Fang and Poison to the south is an obvious one, and Nexal and Kultaka remain threats on the western horizons (if not immediate ones, since Pezelac is in between). These are some good arguments, considering the war and devastation of recent years, and they have swayed some city-states of Payit but not others.

But if some foreigners from Faerun could be implicated spying for a new invasion attempt from the east - whether or not such an invasion is actually planned - then it could certainly help their case for more national unification...
p. 4:

- The shipyards of Helmsport are slowly built by slaves, overseen by Amnites who are usually assigned this task as punishment. Interestingly, the Amnite government "hired a group of Ruathym shipbuilders for work in the yards", but since the shipyards aren't finished yet, they are a bit bored. Curious - I was not aware that Ruathym was all that famous for its shipbuilders. It's doubtful that their influence will have survived into the present time.

- The docks, in contrast, are built largely by native labor who are actually "paid fairly well", and they supplement their income with a bit of pilfering (which their overseers overlook as long as it is minor and they get kickbacks).

- Fort Cordell is slowly growing, and its stonework has largely been scavenged from the former pyramid of Zaltec in Ulatos (which raises the possibilities of Zaltec-related hauntings, now that Zaltec is back). Presumably, the fort has been expanded further still - though into the local Dragonborn clanhold more than a useful fortress intended to protect the harbor from the sea (since nobody would have dared to attack it from the sea as long as one of the Seven Storms was in charge). Now there are plans to turn it into a proper fortress since invasions are much more likely now.

p. 5: The smithy is a complex within the fort and barred to natives. Since the fort has become a Dragonborn clanhold, the "Litte Lantan" district will have its smithies elsewhere though. The text also mentions that they keep smoke powder (the Faerun equivalent to gunpowder) here, as well as the treasury of the Fort (which was of course plundered by the dragon in the meantime, even if it remained here).

p. 7: One of the plantations used to belong to one "Jalimar Trollslayer", one of Cordell's original soldiers - but he organized an expedition "to the south where even greater empires were rumored to exist". This is the first we have heard of those - perhaps these rumors are about the South Continent or the cities of the Sky Lords (which were still occupied during this time)? It's not run by one Drakosa, one of the major NPCs in the adventure who raises tobacco and indigo for export and who schemes to replace Cordell. "He is a relatively lenient master, feeding to the hounds only those slaves who get out of line."

p. 8: While Zaltec's pyramid has been destroyed, Qotal's pyramid has been fully restored and features feather magic fountains near the top. Smaller pyramids exist, with those of Plutoq, Kiltzi, and Watil fully restored while Tezca's pyramid has been razed halfway down.

Now, in the current age, it has been fully restored and features a massive Eye of Tezca (i.e. an optical telegraph array) - it is quite possibly the center of his resurgent cult, although the cult doesn't perform human sacrifices any more (that anyone knows of).

p. 9: The Temple of Helm was built out of the stone from the Pyramid of Azul (more hauntings!). It is quite likely that the temple does not survive into the current age (since Helm failed to protect the Payit against the dragons), although a number of families will retain household shrines where they ask Helm to guard the fortunes of their families.

p. 10: Cordell's estate is about 10 miles upriver. In the current age it is widely believed to be haunted, which is not wrong - and Cordell's descendants sometimes gather there to commune with their ancestor-patron.
Okay, let's return to Ulatos-Dragonport - starting with Dragonport. Like I mentioned earlier, I want to use the real city of Veracruz for inspiration, since that's the closest real world equivalent.

From its history, we learn that the city had a long-time problem with smuggling. For a time, the settlement was moved to the mouth of the river Antigua, further north, but the river wasn't navigable for ships (unlike smuggler's boats), and thus the government moved it back to ensure that everyone had go through the port of Veracruz and thus pay the customs fees. Looking back at our map of the Ulatos region, perhaps there was a similar settlement at the mouth of the river north of Ulatos until it was (mostly) abandoned.

Veracruz was also a major port of entry for African slaves, and the state of Veracruz had more slaves than any other in Mexico. Thus, in our counterpart, we'd expect the population of genasi to be higher here than in any other part of Payit.

Due to its gold and silver exports, Veracruz had lots of problems with piracy - requiring the enlargement of the fort. In contrast, in Dragonport during the Godless Time pirates would have to be really ballsy, since they'd effectively steal a dragon's loot, something on which they hold views - and ships at sea are not good places to be if you have pissed off a dragon. So either our pirates would have to limit themselves in how much stuff they take... or have the sponsorship of another dragon, into whose territory they can flee. It's quite possible that the dragon overlord of Payit has likewise sponsored his own pirates.

Of course, in the current age pirates will probably feel less constraint - indeed, a "Golden Age of Piracy" might begin in Maztica. Plenty of things to do for PCs on either side of the divide! Why, pirates might even attack Dragonport itself, similar to the historical attack on Veracruz...
Back to Veracruz. The rest of the history section on Wikipedia doesn't concern much of interest for our purposes, but the "Notable Sites" section does.

First, it is mentioned that a type of dance, the Danzon, is danced almost every evening in the city. Since it has European roots, a direct analogue is probably not quite appropriate, but it may be worth thinking about local dances. The local Payit might go for more formal, ritual dances (like this Mayan dance. The genasi would have more freeform dances with a minimum of props, similar to the dances of slaves in the Carribean and surrounding areas (although I would be reluctant to use direct counterparts). As for the Dragonborn? No idea.

But I do have an idea for a long dance procession along the Corridor that takes place every year - the local equivalent of Carnival.

The text further mentions that there is a "Crafts Market". Dragonport likewise will have a counterpart where the Artificers of the region (whether part of Little Lantan or independent) will offer their own goods.

The local fortress once was on an island (now connected to the mainland) dedicated to the god Tezcatlipoca (i.e. the inspiration for Zaltec). Sadly, Fort Cordell was quite firmly built on the mainland, and the conceptual space is already taken by Twin Visages, which is further east along the coast of Dragonport.

More useful is the fact that the fort was for a time used for holding prisoners by the Mexican Inquisition ("I didn't expect the Mexican Inquisition..." - seriously, I didn't expect their existence!), and they conducted their interrogations here as well. Furthermore, the fort was also used as a military prison for a time (and it held a famous Robin Hood-type bandit, so the fortress in Dragonport will also have its "prison wing". It quite possibly held some rebels against dragon rule, perhaps even one or more of the Feathered Champions for a time.

Veracruz also has a large aquarium, but I don't know how to use this without coming off as too anachronistic. Perhaps there is a "museum" in the style of old "private collections" of preserved underwater life forms maintained by a rich local collector (likely a Dragonborn)? If the PCs want to learn more about the local oceans and their inhabitants, that's who they will want to see.

There is also a Naval School in Veracruz, which would make all sorts of sense for Dragonport as well. Again, it is likely operated by the Dragonborn, although they might have recently added some members of the Ocean Masters culture to their staff.

The text mentions that the City Museum of Veracruz used to be an asylum built sometime early in the 19th century. Still, a simple madhouse would not be too anachronistic for Dragonport, and thus we can add another location. This allows the PCs to visit raving madmen who have "seen too much" but know vital clues for whatever mystery they are trying to unravel.

There is a mention of another very promising island called Isla de Sacrificios, which was pretty much what you think it was. Sadly, there are no islands next to Dragonport...

The "Heritage" section of the Wikipedia mentions that sugar and rum production have been major commodities, and this seems appropriate for Dragonport as well. With their old trade routes to other continents disrupted, they are now seeking to dump their stockpiles of sugar (and tobacco, and other trade goods) to Faerunian markets.

Coffeehouses are also fairly important to Veracruz, and while coffee is not native to the Americas (and thus, Maztica), it should have had plenty of opportunity to spread there. It's probably a favorite drink of the Dragonborn.
Where was I?

Right, Dragonport (formerly Helmsport), one half of the twin cities of Ulatos-Dragonport. We need to come up with further details, and for that I will turn to my usual tool - the Random Nations Generator.

While we have established that Dragonport was run and expanded by a Dragonborn clan, interestingly the first form of government we get is Meritocracy - unusual, but let's roll with it. Let's say that while the Dragonport is effectively "owned" by a local clan, they have established a clear division of labor - there is a meritocratic bureaucracy that runs the port itself while the clan receives the profit and is free to pursue mercantile or political goals (such as the current "Let's unify Payit under our banner!" scheme). Naturally, clan members are trained in the knowledge needed to pass the tests since birth, but they are too proud to give clanmembers any "breaks" during the testing. It's something of an embarrassment that the current Harbor Master is a human, but since she aced all the tests needed for the position the Dragonborn have to concede that she won honestly. Apart from those who lost to her in the tests, of course - who might be plotting her downfall.

The first major organization is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (i.e. UNESCO). Dragonport does not really have the scope of the UN, but what makes sense is an organization that surveys the culture and customs of all current and possible future trading partners so that traders will be prepared for ventures in these regions. Naturally, access to the archives and the researchers is limited to paying members of the Merchant's Guild, although they might pay for interviews with people from "exotic foreign cultures" that might be of interest to the traders.

Another organization from the list that springs to my eye are the Garden Gnome Liberationists. Consider: Garden gnomes were supposed to represent beings of faerie. And the fey have some important roles to play in Maztica - and one of them was as "clan patrons" for clan-based warlocks during the Godless Time. And since they were worshiped by the clan, you can bet that they had some visual representations within the clan.

In other ways, we have the "Totem Liberation Front" who believes that these clans are stealing power from the Fey to empower their "priests", steal totems from clan shrines, and put them to Faerie crossroads and similar remote places in hopes of restoring balance to the Feywild. There might be a priest of one of the Returned Gods in on this who doesn't actually believe it, but sees it as a way of getting the clans to return to proper forms of worship...
 
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Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
Returning to the Random Nations Generator, we turn to "Major Personalities".

Théodore Géricault: A French artist of the Romanticism style specializing in paintings with military themes, he also painted a series of 10 insane people... which fits, since we have already established that Dragonport has an asylum. We still need to give this a more Mesoamerican theme, though. I am reminded of the Casta Paintings which described the "mixed racial populations" (depending on their precise European, Native, and African ancestry). Perhaps our artist is likewise attempting to do "survey paintings" of the various forms of insanity, including which particular god or spirit is responsible for their madness. It is possible the artist needs some "field researchers" searching for new kinds of insanity which can be examined. And perhaps some of the artist's existing paintings have induced insanities of their own in their viewers...

Other major personalities of Dragonport will be derived from their offices and organizations, so this should suffice for now.
 
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