Living in Seshnela
Flotsam and Jetsam of the Old West
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The culture of Rokari Tanisor (the "Kingdom of Seshnela") has regressed from the inbred, chivalrous, courtly manners of the Second Age which are still perpetuated on the Castle Coast. The Rokari are, above all, Realists. Flamboyant displays, elaborate manners, intricate customs and so forth do not naturally endear themselves to the austere, purifying Rokari spirit. They creep in at the top, of course - such things always do - but the "Realistic" Rokari way is blunt, crude, rude: eminently human.
Life is nasty, brutish and short (unless you're pious), and there's no point pretending otherwise. Royal policy is at the level of grasping mediaeval monarchs everywhere: look at the way the King treats his Barons, and think of Coronation Oaths, and the evils Magna Carta was meant to moderate. The Holy Rokari Church sees poverty as a virtue, and hoards wealth and privilege for itself so that others must do without (and be better for it).
This overt power-clutching self-interest is anathema to the Hrestoli, both the Old Seshnelans of the Castle Coast (who like to keep up an appearance of living lives of gay abandon, courtly ceremonial and chivalric derring-do) and the Idealists of Loskalm (who place great importance in symbols and social ritual as embodiments of the Ideal).
The Rokari scoff at these attitudes, pointing out that they can degenerate into a facade of virtue, concealing vice and weakness within. "Such customs are bloated with decay, and conceal more than they reveal," the Rokari says. "At least you know where you stand with our King. When he kicks in your door, destroys your home, carries off your wife and murders your son, he's just doing what Kings always do. Does dressing it up make it any easier for you to bear?"
Most Rokari "knights" are thugs in armour, and don't bother to disguise the fact. Of course, you can find some Rokari knights who behave chivalrously: these are perpetuating the old traditions of Chivalric behaviour, which are frowned upon by the contemporary establishment. King Ulianus III briefly revived the spirit of Seshnelan Chivalry in Rokari Tanisor, but the decline in power which the fai-neant reign of his son Vikkard of the Tourneys initiated did not endear this concept to the Powers That Be. 
While not overtly "heretical", chivalrous behaviour is not expected, desired or encouraged. This lack of official sanction, of course, makes the few "good apples in a rotten barrel" feel even more virtuous about keeping it up. (And, of course, it gives player character 'chivalrous' Rokari knights a chance to feel good about themselves).
The Holy Rokari Church
The Rokari Church was born out of a Reformation of the corrupted post-God Learner church of Seshnela, as a deliberate "Back to Basics" movement. They are the most consciously old-fashioned rather than the oldest Malkioni sect, purposely aping the Brithini to cloak themselves in the antique austerity of the Prophet Himself.
Novelty is generally seen as a Bad Thing by religions (the Lunar Way being the notable exception): most will go out of their way to adopt or forge a pedigree stretching back to pure Hrestolism or Malkionism, in which the recent "Founders" who set up the present Church (the Prophet Rokar; Saint Siglat the Wise) are in fact Reformers, sweeping away the accretions of false dogma and irrelevant clutter which hide True Doctrine from the Faithful.
In our games we have shown the Rokari Church as similar to the "Bad Papacy" of mediaeval Europe. But the most strident complaints against the excesses of the senior priests come not from "heretics" but from the purest Rokari believers. And the heresy of the Flagellant Movement (the "World of Losers") is taking one aspect of Rokari belief - redemption in Solace through suffering in this life - to extremes. Although we ruthlessly persecuted suspected Flagellants in How the West was One, for a game set in Rokari Seshnela I'd prefer to have them not yet declared heretical: more a fanatical subcult of Rokarism than anything else. (Along with the purist, reforming Whyte Wyzards, another splinter-group).
Nolos and Handra
The Duchy of Nolos is similar to a Ralian city-state, given the influence of the sophisticated Safelstrans upriver. When thinking about the West, I usually cast Nolos as Provence (with so many foreign influences, looking like a more sophisticated version of "Mediaeval French" Seshnela but much smaller than it), and Handra as Venice. 
The Castle Coast
The Castle Coasters are a hangover from the God Learner... [thwack!] I'm sorry, my Lord, I'll start that again.
The Castle Coasters are the last remnant of the virtuous Kingdom of Seshnela of the First and Second Ages. They have inherited a material and social culture far more elaborate than their present size and power would permit: they have marvellous armour and weapons; they have finery and etiquette; they have a plethora of High Churchly ritual... within the Castles. Outside is mud, and rain, and peasants in huts, the same as anywhere else (or perhaps a little worse, for the poverty of the land). But don't go crying to the Lords to complain...
 A bit of historical chrome: Ulianus III was a Good King (seven feet tall, won wars in Safelster, enemies all terrified of him), and Vikkard a Weak King (empire crumbled, hid under his throne, died unpleasantly of a surfeit). Think of Edward I and II (as seen in Braveheart), though with chivalry strapped on - as a way of life for the first, an idle amusement for the second.
 C'mon, guys: a trading port built by "Renaissance Italian" Safelstrans in the middle of a marsh...
 Follow this link for Mike Hagen's Notes to this article.
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