Hollow Crown Mountains
Sitting on the edge of the Yellow Serpent Border Cliffs, the Hollow Crown Mountains mark the northern edge of the old kingdom of Guge. The most notable feature of the mountains is the Glacier of the Lost King. The mountains gain their name from the bowl-like valley at the center. This isolated valley can only be reached by hidden passes.
Living in the valley are the spirit folk of Guge, the remnants of the old kingdom. These people, Kami, were once the proud and haughty rulers of all the Katakoro Plateau. Cruel and ruthless oppressors of other races, the old kingdom of Guge was finally destroyed by the Kao Dynasty of Shou Lung. The last survivors of the kingdom retreated into the hidden valley of these mountains. in the centuries that have followed, the Gugari have kept themselves in strict isolation from the outside world. They live much as they did centuries ago. Within the valley they have attempted to recreate the glories of their kingdom and keep their ways intact for the day when they will return and avenge their ancestors.
Two large cities are found in the valley, one at each end. Each city houses a rival faction of Gugari. While both factions are thoroughly decadent and evil, each also hates the other. The eastern faction is firmly dedicated to the old ways in speech, dress, and customs. The western faction has developed new traditions and uses a different dialect. Although these are only superficial differences, the people of Guge hold them to be of deadly importance, The two factions are barely able to control their hatred for each other. The Gugari are a smallish race of people with thick, blond hair. They are the descendants of mountain spirits. They are hardy, inured to cold and rain. The men are muscular and stocky, women are slender and fair. During the summer months, the men dress in little more than loincloths and the women wear thin silken robes. in the winter, men and women wear warm coats of yak wool, dyed in bright greens and rich browns. Only the highest members of the ruling class, the princes and princesses, wear the colors blue and red.
The Gugari are supposed to be ruled by a king, but none has been named since the disappearance of Kalon Doring, the mad king, on the Glacier of the Lost King. Since then, the eastern people have been ruled by the Council of Regents. All the regents trace their bloodlines back to the brothers of Kalon Doring. The western people are ruled by the True Princes, who in turn trace their bloodlines back to the children of Kalon Doring. This political division is the original split that has resulted in the feud now existing between east and west.
The split also divided the priests and wizards. The priests, who worshiped Niynjushigampo (Bhaal, God of Death), stayed with the regents. The wizards, specialists in necromancy, sided with the princes. Thus each group has had the services of one of the major spell-casting groups. Since the Time of Troubles, the priesthood has been wracked by internal dissension. The more ambitious priests have recognized the power of the new god Sirhivatizangpo (, while others, particularly the leaders of the temples, still insist that Niynjushigampo lives. The wrangling between the two groups has weakened the power of the regents, something that has not gone unnoticed by the princes of the western city.
The Gugari have a very corrupt culture. Great importance is placed on death, including the offering of sacrifices. Prisoners, including unfortunate travelers, are tortured and killed for the amusement of the upper classes. Inbreeding among the ruling class has produced atavisms regressions — in the bloodline. The centuries of isolation and absolute power have decayed and twisted the moral standards of the rulers. The common folk of the valley do not suffer from all these flaws. For example, they are not as heavily inbred or as opulently decadent as their masters. However, the moral laxity of the upper class has affected them, too. Theft and even more hedonistic crimes are common and to some extent tolerated. Only murder meets with outrage, because the population is so small. Every effort is made to capture the murderer, who; if caught, is executed in a grotesque public display, much to the delight of the population. Truly notorious criminals are executed on the high festival days.
Whether regent, prince, or commoner, the Gugari are very strict about social class. The rulers of each land live in fortress-like palaces with white-washed sides and blockhouse walls. The upper balconies are of elaborately carved wood and the roofs are brightly colored tile. These palatial fortresses are built atop craggy spires of stone. Clustered around the bases are the temples and shrines, then the homes of the common citizens. Outside all this are the terraced fields of the city. A band of pasture and woodland separates the eastern city from the western city.
The distinction of social class extends beyond upper and lower class. Within each are levels of status based on bloodline, accomplishments of ancestors, money, and occupation. A poor prince who is the direct descendant of Kalon Doring will always receive more respect than a wealthy prince who traces from the third son. A wealthy tanner will still be treated with contempt by the other merchants in town, for the tanner’s job is unclean and vile. It is virtually impossible to change one’s social rank. Although they are isolated from the outside, the Gugari are aware of much that has happened in the outer world since the downfall of Guge. The priests and wizards use their magic to stay informed. Travelers, though rare, are carefully interrogated (sometimes politely, usually not). The Gugari still harbor ambitions to reclaiming their old empire and to do so, they have kept themselves aware of events.
However much they talk of reconquest, the Gugari are not likely to accomplish it. Without knowing, they have developed a fear of the outside world, or at least a fear of leaving their own valley. This, more than anything else, is what has kept them from expanding into the power vacuum of the Katakoro Plateau.
The Gugari speak an ancient dialect of the Shou. They can be roughly understood by anyone who can speak the dialects of Shou Lung and T’u Lung?. Such characters can easily learn the tongue without the use of a proficiency slot. Likewise, those who learn the language of the Gugari will have an equal ease at learning any one dialect of the Shou.
The temples of Niynjushigampo and Sirhivatizangpo both have an active priesthood. The majority of the wizards in the valley are necromancers, and have dedicated themselves to dark and evil practices. There are some non- specialized wizards, but virtually no other type of specialist is found. While the majority of the valley’s inhabitants are evil, not everyone is thoroughly black-hearted. Some individuals and families are good at heart, kind, and well-meaning. Such families keep to themselves, hoping to avoid the attention of their corrupt and profligate neighbors. Such people might aid those who shared their feelings, especially if the visitors offered the hope of instructing the Gugari in the error of their ways. It is not impossible for player characters to enter and explore the valley. Although the passes are concealed and guarded, the princes and regents do not immediately capture or kill anyone who enters. Instead, visitors are escorted to the appropriate palace where they can be presented to the officials. Both factions are keenly interested in anything that might give them an advantage over their enemies. Strangers with unusual powers are often used as pawns in the struggle. it is only when the visitors are no longer useful or have become dangerous that the rulers will arrest and eliminate their guests. Thus, between the rare friendly commoner and the scheming lords, others can visit the valley. it is and should always be a dangerous place to visit.