City Settings – The Unknown Authority

The city of Oria is not governed by elected officials, a despotic monarch or a council of elders. It is ruled by a the speaking standing stone at its centre. A city state on the coast of Cyneweard, its location is unremarkable. There are no strategic resources or luxury goods in the region, only this market city at the mouth of a river alley.

Six Cities in 2018

The sixth in a series of posts exploring cities as the focal point for RPG world building. This city explores rulership be a benevolent but unknowable entity.

The standing stone is three meters high and made of what appears to be a naturally occurring igneous rock. Nothing grows on it and animals tend to avoid it. When it speaks, it is alway correct. It is acting on the stone’s recommendations that has brought prosperity to the city. It seems to know all secrets and can thus plan accordingly. It speaks clearly and precisely to ensure that its utterances cannot be misinterpreted. It sounds like a choir of hundred of voices but at first it spoke with the voice of a female child.

The city was founded hundreds of years ago by a wandering tribe that camped near the stone whilst they hunted in the valley inland. The stone spoke to the tribesman, who at first were fearful of its presence. Once they began to listen and act upon the stone’s advice, their hunting and gathering trips quickly become more successful. The stone recommend that the tribe settle around it and thus Oria began.

Carrying out the work of the stone is done by the city’s civil service, a group of bureaucrats who are appointed by the stone. The majority of them are natives to the city but the stone has been known to request the service of outsiders. A few chafe at the constraints the stone places upon their lives, as a round the clock watch is maintain to catch everything the stone says. Where there was once a small clearing of grass there is now a large city hall. The stone sits in a dome at the centre with the attached buildings the dome filled with offices and courts of law. In addition to the civil servant listeners, there is a religious group who listen to the stone with a deep fervour and say they are blessed to have heard it speak. Mostly the stone is quiet, speaking briefly only once or twice a week. Rarely, perhaps once a year, it will speak at length about the coming year or a pressing danger.

The stone is trusted by the city’s population because it appears to have the welfare of the citizens as its primary goal. It never calls for the death of the innocent and its advice always works to protect and benefit the weakest of the citizens. It will also speak out if a miscarriage of justice is about to occur, hence the presence of the courts in the stone’s building.

When the stone’s advice has not been heeded, there have been consequences mundane and dire. One year the stone spoke that ships should not leave the harbour for a week. Those that disobeyed were wrecked in a hurricane and swept up the coast. On another year, an outbreak of foot fungus occurred when a sauna was not cleaned. The most traumatic mistake the city made was when Fernis declared war upon the city. The stone recommend surrender but the city, in its pride, chose to fight. A memorial sits outside the entrance way to the stone’s hall, a piece of burnt timber to remember the city’s sacking. It has been sixty years since the stone was last ignored.

Plot Hooks

  • An important knight from a nearby nation of Exalos was about to be found innocent of pillaging when the stone spoke to condemn them. Exalos won’t accept the verdict without proof.
  • The stone has spoken that the party should take a newborn infant from its mother and take it to a stone circle in the nearby mountains. The stone knows something will be there to collect it.
  • The party have been brought in front of the stone as all it has done for hours now is repeat the names of the party.
  • The party have been hired to steal the stone by a rival nation. The stone knows this and is preparing a trap and counter offer.

Image Credit – Standing Stone Near Clivocast by Peter Stenzel – CC-BY-ND-2.0