I’m a Bad Historian in a Fake World

Recently, a friend introduced me to a live action role play (typically known by the acronym LARP) called Twin Mask. It’s a fantast LARP, so if you’re picturing a bunch of nerds acting out Dungeons & Dragons you’re not far off. I decided to make my character a historian who comes from the city-state of Ad Decimum, a nation of wizards and scholars. After getting into character and taking an interest in the elaborate lore that the team running the game had created, I decided to collect up whatever information I could find and write some in-world history books- starting with the history of Ad Decimum.

I got pretty into it, and wrote a couple thousand words. Where possible, I used the official in-game lore, mostly taken from the rulebook and the official wiki. For everything I couldn’t find information about (which included pretty much all of the thousand year period between the city’s founding and the ten years of recent in-world history since the LARP began), I extrapolated and invented things that felt plausible and authentic. When I was done I contacted the people in charge of the game to ask what to do with it.

I wasn’t sure how they’d react to my invented world history. One possibility was that the time period about which I had written was undefined, and that they might ask for a few tweaks and then bless it with the status of canon. Alternatively, they might tell me it was wrong and then explain each of the things that my history conflicted with. This was basically an attempt to apply Cunningham’s Law: “The best way to get the right answer on the Internet is not to ask a question; it’s to post the wrong answer.” As it happened, neither occurred. I was very politely informed that in-world lore for the period about which I wrote did exist, none of what I wrote was canon-compliant, and that they were unable to help me correct something that was more or less entirely inaccurate.

They had no ill will towards my project though, and recommended that it I still publish it in-world (by which I mean print out some physical copy, fashion it into some kind of small book, and add it to the in game library), but with some kind of disclaimer to make it abundantly clear to other players that that none of the things in this books are canonical in game. To do this, I created a metafictional explanation for the book’s wrongness- it was written by an eccentric aspiring scholar who learned everything he knew (or thought he knew) from a drug trip.

I’m pleased with it, in spite of the fact that what I wrote is fake even by the standards of a fictional world. I do plan to make a physical copy and bring it to the next game, but I also wanted to share it here.

Art by Richard Wright

An Unreliable History of Ad Decimum, as Revealed by Some Mushrooms I Found

An unauthorized history of the city by Crevoth Cunningham


I have been asked by the so-called “scholars” of Port Frey to notify my readers of the unconventional method by which I acquired the information contained in this book.  I make no secret of it!  The information contained in this book was revealed to me in a waking dream produced by some mushrooms commonly dismissed as “toxic” by the local healer.  It is a well known fact that divination mages insist that their practice can only be performed by people who possess “magical aptitude” (how convenient for them!), and some say that my visions are less credible because nothing I have discovered has ever been found to be “true” (whatever THAT means!)

I proudly admit that on July 23rd of this year I ate a handful of narrow brown mushrooms with faint white dots on them (a previously unknown species which I have named “the good stuff”), and proceeded to write for hours.  In my fevered dreams I saw many things, great and terrible, but most importantly I was visited by Belisarius himself.  While he looked less like a powerful archmage and more like a stoat (or possibly a ferret, hard to tell them apart) wearing a stoat-sized harlequin costume, I knew instinctively that I was in the presence of the founder of Ad Decimum.  She proceeded to regale me with stories of the city.  Upon waking I quickly penned all that I could remember (plus some filler material that I invented to make it more interesting).

After a quick once over during which I removed the recurring mentions of the towers being made of iridescent biscuit dough, I was left with the book you see before you.  I happily oblige the request of members of the Decimal community that I disclose that this book  is based on no written sources, and by some standards could be considered “100% fabricated”.

Regardless, I hope that readers find this book entertaining, and that it may capture, if not the history, some of the spirit of that majestic city of knowledge, Ad Decimum.

Creevoth Cunningham, July 24, 12r

Chapter 1: The Founding of Ad Decimum

The site of what would become the city state of Ad Decimum was originally occupied by Gaelish tribes.  While Celestine records indicate an awareness of the Gaelish tribes as early as the sixteenth century of the age of zyte, the region was largely ignored by the Celestine empire until the third century of the age of chorus.  By the mid third century, Cole’s growth into a major trading hub, combined with a growing interest in squid ink as a component for channeling spells, resulted in Celestine traders increasingly braving the dangerous route to capitalize on the lucrative demand.  By 700c, dozens of fortified outposts along the Queensroad had established de facto Celestine control over the region west of the Harper River.

In 914c, while still in his early third decade, the Archmage Belisarius first visited the site that would become Ad Decimum.  The location featured the ruins of a castle, which had first been reported to Celestine scholars by a merchant named Jayme Meyer in 832c.  A subsequent expedition in 835c attempted to determine the origins of the castle, as its presence in an uncivilized area was inexplicable.  The expedition failed to uncover any evidence to clarify its age or origin, though the head of the expedition, Haelyne Jale, reported that only a fraction of the subterranean catacombs had been explored by the time the team ran out of provisions and was forced to return to Celestine.

In 916c Belisarius presented the conclusions of his survey, reporting that the ley lines of the area made it an optimal location for the construction of dedicated facilities for arcane research.  With the approval of Queen Absinae, Belisarius returned to the ruins of Castle Meyer on September 22nd of 921c.  The city wall was completed on Sept 22nd 922c, on the one year anniversary of the arrival of Belisarius and his colonists.  A feast was held in celebration with a small Celestine delegation in attendance, which was interrupted by a full assault on the settlement by a Gaelish tribe.  This proved to be the first of many Gaelish attacks on the city.  This attack was defeated by the less experienced but more technologically advanced Decimals, with the assistance of a small contingent of Rose Knights that had escorted the Celestine delegation.  The city’s founding as well as the first victory over the Gael are commemorated annually with the Festival of Belisarius on Sept 22nd.

Over the ensuing years, the famous towers of Ad Decimum were constructed, with the yellow tower being completed in 924c, the white tower being completed in 928c, the green tower being completed in 932c, the red tower being completed in 934c, the blue tower being completed in 936c, and the black tower being completed in 945c, having been delayed by five years as a result of increased hostilities with the Gael tribes.  The Arbiter’s tower was not built until 981c.

The rapid construction of Ad Decimum’s best known physical infrastructure was accompanied by the equally significant formation of a national identity, and the establishment of relations with nations that would become critical trading partners.  By 940c, the earliest cohort of native born Decimals began coming of age.  Decimal poets such as Genasi Weaver and Ameliae Cygnus, as well as recent emigres like Kestra Innupta, rearticulated and romanticized the founding vision of Ad Decimum for this new generation.  At the famous Dancing Prime Tavern, these cultural figures rubbed elbows with and provided inspiration to people who would become some of Ad Decimum’s early political leaders, including Geori Kassone, Zedla Hevves, and Kenrin Arakai.  In 948c Arakai signed the Spinnaker Treaty, creating a formal alliance with Cole, after besting representatives of all four Colish houses in a game of Ludus duodecim scriptorum.  Arakai explained the mechanics of how this was accomplished (in spite of masterful cheating by all four opponents) in a paper published the following year, which became a foundational text within the nascent field of statistical evocation.  By the time of Arakai’s murder in 958c, Ad Decimum’s relations with all major regional powers were secure.

Chapter 2:  The Decimal Golden Age

The period between Ad Decimum’s founding and the confirmation of Belasarius’ death in 1589c was a period of incredible stability and prosperity commonly referred to as the Decimal Golden Age.  During this period, Belisarius served as the first and only Lord Archmage of Ad Decimum.  Ad Decimum’s cunning use of diplomatic relations and powerful defensive wards ensured that it faced few threats from outside besides the Gael, whose sporadic but ineffective assaults on the city were able to be largely ignored.  On the rare occasions of a Gaelish incursion proving too formidable for the City Watch and the protective wards, Belisarius would personally intervene to dispatch the Gaelish invaders himself, as he did in 941c, 1033c, and 1272c.

With sustained resource production, minimal threats, and no opportunities for a contested succession, Ad Decimum under Belisarius’ rule enjoyed continuous prosperity that allowed its scholars to pursue their work without distraction.

Of the many inventions of the Decimal Golden Age, of particular note is Triskelion, the national pastime of Ad Decimum. The earliest written record of the game is from an entry in the journal of a summoner named Freun Qwartis.  In an entry dated March 12th, 968c, he described seeing three teams of fieldhands trying to kick a ball fashioned from leather towards one of several posts driven into the ground.  The first official Triskelion tournament was held on August 4th, 984c.  The sport appears to have initially been popular primarily among peasants, resulting in a stigma of being considered a lower class pursuit.  This perception persisted until the early eleventh century, with its rapid expansion in popularity among broader audiences taking place shortly after the 1018 Triskelion Cup, which, coincidentally, was the first tournament in which a team affiliated with one of the towers won.  As a result of the sport’s early popularity being confined almost entirely to illiterate segments of Decimal society, attempts to credit an inventor have ultimately proven fruitless.  The historian Mone Meuwn theorized in Triskelion: Its History and Evolution (1494c) that anthropological evidence suggested a precursor sport may have been played among a now extinct Gaelish tribe, which became the basis for Triskelion.  Shortly after the book’s publication, Meuwn was accused of tax evasion and incarcerated, ending her career as a historian.

Chapter 3: The Death of Belisarius

Exactly when Belisarius’ rule actually ended remains a matter of debate.  Belisarius was famously reclusive and delegated leadership tasks to a council of ministers.  While the council of ministers were originally selected by Belisarius himself, by 1035c a tradition had emerged in which members of each tower would vote to choose a nominee for the council, who Belisarius could approve or reject.  By 1114c, it had become routine for Belisarius to appear at council meetings only by proxy, with a raven observing the meeting on his behalf and occasionally speaking up when Belisarius wished to intervene.  Over time, the appearance of Belisarius’ ravens at council meetings became less and less common, with Belisarius’ approval implied by their absence.

Belisarius’ death is commonly accepted to have occurred some time between April 8th, 1360c and May 1589c.  These dates are established by the last confirmed occurrence of Belisarius intervening in Decimal politics, and from Belisarius’ failure to intervene in the war of 1589c, respectively.  On April 8th, 1360c, the council of ministers convened a vote on a proposed resolution to expropriate draconic artifacts by force from a temple southeast of Mandala.  During the meeting, a raven arrived and voiced approval for the plan.  Moments later, another raven arrived, and ate the first raven.  It then defecated on the minister of the red tower, Johannes Serric, before flying away.  The feces which landed on the minister’s face formed a glyph of compelled truth, whereupon the minister immediately confessed to attempting to forge Belisarius’ approval.  Serric was punished by having his name removed from all publications and scholarly works, as well as requiring every former apprentice to affiliate themselves with a new master.  Additionally, Serric was executed.  This remains the first and last time that an attempt was made to undermine Belisarius, and conclusively indicates that Belisarius was still alive in 1360c.

The latest possible date for his death is widely accepted to be 1589c, due to his failure to intervene in the Gaelish War of 1589.  During this conflict, Gaelish tribes achieved levels of coordination that were absent in previous assaults.  Additionally, powerful mages provided support to the Gael by neutralizing Ad Decimum defense wards.  It has been alleged, most notably in Seline Gorund’s An Oral History of the Recent Gaelish War (1591c), that the mages assisting the Gael were sent by the Nadine Empire as part of a proxy war with the Celestine Empire.

Following serious casualties (Gorund estimated the number of Decimal deaths at between 8,000 and 17,000), the Rose Knights of Celestine arrived in Ad Decimum and routed the Gaelish invaders.  In spite of the casualties and serious damage to the city, the primary concern following the war was the widespread acceptance that Belisarius was actually gone.  As an archmage commonly considered the greatest arcane mind in history, Belisarius’ longevity has been presumed to be indefinite by the Decimal population.  While the possibility of his death had been raised before, contemporary accounts indicate that the majority of Decimals took for granted that he would remain the leader of Ad Decimal forever- or at the very least that if his reign were to end, it would happen in a spectacular, cataclysmic, and highly visible way.

Chapter 4: The Succession Crisis

While disagreements persisted as to whether he had simply reached the end of his extraordinary long but finite life, transcended to godhood, become trapped in another plane, chosen to abandon Ad Decimum, or any of the myriad other theories that abounded, it was widely accepted that his absence from the recent war confirmed that he was no longer guiding Ad Decimum.  Queen Stella XVII issued a proclamation declaring that her maiden, Beatric Gosling, who had overseen Celestine logistics during the war, was to take over administrative duties in what the Queen asserted was still a colony.  The Council of Ministers rejected the proclamation, and insisted that Ad Decimum had been self-governed as a democratic republic for years, albeit unknowingly.  After a tense months-long standoff, Rigel Raballe successfully persuaded Queen Stella XVII to formally recognize Decimal independence, resulting in the Proclamation of the Towers on Feb 29, 1592c.  Notably, while this date is still observed as a holiday in Ad Decimum, it did not replace the Festival of Belisarius as the primary date for the celebration of Decimal civic pride.

Chapter 5: The Hardship of 1614c

In 1614c Ad Decimum faced a major economic recession as a result of blood ink shortages in Mandala.  The cost of spell scrolls increased by 20% within one year, while heirloom spell scrolls, already highly valued, increased in price by 60%.  While each of the towers maintained programs that enabled apprentice mages to rent scrolls if they were of modest means, an increase in the occurrence of rented scrolls being stolen led to the termination of scroll rental programs.  The inability of pupils from poor and mundane families to access spell scrolls prevented them from pursuing magical studies, further exacerbating class conflict.  While the following decade was characterized by economic hardship and civil unrest, the crisis did lead to major advances in artificing.  Students who could not access spell scrolls pursued artificing instead, leading to an expansion of the ranks innovating in the Esoteric Workshop.

Chapter 6: The Lantern Movement

In 1656c, Decimal politics underwent a major shift as a result of what came to be known as the Lantern Movement.  During the Gaelish war of 1655, an obscure mage of the black tower named Erik Belmont intervened in the conflict using a weapon of his own devising.  The weapon involved staging an attack on the Gael using somniumancy (popularly known as dream magic).  While details of the weapon were subsequently concealed to prevent it from being recreated, what is known is that Belmont unilaterally unleashed an attack on the Gael within The Dreaming.  While this successfully killed a sizable fraction of the Gaelish invaders (Jeoffry Quillic estimates enemy casualties at 7100), it also had the unintended consequence of causing hundreds of Decimals to succumb to madness in their sleep.  Amidst the backlash over the incident, The Green minister, Geoanna Sedgwic, organized advocates for stricter regulation of dangerous magics into a new political faction.  This group called themselves The Lanterns, alluding to their belief that Ad Decimum required a guiding light to protect its citizens from reckless experiments.  Over the next decade Sedgwic ascended in political influence, ultimately becoming the Prime Minister of Ad Decimum in 1665c.  While initially popular, Sedgwic ultimately lost support after supporting a resolution to ban dream magic entirely.  This prompted a backlash not just from dream mages, but from blood mages and necromancers as well, who believed that if the resolution were to pass their own schools would be targeted next.

Chapter 7: The Traditionalist Period

The ensuing countermovement, dubbed The Traditionalists, emphasized Ad Decimum’s long history of largely unregulated scholarly pursuit as well as Belasarius’ implicit approval of it.  The support of archmage Ailore Tena proved hugely influential to the Traditionalist cause.  The vocal support of Tena, who had already achieved fame in Ad Decimum for his contributions to divination and who proved to be a highly skilled orator, ultimately resulted in the Traditionalists securing complete control of the council of ministers in the election of 1669c.  The next ten years proved to be especially productive ones in Ad Decimal, as breakthroughs were made in several schools, including major discoveries relating to cosmology and druidcraft.  Whether these accomplishments could be attributed to the policies of the council of ministers remains a matter of debate, but deserved or not, the council gained a level of political support that transformed into a sustained Traditionalist majority for the next four decades.  

Chapter 8: The Portal War

The Traditionalist period is considered to have ended on September 9th of 1710c, when an attempt to reach the ruins of Theddespari by portal (backed enthusiastically by the Traditionalist faction) resulted in opening a doorway to the Nadine Empire instead.  This was the instigating event that caused the first and only armed conflict directly between Ad Decimum and the Nadine Empire.  Fighting continued even after black tower mages managed to close the portal on September 11th 1710c, as Nadine forces trapped within Ad Decimum refused to surrender.  The Shrike launched the Nadine Armada towards the Grey coast to the southeast of the western expanse, with a plan to march hundreds of miles to Ad Decimum.  Ostensibly this was to rescue trapped soldiers and retaliate for Ad Decimum’s violation of Nadine sovereignty, but contemporaneous correspondence confirms the widespread perception that the Shrike hoped to capture the mages responsible for the creation of the portal and force them to reproduce it in service to Nadine’s expansionist ambitions.  

Ultimately Queen Xela IX sent the Rose Knights to force the surviving members of the Nadine army still inside Ad Decimum to submit.  The presence of the Rose Knights at Ad Decimum sufficiently discouraged further action from Nadine.  On May 2nd, 1711c, the Rose Knights supervised the transfer of the surviving Nadine forces to the recently arrived Nadine army, along with 600 lbs of silver as reparations for Ad Decimum’s violation of Nadine territorial sovereignty.  The Nadine army, Commanded by Lileth Kreech, executed the recovered soldiers on the spot to punish them for their failure, then departed south with the silver.  This event quickly eroded support for the Traditionalist faction within Ad Decimum.  Additionally, the event triggered the loss of useful political alliances with influential Coleish mercantile interests, who believed additional work on portal magic posed a threat to sea based shipping.  This, along with several unforced errors by several prominent Traditionalists resulted in the relative decline of the Traditionalist faction in Ad Decimum politics, and the end of what was known as The Traditionalist Era.

Following what came to be known as the Portal War, the Celestine Empire again contemplated annexation of Ad Decimum. Contemporary correspondence indicates that like Queen Stella XVII, Queen Xela IX was highly ambivalent about annexation and only contemplated it due to the growing perception in Celestine that Ad Decimum was a liability that needed to be protected from itself.  Annexation was narrowly averted, with the Queen ultimately acquiescing to a compromise negotiated by Erigrine Raballe in 1712c.  As a result of this compromise, Ad Decimum reluctantly allowed for the Celestine ambassador to be granted a seat on the council of ministers. While this technically included voting privileges, in practice this privilege was never used.  The first Celestine ambassador to sit on the council, Marine Zenith, did not wish to make the empire look weak by being on the losing side of a vote, and Prime Minister Francik Berilliu refused to advance any motions in which a vote by the Celestine ambassador could alter the outcome. As a result, Zenith adopted a practice of participating only symbolically- voting in ascent when she agreed with a motion that was already going to pass, and abstaining from a vote to quietly indicate the empire’s opposition. This established a precedent which subsequent ambassadors followed.

The only attempt by a Celestine ambassador to actually break this practice came in 1847c, when an especially assertive ambassador named Ermule Rouvre used an obscure parliamentary procedure to force a vote relating to tariffs on transmuted minerals sold to Celestine merchants.  This maneuver inspired an intense backlash by Decimals who viewed it as a violation of national sovereignty.  Fourteen red tower mages intervened to disrupt the council vote by performing a ritual outside the Arbiters tower that temporarily interfered with the existence of numbers themselves, making vote counting impossible.  The spell proved highly disruptive within its vicinity, compromising laboratory measurements, economic commerce, and the objectivity of reality itself.  Three fae-blooded people who experienced the incident firsthand all reported that the effect was highly reminiscent of being in Paradox, with one fae-blooded individual describing the experience as “wonderfully nostalgic”.  The chronicler Maisi Jeunic, well known for her fastidiousness, reported in A Firsthand Account of the Numerological Incident at the Arbiter’s Tower By One Maisi Jeunic (1847c) that the duration of the spell was “precisely as long as a summer romance on the Eirie Isles”, and “affected an area equal to that explored by a lonesome cat”.  Following the incident, attempts were made by researchers to recreate the spell for the purpose of creating a (somewhat) controlled simulation of Paradox, but these attempts proved fruitless.  As to the fate of the instigators of the incident, all fifteen mages were convicted of harassment and sentenced to a lifetime ban from all research symposia.

Chapter 9: The Modern Period

By the twentieth century of the age of chorus, participation in council meetings by the Celestine ambassador had declined substantially.  The voting status of the ambassador was formally ended in March of 2009c as part of a larger package of parliamentary reforms.  Queen Amelia II made no objections to this.  Historians attribute this partially to her anti-interventionist doctrine, but mostly to the political leverage Ad Decimum now wielded as a result of its exclusive control over several highly valuable magical alloys.  Major advancements in alchemy between the first and fifth decades of the twentieth century had made Ad Decimum more powerful than it had been at any time since the death of Belisarius.

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