Brandeis

Overview

Demonym: Brandish; of Brandeis. Brand; a person who is Brandish
Climate/biome: Mostly seasonal woodland and open plains, becoming coniferous forest and taiga to the south. The Soaring Sentinels, marking the western border of Brandeis, are permanently snow-capped.
Area: Massive
Population density: Very low
Common Inhabitants: Bannyr, elves, equitarn, humans, orcs, realm, gremblins
Uncommon Inhabitants: Abilen, goliaths, wu-kan, kobolds, gnolls, eladrin

By far the largest of Alm’s nations, Brandeis occupies much of the Eastern half of the continent. Thanks to its huge territory and low population density, it’s actually a collection of nine holdings, each originally born from an ancestral Brandish clan. These are Adelhae, Albion, Aragon, Ceanmor (the capital), Ironhilt, Kurast, Navorey, Saffron and Woodfall.

Brandeis shares borders with Aurion to the west (by way of the Soaring Sentinels), Calanshae to the east, and the Grasslands to the west. Upon its northern border lies Beasthome, where few humans dare to tread.

History

For centuries, Brandeis was not a nation but a countryside filled with fractious squabbling factions, mostly of sea raiders who came from neighbouring Aethys. Though predominantly bannyri, these original Brands also included some elves, goliaths and other creatures, all under their assorted clan banners.

Even with the gnoll and Calan empires at their door, the Brands spent more effort on their ancestral grudges than their new foes. It was a warrior woman named Brayden, nicknamed “Bloodmane” by the gnolls, who unified the fighting spirit of the bickering clans and used it to drive back gnolls and Calans alike.

The Brands rose to power quickly—far too quickly to have any idea what to do with it. Their holdings were soon larger than they could manage with their thinly-spread population, encompassing a majority of the Almish mainland.

Rather than pressing for more territory, they solidified their borders and set about becoming an unshakeable fixture of the Almish landscape. They abandoned most of their gains on the western front, ceding them to their traditional nomadic occupants. Meanwhile, they consolidated their holdings in the east, keeping the Calans and the gnolls in check by concentrating their strength on those international borders.

Thus, they forged what is now Alm’s mightiest nation—Brandeis.

Leadership

Brandish government echoes the system brought by the first Brands from Aethys, of individual clan royalty who regularly meet to compete for the role of “high” ruler. Each holding elects a thane by popular vote— typically the parent or grandparent of a large local family, though the position is by no means hereditary.

Over these presides a Cean (roughly “boss”) who speaks for the nation and ultimately rules on matters of national importance. In practice, such things are rarely necessary; a Cean who tries to force their will on a dissenting thane quickly finds their position in jeopardy, so most national issues resolve only by reaching a consensus among thanes.

Relationships

Thanks to its surprise victory in the War of Empires, Brandeis is in a stable but antagonistic orbit with Beasthome and Calanshae. Indeed, its strongest military forces remain on its borders with these two countries, with the holding of Ironhilt deliberately designed as a shield against potential invasion. Its dealings with both old neighbours remains tense to this day, but fortunately the two nations hate each other even more than the Brands.

On the other hand, Brandeis also won the favour of many groups oppressed by the empires they defeated, particularly the nomadic tribes to whom they returned the vast plains of western Alm (today known as the Grasslands. Ashar was an immediate ally, as the stability brought about by the End of Empires allowed their trade to flourish. They also made a fast ally of Novelis (or later Tenebrae, and Kalyvas) by granting sovereign territory to to the Parosean refugees.

Beyond these, Brandeis is safe enough to have a laidback approach to Alm’s other nations; they are on good terms with everybody who does not explicitly hate them. Although their size and power is a matter of international concern, they have thus far refrained from abusing it, meaning they are well-liked for now.

Adventures in Brandeis

Of all the Almish lands, Brandeis is the most likely to provide a “typical” D&D experience. While there are many small towns and settlements, large cities are rare; in between are long stretches of wild or semi-cultivated woodlands, mountains, and riverways, where travel can be perilous for the unprepared. It’s an ideal place for starting adventurers to explore, offering diverse challenges without requiring them to leave civilisation behind altogether.

The rustic countryside here is home to a vast number of well-known natural beasts and magical beasts—griffons, owlbears, pegasi, sphinxes, ankhegs, worgs, basilisks, dire animals, and more. While unnecessary killing of such creatures is frowned upon, it’s also important to discourage them from preying on towns and travellers.

Brandeis is very welcoming to adventurers. Though they have little respect for formalities and guild politics, they’re happy to let them establish local chapters as long as they don’t start trouble. Most Brands consider adventuring a good career for a young person; those looking to develop their skills are rarely too far from a sympathetic tavern owner with a noticeboard full of odd jobs.

Brandeis as the Villain

Brandeis is most likely to be “the good guy” in any given conflict, given their history and national persona. However, what the consider a peaceful disagreement is a lot more violent than outsiders might expect; things could easily come to blows, even lethal if something goes wrong. It’s never too hard to excuse a Brandish civil war if you want one.

Beyond this, it’s important to note that while Brandeis has behaved well in past wars, they are now a nation of tremendous power; they enjoy a privileged position from which they could easily become indifferent to the struggles of their neighbours. If you want a truly villainous Brandeis, a warlike cean (or even a second “uniting hero”) could easily turn them into a nation of conquerors.

Persons of Note

Brandeis’ national hero is Brayden Bloodmane, a mighty bannyri woman who united the clans, won the War of Empires, and became the first Cean of the newly-formed Brandish nation. Stories of her exploits range from heroic to downright absurd, and speaking ill of her in Brandish lands is a surefire way to see your tab called in.