The Duchy of Deira


The Duchy of Deira and its capital, the city of Wakefield, is intended as an example of how to construct settings, personas and environments using the rules from ARIA. It is not definitive nor official, merely a single effort by one dedicated gamer to create a vibrant and interesting setting.

In this issue, you will find a broadly developed description of some of the Duchy and Wakefield its capital, two maps, and a whole host of ideas about its construction. Finally, at the end of this article are some of the relevant worksheets used in developing this setting, including the Duchy's basic environmental parameters.

Then, in the future, other areas of Deira will be developed in greater detail, including information about the nearby kingdoms of Valseran and Norvallin, adventures in the Dolmen Hills and Vadron Forest, and whatever the author gets in the way of requests and suggestions. Further history will also be provided, suggesting how a narrative history might have been played out in this environment, and what directions things might take in the course of play.

Contributions towards the development of Deira and Wakefield, as well as parts of the immediate surroundings, are welcome. We ask that contributions be more or less in tune with previously published material, and follow these guidelines.

1. Deira is a relatively low-magic region. Nothing should require a high degree of magic to support, such as magic item shops.

2. Wakefield exists in a more or less monotheistic culture. Don't introduce new gods. You may have saints, which usually fall into four categories: Teachers, Heroes, Miracleworkers, and Martyrs.

3. Don't develop places outside Deira or its immediate area. We'd like to leave that up to the individual Ensembles and Mythguides, but if we get a truly spectacular idea, we may publish it. In the case of extraordinary submissions, of course, we reserve the right to break our own guidelines.

As a final note, Wakefield originally appeared in a much reduced and unmodified form on America Online, Inc. For those interested in the historical development of the ideas presented here, the original information can be downloaded from the Game Designers' Forum Library, in the Online Gaming Forums.

The Land

The Duchy of Deira lies a little east and south of center, within an square perhaps 150 miles on a side. Geographically, this region is bounded to the north by the mountain range called the Gray Teeth, to the east by the Talarian Sea, to the south by the Pellian Hills, and to the west by the vast Forest of Vadron.

The eastern coastline is jagged and rocky, having been formed in the last Ice Age. Islands both large and small are numerous, and two major river groups flow into it from this region, the Floran-Arien and the Valseran. The Valseran is the larger and stronger of the two flows, fed as it is by spring runoff from the Grey Teeth, and the basin tends to be more fertile. The Floran-Arien basin, formed of two major river valleys and several moderate streams, tends to be a little less fertile, and more cut-up by the complex chains of tributaries.

The region is cut from northwest to east by a long, broad line of hills which range in elevation from 400 to 2600 feet. Called the Dolmen Hills, they divide the Floran-Arien watershed in the south from the Valseran watershed to the north. The Dolmen Hills is largely forested wilderness with many caves and bare, rocky peaks. Many of them have nemetons, circles of standing stones, constructed on top, by some people long forgotten to history. The Hills themselves are home to many unsavory creatures, especially in the central and western parts. The tallest hill is known as Mount Hamart, and is at the western end of the chain.

The southern Pellian Hills tend to be somewhat higher, ranging from 850 feet to 3600. They tend to be a bit friendlier than the Dolmens, however, as they contain some mining communities and a number of religious establishments. There are six such monastic communities on a small hill jutting out into Urienn Bay in the far southwest of the region.

Vadron Forest and most of the wooded areas are principally northern deciduous trees, such as beech and oak. Most of these regions are primal forest, especially as one travels further west. Thus, the trees are large, often five to seven feet in diameter, sometimes more. Vadron and other forests tend to be dark and gloomy under the branches because of the thick leaf canopy, and larger forests often shelter wolves and other predators which can make attacks on villages and other human settlements at night.

Temperature and weather are roughly equal to central and upper New England. Winters are often bitterly cold inland: temperatures in the teens, tens or even significantly lower, and with snowfall measured in feet. The coastlands tend to be warmer, from the mid 40s down to the low negatives. but with serious storms every few days or weeks. Travel is largely inadvised. Spring is a time of rapid change, with crazy fluctuations in temperature and weather conditions. Summer tends to find temperatures of mid-70s to upper 80s and 90s on the coast, with temperatures in the mid 90s to low 100s inland. In fall, trees lose their leaves in spectacular displays of color, with the ground freezing in late October or early November. Snow can be expected any time after mid-October, but serious snowfall will not occur until mid-December.

Deira is mostly wilderness, but the rolling terrain makes it very suitable for the large flocks of Deiran sheep, who produce some of the best and finest wool in the world.

Social Environment

Human settlements are now mostly in the combined Floran-Arien river valleys and in the Valseran basin. These belong to two political groups. The Valseran Basin and several coastal settlements and islands belong to the relatively small and underdeveloped Kingdom of Valseran. The Floran-Arien valleys are home to the Duchy of Deira.

Deira's population is clustered mostly in the east and south, near the one major city, Wakefield. Most (about 90%) of the population is involved in agriculture, usually living in villages of about 100-400 people, between four and 12 miles apart. A larger market town of 500-1,000 people usually serves every 75 or so villages, though these towns tend to get smaller as one travels west. Sheep and the wool they produce are a vital part of Deira's economy, so there are usually flocks associated with every village. Deira has between four and five hundred such villages, six market towns on the rivers, and the city of Wakefield. The total population hovers in the neighborhood of 200,000. Of these, less than 18,000 live in urban environments.

Deira's government is feudal, with the Duke owing fealty to his King, and in turn offering fealty to a number of vassals. In all, the Duke with the aid of his three barons and the Church, is able to field a maximum force of 218 Knight-lances, each consisting of a knight and squire, and between three and five men-at-arms and archers. About a third of this force owes personal fealty to the Duke, and about a sixth (approximately 36 knights) to each of the barons and to the Church. In wartime, while still leaving a force behind to defend the Duchy, the Duke can field about 1300 warriors of various types. The force can take up to a month to gather, however, and it is more suited to traditional feudal battles than the hit-and-run tactics employed by non-human raiders.

In addition, a small royal force called the March Wardens, not connected with the Ducal army, is stationed on north and western frontiers. Numbering about 250, the March Wardens are divided into fifty small lance-garrisons thinly spread out at small wooden motte-and-bailey type castles. Not intended as a serious obstacle against a major incursion, they are helpful in controlling raiding to a certain extent, and for monitoring the movements of potential enemies. The Wardens are under the authority of the two Marcher Lords, who report directly to the Royal Reeve in Deira. The March Wardens are understood to be only a thin picket line. The army of Deira is the true first line of defense.

As such, Deira's current lord, Duke Stephen, is a powerful man in Norvallin. He is deep in the king's counsels, and spends a fair amount of time away from home, as many as six months at a time. His vassals are reasonably loyal, however, for they know that his loyal service elsewhere helps insure the safety of their homes when war or monsters do come. In the meantime, there are border raids, adventuring parties, and every so often, a little sheep-stealing from their own neighboring lords.

Deira does have a small navy - six ships based at the castle at Ripon. The Kingdom's principal worries to the north, however, are landward, and not seaward. The ships merely patrol to prevent piracy along the approaches to Wakefield, for the protection of merchants and other sea-borne travellers.

The city of Wakefield is the center of Deira's government and economy. Located at the confluence of the Floran and Arien rivers, some eight miles from the sea, it is an important port, and supports a population of some 8,000 people year-round. During the summer trading season, it can swell to ten or eleven thousand people, most of whom are involved in the wool trade. Wakefield supports no less than seven guilds involved with turning raw wool into cloth, not including the merchants who buy and sell it at the end of production.

The next largest population center in Deira is Ripon, forty miles south of Wakefield on the coast. With a population of about 3,000 people, Ripon is an important center for timber and shipbuilding. In summer, the number of residents can swell to 5,000.

A Short History

The Duchy of Deira is a human land in the northeast of the kingdom of Norvallin, often judged to be about 90 miles from north to south, and about 110 from east to west. Formerly an independent kingdom ruled by the Kintaf ('Prince', in an ancient local language called Darrian), it was peacefully absorbed through a marriage alliance some eighty years ago.

At the height of the power of the Kintaves, about 160 years ago, Deira was considerably larger, stretching deep into the Forest of Vadron to the west, and to the Valseran River, beyond the Dolmen Hills in the north. As princely power declined, however, certain lords and properties broke away, or were overwhelmed by the non-human creatures which lived in the region, including the Gavera and others known in many other lands. Many of the outlying settlements began to move closer to the protective reach of the towns, where troops could be more easily stationed, or began to rely on local authority exclusively.

About 135 years ago, the petty barons of the Valseran river, some sixty miles north of Wakefield, broke away under the leadership of Lord Derek of Garhadon. Their chief complaint was a lack of help from the Deiran Kintaf, who was at the time pursuing territorial ambitions to the south, and failing to aid his northern barons. A bitter series of raids, punitive campaigns, and finally out-and-out war brought the issues to a mass trial-by-combat, which resulted in the pitched battle at Merlac Ford, on the upper Valseran River, in 1102.

Prince Ryann was slain in the combat, and his daughter Alexela who was only four at the time, was unable to continue the conflict. Lord Derek became King Derek of Valseran, a new confederacy-kingdom to the north. The battle effectively established the Dolmen Hills as being within the Kingdom of Valseran. Meanwhile, the creatures of Vadron had been most persistent about their own claims, and now, 127 years later, Vadron is largely empty of human habitation. Later non-human incursions from native creatures have assured a similar lack of homesteading in most of the central and western Dolmen Hills.

Deira's borders continued to shrink under the onslaught, until the spring of 1125, when Kintava Alexela succeeded in repelling a major invasion, dying in the process. Still, attacks continued, and her brother Aderyn struggled on until 1131, when he married Erinna of Norvallin for political reasons. Later in 1138, he became a vassal of her father, King Aldin of Norvallin. Aldin sent troops and aid to Deira each year from 1131 to 1144, and himself led a major offensive into Vadron and the Dolmen Hills in 1141. Richard, Duke from 1147 to 1152, and his son Tomas, Duke from 1152-1172, also gave their fealty to King Aldin in 1148, thus permanently securing Deira to Norvallin.

The second half of the 12th century was a violent and turbulent time. Duke Richard was assaulted on his way into Wakefield, and knocked from a bridge into the Arien River in full armor. His son, Tomas, was forced into the Ducal seat at the age of six, and to take a wife at 15. When his first wife died with their child at birth, possibly as a result of foul play, he was forced to take another wife immediately. Tomas himself was one of the early victims of the plague which lasted from 1172 to 1174, in which many of his subjects perished.

Alberich spent 20 years on the throne, but produced no heirs, partly because he spent so much time fighting monsters and the rapacious barons who kept trying to topple him. He finally fell to an assassin's knife. His brother Johannan ruled 17 years and took two wives, both murdered by his enemies. Only Meretha, his second wife, survived long enough to produce an heir.

Leonad, in his nineteen year reign, feretted out most of the enemies of the ducal house. Feigning a kind of political impotence, he was able to lure his parents' foes into declaring themselves openly and then struck back in 1201. Eightteen lords were captured, and forced to accede any claims of independence.

It was a short-lived victory. In 1226, monster attacks began in western Deira, and Leonad felt it was necessary to conduct the counterattack personally. He met his fate in the Dolmen Hills, at the business end of a poisoned, black-feathered arrow of the Guravhal tribe.

Duke Stephen his son was never able to find the archer, though he conducted three attacks against the Guravhal tribe personally, and still offers a reward of =A31000 for proof of the tribe's extermination. The three-year reign of Duke Stephen has been quiet for the most part, with Wakefield achieving prominence as a trade center and center of learning. The consequences of the previous sixty years, however, have not yet finished. Difficult times are most certainly coming.

Government and Politics in Deira

This section has not yet been completed. Any assistance would be welcome. Please write to Andrew Watt at

A Short Timeline

1069-   Height of Deira as a Kingdom under Kintava Gwerela the Just.
1070-   St. William's Abbey founded as the final resting place of the
        Kintaves of Deira.
1099-   Alexela (Kintava, 1102-1125), born to Kintaf Ryann and the Lady
1101-   Aderyn (Kintaf, 1125-1147), born.
1102-   Battle of Marlac Ford.  Kintaf Ryann killed.  His daughter
        Alexela becomes Kintava.
1107-   Alexela recognizes the kingdom of Valseran
1115-   St. Hilda's Convent founded.
1125-   Alexela dies in repulsing non-human attacks.  Her brother,
        Aderyn, becomes Kintaf.
1126-   Wakefield Cathedral begun.
1131-   Aderyn marries Princess Erinna of Norvallin.  Richard is born
        the following year.
1134-   St. Stephen's Abbey-outside-the-Walls founded.
1138-   Aderyn becomes the vassal of King Aldin of Norvallin.  Deira
        becomes a Duchy.
1146-   Tomas (Duke, 1152-1172) born.
1147-   Duke Aderyn slain in a campaign in the Dolmen Hills. Richard
        becomes Duke.
1152-   Duke Richard dies in an accidental attack at Flintford Bridge.
        Tomas becomes Duke.
1161-   Duke Tomas' first son and wife die in childbirth.
1162-   Alberich (Duke, 1172-1179) born; Duke Tomas grants Wakefield the
1163-   Johannan (Duke, 1190-1207) born to Duke Tomas and Mary, his
        second wife.
1171-   Henry deVere founds College of St. Richard.
1172-   Duke Tomas dies of the plague. Succeeded by his second son,
1174-   Plague ends.
1179-   Leonad (Duke, 1207-1226) born to Johannan and Lady Meretha
1190-   Duke Alberich murdered by an assassin.  His brother Johannan is
        2 years in exile.
1193-   Wakefield Cathedral completed.  Johannan is recognized as Duke
        of Deira.
1198-   Stephen (Duke, 1226-  ) born to Leonad and Nialle.
1202-   Duke Johannan receives the fealty of 18 rebellious lords after a
        year-long campaign.
1206-   Ducal Survey identifies 418 villages in the fief of Deira.
1207-   Duke Johannan dies while on campaign with the king.  Leonad
        becomes Duke.
1212-   Ducal Palace constructed over the next two years.
1215-   Grey Friars founded by Brother Abelard.
1226-   Leonad slain while conducting punitive raids in western Deira.
        Stephen is Duke.
1227-   Newmarket constructed south of the main marketplace.
1229-   The Present

© Copyright 1994, Andrew B. Watt (
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