From Verinfall Archives
The lands of Altera are diverse and those brave and fortunate enough to travel broadly will notice that they are far from homogeneous, both in terms of culture as well as civilization and knowledge. Practices and processes which are commonplace in one kingdom may be strange novelties or all but unknown in others.
Architecture & Construction
The passage of time among common folk might be measured solely using sunrise/sunset, cycles of the moon, growing seasons and annual holidays. For those needing more precise records, burning candles, vessels of draining water, sundials and the movement of prominent stars are sometimes employed. In larger towns, the tolling of bells or employment of a dedicated town crier might be used as well.
The pinnacle of timekeeping, however, is the "Clock Tower" in the capital of Altera. This singular wonder is reputed to track the passage of time utilizing a series of levers, large gears and counterweights within its facade.
Standardized coinage is known throughout the realms, although in some simple communities trade/barter may be more common. Copper, Silver and Gold are the common coins of the realms. Ten copper coins are worth a single silver coin and ten silver coins are worth a single gold coin. A gold coin might represent a year's earnings for a free person. The vast majority of monetary transactions, however, are performed using copper or silver coins.
Jewels and gems of various sorts are recognized as valuable and traded as well.
Regional resources, goods, and specialties powers trade routes between the nations of Altera. Merchants often have a keen understanding and take advantage of the shifting values of goods between regions.
Basic literacy and a common language are found throughout the realms.
Simple levers, large gears and counterweights are the best examples of well-known mechanical knowledge. The art of Tinkering is said to hold the secrets of more complex artifices, but examples appear few.
Smiths are skilled individuals and often valued members of their societies. Occasionally, tales of wondrous smith-craft are heard but whether these are "lost" arts or tall tales is a matter of debate among many.
Altera can be a dangerous place, and each region uses arms and armor to various degrees and of various sorts.
Armor is well-known, from simple padded or leather vests, to splint, chain, brigantine appear depending on the climate, level of threat and wealth of the owner. The most advanced sort of armor is probably the full plate armor of a knight or professional mercenary. The interaction of magic and armor & shields is not well understood widely. It seems that some magics can penetrate armor & shield readily, while others are deflected or reduced in potency. Extreme caution is recommended and assumptions could prove fatal.
The long bow and the crossbow are the height of ranged weaponry, and the later can sometimes be found in smaller, one-handed form. Both fire steel-tipped missiles with sufficient force to slay even an moderately armored foe. While heavier armor provides some protection, no prudent warrior would tempt fate under a sustained volley.
In warfare when larger forces clash or fortified structures are attacked, larger weapons such as catapults are sometimes encountered.
Mills powered by water or wind are the backbone of the mass production of food in many parts of Altera. Grinding various grains into flour is common in regions that grow large volumes of these crops. Mills require significant effort to manufacture and maintain, so it might be owned by a well-off family, local authorities or nobility. Smaller communities might use hand or livestock driven grindstones.
The Alteran continent is entirely surrounded by a salt-water sea, but travel along the coast and into the open ocean is very unusual. There are practically no suitable ports for large vessels and large stretches of the shoreline are subject to jagged rocks, reefs and treacherous currents. Even if these dangers were surmountable, it is widely held that that the ocean is home to fabulous monsters that readily destroy those foolhardy enough to journey far from shore.
Ships are mostly small and medium sized vessels that stay near shore or operate upon freshwater lakes and waterways, using basic sail, poles, oars and rudders.
Books and written works are created by skilled craft-persons entirely by hand. Authoring, transcribing, illuminating and binding are labor intensive and creating or copying a work is no minor undertaking. Paper, papyrus, vellum and parchment are utilized in various applications depending on wealth and regional natural resources.
A form of natural science called Alchemy allows for the transformation of raw plants and turning them into seemingly wondrous goods such as healing droughts, poisons, clean-burning oils and fortifying brews.
Among common folk, many textiles are produced in the home or immediate family. Wool, flax, cotton and other fibrous materials vary in usage depending the natural resources of a region; hides, furs, and even silks in others. Techniques for processing these materials include spinning, weaving, knitting, crocheting, knotting, felting and tanning.
Looms and spinning wheels might be found in more prosperous settings or in the homes and shops of individuals dedicated to such industries.
Natural dyes, derived from plants, animals and other materials are often employed to enhance textiles, though not everyone has the means to acquire the most exotic of these.
Games of chance and skill using pieces, cards and dice exist in various forms across Altera, and regional preferences exist. Some are played for entertainment and prestige, while others are used for gambling.
Glass is crafted in some areas. It is used in vessels, decoration and other applications.
Alcoholic beverages exist in various forms, with beer and wines being common, though stronger concoctions might be found. Methods and ingredients vary from region to region, reflecting local tastes and natural resources.
Pottery is used to create and glaze a variety of earthen and stoneware. Kilns and spinning wheels may be found in settings and homes where the creation of pottery is a mainstay.