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Due to the ongoing effects of the magical apocalypse, places where humans can settle are a limited and valuable resource. The inhabited continents of Empyria consist of vast stretches of dangerous wilderness, interspersed with small fortress cities designed to keep monsters out.

In the past, a message from one city would take several days to reach the closest other one. The different human phenotypes further widened the divide: a visitor with different physical features from the locals might be treated with suspicion or have trouble finding ergonomic accommodations. Due to the difficulties and dangers of travel, most people never left their hometowns in their entire lives. Isolated from each other, cities developed governments and cultures of their own, sometimes wildly different from their neighbours.

As communication and transportation technologies improved, cities began to share more ideas with each other and merge into larger political entities with common laws and customs. However, most things still aren't standardized across the globe, and every town retains an inexplicable quirk or two that weirds everyone else out.

For information & customs specific to the countries of Orlis and Wywick, more details can be found on those individual pages.

Law

Even in present day, it is very difficult to enforce laws outside the cities. If someone commits a crime in the wilderness, it is hard enough to find the crime scene, let alone conduct an investigation while dealing with monster attacks at the same time. Most cities adopted the policy early on that whatever happens outside their walls is not their problem. If you head into the wilderness, you are voluntarily leaving your city's area of jurisdiction, and anything that happens out there is your own fault.

Major crimes like murder and treason are usually punished with exile. The criminal is stripped of their legal rights and cast out; if they attempt to return, they can be legally killed by any citizen who discovers them. (Historically this meant a criminal who could survive in the wilderness could just move to another town and start over, but that was fine - it was no longer the city's problem. In the present, though, you'd be exiled from every city in the country, making this much more difficult.) Minor crimes could incur fines or be brought to court, with the specific procedures varying from place to place.

Those unsatisfied with official rulings can take advantage of the lawlessness of the wilderness to take things into their own hands. If one hires an adventurer to sabotage a rival's business trip, they cannot be prosecuted for it... but the rival could then return the favour. Multi-generation feuds have taken place outside city walls in this manner.

Government

Historically, most cities were self-governing. Even when they merged into larger states, they were usually alliances or hegemonies, not centrally ruled by a single authority. A ruling city might demand a tax in exchange for military protection, but would not interfere in the day-to-day politics of its vassal states.

In the present, modern communication technology has allowed both Orlis and Wywick to evolve into true monarchies. Officials from the capital are sent to oversee proceedings in each city. These governors have absolute administrative authority, and are expected to rule the city according to the guidelines set out by the king or emperor. In practice, however, they are often apathetic or at least bribable; the city council, consisting of local politicians, handles most of the legislation. The details of laws, procedures, and customs can therefore vary quite a bit between towns.

The royal family can grant people noble status, which makes them socially and legally distinct from commoners. Usually, this is a reward for exceptional military or political service, but many a merchant family has squeezed into the class by way of a good enough deal. Wywish noble titles are mostly an honorary show of wealth, but Orlisian nobles enjoy a wide variety of special privileges - for example, non-nobles are not allowed to hold high government positions or enter certain city districts.

Military

Both nations have standing armies in their capitals, but they are small and mostly ceremonial in function. During wartime, each city is called upon to contribute a number of troops dependent on its population and proximity to the conflict. Individual cities may choose to conscript civilians, hire mercenaries, or train their own standing armies, as long as the quota is met. Most of the time, these soldiers are pulled from the town guard.

War in Empyria is a small-scale affair. Large-scale magic conflicts can easily render the battlefield cursed and uninhabitable, which is a dangerous risk when livable land is already at a premium. Most battles are small skirmishes that play out in the wilderness, where the goal is more to show off one's power and discourage conflict than to eradicate the enemies. To civilians, the period after a war when unpaid mercenaries and overexcited young soldiers run wild almost poses more danger than the war itself.

Education

Traditionally, children were educated at home by parents or professional tutors. This is still the fashion for Orlisian nobles, but everyone else has to follow compulsory school attendance laws - anywhere from 5 to 10 years, depending on the city. A school's curriculum is decided by the city based on its traditions and needs, so two children educated in different towns might come out with completely different experiences and knowledge. Basic literacy and numeracy are common to all of them, though, and illiterate adults are rare.

Higher education exists in the form of mage academies and other universities. Since curriculums aren't standardized, universities do not have admission requirements; instead, prospective students must travel to the university during the summer and pass the yearly entrance examination.