There are few unified nations on Azaleon, with much of the continent being comprised of the scattered western Free Cities, and one couldn't really call certain nations particularly unified all the same. However, each nation in our setting has a role to play. Two of the four nations are monarchies, with one other being tribal, and the last being ruled by feudal lords. Each nation offers a very different political stage than the rest; a large majority of our character base is within Dalmasca, but if one is willing to but in the effort to do so, Messiah can certainly be expanded into the rest.
As the game progresses, and evolves over time, we do expect that more nations and Free Cities will rise and fall throughout. We may not outright condone simply adding a new nation to the map, but through in-character effort and "playing one's cards right," the game can certainly be influenced into gaining another, or losing one.
One of the few unified nations of Azaleon, Dalmasca is located on the southeast side of the continent. It is bordered by Jihon, across the Aont Strait to the east, and Macenia to the north. Dalmasca is a monarchy, ruled by the Imperator, with a noted patriarchal lean. Historically, Dalmasca and Jihon tend to be allied in international conflicts. Due to its location, Dalmasca enjoys relatively warm, but consistent temperature range. The further inland one goes, the warmer the temperature becomes, and the lower the average humidity drops. Instead of the consistent humidity seen regularly around the coastlines, inland Dalmasca receives a notable amount more regular and predictable rain. Rainfall near the coastlines is consistent, but rainstorms are notoriously short-lived, barring in monsoon season, where there is decent chance of a tropical depression. In the winter, the coastline is cool, breezy, and somewhat rainy, but never anywhere near freezing. Inland Dalmasca's winters are a little bit colder, and may receive some snowfall here and there around higher altitude hill lands, but often the snowfall is brief.
Dalmasca is a patriarchal nation. Women do occasionally gain some semblance of influence or power, but doing so is difficult, and often easier only through the assistance of a powerful male, either one she is related to, or someone she merely knows. Women thusly become quite cunning, as some men are accepting of headstrong females, but others verily are not, and any woman that wants power in Dalmasca must be intelligent, quick-witted, and rather good at underhanded manipulation. Dalmascans love three things: alcohol, sex, and music. Religion plays a heavy part in Dalmascans' lives, with even the lowborn visiting temples at least a few times in their lives. Education is typically restricted to the highborn and the wealthy. Naming trends tend Latin or Grecian; slaves are always given a new name in Dalmascan, and no longer allowed to recognize their birth name. Some slave owners use their slaves' birth name, instead, but they are few. Due to the rampant slave trade in Dalmasca, the vast majority of Dalmasca is actually not Dalmascans; they are outnumbered by Macenians and the Galacese ilim come close, too. Slaves can be freed, but cannot run for political office, albeit their children can, and while some high positions may hold individuals of Macenian blood, it has never happened that a high-caste Dalmascan was ilim.
Dalmasca mints its own currency, the hession, taking the form of gemstone chips. In contrast to Haradi's chips, hessions are a reddish-gold, and lighter colored, less valuable pieces may look somewhat peach colored. Dalmascan merchants often accept other currencies and barter-trade. Large cities may be more troublesome to trade in. Dalmasca is a monarchy; the head of the nation's government is the Imperator, whom makes the executive decisions for the country, and acts as the nation's ambassador internationally. Below the Imperator may be trusted advisers or security detail, but the only permanently influential group are the justicars, overseers of Dalmascan regions that act as cross between law-maker and judicial branch, and the heads of the major noble houses. While they do not have direct control over the Imperator or his choices, they often hold control over a vast majority of Dalmasca's resources, and can, essentially, resource-starve the Imperator into doing what they want. It is just as likely, however, that the Imperator will have the house destroyed and move on.
The commons have absolutely no say about anyone that ends up in power in Dalmasca. It is, primarily, a choice of the nobility, but the Imperator has the power to override their choices, even if this is by force or coercion. Below the justicars are the warlords, military commanders that handle the Dalmascan army. Only a warlord, or a very rich mercantile lineage, has a chance of reaching justicar status, and thereby reaching the ability to act as adviser to the Dalmascan Imperator, or someday become the Imperator. In most cases, a justicar's loyalty lies with their house, or whichever house is sponsoring their grab for Imperator, so typically, justicars are rather biased. The same, on the other hand, can be said for warlords. Dalmasca is polythiestic, and their gods are seen more as comrades instead of quite venerated. Some cults worship, but most don't. Their gods are: Adona, goddess of water; Dameus, god of fire; Dione, goddess of earth; Erus, god of destruction; Etiana, goddess of darkness; Iuna, goddess of life; Oanke, goddess of order; Pyxna, goddess of chaos; Xitos, god of death; Ydon, god of air; Ydyan, god of creation; and Ytias, god of light. There are mentions of three other deities in historical texts, but their names and functions have been lost. In most circles, Oanke and Ytias are most important.
The home nation of the ilim, Galace is a large nation located to the north of Azaleon, and one of the few unified nations on the continent. It is bordered by Macenia to the southeast, however they are naturally separated from their Macenian neighbours by way of large, treacherous mountains with few easily traversable passes. To the southwest lies the neutral territory the Free Cities are scattered across. Galace is a monarchy, ruled by the Galacese Emperor, but does not have any strong gender lean. In international conflict, Galace almost always allies with Macenia, and sometimes Highwind or Haradi. In general, Galace is a bit colder than the majority of Azaleon would be accustomed to, but the idea that Galace is all an icy, wintry tundra is an incorrect one. Some locations that reach high altitudes can have very cold weather patterns, and some of these even have permanent snow cover, ice that operates like rocks, large glaciers still slowly making their way through valleys, it is true, but in the lower valleys and in small pockets at varying elevations, there are pockets of warm air, as the atmosphere and wind patterns trap heat. In these areas, the temperature range goes higher than surrounding wintry landscapes, albeit perhaps not as warm as, say, Dalmasca.
Where other nations tend to have a particular lean toward one or the other gender, Galace is a strange exception. Those that are compassionate, good-hearted people, even if they make mistakes on occasion, tend to have more influence and better reputations on the whole, and this is not influenced by gender whatsoever. Galace has had important men and women both, and the monarch has been both emperor and empress in roughly equal amounts. All who seek a new life in Galace, even if they are not ilim, can find somewhere to call home, and a place in the overall Galacese society. The Galacese have a love of art and artistic expression, but their concept of artistic is somewhat unique, in that it does not always take expected forms. Anything from the particular structure of a building, to the manner in which one magically influenced the flora to grow around a specific structure, to market stall display arrangements, can be considered an artistic means of expression. That isn't to say there is no traditional art in Galace, for they also have pottery, glass-blowing, painting, and sculpture, as well as several natural mosaics and murals created from mostly-unmarred stone, and varying forms of dance and music, but almost anything in Galace can be considered an art, if it is done well and in a unique manner. The primary cultural separation between humes and ilim, and thereby other nations and Galace, is their view on death and rebirth. As ilim have always been mages, innately, they understand the properties and manner of aura in a way humes, even ones capable of magic, thus far have proven unable to. They feel aura moving from one living being to another, and believe that death is not something to be mourned, but something to be celebrated, for one is moving from this stage of life to another, and that one is never truly gone, simply become something, or a part of something, else. In this way, the Galacese believe that all living things live forever, and death is not much different from life, it merely looks that way.
In general, the Galacese are not religious, so much as spiritual, but this spirituality is deeply rooted in their culture and everyday lives, and can be rather apparent to others. Some choice individuals within Galace's borders may lean more toward a truly religious pathway, such as the ones with roots in other nations, particularly common amongst immigrants. Slavery is a concept that Galace was not familiar with before the advent of Dalmasca and Jihon. Even now, Galace does not have an active slave trade, but there are hundreds of thousands of Galacese ilim enslaved in Dalmasca and Jihon. Due to this, most Galacese know someone that was taken away by slavers, and about half of those lost a relative to them, and Galace, on the whole, has a very poor view of slavery. While they cannot logistically stop slavers from entering Galace's borders, they can stop them within them when they find them, and it isn't rare for an entire settlement to group together and take down slave caravans. The Galacese also abhor the blood games, and often are notably warmer and more welcoming to ex-slaves that were formerly blood fighters. Galacese names tend toward Elfish sounds and styling.
As of now, the vast majority of Galace has not seen a reason to convert entirely to using minted currency. While the nation does have their own currency system, much of the country still runs on barter-trade systems. It would take Galace a good deal of time to change over completely to using mint coin, as Macenia, their most familiar trading partner, and the Free City of Highwind, their second-most familiar trading partner, have not done so completely (Macenia actually still does not have a minted currency of their own). Their coin is called the drun, plural drunii, and comes in gold, silver, and bronze coins, mostly silver. The least valuable drun piece is bronze, relatively small. Galace is ruled by the Galacese emperor, though it has, several times, in history been an empress. Currently, Galace has an emperor, the Emperor Viniel, whom has been on the throne for around four years. The emperor's assistants are often lords and ladies of regions, typically Galacese nobility with influence with the common people in a given locale. What gives the lords and ladies their power is their position in the view of the commoners, and many times, without that backing, the lords and ladies lose their influence with the emperor, as well. In this way, the Galacese commoners may not have much direct say in who it is that ends up on Galace's throne, but they do have direct influence over the highest ranking officials directly below the emperor, who, should they need to, have a means of removing him from power, or overriding a particularly stupid decision he or she may make. In most cases, those that handle the judicial government branch, and the military, are not the emperor or empress. While the monarch can override any decision the leaders of these governmental sections make, they primarily focus on the implementation of policies and laws that benefit the Galacese people, as well as handle foreign policy and diplomacy.
Ruled by powerful lords, somewhat reminiscent of a feudal arrangement, Jihon is an island nation located off the southeast coast of Dalmasca. The only region particularly close to it is Dalmasca, though to the north lies the Macenian Aesia Isle, which Jihon has had contact, and naval conflict, with before. Dalmasca is just across the Aont Strait, and on very clear days, the shores of Dalmasca can be seen from Jihon's westernmost points. Due to this close proximity, and their similar purviews, Jihon and Dalmasca tend to be allied in international conflicts. With a lack of natural wind barriers, Jihon is often very warm, and sometimes rather uncomfortably humid. Jihon sees consistent seasonal variation, but their seasons are relatively mild. Winters are dry and sunny, and temperatures very rarely drop below freezing. Much of the time, it is at least ten or so degrees above it, and it isn't terribly harsh. While snow falls, it typically doesn't last long. The northern Jihonese island sees colder temperature ranges, and may experience more lasting snowfall, but consistent icy conditions and severe blizzards are extremely rare.
In summer, the temperatures rise by quite a bit, and the humidity index is often high, and it can feel warmer than it is. There is a month-long rainy season during which the humidity index rises even more, and it gets very sticky. At the height of summer in late July to mid-August, it becomes extremely hot for about a week, and then cools back off, actually rather rapidly. There is also a typhoon season in summer, during the rainy season, where Jihon may experience tropical depressions and cyclone damage, but a true hurricane, typhoon, or cyclone making landfall, is somewhat rare. Water temperatures near the shore and inland are always very warm, and rarely dip below 75° F (23° C), even in winter, due to a combination of warm water currents that pass by Jihon's main island, and underground geothermal activity.
Jihon is quite glaringly patriarchal, perhaps even more so than Dalmasca, its closest neighbor and traditional ally. The Jihonese highly value all things masculine, and as such, the embodiments of these valued traits, that is, men, are highly valued. Women are seen as too weak or soft, too emotional, to be particularly strong, even just strong-willed. Dalmascan females have repeatedly proven this preconception extremely wrong, but the Jihonese hold fast to this belief. Men carry on family lines and further the family name, and women care for children. That is all. In most places in Jihon, religion is a serious matter, and failing to pay proper respects and prayer to Kirinyaga is a serious cultural offense. During festivals in honor of Kirinyaga, even visiting foreigners are expected to give the sun god offerings, presumably in purported return for their safe travels while in Jihon.
Slavery is a rampant issue in Jihon, as particularly wealthy lords and nobility are exceedingly frugal, and do not like to pay for labor when they can get it for free. Thereby the demand for slaves will most likely never entirely cease in the island nation, at least, not any sort of quickly. It was Jihon that introduced Dalmasca to the concept, and thus it was Jihon that had slaves first, or at least, it was in the histories. Whether it actually was or not is debatable. Over half of Jihon's population are slaves, with all wealthy and noble houses having at least three, but usually far, far more.
While Dalmasca is occasionally somewhat more generous in the regard of slaves' rights, Jihon is decidedly not. Slaves are property, period, and a slave owner may do as he or she pleases with them, regardless of the slave's physical limitations and ability to do what is asked of them, their age, whatever. While slaves are occasionally well-treated in Dalmasca's borders, they are entirely expendable in Jihon, and slave owners hardly realize they're there unless they're messing up. While slaves earning their freedom is not unheard of in Jihon, it typically only happens with slaves that are public property, instead of private, and often so late in their lifespan it is essentially moot. Incidentally, when a slave that has children is freed, his or her children are not freed with them.
Homosexuality is ill-tolerated in Jihon. In some regions of the country, those that are not heterosexual are often killed, or sent to Dalmasca, and this is one of the few things Jihon and Dalmasca disagree on - Dalmascans insist homosexuality is natural, and the Jihonese vehemently reject homosexuality's existence and seek to erase it the moment they find it. What's ironic, is Jihon has the highest rate of homosexual prostitution in Azaleon, but on the bright side, those in a homosexually-leaned brothel often do not remain such for long, as the Jihonese ujals often find them within a few years of establishment, and deport all of its slaves to Dalmasca, if they're kind, otherwise they may just burn the place down.
Jihonese names tend toward Asiatic names; specifically Chinese and Japanese, though some Vietnamese influence occurs. The Jihonese were the first to mint currency, and thus it is through diplomatic contact and trade with Jihon that Dalmasca picked it up, and through Dalmasca that it spread across Azaleon. As such, the Jihonese are long past over the whole barter-trade scene, and never accept barter-trade within their borders. They make some minor exceptions in international, larger-scale situations, but the people of Jihon hardly remember how to barter in the first place. Due to this strict monetary system, however, Jihon has a very high rate of impoverished. Jihon currency is called the jin, plural jina, primarily made of bronze and copper, with varying silver plating thicknesses. In Jihon, silver is actually more valuable than gold, as gold has very limited uses to them, so the least valuable jin coin piece is gold, followed by copper, bronze, and silver pieces of varying plating thicknesses over copper. The Jihonese have separated their nation into smaller regions. Each region has, at its head, a regional lord, the ujal, and each regional ujal answers to the rhanujal, whom rules all of Jihon. Below the rhanujal, however, the regional ujals often generate, or purposely create, small followings beneath them, and some will actually become more powerful and influential than the rhanujal himself. As such, it is rather typical for the regions of Jihon to vary in loyalty to the rhanujal, and it is also rather typical for the rhanujal to have at least one region that he constantly has issues with.
Within east-central Azaleon is Macenia, sprawling plains and dense forests belonging to the Macenian tribes. One cannot truly call Macenia unified, and many of Macenia's tribes are nomadic, but they cooperate with one another often enough to consider them somewhat allied. Macenia's territory is bordered to the north by Galace, to the south by Dalmasca, and to the west, by the vast neutral territory across which the Free Cities are scattered. Macenia also includes Aesia Isle, a large island to the northeast of Azaleon, which is due north of Jihon. As Macenia is tribal, each tribe is ruled differently than the others, but in general, they're most commonly oligarchies. In international conflict, the Macenian tribes side with Galace, as their distance warfare perfectly complements the Macenians' infantry-based guerilla tactics.
One could consider the vast majority of Macenia to fall under the header of subtropical. The presence of the Taogan river delta, a massive delta, causes a rise in general, overall humidity, and southern Macenia can reach rather terrible heights of heat. The northeastern coast is relatively humid, but more seasonally varied, with the interior less humid and home to a few dry zones. Along the coast, between north and south Macenia, are cloud forests, dense mixed forests often thickly fogged over. Much of Macenia sees a high rate of rainfall throughout the year, but the cloud forests generally subsist on fog drip. The rainy season is in summer, when it will rain quite heavily and consistently, and there are rarely dry spells. Despite the consistent pattern of rain, these rain showers are typically short-lived, and go as quickly as they come. Tropical storms from the ocean are not unheard of, and occasionally will form into cyclones which reach the land. In the winter, the weather is cooler, and the cycles of rainfall cease, sometimes causing patches of drier conditions across the region.
Macenians have no particular lean toward one gender or another. Both can be useful in their ways, and not all women are particularly feminine, just like not all men are terribly masculine. Some are even a clean combination of both. Above all, the Macenians value power, and intelligence. Those with a decent head on their shoulders, and the ability to effectively use it, are far more likely to gain influence and position among a Macenian tribe. Macenia's territory is not always kind or merciful to those that live within it, and while not all Macenians are capable of defending against them, they do need the assurance of someone who can. Those that would, traditionally, be considered weaker, perhaps even hindrances, are not typically looked down on, surprisingly. Every member of a tribe has a role to play; some fight, that others may live in peace, and none are excluded from contributing to the tribe's overall well-being, no matter how it is they contribute. Macenians have perhaps very odd views on religion. They do not worship, not in the same way, as other religious doctrines do. They may pay homage and respect to their ancestors, and recognize that a being greater than themselves exists, they believe that just by living, they are doing all they need to. Macenians often roll their eyes at the Jihonese and their occasionally blindly fervent worship of Kirinyaga, but even Dalmasca's large pantheon is too much for them.
A vast number of Macenians are enslaved. While Macenia does not partake in the blood games, they do enslave one another's people, when one tribe overcomes and conquers another, albeit their system of slavery is far less structured than that of Dalmasca and Jihon. Thereby, escaping slavery in Macenia is a thousand times easier, as no formal records are kept of such things, and those that remain enslaved in Macenia do so mostly because either they are afraid to escape, or there is actually something beneficial within the arrangement for them, such as gaining incidental protection. Macenians have mixed views on slavery, as some really abhor it, and a small cluster of tribes do not feed into slave trade, even within their own borders, while others see it as really just a natural part of existence and conquest. Due to the Galacese distaste for slavery in general, and Macenia's overall valuing of their good relations with the ilim nation, the practice of slavery in Macenia is actually in a decline.
Sexuality is a very fluid thing in Macenia. No one bothers to put labels on anything, and the idea of heterosexuality, or homosexuality, are rather moot to them. One could basically state that all Macenians are technically bisexual, but some do eventually develop a preference one way or another. Marriage is an extremely foreign concept to Macenians, as no one sees a reason to make something that is decidedly wild and untamed formal, but some in Macenia have somewhat adopted vague marriage-like traditions. The concept was imported from Dalmasca, of course. Polyamory is a very wide-spread practice in Macenia, as well, as no one thinks too hard about the weird forms love and attraction can take. The tribe raises children, as a whole, anyway, so there is really no need to be particular about which tribesperson is a child's parent, because all of them are. Transgenderism is surprisingly a concept that Macenia understands as a whole, so once in a while, one will come across a Macenian whose tribe calls them by gender pronouns that don't match their appearance.
Macenian names tend toward Celtic influences. Note that by "Celtic," we reference a large majority of western Europe, all of which fell under the "Celtic" header in antiquity, not specifically Gaelic Celtic. Thereby, Britannic (Irish and Scottish Gaelic), Gallic (French, Dutch), and Spanish (Catalan and Basque), all fall under this header. Unlike the other Azaleonic nations and the Free Cities, Macenian tribes have thus far had no use for mint currency, and thus do not have one. Many of Macenia's tribes are nomadic, anyway. As Macenia is entirely tribal, each of these tribes have their own leader, or leaders. Likewise, the rules for leadership vary from tribe to tribe; some tribes may be ruled only by the eldest of the entire group, while other tribes are led by the individual that is considered the strongest of them, or the most intelligent, or a council comprised of several that match one or a few of these descriptors. Thereby, some tribes are technically somewhat of a monarchy, while others are perhaps more of an oligarchy. No external source has come across a Macenian tribe that operates democratically, but that is not to say there are absolutely not any that do.
Because of this arrangement, Macenia is not truly unified in the traditional sense of the term. The variant tribes typically don't consider themselves allied with one another, and in fact, will often fight and squabble among each other over hunting territory, or resource-laden areas of the region. Some tribes quite bluntly hate one another, and make this very clear every time they happen to come across one another. The strongest and largest tribes among them are often the ones that have secured permanent territory, within which they build settlements and towns, and have begun establishing farms.
Despite this division, however, the Macenian tribal leaders will come together every year in the central Estios plains, where the leaders discuss issues and circumstances that affect all tribes on some level. Typically, however, the tribal leaders are not willing to discuss any real problems, as they do not want to look weakened in front of the other leaders. Likewise, each tribe faces different everyday problems; the tribes that stick to the plains generally cannot understand the everyday struggles of those that live in the forests or the marshes. Attempts to unify Macenia beneath a single banner have, thus far, remained unsuccessful, and tends to end in a lot of pettiness, and occasionally, civil war.